The House met at 1400.
The Speaker: I would like to ask all members to join me in welcoming the first group of legislative pages to serve in the spring session of this, the 34th Parliament, 1990. The names of the pages and the respective ridings are as follows:
Charlotte Allen, Brampton North; Sarah Armstrong, Timiskaming; Gregory Bray, Dufferin-Peel; Kerry Clark, Grey; Chris DeMaria, St Andrew-St Patrick; Jeffrey Feiner, Oakwood; David Ferris, Sarnia; Stuart Ginn, Cochrane South; Justin Hannah, St Catharines; Stephanie Hodge, Hastings-Peterborough; Michelle Jobin, Durham Centre; Michelle Kanojia, Brampton South; Camellia Koo, Mississauga West; Scott Mackowski, Bruce; Eric McDonald, Etobicoke-Lakeshore; Nancy Macdonald, Victoria Haliburton; Krista Morris, Norfolk; Scott Murray, Mississauga South; Chris Peters, Simcoe East; Pawel Ratajczak, Etobicoke-Rexdale; Sara Reynolds, Quinte; Adrienne Sauder, St Catharines-Brock; Melanie Walker, London Centre; Dylan Wood, Niagara Falls.
Please join me in welcoming our new group of pages.
The Speaker: This may be the appropriate time. In our last sitting, on 18 December 1989, the member for Markham raised a question of privilege dealing with matters that had arisen in a committee of the whole House on 13 December last.
As I listened to the honourable member for Markham present his question of privilege, I had some initial difficulty with its appropriateness, but he did impress upon me the seriousness of his concerns. I undertook to study the matter and I am now ready to report back to the House.
I will state right off that I cannot find a prima facie case of privilege in this matter. However, I feel it is important that I put on record certain comments regarding the general process and procedure that should be followed in cases similar to that raised by the honourable member. The standing order in question, 98(a) and 98(b), is new to our procedure and it is therefore important to explain its meaning clearly to the members.
The member alleged that the Chair of the committee of the whole had acted improperly on that date in that he had not recognized him while he was seeking the floor and had ignored the member’s pleas to be heard on the question. I must make it quite clear that I have made no attempt to look into the record of what exactly happened in the committee and therefore I am not rendering any judgement upon the conduct of the Chair of the committee. What I will attempt to do is put to the House the procedure which should be followed by a committee Chair in those circumstances as well as the procedure that should be followed by a member of the committee who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Chair in the committee of the whole.
To start with, it is the duty of the Chair of the committee of the whole to ensure that every member who wants to express his or her opinion on a question then before the committee should be given every chance to do so. On the other hand, it is the duty of every member participating in the work of the committee to try not to be repetitive in his or her arguments so as to hinder the normal work of the committee. It is also the duty of the Chair, when putting a question, to do so in a manner which ensures that the voicing of the various opinions from the floor can be easily distinguished and that every member has a chance to express his or her opinion, aye or nay, to the question being put. In no circumstances must haste dictate the conduct of the committee or the Chair.
It is a well-accepted rule of British parliamentary tradition, not only exercised in Ontario but in most other countries in the Commonwealth, that members who want to question the appropriateness of a proceeding before a committee of the House should do so directly with the Chair of the committee and not to the Speaker of the House. The reason for this is that the committee is master of its own proceedings and is equipped to deal with any controversy that might arise from those proceedings.
While it is true that our standing orders permit an appeal of a Chair’s decision to the Speaker of the House, whose decision is then final, the only way in which a Speaker would accept such an appeal for consideration would be if it were couched in the context of a report to the House by the Chair stating that his ruling was being appealed.
I must therefore at this time attempt to clear up the application of our standing order 98. In order for the Speaker to be seized of an appeal flowing from standing order 98(a) and (b), the following should have taken place previously. First, there has to have been a question raised officially by the member with the Chair. Second, there has to have been a ruling made by the Chair. Third, there has to have been a request to the Chair by the member that his or her ruling be appealed to the Speaker, and in presenting this request the member should be precise in his or her reasons for the appeal. Fourth, the Chair will automatically adjourn the committee and report the matter to the Speaker who will either decide immediately or take the matter under advisement. Finally, the Chair will resume his duties and the committee of the whole will continue its work.
This, in my opinion, has to be the correct interpretation put upon standing order 98, in that it is extremely important to preserve the principle that what happens in a committee must be decided by the committee, and only through the Chair of the committee is the House to be apprised of the committee’s proceedings and decisions. It is not therefore permissible for a member to appeal a Chair’s decision directly to the Speaker. A member wishing to appeal must do it by way of the Chair reporting the matter to the Speaker immediately.
I thank the honourable member for Markham for bringing this matter to the Chair’s attention, because it has provided me with the opportunity to study this new standing order and clear up any misunderstandings that might have existed as to its proper applications.
I have also attempted to describe generally the appropriate conduct of the Chair of the committee in the application of its duties. I repeat that I cannot find a prima facie case or question of privilege here, as this is a matter that might better have been raised under the terms of a point of order.
Finally, as to the member’s complaint about the conduct of the Chair of the committee of the whole on that day, I can only refer him to Beauchesne’s sixth edition at page 251 where Sir John Bourinot is quoted as follows, “If a member wishes at any time to call in question the conduct of the Chairman...his course is to give notice of a motion to that effect.” Thank you for your attention.
Mr Cousens: Mr Speaker, can I ask on a point of personal privilege that this statement you have just made be referred to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly so that it could be considered by a committee of the Legislature as well.
The Speaker: You can certainly ask. However, I think if the member takes time to read the ruling, he might find what course of action he may take therein.
NORTHERN HEALTH SERVICES
Miss Martel: In February 1989 northern New Democrats met in Sudbury with northern representatives from the Canadian Diabetes Association. The association operates 20 branches and chapters in the north and serves 48,000 people with diabetes.
The chronic problems of diabetes health care in northern Ontario were clearly outlined during that meeting. They include lack of treating specialists, lack of access to specialized care, lack of education programs, lack of early diagnosis and care in native communities and lack of funding for companions for seniors having to travel south for health care.
It was concluded by our presenters that services for diabetics in the north were inferior to those provided in the south. This government could change all that. The Minister of Health could agree to fund regional diabetes centres as proposed by the Ontario Council on Diabetes. Sudbury is an ideal location for such a centre. The centre should be staffed with health care professionals to treat diabetes and other resulting ailments. It should co-ordinate information on diabetes research and make the knowledge available to the community. It should produce and promote educational programs for patients, for high-risk groups and for the general public.
A diabetes resource centre in Sudbury would be the first step towards providing adequate diabetes services in the north. Given that the Premier is the patron for the Ontario Council on Diabetes, he should immediately fund this proposal.
Mr Runciman: Hopefully, the Solicitor General will have a comment on this subject later today.
On behalf of my party, I would like to congratulate those men who risked life and limb to fight the recent tire fire in Hagersville. For 17 days local volunteer firefighters as well as firefighting specialists from the Ministry of Natural Resources worked long hours under some of the worst conditions imaginable to do a job which many said could not be done. It took eight months and 300 men to put out a similar fire in Virginia. It only took 17 days to put out the worst environmental disaster ever created by a government’s ineptitude.
Perhaps now this government will appreciate the special role of the volunteer firefighter in this province. Perhaps now the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ministry of Skills Development will reassess their support for volunteer firefighters throughout this province. In dealing with the many toxic substances produced by this fire, it is readily apparent that special training is required. Volunteer firefighters are the first line of defence in most of the province against fire, chemical and Liberal hazards of all types.
The member for Lanark-Renfrew introduced a resolution in this House calling for the government to provide funds for equipment and training to volunteer fire departments throughout Ontario. Fortunately, the department in Hagersville was able to deal bravely with the situation despite the neglect of volunteer departments throughout the province. Without the efforts and skills of specially trained firefighters from the Ministry of Natural Resources with their water bombers, it would be unrealistic to expect the quick end we saw.
REFORESTATION AWARENESS PROGRAM
Mr Reycraft: As we start this spring sitting of the Legislature, I want to tell the assembly about an exciting beginning in my riding of Middlesex.
The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority is known for its impressive record in developing public awareness of the need for environmental care. The authority has done this in many ways, particularly with reforestation. Now, with the help of McDonald’s restaurants and TV London, the authority is launching a public awareness campaign for its annual reforestation program, but this year there is a twist.
The goal of this campaign is to sell 20,000 lapel pins at $3 each. Every time a pin is sold, a tree will be planted. The Three for a Tree program will be emphasizing the planting of hardwood trees in the London and Stratford areas. Each pin has a picture of a type of hardwood tree to be planted under the program. The series of four pins is being sold at all area locations of McDonald’s restaurants.
The work done by the Upper Thames, TV London and McDonald’s should also be congratulated. I hope this type of united effort between a public authority and a private interest is something we will see again.
I am confident the people of Middlesex and London will support the Three for a Tree with great enthusiasm. It goes to show the great distance we have all travelled in realizing that environmental issues are not just the concerns of a few special interests, but in fact are everyone’s concerns.
I ask all members of the House to join me in recognizing and congratulating all the participants in this exciting project.
Mr Morin-Strom: Seven weeks ago a controversial decision was made to declare English the official language of Sault Ste Marie. Since then our community has experienced one of the most trying periods in its long and proud history as Ontario’s oldest community.
Regardless of what the actual intentions may have been, the perception of the unilingual resolution is one of intolerance. I very much regret this controversy that has unfairly tarnished the image of my home town, a community that has always prided itself for its friendly, caring and generous nature.
To other communities across Ontario I say, learn from our experience. It has been a profoundly divisive experience that I would not wish on any other community.
In the next few days, this Legislature must come together to affirm Ontario’s support for linguistic duality as a fundamental characteristic of our country. Efforts must be made on all sides to ensure French-speaking Ontarians will be guaranteed education and other services in their own language.
At the same time, we must reassure municipalities that the province will not impose further cost burdens on them. Political leadership across Canada must now work towards a consensus on relations between the two official language groups and towards a resolution of the differences over the constitution of our country. Only then can Canada move forward as a unified nation.
CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mrs Cunningham: Currently in our province there is a list of over 10,000 children waiting for services in children’s mental health centres. The waiting list for treatment is between six months and over a year and many of those waiting suffer from physical and sexual abuse and suicidal tendencies. Because of long waiting lists children do not have a right to mental health care services in Ontario. If a child is a victim of sexual abuse, violence, emotional disturbance or mental illness, he desperately needs help.
The Liberal record is extremely poor. There is no question that they do not see children’s mental health as an area of priority, in spite of the fact that it was asserted in their last throne speech that children are our future and that we have to invest in the future generation of Ontarians.
The Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres is concerned that programs that involve the health, social services, justice and educational systems are poorly co-ordinated. Which ministry has jurisdiction over universal access? Which ministry has the lead responsibility for interministerial co-ordination?
What is needed is an independent third-party review of mental health services for children. I say to the minister, let’s get on with it.
Mr Miclash: The recent federal budget has turned into a nightmare for Canada’s northern native communities. The federal cutbacks represent a further example of the Mulroney government passing the burden of its debt on to the backs of those least able to afford it.
On 20 February the Mulroney government cut $10 million in funding for native programs from the budget of the Secretary of State of Canada. These cuts can only be described as offensive and they will have a disastrous effect in my riding of Kenora. Native individuals already face higher levels of unemployment, illiteracy and suicide than other Canadians. The federal government is going to make this situation even worse through the neglect shown by the elimination of the friendship centre program.
The development of native communications will also be seriously damaged. Northern native communities have no access to the rest of Ontario and the world around them due to their remoteness. The Wawatay Native Communications Society of Sioux Lookout has helped to eliminate that isolation through the development of its radio and television programming. But with these cuts, Wawatay will experience a $600,000 cut in its $1.9-million operating budget. This will result in layoffs and reduce services.
I call upon the federal government to reverse these cuts and return funding to those native programs.
Mr Farnan: On 28 February the New Democratic Party caucus hosted a forum in Cambridge entitled Communities in Rapid Growth -- Challenges and Solutions. Many leaders in the Waterloo region presented thoughtful and provocative briefs.
This forum provides an indication of the difference between the New Democratic Party and this Liberal government. New Democrats believe in a participatory form of government in which we would involve all our major partners: regions, municipalities, school boards, commissions and councils, etc.
Significant community concerns were expressed, many of which I will be addressing in this session: issues relating to the environment and water supply, the lack of a provincial master plan for development, problems related to housing, public transit, schools and health.
A theme emerged indicating a general dissatisfaction with the manner in which this government is operating. Unilaterally and without prior consultation, this Liberal government imposes additional and expensive responsibilities on our partners in local government who must deliver these costly services that the provincial government so grandiosely announces. There is dissatisfaction with the reduction or elimination of grants and traditional subsidies, dissatisfaction at the failure of this government to provide adequate funding to meet the costs of these additional services and, finally, dissatisfaction at the level of support to meet the demands for new and expanded services created by rapid growth.
It is time that this Liberal government listened to our partners in local government.
Mr McLean: My statement is directed to the Solicitor General and concerns my private member’s bill, Bill 88, An Act to Regulate Alarm Systems, which received first reading on 5 December 1989. As members no doubt recall, this bill regulates fire alarm systems installed on real property by establishing a licensing system for persons engaged in the business of providing alarm services and those employed as alarm installers. As well, the bill provides for investigations regarding the suitability of persons applying for licences and investigations of complaints against persons providing alarm services.
Since this private member’s bill was introduced last December, I have received a considerable amount of interest in and support for this type of legislation from the police, fire and municipal officials throughout Ontario. Like me, these officials have expressed concern about the high number of false alarms and the disabling effects they have on police and fire department morale. It should be noted that last year alone 98 per cent of the alarm calls that the Orillia city police responded to were false. It cost taxpayers $500 for each false alarm responded to by the Orillia Fire Department in 1989.
I am certain the statistics will be the same for other municipalities in Ontario and I think the minister will agree there is a pressing need for us to act on Bill 88 as soon as possible. Failing that, why does he not bring in some legislation now to solve this problem?
RENTAL HOUSING PROTECTION
Mr Fleet: Today I will introduce two new laws to improve protection for residential tenants in Ontario.
A proposed amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act will protect tenants from eviction due to minor breaches of a residential lease. This would include situations involving pets which are not a nuisance to other tenants or the landlord. It would also apply to the tenant use of air-conditioners, as the cost of such use can be recovered by the landlord under rent review.
The second proposal is an amendment to the Residential Rent Regulation Act to protect tenants from landlords flipping apartment buildings. The present law allows a landlord to apply for a pass-through of financing costs after buying a new building. Typically, each application increases rents by an extra five per cent per year for two or three years. If the building is sold every three years, the tenants face an extra five per cent annual rent increase indefinitely. This new proposal limits such applications to once every 10 years.
I am very concerned that tenants in Ontario, and particularly in High Park-Swansea, should be able to enjoy their homes at affordable rents and with the emotional comfort of pets which are not a nuisance to others. Together, these two proposals make existing protection for tenants more effective.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I ask for unanimous consent that members of the House may make comments on the passing of our colleague.
Hon R. F. Nixon: It is with great sorrow that I rise on behalf of the government to express our regret at the news of the passage of Dalton McGuinty. As you know, he was buried this morning. A number of our colleagues, including the leader of the government, are still in Ottawa. His death was sudden and unexpected, which naturally contributed to the shock of the news.
Dalton was well known in this House and highly respected. I suppose we think first of his great sense of humour, but more than anything else he was a special kind of teacher in that in this House and among his personal connections he was able always to express his principles and, in some respects, occasionally a lesson based on his life experience and his good humour.
He spoke frequently here and on all political occasions, and in that regard fulfilled his responsibility as an elected member as well as or perhaps better than most of us, because we always knew what his principles were and he expressed them in a way that made an impact on the whole community.
He was a great example as a man, a great family man. There will be some more references to that. He and his wife Elizabeth had 10 children. I do not believe I have met them all, but I met four of them who happen to be learned in the law and had some very great and interesting discussions with them. Around their breakfast table there must have been lots of controversy and, of course, much good humour.
Dalton himself was an accomplished academic. He went on from a business career to an estimable career at university and in teaching. The confidence from that self-realization was very much a part of what was about him as he spoke to us as his good friends.
His ability to teach I have already referred to and his good humour I have already referred to. The fact that he was respected on all sides is something important. When I think about Dalton, we could say that he was loved in this community and his own community in a way that means his life was an estimable one. We shall certainly miss him in our caucus and in this House, certainly in his own community and certainly in his own family.
Mr Reville: The New Democratic Party caucus here at the Legislature would like to indicate its respect for the memory of Dalton McGuinty, the member for Ottawa South. We would like to celebrate the kind of life that he had because it was a life that was chock-a-block with intellectual, emotional and spiritual wealth and richness.
He had a long and distinguished academic career and, in a way that should inspire all of us, was not at all afraid to take academia on when it was necessary, as in the astoundingly frank and tough article he wrote at the time of the Phillippe Rushton matter, when he challenged the academic community not to hide behind academic rigmarole as he attacked the conclusions that Phillippe Rushton arrived at. He wrote as well in a way that was both poignant and intelligent about a student he had had who regrettably took her own life; a gifted student, a troubled student. At the conclusion of his article he said, “If there is guilt, I share it. If there is shame, I know it.”
That is the kind of man that Dalton McGuinty has been. Clearly, the kind of enthusiasm he created among the members of his family for his life and his work is a tribute to that and one which all of us would be glad to have and do not always.
In a personal sense, I did not know Dalton very well, but I did, for my sins and he for his sins, sit on the committee that listened to the folk about Sunday shopping. During interstices when people were not beating on us about that matter, Dalton and I were able to chat about this and that. It was quite a wide this and that, as you might expect, and he was clearly a man with a lively and independent intelligence and cast of mind.
To his family, clearly they have celebrated Dalton for many years and our thoughts and sympathy go to them at this time.
Mr Sterling: This morning I joined with my leader, the Leader of the Opposition and the Premier, the Lieutenant Governor of this province, the family of Dalton McGuinty, 40 or 50 of my colleagues from this Legislature and I believe probably 2,000 people from the city of Ottawa to pay tribute to a very great member of this Legislature, Dalton McGuinty.
I did not know Dalton very well before he came here to the Legislature. I had heard of him, I had read of him back in Ottawa newspapers about his days as a school trustee, but I and my colleagues certainly became aware of this warm, courteous and kind man from Ottawa South soon after he arrived here in this Legislature.
Dalton was unique. Dalton was one of the far too few characters we have in our Legislature, and he was with us for far too short a time. He was not hesitant to express his views clearly about an issue, and he usually did it in a different manner than most of the rest of us, where MPPs might choose a letter to the editor or a letter to all of the rest of the MPPs in the Legislature, an appeal to a committee of the Legislature to appear as a witness or a speech or a petition with a different kind a twist and often spiked with humour, never a mean streak or an unkind word.
Last night, in speaking to his son Dalton Jr, he expressed how Dalton viewed the Legislature of Ontario. He said it was interesting, exciting and frustrating. He was usually able to make his point while offending no one. He once described himself as a loose cannon, but I do not think that description was right, for a loose cannon often does damage. Dalton made his point, he provoked thought, but he never did much damage.
Dalton often talked about his wife and children, of whom he was immensely proud. He was a strong supporter of his church, his university and law and order. He had a tremendous respect for our police forces and was a very close ally and friend of the Ottawa police force. Dalton came from humble beginnings, and when addressing a problem he would often relate back to the memories of his childhood days. There can be no doubt that he gave a great deal more to his family, more to his community and more to life itself than he ever took back.
Last summer, while sitting on the standing committee on administration of justice of this Legislature, Dalton supported a motion which I proposed, much to the chagrin of the other Liberal members of the committee. The motion lost, but on returning to the House last October, I stopped by his seat, which is draped in black today in his honour, to thank him for his support. His response was: “My boys” -- and the Treasurer has referred to the four lawyer boys in the family -- “told me that the government was travelling too fast with this legislation. Your motion made good sense, so I supported it. You see, Norm, I’m not confined by ambition.”
Dalton was the same when he was a trustee on the Ottawa Board of Education: true to his beliefs, true to the institutions he supported, and if your argument was good, you might convince him to vote with you. There are far too few MPPs in this House with that same quality and sense of freedom which allows them to follow their own conscience. Dalton was a wonderful example that many of us should follow.
We will miss his intellect and his humour, but most of all we will miss Dalton as our friend. Despite his being of a different political persuasion, the MPPs in my party, the Progressive Conservative Party, had great affection for him. On behalf of my caucus, I want to express our heartfelt sympathies to Elizabeth, Dalton’s wife, and his 10 children, his family and friends and to the electors of Ottawa South and to close by saying that I feel deeply honoured to give our farewell tribute to Dalton McGuinty. It is not easy to say goodbye to a friend, but I know he will be remembered fondly by all members of this Legislature.
The Speaker: On your behalf, when the official Hansard is printed, I will make certain that Elizabeth McGuinty receives a copy officially, but I think now, out of respect for and in memory of our late colleague the member for Ottawa South, I would ask all members and all visitors to rise for one minute of silence.
The House observed one minute’s silence.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mr Offer: I rise to report to members of this House on the recent tire fire in Hagersville. As they are aware, on 12 February of this year, at about one o’clock in the morning, an OPP officer discovered a fire in the midst of almost 14 million tires spread over 13.7 acres. The office of the fire marshal has determined that this fire was caused by an act of arson.
By Thursday 1 March, a mere 17 days after it began, the tire fire was formally declared to be out. This remarkable achievement defied widespread predictions that the fire would burn for months.
The successful response to this situation was a result of the highest possible level of co-operation between the municipal, regional and provincial governments. This co-operation was fostered by the early creation of a joint response team which provided direction regarding public safety, environmental and health concerns and enhanced the management of onsite firefighting. It was composed of representatives of several ministries and the regional government.
I am certain that all members of this House will share with me in recognizing the heroic efforts of those responsible for putting out this fire so quickly.
The volunteer crews deserve our congratulations and gratitude. They made remarkable progress in the early stages in spite of some of the worst weather conditions this winter. They continued their diligent efforts, in collaboration with firefighters from the Ministry of Natural Resources, until the fire was completely extinguished.
We commend the MNR firefighters, who displayed the highest standards of professionalism, courage and sheer physical stamina, as well as the people who operated the heavy equipment which was such a vital component of the firefighting team.
The part played by the people of Hagersville and area has also been truly remarkable. This difficult time called forth the best from all of the residents.
The joint response team is continuing to co-ordinate the process of rehabilitation and of directing our efforts towards cleaning up, restoring the site and administering compensation. The government is currently reviewing recommendations of the financial and legal subcommittee regarding long-term compensation. An announcement is expected shortly.
This government is taking action to create stronger and more comprehensive regulatory and legislative tools which can address situations of this type. Towards this end, my ministry is making changes to the fire code and is providing legislative amendments to the Fire Marshals Act. These changes will enable the Ontario government to intervene immediately when fire hazards present a serious threat to the environment while the judicial process is under way. This government stands firm in its resolve to put measures in place to prevent another fire of this type in Ontario. Thank you.
Hon Mr Bradley: Further to the report of my colleague the Solicitor General, I will be bringing forward this sitting of the Legislature amendments to the Environmental Protection Act which will empower my ministry to carry out disputed cleanup orders even while they are being appealed. In addition, we have announced a $16-million program to secure used-tire sites and stimulate tire recycling.
I would like now to apprise members of the House of the latest information on the situation at the Tyre King site near Hagersville following the extinguishing of the tire fire on 28 February. As a first principle, this government is committed to cleaning up any contaminants resulting from the fire.
Here are the parameters of the environmental consequences of the fire, as they have been measured.
With regard to air quality, the Ministry of the Environment brought in its TAGA mobile air-monitoring unit to the site immediately. The TAGA provided continuous readout results which were used by the medical officer of health to establish the appropriate evacuation advisory area. During the fire, we were able to measure pollution in the smoke plume and were also able to determine that measurements outside the evacuation advisory area showed no contaminants exceeding air quality guidelines.
The ministry is still measuring air quality adjacent to the fire site. Current results of tests for toluene, benzene, dioxins, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and a variety of other potential contaminants show no exceedances of any air quality guidelines. The air quality being measured is now regarded by ministry experts as typical for a rural area.
My ministry has offered to clean up the soot left downwind of the fire from the nine nearby houses. A contract is now being let to clean the houses, inside and out, of those home owners who have indicated they wish to have it done.
Air tested inside these homes for benzene, toluene, xylene and 100 other potential contaminants has been found to meet all ambient air standards.
As part of our ongoing analysis of any environmental effects of the fire, my ministry will be testing soil and foliage for any air pollution effects.
Here is the situation with regard to water.
My ministry moved quickly to contain the firefighting runoff water which was polluting Sandusk Creek in the first days of the fire, while residents were advised not to allow livestock to drink from the creek.
We built a system of ditches to direct surface runoff into two containment ponds where we stored the captured water. Tests of that captured water showed high levels of dioxins, phenols, zinc, benzene, toluene and xylene. We have since constructed an onsite water treatment plant. The plant provides oil separation, settling ponds, air-stripping and carbon filtration. The plant can treat 300 gallons of water a minute and has completed treatment of the 1,032,500 gallons of captured runoff water that were stored on site. This treated water has been tested for a variety of potential contaminants and contains no detectable benzene, toluene, xylene, phenols or dioxins and meets all water quality guidelines.
Once containment ponds began capturing the runoff for treatment, and while the firefighting proceeded, the contamination in Sandusk Creek abated. The most recent results from testing of Sandusk Creek for more than 100 potential contaminants show none are detectable.
With regard to ground water quality, we have tested 172 domestic wells in the area surrounding the fire site for more than 100 potential contaminants each. The 13 wells nearest the site are tested three times a week. Sixteen other nearby wells are tested weekly -- a monitoring program developed by the medical officer of health, my ministry and others. The results from this ring of early-warning indicators do not show any evidence that ground water contamination has moved offsite. It is our intention to pump up and treat any contaminated ground water which may be detected, to remediate the aquifer.
As you know, the intense heat of the fire caused oil to be pyrolysed from tires. Using a system of trenches and oil separators, 170,000 gallons of oil and oily water were collected and trucked to the Esso refinery at Nanticoke. We hope to recycle this oil.
Oily soil has been scraped from the surface of the site to minimize contaminated runoff and leachate during spring rains. This soil will be taken to licensed waste facilities.
Security on site is being provided by the Ontario Provincial Police.
A consulting firm has been selected to sample soil and ground water and to plan the complete cleanup of the site, including any remedial action required for the aquifer and any other environmental programs which may be encountered.
In order to keep nearby residents fully informed of all test results and to obtain their thoughts on cleanup procedures, a citizens’ liaison committee has been established, has toured the site and has held three meetings. In addition, we are committed to holding public meetings as the cleanup proceeds.
Our information to date suggests that the remarkable efforts of local volunteers and professional forest firefighters from the Ministry of Natural Resources, who snuffed the fire in record time, minimized environmental damage and gave us an opportunity to effect a complete environmental cleanup. A complete cleanup is certainly my ministry’s commitment to the people of the Hagersville area.
The Speaker: Just before I call for responses, I would like to advise all members of the assembly of a visitor in the Speaker’s gallery from the province of Quebec, the Minister of Cultural Affairs, the Honourable Lucienne Robillard. Please welcome the minister.
Mrs Grier: The final sentence in the Minister of the Environment’s statement that a complete cleanup is his commitment to the people of the Hagersville area is, of course, welcomed on this side of the House. What else could he do? What we would much rather have welcomed is a commitment to prevention of the problem that led to the cleanup in Hagersville. If ever there was a case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, of management by disaster, of any other cliché you could think of, it is the actions of this government in making these kinds of statements in the House today.
It is ironic that today is the anniversary of the spills from the Exxon Valdez. Here in Ontario we have had our own oil spill, an oil spill that could have been prevented. That is the tragedy of this event and that is what this government has to be held accountable for.
Of course the volunteers did a fine job, and we endorse the statements that acknowledge the role that they did. The ministries, in fact, cut through red tape after the disaster had happened and managed an effective cleanup. But why was that red tape not cut through before the disaster happened?
They knew it was a disaster waiting to happen. No less a member than the member for Brant-Haldimand, as early as May 1989 said, “A fire at Straza’s dump would be a worse pollution threat than the PCB fires in Quebec.” And nothing was done.
The minister says he is going to bring in amendments to the legislation so that it could not happen again. He did not need amendments to the legislation to prevent this from happening. The actions that he announced last week that he and the Solicitor General were going to take could have been taken in March 1989, in March 1988, in March 1987 or in March 1986, and they were not taken.
The environmental consequences of this disaster we do not know. How often have we heard this minister preach to us about the fact that pollution cannot be contained within boundaries, that it spreads where we know not and therefore we have to take strong action? And now he has the gall to stand up and tell us: “Oh, it’s all within the site. Don’t worry. It’s within the parameters. The air quality is within our air quality guidelines.” Those are the same air quality guidelines we had in this province when he took office five years ago. He has not done anything to update them.
If ever there was an example of a government that has been negligent, of a government that has put at risk the people of an area, it has been this government with respect to the Hagersville fire, and it stands accountable for it today.
Mr Kormos: The Solicitor General talks about the volunteer crews deserving congratulations because of their remarkable progress, and he is quite right. He talks about it being in spite of some of the worst weather conditions this winter.
The success and progress of the volunteer firefighters was also in spite of a government that had no plan, that had no state of preparedness, that quite frankly showed an incredibly lax attitude, that turned down offers of assistance from the federal government, that had no idea how long it was going to take for this fire to be put out. Indeed, it is only as a result of the innovativeness, the ingenuity and the plain hard work of those very same volunteer firefighters that this fire was put out in 17 days. There is no way that the Solicitor General or the Minister of the Environment or anybody in this government can accept any responsibility for having put that fire out.
There is responsibility to be had and it is the incredible impact that this fire has had on the lives of families, children, adults, business people and farmers who live in the Hagersville area. It is little solace to them to be told there is going to be environmental testing, when they know that people across Ontario will not be buying their produce because people across Ontario are fearful it has been tainted by the chemicals the Minister of the Environment speaks of.
It is no solace to them to be told that guards and security forces are going to be placed around tire dumps across Ontario, when in fact the tragedy has already occurred. This government had been forewarned; the minister had been forewarned, the Solicitor General had been forewarned. Hagersville is not alone. There are tire dumps, not quite as large but similar and as dangerous as Hagersville, within miles, within a 20-minute drive of the Minister of the Environment’s very own riding. Ontario Tire Recycling in Dain City is sitting there with piles of tires, an accident waiting to happen, the same sort of tragedy, the same sort of crisis, and there is nothing in the announcement today that is going to alleviate that concern.
Mrs Marland: Frankly, I would be embarrassed today if I were a member of the Liberal government applauding this statement from this Minister of the Environment. It is really kind of interesting. We had an example in the region of Peel about four years ago when this minister decided to use his prerogative of a ministerial order to put the selection of a landfill site in the region back four years, at a cost of $3.5 million to the taxpayers in Peel. How is it, when he knew of this pending disaster, that he did not choose at that time, two years ago, to use a ministerial order to correct a problem that resulted in this terrible disaster? It is rather interesting when this minister is so selective about when he chooses to step in. It is also pretty significant that the first week of this Hagersville disaster he was nowhere to be seen. We did not even know we had a Minister of the Environment.
Quite frankly, when he says, “The air quality being measured is now regarded by ministry experts as typical for a rural area,” that is rather significant, when he also says that the air quality tests do not show any contaminants, especially when we do not have any current guidelines. We have been waiting for regulation-308 amendments for several years now, so I do not know against which benchmark his staff measure anything to do with air quality in this province. Frankly, this extensive cleanup would not have been necessary if this Minister of the Environment -- if, in fact, we have a Minister of the Environment -- had been doing his job in the first place. It is really shameful.
And is it not interesting that he is offering to clean the houses inside and out? I ask him about the people, the wildlife. He says that nobody has been harmed. Where did that plume go to? How extensive has his research been about the impact of the Hagersville fire? I would suggest it has been as extensive as the prevention work that he could have taken in the last two years to prevent it, and that is pretty sickening.
Also, is it not amazing that he is so active as a reaction, and not proactive? I like the fact that he refers in his statement to the fact that his ministry moved quickly to contain the firefighting runoff water that was polluting the Sandusk Creek. Could he not have figured out that there would be runoff water if one is firing hoses on to a fire? But he did not think about that. His staff were not even planning to deal with that fire in the most simple-minded way.
The fact of the matter is that he also makes another statement in here that has a great deal of concern, I may add, for the people in Mississauga South, who now have some of that water. When I say “some of that water,” in my riding we have 90 truckloads -- in excess of 600,000 gallons -- of this water, and this water he describes as showing high levels of dioxins, phenols, zinc, benzene, toluene and xylene; we know that. That water has not been treated. That water is sitting in a lagoon in Mississauga South today waiting for a decision of his ministry.
Most important, we were told there were not high concentrations. The ministry staff have told us that there are not high concentrations in that water that is being stored, waiting for treatment in Mississauga South. I ask the minister to confirm for us why his statement today is saying that there are high levels. This is a tremendous concern for the people in my riding who are now faced with what happens to that runoff water that he so cleverly, after the fact, decided had to be treated onsite. He has not answered the question about where that water is going to go. Is it going to be treated through the regular sewage treatment plant in Clarkson? If not, we want to know when and where it is going to be treated.
The minister seems to think it is quite simple now because there is an onsite treatment for what is being gathered today, but I ask him about the 600,000 gallons that have already been shipped out of the Hagersville area. I think it is shameful that the Minister of the Environment has again not taken action until after the fact. I remind him that I stood in this House and asked for the money from that tire tax to be directed for tire recycling programs, and the members of this Liberal government voted, each and every one of them, against that amendment.
TABLING OF INFORMATION
Mr Runciman: Mr Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege, of which I have given you notice. I wish to deal with a matter that constitutes not only a breach of privilege but a contempt of Parliament and a disrespect to this Legislature.
I refer to “privilege” as defined in Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms as follows: “Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively...and by members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.”
I feel that my job and responsibility as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and as a legislator is to represent and to serve the best interests of the people of Ontario. Yet, circumstances arose that made it impossible for me, as Beauchesne puts it, to discharge my function as a member of this House.
On several occasions during the deliberations on Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance, crucial information was deliberately withheld from members of the standing committee on general government. This information was absolutely necessary for the committee to be able to fulfil its mandate.
The Legislative Assembly Act, paragraph 45(1)6, defines a breach of privilege as, “Giving false evidence or prevaricating or misbehaving in giving evidence or refusing to give evidence....” The standing committee on general government was empowered to look at Bill 68, hold public hearings and amend the bill as the committee saw fit. As I mentioned, as a legislator, I feel I have a duty to serve the best interests of the people I have been chosen to represent. Any member who does not share this obligation should not be in this assembly. In fulfilling that duty, I must make my decisions based on the facts. I must know the true facts, the true impact a piece of legislation will have on those it will affect.
The government had in its possession during the committee hearings submissions from the insurance industry of what its projected rates would be under Bill 68. I made a request for that information because I felt it was critical for our deliberations in committee, not only for myself but for all of the committee members. In my view, we could not have carried on with the hearings in a meaningful way if we did not know what the actual costs were going to be. We had been told one thing about rates during the committee hearings and then we were finding that the Minister of Financial Institutions was publicly saying something quite different.
Once again, I will quote as to what constitutes a breach of privilege from the Legislative Assembly Act: “Presenting to the assembly or to a committee thereof a forged or false document with intent to deceive the assembly or committee.”
I am not accusing anyone of deceiving the committee per se. I am simply trying to establish a prima facie case of privilege. However, when the government refused to disclose the industry-proposed rate filings and the minister was quoted elsewhere as saying the rates would be different from what the committee was told, it becomes even more important that this information be released in order to dispel any misconceptions and confusion that arise from this contradiction.
How can I, as a member, and the committee, as a whole, judge what is best for the people of Ontario when the government withholds important information that would allow us to gauge whether people would be adversely or positively affected by this piece of legislation?
The withholding of information is a flagrant circumvention of a fundamental parliamentary principle: that it is we, as mandated by the people of Ontario, we as the fiduciary of the people and we on behalf of the people of Ontario, who are here to serve the best interests of Ontario citizens. The withholding of this information constitutes a breach of the rights and privileges of all members and a contempt of Parliament.
I point out to you, Mr Speaker, the definition of contempt contained in the 21st edition of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, chapter 9, page 115, as follows:
“Any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedence for the contempt.”
The government has obstructed and impeded the committee in its deliberations on a major piece of legislation. Withholding essential information not only misrepresents the substance of the bill, but also the procedure to which it is subject under parliamentary rules. It has prejudiced the proceedings of a committee of the House, the standing committee on general government.
Mr Speaker, I put before you and submit to you that this is a significant question of privilege covering the issue of contempt. If you find a prima facie case, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.
The Speaker: On the same point? The member for Welland-Thorold.
Mr Kormos: Yes. With respect to the member for Leeds-Grenville’s point of privilege, I tell you, Mr Speaker, having served on that committee during the same consideration of Bill 68 as he did, I can understand his concern and I can understand his reasons for raising this today. I tell you that if it were only or merely the one isolated instance of the rate filings, perhaps his point could not be well made, but I can tell you that it was not an isolated instance.
Not only did the government refuse to provide those rate filings, having acknowledged indeed that they were there and knowing how valuable they would be to the committee in reaching its conclusions, but prior to that, the government had to have forced out of it the results of a secret, a clandestine study that the government was conducting through the year 1989, simultaneous with the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board’s inquiry, one which demonstrated that the government had no intention of ever living with the results of the OAIB’s conclusions.
The government, only as a result of strong pressure and public pressure, finally acknowledged and released on 6 February a number of reports, in excess of 30 reports, which were the $250,000 study that it conducted in secret, with its own agenda, with total disregard for what the general government committee was doing with respect to Bill 68, or indeed with total disregard to what John Kruger and the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board were doing with respect to the three issues put before it, the issues of no-fault threshold insurance. The fact of that clandestine, secret agenda being performed by the government simultaneous with the conduct of the OAIB strengthens the argument about there having been here a real contempt of parliamentary process. There was a purposive and purposeful withholding of information.
In fact, the contempt goes further than the mere release of information. The contempt goes to the government’s intention to totally disregard witnesses who appeared before the committee, hundreds of them, who spoke out against the legislation, who suggested a number of revisions and amendments, all of whom have been disregarded.
The government’s agenda was to ram through legislation without letting the committee perform its function, was to ram through legislation without giving any credence to the legislative process or the parliamentary process. It indeed was contemptuous of its own committee, of its own members; it was contemptuous of those people who appeared before that committee to give learned, valuable comment on what was bad legislation -- not just lay people, not just lawyers, but people like Rod Barr, retired justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario, and Edson Haines, retired judge of the Supreme Court of Ontario. It disregarded those people. If that is not contemptuous, nothing is.
The Speaker: I am just wondering whether the member is debating the bill or whether he is -- I presume you are supporting --
Mr Kormos: Yes.
The Speaker: Fine, thank you. Does any other member wish to make any comments on the member for Leeds-Grenville’s alleged point of privilege?
I listened very carefully and I agree that the member did give me notice. However, I was not given notice of what would be contained in the point of privilege, so it is very difficult for me to make an immediate decision. I would have to say that from the ruling I gave earlier today it would appear that most of this matter brought before me took place before a committee. However, because of the length of his presentation, I will be glad to take a closer look at it and report back to the House, because it may be necessary to repeat something I said earlier today.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Does that mean we have to adjourn for another three months?
The Speaker: A page a month.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Premier about the fire at Hagersville and the incredible gap between the government’s rhetoric, its ability to tax and its response to this very serious situation.
Back in May 1989, no less a source than the Treasurer -- and I think we would all agree that this indeed is a source that is impeccable, unimpeachable and indeed untouchable -- and no less a program than Focus Ontario said -- he is talking about the tires and this is the Treasurer’s language. It is not language to which I would necessarily subscribe, but nevertheless this is how the Treasurer expressed himself:
“These damned tires are piled up by the millions, and I am not exaggerating. They can’t be burned, they can’t be buried. They are usually dumped. It’s got to be cleaned up. If there was a fire at the Straza dump it would be a worse pollution threat than the PCB fires in Quebec.”
The Speaker: And the question would be?
Mr B. Rae: That was the Treasurer justifying raising over $100,000 a day from his tire tax.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr B. Rae: How can the Premier justify raising over $100,000 a day from a tire tax and still letting Ed Straza run his dump the entire time the Liberals have been in government, doing nothing to stop that and doing nothing to deal with the other tire sites?
Hon Mr Peterson: The Minister of the Environment can tell the honourable member about the programs that the government is embarked upon.
The Speaker: It has been referred to the Minister of the Environment.
Hon Mr Bradley: I am very pleased, first of all, to say that the Treasurer, as the allocations go through for this year, has been generous in allocating a good deal of money for all recycling efforts in the province. In fact, an additional $18 million was announced recently as a result of more money that is coming in for the general purpose of recycling. In addition to this, in tire management, some $16 million was announced, and the Treasurer has been generous in that particular allocation, knowing his strong concern for the environment in the province of Ontario and for these matters.
The process we go through, of course, is that each of the ministries puts forward its programs for the upcoming year and those funds are allocated. That brings the total now for all recycling efforts in the province of Ontario, including tire management, to some $54.5 million from the pittance that was there previously.
So I say to my friend the Leader of the Opposition that the Treasurer has been more than generous in his allocation in this particular year and I expect he will continue to be as years go on.
Mr B. Rae: The fact remains that this government announced there was a crisis. It has been sitting on top of Mr Straza since 1985. Indeed, we can show that governments in general have been aware of the problem at the Hagersville dump for over 13 years. Nothing effectively was done until the fire. It seems that it takes a fire to get this government to move on anything.
I want to ask the minister again, how does he justify this to those citizens who in good faith were prepared to pay a tire tax because they were told by the Treasurer that the purpose of the tire tax was to deal with what he described as a potentially serious problem, one that he said was substantial? Indeed, he was not exaggerating when he said how bad it was; he said that it could be even worse, if there was a fire, than St-Basile-le-Grand.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr B. Rae: My question to the minister, Mr Speaker --
The Speaker: I thought you had repeated the original question. Please put your question.
Mr B. Rae: Mr Speaker --
The Speaker: Order. Would you place your question in one sentence?
Mr B. Rae: I would like to ask the minister, given how much money he has managed to raise, why it would be that he did not even begin or complete the fire inspections on all the sites that he mentioned in his press release that week until after the fire at Hagersville had started. Can he explain that?
Hon Mr Bradley: First, I find it rather interesting that in all the years that I can remember the Leader of the Opposition being in this House, as the Leader of the New Democratic Party when it was the third party and as the Leader of the Opposition now, not once did I receive a question from the Leader of the Opposition about Tyre King or about the safety related to tires.
Now here he is with his 1990 crystal ball for 1987; he comes in with his routine of should have, could have, would have. Yet we went through the estimates of the Ministry of the Environment. That was the choice of his party, that the Ministry of the Environment be selected first and that 15 hours of estimates be devoted. There are a lot of important environmental issues in the province of Ontario, and I want to tell the member that.
The Speaker: Order. I appreciate the help from all the members; however, I think probably if we all listened we might get along a little better.
Mr B. Rae: I very much appreciate what the minister is saying, that it is not enough for the Treasurer to point to there being a potential provincial disaster, that it is not enough for the Treasurer to raise over $100,000 a day starting back last June, that apparently it is not enough for the ministry itself to be caught in legal action and stuck for five years over a problem at Hagersville for this government to recognize that there is a problem.
I would like to ask the minister a simple question: How does he justify raising to this point nearly $30 million in the tire tax? Having his Treasurer say last year that the reason the money is being raised is because these tires are being dumped all over the province and there is a potential hazard all over the province, how does he justify that and not having taken any action at all until after the Hagersville fire started on 9 March?
Hon Mr Bradley: First, the Leader of the Opposition as usual is wrong and has put the facts forward to make his case, of course, as well as he can. I expect that. He is the Leader of the Opposition. I sat in that position on the other side of the House some time ago. I know the routine he must go through.
Hon Mr Bradley: The member for Oshawa is still here. I am glad to see that because he is one of my favourite members.
The Leader of the Opposition says that no action was taken. In fact, he knows that a control order was placed on this particular site in 1987, the components of which could have avoided this particular fire if the person had decided to simply comply with the control order instead of spending money on an expensive court case. Now the member often characterizes himself as a defender of due process and civil rights, when it suits him. This individual had the right to appeal, and he went through an appeal process, unfortunately, that exists. In a western democracy that --
The Speaker: Order. New question, the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
Mrs Grier: I can understand how embarrassed the Minister of the Environment must be about the fact that this occurrence happened, but for him to try to say that the reason he did nothing was because the opposition had not raised it is absolutely unacceptable and he ought to be ashamed of himself.
The Speaker: Order. I was just wondering, your question is to which minister?
Mrs Grier: The question is to the Minister of the Environment.
The minister may think it is amusing, but I do not know whether all the members of this House are aware that the fire that occurred at Hagersville last month is not the first fire at Ed Straza’s dump. There was a fire in 1977 that took seven hours to put out. Shortly after this minister took office, the regional chairman wrote to him and asked him to do something about the Tyre King dump. Why does this minister persist in saying that he did not know about it or that he was not able to do anything about it? Can he tell the House, was he aware of the fact that there had been a previous serious fire at the dump? If so, when did he become aware of that?
Hon Mr Bradley: The point I was making with the members of the opposition was, of course, not that action was not taken as a result of their not intervening; in fact, the action was taken in the form of this control order that was put on by the district officer. Of course the party which likes to defend the individual rights of people, the civil rights of people, does not like it in this particular instance, because it worked against the environment and we recognize it is not convenient today to do it. So that is fine.
Hon Mr Bradley: If the member would -- I do not know whether to answer his question or the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore’s question, but I will answer her question.
The fact is that in January 1987, the Ministry of the Environment put this control order on. The control order was essentially substantiated by the Environmental Appeal Board of the province of Ontario, and he decided to go to court further. When he went to court further --
Hon Mr Bradley: The Leader of the Opposition says, “Well, why didn’t you simply move in to get this thrown out of court or use some technical wrangle?” I am going to tell him something. The people who have experience in dealing with these matters in the courts, the legal officials of the Ministry of the Environment who, I remind the member, have a conviction rate on the conviction side of some 92 per cent in pursuing these matters, these people who have the experience --
The Speaker: Order.
Mrs Grier: Mr Speaker, he did not answer my question, but the answer he gave to the question I did not ask is getting weaker and weaker and thinner and thinner. If the minister is trying to tell the House that the reason he did not ask the courts to lift the stay on the control order was because he did not think the courts would support him, that is completely unacceptable.
Section 122b of the Environmental Protection Act is very clear. It says:
“A court or other appellate tribunal may make an order under this section where the court...is satisfied that the order is necessary or advisable to prevent or to reduce a hazard to the health or safety of any person or to prevent or reduce impairment of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it.”
Is the minister trying to tell this House that he did not know enough in 1989 to go to the courts and ask for an order under that section?
Hon Mr Bradley: First of all, to the member on section 122b, as she states it, she knows that this applies only if there is a clear, immediate threat to health or property from an ongoing discharge. In the matter of her wanting the legal officials of the Ministry of the Environment to go to court on a technicality, to have a case of substance decided on a technicality, the people who deal with this on a daily basis, the people who have chosen to be part of the enforcement, the investigation and the legal team of the Ministry of the Environment, who have made this commitment, who have that experience, have indicated that this would not have been successful and that the result instead would have been that the court would have dismissed it and it would have gone to the bottom of the pile, thereby further delaying it.
Mrs Grier: If the minister is trying to tell us that his legislation is not strong enough, we on this side have been imploring this minister for five years to bring in amendments to legislation that is not strong enough and we will support it. So if he did not think he had the powers to do something, which I think he did have, all he had to do was ask.
Can the minister explain his complete inaction when the appeal order was appealed to the Divisional Court. I want to make the dates very clear. The Environmental Appeal Board upheld the control order imposed by the ministry, and exercising his legitimate rights Mr Straza appealed to the Divisional Court. He had 30 days to file documentation supporting that appeal. No documentation was filed. The ministry at that point, which was the same time the budget was brought down, had the right to go to ask that the court dismiss the appeal.
The Speaker: I appreciate it, but would you come to the question mark.
Mrs Grier: Why did the minister not do that?
Hon Mr Bradley: That is precisely what I have described to the member. Once again, these people who deal with these tribunals, with these courts, who know how they operate, who know how they proceed, knew that they would not be successful if, moving on a technicality, and that is what you are doing, the technicality of the 30-day filing --
Hon Mr Bradley: Oh, the QC now has a different opinion; okay. But the people who actually deal with this on a daily basis stated that they were not going to be able to win a situation such as that, the substantive case, based on a legal technicality. The crown does not have success doing that, and I would have thought that members of the opposition would have been aware of that. That is why they did not move in that direction, because in their judgement it would have been thrown out of court and it would have gone to the bottom of the pile and the delay would have been for ever.
Mr Brandt: My question as well is for the Minister of the Environment. If I might, I want to ask the minister to be helpful in the case of the Hagersville situation. Perhaps I know how helpful he wants to be and how he wants to clarify the inaction of this minister and this ministry with respect to this particular case, but we have, first of all, a series of ministry officials who made statements to the effect that this was a potentially hazardous situation, and when you have 15 to 16 million tires which are inventoried on one site, I would suggest that they were absolutely correct in that assessment.
Second, you have the Treasurer of Ontario, who himself will tell you is virtually infallible and never wrong, who said very clearly that it was a situation that was intolerable. The minister himself was well aware of that fact, being advised by both his ministry officials and the Treasurer.
Then we have the Treasurer, who comes along and assesses the people of this province a $5 tire tax, which amounts to multimillions of dollars every single year to specifically deal --
Mr Speaker: Do you have a question?
Mr Brandt: Mr Speaker, I am getting to my question -- with situations like Hagersville. Can the minister share with us why he sat there and did absolutely nothing, nothing whatsoever, until a fire took place.
Hon Mr Bradley: First of all, I find it passing interesting that the former Minister of the Environment was a member of the government of Ontario for a number of years, and his government did the square root of nothing to solve the problem of tires in this province. What was done was that a control order was placed on this particular site by the regional director of the Ministry of the Environment. That control order was substantially upheld by the appeal board of Ontario. The owner of the site decided, through due process, to appeal this particular case, a right he is entitled to in a democratic society; whether people who are interested, such as I, in pursuing environmental matters like it or not, he has the right to do so.
Our ministry -- the member was the former minister and he knows this has people who deal with these tribunals, people who deal with these courts, not just with the letter of the law but with the general procedures of these courts, and exercised a judgement which said that they would not have been successful in moving on technicalities in an attempt to have this stay removed. I do not like that situation. That situation will not be allowed to happen in the future when amendments are put forward to both the fire code, which is under the auspices of the --
The Speaker: Supplementary.
Mr Brandt: Let me advise the minister that in 1983 in King township, in a situation not dissimilar to the one he did not deal with in Hagersville, there was a company in that particular location, which refused a control order much like Tyre King did in Hagersville. As a result of that control order being refused, the minister of the day, an individual well known to him since it was the minister in 1983, spent $2 million cleaning up that site and worrying about the courts after the site was cleaned up. Why would the minister not move first and worry about the legal ramifications after?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member brings up, of course, a different instance, where he may have been in the position to do whatever he did on that occasion. Under the amendments we are proposing, the government would have the right in this particular situation, whether it is under the auspices of the fire code or whether it is under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Act, to undertake whatever activities are necessary.
I think the case the member is referring to was a toxic waste site that was leaking at King township. There is a little bit of difference between a toxic waste site -- an ongoing discharge, in other words, a toxic waste site that was leaking at King township -- and the situation at Hagersville, where in fact there was no ongoing discharge happening at that particular time.
Mr Brandt: If the minister is attempting to tell this House that there was no potential risk associated with the Hagersville property, then I think he had better take another look at the situation.
Again, I would remind him that his own Treasurer called the King facility an environmental menace. The appeal board in 1988 reviewed the original control order and stated: “Tyre King represents a major environmental hazard. There is potential for a very serious disaster.” The ministry and the minister were well aware of the fact that they were dealing with a potentially hazardous situation. There is ample opportunity for the minister to act now without the amendments he is now proposing after the fact.
I ask the minister again, how can he explain his government’s total inaction with respect to this kind of calamity that occurred in Hagersville, when he in fact could have prevented it from happening in the first place?
Hon Mr Bradley: I guess, since the questions are becoming repetitive, it bears repeating to the member that in fact the district officer, who is the regional director in this case, placed the control order on this particular site, did take action in 1987 and that action was very strong action, which would have had the effect of preventing this fire even though it was a fire that the office of the fire marshal says was caused by arson. It would likely have had the effect of being able to overcome or avoid or reduce the risk of any of the problems that existed at the site.
It is not as though all the tires at that site were accumulated since 1987. Those tires had been accumulating for a number of years at that site when the member had an opportunity to do something about it, and I recognize that he did not. I think it is important, when the question comes from the former Minister of the Environment and from my friend the leader of the third party, a party that was in power for a number of years to be able to solve problems of this kind, that the square root of nothing was done about that particular site.
Mrs Marland: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. I expect many members shared my horror upon viewing, last evening, the first part of this week’s CBC at Six television series on water quality. This show focused on well water contamination by faecal bacteria. Imagine being in the position of a young mother, Patti Renders of Spencerville, who must bathe her baby in water that is disinfected with Javex, which carries a label warning to avoid exposure to skin and eyes. This is the 1990s in Ontario; it is not the 1950s in the Third World.
To make matters worse, Mrs Renders cannot even get advice from either his ministry or the Ministry of Health as to how much chlorine she should bathe her baby in. My question is, does the minister condone the statements of his official, Mr McIntyre, that Spencerville residents’ fears are exaggerated, that information on disinfecting water is readily available and that there is nothing to worry about if drinking water is only bacteriologically contaminated?
Hon Mr Bradley: The Ministry of Health is very pleased, I think, to provide the kind of information that the member is looking for and that the people would be looking for in terms of the decontamination of any wells that might exist anywhere in the province of Ontario and the amount of material that is used as a disinfectant, just as you have disinfectants that are used in municipal water supplies and disinfectants that can be used in individual wells across the province of Ontario. I am sure that this information can be provided by the health authorities in the area, and indeed that it will be provided by those people.
Mrs Marland: Spencerville has been trying for seven years to obtain Ministry of the Environment assistance to build a sewage treatment system and to install new wells. Within the last year, the area has seen a doubling of cases of gastro-intestinal disease, which is linked to the drinking water, contaminated with coliform bacteria. This is a disease common in the Third World. As usual, it takes a crisis to bring any action by this now you see him, now you don’t Minister of the Environment. It is the same story as the contamination of the drinking water in Elmira.
In spite of the fact that he says the information is available, does the minister accept that his staff person’s, Mr McIntyre’s, statement is that it is standard for a community to have to wait seven years to obtain the money needed to correct well-water contamination and that the residents are none the worse off having to wait? He said, “Why is it suddenly a problem, because they know about it?” I suppose if they do not know about it, it is not a problem.
Hon Mr Bradley: The water problems at Spencerville came to light, as the member may be aware, in 1982-83, as long ago as then. Spencerville’s water problem was declared eligible for provincial assistance, for provincial funding in 1983. As the member may be aware, because of local ground conditions the consultant recommended that a community sewage system be installed before drilling new, deeper wells, because the blasting for the sewage treatment plant, for instance, would have the effect of wrecking those wells. The project went through the environmental assessment process.
My ministry has, at every step of the way, had money available to pay 85 per cent of the cost of the Spencerville project. My ministry had money available for Spencerville in the year just ending, but the community did not have its engineering plans ready. That is normal. They have to go through the engineering plans, do the engineering work first, before they can implement the project. Indeed, the local council, at a meeting with my staff, agreed that construction could not proceed until this year. The community now has plans and is ready to proceed. My ministry has allocated 85 per cent of the portion of that cost and has already done so.
Mrs Marland: I guess we can assume by the answer that he agrees with his staff person that it is not a problem if water is contaminated; that is no problem. Anyway, drinking water is not a problem in eastern Ontario only. We all know about the ministry’s terrible botching of the contamination of water in Elmira and communities downstream with N-nitroso dimethylamine. The people in the affected communities have been given bottled water to drink while they wait for the construction of a new water pipeline, yet this minister knows there is insufficient testing of bottled water, since his Liberal government supported, at second reading, my private member’s bill, Bill 61, which would make bottled water subject to the same testing as municipal water supplies.
My question is this: Will the minister promise to take action to ensure that my bill becomes law as soon as possible and that incidents such as the recall of the Perrier water due to benzene contamination are a thing of the past? If people cannot drink their well water or their municipal water, what can --
The Speaker: Minister.
Hon Mr Bradley: The member must be blushing to ask a question like that. Clearly what we should be ensuring in the province of Ontario, and what our goal is, is to provide communal water that is acceptable and safe for the people of this province. To suggest that we should be involved in testing bottled water in this province, which is clearly within the mandate of the federal Department of National Health and Welfare, is unbelievable and I cannot believe that she is actually asking this particular question.
In regard to the Elmira situation, I must say that she, from her party, should not be asking questions about that because it was this government which in its drinking water surveillance program detected DNA and shut down those processes at Elmira which were producing that particular substance, over the objection of a lot of people including many of the employees there. Since then, in the river, there have been nondetectables found in the water.
Mr B. Rae: Again to the Minister of the Environment: The minister has admitted, or at least the facts admit that it took two years for the Environmental Appeal Board to deal with the appeal from Mr Straza and that since 1989 Mr Straza has filed absolutely no documents in the court, and his government has not responded to that at all.
to ask the minister this simple question: Is he prepared to accept any responsibility at all for the fact that this government was prepared to raise millions of dollars in taxation for the citizens of this province to deal with a problem, but was not in fact prepared to enforce the law? Is he prepared to take any responsibility for that or indeed for what happened at Hagersville?
Hon Mr Bradley: I have indicated already to the member what action was taken by the Ministry of the Environment at Hagersville previous to this fire. The member makes reference to blaming the opposition. I just want to put it in context for members of the House who perhaps just could not remember the questions that were asked or this matter being raised.
There are occasions when he can get up in this House and say, “I told you so,” because he raises a number of issues, and there are a wide variety of issues that exist in the province of Ontario and any other jurisdiction. I am simply pointing out that here he is, he comes back from Europe, he shows up here with all the answers now in 1990, and I did not hear any of the questions about this. I did not hear any of the proposals previous to that, yet he touts himself -- I think he has the sensibilities -- as being up to date on all environmental issues, interested in them and pursuing them. Indeed, he does in many cases, but he did not in this specific case and frankly not many other jurisdictions were.
This government had already committed over $1 million to projects which were involved in recycling --
The Speaker: Thank you; supplementary.
Mr B. Rae: The minister has raised $30 million and he is prepared to commit himself to $1 million. That is a 30-to-1 ratio. He should not tell me he is doing anything.
My question to the minister is this: Is he prepared to table any and all legal opinions and memoranda given to him by various officials with respect to the Hagersville matter from the time he assumed responsibility as Minister of the Environment in 1985 until today? If he is so great, he should tell us about it.
Hon Mr Bradley: I have stated for the member the circumstances that existed at the time, the action that was taken by the ministry through the control order and the reasons why it proceeded in the direction it did. We also have now amendments that are being proposed, for the Legislative Assembly to deal with, and I am sure the member will be pleased to support those amendments which are designed to allow the Ministry of the Environment, even where there is a stay in effect, to go in when it believes --
Mrs Grier: There is no guarantee you will. You had the power to act and you did not.
Hon Mr Bradley: No, that is not true -- to go in when the Ministry of the Environment believes there is a problem that justifies it, to do the work and to undertake the action, taking a chance that it can cost the government money but knowing that there will be an opportunity to try to recover those funds.
ST BRUNO CATHOLIC SCHOOL
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. The minister would be aware, I am sure, of the recent case that has been reported with respect to the situation at St Bruno elementary school here in Toronto.
The health problems that the children are experiencing have been well documented, with bleeding noses, dizziness, sore eyes and nausea. Even more serious are the cases of one third of the female teachers on staff who have cancer and tumours; seven have had miscarriages.
The minister would also know that the ministry tested this site in 1988 and gave it a clean bill of health. It raises some questions because it now would be apparent that either there is a problem with the credibility of the ministry’s testing ability on this site or else the regulations that are guiding the testing are wholly inadequate to ensure the safety of the children and the staff at that site.
What specifically will the minister be doing with respect to the contaminated site at St Bruno school?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member asks a fair question. We will be assisting the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health. Particularly, the Ministry of Health works through the local medical officer of health in Toronto and the board of education. Any requests that have come to us -- and the member may know there was a recent meeting held -- for any specific kind of testing to assist the Ministry of Labour, to assist the medical officer of health and to assist the local board of education, we are prepared to undertake any of those activities that they ask for.
Mr Jackson: What I am hearing is the minister suggesting that he is waiting for people to contact him. I must say there is about as much confidence in his response as there is confidence in the ability of his ministry to do testing at this site to date.
There are four ministries involved or which should have legitimate concerns. The Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Education, these ministries are all involved and concerned, as is Health, with this site problem. My question to the minister is, how come there is such little contact that there is no lead ministry emerging on this site? Everybody is offing the problem to somebody else. The minister’s assistant, David Oved, said to the Toronto Star, and I quote directly: “‘It’s my understanding that this case falls within the Labour ministry’s jurisdiction,’ he said. ‘Taxpayers don’t tend to like to pay for two different organizations to do the same thing.”’ That was from the minister’s staff.
The Speaker: And the question?
Mr Jackson: The question is simply this: The public is not concerned about paying twice to have this done. They are waiting for at least one lead ministry of the government to take control of this serious health risk and to make a single --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Bradley: In terms of occupational health and safety, as the member would know, the Ministry of Labour in fact does have the lead in that regard. In meetings that have taken place, what we have already indicated as a ministry is that we are prepared to assist in any way possible that our ministry can be helpful.
I know that David Guscott, our director, central region, attended a public meeting yesterday, for instance, to discuss a study to find the source of health problems in the school. That study, which will be as a result of the actions of the local board of health, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Labour, is also being submitted to the people who are there in the school for their approval and their comment so that they feel that we have in fact covered all of the bases.
We have offered this service to people and will continue to offer this service to people and to undertake whatever activities are necessary.
CAREER OPTIONS FOR WOMEN
Mr Neumann: My question is for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues. Now that pay equity is being implemented across Ontario, the long-standing problem of low wages paid to female workers is being corrected. However, pay equity addresses only part of the problem. A high percentage of women are clustered in a few job categories. These job categories tend to be low-paying and are mostly in the service sector.
I would like to ask the minister to indicate what the government is doing to improve career options for women.
Hon Mrs Wilson: Today we find that women are entering the workforce at a very high percentage, and in fact in the next decade, the 1990s, women will make up 50 per cent of Ontario’s workforce. We have in Ontario a vital need for skilled workers. The entry of women into nontraditional careers is vital to the economy of Ontario as well as to the economic equality of women.
Sex role stereotyping limits career opportunities and education decisions that women are currently making. My ministry, the Ontario women’s directorate, has been working to provide awareness about sexual stereotyping around the province. We are doing it by a number of means. First, we have videos, brochures and training manuals which are available to trainers and educators. Second, we are working on new program development at the local level, which is supported by the consultative services branch of the Ontario women’s directorate.
Third, we have a grants program which is used at the local level to development awareness about career opportunities and nontraditional roles for women. We have nine projects throughout the province and this year, 13 projects throughout the province, which are role-modelling programs.
Mr Neumann: In our community, the University Women’s Club has produced a membership directory to provide role models for young women looking at various career options. This has proven to be quite successful in the schools.
However, there is still a hesitation on the part of many young women to consider a career in areas which have historically been male dominated. Societal attitudes will have to change before this problem can be eliminated. What is the government doing to start this process with young girls within the educational system?
Hon Mrs Wilson: In January of this year we released a new video. It is entitled More Than Just A Job. We want to use that video to encourage young women and young men to make their education and career choices not just on stereotypical attitudes about what is women’s work or men’s work, but indeed on what are their talents and their special abilities and interests.
We have to change attitudes. Today’s young men and women are still making career choices based on outmoded attitudes about men’s work and women’s work. Today’s women can expect to be in the paid labour force on an average of 30 years, and many women will be responsible for supporting themselves and their families. We want women to make vocational decisions that take those realities into consideration.
The new video is designed for use in classrooms in grades 7 to 10, an age when teenagers are making those decisions. We are providing posters to schools around the province.
Mr Kormos: I have a question for the Premier about Bill 68, his auto insurance scheme. He knows that what this does is forgive the payment of the three per cent premium tax by the auto insurance industry; he knows that it forgives the auto insurance industry’s payment to OHIP of that debt obligation -- premium tax, $95 million out of the taxpayers’ pocket; OHIP, $46 million. It also reduces accident benefits by some $823 million. He should know that the Insurance Bureau of Canada says that for the third quarter of 1989 the property and casualty insurance industry in Canada made record profits, the highest profits in eight years, profits for the third quarter alone of $317 million.
On top of that, the minister tells us and the Premier knows this as well --
Mr Speaker: You started a question here.
Mr Kormos: -- that drivers are going to face premium increases by as much as 50 per cent. How can the Premier justify this kind of payout to the insurance industry when it is making the highest profits in eight years, $317 million for the third quarter alone? All this is doing is making it a very profitable industry.
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend puts forward a number of facts and my understanding is, based on the committee and his contributions thereto, that his facts are probably erroneous. So I could not stand in this House and substantiate them.
Mr Kormos: That was a real big one. The profit figures came from the insurance industry’s own magazine, the Canadian Underwriter. Let me tell the Premier this: interestingly -- and he would know far more about these things than I do -- there are these little subscription services for stock market players. They are tout sheets for various forms of stocks. Here is one called the Investment Reporter, published out of Toronto. It talks about Lonvest Corp, which happens to own Wellington Insurance Co. This is what it says: “Lonvest’s insurance divisions are pressing the Ontario government for a no-fault insurance program in Ontario. The company feels such a program will provide more stable premiums and lower payouts.”
This company recommends Lonvest as a good investment. As a matter of fact, it rates it about as good as you could possibly get. It says that the profit picture has never looked better. That is entirely due to what the Premier is doing as a result of his insurance scheme. How can he justify the payout to the insurance industry on the backs of injured victims when it is a profitable industry to begin with and it is going to injure more victims, more drivers and more taxpayers?
Hon Mr Peterson: The member knows there have been extensive discussions in committee and indeed in this House; there will continue to be in this House and he will have an opportunity to put forward his views. I gather he has done that already in very colourful and not always constructive ways. He certainly achieved a lot of attention for himself, whether that is the kind of attention he wants or not.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. She will be aware, of course, of the case of Stella Lacroix, who died on 10 October 1989 after Dr Nesdoly and his staff tried frantically for 10 hours to save her life. She is also aware that in this Legislature on 12 October, some two days later, the Premier stood in his place and said there was a critical care hotline system in place in Ontario and he could not understand for the life of him why it was not used in that particular instance.
We all know now, of course, that there was no such critical care hotline system. Is it in place throughout the province today?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, the question he has asked is filled with inaccuracies and inaccurate facts. He knows as well that we announced in June 1989 that we would be establishing funding for a new series of regional critical care hotlines across the province and at that time, when this $18-million program was announced, he stood in his place and said it was not necessary to do it, that everybody knew whom to call.
I would say to him today that in fact we are making progress, that we have the system in place in central-west region -- it is operated by Chedoke-McMaster Hospitals; it is called REACH -- and all of the other areas are under implementation. We have seconded a staff person from the Working Group on Critical Care Committee, Vickie Kaminski, and it is moving ahead.
Mr Eves: Perhaps I should refresh the minister’s mind about some facts. The facts are, the minister announced in June 1989 that a critical care hotline system would be in place in the city of Metropolitan Toronto by 1 July 1989. The facts are, in Stella Lacroix’s case, the minister and the Premier repeatedly, under questioning in this House, denied that a critical care hotline did not exist. Even her own Working Group on Critical Care told the minister it did not exist. The coroner’s jury told her it did not exist, and later, on 11 December 1989, she reannounced the critical care hotline she announced in June 1989 and said that she would now establish seven regional hotlines.
The answer to the question I asked is that one out of the seven is now in place, and in Thunder Bay, Sudbury, London, Kingston, Ottawa and Toronto, where it was supposed to be operational last 1 July, over 80 per cent of the people in this province still do not have the hotline. The minister calls that progress. Why is it not in place for these Ontarians right now?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I know that the member opposite knows the facts and I am concerned that he is not portraying them correctly. We announced that as of 1 July 1989 there would be an integrated trauma program available in Toronto that was in place, and it has been in place since July 1989. I can even give the phone number. It is area code 416, 480-4444. That is what we said would be in place 1 July. That was in place.
What I tabled here in the House was a letter from the Toronto General Hospital. It has an emergency number in its emergency room. It has been in place for a decade. He knows that and he knows as well that while it is not perfect, it is in place and it has been in place for some time.
There is a central Toronto resource registry. It began being phased in in June 1988; 21 Metro emergency departments are computer-linked to this registry. It is sponsored by the Hospital Council of Metropolitan Toronto. Bed registries are being put in place in many of the other centres across the province. They have been --
The Speaker: I thank the minister for --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Scott: How much do we have to pay to call your number on 12 May?
The Speaker: I did not recognize the Attorney General for a question.
Mr D. W. Smith: I have a question of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Lately I have been speaking with a pork producer in the riding of Lambton and he is concerned about the breeding technology that is available to the pork producers and swine breeders in Ontario. I am sure that everyone will know of the advancements that have been made in artificial insemination technology in the cattle industry and how much it has helped the cattle industry. I wonder what his ministry is doing or is able to do to enhance the quality of Ontario swine. I wonder if he could answer that question for me.
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am very happy that the member brought up this question, because I, like him, share the concern for Ontario pork production in this province and the tremendous record of breeding that our Ontario producers have had in the past. As you know, some of the finest animals in the world in pork are produced in Ontario.
However, we can always do more. This is why the ministry recently announced a four-stage developmental program, the Ontario artificial insemination for pork program. My ministry is going to contribute $100,000 this year to the association, but besides that we are giving a special grant of $175,000 to take care of an ongoing deficit to put the organization on a firm footing. As a condition of this, we are asking the association to develop a four-year business plan within the next six months and also asking the association to develop a marketing strategy in order to increase the usage and volume of product. I am confident that this assistance is going to put pork AI in the forefront of the world technology.
Mr D. W. Smith: I want to thank the minister for helping in some way with the swine industry. Having worked in the AI industry in cattle about 25 years ago -- it does not seem that long -- I know what it has done to the cattle industry and I am sure it will help the pork industry.
Since we are discussing countervail with the United States over a lot of different issues, could the minister enlighten us a little bit more on whether this may have any effect on the trade agreement? Also, could he bring us up to date on any movement on this countervail issue with the United States?
Hon Mr Ramsay: The member brings up just one of the challenges that the US is mounting against Canadian agriculture. Our traditional marketing board system is being challenged, our income stabilization program and our crop insurance programs are all being challenged.
We do not have to be defensive about our domestic programs, because our programs in this country do not interfere with international trade regulations, they do not cause trade distortions, nor do they create an unfair trading advantage to our country. But it is very ironic that the US, while challenging our domestic programs that do not interfere with international trade, is at the same time increasing its export subsidies through its export enhancement program, which truly does distort international trade.
Specifically, the member talked about the countervail action against Canadian pork exportation into the US. I was happy Ontario was able to participate in December, along with Alberta, Quebec and the federal government, in challenging that countervail decision that was made against our country. We anticipate that by July we will have a decision rendered in Washington.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Minister of Health. I am quite surprised that in the time since she returned from India, the minister has not seen fit to make any kind of a report to the people of my community on the case of Joel Bondy, the 23-month-old baby who died because of the incompetence of this ministry to come to grips with the problems of people accessing cardiac care in this province. I am surprised that from the time the minister returned from India she has not seen fit to make any kind of report to the people of my community, who are still wondering and demanding to know what were the contributing factors to why a 23-month-old boy who needed to have surgery had to wait six months. Is it not true that the major contributing factor was the shortage of nurses at the Hospital for Sick Children, which the minister has been aware of and studying to death and not done a bloody thing about since she has been minister?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As a mother and parent, I would say to the member opposite that I do not think anyone could contemplate the loss of a child. Certainly nothing anyone could say could comfort a family in that loss.
I would say to him that the coroner -- and I have a lot of confidence in the judgement of the coroner -- determined that everything that could have been done, was done in that particular case and determined not to call an inquest.
I would say to him, however, that we have taken great strides in ensuring that children have access to the services they need when they need them. In fact, we have established a new paediatric cardiac registry system to take some of the pressures off downtown Toronto and allow the Sick Children’s Hospital to focus on what it does best, which are often the most difficult and unique cases. We know that some 50 per cent of the cases referred to Sick Children’s Hospital come from outside Metropolitan Toronto. I am pleased to tell the member that the leadership being shown by Sick Children’s in working with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and the children’s hospital in western Ontario, I believe, will ensure that children have access to services in the most appropriate location when they need them.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I hope some day that will be the case, but it was not the case for Joel Bondy. The minister has not explained to this Legislature or to the people of my community, who are extremely upset, concerned and have absolutely no confidence in her or her health care system because so many people in my community have died while they were waiting to get access to health care in this province. There have been five people so far this year from my community who have died on waiting lists.
I would like to ask the minister, when is she going to give a full explanation as to why Joel was labelled as being elective for so long, why he had to wait six months and why the surgery was cancelled again at the last minute?
The Speaker: Minister.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It is fine for her and the coroner to say that everything that could be done was done, but the fact of the matter is he did not get surgery, so everything that could be done was not done.
The Speaker: Order. Those are three questions.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member opposite that we are seeking the very best advice we can in the province to ensure that people have access to the services they need when they need them and that we are getting the very best of medical judgements as well. I want to tell him that the leading cardiac surgeons in this province, Dr Tyrone David, Dr Wilbert Keon, who was chairman of that committee, Dr Neil MacKenzie, Dr Tom Salerno and Dr William Shragon, an expert panel, came together and advised us on how we could develop the kind of network which we have put in place.
Mr D. S. Cooke: You mean the one that was promised two years ago.
Hon Mrs Caplan: No; in fact, this builds on the very good advice we received when we looked at St Michael’s Hospital so that we can ensure that people have access.
I can tell the member that we have seen real progress. That does not mean everything is perfect yet. This is a very human system, humans caring for humans, because we want to make sure they have the services they need, but we are making progress and he should be able to tell the people right across this province that --
The Speaker: Thank you.
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Mr Cousens: A question to the Minister of Transportation: Will the Minister of Transportation advise this House of plans under way in his ministry regarding the purchase of Union Station? Second, would he advise the House of any arrangements that have been made with the Canadian Pacific Railway company to provide commuter rail services on its cross-Metro freight line?
Hon Mr Wrye: In terms of Union Station, I can confirm to the honourable member only that, as he knows, because I am sure he read it in the press, there have been and are discussions under way in terms of that matter. There is, of course, at this point nothing to report on that matter.
In terms of the rail lines, we in the ministry are currently examining the whole issue of the rail lines that we now have within the greater Toronto area, within Metro. Those discussions and that analysis are ongoing not only within my ministry but under the leadership as well of the deputy minister for the greater Toronto area, Gardner Church.
Mr Cousens: The air is thick with talk of forthcoming transit announcements from his ministry and I want to remind the minister how urgent and imperative and how absolutely essential it is that the government take a lead role in Metro transportation strategies. What are the government’s transportation plans for the greater Toronto area? Are we going to get the separate subway, the Finch loop, the CP line? What are his plans?
Hon Mr Wrye: Our plans will be announced in the not-too-distant future. I think we have a very exciting series of initiatives, which I know my good friend opposite and the members of his party will be very supportive of. I think within our ministry and within the government we have worked very hard to develop some initiatives which will ensure that Toronto will retain its lead in terms of being one of the most dynamic public transportation systems anywhere in North America.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS
Mr Ward moved that, notwithstanding standing order 94(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot item numbers 35, 36, 37 and 38; and that the order of precedence for private members’ public business be amended as follows: ballot item number 40, Mr MacDonald; ballot item number 62, Mr Velshi; ballot item number 96, Miss Roberts.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Ward moved that the standing committee on the Ombudsman be authorized to meet on the afternoon of Wednesday 21 March 1990 and on the morning of Thursday 22 March 1990.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Ward moved that the following substitutions be made: on the standing committee on general government, Mr McGuigan for Mr Sola; on the standing committee on resources development, Mr Sola for Mr McGuigan.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Ward moved that the orders of the House of 20 December 1989 appointing the select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs and the select committee on energy be amended by inserting “subject to the agreement of the House leader and the chief whip of each recognized party” after “concurrently with the House.”
Motion agreed to.
Mr Ward moved that the order of the House of 20 December 1989 appointing a select committee on energy be amended by striking out “March 19, 1990” in the 24th line and substituting “April 2, 1990” therefor, and that the select committee be authorized to meet during the weeks of 18 March and 25 March 1990 to consider its interim report to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Mr D. W. Smith: This petition is to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. This is concerning constituents in the riding of Lambton who are concerned about county road 33. They are petitioning to stop truck traffic along that road. It is signed by approximately 25 people, and I have affixed my name to the bottom.
Mr Reycraft: I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:
“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:
“The Ministry of Education has made evolutionism a compulsory core unit in senior OAC, previously grade 13, history and science. Since evolutionism and creationism are completed acts in the past, neither can be proven nor disproven. In fairness to all parents and students, equal time should be given in presenting the underlying assumptions of each. Through the two-model approach, the skills of critical thinking such as recognition of bias, awareness of society’s influence on one’s bias and the awareness of assumptions can allow students to examine their own belief system and better appreciate an opposing view.”
The petition is signed by 148 people in Mount Brydges and area, and I have affixed my signature.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS
Mr Callahan from the standing committee on regulations and private bills presented the committee’s second report.
The Speaker: I think the standing orders allow you to make a brief statement.
Mr Callahan: I just want to thank the members of the committee and the staff in carrying out a very excellent task. We look forward to working with them in the future.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
Mr Philip from the standing committee on public accounts presented a special report of the Ministry of Housing contract with Dino Chiesa and moved the adoption of its recommendations.
The Speaker: Does the member wish to make a brief statement?
Mr Philip: This is just one of several excellent reports that I will be tabling as a result of the work of the committee during the recess. In this particular report, our committee has made several recommendations in an effort to ensure that all applicants to the Ontario civil service receive fair and equal treatment, that the Management Board of Cabinet guidelines and directives are adhered to at all times and that the records of hiring process are prepared to document decisions under all circumstances. Hopefully, this report will be carefully studied by public servants in all ministries, not just the Ministry of Housing, from which this particular report stems.
On motion by Mr Philip, the debate was adjourned.
SELECT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
Mr Campbell from the select committee on education presented the committee’s third report and moved the adoption of its recommendations.
The Speaker: Does the member have a brief statement?
Mr Campbell: I would like to commend the members of the committee for their very excellent work in preparing this report and the staff, who spent a lot of time in trying to keep up with the members making the recommendations. I also would like to give special thanks to the member for Eglinton, who preceded me as chair and who did some very fine spadework in starting this report out.
On motion by Mr Campbell, the debate was adjourned.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
Mr Sterling from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee’s report on agencies, boards and commissions and moved the adoption of its recommendations.
The Speaker: The member may wish to make a brief statement.
Mr Sterling: Under this report the committee completed reviews of the following agencies, boards and commissions: the Ontario Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee, the Review Board for Psychiatric Facilities, the Royal Ontario Museum board of trustees, the Stadium Corp of Ontario Ltd. Ontario French Language Services Commission and the Rent Review Hearings Board.
The committee offered a variety of recommendations with a view to improving the function of the above-mentioned ABCs, save for the Ontario French Language Services Commission, which ended its three-year mandate in November 1989. A minority opinion was submitted on behalf of the Progressive Conservative members of the committee with regard to the French language services commission.
On motion by Mr Sterling, the debate was adjourned.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT
Mr Pelissero from the standing committee on general government presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:
Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
The Speaker: I am just wondering. There has been a motion put in the House so I will just say, shall the report be received and adopted? Then I will recognize the government House leader.
Hon Mr Ward: I expect there will be considerable debate on the adoption of the report and I would like to seek unanimous consent to divide equally the time remaining in the afternoon for the debate on this report up until 1750 and that there be a five-minute bell at 1750 and that the vote take place at 1755.
The Speaker: There is, I understand, unanimous consent to divide the time equally among the three parties and to vote at 1755. We have a motion. Does anybody wish to make any comments on the motion?
Mr Kormos: I sure do. Let me follow through. first, with some of the questioning that took place during question period, because there was a little bit of an area canvassed there that warrants some expansion.
Let’s take a look at what has been happening since this government has presented this bill and rammed it through the committee and now seeks to ram it through this Legislature. One of the things that we have learned -- and we learned it from, among other things, the insurance industry itself, through its own in-house journal, the Canadian Underwriter -- was that in 1989 the insurance industry in Canada was very healthy and, quite frankly, wealthy, profitable indeed. As we heard, the Premier, during question period, preferred not to believe these facts and figures because he would like for the world to be different from what it really is. He would like for the world to be the result of the machinations of him and his colleagues in the Liberal Party.
The fact remains that the insurance industry’s own report, as revealed by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, shows that for the third quarter of 1989 it was very profitable indeed, showing profits of $317 million, so profitable that these little stock market tout sheets tout the insurance industry as being a very wise investment. Maybe the reason the Premier left here was to get a call in to his broker before the market shut down for the afternoon. I am sure, with his inside track, he did not have to wait for me to tell him about Lonvest and the fact that as a result of no-fault insurance being rammed through by the Liberal government, insurance companies are going to enjoy profits that they have never dared dream of. They are going to enjoy those profits by dipping into the pockets of taxpayers across Ontario, by dipping into the pockets and picking the pockets of drivers across Ontario, and on the backs of innocent, injured victims.
Let’s take a look at what this legislation does. This legislation forgives the payment of a whole bunch of taxes by the auto insurance industry. The government knows that. What it does is it eliminates the three per cent premium tax that the auto insurance industry in Ontario has been paying. In the first year alone that is going to amount to a taxpayer gift to the insurance industry of $95 million. That is $95 million plucked, picked, robbed from the pockets of each and every taxpayer in the province, a $95-million gift to the auto insurance industry, an industry that is --
The Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Kormos: -- making profits, quite handy, quite healthy profits. Let’s add to that the $46-million taxpayers’ gift to the insurance industry by way of forgiving it its debt to OHIP, another $46 million from taxpayers’ pockets.
That first gift, that first windfall -- because this is not the big one; this is just the beginning; this just paves the way -- amounts to $141 million in the first year alone, a $141-million gift to the auto insurance industry, an industry which proved itself in the past to have been profitable and proves itself in the current times to be profitable.
That is not the end of it, because there is more: this scheme is not going to reduce auto insurance premiums. We know that. The minister knows that because the minister has told the drivers of Ontario that once this legislation is passed, premiums are going to increase by as much as 50 per cent. That is the second windfall for the auto insurance industry.
Do members know what is the saddest part? There is nothing in this legislation that guarantees that drivers are going to get insurance coverage. Do members know what? Mr Justice Osborne of the Supreme Court of Ontario and Don McKay, the general manager of the Facility Association, have said this: “If this legislation is passed, more and more drivers, good drivers, are going to be forced into Facility Association. They’re not going to be able get regular insurance coverage.” The Liberals who are promoting this legislation know that and they do not care.
The people who are going to be forced into Facility Association are not going to be bad drivers; they are going to be good drivers. They are going to be senior citizens, they are going to be farmers, small business people, unemployed people and women. These are the sort of people that Mr Justice Osborne and Don McKay, the general manager of Facility Association, say are going to be forced into Facility and are not going to receive coverage from regular insurers.
These are the people, the people who can least afford it, who are going to be charged premiums in the thousands and thousands of dollars a year. Senior citizens, business people, women, farm workers, the unemployed are going to be denied regular insurance coverage and forced into paying premiums that are literally in the $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000 range. That does not even come close to reducing or even stabilizing the insurance premiums here in the province of Ontario, not even close.
Let’s take a look at what this legislation does to innocent injured victims, because there has been a big lie that has been perpetrated by the promoters of this bill, by the promoters of this legislation. The big lie is that somehow more money is going to be spread out among more people, and that is just not true. The insurance industry knows that it is not true.
The little publication called the Investment Reporter knows that it is not true, the one that recommends that you buy auto insurance stock now. What it says is that as a result of this legislation, the auto insurance industry is going to be required to pay less out. There is less money going to be paid out to injured victims.
Let me tell members how that is going to happen. The real issue here is the threshold. It has nothing to do with no-fault. This insurance has nothing to do with no-fault. That name was plucked out of the air because it was an attractive name, it was an attractive principle that the New Democratic Party has been fighting for for decades, that we have had in this province for more than a decade and that we have been critical of because the rates paid out as compensation under the no-fault schedules have been inadequate for years. Among other things, they have not been indexed, which means that with the mere passage of time, cost of living and inflation have eroded them to the point where they have become somewhat insignificant.
That does not mean that insured persons have not had to fight to get those no-fault benefits and it does not mean that they are not going to have to continue to fight and litigate and hire lawyers and sue and use the courts to obtain what is rightly theirs. But the threshold, because that is what this legislation is really all about -- the threshold. It is a guarantee; it is about making sure that innocent injured victims do not receive compensation. It is the antithesis of insurance. It is about making sure that they do not get compensation.
Let me tell members how it works. What it means is that if you do not pass the threshold, if you do not pass the definition of the degree of injury, you cannot be compensated for pain and suffering or for loss of enjoyment of life. I will tell members what that threshold is: you have to be dead or damned close to it before you pass the threshold. That is how onerous that threshold is. Indeed, it is the most onerous, the most draconian, the most rigorous threshold, the most conservative threshold that any insurance industry has ever designed.
How is it going to work? Well part of the big lie, the big myth is that this threshold is designed to keep out the trivial, the modest, the insignificant injuries, the ones that according to the mythmakers clog up the system and cost the insurance industry undue amounts of money. We have heard of them in passing and we have heard of them during the course of anecdotal exchanges: the sprained wrist, the sprained ankle, minor bruising. The myth is that this is the type of injury that is being excluded from a compensatory system.
The truth is far different. The truth is that broken bones are going to be excluded from compensation. The truth is that broken legs, broken arms, fractured ribs, fractured skulls, broken backs will be excluded from any compensatory scheme for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. If the Liberal members of the standing committee on general government did not know it at the beginning of the committee hearings, they ought to have known it by the end, because witness after witness told them so.
Let me tell members about those committee hearings, because the Liberals did not want to have committee hearings. The Minister of Financial Institutions, the guy who at the request of the Premier -- and let’s not make any mistakes about this, this is Premier David Peterson’s legislation. It is the Premier who has the cosy relationship with the insurance industry; it is the Premier who is calling the shots on this one, and it is the Premier who promised in September 1987 that he had a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums and has not been able to deliver because it was not a plan.
It was the furthest thing in the world from a promise because a promise is something that you intend to keep. When you make a promise, it is something that you have every good intention of following through on. When the Premier said in September 1987 he had a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums, the furthest thing in the world that it could ever be called is a promise.
What we have got here is a scheme that makes sure that at least 95 per cent of innocent injured accident victims will receive not a penny compensation for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life and that premiums none the less are going to go up and up, for some people as high as 50 per cent. For many others there simply is not going to be insurance coverage at all. They are going to be forced into the Facility Association. Those are the ones we talked about: the senior citizens, the unemployed, the women, the small business people. These are the ones who are going to be forced into Facility, paying thousands and thousands of dollars.
We are talking about a threshold that, as I say -- and the Liberals know it -- is not going to just exclude the trivial, modest, minor injuries but is going to exclude serious injuries with significant impact on innocent victims’ lives, and the Liberals would not listen. I will tell members, lawyers came before the committee to tell the Liberals that the bill was no good, to tell the Liberals to abandon it, to tell the Liberals that this bill punishes innocent injured victims of drunk, careless, negligent and reckless drivers.
The lawyers were there, no two ways about it. I could tell members this. Under this scheme that the Liberals propose, there will be no shortage of work for lawyers. Osborne himself told us that in the Osborne inquiry when he said -- and I should tell members this; well, they know this -- that American jurisdictions that adopted these types of threshold schemes back in the 1970s have been abandoning them. The most recent one -- members read about it in the New York Times -- was the state of New Jersey. They said, “No, threshold doesn’t work.” They have abandoned it along with others who are recognizing that it does not reduce premiums, that premiums continue to go skyhigh and that innocent injured victims get hurt because they do not get compensated.
I tell members that what Justice Osborne found out from those American jurisdictions is that when they implemented threshold systems like the Liberals want to impose upon the drivers and victims of Ontario, there was more litigation; more people had to go to lawyers; more people had to sue and use the courts. They had to sue their own insurance company to collect their no-fault benefits.
The amount of litigation with first-party insurers increased not just double, not just triple, but to the point where whole law firms were developed dealing with first-party litigation. That is exactly what is going to happen in the province of Ontario, because that is part of the myth too, the big lie that there is going to be less litigation.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. When it comes down to litigation, we know it is the insurance industry with its money and its ability to hire high-powered lawyers that has the upper hand.
We know that there is some litigation now. My goodness, it might be that as high as three per cent of personal injury claims have to be litigated. Let’s think for a minute why. The reason they have to be litigated, the reason people have to go to court and sue is because the insurance companies are refusing to pay out; the insurance companies are refusing to compensate injured people.
That is why these instances end up in court, not because people are inherently litigious or because lawyers have some sort of eagerness to be involved in the system. In any event, what we know is this: More dollars than ever will be spent on legal costs and litigation if we let the Liberals ram this bill down the throats of drivers and innocent victims in Ontario.
So much for reducing litigation and acknowledging that, yes, the lawyers told the Liberals that this bill was no good, lawyers of all shapes and sizes. The County and District Presidents’ Association wrote to the Attorney General as recently as 13 March -- that is Ian Scott, the Attorney General, a member of the cabinet -- saying, “Dear Attorney, Please do not let this legislation go through. It is going to hurt too many innocent injured victims.”
The interesting thing is that the Attorney General, the fellow from here in Toronto, a member of the cabinet, a top law officer of the --
Mr Kormos: That is the title. Let’s call it the way it ought to be called, not necessarily the way you see it.
What is remarkable is that the County and District Presidents’ Association has said no to Bill 68, that it is going to hurt innocent injured victims and it is not going to control insurance premiums. Premiums are going to continue to go up, and we know that because the Minister of Financial Institutions, the Premier’s own little henchman, has already told the public to expect premium increases of up to 50 per cent. But the Law Society of Upper Canada, a convocation of which the Attorney General is a member, the Attorney General’s own organization of which he is a voting member, adopted the recommendation of the special committee and adopted a resolution urging the government not to enact Bill 68.
Why? Because it is discriminatory and because it deprives the citizens of Ontario of important rights and remedies that they now possess. It goes further to indicate that the treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada will be writing to the Premier to convey to him the resolution passed by convocation of the Law Society of Upper Canada. It is remarkable that an organization to which the Attorney General himself belongs would condemn this bill, this legislation, so soundly. It is discriminatory and it hurts innocent injured victims.
But it was not just the lawyers. I will tell members who else came before the committee. I tell them the government did not want to have the standing committee on general government hearing submissions about this legislation. They wanted to ram it through before the Christmas break, before 20 December 1989, but they were forced by the opposition to hear submissions. As it was, because they are such a considerable majority, we were not able to obtain the length of hearings that was necessary. In fact, not just one or two but dozens, perhaps scores, of presenters were unable to appear before the committee to make their positions about this legislation known.
The lawyers were there telling the Liberals: “It’s bad law. It’s bad legislation. It’s a bad bill. Drop it, abandon it, dump it now.” But not just the lawyers. Health care people were there too. Doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, chiropractors were in front of that general government committee, not just here in Toronto, but in Windsor, in Ottawa, in Thunder Bay and in Sudbury, telling the government that it is a bad piece of legislation, that innocent victims are going to be hurt, that the only people it helps, the only people who benefit by it are the insurance industry.
But the insurance industry was before that committee telling the government what a good piece of law it was. They were there alone doing that.
The trade unionists, workers of that ilk, came before the committee to tell the government: “It’s a bad bit of legislation. Dump it, abandon it, drop it.” District labour councils, representatives of trade unions from the north, from the south, from the east, from the west, came before the committee to tell the Liberals, “Please don’t pass this legislation.”
Trade unionists, workers of all types in Ontario, oppose this bill, but the insurance industry supports it. Firefighters and their associations, police officers and their associations, teachers and their associations all came before the committee, telling the government that it is a bad bit of legislation, that the only people who are going to benefit from it are the auto insurance industry. Teachers, firefighters, police officers and their associations oppose this legislation and have told the Liberals so, but the insurance companies support it.
And you know what, Mr Speaker? Victims in their wheelchairs, with their crippled bodies and their smashed spines and their torn and wasted muscles and ligaments, came before the committee, telling the Liberals: “Please don’t pass this legislation. It’s bad law. The only people who are going to benefit are going to be the auto insurance industry in Ontario. It’s going to hurt innocent injured victims.” Because there is absolutely no remedy under this scheme for people who suffer psychological injury.
No remedy, no compensation, no recourse to the courts to enforce rights for the people who suffer psychological injuries: not trivial, not modest, not minor psychological injuries, but psychological injuries that can destroy lives, end marriages, end relationships, end careers. For those injuries, innocent injured victims may not receive a single penny, not a nickel, not a dime, because every bit of that money that would have gone to them is going into the coffers of the private corporate auto insurance industry in Ontario. That is what this legislation is all about. This legislation is designed to create profits for the auto insurance industry like it has never dreamed of.
The real question, I suppose, is, how could these people, how could people like the parliamentary assistant, the member for Guelph, a member of the Liberal Party, do this to victims and drivers in Ontario? What would motivate him and his colleagues in the Liberal Party to do it for the auto insurance industry? Surely it was not the mere contributions of $750 or $1,000 at a time that some of those Liberal members got from the insurance industry during the last election. They surely would not sell their souls for such modest amounts of money, would they?
The question to be asked then is, what makes this government so beholden to the corporate interests on Bay Street?
Mr Mackenzie: Or London.
Mr Kormos: Or London or Guelph. What makes this government, what makes the Premier and the Minister of Financial Institutions and the Liberal members of this government so beholden to the private auto insurance industry that they would sell out kids with broken backs, workers with broken legs and arms and fractured skulls, that they would sell them out in exchange for the profits that will go into the coffers of the private auto insurance industry?
That is not a trivial question. That is not a modest inquiry. That question, that inquiry goes far beyond the exchanges we can make about fridges and paint jobs and modest corruption. It goes far beyond that, because it speaks of something which is so insidious that it is obscene and evil.
These people have had victims, health care professionals and therapists appearing in front of them saying: “I’m telling you this is bad legislation. Stop the charade. End the mythology. Acknowledge the reality, that this is going to create profits for the insurance industry and deny victims compensation.” It is going to make sure that premium increases go on and on because we are talking about a government that gives not a damn for injured victims, that gives not a damn for drivers, that gives not a damn for taxpayers, but cares a whole lot about private corporations and their profits.
If nothing made it more obvious, this legislation certainly does -- and the government’s unwillingness to bend, the government’s unwillingness to listen, its cynicism, its disdain for the public, which have made it so arrogant when it comes to this legislation. The committee hearings were a sham. This bill and its amendments -- what amendments? A little bit of housecleaning, dotting some i’s, crossing some t’s. This House should not dignify that obscenity by accepting that bill and letting it be tabled in this Legislature again. We say no to that.
Mr Runciman: Mr Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in this debate.
Like the member for Welland-Thorold, I was disappointed in the way the proceedings were conducted. As the members of this Legislature know, those hearings came about as a result of pressure being applied on the government from the opposition parties. The government entered into them quite reluctantly, and certainly the results of the committee hearings process and some of the things that have come to the attention of the public and members of the Legislature since the conclusion of those hearings indicate that the government had no intention of any meaningful result coming out of those hearings
I think probably in my nine years as a member of this House I was more impacted upon by the testimony before us than perhaps I have been in years gone by. We had some very moving testimony. We had people who had no axe to grind, no vested interests, individuals who had suffered very serious accidents in their lives who appeared before us because they are concerned about future innocent accident victims in this province.
I made an appeal early on to the Liberal members of that committee to pay attention to the witnesses, to pay attention to what they were saying, “Let’s listen to their concerns, their very valid concerns, and indeed make changes in a substantive way that could positively impact this legislation in the best interests of all Ontarians.” As the process wound around the province and we heard witness after witness, we heard responses from government members that they were listening, that they were being affected by the testimony before us and that changes were going to be forthcoming as the hearings got into clause-by-clause. We know now that was not the case.
In point of fact, the members of the government side in the committee were more exercised by a comment I made with respect to the possible appearance of a member of cabinet when someone said, “It isn’t over until the fat lady sings.” There was a great uproar about that and the fact that I was implying something negative with respect to a member of the current cabinet. We argued about that for some period of time and there was great consternation on the part of government members about that one remark.
Members can compare that with some terribly moving testimony by a young chap in a wheelchair who had suffered a serious injury. What kind of concerns do we hear expressed from the government members after a witness like that appeared before us, and many more witnesses who had moving testimony? Absolutely nothing, no response at all, but when you say something that might be inferred as a comment that is negative about a member of the Liberal cabinet, well my God, you would think the sky is falling in.
That shows where their priorities are. It was a very serious disappointment for me when you look at those Liberal members who said at the outset: “We are going to listen. We are going to act on what we hear.” Well, baloney, they did not listen and they did not act. They were there as rubber stamps for the Premier and nothing else.
Mr Kormos: Trained seals.
Mr Runciman: Trained seals someone suggests, and that is indeed the case, and they should all be ashamed. Those members of that committee who are sitting in this House today should be ashamed. They did not listen. I expressed some personal disappointment about the member from Hamilton -- I am not sure what the specific riding is. She had publicly prior to these hearings indicated some concern about the exclusion of psychological injury from the threshold. Indeed, during the first couple of hearings, she started to pose questions along those lines, but then we had this moving testimony, witness after witness, and we had the same sort of nonresponse, if you will, from that member, which greatly disturbed me and greatly disappointed me.
We had the member from Windsor-Walkerville making some public statements with respect to his concerns about this legislation. I like the member and I respect him, but I want to tell the House that when the committee appeared in Windsor, where was the member?
Mr Kormos: Mike Ray.
Mr Runciman: Michael Ray; I will clarify that.
Mr Pouliot: The Liberal.
Mr Runciman: The Liberal member, the government member who expressed public concern -- a letter was made public -- but when we went into his community, we went into his riding, he was not there. He found an excuse not to be there.
We have had on the record now concerns being expressed by a number of Liberal riding associations. We have one of the members in the House here -- no, I am not sure he is here -- one of the members from Sudbury who has made some comments: “Look, I am not going to listen to these people, they are only my riding association. I do not have to listen to these people. I am elected. I know better than those people who are sitting on my executive.”
That is reflective of the views of the leader of that party, the leader of the government, the member for London Centre, who knows better than the ordinary folks out in the street. He knows better. Well the reality is he has no understanding, because he has led -- as I have said in this House on a number of occasions -- a very protected existence for all of his life.
Mr Pouliot: Sheltered.
Mr Runciman: A sheltered existence indeed. Born into wealth, he really has no understanding, no appreciation, no empathy for the problems of many of the initiatives undertaken by this government and certainly with respect to the impact of Bill 68 on the less fortunate in society, the poor in society. If we as a society are going to be judged by the way we treat those people, we are certainly going to be in sad shape indeed based on the thrust of this legislation.
We had numerous organizations appearing before us. I think there were something like 61 nonlegal organizations and professions opposing or expressing concern on this legislation. I rose in the House earlier today on a point of privilege to express my concern with respect to what I believe was contempt of Parliament, contempt of the members of the committee with respect to the withholding of significant information from the committee during the hearings process. It certainly reinforces the belief that the whole exercise was a sham.
When we talk about rate filings by the companies made available to the government at the end of January, really preliminary filings at the end of December 1989, the government had those filings in its hands. Here is a committee deliberating on significant legislation and they are not prepared to tell us what it is really going to cost the consumers of this province. They are going around saying zero to eight per cent Then we have the minister speculating in the press, “Well, some people might be seeing increases in the neighbourhood of 20 or 25 per cent.” He can say that because he has the rate filings in his hands. Supposedly, a committee of this Legislature is trying to deliberate on this legislation without that information which he was unwilling, his government was unwilling to provide us.
The member for Welland-Thorold made the point earlier during the day when we were talking about my point of privilege with respect to all sorts of information that was not made available to the committee. We talked about actuarial studies which were made available on the last day after virtually every witness had appeared before us who could make constructive comment on those actuarial studies.
I had to fight to get Professor Jack Carr, an economist from the University of Toronto, 15 minutes to respond to a massive pile of actuarial studies. The member for York Mills, after we had an agreement in the committee where I gave up my questioning time so that Professor Carr could appear before us, then tried to renege on the agreement, tried to back out of it. That is the kind of approach undertaken by this committee and its leaders on that committee, primarily the member for York Mills.
Obviously we had, and we have a group of people on that committee on the Liberal side who for whatever reasons are still harbouring ambitions of either getting into cabinet or returning to cabinet. A number of them have the shadow of Patti Starr hanging over them, and who knows what is going to happen with respect to that matter. I want to say, as I said earlier, when they reflect upon their action or lack of action in that committee, when they look back upon their legislative careers, when they look back upon taking decisions with respect to important issues like this and putting ambition ahead of the genuine interests of the people of this province, they should indeed be ashamed of themselves.
This is indeed one of the biggest giveaways to large corporations in the history of this country. I want to talk about $143 million in tax breaks to the insurance industry, represented by the premium tax and the OHIP subrogation agreement. I want to mention, under this threshold, $480 million in payments for pain and suffering that these companies will not have to make now; $150 million in economic loss that these insurance companies will not now have to pay under this threshold. That totals $733 million to an already rich and powerful industry. We suspect, based on the actuarial studies that were eventually presented to the committee, that it could be closer to $1 billion, a $1-billion windfall to the insurance industry which is already turning things around.
We look at projected losses dropping dramatically in 1989. If you look at interest rates, it is quite feasible, even given the current system without tort reform and other measures that Justice Osborne suggested, that insurance companies will be turning profits in 1990. Yet what do we have? We have this government bringing in a bill that is going to significantly reduce benefits and rights to the people of this province. What we have had is the government saying, “This loaf of bread is too expensive, so what we are going to do is cut the loaf in half and increase your price.” So they are getting half a loaf of bread at increased prices. That is really what this bill represents.
As I said, if there are a thousand points of light out there now, as Mr Bush likes to refer to it, that is the insurance executives in this province striking up their Gucci lighters to light fat cigars in anticipation of this legislation passing.
It is indeed a windfall and the less fortunate in our society are going to be the losers in this legislation if it goes through, and given the current mindset of the government and the arrogance of the leader of the government, it seems likely that is going to happen. But we are not going to let it happen easily, Mr Speaker, I can assure you and I can assure members of this Legislature. It ain’t going to be easy. We are going to fight this to the end because we believe very strongly that this is wrong, wrong, wrong.
I want to talk about a couple of the witnesses who appeared before the committee: the Consumers’ Association of Canada. I was in a debate in Kitchener last night and we had a representative of the Consumers’ Association of Canada present, Ms Helen Anderson, a very charming lady and I am sure a well-motivated individual, but I want to say that some of the things she said were totally incorrect, totally out of left field. It is an organization that purports to represent consumers in this province and in this country and I am greatly concerned about the position they have taken, expressing some concerns but generally in support. They would prefer the pure socialist initiative of a government-run program with a pure no-fault approach.
Mrs Anderson suggested that psychological injury could pass the threshold. That is incorrect. I suggested that she should be talking to some of the head injury people in this province. Certainly if it is a result of a physical injury, no one is going to argue about that, but that is not what we are talking about and those are not the concerns, as the parliamentary assistant well knows.
She talked about accident frequency, that the Quebec experience is that accident frequency is going to decline. It is quite the opposite in the Quebec experience. They went through much the same in terms of the initiatives in Ontario, increased policing, doing a number of things that were going to improve the enforcement end of things, but what happened? They had increased accident frequencies. If you take a look at the Quebec system and apply it to Ontario, there has been a study done at Osgoode Hall that indicates we will see a significant number of deaths, an increased number of deaths on Ontario highways with a no-fault system.
I think when we are talking about the concerns and interests of consumers, perhaps the most appropriate testimony before us was that of Ralph Nader. I do not think anyone in this Legislature, perhaps the Minister of Financial Institutions being the exception, is going to question Mr Nader’s credentials. He does not have any political axe to grind. He was not here with any bias towards the New Democratic Party or the Conservatives. He was here because of his genuine concerns about no-fault and about what its impact is going to be.
He gave us a brief history review of what has happened in the United States in jurisdictions that adopted no-fault, looking at rates and so on, and there is certainly no benefit with respect to rates.
He was taking a look at the benefits of the tort system and how it has benefited over its evolution in the United States. He made reference to the Pinto situation. A number of members will recall the Pinto car with the faulty gas tank and the number of explosions that occurred, and deaths, in the United States and Canada and throughout the world. Action was finally taken on that faulty car as a result of civil action, going through the courts, through the insurance system, and that is what finally prompted action by the legislators in the United States. We could use a number of examples brought forward by Mr Nader which clearly indicate the social benefits of the current system.
I am not going to suggest that the current system does not have some flaws, and we have proposed a number of changes. We have seen $1.4 million spent on perhaps what is the most comprehensive study of auto insurance anywhere in the world, by Justice Coulter Osborne of the Ontario Supreme Court. Justice Osborne had significant recommendations to make with respect to tort reform and improvement of the current no-fault benefits that would have had the impact of a reduction in rates for Ontario drivers -- retention of tort instead of what this government has done, throwing out the baby with the bathwater. That is in essence what they have done.
We have talked about the windfall to the insurance industry, but there is another element of this that the government really does not have a handle on, and that is the cost of the bureaucracy that is going to be required to administer this program. We have had some suggestion: “Look, the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, Financial Institutions, the superintendent of insurance office, etc, cost X number of dollars. We think it is going to cost us about 11 or 12 million bucks.”
I am a little concerned about this. We really do not know what it is going to cost. We are talking about a dispute resolution system. We are talking about six million drivers in the province.
I think we should look at the record of this Liberal government with respect to rent review. Do members know what that is costing us now because of this Liberal government’s initiative? It is $40 million a year. That is taxpayers’ money.
In the future there is going to be one additional victim at every accident scene in this province if this legislation goes through, and that is the already beleaguered taxpayer. That is what is going to happen. What we are really developing here, perhaps, is the son of rent review. We have six million drivers. We are establishing a dispute resolution system, with a variety of steps --
Mr Philip: Who voted for that rent review act?
Mr Runciman: We are getting interjections from the NDP. This is curious. I do not want to get into this, but we know a current assistant of the leader has just been appointed to a plum position by the Liberal government. I wonder if that is encouraging the members of the opposition to interject on a position that we support with them? I think those kinds of interjections should be a little more carefully considered.
Mr Philip: How did you vote for the rent review act?
Mr Runciman: How did the member vote for Robin Sears’s appointment to Tokyo?
I want to talk about the fact that it is quite interesting that the government is running around the province saying, “We’re looking at zero to eight.” The minister is talking about 20 per cent perhaps. We are not talking about the number of people who are going to be forced into Facility as a result of this legislation. I talked about the less fortunate in society, those people who do not have collateral benefits, who cannot afford collateral benefits, who do not have salary continuation plans.
The reality is that with this bill, no-fault benefits take second place. If you have salary continuation, you are going to exhaust that salary continuation plan. But for the less fortunate in society who do not have those kinds of benefits, what is going to happen with respect to the broker and the insurance company looking at those persons as prospective clients? They are going to refer them to the Facility. They do not want them because the possibility is very clear that they are going to have to pay out through no-fault benefits. With someone who has salary continuation that is going to kick in before no-fault benefits, so you are a much lower risk to that insurance company.
So what we are going to see is a significant growth of Facility. The minister says that is not going to happen, but I want to tell members, if we look back at the history of this government since 1987 when the Premier made that irresponsible promise -- and I could use tougher language than that -- that he had a specific plan to lower automobile insurance rates, if we look at that and the initiatives undertaken where this minister and his predecessors said, “Look, we’re not going to see any growth in Facility,” over the last year we saw a growth of 103 per cent in the Facility Association and we are going to see a much more significant increase when this legislation goes through. That is the reality, that the poor and the unfortunate in our society are really going to get a kick in the tail when this goes through.
We could talk about the independent business person. We could talk about the small farmer. And there is another disappointment: the Ontario Federation of Agriculture failing to appear as a witness before our committee. I cannot understand it, because the farmers in this province are people who could be very, very seriously impacted by this legislation. Many of them have very modest incomes -- a lot of it goes back into the farm -- and the payouts under the legislation are based on salary. I was told by some members of the farming community that because the OFA has a significant interest in an insurance company perhaps that affected its judgement and its willingness to appear before this committee. I hope that is not the case, but if indeed it is, I believe they have done a serious injustice to their membership.
I could go on at length about the myths that have been built up about this legislation by the government. We talked about the 30 to 35 per cent increase if they did not do anything. We had this business about, “If we don’t do anything, we’re going to see significant increases of 30 to 35 per cent.” That did not take into account the tax breaks that they are giving, the $143 million. It did not take into account the tort reform that is coming in the fall. It did not take into account the number of other initiatives that Mr Justice Coulter Osborne recommended. That is another effort to deceive the public, another red herring. I asked members of the insurance industry, for example, “What does the $143 million represent to you?” It represents 15 per cent. We have these boys on the Liberal side of the House saying, “Well, you’re going to get a 30 per cent increase.” Just that tax break alone represented 15 per cent of that so-called 30 per cent increase.
The reality is that we have, as Justice Coulter Osborne said, probably the best compensation system in the world and we should not be importers of compensation systems; we should be exporters. But that $1.4-million study was virtually ignored. The Premier did not like the results of it because it did not go along with his promise of the election campaign. So what did he do? He threw the ball into the court of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board and it took a look at it.
I do not want to get into at length about the waste of millions and millions of dollars in that automobile insurance board. The whole history of this Liberal government in respect to auto insurance is something that should bring tears to the eyes of every taxpayer in this province -- the money that has been wasted. It is shameful when we are seeing problems in health care, we are seeing problems in sewage treatment plants across this province, where we are spewing raw sewage into the streams and rivers of this province and we see this Liberal government throwing money down the toilet, in essence, in its efforts to screw up royally the insurance system in this province.
I have a request from a colleague of mine to participate in this debate. Obviously I am going to have opportunities to pursue this line at a future date, so I am going to assume my seat at this juncture.
Mr Ferraro: It is my privilege as parliamentary assistant to the minister to be involved with this legislation. Quite frankly, I can say without hesitation that it has been an enlightening experience. I should say right off the bat, because indeed the debate was precipitated by the committee report, that I would like to offer my personal thanks to everyone on the committee, in particular to the chairman and the members of my party and, in fairness, the members of the opposition who contributed and endured a very difficult process, and understandably so.
I found that any time there is a significant change in the way we do business in Ontario, and indeed we are significantly changing the way we do insurance business in Ontario, particularly dealing with automobiles, there is always resistance. That is just a fact of life.
In particular to the members of the opposition, the member for Leeds-Grenville and my friend the member for Welland-Thorold, in both cases I have had the pleasure of debating on a number of occasions. I think they epitomize something that is symptomatic perhaps of all politicians, in that any time you get a microphone or a television camera there is an allergic reaction and they have a tendency to break out.
If you were to believe everything the opposition members have said in regard to Bill 68, the Ontario automobile protection plan, then I quite frankly do not blame the public for being upset. Occasionally, when I listened to what they were saying, because much of it became redundant, I honestly thought I was doing something grossly wrong. However, when saner moments entered the picture and we learned the reality and the facts involved with this, I find it is much less inflammatory and, indeed, logical and acceptable to understand the direction we are taking.
Let me say right off the bat that it is important to understand the position of each party. The New Democratic Party, understandably so, wants public, government-run auto insurance, and its own party will have diverse points of view as to whether or not it should allow actions in tort, whether people should have access to lawsuits. The game is still in play there.
I have to admit in all fairness that I am not quite sure what the official position of the Conservative Party is. The closest I have seen to an official party position is that it is in favour of some form of choice. Maybe when it gets its new leader -- or indeed the present leader will clarify that for us.
But here is the problem: the problem is one of affordability. I regret very much that much of the debate and many of the arguments that have been presented to the public are entirely around lawyers and the access to courts, because that is unfortunate. It is much more involved than that. The problem is a systematic problem above and beyond the litigation process which is necessary and which indeed will continue.
The problem is and most reasonable people will accept the actuarial studies -- and numerous actuarial studies have been performed; indeed, the opposition asked for, admittedly, on many occasions, for the reports. They wanted 24 reports; the government released 39. In any event, most of the studies took place over the last couple of years -- and we fought two elections on this issue -- so to suggest that the government is ramming this through, knowing full well that we have argued this thing ad nauseam for the last five years, to me is somewhat lacking.
Having said all that, most reasonable people on all sides of the issue, whether they are in favour or not, will accept the fact that if the government did nothing, insurance premiums in Ontario this year would increase somewhere between 29 per cent and 44 per cent. The government took 35 per cent; which means that if we did nothing, which many people want us to do, the 6.2 million drivers in Ontario could expect an average insurance premium -- which is $756 in Ontario right now -- a premium in excess of $1,000 this year. That is not acceptable.
If you listen to the opposition, Mr Speaker, you would think that everyone in the world is against this legislation, that it absolutely is not supported by anyone, which is so full of holes that it would pale beside Swiss cheese.
Let me just very briefly say who is in favour of this. The Consumers’ Association of Canada, a nonpartisan, well-respected agency, is in favour of this. In fact, to be blunt, they want us to go further. They want us to abolish entirely all access to tort, no lawsuits whatsoever, similar to the system they have in Quebec which is called pure no-fault.
I have heard much about small business people being affected by this. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the voice of more than 400,000 small business people, who employ over two million people in this province, is in favour of this, but we do not hear the opposition saying that. We never hear them say that. We have the Ontario March of Dimes in favour of it; we have auto clubs in favour of it.
When one listens to what they are saying, most of the arguments centre on the fact that they are not going to be able to sue in court. Indeed they are saying, and I wrote this down, “There is no remedy or no remuneration for psychological injury.” In both cases, I suggest one needs to hear a little bit more about it. There is no question that under the present system, right now, one can sue for anything. There are no-fault benefits now. The no-fault benefits essentially are $140 a week in income replacement and $25,000 in rehabilitative care. That is it, but you do have this right to sue, Mr Speaker.
I understand that it is a very emotional issue, as it should be, but who can sue, Mr Speaker? You can sue if you can afford it, if you can stand the mental anguish and the process of a long court procedure. I acknowledge that many of these are settled without going to the full extent of the jurisprudence. In other words, instead of an average of three to four years, many of them are settled a couple of years from now, but, Mr Speaker, you could only sue, really, if you think you can win.
There was $1.8 billion in bodily injury claims last year; 121,000 accidents out of approximately 203,000 accidents last year involved bodily injury. One third of those were either at fault themselves or could not prove fault.
So, if you are in the fortunate position of being able to afford the time, the money to go to court, yes indeed, you will get some financial reward -- I guess that is the terminology -- if you have a judge who believes what he hears, but what about all those innocent victims? I have heard this innocent victim stuff. Innocent victims? You would almost think that people get in their car and go looking for an accident.
First of all, all the premium payers in the province of Ontario are innocent victims because every time the insurance company has to make a payment, it is funnelled back into the form of premiums. I have heard about these giveaways.
I listened to the member for Leeds-Grenville. He said there was a $143-million tax break, $480 million in pain and suffering -- a billion-dollar giveaway to insurance companies. I can maybe understand the New Democratic Party’s saying that, and it has, but I sure cannot understand the minder of the gate of free enterprise, knowledgeable of business acumen, suggesting that if the insurance companies have to make a claim, they are going to eat it. That is what he is saying, it is a giveaway. We are giving the insurance companies $1 billion.
If the insurance companies have to pay $1 billion, are they going to pay it or are the premium payers going to pay it, the drivers who pay the premiums? I suggest that even a three-year-old would understand that there is no giveaway there. If there is a cost payout, it is passed on to the drivers, pure and simple.
But let’s deal with that specifically for a minute: $143 million, they say, is giveaway in OHIP subrogation and indeed in premium tax. In this bill specifically it says that that amount of money has to be acknowledged as a direct subsidy to the premium. In other words, the $143 million has to be shown to the insurance commissioner as going directly into the form of premium reduction. That has to be proven so that there is no giveaway to the insurance companies. The beneficial aspect of that giveaway, they call it, which is not a giveaway, is to the premium payers, to the 6.2 million drivers in Ontario.
I could go on and on on this and rebut much of what has been said. I want to, if I can for a minute, say this. The suggestion that psychological injury is not compensated, to me, is one of the most unfair, misleading, if you will, statements that anyone can make. The legislation says, and understandably so, if your injury is serious and permanent, you can sue. If it is not, you cannot.
Mr Runciman: Physical injury.
Mr Ferraro: Causing physical injury, I thank the member. There is no question of that. And there is no question that it will reduce approximately 90 per cent to 95 per cent of the court actions.
Bear in mind, on the one hand we had the legal fraternity and others saying they should retain the right to sue in all instances. On the other hand, we had insurance companies telling us that we should have a pure no-fault system. They did not want to have any court cases whatsoever.
Mr B. Rae: No, they were not. They never said that.
Mr Ferraro: I beg to differ. They did say that.
In Quebec one cannot sue, but the government took a balance. We took a comprehensive approach. We said, “In those serious and permanent cases, you still have access to tort, but if you are going to take away the right to sue for people in those less serious cases, then you have to give them something,” and we have done it. We have increased substantially the no-fault benefits side, so much so, and as a result of public hearings, that we have made certain amendments. So they were certainly beneficial and helpful.
We now have an income replacement of $600. That will cover approximately 85 per cent of the people in Ontario. We have rehabilitative and supplementary care to the tune of $1 million. There are many more, so hopefully my colleagues will reiterate.
I say to the people of Ontario that they should not believe everything the opposition says. They should hear both sides of the issue. I suggest that most people will not understand this new direction, if you will, until they deal with their insurance agent or company or, God forbid, get in an accident themselves. But one fact is undeniable: If we did not do what we are doing in a comprehensive way, they could look at increases of 30 per cent to 35 per cent more in their premiums. What we are standing behind and what we are fully accountable for is that in the province of Ontario, as a result of Bill 68, they will have increases in urban areas, on average, of eight per cent and in other areas, on average, of zero per cent. And yes, that will mean that some people, a small percentage, will get substantial increases, about 25 per cent; but, conversely, some people will get substantial reductions.
It is fair. It is equitable. I look forward to further debate and I look forward to hearing my colleagues speak on the issue.
Mr B. Rae: I am delighted to be able to participate in the debate after the comments that have been made by the member for Guelph, because he said that the government decided to take a balanced view. I want to remind the member for Guelph -- he has a very short memory -- that in the period between 1985 and 1987, the insurance industry issued its plan, and it was called smart no-fault.
Mr Speaker, I want to remind you what the elements of smart no-fault were. The elements of smart no-fault were that you have a threshold for suing, but it was a less rigid threshold than the one which the government brought in in its Bill 68. You increase the amount of no-fault benefits that are paid out, and the amounts that the insurance companies were prepared to pay out were more than what the government established under regulation under Bill 68.
What we have is, yes indeed, a balance. It is a balance between what the insurance industry told us it wanted in 1986 and what the insurance industry then realized it could get after the Liberals got their majority in 1987.
The member for Guelph should know that this government gave the insurance industry more than it asked for in 1986. At that point, they had the government on short-term loan, and therefore they were not sure how much they could get. Now they think they have the government on a long-term lease, and that is the kind of approach the government has taken after 1987.
Let’s be entirely clear what this bill does. This bill takes away substantive legal rights from the citizens of this province. Indeed, the Law Society of Upper Canada, in its proceedings of convocation dated 26 January 1990, said that the convocation adopted a recommendation urging the government not to enact Bill 68 because it is discriminatory and because it deprives the citizens of Ontario of important rights and remedies that they now possess.
When it talks about it being discriminatory, it points out specifically it is discriminatory, first of all, against people who are injured in different ways; second, it is discriminatory against people who suffer injuries whose consequences and results are psychological and nonphysical rather than purely physical.
Mr Speaker, I can tell you, and I think every member of this House knows, that the psychological consequences of an accident or of an injury are in some cases even more serious than the physical consequences of an accident or an injury. Anybody with an iota of sensitivity would understand that and would know that we are not living in some century where people who have psychological pain are somehow less worthy of compensation than people who are suffering simply physical pain.
I can say to the honourable member who has just spoken, the psychological pain of an accident and its consequences can last for a lifetime. The physical pain can be something which one can cope with and which can be a passing thing.
It is purely and simply a disgrace for a government to have caved in to an industry the way this government has given in to the insurance industry. We can show, whether it is taxation, whether it is asking OHIP premiums and the government, through its taxation for OHIP, whether it is a subsidy through the tax system, we can establish clearly that there have been massive transfers of public moneys to the insurance companies.
I can remember in the last election campaign, the insurance industry was saying to us, “Well, the reason you have public insurance doing relatively well in other provinces is that there are all kinds of subsidies.” What we have in this system are all kinds of subsidies, in fact more subsidies than now exist in any plan, public or private, anywhere in Canada. There is a larger transfer of money going from the taxpayers and from the public purse to the insurance industry in this province under Bill 68, and we will document this day in and day out in this Legislature. Those people are giving the insurance industry more money than has been given to the insurance industry in any other province in this country. We can document that and we can show it. The government is giving them a bigger deal and a bigger transfer. It is also taking away more rights than now exist in every other province, except for the province of Quebec, and I can say to the minister, who is not here -- I will say it to the parliamentary assistant who is here that the other thing this government has done is that it has deprived the citizens of this province from recovering the full economic loss as well as the full psychological loss of the consequences of an accident.
I said before, at a rally, that this is an act of ultimate cynicism by this government and I think it is the kind of cynicism that is going to cost this government votes. It is going to cost the government public support because this is the kind of issue that will not go away. Everybody drives and everybody knows the consequences of injury. I can tell the government, when it starts playing the insurance companies’ tune, it does it at its peril.
Mr McClelland: I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate. Just at the outset, there are a number of issues I would like to respond to that have been made by members of the opposition, but inasmuch as a number of my colleagues would also like to join the debate, I will try to limit my comments to three points, although as I say there could be many, many more.
I want to respond to a question that has come before me many times in my constituency office, in meeting with people, indeed meeting with people as I served on the committee, and we heard some 237 presentations made before the committee. Certainly at the outset of the introduction of the Ontario motorist protection plan the terminology being used was no-fault insurance. There was a misconception held by very many people in this province that the idea of no-fault meant that all drivers would be treated equally, regardless of their driving record or their responsibility with respect to causing accidents and their care in operating a motor vehicle.
That clearly is not the case and we have established and demonstrated to many people before the committee the element of the rating system which will continue with the new system we are bringing before this Legislature. I raise that for one other particular point and that is in response to a position given by the member for Leeds-Grenville. He drew a conclusion with respect to the Quebec situation that I would simply say is incorrect.
He said the Quebec no-fault experience generated a rise in accidents. In fact, that was the case; in 1987, when Quebec introduced no-fault, there was a rise in accidents. Let me say simply that after they recognized that, they introduced a rating system similar to what we are proposing in this legislation. Having introduced that rating system, whereby drivers who do not conduct themselves appropriately and cause accidents -- they had a dramatic decrease, some 60 per cent decrease. I want to make that clear for the people of Ontario who have raised this concern. I am sure many of my colleagues have had that concern raised to them. I think it is a very important point to draw to our attention.
The second point is with respect to the court process. I heard a member of the opposition say there were going to be people, the less fortunate, who would end up as losers. I listened to people come before the committee and not one of us who sat there and saw people who are wheelchair-bound, whose lives have been destroyed, was not touched in a very dramatic way by the presentation made by people who came before us.
I think it important for us in this House to understand that many of those people who came before us talked about why they wished a plan like the one we are proposing had been in place. Many of them said their lives were torn apart, that they were victims who were involved in accidents where there was no at-fault party to whom they could turn.
Under the system that now exists, many of those people said if they had been in a position where they could have received the financial compensation that is being proposed under the no-fault benefits under this act, they would have been in a much better position. More important, there is the access to rehabilitation and the access to medical services to put them in a position again to be active participants in society.
That brings me to my third and final point and that is really with the philosophical wrestling I had to undertake in my own mind and heart as we heard people across this province. The critic from the official opposition says, and rightly so, that for a large number of people we, the government, under this legislation will be removing the right to sue for pain and suffering. That is true.
I ask myself the question, “Is that a fundamental right we have in this society?” As one who had the privilege of being trained in the law and of practising law for a short while before being elected to this Legislature, it is something that I suppose I was steeped in, in one sense, in the tradition, albeit in practice for a few years, with that element of it being a right for people to sue.
Yet I look at other schemes that we have in this province that have qualified that right to sue and I ask myself the question again: Is it a fundamental right? I suppose that if one concludes that it is an inalienable right, then ultimately people are going to have difficulty with this legislation.
Let me say that I have come to a conclusion that I think our society is progressing to a point where we can look to a shift. Those people who are seriously injured and meet the threshold will ultimately be able to have access to the courts for that element of pain and suffering and psychological damage and to look to finances to compensate them.
Clearly, everybody who came before us said that finances would never put them in a position to make their lives whole again. So I asked myself the question: Is it better if we can move philosophically from a shift to that retributive element of our society that has said somehow that paying people makes things right? Is it not more important, I ask you, Mr Speaker, and all my colleagues here, to put people in the position where they can be made whole again, as much as we are able to do that?
We heard evidence before the committee that said that in cases where people waited more than six months to be put into rehabilitative programs, their success rate was less than 50 per cent. One of the elements that I find most compelling about the proposed legislation is the fact that people will have quick access to the kind of resources that they need to get their lives back in order and get whole again.
I just say simply that having wrestled with that philosophical argument, and wrestled with it at great length, I think we are in fact at a point in our society where we can begin to shift our mindset away from that element of retribution in saying that, “Money makes me better.” It does not do that. Indeed, every witness had said, “Put people back in a position financially to compensate for their income.” But if the shift is to be there, let us move ahead with this shift in making people’s lives whole again, providing them with the kind of rehabilitation, the medical assistance, the help that they need and the help that their families need to put their lives back in order.
Mr Speaker, those are but three elements that I am pleased to present to you today. As my colleagues consider this legislation, I ask them to bear in mind that the essence of this legislation is to provide speedy access of benefits to people who are in need and to make those people whole again.
Mrs LeBourdais: On the subject of automobile insurance, one thing is certain: The people of Ontario are simply unwilling or unable to bear the financial burden that a substantial increase in premiums would bring about. This applies particularly to those people on fixed incomes. In my riding of Etobicoke West, seniors, for example, would be very hard hit by a substantive rise in insurance premiums.
The people of Ontario want this government to take firm action to ensure that their insurance rates do not become unaffordable. This has meant making some very tough choices, and there are certainly some tradeoffs involved. The new system is not perfect, but I feel that a careful consideration of the pros and cons reveals that it is a significant improvement over the present tort system.
The existing system is highly inequitable. It serves the rich better than the poor; it serves the better educated better than the less well educated. It is all well and good to be able to sue for full compensation, but if, for one reason or another, you are unable to identify the person at fault or do not win your case, you are left with nothing, and in some cases you are left with exorbitant court costs and legal fees. Certainly, winning your case may often depend on whether or not you can afford the cost of a good and competent lawyer.
Under the present system, a case can take a great deal of time to work its way through the courts, sometimes even years, during which time an innocent victim may receive grossly inadequate income replacement benefits. This is not to mention the emotional costs of such long-drawn-out court cases. Because of the long backlog in the court system, many cases end up being settled out of court. In some instances the settlement ends up being far below what the victim rightly deserves and in other cases it far exceeds that amount, and in those instances we pay for it.
What Bill 68 achieves is that it provides for fair, guaranteed and promptly delivered benefits. Income replacement benefits would begin within 10 days and money for rehabilitation purposes within 30 days. Insurance companies failing to pay benefits on time will be subject to stiff penalties. In addition, guaranteed benefits will be available for the first time to students, to seniors and to the unemployed.
Several amendments have been made to Bill 68 as a result of the public hearing process held in both January and February, amendments which I feel have significantly improved this legislation. Guaranteed benefits have been enhanced from $450 to $600 per week, thus providing sufficient income replacement for anyone earning $39,000 per year or less. This covers 85 per cent of Ontario income earners. In addition, long-term care benefits have been doubled from $1,500 to $3,000 per month. Motorists have the option of purchasing additional insurance for extra income replacement, and certainly should be encouraged to do so.
Although we would all like to see benefits improved even further, it should be kept in mind that providing additional benefits would begin to push the cost of premiums beyond the reach of the average motorist. Once again, affordability is the primary goal of the Ontario motorist protection plan. Without Bill 68, premiums would rise 30 to 35 per cent. With it, increases will be far more moderate. This fact is often ignored by the critics of the bill. The reduction of premiums will be achieved largely by eliminating the need to sue in court in order to recover financial losses in a large majority of cases. This will greatly reduce the number of costly lawsuits.
In order to keep premiums down, the legislation also contains a number of measures to improve consumer protection and enhance accident prevention. These include greater OPP enforcement of traffic laws, higher fines for traffic violations, tougher penalties for drunk drivers, antifraud campaigns, stricter regulation of the insurance industry and public education programs on seatbelt usage and daytime running lights. In addition, the Ontario government will eliminate the three per cent tax on auto insurance. This will generate an estimated $95 million in savings on premiums for the Ontario motorist.
I deeply value the input of the wide range of individuals who brought their experiences and concerns before the standing committee on general government. I feel that the public hearings were very beneficial and I know that all members of the committee were deeply moved by many of those who appeared before us.
There were times, however, when I was saddened by the outright manipulation of certain individuals, many of whom were young people, who were brought forward solely for their shock value. These were individuals who were tragically hurt in horrendous car accidents and have had their lives drastically and permanently altered. Most of these individuals were in fact set up. They were unaware that under the new no-fault system they would have been cared for better and in a more prompt manner than they were under the present tort system. In fact, they would have passed the threshold.
I would like to conclude by again emphasizing that through this legislation the government has undertaken the very complex task of finding the right balance between premium affordability and benefit comprehensiveness. Difficult choices have had to be made when legitimate and often conflicting goals existed. I feel that Bill 68 provides this balance and adequately addresses the shortcomings of the present auto insurance system.
Ms Oddie Munro: I would like to focus on three issues relating to the committee hearings and to the issue of Bill 68 and the relationship to the Ontario motorist protection plan. The first is just to reflect on the committee process itself and the whole aspect of public participation, whether it be through that committee, through letters to the minister, through town hall meetings or through ongoing contact with people in our ridings and riding associations.
I think it is fair to say that every member of the Legislature is concerned about the spiralling insurance costs and I think every one of us has had to think very carefully about the elements that would lend some stability to the marketplace and bring to the insured the kind of protection he wants at the kind of price he says he can tolerate.
In the committee hearings, I believe it is fair to say, and many other members have reflected on it, that the people who came to that committee were indeed serious. They were under time allocation pressures. They said what they had to say, and the emotion and knowledge I think was accepted by each one of us. If emotions got too high, then so be it; that is part of the committee process.
I think many of the suggestions that came before the committee have been reflected in the amendments and I am indeed looking forward to continuing discussion in the House and suggestions for amendments from the floor. Certainly each one of us will recognize that the enhancement of benefits to $600 from $450 was significant and was reflected in many of the witnesses’ statements, as was the increase of long-term benefits monthly to $3,000.
I do believe that the committee system works in a technical sense also. Hansard in fact has quoted the member for York Mills as stating that the notice provision was passed, section 208. The notice provision requires an insurer to give notice 30 days in advance of its intention to terminate or change an insurance policy and the broker has to get notice well in advance. As each member will know, that notice provision was the subject of many newspaper articles and concerns expressed by clients.
In addition, the member for York Mills referred to the provisions for the excluded driver rule, section 209a, which again resulted from not only the expressions to the committee but the letters that have been coming to the minister and to the members.
One of the benefits of dealing in a committee -- and let me say that I believe very, very sincerely in the committee process. I have been asked, and many of you have noticed, certainly in my riding association, whether I do believe and whether I have paid attention to what people are telling me. Of course I have and I am very comfortable with the fact that members in committees can, by virtue of their interest and knowledge and listening to witnesses, effect the kind of amendments that are so necessary.
I would like to focus on statements we received in Ottawa, certainly statements by Mr Slater, who feels that, in taking a look at all of the evidence before him, Bill 68 is going a long way towards giving the client the kind of coverage and compensation he deserves.
I would also like to reflect on some of the more weighty academic treatises submitted to us by Michael Trebilcock of the University of Toronto, where the evidence is still out on accident frequency and where the Régie de l’assurance automobile du Québec has in fact said that it is finding in Quebec that the accident frequency is down.
I will be speaking more to the bill as we go along, and I would like to thank you for this opportunity, Mr Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): I would like to invite at this time the member for Hamilton Centre for the conclusion of her debate. There was agreement in terms of time allocation. That being the case, as acknowledged by the government House leader, are there any further members wishing to participate in terms of time allocation? Seeing none, is there agreement that we proceed with the matter at hand? Agreed.
The House divided on whether the report should be received and adopted, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ayes -- 53
Adams, Bossy, Brown, Callahan, Campbell, Chiarelli, Cleary, Collins, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Eakins, Elliot, Epp, Faubert, Fawcett, Ferraro, Fleet, Grandmaître, Haggerty, Hart, Henderson, Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, Kozyra, LeBourdais, Lupusella, MacDonald, Matrundola, McClelland, McLeod, Miclash, Neumann, Nicholas, Oddie Munro, Owen, Pelissero, Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Ramsay, Ray, M. C., Reycraft, Roberts, Scott, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., South, Stoner, Sweeney, Ward, Wilson, Wong, Wrye.
Nays -- 26
Allen, Brandt, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Cousens, Cunningham, Eves, Farnan, Grier, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Kormos, Mackenzie, Marland, Martel, McCague, McLean, Morin-Strom, Philip, E., Pollock, Pouliot, Runciman, Villeneuve, Wildman.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
The Speaker: I should draw to the attention of the members that our clock is a little slow. We still have a few minutes on the clock and we have not reached orders of the day.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
LANDLORD AND TENANT AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Mr Fleet moved first reading of Bill 111, An Act to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: Do you have an explanation?
Mr Fleet: I have already had an opportunity earlier today to explain this, but I have another matter to move.
RESIDENTIAL RENT REGULATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Mr Fleet moved first reading of Bill 110, An Act to amend the Residential Rent Regulation Act, 1986.
Motion agreed to.
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Mr D. S. Cooke, on behalf of Mr R. F. Johnston, moved first reading of Bill 112, An Act to amend the Education Act.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: I do not suppose you have an explanation for the members.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Very briefly, this bill is to replace Bill 83, An Act to amend the Education Act, which had a typographical error.
CITY OF NORTH BAY ACT, 1990
Mr Harris moved first reading of Bill Pr57, An Act respecting the City of North Bay.
Motion agreed to.
ASSOCIATION OF STONEY LAKE COTTAGERS INC ACT, 1990
Mr Adams moved first reading of Bill Pr55, An Act to revive the Association of Stoney Lake Cottagers Inc.
Motion agreed to.
VICTIMS’ BILL OF RIGHTS ACT, 1990
Mr Jackson moved first reading of Bill 113, An Act to establish the Rights of Victims of Crime.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 1804.