The House met at 1330.
VICTIMS OF CRIME
Mr Allen: It is the victims of crime who are often the last served. Since 1985, community representatives in Hamilton-Wentworth have been seeking ways to establish access to comprehensive services by victims of crime. There have been surveys, forums, planning committees, examinations of systems in other communities.
Hamilton itself has a rich network of social services, some of which serve the needs of parts of the traditional clientele of victim services programs: a sexual assault centre, shelters for abused women, victim/witness assistance, the Council on Road Trauma and bereavement services of various kinds.
The problem has been how to facilitate access to these and other agencies by a broader range of victims. A proposal has been made for a program that would offer 24-hour. seven-day-a-week, one-stop service that would instantly refer victims or their representatives to the appropriate agency and would provide both immediate, at-the-scene crisis intervention and such follow-up support as is needed to be sure all necessary linkages have been made.
The region has allocated its funding for two years, but to date this group has been unable to use that money because the Liberal government has been unwilling to provide its share of the support. Surely that is simply an oversight by the Minister of Community and Social Services and the Attorney General. They can hardly think victim services are adequate or that victims do not deserve it, so where is the funding? Our region is waiting.
Mr Pollock: I would like to draw to the attentions of both the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources the following resolution passed by the council of Bangor, Wicklow and McClure:
“That the council of the corporation of the united townships of Bangor, Wicklow and McClure send a letter to the Minister of Natural Resources and to the Premier for the province of Ontario, requesting a positive reply to the request of Robert Bury of Canada Ltd to purchase the crown timber licences of G. W. Martin Lumber Ltd in order to complete the sale of the G. W. Martin property at Harcourt, Ontario.
“This transfer of the crown timber licences, which are mainly in Hastings county, would provide a great economic lift for our community because of the employment it world create. As our area is mainly relying on the forest industry for employment, this transfer of the crown timber licences would mean immediate employment and stable income for many of our local families.
“The members of council would like our area to progress and as the Robert Bury company is not asking for financial help, only the transfer of the crown timber licences, the members of council see the positive side to this transfer as an inexpensive economic boost to our community as well as to others in Haliburton county.”
CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
Mrs O’Neill: I would like to draw the attention of this House to the valuable contribution made by the Canadian Association of Toy Libraries and Parent Resource Centres and its many member groups across this province. This organization is an umbrella group which encompasses a very large variety of different programs aimed at helping parents and care givers, with its focus squarely on the enrichment of the lives of our children.
Special courses for mothers caring for children with special needs, emergency training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid are often offered, but the unstructured nature of these programs often is what makes them special. A single mother on social assistance, an isolated rural mother or an urban care giver can find a peer group whose support is a necessary pillar in her life. This kind of day-to-day support helps parents and care givers cope with the pressures and feelings of loneliness, which at times can be overwhelming.
In Ontario, over 20 mobile vans, Children’s Resources on Wheels, travel into rural areas setting up play centres, toy libraries and parent education programs in church basements and community halls. This takes place where parents are unable to travel the long distances to the centre’s home base. Toy-lending libraries are but one of the many things that these resources do.
Mr Kormos: The Welland Jaycees held yet another annual awards meeting in Welland this past weekend. They are a lively and active group of young people in the city of Welland whose achievements over the past decades -- yes, decades -- are impressive.
The Welland Jaycees have been in existence almost as long as the Jaycee movement. The presence of, among others, Doug Brown from Welland, who was one of the very earliest senators in the Jaycee movement, illustrates that. The past president, Joe Bubanko, and the new president, Dan O’Neill, have made their mark in the community. Mark Chase one of the previous past presidents who was present, was recognized, along with Sylvain Riel as chairman of the year.
Mike Szpurko received the announcement that he had just been appointed a senator, and Marty Marko, the past president of the Thorold Jaycees, a fairly new Jaycee unit, was present to applaud the achievements of the Welland Jaycee unit. The Welland Jaycees have been active in their support of Camp Trillium, and Camp Trillium is a better place and young people’s lives are rewarded as a result of that activism.
The Jaycees are a lively, charitable, aggressive movement in the city of Welland, one which is to be commended for its contribution to people within the movement as well as outside of that organization.
ORILLIA PERCH FESTIVAL
Mr McLean: My statement concerns an Orillia festival that spotlights one of the best-tasting pan fish in existence. The ninth annual Orillia Perch Festival, which runs until 13 May, attracts thousands of anglers from the Orillia area, from throughout Ontario and even from the United States. To date, 26 of the 70 specially tagged perch worth $1,000 each have been reeled in.
This is the ninth consecutive year that this family fishing festival has been staged by the Orillia and District Chamber of Commerce, and more than 7,000 anglers are expected to try to their luck in the waters of Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe. Visitors can compete for numerous prizes, including a grand prize in the adult division of a 16-foot fishing boat and trailer, along with a 25-horsepower motor; second and third prizes of boats, trailers and motors, and grand prizes in the children’s division of $1,000, $700 and $300 shopping sprees at a local mall. There will also be daily draws for rod and reel combinations and weekly draws for bikes, rods, reels and tackle boxes.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite each and every one of the members to come to Orillia for the ninth annual Orillia Perch Festival, and I urge them to sample one of the finest pan fish at the perch fries at Tudhope Park on 5 and 6 May. I would like to see if the Liberals are as good at hooking fish as they are at hooking the public for more taxes. Come to Orillia for some perch.
TENANTS’ AFTER-HOURS TELEPHONE SERVICE
Ms Poole: Members may recall that three weeks ago I raised the issue in the House that provincial funding was about to end for the after-hours telephone service operated by the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations. At the time, I suggested that an opportunity existed for the province, the city of Toronto, the municipality of Metropolitan Toronto and the federation to share the costs of the hotline.
Today I am delighted to confirm that an agreement in principle has been reached between the Ministry of Housing and the federation to extend the federation’s contract to provide an after-hours information hotline for tenants. A key component of this agreement is the willingness of the municipalities to costshare the hotline with the province.
As members are aware, the Ministry of Housing has operated a toll-free, province-wide, bilingual after-hours telephone service for the past three weeks. This service has already proven to be a great success, having assisted 552 callers from across Ontario during its first 22 days in operation. During this time, it has become apparent that some 50% of the calls being received by the ministry are coming from the Metro Toronto area.
We now have the best of both worlds: continuation of the federation’s hotline plus the ministry information service to ensure that all tenants across our great province are served.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE LEADER
Mr D. S. Cooke: Last week saw a remarkable performance by the member for Welland-Thorold. His efforts to stop the Liberal government’s ill-conceived car insurance legislation, on behalf of the New Democratic Party and the people of this province, were truly outstanding. However. there was another remarkable memory from last week, and that is the performance of the government House leader.
First, on Thursday of last week. the government House leader came to the opposition House leaders and requested that we deviate from the rules and announce the business for the upcoming week right after routine proceedings because the government House leader said he was going back to Hamilton, which was obviously not the case. Second, he announced the business for the House, which was budget debate for last week and this week. That was obviously not the case.
Clearly, if I was to describe the actions of the House leader in an accurate way I would be tossed out of the Legislature because the language would be unparliamentary. House leaders have always operated in this place in a spirit of co-operation and honesty. That is obviously not the case with the government House leader. Therefore, this morning the New Democratic Party caucus decided that we will no longer be co-operating with the government. We will not be attending House leaders’ meetings because we cannot believe anything the government House leader has to say.
Mr Cureatz: In 1986 the Liberal government committed funding to enable Ajax and Pickering General Hospital to double the number of beds from 127 to 242. This promise was made on the ground that the community was able to raise $7 million. The community raised its share months ago but has recently been informed by the Minister of Health that only 45 beds would be funded. This means that the promised 70 chronic care beds will not be built.
The Ministry of Health should be aware that the population of the area that Ajax and Pickering General serves has increased by 197% since the hospital opened in 1964. A number of health professionals in the area have expressed concern that the region does not have adequate facilities to accommodate chronic care patients.
Earlier this month the Ministry of Health received hundreds of copies of letters from the Ajax-Pickering community. Linda Kuchna, a nurse at the Ajax and Pickering General Hospital and the chairperson of the letter campaign, is visiting with us today at Queen’s Park. Over 2,440 letters have been written, many by seniors who have expressed concern about the decision not to fund the 70 chronic care beds.
This is an issue that we have brought up repeatedly. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Ajax-Pickering community to ask that the government honour its promise made years ago to the people of the Ajax-Pickering area.
Let me say to the member for Durham West, for whom I have nothing but the highest respect and honour, that with the election coming closer minute by minute, she should be getting up and asking questions of this administration. She should not be thinking for one moment that they are going to come across with the required funding just because she is a Liberal. She has to get up and represent her community.
Mr Keyes: This is Education Week in Ontario. During this special occasion, schools are extending a very special invitation to all Ontarians to come and see education at work. I would like to acknowledge the dedication and the commitment of both students and educators from Kingston and the Islands who will be taking part in this week’s special activities.
Schools in the Frontenac County Board of Education will be hosting many special events, including grandparent days, spring fairs, exhibitions in the community and a very special showcase of the arts on Friday evening of this week at KC&VI, all of these events highlighting the work of local students.
Students in the Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Separate School Board will be involved in science fairs and environmental awareness demonstrations as well as variety shows and concerts.
At a time when we are calling on our schools not only to teach the basics of learning but also to prepare our students for the increasingly complex society in which we live, it is particularly appropriate that this year’s theme is Education: It’s Everybody’s Business. That theme, which was first used in 1936, has a new relevance in 1990, as we focus on the importance of partnerships within our educational system and the new challenges of lifelong learning.
The Minister of Education is attending many of this week’s celebrations in communities throughout Ontario. I encourage all members of the Legislature to join with students and educators in their communities to experience at first hand the wonder that is learning.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
COMMUNITY SERVICE EMPLOYEES / PERSONNEL DES SERVICES COMMUNAUTAIRES
Hon Mr Beer: I would like to inform members of the House of an additional measure announced in the budget that the government is taking to improve wages and benefits paid to social service workers employed by community agencies.
This government is committed to strengthening and improving the quality of services delivered by community-based service agencies.
J’ai le plaisir d’informer les députés de la Chambre d’une autre mesure annoncée dans le budget et que le gouvernement vient d’entreprendre afin d’améliorer les salaires et les avantages sociaux des travailleuses et travailleurs sociaux employés par des organismes communautaires.
Ce gouvernement est fortement engagé à consolider et à améliorer la qualité des services fournis par les organismes de services sociaux communautaires.
Last year we provided $88.8 million to improve wages, benefits and working conditions. As well, we have provided the direct operating grants to child care operators. This has significantly improved wages and benefits of workers employed in the child care field.
I am pleased today to announce that we are continuing to move in that direction. This morning it was my pleasure to meet with representatives of provincial organizations at the headquarters of the Ontario Association for Community Living. At that time I provided information on the community agency compensation funding included in last week’s budget.
In support of the vital role played by social service employees, we will provide $58 million annually to community agencies to help them improve wages and benefits paid to over 20,000 workers.
These workers include community staff of children’s aid societies and children’s mental health centres, employees of associations for community living and other agencies delivering services for people with developmental disabilities and staff who provide services for residents of recovery homes.
Priority will be given to the lowest-paid direct care employees.
An important principle of my ministry is to recognize the community as a key partner in the planning, managing and delivery of social services. In order to plan for the distribution of this funding to community-based agencies, representatives of provincial associations and community organizations will work together with my staff. The improvements in wages and benefits will take effect in September.
Cette initiative nous permettra d’aider nos partenaires en leur fournissant les moyens de recruter et de maintenir en poste un personnel qualifié et expérimenté grâce à des salaires compétitifs.
Nous réitérons notre ferme décision de continuer à investir dans la stabilité et la qualité des services sociaux et communautaires de Ontario.
This initiative will help us to lend support to our partners by providing them with the ability to recruit and retain qualified and experienced staff through the provision of competitive wages.
This in turn strengthens our commitment towards the stability and quality of Ontario’s community-based social services.
WATER AND SEWAGE PROGRAMS
Hon Mr Sweeney: An adequate supply of clean drinking water and proper sewage treatment are essential to this province’s future.
As a government, we have made clean water a priority. Our current water and sewer capital programs will provide $175 million in grants and $71 million in loans for this fiscal year. Programs such as the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement and LifeLines funding to rehabilitate old sewer and water lines have been key to meeting this province’s objectives.
This government believes an expanded capital commitment to water and sewage infrastructure is required. In order to effectively meet the needs identified by individual citizens, our municipalities, environmental groups and our international obligations, this government will move quickly to establish a new crown corporation.
The corporation, to be established this fiscal year, will have a mandate to provide a secure supply of clean water at reasonable cost to the people of Ontario. The corporation will report to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who is responsible for local government finance and community planning.
The Ministry of the Environment will continue with its roles of establishing appropriate environmental standards for Ontario’s water and sewage treatment plants and for continued effective scrutiny of these systems.
Policy direction to the corporation and its relationship to the government will be outlined in a memorandum of understanding. The directors of the corporation will represent a broad spectrum of interests, including those of the environmental and municipal sectors.
The corporation will make decisions that are consistent with the government’s priorities to preserve and improve our environment, protect the health of people and meet the province’s objectives for community planning and affordable housing.
The corporation will borrow funds guaranteed by the province to finance the upgrading, the expansion or the construction of these water and sewer systems. This will substantially increase the capital available to accelerate the rehabilitation and development of this crucial infrastructure.
The corporation will also assume responsibility for the operation of all water systems and sewage treatment plants currently operated by the province. It will build and operate new water and sewage plants in co-operation with municipalities and with the private sector.
Many municipalities in Ontario operate their own water and sewage systems very efficiently and will continue to do so. Nothing will prevent municipalities from building and operating new facilities on their own. All outstanding provincial commitments to municipalities for grants and loans for this purpose will be honoured.
I believe the creation of this crown corporation is a clear sign that this government is taking a strong leadership role in the provision of these basic and essential services today and into the future.
DISABLED PERSON PARKING PERMIT
Hon Mr Wrye: Today is an important day for Ontario citizens. The new Ontario parking permit for disabled persons is now in effect.
This morning, with my colleagues the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Solicitor General and the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs, I had the honour of presenting the first permits to representatives of disabled persons’ organizations and persons with disabilities who helped us develop the program.
The new permit is portable. Therefore disabled persons need no longer own or drive or have access to a particular vehicle, as has been the case with the disabled symbol licence plate.
The permit holder may place one of these free permits on the visor or dash of any vehicle and be entitled to use a parking space designated for disabled persons.
The permit holder is medically certified as having either a temporary or permanent disability. Therefore, many of the abuses which have occurred with the disabled symbol plate will be eliminated.
Model bylaws have been sent to all Ontario municipalities so that the permit will be uniformly recognized. There will also be a new uniform size for parking spaces for disabled persons and a standard sign to designate them.
We have reciprocal agreements with all other provinces and American states, including Florida, so permit holders will have a right to use designated parking spaces virtually everywhere they may travel in North America.
The proposed bylaw sent to municipalities and police forces will also make the penalty for misuse of designated spaces by non-disabled drivers much more severe.
There will be a six-month phase-in period during which the disabled symbol licence plate and municipal permits will also be valid. After that, only the new portable permit will be valid for parking in spaces designated for disabled persons.
We believe that the new Ontario disabled person parking permit will enhance parking convenience and broaden travel opportunities for the disabled persons of this province.
WATER AND SEWAGE PROGRAMS
Mrs Grier: I would like to respond to the statement today by the Minister of Municipal Affairs about our new public utility to create a clean water and sewer system.
I thought that it was the mandate of this government to provide a secure supply of clean water. I did not think we needed a new crown corporation to do that. I thought we had the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, supposed to be in place in 1989, that was going to clean up the discharges from our sewer systems. Do not forget, Mr Speaker, that in the 1987 election campaign we had the Liberals’ election plank of the LifeLines program, which was going to rehabilitate the infrastructure, the sewage systems and the drinking water plants. Why is that not good enough today? Why do we need a new crown corporation?
What we need is more capital to replace our infrastructure. With that, I would agree. But I still do not see why a utility is required to put that in place. The statement talks about the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who is responsible for local government finance and community planning. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs is not responsible for protecting the environment, and that is our primary concern about this shift in responsibility.
There is silence in the statement with respect to the legislation to implement this policy. We assume we are going to see legislation. What is it going to contain? We are certainly going to want to have extensive public hearings, so that we can get public comment on this shift in responsibility that the government is taking.
l think the critical phrase in this announcement occurs in the middle of the second page where it says that the utility will build and operate facilities in co-operation with municipalities and the private sector. That is what this is all about. That is what this represents.
It represents that the development industry is now going to be setting the priorities, driving the agenda and determining where the money is to be spent. That is not good enough. It does not reflect the commitment to the environment that we thought this government had. It does not reflect the announcements we keep hearing from the Minister of the Environment, who is not even here to be part of this announcement.
Where is he? Has he gone underground, now that Project X has surfaced again? The Minister of the Environment has gone underground. That is the true statement of where this government is at
DISABLED PERSON PARKING PERMIT
Mr Allen: I rise to welcome the announcement by the Minister of Transportation of the new Ontario disabled person parking permit. The disabled themselves, the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons, sponsored a report not long ago entitled The Freedom to Move is Life Itself, and obviously mobility is extremely important to the disabled, of all people in our society. This permit will allow them that enhanced mobility and will enable them to access and use vehicles in a much more flexible fashion and to find their way to parking spaces where they will not be ticketed, as was often the case with respect to the older licensing.
COMMUNITY SERVICE EMPLOYEES
Mr Allen: I would like to respond briefly to the Minister of Community and Social Services’ announcement of funding for a number of the social service agencies in the community. This, of course, is welcome. It represents about $2,900 per worker on the average -- $1.25 or $1.50 per hour as I roughly calculate it -- and of course that is helpful. I will remind the minister, however, that many of those salaries still are at a somewhat marginal level in terms of maintaining an attractive profession in each of those institutions that can maintain staff over long periods of time in order to provide the service that we expect and that the minister himself expects in the deinstitutionalization programs and other community-based work that he sponsors.
At the same time, I want to call his attention to the fact of the fundamental problem. The different collective bargaining regimes of direct government employees on the one hand and these workers on the other are the root of the problem. I hope he would look seriously at the decision that was made with regard to the ambulance drivers, where they were considered a crown agency and in that respect had access to arbitration and the kinds of services that are available to direct employees in the government services.
If he does not follow that route, he remains, even as he tops up salaries, the ghost at the bargaining table, the unseen hand that can fix the results and then, when they do not go right, now and then come along with a rather paternalistic handout, which is not the way it should go at any self-respecting agency, as I am sure the minister would agree.
The Speaker: Before I call for further responses, I am hearing a little more with the right ear than I am with my other ear. I would appreciate it if the private conversations could be kept down.
DISABLED PERSON PARKING PERMIT
Mrs Marland: In response to the statement on the implementation of the new Ontario disabled person parking permit, I want to just say that I notice the pamphlet says the new permit is free. However, if there is a charge by the health professional providing certification, the fee is the disabled person’s responsibility. Are we saying here that medical practitioners will be charging a fee for this permit? It is not at all very clear.
COMMUNITY SERVICE EMPLOYEES
Mrs Marland: In responding to the compensation adjustments for community agencies, I think we have to look very carefully at this statement. First of all, regarding the provision of $58 million annually to community agencies, we are not sure that $58 million will serve the critical staffing shortage that was experienced by numerous community agencies. We are always offloading on to these community-based agencies and saying that is the way of the future. It is fine to do that, but is that enough money for them to do the job properly ?
Frankly, I would be interested in finding out how many of the 10,000 children on waiting lists for children’s menial health services will be taken off the waiting lists as a result of this $58 million. Last year, $88 million was not adequate. Many community-based organizations have been losing staff to the institutional sector, such as the children’s mental health and children’s aid societies.
Fifty-eight million dollars is $30 million less than was provided last year. I am not at all confident that this statement is going to mean a difference for those community agencies that are dependent on this government; if they are going to have to do the job, they are going to need money to do that job.
WATER AND SEWAGE PROGRAMS
Mrs Marland: I was particularly interested in the statement today by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, because when he spoke to the AMO large urban section in Windsor on Thursday night, he said that this new water and sewer utility probably would take 10 to 12 months to get off the ground. It is interesting that after that statement, which seemed to indicate that the government had made this announcement but really did not know how it was going to work, at least today we have a statement giving some suggestions about how it might work.
This statement says that this provincial government is taking a strong leadership role in the provision of these services, but actually what it shows is that the provincial government does not want to take responsibility, and instead it is sending it off to an arm’s-length government agency. Here again the province is opting out of its responsibilities, so it sets up a new crown corporation and says, “Here, you look after it.” The fact that the corporation will provide a buffer between the government and the municipalities is exactly what is going to happen.
We are also very concerned about the environmental aspects. Frankly, we feel that the loss of $341 million from the Ministry of the Environment to this crown corporation has to be a very significant reduction in the MOE’s budget. We agree that there is more support needed for water and sewer infrastructure renewal. The words “infrastructure renewal” are nowhere to be found in this statement.
DISABLED PERSON PARKING PERMIT
Mr McCague: The statement by the Minister of Transportation is welcome and I am sure the municipalities were looking for that. It is an unusual statement in that it does not impose any cost penalties on municipalities, as do most of the government statements these days.
WATER AND SEWAGE PROGRAMS
Mr McCague: The Minister of Municipal Affairs has made his announcement about this crown corporation. I just hope he is not going to saddle the municipalities with more of the cost than has been the norm when it was under the Minister of the Environment. There is always a hidden agenda here, and I am afraid that between the municipalities and the developers, they are going to have to pay more and houses are going to cost much, much more, even around Strathroy.
Mr B. Rae: In the absence of the Premier, I have a question for the Treasurer. It is becoming clearer, I think, to everyone except for the Treasurer that he produced a truly irresponsible budget, in that it was a document that completely neglected the fact that a good deal of the provincial economy is already in a recession, that the number of bankruptcies in the province is up dramatically over last year and that we are now into the third month of negative growth in the province.
I want to ask the Treasurer this question: Can he tell us why in his budget, in addition to doing nothing on the housing front in terms of new programs, he himself increased training for workers by only some $11 million, which is 0.02% of the provincial budget, two tenths of one per cent of the provincial budget? Why would he be leaving workers who are affected by unemployment with absolutely no protection in terms of new training programs dealing with a future recession?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member and some of his colleagues persist in referring to the budget as something that does not provide anything for housing. The honourable member would be aware that it provides funding for 17,000 non-profit starts this year. This is, I think, the largest number of starts in our history.
The honourable member may have an approach to public pronouncements that has to do more with political impact than fact. In this instance, he would be aware that over the five years we have been in office -- frankly, his own views had something to do with the beginnings of these matters -- our policies in housing have meant that our application of additional funds has increased that budget by almost 250% in the five years we have been in office, the largest growth of any ministry over which we have had a responsibility.
I just want to bring that to the honourable member’s attention so that he will stop repeating something that is not correct: that this budget does not provide for housing. It provides for 17,000 new non-profit starts.
Mr B. Rae: If the Treasurer will just calm down for a moment and try to answer the question --
The Speaker: Order.
Mr B. Rae: In 1989 -- and there is nil recognition of this fact in the budget; it is almost a kind of fantasy document -- more workers were hit by layoffs than in any year since 1983. That is a fact. That is a hard fact, but it is a fact nevertheless.
The other fact the Treasurer has to contend with is that the government has not moved on pension legislation, the government has not moved in any degree with respect to training. Workers are no better off with respect to training than they were before. They are no better off with respect to the indexing question than they were before. Why is the Treasurer sending the workers of this province into a recession without any new protection in terms of the laws of this province? Why is he doing that?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I know the honourable member would have listened carefully as the budget was read and perused the tables that accompany the document. He would be aware that the plan for the growth of the economy this year -- and I admit that the growth is not large; estimated to be 1.7% -- will, we expect, provide over 60,000 net new jobs in the province. We expect that rate of growth, although it is slower than we have experienced over the last four years, to maintain Ontario’s position as having the lowest level of unemployment of any province in Canada. It could be better but it is the best there is.
Mr B. Rae: That kind of complacency will get the Treasurer nowhere. I want him to recognize the fact that the number of bankruptcies has grown more rapidly in Ontario than in any other part of Canada outside Atlantic Canada. I want lo ask the Treasurer why it would be that his Minister of Labour yesterday would say there is nothing his government can or will do about bankruptcies when, back in 1985, the same minister told the Toronto Star that he “can and will go ahead with provincial legislation this spring” -- that is to say, the spring of 1986 -- ”if Ottawa fails to act.”
We are beginning to understand what a Liberal commitment means. It is something we are having to learn and relearn every day. His minister, four and a half years ago, said they were going to be moving to protect workers who were affected by bankruptcy. We now know there are more and more of those workers every day. Why would the government not keep a promise it made over four and a half years ago?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I believe that most reasonable people believe and understand that the high interest rates that are part of the policy of the government of Canada are having a negative effect on our economy. It is our belief, however, that the strength and resiliency of the Ontario economy can withstand for a substantial period of time these onsets of federal policy and the bad effects that we are experiencing.
In spite of the fact that we are committed to the strength of our economy, the honourable member will know that we have substantially improved the attractiveness of this jurisdiction for investment, both from businesses and entrepreneurs within this province and Canada and also from the international market, we have improved our current cost adjustment by doubling it to 30%. This puts us in a very competitive position.
The honourable member would be aware, having read, for example, the Quebec budget, that right in its budget there is an indication that the improvement of Ontario’s position -- that is, even without the changes in our own budget -- leaves us with an advantage that is just under 4%, for people who are looking at comparative numbers vis-à-vis the province of Quebec.
Mr B. Rae: The most important investment we have in this province is people’s jobs. That is the investment the Treasurer is not protecting.
Mr B. Rae: I would like to ask the Minister of Housing a question about rent review. It concerns a 60-unit apartment building in North York, 4918 Bathurst Street, which is owned by Bath-Finch Apartments.
On 28 March 1990, the Liberal government’s rent review system awarded the landlord a rent increase of nearly 29%. A good part of the reason for this was the replacement of all 60 fridges and stoves in the building -- every single one of them. Does the minister think it is some sort of coincidence that all tile fridges and stoves needed replacement all at the same time? Can the minister explain why one generation of tenants would be faced with this kind of increase? Why would he be doing that?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I think the honourable Leader of the Opposition would recognize that we are not doing it. The landlord is responsible for managing his or her own building. There are times, I assume, when it is more economical for all the tenants in the building to have the units replaced, because of a volume discount, as opposed to having a certain number of tenants having to pay a much higher rent simply because a smaller number of units would be replaced. However, I would remind him that the new regulation I introduced very recently does deal with that and now requires the support of the tenant in order to make those in-suite changes.
Mr B. Rae: The hard reality is that as a result of the loopholes in the government’s legislation -- not simply in the regulations but in the legislation -- in addition to leaving workers unarmed as we head into a recession, it is also leaving tenants unarmed to deal with the obvious greed of landlords and the kinds of increases that are being imposed.
Another example for the minister is 147-175 Barrington Avenue in East York, which is a 252-unit apartment building and town-house complex owned by Double Z Investments Ltd. The landlord here is applying for rent increases of 25% to 30% based on the same capital expenditure giveaway. The irony of this is that this building was built as a low-interest building; it was built as a limited-dividend building under CMHC.
For these people who moved into an apartment on the basis of its being a fair and square deal some 10 or 15 years ago, many of whom are now on a fixed income, why would the minister be allowing a landlord in one year to impose a rent increase of as much as 30%? Why would the minister allow that?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable leader will be aware of the fact that most of those limited-dividend building agreements with CMHC were for a 15-year period. I presume there will be a number of those that will be coming off that particular program. As a matter of fact, in one situation in either Stoney Creek or Waterdown -- I cannot remember, but one of the two -- one of the local non-profit agencies asked if we would assist it to acquire such a building, and we agreed in that particular case.
The other point the honourable member would be aware of is that in fact this government, through its rent supplement program, does subsidize the rent of people living in some of those limited-dividend buildings. But I would go back to my original point: that was a federal agreement that does expire in 15 years and we do not have any control over that.
Mr B. Rae: The Minister of Housing does have control over the rent review system. The minister knows perfectly well that as a result of the loopholes in his system on refinancing and on capital expenditure, tenants in these buildings and in other buildings are being hit with increases of 25% to 30%.
I want to ask the minister a very basic question. Does he think it fair or right that a 67-year-old widow living on a fixed income should be asked to bear an increase of 70% in one year? Is that fair? Yes or no?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The system we have here in Ontario, which I know is not acceptable to the New Democratic Party because it wants to go to rent controls, is a system of rent review, and the system of rent review is that legitimate costs can be passed through. The only other alternative is that we move to something called rent control. I would only ask my honourable friend to look at New York City to see what rent controls have done there; you see street after street of boarded up buildings. We do not want that in Ontario.
Mr Brandt: My question is for the Treasurer, as well. The Treasurer indicated yesterday in response to a question that he felt the Ontario economy was not going into a recession. The numbers that the Treasurer proposed in his budget indicated a series of steps that were necessary in order to bring in a reasonably balanced budget, one of which was a $200-million in-year cut throughout the ministries, which is not unlike the step the Treasurer has taken on previous occasions.
I would like to point out to the Treasurer with respect to the whole question of the problems in the Ontario economy a number of headlines that I think reinforce the concern I have expressed to him about the condition of the economic situation in this province at the present time. This is the Financial Post: “The Roof Falls in on House Sales.” The Financial Post again: “Corporate Profits Plunge 26%.”
Mr Brandt: I am glad to see the Attorney General is back. We would not be able to survive without his interjections.
The Toronto Star: “Recession Comes a Step Closer.” The Toronto Sun: “Recession Looms.”
Does the Treasurer still stand by the figures he has forecast in his budget with respect to attempting to balance the books this year?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Yes. But the honourable member, in quoting the scariest headlines he could find with regard to the economy, has pointed out the situation that has reflected the current monetary policy of the government of Canada. He will recall that Michael Wilson, the federal Minister of Finance, just two months ago projected that interest rates would be about 11% on average this year. Our projections are for higher interest rates than that and we still feel that our projections can be met. But the indications are that if the present trend is not contained there are going to be very serious difficulties with the budget of Canada. We hope, however, that we can maintain our position in a reasonable way during this fiscal year.
Mr Brandt: On the basis of comparing March to March, in the past year the economy of Ontario has lost something in the order of 34,000 manufacturing jobs. What the Treasurer did to aggravate that situation was to introduce the employer health levy, which has cost industries and business in this province multibillions of dollars starting 1 January 1990, at the very time that the economy is going into a rather substantial recession, if we can believe the headlines of these very worthy newspapers. Of course, the Treasurer says it is selective reading.
Here is the Toronto Star, and here is the Toronto Sun, in case there is one newspaper that he happens to favour over another, for whatever reason. I will get the Brantford Expositor, and the Brantford Expositor will say exactly what I am saying to the Treasurer: that the employer health levy should not have been introduced. Why would he do that at a time when the Ontario economy is into a very severe slide?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I know that you, Mr Speaker, and other reasonable residents of Ontario welcome the abolition of medicare premiums. They were regressive and as a party that keeps its political promises we felt in the last budget it was an appropriate change.
The employer health tax was designed to be equivalent to the costs of the old premiums that were payable under the old Tory regime which we have abolished and which we are going to keep abolished. We think it is important to remember that the stimulation to the economy of almost $1 million in the pockets of the residents of Ontario this very year is stimulative to the economy and not depressing, and therefore has the good effect that both the honourable member and myself would desire.
Mr Brandt: The Treasurer knows full well that is a tax on payroll that has nothing to do with profits. It is an unfair tax. In addition to that, in the last five years he has doubled the expenditures of the Ontario economy to some $45 billion.
I will tell the Treasurer who benefited from his employer health levy. Many professionals, self-employed, earning $50.000, $100,000, $150,000 a year do not even pay his employer health levy; they escape that since they do not have any employees and do not have any payroll.
The unfairness of that tax is self-evident, but why would the Treasurer at this particular time increase expenditures again some 7% -- 6.8% to be entirely accurate; I rounded the number, as the Treasurer himself is wont to do on occasion. In order to be completely and entirely accurate, why would the Treasurer increase expenditures 6.8% at a time when the economy is obviously into a recessionary period and when the --
The Speaker: Order.
Hon R. F. Nixon: For a number of reasons. One of the largest increases was $1.5 billion for health services, and the honourable member knows that he has been urging additional expenditures on us. I have even heard him say that was not enough. The member for Parry Sound gets quite exercised about its inadequacy. But the honourable member prides himself on his conservatism, which is of special interest knowing the honourable member’s antecedents, but surely even on that basis he would want to support our initiative, which actually doubles the current cost allowance, which stimulates businesses, gives them an opportunity to improve their investments in this great jurisdiction so they can not only make jobs but strengthen our economy and make a profit.
Mr Eves: I have a question for the Minister of Health --
The Speaker: Order. Perhaps this might be the appropriate time to have a little break in the question period.
PRIME MINISTER OF LITHUANIA
The Speaker: I would like to ask all members of the assembly to recognize, in the Speaker’s gallery, the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Dr Kazimiera Prunskiene.
If it is still agreeable to discontinue the question period for a few more minutes, I understand that a member from each of the parties would like to welcome her, so I will now recognize one member from each of the parties for words of welcome.
Mr Fleet: It is a great pleasure and honour for me, on behalf of my party and indeed on behalf of people throughout the province, to welcome the Prime Minister and her delegation here to the Ontario Legislature.
The Prime Minister has had an opportunity to meet with the Premier and with other members of the Legislature. She is somebody who I and other members, when visiting Lithuania, had a chance to talk to. I must say that she is an economist, but she is particularly forward-thinking, very much open to seeing change take place in Lithuania. She is at the leading edge of that change, partly because of her founding role as a member of the Lithuanian reform movement, Sajudis, but also as a founder of the women’s movement in Lithuania. She is particularly highly regarded by her peers in Sajudlis, and in fact by people on the street in Lithuania, something I was able to ascertain when I was there and talking to so many people.
It is quite clear that Lithuania is resolutely determined to pursue its independence, to pursue a very difficult course of self-determination, but it is doing so in a completely nonviolent way, very much in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi anal Martin Luther King, and despite the ongoing blockade of the Soviets.
Prime Minister, I say to you that we hope your presence here will help focus international attention on the ongoing struggle in Lithuania and help bring the Kremlin to the negotiating table for real and meaningful discussions to help you pursue and achieve your goal of total independence.
I would also like to say that the discussions that the Prime Minister had with the Premier, in keeping with both of their natures, were quite animated, both in a private meeting and literally at the lunch table. They hardly stopped to eat, discussing a variety of issues pertaining to both Canada and Lithuania and other countries in eastern Europe.
One of the things that was commented on by the Premier was the fact that in relative terms, relative to her situation, politics around here are really quite dull. The Prime Minister was quick to reply, “Here’s to dullness.” She would very much like to achieve that measure of political success. I think in due course she will.
I would also like to say, on behalf of the people in Ontario, that we look forward to being able in this Legislature and in this government to facilitate the kind of person-to-person contact that started today with you, Prime Minister, and the Premier and indeed with all the members of the delegation and others who were at the luncheon and whom you will be meeting this week, to facilitate the institution-to-institution contact for the long-range benefit of the country of Lithuania as well as Ontario and Canada. The Premier has indicated a willingness to continue to pursue that, as you both indicated, in concrete terms.
The other thing that took place in the meeting was that the Prime Minister has invited the Premier to go to Lithuania. Given some speculation about elections here, I do not know how quickly that will be, but I know that he looks forward to it.
Also, the Premier has indicated that the initiatives that were commented on by you, Prime Minister, that have been undertaken by my colleague the member for Oakwood will be continued and the Premier has asked me to take some special responsibility in respect of Lithuania. I look forward to doing that.
I know in addition that it is particularly important to have you here for the Lithuanian Canadian community. I know that all members of this Legislature would join with me in congratulating the members of the Lithuanian Canadian community, not only for facilitating in many ways this visit by you, Prime Minister, but also because of the long-standing support it has given and continues to give to the cause of freedom. Lithuania is important in and of itself. of course, but also it has great importance for people in other states within the Soviet Union and throughout the world. It is a great symbol of determination, a great symbol of achievement so far and achievement shortly to be fully realized with independence.
Again, on behalf of my party and on behalf of the people of Ontario, congratulations so far. We are delighted that you are here. We trust you will enjoy our hospitality fully. We look forward to every success.
Mr Cureatz: I have asked, and very kindly the leader of the official opposition has allowed me, to speak next so it will give him an opportunity to sum up, since he has had a personal contact in Lithuania. I have a very brief statement and a couple of personal notes. I will read it, as unaccustomed as I am, slowly, so that the interpreter might have the opportunity to keep up.
I am delighted to welcome the Prime Minister of Lithuania today and extend to her the good wishes of the Progressive Conservative Party. We in Ontario have been impressed by the determination of the people of Lithuania in their struggle for independence, the struggle to control their own destiny. They have demonstrated what a united and confident people can achieve.
The Prime Minister is in Canada to appeal for assistance in sustaining the country in the face of economic pressure being brought to bear by Moscow. The Prime Minister will have to use all her considerable negotiating skills to bring her country safely through the coming talks with the officials in the Kremlin. We all hope for a successful outcome to the negotiations, and our country should lend its support in every way possible to make sure that the people of Lithuania will be able to retain their precious freedom.
Might I conclude by indicating that I had the privilege of being one of the observers for the Ontario-Canadian observer team for the first free elections in Lithuania, and I can assure all members that with what I saw of the strength and confidence of the people of Lithuania, I have every reason to believe that eventually their hopes and dreams of freedom will unfold as they desire.
Last, I would like to thank the Premier very much for his graciousness in allowing me the opportunity during lunch to interrupt his conversation so that I might speak with the Prime Minister. It so happens that a very attractive interpreter from Lithuania was with me in Lithuania and I have not been able to keep contact with her because of the difficulty. I asked the Prime Minister to deliver a personal letter, and I appreciate the Premier allowing me that discussion.
Mr B. Rae: Because of the Holocaust, my wife’s family and I have no living relatives in Lithuania, but my wife and I were able to visit just a few short weeks ago the villages and towns in which my wife’s family and mine at one time lived. We also had the chance, thanks to the leadership of my colleague the member for Scarborough West to visit a country in the middle of an election.
We have all seen elections. Indeed, everyone in this room has been in one. I want to tell members that when we were in Lithuania we saw an election that we could understand and recognize, people voting democratically. Indeed, I was able to speak to an all-candidates meeting. As I spoke to one in Vilnius, I suspected that it was certainly not something that I would have ever anticipated doing a year ago, having an opportunity to speak to a group of Lithuanian citizens on the eve of their election.
Much has been said since that election and much has been written by various people and by various leaders about the situation there. On behalf of the members of the Dew Democratic Party, I want to say to members of the House that we all share in this room a commitment to some very basic values. That is what makes politics in our province possible. Perhaps the most fundamental of those values is freedom: the central idea that people living together who make a country and a culture should be able to determine their own future and should be able to determine how it is that they want to live.
The people of Lithuania have been living under a dictatorship. There is no other way to describe it. Since 11 March, they have been struggling to create a democracy. Any person who values freedom respects, admires and must encourage the will to freedom that we have seen in Lithuania and that we have seen in all the Baltic countries.
I want the Prime Minister to know that we saw there a free election and a people determined to find their way back to national independence. That is the message that I have been trying to bring to the people of this province anal the people of Canada since my return. I believe it very profound.ly.
I would also like to tell the Prime Minister two other things. The first is that her countrymen who have come to this country have made an enormous contribution. We are a country that is made up of immigrants. We have come here in many different ways, in different boats, but, if I may say so, we are all in the same boat right now.
I would also like to say to the Prime Minister that I hope she takes a message back to her own country. I do not know what official meetings she has had, I do not know what official meetings she may have in the future, in the days ahead in Canada and in the United States, but she should know that whatever temporization there may be by some, the basic instinct of the people of this country is to provide support -- not just moral support, but practical help.
I would say to members of this House and say to the government, there are things we could be doing, there are steps we could take, in terms of the management skills and the practical kinds of assistance that a country struggling to create a democracy is going to need. Every Canadian wishes for negotiations. Every Canadian wishes those negotiations to succeed. Every Canadian, I believe, wishes that Lithuania will be free.
[Remarks in Lithuanian]
Long live a free Lithuania.
Mr R. F. Johnston: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I wondered, because of my personal family connections with Lithuania and the work I have done with this chamber in Lithuania, if I might be allowed to add a few comments as well, if there is unanimous consent.
Mr R. F. Johnston: It is an extraordinary request and I appreciate the House allowing me to say a few words of welcome to the Prime Minister.
This is a very proud day for every Canadian Lithuanian and those of us who are connected by marriage to the community to have you representing your country here today.
I have here a quote from Vaclav Havel from Czechoslovakia: “A person who cannot move and live a somewhat normal life because he is pinned under a boulder has more time to think about his hopes than someone who is not trapped this way.”
Lithuanians have been under a boulder since they were taken over because of the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement in 1940, a boulder which has affected every family including that which I have married into. Not one family has not been affected by the deportations to Siberia, wherefrom members of their families never came back, and lived and suffered under a regime which, as my leader says, can only be seen as a dictatorship of the worst sort. It has grieved me greatly in these last few weeks, since 11 March, to see the reluctance of western democracies and western leadership to come to the support of Lithuania in a strong and meaningful way. Vaclav Havel also said about our democracies that we still do not know how to put morality ahead of politics, science and economy. I believe that is the case with our government, with Bush’s government and with the western governments at this point.
I thank the Premier of our province for perhaps going farther than our protocol officers would want us to go, given the somewhat nebulous support that our federal government is giving the Lithuanian struggle at this point, by hosting you here today, but I would have hoped that we might have stood up here, as members who believe in democracy and who believe in freedom, and said that this would have been an ideal time to have this Prime Minister address this House as, for instance, Archbishop Tutu did, representing another profound principle that we believe in. I regret that we are not able to have that courage to do so today, but I encourage every member of this House who signed the petition saying that they would be willing to work in support of Lithuania to now start to meet regularly and find practical ways that we, as individual parliamentarians, can change the political dynamic in this province, in this country and hopefully in the western democracies to give more support to Lithuania as it recreates the government and democracy and country that it deserves to have. I thank you for allowing me to say so.
The Speaker: We will now return to oral questions.
Mr Eves: As I was saying, I have a question of the Minister of Health. I want to bring to the minister’s attention an issue that I brought to her attention exactly one week ago today, and that is the problem at the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital.
As a matter of fact, the very same day that I asked the question in the House, which was last Tuesday, that evening the board of Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital decided to eliminate 38 surgical beds at the hospital and lay off 17 permanent staff members on 1 June, which they say will mean longer waits for surgery and could mean a backup of patients in the emergency ward. About 70 staff members will be affected by reassignments and layoffs, and to quote one nurse at the hospital, “People are losing their jobs and wards are being ripped apart.”
Does the minister concur with this type of action and could she tell me why this would be necessary?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As I have told the member before in this House in answer to this question, the ministry is working very closely with the hospital -- in fact, with both hospitals in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. A ministry consultant is reviewing the financial situation at the hospital and we expect to report by the end of May.
Mr Eves: The ministry has been aware of the problems since at least January of this year, and to quote the past chairman of the hospital: “This community is growing by leaps and bounds. It will only get worse next year. The Ministry of Health does not like to hear this type of thing, but it’s a fact.”
It seems to me that we went through this entire process with Cambridge Memorial Hospital in the same area of the province in 1988. In response to those problems in 1988, I would like again, as I did last Tuesday, to remind the minister of her quote with respect to the whole conjoint committee, and I quote the minister directly, “We will undertake upon the ministry to get you funding and get you answers on programs immediately.”
How can it be that, if the minister has known about this problem at this particular hospital since at least January, the minister is now saying that she hopes to have some sort of answer in place by the end of May? How can this be when the minister solved all these problems back in 1988? Why are we going through it again in the same region of the province?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am delighted that the member opposite has raised Cambridge Memorial Hospital. As the members know, some time ago we had members hooting and hollering, ranting and raving, and in fact the reality is Cambridge Memorial Hospital has undergone significant change. It has responded appropriately to the community and is working co-operatively with the ministry as an example of a well-run and innovative hospital in this province.
One of the things that we are trying to do is ensure that hospitals work together, sharing innovative approaches, focusing on the services that people will need as the province’s population changes, as technologies allow us to do things in alternative ways.
I can assure the member opposite that we will ensure that essential services are maintained and that we work co-operatively with both hospitals in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and I want him to know that as we receive the report of the consultant who was actively involved in reviewing this situation we will ensure that the people of Kitchener-Waterloo receive the services that they require.
Mr Eves: I do not know how we can be going through this almost identical problem two years later in exactly the same region of the province. I want to refer the minister to a comment or two made by the current chairman of the hospital:
“The hospital can only serve patients if it is provided with the money from the Ministry of Health. The hard task is yet another example of the ministry’s unfair expectations of hospitals. I feel that the Ministry of Health is to some degree abrogating its responsibility to the people of Ontario by forcing hospitals to make service decisions. We are not the only board struggling with decisions that should more properly be made by a central government.”
Does the minister not agree with the statements made by that hospital chairman? How is it that the minister is not assuming the responsibility and making the decisions that she should make? If she wants hospitals to cut services, then it is up to her to tell hospitals what services --
The Speaker: The member has already placed two supplementaries.
Hon Mrs Caplan: Surely the member opposite is not advocating a government-run system. One of the strengths of our system is the volunteer hospital board chairmen, who take their responsibilities very, very seriously. The role of the ministry is to work closely with the hospitals to assist them, particularly during this time of transitional funding where we are committed, as part of our equity funding formula, to ensure that hospitals are fairly and appropriately funded.
From time to time each year, as they draft their budgets, there will of course be issues which have to be resolved and worked out, and we pledge ourselves to working co-operatively with the hospitals, focusing on the services that people need. I can tell the member that while it is not perfect yet, we really are making progress.
Mr Pouliot: My question is to the Minister of Transportation. The minister will recall that, during the discussions and negotiations that led to his government’s decision to deregulate the trucking industry, he was warned by the opposition that if deregulation was allowed to take place in Ontario, people would lose their jobs and the industry would be decimated. In the past 12 months, 5,000 employees in the trucking industry have lost their jobs and, unless immediate steps are taken to level the playing field, another 12,000 will lose their jobs in the year ahead. What specific steps is his ministry taking to help trucking companies that are on the brink of bankruptcy?
Hon Mr Wrye: I would have thought that the honourable member would have perhaps acknowledged in his question the action taken by my colleague the Treasurer in last week’s budget, which we believe will take significant action in terms of correcting any problems which exist. I think that the actions by the Treasurer were appropriate in the circumstances, an important signal that the government is concerned about the pressures that the trucking industry is facing for a number of reasons, not just the reasons stated by the honourable member.
But I can say to the honourable member that within the government we are continuing to review this problem very carefully with the Ontario Trucking Association and leaders of various trucking firms in Ontario to ensure that the industry, which is such an important one, with almost 250,000 jobs, remains a very viable industry in this province.
Mr Pouliot: Because of the minister’s decision to deregulate, and also because of the desperate need to compete in the marketplace, safety is indeed being compromised. For instance, of 26,000 trucks inspected in 1988, fully 22%, almost a quarter, had safety defects so serious that they warranted their removal off the road. In the riding of the Premier and in Brampton, 28% of the trucks inspected were unsafe; they had to be hauled off the road. What is the minister doing to ensure the safety of motorists in Ontario?
Hon Mr Wrye: I am surprised that the honourable member again would not have acknowledged the fact that Ontario has moved very quickly to implement the National Safely Code and that indeed our enforcement of that code has been very rigorous. We have had a number of spot and surprise inspections, the most recent of which was a couple of months ago. We have, of course, the ongoing inspection stations and we have increased the amount of time that those stations are open
But we are concerned, first of all, about any violations of hours of work laws, and we are very pleased to see that the violations which showed up in March were in the 3% range. In terms of the inspections of the equipment itself; the inspections at the inspection stations are facility audits, which are now getting geared up and getting underway. We believe they will bring down the numbers that the honourable member quoted, which are numbers that do concern me and do concern the government, that they will bring these down very, very significantly and we will have very safe vehicles on the road.
Mr Wiseman: I have a question of the Minister of Culture and Communications. Does the minister believe that the endowment promised yesterday to Harbourfront by her government will enable it to continue to deliver the popular and valuable cultural programs that it does?
Hon Ms Hart: I must say I am happy to be asked about this initiative, because I can give my heartfelt congratulations to the member for Kitchener-Wilmot, the minister of various things, including Housing, and also to Duncan Allan, the official who put together this arrangement when many others could not, tried and failed. This arrangement is going to make sure that the cultural programming at Harbourfront has a very secure future; $50 million as an endowment from a public source is unprecedented.
Mr Brandt: That wasn’t the question.
Hon Mr Elston: That was the answer.
Mr Brandt: It wasn’t an answer
Mr Ferraro: It’s a hell of an answer.
Mr Brandt: It had to do with funding for the arts. I’ll help.
The Speaker: Would the member for Lanark-Renfrew allow the member for Sarnia to ask a supplementary?
Mr Wiseman: The chairman of the board for Harbourfront has said that if these valuable facilities are to survive, they will need much more than the endowment that the minister promised them yesterday. If the endowment is too small, as we believe it to be, will the minister guarantee us today, and the people at Harbourfront, that her government will come forward with the necessary money to make sure that these facilities continue to exist?
Hon Ms Hart: For one thing, I can tell members that the interest on the endowment money will raise, if conservatively invested, in the neighbourhood of $6 million to $7 million a year. That, as members will appreciate, is about half the income that Harbourfront currently has. Harbourfront does raise income through business sponsorships and also through the gate, because a number of the activities at Harbourfront are charged for and the public pays admission. I am confident, having had my officials involved in this throughout, that Harbourfront and its cultural programming will be secure in the future.
Mr M. C. Ray: I have a question for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. It concerns job creation and capital investment in the city of Windsor by the Ford Motor Co. The president of Ford USA, Philip Benton, recently was quoted in the Globe and Mail as indicating that Ford was considering investment in an aluminum casting plant in Windsor and a van plant in the Oakville area. In view of the recently announced closure of the Windsor engine plant 2, in our private meetings I have requested that the minister impress upon Ford Canada its special obligations to the city of Windsor and particularly to the Ford employees in Windsor. Could the minister please inform the House on the status of these proposed investments?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I want to commend the member for Windsor-Walkerville and also my colleague the member for Windsor-Sandwich for their efforts and their concern about what is happening in Windsor.
They should know that the automotive industry is going through some very dramatic rationalization and that we are really into a global automotive industry. I was heartened by the fact that Philip Benton, at a speech that he gave to the Canadian Club on 18 April, indicated that serious consideration was being given to establishing that particular facility, a van plant in Oakville and an aluminum casting plant in Windsor.
We have been working for some time with Ford Motor Co, trying to ascertain what its North American requirements are going to be. We have been co-operating with them in a way that they can make a pitch, so to speak, to their board to try to attract that facility into Ontario. I think all members should know that we are competing with St Louis, Missouri, and that decision has not yet been taken. But I want to assure members that we as a government and my ministry are working with Ford Motor Co offering them whatever we can to induce them to bring that facility to Ontario. Not only would it provide jobs in Windsor, but the spinoffs of that whole thing would ripple through the whole automotive parts industry in Ontario.
Mr M. C. Ray: Could the minister, in addition to the Ford situation, in view of the several plant closures and bankruptcies in the Windsor area in recent months, advise us what other efforts he and his ministry are undertaking and he is undertaking in the Windsor area to assist our local economy?
Hon Mr Kwinter: If the member would bear with me, I would like to just tell him some of the things that have been happening in the Windsor area. The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology office, with the Ontario Development Corp, has authorized $7.9 million in loans for 31 clients, resulting in $13.6 million in investments and creating 223 jobs during 1989. Windsor-Essex received 53% of the total loans made in the southwestern Ontario region in 1989. MITT has financially supported Windsor in its efforts to produce a strategic plan. Windsor-Essex has been promoted as an attractive environment for licensing agreements, investments and plant locations, and we have had over 90 visits by Pacific Rim visitors. A self-help centre has been located in the Windsor office, and in this past year it has offered guidance in financing, marketing and general business assistance to 785 perspective entrepreneurs.
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a question for the Minister of Labour with respect to workers’ compensation services for injured workers in Sault Ste Marie. This issue was raised with the minister several weeks ago by myself, and he has received other communications, from the member for Algoma and the member for Sudbury East, as well.
The minister’s response indicates his support for the Workers’ Compensation Board plan to transfer the adjudication of Sault Ste Marie claims from Sudbury to a new integrated service unit, or ISU, in Thunder Bay. At the same time, the minister’s response indicates that the regional ISU in Thunder Bay, when fully implemented, will include a staff complement increase to accommodate the increased workload.
Will the minister explain to us why he is not putting that staffing into Sault Ste Marie so that the injured workers in Sault Ste Marie and Algoma district can be handled in their own area, rather than putting that staff complement in Thunder Bay?
Hon Mr Phillips: I am sure the member realizes that these are decisions made by the Workers’ Compensation Board after consultation with its board. I do not make that decision; the board does. I might say, though, that the board has been very active in implementing a program to move services out of Metro Toronto and ensure that services are as close as they can bring them to the individuals who are affected.
In that particular case, the Workers` Compensations Board management brought those recommendations to its board, reviewed them with its board and went over the service levels that it felt would best meet the needs of the individuals across Ontario. In terms of support or non-support for the recommendations, I have reviewed those proposals with the Workers’ Compensation Board. I am certain they have reviewed them very thoroughly with their board and that they are convinced, and I think with good reason, that they will represent improved service for individuals across Ontario.
I want to make it clear that that is a decision made by the board after a good deal of consultation and a good deal of research. They are convinced it will represent an improved and enhanced service for the workers across the province.
Mr Morin-Strom: The minister talks about moving services closer to the constituents. I have a map here of the province of Ontario, and perhaps the minister should talk to the Minister of Transportation. We have got one side of the map, the map of southern Ontario, and Sault Ste Marie is not even on the corner of the map, and it is a considerable distance on this side to Toronto. But on the other side of the map, it would appear that Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay are relatively close together. Interestingly enough, if one looks at the mileage chart, it shows Sault Ste Marie to Toronto is some 690 kilometres, while Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay is 690 kilometres, exactly the same distance. How on earth does moving a regional service to Thunder Bay improve the services to workers in Sault Ste Marie when they could just as well be served out of Toronto?
Hen Mr Phillips: I am talking of course about decentralization into major regional centres. I have been told that, in terms of service for the Sault Ste Marie workers, they can receive virtually all of their services in Sault Ste Marie. The units that have been moved from Sudbury to Thunder Bay are service units that will provide services that can be handled over the phone in terms of the day-to-day requirements for individuals in Sault Ste Marie. I am told that those services will continue to be provided in Sault Ste Marie by the local people in Sault Ste Marie. There will be requirements to provide phone service in certain instances, and that can be done by contacting the Thunder Bay office.
Mr Villeneuve: To the Minister of Agriculture and Food: I am sure the minister is aware that the chicken industry shortages are giving national supply management a black eye. Ontario’s demand for chicken exceeds production. Processors, retailers and restaurants have run short and run out of product in certain instances. The Canadian Chicken Marketing Agency has rejected Ontario’s request for more production this coming summer. If their recently initiated appeal falls on deaf ears, what does the minister intend to do to meet the supply that is required by the consumers and also meet the requirements of the poultry industry? They can produce here.
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am glad to respond to this question because it is a problem that I am very concerned about also. As the member has noted, I have personally appealed this decision to the national marketing agency. I would hope for a favourable outcome. I would just say to the member that if we do not get a favourable outcome, I am prepared to do whatever we have to do to make sure there is sufficient supply for Ontario consumers this summer.
Mr Villeneuve: I am glad the minister is prepared to do what he feels he has to do. Kentucky Fried Chicken, Swiss Chalet and a number of others are having to import chicken from outside of Ontario, and even from outside of Canada. Is the minister prepared to pull out of the national organization and have Ontario run on its own?
Hon Mr Ramsay: The danger of pulling out, as I am sure the member across the way knows, is that we lose our protection under article 11 of the GATT, in that at least 80% of the commodity has to be supply-managed. British Columbia was able to do that because it was a much less significant part of the market than Ontario is. Unfortunately, that option is not there, or basically we would kill the whole system in the country. I am prepared to look at whatever options are available to me to make sure there is sufficient supply this summer, so we do not have to have importation of American chicken.
Mr Epp: The Minister of Municipal Affairs announced earlier today the establishment of a water and sewer corporation in Ontario. He is very aware of the water shortages which we in the Waterloo region experience and have experienced for a number of years. Would he please indicate to me and the regional officials how we might improve our chances of obtaining funds through this new corporation for a pipeline from Lake Huron to the Waterloo region?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The situation that exists in Kitchener-Waterloo and in a number of other places in the province was precisely the reason why this government decided to proceed with the new initiative. We recognized that neither the municipality -- the region of Waterloo -- nor the provincial government has the unlimited resources that are necessary, first of all, to rehabilitate the existing service so that it meets the health needs of the local population and the environmental needs of the local population, but also Kitchener-Waterloo and Waterloo region are one of those areas of the province that are growing fairly rapidly, and they didn’t have the financial resources to provide for that growth as well. The whole purpose of the new water commission is to assist and to be able to attract additional funds to be able to do that very thing. As soon as the commission is in place, I would be quite happy to direct its attention to the home ridings of both my honourable colleague and myself.
Mr Epp: Is the minister prepared and is the government prepared to attach some urgency to the request, which I am sure will be forthcoming shortly from the region, with regard to a pipeline? Second, is the minister prepared to indicate what kind of percentage of support the government will give to the region once that request comes forth?
Hon Mr Sweeney: If it is determined that a pipeline is the logical solution to the needs of Waterloo region and to other areas. As the honourable member will recognize, the city of London is looking for additional water supplies, as well as the cities of Brantford and Guelph, which are in the general area, and the area of Halton is looking for additional water supplies.
It seems to make sense to us that, in trying to deal with each of those individual needs, a single pipeline could perhaps be designed in such a way as to meet all of their needs. That would provide for a much more efficient and much more effective cost-sharing of the water that would actually be produced, and on the basis of that, we would have to determine what share the local municipality would pay.
Mrs Grier: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. It concerns a statement in last week’s budget speech when the Treasurer talked about Ontario’s approach to waste abatement and said there would be development of new incineration facilities. This is a switch, and I wonder if the Minister of the Environment could tell us--this statement could perhaps represent one of two alternatives. Does it mean that the government has acknowledged the failure of the Minister of the Environment’s policies on waste reduction, or is this yet another environmental policy area that the Treasurer is taking over from the Minister of the Environment? Which is it?
Hon Mr Bradley: Actually, the Treasurer was accusing me of taking over the Treasury with $649 million in the new budget for the field of the environment.
Mr B. Rae: Out of $45 billion?
Hon Mr Bradley: It is far more than ever would have happened under a New Democratic government.
Mr B. Rae: Jim, there is only one way to find out.
Hon Mr Bradley: That is true. We do not want to find that out.
I think if the member looks very carefully, she will see that the amount of money being spent on the recycling, reduction and reuse option this year is in fact some $55 million. Remember the old days when we came into power and they were spending $750,000 on the blue box program? Now on this 3R initiative we are spending some $55 million.
It has always been in the province of Ontario that if anyone wants to bring forward any waste disposal proposal to the Ministry of the Environment, it is scrutinized by the ministry and by other ministries as it goes through the environmental approval, and ultimately the Environmental Assessment Board makes its decision, as it did in Peel. They can either reject it, accept it or accept it with conditions, and that is the way it has always been.
Mrs Grier: I did not hear an answer to my question, but I have to infer that this move by the Treasurer represents a new policy.
I would like to remind the Minister of the Environment of a speech he gave in October 1989 when he said: “Some have come to me and asked that energy from waste incineration be considered as a valid part of the 50% diversion from landfill. Energy from waste can defeat the whole purpose of waste reduction and recycling, that purpose being the conservation and reuse of our precious renewable and finite natural resources.”
In the face of that statement, how can the minister in any way justify the reintroduction of incineration by the Treasurer as an alternative to waste reduction?
Hon Mr Bradley: It is late in the question period and this may be the reason, but the member has completely misinterpreted this, I am sure not naively, but she has perhaps seen something that is not really there.
What I have said consistently and what this government says consistently is that incineration or landfill cannot be counted as part of the diversion, 25% by 1992, 50% by the year 2000. It cannot be counted as part of that. I know some of the member’s municipal friends do not agree with that and believe it should be counted as part of the diversion, but in fact it is not counted as part of the diversion.
Nothing has changed, except the fact that the government of Ontario is spending so much more money on the other three Rs in Ontario. Nothing has changed. They must meet their requirements for diversion from ways other than disposal, and both incineration and landfill are methods of disposal, not methods of diversion.
PROPERTY ASSESSMENT CORP
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Revenue. In the Treasurer’s budget he indicated the establishment of the new Property Assessment Corp. Last week the minister tabled a bill, Bill 156, which, if I paraphrase from it, indicates that 50% of the members of the corporation shall be representatives of the municipal sector, being either members of council or senior appointed officials of a municipality.
School boards are not mentioned and yet they are very much dependent upon assessment in Ontario. Because of this government’s fiscal policies towards education, we have seen the contribution drop to 40%, which means 60% is dependent on local assessment for school boards to survive. In fact, the city of Toronto’s $1.8-billion budget is entirely financed by local assessment.
Given the importance of property assessment to school boards, can the minister assure this House that school boards, trustees, will be represented on his new Property Assessment Corp board?
Hon Mr Mancini: I am having a difficult time trying to follow the logic of the honourable member’s question. He knows that property assessment, up until 1970, had been the sole responsibility of the municipalities across the province. Because things were in a state of disarray in that particular sector of public policy, the government of Ontario of the day decided that it should take over the responsibility and we, over the past 20 years, have put that system right. We are now evolving to the next step where we are bringing back the municipalities as full partners in the assessment system.
I am not quite sure what the honourable member is after in his question, but it is the municipalities that will share with us the responsibility of providing appropriate rolls so that appropriate tax rates for the municipalities and school boards and others can be established.
Mr Jackson: Quite frankly, what we all ask for is a simple, straight answer. My question to the minister was whether his board would allow the participation of school trustees and school boards.
I am surprised at the minister’s ignorance of his own ministry’s involvement in the issue of school board assessment as it relates to commercial-industrial assessment. His own government brought in a bill recently, Bill 64, which involves the shifting of commercial-industrial assessment from public boards to separate school boards in this province.
My question is still valid in so far as public, Catholic and francophone trustees have all asked the government whether it will allow representation on this new assessment corporation board. It is a relevant question because those groups are concerned about having a voice and participation on this new board. Will the minister allow them to serve on the board or not? It is a simple question.
Hon Mr Mancini: I do not think the honourable member is really making any sense, to be honest. If we followed the honourable member’s logic, we would then have business leaders who have to pay business taxes on the board. We would then have ratepayers who pay taxes through their property taxes on the board. We would then have to have people from the agricultural community. We would have to have people representing the multi-dwelling industry on the board. We would have a board with 200 people.
We want to share this responsibility with the municipalities. They are the major partners. This is the next step in the evolution of this process, which started way back in 1970, and we are going to put assessment back on the proper basis where it should be, a shared responsibility with the government of Ontario and the municipalities.
Mrs O’Neill: My question is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues. There has been some comment made in this assembly and beyond it that the budget of Ontario for 1990-91 does not speak of women or women’s issues. Would the minister make some comments on this statement, please?
Hon Mrs Wilson: The budget benefits women in a number of significant ways. First of all, income tax cuts for lower-income families with children will benefit women. A significant number of these lower-income families are headed by single women.
The reform of our long-term care system will benefit women. Women have traditionally been and continue to be the informal care givers for elderly who live at home. Visiting homemakers and many of the volunteers who deliver programs such as Meals on Wheels are women, and because women live longer than men, women are the biggest portion of consumers of the long-term care system.
The budget also makes available funds to increase salaries for workers in community-based social service agencies. Many of those workers are women. And, of course, women will benefit from the continued sound management of Ontario’s economy and social service programs.
In these ways our new budget delivered by our Treasurer last week will benefit the women of Ontario in significant ways.
Mrs O’Neill: The second part of my question springs from the first, but it is a little more specific. Child care facilities in this province are very important to families, and many families in this province are headed by women.
In my riding of Ottawa-Rideau I receive much correspondence on how and in what ways our government can enhance child care. I would like the minister to update my constituents on what our government is doing in the area of child care and its enhancement.
Hon Mrs Wilson: The member for Ottawa-Rideau is quite correct in signifying the importance of child care for women in Ontario today, particularly when we know that in the next few years women will make up fully 50% of Ontario’s labour force.
Due to Ottawa’s limitation on the Canada assistance plan cost-sharing program, contributions from the federal government will remain at last year’s level of $139 million. My government, however, does not believe that this is the way to address child care issues, and consequently Ontario’s share of child care costs will increase to $257 million this year, which is up some 27% from what we spent just last year. This shows the Ontario government’s commitment to child care for women in the province.
ASSISTANCE TO TOBACCO FARMERS
Mr Wildman: I have a question for the Treasurer in regard to the only major tax increase announced in the budget, the tax on cigarettes, and how that affects tobacco farmers in the province.
In view of the fact that the Treasurer has raised taxes on cigarettes and there are already, as of this month, approximately 550 tobacco farmers on the waiting list for the tobacco assistance program, the Redux program, can the Treasurer indicate how much of the additional revenue that the provincial government is going to receive from the cigarette tax increase will go to the Redux program to assist more tobacco farmers to adjust to the decline in the market?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am sure the honourable member knows that it is not a case of earmarking the dollars from a tax to a program. The money from the tax goes into the consolidated revenue fund, and this year it is going to be in excess of $860 million, a lot of money.
The tobacco reduction program is one that is financed in conjunction with the government of Canada. We have had a program that has gone on for a number of years, and I am trying to think of the details of it. The member might ask the Minister of Agriculture and Food if he wants further detail. But it has been reasonably successful.
I represent an area containing a number of tobacco farmers, and although they have not asked that question specifically, they have expressed their views on the increase in the tax to me.
Mr Wildman: The minister might be interested to know that so far, 573 farmers have been assisted. Approximately the same amount are still waiting for assistance. There needs to be more funding. I am sure those farmers will be happy to find out from the Treasurer that this government does not intend to increase the funding for the Redux program.
What specific amounts of this year’s budget will be allocated to increase the funding above the $13 million currently allocated by the federal and provincial governments?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I am not aware of any additional funds above the $13 million, but the tobacco board, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the officials from the government of Canada meet from time to time so that the progress of the program is a reasonable one.
I think the honourable member would be aware and would be glad to hear that the planting is either just about to begin or has already begun in some parts of the province and that there is a good deal of confidence that the amount grown is going to be maintained over the next three years.
Mrs Grier: I have a petition which has been collected and signed by representatives of the Windsor and District Clean Water Alliance. I think there are well over 1,000 signatures, and it relates to the issue of disposable diapers.
It points out the problems caused in landfills from a health point of view and also in occupation of the capacity of landfills by such disposable diapers and requests the government of Ontario to require Ontario hospitals to stop using disposable diapers on maternity wards within one year and return to the use of cloth diapers.
CLOSING OF CAMPGROUNDS
Mr Villeneuve: I too have a petition. It is supplementary to a petition that was presented to this Legislature in April. It has to do with the closing of parks in eastern Ontario and is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
One of the petitions, signed by 27 people, says: “We, the people, would like to see Charlottenburgh Park kept open to campers and picnickers.”
The other petition, signed by an additional 11 people -- this is supplementary to a petition with some 6,700 names that was presented last month -- wants to keep open all five parks in eastern Ontario scheduled to be closed.
Mr R. F. Johnston moved the adjournment of the House.
The House divided on Mr R. F. Johnston’s motion, which was negatived on the following vote:
Ayes 13; nays 58.
Mrs O’Neill moved that the House proceed to orders of the day.
The House divided on Mrs O’Neill’s motion, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ayes 44; nays 26.
Mr Runciman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: On at least two occasions this afternoon the member for Parry Sound was on his feet wishing to table very important petitions with over 900 signatures dealing with hospital beds. He was not afforded that opportunity. At this point. this whole exercise is an affront to democracy. I want to request unanimous consent for reversion to petitions.
The Speaker: Order. There has been a request that the House revert to petitions. Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon members: No.
The Speaker: There is not unanimous consent.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
TIME ALLOCATION (CONTINUED)
Resuming the adjourned debate on government notice of motion number 30 on time allocation in relation to Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance.
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The Liberals refuse to debate, the Liberals refuse to hear petitions. What next? Do they simply lock the doors and throw the opposition --
The Speaker: Order. The member for Welland-Thorold asked the Chair to listen to a point of order. I listened. It was not a point of order; it was a point of view.
Mr R. F. Johnston: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I wonder if we could have unanimous consent to revert to reports by committees since we have a report from one of the standing committees.
The Speaker: There has been a request for unanimous consent to revert to committee reports.
Mr Kerrio: No, there is an order on the floor.
The Speaker: No, there is not unanimous consent.
The Speaker: Order. I called for orders of the day. I heard the table call the order. I will now recognize the member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mr D. S. Cooke: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I have been waiting for the appropriate time to raise this point of order, in view of what occurred last week in the Legislature and the week before, where the government in one week presented a motion that would have had the Legislature sitting until midnight from the date that the motion was presented until 2 May, and then last Thursday’s motion with no warning to yourself as the Speaker of the Legislature or the staff around here, and that seems to be now the approach that the government is going to take. They will do whatever they have to do, whatever they want to do, whatever hours they so decide as the majority.
The Speaker: Order.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Mr Speaker, during the night, when we sat all night last Thursday night, points of order were raised with you with regard to staffing for simultaneous translation and interjectionists, and I would add to that the concern about whether we have adequate staffing to properly staff the security personnel around this place if this is obviously going to become a regular procedure.
Mr Speaker, we have been waiting. We thought perhaps you might have reported to us earlier today on what your response to this is going to be for the next time this happens -- and it could be any time; it could be later this week, it could be tonight, it could be tomorrow -- what arrangements are going to be made and whether it is the plan of the Speaker to present to the Board of Internal Economy or to the parties requests for additional funding and personnel so that this place can be properly staffed, with the new hours that the Liberal majority intends to impose on the Legislature.
I think it is an appropriate point and it should not be dealt with as it was last week, where we got into the position where staff left and we were not properly staffed around this place. I know there are a number of members who have concerns about this and I think it would be an appropriate time for you to give a full response, as the chief officer of this place, as to what your plans are when this happens the next time. As I say, it could happen any time with this majority government that does not give a damn about the opposition parties or democracy in this place.
Mr R. F. Johnston: On the same point of order, Mr Speaker: If I might just be specific about some of the elements of the standing orders that relate to these matters, the first thing would be to have a report on what is the notion of full Hansard. In the necessity of being able to continue on that evening, we continued without the interjectionists of Hansard being able to function. As a result of that, I would argue that we did not have what we would consider full Hansard in terms of our traditions in this place. Other houses have various other forms of making sure that the full intent of a speaker is understood. We have always thought that the position of these interjectionist Hansard people would be appropriate.
One of the other matters I raised, and it might have seemed not to be important to members, was the whole process for the appointment of a replacement for the Sergeant at Arms when he was absent. Although we were informed that in fact some kind of arrangement had been made for an attendant to take the place of the Sergeant at Arms, the importance, in my view, of sections 137, 138 and 139 being fulfilled in our standing orders was one which was not reported back to this House by the Speaker in terms of how that was going to be dealt with when the Sergeant at Arms could not be here at that time, how the guarantees of the normal security of this place and of the persons in this place should be accomplished and handled.
I think you rightfully brought up as well, on the question of translation, the report of the standing committee to this House, which we adopted. It listed the number of translators we would have available to us. Very clearly, as I think you were trying to imply with your remarks, those numbers were not sufficient to provide all-night-long translation at that point There must be some kind of recognition of the fact that. if we are going to have that kind of tactic foisted on you as the person who administers the proceedings of this place, we are going to have to make sure we have adequate staff who can be called in.
Luckily, since it was in the morning that the problem was noted, we were able to find somebody after a brief recess, but I would argue that it is the kind of thing for which the House should be adjourned if we do not have it available and that it is something which, if you do not get the proper support from the Board of Internal Economy on this matter, you should consider in the future, sir.
The Speaker: I have listened very carefully to the members, I am fully aware of what was said the other night, all night, and I have taken it upon myself as the --
The Speaker: Order. I listened carefully to the points of order at that time regarding a simultaneous translation, regarding the full Hansard service and regarding the presence of the Sergeant at Arms. I am not here to argue any of those particular cases or points. I would like to inform the members that immediately following that session, because of what I found out concerning the committee report that was approved by this House, I took it upon myself to instruct individuals to make certain that I would be informed and make certain that these people would be in place for similar circumstances.
The Speaker: The member for Algoma on what?
Mr Wildman: I would like to move adjournment of the House.
The Speaker: Order. I cannot accept that on a point of order. If you have the floor legitimately, you may.
Mr D. S. Cooke: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member for Algoma did not rise on a point of order. The member for Algoma rose and you recognized him. There is a motion to adjourn the House.
The Speaker: I appreciate the member for Windsor-Riverside, who does not agree with my interpretation of the rules. However, I stand by my rule that it is out of order and I recognize the member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mr Runciman: It is a pleasure to participate in this very important debate affecting all Ontarians. I want to say that it is unfortunate that we have the atmosphere in this House which we have seen here today, but its origins really stem from the government’s decision to introduce this kind of legislation and limit debate through committee of the whole House and on third reading.
If we go back to the history of this and take a look at the fact that the minister and the government House leader, in my view, overreacted in what can be construed as an arrogant way in terms of cutting off debate based on comments made during the second day of debate on this legislation, I do not think that anyone in the public who seriously considers these kinds of matters would consider that to be an appropriate way to deal with such important legislation.
I want once again to take this opportunity to commend the member for Welland-Thorold who preceded me in commenting on this legislation. He did an outstanding job.
Mr Kormos: Thank you very much, Mr Runciman. I appreciate that. Any time.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr B. Runciman: He and I worked together on the committee. and I want to say that there were very few issues respecting this particular piece of legislation that we disagreed on. Obviously the member believes in government-run auto insurance. We do not agree with that.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Runciman: We think that indeed that is where this Liberal government is heading. In that sense, he and some of his colleagues differ as well. We know the member for Nickel Belt sat on the committee on one occasion and is a very strong advocate of pure no-fault with a government-run program, comparable to, I gather, the Quebec situation. So there are some differences of opinion within the NDP caucus.
I want to say there are no differences of opinion within the Progressive Conservative caucus with respect to believing in the free enterprise system, in believing that this sort of thing best belongs within the purview of the private sector. Also, we have a series of --
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The Speaker is trying to listen to the member who has the floor. There is only one; it is the member for Leeds-Grenville, please.
Mr Runciman: I appreciate the break provided by the Liberal members creating a lot of noise and not listening to anyone making a contribution with respect to this issue. That is typical of the way they have dealt with this issue from day one, going back to the Bill 2 hearings in 1987.
I wanted to say that I have long admired the members of the NDP with respect to their ability to stay on their feet and talk at length. Sitting as a backbencher in the government, back in 1981-84, I used to be amazed at the ability, of members of that party to go at length and make a useful contribution to the debate. I have often thought that perhaps socialists were born with larger bladders than the rest of us. I am not sure if there is any truth to that or not. In any event. they seem to have that ability.
I must say that in the number of years that I have been on this side of the House now, you do learn, if that is the proper word, to be able to participate at length with respect to some of these debates.
I also want to thank the member for Durham-York for ensuring that I have the appropriate refreshment for the evening. I much appreciate it.
I also want to say, with respect to the member for Welland-Thorold, that he was wearing his boots through the entire event. I personally do not own a pair of cowboy boots but I put on desert boots in the hope that they will be able to sustain me through the length of this, whatever length it might be. At this point, we are uncertain.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Runciman: We certainly want to make sure that all the views of our party are put on the record and that all the views of the innumerable witnesses who appeared before the committee studying Bill 68 are heard as well during this next number of hours because unfortunately, as a result of the government’s decision to cut off debate and restrict debate, we are not going to have the opportunity to deal with those at length in committee of the whole as we would have under a normal process.
I want to say that my contribution in many respects is going to be different from that given by the member for Welland-Thorold.
Mr Ferraro: You are not giving out your phone numbers.
Mr Runciman: Who knows. I may be giving out phone numbers, but I do not intend to talk about my dog.
Mr Kormos: You don’t have a dog.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr Runciman: As a matter of fact, I do have a dog, but I am not going to talk about my dog. I am not going to talk about operations that my dog might have had.
The Deputy Speaker: Order. Members from all three parties have a hard time respecting the standing orders right now, which call for only one member at a time. No exceptions. The member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mr Runciman: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was pointing out to the member for Welland-Thorold that I do indeed have a dog and I do not intend any slight to my dog by not dealing in detail with some of the problems he may or may not have experienced during the course of his four years on this earth.
Mr Runciman: As a matter of fact, I have a four-year-old dog by the name of Gabriel, who was deposited on my doorstep by my oldest daughter a number of years ago, and since that time we have been stuck with him.
An hon member: What kind of dog is he?
Mr Runciman: A cocker spaniel, as a matter of fact. The Liberal chairman of the committee is quite interested in this, so we certainly want to make sure he is fully informed. But as I said, I do not want to talk in detail about my dog, even though he is a fine dog, a fine watchdog, as a matter of fact.
Mr D. R. Cooke: What’s his name?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. There are many private conversations and there are many interjections, which make it difficult for me to hear the member for Leeds-Grenville.
Mr Runciman: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I very much appreciate your concern.
Instead, what I hope to do during the next period of time is to deal with some specifics, to deal with the history with respect to automobile insurance and the Liberal government over the past four and a half years.
It is a sad history indeed. It is one of mismanagement, it is one of a seat-of-the-pants operation, running from crisis to crisis and really never having any focus, any real goal with respect to where they wanted to go with automobile insurance in this province. Their efforts have been directed towards short-term political gain and certainly have not been in the best interests of Ontario consumers or Ontario taxpayers.
Mr Eves: Or dogs.
Mr Runciman: Or dogs, that is right. Put that in there.
During the course of the next period of time, I also want to talk about the committee process. I will spend a bit of time during the history of this exercise talking about the justice committee hearings on Bill 2, which established the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. I also want to talk about the committee process with respect to Bill 68, the no-fault auto legislation. Of course, that is very much relevant to the legislation before us today when we are talking about time allocation.
All of the witnesses who appeared before us, overwhelmingly in opposition to this legislation, have to have an opportunity through this forum to have their views and concerns put on the record once again, because as I have said on a number of occasions, the government has not listened, has been unwilling to listen, and in effect we are going to try once more to get that message through to it. I think we have an obligation to those many people across the province who have legitimate and serious concerns.
During committee of the whole, we are also going to be introducing a number of amendments to this legislation. We went through a long debate internally as to whether or not we wanted to introduce amendments to this legislation. As we know, the official opposition is not introducing amendments because they feel so strongly that this legislation is totally inappropriate for the needs of Ontarians that they do not think they should be dignifying it by introducing amendments.
I want to say that we had that same kind of struggle within our own party. We felt, as I said, that there is an obligation, a commitment, a responsibility to all of the groups that appeared before us, the head-injured, all sorts of interested individuals and groups, to have those concerns put on the record through an amendment that may deal with the threshold when we are talking about psychological or head injuries, and deals with a whole host of areas. We feel it is our responsibility as legislators to ensure that those people and organizations have their views heard within the assembly itself.
I will be reviewing those amendments in some detail during this debate, simply because the government has cut oft debate through the normal process, and that is committee of the whole. We are not going to have that opportunity, so we have to take opportunities that are afforded us by the Liberal majority government and put those views on the record.
One of the things I also want to talk about during this period is alternatives. I do not want to be standing up here for a number of hours being totally negative about this legislation, although that is easy to do. There are very few things that I could talk positively about in respect to Bill 68, this no-fault insurance.
But I do at the same time want to present what we believe are legitimate and responsible alternatives to what the government is doing with auto insurance in this province. So at some point during the next little while, I will be presenting a number of alternatives for the consideration of the members of the House and the consideration of the members of the public who frequently will say: “Look, you can criticize this thing. You are opposing it as members of the opposition. But do you have any alternatives to offer?”
We have had alternatives which we have discussed in the past, and I am going to elaborate on them, not only our own alternatives, but also the alternatives of other groups and organizations and individuals in the public who have made those alternatives available to the government. They again, like so many others, have been ignored by an arrogant Liberal majority.
I want to talk about time allocation. One of the difficulties of this is the fact that the member for Welland-Thorold and I, because of what has occurred, have to get up and speak at some length to ensure that the concerns and views are heard by the Legislature. I think to a significant degree that is unfair to all members in this assembly, but it is especially unfair to members of the opposition parties, and obviously somewhat unfair to the critics who are responsible for these areas because they have that burden fall upon them.
I guess both the member for Welland-Thorold and I are prepared to shoulder that, but what it does is remove the possibility of other members of my caucus, other members of the NDP caucus, getting up and expressing their views and the views of their constituents. What this Liberal government has done is shut out those people from being heard and from having their elected representatives have the opportunity to express those concerns and views and suggestions in the Legislative Assembly. They were elected to do that.
The Liberal members, the backbenchers of the government, were elected to do that. They are choosing not to participate in this debate. They are choosing not to participate for a variety of reasons, primarily, I assume, for reasons of party discipline. It may be out of personal ambition, hoping to achieve some sort of appointment in the future if they are retiring or some sort of appointment, whether it is a parliamentary assistantship, a chairmanship of a committee or ultimately getting into the executive council, the cabinet. Whatever the reason, the members of the Liberal Party have chosen not to participate in this debate.
At the same time, that is fair game. If they do not want to and they have their reasons not to, we can live with that. But we cannot accept the fact that this government, this arrogant government, has also shut out all but two members of the opposition from participating and from getting their points of view and the points of view of thousands of people across this province on the record.
Mr Miller: You didn’t want to co-operate.
Mr Runciman: I got an interjection that we did not want to co-operate. Mr Speaker, as you know I tend to get a little loud on occasion and I am restraining myself because I have some difficulties with my voice after a period of time. It is an old byproduct of working in the chemical industry for a number of years and shouting over loud machinery and compressors, etc, so that after a period of time my voice tends to get a little weaker. Despite the aggravation that might come across the floor I am going to try to be quite restrained during this debate and discussion and talk quietly, and hopefully effectively, and get the points of view across.
But the member for Norfolk, a gentleman whom I respect, said that they have cut off the opposition because of obstructionist tactics. That is totally incorrect. If we take a look at what has happened with respect to the government’s decision to cut of debate after only two days in committee and bring in time allocation -- and it is unheard of in the history of this Parliament, that kind of initiative by a government, bringing it in so quickly -- to suggest after only two days of debate that the opposition was being obstructionist is ludicrous. Obviously that member is simply spouting the government line and has no real understanding or awareness or appreciation of what has transpired during the course of this matter.
If the member wants to take a look at the history in respect to the introduction of time allocation, he will find very clearly that this is unheard of in respect of the timing of this allocation bill, the fact that it was brought in so early and really prohibits members of both opposition parties from participating in what is one of the most important debates we have had in this House in some time.
I want to say at this time too that I have already made some comments in respect to the NDP, but I do not want to get overly complimentary because that could be misconstrued. When I was first elected in 1981 -- some of the folks who were sitting within the ranks of the NDP are still here, but there were a number of others as well, and we used to have the feeling that they were not the kinds of folks you would like to go out and have a beer with, that they were not in some respects the ordinary folks Ed Broadbent likes to talk about. I always had the feeling that they were buying underwear two or three sizes too small and that they were constantly aggravated.
But I want to say that since the 1987 election and the by-election which brought the member for Welland-Thorold in -- perhaps it is being on this side of the House and mixing more with members of that party -- this crop of people is the kind of folks you would like to have a beer with. They are doing a very effective job and they are bringing new blood in, like the member for Welland-Thorold, as we are with the member for London North. I think that is providing great inspiration for both parties: new faces, very exciting individuals who are going to ensure that the Liberal government goes down to defeat at the polls during the election expected at some point this year.
The member for Welland-Thorold was complaining -- I guess it was after the marathon session last Thursday night -- about his back giving out on him. You know you are getting old when your back goes out more often than you do. I have had that feeling myself on a number of occasions, but I am wearing my desert boots. I feel quite comfortable. At some point, if this continues at length, I will probably shed my jacket.
That is another thing I want to command the member for Welland-Thorold on. He kept his suit on throughout the debate, which was most commendable. But I think, if I go on at significant length, hopefully the viewers will appreciate the fact that we are operating under TV lights here and that it does get a little warm on occasion and will not take any offence at the fact that I may have to at some point remove my jacket.
Mr D. W. Smith: As long as you stop there.
Mr Runciman: That is right. I will. I am sure the member opposite is concerned that I will stop at my jacket
Hon Mr Elston: Do you want the music?
Mr Runciman: Why not?
As I said earlier when we were talking about time allocation and the fact that we are not going to have an opportunity through committee of the whole to get all the views on the record, I want to take this opportunity to start talking about the history of this issue with respect to the Liberal government that came in in June 1985. Obviously the accord -- I am not sure; I cannot recall the details of the accord -- did not stipulate the institution of government-run auto insurance. In any event I am not sure that accord served much of a useful purpose for anyone other than the Liberal government. I do not think the people of Ontario were necessarily well served by it, but what it did, really, was ensure, obviously, the election of a majority Liberal government.
Hon Mr Elston: Elie Martel; Ross McClellan.
Mr Runciman: Yes. I am not going to get into that though. At some time when it is more appropriate, I may get into those sorts of things.
I want to talk a bit about the history of Bill 2. which relates to this, because I have been the insurance critic for most of the past four and a half years. I am not sure that gives me any special expertise on this issue, but I have certainly been exposed to it to a significant extent.
The Bill 2 hearings conducted by the standing committee on administration of justice back in 1987 were very revealing with respect to the way the government was going to deal with this issue. They came about as a result, I can only assume, of the Liberal leader’s promise in the election. I think it was in early September, just prior to the election date, when he said he had a very specific plan to lower automobile insurance rates. We have all heard this said over and over again in this House during innumerable debates on auto insurance, that the Premier made a very specific promise that he was going to lower the insurance rates of Ontarians.
Of course we know that has not transpired. We have seen a significant number of increases take place over the past number of years and we have seen millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars wasted as a result of the ineptitude of the Liberal government in dealing with this issue. The fact is -- I have said this and I am going to continue to say it -- that the ball has to fall into the Premier’s court. The buck stops at his desk with respect to the mess we are in in Ontario with automobile insurance. He made a promise without any clear idea of where he was going. He did it for purely political reasons, I believe -- short-term political gain. Then, following that promise, he said to his bureaucrats and senior members of the executive council: “You bail me out on this one. You come up with a plan that is going to meet my promise.”
Of course they have been unable to do that, but through a series of subterfuges, through a series of efforts to confuse the electorate and the people of this province and divert them from the real issues, playing a game of smoke and mirrors, they have been able to a significant extent to defuse some of the political damage and some of the political fallout that should ensue from the Premier making what some would believe was at the very least a very misleading promise. I have used stronger language on other occasions, and maybe as this debate continues I might be persuaded to use that kind of language again. I hope not, but I think there are more accurate ways of describing what the Premier said and his failure to follow through on his promise than simply describing it as misleading. But I will leave that to the imagination of the members and of anyone who may be viewing these proceedings this evening.
In any event, as a result of the Premier’s promise, made I might add during what is probably the most significant study of automobile insurance in the history of North America, being conducted by Mr Justice Coulter Osborne -- the Premier made this promise. We had the justice committee assigned the task of looking at Bill 2, which was a massive intervention into the private sector by the Liberal government.
Of course, we know that the Liberal government is not averse to that sort of intervention in the private sector. I have said this before: We have some significant players in the government who were once supporters of the NDP. Perhaps the most significant is the Attorney General, who although he does not like me to say this, at one point not too many years ago was a fund-raiser for the New Democratic Party. I do not think the NDP likes me saying that either, but in any event that is a fact.
We have other members of that party who were prominent members of the NDP. The member for Brantford was a member of the most extreme segment of the NDP, the Waffle group. Mr Speaker, I am sure you have heard of the Waffle group. The member for Brantford was a member of the Waffle -- talk about being on the left of the political spectrum -- then joined the Liberal Party for opportunistic reasons obviously. Ideology is very unimportant to individuals like that. Then they play a key role in decisions such as this, a massive intervention in the private sector.
I have been ringing the alarm bell since 1987 with respect to the way this government acts and the fact that the insurance industry is looking at this, I am assuming. They say: “Look, we’re dealing with a huge Liberal majority government. They’re the only game in town. We have to go along with them.” That is in essence what has happened since 1987. It has cost the insurance industry and it has cost taxpayers of this province a significant amount of money. It is going to continue to cost taxpayers money. It is going to continue to shortchange consumers.
In the long run, I think it is going to eliminate the private sector in the insurance field in this province, because if you take a look at a host of things -- I will be getting into some of these later, but perhaps the most important one will be the constitutional challenge on Bill 68. If we get through an election and find that this legislation is unconstitutional, this whole insurance situation is going to be thrown into a state of chaos. I have no doubt whatsoever that at that point the Liberal government, if it happens to be the government, will look at the most politically expedient short-term answer for it and again that will be, in my view, nationalization of the industry.
The Treasurer and former Minister of Financial Institutions indicated in this House during question period, in response to a question, that he was not offended at all by the idea of government-run auto insurance. I think that is pretty significant, when we know where the Attorney General is coming from with respect to ideology. Now we have the Treasurer making these comments. I want to just recollect as we are going on here a speech by the Attorney General during the free trade debate. One of his concerns about the free trade legislation was the difficulties it might impose on this provincial government if it decided to nationalize the auto insurance industry.
Clearly we know where the Attorney General is coming from, we know the Treasurer has no difficulties with this and we know the Premier is certainly not above this sort of thing. Of course, we can look at his family background. There are very strong linkages there to the NDP and the old Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. The Premier’s father was one of the signatories of the Regina Manifesto.
Mrs E. J. Smith: That is a different accusation.
Mr Runciman: I am only stating the facts, if the member for London South has some difficulty with that. I am trying to indicate the mindset of a number of the very key players in this government, the people who are really the decision-makers. I think it is very significant, very important to the people of this province, and I think that the folks in the insurance industry who are being rather complacent with respect to this legislation at this point in time should be on their guard, very much on their guard.
We went through the Bill 2 hearings and they were in many ways a mirror image of what happened with the standing committee on general government on the no-fault insurance. We had witness after witness testify with respect to concerns about this kind of intervention in the private sector, what the implications were for the industry and what the implications were for consumers and taxpayers. Again, it was ignored. The bulk of that contribution from learned witnesses was essentially ignored.
Perhaps one of the most important elements of that was the discussion on rate classification changes. I am proud to say that our party, of the three parties participating in that exercise, was the only party to oppose the changes brought in with respect to rate classification. Witness after witness foretold the problems rate classification changes were going to create, that they were just not appropriate, that they did not recognize the realities of the road and were going to result in significant increases for female drivers and for elderly drivers.
The minister, and it was the same minister, ignored all that testimony completely and went full speed ahead. He required the insurance industry to make significant changes to comply with those changes. We have heard various estimates of what it cost the industry. Some have said $20 million, $30 million or $40 million. I have heard figures of up to $100 million that it cost the industry to prepare for the changes required by this minister with respect to rate classification.
What happened when those changes, the rate submissions, were filed with the board? Mr Kruger came to the minister and said, “Here is what it is going to cost.” We saw rate increases of 70% and 80% for many people who have been perceived, and rightfully so, as safe drivers in society. They were facing overwhelming increases. The political heat was enormous.
What did the minister do? He threw it all out. Those millions and millions of dollars, the report from the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board which had been operating for some period of months and cost, again, millions and millions of dollars, he threw it all out. Really, that is a sad thing indeed when he wastes that sort of money, not only the private sector’s but also taxpayers’. But perhaps the most difficult thing for us to swallow, and I would think for the people of Ontario to swallow, is the fact that the minister knew all of this months and months in advance and failed to act. He ignored the advice, ignored the concerns expressed by many witnesses and did not react until those millions had been spent, until confirmation of the witnesses’ testimony was lying before him in a report from the automobile insurance board. Then he had to deal with it. He had to face up to the facts which he was prepared to ignore and write off and not pay any attention to during the Bill 2 hearings.
The minister has an awful lot to answer for. I have not got up in this House and asked for his resignation in the past with respect to that. I like the minister. He is a friend of mine. We were both elected in 1981. It is difficult sometimes, when you are serving in opposition and you are a critic of someone who happens to be a personal friend, to get up and launch into that kind of an attack. We have had some tossing of verbal assaults back and forth on occasion, but I think we have all come out of them still feeling good once we step outside this room.
I have somewhat reluctantly restrained myself, although he may have difficulty believing that, with respect to some of the things I could have been saying and could have been asking for in terms of how he has dealt with this issue. I am going back to Bill 2 and the millions and millions of dollars that were wasted during that exercise. The responsibility for that truly falls on the shoulders of that minister. He may indeed be a very capable member of the executive council, but in that particular case he failed miserably.
He has to live with that. Obviously it has not damaged him with respect to future aspirations within the cabinet of the Liberal government, but I think at the same time that it is something he has to personally live with, with respect to how he performed his assigned task during that very important period of time. I think he failed. I am reluctant to say that, but I think it is clear, based on the record and the facts, that this is what occurred.
There is another element of this that I think is important. We have seen this sort of chicanery and trickery and the sort of effort today where we do away with petitions, for example. It does not serve any useful purpose. If we had gone through the routine business, it may have taken up an additional 10 minutes.
Mrs E. J. Smith: What a laugh.
Mr Runciman: We can hear moans and groans from the government side, but you have to take a look at the history of how the opposition parties have been dealt with on this issue.
I go back to Bill 2 -- I am not sure but I think there are a couple of members sitting in the House who served on the Bill 2 hearings -- but on the very last day that the committee was hearing public testimony on Bill 2, which is the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board Act, we had a report tabled with the committee detailing a study of the auto insurance industry in the state of Massachusetts. It was the only jurisdiction with a system comparable to what Ontario was suggesting: the establishment of a rate-setting authority and the other mechanisms that went along with that rate-setting authority.
The history of Massachusetts since the institution of a comparable sort of initiative was sad, frightening and should have been of concern to all members. But, indeed, the government -- and who knows how long it had this report in front of it -- decided not to make it available to the committee until the very last day of public hearings.
In essence, they not only precluded us from travelling to Massachusetts or at the very least perhaps bringing up legislators from Massachusetts to appear before us, bringing up members of the insurance board from Massachusetts -- people who had been involved in the industry, had gone through a comparable exercise and realized what the outcome was and who could have alerted us all to the pitfalls inherent in what the government was attempting to do -- but again they entered into this little game where they dropped this in our laps on the last day, where we had no opportunity to call witnesses, no opportunity even to study the report so that we could deal with it in a meaningful way during the committee deliberations.
What that report said was that it was a chaotic situation in the state of Massachusetts, that the rates under this system were, I think, third highest in the United States at the time of the writing of the report, that most of the private insurance companies had fled the state and that over 60% of the drivers in the state of Massachusetts were now in the high-priced Facility Association. That was a clear indication, a harbinger of what was to come in Ontario. The message was there; it was clear.
The government again decided to ignore the facts and the evidence of a jurisdiction that had done exactly what it was proceeding to do. They simply set that aside because of their political agenda, did not listen to witnesses, did not heed their concerns and warnings, and rushed into this headlong, into an extremely difficult situation, where now we have seen the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board being disbanded after a cost some estimate in the neighbourhood of $12 million to $15 million of taxpayers’ money. For what? I will get into that again.
On two opportunities where that board has reported to the minister, both of those reports, again at a cost of millions and millions of dollars to taxpayers, were simply discarded, thrown out the window and had no attention paid to them.
An hon member: We’re not keeping you up, are we, David?
Mr Runciman: I guess the member for St Catharines or -- what is his riding, Lincoln? No, it is not, this member is from Lincoln -- Kitchener, the member for Kitchener, is indicating his boredom with this debate. He is falling asleep. He probably would prefer to be back in Kitchener dealing with some of his tenants in his efforts to remove some of them from apartment buildings and phoning significant members of the community to ensure that his tenants do not complain to the press about the treatment the member for Kitchener gives tenants in his apartment buildings. If the member wants me to continue to discuss that subject, because I happen to be very familiar with the details of that subject, I would be most pleased to do so at a future point.
In any event, we have the Massachusetts report and again, as I said -- and I will tie this into what happened during the standing committee on general government, when we again had some vital information delivered to us on the last day of the hearings and other information withheld from us until the hearings were completed -- when the members on the government side are concerned about obstructionist tactics, as they describe them, I think they have to look at the history of this and the way the opposition parties have been dealt with on this issue from day one.
There certainly has not been an upfront, honest approach by the government to deal in an open, frank way with members of the opposition parties. It has been an effort to obstruct and an effort to deceive. It has been an effort to mislead. It has been an effort to hide facts, important facts, from all of us in this Legislature and, perhaps more important, from the people of Ontario in respect to the government’s intentions, its plans dealing with automobile insurance in the province of Ontario.
We talked earlier about the Osborne report and we had some of the government members making reference to a report that preceded Osborne, and that is the Slater report. Mr Slater was appointed by the member for Wilson Heights during his tenure, I believe, as the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. At that time, financial institutions fell under the purview of CCR. We had one minister looking after those responsibilities and doing a very capable job, I might say. Now, with this government growth mentality, they have split it into two ministries and we are seeing the bureaucracy grow, whereas in the past we had one minister not only responsible for CCR and responsible for financial institutions but, going back into the Conservative government days, also responsible for rent controls.
Hon Mr Elston: You were responsible for rent control too?
Mr Runciman: No, it was removed from me, I might say.
Mr Pelissero: You’d better clarify this, Bob.
Mr Runciman: Premier Miller, in his wisdom, prior to appointing me to Consumer and Commercial Relations, removed rent control from my area of responsibility -- a wise decisions.
The member for Wilson Heights appointed Mr Slater and, essentially, Mr Slater was assigned to look at what was called the liability crisis in North America at the time. It turned out, in a variety of cases put forward, that it was a phoney liability crisis; it was a crisis fabricated by the industry to elevate rates.
Mr Slater, as part of his study, I gather because of submissions made to him, took a brief look at automobile insurance. It certainly was not an in-depth study by any stretch of the imagination. Slater took a look at threshold no-fault. I believe he took a look at something submitted by the Insurance Bureau of Canada called smart no-fault, and indicated in his report that he found it somewhat attractive; that smart no-fault and the threshold approach was the way to go.
As a response to that and as a response, I gather, to growing political pressure and perhaps a way as a bridge over the election period of time, the government appointed Mr Justice Coulter Osborne. It assigned him the task of doing a very thorough review of automobile insurance and making recommendations to the government, which he did in February 1988, after the government had acted. The government, as I said, did not wait to hear Mr Justice Coulter Osborne. It spent, I believe, $1.4 million to have him prepare what has been described as the most comprehensive report on auto insurance ever done in North America.
The government’s reasons have never been explained to any of us. I would love to hear the minister or his predecessor or the Premier stand up somewhere, some time, and explain how this whole process evolved: why the decision was taken to proceed with the massive intervention through Bill 2, the establishment of an insurance board, while Osborne was conducting his studies. Only several months prior to Osborne coming down with his report, this kind of decision was taken.
Mr D. R. Cooke: On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: The member for Leeds-Grenville has made certain accusations against me. I am waiting to hear him substantiate them or else withdraw them. They are incorrect. They are not true.
Mr Runciman: I did not make any accusations. l made some suggestions that perhaps the member might be more comfortable in another setting, dealing with some of his tenants.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Mr D. R. Cooke: First of all, I do not have an apartment building. Second, I do not have any tenants. Third, I have not made any such phone calls. I demand that the member for Leeds-Grenville withdraw those accusations or substantiate them.
Mr Runciman: If my facts are incorrect, I will certainly, at least temporarily, withdraw them until I confirm them.
Mr D. R. Cooke: I demand that the member for Leeds-Grenville withdraw them unqualifiedly, and if he wishes to substantiate them at some time when he has conducted his research, then he can reintroduce them into the debate.
The Deputy Speaker: I ask the member for Leeds-Grenville to just withdraw, please.
Mr Runciman: I will agree to that, Mr Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: Can we keep the tropic to the motion, please?
Mr Runciman: Yes, Mr Speaker, I will attempt to do that, but on occasions, as you can appreciate, it is difficult to do when you have interjections from across the floor --
Mr Neumann: All he did was yawn.
Mr D. R. Cooke: There were no interjections.
Mr Runciman: Well, it depends on how you interpret that sort of response. I look upon it as an interjection of sorts, and certainly a commentary, if you will, on my contribution to this debate, and a commentary which I did nor appreciate obviously.
We were talking about Bill 2 and the history of Bill 2 leading up to where we are today, and the fact that the Premier made the promise that he made in 1987, which again, as I suggested, has not been fulfilled and perhaps never would have been fulfilled.
I have said this in the past and I do not mind saying it again, that in respect to auto insurance and the impact on many in society, there is no real understanding on the part of the leader of the Liberal Party of the problems created by its initiatives for many of the less fortunate in society. I will get into this in more detail when we get specific about Bill 68, but one of the contributions to the committee was from the Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues, and this was Bill 68 and a number of others dealing with low-income earners and homemakers and individuals who are certainly not in a position to cope financially with some of the problems that are going to be created for them and others in their comparable financial situations by the government’s initiatives.
I was talking about Osborne and the fact that $1.4 million of taxpayers’ money was spent to have Osborne conduct his study in 1987-88, money which essentially has been wasted. The government will argue that it has adopted some of the recommendations incorporated in the Osborne report, but I think the key recommendations in respect to product reform were ignored, and those of course are the essential components of the Osborne report. So I think for all intents and purposes, although the government can pull out a number of areas where perhaps it did indeed follow Osborne’s recommendations, the bottom line is the major recommendations were totally ignored.
We talked about the evolution of this and the establishment of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board. One of the things that followed -- I think it was in June 1988 -- was that the minister was presented with the report from the automobile insurance board in respect to the impact of rate classification changes, as I said, this crisis management, seat-of-the-pants, ad hoc management where the minister then asked the auto insurance board to review threshold no-fault, a choice product and product reform. I think there were three matters: two threshold proposals and something called choice which would offer consumers the choice between buying a tort insurance package or a pure no-fault package.
The automobile insurance board was assigned the task of looking at those three options and -- not making recommendations; I am not sure if it was assigned the task of making recommendations -- reporting to the government. Perhaps making observations might be a better description, rather than recommendations.
They did that, and members know that, like Osborne, they were not enthused about threshold no-fault. They felt it was not the way to go, but once again they were ignored. Again, we have seen under this particular situation in respect to product reform and in respect to rate-setting and rate classification changes they were also ignored. What in essence that meant was that those months and months of various individuals working on their assigned tasks and the millions of taxpayers’ dollars were lost to all of us for ever.
I have a Kitchener-Waterloo Record article here, which I am not at this point going to read into the record because I do not want to enter into this kind of a debate with the member for Kitchener, but I certainly will make it available to him. It deals with the issues I raised, and indeed makes some accusations which may be incorrect, but I will certainly make that available to him.
Mr D. R. Cooke: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: This is most uncalled for. The article in question is written by a fiction writer. It is complete fiction. The member for Leeds-Grenville should know that. It is not part of this debate. I demand that it be withdrawn. If it be raised again, I demand that the Speaker consider expelling the member from the House. This is disgusting.
Mr Runciman: I have already withdrawn the remarks. I am simply making this available. If the member has already seen it, it is unnecessary, and we will leave it at that point. Continuing the debate, Mr Speaker --
Mr Hampton: You tapped the Liberal arrogance again, Bob.
Mr Runciman: Yes.
It is important, I think, that we also spend a little bit of time on looking at the activities of the automobile insurance board and the waste of money. I think that is an ingredient that perhaps we have not stressed enough in this Legislature during committee.
As I indicated, we have heard a variety of estimates--$11 million to, I think, $15 million spent by the automobile insurance board -- and $1.4 million was spent by the Osborne commission, so we could be looking at between $12 million and $17 or $18 million, at the very least, of taxpayers’ money which in essence has been wasted -- millions of taxpayers’ dollars.
While all of this was going on, we had the minister in what can only be described, I think, as backroom dealings with members of the industry, and perhaps others whom I will not get into speculating on today, working up the effort which has been introduced as Bill 68, threshold no-fault, which is without doubt the toughest threshold in no-fault programs in North America and has a very devastating effect on innocent accident victims in this province. It was a backroom deal cooked up while the minister knew that his own insurance board was considering a variety of submissions and he was in a parallel operation, devising a plan that he intended to introduce as the government initiative.
I think that, when we talk about the way this has been handled by the government from day one -- the promise to the electors; the waste of taxpayers’ dollars; the massive intervention; the obstructionist tactics; the failure to provide all of the information to members of the justice committee and, when they did provide information, providing it at a point in time when it was of little use, and this sort of approach carrying on to the Bill 68 general government hearings, where we had important actuarial studies detailing the costs and the impact on benefits of this program tabled on the last day of public hearings, again, when witnesses would not have an opportunity to contribute on a meaningful basis with respect to those figures before us; the shenanigans that took place between the industry and the government, which have been confirmed in a letter made public by the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario dated October 1989, complimenting the government on changes which were not announced until the completion of the Bill 68 hearings -- as I said, the insurance industry, confirmed by a letter from the Insurance Brokers Associations, knew about those changes prior to the hearings even beginning -- there is a great deal indeed that the public of Ontario has a right to be very much upset with.
We have talked about this exercise, Bill 68 threshold no-fault, providing the insurance industry with a significant windfall, upwards of $1 billion. The minister will argue that, the parliamentary assistant will argue that, but the facts are there. We know the tax break totals approximately $14- million, we know the threshold and the reductions in payouts that are going to accrue to the insurance industry total a significant number, so we are looking in the neighbourhood of $800 million or $900 million at the very least. Depending on your interpretation of who can break the threshold, we could be looking at a $1-billion windfall to the industry in the first year of operation of this plan.
Obviously, many of us have concerns about that kind of windfall profit for the industry. We do not think it was necessary. We think at the very least, when we get into discussions on amendments, there could be and should be some softening of this threshold.
We personally do not believe in the no-fault approach. We believe it is an abdication of responsibility and in our party we believe in the ethic of responsibility, that people should be held responsible for their actions, and we have a great deal of difficulty with a no-fault principle.
At the same time, facing the reality of a 94-seat majority Liberal government, we believe that we have to make proposals and suggestions that could perhaps make this more palatable and more acceptable to the vast majority of Ontarians. Obviously, one of the ways that could be accomplished in a significant manner is some wording changes that would affect the threshold and would allow more accident victims to pierce that threshold. As we have seen by the actuarial studies conducted by the government itself, initially we were talking about 90% of the accident victims in this province who would not be able to pierce the threshold. The actuarial studies show that figure would be closer to 95% and could be as high as 97%. We are talking about 3% to 5% of accident victims in this province who would retain the right to sue.
Again, that is the sort of thing, the kind of message, that has to be gotten out to the consumers of this province, the six-million-plus drivers of this province, so they have a greater appreciation of how significantly their rights are being attacked by this Liberal government with its threshold no-fault plan.
In the first section of my contribution, I said I was dealing with the history, going back through the Bill 2 process and going back through the establishment of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, the chaotic situation that occurred, the waste of taxpayers’ dollars and the total evolution of this effort up until this point in time. Now I would like to move on to the hearings conducted by the general government committee on Bill 68.
As most members know, the government was most reluctant lo have hearings. It wanted to have this legislation through by 1 December 1989, and under pressure from both opposition parties, the government consented to have public hearings.
We obviously wanted to travel at length across the province so that many Ontarians would have an opportunity to be heard on this issue, but we were restricted to four communities which had the opportunity to have a committee in those municipalities and provide their citizens with the opportunity to be heard. Again, we are dealing with a Liberal majority government and we had to take what we could get with respect to giving the people of Ontario an opportunity to be heard on this no-fault plan.
We started off those hearings, I felt, on a good foot. We were hearing comments from some of the Liberal members of the committee that they were sympathetic to some of the concerns, especially in respect to the head-injured and those with psychological injuries and their ability, their restriction and their elimination from access, to pierce the threshold, a host of those kinds of concerns on which the member for Hamilton Centre had expressed some public concerns. We had the member for Windsor-Walkerville, I believe, who had publicly expressed some concerns. We had the member for Durham Centre, who sat on the committee for I think two or three days and had expressed concerns about this legislation and its impact on drivers and the fact that significant rights were being removed from drivers. He had expressed concerns. He was sitting on the committee.
Just from the general tenor of our first meeting or two, I was optimistic that we were going to have a really meaningful exercise in respect to not only listening to these people, but following through on many of their concerns and recommendations, which we would see result in amendments that would make this legislation better serve the needs of Ontarians.
I want to say that initial optimism quickly turned into disappointment. We had witness after witness--and I am not going to get into this at length, at this point in any event -- get into testimony. I know the member for Welland-Thorold will remember one particular witness, Jeremy Rempel. It was very moving testimony from individuals like Jeremy who had suffered serious accidents.
They had no vested interest in this legislation. They had already suffered their accident. They had already had access to the courts and they had already had their needs served by the current system. I am not saying they found no faults with the current system. They indeed felt changers were necessary, but they were very much concerned about the initiative of this government and its impact on future innocent accident victims in the province. We had a number of those kinds of individuals, as I said, appear before us with some very moving testimony. They had had no vested interest and nothing to gain, but they were very much concerned about future accident victims in this province.
We were in Sudbury. The member for Sudbury East is here, along with the member for Welland-Thorold. I know some of the testimony we heard in Sudbury was extremely moving. It had quite an impact on those of us in opposition.
When you hear that kind of testimony, you expect, at least from the government side, from the Liberal members, to hear some understanding, some appreciation and some sympathy for the points of view being expressed and the efforts to relate to their own situations and to the accidents and difficulties they had gone through and how future innocent accident victims in this province would be dealt with by this legislation.
But instead of that kind of thing occurring, we had the most inane, unbelievable comments from some of the members serving on the government side. You would shudder with embarrassment when they would get up and ask questions which had no relevance whatsoever and did not deal in a meaningful way in any way, shape or form with the concerns or testimony that we had just listened to.
I know the member for Welland-Thorold and all the members of the opposition parties and myself got extremely agitated during the course of these hearings, not so much because we were moved and touched by the testimony, but I would say because we were very seriously agitated by the reactions and responses and non-responses of the Liberal members serving on this committee.
They were there simply as rubber-stampers for the executive council. They had no meaningful role to play other than to be sheep for the government, for the executive council and for the Minister of Financial Institutions. They were not there to listen, they were not there to hear what these people were saying and they were certainly not there to act upon what those people said and those concerns that they expressed to all of us, or attempted to express to all of us, but only the opposition members apparently were listening.
Mr Speaker, as you know, I am on occasion prone to getting upset about issues that I feel strongly about, but I do not think I have ever felt more strongly about an issue and about the actions of the government members than I have during the course of these committee deliberations. I want to say that --
Mr Runciman: That is probably a good idea. I should go through that. We have Ms Oddie Munro, the member for Hamilton Centre, a very serious disappointment, because at the outset she had expressed some serious concerns about the head-injured. She had made public statements, and I gather in her working background prior to becoming a member of this Legislature she had some understanding and association with those individuals, people who have suffered serious head injuries. I expected much, much more from that member, and what we got, as I said, were inane comments and no meaningful contribution at all. She was a very serious personal disappointment for me in respect to how she reacted during that committee. Obviously she still has aspirations to return to cabinet. I think that those aspirations are --
Mr Kormos: Wish upon a star.
Mr Runciman: That is a good one, a wish upon a star. I think that she certainly does not have much hope. In any event, I think she should have stood up for what she had indicated earlier she believed in.
l served as a government backbencher. When we deal with issues like this, I know how tough it is, especially when you are a newcomer and have aspirations to climb up the ladder, how difficult it is to stand up on principle on behalf of the people you are representing and make your views known, and not only make your views known in caucus but make them known in public and be prepared to stand up and take the bitter pill, take the medicine and fight for what you believe in.
Members can say, “Well, that’s fine for you, Runciman, to say that.” But I am speaking from experience, because I did it, and l did pay a bit of a penalty during the Suncor debate, Mr Speaker, as you may recall, when I disagreed with the government in respect to its decision to acquire an interest in the Suncor oil company.
I implored the members of the committee, the Liberal members of that committee, when we were dealing with such an important issue, an issue that is going to affect the lives of most Ontarians, to take that kind of stand, to be courageous, to be brave, to stand up on behalf of their constituents, of the concerned people in this province, of innocent accident victims for the future in this province. But they were not prepared to do it, they simply were not prepared to do it. They did not have the guts, the intestinal fortitude to stand up and be counted when it mattered most. They did not have the guts to do it.
I want to talk about the member for Guelph. I like the member for Guelph, the parliamentary assistant to the minister, but again, he acted as nothing much more than a mouthpiece for the government in this. I want to say I appreciate his position. He is getting an extra $9,000 or $10,000 a year to be parliamentary assistant. He does not want to give up that to perhaps stand up and express concerns. But I will say this for the member: He made some public comments. He was quite frank in some of his public comments, which I appreciated. When he talked about the committee hearings he said, “We were clobbered.” He was right, they were clobbered. But obviously they did not listen.
I want to talk about one other thing in respect to these committee hearings. J. Bradford Nixon, the member for York Mills --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): The honourable member, whom I have nothing but the greatest respect for, has on a number of occasions now referred to members by their individual names. I would only ask him to try to refer to them by their ridings, since I anticipate this will be a long discussion that he will be having and he might as well get in the habit of doing it now.
Mr Runciman: Maybe later in the debate I will refer to him as that. I am just starting to get warmed up here.
An hon member: J. Bradford.
Mr Runciman: J. Bradford, yes. I want to say about that particular member, who was a knowledgeable guy, there is no question about it, that he served as a policy assistant, I believe, to the member for Wilson Heights, so he had some familiarity with this issue from day one. I want to talk about the personification of arrogance. The personification of Liberal arrogance is vested in J. Bradford Nixon.
Talk about reneging on deals. I want to put this one on the record because I was the subject of some public criticism, and perhaps justifiably so, because of using unparliamentary language. On the last day of the public committee hearings we had stacks of actuarial studies tabled in front of us. We had no opportunity to look at those, no opportunity for witnesses to be heard and to critically analyse those. I was prepared to give up 15 minutes of testimony to allow someone to have 15 minutes to analyse and critique those studies that had been dropped on our lap the last public hearing day.
Mr Nixon, that member -- pardon me. Mr Speaker- -- the member for York Mills indicated that he was prepared to allow me to set aside my time so that we could call Professor Jack Carr, a professor of economics, to have 15 lousy minutes to comment on those stacks of actuarial studies. The agreement was made and, following rotation, the chairman called on me and said, “We’ll now call on the witness to take up the time of Mr Runciman.” Mr Nixon, the member for York Mills, said: “I object. I don’t want him to appear.” He reneged on the deal, he reneged on a deal he had made a half an hour earlier. I want to say I lost my cool. I did indeed use language which was inappropriate, which was unfortunate and which I regret using. But I want to say if there was ever an occasion when that kind of language was justified, that was the occasion.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It’s routine Liberal policy now.
Mr Runciman: Yes, it certainly is.
Mr Runciman: Mr Speaker, it seems the Liberals are trying to stifle debate here. They simply will not let me continue, with all of these interjections and interventions and loud noises. I know this is extremely difficult for some of the Liberal members, especially those who served on this committee..
I want to go over some of the others. Yvonne -- I hate to use first names, Mr Speaker.
Mrs Marland: Ottawa-Rideau.
Mr Runciman: Ottawa-Rideau? No, it is not Ottawa-Rideau.
Mrs Marland: Yvonne O’Neill?
Mr Runciman: No, Mrs LeBourdais.
An hon member: Linda.
Mr Runciman: Linda, sorry.
An hon member: Etobicoke West.
Mr Runciman: Etobicoke West. This is another member whose contribution I want to make note of during this debate, the member for Etobicoke West, Mrs LeBourdais, and the most important contribution she made during this debate. She was there and I made some comment in respect to no meaningful amendments coming forward. Her interjection was, “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.” In response to that I said, “Is there a certain cabinet minister going to attend later today?” She reacted with great indignation that I had personally insulted a member of the executive council. I had mentioned no names.
Later on that day, on a point of order, she took up approximately 15 minutes of important committee time, when we could have been hearing witnesses who had a significant contribution to make in respect to this legislation, to talk about that kind of comment, trying, I suppose, to look good in the eyes of that particular cabinet minister, or look good in the eyes of perhaps the decision-makers who make these kinds of appointments to cabinet. “Look, here I am, the little member for Etobicoke West standing up on behalf of and fighting for cabinet ministers.” Where the devil was she fighting on behalf of innocent accident victims in this province? She just was not there.
She gets up and spends 15 or 20 minutes fighting about an innocent comment, about someone who happens to be overweight and may be a member of the Ontario Liberal cabinet, but she will not say a damned word about the concerns and the interests of innocent accident victims in this province. She should be ashamed, along with all her cohorts in the Liberal Party who sat in those hearings, who sat on their hands, who sat quietly, who did not participate in any meaningful way and did not make any kind of contribution that helped those kinds of people in this province.
I want to say again that all of those Liberals have a lot to answer for and I am going to, during the course of this discussion, mention each and every one of them. If I have to do it on a number of occasions I am prepared to do it, because I want the message to go out to their constituents that: “Those people who say they are representing you were not there when it counted. They were not there when it counted. They were not prepared to stand up and speak out on your behalf -- not one word.”
On motion by Mr Runciman, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1800.