The House met at 1330.
DEATH OF MEMBER FOR OTTAWA SOUTH
The Speaker: I wish to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the membership of the House by reason of the death of Dalton James McGuinty, Esq, member for the electoral district of Ottawa South. Accordingly, my warrant has been issued to the chief election officer for the issue of a writ for a by-election.
ONTARIO FRENCH LANGUAGE SERVICES COMMISSION
The Speaker: I would also like to inform the House that I have today laid upon the table the final report of the Ontario French Language Services Commission, pursuant to subsection 15(7) of the French Language Services Act, 1986.
Mr Farnan: Paul G, a self-admitted compulsive gambler, is currently waiting to be tried for fraud. Over a period of 17 months Paul G, by his own admission, embezzled more than $200,000, not to enjoy a lavish lifestyle but solely to feed his gambling habit. Here are Paul’s own words: “I lived in a dream world where I envisaged making huge profits and currently am paying back the loans.”
Paul was counselled by the Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling to attend the Valley Forge Medical Center in the United States but, because OHIP would subsidize only 75 per cent of this treatment, Paul could not make the trip. However, Paul points out, had a similar clinic been available in Ontario, it would have allowed him to attend. To quote Paul once again:
“Gambling is becoming more available in Canada and I believe the number of individuals requiring intensive clinical treatment can only increase....I look forward to the day I can benefit from a professional treatment centre in Ontario.”
Does the Minister of Health recognize compulsive gambling as a disease? Can the minister explain why there is not a single gambling rehabilitation clinic in the province? And how much longer are the unfortunate victims of compulsive gambling like Paul going to have to wait for the establishment of such a treatment centre in Ontario? The time to act is now.
Mr Cousens: Signs of spring are everywhere. The swallows have returned to Capistrano. Looking across the aisles I can see that the turkeys have returned to Queen’s Park, and tonight is the annual spring fling of the Oscars, the Academy Awards.
In Ontario we have our own world-class awards which we call the GRITS, Grim Reminders of Incompetence, Tax-grabs and Stupidity, which we award to members of the government in recognition of their more noteworthy screwups and fumbles. This year the competition was fierce, but we have come up with a list of winners which I and some of my colleagues would like to announce today.
The big award this year for worst performance in a lead role goes, as it has every year for the past five years, to the Premier. That mumbling mogul of the mediocre has a lock on top prize. This year we honour the Premier for his part in a fantasy, the fantasy that his government has fulfilled the mandate it received in 1987. The Premier’s comments in this regard have led some industry watchers to conclude that Looney Tunes are about to make a big comeback.
While the Premier and the other winners are deserving of their awards, those not so honoured need not despair, because with practice they too can become true Grits and can achieve that proper balance of arrogance and ineptitude which makes for winners on awards night. My congratulations to the Premier.
CHICAGO BOARD OF TRADE
Mr D. W. Smith: Is it not time that the farmers quit pricing their production of soybeans on the Chicago Board of Trade? In the late spring and early summer of 1989, I read and heard through the media that the directors of the Chicago Board of Trade had to take appropriate action so that farmers would not lose money on their soybeans. The story was that a company called Feruzzi, which also owns Central Soya, was cornering the soybean market. As it turns out, the companies represented by some of the board were on the opposite side of the market to Feruzzi and were more concerned about their own profits than the price of beans to the North American farmers. By the way, the price to the farmers of beans dropped $1.50 per bushel in five weeks.
In November 1989, the American Agriculture Movement Inc, on behalf of 430,000 soybean farmers in the United States, started a class action lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Trade. It seems ironic that the farmers lost millions of dollars while the companies made millions of dollars because of this action taken by the board. Also, some of these companies get taxpayers’ dollars to construct new facilities while farmers have to ask for taxpayers’ dollars to bail them out of their problems because they cannot get their costs of production in the marketplace.
I believe the time has come for farmers in North America, as well as around the world, to quit pricing their commodities on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The death of 10 people just before Christmas in the Rupert Hotel fire is a tragedy that must be recognized by this Legislature. Rooming house fires have left a grim legacy of death in Toronto, killing at least 41 people over the past 16 years.
It is estimated that about 10,000 people in Toronto live in rooming houses, another 13,000 double up in Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority apartments, 17,000 people are on the waiting list for MTHA units and between 10,000 and 20,000 people sleep in hostels or on the streets in this community.
The statistics and the tragic fire show dramatically the depth of the housing crisis in this province and in this community. We remember those who died and we demand that this horror not be repeated. Tens of thousands of people in Toronto and hundreds of thousands across Ontario are forced to live in overcrowded, substandard conditions because of the province-wide housing crisis. Many are faced with living in premises that are unlicensed, uninspected and not even subject to minimal standards.
As we mourn the dead in the Rupert Hotel blaze, we demand that our governments ensure that all people in this city and this province, especially single moms and those on welfare and the working poor, have a safe, affordable place to live. The provincial government must commit itself to provide the money and the other resources necessary to build more safe, affordable housing. Since the new Housing minister was appointed, there has been no new program for the not-for-profit sector. We demand action now.
Mrs Marland: To continue with the Academy Awards, I would like to say that our first GRITS award, the MIA award for ministerial inaction and special effects, goes to the Minister of the Environment. Having amused audiences everywhere with his portrayal of the bumbling junior G-man in the hit movie The Toxic Fuel Scam, the minister reached new heights of the absurd in his performance as the Hagersville Houdini, in which he made 14 million tires and his own credibility disappear at the same time. We hope this MIA award will remind the minister that when the going got tough, he got lost.
This year’s Reach Out and Kick Someone award goes to the Minister of Health for her sensitive performance in The Hotline Fiasco, the pilot for Emergency 911. The minister, in danger of being typecast as a consequence of her long-running Robocap performance, showed she has the capacity of playing lead roles in the GRITS soap opera. When faced with a problem, she did a great impression of the Premier and searched for scapegoats instead of solutions. As part of her prize, the Minister of Health will receive a 25-cent coin and Dr Nesdoly’s phone number.
The winner of the GRITS award for director of the year is the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology for his work on Waste, Flubs and Videotape. As head of I’m-a-Dope Studio, the minister paid 40 times the going rate for a promotional video which helped promote the spendthrift image of his government.
Mr Neumann: Recent events in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union have made many of us reflect upon the true meaning of democracy. We have been inspired by people taking action to replace old-style, one-party governments run by bureaucratic minorities with new, multiparty democracies responsive to the will of the people. Already this year we have seen the formation of governments in several of these countries directly elected by the people for the first time in decades, or for the first time ever.
In Canada our system of democracy has evolved over many years in response to pressures and challenges which are distinctly Canadian. It is strong because the concept of rule by the majority is balanced by guaranteed rights for the individual, with a court system free of political interference. Respect for minorities and an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding are important elements of our success.
Canada’s democracy is by no means perfect, however. Events in recent months have shown that we have not yet found the proper balance between the will of the majority and respect for minority rights. I believe that we can overcome these difficulties if we continue to remind ourselves that our multicultural diversity and knowledge and respect for more than one language are strengths rather than weaknesses, to be promoted rather than stifled. By working together in harmony and respecting others in society who are different, we are acting to strengthen and protect our true democratic ideals.
EVENTS IN LITHUANIA
Mr R. F. Johnston: I rise to ask all members of this House to join with me and others to develop and participate in a Canadian parliamentary support committee for independent Lithuania.
It is time that we recognize the overwhelming democratic decision that was made there, which some of us witnessed, and that we demand of our federal government, as a group of parliamentarians, an official response to the Brezhnevian-style disinformation which is coming forward: a request that all international journalists be allowed to stay in Lithuania as some means of international protection for that country; official rejection of bullying techniques in an attempt to provoke violence which are taking place there now on a daily basis. We should also decry any use of force and suggest that there should be no arrest of any of the young men who have decided to stay in Lithuania and to leave the Soviet army.
I believe it is important to understand that it would be an absolute desecration of our democratic ideals if we are to stand by and watch their democratic will thwarted. It would be a betrayal of a nation that was taken over illegally, which is still having bodies shipped back from Siberia these many decades after hundreds of thousands of people died there and which, in spite of enormous repression, has stood up peacefully at the ballot box to assert its will.
I ask all members to join with me in establishing this kind of parliamentary committee here, nationally and in other parliaments, so we can at least suggest that our hands are not tied, that we have voices we can lend to their support.
Mr Cousens: A few more awards: A lifetime achievement GRITS award goes to the Treasurer, who has set modern-day records for the most tax increases, the heaviest tax burden, overspending and announcing the shortest-lived and most convenient balanced budget. The taxpayers who have had to pay for this sterling record have only one thing to say to the Treasurer: “Quit now.” In reviewing the Treasurer’s record, we say, along with Will Rogers, “Thank God we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”
The next award, the GRITS award for worst performance in a supporting role, goes to the Minister of Education. The clown prince of the front bench is being recognized for his performance in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ School System and for his continuing part in The Phantom of Mowat Block. To receive his award, the minister should contact any of the teachers’ associations that have been trying to meet with him.
The first winner of the Fluffy the Cat Award for Humanitarianism is none other than the Attorney General, who could also have won, as our friend the leader of the official opposition has noted, for his credible impression of Hamilton Burger. The Attorney General can pick up his award at the local pound.
The GRITS award for least promising performance by a newcomer goes to the Minister of Revenue for his sorry showing in The Big Sleep. While napping on the set, the minister missed a plot change which turned $78,000 worth of information material into garbage. He can pick up his prize at the garbage dump.
EVENTS IN LITHUANIA
Mr Fleet: Mikhail Gorbachev, your actions shame your promises of peace, democracy and openness.
Lithuanians democratically and overwhelmingly voted for independence. The new Lithuanian government is doggedly carrying out the will of the people without a hint of violence.
In contrast, Mr Gorbachev, your army of occupation has tanks and troops clattering through Lithuanian streets and occupying buildings. International phone lines have been interrupted, the borders closed and the western media restricted within Lithuania.
Canadians have a right to telephone relatives and friends in Lithuania, to know that those relatives and friends are safe. Canadians have a right to a safer world, free from Soviet Cold War tactics.
We have all heard the calm but urgent plea of the Lithuanian president, Vytautas Landsbergis, for international support and assistance.
I call on the government of Canada to meet its responsibilities: respond to Mr Gorbachev by immediately granting diplomatic recognition to the new government of Lithuania and by providing humanitarian aid, especially medical supplies, to Lithuania.
Actions speak louder than words. Let Canada act in support of peace and democracy in Lithuania and throughout the world.
Mr B. Rae: I believe we have unanimous consent to celebrate today the 100th anniversary of the birth of Agnes Macphail, which took place on the weekend.
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Mr B. Rae: This is a week of celebration, not only in Grey county but indeed in all of Ontario and all of Canada. We are celebrating at this time the 100th anniversary of the birth of a truly remarkable woman, Agnes Macphail.
Agnes Macphail was born on 24 March 1890. She attended local schools in Grey county and she went to Owen Sound Collegiate. She became a schoolteacher. In the years after 1910 she was a very active and remarkable woman teaching in what was then the farm land called North York
She became very active in the movement called the United Farmers of Ontario, which was a remarkable political movement.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Two founding members are still here.
Mr B. Rae: I had no idea that the Attorney General was such an active member of the United Farmers, but I do know that the Treasurer’s father was a very active member of the United Farmers of Ontario, which was one of the precursors of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and of the New Democratic Party, and there were a great many others who were also influenced by the UFO.
Certainly there was Agnes Macphail, who in 1921 was the first woman ever to be elected to the Parliament of Canada where she served with great distinction for some 19 years, becoming a member of the CCF group in Parliament after it was formed in the 1930s, becoming a remarkable advocate on behalf of working people and on behalf of issues that mattered to her more than they did to others at the time.
She was well ahead of her time in fighting for prison reform. We even read today of conditions of overcrowding and the number of people who are in jail who are in need of psychiatric treatment and are not getting it in the province. One might well say that we need people like Agnes Macphail to advocate on their behalf even today. She was defeated for the House of Commons in 1940, but then she came back to political life, elected as a member of the official opposition in the elections of 1943 and 1948 for the riding of East York.
I obviously did not know Agnes Macphail, but I can tell members this story. When I was running for Parliament in 1979 in the new riding of Broadview-Greenwood, I took on part of Toronto known as East York, and there were a great many old CCFers and New Democrats who said they were delighted at finally being able to elect a socialist again after so many years when that had not been possible.
Hon Mr Scott: What was that? The “s” word? You said it.
Mr B. Rae: Look, there are changes happening everywhere. Changes are happening all over the world.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr B. Rae: I am very proud to pay tribute to Agnes Macphail. We celebrated the 100th anniversary of her birth with a dinner earlier last week. It was a great celebration. We are very, very proud to have Agnes Macphail associated with our party and with our movement, but I think it would be fair to say that we share her contributions with a great many other people, some of whom no doubt we will be hearing from in a very few minutes.
It seems to me that it is entirely appropriate that this House should celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth, just as I am sure they will be doing in Ottawa, as we pay tribute to this remarkable woman, a remarkable pioneer on behalf of women all over Canada and a remarkable parliamentarian in her own right.
Mrs Cunningham: It is a great privilege this afternoon to be able to stand here and pay tribute to Agnes Macphail on the occasion of what would have been her 100th birthday.
Agnes Macphail is known throughout Canada as the very first woman to attain an elected seat in the House of Commons in our Canadian Parliament. For many she is not known well enough, and we have an opportunity this afternoon to spread the word through our Hansards and send them out to the schools across Ontario to young men and young women to show them the kind of leadership, the kind of courage, the kind of confidence and the kind of sheer guts that woman apparently had as she fought for things that we now, today, take for granted.
We now take for granted the idea that older people in Canada have been given our support through an old age pension system. We recognize that there were people who were poor across our country in 1921 and thereafter, and Agnes Macphail fought for their support and fought so that those of us who are more privileged than others can help people who need our assistance.
She also went on to bring to the attention of Canadians across this country and to the young people of Canada that others who were unfortunate, and now I will speak very specifically, the blind, also needed our support and our attention. We continue in these times, some 100 years later, to fight for the rights of the minorities and the disabled.
As we go on to talk about the challenges some 100 years later with our families and our young people, I am sure that if Agnes Macphail were here today, she would be very proud of some of the women who are elected, certainly to the Canadian Parliament but, more important, right here in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. I will speak very specifically: The member for York East holds the very seat that Agnes Macphail held some years ago and I am sure she would be very proud of the contribution that member is making.
I will go on to say that it is tough some days, as women, to speak out for what we believe in. It is even tougher to be accepted in what we do and to be taken seriously. But we are making gains and we are trying to be the best role models we can possibly be for other young women.
She was elected some 70 years ago, and as we know she was a woman who stood up for what she believed in. Yes, it has been mentioned that she was nominated by the United Farmers of Ontario for Grey South East. We should also know it was the agricultural community and teaching that gave her her start.
I do not know what will give young women a start today but I do know that in the federal House we now have just 39 of 295 members elected who are women. That is simply not enough. Some 14 per cent of the population of Canada is represented by women in the Parliament of our country, when more than 50 per cent of Canadians are women. Right here at Queen’s Park just 21 of some 130 elected members are women. That is some 16 per cent. We have a long way to go for equal representation, but I am sure it is a goal that Agnes Macphail would encourage us in.
It has been a great privilege to speak of a great woman, a great heroine and a wonderful pioneer for women in politics. who fought for the rights of everyone across Canada.
Hon Mrs Wilson: “I’m no lady. I’m an MP.” Those are not my words, of course; they are the words of Agnes Macphail, delivered to an official of Kingston penitentiary when she went there to see for herself the reportedly unbearable conditions suffered by prisoners. She was initially obstructed entrance because, of course, ladies were not allowed.
This Saturday marks the 100th birthday of one of Canada’s most remarkable citizens. When Agnes Macphail was elected to Parliament in 1921 few women were engaged in paid work, few women attended university and very few even drove cars. Yet this former schoolteacher, the daughter of farmers from southeast Grey, was re-elected to Parliament four times and on two occasions to the provincial Legislature here in Ontario.
Not only did Agnes Macphail ably serve the cause of farmers and women; she was also a champion for all of humanity and a fearless advocate for justice for all Canadians. Agnes Macphail, the first woman delegate to the League of Nations and the first woman to sit on its disarmament committee, was so much more than I can describe here today. She was a woman with a warm sense of humour. She was a woman of wit, deep-rooted honesty and absolute dedication to her principles.
She was a woman who should be honoured today, 100 years later, as a role model to us all, even in 1990. This farmer’s daughter, this rural member, celebrates with members of the House today the achievements of the remarkable woman and parliamentarian, Agnes Macphail.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Hon Mrs McLeod: I have just returned from the Rouge River valley, where I had the privilege of announcing the Ontario government’s commitment to create a 10,500-acre park in the area. This is the most ambitious urban park project in Canada’s history. The Ontario government is donating an additional 1,600 acres of land beyond its earlier contributions for the park. If this land had been developed, it would have had an estimated financial value of $1.1 billion.
We also look forward to the federal government fulfilling its commitment to contribute $10 million towards the cost of establishing the park
We all know that parks play a vital role in our lives. They both preserve Ontario’s natural heritage and offer opportunities for respite and recreation which make this province a better place for all of us to live. Yet many of the green spaces within our cities are being threatened as the pressure for development increases. That is why we have decided that now is the time to protect the Rouge River valley. We want to make sure it remains green not only for the benefit of citizens today, but for the sake of our children, the citizens of tomorrow.
The Rouge Valley is a unique combination of outstanding features; they include rare plant and animal species living in a variety of natural habitats, historic buildings, significant archaeological sites, the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo and other recreational facilities. The Rouge does not fit any existing category of park. Its diverse range of values, all combined in an urban setting, makes the area special.
In order to determine the type of park that should be established, I will be appointing immediately an advisory committee. The committee will prepare a recommended management plan for the initial 4,300-acre area of the park, which is located south of Steeles Avenue. The advisory committee will be asked to recommend which agency or combination of agencies should manage the park. The committee itself will reflect a wide range of interests and will allow for extensive public consultation.
Studies will continue on plans for the remaining park reserve area south of Steeles Avenue between the eastern edge of the Little Rouge Creek Valley and the Scarborough-Pickering boundary. Metropolitan Toronto has nominated 136 acres in this area as one of its options for an interim landfill site. The proposed site will be subject to stringent environmental approvals and a mandatory public hearing. The site would be allowed only on the understanding that it would ultimately be returned to open space use.
In the ongoing acquisition of the Rouge River, Berczy Creek, Bruce Creek and Little Rouge Creek valley lands north of Steeles Avenue, we will be guided by the recently announced Rouge watershed management strategy of the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. We will implement interim protection measures in the valley lands through co-operative planning with the municipalities and the conservation authority.
I believe that these measures to protect the Rouge River valley area demonstrate clearly the fundamental commitment of the Ontario government to the conservation of our province’s natural heritage.
The Speaker: Order. We will just wait until some of the members are finished.
Hon Mr Wrye: The Ministry of Transportation is committed to expanding Ontario’s transportation system to maintain our record growth and economic prosperity. At the same time, we believe transportation progress must take place in a manner that maintains our quality of life.
Seven years ago, the Ministry of Transportation submitted an environmental assessment report for a proposed freeway in the east Metro transportation corridor. That route would connect Highway 401 with the new Highway 407, which is already well under way in the northwest quadrant of greater Toronto. The proposed freeway connection would cross the last wilderness area left in the metropolitan area, the Rouge Valley.
Today I am announcing to the House that my ministry is withdrawing that proposal. There will be no further consideration of a route within the Rouge. We are equally convinced that other roads in the area would be as damaging to the environment. Therefore, I will make our intent perfectly clear and state that no new roads will be permitted in the Rouge Valley south of Steeles Avenue. Instead, we will rethink our transportation strategy in co-operation with Metro, York, Durham, Scarborough, Markham and Pickering.
With our regional and municipal colleagues we will undertake a strategic planning study to consider two alternative routes in the east Metro transportation corridor; one in the Morningside area of Scarborough and the other in the Brock Road area in Pickering. This review will also examine a broad range of public transit improvements, including expanded GO rail service and local transit using reserved bus lanes. In the meantime, we will protect the Morningside and Brock corridors.
Our direction is clear: We will develop a transportation system that supports economic growth in the greater Toronto area, promote greater use of public transit and respect the natural environment in any expansion of the transportation system.
CAREER INFORMATION CENTRES
Hon Mr Conway: As honourable members are aware, Ontario’s economy is changing as a result of global trends. The emerging global economy is placing increased emphasis on the areas of science, technology and the skilled trades. Our educational and training programs are already adapting to the new realities of the 1990s and beyond.
Today the range of employment and training opportunities in Ontario is changing at an unprecedented rate. More than ever before there is a special need to ensure that all Ontarians receive the information and guidance that will help them make wise decisions about their future. There is a special need as well to assist young people who are preparing for or who are experiencing the transition from school to work.
The Ministry of Education is committed to exploring innovative and co-operative ways to meet these needs. I am pleased, therefore, to announce today that the Ministry of Education will provide $400,000 to fund eight pilot project career information centres operated by school boards across Ontario. These centres, four of which will be in northern Ontario, will be funded at $50,000 each, and they will join a number of other centres recently established in southern Ontario.
The eight centres will provide a central, convenient point where a broad range of career-related counselling and up-to-date information will be available for the whole community. Young people who have dropped out but who are thinking of returning to school or who want training will be able to use these centres, as will adults who are interested in furthering their education.
As valuable resources for the community, these centres will also provide training and advice to teachers and other educators. As well, each centre will act as a focus for partnerships among school boards, local colleges and universities, business, industry and government agencies.
The Ontario government support for these career information centres reflects our commitment to ensuring that Ontarians will be prepared for the changing labour market of the 1990s.
As another step towards this goal, the Ministry of Education will hold a conference for 1,000 principals and guidance counsellors here in Toronto on 28 May, this spring. The focus of this conference will be on counselling and career education strategies that will help Ontario students participate in the growing opportunities of the new global economy, especially in the fields of science and technology and the skilled trades.
I believe that these initiatives represent another important contribution to the building of links between high-quality education and training and the world of work.
Mr R. F. Johnston: It has fallen upon me to have to respond to good news. I hate that sort of thing. I wanted to say, first of all, that huge congratulations should go out to the Save the Rouge Valley System group and the coalition of community groups in Scarborough who worked tirelessly to convince unlistening governments at both levels for years of their plea to save this wonderful area. I am delighted that the provincial government today has decided to join in to try to save that important piece of Carolinian forest in southern Ontario.
I am reminded by one of my members that before I get too excited, of course, we should remember that the last major park initiative here in Metro was Harbourfront and we saw what Huang and Danczkay have done to that. This one is probably the only provincial park that has been announced with its own landfill already. God knows where that leads.
But one must temper one’s propensity to criticize at a moment like this and say that what is being preserved here for the future, for the people and the children of generations to come, is access to wilderness area, access to a kind of forest which is no longer readily accessible through most of southern Ontario, where it once existed. That heritage is indeed vital to be maintained.
Some of my northern friends might say, in a waggish way, “Why is it that we have this kind of assistance for the Rouge and around Metropolitan Toronto and we have another sort of policy for Temagami?” I leave that, of course, as a rhetorical question that might be posed to this government. Perhaps it has something to do with how nervous some of the five members in those Scarborough seats were beginning to feel, knowing the strength of those organizations out there.
I also have one major and fundamental disappointment about this announcement which I hope the Premier will rise to correct today before this chamber rises. This government has recognized the importance of the archaeological sites and the native history in that area which need to be preserved. It is amazing to me that this government did not appoint an aboriginal representative to that advisory committee that is going to oversee the development of this park.
I hope the Premier or one of the ministers who have made announcements will rise today and immediately add to this list one of those people who have been so strongly in support of the development of this park so that this can be a totally happy day and not a day which is left with the kind of niggling question about why that oversight was made.
Looking at the information as it comes forward I am, generally speaking, pleased by what I can read from the maps and the other information about the protection of some of the tablelands, but there is some question as to just how much protection there is along the waterways feeding the system. I am hoping this will be something we might be able to get clarified from the Minister of Natural Resources especially in the next little while. There would be no point in not protecting it totally if we are to actually preserve the water quality which is now so wonderful in that area.
I would just say finally that it is a great pleasure to see that there is now unanimity in this House on this matter and that the people of Ontario will have this preserved for the future.
CAREER INFORMATION CENTRES
Mr R. F. Johnston: Accepting the fact that the member for Scarborough East’s earlier decrees have been set back in terms of the transportation corridor, I might just say briefly to the Minister of Education, who likes pilot projects so much, congratulations on producing a few others. I think it is commendable that he can keep producing these $50,000 offices to provide meaningful assistance to people, given the implications for salary that must have and for other support services.
I think it is going to be very difficult for these centres to be able to operate in the way the government wants to but, again, the minister of pilots is back again with no overall plan but a series of little bits of money here and there which will probably mean nothing in the long run.
Mrs Marland: It is a pleasure to rise today and acknowledge the fact that the Liberal government has now confirmed a decision that was made by the Progressive Conservatives some 15 years ago. We too are happy that this government has confirmed what has been a plan for this property for some 15 years.
I want to point out to the minister that where she mentions there was an estimated financial value of $1.1 million if this property had been developed, that land was never bought by the people of this province to be developed. It was always bought to become a provincial park, so there was not a development value to it.
However, in talking about the designation, I hope that very soon the minister will designate it as a provincial park and therefore give it the designation under provincial park status, the natural environment classification which is needed. Simply the urban park classification will not necessarily protect it.
When we are looking at the decisions that were made and included in the minister’s announcement today, we want to place on the record our concern and the concern of those people who have worked very hard to preserve this property. That is, the province owns the table land north of Steeles Avenue all the way up to the 10th line along the Little Rouge River. We would ask the minister to accommodate the wishes of those people in terms of protecting the wildlife and water quality corridors that are along that river. We own the property. It is table land. At this point she has designated only the valley. So we ask her to take that into consideration.
Most important, we are concerned about the fact that the Liberal government has not taken a position on the Metro dump. We are rather horrified that Metro council will still have the option of putting its garbage in the Rouge Valley. We plead with the minister to please reconsider the fact that she would not take a position on the dump. Maybe it is purely politics, but what we say to her about her designation and her speech today is that it must go beyond the political issue. It is purely and for ever an environmental issue and if the minister is committed to the conservation of the Rouge, Metro council must not be permitted to put its garbage in this dump. That in itself is critical.
We also plead that, in the eventuality that the minister does not take action on the dump, she subject the dump’s classification to a full environmental assessment, not under the Environmental Protection Act, however, but under the Environmental Assessment Act. Otherwise there will be no protection at all.
Mr Pollock: I want to compliment the Minister of Natural Resources on her efforts to announce that the Rouge Valley will be a provincial park and also compliment the member for Mississauga South and the Rouge Valley committee for their efforts, because they have done a lot of lobbying to make this a provincial park. I think they helped to make it happen. It will be very beneficial to have that park so close to Metro Toronto and it will serve the residents of Metro Toronto well.
I would hope the minister will not spend all her money right here in the Metro Toronto area. I have been lobbying for years for the Marmora subdivision to be a recreation trail and I have never heard about that. I just want to mention that.
Mr Cousens: Once in a while the government listens to the Legislature. On 22 June 1989 in this House we passed a unanimous amendment that asked the government to look at protecting the east Metro expressway. The government has done that with this announcement and we are grateful. We just hope it will continue to do the right things for the environment. This is a good first step.
CAREER INFORMATION CENTRES
Mr Jackson: The Minister of Education’s statement about eight career education centres sounds vaguely similar to a somewhat broken 1986 throne speech promise of this government to provide assistance to schools to set up job screening programs. They committed $600,000, all of which was not spent. I am afraid what we have today is a reconstituted announcement from a reconstituted Education minister from 1986.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment. It is about water quality and relates in particular to findings of chemical contamination in wells in the Hagersville area.
Why are ministry officials telling farmers there is no problem with their using the Sandusk Creek for their farm animals when we know that the carcinogen NDMA has been found in 14 parts per trillion in a private well near the site? Can the minister tell us why his ministry continues to say there are no problems when the evidence of chemical contamination is there for all to see?
Hon Mr Bradley: I think the member would know that our ministry indicated some time ago that we would be on the site and the adjacent area for some period to come to do all of the extensive testing necessary to ensure that we are able to detect any contamination either onsite or adjacent to the site. I can assure the member that we will continue to do so indefinitely -- I mean for months and years to come -- to determine whether there is migration. If there is any migration from the site itself, we will ensure that it is part of the cleanup.
Mr B. Rae: I do not think the minister answered my question; so perhaps I could try another route.
It has been reported to us that levels as high as 19 parts per billion of benzoapyrene, which is also a known carcinogen, have been found in the runoff water from the site before the treatment at the onsite treatment plant. Can the minister give us today a categorical assurance that the water coming out of the treatment plant is in complete compliance with the drinking water guideline being used by the Ministry of the Environment: only 10 parts per trillion of benzoapyrene ?
Hon Mr Bradley: Our treatment plant, as members know, is down at the present time for maintenance because when you have carbon filtration in a plant of this kind you must continue to replace the filters in that particular plant.
We do the testing of the water, first of all, as it goes in -- it is water that is already in there -- and the water that then would be prepared for discharge. Our people on the site have done that very extensive testing and have ensured that it meets all of the necessary water standards before there is a discharge.
I can tell the member as well that on the site itself there will continue to be replacement of any of those filters -- and that is what happens with a carbon treatment system -- as it becomes necessary to ensure that there is a catchment system for any contamination.
Mr B. Rae: I wonder if the minister can perhaps clarify something for me. I am from Missouri in this regard. Back in 1985 the leader of the Liberal Party, who is still the leader of the Liberal Party, responded to the project for environmental priorities. When he was asked “Do you support the establishment of a safe drinking water act which would guarantee Ontario citizens the right to safe drinking water?” the leader of the Liberal Party responded with a definite yes to that simple and direct question.
The minister will know that the federal government tests for only some 50 chemicals and that the water guidelines for Canada established by the federal government do not cover over 900 chemicals that have now been found in the waters of the Great Lakes.
In 1985 the leader of the Liberal Party said yes to the question about safe drinking water and the need for an act in Ontario. The minister’s answer last week was, “Oh no, that’s not up to us; that’s all a federal responsibility.” Why would he give us that kind of falderal when just five years ago his leader was ready to say yes, we need standards for Ontario and they need to be enforceable? Why the change?
Hon Mr Bradley: I guess I will answer the last question first by saying that we of course have adopted in Ontario a drinking water surveillance program which looks for some 180 potential contaminants and measures in such things as parts per trillion and parts per quadrillion any substances that might potentially be found in water. It is the most extensive program I think that one will find in virtually any jurisdiction. It allows us to have a good look at the drinking water in the province and to take any remedial action necessary.
In regard to his other questions, I know that an advisory was given to area people on Sandusk Creek, advising that it not be used. As well, that it is my understanding that there is no benzoapyrene in the treated water that would be discharged from that particular plant in the area.
With the very extensive program that we have in Ontario, with the considerable amount of money that we are spending on such things, as the member would be aware, as both water and sewer projects in the province and with the activities that we have undertaken in terms of the cautions on waste management and the comments on new developments that take place in the province, I can assure the member that those have a very positive effect on the protection of water.
Mr B. Rae: Before the House came into session, I was in Ottawa meeting with many groups of people who were running centres that provide food of an emergency kind to people of all ages. Nearly half the people who use the food banks, the grocery services and the emergency services in Ottawa, as in the rest of the province, are children. All these groups have come together because many of them have been cut off from, denied access to, funds from the ministry. Indeed, many of them are no longer able to provide services that they were providing up until the end of February.
Does the minister really think it either fair or wise to cut off the emergency programs with regard to food when we know that the need has not fallen away, that the need has not declined, that there are people who are still hungry and still in need of emergency services when it comes to eating?
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member is aware, a year ago it was decided that the emergency program in terms of the food portion would be phased out because of the major reforms that came about in terms of the social assistance review with the additional dollars that were going to be provided for basic shelter and for basic needs, including food. That was a program of some $415 million. The emergency program was approximately $1.5 million. A large portion, almost half of that, will be continuing in terms of providing assistance for those centres that are providing a variety of day care programs, but it was our belief that where the money should go in terms of food was into the basic subsidy and to provide more money for basic shelter.
Mr B. Rae: It turns out that all the minister has done by bringing in the Social Assistance Review Committee reforms is he has taken money away from shelters like the Shepherds of Good Hope and he has transferred it over, but he still has not solved the basic problem. Between 1986 and 1989, at the Shepherds of Good Hope, which is a refuge in Ottawa, the number of people served by the grocery program rose from 20,000 to some 41,000. They asked the government for nearly $340,000; they got $44,000.
Does the minister really think it is good, fair or right to take money away from these programs and from these people when the need is still there? He does not have any reason to believe that his program is changing the demand for food. It is not.
Hon Mr Beer: I think that in deciding to go the route that we did with the social assistance reforms, it was precisely because we believe that is the way to have a real impact on the needs that people have around shelter and around emergency assistance. We are beginning to see, as was stated before the standing committee on social development, that the number of people on social assistance who are seeing their income grow during the course of the last four or five months is significant. That is going to provide more money in the pockets of those on social assistance for food and other necessities.
We realize that this by itself has not resolved the entire problem, but we are convinced that the best way to approach this matter is through key, focused, long-term reform and not just by providing small sums of money in individual programs. We think the results are starting to come in and that those will begin to show a decline in the need for these special programs.
Mr Philip: I am sure the minister will acknowledge that the social assistance reforms he has implemented do absolutely nothing for the single, for the working poor or for the disabled. Many of these people are using these food banks at the present time.
Is he aware that at the Rexdale food bank there has not been any decrease in the number of requests for assistance in either January or February and that as of 31 March that food bank is going to have to close as a result of his cutbacks? What does he intend to do with all of those people who need food in Rexdale and so many other communities -- the working poor, the single and the disabled?
Hon Mr Beer: I do not accept that the social assistance reforms do not benefit all those who require social assistance; in fact, we can see that the amount of funding going to individual recipients has gone up since they were implemented. The member should remember, we are talking here about a program of some $415 million. Again, we have said that will not totally resolve all the problems around poverty. The member says that none of this will help the working poor, and yet the supports to employment program very specifically is an income supplementation model of a program where all people who apply for that and are eligible will be able to receive assistance.
I think one has to look at the broad front on which we moved in terms of those social assistance reforms and to see that they are having an impact where there are individual or specific problems. Through our area offices we will continue to work with those centres to try to help them in the best way we can, but I believe that we as a government have said that our priority must be to go at fundamental reform of the system.
Mr Runciman: My question is for the Minister of Financial Institutions. The minister will know that the Canadian Bar Association has a legal opinion from an eminent lawyer, Gordon Henderson, whose work the Attorney General is quite familiar with, stating clearly that there is reasonable doubt that Bill 68 is constitutional, and that he is urging the minister to refer the legislation to the Court of Appeal for a reference. As well, the government has refused to provide us with a copy of its legal opinion on the matter. Is the government prepared to be fair to everyone and refer Bill 68 to the Court of Appeal for a reference?
Hon Mr Elston: We will not be referring the bill to the Court of Appeal for reference. As the honourable gentleman knows, that is an unusual step and very seldom used by a Legislative Assembly. We likewise have opinions and have found that the bill is constitutional, in accordance with the opinions that we have received.
Mr Runciman: Innocent accident victims who suffer psychological injuries will have to wait two or three years for a constitutional decision on this matter. These accident victims already have one strike against them with the disabilities they will have to endure, yet the government is bent on creating another strike against them by forcing them to wait for a constitutional decision. Why does the minister not have the Attorney General refer the bill to the Court of Appeal for reference?
Hon Mr Elston: It is the usual practice for me to try to set the honourable gentleman straight about the merits of Bill 68, the new auto insurance bill. In fact, I should do that now at the outset to indicate that the bill provides better compensation for people who are injured in Ontario than has previously been the case. As he knows, we have moved from $140 a week now to $600 a week; we have long-term care which goes, instead of $1,500 a week as it previously was set, up to $3,000 a week, so that people who have problems associated with accidents will receive those benefits without having to prove their disabilities through the court system.
He knows full well that those are new benefits in place now, without having to go to the courts, and he should acknowledge to the people of Ontario that there is a new way of providing compensation and support for those people which was not in existence at all prior to this bill coming forward. It seems to me that he should very clearly state that this is a better way of providing support for those individuals; in fact, it takes the burden from the shoulders of people who used to have to wait four or five years to figure out whether or not the courts would provide any assistance whatsoever.
Mr Runciman: The minister and his colleagues not only have failed to set me straight on this issue; obviously, according to the Angus Reid poll results this morning, they have failed to influence a majority of Ontarians who are strongly opposed to the legislation.
The president of Kingsway General Insurance Co, William Star, has put the Premier on notice that should the government proceed with Bill 68 without a court reference, his insurance company would hold the province responsible for all claims or costs it would have to pay should the legislation be ruled unconstitutional.
We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in claims. If the minister is not prepared to ask for a constitutional reference, is he prepared to compensate the insurance industry and innocent accident victims, and if so, where is that money going to come from?
Hon Mr Elston: I am aware of the letter which was sent by Mr Star at the urging of one of the directors of his board, Mr Gluckstein, as I understand it, who is a member of the Fair Action in Insurance Reform committee. We have information that indicates quite clearly that Mr Gluckstein has been advocating with the parent company that such a letter be sent, and he obviously has had his way with Mr Star. I do not feel there is any real problem in accepting Mr Gluckstein’s opposition to the bill; he has stated it very specifically and very thoroughly before, and we accept that as a presentation.
We do know this about the bill: It will provide quicker compensation for people involved in accidents. We know that it provides disincentives for people who cause accidents by insuring that increased premiums will be paid by those people responsible. We know that there will be better support both in supplementary medical and rehabilitation services and in long-term care. We know that all that goes into this bill, and we do know that quicker payout to those people means a better way of taking care of accident victims in a more humane fashion.
Hon Mr Elston: Mr Speaker, I wonder if I might rise to correct the record.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Your record?
Hon Mr Elston: Of my own, yes, thank you.
Mr Laughren: This could take a while.
Hon Mr Elston: No, this will be quite brief. I had indicated inappropriately, from misreading my briefing materials, that Mr Gluckstein, whom I had mentioned in a reply to the member for Leeds-Grenville, was a director of a company associated with Kingsway General Insurance Co. He is in fact not a director, he is a shareholder, and I regret any embarrassment that I may have caused either the company or Mr Gluckstein.
ONTARIO HYDRO LABOUR DISPUTE
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Minister of Energy. She is aware that there is a strong possibility that an Ontario Hydro strike may occur within the next week. She is also aware that coming on the heels of that, there is a possibility as well that the nuclear system could be shut down as early as Thursday or the latter part of this week in anticipation of a potential strike. Could she indicate to us what role the government is playing in connection with attempting to resolve this matter prior to its arriving at a position somewhat similar to 1985 when, at great cost to the province, a strike took place? Could she bring us up to date on her actions?
Hon Mrs McLeod: The honourable member’s question, as he has phrased it, might be addressed most appropriately to my colleague the Minister of Labour, because the Ministry of Labour has been very closely monitoring the collective bargaining situation. In fact, it has a mediator working with the situation. An offer is being voted on at the present time, and I think we have to focus on the expectation and hope that there will be a resolution at the collective bargaining table.
Mr Brandt: I am glad the minister did not refer the question, because my supplementary was for her as well obviously, and it relates to the positions being taken by Ontario Hydro and the union in connection with what might happen.
Ontario Hydro is indicating that there will be a strong possibility of either blackouts or brownouts occurring as a result of part of the system not being available for operation, primarily the nuclear dimension to the system. The union is indicating that surplus power can be purchased from Quebec, Manitoba or US jurisdictions in order to make up the shortfall.
I wonder if the minister could indicate first, since there is a potentially tremendous cost to consumers, home owners and industry if there is any disruption of power flow to the residents of Ontario, what contingency plans are in place with respect to power needs that we can anticipate. Second, who is right, the union or Ontario Hydro, in connection with what is going to happen if there is a strike?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think clearly the difficulty would be one of attempting to predict a situation which might be in place if there was not a successful resolution of this issue at the collective bargaining table. Again, our focus right now is on the collective bargaining process and our hope is that it will be resolved at the collective bargaining table.
There is obviously a concern that should that resolution not take place and should there be some disruption in work, we would have to have, and expect Hydro to have in place, contingency plans to deal with any interruption of service. However, the very nature of the contingency plans required would depend on such factors as whether there would be a full work stoppage, would it affect different areas differently and what would be available to Hydro at a particular time? Hydro has felt it appropriate, and I would agree, to advise its customers that in the event of any work stoppage, there could be some disruption in service. We would expect that it would minimize any disruptions through contingency plans.
Mr Cureatz: Final supplementary to the Minister of Energy, following along my leader’s first question: I had the opportunity of being visited in my riding office on Friday by three representatives of CUPE Local 1000 from the Darlington generating station, Mr Melnyk, Mr Beggs and Mr Tutkoluk They indicated to me some concerns of Ontario Hydro bargaining in good faith with their representatives. I too have similar concerns, because I want to remind the minister that over the last number of months, Ontario Hydro and my own municipality, the town of Newcastle, have been at continual loggerheads, with all kinds of press, concerning the dialogue over the emergency plan process at the Darlington generating station. I had the opportunity of phoning the chairman of Ontario Hydro and asking him to meet with the mayor of the municipality to try to start a dialogue. He has yet to do it. So I too am concerned. Has the minister made any efforts so far to speak with the chairman of Ontario Hydro to ensure that his and his staff’s approach concerning the possibility of a strike will be in an open, fair manner and very amicable to negotiating a possible settlement before the strike?
The Speaker: Order. I am sure there was a question there somewhere.
Hon Mrs McLeod: As the member places the supplementary question, I rather regret that I had not referred the question to the Minister of Labour, because again the question focuses on what is a collective bargaining situation taking place right now. That is the government’s focus, as I know it is the focus of both the union and the management of Ontario Hydro, and that is an appropriate focus.
I have had opportunities to talk with both union representatives as well as management representatives, so I am fully apprised of the situation. My focus as Minister of Energy will be to ensure that Ontario Hydro does have contingency plans in place to deal with any eventuality, but as the member correctly suggests in his question, the focus right now is on the collective bargaining table and the successful resolution of the issues there.
HEALTH CONCERNS AT SCHOOLS
Mr R. F. Johnston: My question is for the Minister of Education and the Minister of Colleges and Universities regarding the asbestos problem that has been identified recently in the Metropolitan Toronto separate school system specifically, but elsewhere as well.
Given that the province is responsible in general for the health and safety of its citizens and that it establishes the standards and procedures for asbestos removal and abatement, and since in the past the provincial government has paid money out of its budget for the cleanup in the schools, especially between 1979 and 1984, is it the minister’s intention to work out an arrangement with the boards of education in the province, in particular in this case, to put provincial dollars into the abatement of this obvious problem which is causing a great deal of malaise out there in society?
Hon Mr Conway: The member is right to observe that over the past decade the Ministry of Education has paid out, I think, close to $40 million to school boards as part of an asbestos abatement program. It is also true that the Ministry of Education is still quite prepared to accept submissions from school boards through their regular capital expenditure forecasts for additional asbestos abatement requests.
Mr R. F. Johnston: The minister knows, of course, that trying to put that into your capital forecast, given the difficulties that are out there for boards these days, is enormously difficult.
The minister is also the Minister of Colleges and Universities, and perhaps I can redirect to him around his responsibilities. I have a letter here from President Arthurs at York University as of last December about some of the problems at Osgoode Hall, where asbestos has been identified as a problem. He indicates to me that the Council of Ontario Universities estimated recently that the cost of asbestos removal and abatement of asbestos problems at the university level would be $84 million. Does the same principle not apply that this government, and not those institutions or those boards in particular, has the responsibility for making sure that those students are safe?
I do not know about the minister, but over the last number of years I have had friends who died of mesothelioma and of asbestos poisoning.
The Speaker: Order. The question was asked. Minister.
Hon Mr Conway: I want to assure my honourable friend from Scarborough and the people of Ontario that the government takes very seriously its responsibilities in so far as the monitoring of the asbestos hazard and its redress are concerned. As I indicated earlier, we have appropriated tens of millions of dollars in the school system to address the needs, and I am quite prepared to entertain submissions from both the elementary-secondary part of education and the post-secondary institutions.
I am sure my honourable friend would have heard this morning Fraser Mustard, who I thought reviewed the findings of the royal commission of some years ago to very great effect. I thought Dr Mustard’s observations were very telling, and I can assure him I intend to deal very directly with requests from both colleges and universities and from school boards in consideration of their concerns in this matter.
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Today, over 1,000 children will not be attending Our Lady of Victory and St Mary of the Angels schools in York region because their parents are afraid of the potential risks of exposure to friable asbestos.
According to a press release issued by his ministry, dated March 2, “all school boards have submitted documentation” -- I quote directly from his own press release -- and that was compliance and documentation with respect to the risks and identification of specific schools. Given that the minister now has this information, can he tell the parents at these two schools whether or not the schools are in compliance with his regulations?
Hon Mr Phillips: It was yesterday, I guess, at one of those schools, Our Lady of Victory, that our inspectors completed their work, and their conclusion was that the school is safe for the students. I might add that the very extensive royal commission on asbestos recommended that in virtually every case it is best to manage the asbestos within the building rather than to remove it. In this particular case, our inspectors have been through that facility in some considerable detail. We have satisfied ourselves that the facility is safe for the students to be in. We have informed the school board of that orally, and I think we will be doing that in writing today.
Mr Jackson: Apparently the position of his government is that the concerns of parents are unfounded, at least in those two schools. But my question to the minister specifically was with the actual information which school boards have given him with respect to compliance with his regulations.
He has regulations for a reason. We assume that it has to do with the safety and health of the children, the teachers and the workers in any given school in Ontario. He has the list. He can identify the schools. Will the minister make that information public so that parents can distinguish between those schools which his own regulations tell them are at risk and those schools that are not? He has the information. Will he make it public today?
Hon Mr Phillips: I began my answer by assuring the parents of the students at Our Lady of Victory of the work that our ministry staff have been doing, which has been quite a thorough investigation of that particular facility, and that in our judgement, after that investigation, the school is safe. We also have reviewed with the Metropolitan Separate School Board its program for complying with the regulation. We reviewed that as recently as Friday, I think, and we are satisfied that its program, properly implemented, will ensure that the school board complies with our regulations.
Mr Chiarelli: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. As the minister would know, last fall his ministry provided funding for capital and startup costs for a much-needed and very appreciated nonprofit multicultural child care centre in my riding of Ottawa West. Having visited the new centre myself, I know at first hand that the new facility is now up and running successfully, and for the minister’s assistance the community is truly appreciative.
However, in order to ensure its continued financial viability, it is my understanding that this centre, along with three other new facilities in Ottawa-Carleton, is anxiously awaiting an announcement regarding the provision of subsidized spaces. My question to the minister is this: Given that these new centres missed out on the 1989-90 subsidized space allocations for Ottawa-Carleton, what is the possibility of the minister’s preflowing 1990-91 allocations to these very needy and deserving facilities?
Hon Mr Beer: I am delighted that the new multicultural centre is functioning very well. As the honourable member is perhaps aware, over the last five years we have seen the growth in the Ottawa-Carleton area in child care spaces of over 2,000, from 2,400 to 4,400, and the amount of money that has been going into the Ottawa-Carleton area from some $8 million to almost $19 million.
We recognize that the demand continues. One of the factors we have to consider in the allocation of spaces is that, as some of the major urban centres were quick off the mark in terms of obtaining spaces, now many other parts of the province, particularly rural areas, are also making their demands known.
I can assure the honourable member that we are trying to meet the needs that are there and that while this ministry does not preflow funds, we are at the point where we hope very shortly to have all of our allocations in hand for the next fiscal year.
Mr Chiarelli: At the present time these four centres are operating without any subsidized spaces whatsoever. Can the minister give these centres any comfort at all that in the foreseeable future they will have some subsidized spaces?
Hon Mr Beer: That is an issue we are looking at very carefully and, as I said, we hope to be able to make an announcement on that shortly.
I would say, given that it is the Ottawa area in particular that the honourable member is speaking about, those active in the child care area would do well to speak with federal members and with the federal government about the fact that it has cut the funding it is making available under the Canada assistance plan and it has not as yet come forward with any new proposals since it unilaterally withdrew the child care program that it had promised to bring in.
PURCHASE OF URANIUM
Mr Wildman: I have a question of the Premier regarding the devastating economic situation in Elliot Lake, where Rio Algom has announced 1,600 workers will be laid off at the end of this year and Denison Mines will lay off 450 workers by the end of August this year.
In 1982, when he was in opposition, the Premier questioned why Ontario Hydro, under the previous government, was not prepared to pay “above the world price to Madawaska Mines for uranium to keep that community” -- Bancroft -- “going.” In view of the position taken at the time of the Bancroft closure, is the Premier prepared now to make a commitment that Ontario Hydro will purchase the uranium it needs for its nuclear generating plants in this province -- as long as it is operating nuclear generating plants -- from Ontario sources, specifically Elliot Lake?
Hon Mr Peterson: I appreciate the question the honourable member raises. As my honourable friend knows, the problems in Elliot Lake are not just a function of Ontario Hydro’s contracts but of other contracts around the world as well. I know he knows that.
I also know that he knows that Ontario Hydro is paying a very considerable subsidy; in other words, way above world price. I am sorry I cannot tell my honourable friend the exact figure now but, as I understand it, and he will correct me if I am wrong, it is roughly double the amount at which uranium could be purchased on the open market, particularly in other parts of Canada, as my friend will know, in Saskatchewan.
In a sense, Ontario Hydro and the consumers of Hydro are paying a direct subsidy into that community. That is something that has gone on for a long period of time and it has been a matter of long discussion, as my honourable friend knows. I think one can make an argument that there are enormously good reasons for purchasing things inside the province, but obviously my friend will be aware that this is a source of irritation with some of our other sister provinces, which feel that they should be bidding fairly on uranium and have access into our purchasing power. So there are many sides to this question.
One of the other realities is that Elliot Lake is a wonderful community with a highly developed infrastructure and really quite a wonderful place to visit. It is a great tragedy to see these massive numbers of layoffs that are coming there.
I do not have a quick and easy answer to my honourable friend’s question, except to say that I know there will be some purchases by Ontario Hydro. I cannot tell him exactly the mix. It is imperative that they are sensitive to the realities of that community. I can tell my honourable friend that a number of my colleagues, led by the Minister of Northern Development and others, including the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, are working very, very closely with that community, looking for alternatives and looking for solutions. We have had other problems in --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Wildman: I appreciate the comments of the Premier with regard to the efforts of the Minister of Northern Development and my friend the member for Algoma-Manitoulin in conjunction with the people of Elliot Lake and the North Shore, but would the Premier not agree that by making such a commitment by Ontario Hydro, the communities of Elliot Lake and Blind River and the North Shore would have more time to adjust and to work out strategies for diversification if they had some idea of a length of time and volumes of purchases that Ontario Hydro was prepared to make so that we could move ahead and try to alleviate the devastation of the economy that will result from the company’s downsizing due to world prices for uranium?
Hon Mr Peterson: My honourable friend puts forward a suggestion, and it is a constructive one. I can tell him that the member for Algoma-Manitoulin has been working on these particular matters, and obviously it is imperative that Ontario Hydro is sensitive to some of these realities and giving time to adjust.
As I understand it, and again I just cannot recall the information at my fingertips, some of these contracts are coming up for renewal in the not-too-distant future and that is why we are going to have to go through the entire matter. But I can assure my honourable friend this government will respond in every way it can.
I just see by accident that the mayor of Kirkland Lake is in the gallery today. I am sure he would be the first one to tell the member that when he had troubles in that area, the closedown of the mines in Temagami and the Kirkland Lake area, this government responded with a number of programs of diversification.
We want to be very, very sensitive to the communities that are subjected to these kinds of problems. I know I can count on my honourable friend’s advice and help along the way as we develop these alternative strategies.
CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mrs Cunningham: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. He knows that in the field of children’s mental health we have had waiting lists now for over two or three years for some 10,000 young children. Right now in Ontario, the mental health centres are telling us that these children have been subjected to abuse, that they have been subjected to family violence, that they are having trouble mentally and that they really desperately need our help.
They have a right to treatment. Right now, if they were looking for health services like fixing a broken leg or cancer treatment, they would get that service right away. But they are not getting service for what is called a mental health problem, and they do not have the kind of access we would like them to have -- 10,000 children, over three years; what is the minister deciding to do about it? We need a plan of action now.
Hon Mr Beer: I thank my honourable friend for her question. There is a great deal that the ministry and the government are doing in working in the broad range of children’s services, and I think it is awfully important in looking at the problems in the children’s mental health area that we recognize there are problems throughout the children’s services area and the way we are going to resolve those is by bringing all the players together and coming forward with a comprehensive approach.
For this reason my predecessor created a special advisory committee on children’s services, which is meeting and will be bringing in a report. It is chaired by Dr Colin Maloney. That committee is looking at particular problems in the children’s mental health area, in the children’s welfare area, young offenders across that broad spectrum. I have met with the executive of the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres. We have looked at a number of specific things that we can work on in the interim. I have agreed that once Dr Maloney’s report is completed, I would be quite prepared to sit down with them and look at how we can go about moving on the recommendations of the Maloney report.
Mrs Cunningham: I understand that the minister is meeting and having discussions around the Maloney report. I guess my plea today would be to speed it up. While we are talking about what we already know, and have known for some three years right now, there are more children added to waiting lists right across Ontario.
I can speak specifically for Madam Vanier Children’s Services in London -- which the Premier should know something about, and certainly the member for London South -- and I can speak on behalf of other members of this House, as it has been brought to their attention by the children’s mental health centres in their own areas.
I guess my question right now would be, when is the minister going to finish his discussions with Mr Maloney? What we really need is an overhaul of the system with new mandates for children’s mental health. When will he do it and when can we expect a brand-new review independent of the one that is going on now?
Hon Mr Beer: One of the specific things we are doing with the children’s mental health association is working together very directly on the question of the waiting lists to see how we can assist various centres with the waiting lists and perhaps have people treated in other centres. We are also looking at some specific problems around funding and around the salaries of people who work in those centres.
I will be receiving the Maloney report in June, and we want to move fairly quickly with that report precisely because it is going to be looking at the broad area. We have asked that all of the major players work together and work with us so we can go forward in implementing recommendations from that report, because I think it is clearly in all of our interests to try to provide the best help for all children who require mental health services.
ST ELIZABETH NURSING HOME
Ms Oddie Munro: My question is to the Minister of Labour. The St Elizabeth Nursing Home, in my riding, is due to close in August of this year. The nursing home was taken over by the Ministry of Health in 1987 and subsequently three local nursing homes were awarded replacement licences to relocate the residents.
The question of staff relocation is not settled and is resulting in frustration and fears among the workers. The workers are represented by the Ontario Nurses’ Association and Local 532 of the Service Employees’ International Union. It has been reported that Local 532 is applying to the Ontario Labour Relations Board for succession rights. Would the minister provide me with an update on this representation to the labour relations board?
Hon Mr Phillips: I know this is a matter of some considerable interest to the member, so I would be pleased to give her an update on the situation as I understand it.
I believe that last week the union did apply to the Ontario Labour Relations Board under the appropriate sections, as well as, I am told, under the Successor Rights (Crown Transfers) Act. I think the member would appreciate that because this is now before the Ontario Labour Relations Board, a labour relations officer will be appointed shortly to deal with the matter. That now is a matter that the labour relations board will be taking under consideration. As of last week, the union had brought that proposal forward to the labour relations board. It is now in their hands.
Ms Oddie Munro: I understand the need for confidentiality in allowing the board to pursue its own procedures. However, I understand that there is an obstacle in terms of being able to act proactively, and that is that applications may be accepted only after the transfers have taken place. Could the minister clarify for me the rules governing the timing of applications for succession rights in these or similar circumstances?
Hon Mr Phillips: I believe that both the Labour Relations Act and the successor rights act provide that in the event of a sale of a business or transfer undertaken within the meaning of the acts, any existing collective agreement and/or bargaining right should continue in force until the appropriate tribunal declares otherwise.
I know that the member’s concern is around the rights of the employees, and if in fact they fall within the meaning of the appropriate, relevant sections of the act, those collective agreements would continue in force until the appropriate tribunal has made its decision.
Mr Pouliot: My question is to the Minister of Energy. The minister will recall vividly that Robert Franklin, one of his friends down here at Ontario Hydro, the chairperson of Ontario Hydro, announced last week that Hydro rates for Ontario consumers nine months from now, on 1 January 1991, will go up by a minimum of 12 per cent.
An increase of this magnitude has nothing short of a devastating effect on the people of the north. It hurts the people of the north, it hurts their economy, it hurts their future. When will the minister take the responsibility and stop this unfair gouging at the expense of northerners?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I am aware of the reference the honourable member makes to a speech that the chairman of Ontario Hydro gave in which he indicated that rate increases could be as high as 12 per cent for 1991, but I want to inform the honourable member and the House that Ontario Hydro has not in fact tabled its rate increase proposals for 1991 with me. At the point in time at which they do that, and I would expect that to be by the end of April, we will refer that to the Ontario Energy Board for its review of the various factors that would have to be considered. It would be appropriate for me to comment more specifically at that time.
Mr Pouliot: Humour becomes the minister. The sad reality is that Ontario Hydro can do pretty well whatever it wishes. For instance, last year the Ontario Energy Board, which she referred to, recommended 3.6 per cent for electricity rates, yet the taxpayers of Ontario paid a full 5.9 per cent. Because of climatic conditions in northern Ontario and because of the rate structure in northern Ontario, the rates are often double what they are in southern Ontario -- a double standard indeed.
Who is running the rate structure in Ontario? Is it the jackals whose appetites are insatiable, down the line on University Avenue, or is it the Premier of Ontario with the cabinet? Who is boss here?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would certainly contest the suggestion that Ontario Hydro can do whatever it wants in terms of its rate increases. Ontario Hydro is mandated by the Power Corporation Act to provide power at the cost of providing that power. In fact, the record has been one of considerable success in providing power at quite reasonable rates.
However, I think there are some realities that we have to recognize in the set of rate increases that may be proposed. One of those realities is certainly the goods and services tax, which has been introduced by the federal government. This will mean that electricity will be taxed for the first time, and the cost of this tax will have to be incorporated in the rates that are charged for electricity in Ontario. That is obviously a concern to us, and the effect that it has on an increase in electricity rates, not just in northern Ontario but across the province, because we recognize that reasonable rates for our electricity are important to our economy both in northern Ontario and in southern Ontario.
Mr J. M. Johnson: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. I understand that the ministry is on the verge of proclaiming new regulations to Ontario’s Pesticides Act which would impose major conditions on the storage and transportation of all pesticides in Ontario. If the government is so open, why would the minister refuse to consult with farm organizations that represent a major sector of Ontario’s professional pesticide users, such as AgCare, Agricultural Groups Concerned About Resources and the Environment?
Hon Mr Bradley: When developing any regulation changes, particularly those that relate to the Pesticides Act, we are always made aware by people who are interested in it of the opinions they happen to have on these matters. I get communications from time to time from a variety of people, including those in the farming community, as to what they believe should be done in the future, the direction in which they feel we should be moving.
In addition, of course, we have the Pesticides Advisory Committee, which has a representative from the agricultural community and which also consults with people in the agricultural community. I think representatives from the University of Guelph, for instance, are involved in many items related to agriculture and are familiar and in contact with the farming community. I am always interested in those opinions and would encourage people to bring those opinions forward.
Mr J. M. Johnson: Jeff Wilson, the chairman of AgCare, an organization which represents 45,000 producers, requested a meeting with the minister last spring. They are also waiting for written confirmation of the minister’s oral commitment of 17 April 1989 on mandatory certification for users of agricultural pesticides. Does the minister want their input? Does he have any intention of meeting with AgCare?
Hon Mr Bradley: As the member may be aware, the relevant people within the ministry on many occasions meet with the people who have specific concerns about specific regulations, specifically those who are involved in the branch of the Ministry of the Environment that deals with pesticides. I know they have ongoing meetings with a number of people who bring forward their concerns to people directly involved in the drafting of those regulations or their suggestions on what might be in those regulations. We certainly encourage them to do so.
In terms of the member’s other question, our ministry has certainly given that undertaking. I was very pleased to see the kind of support from the farming community, particularly for that mandatory aspect of dealing with that problem, because I have recognized that in so many cases -- and the member, representing an area which has a large agricultural component, would know -- many of those people have been most helpful in encouraging others within that community to be more conscious of the potential problems with pesticides and indeed have been some of the best people in terms of assisting us in that regard.
Mrs Stoner: My question is to the Minister of Health. The Ajax-Pickering community has grown very rapidly to a population that is now over 100,000 people and is served by a hospital which has not seen substantial improvements since 1964, when the population was 33,000 people. I am sure the minister knows there is a great deal of support in the community for the expansion of that hospital, an expansion to meet the needs of the 1990s. The Durham Region District Health Council has indicated that the Ajax and Pickering General Hospital expansion is its number one priority. Can the minister reaffirm for the families of Ajax and Pickering the status of the hospital expansion?
Hon Mrs Caplan: First, I would like to acknowledge the member for Durham West as she has been an active representative on behalf of her constituency in making sure that the needs of her community are well known.
I would like to make it clear that the $14.7-million commitment from the Ministry of Health stands. We are aware that the Durham district health council has identified the expansion of Ajax-Pickering as its number one priority for Durham region. As the member knows and as she says quite correctly, the region has experienced rapid growth, particularly of young families, over the past few years. I want to say to her that, as part of the ministry’s capital framework, we acknowledge the need to strengthen hospital services to meet future demographic growth projections.
Mrs Stoner: I thank the minister for clarifying the situation with the hospital.
One of the things that has happened recently was an article in the local newspaper which stated that the 70 long-term care beds which were part of the hospital expansion had been cut from the plans. I would like to know, what is the status of long-term care for Ajax and Pickering and for Ontario, and how we will meet the needs of our elderly and chronically ill in the future?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The Ministry of Health, together with the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Office for Disabled Persons and the Office for Senior Citizens’ Affairs, is participating in long-term care reform in order to ensure that appropriate services are delivered in communities across this province in the best possible setting, whether that be in the hospital, in the institution, in the community or in people’s homes.
As the member mentioned, I believe a real opportunity exists for Durham region to make the kinds of decisions which will lead us all confidently into the next century. There have been numerous consultations and, after discussion with the district health council and the hospital, an agreement was reached to defer construction of the 70 long-term care beds pending the outcome of long-term care reform.
I repeat that the capital commitment of $14.7 million stands firm and that we are committed to meeting the needs of the people of Durham region.
INMATES’ MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Farnan: My question is to the Minister of Health. The minister’s responsibility is to ensure the proper health care of all the residents of Ontario. Does she, as minister, know the percentage of mentally ill inmates or inmates with psychiatric disorders requiring treatment who are being currently housed in our detention centres and provincial jails and who are not getting adequate psychiatric care?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite has referred to people who have been confined to correctional institutions, I would refer this matter quite properly to the Minister of Correctional Services.
Mr Farnan: The minister cannot --
The Speaker: I do not see the minister. Was that your answer? Well, supplementary to the answer
Mr Farnan: The minister cannot refer this issue to the Minister of Correctional Services. Union studies estimate that 20 to 25 per cent of inmates in provincial jails are actually mentally ill and not receiving the treatment they require. When will this Minister of Health recognize that incarceration without proper treatment simply means the warehousing of sick people getting sicker? And when will she as the minister refuse to be a partner in the coverup and the neglect of the health needs of these inmates? When will she demand that these inmates receive the treatment they require?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, it is not within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health to decide when a person is sentenced to a correctional institution; a psychiatrist recommends whether a person should be referred for inpatient treatment or to a mental health centre. He knows also that the courts decide whether persons are sentenced to jail or whether they are sent to psychiatric hospitals People in psychiatric hospitals are not inmates; they are patients.
Mr Sterling: I have a question of the Solicitor General. It concerns replica handguns. An Ottawa city councillor, Darrel Kent, is proposing a bylaw to present to an Ottawa council meeting next week which is similar to a bylaw that they have here in the city of Toronto, which was implemented in January.
That bylaw bans the manufacture, sale and distribution of replica handguns.
As the minister knows, Canadian police chiefs have been lobbying for this kind of legislation for some period of time. Why are municipalities having to bring forward their own bylaws instead of this government taking some action with regard to this matter in provincial legislation? Will this government call up for third reading my colleague’s bill, Bill 145, limiting the sale of replica handguns, as it is now in front of the Legislature?
Hon Mr Offer: The member opposite raises a very important issue. I am well aware of the member’s piece of legislation, and it is certainly one which I have been looking at very closely. I think we have to recognize, in dealing with the particular piece of legislation, what its object is, what it is designed to accomplish. Currently there are provisions within the Criminal Code of Canada which very much would address many of the concerns raised in the member’s private piece of legislation.
I think the member opposite should also be aware that this matter is very much within the scope and the jurisdiction of the federal government. Currently it is a matter which I believe could be best addressed and handled by the federal Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, and the whole question of how these particular items are in the area of packaging.
But I would like to indicate that it is one we have looked at, that the Criminal Code of Canada currently does address much of the issue that is in the private member’s bill, and I believe that is the best place and the most appropriate venue for this particular issue to be addressed.
The Speaker: That completes the allotted time for oral questions and responses.
Mr Sterling: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Since yesterday was a very historic event in the history of Canada, I was amazed today that the Minister of Tourism and Recreation did not congratulate our Canadian hockey team on winning the World Cup for Women. I would like to ask unanimous consent of the Legislature to make a statement at this time.
The Speaker: Members of the House, I know you listened carefully to the member for Carleton. Is there unanimous consent?
Mr Sterling: On Saturday evening and yesterday afternoon, I had one of the most enjoyable afternoons and evenings in watching hockey that I have experienced over a long period of time. On Saturday evening, Team Canada played the all-women’s team from Finland. Canada won that game by a score of six to five and earned a berth in the finals on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday afternoon, as many people know, some 9,000 people from the city of Ottawa and the surrounding areas went to witness at the Civic Centre a tremendous game between the Canadian team and the United States team.
The game, I must tell you, Mr Speaker, is in many ways superior to the men’s hockey as you and I would know it and have watched it many times in our local arenas. My experience with the tournament in both games is that it is not marred by the same degree of violence which is exhibited in men’s hockey, that that the feeling with regard to the game being a game, for fun and for the exhibition of skill not only was exhibited on the ice but was actually felt in the crowd by the people who were sitting in the stands near me and throughout the arena in Ottawa.
I want to congratulate the Canadian team on its tremendous show throughout the tournament, I want to congratulate all of the participants on the tremendous show of sportswomanship and I also want to thank all of the sponsors and the people who have put forward a tremendous amount of energy in organizing this first World Cup. I only hope that some of the professional men who play this sport will take some of their lessons from the exhibitions which we saw over the weekend. I believe that this tournament will now grow and will encourage many of the women of our country and our province to become more involved with this tremendous sport.
I congratulate, on behalf of my party, all of the women on Team Canada on their tremendous victory yesterday afternoon. They represented Canada in the best possible way.
Hon Ms Hart: It is not usual that I get to stand up and talk about an area of activity which is not usually encompassed within culture, but I would argue that sport definitely comes within culture. That is why I am very pleased and happy to stand here in my place today to join with my colleague the member for Carleton to congratulate Team Canada on its spectacular win.
I cannot say that I am always an avid follower of the sports broadcasts in the morning, but today, because of the traffic, I just happened to catch some of the commentators and what they said about this game. One of them caught my attention particularly. He said -- and I emphasize “he” -- it was “an almost perfect game.”
It is not very often that we hear that in any field of endeavour. The members of Team Canada and all of those people who brought this game to the fore so it is now in the forefront of international sport can be proud. On behalf of my party and on behalf of all of those in my caucus, I would like to say congratulations to Team Canada for a game very well played. We look forward to great things in the future from this team.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I watched the Finnish game and the American game on TV on the weekend and enjoyed them thoroughly. I thought it was wonderful. It was a great experience for Ottawa. It was a wonderful start for women’s World Cup hockey worldwide, I thought. The whole tenor of it was tremendous.
I think it is really interesting that here we are celebrating Agnes Macphail, as we did today, and then as an afterthought -- and I thank the member for Carleton for doing that -- we are celebrating this win by a national team. If we think about how many times members in this House rise to celebrate a local male team that has done well internationally and also to celebrate national victories from time to time of men’s hockey, it is interesting that we had to do this as an afterthought, but undeniably have to do it.
When you watched the television, you saw Ken Dryden being absolutely effusive about the style of play and Howie Meeker being apoplectically delighted with the fact they were not just dumping the puck in and chasing it. There were wonderful skills shown in terms of passing and skating in the game. It was really sort of everybody being surprised.
One might wonder why they were surprised when hundreds of women’s hockey teams have been existing in this province now for years and years, and there is a good organization as well in the province of Quebec. I would just hope that this celebration and this recognition finally of women’s development in the field of hockey might move itself on to the Olympic sphere. Although we will not get it in the next Olympics, I would hope that the games thereafter will include women’s hockey, because the quality of play and the excitement that was engendered were just splendid to watch. I do not watch hockey much any more these days but I actually watched both games on the weekend.
Hon R. F. Nixon: This is the fifth anniversary of the dissolution of the House advised by Premier Miller. I am rather surprised that the honourable members in the third party did not want unanimous consent to bring this to public attention.
Mr Offer moved that Mr D. R. Cooke be added as a member of the standing committee on administration of justice, that Mrs E. J. Smith be substituted for Mr D. R. Cooke on the standing committee on estimates and that Mr Epp be added as a member of the select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs.
Motion agreed to.
Mr D. R. Cooke: I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It deals with the death of 23-month-old Joel Bondy and was circulated by the Canadian Auto Workers, Local 444. It resolves that:
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
“That the Minister of Health immediately set up an independent public inquiry to thoroughly investigate the health care circumstances which contributed to Joel Bondy’s death; and that the government of Ontario and the Minister of Health seriously address the heart surgery waiting list, the critical care nursing shortage and the absence of a cardiac surgical unit in Windsor and Essex county.”
It is signed by 3,600 people and myself from the Windsor area.
Mr Cousens: In the presence of Dennis Robbins from my riding, and to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“Whereas the absence of traffic signals on Highway 7 at the entrance of Union Villa and the shops of Unionville Plaza in the town of Markham poses a serious threat to pedestrian and driver safety, we request that the Ministry of Transportation move immediately to install traffic signals at the abovementioned location so as to safely alternate a right of way between conflicting flows of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.’’
I have over 500 signatures that have been picked up by Mr Robbins, and indeed we need a traffic light there. Maybe this is one way of getting the Ministry of Transportation to do so.
Mr D. W. Smith: I have a petition to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislature of Ontario, and it is from the residents of the county of Lambton regarding their concern about the responsibility of each municipality to officially deal with its own waste management. There are approximately 1,730 names on this petition and I will affix my name to the bottom of it.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have another petition to the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario.
“We, the undersigned, hereby register our concern and protest over the exclusion of permanent mental disorders in the threshold definition of the new Ontario Motorist Protection Plan.
“We respectfully request that the Legislature consider amendment of this proposed threshold definition to recognize the potential for permanent mental disorders resulting from a traumatic event such as an auto accident. To omit mental illness from the definition is discriminatory and implies that the resulting damages are neither substantive nor acceptable.”
This is signed by 2,870 people, making a total between this petition and the last one of 6,470 people from the Windsor area who are fed up with this Liberal government.
SECURITY IN PREMISES USED BY PUBLIC
Mr Sterling: I have a petition to the Lieutenant Governor.
“We request that the Ministry of the Attorney General withdraw Bill 149, An Act to amend the Trespass to Property Act, which we believe is unnecessary and without mandate.
“While we respect the rights of minorities and youth, whom Bill 149 alleges to protect, we oppose the way in which the proposed legislation will erode the ability of owners and occupiers to provide a safe and hospitable environment for their patrons or customers. We are further concerned about the legislation’s potential for increasing confrontation in the already difficult process of removing individuals who create disturbances on publicly used premises.”
This petition includes 570 names added to the 2,978 names that have already been on a petition. This brings the total to 3,548 who oppose Bill 149, the amendment to the Trespass to Property Act.
Mr D. W. Smith: I have a petition to the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 414 residents from the village of Alvinston. This community has approximately 568 electors. They are petitioning and they are concerned about the proposal by Ontario Hydro to route or reroute a high voltage transmission line through their community. They feel strongly that adverse health effects may result from such a powerful transmission line in their community. I have affixed my name to the bottom of that one as well.
Mr Laughren: Did Lorne Henderson sign it?
The Speaker: Probably. Are there any other petitions?
REPORT BY COMMITTEE
STANDING COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
Mr Laughren from the standing committee on resources development presented the following report and moved its adoption:
Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended.
Bill 208, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act.
The Speaker: Shall the report be received and adopted? You have some comments?
Mr Laughren: I do indeed have a few comments to make on the reporting of this very important piece of legislation back to the chamber. Members will recall -- although perhaps not a lot of other people will -- that this bill was referred out to the standing committee on resources development at the end of the last session, before the adjournment, at least for the break, and the committee was given the task of holding public hearings across the province.
We did indeed hold public hearings in January and February in Toronto, but also in Hamilton, St Catharines, London, Kitchener, Windsor, Ottawa, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Dryden, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie and Timmins. When the bill was referred to the committee, part of the reference was that it would be reported back to this assembly on 26 March, which of course is today. I know the Speaker knows that.
I must say that because it was such a contentious bill, the scheduling was very difficult and very competitive. There were more than twice as many persons and organizations that wanted to make representations to the committee as were able to be scheduled, given the limitations on time that the committee had.
I am sure I speak for other members of the committee when I pay tribute to the clerk of the committee, Lynn Mellor, for the work she did in scheduling the best that could be done. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not also express my appreciation for the very special assistance that the committee had from the Ontario Federation of Labour in lining up the groups and helping us resolve any kinds of conflicts as to who should make presentations from the various unions and so forth. That was extremely helpful to us.
Our research assistant, Lorraine Luski, who prepared summaries of the presentations was right on top of it right to the very end, even though there was not much time to prepare the summary between the public hearings and the time that the clause-by-clause debate started. Finally, in terms of expressing appreciation, Tim Millard from the Ministry of Labour was of enormous assistance during the clause-by-clause debate when we were very much involved in the specifics of the bill.
The debate itself during the public hearings was extremely vigorous and sometimes angry. The committee members, I thought, dealt with the very vigorous debate extremely well, took their task very seriously and worked extremely hard as we travelled the province and then engaged in the clause-by-clause debate.
There is a very clear difference between management and labour over this issue of workplace health and safety. There seems to be not much difference over the basic principle that health and safety in the workplace should be controlled by the people there, namely management and labour, and not by an army of inspectors from the Ministry of Labour or any other ministry, namely, that the whole principle that was established under the Ham report 10 years ago, called the internal responsibility system, should be maintained but that in its present form it is not working properly and there needs to be some very fundamental changes to the legislation.
Everyone agrees or seems to agree that they want the internal responsibility system to work because only then are the people who have the most at stake the ones who are controlling conditions in the workplace. The alternative, as I said, to the internal responsibility system seems to be unacceptable to virtually everyone, but agreement on the principle of the internal responsibility system does not mean that there is an agreement on how to make the internal responsibility system work better.
The labour movement understands very well what is at stake, namely, the lives of its membership, and it is not an exaggeration to say that. Therefore the labour movement quite understandably says that since it is its membership whose lives are at stake, that is who should control workplace conditions, namely, the people who have the biggest stake.
There is no question that it is not working properly now. Since the existing legislation came into effect 10 years ago, there have been roughly 2,500 workers who have died on the job in Ontario and about four million workers injured on the job. If we project that number into the next 10 years, there is no reason under the present situation why those numbers will not be identical; we will lose 2,500 more workers who will die on the job in the next 10 years and four million more workers will get injured on the job in the next 10 years.
Surely to goodness in a jurisdiction as prosperous and, if I dare say it, as sophisticated as Ontario, that is intolerable. That is completely unacceptable. We must move heaven and earth to make sure that changes.
I am indebted to the Ontario Federation of Labour for some of the statistics it brought forward to the committee and I would like to place some of those on the record because I think they are extremely important.
If you translate the number of deaths on the job, it means that one worker dies on the job, on average, every working day in the province of Ontario. Up to the end of November 1989 there had been 339 worker death claims filed with the Workers’ Compensation Board and, out of those, 272 had been recognized. Until the end of November 1989, again, there had been approximately 434,000 injury claims that had been submitted to the board. That is 1,800 workplace injuries every working day in Ontario in 1989 and 227 every working hour.
More disturbing than the bald numbers is the trend. Despite the fact that we have had this legislation in place for 10 years, despite the fact that there was general agreement in principle on the internal responsibility system, the trend of injuries and deaths on the job is extremely disturbing.
Since 1979 serious lost-time claims have increased more than 30 per cent. Since 1979 the number of permanent disability claims have increased more than 100 per cent. Members should think about that for a moment. The number of permanent disability claims, which means that a worker has a lifetime disability, has increased more than 100 per cent.
Surely it is completely unacceptable to have serious claims increase by 100 per cent in the last 10 years when you would think that matters would be improving, not deteriorating. I think most of the members on the committee, having seen those numbers and having listened to the way they were presented, understand very well that something must be done.
It simply cannot be tolerated to have serious claims increase by 100 per cent in the last 10 years. You would have to be optimistic not to say, “What is going to stop them from increasing by the same percentage in the next 10 years?” There is no evidence, but in 1979 there was no evidence that serious injury claims were going to increase by 100 per cent in the following 10 years either.
I am talking about injuries. There was a report a number of years ago dealing with occupational diseases. Dr Annalee Yassi did some work for Paul Weiler when he was doing work on compensation and her estimate is that the number of deaths due to industrial diseases is grotesquely underestimated and that indeed there may be as many as 6,000 deaths every year due to industrial diseases in the province of Ontario that are something not recognized as industrial diseases.
There is much to be done. It is not as though the legislation, in some cases, is not in place; it is.
Listen to these disturbing statistics too: 78 per cent of workplaces were violating one or more sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act -- by the way, these statistics come from the minister’s own advisory council in its 8th annual report, volume 2 -- seven per cent of employers with more than 20 workers had not established a joint committee, which is the mechanism under which the internal responsibility system is to work; 34 per cent of employers with designated substances with less than 20 workers had not established a joint committee required by the regulations; 30 to 40 per cent of workplaces with designated substances had not carried out an assessment of worker exposure or implemented a control program, required by the regulations; 35 per cent of the worker members on the joint committees had been selected by the employer in direct violation of the act; 40 per cent of worker members and 20 per cent of management members of joint committees had no training in occupational health and safety.
The existing legislation is simply not working appropriately and it is not being enforced appropriately, so something simply must be changed.
Because of numbers such as those and because the stakes are so extremely high, passions run very high when we talk about occupational health and safety in the province of Ontario. I shall not forget the sight of people making presentations before the committee and recalling an incident that happened in which a friend and co-worker had died, barely being able to continue as the tears came as they recalled how their colleague and friend had been killed on the job.
I think it had a profound effect on members of the committee. It certainly did on me. Sometimes those tears became angry as well and they were not simply tears; they were tears of frustration and tears of anger as people remembered how some of their colleagues had been killed in some cases, needlessly as well.
As well I shall not forget the pictures brought forward to the committee of underground toilet facilities in the mines in northern Ontario. Those pictures were reminiscent not even of the 19th century; they were reminiscent of working conditions you might expect in the 17th or 18th centuries in our underground mines. To have facilities such as those, to say the least, is demeaning to people who work in our underground facilities in Ontario. There simply have to be some changes.
There was a great deal of anger caused, I believe -- I feel fairly certain about this -- by the way in which the bill was brought to the public hearings and into the public hearings process. It was the fact that the previous Minister of Labour had presented a bill the labour movement felt it could accept, not without some misgivings, not without a lot of gnashing of teeth to accept some things it did not like and not without concerns because the public sector was not appropriately protected, even under the original act, but then when the new minister came in and made his proposed amendments, there really was a state of shock and anger across the province about what had happened.
People felt betrayed by the process because they had every reason to believe that the bill in its original form would be what the committee would be dealing with and what they would be making presentations on. So it is not hard to understand why there is a lot of passion around the issue of health and safety, and in particular around Bill 208, given the process that occurred and the sense of betrayal by many people in the labour movement out there.
Also it was not helped, quite frankly, by some of the language used by some of the presentations, particularly from the construction industry, that used some ill-advised language in talking about “irresponsible workers.” That simply does not add to the working of the internal responsibility system. I do not know how you work with an employer who uses words like those. I know I would have enormous difficulty.
There was very real concern about the whole question of protection of public sector workers. The example was used again and again that if an ambulance driver knew for certain that an ambulance was not safe because of its brakes or steering, for example, under the bill he would not have the right to refuse to drive that ambulance. That surely is ridiculous. We are talking about protecting not only the worker but the person who will be transported in the ambulance. So there simply must be changes in the parts of the legislation that deal with the public sector. It is unacceptable to treat the public sector as second class citizens. Those are our employees and we must look after them appropriately.
I do not intend to speak long this afternoon, but it is time for a new era in health and safety in the province. I quite frankly do not know if the new health and safety agency this bill will establish will usher in a new era; I think it is too early to say at this point. I desperately hope that it does. I recall that when the existing legislation was brought in 10 years ago, there was an enormous sense of urgency to it and it became a priority. Everybody put a lot of work into creating the original bill that created the system we have now. No less an effort must be put into making this change because it really is just as important, if not more important, because everyone thought that what was put in place 10 years ago was a major breakthrough and would solve a lot of problems. We have seen from the statistics I just presented that it has not solved all those problems.
Even though there is an agreement that the model is going in the right direction, the internal responsibility system, it has not resolved the problems. Therefore, that internal responsibility system simply must be beefed up. It must be given more muscle by the people who have the most at stake, the workers on the job. That simply must be done, but it is going to require an enormous effort on the part of the ministry to make that happen and to get back some of the goodwill that was lost through the process of jerking around people when the government changed the bill from the original Bill 208 to the present Bill 208. There has to be some work done to gain back some goodwill because otherwise there is going to be enormous suspicion and mistrust around the process. I really believe there is too much at stake to allow that to happen.
When you think about it, what higher priority should there be than the protection of those people who create the wealth in our society? We laud them for the work they do, we are pleased that they have plugged into the system and are out there working and creating real wealth, but then we do not adequately protect them when they do so. We simply must set a higher priority into protecting those people.
We need what I would call a three-pronged approach to the protection of workers in the province of Ontario. We need to put more emphasis on prevention -- this should be the mechanism for doing that -- more emphasis on income protection and maintenance when an accident does occur and more effort into rehabilitation of people who do get injured.
I would put to the minister that the proper mechanism for that is a universal sickness and accident system based on the model that is now in existence in New Zealand. It may be that we would need to adapt it to the particular needs of Ontario because we are different, we are a more industrialized society than New Zealand and our population is greater, but it could be that the present system is outdated and inappropriate.
I do not know; it is beyond me how anyone can establish the cause of some deaths. Yet, to be a claim before the Workers’ Compensation Board, you must establish the fact that it is related to the job. I would put to the members that very often that is simply impossible to do. When it is in doubt, it is not considered a legitimate claim. We simply must move to a new model of health and safety. I know that this bill does not do it.
I know that the new health and safety agency is going to be a very important agency if it gets off the ground properly with the support of everyone; it is going to be a very important agency. I would hope that will be simply stage 1 in a new era in health and safety and that stage 2 will be the universal sickness and accident program that ties in prevention as one of its main components. Only then do I believe we will have even the mechanism available to improve health and safety on the job in Ontario.
I will conclude by simply saying that I believe the minister should listen very carefully and consider some more amendments that have been proposed by the labour movement to protect workers on the job. I do not think he has gone far enough in the protection of public sector workers.
I am very nervous about the language in the bill. I know we are not debating clause by clause here and I will not get into it, but I am very nervous about the wording in the bill surrounding work activity and I think that should be looked at very carefully. I trust the minister’s mind is not closed on further changes to the bill as we move into the clause-by-clause debate in this assembly.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I have been asked by the House leader to indicate to the House that the government would like the debate postponed until a more convenient time. Normally when a chairman brings a report of this type to the House, particularly when the business has already been discussed, it is expected that it will be adjourned, but of course the honourable member for Sudbury, being senior and well tanned, is handling the role in his own inimitable way and his speech as usual was very useful. So we will be returning to this important item when it is agreed upon by the --
Mr D. S. Cooke: You were supposed to let Margaret speak.
Hon R. F. Nixon: That was not my instruction. Normally there is just one speaker, and I am not making a speech, I am moving the adjournment.
The Deputy Speaker: That is what I thought you were doing.
On motion by Mr R F. Nixon, the debate was adjourned.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Mr Speaker, I know the motion has been carried, but in conversation with the government House leader there had been an arrangement made that our chairman of the committee was going to speak, the Conservative member of the committee was going to speak and then the government was going to move adjournment of the debate. That is the arrangement that had been made. I am surprised that you would recognize somebody who was not next up in the rotation -- it would be a Conservative -- and that then a motion is moved which I would consider to be totally out of order, since he was not even next in the rotation.
The Deputy Speaker: I wish the member had brought this to my attention before I called for the --
Mr D. S. Cooke: I thought he would have got instructions right from the House leader.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Where is this rotation stuff in the rules? A member has the right to rise on behalf of the government and move the adjournment. We have other business to do.
Mr D. S. Cooke: You tend to rise when you want to rise --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
When the member for Nickel Belt finished, it was my understanding that there might -- as usual, we look for rotation, which is normal practice. I did not see anybody standing up.
Mrs Marland: Oh.
The Deputy Speaker: That is what I observed. The Treasurer stood up and moved adjournment of the debate and nobody stood up to discuss this or whatever. I called and nobody interrupted me.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It is hard to look to the left and to the right at the same time.
The Deputy Speaker: Usually it is a lot easier than that to notice when people want to call it.
Mrs Marland: Mr Speaker, in fairness, I was sitting here prepared to follow the chairman of this committee on this bill. In fairness, I was watching you totally, knowing that I was the next speaker in rotation, and you looked right to the Treasurer. With his renowned position in this Legislature we all hold him in great respect. It never would have occurred to us that he was going to rise on anything other than a point of information or a point of order, and there was no opportunity for the rotation to take what is normally understood between the House leaders as due process. I take exception to the comment that you did not see anyone else stand to speak in rotation, because it is very difficult to see to the left when you are looking to the right.
The Deputy Speaker: If members wish to speak, I expect them to stand up to be recognized. Members may know they want to speak, but the Chair does not know that. If the member rises I will recognize her in the usual rotation, but if the member sits there the Chair cannot assume that she is going to speak. Members should not expect the Chair to know what their plans are. Maybe leaders make arrangements, but the Chair is not part of those arrangements.
Therefore, is it the pleasure of the House -- the government House leader.
Hon Mr Ward: If I could intercede, Mr Speaker, in discussions earlier today it was indicated that the chairman of the committee would have a brief statement at the time of the introduction of the committee report. It was my understanding that a member from the third party wished to speak. The member who gave some indication that he wanted to speak is not here. If the member for Mississauga South wants to take her turn in the rotation and stand in her place and do so, certainly we have no difficulty with that.
As I indicated to both House leaders this morning, it was our intent to adjourn the debate when it came to our spot in the rotation. I cannot speak to the fact that the member may or may not have stood in her place. Only you can do that, Mr Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Could we have an agreement here to reopen this debate and allow the member for the third party to speak on this?
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Mississauga South, now that she is standing, I recognize.
Mrs Marland: I would like to be very clear about under what conditions I am now permitted to speak in this House. The Treasurer says that I may speak all afternoon; someone else said that I may speak briefly. I understood that there was an agreement between the House leaders, and I point out to the government House leader that I am the spokesperson for Labour, I am not just the member for Mississauga South taking a turn and rising in rotation in speaking to this bill.
I travelled with this committee and attended every public hearing on Bill 208, and I was rising in my seat, at which time the Speaker recognized the Treasurer. I think, in fairness, that if the government House leader wanted to adjourn the debate, why did he not arrange that with the House leaders instead of coming in at the last minute with this change in process? But it is rather typical. It is very typical of the fact that this Liberal government does not have a clue what it is doing.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mrs Marland: This Liberal government treats everything with the same condescension and disdain. They do not take anything that the opposition parties do --
Hon Mr Ward: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Is the member speaking to the motion that is before the House? And just on a point of information, I would point out that the standing orders require the government to lay forth its order of business every Thursday. I would remind all members of the House that when that was done on Thursday it was indicated that today we would be dealing with an interim supply motion. Mr Speaker, I would ask you to call the member to order to speak to the motion.
The Deputy Speaker: The member will address the point.
Mrs Marland: Mr Speaker, do not let the government House leader confuse this House. When I am talking about the confusion in the minds of the Liberal government, I am indeed addressing this motion, because the very fact that this bill before this House is being reported at this time, the very fact that this bill has 32 amendments, speaks for the efficiency of the Liberal government in terms of whether or not it knows what it is doing. I would be embarrassed, frankly, to be a member of any government that presents a bill and then presents 32 amendments in order to clean it up a little.
The fact is that this bill is so poorly drafted it should have been returned and rewritten, if this government really were committed to the interests of occupational health and safety and the business and industry of this province.
It is obvious that this government does not take its responsibilities seriously. They table a bill and then they decide that the only way they can get around the fact that it is a poor bill is to change the minister. Even with the change in minister, they are not fortunate enough to appoint someone who is at the point of his appointment fully cognizant of what the existing bill contains.
Frankly, we as Progressive Conservatives believe completely in occupational health and safety. It was our government that initiated and drafted the first statute of this province that addressed occupational health and safety. So our record is very clear. We also addressed the fact that the enforcement of any statute is the only way protection in this case can work.
I think this government should recognize that when it brings in a bill that later requires 32 amendments, it really begs the question. First of all, they change the minister thinking that will clean up the bill. Now they are looking at 32 amendments to clean up the bill. It is really almost laughable if we look back over what the process has been with this particular legislation.
I am actually quoting the words here of the then Labour minister, the member for York Centre, who made this statement on 24 January 1989 when Bill 208 received its first reading. He said, “Since 1985 the Ministry of Labour has been actively and aggressively involved in the reform process that directly addresses the government’s commitment to improving the quality of the workplace environment.” That is an interesting statement in itself because I do not know how a government can aggressively and actively be involved in anything when it does not speak to the groups that are affected. They did not speak to business and industry around this province and they certainly did not discuss any aspect of the proposed bill with the workers and the unions in this province.
That statement is simply a pointless statement on the part of the then minister, but then I guess the government began to realize that the member for York Centre was not representing the government’s best interests. So they decided that, rather than change the bill, they decided to change the minister.
Obviously, it is clear that this government still lacks an understanding of the issue of occupational health and safety. We have got Bill 208 and they are going to place 32 amendments and in fact did bring forward some of those amendments in committee. This is obviously the government’s third attempt to get this bill right. It’s so-called reform process is five years old and the government still lacks a true understanding of what the issue is.
I think it is significant that the key interest groups complained that they were not properly consulted by the ministry. The Premier’s reaction by dumping the former Labour minister and replacing him with the present Minister of Labour has really been a very interesting situation for us to observe because at one point the former minister said he did not have time for public hearings. It was a perfect bill; it did not require public hearings. The first thing the new minister did was to call for public hearings.
As a member of the resources development committee that travelled this province and held public hearings on Bill 208, I want to say something about those public hearings. The stories that workers told the committee in every city we held public hearings in around this province were heart-breaking. but they were not stories that could not be corrected under the existing legislation. Frankly, workers in this province, if the government were acting responsibly, could be protected today under our existing occupational health and safety laws. But they are not, and the reason they are not, I think, has to lie at the feet of this current Liberal government.
When you hear the heartbreaking, soul-rending examples of accidents and deaths around this province in the workplace, you have to wonder why there has not been a solution and a remedy in order to prevent those accidents. You also have to wonder why, even with Bill 208, there would be existing still a double standard in terms of occupational health and safety between the private and public sectors. This Liberal government wants to add more legislation, more rules and regulations, to try to protect workers and, at the same time, only apply the weight of those rules and regulations against the private sector and not apply it to its own staff, its own employees.
Some of the examples that we were given through some of the public employees, be they ambulance drivers or correctional employees, are very serious and should be remedied. There is no reason why a government that is committed to occupational health and safety, had it consulted these groups before it drafted Bill 208, could not have come up with a piece of legislation, quite frankly, that would work in everybody’s best interests.
We heard from in excess of 160 groups around this province. I think we received over 350 briefs altogether, but we actually heard in person from over 160 individuals and organizations. We still feel that the Minister of Labour does not yet have a good understanding of the bill. He was asked in the Legislature on 16 October 1989 about whether or not the government was still committed to the original wording of Bill 208. The minister responded, and I quote, “It may very well be that the best solution is the one that we have currently in the bill.” Again on 16 October, the minister stated in the House that the government was committed to discussion on Bill 208, not necessarily to Bill 208 itself. At that time the minister said, “What I said in my remarks was very clear, that we want to have broad public” discussion.
We feel that the current Minister of Labour is a master of euphemisms. This minister purposely remained fuzzy on Bill 208, hoping to be rescued by the public hearing process. In his speech on second reading of Bill 208, the minister reaffirmed his support of the principles of Bill 208 no less than seven times. He said that Bill 208 will help establish partnerships no less than nine times. You have to wonder what kind of partnership can be established between any government and its legislation when that government chooses to ignore the employers and the employees. The concerns of business and industry around this province, along with the concerns of employees, are very real, but the partnership could work, if only this government would choose to listen. But this government has chosen not to consult and therefore not to listen.
We feel that this legislation is another example of the Liberal government’s “Ready, fire, aim” approach. The government approached the key players for serious discussions only after the bill had received first reading.
Another thing that is really contradictory in this legislation is the fact that the minister, when he came back to the committee at the end of our public hearings, presented a 12-page speech. This in itself is interesting. The minister, as he will tell you himself, had a 12-page speech and an eight-page speech, and it depended where you were as to which speech you received. The public, through a press conference, and those people who attended that press conference, received a 12-page speech.
I should point out that the committee members were insulted by the fact that this minister, on this bill that is very significant to the future of business and industry in this province, held a press conference ahead of coming into the committee and telling the committee members what was now to be contained, through amendment, in the bill. This press conference was held about two hours, I think, prior to the committee hearing.
We go into the committee hearing. We do not have the benefit of even having been invited to or informed about the press conference. So, after the fact, the committee members are told what is now the position of the Minister of Labour in this province. But we were told, interestingly enough, with the eight-page version of his speech. It was only after I adjourned the committee hearing while we were given a complete copy of what the minister’s statement was that we could then know what it was we were dealing with.
We felt not only that this was insulting to the committee members who had travelled this province and worked very hard for six weeks listening to the public comment on this bill but we felt it was very insulting that the minister would not have held his press conference after he made his comments to the committee.
But I think what is significant is that in his 12-page speech, which, as I have said, is different from the eight-page speech, the minister said on page 2: “Carrying, the principle of joint responsibility another step, Mr Chairman, Bill 208 will require the joint health and safety committee in every workplace to inspect that workplace, or part of the workplace, for health and safety standards at least once each month.”
But then if you go to the eight-page speech of the same date, on page 4 you will read another statement from this Minister of Labour: “We’re offering specific incentives to companies that have a good track record. A high-performing workplace could be offered the benefit of fewer Ministry of Labour inspections.”
I think that says it all. We have two speeches from this Minister of Labour on the same day and we have two contradictory paragraphs, one in one letter and one in the other. On the one hand, he is saying that there must be health and safety standard inspections at least once every month, and in the next statement he is saying, If you’re a good employer and you’re a high-performing workplace, you could be offered the benefit of fewer Ministry of Labour inspections.”
I would like to know what this means to the workers and also what it means to the employers. It is such a bureaucratic mess. How do you know that you have a high-performing workplace in terms of occupational health and safety if it is not inspected? Do we just react when there is an accident? How do industry and business manage their time and their scheduling if they are told that if they are high-performing they will not be inspected?
In other words: “If you’re good, we won’t inspect you. But of course we will have no way of knowing whether you’re good, because we’re not going to follow our original recommendation that we will have an inspection at least once each month.”
The truth of the matter is that without this bill, business and industry in this province, for the most part, are not afraid of occupational health and safety inspections. The good employers who operate conscientiously -- and I may say we had very many examples of where the workplace standards and industrial hygiene are far higher than anything that this government requires. If you fall into those categories and you never get inspected, nobody ever- knows that you are doing a responsible job in terms of protecting workers. Business and industry in this province are not looking for more bureaucracy, are not looking for more legislation. They are quite happy with enforcement of the current legislation, but as my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, I think, pointed out at every public meeting we had, we have something like 287 inspectors in this province for occupational health and safety but we have 328 for fish and wildlife.
So it is a matter of this government deciding what its priorities are. Most important, it could be a matter of this government wanting to listen to those people who are affected by legislation that it drafts. We in the Progressive Conservative Party do have concerns about Bill 208 as it is presently drafted. It is not very clear to us where this government is going with its 32 amendments. I think it is important for us to tell the House that there are areas of concern that we have and that we as a party, as Progressive Conservatives, do believe in and support a democratic Workplace Health and Safety Agency structure.
We do believe in consultations with outside representatives from the medical, safety and scientific professions and we do believe in enhanced health and safety education, training and awareness programs, but none of that is new. Those are all the areas that any responsible, professional business and industrial employer also believes in. This government does not seem to give anybody credit for anything. They seem to think that they have dreamed up a whole lot of areas that have never been addressed before. Most of these practices are followed by most of the employers.
It is like anything else where we have an exception: It is the exception that must be dealt with. And we do have exceptions in safety, the same as we have exceptions in everything else, and it is those exceptions that must be dealt with immediately. But to blanketly throw out, over everything in terms of employment and places of employment and the workplaces around this province, a piece of legislation that has not been drafted with full input of the parties that are affected simply does not make sense.
When we get into committee of the whole House to deal with the government’s amendments, I think this House will hear very clearly that there is very real confusion on the part of the Liberal government in terms of occupational health and safety in this province and that, after all is said and done, some credit for that workplace operation has to lie with the responsible business and industry.
In closing my comments this afternoon, I guess I must humbly thank the government for allowing me to speak after all the harangue that this debate started with earlier this afternoon.
The Deputy Speaker: Fair enough. I make this note, that if members all read again standing order 22(a), maybe these things will not happen. It says very clearly, if a member wants to be recognized to speak, that member has to stand up in his or her place.
Hon Mr Ward: As has already been indicated by the Treasurer earlier on, certainly there are members of the government who would wish to speak to this committee report, and that will occur when the debate is resumed on consideration of this committee report. I will move adjournment of the debate so that we can proceed with other important matters.
On motion by Mr Ward, the debate was adjourned.
Hon R. F. Nixon: That’s right, and it was approved by all House leaders last Thursday that we would do interim supply, not a debate on Bill 208.
Mr R. F. Nixon moved resolution 29:
That the Treasurer of Ontario be authorized to pay the salaries of the civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing 1 April 1990 and ending 30 June 1990, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of supply.
Hon R. F. Nixon: This is our standing interim supply motion, which will account for the expenditure of approximately $8.4 billion between 1 April and the end of June. The transfer payments that will be covered will include the update of grants to hospitals, all family benefits and the payments to municipalities. The general welfare assistance payments are due to the banks that make the payments by 27 March so that they may be paid by 2 April. The value of those general welfare assistance payments will be $25 million. The education legislative grants are due at the bank on 28 March, two days from today. Value: $35 million.
I was interested in the exchange a few moments ago. The New Democratic Party members indicated, in their usual general way, “You are not getting the money today, Bob,” which I presume means that we are going to hear some general debate, which is the right of any member. I feel, however, that the members should be informed that although our rules permit a general debate on this motion, if the motion is not passed today I, as Treasurer, am telling them that the payments I have listed will be late and that the dislocation associated with that will have to be considered.
I know that does not mean very much to anybody, but as this period gets later and later, all members of the House will have to share in the responsibility, particularly for the GWA payments, which should be placed at the availability of the various agencies by 27 March
So I simply say to the honourable members that while they have many parts to their armoury and many arrows in their quiver, it is going to be very difficult to use this in any significant way to make a point on an entirely different matter of public importance. I am certainly familiar with the concern of the opposition parties with both bills that are before the House and I would suggest to them that we give approval for this routine payment, if possible, today. If it is not possible, then I tell the House that many of our citizens will be put to unnecessary inconvenience.
Mr Laughren: I am certainly prepared to accept my share in the responsibility for beginning this debate the day before it must be completed, as long as the Treasurer is prepared to accept his responsibility for the scheduling at this place.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The New Democratic House leader said we would be doing it all afternoon, and the member insisted on intruding his useful speech earlier. That was the announcement last Thursday. Where did his speech come from?
Mr Laughren: I am talking about the fact that we are dealing with the supply motion today. That is the point I am trying to make, not some earlier point.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Oh, there is a point.
Mr Laughren: It has always been my understanding that governments determine the order of business, not the opposition.
Hon R. F. Nixon: That’s right, and it was approved by all House leaders last Thursday that we would do interim supply, not a debate on Bill 208.
Mr Laughren: Will the Treasurer tell me how it was then that the government had agreed that today would be used for a debate on Bill 208?
Hon R. F. Nixon: No, they didn’t.
Mr Laughren: They did.
Anyway, on the previous debate the Treasurer was proven wrong when he pretended that there was not an agreement that the third party would debate Bill 208 this afternoon as well. I think he should leave the House leader’s duties to the House leader and stop trying to play both roles again.
Hon R. F. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I was asked to assist the honourable members by acting as House leader during his brief absence, and all of us would agree that interim supply is almost as important as the weird little political games that the honourable member has in mind.
Mr Laughren: The Treasurer may have been asked to assist the government House leader, but he did not. He was of no assistance whatsoever, either to his House leader or to anyone else in the chamber.
I can tell the members that the Treasurer’s speeches, in wanting to spend $8 billion of government money, are a lot shorter now that he is in government than when he was in opposition.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I’m still here and you’re still there.
Mr Laughren: That is absolutely correct. I do not know what that is supposed to mean, but that is absolutely correct.
The Treasurer comes in today and lays $8 billion worth of spending before us and says, “Now, we’ve got an hour and a half and you’d better get it through or it’s going to be on your heads if people don’t get their cheques on time.” That is exactly what the Treasurer is saying to us. I know that there are certain privileges to being part of a majority government, but I would have thought that, given the Treasurer’s long service record in this chamber, he would not resort to those kinds of tactics, that having been exposed to them and been a victim of them by the previous Tory government, he would be more sensitive to those kinds of ploys and tactics with himself as Treasurer.
The Treasurer is quite right when he says that the rules provide for a very wide-ranging debate on a supply motion, given the nature of the supply motion itself; namely, the spending of $8 billion to make the functioning of Ontario at least as efficient as this government is able to make it, with, of course, the assistance of the opposition in passing supply motions.
The Treasurer is not going to have as much fun being Treasurer in the next year or two, or next year at least, as he has had in the past, because all indicators are that it is not going to be as easy a time. The Treasurer has been the Treasurer at a time when Ontario was unusually prosperous, remarkably prosperous, and the only thing that grew more rapidly under the Treasurer’s regime than the economy was food banks in the province, particularly in Metropolitan Toronto and in the city of Toronto in particular. Despite the incredible prosperity we have seen in Ontario in the last couple of years, there are still thousands of people using the food banks, in Toronto in particular; and there are still thousands of low-income families paying income tax, even though we all know that they should have been exempted long before this, and there are still people who are homeless in Ontario. The last statistic I saw was that there are 10,000 homeless people in Toronto alone. Surely this is a blemish on the Treasurer’s record.
As we come into an era or a period of time when it appears there is going to be an economic slowdown, there is a very real danger that the people who will carry the burden of that slowdown will be the very people who are least able to absorb it, and also, I might add, the people who are least to blame about causing any kind of economic slowdown.
We know that the federal cutbacks are going to cause problems for the Treasury in the province. I would only say to the Treasurer that he not engage in some kind of hand-wringing and cries of despair and blaming the federal government for all of Ontario’s problems. This province is an incredibly prosperous province, and you need only drive around southern Ontario to see that fact.
More important, this Treasurer must not -- must not -- continue to pass on the problems he has with the federal government to the local property taxpayers all across this province, because that is what the Treasurer is doing, and it is pathetic to see the Treasurer expressing anger at the federal government for doing the very same thing that he has been doing to the municipalities and the school boards all across Ontario.
It is time that the Treasurer took a new approach and decided that it was time that he was committed to making Ontario a fairer place to live. We must have a more progressive tax system in the province. We must do more to eliminate poverty in the province. If we have not been able -- I should not say we; we have been trying to get him to move -- if the Treasurer has made no serious effort to eliminate poverty in Ontario at a time when we were extremely prosperous, what hope is there if we are now heading into a time of economic slowdown? I despair that if we were not able to do very much at a time of remarkable prosperity, what is going to happen when there is a slowdown?
As a matter of fact, it is clear that the gap between the rich and the poor in the province has increased since the Liberals came to power in 1985 -- has increased. There are more rich and there are more poor. Surely that must weigh heavily on people who consider themselves true liberals in the historical sense of what a liberal really is. That must weigh heavily on those people. I know that there are Liberals who are more conservative than they are liberal, using the small c and the small l, and for those people I am sure it does not bother them, but for people who are true small-l liberals, it must bother them a great deal to see the Treasurer in his place, year after year, doing nothing about the increase in poverty in Ontario.
Oh, there was the Social Assistance Review Committee report, known as the Thomson report, but that has not solved the problem, because this government does not approach it in a wholehearted way with a determination to eliminate poverty in the province.
I said one other time, and some of the Liberal members took offense at me, that this government’s idea of a war on poverty would be to throw stones at beggars. I was exaggerating slightly, but believe me, the idea of setting up and encouraging food banks as a way to resolve the problem of poverty is really offensive in 1990 in this jurisdiction. Every Liberal should be embarrassed at the presence of over -- I think there are about 80 food banks in Toronto right now. Surely they are embarrassed that these food banks have grown since they came to power. They were not there before, or if they were, they were in much smaller numbers.
I do not know how they live with that fact. It must bother them a great deal, because at the same time that has been happening, we have been trying to put pressure on the Treasurer every year to bring in a new system of taxation that will remove those very people, some of whom are using food banks, from the tax rolls, but the Treasurer does not do it. There are still people earning thousands of dollars below the poverty line who are paying income tax to Ontario.
Surely we do not need it. Surely this province should not be taxing people below the poverty line, and the poverty line I am using is the one established by Statscan. It is not my definition of poverty; it is Statistics Canada’s. They can tell me how they justify someone who is living below the poverty line paying income taxes in Ontario. They simply cannot. I do not believe they can justify it, period.
It is not as though the Treasurer is not getting lots of assistance, or lots of advice, at least. Now I see the member for Mississauga South is advising the Treasurer on fiscal policy. That truly is scary. Nevertheless, he is getting lots of advice. One of the reasons the standing committee on finance and economic affairs was established, it is my understanding at least, was to provide advice in the prebudget period to the Treasurer of Ontario. There has been no lack of advice for the Treasurer.
For example, some of the suggestions I was glancing at called for the Treasurer to increase social assistance levels in the province in his budget that is coming down in May, I believe, although we do not have a date yet, to increase comfort allowances, to provide financial and legislative support for affordable, accessible housing, to continue to reform the supports to employment program, the STEP program we have in the province, and to increase funding to the assistive devices program for disabled persons. Surely those are not burdensome demands, and we will be looking forward to the Treasurer’s response.
There also were many suggestions before to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, and concerns about what they call the feminization of poverty, the increased number of women who are living in poverty, and in turn, because a lot of these people are single mothers, they are involving child poverty as well. Surely that must be bothersome to Liberals.
What we need is government initiatives to provide affordable child care, to establish mandatory pay equity and affirmative action programs, to improve the training opportunities available to women and to increase the minimum wage. I believe it is only in a couple of weeks that my colleague the member for Hamilton East will be presenting for deliberation in this chamber a private member’s bill or resolution --
Mr Mackenzie: This Thursday, this bill.
Mr Laughren: -- this Thursday -- a private member’s bill to increase the minimum wage to a more decent level.
I have never understood why governments do not understand about minimum wage and how it is that if one wants people to be working, one must provide a decent minimum wage, because why would one work at a minimum wage that is ridiculously low? It does not make any sense. If you want to have the people at work, then you have to provide a minimum wage. When you do not provide a minimum wage, you are really subsidizing the employer who is paying them at an inadequate level.
I have never believed that the feeding of children in the province should be subjected to any kind of cost-benefit analysis. I would really find that offensive. But the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario in its prebudget process pointed out that all the studies indicate that for every dollar we spend on young children, we save up to $7 later on social welfare, prison, psychiatric treatment and so forth. So every time we spend a dollar on young children, it comes back sevenfold. If that does not convince the Treasurer that it is a good investment, then I do not know what will. In other words, elimination of poverty now pays off later.
This majority government has the means to eliminate poverty in the province, and one way of doing it is to tax more responsibly than it is doing now. It is not the only way, of course. I mentioned raising the minimum wage. That would be an important step. But also, we need a much fairer system of taxation as well. Everyone simply has to pay his fair share.
You cannot tell me, as I look around a place like Toronto, that everybody in this province is carrying an equal burden. It simply is not happening. There are people out there who obviously are not paying their fair share, so we simply must eliminate provincial taxation for the working poor, for those people living below the poverty level and bring in an increase in the tax credits.
When the tax credits were introduced by the former Conservative government back in 1974 -- I am not sure of the year, but a considerable time ago -- there have been increases every year, but the value of those tax credits to taxpayers now is less than the day they were introduced, because they have not even kept up with the rate of inflation. So there needs to be a major increase in the tax credits, which are at least one way of protecting low-income people in Ontario.
Another way that poverty must be attacked is on the housing front. There is a very real housing problem in this province, and this fact has once again been driven home to the Treasurer in the prebudget consultation process. Let me provide some statistics for the Treasurer: Over 60,000 people in Ontario are paying more than 30 per cent of their income for shelter; eight out of 10 cities in the province have vacancy rates of less than one per cent; 82 per cent of social assistance recipients are housed in the private sector; in Metropolitan Toronto, those people are paying 64 per cent of their benefits each month for rent.
Provincial spending on housing in 1989 was only 1.3 per cent compared to between three per cent and four per cent in the mid-1970s. Can the Treasurer justify spending 1.3 per cent on housing compared to three per cent to four per cent on social housing in the 1970s? I know the present Minister of Housing would like to get a bigger chunk of that -- I assume -- which is why I am addressing these remarks to the Treasurer and not to the minister. I assume he is trying to do his job to squeeze the money out of the Treasurer, but I am not sure that he is having much luck.
People suffering from lack of affordable housing suffer not only discomfort but a whole host of problems, many of which are debilitating to their health, to their education, to their ability to find work and to their self-esteem. The poverty cycle that the lack of affordable housing can set off creates many expenses to society.
Once more, I would use the same argument that an investment in the poor today pays off in the future. I know that is a view that I do not believe the Treasurer shares. I do not think he has ever been convinced that an investment in the poor will pay dividends in the future. I think he just feels that the poor are always with us.
Hon R. F. Nixon: It is a singularly heartless way to refer to payments that are needed, as a “social investment.”
Mr Laughren: That was the point I was trying to make, that there does not seem to be any other way to get the Treasurer to listen to spending money but to say that it is a good investment. I thought maybe if I used those words, the Treasurer’s ears would perk up. They did, too.
Hon R. F. Nixon: So that is your excuse for sounding like a tycoon.
Mr Laughren: No, that is not my excuse. I said at the beginning -- I know the Treasurer was preoccupied -- that one thing I disliked was applying some kind of cost-benefit analysis when discussing these kinds of problems.
Hon R F. Nixon: That is the way you are approaching the issue. It is very strange, almost incomprehensible.
Mr Laughren: I think the Treasurer should go through some of the presentations made to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs and he would see what the people out there who are working with these groups are saying. That is exactly what they are saying, “If we can’t convince you any other way, can we convince you that a cost-benefit analysis means that it is a good investment for the province of Ontario?” In the Treasurer’s prebudget consultation, numerous groups called for an increase in the Ministry of Housing’s share of the total provincial budget to three per cent a year. That is a major increase. However, I would remind the Treasurer that it would only get him up to the level that was there in the 1970s, when there was a housing crisis as well.
We must improve the level of commitment to a federal-provincial housing program to the point that an additional 20,000 units of affordable housing could be built in each of the three years through the combined federal and provincial resources; to commit $100 million a year for three years to the purchase of multiple-occupancy dwellings, especially rooming houses; to bring them under nonprofit management; and to provide financial support for the provision of the Planning Act that requires that 25 per cent of all new housing be made affordable, such as providing funding to encourage nonprofit housing within that 25 per cent.
These are all suggestions that have been made to the finance committee and that I hope the Treasurer is getting briefed on by someone so that he has a sense of what people out there want to see happen in the province. People out there do not expect a free ride from government, they simply want a fairer system, and that is what they feel very strongly they are not getting.
The suggestions the Treasurer is getting do not all have to do with spend, spend, spend. There are also some suggestions on how to generate funds for those expenditures. If there is one thing I feel this caucus has done over the last few years, it is that when we do respond to his budgets, and even in the prebudget presentation that we do from time to time, we always say, “This is how we would raise the money.” I know it is easy to talk about expenditures without talking about revenues. We try to avoid that trap and say to the Treasurer that there are ways of raising this money. We have been very specific on how to do it. The Treasurer has not taken this advice. Of course, that is his prerogative, but we think he is wrong.
Here are some of the suggestions put to the Treasurer: Set aside all moneys generated from the sale of government land not suited to housing and use that revenue for affordable housing initiatives. Projections indicate that the commercial concentration tax, which was also a brainchild of the Treasurer, will generate more revenue than anticipated. The surplus could be set aside for affordable housing in the greater Toronto area. The Treasurer could implement a land speculation tax -- I think he has heard about that -- to dampen the increase in housing prices caused by speculation and, as well, set aside any revenues generated by the tax for affordable housing.
I understand, and I know the Treasurer does too, that a proper speculation tax on housing would not raise much money; it would simply discourage speculation. That really should be the purpose of a land speculation tax, and if it is done properly, it would indeed do that. As a matter of fact, there is a history in the province of a speculation tax doing that, namely, preventing and reducing the amount of speculation in land and housing.
One of the areas that should be of concern to the Treasurer is the whole question of what happens when we do have an economic slowdown. We know that it causes a rash of layoffs, and the province has seen that in the last little while. The government has yet to make good on its commitment to Ontario workers who are facing unemployment or, to use the term that is used, which I find rather offensive, “employment adjustment,” which really means trying to cope with unemployment. The Treasurer, or his government at least, has not really done much in terms of this employment adjustment.
On the environment, it is clear that the chronic inequities of our society must be addressed and addressed quickly. Matters of poverty and the lack of affordable housing merit our immediate attention as well, but we realize that these concerns do not exist in a vacuum. There can be no denying that much of the mess we have got ourselves into economically is directly linked to our gross abuse of the natural environment.
I could speak for an hour or so on the Temagami issue as an environmental issue as well, but I know that there are other members who wish to engage in the debate and I will not carry on unduly. As a matter of fact, there was a very lively demonstration on the main staircase of this assembly this morning concerning the Temagami issue. There are manly people in the province who see that as an important environmental symbol. It goes way beyond the local level. The government is behaving as it is behaving at great peril.
There has been much said about the Hagersville fire. I will not deal with that. Hagersville is in the Treasurer’s riding. As a matter of fact, it was that same pile of tires that led to the tire tax, I believe. I wonder if the Treasurer has thought about the way in which the tire tax would be implemented. A colleague of mine was telling me today that when he paid for his rental car last week, there was an 8.3 per cent tax on it. He said: “Wait a minute now. The sales tax is only eight per cent.” “Oh, no,” said the dealer, “the point three is for the Treasurer’s tire tax.” I did not know that the rental companies were using the tire tax as an upfront charge on consumers.
An Hon member: Every month?
Mr Laughren: Whenever they rent a car.
An Hon member: Every month they pay that?
Mr Laughren: When a consumer rents a car from --
Mr McLean: Is that tax on all rented cars?
Mr Laughren: Oh, I am sorry. I do not know about a long-term lease. I am talking about a short-term rental.
As I said, I do not want to go on but I would simply remind the Treasurer that his government can no longer rely on the prosperous economy of a wealthy province to carry it through. It can no longer rely on the abundant natural resources of a healthy province. It can no longer rely on the resources of a strong federal government to carry it through.
If this government is going to make a difference in Ontario by attacking poverty and environmental abuse, it is going to have to face up to its own responsibilities. We have been offering suggestions for some time. Other groups and organizations have been making suggestions before the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. I assume the Treasurer has his own series of meetings with lobby groups which make their case prior to budget time, and I thought it appropriate that we simply signal to the Treasurer that once again we are hopeful of some action on his part in the province.
I do not know what satisfaction the Treasurer gets out of having a balanced budget as the number of food banks increases in the province. I do not know how the Treasurer measures those things in his own value system. For myself, for this caucus, we get no satisfaction out of seeing the Treasurer balance the budget as the food banks increase and the differences between the rich and the poor become greater in the province of Ontario. We find that offensive, and I would hope that the Treasurer, as a Liberal, would also find that offensive.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I will not go into too long a debate on this interim supply motion, as the honourable Treasurer has indicated that there is some urgency, and I fully support the proposition that civil servants are entitled to be paid.
I would like to just highlight one concern that I have. That is the government’s lack of common sense. I think that would be the best way to describe it. It relates directly to the Treasurer in his riding or the vicinity of his riding. It has to do with the Hagersville tire fire. I do not want to be repetitious of the debate that occurred last week, but I would like to highlight a concern I have about the irresponsibility of the government in not being able to solve what would appear to be quite a simple problem.
We have a surplus of used tires. There is, as the Treasurer has said, something like a mountain of tires in one area, in Hagersville. I guess the mountain is substantially less now, but why did it have to happen? It is my understanding that there is a need for used tires, that industry requires tires.
I think maybe one of the best examples would be the cement companies. St Marks Cement Co has requested permission from the Ministry of the Environment to have a pilot project to test the burning of tires in its kilns for a period of 10 days two weeks, to determine if tires could be burned environmentally safely. If so, then they could proceed with using it in their industry.
There is no question that to burn tires will create some pollution, but to burn coal also creates a pollution factor at the present time. What we are really talking about is burning rubber to replace coal. We have to import the coal into the country, so that is a replacement of a resource if we could use rubber. I think St Marys proposed that it burn one part rubber to three parts coal. They could vary the mix until they come up with a type of fuel that would provide the energy they need with less pollution.
I am not sure that it is feasible, but I understand that the process works in many jurisdictions and I feel that the ministry is remiss in not allowing the test project to proceed to determine if there is any merit in it. If it creates a pollution problem more than the coal, then forget about it and start back. There would be no loss. St Marys alone can burn something like 1.5 million tires in a year. There are enough cement companies in Ontario that can take up all the used tires that we have.
If we are using these tires in a meaningful way -- the minister says that the tires should be used for other factors. The minister’s long-term goal is to reduce, recycle and recover rather than dispose of solid wastes. That is commendable, if he is doing it. But if he is simply passing them down to Hagersville and piling them in huge mountains of tires, then that does not make much sense. When he says his long-term goal, why does he not concentrate on a short-term goal? Why does he not do something today rather than tomorrow?
I understand that they have solved the problems of storing the tires. They have hired guards to stand and watch them so that they do not explode or something. But if they were to give them to the cement companies or sell them to the cement companies, then they could dispose of some of these surplus tires. Heaven knows we do not have to be concerned about having more tires, because tires are much like rabbits: they keep coming back.
I would suggest that the Treasurer could encourage the Minister of the Environment to give consideration to letting St Marys Cement and some of the other cement companies have their test pilot projects to determine if there is any feasibility. If there is, we can do away with some of the tires.
It is my understanding that there are eleven million tires discarded every year and that three million are retreaded. That leaves eight million. One million are added to stockpiles, including 70 per cent to the Hagersville area, and seven million are dumped into landfills. In my riding of Wellington, we have a tremendous problem in determining where a new landfill site should be located, and if we could do away with these tires, it would keep the present sites open a little longer.
By the way, the county of Wellington requested that some of the tire tax that the Treasurer has levied be set aside to establish some sort of depots to take the tires rather than having to bury them. Unfortunately the Treasurer would not advance any money to the municipalities. Of the $35 million collected this year I understand that he has only allocated $1 million. He is saving the other $34 million for some devious plot.
If the minister is interested, and his long-term goal states “to reduce, recycle and recover,” then why does he not provide some financial assistance to the industries that are interested in recycling and using the tires for other purposes? It is my understanding that industry has the expertise to use this rubber for industrial flooring, sports mats, road surfacing, crash barriers, soundproofing, etc. Why does the ministry not provide some funding so that these industries could enter into joint projects with the government and finalize some of these projects?
There is a company in my own riding of Wellington, in Orangeville. It is Resource Recovery Orangeville, operated by the general manager, Michael Long. Michael goes through 1,500 tires a day, some 350,000 annually -- that is a third of a million tires each year -- selling the rubber granules to companies that turn them into artificial turf for playgrounds and factories. It might be beneficial to have artificial turf here. It would be easier on the legs of the members who continually stroll up and down, like the Minister of the Environment during question period.
There is another company, Waytech, a British Columbia tire recycling company. They use, I think, over a million tires a year. So there are projects that can use your tax dollars to help solve the problem of the used tires. Since the minister is collecting $5 a tire, surely it would be reasonable to earmark it for that purpose.
Also, I would hope that the minister would encourage the Minister of the Environment to at least look at the proposals offered by the cement companies and see whether the used tires could not be used to replace imported coal with no environmental impact on the province. If it does work that way, then I would think it worth while; if it does not, then he should forget about it.
With those few remarks I would encourage the Treasurer to take some action on his tire tax dollars.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): Good speech. We are continuing with government motion 29. Any comments or questions to the honourable member for Wellington?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I thought the honourable member’s suggestions were extremely valuable indeed. I do not think he should have the impression that the government is opposed to burning tires. The applications are before the Minister of the Environment and he would no doubt deal with them appropriately under our regulations. Obviously I am extremely interested in the issue and I think the honourable member would be aware that the Minister of the Environment has already announced a $16-million program that will be used in the coming fiscal year to further recycling of our large store of waste tires.
But I agree with the honourable member that the alternative of actually using them to replace imported fuel, in most cases powdered coal, in some cases petroleum, is something that ought to be entered into quite actively, and I can tell the honourable member that applications for that are before the Minister of the Environment.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I thank the Treasurer for his comments. I might say that I stand to be corrected, but it is my understanding that the Ministry of the Environment says that objections are not based on pollution concerns, but it wants all kinds of ways to be recycled, not burned. MOE spokesman John Steele confirms the St Mary’s Cement Co application was turned down for this reason. However, he also admitted there are not enough ways to recycle all of Ontario’s tires and said technology is in the works to use some of them in making asphalt.
In the meantime, in the interval, until we do find other ways of using the tires up, then if that is the only reason they have turned it down, because the minister’s long-term goals are for tires to be reused, recycled, I would submit the argument that if we can use less imported coal, to society that might be just as advantageous as using the rubber for some other purpose. In any event, we should make more use of them than simply burying them in landfill sites. If it is true that several million go each year into landfill sites, then it is a waste for all of us, so we should give consideration to doing something immediately. We do not want any more fires.
Mr Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity to be able to address some issues of particular concern in northern Ontario today. The Treasurer knows full well that when it comes to the costs of doing government in the province of Ontario, the area that is in fact the largest cost component for the government of Ontario is the area of health care.
To the chagrin of many of us from northern Ontario, however, that has not provided us with the kind of health care that others in the province of Ontario have come to expect as the norm. Despite the fact that approximately one third of the total revenues of the province is spent on health care, we in northern Ontario have faced very difficult times in terms of ensuring that health care services are provided on a fair and equitable basis right across the north.
The concerns have come forward really from a grass-roots level right across northern Ontario, and they have demanded responses by political leadership right across the north. Unfortunately, to this point this government has not responded to those serious concerns.
We in the New Democratic Party have endeavoured to undertake a full series of consultations across northern Ontario to attempt to develop a consensus on northern health care issues and to present those concerns to the Ontario government. This report, which was issued earlier this year, in February, addressed the concerns we have heard from northerners right across the north country. This report, entitled Operation Critical, is the result of more than 18 months of consultations and the result of hearing from hundreds of concerned citizens across the north as well as organizations that provide health care assistance across northern Ontario. Our findings are very damning indeed for this government and the lack of attention that it has placed on northern health care concerns.
“The 800,000 Ontarians living in the north of the province could either become the permanent victims of a health system that no longer seems to care or the trailblazers in providing an appropriate level of health care service to all Ontarians.
“A dramatic choice perhaps, but after investigating health care conditions in dozens of northern Ontario communities and reflecting on the more than 250 presentations to the task force on northern health issues, New Democrats are convinced that health care in the north and in the whole province is at a critical crossroads.”
Our “task force began hearings on northern health care in Thunder Bay at the end of May 1988. That kicked off 18 months of listening and discussing, receiving submissions, and reflecting on the needs of a small population spread over great distances.
“We travelled over 3,000 kilometres by car and thousands more by plane. We covered an area from North Bay to Fort Frances and up to Ontario’s more northern community, the Cree outpost of Fort Severn.
“Ambulance attendants, professors, sociologists, doctors, other health care professionals, care givers, hospitals, patients, unions, community groups, service clubs, advocacy groups, municipal councillors, francophones and aboriginal people from dozens of communities all made important contributions.
“All talked about the lack of services. The list is long. Some communities have been without doctors for years. Others lack adequately equipped hospitals. Nurses are scarce. Chronic care or care for the elderly is minimal. Mental health care -- especially service by psychiatrists and psychologists -- is often nonexistent. The lack of nonphysician professionals like audiologists and speech pathologists is glaring. Francophones or natives do not receive service in their own languages.
“Northerners get poor health care at higher costs than people in the south. In particular, many health services are not available and most people cannot afford the expense of travelling to them. Our previous 1984 investigation into northern health care, which we called Miles to Go, demanded that while longer-term measures were needed to develop services in the north, the government should immediately provide funding for authorized, medically necessary travel.
“Jim Foulds, then the New Democrat MPP for Port Arthur, led the fight for the medically necessary northern travel grant. New Democrats made the grant a condition of supporting the minority Liberal government in 1985. Travel is now paid but there are serious shortcomings that presenters made clear to the task force.
“In our travels in 1988 and 1989, we found a new challenge to northern health care: the impact of the acute crisis taking place province-wide...on the already inadequate health care delivery in northern Ontario.
“While government neglect has forced northern Ontarians to do without many services taken for granted in the south, other Ontarians, especially in Toronto, were experiencing for the first time in decades problems such as overcrowded hospitals, unacceptably long delays in surgery and nursing shortages.
“This crisis of access is happening at the same time that health care expenditures skyrocket. In Ontario’s 1989 budget, the Ministry of Health’s spending was set at $13.7 billion. That’s one third of all government expenditures, and an increase of 10 per cent over the previous year. There is no end in sight.
“Hospitals and Ontario health insurance plan (OHIP) payments are driving up the cost. Together, they account for three quarters of the Health ministry’s spending. In the 10 years between 1977-78 and 1987-88, funding to hospitals increased at an average rate of 10.3 per cent a year -- well over inflation. In 1987-88, over $5 billion went to these institutions. That’s $533 for every man, woman and child in Ontario.”
A typical family of four in the province is spending over $2,000 for the hospital care that that family is receiving.
“OHIP payments rose a staggering average of 15 per cent each year in these 10 years. In 1986-87, 16,433 doctors received the lion’s share of the $3.2 billion paid out by Ontario’s fee-for-service medicare plan. Their average earnings through OHIP were $154,100 a year, an increase of 63 per cent in five years.”
The fees paid to doctors are second only to the cost of our hospitals when it comes to health care in Ontario.
“These two contradictory trends -- a huge increase in spending and a decrease in the overall quality of care -- are taking place at the same time because successive Tory and Liberal governments have put too much emphasis on treating illness by physicians and hospitals. This has led to a misallocation of precious resources.
“For the north, it means even fewer resources to deal with the chronic problem of underservicing. Northerners will be left out in the cold -- ignored by a government too busy pouring tax dollars into southern hospitals and doctors’ fees.
“Members of the task force -- Bob Rae, the leader of the official opposition, Health critic David Reville and northern MPPs Howie Hampton, Floyd Laughren, Shelley Martel, Karl Morin-Strom, Gilles Pouliot and Bud Wildman -- were constantly impressed by, and reminded of, the dedication and energy that health care providers in the north have brought to their work despite scant resources. They were testimony to the initiative and innovation of northern health care providers serving less than nine per cent of Ontario’s population spread out over 75 per cent of its land mass.
“In weaving together the diverse threads of all the presentations, we have been left with the challenging conclusion that a major reallocation of health care dollars into locally controlled, preventive, culturally appropriate, community-based health care is essential to provide a just and fair service to all Ontarians.
“To use a medical analogy, the chronically ill health care system in northern Ontario has taken an acute turn for the worse. The symptom of ongoing underservicing can be seen. The cause of misdirection of funds can be diagnosed. The cure requires surgery -- a new approach. Further delay could be fatal....
“Northern Ontario is ironically well placed to lead Ontario out of the health care crisis. Northern hospitals have always been underfunded. Many small communities don’t have a doctor and physicians in larger centres carry large patient loads. While doctor shortages and lack of adequate hospital facilities must be dealt with, the chronic lack of services in the north can never be addressed without an emphasis on wellness or prevention instead of the treatment of sickness; community-based delivery of service; and the increased use of health care providers such as nurse practitioners, paramedics and home care workers.
“New Democrats went to the north to listen. We did,” and in the next few months we will be attempting to give our voice to the ideas and solutions that were presented to us.
Our recommendations to this province and the Liberal government “concern the broad scope of public policy. Many of the specific issues brought forward by presenters have already been and will continue to be raised” by us in our role as the official opposition here in the province of Ontario.
“In the more than 250 submissions to the task force on northern health issues, New Democrats received more than enough material for a book. But both the north and health have been exhaustively studied.
“As the Canadian Mental Health Association in North Bay said, ‘The members must appreciate the fact that what is needed is action, not further review and study.”’
New Democrats do have a strategy to make the provincial government respond to the crisis in health care and the chronic underfunding of northern services. Some of the items include the following:
“New Democrats will fight at Queen’s Park to change government priorities to a system that makes sense for Ontario and for the future. New Democrats will press for a system throughout the province that is based on prevention, community delivery, the development of all health care providers, culturally appropriate service and local control.
“That means doubling the budgets for the next few years in community and preventive programs and developing ways to move decision-making out of bureaucracies to local communities.
“New Democrats will continue to fight for needed improvements specific to the northern problem of a small population spread out over large distances. We need an increase in travelling clinics. We need a vastly improved transportation system across the north and we need to make the medically necessary travel grant program really work for people.
“New Democrats will work for a decentralized northern medical school as a key way to address the problems of recruitment and retention of health care professionals across northern Ontario. We will work with northerners and the medical and educational communities to develop a new kind of institution, one that trains all care givers in a flexible, locally controlled, community-based approach to health that puts the emphasis on prevention and gives a responsible role to all health care professionals and care givers.
“New Democrats will fight for the recognition of care givers through better pay, better working conditions and real educational opportunities. Overworked professionals, volunteers and poorly paid care givers keep the system going. Many of them are women whose impulse to care has been chronically taken advantage of. At the beginning of this century, we as a society abolished child labour. We should close this century with an end to the ghettoized exploitation of care givers.
“Northerners responded to our task force with unbridled enthusiasm. We are thankful for that, as we are for the gracious hospitality shown” to us in all the communities across northern Ontario.
“We will take their fight for quality health care to this complacent government. We only hope that we can do it with the same dedication, enthusiasm and energy that we met at every stop right across the north country.
The Acting Speaker: We are continuing with resolution 29. Any comments or questions on the honourable member for Sault Ste Marie’s comments? Seeing none, at this time I recognize the honourable member for Markham.
Mr Cousens: I would like to make a couple of comments before I get to my main theme this afternoon, but this is a Rouge River day for the Legislature -- a coin on words, a red-letter day. When in fact today we did finally receive an announcement from --
Mr D. S. Cooke: “Rouge” is French for “red.”
Mr Cousens: I know, and for the member for Markham to be using that is indeed quite something, is it not?
I have to go on record as being tremendously pleased with the announcement the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere made about a week ago, prior to the Premier’s doing it, because the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere happened to know about it and leaked the word to the whole world. We just did not know whether the leaker was going to be totally accurate in his views and hoped he would be, for a change.
I have to go on record today as having great pleasure in seeing that the Rouge River has now been set aside by the province as a natural park. When something like this happens, we in the opposition are so excited. We are so used to criticising the government that it is hard to stop doing that, but today I just want to sort of bury all the hatchets for a moment or two and let the government know that here is one very happy member of the Legislature by virtue of the fact that it has finally happened.
The fact of the matter is, I do not think the government had any choice.
As a government, if it had not done it, it would not have had any members re-elected from Scarborough. Now they might have a chance, because there is not any doubt that the people in Scarborough, starting with the mayor, Joyce Trimmer, and her council, were strongly supportive of this initiative and have been on record as being that way for some time. I know the Premier is anxious to retain some of those Scarborough seats in the forthcoming election, whenever that might be, and this is one good way of showing that he was listening.
The fact of the matter is, the Rouge River valley system is a beautiful system. It is a national heritage. It is something that can set the greater Toronto area aside from any other of the great urban areas across North America or the world by virtue of that beautiful park that is there. We are so fortunate with the Metro Zoo and the facilities that it offers. We are fortunate with the Carolinian forest, all kinds of different birds and fish and natural life. I just had to say, as someone who lives just north of Steeles and on the valley system that feeds into the Rouge, we in our community as well and our own mayor, Tony Roman, and his council have again gone on record and fought for the protection and preservation of this beautiful park land.
Let’s be frank and give credit where it is due. It has been a grass-roots support that had significant effort by the people of the Rouge Valley. That whole association of people with Jim Robb and the people who have come around him have put up a marvellous battle. I have been in the Rouge with them and have seen the kind of things their eyes have been able to point out to me. Our own Conservative Environment critic, the member for Mississauga South, has been on those trips. We have taken our caucus there.
I can assure the government that if it had not done it and we were in power, we would have done it for sure -- and probably a little sooner than it. I can just assure the members that when those lands were set aside some 15 years ago, it had no intention of using it for a garbage dump -- which the government might still do, I understand -- and we had no intention of having housing built on those table lands.
May I say we have made a good step forward. It also heartens me, as a person from the opposition who, in a private member’s resolution in June, was able to receive unanimous support from the Legislature for that resolution that asks that the Minister of Transportation look at the other options rather than just have an expressway built through the Rouge, the east Metro transportation corridor. Instead of having that as the north-south route to link Highway 401 up to the new Highway 407, I asked, and I asked this Legislature in that resolution, to consider other options, Brock Road, Morningside, but something that would allow us to protect the Rouge system.
Lo and behold, again this Legislature confirmed the value of at least having opposition members who are able to point these things out to the government. The minister today really did everything I was hoping for through my resolution last June and gave us the approval that there will not be any transportation corridor built through the Rouge Valley system.
What that means is some inconvenience to those fast drivers who want to get in and out of the city, but what it really means is that we are getting some kind of umbrella around this, some kind of protection, some fence, to keep civilization from going in there and changing it for ever.
It is a red-letter day for the Ontario Legislature, the fact that we have now done this for the Rouge system, and it is one of the reasons that I am going to be supporting the motion before us today. I am not just exactly sure what my caucus members are going to be doing in soliciting this interim supply, but there are so many times when we are critical, today I have a smile on my face that is a mile wide and may I tell the members that the people in all our communities across the province have to be proud of us, as legislators, to have made this move.
I would like to make some comment initially, as well, just on the way we are proceeding with traffic. I was pleased as well that the Minister of Transportation is going to come out with some kind of transportation strategy to improve rapid transit services in and around the greater Toronto area, especially on the east end, in Scarborough, Durham and York region.
We are looking forward to some strategic announcement that will enhance GO train services. We have to get people out of their cars. We have to get them on the transit systems. We have the railroads there; let’s start using them more effectively to move people in and out of the greater Toronto area for their employment, their entertainment, when the Toronto Blue Jays are here; for whatever it is. Let’s try to reduce the number of cars on the road and let’s, where possible, use rapid transit.
To me, transportation has to be a very major investment, long term, short term. What we are seeing now is at least some trend on the part of the government. I take some credit for it, as someone in opposition who has been harping away at this, who is chairman of a transportation task force that is concerned about it. We are meeting in Scarborough on Wednesday night this week at seven o’clock in the Scarborough city chambers to discuss it further. We are going through the greater Toronto area soliciting ideas from the public.
The public is saying: “Let’s get rapid transit going. Let’s put some money into the infrastructure so that we have the roads to serve the people.” Transportation has to be one of the major needs in the greater Toronto area and across the province. I talk about Toronto only because I happen to be critic for the greater Toronto area. It does not take away the concerns that the member for London North has in the London area or the member for Renfrew North has around Ottawa.
We know the whole province has to continue to invest in its roads. One knows at this time of the year when one is driving the country roads because the potholes are huge. The government only has enough money these days to fill the holes. It is really not doing a long-term investment to make sure that our whole road network is state of the art, it is up to date and it is current. It will lead to more tourism. It will lead to more investment in our province. I wish there were more people around here who understood the value of investing money in roads.
I see here today the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. I know he has to concentrate all his efforts on those things, but I would hope that he would be among those who would become a supporter of the investment in roads and transportation services. When I look at the dollars that are being spent in a big way, let’s not forget that we have to help the small person.
It is funny. Here, today in the Legislature, I had a petition that I presented on behalf of 500 or 700 people from the Unionville area who are asking for a stop light -- believe it or not -- on Highway 7 near the old folk’s home, Union Villa, so that they can get across the road where the bus stop is so that they can have some safety in catching that bus instead of having to run against the traffic. This morning, one senior citizen who wanted to catch the bus missed the bus because he could not cross the road in time with the traffic and the bus was not about to wait for him. Had there been a light, he would have been able to get across the road.
There is going to be an accident there. I have asked the Minister of Transportation to put lights in. I have written him letters. He has not done it. Somehow, it seems as if the only way one can get this government to do something is if one waits until there is a crisis or one has a group of organized people like the Rouge Valley people who say, “You have to do this.’’
If people did not get out there and fight and fight and fight, this government does not have the common sense or decency to do anything. The people out there in Ontario have to scream and shout and become unreasonable in the way their behaviour is going because these guys are in office for four or five years and they have already forgotten what the people who elected them there want.
Mr Dietsch: Oh, sit down.
Mr Cousens: They have. They have forgotten it. I think it is high time they opened their senses to understand that they are here, as elected people, to serve the people of Ontario.
I am sensitive to that need. I think of the very small things; when one comes along and wants a traffic light in a place and one can get the whole community to come along and say, “That is a need.” One presents it, one writes letters to the minister; one would think there would be some sense of empathy and understanding. What we may well have to do is wait until there is an accident. God forbid. God forbid that would be the case.
With the Rouge thing, that could not have happened, but the fact is we had certain members of this cabinet who were thinking of putting housing developments on it. We still have the government thinking of putting a dump there, and in its announcement it has hedged the bet in case that dump still goes ahead.
Let’s have a sense of speaking straight and honest and not just have the small talk that escapes the reality of what people really want and need in our province. People are looking for a government that is responsive and responsible, from the small things such as a traffic light in Unionville to the big things like the Rouge Valley. It would seem the one thing in common is that it is only the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, it is only the person who screams the loudest who gets what he wants.
I do not think we would ever have had Highway 407 had there not been that ground swell of support that came from the whole community. Transportation needs cannot be underestimated. We in this province have to continue to make investments for the future.
I see the Rouge Valley decision today as an investment for the future. It does not cost a lot of money. It is going to cost some, absolutely, but relative to the needs of society, short term and long term, this has to go down in history as something we can really be proud of in this Legislature. Let’s hope that everything we do in this place has that long-term benefit. We have to be constantly thinking of how we can create a better society, how we can build that society so that we are being responsive to the needs of all the people. We are here to serve all the people of this province.
A subject that I want to touch on in this interim supply bill has to do with the whole business of educational costs, when you start looking at how important education is, realizing that we in Ontario understand what is our greatest asset. Traditionally we have always thought we are so rich in natural resources because we have such mineral resources -- timber, pulp -- and we have such vast supplies of fresh water, or used to have.
When you look at all these things, they really pale by comparison when you look at our great natural resource in our young people and our youth--making sure that we continue to have an emphasis on education that places education as one of the greatest priorities a government can have, knowing that our young people are going to be the ones who will take over the responsibility of running this province and this country, trading all around the world. Let’s prepare our young people for the future. That is going to be done through an educational system that really understands what education is all about.
One of the reasons I am interested in education is not only the fact that I have gone through the Ontario educational system, in Brockville for public school, in Campbellford for high school and then Queen’s University and the University of Toronto in divinity. I spent over 20 years in schools of different kinds. Therefore, there is not any doubt that I have that sense as one who has been a recipient of a quality education system. But then having served on a school board for nine years all together, I also come at it from that perspective. So I have a real sense inside that if there is anything we can be doing to build upon the system we have had, to improve it where possible, we should be doing that from this Legislature.
One of the ways of looking at just how good a job we are doing with education is to look at how much money we are spending on it. A group of people have gotten together and they call themselves the Ontario Public Education Network, OPEN. What they have done is put together a little brochure, Your Public Schools: Keep them Strong. When you start looking at what they are asking for, they are saying, “Stop and consider how much money the province is investing -- not spending -- in education.”
When you see the percentage over a period of time, you begin to realize that the province is placing less emphasis on education now than it did 10 and 15 years ago. In 1975-76 -- I have the statistics they have prepared -- they show that 85 per cent of all education costs went on other expenditures. There was 3.8 per cent to the separate system and 11.3 per cent to the public system; 15 per cent then of the total budget in Ontario was spent on education.
The latest statistics they have prepared have to do with 1987-88, and now there is a 4.6 per cent slippage in education emphasis; 89.6 per cent of all expenditures from the province go into other areas, meaning that 4.2 per cent goes to the separate system and 6.2 per cent to the public system. On an overall basis, since 1975-76 the percentage of the provincial budget spent on education has gone down by a total of 4.6 per cent.
What we are seeing now is a real shift in the way in which the responsibility for education is ceasing to be a provincial responsibility and that responsibility is being passed on to the local ratepayers. When you start looking at the statistics that I have that I want to share with this House, it is an alarming statement as to where the costs now are being found in order to pay for an educational system.
I guess the question that really comes out of it -- and I do not address this in my financial considerations today -- is, are we getting value for our dollar? I know that many of us whose children have gone through the system feel we have received that value for the dollar, as I do, but I am increasingly concerned and sensitized to an alarming trend that is taking place where people are saying that something is happening in that system.
You look at the costs of sending a child to school -- and again OPEN has put this data here and I would like to quote from them. The average cost of educating a public elementary student was $4,470 in 1987, while the average provincial grant was $1,562. Now, members should get the difference: It cost the school board $4,470, and yet the average provincial grant was less than a third of that at $1,562.
The average cost of sending a student to secondary school was $5,859 and the average provincial grant was $2,047.
What we start to look at is an increased gap between the cost that it is taking to put a school system together and how much of that is being paid for at the provincial level. What we are seeing are school boards facing a crisis in financial management of their resources. What we are seeing is that the school boards are not getting enough money from the province to pay for their school system, so therefore the school boards have to go back through the town that does the collection of their taxes. In this last year we have a number of examples of what has happened where the province has come along and said, “We’ve never given more money,” but it has never given a lesser percentage to education than it is now.
Last year, when the school boards estimated their needs for just the growth of what was going on, it was high because they needed six per cent for inflation, two per cent for enrolment growth, 0.5 per cent for pay equity, one per cent for pooling, 0.5 per cent for the unemployment insurance changes, one per cent for government initiatives, which I will come to, and one per cent for the employer health tax.
If the cost of increased enrolment and government initiatives are factored out, the school boards are left with a 2.7 per cent base increase in what they have to spend on education -- less than the 5.3 per cent expected rate of inflation. Therefore, when they get a smaller amount from the province, the school boards have no choice but to go back to the ratepayers for another round of increased local taxes. Ratepayers this year can expect another double-digit mill rate increase. We had one last year and we are going to get one this year.
Ontario relies more heavily upon the property tax base to fund education than any other province in Canada. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation estimates that the $350 million in approved costs was downloaded from the grant plan to the property tax base in 1989 -- $350 million that is now picked up by local property owners rather than the province.
What we end up seeing is the kind of statement that I have in a letter from the chairman of the York Region Board of Education. We have two boards, and I will be talking about both of them.
Mr Bowes says that: “In 1978, our support from the provincial government was 47 per cent. In 1988, it was 23 per cent. In 1989, it was 16 per cent.” Look at how much that is decreasing from 1978, from 47 per cent in 1988 to 93 per cent, and in 1989 it was 16 per cent. He says, “If the trend continues it will be ? percentage. We expect to be in a negative grant situation in five years.”
We are into a crisis with education costs. When you start having the kind of growth that we are seeing in areas around the greater Toronto area, that growth really requires a continuing investment by the province to maintain a quality education system. Yet what we are seeing is that the general legislative grants are going down. It means, therefore, that the costs of education are going up to the local property owner. As Mr Bowes says in his chairman’s message to the school board:
“Although the British North America Act states that education is the responsibility of the provinces, the Ontario government, by means of the Education Act, has placed the onus on local school boards. This burden may only become heavier in the future.”
And how heavy it is becoming. What I am seeing is the kind of statistics that he has. He points out that with the increases in the size of the board, they are receiving reduced support from this government.
I have a letter that Mr Bowes has sent to members of the community. I would like to put into the record some of the points that he has shared with my constituents as well as the Premier’s constituents. He says:
“You will notice in my report that we had an enrolment increase of approximately 3,900 students, that is, 7.3 per cent, in 1988-89, which should have generated a grant increase of $14 million. Instead, grants decreased by $7 million, leaving a shortfall of $21 million, which represents a mill rate increase of about 10 per cent.”
Here we have increasing enrolment, expecting to receive increased support from the province. Mr Bowes points out in his letter that instead of that, we are getting a shortfall.
The original budget presented to the budget committee would have imposed a 20.54 per cent mill rate increase. This was unacceptable, so the committee went back and net reductions of $8.2 million were recommended. He says:
“You will notice that $67 million is included in the budget for continuing programs in place for exceptional students. Our grant from the province for secondary expenditures was $10.9 million less, down 57 per cent from 1988,” and it goes on.
Many people in Ontario do not understand what ceilings are, but ceilings are really a level to which the school board can spend to provide a quality education system. At one time they had some sense to them, because a board that was spending within its ceiling got grant money from the province to encourage it to be fiscally responsible. What happens now I would like you to hear as he goes on to explain it:
“The Ministry of Education also sets ceilings on the expenditures which are grantable. The ceiling is absolutely unrealistic and no board in the province can operate under it. The York region had budgeted expenditures of $60.3 million over this ceiling, and these were financed 100 per cent by the local taxpayers.”
That is $60 million over the ceiling, and the province is saying all of that $60 million is to be collected in the property taxes of the people who live in York region. How ludicrous. Why not have realistic, meaningful ceilings? If the province were to do its share on it, you would not be ending up with the kind of statistic I pointed to earlier where the province has gone from 47 per cent of the costs of education in 1978 down to 16 per cent now.
I go on in the letter. It says:
“Twelve years ago the board received about 47 per cent of its operating funds from the province and 53 per cent from property taxes. In 1988 grants from the province were 22.6 per cent and in 1989 expected to be 16.7 per cent.”
This is unacceptable from a government which in the last two election campaigns promised to return to the 60 per cent provincial, 40 per cent local average funding of education for approved expenditures. Who would deny in this House -- and we do have one honourable minister in the House; there are no other ministers, so the Minister for Financial Institutions is an honourable man -- but would he deny that one of his election campaign pledges was to have the province cover 60 per cent of the educational costs and the local level 40 per cent? He should stand up and be accountable.
What goes on to add to the cost of education is in fact all of the programs that are being brought down by the government: French as a second language; family life and sex education; AIDS education; drug education; heritage languages; smaller grades I and 2 classes; grade 13 textbooks; day care; junior kindergarten; responsibility for all accommodation transferred to school boards; health and safety standards; pay equity -- pay equity in the York Region Board of Education costs $2 million a year; the imposition of a provincial sales tax on school boards. When the minister changed the health tax from OHIP to the new health tax, that had an affect on school boards. We are talking about the total OHIP coming from the province now.
Then we are also talking about where the public ratepayer will be seeing an effect through pooling of commercial-industrial assessment.
What the school boards are being forced to do is follow the lead that the province gives them, saying, “Here’s what you’re going to have to add to provide an educational system.” Every one of those programs is paid for by the local ratepayer. If the government went and paid for it, it would be a different story, but that is not the case. The case is that this government mandates more and more and more programs; the local ratepayers are picking it up.
Yet I will tell you what happens. The Minister of Education stands up in front of the camera, takes all the credit and says: “What a good boy am I. We’re doing a fabulous job,” he says. “We’re spending your money and we’re doing something great.”
If we got back to the basics in this province and provided an educational system within our means, we could do something. We could make ourselves one of the strongest provinces, one of the strongest jurisdictions in the world, and yet the money just seems to flow and flow and flow.
Where are our priorities? Come on. This government, if it has a priority in education, should put the money where its mouth is, and that is right back in the classrooms for children. Let’s have it in a program that is going to count.
What we are seeing, though, is that the province mandates a program, gives it to the school board to do, and then the school board has to come along and fulfil all those mandates. I just listed about 12 or 13, maybe more. This is a problem and we have to face up to it.
I would like to touch on the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board, because it is going through the same problem. How often do I quote from a Liberal? Not very often, but I am quoting from the Thornhill Liberal, which is the paper in my community. I have tried to change the name, but I do not have any influence on that. It is called the Thornhill Liberal. It happens to be a good weekly and it serves the riding. In fact, our Sergeant at Arms, who comes from Richmond Hill, reads it on a regular basis, I am sure, along with all the papers that members read.
The article by Jim David outlines how the Roman Catholic separate school board is strapped and seeks help from the province, facing double-digit increases. I have here in front of me the letter that has been sent to the Minister of Education from my friend Joe Virgillio, the chairman of the school board, and Frank Bobesich, the director of education, pleading to this government to bring some sanity to the economics of allowing them to run an educational system.
I have to say that I am very fortunate to be in an area where we have two quality educational systems that are sponsored by the public. The public system and the separate system are doing an outstanding job. Yet how can they do the jobs they really want to if they are not getting the proper funding at the provincial level?
I would like to quote from a letter that was sent on 28 February to the Minister of Education by the chairman of the school board. These communiqués -- and there have been numbers of them. I have them here, and the board keeps writing the Minister of Education. He changes regularly, but we have one now and he might be there a few weeks longer, until the next election, and then the whole bunch of them might be gone, who knows? I can hope.
Anyway, he sends these communiqués and says, “The provision of accommodation and the resulting debt burden, the inequitable and grossly unfair assessment base, the inadequate provincial funding, the lack of financial support for high-growth boards and the most recent accelerated practice of downloading of expenditures” -- these are the problems that this board has, and the board is beseeching this province to come through with some kind of help.
They have asked for a meeting with the Minister of Education. Today, when we gave out our Oscar awards, we realized that the Minister of Education is a very special person. He is going to get the one for being the phantom around here, because anyone who wants to meet with him just cannot seem to do so. I have to believe that with the member for York Centre, the member for York North and the member for Durham-York all coming from the York region, we will prevail upon the honourable minister, and I am sure there will be a meeting with the Minister of Education for the school board. Here comes the member for York Centre now. I am sure that, working with him on this important matter, we will succeed in getting a meeting, but there is not any guarantee we are going to get the money we want.
What this board is asking for and what it is faced with is another increase to the taxpayers in York region. What they are talking about is an average tax increase that is just getting beyond control. The average tax increase could be 18.5 per cent The fact of the matter is that the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board is spending beyond its means by over $3.2 million. They are now in the process of completing this year’s budget, and they are going to be over by $5.6 million. What they are doing is creating a huge deficit.
Every public system should live within its means. The only way the Treasurer lucked into it this year is that someone did a little bit of a miscalculation, so he was able to come out a hero for a day. But the fact is, the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: -- needs to have some way from the government to help eliminate this accumulating deficit. We should not allow public bodies to go beyond their means. Yet this province has come out with a census saying, “We’re going to come out with more programs and we’re going to come along and” --
Mr Fleet: You’re forgetting Michael Wilson.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for High Park-Swansea.
Mr Cousens: Yes, I wish you would do something with my good friend. He is going to stop being a good friend if he keeps it up.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The member for Markham is the only one who has the floor and he may continue.
Mr Cousens: I have lots to continue with. As long as this government continues to misappropriate the public funds the way it is, all of us are going to be raising some kind of tax revolt. The York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board has come back with a number of proposals. They realize that the Roman Catholic separate school supporters in York region are facing another tax increase of over 12 per cent in 1990-91.
If you look at the cost of some of the programs that the government has brought in -- and Mr Virgillio points them out: the employer health levy, pay equity, garbage disposal, debenture debt, interest expense -- all of these things are just adding to the cost of education.
So this board is coming forward, making proposals that really begin to say, “Let’s do something,” where he says: “Our taxpayers, our ratepayers, are demanding accountability and explanations from us. They want to know why last year we increased education taxes four times the rate of inflation and why we may have to do it again this year. Further, they would like to know why our coterminus board is able to spend more money per pupil, provide more services and yet pass on tax increases and resulting mill rates substantially below the separate school board and still have a significant amount of reserve funds available for the future.” They have no reserve fund, they are almost broke. In fact, what the government is doing is breaking them. If there is anything we should do and consider as an important item on the agenda of this Legislature, it is education. We should understand that it is an investment for the future, but the province has to carry its share. It is hard to use parliamentary language that would describe a lie or a misinterpretation of what has really gone on, but they are out there getting elected. They make all the promises. They have made the promises as a government and they are not fulfilling them. I do not know how the people can continue to trust a government that is so deceitful in the way it gets elected. They are giving politicians a bad name.
Mr Cousens: They are. They go and say one thing and then they do another. If there is anything that we should do, it is to try to get the Liberals to be honest. Let them put their money where their mouth is. Let them put in education where it is really going to count and is going to have a long-term benefit for our young people.
The people in the province of Ontario are becoming outraged. The government is not; it is very happy with things. I am not happy and the people of my community are not happy. They are becoming furious with this government for continuing to increase the costs and then passing it on to them. It is not accountable for it.
I think the turkeys need to be fed soon. It is almost six o’clock.
On motion by Mr Cousens, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1802