The House met at 1330.
Mr Kormos: The government of Ontario has announced its new guidelines for advertising by alcohol manufacturers. These guidelines legalize and permit advertising that was not available to these manufacturers before.
This relaxation of standards for alcohol advertising has made a really big impression on people in Ontario. These relaxed guidelines really impress the victims of drunk drivers and the families of those victims. John Bates, the president of People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, predicts a disaster for the battle against drunk driving in Ontario, and he is probably right.
These relaxed guidelines really impress the parents of teenagers and young adults, parents who are fighting what seems to them like a losing battle against the glossy, slick advertising of the beer and liquor companies, parents who know that alcohol ranks along with a dozen other drugs as an addictive substance that can quickly destroy young lives.
These new, liberal guidelines really impress the parents of teenage alcoholics, parents who have seen their children descend into the Hades of abuse and addiction. The relaxed guidelines of the Liberal government impress the children of alcoholic parents, children who will persistently be denied what is rightly theirs because they cannot compete with the lure of alcohol.
It is trite but true to state that alcohol remains number one as the addiction of choice. It is still the number one killer on the highways, the number one destroyer of families and young lives. The alcohol pedlars of Ontario obviously have a lot of clout with this government, and this Liberal government is obviously more concerned with the profits of the liquor industry than with the health and lives of young and old alike.
There surely is a war against alcohol and drugs going on in Ontario. The only question left is, what side is the govemment on?
Mr Cousens: March is Kidney Month, a month during which time canvassers have been going from house to house across Ontario soliciting the support of people in our province for kidney research and for assistance to those people who have kidney disease.
Kidney disease is a problem that has hit many families. I lost my eldest brother to kidney disease a number of years ago and since then have taken an active part in helping fight for those who have the disease and for more research. Last year, in 1989, $5 million was raised across this province in support of kidney research. I think every one of us and the people who are taking in the Legislature today still have an opportunity to help in fighting this very horrendous disease.
There is so much that can be done through organ donations, through a better awareness of the problems you might have if you have high blood pressure, giving emotional and financial support to those people who happen to have kidney disease. Every one of us will know of someone who has had kidney disease. More and more people are becoming aware of the problem. If only everyone would begin to take it very seriously, we could eliminate the disease and do something very significant to help those who have the problem.
Let’s remember that March is Kidney Month. Maybe each of us could do something to help.
Mr Ballinger: I am pleased to rise this afternoon to pay tribute to the quick-thinking actions of a constituent of mine, Darrell Rolls. Recently Mr Rolls, a resident of Whitchurch-Stouffville in my riding of Durham-York, was instrumental in assisting the Metropolitan Toronto Police and York Regional Police with the apprehension and charging of a murder suspect.
On Monday 12 March Mr Rolls spotted a man in a car in downtown Stouffville that had just been described in a radio news broadcast as that of a suspected murderer. Mr Rolls immediately drove to his house and phoned the Metro police and informed them that he had just spotted the suspect in the vehicle heading west on Highway 47 out of Stouffville. Then, playing a hunch, Mr Rolls returned to his car and drove to a small plaza in the west end of Stouffville where he located the unoccupied suspected vehicle.
The Metro police were again contacted by Mr Rolls, who informed them of the exact location of the vehicle. The Metro police then dispatched officers of the York Regional Police Force, who were forced into a 15-kilometre police pursuit and eventual capture of the suspected murderer.
According to Metro police, Mr Rolls is being recommended for a citation for his unselfish efforts in the apprehension and charging of a suspected murderer. It is great to know that Ontario has such caring residents as Darrell Rolls, whose personal initiative greatly assisted our police in the protection and the safety of its citizens.
PROTECTION FOR HOME BUYERS
Mr Farnan: It is my intention later today to introduce a private member’s bill entitled An Act to amend the Planning Act, 1983. This act will prohibit builders from selling unregistered building lots.
Two years ago 142 families purchased homes in Richmond Hill from Crest Valley Homes Ltd, one of the Libfeld group of companies. At the time of sale, the builder had not registered a plan of subdivision. Now the builder, who has still not registered the lots, is asking each family for up to $85,000 more to build the homes. The original contracts to build between the builder and the home buyers have been extended 240 days. At the same time, Crest Valley Homes Ltd has delayed construction while trying to bargain more concessions from the local government.
The builder continues to sell more homes on land on which he has yet to receive approval from the town of Richmond Hill. This Liberal government has failed the Upper Yonge Village Homebuyers Association and many other home buyers. We must put an end to home-buying families being used as pawns by builders. We can do this through my amendment to the Planning Act, which I will table in the House later this afternoon. I urge the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who is sitting in the House at the present moment, to move on this particular item so that home buyers will be protected and not be subject to this abuse in the future.
LICENSING OF MOTOR BOAT OPERATORS
Mr McLean: My statement is for the Solicitor General and it concerns private member’s Bill 8, An Act to provide for the Licensing of Motor Boat Operators.
According to a report aired on last night’s edition of CBLT’s Monitor, there are more than one million boats in Ontario and this province has more boats per capita than anywhere else in North America. Today’s boats are bigger and faster and some can attain speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Yet you need no training, no testing. There are no age limits and a licence is not required to operate a boat on Ontario waters.
In 1988 there were 54 fatalities due to boating accidents in Ontario. This is unacceptable, especially when you consider that we require a licence for everyone who wants to operate a car, truck and all-terrain vehicle, but there are no licensing requirements for the operators of motor boats.
As members know, my bill requires an operator to have a licence, sets age limits and requires a written examination or the completion of a boat operation course. It sets fines and creates the offences of careless operation and impaired operation of a motor boat.
The minister should not rely on the interministerial boating jurisdiction committee to come up with a solution, because that group has been talking for seven years and no action has been taken. He should pass Bill 8 and reduce the number of boating accidents and deaths on Ontario’s waterways this summer.
ROBERT D. LOREE
Mr Elliot: The Marshall McLuhan Centre on Global Communications is honouring the 10 Ontario Marshall McLuhan Distinguished Teacher Award winners at a luncheon to be held this Thursday 29 March at the Sutton Place Hotel.
The Marshall McLuhan Distinguished Teacher Award program is intended to benefit the educational community as a whole by honouring teachers who have made a contribution to the improvement of the quality of education in Ontario through innovation and the effective use of learning technologies and methodologies.
Such a teacher is Robert D. Loree of Halton region, who has founded the Science Can! Awards, a noncompetitive science award program for all Canadian school-age young people. The purpose of that program is to encourage all young people to become more involved in science, technology and the world around them and to encourage adults to have an increased interest in and responsibility for the science education of young people.
The establishment of the Science Can! Award program has also resulted in Mr Loree being granted a 1990 Hilroy Fellowship Award of $2,500. This award again is for innovation in teaching methodology and for sharing expertise with as many teaching colleagues as possible.
As Bob Loree receives the second of his awards for innovation in teaching methodology this Thursday, we wish him well and thank him sincerely for developing a most worthwhile science program for all school-age young people.
Miss Martel: Tomorrow evening the regional municipality of Sudbury will finally conclude its budget deliberations. The process has taken weeks and it has been a long and frustrating battle to cut costs where none can be cut. It became very clear that this government’s decision to freeze the level of unconditional grants to municipalities is having a huge negative impact upon them.
In Sudbury’s case it was decided that across the board, increases would be held to 10 per cent. In the social services department, however, the provincial commitments the department is required to meet run far above that 10 per cent ceiling. In the last year alone, the provincial government has imposed the following: changes to the supports to employment program, back-to-school allowance and dependent children funding under general welfare assistance; increases in the salaries of homemakers; establishment of the employer health levy and the resulting payout; implementation of pay equity legislation and, finally, implementation of cost sharing of foster child payouts.
While the region agrees the changes are necessary, the provincial commitments result in a budget increase of some 18 per cent. Not one penny has been given to the region by this Liberal government to effect these changes. The funding crisis has left the region barely able to meet its necessary expenses and not able to provide necessary programs. While 105 new day care spaces are available, the region cannot afford payment of its share of these spaces.
This government has caused our municipalities great grief. It is high time unconditional grant levels were raised to truly meet the needs of our communities.
Mrs Cunningham: My statement today is directed to the minister of all education. Yesterday the minister announced that the government will be funding eight pilot project career information centres operated by school boards across Ontario. The minister should be aware that if we are to remain competitive in the new global economy, Ontario desperately needs a highly skilled and adaptable workforce. Skills training is critical to our ability to meet the challenge.
Unfortunately, today there is a mismatch between our education programs and our labour market needs. It is appalling that in Ontario our current high school dropout rate is 30 per cent. Instead of establishing career information centres, the government should be ensuring that programs are available in schools so students are trained in technical trades.
We must embark upon a vigorous change in the way we educate and train our students so they will want to stay in school and complete their programs. The government must work together with business, industry and unions to make certain that on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs are more accessible and meaningful to the students we serve.
If the government is truly committed to training Ontario’s youth, the minister should be ensuring that meaningful training programs are available in the schools so that students not only will have an opportunity to graduate from our secondary schools but will have training experience to ensure that they are competitive in the real world of work.
Mrs Fawcett: During the week of 5 March the standing committee on social development examined the use of food banks. That was a very enlightening experience for me.
I had the opportunity to again visit our food bank in Cobourg, where I talked with Marion Dingman and Heidi Sargent about the work that the Cobourg-Port Hope food banks do under the careful guidance of the chairman, Gerry Trew. I was most impressed to hear how this organization has developed since Harrison Milne was so deeply involved, how they receive the willing support of many church groups and community organizations. Volunteers like Jackie Nuen and Marg Whitfield are never in short supply.
But the one thing made clear to me was that to simply eliminate food banks will not solve the problems poor people face. What we must address is why the need for food banks exists. Our government is doing just that through the initial implementation of the Social Assistance Review Committee report, through budgetary increases since 1985 to the ministry, through rent-geared-to-income and non-profit housing and through elimination of OHIP premiums to the working poor.
However, poverty and the elimination of food banks cannot be addressed solely through the efforts of the province. We must all take up the challenge and broaden the focus to include public and private interest groups and the federal government. Without real partnerships, without all the key players sitting at the table, we will lack the necessary tools to fight the root causes of poverty.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Hon Mr Scott: I am pleased today to announce the creation of a $1,125,000 fund for dispute resolution in Ontario. Over the next four years the fund, administered by an arm’s-length board of directors, will provide incentives to lawyers, social scientists and, most important of all, community justice advocates to carry out research and evaluation in the field of alternative dispute resolution, or ADR as it is popularly known.
ADR techniques such as mediation and arbitration offer a complementary alternative to litigation, the traditional method of resolving disputes between parties in our justice system.
The fund represents the collaborative efforts of three major donors: the Ministry of the Attorney General in the amount of $500,000, the Donner Canadian Foundation in the amount of $320,000, and the Law Foundation of Ontario in the amount of $300,000.
The fund will be administered, subject to the board of directors, on behalf of the contributors by The Network: Interaction for Conflict Resolution of Kitchener, a national nonprofit organization active -- indeed the leader -- in the ADR field in Canada.
Establishment of the ADR fund represents an extraordinary opportunity for co-operation between government and the private sector and for blending the experience of judges and lawyers with that of mediators, arbitrators, academics and community justice advocates in individual communities.
In addition to the participation of my ministry, the Donner Canadian Foundation and the Law Foundation of Ontario, other groups have expressed an interest in contributing to the fund. We welcome their active participation over the next couple of months.
Alternative dispute resolution techniques can be used in a variety of circumstances and in a variety of ways. Arbitration and conciliation have long been used effectively, and to great advantage, in resolving labour relations disputes. Family mediation, though contentious in many respects, has an increasing number of advocates. The use of ADR is widespread in the United States on the assumption that it reduces the financial burden on the justice system, reduces the time and cost for litigants and provides a more satisfactory experience for the parties than the adversarial process of litigation.
Interest in Canada in applying ADR to a broader range of problems is burgeoning. In fact, this Legislature’s standing committee on administration of justice, under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Ottawa West, is conducting hearings at this time to examine the different faces of ADR and its value in resolving and even reducing conflict in society. I can tell members that I have had occasion to read the transcripts of that legislative committee in full, and I believe that what we are proposing today will supplement the important work it is doing in analysing policy decisions that may be made by future governments or this government about ADR.
However, the lesson we have learned from a decade of American experience is that rigorous evaluation must accompany all experiments. The fund, under its independent board, will target legal and social research aimed at evaluating the capacity of ADR to reduce costs and delays and to determine whether it provides a more satisfactory means of resolving disputes between parties without diminishing legal or constitutional rights. Educational projects which encourage the use of effective ADR techniques will be funded. At the end of four years, all of the participants in the justice system will have the benefit of this research to guide them in the development of future policy and programs for ADR.
Advocates -- and I am one of them -- argue that ADR has great promise. To determine its future role in the justice system, ADR must be tested on the ground in Ontario. The fund for dispute resolution will encourage this evaluation.
The Speaker: The Minister of Education, Colleges and Universities, and Skills Development.
Hon Mr Conway: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. You do that with an inflection that almost makes me think of the member for London North; but I want to get on with the statement.
Hon Mr Conway: One of the challenges facing education today is the speed at which the labour market is changing -- an observation that my friend from London was making earlier this afternoon. This is especially the case for the skilled trades, where the impact of technology has transformed the very nature of employment.
If Ontario is to be competitive in the more international market of the future -- as I am sure my friend from York South would want it to be -- we must adapt the educational system in ways that ensure students headed for this major employment market progress smoothly from one stage of education to the next. One way we can do this is by forging and strengthening partnerships between educational institutions to better help high school students evaluate their employment options and to make decisions that are both relevant and personally fulfilling.
For these reasons, I am pleased to announced today that the Ontario government is funding 44 school-college linkage projects between Ontario’s secondary schools and a number of provincial colleges of applied arts and technology. These linkage projects represent all regions of Ontario and are intended to increase access to, and success in, college programs for a wider range of students.
A total of $910,000 has been allocated by the government of Ontario to support these projects, each of which will receive between $10,000 and $30,000. Most of them will also be funded by the colleges and school boards involved. Overall, the provincial government, colleges and school boards will spend more than $2.8 million on this important initiative.
Each project is based on a formal agreement between one or more school boards and one or more colleges of applied arts and technology. The institutional links so formed will allow school and college teachers to co-ordinate their efforts to help students plan and to achieve their goals. In particular, the projects will make possible the identification of those secondary level courses, skills and levels of performance that will best prepare students for specific college programs leading to a chosen career path. Formalizing partnerships in this way will also help schools and colleges to build continuity into their programs. In some cases, students will also be able to earn advance standing or preferred admission at a community college for their high school work.
Many of the projects receiving this startup funding are aimed at improving access to college programs for specially targeted groups such as women, francophones, native peoples, exceptional students and those who are members of visible minorities. It is hoped that the closer co-ordination of schools and colleges will enhance opportunities for the success of these groups.
Some projects will also focus on the needs of students in basic and general level secondary programs who intend to pursue post-secondary studies.
I consider these school-college linkage projects to be very important. They will build upon those initiatives already being undertaken by this government to assist students in finding their personal niche in a marketplace full of new and exciting possibilities.
If Ontario is to be competitive in the global economy, we must first ensure that every student in this province has access to a full range of educational options. The development of individual potential should be a goal that concerns us all, and I believe that these closer links between secondary schools and the community colleges represent one very important way we can play a major role in realizing this most important objective.
The Speaker: Are there any other ministerial statements? If not, responses.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I gather the Minister of Health wanted to respond, but if I could go first. I would appreciate that.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I want to compliment the minister for coming forward with an initiative that one might consider to be an obvious thing to do -- establish linkages between the schools and the colleges -- but I want to say that I am absolutely perplexed by the timing of this.
We have a process under way, which I am sure the minister is aware of, called Vision 2000, which is doing a review of the college system and its linkages to the school system and to the universities to discover what should be the future of those institutions. It is not as though we are expecting this review to come down a year or two from now after some provincial election. This review is on line; it is, as I learned yesterday, going along very nicely and it is imminent in its release.
If we put this kind of announcement by this government in that context, this becomes almost a slap in the face to the people who are involved in the Vision 2000 process. Why should they not be a little suspicious that the government is trying to circumvent the process a little bit, move a little bit in the directions that they probably will be recommending, but then ignore them and their long-term recommendations that will be coming out in just a matter of weeks, from what we hear? What strange timing. Why this today?
Also, if this were some sort of comprehensive program, then we might think this has been something which has been in the works a long time, which the players in Vision 2000 know all about and are not going to be surprised about when they see this coming out today. But in point of fact there is all sorts of mealy-mouthed wording in this which makes it unclear that this is a system-wide kind of process. Are all the province’s colleges of applied arts and technology involved? No -- very interesting -- a number.
If this is something that we think is important, having linkages between our high schools and our colleges, why are not all of them being involved? Why do we have a half-thought-out kind of announcement weeks before the major review on colleges takes place? What is going on here? This government is obviously playing fast and loose with people who are taking a process of review very, very seriously.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Mr Kormos: First, the Attorney General’s announcement is not totally unexpected, and indeed he is quite right, the standing committee on administration of justice -- and we participated in that process -- has been discussing alternative dispute resolution and hearing from a number of witnesses now for several weeks.
It is remarkable, though, that funds could be found to this extent for this program when it juxtaposes and parallels what the justice committee has been doing right here in the Legislature and when programs like support and custody order enforcement programs have been wallowing in extremely heavy case loads and being particularly ineffective at producing results for those people.
Women with orders for payment of child support have been going without funds, relying on support and custody order enforcement, relying on the government to deliver, to help them in time of need, and the government is not funding these programs. These programs are not delivering to those women and those fatherless children in times of need. Programs like supervised access, which are incredibly important to parents, to grandparents and to children, remain unfunded and again rely upon either volunteerism or the sorts of charity that one should think went out of style at the turn of the century.
Community legal clinics across Ontario suffer first from cutbacks by this government and then from a freeze on funding such that their services are not available to people across Ontario who need them. We have agreed in principle with the concept of developing alternative dispute resolution. However, we caution this government to heed the comments of groups like the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, which has great concerns about what alternative dispute resolution means for battered women and for the children of battered women.
OAITH made a submission to the justice committee indicating that it has gone through a whole lot of effort and energy to make the courts and the judicial system more responsive. Now they are being told that concepts like wife battering should be regarded not as a crime but as an unfortunate manner of behaviour that could be rectified by mediation and counselling.
We join with OAITH in telling this government there is no way that wife battering, child abuse and spousal abuse can be diminished by virtue of incorporating it into dispute resolution. We insist that those issues remain crimes dealt with by criminal courts.
Mrs Cunningham: I would like to take the opportunity to speak to the statement by the minister of all education with regard to the changes he has proposed today. In spite of my hard work in this Legislative Assembly and his quick response today to a concern, but not in the right arena, we are talking about on-the-job training for young students in the intermediate early high school years. We are looking for opportunities in apprenticeship programs separate from colleges and universities.
We are talking about, in the beginning, the 30 per cent of young people who leave our school system because they do not like the program and they want to work with their hands, they want to get their certificates and they want to know that they have a job afterwards. We are not talking about students who always want to go to colleges and universities. I would very much appreciate if the minister would listen more carefully to my statements and respond accordingly.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Mr Sterling: Here we are, two and a half years into our term of this Parliament, and the government has started to make election announcements already. I wonder if this government, if it were ever returned, would start election announcements one year after its next time around. Two and a half years in and we have the first election announcement this afternoon in this Legislature.
Alternative dispute resolution, as the Attorney General has said, is under consideration by the standing committee on administration of justice of this Legislature. The Attorney General did not have the courtesy to wait for the report of that committee before prioritizing his expenditures on what would be best suited to address the problem of creating ADR mechanisms in this province.
Yesterday afternoon his parliamentary assistant came to the committee and said to the members of the committee, “I’m sorry; the Attorney General is going to go ahead with this announcement,” notwithstanding the fact that we have not yet issued our report. This government has a total lack of regard for the committees of this Legislature and what they are doing. We condemn this announcement today, and we think it will probably be a total waste of the taxpayers’ money.
Mr Jackson: The objectives of alternative dispute resolution are worthy and valuable of support and consideration for Ontario. However, we are hopeful that this Attorney General would know, if he has read the transcripts of the standing committee on administration of justice -- and as a member of that committee I would remind him -- that a large group of Ontario citizens who expressed specific concern about the government’s hidden agenda in bringing in no-fault divorce in this province, which is similar to the plan that it is using from California.
The Attorney General knows that the Family Law Reform Coalition, the Metro Action Committee on Public Violence Against Women and Children, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic and a growing number of women’s groups concerned about violence are concerned about mediation plans that affect families in the midst of violent situations.
I would hope that the Attorney General would be sensitive to those issues, and I would hope that the Attorney General would expand his own narrow vision in terms of reform and ADR to include school boards and one of the most exciting programs made available to the children of Ontario, and that is peer mediation programs in our schools. I would hope that the minister would look with equal favour on those strong recommendations.
I represent a community where student violence has increased. Three students were shot in Ontario a few weeks ago. It strikes me that if the minister has the capacity to look upon that situation, he would know that we would do a great service to the children of this province to empower them with the skills in how to deal with disputes, how to resolve peaceably, how to be trained in those skills, so that as they go through life, as they confront problems in their marriage, in their family life and in their work environment, our school system has given them a curriculum that equips them with those.
I would ask the minister not just simply to narrow his pilot projects to the Attorney General’s office and the law association, but to look with equal favour on the children of this province and expand peer mediation programs in Ontario schools.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I believe we have unanimous consent to introduce some special visitors in the gallery today?
The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
EVENTS IN EASTERN EUROPE
Hon Mrs Caplan: Today in the visitors’ gallery we have some very special visitors. There are four children here from Armenia, survivors of the earthquake, who are being cared for and treated by the Hospital for Sick Children. They have all had their surgeries and are doing very, very well and I would ask us all to acknowledge them. I will read their names into the record: Hrant Mardirossian, Ana Avdolian, Varsik Ajemian, Yenouk Grishkian, and his father, Henry Grishkian, is here as well.
Mr B. Rae: In welcoming the children from Armenia to our midst, I wonder if I might have the indulgence of the House to report on a phone conversation that I had about an hour ago with a family that I stayed with in Lithuania. I think it would be of interest to the many members of the House who travelled with us on the delegation.
I want to report to the House -- and I discussed it with my colleague from Scarborough, who has also received some news -- that, as members perhaps will have heard but I can confirm, several Lithuanian citizens who refused to enter the Soviet army because they feel it to be an army of occupation were taken from hospital and from psychiatric institutions where they were trying to seek asylum. I have reports that they, as well as members of the Lithuanian police who attempted to intervene on their behalf, were severely beaten. The report I heard at lunchtime today was that one of the policemen was so severely beaten that his brain was damaged.
There are also, naturally, reports of extensive troop movements in the capital of Lithuania. My host said, when I spoke to him on the phone just a couple of hours ago: “There are policemen everywhere. It is very different from when you were here just a couple of weeks ago.”
I am sure I am expressing the mood of the entire House when I express my horror at what has happened and express our fervent hope that the Soviet occupying authority will come to its senses and will finally recognize the right of the Lithuanian people to seek independence, their right to sovereignty and their right to live in peace and freedom, which was the right and desire we universally heard throughout that wonderful country which we were able to visit just a few short weeks ago.
Mr Brandt: I want to join with my colleagues in welcoming the young students from Armenia to our Legislative Assembly.
We in Ontario have always had a history and a tradition of extending a helping hand to those from other parts of the world. That, I am pleased to say, is continuing and we trust your visit here with us will be one that you will look back on with joy over the years.
I wanted to comment as well, very briefly, on the Lithuanian situation. I would hope, from what the Leader of the Opposition has said, that cooler heads will prevail and the situation will not continue to deteriorate. We as a Legislature have had some interest in that situation in that we were invited to participate, as members are well aware, in the first free elections in Lithuania as observers.
With all the very favourable and very positive information that was coming out of the eastern European countries and some of the Soviet satellite countries over the course of the past few months, I think the euphoric feeling we had here in the free world was that this move would continue to happen rather unabated and without the kind of impediments that appear to be cropping up very quickly in the country of Lithuania.
I know I share the sentiments of all my colleagues in this House when I say, and join with them in saying, that I trust something will occur in regard to the deterioration of that situation that will cause it to get back on to a more acceptable foundation so that the people of Lithuania can move towards freedom and democracy, which is the very clear wish and desire on the part of their country. Hopefully this situation will be brought under control very shortly. I too am very concerned about what has been happening. Certainly it does not look good at the present time.
Mr Fleet: As one of the individuals who had the opportunity to travel to Lithuania, I want to share with the previous speakers my extreme concern, and also to convey to all members and to the public in Ontario the sense of optimism, the sense of determination and the sense of proceeding in a peaceful and democratic way which was so pervasive when we were in Lithuania.
To now learn of a series of escalations on the part of the Soviet armed forces to lead to increasing acts of violence, I must say, I find increasingly distressing. Of course, we all agree that there is a strong need and really a moral requirement for the Soviets to cease this kind of continued provocation and violence. I would like to remind members that both Mr Gorbachev and Mr Shevardnadze here in Canada had indicated they would not be using force in this way and they have not kept their word.
I would also like to point out to members that the expressions we received while we were in Lithuania have been repeated by the current president, President Landsbergis, when he calls for our assistance, because they believe this is an opportunity for us to have input, to make a clear statement that this will in fact assist people in Lithuania who are completely peaceful and who are determined as much as possible to avoid any violence. But it is clear that there are provocations being created by the Soviets.
I would urge members on a personal basis to look to ways we can do that. I indicated in the House on Monday what the government of Canada should be doing in terms of recognition and, obviously, condemning the actions of the army of occupation in Lithuania. I might add for members of my caucus, I will attempt to speak to all of them, or as many as I can, this afternoon during question period about other things that might be available in that respect.
Last, although it has been mentioned already by one of the members of my caucus, I would like to stress also my personal pleasure to have this opportunity to welcome all the children who have survived the very difficult earthquake in Armenia. We are delighted to have them here.
HEALTH CONCERNS AT SCHOOLS
Mr B. Rae: I have a question for the Minister of Education. I wonder whether the minister would share my view that teachers and parents, particularly parents, should be entitled to inspect the schools which their children are attending, should be entitled to have access to those schools, should be entitled to choose technical advisers with respect to the presence of asbestos in those schools and that those rights are ones that should be provided for. If the minister does share that view, I wonder what he intends to do to make that right effective today.
Hon Mr Conway: I certainly accept the view that ratepayers to a school board have very clear rights to understand what is going on within the facilities of the board to which they pay rates. School board accommodation is a matter of local board responsibility and I would expect the parents, staff and students to take those matters up with the relevant school board.
Mr B. Rae: We have an immediate problem today, and the problem could get very much larger, I would suggest, unless the minister is prepared to take some positive steps to ensure that parents have access to information, that they have access to independent advice and that, in particular, they are given a degree of guarantee that they themselves can have a look-see at what is wrong and what is right, that they can get answers to questions and that if they seek independent advice, the right to that independent advice will be respected.
The minister will know that the Metropolitan Separate School Board has written to Mr Gray, or its lawyers have written to Mr Gray, indicating that he is not welcome on any school properties and that indeed he will be regarded as a common trespasser if he appears on school property. In fact, he had to leave a school in my constituency. Does the minister believe that the parents of that school, Our Lady of Victory, have a right to choose the adviser and that that adviser should have the right to access to the school on their behalf?
Hon Mr Conway: I repeat to my learned friend the Leader of the Opposition, who knows it very well, that in this province we have locally elected school boards which, under the Education Act, have very clear responsibilities; one of those responsibilities is of course the facilities, the accommodation. I would be the first to tell my friend what he would know, and that is that the rights of parents, staff and ratepayers are very clear. I would strongly encourage parents and staff and others within a board jurisdiction to pursue those rights with the relevant authorities. In this case, so far as accommodation is concerned, that discussion ought to be with the particular school board.
Mr B. Rae: I think the Minister of Education has a leadership role here. We know, for example, that the rights of the teachers are set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The rights of caretakers are set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The rights of parent-teacher associations and the rights of parents who are members of parent-teacher associations with respect to access to the schools in a matter of this kind are not set out in any legislation, and the minister knows that.
This is a very sensitive issue. It is very important that parents have complete confidence, that they have access to information and that they have the right to inspect and the right to choose their own advisers and the right for those advisers to be able to inspect. Otherwise, we are not going to get a resolution of this issue. I want to ask the minister, why is he so reluctant to play a constructive leadership role, when that is obviously what is required?
Hon Mr Conway: I am quite prepared to discharge my responsibilities in regard to the requirements of the Education Act. I said to the honourable leader’s colleague the member for Scarborough West yesterday that over the past number of years the Ministry of Education has provided millions of dollars to school boards to deal with the asbestos concern. My colleague the Minister of Labour has very clear responsibilities in so far as the health and safety questions here are concerned. I would certainly expect that school boards would discharge their responsibilities and I repeat, the issues surrounding accommodation and access to facilities in these and related matters fall entirely within the purview of locally elected school boards. I would fully expect, and strongly encourage, those school trustees with these responsibilities to address the very real concerns of ratepayers in regard to issues of this kind.
Mr B. Rae: A question to the Minister of Revenue: I wonder if the minister can explain why the renter of a car, in this instance it happens to be my colleague the member for Lake Nipigon, who rented a car from the Avis rental agency –
Hon Mr Peterson: A Mercedes?
Mr B. Rae: No, I do not think it is a Mercedes. The Premier asks.
Mrs Grier: A North American car, of course.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr B. Rae: The car rental agreement provides for a tax. The sales tax in Ontario, the minister will know, is eight per cent, but this agreement provides for a tax of 8.3 per cent, which I understand is a surplus being charged by the rental company because of an agreement with the government of Ontario that this is how consumers are going to pay for the tire tax. I wonder if the minister can tell us, is that the case, and can he tell us under what legislative authority this kind of surtax is being imposed on consumers?
Hon Mr Mancini: The matter that the honourable leader refers to is an agreement which was made by my predecessor and the industry. The matter was one that received some considerable discussion, I understand. It was felt that the tire tax could be collected in a fair manner by having all persons who would be using and renting the cars pay a fair share of the tire tax and not having, for example, the first person renting the vehicle paying the entire tax on the tires.
Mr B. Rae: This government’s appetite knows no bounds.
Hon Mr Conway: That coming from a socialist.
Hon Mr Scott: There are only about five socialists over there.
Hon Mr Conway: They are all retired.
The Speaker: Order. Are you finished?
Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, I was robbed and they are all laughing. This is a serious matter.
The Speaker: Order. You could have asked the question.
Mr B. Rae: I did not know heckling from the chair was permitted, Mr Speaker.
I do not see this in the act, and maybe the minister can point it out to me. The act says very clearly that you have to rent a car for at least seven days before you should be charged the tire tax. It is my understanding from discussions with ministry officials that the minister has invented a new system whereby people who rent cars for less than 30 days are all being charged this new, special rate of 8.3 per cent. I would like to ask the minister, why it is that this secret tire tax deal has not been made public and what is his legislative authority for bringing in this secret tire tax deal?
Hon Mr Mancini: There is no secret tax. I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition that his colleague spoke to me late last week and brought the matter to my attention, and I promised his colleague here in the House that I would review the matter. I have received some information, but not all that I have requested. I understand that these were the arrangements that were made at that time. When I am finished reviewing the matter again, I will get back to the House.
Mr B. Rae: There is a very basic issue here of public policy. You have a sales tax rate which is set by the legislation, you have a tire tax which was imposed by the Treasurer, and now we have a new rate. You might call it the Remo rate, the rate that is being charged to people who are subject to a special deal. I want to ask the minister, where is a copy of this deal, why has this deal not been made public and can he tell us how much money he is planning to raise under this deal as opposed to how much money he was planning to raise under the tire tax before he signed the deal? Those are facts that should be made public, and he ought to make them public.
Hon Mr Mancini: Remo has not done anything except promise the member’s colleague that he would review the matter. That is exactly what Remo has done. The member’s colleague spoke to Remo last week and the good Minister of Revenue, Remo, said he would review it. And that is what Remo is going to do.
INVESTMENT IN ONTARIO
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Premier. A very disturbing report has just been released by the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association of Canada. That report indicates very clearly that Ontario, during the term of the Premier’s government, has deteriorated from being one of the best investment locations in North America to being perhaps the worst location in North America for new investment in the automotive industry.
Surely this kind of report should be disturbing to the Premier as well in that it will have a very specific impact on future investment decisions that are going to be made with respect to our province. Since his government paid for part of this particular report, I wonder if he could share with this House what he plans on doing to change the attitude of the auto parts manufacturing association since they now say no to Ontario.
Hon Mr Peterson: I think the Treasurer could help my friend and explain some of the things that the report overlooked.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am very glad the honourable member raised the report, because the perceptions that the report is disseminating are erroneous in that we are not the worst for business decisions to locate or expand here. I think the honourable member, being a businessman himself, would agree that we have taken great steps in Canada, and particularly in Ontario, to see that we have maintained our competitive position.
There are a number of specific matters that the report the honourable member refers to seems to have overlooked in the statistical aspects, not the least of them being the fact that we have premium-free medicare here, which as he knows, compared with any jurisdiction in the United States, is attractive indeed. Not only does it provide excellent care, but the cost to industries which choose to provide this service for their employees is far below that which must be paid in the United States and which is escalating at a rate of from 20 per cent to 35 per cent.
There is a list of these things that I would like to bring to the honourable member’s attention but, since the Speaker is now glaring at me, perhaps we could let this go to a further part of his question.
Mr Brandt: I would like to point out, since the question was referred to the Treasurer, that it is as a result of his policies that the comparative advantage in investing in Ontario compared to Quebec has eroded from a 10 per cent tax advantage in this province to a tax advantage which has virtually been wiped out as a result of the employer health levy and other initiatives that the Treasurer has taken in isolation from other jurisdictions, and without, I might add, giving consideration to our competitive position in an overall sense.
The fact of the matter is, this report will be widely circulated and will impact not only on the automotive industry but on other investment decisions made by other potential industrialists. Is it not a fact that our competitive position, forgetting about medicare compared to the United States but looking only at Quebec, has in fact deteriorated very substantially?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Our position vis-à-vis Quebec still is an excellent one. I want to quote from one aspect of the information that is associated with the report that is typical of some of the exclusions that concern me. In the Canadian Tax Journal there is a reference to the fact that provincial investment incentives, including Ontario’s current cost adjustment, have prevented Canada from losing its advantage relative to the United States in terms of the taxation of manufacturing investment in machinery and equipment, and that loss was on a basis of federal tax reform.
It is a bit inappropriate, I suppose, but I will say it anyway: The honourable member, having read the report, would have noticed that since it deals in perception rather than facts, although the facts as the authors see them are tabulated, it asks the question specifically of manufacturers in Quebec where they would locate if they had an opportunity to do so, and in a large majority of the cases, the answer was Ontario.
Mr Brandt: No question. I find myself able to agree with the Treasurer on one point: In terms of geographic location we do have an advantage. Were it the position of his government and were he in a position to so do, he would probably move Ontario to the North Pole or someplace and get rid of that last advantage we have got.
When he introduced the employer health levy, a report from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology indicated very clearly that this was going to have a negative impact on the province, that it would slow down job creation and that in fact any decisions made with respect to new industrial and economic decisions in this province would not be favourable as a direct result of the additional $2.5 billion that the Treasurer is taking out of the economy. Why did the Treasurer not listen to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology when it shared with him its concerns about the additional taxes that he extracted from industry in Ontario?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Mr Speaker, I think you and the members would agree that we offer services in this province that are far in excess of those available in most jurisdictions. While companies seeking to locate and expand are concerned about taxation costs, an area in which we are completely competitive, they are also looking at other significant matters, particularly the currency exchange costs. I was concerned today to see that the value of the Canadian dollar had moved up above 85 cents. This is a substantial deterrent when it comes to decisions between the United States and Canada, which must concern everyone.
If the honourable member is not going to allow his anxiety to infect the whole province, I think he should be aware that the most recent report from Statistics Canada, March 1990, on a survey of investment intentions indicates that business plans to spend $33.2 billion on capital expenditures in 1990, a 5.5 per cent increase over 1989. Perhaps we would like that at a higher rate. As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago the 5.5 per cent rate was more like 12 per cent, but this is a clear indication that we are not being abandoned by those people who have the responsibility to invest capital, which has assumed international importance. We are among the leaders of that sort of expansion.
Mr Brandt: I have a question for the Premier. Knowing how modest his government and cabinet members are with respect to the economic affairs of Ontario, I want to ask the Premier about courtroom security in Bill 187. He indicated in a comment he made in Kingston that he was not prepared to review the grant structure for municipalities as it relates to this additional burden, this additional cost, which he has simply passed on to municipalities.
Since the time that he has made that comment, there have been courtrooms which have not been opened or were forced to close as a result of inadequate funding for those particular facilities on a local level. In recognition of the fact that some of the numbers are before him and that he knows exactly what those costs are, and having heard from the Attorney General on this earlier when he indicated it would not be an additional cost to municipalities, is he prepared to do what is right and proper and pick up some of the burden that municipalities are faced with in funding their program of courtroom security?
Hon Mr Peterson: The Attorney General can bring my honourable friend up to date on this matter, which I know he is concerned about.
Hon Mr Scott: The question betrays two assumptions that are unfortunately not correct. The first is, with the exception of the city of Toronto, with which the previous government of unhappy memory entered into an agreement to deal specifically with courtroom security, courtroom security has always been a municipal responsibility in Ontario and funded under the unconditional grant.
I would remind the honourable member that this was acknowledged in 1985, when the honourable member’s party, desperate to cling to office one more year, indicated to the municipalities that it would expand the unconditional grant by, I think, 50 cents per household to take account of the additional costs of courthouse security.
The one thing the honourable member will want to know -- and if he would like to phone Mr Timbrell, if he is not running a conference, he can tell him -- is that this has always been a police responsibility in Ontario. The other assumption –
Hon Mr Scott: I seem to be getting some activity over there, Mr Speaker, some signs of life. Shall I reserve the rest for the inevitable supplementary?
The Speaker: Our standing orders do allow that, so I will recognize the member for Sarnia.
Mr Brandt: The Attorney General will be pleased to know that the inevitable supplementary is going to incorporate a quote from one of his cabinet colleagues, who early this month in North Bay said -- and I am quoting the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who sits very close to him -- with respect to the funding for courtroom security:
“In my travels around the province” -- presumably Ontario – “I have learned the total resources required is more than what is built into unconditional grants. I have reported this to cabinet, that we need to take another look at it.”
Does the Attorney General agree with his colleague, a learned, honest, straightforward gentleman, or is he going to attempt to fudge the issue and pretend that this program is not costing municipalities literally millions upon millions of dollars which he has simply foisted off on them?
Hon Mr Scott: It is a lot easier and certainly more comfortable to agree with my colleague than with the leader of the third party, who again has it wrong.
As I was saying before I was interrupted by the cacophonous refusal to listen to my previous answer, the second assumption in the honourable member’s question is that courtrooms are not operative or are closing because of a resistance on the part of municipal authorities to provide in the traditional way the courtroom security that they have always, in my 25 years of practice, provided.
In fact, out of the 235 courtrooms in the province, there were two courtrooms, one, I believe, east of Ottawa and one in Belleville --
Mr Villeneuve: Alexandria. A major problem.
Hon Mr Scott: Is the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry happy in his party? Since the leadership candidates have started speaking about French-language services, the honourable member has not asked a single question.
But as I was saying --
Mr Brandt: He recognizes, as I do, you need all the help you can get.
The Speaker: Thank you. Order.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr Brandt: With respect to the cost of courtroom security, the Attorney General can attempt with his verbal gymnastics to do whatever he wishes. The fact of the matter is that Metropolitan Toronto is going to pay an additional $4.5 million. The city of London, which has the Premier as one of its representatives, will pay $120,000. For Niagara region it is $1 million. The great community of Sault Ste Marie is going to pay some $300,000 more, and the community of Sarnia some $400,000 more. That is only the beginning of the cost, which he says is nothing more than a figment of my imagination.
I wish the Attorney General would say that directly to the municipalities, because they are the ones that are going to have to increase local taxes in order to pay for a bill that he has passed on to them. Will he not accept the responsibility as Attorney General, speak to his benchmate the Treasurer, get some additional funds in those unconditional grants and absorb these increases, which are his responsibility?
Hon Mr Scott: The statements that have been made about the additional costs that are imposed are precisely that. The court administration officials in my ministry, the member will want to know, if he will just get that crowd quiet for a minute, have met with municipalities --
Mr Brandt: As you are during everyone else’s questions.
Hon Mr Scott: You see, here you go again.
Mr Brandt: Oh, I wouldn’t want to disturb you, Ian.
Hon Mr Scott: Is this time counting, Mr Speaker?
The Speaker: It is.
Hon Mr Scott: All right. The court administration officials have met with municipalities all across Ontario, who have told us that they will be obliged to spend these large sums of money. In fact, in almost every case arrangements have been made so that the increases in cost are either nonexistent or relatively modest. The honourable member will want to know that before he suggests that the costs in this bill are exorbitant.
The Minister for Municipal Affairs, quite appropriately visiting across the province, heard that the complaints were made, and I am confident that in the discharge of his duties he will analyse over the course of the year what additional expenditures in fact are made and then propose an appropriate solution. But the case I am making is that in most cases there will be no additional cost whatever.
The Speaker: Order. All members may wish to know the clock is still running.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Minister of Housing regarding his rent review system and the impact it is having on a lot of tenants in Ottawa.
The minister will be aware that the financial loss provisions of his rent review legislation encourage the sales of buildings and then the tenants pay for the increased cost of the mortgages. You might say that the minister’s rent review legislation encourages owners or developers to buy high and sell higher, because the tenants are going to pick up the cost anyway.
One example is tenants who live at 300 Cooper Street in Ottawa. Their 37-unit apartment sold in 1985 for $1.5 million. Obviously the new owner was hoping at the time to convert. That was not possible, so now he has gone to rent review and he was able to get, under the minister’s financial loss provisions, a rent review increase that will allow him to get a 10 per cent increase over each of the next four years, so 40 per cent in rent increases to those tenants.
Is the minister not going to agree that tenants are getting really ripped off by this section of his rent review legislation, and what is he going to do to protect tenants under these circumstances?
Hon Mr Sweeney: Two points: The first one is that the honourable member is probably aware of the fact that back in 1982, when we had quite an apartment flip situation in this province, there was no limitation whatsoever on how much a landlord could request through rent review as far as financial loss was concerned, and some of the approvals were quite high. As a result of that particular activity back in 1982 the legislation was changed to put the five per cent per year limitation on.
When the legislation was reviewed once again in 1986, the honourable member will recall that at that time there was representation from both sides, landlords and tenants. No one is suggesting that everyone was represented, but there was representation from both sides. When the question was put about the five per cent financial loss, neither side could come up with a better option to deal with the situation; therefore, it was left in. That is why it is still in there: because it is better than what was there before and no one has been able to come up with something better.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Perhaps the best way of dealing with this problem is for the minister to scrap his rent review legislation, which is not protecting tenants, and bring in real rent control to protect tenants across the province of Ontario.
In the absence of that, I would like to ask the minister what he is going to do to protect tenants like those at 781 and 783 Somerset in Ottawa, who are going to be paying an additional 10 per cent for the next 15 years, a rent increase of 150 per cent; or the tenants at 290 Gloucester, who are going to be paying 100 per cent over the next 10 years. I have got two pages listing buildings in Ottawa where tenants are going to be paying between 40 per cent and 150 per cent rent increases because of this loophole.
Does the minister not realize that the law has to be changed because landlords have found this loophole and are taking advantage of it at the expense of tenants? He is the only one who can protect those tenants.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Let me share with my honourable colleague that some of the cases he has drawn to my attention have come to my attention from other sources, and we are certainly taking a look at whether or not there should be a limitation on how many times this can take place.
Recently a request came from Toronto city council that we ought to look into this same situation. But there was an interesting statement by the staff of Toronto city council with respect to their motion. Let me share it with the honourable member:
“At the present time, there is little hard data which would help support or counter this motion. Anecdotal evidence is also inconclusive. There is also concern that the motion, as presently drafted, may have some unintended harmful effects on small landlords.”
The only reason I want to share that with my colleague is that it so often happens in rent review -- as he well knows, we have a complicated system because we are trying to cover so many different bases -- that we have to be careful that by making one change we do not have another unintended effect which can be even more serious.
I am quite prepared to re-examine the frequency of what the member refers to as flips, but all the evidence seems to suggest right now that the five per cent loss provision is a realistic one. By taking it out completely we could do considerable harm, particularly to smaller landlords, and my honourable colleague is well aware of the fact that the majority of landlords in this province are smaller landlords.
CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. I would like to ask the Minister of Health whether she feels in her capacity that she has any responsibility whatsoever in the field of children’s mental health.
Hon Mrs Caplan: Children’s mental health programs are presently provided by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Some programs are provided from some of the hospitals, but not specifically under the rubric of children’s mental health.
Mr Eves: The Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres has recently been very frustrated in its attempts to try to get through to this government to have something done about the 10,000 children on waiting lists in this province. They have recently publicized the case of a 15-year-old girl who attempted suicide many times. It was only after those suicide attempts that the minister’s government, or her system, provided any sort of treatment whatsoever for this child, and that was as a result of her hospitalization because of her attempted suicides.
Is that the type of concern that the minister has for the 10,000 children on waiting lists in this province, that her government has, when the only time they are prepared to do anything about them is after they attempt suicide and are hospitalized? Is that the type of commitment her government has to those 10,000 children?
Hon Mrs Caplan: Of course, the member opposite is absolutely wrong when he asks the question in the way he does. I would say to him that everyone is concerned about children’s mental health and that a decision was taken some time ago about the program being transferred to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. At the present time, the program is being reviewed, and there is no substantiation for the data he is announcing, nor is there any clear data on what those numbers actually are. While we are all concerned about seeing that services are provided and that children have access to needed services, it is very important that we have the facts so that we can plan properly to meet those needs.
Mr Adams: My question is for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues. As members know, in the coming weeks thousands of young people will be graduating from our colleges and universities. As members also know, this has been a very turbulent year for women in institutes of higher education. They have been subjected to sexual harassment and sexual assault. Tragically, some of our most promising young women have been murdered in their classrooms. What is the government doing to make campuses in Ontario welcome learning environments for young women?
Hon Mrs Wilson: This government is determined to maintain safe and secure communities for every person in this province. Women have a right to feel secure in their homes, on the streets, in the workplaces and in our institutions of higher learning.
I recently announced new funding of some $28.8 million in a long-term, government-wide strategy to address the issues of sexual assault. This new strategy was developed in consultation with a government-wide interministerial committee. The Ministry of Colleges and Universities was a very active participant in that committee in developing a three-pronged approach: first, services to victims; second, justice initiatives; and third, initiatives in public education and prevention.
Mr Adams: Recently, through the Ontario women’s directorate community grants program, the Peterborough-Trent Women’s Coalition received funding from the minister to hold a three-day conference to address issues of concern to women at Trent University. I ask the minister now, will the sexual assault initiative which she mentioned have a similar funding component to assist colleges and universities in changing attitudes and raising awareness of violence against women?
Hon Mrs Wilson: An essential component of our government-wide strategy to reduce the incidence of sexual assault is a public education campaign with almost $2 million addressed to local communities to take part in raising awareness about the myths and the facts of sexual assault in their communities. Colleges and universities are eligible to apply for those funds, and indeed announcements were being made last week and are being made this week with regard to those community grants.
I am very pleased to see that many colleges and universities are now establishing and reviewing their sexual harassment policies. Many have in fact set up commissions and task forces to look at ways that they can make recommendations to make their campuses welcoming learning environments for women. I think that universities and colleges do have an opportunity they can take to serve as models for a change in social justice and nonsexist attitudes for women as women move towards obtaining equal rights in this province.
PROTECTION FOR HOME BUYERS
Mr Farnan: My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. This morning the minister met with representatives of the Upper Yonge Village Homebuyers Association. At that meeting, the minister clearly indicated to the group that he was personally concerned and was considering an investigation of the Crest Valley Libfeld group and its dealings with the upper Yonge home buyers. If the minister is considering an investigation, what precisely are his concerns and when can we expect the investigation?
Hon Mr Sorbara: My friend the member for Cambridge is right that I met with the organization this morning. I am not sure that he was there; perhaps he was there electronically. Had he wanted to come, he could have joined the meeting. He did not ask to come. I do not want him to suggest that this actually is authority for what I said at that time.
I expressed to the home buyers’ association some of my concerns about the circumstances which have led to the cancellation of their agreements under the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. I said to them that we have been examining the facts in that case. And as a result of the situation there, we are reviewing both the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act and regulations within my ministry to ensure that consumers are protected in circumstances similar to those experienced by those home purchasers.
Mr Farnan: The minister has the responsibility to protect all the consumers across the province. It would appear that the Libfeld group has failed to live up to its obligations under the Planning Act, by selling prior to draft plan approval, and under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act, by failing to complete its contract with the upper Yonge home buyers with integrity and honesty.
Surely there is sufficient evidence here to warrant a thorough investigation of the Libfeld dealing with the upper Yonge home buyers and for consideration of deregistration of the Libfeld group of companies. The people of Ontario do not need a toothless tiger to protect them. If the minister has any teeth, when is he going to move to protect the home buyers of Ontario?
The Speaker: I would remind all visitors that we are happy to have them here; however, they are not allowed to participate in any way or demonstrate in any way.
Hon Mr Sorbara: I regret that my friend the member for Cambridge wants to take crass political advantage of a situation confronting a number of home purchasers who would have liked to have seen the transaction closed. I just want to tell him, though --
Mr Mackenzie: The arrogance of this government.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Sorbara: -- and my friend the member for Hamilton East, if he will be quiet for a moment, that the matters he raises are now before the courts. I have no control over whether he wants to discuss those matters in public, but I do have respect for the litigants, these home buyers who are pleading their case now before the court, and the defendants in that matter as well, so I do not want to comment on those circumstances.
I just want to reiterate that if he cannot get beyond his political opportunism -- and it is rampant over there in that party -- that there are significant matters within the plan that have already been investigated. I want to tell him that the protections we have under the plan in this province are the best in Canada. If we find a defect, we will be here with legislation.
Mr Cureatz: I have a question for the Premier. Constituents of mine in the town of Newcastle who refer to themselves as the Committee of Clarke Constituents have sent the Premier a three-page letter dated 15 March, signed by their chairman, David Scott, expressing their concern about the possible infilling and expansion of the Laidlaw landfill site in the town of Newcastle; more particularly, just northwest of the village of Newtonville. I would like assurance from the Premier that he will be responding to the letter addressed to him within a short time.
Hon Mr Peterson: Indeed he is quite right; I did receive a letter, I think a week or so ago. It may well have been delivered by my friend opposite. It is rather complicated, so I am still looking into the matter. But I think he can tell his constituents that I am looking into the matter and I will respond as soon as I am fully apprised of the information.
Mr Cureatz: They specifically outlined the concern that they had requested environmental assessment procedures in terms of the evaluation of the infilling or expansion. It would appear that the Ministry of the Environment is pointing towards the shorter Environmental Protection Act. They conclude by asking for consideration of a moratorium so that all those involved would have ample time to make the necessary applications for possible intervener funding in all due course and with all consideration concerning this very important issue, so those constituents in the Clarke constituents’ committee will have the opportunity of airing their concerns.
Would the Premier address those three areas in his response, please?
Hon Mr Peterson: Yes, indeed I will. I think the member can assure his constituents that the most rigorous environmental standards and processes will be applied to this matter.
Mr Neumann: My question is for the Minister of Labour. Recently I had the opportunity to sit as a member of the standing committee on social development. We heard presentations from delegations, mainly on the subject of food banks. It was indicated, as a reminder to the committee, that an adequate minimum wage in this province was a complementary recommendation to the other social assistance reforms implemented by the government. Does the minister agree that the minimum wage at its current level is a disincentive for people moving from dependency to self-sufficiency?
Hon Mr Phillips: The subject of what is the appropriate minimum wage is an issue that is debated here often and that will be debated once again later on this week. I meet with those same groups which are looking for a higher minimum wage and I recognize that they have some strong arguments to make.
The other side of the coin is that we look each year at how we ensure that there are job creations taking place in this province and how we ensure that in some of our industries we are competitive with surrounding jurisdictions. One industry in particular that is sensitive to this is the tourism industry. That is the other side of the coin, looking at our minimum wage versus other jurisdictions.
I might add that at $5 an hour we are the highest in Canada, although tied with Quebec at the same minimum wage, and substantially higher than any of the jurisdictions in the United States around Ontario. We are trying to weigh those two things, what is the adequate level of minimum wage and how do we ensure that we do not jeopardize jobs in some of our sensitive industries.
Mr Neumann: I understand what the minister is saying with regard to the sensitivities to the small business community. I would point out to the minister that since 1975, despite a number of increases to the minimum wage, the minimum wage has lost in excess of 22 per cent of its purchasing power. In 1975 small businesses were surviving in Ontario. Would the minister not agree that it is time at least to make up for the loss in purchasing power of the minimum wage since 1975?
Hon Mr Phillips: I mentioned earlier that we do review it each year, and we will be reviewing the minimum wage this year. Normally it is changed on 1 October. One of the things we will consider is the very matter of how the minimum wage has kept pace with inflation. I might add that over the last four years it has gone up, I think, about 25 per cent, which has been able to keep pace with inflation. I recognize that versus 1975, that is not quite the case. We will look at that as we review it.
ST ELIZABETH NURSING HOME
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question of the Minister of Health. On 5 August 1987 the Ministry of Health had no alternative but to take over the St Elizabeth Nursing Home in downtown Hamilton. Serious deficiencies in management, administration and care put the 175 residents at risk.
Successful bidders for the nursing home licence of St Elizabeth were clearly made aware of the fact that the employees were members of the Service Employees’ International Union, Local 532, and had been recognized by the ministry as having successor rights following the ministry takeover when the collective agreement was honoured. But yesterday the Minister of Labour gave no guarantee that the union has successor rights.
Can the minister explain to this House and to the employees and residents of St Elizabeth Nursing Home why her government has not enforced successor rights for the employees with the successful bidders?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I believe this question should be answered by the Minister of Labour and I would refer it to him.
Hon Mr Phillips: As I responded yesterday, it is a matter that the union now has before the Ontario Labour Relations Board. As I mentioned in my response yesterday, the expectation is that this matter, now before the Ontario Labour Relations Board, is a matter that we should leave before the Ontario Labour Relations Board for it to make the determination.
Mr Mackenzie: I think the minister owes an explanation as to why the workers should have to go through this frustrating and unnecessary delay when his own ministry recognized their successor rights and when the administrator of the hospital, Emery S. Baldry, whom the minister appointed when the takeover took place, clearly stated in a letter, dated 25 May 1988, to residents and families: “Staff will also be relocated to the new homes. A similar process will be followed to assist in their transfers as well.”
Why are these employees now faced with going through the procedures the minister is talking about when it is clearly their right to successor rights in the transfers to the new licences?
Hon Mr Phillips: If I might repeat the answer I just gave, that is a matter now before the Ontario Labour Relations Board. They will make their determination on it. I think they are in the process, if they have not already done so, of appointing a labour relations officer. As such, I think I should leave that matter with the Ontario Labour Relations Board rather than trying to interfere in its process.
ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS
Mr Villeneuve: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. I want to advise the Attorney General that I am here, questioning and quite happy.
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food recently announced some fairly major cutbacks in his ministry. They pertain to the Ontario pork industry improvement program, the beginning farmer assistance program and the reduction, by half, of our agricultural engineers, very important people for our farming community. Can the minister tell us how much money he will save by chopping these very popular programs and personnel, and will he channel those funds back into the ministry for some of his unfunded programs right now?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am glad to have the opportunity to explain some of the efficiencies I am bringing to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. As I am sure the member would agree, we think it is very important to make sure it is the clients we serve. I know many times the opposition criticizes the government for hiring too many civil servants. What we want to do is run a very efficient operation. We want to make sure our clients are served well. I just want to mention that when he talks about the ag engineers, only 27 per cent of their time was spent in dealing with clients directly. What we have done is redesign our ag engineering department to have 12 ag engineers throughout the province, covering all the different specialties that are required.
Mr Villeneuve: Farmers are expressing real concerns that front-line staff are losing out to bureaucracy and head office personnel. I think that can be proven. The minister has an unprecedented two parliamentary assistants and has just taken on a new assistant deputy minister. Farmers are worried that soil conservation projects, such as the Ontario soil conservation and environmental protection assistance program, and land stewardship programs are not funded.
How prepared is the minister to hold the line on head office bureaucracy increases and provide continued funding for soil conservation projects, capital costs, interest rebate and farm tax reductions? I could go on and on. There has been $100 million chopped from his ministry in the last three years.
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would like to clarify the record as far as the budget goes. As the member knows, we have substantially increased the budget, by 50 per cent, in fact, since this government took over. We are balanced now around $500 million. When we took over, it was about $285 million; so there has been a substantial increase.
I want to make sure that we have a good reorganization so that we serve the clients well. I am very sensitive to the point the member makes about making sure we are not too heavy in bureaucracy, and that is the whole idea of this. I just say to the member that we are working very hard, and I hope soon to be able to talk to my honourable friend about some of the initiatives this ministry is going to bring in.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Health. As of January of this year, a drug which is new to use in Canada for treatment of those suffering from Parkinson’s disease was made available and approved. The drug is Deprenyl. I am told by patients who were using this drug before that it was half the price of what it became once it was approved in January; then it became a cost of $2.41 per pill. Some of these patients who have spoken to me are of advanced years. Some are on fixed incomes. They are finding this a tremendous burden for them. Can the minister hold out any assistance to the cost of this medication to people who are suffering from Parkinson’s disease in Ontario?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I know of the member’s interest in the Ontario drug benefit plan. Also, I know he has had some inquiries from his constituents. It is the goal of the Ontario drug benefit program to provide drugs to people who are eligible under the program which will give them the very best therapeutic results. He knows, and members of the House should know, that the ministry relies on a panel of experts called the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee, which reviews submissions from manufacturers on any drugs that are to be included in the Drug Benefit Formulary.
It is my understanding that submissions have been made to the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee and that it is evaluating the submissions at this time. I know they must have all relevant data before they make their decision. I know the interest this matter has raised, not only in the area the member represents but in other parts of the province as well.
Mr Owen: I have been told that Deprenyl has been available in Europe for about two decades and that the cost of Deprenyl in Europe at this moment is about two to four cents per pill; remember, I stated it is about $2.41 a pill in Ontario. Does the minister have any figures as to the cost of the drug in Europe compared to the cost of the drug here, and what would be the reason for this discrepancy in cost?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I think the member, as he raises the issue of cost, recognizes that we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our programs in the province are delivered in a fiscally responsible manner. At the present time the Ontario drug benefit program is costing the taxpayers of Ontario over $600 million and this is rising at a rapid rate each year.
It is useful, I think, to examine the price of new drugs not only in Europe but also in the United States and other jurisdictions. I think price equalization may be one of the factors that are considered by the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee in its review of any new drugs.
I would say as well that we always look forward to and applaud the development of new drugs that will lead to the very best of therapeutic results and improve the health of the people of this province. It is important that these drugs be tested for their effectiveness. As I said, we rely on the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee to make those decisions on behalf of the Ministry of Health.
TORONTO AREA TRANSPORTATION
Ms Bryden: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation, if he would return to his seat. Yesterday the minister finally dropped support for one of his ministry’s most irresponsible transportation proposals, the construction of the east Metro transportation corridor through the Rouge Valley to link Highway 401 and Highway 407. This was to be a four- to eight-lane freeway to assist developers in exploiting the opportunities for high-priced housing development in the east Metro-Durham area.
I welcome the minister’s change of heart following the Premier’s announcement of a provincial park for the Rouge Valley, but is he prepared to allow adequate public consultation and a full environmental assessment on any alternative routes to be considered, so that the environmentally sensitive areas and the proposal for a wildlife preserve in the area will be protected?
Hon Mr Wrye: I of course welcome the support of my good friend the member for Beaches-Woodbine for the announcement that was made yesterday by the Premier and by my colleague the Minister of Natural Resources, which I think is one of the most significant announcements made in this province in many, many years and I am very proud to have been associated with it.
As the honourable member knows, we have protected two additional corridors, one in the Morningside Avenue area and the other in the Brock Road area. We are quite prepared, as I indicated yesterday in my statement, to subject those corridors to the fullest possible review. But I would not want my friend to believe for one minute that it is the view of this minister or of this government that roads in and of themselves provide the only solution. As indicated in my announcement yesterday, as part of that review we will be moving forward just as aggressively as possible on making rail transportation and indeed other modes of public transportation a very important part of the future for the northeast quadrant of Metropolitan Toronto.
Ms Bryden: In the minister’s statement yesterday, he also stressed that he will be emphasizing and promoting greater use of public transit, but this appears to be a continuation of his bafflegab for the public because he has not named any projects that he intends to pursue in the way of new public transit.
I wonder if the minister is aware that the Toronto Transit Commission has recently raised its commuter parking lot rates in Metro by 75 per cent from $2 to $3.50 a day. What does he intend to do to offset this disincentive to the use of public transit as a result of the tax that the government has imposed on parking lots?
Hon Mr Wrye: I think the people of the greater Toronto area, of Metro Toronto and elsewhere, understand full well the outstanding leadership that this Premier, the Treasurer and the government have been providing in terms of public transit. I think they understand, as perhaps the honourable member does not, that we are putting nearly $200 million into capital and operating support of the Toronto Transit Commission each and every year. I think they understand full well that we have plans for $400 million in improvements over the next five years to the GO Transit system.
I think they understand, as I know that party never has, that the money must come from somewhere, and they are prepared to pay their fair share for the kind of outstanding improvements that we have on the books and that will be taking place in the next short while to the public transit system throughout the greater Toronto area.
TEMAGAMI DISTRICT RESOURCES
Mr D. R. Cooke: I have a petition as a result of a meeting I had yesterday with a Temagami wilderness group. I will read it. It indicates:
“The Temagami wilderness is the site of the oldest and last remaining stand of original growth of red and white pines in Ontario and as such must be protected for future generations. The proposed destruction of this forest for the benefit of the logging companies will be a crime against the native inhabitants whose claim to the land has not yet been heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.”
It is signed by some 92 people.
INTRODUCTION OF BILL
PLANNING AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Mr Farnan moved first reading of Bill 117, An Act to amend the Planning Act, 1983.
Motion agreed to.
Mr Farnan: Basically the purpose of the bill is to amend subsection 51(1) of the Planning Act, 1983. As currently worded this provision prohibits the sale of land under an unregistered plan of subdivision, but an exception is provided to permit the sale of land under a plan of subdivision that has received draft approval under section 50 of the act. The bill re-enacts subsection 51(1) to delete this exception.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INTERIM SUPPLY (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for interim supply for the period 1 April 1990 to 30 June 1990.
The Speaker: I believe the member for Markham is catching his breath and might have a few further comments to make.
Mr Cousens: I am really pleased to be able to be back here and to carry on some discussion about this, and if I were in better shape, I would not have to be out of breath.
Mr Callahan: You’ve got to stop smoking.
Mr Cousens: Yes, indeed.
I have just a couple of things to clean up from the comments that were made yesterday. The first point has to be that when we were celebrating the decision by the Ontario government to proceed with the Rouge Valley as a provincial park, everybody, it seems, was claiming victory. Certainly our party felt that we had a large part to play in it. The Scarborough members of the Legislature, who are mostly Liberal, were there saying, “We did it.” We had the people from the cabinet, a large turnout at the Rouge yesterday, and they were all saying, “We did it.” The New Democratic Party also was pleased to say, “We too have been yelling for this.”
Everybody was saying, “We helped make it happen,” and yet one person’s name was not mentioned that should have been mentioned. I would like today to give credit to a person, a lady, who has been fighting for this who was among those who were first aware of the great need to preserve this national park. Indeed, it happens to be the parliamentary secretary to the Secretary of State, a federal member of Parliament, Mrs Pauline Browes, the member for Scarborough Centre.
I would like to put on record the strong satisfaction I have of knowing her and of putting into the record the appreciation of so many people who know that it has been her initiative from the very beginning, fighting for this park. I say that here in the presence of this House, and I would hope that the Ontario government, when it is making its statements, would give credit where it is due.
Pauline Browes is certainly someone who has been there. The $10 million that the federal government has allocated is largely because of her initiative. She was in there fighting for it and one of the reasons the federal government might hold back the money -- I will bet, though I do not know this for sure -- is Pauline Browes again, saying, “Hey, if they’re going to put a garbage dump in there, hold back your spending.” What a lady she is, and for us today to have a chance to recognize and appreciate her involvement is something that we should all do.
There is one other issue I would like to just touch upon and that has to do with what has been an ongoing saga. The Ontario New Home Warranty Program, when it was initiated, was indeed one of the best. Yet today we had a demonstration of people in front of our Legislature, a delegation that met with different members of this House. They met with the Minister for Consumer and Commercial Relations, the member for York Centre. They met with the New Democratic Party. I met with them as well.
They are fighting for their rights. Here they are, people who have read an advertisement in the paper. Someone is advertising a house for sale, so they come along and put their money down with some expectation of being able to move in at a future date -- all the things that are there. We as a government, this government, should be there to protect the small person. What has happened is that these people have no house. They do not even have hope for a house. The builder is coming along and is now not even making any guarantees or promises that he will ever complete them.
I have to say that there is a serious problem in protecting the interests of the people of this province if this government, with all its power and all its control, is not going to do something to protect the home buyer from those builders. I have to say that there are not a lot of bad builders. Most of the builders, 90 per cent of them anyway, do an excellent job. They follow up with public service. They are genuine in their commitments. They are careful to follow the guidelines. They know that their reputation is important and they do everything they can to protect it.
Yet when you have someone, as in this instance, who started to sell those homes without the draft plan even being approved, then you are talking about a situation that is not only deplorable; it should be against the law. But it is not against the law, because this government has never enacted the legislation I was fighting for five years ago when I was Housing critic. Why have they not? There has been enough time to do some of these great important jobs that this Peterson government was going to do when it got elected, and it has not done them.
Now we end up having people in Richmond Hill, in the very home riding of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, who are unable to gain satisfaction that there is going to be any action taken against this builder. Why? I cannot believe that a builder would be allowed to put those homes on the market for sale prematurely, without having any kind of follow-through as it should be. Does the public know about this?
I am convinced that the general public act in good faith. When they go to buy a home they assume that the law has been drafted to protect them and their interests. It is not, though, because here are 51 or 52 home buyers in Richmond Hill who bought these homes in good faith, put their money down. Now they are finding that the land on which their homes were going to be built was not even owned by the builder. The draft plan was not even in place and they do not even have the lots registered.
What in Sam Hill is going on in Richmond Hill when that kind of thing is allowed to go on? I have to say that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has had every opportunity to do something about it. He has met with the builder and the builder seems to be unwilling to do anything about it.
I commend that the people in Vaughan have seen fit to not allow him to continue to build in Vaughan because it was much the same circumstance coming along again. We should have some way of removing this builder’s licence to build in the province of Ontario to protect the home buyer. Why have we not done something about it? I continue to worry about this government by virtue of the fact that it is not prepared to do anything about Crest Valley Homes. I would like to see the government challenged to respond to the needs of these people, and I just do not know what it is going to take to do it. It could be another election. I will tell the members that the 51 people in those homes will not be voting Liberal, because there is certainly no sense that this Liberal government has done anything or is going to do anything for them.
The fact is that the builder went ahead and sold these homes without the draft --
Mr Reycraft: How old is that legislation?
Mr D. S. Cooke: It was a Tory law.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Cousens: There are members who are trying to speak out here, and when they have a chance to speak I will be sitting raptly in attention wondering what it is they are going to say, knowing that there will be sweet gems.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It was a Tory law.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Everybody will have a chance, and would have a chance, one after the other, not at the same time. The member for Markham will continue and address uniquely the Speaker.
Mr Cousens: What we are really talking about are the concerns of these people have who have gone along and have read the ads, “Yonge and Elgin Mills, $169,990.” The ads are very, very easy to read and believe, and then when you have come along and bought your home, you really wonder why you do not get it. You bought it and you did not get it built.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Because it was a Tory law.
Mr Cousens: If the honourable member wants to say something, I would be pleased to allow him to make his comments. This government has come out and said that it was going to do certain things. They have made the promises, but they have not responded to the needs of the people of this province.
Mr D. S. Cooke: So you are both guilty.
Mr Cousens: I called for a review of the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. I am going to end up having a conversation with this member if he is going to continue to interrupt me, Mr Speaker. I have no choice but to speak to him if you are going to allow him to speak out. Are you going to tell him to be quiet? Speak up, speak out or get out.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. Only the member for Markham has the floor. The member for Markham, please, continue and address the Speaker.
Mr Cousens: One of my constituents --
Mr D. S. Cooke: Tell us why you oppose the Tory law.
The Deputy Speaker: Members, please respect the standing orders.
Mr Cousens: I think the point my constituents have made is:
“Until Crest Valley Homes and Theodore and Sheldon Libfeld honour their original purchase agreements with us, the Ontario New Home Warranty Program should not allow them to build anything anywhere in this province.
“This would send two very important messages. To the new home buyer, it would guarantee them that the new home they purchase will get built and give their badly shaken confidence in the government a tremendous boost. To the other builders in Ontario, it would clearly state that the practice of not honouring purchase agreements will absolutely not be tolerated. If potential new home buyers must wait for a change in legislation before they are fully protected and their confidence is restored, the home building industry could suffer irreparable damage.”
I think the new home industry is suffering irreparable damage now in the fact that the government is allowing this one builder of great wealth and obviously great resources to continue to build homes and to still flagrantly disobey the guidelines that we have been calling for changes in the Ontario New Home Warranty Program for some length of time. To have 50 shaken home buyers in a position where they will not get their homes is something that should be unacceptable to even the noisy New Democrats and to the complacent Liberal Party of Ontario.
If we could begin to have some consensus in this House on the fundamentals, then we would begin to protect the needs of the purchaser at all times. What I am seeing happen right here now is that there is not that sense of high regard for the rights and needs of others. That is what I am fighting for; that is what I have always fought for. I would say that we in this House should have that as a major responsibility for each one of us.
I challenge the government. As long as we continue to have the kind of situation we have now in Richmond Hill with Crest Valley Homes, we have a problem that is intolerable; it is unacceptable. I have brought forward in this House on numerous previous occasions the importance of the government changing the law so that this could not happen. Here it has happened again, and it will happen again and again until the government finally comes to terms with what the law should say.
I wanted to put that on the record, because today we had a large turnout of people from Richmond Hill coming down here to get an audience with members of the Legislature and to have their views heard. I commend my colleague the member for Cambridge, who raised a question in the Legislature on it today and made a statement on it. I am just really surprised to see that until some action is taken we are going to continue to see the same builder continue to do what he has been doing. It is just totally unacceptable.
As I closed off in the presentation yesterday I was really just trying to wrap up, but I did run out of time. I had been talking about the high cost of education and about the need for us in Ontario to come along with some long-term solutions that will begin to place education the way it should be. I was in the process of discussing some of the comments that had been made by the chairman of the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board in a letter to the Minister of Education. He made a number of proposals.
There were two proposals in his letter that I would like to put on the record, because I do believe that what he is really talking about is equality between both systems and equality of opportunity for the children who are going to the York region public and the York region Roman Catholic separate systems. He comes forward with two fundamental requests which will undoubtedly be discussed in the meeting that will be arranged between the separate board and the Minister of Education.
“The first proposal is that the government will provide approved costs which are reflective of actual costs incurred by the board. Examples include per-pupil grant ceilings and transportation approved costs. If provincial funds are limited, then the corresponding local share contribution can be increased. In this way the province can maintain the level of funding as desired while at the same time providing a more equitable distribution of funds.”
What they are really saying is that the board is spending far in excess of the money that has been allocated by the province for education. One hundred per cent of all that money must come from the local ratepayers. It is becoming an extremely large burden to the local ratepayers to have to pay for all the education that in fact the province had originally committed to do. Especially when the Liberals were in opposition, they certainly said that the province should be paying 40 per cent of the costs. Now they are talking 16 or 17 per cent of the costs being paid by the province.
What is happening now is that the shift of the costs of education is going far more to the local ratepayers on their property taxes. That is going to force many people out of their homes. Seniors and others who are on fixed incomes will not be able to continue to pay the cost of taxes that this education system is going to demand from them.
So the point goes on. What this government should do, point 2 in the proposal by Chairman Virgillio, is:
“Allow present unapproved costs, such as debenture and interest-carrying costs to be grantable. Boards like ours, with high debt load and interest-carrying costs, must be given financial relief. Assessment-rich boards have been able to fund capital expenditures through current operating funds, thereby minimizing future debt payments, and have also been able to build up reserves, thereby minimizing interest-carrying costs.
“Without addressing the above two proposals, the Ministry of Education will be ignoring its own basic principles of equality of educational opportunity and equalization of financial resources. Lack of attention to the two proposals will again force the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board into levying significant tax increases on its taxpayers with another projected deficit.”
Last year that same board had to increase its educational taxes four times the rate of inflation and it may be forced to do so again. I share the board’s concern. There really has to be some worry about being able to maintain the quality of education. It will continue to be in severe jeopardy unless some action is taken by this government.
So we are now faced with what is going to happen. I am concerned that we continue to put so much money into education and yet the results are not always there. Many of us will know that there are some students who are doing extremely well, and I think an awful lot has to do with the home and the background and the dedication of teachers within the system. But you can pour money into it and if you end up having the illiteracy level as we have it now; if you end up having the dropout rate so high; when you end up having the number of people who are not going into science and technology; when you are not seeing that flow of young people into trades and apprenticeship programs, it really begins to tell me, especially when you have a shortage of trained people in key areas, that we are not doing it right.
I am going back to the first point that I began with in this address yesterday. If there is any resource that counts for the long-term benefit of our province, it is our young people. We must make sure that we make the investment in the future by providing them with the best of what they need in order to meet the future. When we look at the illiteracy rate we realize that according to a Southam study on this some time ago -- it was a classic case -- in fact now in Canada 24 per cent of adults are illiterate and 17 per cent of students graduating from high school are illiterate.
That is something we must fight and we have to fight it by concentrating on the basics in education. Let us not take for granted the important need for reading, writing, arithmetic and the other social skills that are a part of it. Physical health and education are also important, but have a rounded, full program. I am concerned that here we are continuing to put money into education. It should be our greatest investment per capita and on a percentage basis of the Ontario budget. We have seen the percentage of the Ontario budget decrease in the last 10 and 12 years from what it was in 1978. What we need to do is continue to have an emphasis on that so that our educational system is not something that is given second shrift.
I really do not think there is anyone in this province who does not put a high emphasis on education. What we really do need is to have an emphasis where we reward achievement in the school system, where there is a creation of an environment for the excellence that can take place in a classroom. We have to have incentives in place for excellence, assessment and innovation, which are essential to ensure our competitiveness in the global trading economy.
I believe that education should become a major important issue in this Legislature. It is not something that we should just shove aside; it is something we should have a special study on to see what we can do to make sure the value is there at every level.
The province comes along and says, “We are going to make kindergarten compulsory all day, and then we have junior kindergarten.” The Toronto papers yesterday were saying, “Why have it all day?” School boards are saying: “Why does the province mandate these programs? They do not pay for it; the local school board does.”
What we need to do is begin with a system that has all the potential of being the best system in the world. If there is anything we want to have, we want to have a good health system. We want to have a quality education system. We want to protect the rights of people in their homes through the law that is in fact there to protect them at all times; we want to be able to have our rights protected. But we are not seeing that. There is a continuing erosion on these fundamental values that so many of us do not take for granted.
The government spends our money, as it will do as we give approval for the interim supply so that the bills can be paid. We want to protect the needs of all people but make sure we put the investment where it counts in certain key areas. One of those has to be education.
There are a number of other points I want to make on this. I just have to say the problem is not going to go away. We here in Ontario will continue to fight for those things we believe in.
Even though the government shows a callous disregard for these things by mandating programs that have not really been asked for or desired, what we are now really faced with is, come deal with the issue. We have a chance, even yet, to build on the system that has been there in the past, a quality education system in Ontario at every level.
What we are seeing is that we can continue to build on the public system. We can build on the community college system and the universities. Let us build ways so people can get into skills development apprenticeship training. Let us help those people who want to change professions or have to change professions so that we can get them ready to go back into industry and be productive again. Let us help those people who are over age 50 or 55 who lose a job and then decide, “What can I do to get back into the business force again?” Let us help them get trained. What can we do about those people who are illiterate, those people who really need to understand and use the language of today, so that they are able to receive the courses in English that can assist them to do that?
I happen to believe we are missing the challenge. This government has missed the challenge in the four years it has been in office. It still has an opportunity to do what is right and good for all people in this province. We will all be the beneficiaries when education is given the emphasis that it should be given.
I think there are others who would like to speak on this issue and other things that have to do with government spending. I hope there will be an opportunity for a more full and complete debate on the subject of education.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Very briefly, I generally agree with a few of the comments the member has made over the past two days, but I did think it was worth raising and I would like to have a response from the member. We in this caucus, and the member for Cambridge, are very concerned about home buyers who in all good conscience buy a home, make an offer, put their money down and then, when it comes time to occupy the home, find they cannot because the legislation protecting consumers is so weak in this province. I guess what I was trying to get from the member is an understanding of when that legislation was passed, who the minister was at the time and which party was in power when that legislation was brought in.
I have been a member for 13 years and my recollection is that the legislation was brought in by the former Tory government and it was not particularly interested in supporting and protecting home purchasers any more than the current government is, because my understanding and clear recollection is that they both have very close relationships with the developers of this province and therefore they both have more concern for the developers and home builders in this province than they do for the consumers.
For a Conservative member to be criticizing a Liberal member for lack of protection of home buyers, I think is rather difficult to swallow, just as it would be equally difficult to swallow if the Liberals were criticizing the Tories.
The only party that is not in the pockets of the developers of this province is the New Democratic Party, because we do not take money from the developers of this province during elections. We do not take donations or what some would call -- no, I cannot use that word here; I can use it outside. We do not take donations and therefore we are not beholden to the developers. We do not owe anything to the developers like they do.
Mr Cousens: That is the problem with the New Democrats. They like to generalize, and they will say that all builders are bad. What a crock that is. They really do not begin to understand that they have done more to help build this province. They make an investment in the province. They have helped build homes. They are more responsible than he is with his statements, which really do not begin to understand just how much it takes to work together. It takes all levels to be involved in making a strong province and I think the building industry and the home building industry for the large part have done that.
To go back another step, it was the Ontario Progressive Conservative government of years ago that brought in the Ontario New Home Warranty Program, which was the first of its kind in North America. It began to establish some ground rules that would protect the new home buyer. No one else has ever accomplished what we did in the establishment of the Ontario New Home Warranty Program and it has done a great deal to protect those people.
I, in my capacity as Housing critic and in my capacity as a member of the Legislature and serving the people of the riding of Markham, then York Centre, came forward with a series of proposals that asked for changes in the guidelines of the Ontario New Home Warranty Program. It is an evolution thing. Is it ever perfect? No. But at least my suggestions, then and now, are still valid: we have to protect the new home buyer and make sure that no one is going to be allowed to sell homes unless the lots are registered in the first place.
That was a problem then. It is a problem today. There are other problems with the Ontario New Home Warranty Program: leaks in the basement; getting the repairs done; making sure that the service is followed up; the definition of guidelines. These are issues that continue. The fact is, we began with something and I think it is something that can be built upon.
The member for Windsor-Riverside is great to throw out the baby with the bath water. I see that right now the government has a chance to do something about the people who have bought homes from Sheldon Libfeld. Why do we not do something about them and about Crest Valley Homes? That is an issue and that continues to be an issue. The fact that they make light of it really shows a tremendous disregard for the people in Richmond Hill.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I am pleased to be able to join this debate. I would like to say to the member for Markham that I am not interested in throwing the baby out with the bath water. I am interested in throwing the Liberals out and the Tories out at the same time, because we know that when it comes to the developers of this province they are both in the pockets of the developers, and if consumers want protection in this province, the only way they are going to get that protection is with a political party that is interested in ordinary people and consumers of this province.
We do not take donations from the developers of this province. We are not beholden to those people. After we are elected as a government, we would not owe them favours like the Conservatives and the Liberals do. If anything brought that home it was the Patti Starr affair, which involved both Liberals and Conservatives right across this province, because Patti Starr and the developers of this province are always looking for politicians to rent, four years at a time. They have them under lease now. If these guys ever formed a government, they would have them under lease. Perhaps what they are looking for is a long-term contract that involves both the parties. We are not for sale.
Mr Cousens: Oh, you are for sale.
Mr Pelissero: Nobody is buying. You have got to have a product that is saleable.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): The honourable House leader for the official opposition is a tinch provocative.
Mr D. S. Cooke: A politician who speaks the truth is always confrontational, and if the truth hurts the member for Markham and all the Liberals on that side, so be it, but the people and the home buyers of this province know who are willing to protect the people of this province, and it is not the political parties that take donations from large developers, and that is what both of them do.
Mr Ballinger: Where do you get your money, David?
Mr D. S. Cooke: Where do I get my money? I get my money $100 at a time from people in my riding who are willing to donate. Then during the election, I go and borrow money from the bank, which we pay back over the next term as we raise money at socials, dinners and garage sales. That is how we get our money.
Mr Ballinger: How many unions contribute to your campaign?
The Acting Speaker: All right. Now it is not the House leader’s problem; it is other honourable members who are trying to incite inflammatory statements. I would just ask all the members -- it being early in the week yet, it is going to be another too long, I am sure, wonderful, interesting day -- let us continue with this debate, please.
Mr Cousens: He is so self-righteous, Mr Speaker. Don’t have him get away with this stuff.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Oh, boy, you can always tell with these guys when you are talking the truth, because they get really upset. I can understand why the member for Markham is having a difficult time on top. He gets so upset when the truth is spoken that the hair just falls out. However, that is not the major point that I wanted to make.
Mr Cousens: What about your hairline, David?
Mr D. S. Cooke: Yes, my hair is falling out too. He is right, but it is not because I get upset by anything he has to say.
Mr Cousens: That’s what you say.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It is because I get upset at how my constituents, for years -- 42 years under his party and now five years under this party -- do not get protected, whether they are home buyers or whether they are people who want to get car insurance. They do not get protected, and that gets me upset, and that is why I am getting thin on top.
We have talked a bit about how the home builders of this province have had the current Liberal government under rent, and before that they had rented the Conservative Party. The same discussion could take place, and has taken place, with my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold leading the fight, on how the insurance companies have rented the Liberal Party and that is why we are getting the lack of protection for people who need to buy car insurance across this province. The statistics show very clearly the insurance companies in this province gave thousands upon thousands of dollars to the Liberal Party, but the thing is, they are getting repaid with taxpayers’ money. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars are being transferred from the taxpayers to the insurance companies of this province.
I think the facts are clear that the people of this province are getting very upset, the shine has come off the Liberal government and this party wants to go to the people as soon as the Liberal Party wants to call an election. We know that the outcome is going to be considerable decrease in support for the Liberal Party because the people know they have not been protected and there is no leadership being shown in this province.
Mr Ballinger: See you in September.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Well, if it is September, I am ready. My signs are ready now. If the government calls the election this afternoon, I will have 500 signs up this afternoon.
Mr Laughren: You have to get nominated first.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Yes, I do have to get nominated before I can put my signs up -- not in my riding association.
I want to talk about a few problems that we are experiencing down our way, and since this is the first opportunity to have that discussion, I will just take a few moments.
I do want to indicate to the parliamentary assistant that we are not attempting here, as was reported through the press, through a good debate on supply to hold up their crummy insurance legislation. We are not interested in hurting people on social assistance or any other government benefit program, and I thought it was rather unfair that the Treasurer would go to the press and make those kinds of statements yesterday afternoon when he did. It was a cheap shot --
Mr Laughren: Dishonest.
Mr D. S. Cooke: -- dishonest, and if the government thinks it is going to be able to bring in motions for supply to spend $7 billion all the time and not have the opposition parties say anything --
Mr Reycraft: It was $8.4 billion.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Okay, the press was wrong, $8.4 billion. The House has not been in session for three months and we are not allowed to get a few things on the record. I think that is terribly unfair and certainly shows that perhaps it is time for the Treasurer to move on to Hydro if he does not like the process in this place, of democracy and input from members of the opposition and members representing individual constituencies.
I do want to talk about the economic situation in my home community. I am happy the member for Middlesex is here, because one of the legitimate gripes that people have in my community is the fact that we do not have our fair share of provincial civil service jobs. At the same time, a city up the street, London, has more than its fair share. When you compare the two cities again, London has had consistently over the last year the lowest unemployment rate of any urban area in all of Canada, whereas in Windsor the unemployment rate has consistently in the last six months equalled that of St John’s, Newfoundland, anywhere from 10 to 13 per cent.
We know that when there is an economic downturn, the auto industry gets hit very hard, very early. With interest rates at 17 and 17.5 per cent for consumer loans, people are not buying cars to the same extent they did before. Our auto parts sector in Windsor is being hit and it is being hit hard. Temporary layoffs are taking place in the manufacturing sector with the auto assemblers, and permanent plant closures and layoffs are taking place in the auto parts sector. At this point, with still an economy overall in Ontario that is relatively good, my community has an unemployment rate of 10 to 13 per cent. I think it is incumbent on this government to look at the inequities and the unfairness of the distribution of public service jobs in our region.
It is understandable, over the 42 years that the Conservatives were in power, that we did not get our fair share of civil service jobs. Ontario stopped at London, because that is where Premier Robarts and a whole bunch of other people came from, and we have not elected Conservative members consistently in our community for a long, long time.
So we were penalized by the Conservative Party, and there were a lot of people in my community who thought that when the Liberals were elected provincially, that unfairness would be addressed. It has not been addressed at all. In fact, when the Premier was asked about this a few months ago, he made some silly comment to the local reporter, saying, “Well, Windsor wants civil service jobs; so does Wiarton.” That is hardly a comparison between a major urban area which is so dependent on one industry and a small community, not too far from London again. Of course, the world revolves around London.
Mr Reycraft: A long way up; Windsor is closer to my riding.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Is it not Grey-Bruce area up that way? It is not too far. They watch the same TV stations.
Mr Laughren: Picky, picky.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Yes, picky, picky. In any case, there is a real unfairness and I want to read some of the statistics to prove my case. In Barrie, for example, there are 1,000 provincial civil service jobs; Belleville, 622; Brampton, 1,563; Brockville, 1,186; Guelph, 1,000; Hamilton, 2,200; Kingston, 3,000; London, 3,679 provincial civil service jobs, and that does not include the county of Elgin, not too far from there, which has an additional 1,083 provincial civil service jobs.
When you look at the two-county combination, you have a total of nearly 5,000 provincial civil service jobs, when my entire county of Essex has a very small number, 885 civil service jobs. There has been a real effort by our local government to plan, to look at and to attempt to diversify our community. In many respects, Windsor’s dependence on one industry is not unlike some of the northern communities that are dependent on the resource sector. They are mining, one-industry communities as well. We have the same difficulty that some of the northern communities have.
Mr Reycraft: We have helped some of the northern communities too.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Yes, you have helped some of the northern communities, but there is not a recognition that even in southern Ontario we have not all benefited to the same extent as Metropolitan Toronto, the Niagara Peninsula and some of the other areas of southern Ontario.
Instead, when programs are changed -- even the subsidy to students for summer jobs. That program was not eliminated for selected areas of southern Ontario; it was eliminated for all of southern Ontario. Eastern Ontario, I believe, and northern Ontario were allowed to continue in the program, but because Windsor is in southern Ontario, we were lumped in with the same policy decision, even though our unemployment rate is the highest in the province. We have a higher unemployment rate than most communities in northern Ontario. Certainly we have a higher unemployment rate than any of the communities that are listed by the Statscan figures on a monthly basis.
We, as I say, are tied with St John’s, Newfoundland, not something that we are particularly proud of, but we need the assistance of this government if we are to avoid the kind of deep recession and hardship that we went through in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.
It cannot be described as anything other than a depression that occurred in our community in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1978 and 1979 we had already started the downturn in our community; the rest of the province was still prospering. Windsor was suffering from plant closures and a high unemployment rate even in the late 1970s. By the time we got into the recession that the entire province and country were experiencing, Windsor had an unemployment rate of over 20 per cent.
I had literally hundreds of people in my riding who lost their homes. Families broke up. There was a large number of suicides in our community. It was just a very tragic circumstance that our community was living in. And now that our unemployment rate is creeping up again, along with interest rates creeping up, and mortgage rates, there is a real fear that we are going to get into the same circumstance. It is not pleasant for any of us who are leaders in our community. It is obviously a tragedy for the families that experience this.
I hope that when the provincial government brings down its budget in early May it will address this issue and look at the single-industry communities in southern Ontario and not lump us all in with Metropolitan Toronto and assume that just because Metro Toronto is experiencing prosperity for some people, the rest of southern Ontario is experiencing the same kind of growth and prosperity. It just is not happening and it shows a complete lack of knowledge of what is happening in southern Ontario. Even in Toronto there is a real difference between how some people are experiencing the economic boom of the last number of years and other people.
We all walk back to our apartments after the Legislature adjourns and we see the difficulty that people are having. I do not have the statistics in front of me, but I used them yesterday in members’ statements. I believe there are 17,000 people in Metro Toronto on the waiting list for Metro Toronto assisted housing. The estimate is that between 10,000 and 20,000 people are homeless and are sleeping in the streets or in the hostels in this community.
I invite some of the members in this Legislature to go and look at some of the facilities that we seem to be saying, as a government or as a Legislature, are acceptable for people to live in, whether it be the streets or whether it be these hostels, which are completely unacceptable. None of the members’ family members and themselves would ever tolerate living in the kinds of circumstances that some of the 10,000 to 20,000 people in this community in Toronto live in.
When the member for Nickel Belt and I took a little tour of some of the areas in Toronto, we dropped into some of the dropin centres. I think we all have, especially those of us from outside of Toronto, the impression that homeless people are adults. We have the impression that the homeless people in this community are people who have a whole bunch of other problems. It may be alcohol problems and all these other misconceptions that are simply not true. We saw mothers, fathers and their children in the dropin centres during the day, and at night they were either in the hostels or they were sleeping in the streets.
If we are one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the western world, if we are supposed to be developing a world-class city, I do not think there can be any description of Toronto as being world-class as long as 10,000 to 20,000 men, women and children are sleeping on the streets and in hostels in this community of Toronto.
I am absolutely flabbergasted when the Rupert Hotel rooming house fire occurred here in Toronto on 23 December, I believe it was -- the Legislature was not in session. I can tell members that if 10 middle-class or upper-class people in the city of Toronto had died in a fire, there would have been statements from the Premier, there would have been statements from the Minister of Housing or whoever the appropriate minister would be, recognizing that tragedy and announcing inquiries to make sure that a tragic fire like that never occurred again. But because it happened in a rooming house, because it happened to people who are alienated from our community and not wealthy or who do not have the kind of stakeholding in this province that other people have, there is not a mention from the Premier or the Minister of Housing. I think that says a lot about this government and perhaps about this system that we live in Toronto and in Ontario.
I want to just address a couple of other issues that are very important to people in my community, and they are both health care issues. In 1970, the then Conservative government promised the community of Windsor that we would be getting a new chronic care hospital. That was back in 1970, and architects were hired. Then in the early 1970s the Davis government said: “No. we do not have enough money. We are in the process of restraint so there is no go-ahead.”
Then in the mid-1970s Frank Miller travelled the province and tried to close a whole bunch of community hospitals, and one of the hospitals he was trying to close was the existing chronic care hospital in Windsor, which is 70 years old. It used to be a school and, quite frankly, the physical setting is unfit to be called a hospital. The staff do their best with the chronic patients in the hospital, but it is an impossible situation. They tried to close the hospital, along with a whole bunch of other community hospitals across the province, and in each instance, including this hospital, the government was unsuccessful.
So the result was that after a consultant’s report was completed, the recommendation was that a new chronic care hospital should be built. Obviously, it was not at the top of the priority list for the Conservative government when there had not been representation from a Conservative since the early 1960s in Windsor. None the less, over the years we went through the process, and in 1985 the then Minister of Health, Keith Norton, indicated that the hospital was going to be a go.
Then the election was called. I remember sitting in a debate at the TV studio. I was debating the member for Windsor-Sandwich, and the Conservative representative was the candidate from Windsor-Walkerville, Jane Boyd. Jane Boyd attacked us saying that we had not delivered a hospital as incumbent members. So we were rather defensive, to say the least, but restrained. The member for Windsor-Sandwich promised on TV -- and it is on tape; it has been shown several times and I can guarantee it will make a beautiful TV ad -- that if the Liberal Party formed a government, the sod would be turned for the new hospital before the end of the calendar year.
That election was in May 1985. I assume the end of the calendar year was December 1985.
Mr Ballinger: That was the surprise.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Yes, I guess a year now has 48 or 62 months or whatever the total is, but the fact of the matter is we still do not have the hospital.
The Minister of Health at the time -- after the 1985 election, the member for Bruce -- is in the House today. He must be incredibly embarrassed, and if he is not, he should be. because after the 1985 election there was a lot of work done. We worked in a nonpartisan way. We worked with the unions in the hospital, the board, the labour community, to get the whole thing back on track. We got things back on track and the member came down to Windsor.
Hon Mr Elston: Another fairy tale.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It is not a fairy tale. I was at the meetings with the member for Windsor-Sandwich where we pulled the labour community and the hospital board together. We finally got in a position where the then Minister of Health flew to Windsor. He came in, he brought staff in and people from the community and the press, and he got up on the stage and said:
“It is a go. The hospital is approved by the provincial government. You raise your money locally and there is $22 million waiting for you from the provincial government.”
So we went out and raised the money. We raised $11 million. I think it is now closer to $13 million. We raised the money and we said, “Now we are in a position to build that hospital.” What happened? Now there is a freeze put on the hospital. However, in the interim -- I am sorry, a very important date passed, because that was in the fall of 1986, and in the spring of 1987 there was a provincial election.
Now what was the focus of the member for Windsor-Sandwich’s campaign for re-election and the member for Windsor-Walkerville’s campaign to get elected? The Liberals delivered the hospital. “It has been approved and we are going to get the chronic care hospital after 15 years. Bill Wrye is on your side. You are going to get the chronic care hospital.”
Then what happened after the election? It is all frozen. There is no hospital. It is not going to be approved because there is a new philosophy and it is okay for people in our community to stay in a 70-year-old school that has been converted to a chronic care hospital.
Mr Wildman: You missed the point. If they built the hospital, they wouldn’t be able to promise it again next election.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Exactly. That is certainly the point.
But it is no wonder that the people in my community are cynical and it is no wonder that the Liberals are going to get a warm Windsor welcome this weekend on Saturday, because there are so many groups that are upset with their government because it did not tell the truth. They did not tell the truth. They promised a hospital, and then they did not deliver. They promised something for votes, they got the votes and they have not kept their side of the bargain. It is no wonder that the people in our community are cynical about the Liberal Party in Ontario and the Peterson government.
Hon Mr Wrye: Just you.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Just me? We will see, my friend.
The member does not have his 15 years in it so he does not have cash for life, but he is going to need something after the next election because he will not be returning. I will be. I will have more credibility on this issue than he ever will because of what he has done to the people in our community, and he knows that. His party has been doing polling just like ours. He is out of sight in Windsor because no one trusts him any longer. That is a fact. They should not trust him because he said one thing and he did another.
But I think the implications of what the government does, besides the health care implication, the difficulty is that it is no wonder people are cynical about political parties and governments. They used to believe what people said. They used to believe when politicians promised a hospital and said, “Go raise 11 million bucks,” but now they do not believe anything they say.
The next step is even going to add to the people of my community being cynical, because what is going to be approved some time over the next few weeks is going to be called phase 1 of the new Windsor chronic care hospital. What is phase 1? Phase 1 of the hospital is going to be from the existing general hospital a walkway to nowhere. There is no hospital and they are going to start the walkway. Why are they going to start the walkway? Because there might be a fall election and both the member for Windsor-Sandwich and the member for Windsor-Walkerville want to be able to say: “See. There is something under construction. I have kept my end of the bargain.”
Hon Mr Wrye: Only you could be that cynical.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Only me and a whole bunch of other people in the community, including our local newspaper, which I believe at one point endorsed the Liberal Party but has come to its senses too.
It is very sad, and the real sad thing is that the chronic patients who need access to a chronic care hospital and the people who need access to a decent day hospital and outpatient services so that they do not have to go into an institution do not have those services in Windsor. As a result, we have one of the highest lengths of stay in chronic beds of any community in the province, because we do not have the outpatient services.
This government says that it is more interested in home care, and we agree with that. Home care alternatives are absolutely essential. But what did this government do after it came to power? It froze the expansion of the integrated homemaker program so that Toronto does not have integrated homemakers. Windsor does not have an integrated homemaker program, so there are no home care alternatives for the chronically ill in my community. There is only a 70-year-old school that has been converted to a chronic care hospital, and it is absolutely disgusting.
The final health care issue that I would like to refer to which has my community in great upset and a sense of mourning is the lack of access to decent cardiac care programs in the province. It is true that there is no waiting list any longer in Windsor for cardiac care. Sorry, the list is three, from what I have been told by the doctors in our community. That is because over 120 people have gone to Detroit to get the service since an arrangement was made last fall.
Some people would say: “That’s fine. They got the service.” But let’s look at the cost to the taxpayers of this province. The estimate is that $7 million to $8 million of taxpayers’ money has gone into Detroit hospitals because we have not offered decent service here in Ontario. That is $7 million; for another $3 million, we would have been able to buy all the equipment to have a cardiac surgical unit in Windsor.
For those people who say we cannot afford it, I just ask the question, where is the efficiency and where is the well-planned health care system that the Minister of Health refers to all the time in this Legislature? If it is well planned, if it is efficient and if it is economical, why are 120 people having to go to Detroit for health care for cardiac surgery? Why are we spending $7 million in Detroit when that money could be invested in Ontario where, if that had happened, we would have had better services and the money would have stayed here in our own province?
I am still disappointed by the fact that a 23-month-old child died because he was not able to access cardiac surgery here in Ontario. In my community I have never seen such a response from the people who called my office and the people who were at candlelight vigils mourning the death of this child. What did we get from the Minister of Health?
The day that it happened she made some statement that there would be an investigation carried out by the Sick Children’s Hospital, there would be an investigation carried out by the Ministry of Health, the coroner would investigate, and when the information was available, she would make a public statement. Nothing. She took off the next day on her three-week vacation to India. When she came back, no explanation, nothing. That only serves to further undermine the shaky confidence the people in this province have in our health care system in Ontario.
I think that this issue has to be addressed. It is impossible to believe that our system should force people to wait four, five or six months for needed surgery.
One of the other interesting things in the Joel Bondy case is that the day he was finally scheduled for surgery, it was cancelled again. It was cancelled again, as we found out later, because the Sick Children’s Hospital decided it would do a heart transplant on another child. The interesting thing about that is that the Sick Kids’ Hospital in Toronto is not authorized to do transplants. It is an unfunded program, and they are not authorized to do it.
I think that that points again to the serious difficulties we have in our health care system, where hospitals do not work together and that provides inefficiency, where doctors do not work together and that provides inefficiency. The result is that the patients in this province who need to access decent, good health care are not able to get it when they need it. The minister constantly refers to these problems, but she does nothing to the structure to change it.
One other area we feel very strongly about is that health service organizations and community health centres are a good, effective and efficient way of delivering health care in the province. We had one community health centre in the west end of Windsor, which the member for Windsor-Sandwich is very aware of, and you would think if it were the government’s policy to promote community health centres, it could be done a little more quickly than seven years from the time the proposal went in to the time that it came out of that huge bureaucracy in the Ministry of Health.
You would think that they would be excited by the fact that the Windsor and District Labour Council has put a proposal in for a health service organization based on a model that exists in Sault Ste Marie, which has been so successful and, from the reports and studies that have been done on it, has clearly resulted in a 25 per cent decrease in the number of people being institutionalized.
The focus of a health service organization is prevention. The focus of a fee-for-service system, which most of us rely on, is to get in to the doctor as often as possible, come back and get more tests and all of that. It generates cash for the system, whereas in a health service organization the motivation is completely different.
We have put in a proposal and we have been stalled. We cannot even get the money from the provincial government to carry out the necessary studies to show the interest and the type of HSO and the shape it should take. The Premier made a big deal when the study came out from the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy that it was going to move significantly in this direction. I think they had a $100-million pot that was going to promote community health centres and health service organizations.
My understanding is that something like $5 million of that has been spent -- the announcement was two years ago -- and we cannot even get $50,000 to do the necessary studies to pull together all the statistics to show the need and the effectiveness and efficiency that a health service organization would result in our community.
I think it is appropriate that we are cynical when the Minister of Health gets up and makes announcements, because her announcements are meaningless. She has now announced on cardiac care and the increased number of surgeries that were going to take place at Victoria Hospital in London and University Hospital. She has made that announcement five times in the last two years, starting in June 1988 when she made the original announcement to last week when she made the announcement again, or a week ago last Friday.
Nobody believes her. I do not believe her and the people in my community do not believe her, because she has made the announcement so many times and it has never been implemented. Why has it not been implemented? You cannot increase the amount of cardiac surgery when you have an acute shortage of critical care nurses in the province. The minister can promise that she is going to spend money and increase the capacity for the surgery all she wants, and it grabs her a headline in the Toronto Star and elsewhere, but it is meaningless. She cannot deliver on the promise because there are not the nurses to take the care of the patients after the surgery.
So it is deliberately misleading the people of this community and of this province -- the policy is. I would never accuse a minister of deliberately misleading, but the policy is deliberately misleading the people of this province.
When you announce something five or six or seven times, as this government does, it gives people the impression that you are on top of it. That is the bottom line of what this government is all about. They do not want to resolve problems; they want to give people the impression that they are on top of those problems. So there are lots of political strategies, but there is very little in the way of a strategy to come to grips with the problems. Whether it be economic problems or whether it be health care problems, the same thing applies. It is all a political game for this government. It is all a game of trying to convince people that they are dealing with the issue and they are not. It is all public relations and it is nothing of substance.
In the end, that will be the downfall of this government, because the people of this province, the voters of this province, are not stupid. They see through this government, the shine is off the government, and we in this party look forward to going on the campaign trail and fighting --
Mr Kerrio: I don’t believe that.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Well, just wait. This is going to be 1985 all over again. Those guys have managed to become as complacent and arrogant as the Tories did after 42 years, and they have done it in five years. The people of this province will make them pay the price. In my community right now there is one New Democrat out of five seats. I guarantee in the next election we will hold all three Windsor seats and we will hold the Essex-Kent riding as well, because the people of my community are fed up with the lies they are getting from the Liberal government.
Mr Ballinger: Mr Speaker, I think you were correct in your assumption that the member for Windsor-Riverside was being just a tad provocative in here today. I want to respond, as a proud Liberal member for the riding of Durham-York, that I do not mind sitting in here and listening to the opposition. I understand their role. Our role is to propose and their role is to oppose.
But quite frankly, for the member for the riding of Windsor-Riverside to stand up and try to convince the people on this side and the people in the gallery and the people at home: “Me, look at me, I’m NDP. I don’t take any money from home builders. I don’t take any money from developers. I wouldn’t even think about taking money from insurance agents or insurance companies. I’m in nobody’s pocket. Nobody rents me. Nobody rents the member for Windsor-Riverside.”
I want to say that is the biggest joke I have heard in this Legislature in the two and a half years I have been here. If there is any one party that is in somebody’s pocket, it is his party. Any time I see any union or any labour group sitting up there, what do I see? He wants to talk about trained seals. They are all a bunch of trained seals over there. They cannot jump up and down quickly enough to support whatever union wants with any specific policy. For the member for Windsor-Riverside to accuse us, as Liberals, of being insensitive to the people of Ontario is another big joke. He cannot stand over there and tell me that the people in Ontario are not better cared for in 1990 than they were pre-1985.
My closing comment is, if the member is so frustrated in his riding and his constituents are so frustrated, then I think he should do the honourable thing and resign.
Mr Laughren: Speaking of members who are a tad provocative, the member from Durham-York provoked me, because I certainly had no intention of getting involved in this debate.
I wanted to rise in my place to endorse everything the member for Windsor-Riverside said and to just reinforce this party’s commitment to working men and women all across this province. If there is one thing I am the proudest of in representing my party, New Democrats all across this province, it is our affiliation with labour in this province. I can think of nothing that gives me greater pride than to have a very close working relationship with working men and women all across Ontario.
I want to tell members something. We just went through an exercise called Bill 208, public hearings on Bill 208, and all of us saw what happened. A particular version of Bill 208, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act, was proposed by a minister of the crown. Another minister of the crown, representing industry and trade, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, objected to that because he said, “My friends the Liberal friends in the business sector don’t like this bill.”
So what happened? The Premier yanks that minister, casts him aside, puts in a new minister who brings in a new bill that satisfies the demands of industry in the province of Ontario.
Who was left then to defend working men and women who put their lives on the line every day on the job other than the New Democratic Party? The Liberal Party sold it out, plain and simple, to the industrial interests in the province of Ontario.
Hon Mr Wrye: I rise just to make a couple of comments on the comments of my friend the member for Windsor-Riverside. I want to put on the record very, very clearly that this government has been moving forward for the last nearly five years in terms of its commitment to the community I am proud to represent -- and I had assumed, until I heard the bleating and the whining and the complaining of the member for Windsor-Riverside, that he was proud to represent it too. It is a community that is moving forward into the 1990s with a vision of the kind of community that we can be, rather than the kind of negative carping that has so featured in the career of the member for Windsor-Riverside.
I can say to my friend the member for Windsor-Riverside, whenever the Premier decides, this year, next year or any other time, that we will have an election campaign, I will let the people decide who will win in the ridings of Windsor-Sandwich, Windsor-Walkerville, Windsor-Riverside, Essex-Kent and Essex South and not, as does the arrogant member for Windsor-Riverside, simply declare the election over before it begins.
We are moving forward in terms of the hospital. The member calls it the walkway to nowhere. It will be a walkway to an empty spot until it is filled by a hospital. But surely that member knows that the hospital functional program is coming forward; surely that member knows that the long-term care committee will meet two minutes from now to discuss the report on the recommended number of beds; surely that member knows that the site preparation work is under way, and surely that member forgot, as he often does, to acknowledge that we are making progress with the hospital and that very, very soon we will have those people into a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility in Windsor.
Mr Kormos: I really was going to let the comments of my good friend the member for Windsor-Riverside stand on their own, and indeed they do stand on their own. But I have got to tell the members this: I listen to the members from the other side of this House, the Liberal members, as they are now sitting there like illustrations from a Kurt Vonnegut Jr novel -- now, that is a little bit of trivia because there is only one illustration that has ever been in a Kurt Vonnegut Jr novel; I leave it for members to find out what it is -- talking about whose hand is in whose pocket.
Come on now. We are looking at a party and a government that have got an incredible legacy. How much? It was $100,000 and change from the auto insurance industry in the last general election. And who are they selling out the drivers and victims of Ontario for? They are selling them out for that mere $100,000 and change. We are talking about a party of Patti Starr, a party that was not ashamed to take the money. There were no concerns about the fact that they took the money, because there were piles of them who had their hands outstretched ready to cash those cheques, deposit them and spend those bucks. The only thing that upset them is they got caught.
So we are talking about a party that is not afraid to take money; it is a party that, rightly so, is afraid to get caught. As well, it is a party of broken promises. The problem I have is that I can call them broken promises, and I am prepared to be somewhat charitable in that regard, but I tell members that people in Welland, people in Thorold, people across Ontario are saying they are lies. They are saying that when the Premier of Ontario said he had a specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums, he lied, lied like a rug, lied purposely, lied to win an election.
We are talking about a party that will take funds from Patti Starr; we are talking about a party that will lie as well to win elections.
An hon member: Rule him out.
The Acting Speaker: Order. The honourable member for Welland-Thorold is so close to bordering on making life so difficult for me.
Mr Kormos: Interesting, Mr Speaker. You call it difficult; I call it interesting.
The Acting Speaker: I think in your last few comments you were almost bordering on indicating -- do I have a comment from the honourable member for Welland-Thorold?
Mr Kormos: Was it the Kurt Vonnegut Jr novel that upset you?
The Acting Speaker: It was referring to the Premier as being a liar.
Mr Kormos: I have never said that, that I can recall. But I am telling you that people across Ontario, when I meet with them, are telling me that he lied.
Hon Mr Wrye: Maybe he would like to withdraw it.
The Acting Speaker: Come on. They did not refer to him as a liar.
Mr Kormos: I would never in this House refer to the Premier as a liar at this point in time.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you.
Summation, the honourable member for Windsor-Riverside.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I can tell you are a lawyer, Mr Speaker.
This is not a summation; this is a response.
One example that demonstrates how this party, the government party, has been able to shift things: When I was first elected there used to be about $90,000 a year that went from the nursing home owners to the Conservative Party, usually to the Minister of Health’s riding. And it could be traced. Every time the Tories would change the Minister of Health, the money would then end up in another riding.
What happened in 1985? The government changed. The nursing home industry no longer donated to my friends in the Conservative Party. Their money all shifted to the Liberals. We had all sorts of major reforms that we passed in the nursing home law. The Nursing Homes Act was changed in 1985 and 1986, but financial disclosure, one of the major aspects of the bill, has never been implemented by this government. I would not want to question the motives of the party in power, but I think it is clear it did not implement that section because the nursing home industry did not want it to and bought it off with about $90,000 a year. It is not hard to do when you are up for rent like the Liberal party is.
I would like to respond very briefly to the member for Windsor-Sandwich. He made the commitment that the hospital was going to be built in 1985. He is the one who said there would be a sod-turning by the end of 1985. He should not call me a negative person, because he is the one who made the commitment and he could not deliver on it. It is five years later and there still has not been a sod-turning. He is the one who should be resigning. If there is anything to do with integrity, then a promise of that importance to our community, then he should say: “I didn’t tell the truth. It can’t be done. I pay the price. I quit.” But integrity is not one of the outstanding qualities of the Liberal Party.
Mr McLean: I want to take the opportunity to speak with regard to 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.”
I was a little disappointed yesterday when the Treasurer came into this Legislature and indicated that he wanted this passed within a few days. I think it is very unacceptable for the Treasurer of this province to bring in interim supply of over $8.4 billion and want us to vote on it immediately. Why did he not bring it in last week? I think it is very unacceptable. Not only that, but the Treasurer is not even here today listening to this great debate, although he has sent his handicapped parliamentary assistant here.
I would like to preface my remarks on the Treasurer’s resolution with a few interesting facts that the people of Ontario may not be aware of.
The Liberal government means big government. The Ontario public service has grown by 11.7 per cent since 1985, from 81,429 public servants in 1985 to 91,024 today.
In 1985 the Liberal government imposed a temporary three per cent surcharge on Ontario basic income tax of $5,000 or more, and that temporary surcharge continues to this day.
Since assuming office, the present government has imposed an 86 per cent real increase in the tax bill, assessed directly to every Ontarian. This year, the per capita debt for every man, woman and child in this province has increased to $4,159 from approximately $2,300 in 1985.
The comparative tax advantage which Ontario corporations enjoyed over Quebec corporations in 1985 stood at 9.6 per cent. In 1989, Ontario corporations held a comparative tax advantage over Quebec corporations of just 1.8 per cent. These are some of the questions my leader was asking the Premier about today. For individuals in Ontario, the tax advantage held over their Quebec counterparts stood at 10.5 per cent in 1985. It was trimmed to just two per cent by 1989.
This government has implemented or increased 32 taxes since 1985, and the average Ontario resident has paid 10 per cent more in taxes every year since 1985, the year the present government gained power.
I want to say to the former Minister of Natural Resources, who is in the Legislature here today, that when he put on the $10 fee for the hunters and anglers of this province it was supposed to go back into stocking fish and back into enforcement. It did not happen; only a portion of it went. Then the new minister came along and increased what our United States visitors who come here pay for licences, by a big, substantial amount.
I just want to put some of those facts on the record before I address the Treasurer’s resolution to authorize the payments of salaries of civil servants and other necessary payments for the period beginning on 1 April of this year. I continue to have some very serious concerns with respect to the budgetary policies of this government, and those concerns continue to grow as we approach the time when the Treasurer will be bringing down another in the series of his budgets.
I would like to take this opportunity to focus my remarks on three areas of particular concern to me. Those areas include transfers to municipalities, our road system and the tourism and hospitality industry in the province of Ontario.
Last November, the Treasurer announced about $19 billion in capital and operating transfers to the major transfer payment agencies for the current year. According to the Treasurer, the transfers were to amount to more than 40 per cent of total provincial spending during the fiscal year. Assuming that expenditures expand at the annual average rate of the past three years, we would have expected the transfers to account for approximately 42.8 per cent of total expenditures of about $44,887,800,000 in fiscal 1990-91.
The average announced increase in the five major operating transfers was 8.3 per cent, the highest since this government came to power. While the transfer payment recipients received larger increases than in the previous year, the common complaint in response to the 1990 transfers has been that the increases are inadequate to ensure the continuation of existing services and deficit in relation to the types of cost increases transfer recipients are experiencing, frequently on account of provincially mandated policies and programs.
As far as I am concerned, the 1990 transfers raised two issues of concern to policymakers and administrators.
The first of these focuses on the continuing escalation in the cost of providing services in general and health care in particular. For instance, if the current ratio between hospital operating transfers and total budgetary spending by the Ministry of Health holds for the next fiscal year, we could expect, on the basis of the announced transfer, total Ministry of Health spending in fiscal 1990-91 to be about $15.6 billion. That amount would represent an increase of 12.1 per cent relative to this year’s budget plan, an increase in line with average changes in this account during the past decade.
Clearly, increases of that magnitude will be difficult to sustain in a slower-growth economy without incurring negative fiscal consequences or undercutting competing social and economic funding priorities. Unless this government moves to control service and program costs, especially in the health care and education and social service fields, funding pressures will increase and meeting these demands in a slower-growth economy will result in either more massive tax increases or the assumption of a new debt. I fear that the people will be hit with new or increased taxes or an increase in provincial debt unless the government develops some creative and innovative budgetary policies. We all know that increased taxes and an increased debt are not acceptable to the taxpayers of this province.
Our municipalities were looking for an increase in total transfers sufficient to match the rate of growth in their expenditures, the rate of inflation and the rate of growth in provincial revenues. What they got with the 1990-91 municipal transfer payments did not even come close to any of these. The 8.2 per cent allotted by the Treasurer is kind of a smokescreen, by the high growth in certain conditional grants, most important in social assistance, child care and sewer and infrastructure. Unconditional grants -- the grants our municipalities are supposed to use to meet their own priorities but now must pay for the implementation of more and more provincial programs -- were increased by a mere 4.8 per cent.
When the previous year’s flat-lining of the unconditional grant program is taken into account, this translates into an appalling 2.4 per cent increase per year over the last two years, falling far short of the 1990 projected rate of inflation of 5.3 per cent. The municipalities will never be able to catch up to meet the cost increases caused by inflation over the last three years. The unconditional grants formula is now completely out of step with increases in household growth across the province.
The government gives municipalities more and more to do but gives them less and less with which to do it. This government’s lack of assistance to municipalities gives them only two options: more tax increases at the municipal level for the Ontario citizen or reduced services. I think the citizens of our municipalities should be made aware that the blame for these tax increases and reduced services should be placed on the provincial government and not with their elected representatives at the municipal level of government.
With respect to our schools, the Minister of Education announced last year an 8.7 per cent increase in operating grants for 1990-91, for a total of $4.52 billion. This increase included funding for reduced class sizes, computers and learning materials and the kindergarten initiative, and $30 million to address the impact of the first year of the six-year phase-in of pooling. This sounds like a positive shot in the arm for education, but in reality it was below the increase the school boards required. School boards throughout Ontario estimated they actually needed 12 per cent, including six per cent for inflation, two per cent for enrolment growth, 0.5 per cent for pay equity, one per cent for the employer health tax, one per cent for pooling, 0.5 per cent for unemployment changes and one per cent for government initiatives.
If the costs of increased enrolment and government initiatives are factored out, the school boards are left with a 2.7 per cent base increase, which is far less than the 5.3 per cent expected rate of inflation. This represents another offloading on to the property taxpayers. The capital allocation was increased by $22 million, for a total of $332 million for 1990-91. This will not provide accommodation for the 20,000 students who are currently studying in more than 7,500 portables across the province.
With respect to health care, hospitals have maintained that they needed a 10.9 per cent increase just to stay even. The announced increase left them with a $150-million funding deficiency. There are fears that the 8.7 per cent increase for hospitals will result in fewer beds, less staff and no new programs, and this government’s policies are responsible for part of the cost increase the hospitals will have to cope with. The government’s pay equity program will cost the hospitals an additional $45 million. The new payroll tax will cost them an additional $60 million. Of the announced $500-million increase in operating funding, $336 million, or 67.2 per cent, will be eaten up by inflation. As for capital transfers, their value has to be assessed in light of the government failure to deliver on its $850-million, five-year capital program.
When we talk about that five-year capital program, I remember the day when the former Minister of Health came to the city of Orillia to announce a $30-million funding for the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. He told the community to go out and raise its share. The community has done that. And then the minister has done the same there as he has done in Windsor: he has reneged on the deal. There is still no sod-turning and there is still no program to put the addition to that hospital in place. It is over two years since that announcement was made and the people of that community responded in no uncertain terms and raised their money for the health care of that whole community.
As my party’s Tourism and Recreation critic, I would like to take a few moments to point out this government’s apparent lack of interest in Ontario’s tourism and hospitality industry. The government fails to realize this industry is an important part of Ontario’s economy. The government apparently does not know that this industry plays a major role in creating employment, capturing a large percentage of foreign visitors to Canada and, I might add, increased revenues for the Treasurer, which he is always eager to spend. The current Minister of Tourism and Recreation does not appear to carry his weight at the cabinet table and he appears to be not paying attention to his cabinet colleagues when they are developing or announcing new policies.
A case in point is the recent decision by the Minister of Natural Resources to increase the fishing licences for anglers from the US, our visitors. I am concerned this move will substantially reduce the number of US tourists who come to Canada each year to fish. The Minister of Natural Resources increased the fees for US anglers on four-day, 21-day, seasonal and seasonal spousal licences. For example, four-day licences were increased to $16.25 from $11 and 21-day licences jumped to $28.75 from $22.
The Minister of Tourism and Recreation should have pounced on these increases as soon as he heard they were being proposed. He knows they will have a detrimental effect on tourism from the US in general, and on events like the upcoming Orillia Perch Festival in particular, which draws over 7,000 people and some 5,000 people from the US. If members think it is fair to put this extra burden on these people who come there to sport-fish, then they are fooling themselves. They are not going to get away with it.
This perch festival, by the way, takes place in Orillia every spring. It runs from 21 April to 13 May. We are expecting more than 500 Americans to register for this annual family fishing derby. But there are some serious concerns that most will decide to stay home rather than pay the new increased fishing licence fee. This is just one example of the low priority this government places on tourism in the hospitality industry in Ontario.
I am worried that this government’s taxation policies and its decreasing interest in the tourism and hospitality industry are undermining the health and future of an industry that represents a new frontier of growth for Ontario. This government is undermining the growth by increasing its own administration programs, its spending, and slamming the tourist industry and hospitality industry with a long series of exorbitant taxes.
The tourism industry has been hit with the employer tax levy, increased personal income taxes and increased gas and fuel taxes. What about the recent tire tax? Then we find out today there is another tax that nobody has even had authority to tax. I will bet the Minister of Revenue got an earful when he got out in the lobby today. There are increased taxes on alcoholic beverages, the commercial concentration levy, increased municipal lot levies. This is just to name but a few.
Mr Haggerty: And you’re all happy with that one.
Mr McLean: They’re all happy with the taxes, the member is saying. The Liberal member says that everybody is happy with these increased taxes. I have to tell members that we looked at the $1.3-billion tax grab in 1987 and we looked at another $1-billion tax grab in 1988, and this is on top of all the other taxes that they have been taking in.
It is interesting. The Treasurer had a little note in the Orillia Sun the other day. He was rebutting what Diane Francis had said. All the minister talked about was how he balanced the budget. He talked about how he was going to have a surplus. But did members hear once where the Treasurer said that when he took office there was a $28-billion deficit and today it is way over a $40-billion deficit? As I said, $4,115 for every man, woman and child, and when he took office it was $2,300.
For him to write in the paper and talk about how he has balanced the budget and how he is going to have a surplus next year -- it is totally ridiculous that a man like that should be allowed to get away with that type of record.
This government should move immediately to broaden and intensify the advertising promotion efforts of both public and private sectors in tourism to maximize its business opportunities and its share of the market. Clearly, responsive and responsible public policies exert the greatest impact and influence on the fortunes of the tourism-hospitality industry, and that industry is looking to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation and his government to provide leadership, counsel and assistance. Unfortunately they are not providing that leadership nor the assistance.
Despite this government’s lack of interest in the tourism-hospitality industry, I am pleased to report that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Ontario, but that spirit can only survive and flourish as long as the industry can expect an appropriate level of co-operation and support from this government.
There are two constituents of mine, Mr and Mrs Penicud of Orillia. They recently wrote to me about a concern I have had with respect to the prizes awarded in Ontario’s numerous lotteries. In their letter, the Penicuds said: “No one needs to win $10 million or $13 million. A poor person would be elated to win even $50 or $100 or a couple of thousand dollars.” These people said, “More prizes in smaller amounts would spread the wealth around and help the disabled, help our seniors and working people meet their daily expenses.
These expenses could be quite a burden when you consider the 32 tax grabs that this government has hit the people with, and I agree with these people from my constituency. In fact I have always said, “Give 10 people $100,000 each rather than giving one person $1 million.” This would enable more people to pay off their mortgages, buy a new automobile or meet other necessary financial commitments. Now I understand that the Minister of Tourism and Recreation also wants to add the environment to the lottery moneys in Ontario.
I would like to take a few minutes to address the deteriorating road system in the province of Ontario. It was recently determined that the average price for a litre of regular unleaded gasoline is 53.4 cents. Of that amount, 11.3 cents goes to the Ontario government in the form of taxes. The most recent one-cent-per-litre tax increase is expected to pump another $297 million into the government s coffers over a period of one year and the Treasurer has generated more than $900 million through gasoline tax increases over the past three years.
The Treasurer always claims that revenues generated from gasoline taxes are used to build new roads or to make improvements to the existing ones, but I think it is quite clear to anyone who has travelled on Ontario’s roads and highways that this is simply not the case. This province’s road system is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Our road and highway system was once the envy of North America, but times are changing and our roads, since this government took power, have been continuously going downhill -- not even level but continuously going downhill.
It should be noted that there are 456 miles of roads in Simcoe county, and that includes 20 miles of Orillia’s suburban roads and 37 miles of Barrie’s suburban roads.
This government fails to realize that our road system in Ontario and its condition affects not only commercial traffic but also the tourism and hospitality industry. As well, well-maintained roads are crucial to commuters who drive to and from work each day. In outlying areas of this province, roads are the lifeline linking communities, families, businesses and emergency services. Here again there is an urgent need to maintain and improve the road network. For example, many of the existing two-lane highways should be upgraded to four, such as the road from Waubaushene to Sudbury.
It is clear to me that balanced priorities are essential. Traffic congestion cannot be allowed to restrict the lifeblood of our large cities and create urban decay as has happened in the United States. At the same time the transportation needs of people living in the more remote areas of this province must be met. Road deterioration demands government attention now, before the system is further compromised and the cost to repair it becomes astronomical.
The deteriorating condition of Ontario’s roads and highways lead many people, including myself, to believe that the government is not using gasoline tax revenues for road construction and maintenance as promised. If it is not being used for this purpose, just what is the money being used for? I have to tell members that there is more money taken in fuel tax, gasoline tax and licensing than the ministry spends in its whole budget. It is right in the Treasurer’s report. It is there. There is more revenue taken in gasoline tax, fuel tax and licensing than the whole ministry spends. This government must realize that Ontario’s roads and highways are too important to ignore in the future, as it has done for the past five years.
The Treasurer should have had this motion brought in over a week ago. There are many members in this Legislature who would like to have the opportunity to say a few words about the budgetary policies of this government, budgetary policies that we feel are detrimental to the taxpayers of this province.
You look at the increased taxes that each taxpayer is paying, the increased taxes that the government is causing them to put on -- the home tax. What has it done with regard to the farm tax rebate? It is not even mentioned in the brief that the Treasurer has been dealing with. What are they doing with that? This government is failing the people of this province with its high and excessive tax policies.
Mr Kormos: Last night I went down to Thorold and had the pleasure of being present at the annual general meeting of the Thorold Community Activities Group. It was the third time I have been able to be with them. It was their eighth annual meeting and they are as impressive as they ever were.
Why they are important is because of what they do for their community. We are talking about a group of volunteers that operates an incredible and impressive array of programs for young people and for adults: sports programs, preschool programs. Indeed their biggest project in the last year was the initiation of a nursery school program, which has grown to the point where they are beginning to look for a second location, I am told, and where they are operating it in such a way that, what with the anticipated support from the region for some subsidized spots for some youngsters, for some toddlers, they are going to be operating in the black.
These volunteers have not only provided their own time in terms of their own contribution, their own effort to the program, but as well their fund-raising efforts have generated enough funds so that there is an executive director and some four other staff working in the various programs. Stephen Boal was the president for the past two years. He has been replaced this year by one Michael Charron.
These are all people from a small town that is very proud of what it has to offer its residents, a small town that is growing, as many others are in the Niagara Peninsula, but a town that does for itself what the city government simply cannot afford to do and what is simply not available from other services.
Quite frankly, were it not for the Thorold Community Activities Group and their not just hundreds but thousands of hours of volunteer contribution, these programs simply would not exist. If it were not for the fund-raising efforts of these same volunteers, these staff -- Garth Hollett, the executive director, and the other staff -- simply would not be there.
That is why I speak of this at this particular point, because communities like Thorold, like Welland, have to rely upon their own resources to develop programs that perhaps in some other communities people do not even expect and in some others, perhaps because of the affluence of the community, people take for granted.
You have groups like the Thorold Community Activities Group, which works hard, depending upon the labour and contribution of volunteers to make programs successful. You have groups in Welland like the Welland Heritage Council and the multicultural centre that co-ordinate a number of groups, a number of ethnic groups and groups of new Canadians, that again work hard developing programs and are the beneficiaries, and grateful beneficiaries, of provincial grants -- no two ways about it -- and the beneficiaries of federal grants, and on the rare occasion the beneficiaries of some municipal moneys.
But were it not for the volunteer activity and the volunteer fund-raising, the programs they have simply could not be sustained on what they get from the federal government or the provincial government or the municipal government alone.
Quite frankly, Welland, like Thorold, is very much in a position where its tax base has been utilized to its fullest, to the point where, from the point of view of ratepayers in those communities, there is simply no more water in the well. Property owners in those communities, householders, feel that they have been squeezed in terms of taxation for every last penny that could ever be gleaned from them.
Groups like the Welland Heritage Council and others, in the course of their fund-raising, rely upon social activities. One of the things they rely upon is the operation of events that are both fund-raising and social for their own membership, for their own boards, for their own volunteers and friends and neighbours, and one of the things they have discovered is that the government, rather than encouraging these types of activities, has simply made them all that much more difficult.
How has that happened? In some simple but devious ways. In the most recent past these groups have discovered that the fees for special occasion permits, licences for halls when they operate events, have been increased so that they are no longer able to pay graduated amounts depending upon the number of people present or the amount of beverages provided, but rather they are flat rates now, $60 or $100, one or the other. Again, fine; were these all on a large enough scale to warrant those fees, nobody would be uncomfortable.
As recently as the recent past, the Ukrainian labour temple, operating a social event, had so little in the way of beverages being consumed that it suffered a net loss, the fee being $100. Contrast that with their traditional fee, where there was a range of fees from $26 to $44 to $53 to $70, depending upon the amount of beverages consumed or sold at that particular event.
It accommodated these small neighbourhood groups; it accommodated these small clubs and organizations that had something in common. They were senior citizen’s organizations, ethnic clubs or groups like the Thorold Community Activities Group which did these things so that they could sustain activities in their respective community. The sad thing is that these groups are suffering now, perhaps because the hotel and motel association lobby was sufficiently powerful, as it has been doing over the years, trying to influence both this government and the one that preceded it to up the ante on special occasion permits.
The hotel and motel association said, “Quite frankly, we do not like special occasion permits at all; we find them somewhat intrusive on our members’ activities.” Interestingly, the previous government did not acquiesce to that, and this government in its early days did not acquiesce to that, but now, with this majority, it succumbs to the pressure on it from the hotel and motel association. It puts groups like the Welland Heritage Council and all of its member organizations, groups like the Thorold Community Activities Group, in the most difficult position of having to curtail some of their own fund-raising activities.
None of these organizations would particularly mind if the same moneys were available to them from other sources, but they do not expect the provincial government to fund them. They do not expect the federal government to fund them fully. They, quite frankly, know that the municipal government cannot fund them because municipalities have exhausted all of their sources of revenue as it is and there simply is not any more water in the well.
This afternoon, I want to applaud Stephen Boat, Michael Charron, Garth Hollett, the executive director, and all the others involved in the Thorold Community Activities Group. I want to congratulate Yvette Ward and the Welland Heritage Council for their work in the city of Welland. At the same time, I want to remind the government that these people in small communities like Welland and Thorold work hard developing the programs that they do. Indeed, these programs are successful because of the volunteer contribution, and this government should be doing things to encourage and support and sustain that, not doing things like upping the ante for special occasion permits so that it creates even more hurdles for these people to have to overcome and jump, so that it makes some of their programs unprofitable, so that it creates, as an inevitability, the shutdown of some of these programs, clubs and organizations that are so valuable to people in Welland and Thorold.
This government has on so many occasions touted itself as saying, “But we are open, we listen, we are responsive, we consult.” These organizations feel that they have not been consulted when it came to upping the ante for special occasion permits so that their activities would become unprofitable or impossible and they quite frankly resent that. They know that the contribution they make to their communities is so significant now as it is, and they feel deserted by their provincial government. They feel that the provincial government, rather than making things easier, is making things harder. So I ask through you, Mr Speaker, for this government to recognize the contribution of groups like the Thorold Community Activities Group, people like Yvette Ward and the Welland Heritage Council, and to please make things easier, not more difficult.
Mr Villeneuve: I too am pleased to participate in this debate on interim supply. I will be touching on a number of subjects that affect the province generally and also my riding in particular.
I believe the cutbacks in Agriculture and Food have to be addressed, and I am glad to see the minister is here. The St Lawrence Parks Commission has recently announced the closure of five parks in the St Lawrence system and I think we have to address that one. On Highway 16 we have had some very unfortunate accidents and some fatalities, and certainly I do not think 1998 is acceptable, as announced last fall by the former Minister of Transportation, and I think we have to look at that.
A subject that was touched on today and that I will touch on again is courtroom security and how it affects some of our small municipal towns, for example Kemptville and Alexandria. I know the city of Cornwall had quite a controversy on it. So we will be touching on those, along with some other subjects.
It is always interesting when the Liberal government of Ontario speaks of the cutback by the federal government in transfer payments when indeed there was an increase -- not a large increase, but a 2.1 per cent increase. This is the same government that had no hesitation in flat-lining the funding for municipalities a year ago; no hesitation whatever. They attempt to convey to the public of Ontario that there has been a cutback in funding, in transfer payments from the federal government, when indeed there was an increase of slightly more than two per cent. So that has to be straightened up just a little bit.
In agriculture and food, one of the very basic industries of this province, one of the reasons why this province is a leader -- a leader in other areas than agriculture, but certainly a leader in agriculture and food -- is that in 1985 the total money to be disbursed by the then government was somewhere in the area of $28 billion. In the present fiscal year we are now at in excess of $42 billion.
The anticipated budget for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is $491 million, or just slightly more than one per cent of the entire income of the province of Ontario. This is following at least 32 different tax increases and an increase of some $14 billion in amounts of money that the province of Ontario has received from the taxpayers. So certainly Agriculture and Food is not one of the prime targets for support by this government. I would even dare suggest that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food has been relegated to the back burner altogether in the order of priority at the cabinet level.
The Ontario Farm-Start program, which replaced the beginning farmer assistance program, was initiated by the government of the Premier when it was elected on 10 September 1987. The Farm-Start program started on 1 January and, would members believe, by June that year had run out of funds. In less than six months it had run out of funds. So the window was open for a very short time. We had a number of potential new farmers who qualified for the program at that time.
I have had some rather sad experiences. People have come to me and explained what happened to them. One example: In order to qualify, a beginning farmer had readjusted his income tax statement for the three previous years. He had taken some very legitimate deductions and settled his income tax. He readjusted in order to qualify for the new farm-start program. After he made all of these financial gymnastics through the Department of National Revenue, the taxation people in Ottawa, lo and behold, he was refused under the Farm-Start program.
Here we have one example of a potential farmer who went through all of the gymnastics that were being required by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and he still did not qualify as a beginning farmer under the Farm-Start program. A rather sad situation and I have several others that I could speak of, but time will not permit today. That is the kind of service or lack thereof that is being provided by this very bureaucratic government.
On the previous beginning farmers program, what is commonly known as beginning farmer assistance program, the government of Ontario saw fit to cancel the last two years of that program which had been initiated and that the farmers were banking on. So we have a situation where the beginning farmer assistance program, which was the previous Conservative government’s program, was cut short. After having been promised that there would be two additional years, it was cut short and will terminate at the end of 1990.
These are some of the so-called big bonuses. I hear some Liberal members crossing the province of Ontario telling our farmers how great a job they have done for agriculture. The farmers are now not only catching on, but they are accepting that indeed this is not correct information. It is exactly in the opposite direction.
When we look at the St Lawrence Parks Commission, we recently had an announcement by the St Lawrence Parks Commission stating that five of our prime park waterfront lands will not operate any longer under the St Lawrence Parks Commission. They are Morrison and Brown’s Bay campground, Charlottenburgh, Farran, and Grenville parks.
I have had occasion to speak to a number of people who were involved directly as either employees or campers. There is a great deal of concern when we close down five prime waterfront properties that were being used, maybe not to their maximum -- and the jury is still out on the method of assessing the occupancy of these parks; the jury is still out on that. It will be interesting when we have some checks and balances as to just how well-filled these parks were. I can assure you that in the case of Grenville Park for sure, many, many weekends in particular we had campers in the overflow area or doubling up on sites in order to accommodate everyone. That is one of the ones that will no longer be operated by the St Lawrence Parks Commission.
On the way to Toronto early Monday morning I heard over a local radio station in eastern Ontario that the parks are for sale. I hope that is a mistake and I hope it was a wrong interpretation because if indeed the government of Ontario or the St Lawrence Parks Commission is offering some of this prime, publicly owned waterfront property for sale, I can assure members I will do whatever I can to prevent this particular situation from occurring.
In the case of Highway 16, in my former incarnation prior to politics I was a real estate appraiser, among other things. The interesting thing about Highway 16 is that the expropriation of the right of way was all done in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is the main artery leading from New York state direct to the nation’s capital. It is a highway that was repaved in 1989 and was in very bad need of resurfacing, but we have had some more fatalities recently. One lane is already there; we are simply having to look at putting in the second lane to make it a four-lane road from the Johnstown bridge at the southern extremity of Highway 16 to the nation’s capital.
I cannot accept that this government’s schedule is for completion in 1998. They made a big to-do about the fact that it was supposed to be completed in about the year 2000, and they have shortened it by two years. I find it unacceptable and I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that we will have considerable fatalities on that road, not only this year but in the total time that it takes prior to having it turned into a four-lane highway.
There is a group in the Ottawa area and in the area of Highway 16 -- 416 -- known as Pave the Dream. They have the right idea, and certainly I am in full support that Highway 416 be completed much sooner than anticipated. I can even say, and this is true to form of this government, that when the leader of the Liberal Party went to Ottawa prior to the 1985 election, he had Highway 416 scheduled for completion in 1994. Of course, he told the Ottawa people that the Queensway would also be completed in 1987 and it is barely complete now. As a matter of fact, there is still construction going on the Queensway, which crosses the nation’s capital. But to have Highway 16 as the main and only major route from the Johnstown international bridge is not good enough. We have to look at Highway 416, and I urge this government to look at its priorities again. I see the Minister of Transportation here with us today, and I urge him to have a second look.
Courtroom security in small communities, which I am very proud to represent quite a number of, creates quite a financial burden, and the Attorney General today, after some urging by yours truly, mentioned that, yes, there was a problem in the community of Alexandria with courtroom policing or security and, yes, the courthouse was closed for quite a period of time after the announcement was made by this government, by the Attorney General, that the responsibility for policing would be entirely left to the municipality in which the courthouse was situated.
It was not a fair assessment at all. Some funding was prior to the change of the legislation, provided through unconditional grants, and then it became a per household, annual, added income to the municipalities, but in no way, shape or form is it sufficient to cover the entire cost of courtroom security. So small municipalities such as Kemptville and Alexandria which happen to have the courthouse situated in their town are effectively carrying the cost for all of the surrounding rural and other municipalities, just because they happen to be burdened, if you will, with the location of the courthouse facilities.
The environment, I think, is going to be a very major issue. I have on many occasions urged this government and the involved and implicated ministries to look at a replacement for MMT, which is at present the octane enhancer, which is a known carcinogen. It is a known cancer-causing agent, and somehow or other this government has completely and totally ignored it.
For example, MMT is totally banned, entirely, across the United States, and in so doing, it reduces both carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide from automobile emissions very considerably. I think the ministries involved, and there would probably be about five ministries involved, must look at this situation and must take remedial action now to protect the environment.
When the Minister of the Environment suggests through the summer months that because of high pollution count he may even be considering the restriction of driving private motor vehicles to downtown Toronto, I say, prior to encroaching into that area and limiting the numbers of cars in downtown Toronto, we should at least be looking at cleaning up the fuel that is used in these cars. We have the technology. It is economically viable. All we need is a bit of leadership from this government.
There is another area of concern, and it is in eastern Ontario and in the major city close to the area that I represent, the city of Cornwall. There are two different groups working towards, or working against, the construction of the pool. The aquatic centre in Cornwall is a very controversial issue. The problem we have is that there has been no leadership from this government as to whether it will be funding any portion of this project, whether it approves or disapproves of it. We have the community torn apart trying to decide, do we or do we not build an $8-million-plus aquatic centre? If we decide to go, where does the government of Ontario stand in providing some financial support?
I urge the Premier and the Minister of Tourism and Recreation to look at the Cornwall situation and guide it, give it some guidance. If the government is going to provide some financial assistance, it should tell them and then they will know, the council will know.
Those other people who, for whatever reasons, are going in the other direction on the pool will also know where and what the financial requirements and commitments will be for the taxpayers of the city of Cornwall if they go with an $8-million aquatic centre or with a $4-million aquatic centre. For goodness’ sake, they should provide them with some leadership on where this government stands on the issue.
As far as the employer health tax is concerned, many of the small businesses in rural eastern Ontario are very concerned about the added cost of doing business. The report commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Report of the Food Industry Advisory Committee, has some interesting observations. I will only touch on a few of them right on the front page: “The Food Processing Development Strategy.” There are a couple of concerns that read as follows:
“Competitively priced raw products: that is, the ability of Ontario processors to procure raw products at prices similar to those firms with whom they compete.”
Second, “A conducive business climate:” -- and the employer health tax, among many of the other taxes increased by this government, is being addressed in this statement -- “industry’s perception is that there has been a series of legislative initiatives imposing new costs” on business. “Cumulatively, they make Ontario less attractive for long-term business investments.”
That is what we are talking about in interim supply, the economic atmosphere that we have at present here in the province of Ontario. We have investors being nervous. We have people who are in business finding it difficult to compete. It seems that every year when the Treasurer comes out with a new budget, these people are faced with an additional tax, so I think we have to look at it in the right light and say, “We must remain competitive.” Ontario must compete on the world stage, and we have.
Today, a number of the speakers have spoken of the competitive advantage that we have had, a 10 per cent advantage over our neighbours in the province of Quebec. That 10 per cent is now down to no advantage, and I am afraid if we face many additional taxes at this provincial level, the competitive edge will be negative against the province of Ontario. That makes me very concerned.
But my first concern, and I go back to what I discussed initially, is the cutbacks to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the support for our struggling agricultural community. The farm tax rebate was initiated by the previous government to provide equity in the system to agriculture because farm land was being taxed for school purposes. That was not right and it was not fair.
It was $95 million back in 1985 but because of the lack of support for school boards and municipalities, it got to be $167 million in 1988. The Treasurer thought that was too high and he chopped it down to $140 million and used all sorts of means tests to see if a farmer qualified, off-farm income and a number of other things.
That particular farm tax rebate was to provide equity to Ontario’s agricultural industry because of the way the school financing was done. Farmers are being made to feel guilty because they get a farm tax rebate, and that is not right. It is not fair and it is not just. It was put in to bring equity to the agricultural community.
The Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program was not renewed. They let it run out. Why? I do not know. We are facing the highest interest rates right now that we have in the last nine years, and still this government has done nothing.
The government talks about the land stewardship program. Someone should go try to apply to the land stewardship program: “No money, I am sorry. It is a good program; no money.”
This is the kind of situation we have. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has lost $100 million in the last three years of money that was targeted and budgeted to go to our agricultural industry. It is not getting it, and we are faced with reducing amounts, reducing the agricultural engineers, as I questioned the minister today.
So it is reduce, reduce, reduce when it comes to agriculture; every other ministry is up, up, up. Agriculture does not count with this government, and the Liberals will pay the cost in the long run.
Mr Pouliot: I welcome the opportunity to share only a few brief moments regarding interim supply. It gives individual members a chance to talk about individual or parochial matters in their respective ridings. Knowing the size, and I know you know it very well --
Mr Sterling: How big is your riding?
Mr Pouliot: A riding with 114,000 square miles.
In the few minutes that are left on the clock before we adjourn debate, I know, judging by the reaction -- and I am not appalled this afternoon but I am pleasantly surprised at the interest regarding the very fine people of Lake Nipigon and the contribution they make to southern Ontario with their excess dollars, with their natural resources, with their sons and daughters and, sometimes, as a grand finale, due to the lack of incentives and recognition up north, exporting themselves.
I want to touch briefly on the state of siege under which many people in northern Ontario presently find themselves. They are victimized with that condition on account of the unfairness of the tax system which over the past few years, more specifically again, has put the people under a state of siege.
Many of our municipalities up north depend on unconditional grants because we do not have industrial and/or commercial assessment to the same magnitude or the same level as is experienced in southern Ontario. We do not see it as a handout but we see it as justice being recognized or being made. Well, those grants were frozen.
Yet the rate of inflation, as members are well aware, kept rising. That evil, that demon, went up by five per cent, 5.5 per cent, sapping our resources over the last couple of years. Out of every litre that we must consume -- for owning a car in the riding of Lake Nipigon is a necessity, not a luxury. Yet when we go to the pump to gas up, we are bumped, we are robbed, when 11.3 cents out of every litre is imposed on us by the provincial Treasurer. The rate of Hydro -- it was not too long ago; in fact, I remember vividly for it was last week, last Monday when Robert Franklin, the chairperson of Ontario Hydro, right here down University Avenue, announced that --
Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, with high respect, I for one take a great deal of pride in not interjecting when other members have the floor.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Pouliot: I for one have read the standing order; I for one am most familiar with article 20(b).
I certainly am appalled when we are talking about a proposed increase of 12 per cent, which will indeed have a devastating effect on our ability to cope with the future. In some cases, because of climatic condition, because of the rate structure in rural municipalities, the people in the riding of Lake Nipigon often pay twice as much for that essential service for electricity as our southern counterparts do.
We are talking about a state of siege. Our unconditional grants are frozen. We are talking about a state of siege being perpetuated because of our lack of ability to cope with the price of provincial taxes being charged for every litre of gasoline at the pump. We are talking about a state of siege because of the exorbitant gouging by jackals at Ontario Hydro whose appetite seems to be nothing short of insatiable. We are talking about fairness as well. We -- collectively members of northern Ontario, individually when we refer to our respective ridings -- never hesitate to give justice when justice is becoming, when justice is due.
By the same token, with the same sincerity at our command, Mr Speaker, you have seen us on our feet time and time again, reminding the Treasurer that on the afternoon of 19 February, a mere day before the last federal budget, the Treasurer of Ontario had a press conference, summoned people from the media and advised them of the following: that for the first time in two decades, in 20 years, the province of Ontario finally had not a balanced budget, but a small surplus. A budget of some $42 billion in expenditures, the largest in the Dominion, in this country, was finally being balanced by revenues exceeding $42 billion. In fact, he had a small surplus. Somebody cooked the books.
But it was very short-lived, for the same Treasurer, with a great deal of pomp, with a great deal of fanfare, announced that the province of Ontario, one more time, had an $11-million surplus. A twist of fate indeed, more than a coincidence; sorcery, an act of sorcery. So when the next day the federal Minister of Finance in Ottawa, Michael Wilson, pulled one of the oldest tricks in the world and indulged in buck passing, the Treasurer, 14 hours later, found himself behind the proverbial eight ball. He was $500 million in the hole.
What will the Treasurer do? This is the focus, this is how he is going to penetrate and hurt the people of the north more than anyone else, for we are the least immune. He is going to cut services, and then he is going to pass the buck to the municipalities. He has done it before.
Miss Martel: No, never.
Mr Pouliot: No? One second. In the mid-1970s the province of Ontario, the government of the day, used to pay 60 per cent of educational costs in Ontario. In 1990 the government of Ontario pays 42.7 per cent of educational costs in the province of Ontario. Where does the difference come from between 60 per cent and 42.7 per cent? It comes from the left and the right pockets of ordinary taxpayers.
I have reminded the Treasurer more than once, Mr Speaker, through you, that five years ago 43 per cent of people in Ontario were considered to be middle-class people. You know what I am talking about: the people who pay for everyone else, who pay for the more fortunate in our society, who pay for the less fortunate in our society, the people who are alone, who are lonely, who do not have the resources to go to the marketplace and need to be subsidized.
We, as a civilized society, cannot afford to be without a social conscience. Yet the people who are very rich, the people who have more, who have been lucky, have been blessed cannot afford, it seems, to have a conscience. Consequently, the middle class, the 43 per cent five years ago, has shrunk to 39 per cent, and 80 per cent of those people from 43 per cent to 39 per cent went on the coattails of the working poor while only 20 per cent, and that only for the time being, escaped on the fringe of the more fortunate.
We in Lake Nipigon often talk about roads. We talked about the road system. It is a riding of 114,000 square miles. One of the members paid me the compliment and asked with courtesy, “How big is the riding of Lake Nipigon?” It is simple. It is the size of Germany. It is the province of New Brunswick, the province of Prince Edward Island and the province of Nova Scotia. Put them together and multiply by two.
We need to four-lane part of the Trans-Canada Highway. We are not asking, because of the magnitude of the project and because of the tremendous costs that are attached to it, that it be done overnight. But we are asking simply that a timetable be established. If we had a four-lane highway, it would go some way, a long way to helping us promote tourism. It would be an important component of economic development, not only because it would provide work but it would literally put us on the map. People would become aware. It would rectify what is a safety hazard because of the climatic condition that we have to experience, because of the severe climatic condition. We hope that the government is listening.
I have talked about Ontario Hydro. Would it not be nice if we were to use Ontario Hydro, an essential necessity, as a tool for economic development, as a component for economic prosperity? People would be encouraged during a period of surplus capacity, when the system is overcapacitated, to make a deal and tell consumers as well that, “We will help you stay alive here by having a fair deal.” As is, it proves to be a consequential deterrent where we have problems making ends meet because we are being gouged by utility companies.
One more time, I plead with Treasurer to lessen the burden of the tax on gasoline, again a daily necessity in the north. Why does the Treasurer not simply say, and he can do so with the stroke of a pen: “Look, there is 10, 15 cents difference for each litre that must be purchased at the pump between the north and the south. Why don’t we take one or two pennies each year?” It will encourage people. It does not mean that much. The government has a budget of $42 billion. There are not that many people up north, but it will benefit them individually. It will benefit their environment. It will give them a chance to believe. It will give them a chance to grow.
Those are positive alternatives, alternatives that have been tried, placed elsewhere, and alternatives that have worked. Again, that is all we are asking for. We are not asking for any more than that. Our population is decreasing. We choose to be there but we need land banks. We need some portions of the north to be put aside for economic development. Our grievances are not always based on particular pieces of legislation that are very controversial and, heaven knows, emotional.
Many communities in the north will do almost anything to get the attention of the government. They do not feel that they are being listened to; they do not feel that they count. They have 15 seats out of 130 and with the population shift, as they look to the future, they say:
“Look, we don’t have that much clout as it is. We have 90 per cent of the territory, but we only have less than 10 per cent of the seats, and decreasing, especially vis-à-vis the rapidly growing greater Toronto area, all of southern Ontario really. So as the years roll by, maybe we will still have 15 seats and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario will have grown to 140 or 150 seats to give representation, rightly so, to Ontario citizens. Then our clout will be lessened.”
Then we up there will be asked:
“Where are we going? What are we going to do next year? What about the year after? Are they really listening, or do they fly from Toronto to Thunder Bay, shake hands, go into a bear pit session, say a few platitudes with little or no planning and, ‘See you next year, folks,’ or ‘We might see you this summer because the fishing is good there and it is still good’?”
I do not want to take too much time. I will have more opportunities to bring greetings from the people of the north, for they, on average, listen more than anyone else in the province to what takes place in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. They are very much aware of legislation, for a lot of the legislation that is passed here affects them directly. There is no ricochet. They bear the legislation up front.
What I am saying is that it is becoming more and more difficult. There is a saturation point where we cannot, collectively or individually, be asked to pay more in terms of taxes. It is really starting to hurt. In fact, it has been said that all the components are there for a revolt. Strong words; a tax revolt, that is, of course. If the Treasurer of Ontario either imposes it in his next budget or passes the buck to municipalities, thereby punishing the taxpayers at the residential level, the people will go up the proverbial wall. There is very little chance to grow.
Again, I wish to convey the greetings more specifically today of the people of Lake Nipigon. We are very proud. We have a lot to be thankful for. I remember, and I want to leave members with this, that 25 years ago when I moved to Manitouwadge, as I looked around, people did not have much. We all came from someplace else. It was a new community, not unlike many of our neighbouring communities up north. But we had so much to be thankful for and to look forward to. Today, as I look around the same community and the neighbouring communities, people have more but I am not so sure they have as much to look forward to as we did then.
Mr Wiseman: I am pleased to have an opportunity for a few minutes to tell the government what I think is wrong in my own riding, as I see it, with the way it is spending the money of this province.
In environment, I hosted in Lanark, in the county offices, a meeting last year where we had some 30 or 40 municipalities represented that were having water and sewer problems. A few of those have been partially addressed, but the two I would like to mention today are in my own riding, and those are Smiths Falls and Carleton Place. They have cut both those municipalities off any other hookups, and that, as we know, only stagnates a community, if it cannot move ahead. If they put up a large sum of money themselves, that comes out of the taxpayers who have already paid for the infrastructure that is in the ground at the present time. So that is a second tax on those particular people.
The town of Smith Falls, for instance, is looking at a $10-million to $15-million expenditure to do what it has to do to before the Ministry of the Environment will lift its regulations. I know many towns across Ontario are finding the same problem. The minister and the government, I believe, are spending on the new areas, the fast-growth areas, forgetting in a lot of cases the slower-growth areas and areas that have been in the ground for a long period of time.
I feel that it would only take a little bit of the added tax dollars. My gosh, today in the House we heard the Minister of Revenue say that he is collecting a tax that we never knew of on this side of the House. Anyway, he is collecting off car rentals for a tire tax. I think we have yet to hear that a cent of it has ever been spent for recycling tires. The only thing that recycled tires was the big fire up here and I am sure none of us wants another fire like that in our history. I think that lays the blame right at the government’s feet, that it had not moved on that fast enough. They did a lot of talking, but did not move along.
But on environment, I would like to see them spend some of their dollars there and spend them wisely and well in that way.
When it comes to schools, I wish the member for Renfrew North were here. He seems to be doing quite well in his part of Renfrew North, but in the part of Renfrew that I have the pleasure of representing, in the town of Renfrew itself, we need a school. I think the honourable member would agree to that, but has not agreed to the funding.
In Lanark, the board there needs additional schools. The money for the eastern region seems to be going into -- again, as with our water and sewers -- the fast-growth areas and they are forgetting that some of our schools that have been there for years and years are now becoming obsolete and have, in some cases, a lot of work orders against them by the fire marshal. I hope it never comes to the fact that we have to have a bad fire in order to get this government and the Minister of Education to put some money into building new schools where there are so many work orders that it is not reasonable to put the money in there to repair them.
This government is fast becoming known as the government that introduced portables. We used to have schools, but now the people tell me that we have portables. I have had some people who were in these portables, young people. I am glad to say that now they attach them to the school, but at that time they did not and students had to go to the washroom in the main school. Many of these portables were given to the younger members of the school. They put on their coats in the wintertime to go to the washroom facilities in the main part of the school.
As many have said, when we were the government we saw the funding for schools at 60 per cent; now we have seen it go down to 42.7 per cent this year. I heard the school board from Leeds over the weekend saying that is why it is in the position it is in today, that the government is not funding it at an adequate level. That goes for Lanark-Renfrew as well.
I have just had a bout and been in the hospital for a week and I know that many of the hospitals that I have the privilege of representing in my riding have had a commitment. The Perth hospital, the Great War Memorial Hospital, understood that it had a commitment from this government that if it raised a certain amount of money, it would be able to go on with its project. Now that project, like two or three other hospitals in my area, has been put on hold. They took the government at face value, that it meant what it said, that it would have the money available if they raised theirs. Lo and behold, like so many other commitments, when the time came, when they raised their share of it, the government said: “Hold on. We’re not prepared to assist you at this time.”
Talking to patients there, seeing how the patients are waiting for surgery in some of the Ottawa hospitals and having two or three calls from people where the doctors have tried and tried to get the people in, their loved ones are worried that there are serious operations that these people must have, and lo and behold, they cannot get in the hospital. They phone me, saying, “Can you phone the doctor and see if our loved one can get in?” They have been waiting for six weeks, two months, three months or whatever the case may be, but a long period of time.
Having been in the Ministry of Health in the mid-1970s and having looked today at the money that is being spent, about the same percentage of the budget, but many more dollars, I do not think today that we have the health care system -- I hate to say it but I know we do not have the health care system -- that we had when we were the government. I was hoping the last time that the Premier would have seen fit to change the Minister of Health and put somebody else in with some fresh ideas, somebody who could take hold and clean up the health system so that the money we are spending is spent wisely and well.
I would like to mention the Rideau Regional Centre while I am on my feet. The Minister of Community and Social Services told me that he would not put those people out into the community until he had the support services that they needed. They have not built the schools to help those people out in the community. They do not have the physiotherapy out there. They have gone through with hardly a thing. They are putting them out in the community and it is not fair to those people. They want to be out in the community, but they should have the support services. I know my House leader is looking at me, and I will turn over the floor to him, but there are just so many things that this government is doing wrong you could spend the whole afternoon.
The Deputy Speaker: On a point of order.
Mr Eves: In the House this evening I would like to raise a point of order under standing order 41. Standing order 41 deals with opposition days, and standing order 41(c) states:
“On the last sessional day of a week during which the House meets, notice, having been given by a member of a recognized opposition party, shall be printed on the Orders and Notices paper specifying,
“(i) the day in the following week which is to be designated as an Opposition Day; and
“(ii) the text of a motion to be debated in the House or a subject matter to be considered in committee of the whole House.
“In all cases, the notice shall indicate the minister of the crown to whom it is addressed.”
I have been requested by my leader this afternoon to table the following motion. A copy is also being delivered to the Speaker’s office at this moment.
As members may be aware, the three leaders have been discussing the wording of a resolution dealing with the French Language Services Act for some weeks now. I understand that they are engaged in negotiations this afternoon. My leader has indicated to the two other party leaders that our bottom line on this subject is the establishment of an all-party committee to deal with this issue. Apparently agreement cannot be reached on this point. Therefore I table the following motion under standing order 41:
“This House, while reaffirming its support for the provision of French-language services where numbers warrant, and while confirming the French Language Services Act, 1986, was not intended to apply to municipalities, recognizes the elevated -- ”
The Deputy Speaker: Point of order.
The Deputy Speaker: We are on a point of order.
Hon Mr Ward: Standing order 41 makes provision for notice of motion and the member can table his notice of motion for his Opposition Day. I do not think it requires that it be read in the House.
Mr Eves: With all due respect to both the Speaker and the government House leader, I did not know the government House leader had become the Speaker. I thought it was for the Speaker to rule on whether a point of order was in fact a point of order -- and there is no point of order, as I understand it in the nine years that I have been here, on a point of order. I will finish with my point of order and then the government House leader can comment.
It was not intended to apply to municipalities --
The Deputy Speaker: I am being told that it is not the standard practice to read the resolution. You may table it if you want, and under the opposition day debate it will be taken up at that time and it will be read, discussed and debated.
Mr Eves: The motion has in fact been tabled with the Clerk and with the Speaker’s office as well. Open government -- no walls, no barriers.
The Deputy Speaker: Did the member for Lanark-Renfrew finish his speech?
Mr Wiseman: I adjourn the debate.
The Deputy Speaker: Any questions and comments?
Mr Wiseman: It being six of the clock, I adjourn the debate.
The House divided on Mr Wiseman’s motion, which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 1; nays 48.
Hon Mr Ward: Mr Speaker, I would seek unanimous consent to extend this day’s sitting for another five minutes to complete the business that is before us.
The Deputy Speaker: Since the member for Lanark-Renfrew moved the adjournment of the debate and since that was lost, will he want to continue? If not, questions and comments on the member’s statement? If not, do other members wish to participate in the debate? If not, would somebody wish to adjourn the debate or are we ready for the vote? The Treasurer not being here to close the debate --
Hon Mr Ward: I move government notice of motion 29.
The Deputy Speaker: I would like to remind the government House leader that we have not even voted on the last motion. I think we should dispose of it before we proceed with the next item.
As the Treasurer is not here, I shall call the vote on the Treasurer’s motion.
Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour will please say “aye.”
All those opposed will please say “nay.”
In my opinion the ayes have it.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 1808.