The House met at 1330.
Mr Laughren: I am increasingly concerned about the attitude of this Liberal government towards small, remote communities in northern Ontario. This government gets so wrapped up in problems with the large urban centres in the south that our Ontario citizens in small, remote communities are completely forgotten.
In these communities, and I have several in my constituency of Nickel Belt -- communities such as Biscotasi, Sultan, Westree, Shining Tree, Pineal Lake and Renabie -- there often are no schools, no basic health services, no bus service and only very unreliable rail transportation. Road connections, often by logging roads, are usually in terrible condition, certainly worse than concession roads in southern Ontario.
For example, a road that links Highway 129 to Sultan, just south of Chapleau, is in such bad shape that several accidents have occurred recently because drivers lost control of their vehicles after hitting a pothole. A school bus travels over this same road every day.
As the past president of the Northeastern Ontario Chambers of Commerce, Gilbert Riou, wrote recently, and I quote, “No wonder only a few tourists dare venture into northern Ontario, and their number is decreasing every year.
The Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Northern Development know about these problems and still they remain. No community in the south would put up with these conditions for a day, let alone for months, nor should it have to.
Mrs Marland: Today, 5 June, is World Environment Day, and 3 June to 9 June is National Environment Week. In Canada, public concern over the environment is more widespread than ever before. Whether it is introducing recycling programs, planting trees or lobbying for stricter pollution controls, Canadians are getting involved.
A recent Gallup poll showed that 85% of the population thinks governments are not doing enough to clean up the environment. That result should have every member of this Legislature thinking about the progress we have and have not made to protect our environment.
We can be proud of our expanding blue box programs as well as the agreement reached by all of Canada’s environment ministers to cut packaging in half by the end of the decade, but we do not have a solution for the hundreds of communities that are running out of places to put their garbage. Air pollution is another area where we have seen significant progress but not enough. The Countdown Acid Rain program is reducing harmful emissions from the four largest industrial sources of acid gases, yet we badly need a replacement to our outdated regulation 308 so other air polluters will be required to clean up their emissions.
To mark World Environment Day, let’s work harder at all levels, from the household and community to the United Nations, to solve our pressing environmental problems. Future generations around the world are counting on us. This is a magnificent planet. Let us ensure its future by our actions to preserve it.
INVITATION TO KINGSTON
Mr South: This is an invitation to all members of the Legislature and their staff to join us in welcoming the Honourable Joe Ghiz from the cradle of civilization to where the Confederation dream began, in Kingston, tomorrow night. Come on down, enjoy eastern Ontario hospitality at that fabulous city at the eastern end of Lake Ontario called Kingston.
Mr Jackson: This is not a Liberal fund-raiser, is it?
Mr South: No, nothing like that; no.
FERTILIZER PLANT FEASIBILITY STUDY
Miss Martel: Six months have passed since I last raised the matter of a fertilizer plant in northern Ontario. There has been no word from the government on the proposal since then. The history of the fertilizer plant is a sordid one indeed.
The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines announced a study of the project in March 1986. The idea was to combine excess sulphuric acid produced in the smelting process with phosphate deposits found in Cargill township to produce fertilizer. Sudbury was supposed to be included in that initial study, but for some reason it was not.
Then in March 1989, after a great deal of prodding from the United Steelworkers, Sudbury regional council, the Sudbury Development Corp and myself and my colleague the member for Nickel Belt, the Liberals agreed to fund phase 2 of the study. This was to involve other government ministries and private industry. We were assured that Sudbury would now be included and examined as a potential site for such a plant.
In June 1989 the owners of the phosphate property decided to do their own study on the value of bringing a mine into production. The government decided to stop its work until the results of the Sherritt Gordon/Newphos review were known. This is where the project has sat since June of last year.
The fertilizer plant is important for Sudbury in both economic and environmental terms. I wish the government were as committed to it as we are, but it is obvious that we are going to wait a long, long time for this project to get off the ground, if it ever does.
Mr Jackson: It is with great pleasure that I inform all members of the House that earlier this year Burlington became the first city in the greater Toronto area to have declared itself a sustainable development community. In so doing, Burlington city council imposed on itself an environmental perspective on all city activities and services, from planning to purchasing. This program, among other things, will investigate the costs of programs and development, bringing the true cost of resources on to the balance sheets in order to help bring environment and economy into harmony.
In what is being widely heralded as a watershed change for municipal governments in the 1990s, this declaration will ensure that all Burlington city actions, including the official plan, will be scrutinized for their environmental implications. From now on, development that is compatible with sustainable resource use and environmental preservation and protection will be emphasized and actively promoted.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and commend all members of Burlington city council for addressing the important challenge to find new forms .of development that are sustainable and environmentally sensitive and for taking their stand against development that is not. I also commend Burlington council on its decided leadership in environmental initiatives, especially at a time when Ontario is experiencing an environmental leadership vacuum from this Liberal government.
On this World Environment Day, may all Ontario municipalities begin to follow the example and the achievements of Burlington city council in integrating environmental protection with planning for economic and physical development.
LANDLORDS’ RESTRICTIONS ON PETS
Mr Faubert: In October 1989, in a private member’s statement, I called on the Attorney General to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act to protect responsible tenant pet owners. Shortly thereafter the Attorney General pointed out that it would be prudent to first find out if the Fluffy the cat, or Cassandra v Rhyll case would be used as a precedent in the courts.
Members will be aware that last Friday, 1 June, an Ontario district court judge ordered three Toronto tenants to get rid of their cats or vacate their homes. Tenant pet owners in my riding are now concerned that even though their pets are no trouble to other tenants, they may also be forced to vacate or give up their pets. As a result of these Ontario district court decisions, it became apparent there was a need to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act to ensure that pet owners would only face eviction if their pets were deemed to be a hazard or a nuisance to other tenants.
In many households, pets are considered to be members of the family. They are often a comfort to all family members, in particular seniors, as they can provide a sense of security, protection, companionship and affection. Thus, I was pleased to be advised that the Attorney General has announced he will indeed be amending the Landlord and Tenant Act to protect tenants with well-behaved pets, and I encourage him to introduce these amendments at the earliest possible opportunity.
Mr Mackenzie: Last Saturday morning I joined a dedicated band of environmentalists and members of the Save the Valley committee, led by John Ellis, to walk the Red Hill Creek valley from King Street to Queenston Road in the city of Hamilton, while there is still a forest there. Less than two minutes into the walk, you would not know you were in the city of Hamilton. This is a strange, beautiful wilderness where we were serenaded by large numbers of birds and viewed wonderful trees and wildflowers that overwhelmed the senses.
At the start of the walk, at King Street and Mount Albion, the Rosedale Bowl, the pending destruction of the valley is already obvious. Chainsaws and bulldozers have already laid waste to huge trees and bush area and the naked devastation awaits the ugly concrete of the expressway. How in God’s name the destruction of this beautiful green belt can be equated with progress that might mean shoehorning a few more cars into a city centre maybe five minutes quicker is totally beyond me.
The hypocrisy of Canadians complaining about the destruction of the healthy lungs of the world population by destroying the Brazilian rain forest is starkly outlined as we blithely destroy the lungs of our own population by building this expressway.
I consider what is happening in the east end of Hamilton a tragedy that denies understanding of our country and our children’s environmental future. I cannot understand local politicians, once opposed to the valley’s destruction and now in positions of power, idly standing by subservient to developers’ priorities.
I suspect that the next generation will damn the shortsighted politicians, developers and governments that allowed this destructive obscenity. When will we come to our senses, and will it be in time?
Mr Villeneuve: I would like to give the House an update on the Progressive Conservative Party caucus information campaign to tell municipalities, anglers, cottagers and boaters about the problem with zebra mussels.
On 18 May, just before Victoria Day weekend, we launched a public relations campaign with the distribution of over 10,000 information brochures warning outdoor enthusiasts of the dangers of the creature, which is rapidly infesting Ontario’s waterways. This pamphlet was sent to marinas, cottages, municipalities and conservation authorities right across the province and outlines steps to be taken on how to slow the spread of the mussels.
We are happy to see that Ontarians are willing to do their bit to control this very dreaded pest. In two weeks since the campaign was launched, we have been swamped with requests for over 1,000 of these brochures. Of very special interest is a request from the Ministry of Natural Resources. I must say this is indeed a compliment, and I would like to send copies of this pamphlet over to the minister herself and to her parliamentary assistant.
Just last week in estimates, the minister said her staff would be embarking on a campaign to tell municipalities, anglers, cottagers and boaters about the zebra mussel problem. I expect ministry staff think this brochure is worth copying. Therefore, it is a pleasure for me to send copies of this brochure to the parliamentary assistant and to the Minister of Natural Resources.
Mr Owen: Recently the Royal Life Saving Society’s Ontario branch began its 1990 Water Smart drowning prevention campaign. This campaign is of particular interest in Simcoe county, where we have year-round recreational use of our surrounding lakes and rivers.
Figures provided by the society showed that 252 accidental drownings happened in Ontario in 1988, up from 226 in 1987. This was the highest rate of drowning in Canada, where more than 1,200 people drown every year. The majority of drownings occurred in open water, in lakes and rivers, with less than 10% in swimming pools.
Some other statistics are frightening: 97% of drowning victims were not wearing lifejackets; more than 40% of boating fatalities involve alcohol; men accounted for 82% of water-related fatalities in 1987, due in part to men taking more risk, not wearing life vests or by consuming alcohol before entering the water.
The tragedy of many drownings is that with a little common sense they would be preventable. The Royal Life Saving Society and its partners, the OPP, the Brewers of Ontario, Nasion Canada marine division, and Mustang Industries Inc, along with support from the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, have targeted their campaign to reach those most at risk. They hope that young men, particularly boaters and anglers. will take note of the water safety message. A successful campaign in 1990 should lead to declining accident statistics in the years to come.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. The minister will be very much aware of the agreements that were made by his government and the federal government with Varity Corp. A $200-million bailout package in the early 1980s guaranteed that 1,000 jobs would be maintained in Canada until 1989 and from that point forward 1,500 jobs would be maintained. The penalties provided were $30,000 for each job that was either not maintained or achieved up to the 1,500. Now we have this company that, in addition to not achieving its job creation guarantees and targets, is also likely to be moving its headquarters out of Ontario and out of Canada. What is the government doing to maintain the integrity of this company and the jobs and head office in Ontario?
Hon Mr Kwinter: The member is correct in saying that we had entered into an agreement with Varity. They have given us certain undertakings and we expect that they will honour them. We have been in ongoing negotiations with them in order to settle disputes or settlements on those workers who have been laid off to make sure that they get a fair and equitable severance. Although there has been speculation in the media about their moving to a location in northern New York, we have no confirmation of that, but we fully expect that we will enforce all the requirements and undertakings in our agreement.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The agreement the minister signed with Varity did not talk about negotiating severance packages for people who lose their jobs. The agreement said that the jobs were to remain in place, and if those jobs did not remain in place, there were supposed to be $30,000-per-job penalties.
Number one, is the minister going to enforce that section of the agreement? Number two, is he aware of the announcement that was made just last Friday in Windsor by Kelsey-Hayes, which is owned by Varity, that the 240 jobs that exist in that facility in Windsor will no longer exist as of 24 August; they will be indefinitely suspended? The company says it is not a plant closure; all the jobs will just be eliminated indefinitely. What is the minister doing to protect those 240 jobs in Windsor?
Hon Mr Kwinter: We are doing our utmost to protect a number of jobs, but we cannot guarantee protection of specific jobs. If a market disappears for a specific product, we cannot say to them, “Notwithstanding that you can’t sell that product, you must continue to manufacture it.” We have a commitment from Varity regarding the people who work there, and we will enforce that, but if a market disappears, we are going to have to work with an adjustment; we are going to have to work with them, as we are, with their obligations under their pension plans. These are all part of ongoing negotiations that we are carrying on with Varity. As I said before, we expect that Varity will honour all its commitments under that agreement.
Mr D. S. Cooke: The minister can expect that they are going to live up to the agreement, but they know the kind of people they are dealing with, and the government is not going to enforce the agreement. That is the message that is coming from the minister and from the federal government.
The minister went to Windsor a few weeks ago to announce 138 jobs to be created three years from now, but he is willing to do absolutely nothing to protect 240 jobs that exist now. If he is not prepared to enforce that agreement, when is his government going to come through with the promises that the Liberals made in the past to have decent and universal severance pay for people who lose their jobs, adequate notice for plant closures and a process of public justification so that companies like Varity, which made $92 million at the end of January of this year, cannot just rip off the workers, eliminate jobs and leave communities hanging as they are doing right now?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I really take exception to the member’s statements, because he made exactly the same statement when Ford Motor Co announced it was going to close down its engine plant. He wanted to know what we were going to do. We have shown him what we are going to do. We have Ford building a $60-million metal casting plant. That is just a start, and the member knows it.
In the meantime, we have been working to make sure those commitments will be honoured.
All the things the member says are taken out of context. He has to understand that we are in a market that is under severe pressure -- he knows that -- because of global economies, interest rates and free trade. We are going to have to take care of that adjustment. I will tell the member that with Kelsey-Hayes we have a situation where the market has changed and the wheels that are manufactured there do not have the same marketability as they did. We are going to have to make sure that there is a proper adjustment. That is being taken care of. I want to reiterate what I said before: We expect that Varity will honour its commitments.
Mr Philip: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. Can the minister inform the House whether or not he believes it is appropriate for crown corporations and agencies under his ministry to make contributions to partisan political campaigns?
Hon Mr Black: No, I do not.
Mr Philip: Then the minister will no doubt be familiar with Ottawa Mayor Jim Durrell. After all, he is running for the presidency of the federal Liberal Party.
An hon member: He was.
Mr Philip: He was. The minister will also know that Mr Durrell has some difficulties concerning fund-raising for his election campaign. Money collected was not reported, donations in excess of the legal limits were falsely reported, thousands of dollars were put into the mayor’s personal bank account and the largest contributor was the Ottawa Congress Centre, which is under his jurisdiction and contributed $3,000, or six times the legal limit. Does the minister feel that this is justifiable for a crown agency under his jurisdiction?
Hon Mr Black: As the member will know, the whole question of contributions to the campaign of the mayor of Ottawa is under investigation by the OPP. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on that particular aspect of the question.
However, I do want to make very clear that I do not support the concept, the idea or the practice of crown corporations, agencies of my ministry, making any kind of political donations. I conveyed that information to the chairman of the board over a week ago. The member will be pleased to know that since that time the chairman of the Ottawa Congress Centre and his board of directors have decided that practice will not be continued.
Mr Philip: Now that the money is lost, would the minister tell us what specific intentions he has of removing those people whom his government appointed to that board and who allowed and even condoned publicly, for “public relations,” the donation to this partisan Liberal campaign for mayor, and what steps he intends to take to recover the money that was given from the Ottawa Congress Centre to this partisan political campaign?
Hon Mr Black: Let me first of all make it very clear that the Ottawa Congress Centre and its affairs are directed by a very competent management team and board of directors who represent the community of Ottawa and whose membership, including its chairman, are people who are held in high regard by people across this province. I want to make it very clear that I am fully supportive of the Ottawa Congress Centre management and the board of directors. They are an excellent group of people who spend hours of their time working on behalf of the people of Ontario, and I resist any attempt to discredit them by any member of the opposition.
Having said that, let me also repeat once again that the practice of purchasing tables or tickets for fund-raising events held in the congress centre was done by the group as an attempt to market the congress centre, and I have no fault to find with that except when it involves political parties. Once again, I have made my position very clear. I have expressed to the chairman of the board my belief, my very firm belief, that this practice should not be continued.
HOMES FOR THE AGED
Mr Harris: I have a question of the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs. I am sure the minister is aware that homes for the aged run by Metropolitan Toronto have indicated they will have to stop admitting individuals and they will have to disallow residents to return after hospital stays if the province does not increase their funding. I would like to ask the minister how, if at all, he plans to respond to this problem.
Hon Mr Morin: I would like to refer this question to my colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services.
Hon Mr Beer: The leader of the third party knows it is our ministry which funds the homes for the aged, and I would want to make very clear at the outset that we have not received any communication from Metro Toronto regarding its budget for 1990. In point of fact, there is a process of dealing with budgetary matters and it would be very much on the front of our agenda list to ensure that any senior in Metro who needed this kind of care would be able to receive it. We will be working closely with Metro to look at its budget when it is presented to see what problems there are and what kinds of steps we can take with Metro to ensure that this situation does not arise.
The honourable member would want to know that over the last four years we have increased our funding to Metro by some 40%, from slightly over $48 million to just under $68 million, so that in fact we can have the services and the beds for those seniors who need them.
Mr Harris: Since the minister responsible for senior citizens cannot give us any assurance at all that this will not occur and that seniors will be able to find facilities, I would like, aside from all the bafflegab that the Minister of Community and Social Services has given us, to try to get that assurance from him.
Clearly, they have indicated that because of a lack of resources homes for the aged will be forced now to send residents to chronic care facilities. The minister should be aware, if that is their only alternative, this is impossible. In Metro Toronto there are now 3,000 people on the waiting list for chronic care beds, so all they are going to do is send them to a waiting list.
I tell the minister, we in the Progressive Conservative Party are extremely concerned about this government’s failings in providing adequate services for the sick and the elderly. Can the minister guarantee that each and every person who will be turned away by a home for the aged will not be left either in a very expensive acute care facility or at home on his own without proper care?
Hon Mr Beer: It is indeed ironic that the leader of the third party, whose friends in Ottawa very nicely made a mockery of the health budget by cutting funds that come to the provinces, and made a mockery of the Canada assistance plan, which helps seniors, among others, should get up on his high horse in taking a newspaper article about a budget that has not been presented to us, where we have had no occasion to sit down with Metropolitan Toronto to continue to work with it to ensure in fact that seniors in Metro, as well as those throughout the province, have the kind of extended care beds available that they need.
The member would want to know that during this past year we have been opening and shortly will be opening further beds so that seniors will in fact have that capacity. As the honourable member knows as well, we are also, through the long-term care, making changes to the system which are going to provide help to seniors who do not have to be in facilities. I think once we have had the opportunity of sitting down with Metro, the member will see that in fact the needs of those seniors who need those beds will be met.
Mr Harris: I would suggest that this minister and this government, who have cut off funding for food banks, are in no position to criticize any other level of government or any other person for cutting back on funding. The minister said his funding is up 40% since he took office. Inflation is up 50% during that period of time, in this area of costing where they are. Further, we have more sick and elderly needing spaces.
The sad truth is that neither the minister nor the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs can guarantee not on1y how we are going to take care of the 3,000 individuals in Toronto on the waiting list, but the situation is deteriorating and getting worse each and every day, in spite of the fact his tax revenues, over this period of time that he has been in government, are up over 100%. So he should not talk to me about 40% for the sick and elderly when that problem is getting worse and his revenues are up over 100%.
Given all the money that he has had, given his neglect of this problem and given that the situation is getting worse, what specific plan does he have to make sure that the sick and the elderly are not paying the price for his inaction?
Hon Mr Beer: Speaking of bafflegab, that question probably had more bafflegab in it than any other that has been presented to date.
The honourable member knows full well that we have been putting funding into this area. Not only have we gone up 40% in terms of funding for homes for the aged, but the amount of money that we have been increasing for services in the community and at home has been going up at a rapid rate as well. The honourable member some days gets up and criticizes the government for the increase in the revenues that we have, then on the other hand will get up and say we should not be spending that money. He cannot have it both ways. The problem with the third party is that it wants to have it both ways.
This government has made a commitment that we will provide the appropriate services for seniors through the long-term care initiative, and we have, over the last four and five years, been putting funding directly into this area. The needs of the seniors in Metropolitan Toronto, as in Nipissing, as in other parts of the province, will be met because we are putting the policies in place that are going to meet those needs.
Mr Harris: The minister can shout all he wants, but it is unbecoming for a minister with his record to be self-righteous.
The Speaker: Order. New question.
Mr Harris: I would like to ask the Minister of Health how much money the new computer system in Kingston. the new plastic cards that she is issuing for OHIP premiums, the massive number of advertisements that have gone across on radio, on television, in newspapers, to whatever extent that she has done there, the mailouts, all-inclusive, is costing the Ministry of Health, ie, the taxpayers of this province.
Hon Mrs Caplan: The total budget for the Ministry of Health this year is $15.3 billion. The new card component of the overall redevelopment of the OHIP system is about $30 million. We consider that an important investment for the future.
Mr Harris: The minister mentions the overall budget, some $15 billion, up from some $9.5 billion since the government took office. I mention that for the government because it is a party that measures success in terms of how many dollars it spends, not in terms of results.
The auditor’s report talked about the 25 million OHIP numbers that were registered and the outdatedness and the lack of accountability that this provided in the $1 5-billion budget that the Ministry of Health comes forward with. The purpose for this whole program, the only stated purpose she brought, is to bring in accountability.
Hon Mrs Caplan: It’s not true.
Mr Harris: The minister says that is not true. Maybe she just wanted to spend $30 million and get a nice letter out from herself before an election and make a contact with everybody.
The Speaker: And the question might be?
Mr Harris: I assume it was to put accountability into the system.
Mr Harris: Now the minister says that is it. I thank her. If the purpose is to put accountability into the system and into how this $15 billion is going to be spent, how can the minister, given the information we have that anybody can get a card, any individual can get five or six cards, any American can get a card --
The Speaker: Thank you.
Mr Harris: -- any person from Quebec can get a card, anybody from Manitoba can get a card, because surely if a cat and dog can get a card, anybody can get one and anybody can get any number –
The Speaker: Minister.
Hon Mrs Caplan: In fact, I am very pleased that the leader of the third party has asked this question, because it allows me once again to restate how important is not only the new numbering system but the opportunity for enhanced accountability, better planning and better managing of the overall health system.
In his preamble he stated that the cost of the system has significantly increased. The fact is that when this government took office in 1984-85, the budget of the Ministry of Health was $8.3 billion; this year it is $15.3 billion, fully a $7-billion increase over that period of time. The additional assistance that the new numbering system will permit, I think, will be substantial, and it is estimated that over the next 10 years it will result in savings of some $150 million.
I would say to him that as we move forward with implementing the new numbering system, it was determined that there would be some pre-registration controls, and one was that only those people who presently have an OHIP number were eligible to apply. There are in place today post-numbering controls and audits and so forth, and I am pleased to have an opportunity in this House to reassure people that this is an important component of the new system.
Mr Harris: Credit cards are issued for $3, $4, $5 a card with accountability. Drivers’ licences are issued with accountability. I do not think anybody would say it is easy for somebody to get two drivers’ licences. I do not think they would say it is easy for anybody to get two or three social insurance numbers without that being cross-referenced.
The minister reaffirmed in her answer that she measures success in terms of the amount of dollars spent. Clearly, throwing money willy-nilly into the health care system has not solved the problem. The waiting lists are longer. We have more people waiting for beds. The waiting lists for surgery are longer. The Provincial Auditor, I believe, was on the right track.
The Speaker: The question?
Mr Harris: We must put accountability into the system. I am writing to the auditor today suggesting that he put a halt to this nonsense program until the minister can satisfy the auditor and the standing committee on public accounts that in any sense, in any way -- and I would ask her to reassure me today—
The Speaker: Order.
The Speaker: Order. Actually, this is question period; it is not debate time. Minister.
Hon Mrs Caplan: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
I think it is extremely important for everyone to realize that as part of the new numbering system we wanted to ensure that people receive their new cards as quickly as possible so that they would not have to worry about continuum of care. That is happening. We are receiving some four million new applications from 9.5 million people, and to the leader of the third party, who would bring Americanized health care to Ontario, I would say to him, he is on the wrong track.
WASTE DISPOSAL / DÉPÔT DES DÉCHETS
Mr Morin-Strom: I have a question for the Minister of Northern Development. The minister is aware that a number of southern Ontario communities, most particularly in the area of Metro Toronto, are interested in turning northern Ontario into a dump site for southern Ontario garbage. Will the minister tell us whether he is willing to see the north turned into a wasteland for southern Ontario or will he take a position that the movement of garbage to the north is an unacceptable way of dealing with the garbage crisis being faced in many communities in Ontario?
Hon Mr Fontaine: This question was asked of me last year and I am going to answer the same way, that for myself I think it is a local issue for the municipalities that are interested to look into that venture. Myself, at this point, I have nothing to say about it. I will wait until all the reports are in and see what the implications of that kind of project are. That is my answer today.
Mr Morin-Strom: Surely this is an issue that the Minister of Northern Development should be showing some leadership from the north on.
We know that there is a very real threat when, for example, Ontario Northland Railway is proposing to haul garbage from the greater Toronto area by rail to landfills or to incineration plants that it would like to see constructed in either Kapuskasing, New Liskeard or Kirkland Lake.
The people of northern Ontario do not want to be turned into a dump site for the south. Surely southerners have to deal with their own problem and cannot be allowed to hide it in rural and northern Ontario.
Will this minister stand up for the north and say that the south has to solve its own problems? We will solve our problems in the north, but surely this kind of transportation of garbage around the province, hiding it in northern Ontario, turning the north into a wasteland, is not what northerners want to see of our pristine wilderness areas.
Hon Mr Fontaine: Again, listening to the member for Sault Ste Marie, first, I want to remind him that there will not be any dump site in the north without going through all those environmental assessments, and the people in northern Ontario at that time -- is it EAs or what?
Mrs Marland: EPA. It is not under the environmental assessment act.
L’hon. M. Fontaine : Ça ne me concerne pas. Je ne comprends plus rien. I do not understand English too much. So --
Hon Mr Fontaine: I know there was a guarantee here from the Minister of the Environment that –
L’hon. M. Fontaine : Je vais parler en français parce que je ne veux pas me faire interrompre par la députée de Mississauga, je ne sais pas de quelle place. Mississauga West or Mississauga East, I do not know, but still, I want to tell her something.
Mr Brandt: South.
L’hon. M. Fontaine : Le ministre de l’Environnement, l’année passée, à ce temps-ci -- c’était une question, je crois, du chef du troisième parti, du député de Nipissing. Il a posé une question sur cette même chose. Je dois répéter aux gens du nord de l’Ontario que, lorsque les décisions seront prises, nous allons avoir des études qui seront faites.
Ensuite, il y aura des assemblées publiques pour étudier ce projet. À ce moment-là, il y aura une décision qui sera prise par le gouvernement, à savoir si c’est bon quant à la santé ou si les gens n’en veulent pas. Alors, les gens du nord, à ce moment-là, décideront sur ce sujet.
SUPPORT SERVICES FOR STUDENTS
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Education.
M.Kerrio: En français.
Mr Jackson: I would like to try that.
The minister would be aware of the dramatic increase in reported cases of violence and behavioural problems in our schools involving school-age children, as well as in society in general and that this is now reaching somewhat crisis proportions in this province.
The minister would be aware that the Durham Board of Education, in a letter to him, has expressed specific concern that the board feels that there are over 5,000 students who need the assistance of several government ministries in order to deal with their problems. These are behavioural, emotional, social. These are substance abuse problems. There is a whole series of problems, but they feel that they can deal with only about 800 to 850 cases.
My question to the minister is, in spite of this problem reaching crisis proportions, can he tell this House what specifically he and his ministry are doing in order to address this crisis in Ontario schools?
Hon Mr Conway: I thank my honourable friend for his question. It repeats a question that his colleague the member for London North raised a few days ago and I would want to provide him with some of the same information.
I can certainly appreciate that as the stresses within society increase, there is, to be sure, within the school community, some of what the honourable member has described. He puts a more critical or negative cast on the situation than I think the facts would suggest. I would remind him that just a few weeks ago I was in the home city of his illustrious leader, and in that community I saw a number of very good examples where the school boards were working in partnership with a number of other care givers to address a number of the social and related pressures that the member’s question takes account of.
I can tell him that in a very unfortunate situation in Burlington a few months ago, at General Brock High School, we saw how the staff of that school, particularly the principal and a number of teachers, acted with very, very great aplomb under a great deal of pressure. We must all, whether we are in this Legislature or in the school community, do what we can to ensure that there is the highest level of service in these and other areas of community need.
Mr Jackson: The minister’s pride in an emergency response team is not the issue here. We should not have to have emergency response teams mopping up in our schools in this province. If the minister thinks I am putting a negative tone on some of these activities, in my jurisdiction alone we have three students up on murder charges. I have three students who were shot by a 17-year-old. Three weeks ago we had a girl who committed suicide because she could not get the support services, she could not get access to a bed. Now we have a girl who was put in the hospital in the last 24 hours because of her third attempt at suicide. Today, if you ask for a bed in Halton region for a school-aged child, they have to send the child to Toronto.
The truth is, we have a crisis in this province and the minister is not addressing it. I will be alarmist if I have to be in order to get the minister’s attention.
The Speaker: Question?
Mr Jackson: Again, what specifically is the minister doing to help the teachers and the support staff and the principals to deal with these cases of children, whose only form of reaction is to commit suicide because they are frustrated and they have nowhere to turn? What is the minister doing about it?
Hon Mr Conway: I do not think anyone in this House would dispute the fact that the honourable member for Burlington South is prepared to be alarmist to get attention. I must say that I do not share the view that he has brought to this question, sensitive though it is. I think there is all kinds of evidence across the province that schools and other care givers in the community, with the support of various departments of the government of Ontario, including the ministry, have undertaken a number of very positive and creative initiatives that, to the very best of our ability, address these and related needs.
I remind my honourable friend that on a daily basis some two million people go to elementary and secondary schools across this province. If he is saying that we can do more, I would agree, and I am very anxious, in a constructive and positive way, to work with the school community and others to ensure that a number of the stresses and strains to which the question makes reference are anticipated and reasonably and positively dealt with.
DECENTRALIZATION OF GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS
Mr Adams: My question is for the Minister of Government Services. In the budget it was mentioned that the Minister of Government Services would be making announcements soon about the decentralization of government positions. We know that there has been very successful decentralization to northern Ontario, and it is my hope that consideration will be given to decentralization to eastern Ontario. My question of the minister is, when can we expect these decentralization announcements?
Hon Mr Ward: The member is quite correct in pointing out that decentralization of government agencies is an ongoing initiative of this government as enunciated in the budget. Most recently, he will know that the ministry, in conjunction with the Ministry of the Solicitor General, concluded after many years of study a very successful relocation of the OPP from four sites near the lakeshore to Orillia, thus moving over 700 jobs to that community, bringing with it a $35-million annual payroll.
There is no question that over the course of the past several years, we have had significant success in the northern Ontario relocation program. That is a model that we intend to follow, and over the course of the next few months we will be making determinations as to potential other moves as we continue to bring the government of this province closer to the people and ensure that all communities share in those economic benefits.
Mr Adams: I am a great supporter of the decentralization program in principle and in practice. As you know, Mr Speaker, my riding of Peterborough is in eastern Ontario. In fact, it is in the western limit of eastern Ontario. It is kind of a gateway to eastern Ontario, and I would like to ask the minister by way of supplementary whether Peterborough riding in particular is being considered for the relocation of ministry positions.
Hon Mr Ward: There is no question that Peterborough, as a thriving city in this province, certainly has its many merits.
We take into account a broad variety of factors in making determinations. We will be looking at the ratio of government jobs as a percentage of the existing workforce. We will look at the availability of a pool of human resources.
Certainly Peterborough, obviously with Trent University and the human resources infrastructure that exists there, would be a prime candidate. We are also looking at the impact that such relocations could have as an economic development catalyst to a region. In short, I would say that Peterborough definitely has many merits and will be very carefully considered in making those decisions in the future.
Mr Charlton: I have a question for the Minister of Energy on a matter which I have raised with her on a number of occasions, and so too have many others.
For the first time, this week we had an admission by Alan HoIt, Hydro’s vice-president for corporate planning, that Hydro is concerned about the declining operation of its nuclear plants. The average operation of the 16 reactors now in operation in Ontario has dropped to 77%. All of those reactors under 10 years of age are still operating at 90%; all of those over 10 years of age are operating at 57% or less and declining rapidly. Hydro would lead us to believe that all of the problems we had last summer and last winter result from growth in demand, when in fact the reactor performance plays a major role in cutting the line.
Will the minister tell the House when she is going to step in and intervene, both in Hydro’s current operations and in its planning process, to ensure that 10 or 12 years down the road we are not backed into a corner that leaves this province in blackouts and brownouts.
The Speaker: Thank you. Order. The question was asked.
Hon Mrs McLeod: I am not sure in my response to the initial question whether to deal with the first part of the question, which is an acknowledged concern on the part of Ontario Hydro about some problems that it has encountered in the nuclear generating stations, both with pressure tubes and also with buildup in the steam generating units, which have involved cleanouts and which indeed have led to unplanned outages beyond what Hydro would have predicted. That has affected the performance of the nuclear stations. The figures which the honourable member has quoted are the ones that I understand to be correct. Quite clearly, that is a concern for Ontario Hydro, although I think we would continue to acknowledge that the performance of the Candu reactors is regarded to be among the top nuclear reactors in the world.
Nevertheless, Ontario Hydro has taken some steps, at the time that the problems with the pressure tube situation were discovered some years ago, to correct the design problem so that future reactors would not encounter similar problems. It is carrying out a very active program, well in advance of its schedule for replacement of the pressure tubes, to ensure that there will not be unexpected outages in the nuclear plants in the future.
I think the second part of the honourable member’s question related to longer-term demand-supply and he may want to follow that up in a supplementary.
Mr Charlton: The minister should know that the current operations at the Bruce A reactor are at less than 50% capacity, and that has absolutely no relationship to the tubes problem which the minister is referring to.
Mr Holt made a number of comments to the annual conference of the Canadian Nuclear Association which I think are very interesting and revealing in terms of things that we have been told. Hydro has said on a number of occasions that it has made energy efficiency its top priority. The minister and the Premier have said here in the House that Ontario Hydro has the most ambitious energy efficiency program of any utility in North America. Mr Holt said to the nuclear association that long-term reliability is a concern because Ontario has no major alternative to nuclear.
That is a clear reflection of Hydro’s view on the other issues that are out there in electrical energy: efficiency, parallel generation and industrial co-generation. When is the minister going to step in and ensure that the rhetoric that has been spouted here in this House and in Hydro documents --
The Speaker: Thank you. Would you explain the rhetoric, please?
Hon Mrs McLeod: Before responding to the substance of the supplementary question, I did point out in my first answer that it was not just a pressure tube problem but in fact also a problem in the Bruce situation with steam generating station buildup and the fact that it has resulted in some cleanup.
I think the honourable member is well aware of what government has in fact done to address the question of supply-demand needs in the future. Ontario Hydro has submitted its demand-supply plans. Yes, nuclear is one of the options put forward by Ontario Hydro, but there are as well other alternatives put forward by Hydro as part of its plans to meet the long-term electricity demand, including a very aggressive, energy efficiency conservation program.
Our policy as the Ontario government has been to support very strongly the energy efficiency conservation program as well as programs of parallel generation and, furthermore, to have a full environmental assessment review of the plan that has been put forward by Ontario Hydro, including the appropriateness of the options that Hydro has put forward. That would include, of course, an analysis of the energy efficiency conservation program.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
Mr Cousens: I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I have a copy of the recent survey from the member for Eglinton to her constituents looking for areas to reduce government spending. Indeed, we all want to see the government control its spending.
One section in the survey suggests, “Reduce or eliminate unconditional grants to municipalities whereby there is no accountability for money spent.” The statement suggests that municipalities have no accountability for moneys spent, which prompts me to ask the minister if he believes that there is no accountability for unconditional grants at the municipal level.
Hon Mr Sweeney: I am sure if the honourable member would turn to his right and ask my colleague sitting right beside him, he would find that the thrust of her question was the distinction between conditional grants for health, social services and education versus unconditional grants, where there is no specific purpose for which they are given. That is the only way in which my colleague is using the term “accountability.”
Mr Cousens: It is a real opportunity that the government uses to send up a trial balloon to see if this is another way in which there can be spending cuts. It is another way of having a survey. They can pay for surveys or they can have their backbenchers do it for them. The fact is that the municipalities of this province are under heavy pressure with spending controls right now by virtue of all the extra things having to do with the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, pay equity and courtroom security.
What I am concerned about is whether or not this is a direction the government is going to take. Is this survey indicating something of a new government direction, namely, the elimination of unconditional grants, without even consulting the communities it will affect, or can the minister give us a commitment today that he will not be cutting back on unconditional grants and that he will be doing more for them than he has? It is a 2.4% increase over the last two years, only 4.8% this year. What is his commitment to the municipalities?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would point out to my honourable colleague that the transfer of grants from the provincial government to the municipalities this year is up over 11%. The total amount of money now being transferred to municipalities is in excess of $5 billion. The total amount of money being transferred to municipalities through unconditional grants is approximately $1 billion, or about 20% of the total amount that we spend. No, we have no intention at the present time of in any way changing the unconditional grants.
As a matter of fact, the honourable member may be aware of the fact that we now have a joint advisory committee, co-chaired by Grant Hopcroft, the chairman of AMO, and the member for Durham-York, my parliamentary assistant, looking at ways in which the unconditional grants may be restructured so that they will be more effectively available to the municipalities of this province. They are involved in that process themselves.
PROTECTION OF TREES
Mr Faubert: My question is also for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Last Wednesday 30 May, I attended a demonstration organized by tenants of 1955 to 1991 Victoria Park Avenue, protesting, among other concerns, the cutting down of about 70 mature trees around their property by their landlord. Apparently, the city of Scarborough does not have a bylaw in place to regulate the cutting of trees on private property.
Many neighbourhoods in my riding and throughout Scarborough, and indeed throughout cities and towns across Ontario, are at an age where they know the trees add a substantial contribution to the character of their communities. Many cities and towns are interested in protecting their trees from random and indiscriminate cutting.
Can the minister advise if the municipalities presently have the legislative authority to regulate the cutting down of trees on private property?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I thank my honourable colleague. Under the Trees Act, which is under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Natural Resources, municipalities can pass bylaws to prevent cutting of what we call woodlots. The honourable member will probably be aware of the fact, though, that municipalities do not have the authority to prevent the cutting down of a single tree or one or two trees on a piece of private property.
One of the ways in which municipalities will often exercise their authority, however, is, if there is any developmental work going on, municipalities, including those in Metropolitan Toronto, will often make the saving of a certain number of trees conditional upon the issuing of the development permit. But in the particular situation which the honourable member indicated, I do not believe, unless I misunderstood him, there was any development activity going on. So in that particular case, no, they do not have that authority.
Mr Faubert: I believe there is little public disagreement that trees beautify cities and indeed that there is action that should be taken, in the lack of the legislative authority, to allow municipalities to pass such bylaws to protect the trees of our communities.
I would like to ask the minister if he would consider legislative amendments to enable Ontario municipalities to control the cutting down of trees.
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member might be aware of the fact that, for example, the city of Toronto has been able to control the cutting down of trees in ravine areas. He may also be aware of the fact that our mutual colleague the member for St Andrew-St Patrick has been asked by the Premier to do a review of the valleys and the greening of the greater Toronto area. He will be bringing in some recommendations to us with respect to that particular issue, and we will be looking forward to those.
The honourable member may also be aware of the fact that my colleague the Minister of Natural Resources, in collaboration with a number of our colleagues, is looking at the entire planning process to see to what extent in fact we can expand the Trees Act into the urban areas.
The Speaker: Thank you.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Given all of that, I would suggest to my colleague that there probably –
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Sweeney: -- is an ability of a municipality to apply that –
The Speaker: Order.
Mr D. S. Cooke: And all that was through the Speaker.
Hon Mr Sweeney: All through the Speaker.
The Speaker: I was just going to ask that. New question, the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday the minister told me in response to a question that her ministry supports the Ministry of the Environment in its efforts to ensure that the people of Ontario have safe drinking water.
I have just received an announcement from the Ministry of the Environment which says that under the MISA program, the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, the minister will be monitoring the waste water from electric power generators, including the province’s nuclear power plants. But the ministry is not going to monitor the level of radioactivity in the waste water from those plants.
Can the Minister of Health tell the House whether or not she agrees with me that exposure to even low levels of radioactivity can affect human health?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I would say to the member opposite, who 1 know is very concerned about all of these matters, that in fact the Ministry of the Environment has the lead on these matters and the Ministry of Health, through public health officials, is always prepared to give it expert advice.
Mrs Grier: That is certainly a relief to know, because I am sure the minister will agree with me that there is widespread concern about the safety of our nuclear industry and that this concern is always expressed in terms of concern and worry about radioactivity.
Whenever I ask the Minister of the Environment about discharges to waterways, he trots out MISA as the government’s answer to every problem. Yet when we get this latest monitoring regulation under MISA, there is the glaring omission of radioactive emissions from the nuclear power plants.
Will the Minister of Health, in view of her ongoing co-operation with the Minister of the Environment, give us an undertaking that she will work with the Minister of the Environment to amend the monitoring regulation so that we can begin to control the environmental and health effects of nuclear plants?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As a minister who is always extremely concerned about the health of the population of Ontario, I would say how proud I am of the efforts of our Ministry of the Environment and our Minister of the Environment, who have developed the kind of environmental policies which are acknowledged to be leaders in North America.
I think the MISA program is just one example of the kind of progressive environmental policies of this government and of the Minister of the Environment. I am proud to serve in cabinet with him, and I would say to the member that the environmental issues of this province are in good hands under his leadership.
MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES STAFF DAY
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. I guess all members might be interested in hearing that on Thursday 14 June, the financial resources branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources will be holding what is being billed as its annual staff day. Included in the day’s schedule are such vital public service activities as an obstacle course, a full steak and fish barbecue, miniature golf, a fishing derby and even time to be spent in a swimming pool.
To ensure that everyone at the ministry’s financial resources branch reaps the full benefits of this staff day, attendance at this event on a working day is absolutely mandatory, and I am led to believe that if anyone does not really want to go out, he may be docked a full day’s pay, presumably for lost opportunities for professional development.
How many more of these staff days will the minister be having within her ministry this year and at what cost to Ontario taxpayers?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I would certainly be happy on another occasion to provide the honourable member with detailed financial information as to the cost of staff and professional development within the ministry. I do not have those figures before me right now.
I would certainly not make any apology on behalf of the ministry for encouraging opportunities for staff development and professional development within our staff. I would want to assure myself as well as all members of the House that those staff days are in fact well used for professional activities and I undertake to ensure that that is the case in this particular instance.
Mr Jackson: I did not ask the minister where she was finding the money to do it. I was asking her why she was doing it.
On 14 June, her ministry will be busing more than 80 people to Terra Cotta Conservation Area for a good time, whether they like it or not, at an estimated cost of about $10,000 to Ontario taxpayers to cover the wages, the transportation and the food.
Yesterday the Liberal member for Kitchener raised the plight of the hungry and the needy in his riding as a result of her government’s cutbacks to St John’s Kitchen in the amount of $40,000, at a time when the number of his constituents who are seeking support and assistance is on the increase. St John’s Kitchen is planning a rally for this weekend to demonstrate its community support and to try to convince her government that this is an inappropriate cutback and that her government should somehow find the moneys in order to ensure that these food banks do not close.
The Speaker: Do you have a question?
Mr Jackson: Could the minister please advise us how it is that one minister has to cut access to food banks in this province while she has money for a fun-in-the-sun picnic --
The Speaker: Minister.
Mr Jackson: -- or is this just another example of the perverse priorities of the Peterson government?
Hon Mrs McLeod: I think the honourable member is very well aware of the very inappropriate juxtaposition that he is making in asking the question in this way. I would put forward the proposal that the activities of each of the ministries of government are extremely important, that we attempt within our priorities to balance the budget fairly between those activities as well as we are able. It then becomes the responsibility of each ministry to ensure that the budget allocated is used in a responsible way for its own priorities.
The honourable member has a very long record in the field of education, and I know he would agree with me that professional development and staff development are absolutely crucial to the effective functioning of any enterprise. What I indicated in my first response and reiterate is that I would expect that all staff development dollars are spent in a way which assures effective professional development of the Ministry of Natural Resources staff. I will undertake to ensure that this is the case in this instance.
Ms Oddie Munro: My question is to the Minister of Labour. The Pay Equity Commission of Ontario, in its report to the minister in October 1989, listed three options by employers in determining the pay equity adjustment for female job classes which did not find a male comparator under the search sequence set out in the act. These additional options recommended were proportional value, proxy comparison and average adjustment. On 2 March 1990, the minister announced proposed amendments to the Pay Equity Act.
In response to his recommendations, the Pay Equity Commission accepted the proportional value recommendation. Since the government is committed to the implementation of the Pay Equity Act and since the proportional value recommendation provided a mechanism to bring women who do not have male comparators into the wage adjustment scheme, could the minister indicate the numbers of women who will be affected and the likely careers involved?
Hon Mr Phillips: I appreciate the question and I agree with the member that we are indeed committed to pay equity and pay equity legislation. Just to refresh our memories on the numbers we are talking about here, there are about 2,250,000 women in the Ontario workplace. Some 500,000 of them work for the federal government, federally regulated companies or companies of nine or fewer employees; they were never intended to be covered by the pay equity legislation. So we are talking about a total of 1,750,000 women in the Ontario workplace whom the pay equity legislation was designed to benefit.
We found that the one mechanism that we have in the act, namely, the male comparator, was working for about 1,400,000 women, leaving about 350,000 women who could not benefit from the legislation. It is true, as the member said, that we are proceeding to allow a second method. It is called proportional value. We estimate that that will add about 240,000 additional women who can benefit from the pay equity legislation, bringing about 1,650,000 out of 1,750,000, about 95%.
Ms Oddie Munro: Perhaps the minister can outline the careers involved in that 1.7 million. If the male comparator and proportional value formula cover 95% of the women in the workforce, and I understand they do, and if the proxy comparison and external average adjustment are intended to capture the remaining 5%, would the minister indicate when he will be in a position to look at these two recommendations so that 100% of women will be covered by the act?
Hon Mr Phillips: This, of course, is the matter that many groups have raised with us. The original intent of the pay equity legislation was to ensure that, within what is called an establishment or a company or an employer, there was equity; in other words, that women were treated fairly and equitably. That is why we are proposing the addition of proportional value.
The additional two methods that were proposed by the Pay Equity Commission, namely, proxy and average adjustment, would both involve going outside the establishment, finding a comparator outside the employer. Frankly, that is something that the pay equity legislation had not envisioned. We are looking for other remedies, apart from the pay equity legislation.
A couple of the ministers have announced in the last two years remedies to help those women who are not covered by the pay equity legislation, those 105,000 women who tend to be in child care and homemakers. But right now the pay equity legislation is not designed to provide the remedy for them and the most likely solution will be through other mechanisms.
Mr Wildman: I have a question for the Minister of Financial Institutions with regard to the effectiveness of the new auto insurance regime in this province and how it affects a small taxicab company in Wawa in my riding.
Can the minister explain how it is that this company, which has six cabs on the road and is insured by Co-operators through the Facility Association, would have a 30% increase in premiums this year, even though it has had no accidents and no traffic violations in the year, and at the same time the insurance company would inform the cab company that its comprehensive deductible would change from $50 to $1,000? How is it that this company is getting much less coverage and protection for such a great increase in premiums?
Hon Mr Elston: I presume that rate has been sent out under the old regime. Of course, the member realizes that we were held up here for a considerable length of time in dealing with the legislation. His party spearheaded that. In fact, the member was one of the people who was in this House saying, “We will do everything we can to prevent the bill from being passed.” The bill was designed to provide reasonable rates for us in the province.
The answer to the member’s question is that I do not know his taxi company, but I will take a look at what the circumstances are around it and reply to him in due course. But for him to stand here and blame the new regime for that when in fact the bill for premiums was obviously sent out under the old regime is inappropriate and is almost unexplainable to the public in general.
Mr Wildman: I have a petition signed by approximately 1,000 permanent and seasonal residents of the area north of Sault Ste Marie called Sault North by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. This petition is presented because the ministry has done a study and has had a number of meetings regarding the possibility of setting up a municipal organization in the area.
The petitioners are requesting that the provincial government not proceed with municipal organization in Sault North unless local residents petition the Ontario Municipal Board to hold a local hearing on municipal organization proposals. Also, the petitioners are determined that the two communities of Heyden and Goulais River not be combined in one township municipality at any time but that they remain separate entities.
Miss Roberts: I have a petition from about 200 people in my riding and other ridings throughout Ontario respectfully requesting the government of Ontario to provide time for opt-in classes in all the public schools for the teaching of Christian religious education and moral ethics to all those students whose parents request it, and if this cannot be provided, requesting publicly funded Christian schools on the same basis as the Roman Catholic schools.
I have affixed my name to these pursuant to the standing orders.
Mr McLean: This is addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
“We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
“To create and maintain an actual positive law which would embody the general principle of normative order.
“Law and order are indispensable elements of our civilized life and the principle of our Constitution. This law must address and regulate the fair and just process of calling an election. This law shall be an extension of section 41 of the charter and must consider all relevant rights and freedoms as guaranteed in the charter.”
“As I have been informed by government officials, there is no law regulating such matters. At present, an election will be called depending upon the will or pleasure of the officials. This is arbitrary power and not permitted by our Constitution. How and when elections are called in the light of section 4(1) must be a law.”
This is a petition from Mr Freitag from Penetanguishene, and I have signed my signature to it.
Mr Pollock: I have a petition here addressed to the Parliament of Ontario and signed by 4,400 people objecting to the Marmoraton Mine area being used as a landfill site. I understand there are lots more to come. I have affixed my signature to this petition.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
ST GEORGE’S SOCIETY OF TORONTO ACT, 1990
Mr Reville moved first reading of Bill Pr90, An Act respecting St George’s Society of Toronto.
Motion agreed to.
ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT ACT, 1990
Mr Mancini moved first reading of Bill 176, An Act to amend the Assessment Act.
Motion agreed to.
The Speaker: Is there an explanation?
Hon Mr Mancini: Mr Speaker, with your permission, I have three short paragraphs to enter into the record.
The bill has two main purposes. First, it will discontinue the enumeration that the Ministry of Revenue conducts of multi-residential units in municipal non-election years; second, it will introduce a four-year equalization cycle.
The basis for provincial grants to municipalities has shifted to household units from population. This has lessened the need for the mini-enumeration.
The four-year equalization cycle will replace the current annual process. However, where a significant change occurs in the assessment base of any municipality, the Ministry of Revenue will make the necessary calculations upon request.
CITY OF MISSISSAUGA ACT, 1990
Mrs Marland moved first reading of Bill Pr78, An Act respecting the City of Mississauga.
Motion agreed to.
AXA HOME INSURANCE COMPANY ACT, 1990
Ms Poole moved first reading of Bill Pr69, An Act respecting AXA Home Insurance Company.
Motion agreed to.
TOWN OF SIMCOE ACT, 1990
Mr Miller moved first reading of Bill Pr66, An Act respecting the Town of Simcoe.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT, 1989 / LOI DE 1989 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LE CODE DE LA ROUTE
Mr Wrye moved second reading of Bill 96, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act.
M. Wrye propose la deuxième lecture du projet de loi 96, Loi portant modification de la Loi sur le code de la route.
Hon Mr Wrye: This legislation, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act, is now at long last before the House for second reading. I expect a lively and interesting second reading and I expect some interesting discussions in the next while.
Through the extension of allowable truck lengths, this bill will address several key objectives of the government: highway safety, economic competitiveness, the protection of our environment and physical infrastructure, and the management of congestion.
This bill does not compromise highway safety.
Mr Laughren: Oh, we don’t expect you to admit that.
Hon Mr Wrye: I hope my friends in the official opposition will listen to this because members of that party from other provinces, whom they like to quote when the times are appropriate, were part of that standard-setting group.
In recommending the new standards to the Canadian Council of Transportation Ministers, including the minister from Manitoba under the late and unlamented New Democratic Party government, the Roads and Transportation Association of Canada -- that is, the association of provincial motor vehicle regulators -- made three main points.
First, the two-metre or five-foot extension would provide a lower centre of gravity for trailer loads. Second, it would allow the use of longer wheelbase tractors with the engine in front of the cab, a configuration which is less likely to jackknife. Finally, the longer tractor would provide the space for a full sleeping cabin to allow easier compliance with the National Safety Code limits on hours of work.
It has been some time before this legislation came to this Legislature. It has been in front of other legislatures prior to this. Our decision not to proceed with this legislation at the time that other jurisdictions did was taken because of the National Safety Code. We wanted to ensure that all elements of the code -- the hours of work, the pre-trip inspection, the air brake endorsement and the facility audit -- were in full operation.
I am pleased to report to all members of the House that all of those important safety components which are part and parcel of the overall vision that we have for how to bring about a safe trucking industry are now in place and that indeed facility audits are now under way, not only in Canada but in the United States, where the first of our facility audits is under way even this day as I speak.
The ability of our industries to compete in domestic and international markets will be enhanced by bringing our regulations into uniformity with those of our major trading partners. The proposed increases from 48- to 53-foot trailers and from 23 to 25 metres for double trailer combination vehicles, all subject to the stringent safety standards laid down by RTAC, are designed to allow a free flow of goods across our borders.
The longer double trailer combinations are now standard in western Canada, on the US Interstate system and, under permit, on designated highways in Quebec, while the west and 35 of the 50 American states, including all of the states bordering Ontario, permit 53-foot trailers. Recent events at our border crossings have shown the anxiety of certain segments of our trucking industry about their ability to compete against other regulatory environments. Ontario’s continued prosperity is in no small way tied to the efficient movement of our products and services by road. Trucks now haul 70% of the goods which are shipped in Ontario and are constantly increasing their market share.
The increase to an overall length of 25 metres will apply only to double trailer combination vehicles that meet the exacting technical safety specifications of the road transport association. This change will therefore encourage the greater use of the safer B train as opposed to the A- and C-train combinations, which have been found in RTAC studies to not be as safe. B trains now comprise only about half the double trailer combination vehicles operating in this province, and under this new standard we expect that those figures will rise quite dramatically in the years to come. At the same time, we propose a slight addition to overall length of certain single trailers and double trailer combinations.
At the same time, we plan to introduce two important measures regarding axles: one to further improve safety, the other to reduce wear and tear on our pavements. When this bill goes to committee, I propose to introduce the following:
First, that all trailers constructed to the new specifications be equipped with wide-track axles. Greater axle widths will make loaded trailers less likely to tip in any situation and particularly in those situations where they are most likely to tip now, and that is on highway access ramps. As any of my friends in the House who travel the highways as much as I do will be aware, that is the greatest danger point now. This measure, which we expect to introduce in committee, will help alleviate that.
The second proposal is that no trailers constructed to the new lengths be equipped with so-called lift axles. These are the axles which currently allow a transport to carry heavier legal loads but which unfortunately must be raised to negotiate turns, thus causing strain on the pavement. Municipalities have quite properly raised this as a concern, and we intend to alleviate their concerns with an amendment in committee.
The larger capacity of trailers has a further potential for reducing wear and tear on our highways, since it may lead to an overall reduction in the number of trucks on our roads.
Mr Pouliot: You don’t believe that, do you?
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Wrye: I simply refer my colleagues from all parties to comments and letters written by groups as diverse as Hostess potato chips and Sears, both of which have indicated that the number of trucks that they will require with the greater capacity, indeed with the lesser weight, may actually be reduced in the range of 5% to 10%. I think all of us would find that quite welcome.
Putting it in basic, simpler terms, so that my good friend the member for Lake Nipigon will understand it, the freight tonnage which is now on our highways will be carried in fewer vehicles under the new dimensions. Added to that will be the significant benefits to our environment which result from reduced fuel consumption and vehicle emissions, as well as the possible reduction in highway congestion.
At this point, I want to just talk about, and hopefully dispel, three misconceptions which appear to have arisen about the new dimensions.
The first misconception -- and I hope my friend the member for Lake Nipigon will not repeat it after I can hopefully dispel it -- is that the greater dimensions will mean heavier trucks. That is simply not the case. There is no change proposed or contemplated in the gross vehicle allowances on Ontario’s highways.
Mr Pouliot: So bigger trucks weigh less. Good logic.
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please.
Hon Mr Wrye: Longer does not and will not mean heavier, and of course I look forward to my friends in the official opposition pointing out anywhere in the bill that refers to heavier maximum loads being allowed. I will wait with bated breath while my friend the member for Lake Nipigon, or perhaps my good friend the learned member for Nickel Belt, points out in his remarks that specific section in the bill.
There is a second misconception, that the two-metre extension to double combinations and the five-foot addition to allowable single trailer lengths are the thin edge of the wedge to the eventual introduction of so-called monster trucks. Let me say to the House today what I said to the Ontario Trucking Association in November and have said since, and I repeat it again today in the most emphatic terms: This ministry and this minister have no intention of deviating from the slight vehicle lengths proposed first by RTAC and now contained in Bill 96. The 120-foot-long double and triple combinations that are allowed in some states, and indeed in some western provinces, will not be permitted on Ontario roads.
The third misconception which I believe is important to dispel right now is that heavy trucks are involved in more accidents than other vehicles. Statistics reveal quite the opposite. Only 2% of all Ontario accidents involve trailers, semitrailers and double trailer combination vehicles. The accident rate for large trucks is, on an exposure basis, about one third that recorded by the general vehicle population. The present large truck accident rate is only 0.97 per 100,000 kilometres driven. On the US Interstate system, where the 25-metre and 53-foot limits have been in use for some time, that rate is even lower, at 0.76.
I would not be advocating the adoption of new truck dimensions if I were not absolutely convinced that they can further improve the safety record of large trucks and that in other ways they present no additional risk to the situation on the highways, which I as a regular driver understand as one which gives a lot of concern to the population. Safety has been the first priority in all the deliberations that have led up to this bill.
The national body of motor vehicle administration, RTAC, is convinced, and said so some time ago after thorough technical research, that the standards it has developed are safe. To those standards I am adding a new one, wider axles, which will produce even greater safety.
I look forward to the debate that will follow and to hearing from my friends in logical and rational and unemotional terms, as I always do, the concerns that they have. I look forward to being able, as the debate proceeds, to address those concerns. I know that, as concerned as they are for both the workers and consumers of Ontario –
Mr Pouliot: And motorists.
Hon Mr Wrye: -- and motorists of this province, all of my friends in this Legislature will be able to see their way clear at the end of the debate, having had their concerns addressed and answered, to come forward in support of what is a good piece of legislation for the motoring public, for the consumers and for the workers of this province.
I believe the amendments will have, as I said at the outset, only positive implications for safety on our highways, for the competitiveness of this province in economic terms -- which is important to workers -- for the environment, for the infrastructure and for the growing problem of congestion which this government is trying to address all over this province.
I urge the House to proceed with passage of Bill 96 as quickly as possible and I look forward to the debate as it moves forward.
Mr Pouliot: I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words about the main features of Bill 96. Really, the major component here is to make long trucks longer, if you wish. For the Minister of Transportation in Ontario, larger trucks are the issue. For people in the New Democratic Party, safety is the larger issue.
What we are talking about here is simply making trucks six feet or six and a half feet longer. You have seen them, Mr Speaker. You are an educated man. You have your driver’s licence. You drive back and forth to your constituency. I know that as a motorist you have very serious concerns regarding trucks at the present time, because you are a member of a Parliament and you know that the government does not monitor compliance when it comes to safety.
Before I get on to monster trucks and demonstrate that in some cases those monster trucks become killer trucks and that calamities or catastrophes abound on our highways, I would like to read a letter that was addressed to the Minister of Transportation from the township of Terrace Bay, on behalf of the residents in that small, resource municipality in northwestern Ontario, located on the Trans-Canada Highway, Highway 17. People are pleading with the minister, saying: “Don’t do it, minister. We’re frightened. We’re petrified.”
The letter reads:
“Dear Mr Wrye:
“The Terrace Bay council would like to express its concern over the government’s intention to allow longer trucks on Ontario highways. While there may be benefits to the added length in southern Ontario, council believes that longer trucks in northwestern Ontario will create a greater safety hazard.
“Terrace Bay is located on Highway 17, the only highway across the north shore of Lake Superior. We are routinely faced with poor driving conditions, with snow and ice in the winter, and rain and fog in the summer months. In addition to the weather, Highway 17 is narrow, with few passing lanes and few paved shoulders, many hills and curves, and is often in poor condition with many bumps and potholes.
“In northern Ontario, in that special part of the province, your ministry does not fix the bumps. It simply advertises them. So it is not rare for the good people of Terrace Bay and other municipalities who have to travel that road to see bump, bump, bump, with little or no attention paid to them in terms of fixing, remedying the situation or monitoring compliance on maintenance during the winter months.
“We are also faced with the hazards of moose on the highway. Trying to pass transports now under these conditions is frequently a harrowing experience and council is concerned that longer trucks will only make it worse. It will also become harder and more dangerous for transports to pass other transports. We already have a high accident and fatality rate on Highway 17. Council is afraid that longer trucks will make this worse.
“Until such time as Highway 17 is upgraded to four lanes, council is opposed to allowing the trucks and requests that the government withdraw its bill allowing them, or amend it to exclude northwestern Ontario.
“Thank you very much for your attention.”
Well, thank you, David C. Fulton, clerk-treasurer/administrator of the township of Terrace Bay, for standing up. Do you believe, David C. Fulton and Mayor Ziegler, that you will have an impact? Do you not believe that this legislation will be steamrollered through the assembly?
I know that you are frightened of them, Mr Speaker, because we have lost some people we knew. People who choose to be up north move there to improve their lot but also to make a contribution. They are no longer with us. There is not a person in a small town in northwestern Ontario who is not aware in the recent past of a fatality, a fatality because truck transportation has more than doubled in the past eight years in the northwest, a fatality because there are few passing lanes, a fatality because trucks travel in convoys.
Mr Speaker, you know what happens if you have the unfortunate event where during a winter month you go on and you start passing one of those huge transports. You hit the ditch. You lose control. It takes you longer than you thought. Now it is going to take a full second longer. You wonder whether you are going to make it or not. You are three quarters of the way through and you are starting to go downhill. Yes, you begin to die. Obviously, more often than not, you have exercised a good deal of patience. You are an experienced driver and you may be able to make it to another truck.
The people are not saying that the minister has blood on his hands. They are not saying that. But they are very much aware that if you get involved in a head-on collision with a truck, that if you get sideswiped by a truck, you do not have to be concerned about your injuries being catastrophic and permanent. That is not a concern. You go straight from the car to the bag. That is the sad reality of the result of a situation like this. When catastrophe or calamity strikes, that is what happens to you. You are dead, dead, dead. Statistics will certainly attest to and demonstrate that. It is an unfair match. You do not have much of a chance if you get involved in a car accident versus a truck. Inevitably people in a car will fare far worse.
I have another letter. Again, people are most generous, believing that somehow big government will listen to us, to small people, that it will not only be the proverbial rich and powerful against us. I recall; I know the minister. It was about three months ago. I dare the minister to stand up in this House, with respect, and tell me that he has not changed his mind, because the major Toronto papers -- I have an article for verification that says the following, that the Minister of Transportation as recently as three to four months ago was against longer trucks on our highways. The reason he was against was the safety factor. The minister was not sure that longer trucks would be safe.
Now, three to four months after -- I hope he gets up on a point of order to say: “Well, the member for Lake Nipigon is in error. He is imputing motive.” The minister has changed his mind on the road to Damascus. Who got to the minister? Why did he change his mind? What happened in the last three to four months so that the minister reversed his decision? He has flip-flopped on such an important and relevant issue. Why? Who got to him? He is now standing in the middle of the road. You know what happens when you stand in the middle of the road on an issue? You risk getting run over by both sides. So we do not know where the minister is at. We do not know.
I have a letter from Donald E. Burkett. Mr Burkett, we wish to thank you. From Brantford in southern Ontario he has the courage to write a letter; he is aged 67, with 51 years of driving experience. Again, it is addressed to the Minister of Transportation in the glass and cement towers located at 77 Wellesley Street West:
“I wish to add my protest to those received from many people re the proposed legislation to permit longer trucks and trailers on our highways. In my view, to pass this legislation would be extremely inappropriate, dangerous and foolhardy. The ever-increasing number of the already too-big trucks on our highways is a burden on our highway system. Please do not try to tell me that longer rigs will be easier on the road surfaces. I do not believe it.
“From the standpoint of safety, the high incidence of accidents involving trucks indicates the need for better road work in these regulations, better driving training and better enforcement by police of highway laws, particularly speed. In my experience, particularly on the 401 between Brantford and Ottawa, I have tried to clock huge trucks with some semi-plus pup trailers and had to give up when my speedometer reached 125 kilometres an hour.
“And the truck, they kept pulling away from me. They were going faster. I was chased off the left lane, living in Brantford and frequently driving to Hamilton for the cancer society.”
That is quite touching. This gentleman puts the welfare of others ahead of his own. He is 67 years of age and wants to keep giving more to the system and wants to stay alive doing it. So his endeavours, his good deeds, ask that he travel the highway. He is now saying it is a safety hazard.
“Certainly, bigger trucks are not wanted or needed on this section of the road. So please don’t let a few truck trailer corporations” -- he is right; those are the people who got to the minister – “or American greed talk you into passing this dangerous and most unpopular legislation.”
Donald E. Burkett, salutations and greetings; thank you very kindly. The list goes on and on of concerned citizens who have been observing the increase in truck traffic, who have had to bury close friends and relatives because of the lack of monitoring of compliance in the existing system.
I have a letter from Wendy Kane and David Hunt of Newburgh; they are saying pretty well the same thing: “We are deeply concerned about the recent move by your government to allow longer transport vehicles access to Ontario highways. As frequent highway travellers” -- these two people travel together; they are concerned about the 401, simply put. Broadly summarized, this letter is too gory to go into the record. It is a chilling account of what happens.
The Minister of Transportation acquiesces to the concerns. He says, “We are very concerned.” But someone got to him. He had the gall, a few minutes ago, on his feet, to tell us that we will have fewer trucks on the highway. Now get this gem, Mr Speaker, we will do this together. We will have fewer trucks on the highway. They will be bigger, but they will weigh less and we are going to move the same number of goods. How do you explain that? Where is the logic in this? That borders on the farcical. I am going to try again. I am going to try to stay within the line.
Can the minister explain? Because this is what I am quoting verbatim. This is what he has said. “The trucks will be longer, but they will not weigh any more.” Well, bigger trucks weigh more than smaller trucks. The pages here know that very well. You are not going to move the same number of goods and say that you have 10% fewer trucks and they weigh less. Something does not add up. But we are supposed to swallow what the minister says. I am telling the minister he should check his figures.
Mr Laughren: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The chief government whip tells me she does not think there is a quorum. I wonder whether you could check that out.
The Deputy Speaker: A quorum is present. The member for Lake Nipigon may continue.
Mr Pouliot: May I take this opportunity, with respect, to thank the member for Nickel Belt who, who knows, has not chosen to elope, to leave the chamber. He knows this is an important issue. He has talked to me in the corridor and in my office privately and he has talked officially about the dilemma, impasse that we are about to be presented with by way of legislation.
I want to thank you, Mr Speaker, as a leader, with respect, as a referee of the Assembly. You knew that the House was not duly constituted. I admire that in you, sir. You knew that some members, some of the 94 members of the House were embarrassed and had chosen to leave, had chosen not to be at their posts when it came to longer trucks because they too sense and deep down they know very well, they share in our concern, and they join with the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees. The largest rail union in Canada wishes to inform the House of its concern. “Rail Union Fights Larger Trucks.”
“The longer they are, the harder they are to pass.” We all know this. Remember, we began to die; we are about to jackknife with the following presentation from an expert. “We have no self-confidence if you make them longer.” There has been no public input. The minister will be judged very harshly.
“The average automobile is no match versus a big truck.” We have already been through this. It says exactly what I said. “Hardly a soul in the Ottawa Valley has not been touched by the rash of tragic accidents on Highway 17, and if the Ontario government gets its way, the killer highway will get worse. Oh, world-class; second to none. The people of the largest railway union in Canada have designated, have shamed Highway 17, the Trans-Canada. They are calling it a killer highway. In fact, in the month of April past alone, four people have died, have lost their lives.
“Mayor Des Adam from Kanata doubts whether a resolution from the townships around Ottawa will have any weight in the provincial Legislature,” because the not-so-illustrious group of 10 or group of 15 will shove this kind of ill-thought-out and ill-fated legislation down the throat of the opposition, and more important, down the throat of the people, the motorists of Ontario.
I would like to bring to members’ attention, again concerning safety, that if I were the Minister of Transportation for this great province the first thing I would assure myself of -- paramount, the first line in my mandate as Minister of Transportation, more important than anything else, the major component -- is that my major focus would be safety. The minister said that himself three to four months ago and has failed to date to explain to the House why he has changed his mind. Research data from his own ministry will attest that larger trucks are a safety hazard.
I want to take you on a short trip, Mr Speaker. John Woodrooffe is Canada’s foremost expert; he is the recognized expert on tractor-trailer rigs. Does the minister know what he says about his legislation? He says the minister is out to lunch. He says the minister does not know what he is talking about when he talks about axles. They do not monitor compliance. People are overcapacitated, so it does not matter what the regulation says. The minister knows that.
I want to share with you, Mr Speaker, an evening most unlike yesterday or today, in February in northwestern Ontario, between the township of Schreiber and the township of Marathon, where rock cuts abound, you are on Trans-Canada Highway 17. You have a depression system coming from Lake Superior, which is not at all unusual. You have snowstorms. The temperature is about minus 10 degrees Celsius. It is not much colder than that. This true story has it that you have a snowstorm, so it is about minus 20 degrees Celsius.
Mr Speaker, you are driving a tractor-trailer and you start going downhill on a single lane. The speed limit is 90 kilometres an hour, but there is black ice on the road by virtue of the atmospheric conditions and the time of year. You are only going maybe 60 kilometres an hour, but the conditions are such that you start to lose control just a tiny bit. The wheels jam, the brakes jam, the wheels go from lock to lock, those rock cuts loom larger and ever closer and you begin to die. You are about to jackknife. Everything -- your life, the lives of those coming in the opposite direction, added to those who might be following -- is put into jeopardy.
Luckily, in this case you hit the ditch. Half the rig on the highway, the front end in the ditch, small cuts but lots of blood to the driver. The highway is closed for six hours. It costs $48,000 to fix the mess. And this is a happy situation. That is the best that can possibly happen.
One of the things when you buy a car is that all the components marry well. The thousands of smaller and larger parts that are necessary to assemble a car are connected. They are made for one part to go with the other, and the industry is monitored. You have to do it that way; it is the only way to build a car. You do not have the same thing with trucks, for when you replace parts, there is all kinds of latitude you can exercise, even when you go to axles.
Again, the minister has said the trucks will not weigh any more. I know what he is talking about. Let’s be frank about this. He is talking about the repartition of weight vis-à-vis axles; one axle, so much weight. But he knows -- and I cannot forgive the minister, because he knows; otherwise he would not be occupying that important post -- that it is not easy to monitor compliance. Sometimes it is like mercury. Weight is not evenly distributed. He is saying the weight is not going to increase. Well, they are already overloaded in most cases, and the minister knows it. His ministry is telling him this. He can shake his head all he wants. Mr Speaker, you are an educated man. You know who is telling the truth.
There were many who have spoken on behalf of municipalities. We have had letters from courageous citizens and others who are saying: “No, you have gone too far. We are not going to take it any more. We are frightened.” The minister has had a letter from John Woodrooffe, from the largest railway union in the country.
I want to bring to your attention with the same approach, Mr Speaker, what the Canadian Automobile Association -- yes, you know it, exactly. You make a sign with the sticker. That is CAA Ontario. They represent. 1.3 million motorists. There are a lot of votes there. If there is one thing the Minister of Transportation understands, if there is one thing he can calculate, it is votes. Well, those 1.3 million motorists in Ontario are telling him this: They are opposed to Bill 96. This is the Ontario government’s own study, indicating that longer trucks are unsafe. The Canadian Automobile Association, with 1.3 million members in Ontario.
A 1989 safety blitz -- and I want to come back to this -- revealed that 20% of the trucks inspected had to be pulled out of service. I cannot believe this, but the statistic that I have -- the minister’s statistics -- are even higher. In other words, when the minister leaves here in the comfort and privacy of his limousine, paid at taxpayers’ expense, and endeavours to journey to the Windsor area, where he is from, for every five trucks on the highway that he sees, or for every 100 trucks, and there are thousands of them, 20%, one out of every five trucks that he sees, is unsafe; not unsafe by virtue of, on account of, by reason of a small defect -- unsafe to the point where they have to be taken off the highway. They are not big then, they are not bouncers; they have a potential of becoming killer trucks.
I do not wish to catastrophize. There is no need to. Statistics will attest to it. They speak for themselves. And people are frightened. There is not one member of this House, with respect of course, who is not a bit apprehensive when he drives the highways of Ontario. When he drives and sees those trucks cutting in and cutting out, what is his reaction? He knows that one out of every five should not even be on the road. They should be taken off the road. They are a safety hazard. You have a potential killer on your hands, Mr Speaker.
Miss Martel: So much for monitoring compliance.
Mr Pouliot: So much for monitoring compliance, indeed.
It is obvious that the longer trucks will not make a bad situation better; longer trucks will make a bad situation far worse. Remember, Mr Speaker, again, the CAA offers for our consumption, for our edification, the following five one-liners, and I am quoting for the record. The CAA, the Canadian Automobile Association, representing 1.3 million motorists in Ontario, says the following, with passion and with some vengeance:
“Larger trucks intensify the effect of splash or spray and severely impair driving visibility.” True or false? We will do it together. That is a simple one.
“Larger trucks mean accidents of greater human loss and property loss and a decrease in driver confidence.” Well, they scare you half to death. Heaven knows, should you have some difficulties, and the member for Welland-Thorold, better than anyone, has illustrated that one must not expect compensation. You are on your own.
“Passing and basic driving manoeuvres for both truckers and automobile drivers become more difficult as vehicle length increases.” Well, you do not have to be a mathematical genius to figure that one out. The bigger the truck, the bigger the obstacle. It is going to take you longer to pass them. Of course they are longer.
Mr Pouliot: The minister says it may only take you one second to 1.5 seconds. Well, I guess we measure things on a different scale. What about if you do not make it, Mr Speaker?
Back to the CAA: “Private motorists who already bear most of the road construction and maintenance costs do not want further road damage caused by larger trucks.” The minister, in his opening remarks, says they are larger but the road will not be impacted. He is wrong, because one truck represents the equivalent of 10,000 cars. That is the impact on the road. That is how much damage one large truck does to the roads of Ontario. One truck is the same as 10,000 cars. Now the trucks are going to be larger, so I guess it will be right to assume, and that is what the experts say, you are going to have more damage on your roads. They are heavier. Of course they are heavier, because they are bigger.
Very few motorists believe the number of trucks will actually decrease, and studies have shown this to be true. There has been a shift from railways over the past decade, over the past 15 years, railways that are more favourable to the environment than trucking, and the shift has been to emphasize the trucking, so consequently the truck traffic in Ontario has far more than doubled since 1970.
I want to share with members the fears expressed by Transport 2000. Transport 2000 has a concern about this bill. They see it as an enormous issue. They see it as a very complex issue, and they tell the minister that public hearings are a necessity. They too wish to make a presentation. Those are expert people. When we are talking about Transport 2000, we are talking about people who are in the know. They too make the case of drivers’ confidence vis-à-vis longer trucks.
On the perception by drivers, they have compiled some interesting studies that acquiesce. They found that in Ontario, only “14% of auto drivers felt that passing a large truck was of no more concern than passing another automobile.” So if you have 100 drivers in Ontario at any one time, in any one spot, and you ask them: “How do you feel about passing another car? How do you feel about passing a truck?” only 14% will tell you, “Well, it is not much of a difference to me;” 86% are apprehensive.
Mr Laughren: That’s on good roads.
Mr Pouliot: The member for Nickel Belt, so right, so timely, says, “That’s on good roads.” Of course, the number swings to 3%, less than 3%, on a rainy day. If it is raining, 97% of the drivers in Ontario are afraid to pass, are apprehensive, are concerned -- in some cases, are petrified. On a rainy day 97% of the drivers, when passing a large truck, have less self-confidence, which will affect no doubt in many cases, in some cases certainly, their driving habits. They are beginning to lose a little confidence, in 97% of the cases, on rainy days.
Where you have the luxury or the convenience of a four-lane highway around the greater Toronto area, for instance, the number drops to 50%. It is less of a concern. Drivers are not as apprehensive in southern Ontario. They have a flat terrain in most cases. The weather conditions are more conducive to safer driving. Winters are not as long.
But venture north. One of the problems we have with the legislation, and it is a residual and perennial concern of ours, is that we have two Ontarios. We have the south and, in terms of roads, we have the less fortunate people up north.
Miss Martel: But we have the same health care.
Mr Pouliot: The member for Sudbury East so rightly says, “But we have the same health care.” We used to pay the same health care premiums. We do not have the same proper health care in the north, of course, and we are all aware of it.
The minister refuses to acknowledge that conditions are different, the terrain is different and we have single lanes. He does not say anything regarding northern Ontario in terms of legislation. Well, Transport 2000 -- thank heaven those good soldiers are pointing that out. They are not at the mercy of a very intensified lobby.
The minister is very much aware that lobbying used to be a vulgar trade, but it is a very sophisticated endeavour now. He is certainly aware that it has evolved into an honourable profession. The minister has missed the boat. Excuse the pun in this case. He was not at his post. How can he not differentiate between the road system in the south and what we have to put up with in the north? What is the matter with him?
This is going to be difficult. I cannot divulge the source, but I have the annual report of the Ministry of Transportation, 1988-89. I want to share it with Ontarians, for they are funding this program.
You may cry, but try to laugh, Mr Speaker. It is much easier to laugh than to cry. Get this gem: “The transportation regulation program is responsible for the development and implementation of safety standards,” and then we get Bill 96. I trusted the minister. I believed him, and he does this to us. “The work of this program ensures that Ontario’s transportation system is used safely, legally and with regard to the wellbeing of all users.”
Mr Speaker, have you heard of the person who once died laughing? This is farcical. There are so many contradictions that we could bring forward. The mandate does not mean a thing or, systematically and deliberately, by virtue of all the statistics we will bring forward, it is ignored. It is verbiage. It is mere words.
There again, if I were the minister, this would be the focus, and I touched on this briefly a few moments ago. This would be the credo. This would be what I adhere to, and I would put it into policies. I would put it in the real world because I would have at heart the human dimension. Legislation is for people, not to enhance the economic interests of a few lobbyists. It is for people, or it should be for people.
This is something else. The Provincial Auditor conducts value audits. I am honoured to serve as vice-chairman of the standing committee on public accounts for the province. I get the statistics from the government or I listen to the ministry intently and I try to hang on every word, and they contradict what the Provincial Auditor says.
Mr Pouliot: Yes, they do indeed. I have them right here.
I am asked to believe the Minister of Transportation, a member of the government, or the Provincial Auditor. I know you cannot say it; you are tormented, Mr Speaker. I know who you believe and I know who I believe, but because they are both saying different things, completely different things, one of them is shying away from the truth, and it is not the Provincial Auditor. Well, who is it?
This is an interesting statistic. This is the Provincial Auditor, not me, saying this, sanctioned by the province of Ontario, completely and totally independent. He is saying that there is a backlog of some 100,000 with the Ministry of Transportation. Those are people who wish to join the motorists of Ontario and crowd our highways.
We all do it, but there are 100,000 people waiting in the wings, so it is going to put 100,000 more motorists on the highway. They are due, those people. It is just that, because of the inefficiency of the present system at the present time, they are unable to get their licence. The government is much quicker when it comes time to collect taxes. Then it is not one but both ends, but that is another and an ongoing problem.
It says, and these are the findings of the auditor, “The backlogs are growing as there are insufficient driver examiners.” Do you know what the government’s response is, the minister’s response, Mr Speaker? They have an internal problem there. The minister’s response is, “Discussions are under way with Management Board with respect to the overall resource level associated with this activity.”
You are right, Mr Speaker. The safety component attached to Bill 96 should be the most important focus. The minister has talked about safety and has informed the House that he is proud of the safety records of his ministry. I want to share this with him. In the fiscal year 1988, 8,600 buses were inspected in Ontario. In 1987, they inspected 12,400, so they are losing ground there again. They have more buses, but less of them get inspected. In 1987, 12,400 buses were inspected. So within two years -- now remember, they have more buses on the road, but they go from 12,400 in 1987 to 8,600. This is a very consequential decrease indeed, exceeding or surpassing 30%.
I mean, the guy is not doing his job. He should either shape up or do the honourable thing while he has an ounce of dignity and credibility left. He should not do it for himself, but for the motorists of Ontario. Shape up. People are getting maimed here. People are frightened. This is no laughing matter. Those are real words, real people, real statistics.
In 1988, 23% of the buses inspected were detained for major defects -- not brake lights. So there you go. When you see four buses on the highway, and the words are not too strong, there is one bus that should be taken out of there as soon as possible.
Miss Martel: There are kids on them.
Mr Pouliot: And children are in those buses. Imagine, Mr Speaker, children, toddlers in some cases, and the government does not care about inspecting. The government is not the sentry at its post. They do not care. They did two years before that, but they seem to have lost interest. God help them. It goes from bad to worse here. I cannot believe it. Yes, it is right here.
Back to trucks: Brampton and London -- and I am concerned about the Premier of our province among other worthy citizens of London. I want to wish them well. I cannot help but be concerned for the welfare of our brothers and sisters and for the welfare of the Premier as well. He lives in London, and 28% of the trucks inspected in Brampton and London had to be taken off the highway, quick, quick, quick. That is 28%. The Premier should be careful when he drives. We want to wish him well. But 28% have defects that are so bad that the trucks should be removed from the highway and have been removed.
These are tell-tale stats. Simply put, the following tells it all. The following will illustrate better than anything else how bad the situation is. We are not talking about a spot check here, we are not talking about a sample -- Mr Speaker, your attention, please. In the fiscal year of 1988, 26,000 trucks were inspected. How many of those trucks were unsafe, had major defects and were taken off the highway?
Mr Pouliot: Pardon me? Fourteen per cent? No, no, higher, Mr Speaker. Sixteen per cent, sir? Come on, you go to Alfred, you go to Prescott and Russell, you drive the highway. Twenty-two per cent of the 26,000 vehicles, almost one out of every four, were unsafe.
In all seriousness, the mechanical defect rate since 1975 has done only one thing: it has increased. This is a state of crisis. I have searched long and hard to believe the government when it tells us that Bill 96, which will allow longer trucks, will increase safety. I have to say that the government is incorrect, because there are massive data, statistics left and right by the Provincial Auditor, letters of concern by concerned citizens and townships. National Research Council, Canadian Automobile Association, railway unions, Transport 2000, Ontario Provincial Police, telling us that larger trucks will make a bad situation worse.
There is a mountain of evidence, numbers, statistics all over that are saying the minister cannot monitor compliance on what he has. He cannot police what he has now; he just cannot do it. How can he believe that? We wish we could believe him, but he has such a poor track record and so many people have died and suffered that he has very little credibility left. What the people are saying, furthermore, is, “Clean up your act and then come back with something that we can live with once you have achieved credibility.”
Longer trucks, the component of safety, and what we have now is overloaded. Someone will say: “Mr Pouliot, they’re not overloaded. We checked them on our scales.” We know who works the night shift on the rigs, we know who works the weekend shift on the rigs, we know that that safety component is not being respected nearly as much as it should. We know what the penalty is if you get caught if you are overweight. You get your wrist slapped. If you have too much weight on your truck, you get your wrist slapped. You will pay a fine in the state of Rhode Island which is 200 times higher than the fine that will be imposed by the government of Ontario.
Fear, and rightly so, is a motivator, is conducive to safety. The minister has to mean what he says. You cannot be charged $56 for having a huge monster truck that is overloaded when all the states around you are charging 10 or 20 times, and in the case of Rhode Island 200 times more. Those people mean what they say, that if you overload your truck and you get caught doing so, you will be punished. I have heard it said that because of the low monitoring of compliance and also because if you get caught, it does not mean a thing, does not mean a great deal, it becomes an invitation to sin.
The boss tells the trucker: “Well, it doesn’t matter if you are overweight. If you get caught, you just pay the $56 or a paltry fine. Since you are overloaded by so many hundreds of pounds, we will sure make it up in freight charges.” It is an invitation to sin. How are you going to get caught during the weekend at 3 o’clock in the morning? The weigh scales are closed. They know that. The word gets around, and should you get caught one more time, it does not matter.
The driver is at the mercy of the employer. What do you do? You do not wish to be driving in sin. You do not want to do this. You know what the law says. By the same token, if you do not do it, the employer will get someone else to move it. That is the sad economic reality that we have. That is the world that we live in, a sad side of the world, if you wish. It is a wonderful world, but that is the way the world operates. That is being done and we know that it is being done.
We know that the Ministry of Transportation should come up with an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act and impose sanctions and penalties that are deterrents to what is taking place in the marketplace. Michigan does it. New York does it. Rhode Island does it. California does it. But Ontario does not want to do anything. It does not even want to come near. So people keep trucking and they keep contravening. Every time they do this, for every mile that they lob, as soon as that vehicle is moving it causes anxiety. It is a bit more of a safety hazard.
We have talked about the impact, the deteriorating road conditions that all Ontarians are subjected to. Now with the advent of longer trucks, which will be heavier trucks for they will carry more weight, the impact will be more severe. We have already established that the impact on the road system, on our roads, of one large truck is equivalent to 10,000 cars.
David Bradley, the Ontario Trucking Association vice-president, is saying simply that we have had in Ontario a decade of neglect in addressing our roads, in resurfacing and reconstructing our roads. His figures say that the Ontario government extracts approximately $1.8 billion a year in fees and fuel taxes. But what the government does not tell the public is that it only puts back $1.4 billion. In other words, the hand that takes, takes more, is greedier than the hand that gives, the hand that addresses the road problems. The disparity is a full $400 million. No wonder our roads are in such bad shape.
I think the minister ought to be ashamed of the performance of his government. Everyone likes good roads. He knows that. It is foolproof. Well, he should give them to people. They are paying dearly. They are the highest-taxed people in Canada, in the Dominion, the people of Ontario. They give the government everything.
In fact, it has been said, and this is relevant to Bill 96 because we are talking about the monetary aspect here, that we start working for ourselves in July. When the average Ontarian starts working in January, he gives everything to the government. In the second week of July, he starts working for himself because 52 cents of the dollar for the average Ontarian go into taxes and 11.1 cents a litre go into the pockets of the Minister of Revenue, the Honourable Remo. If you do not pay, the Honourable Remo Mancini, an excellent person –
The Deputy Speaker: The Minister of Revenue?
Mr Pouliot: The Minister of Revenue, the accomplice to the Treasurer. The minister says longer trucks are going to create jobs. What sad rhetoric indeed. I was representing, and I was honoured to do so, the opposition. When we talked about deregulation, Mr Speaker, as you will recall very clearly, we talked about deregulation for weeks on end at public hearings throughout the province and we were told the same line.
I want to go back to just before deregulation. When the Premier of Ontario said, “There will be no deal” -- you have guessed it, Mr Speaker -- he was talking about free trade. “That is the bottom line. There will be no deal. I, Premier David Peterson, will make sure that if these conditions are not met, the free trade deal will not take effect.”
I was in Washington with the standing committee on public accounts. They had never heard -- they had heard of a free deal somehow, a little -- but they had never heard of the Premier and the threats and ultimatums that if those conditions were not met, there would be no deal. Free trade came to pass and shortly after that, deregulation was put forward by the government.
And do I ever recall the minister’s predecessor, because we told specifically what would happen. “With deregulation, we will be able to compete. No jobs will be lost. No jobs will be lost in the trucking industry. It will create jobs.”
Since deregulation, 5,000 truckers in Ontario have lost their jobs. We told the minister so, and those words, prophetic at the time, are the sad reality of today: 5,000 jobs have been lost because of the government’s perverseness. They were perverse to the point of being obstinate; they would not listen. They said we could compete, “We can do it, we are second to none,” patted themselves on the back, refusing to see the reality in front of their very eyes. That number will escalate to 12,000 by the time the exercise of deregulation is fully consumed, for the playing field, and this was indicated, is not level. The game is not the same.
In the state of Kansas you can hire a truck driver and you can pay that person -- he in most cases, she in some -- $7.50 an hour. They will bring some fringe benefits that are minimal, because, as a rule, we know that if you do not make that much money on an hourly basis, your fringe benefits are not very high either. But in Ontario you have to pay a minimum of $16 an hour to get a qualified driver and you also have to pay for more benefits. The tax system in Ontario, as we know only too well, is altogether different. These are not incentives here. This is a deterrent, unless you are very fortunate.
But again, that is another story, and I want to stick with the bill; I want to talk about Bill 96. I for one will never take, I pledge, Mr Speaker, advantage of a forum, of a platform, and depart -- well, for too long -- from the subject matter being addressed, because under your leadership, your guidance and your counsel I have grown accustomed to the standing orders of this House, and I respect you for it. Again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to say a few more words about this ill-fated, ill-thought legislation.
Mr Laughren: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There are a lot of other members who would like to hear the remainder of my colleague’s speech, and since there is no quorum, we need to have more members in here for that to happen.
The Speaker: All right. I will ascertain if there is a quorum.
Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is not present.
The Speaker ordered the bells rung.
The Speaker: A quorum is present. The member for Lake Nipigon may wish to continue his remarks.
Mr Pouliot: Thank you very kindly. Now that the House is “duly constituted,” we can roll along here and keep conducting business.
Monsieur le Président, vous me permettrez, bien sûr, de prononcer dans cette auguste Chambre quelques mots en français, pour simplement dire, parce que nous avons dans cette province 500 000 Franco-Ontariens et, tout aussi important dans le contexte du projet de loi 96, naturellement, que beaucoup de ces gens sont des automobilistes. Ce sont des gens comme vous et moi, Monsieur le Président, des gens qui ont oeuvré, des gens qui travaillent, des gens qui sont souvent des piliers de la société, oui, des gens comme tout le monde.
Dans le contexte du projet de loi 96, en 1990, aujourd’hui, maintenant, ce sont aussi des automobilistes qui se sentent un peu plus démunis. Ce sont des gens, aujourd’hui, qui en ont moins ; ce sont des gens, des Ontariens, des frères, des soeurs qui ont peur. Ce sont eux qui, en vertu du projet de loi 96, se voient un peu plus impuissants et se sentent souvent désarmés. Oui, bien sûr, eux aussi ont surveillé, comme nous l’avons tous fait, la performance du ministre des Transports, la sienne et celle de ses prédécesseurs. Ils continueront de le faire, ceux qui viendront après.
Ils nous ont dit que la performance du ministre -- parce qu’eux aussi veulent croire le ministre -- était moins que satisfaisante, que les centaines et les milliers de personnes qui ont perdu leur vie sur le réseau routier de l’Ontario, l’ont souvent perdu, pas toujours, à cause d’un manque de vigilance de la part du ministère.
J’essaie d’être généreux ; moi aussi j’essaie de comprendre. Mais plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, et plus c’est la même chose, moins ça change. Si au moins on avait la certitude, si au moins on pouvait croire qu’un jour, bientôt, dans le futur immédiat, ce même gouvernement mettrait en oeuvre des mesures qui assureraient que les automobilistes, les gens qui voyagent sur nos routes, le feraient en plus avec plus de sécurité.
C’est là la clé. Ce que nous voulons, individuellement et collectivement, c’est croire que demain sera meilleur. Mais le gouvernement, à cause de ses bêtises continuelles, parce qu’il s’obstine, parce qu’il s’entête à présenter en Chambre des mesures qui non seulement ne sont pas populaires, mais auxquelles la société ne devrait pas être assujettie -- C’est le ministre qui est le coupable ; c’est le ministre qui, avec une signature, peut remettre en question cet important problème parce qu’ici c’est la question primordiale : celle de la sécurité routière des Ontariens.
Jobs will be lost. We have already lost 5,000 because the playing field is not level. For instance, I hear a person in Kansas will accept to drive a truck, will say, “Yes, I will drive one for $7.50,” versus more than twice as much in the province of Ontario.
I do not have to tell you about the price of gas, Mr Speaker. Remember the old days when you drove your car and you yourself stopped at the pump to pick up some gas? Some of us worked at the pump during our spare time, for we were not all that rich. It came after the paper route. You had to be a couple of years older. The price of gas is an atrocity, so how can you compete? Everyone knows. It is not a secret. People are trying to be patriotic when price and quality comparisons do not keep us working in Canada and Ontario.
Ironically, the minister comes from a border town. He is not too far from the US border.
Mr McLean: He only worked there.
Mr Pouliot: Oh, he must know people very close to him who will cross over the bridge and tank up in the US. He must know some of his constituents who get a better deal. It is normal. You save $10 or $12; you do not get gouged. Ironically, it is Canadian gas. It costs you about $10 or $12 every time you tank up on the other side, in the United States. How do you like those figures? Come on, the minister should get serious. How can he when he has the right to legislate and he is doing that to people?
The truckers do the same. Now we are into wages. We have already acquiesced that it is cheaper. Those big rigs -- and the minister is going to make them bigger -- do not run on water; they run on gas or on fuel. So there is no comparison. Again -- does the minister know what I am saying? -- the insurance companies there do not operate on the same scale. They deal with a larger market. So we are less competitive. The playing field is not level. It is not even this way; it is this way, and you are down here, buddy -- pardon me, Mr Speaker, the minister is down here -- and you are trying to go uphill. You will not get a chance to jackknife; you are going straight downhill. You will not make it.
So jobs are being lost all the time. When competition in the marketplace is no longer the order of the day, when that vital element of the free enterprise system has been removed because to top it all the minister subjects us to takeovers and mergers, we have nothing left to compete. So we go from losing 5,000 jobs in the past 18 months in the trucking industry in Ontario, and mark my words -- hopefully, I am wrong -- 12,000 Ontarians will have lost their jobs in trucking in another 12 months; a grand total of 12,000.
Longer trucks -- he wants to make it worse. That person there, who is responsible, wants to make it worse. He knows it is less safe, it is going to create mayhem -- more so -- it is going to create havoc, a large degree of uncertainty, but he persists. He serves his masters well.
I do not want to impute motive -- it is not my style -- but why would a person do this? What happened to him? Was it a full moon? When did he turn? Four months ago, the Minister of Transportation said: “I am against longer trucks because it’s a safety hazard. They’re not safe.” Now he just flip-flops, and this is what makes this exercise so difficult. For no apparent reason, he said, “I’ve been converted. Someone came to me.” What it was, I do not know. Again, was it a full moon? Who got to the minister?
Well, certainly not the Canadian Automobile Association, certainly not consumers’ advocates, certainly not the general public, certainly not the Ontario Provincial Police, certainly not Transport 2000, certainly not renowned people in their specific fields of expertise -- have I missed any?
Oh, I know, I know, I have to know: People who make trucks -- I should have known that -- people who make trucks got to him. That is the only one left. I have named everybody else, who is scared stiff. Truck companies, the American lobbyists -- remember, from the vulgar trade to an honourable profession? -- the minister must have thought when he met those fine people, who do not have his best interests at heart -- they can dispense -- he must have thought he was meeting his best friend every five minutes.
Some people have difficulties with relationships. If someone appears as a friend, well, my God, if the minister says “Good morning, how are you?” to someone and the person says, “More important, Minister, how are you?” he becomes the main person, the convenience. They are selling trucks and they are making trucks or they are driving them in the United States – “Remember, you can’t compete.”
If you cannot compete under your present circumstances, and 12,000 people are deprived of the opportunity and the right to put food on the table by virtue of the minister’s legislation, how bad will it get with longer trucks? Then the playing field is this way, my friend. Technically, the minister has been in the horizontal. He should get his brains to function, with respect. Do things for the people. Leave a legacy. Give us a chance to be like the others, give us a chance to live.
By way of conclusion -- and I could spend hours -- we have literally books and books and books of statistics, but it is like a wall there. You cannot seem to penetrate and it is very frustrating. So again, I am pleased that there will be public hearings. I am pleased that the foot soldiers will be able to tell the people on the committee, in the context of due process, that they have fear, fear that is a normal reaction, for the minister has not monitored compliance under the present system.
I want people from Transport 2000 and others. We will invite engineers, people who will speak, who will be relevant, who will talk about weight distribution. We want people from the ministry who will say: “No, we cannot monitor compliance on the weigh scales.” We want the motorists of Ontario to put a visage, to bring a human dimension as presenters. We want all those.
Then, if we listen, if we listen well, we will begin to understand that this bill is flawed. The timing for this bill is not right. More important, what is being done here is wrong.
Again, by way of a letter from the people of Terrace Bay speaking on behalf of others, add to it the concerns of “private citizens,” people who still believe that their voice will be heard. Across the street to Transport 2000 which has, with a great deal of research and expertise, meticulously addressed Bill 96 line by line and offered a positive alternative. Their voice was denied, was not heard.
The Canadian Automobile Association, the Ontario section, with its 1,300,000 people who are saying: “No, Minister, don’t do it. What you are doing here is wrong, minister. We represent motorists. We listen. They know.”
The Ontario Provincial Police, the foot soldiers, the crews who walk the beat, who are there, the front-liners who see it every day, are saying: “It’s our job. It’s our mandate. You are making a bad situation worse. End the carnage. Don’t make it worse. The OPP is saying this. It is a litany. The list goes on and on: concerned citizens, experts, motorists, victims, potential victims -- for we could be victims in waiting if this methodology, this approach, this style of the minister’s, is allowed to continue -- people who have lost their jobs, lost their livelihood, lost their investment, more people who are waiting or trying to keep the sheriff or the wolf out of the door have to make a payment to the bank.
Yes, free trade, deregulation and now longer trucks; when will it stop? This government seems to be insatiable. It strikes with passion. It strikes with vengeance. It talks a good line, but it certainly does not listen very well.
I very much look forward to the opportunity in the standing committee on resources development, under the guidance and leadership of the member for Nickel Belt, of examining not only clause by clause, as I am sure will come later, but to listen to and learn from presenters come time for public hearings.
Mr Wiseman: I am pleased to get up and take part in this debate on Bill 96. I was a little concerned that the minister, shortly after he took the portfolio over in October, went to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto and told it that he had some great concerns about what my friend the member for Lake Nipigon has just said, and what I hope to say over the next few minutes, about safety and concerns for safety.
I tend to agree with what he said at that particular time, knowing what had happened with the previous deregulation bill dealing with safety and many of the things that we told his predecessor. Now we have seen in the last few months, or few weeks actually, the Ontario Trucking Association and others bringing forward and saying again in a different way what we said back then. I think we have to be very careful with this bill, that we do not have the same thing happen that happened back with those two bills.
I have known the member ever since he came to the Legislature and I think maybe this afternoon, or some time later, he may tell us why he changed his mind in less than a month and was saying, on 23 November in a speech to the Ontario Trucking Association, that he had changed his mind and was going to bring through the legislation to bring in longer trucks. I have not heard anything in his opening statement here today that would lead me to believe that there had been a great change or that he had heard a lot about an increase in safety. Perhaps we will get a clarification of that as we go on.
He did mention a few things on why he supports the bill. Some of those things were brought out by the member for Lake Nipigon. I found it interesting how you can have longer trucks on the highway that actually weigh less, unless they are carrying corn flakes, potato chips or things of that sort. They do not all do that because we did hear the minister say that he anticipates there will be fewer trucks on the road, and if you take some of the loads we presently see, they are not all potato chips or cornflakes or whatever. Some of them are going to have to carry much larger, heavier loads.
Mr Kerrio: More wheels, Doug, more wheels.
Mr Wiseman: Yes, thanks.
He mentioned too that the wear and tear on the roads would be less because of fewer trucks. I am sure the minister is well aware of the Michigan report that came out that said maintenance on the roads had increased greatly when they moved to the 53-foot from the 48-foot trailers, and that in most cases the asphalt wore out 20% faster than with the 48-foot truck.
We know that right now the minister finds it difficult to find money for resurfacing roads. Where we used to get probably 20 years out of a highway before it had to be resurfaced, now that time, because of the increased traffic load and one thing and another, is more like 15 years, and in some cases less than that. So it is going to be a greater cost to the Ontario taxpayers if the minister is going to even try to keep the roads up to the standards we presently have, and maybe not even the standards we were used to a few years ago when a certain Tory party was in power.
Having driven into Toronto on Highway 401 -- I know most members do that on a regular basis and know the problems. Again, the member for Lake Nipigon read some examples from some of his people. I could do that, but I am not going to do it here this afternoon. Rather, I will try to tell the minister and those gathered here that there are a lot of individuals like myself who have a lot of concern about the trucks on our highways, even the way they are today. It is a devil coming up -- the member for Kingston and The Islands will know if he drives, and I know he does, that on a wet day or a snowy day, if you try to go by a couple of these trucks that seem to travel in a convoy, it is almost impossible to get by them, especially with the snow or the rain. It is just like trying to drive your car at 100 kilometres an hour or so through a coin wash; you know how that water comes at you.
I do not know about the rest of the members, but I usually speed up a bit and try to get by the devil as fast as I can because with the wind, the rain and everything, you really do not have much vision. You just watch that shoulder of the road and get by him.
The minister had mentioned too, and the member for Lake Nipigon brought it up -- I think I touched on it earlier -- about there being fewer trucks on the road when you get longer trucks and yet you would not have any more weight on there. It is pretty hard to imagine. When the minister reads that later, I think he will maybe correct himself on what he said, because you cannot have it both ways -- you cannot have longer trucks and fewer trucks on the road and not carry more goods in them in order to do that.
The Ontario Trucking Association -- it is interesting -- up until two years ago was opposed to the regulation to bring in 53-foot trailers, and now I understand it is still not supporting this; there is still dissension in the ranks. One would think it should have at least the blessing of the Ontario Trucking Association that it feels this is a good piece of legislation. As I say, one would think they would be supporting it wholeheartedly, but I understand, if my information is correct, that they are not.
An awful lot of people who have talked to me about this bill and who have written in have wondered in this day and age -- we have heard the Minister of Transportation stand up and mention the federal government and the cutbacks at Via Rail and so on, yet by bringing in legislation like this, I believe that CP and CN, which are able to carry a lot of trailers on flatcars, may see a decrease in business because of these extra-length trucks.
Many people are saying: “You have the railroad bed there. You have a way of getting it across. It is fast. Why do you not use it and get them off the roads?” I think this will be a deterrent to a lot of users of CP Rail and CN in this manner. I hope it is not, but I think it will cut into their business. I for one believe, like the people I represent, that as much as possible, more and more should be taken on those flatbeds and get them off the highways so us poor devils who have to drive 200 or 300 miles every week back and forth do not have to put up with an increase in trucks.
Also I understand, especially on two lanes, that the back ends of the 53-foot trucks have a tendency to wander, around a corner, cutting over into the oncoming traffic’s side. I do not know but probably every member of the Legislature has had an occasion when, even with a 48-foot truck, you have had to back up at an intersection, and I mean back up maybe two or three car lengths in order to let him go around, at the present time. Imagine if you have five or six more feet to contend with. A lot of people just sit there and make the poor devil get up on the curb or whatever in order to get around. They do not realize that they should try to back up and let him do that. This happens in small towns and I imagine it happens in the city as well when they come up to a stoplight and try to make the turn.
Also with the longer trucks, and this is going back to the Michigan report again, they claim -- again safety -- that with the longer trucks, the smaller cars have a tendency in a rear-end collision to run underneath them and the driver is decapitated. They understand that has happened quite a few times. Anyone who has ever seen an accident like that, as I have -- it would turn your stomach. Anything to avoid that would be a great improvement.
I believe I mentioned before the higher costs of maintaining our highways. This again is in the Michigan report. It is done after some experience, and this is why I say we should learn from other people’s experience and not find ourselves in the position we did with the previous two bills of thinking we had all the answers and now we find that maybe the government should have listened to the opposition, to the truckers, and they would not be in the position they are in today.
The minister mentioned that there would be fewer emissions into the environment and less fuel consumption, but in the Michigan report, again, it was the opposite. They found there were more emissions going into the environment and more fuel costs. It just does not bear out what the minister has said.
There are a lot of articles here. I will not read them all, but there is one that really alarmed me. Having a large dump truck on the farm and knowing that this year when my son got it out the other day the brakes were not so good, we took it in and had it looked after. This is an article by Andrew Duffy of the Toronto Star. The headline is, “40% of Trucks on the Road are Defective, OPP Say.” This was said not by Doug Wiseman or the PC party, but by the OPP.
I will not read the whole thing, but it says: “At roadside checkpoints OPP officers have found that up to 40% of trucks need mechanical repairs. The majority of defects involve the brake systems, said OPP superintendent Bill Closs.
“More than one in four gravel trucks were found to be overloaded, he added. ‘It’s a potentially dangerous situation, especially when the two factors are combined.’ A mechanically sound tractor-trailer moving at 100 kilometres (62 miles) an hour, takes about...153 yards to stop.” The distance is greatly “increased when a truck is overloaded or its brakes are improperly adjusted,” said Mr Closs, the superintendent.
“In a recent nine-day crackdown on commercial vehicles in the Metro area, the OPP handed out 83 fines relating to mechanical problems after stopping more than 200 vehicles.”
The next two comments are quite interesting. One is from the president of the Ontario Trucking Association, who said he was concerned by the OPP figures: “‘I wouldn’t think it would be that high (40%),’ said Raymond Cope. ‘There shouldn’t be any vehicles on the road in an unsafe operating condition.’”
The next one is the one that alarms me. “Wendall Gough, vice-president of maintenance of Kingsway Transports Ltd, said brake adjustment problems are common on large trucks, but do not pose a significant safety hazard.” I do not know how he figures that. “Poor brake adjustments mean trucks might require an extra 30 to 40 feet...to come to a full stop.” If you add that to the 153 yards to stop under normal conditions, that could mean a lot of accidents unnecessarily, in my estimation.
With this report by the OPP and the high percentage of trucks that it finds on the road now that are unsafe, I think it is really a slap in the face to us who passed the safety bill not much more than a year ago to still find that 40% of the trucks in this Metropolitan Toronto area are being driven with some kind of mechanical problems, with most of them related to unsafe braking mechanisms. As motorists, this does not make us feel very secure when we are travelling our highways.
I will not repeat a lot of what the member for Lake Nipigon has gone into, other than to say that we are all for a level playing field for the trucking association. We said that when the first two bills were going through, but we want to make sure that safety is in there and that the motorists have a part to play in it as well.
We have heard from the Canadian Automobile Association, the Hamilton Automobile Association, numerous Ontario municipalities, CN and CP Rail, and as I mentioned before, a lot of private individuals who have to travel for business or pleasure on our highways and want to make sure that this extra length we are talking about here today in this bill will be safe.
That is why I am interested in giving the people of Ontario and anyone who is interested in this bill who travels our highways an opportunity, hopefully this summer when we go out to committee, to come in and tell us what changes they would like to see, whether they are for or against the bill. Hopefully the government will listen this time and not do as it did on the two previous bills -- conduct all the hearings and go on and bring in bills that we have found now not to have given our truckers a level playing field, which we have heard so much about then and now -- but would rather make sure that safety is foremost in our thoughts as we hold hearings on this particular bill. Hopefully, as I say, this minister will listen more than his predecessor did on recommendations that not just the opposition makes but the people who attend these meetings make.
The Speaker: Are there any comments or questions?
Mr McLean: I just want to compliment the member on his input into this bill. I am sure that when the public hearings are held across this province there will be a lot more input. The bill, with regard to the act regarding maximum allowable dimensions and weights for vehicles and combinations of vehicles is the part I took great notice of, because I thought I had an indication from the minister where he said that the weights would not be increased.
We see in the preamble that, yes, the “23 metres while on a highway” will be something new, and “if specified conditions are satisfied,” and “Section 108 of the act is amended to authorize the making of regulations prescribing maximum allowable weights for classes of vehicles and combinations of vehicles and prescribing maximum allowable loadings on components of a vehicle.”
When we look at the prescribed maximum allowable loadings, “Column 2 of table 1 to part VII of the said act is amended by striking out ‘16,800’ in the second line and inserting in lieu thereof ‘17,000’.” So there is in fact an increased weight. I just want to draw that to the attention of the minister, because I feel very strongly when I am listening to the remarks from the members, from the member for Lanark-Renfrew, that there will be an increase in weight. I am waiting to see when the minister replies to some of the comments that have been made if perhaps he will be directing his comments to that. I know that when there are public hearings held across the province there will be a great concern and input into the bill so that it is right for all the people of the province.
The Deputy Speaker: Other questions and comments on the member’s statement? If not, would the member for Lanark-Renfrew wish to respond? No response? Fair enough. Do other members wish to participate in the debate? I see the member for Nickel Belt rising.
Mr Laughren: Yes, you do indeed, Mr Speaker. I wanted to say a few words. I was not originally intending to speak on this bill this afternoon, but the opening remarks of the minister have provoked me.
We know that once the bill has completed second reading stage it is then going to go to committee hearings, and I understand that is going to be the standing committee on resources development, of which I am a member. I look forward to those hearings. I hope the minister and the government members understand the amount of concern that there is out there in the community across the province about this bill. Whether they are right or whether they are wrong remains to be seen, but there is a lot of concern out there and I suspect there are going to be a lot more organizations and persons who wish to make presentations to the committee than some of the government members seem to appreciate.
I think that is something we are going to have to keep in mind as we make arrangements for the committee hearings, just how widespread the concern is. Perhaps it is not as wide as I think it is, but if the mail that I get and the comments I hear are any indication, then there is a lot of concern. There is a lot of concern in particular in northern Ontario, but I suspect it is not restricted to northern Ontario. But I can tell members there is particular concern in the north and I would like to make a few remarks concerning that in a few minutes.
The minister sounds very reassuring in his opening comments, that the larger trucks will be better for the environment, that the larger trucks are going to be safer, that the larger trucks will not be heavier on our highways. I do not think I am misquoting him in any sense. It is hard to understand how you can go from a truck that is 48 feet, I believe it is, to a truck that is 53 feet and not have more weight. I know, I understand that the minister is saying he is not going to increase the weight limit, the maximum weight limit or load on the truck, but that does not mean that people who are not at the maximum will not be putting more weight in those larger trucks. Why would they not, for heaven’s sake? To say that there is not going to be any more weight on the trucks does not make sense if the people are going to put more in the truck even though it is –
Hon Mr Wrye: It’s going to be less.
Mr Laughren: The member for Algoma-Manitoulin says there are more axles, the member said? Perhaps I misheard him.
Hon Mr Wrye: It should be 20% less.
Mr Laughren: Okay, the minister is saying there is going to be 20% less weight. I am really looking forward to this debate in committee as we debate the realism -- perhaps it is surrealism -- of having bigger trucks that weigh less. I really look forward to that debate.
On the matter of being environmentally friendly, I am not sure how the minister comes to that conclusion either, unless he thinks there are going to be fewer and lighter trucks out there, which will be safer and environmentally friendly; I see.
Hon Mr Wrye: You’ve got it.
Mr Laughren: I have finally got the message that the minister is trying to sell across Ontario. He has not convinced me. For me, the jury is still out on that, and I suppose under free trade I am supposed to say, “I’m from Missouri,” but I am really not convinced that the minister is correct when he says that the larger trucks will be safer and lighter. I find that very difficult to believe. However, we shall see what the experts say when they come before the committee.
I know that the minister understands we are going to expect some answers to some very specific questions and concerns that have been put by some very legitimate organizations out there across the province. These people do not have a political axe to grind. They do not have a political agenda, as it were, which the minister can always accuse the opposition of having, of course, and since he spent so long in opposition, he knows that that sometimes does occur. But the minister should know that these groups that are opposed to these larger trucks have a lot of credibility out there in the community
I will give an example. The CAA member, Hamilton Automobile Club, has written to all members, I believe. At least a copy of the letter to the minister has gone to all members.
According to them, the people who are in total opposition to this bill are the following, and I am sure there are others: the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ontario Good Roads Association, Canadian National Railways, medical practitioners, the Municipal Engineers Association, the Council on Road Trauma, the Teamsters, Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association, known affectionately as NOTO, Transport 2000 and the Ontario Traffic Conference.
That is a pretty impressive array of organizations lined up against this bill. I am not sure if the minister has pacified all those groups or got them to the point where they will support the bill. If the minister has accomplished that, they have not in turn passed that on to me.
And if you think about it, all of those groups have something to do with our roads or with safety on the roads and you can understand their concern, so I will be looking forward to hearing in the minister’s response to this second reading debate how he deals with all those organizations, and second, I look forward, of course, and hope very much that those organizations will come before the resources committee when the public hearings are held, whenever that might be. I hope very much that those organizations will make sure that they get their requests in to the committee to be heard, because they have expressed these views and I think it is safe to say that all members of the Legislature, when they receive this correspondence, must stop and think for a moment that if these organizations are opposed to this bill, then what is wrong? Why would we support a bill when all of those organizations are opposed to it?
The Hamilton Automobile Club, which obviously has done a lot of work, and I commend it for the work it has done on this bill, says in a letter to the minister dated 15 December 1989, some six months ago or so, the following. They are talking about the issue of larger trucks.
“The suggestion that this will permit the Ontario trucking industry to be competitive in a free trade environment is simply too weak a rationale to justify this action.”
If I could divert from the text of the letter for a moment, I assume this means that the Minister of Transportation, in response to their concerns, argued that this was necessary under the free trade agreement in order to allow the Ontario trucking industry to compete with its American competitors. Why else would the association say, “The suggestion” -- presumably from the minister – “that this will permit the Ontario trucking industry to be competitive in a free trade environment is simply too weak a rationale to justify this action”?
It is very interesting that the minister is going across this province blaming this kind of legislation on the free trade agreement, even though his government did absolutely nothing, or to use the language of the street these days, did diddly-squat about the free trade agreement when it had an opportunity to do so, absolutely nothing.
Hon Mr Wrye: We were waiting for Ed.
Mr Laughren: Well, this party was in power, whereas other parties were not, I should remind the minister.
I go back to the letter from the Hamilton Automobile Club.
“The fact is the Ontario trucking industry is one of the strongest and healthiest industries in Canada and stronger than many state trucking organizations. “We” -- in Ontario – “have over 46 trucks per kilometre of provincial highway compared to the average across Canada of just over 13 and Quebec at 7.7. Consequently, the current truck limits have not inhibited the development of a strong trucking industry in Ontario.”
“Furthermore, we believe it is imperative for your government to rationalize the transportation of goods in Ontario by encouraging an intermodal method of transportation, eg, trailers that have both rail wheels and tires so they can be transported on rails for a distance and taken off at distribution points and to their destinations by tractors. There are many other variations that would allow us to provide for the essential movement of goods in Ontario without having our highways pounded with heavy trucks as well as making a significant contribution to traffic accidents. We have already informed you of the costs on the Los Angeles freeway of truck accidents, estimated at $190 million a year. That’s the economic side. The other side, of course, is your desire to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities on Ontario highways, and yet this action will unquestionably contribute to an increase.”
That is the view of the Hamilton Automobile Club in what I think is a very thoughtful contribution to the debate.
If the minister is so convinced that this legislation and these longer trucks are going to make matters safer and that is absolutely essential to the competitive health of the industry, I hope he will clarify that when he winds up on this second reading debate.
It is not just the opposition or the Hamilton Automobile Club that is concerned. The minister will know that there was a commission. The Uffen commission did a report, and this is from the Hamilton Automobile Club again:
“On the Uffen commission, we had truckers, myself representing the motorists, police, a truck driver training school representative, a medical doctor and others representing various disciplines, including the government. I should add the Teamsters were also represented. The Teamsters, from the standpoint of their members’ safety, were opposed to increases in truck lengths. The police were opposed to it from the standpoint of critical accidents on our highways and safety; the medical representative, Dr Green, was opposed to it because he had to deal with the trauma from such accidents. All these agencies are still opposed to any increase in truck lengths.... Municipal engineers who appeared at the Uffen hearings pointed out that even with 21-metre lengths permitted on urban streets, they contributed substantially to congestion, road damage and difficulties in moving traffic. Adding four more metres to that original 21 metres will pose serious problems for urban areas.”
I could go on, but I think the point is made that even the commission that was struck to look at this matter was opposed to it, and yet --
Mr Laughren: Well, I have just read a quote from that commission.
I said to the minister that I would make a few comments about northern concerns, and I can tell the minister it is a major concern in the north. We do not have the kind of four-lane, six-lane, 16-lane highways in northern Ontario that there are down here, and I can tell the minister that on all those two-lane highways across the north, the thought of these supertrucks is very worrisome.
Just this past weekend, I was driving from Timmins to Sudbury on Highway 144. It was raining and the southbound lane had almost like ruts in the pavement and they were filled with water. The northbound lane had no such ruts, and I concluded that the reason for that had to be that the trucks on Highway 144 are loaded with heavy timber going south and empty going north. Even trucks with that kind of weight on them were causing indentations in the pavement on Highway 144. I think the proof is there, because the indentations were in the southbound lane but not in the northbound lane. I can imagine what is going to happen as we get into ever-larger trucks in the province of Ontario. Also, of course, roads like Highway 144 are narrower than roads in southern Ontario and that poses a problem with large trucks as well.
In the Sudbury basin -- the member for Sudbury is not here at the moment -- there is a very real concern about trucks in general, because the mining companies recently switched from transporting some of their ore in slurry, as it is known, in the Sudbury basin from rail to truck and we have a lot of these slurry trucks, all on the road in the congested, builtup areas of the Sudbury basin.
The amount of resistance by people in the Sudbury area is truly remarkable. They have had special committees struck by the region to look into the problem. I have written to the Minister of Transportation myself, suggesting that a committee of this Legislature should look at the whole matter of trucking in Ontario, both with safety and in terms of the cost. Who is paying their fair share? Is the trucking industry paying its fair share towards the cost of road maintenance and the building of roads? I am not sure they are. I think there needs to be a look at that.
This bill does not allow us to do that, of course. This bill deals specifically with other matters. I hope the minister does not think that because this bill is going out to committee, that resolves the problem that I think needs to be dealt with, and that is a committee of the Legislature to look specifically at the problems of trucking in the province of Ontario.
I wish the Minister of Northern Development were here. Perhaps he could tell us what his plans are for the shipping of garbage in large trucks to northern Ontario as well, because he certainly left that open for speculation this afternoon during question period.
When I think of all the options this minister had for improving safety on our highways, for improving the lot of motorists in Ontario, he had a large array of options, such as four-laning of highways, to give one example, building of more passing lanes, repaving existing bad roads. The minister had those options and he chose to put larger trucks on the road. It is a strange preference on behalf of the driving public in the province.
I think there is some problem in the perception of people all across Ontario about these larger trucks, and the minister is going to have a hard time explaining a couple of things. First, what caused him to change his mind over the longer trucks? One minute he is opposed to it on the record and the next minute he is in favour of it and out there flailing away, selling it as hard as he knows how.
Mr Mackenzie: Just days apart.
Mr Laughren: Days apart, as my colleague the member for Hamilton East says.
That has raised a lot of suspicions in a lot of people’s minds about what it is that made the minister change his mind. Presumably when he was opposed to it, he did so on the basis of advice from his officials. One would hope he did not just dream that up all by himself. Then he changed his mind. Did his officials change their minds and did they in turn change his? Or did the industry change its mind and his mind, or just his mind? I know we do not expect his officials to come out and say. “No, the minister had a change of heart and we have no idea why.” I do not expect them to say that. They have their job to do. That is one of the questions the minister is going to have to answer. I imagine he is going to hear it again and again, what caused him to change his mind, because he has raised a lot of questions in a lot of people’s minds.
Of course, the other question is how the minister expects to sell the idea that larger trucks mean less weight. He is going to have to convince a lot of people of that when he has not lowered the maximum limits. I do not know how he is going to sell that idea out there. I hope he is not going to use the argument that it is distributed over a different number of axles or something like that. The point is we are talking about the weight that is on the pavement on our highways. Accidents are important.
I am disappointed that the minister has brought forth this legislation. I think it is bad legislation. I do not believe the minister has allayed anybody’s fears about safety or all the fears about what bigger trucks will do to our roads in the province. I do look forward to the public hearings process and to hearing what groups out there say and whether or not they have been convinced by the minister that their fears are unfounded. I look forward very much to the public hearings part of this entire process.
Mr Cousens: This is one of those bills where the government knows that it has 94 seats and the backbenchers really do not even have to think about it. The minister will make an announcement and then look around and there will be full support from the government. It almost means that by having this bill considered today and then moved out to committee, are we really going to impact it? There is a certain inevitability to what has gone on and how it has gone on. Notwithstanding that, there may well be some benefit to just discussing and debating this issue so that the government is apprised of both sides of the issue.
I think the government has to really be aware of the fact that longer trucks have certain benefits -- and I think that has been recognized in the statements that have been made by the minister -- but also, certain alarming problems come out of it as well when you think of the number of different groups that have already spoken out against longer trucks.
I think the most important person who has talked out about longer trucks is that anonymous, quiet-spoken, complaisant Canadian, the Ontario driver who is out on the highway driving a smaller vehicle. The cars we are driving are getting smaller and smaller, and now with this proposal by the government, the trucks that are on the roads are getting bigger and bigger. It is a funny contradiction. On the one hand, we see conservation affecting the way cars are being built. We are seeing more and more people, I hope, trying to conserve gasoline and energy, and certainly the material that goes into the construction of vehicles. Friends I know are driving compacts and subcompacts. Those little vehicles really do not have an awful lot to protect them from the big, giant vehicles that are on the roads and highways. That, to me, is what we have to take into balance.
All I really feel deep down is that the driver of that smaller vehicle has just more and more intimidation that is going to be upon him by virtue of the size of these bigger vehicles. You try to pass them. You are in a position where the splash and just the danger of getting into it, trying to get the car revved up to pass those trucks, is another situation.
I know I have two young people in my own family, both with their own cars, not the bigger cars. I wish they had more steel and tin around them. From these large, giant machines that are coming on the roads they would have even less protection than I would want them to have, less than what was necessary years ago. I guess to me it raises a whole series of questions, the question that says: “Why are municipalities in Ontario opposing this bill? Why is it that some of the other associations -- the Canadian Automobile Association, the Hamilton Automobile Club, CN Rail, CP Rail -- opposing this legislation?” I think one of the reasons that the rail companies would be opposing it has to be rather obvious. There is a certain conflict of interest there where they are saying, “Well, this could take business away from railroads.”
Mr Callahan: There are not any railroads any more
Mr Cousens: My honourable friend says there are not any railroads. I hope there are. Maybe they just do not go into his community and do what they want. I know that the GO train in my community is not doing enough, and I really believe in railroads. Anything we can do to support commuter services and the railroads -- I think it is an excellent way of transportation. But we could get into another speech just on railroads. I happen to think that we have an opportunity to use the St Lawrence Seaway for transferring the large bulk of steel and grain and other services. We have the railways for certain services. We need the trucking industry. All of them are part of the transportation services we have. Certainly air has come in a new way.
I have problems with this bill, and yet I have to believe that anything I say or do now is not going to have a significant impact on what the future is going to do for Ontario. But if in fact we are able to have the minister understand some of the ramifications of bringing forward a bill that is going to lengthen the size of trailers and trucks, that in itself will mean that an already sensitive man will be even more sensitized to this issue.
I have to say that. Having been in a position to criticize the Minister of Transportation, I find him a very easy person to work with. I also respect him as a fellow colleague in the Legislature. Therefore, one has to separate personal enjoyment of a human being from the issue which I am really trying to deal with. I just do not like the way it was handled when in fact the minister, when he made the announcement on 23 November to the Ontario Trucking Association that he was “prepared to endorse a 25-metre overall length for tractor trailers and a new 53-foot trailer length. These new standards will of course require legislative amendments, which I plan on taking forward early in the next session this spring.” I just wish that when the minister has significant announcements like that, he would bring them into the Legislature and use this as the forum for discussing it. He chose not to. In that way it gave an excuse for the manufacturers of trailers suddenly to say, “Look, we’re going to want to build them.”
I started having my phone ring in December saying, “Are you going to allow the legislation to go through quickly?” because I, with the support of the member for Lanark-Renfrew, who is really the Transportation critic, was involved with the issue. The legislation was not even drafted at that point. The legislation did not come into the House until 13 December. There was little likelihood that we would have anything more than first reading at that point, and second reading -- as we know now, the government likes to ramrod everything through very quickly. It just cannot happen that way. We are dealing with a sensitive issue that deals with a very important subject the people in Ontario really would not want to just see happen by edict out of the cabinet of the David Peterson government.
I had the manufacturers of trailers saying: “Look, we’ve got the announcement from Minister Wrye saying that we’re going to have longer vehicles. Will you pass the legislation quickly so that we can change the orders that we have in? We’ve got people now ordering these longer trailers and we would like to be able to get them going. If the legislation is passed, then we can get them on the road. In the meantime, people are cancelling their orders for the regular-size trailer length. What will you do to speed it up?”
I could not do a thing to speed it up, because the legislation at that point had not even had first reading. Now that it has had first reading and we are into second reading, I am sure the government has had more of a negative impact on truckers in the transportation industry because of their waiting for this bill to be passed.
Unless the government comes along with some significant amendment, not much is going to stop this bill from being approved in the Legislature. Therefore, the kind of opposition that our party is giving is not going to be enough to really block it, but it may well be sufficient to make the government be a little bit more sensitive in the future as to how it brings in bills, how it announces them and how in fact they are going to impact the whole of the province of Ontario.
It worries me. I come back to my number one issue, which is, the cars are getting smaller and the trucks are getting bigger. That has to be one of the fundamental concerns I have as a driver on our highways and road systems. It is just that much more intimidating for the driver to be following, passing, be passed or be near those large vehicles.
In Michigan there has been a certain amount of study that has gone on about these trucks. It is funny how the Michigan example keeps coming up in this Legislature. It came up with the limited no-fault insurance because the model that has been used by the Liberals in Ontario happens to be the Michigan model of limited no-fault. Here again, it is Michigan that has the same kind of situation with the longer trucks.
Their report concluded: “Operated with the tandem axles in the full rearward position, the larger offtracking of the 53-foot semitrailers is incompatible with the geometry of many intersections in Michigan.” By being incompatible with the geometry of many intersections, it means that those large trucks, when they are making a turn in some of the smaller communities, have a harder time turning. There are blind spots created; they go into the other lanes in order to make the turn. Let’s face it: That in itself not only becomes an obstacle, but it becomes a safety concern.
Another point was made as it affects smaller municipalities, the smaller roads and the two-lane systems that we are into: “When loaded to its full-volume capacity, the 53-foot semi-trailer is expected to experience a slightly higher rollover frequency.” That means when it is fully filled up the chance of those larger vehicles tipping increases. That is part of the worry that I have now in Ontario, even on Highway 401 and the number of accidents we have had.
I think the accidents are not caused as much by the truckers as they are by drivers on the road system who really do not show the courtesy to those trucks as they should. The drivers are trying to make the best time they can, and the small car dives in and out and ducks around. Then those trucks, in order to save them, do a quick turn and in the process jeopardize themselves, their cargo, their trucks and other people on the highways. That happened in Kingston just a few weeks ago when a large tractor-trailer truck had to change lanes and lives were lost. It is going to happen, but I think we have to build as much of the safety controls into trucking and truck driving as we possibly can. It starts with the truck driver, it starts with the truck, and it also goes with the people who are driving cars.
I am worried about the way our own drivers on the roads are reacting to those big vehicles. One of the things we have to do when looking at safety, and we are specifically talking about the much longer trucks that are going to be on the road, is introduce better methods of teaching our own drivers in Ontario to be conscious of safety standards. Maybe we should do more testing of drivers of all vehicles so that anyone who is on the road understands the rules and is going to be less likely to cause an accident, so that we all begin to think safety, so that we are driving more carefully, so that we are doing that kind of protective driving, the defensive driving that has become far more popular in recent years.
It all comes together as a bundle where the Ministry of Transportation is looking at safety as a whole, entire, broader subject. They should not deal with things in isolation. There is a larger context. They should look at the safety of the small driver. Is his training up to par? Have we had him retested? Are the vehicles being maintained? That is part of the reason that the number of accidents exist on our highways, because of what is going on in the vehicle that is being driven by the person who is just driving a car.
Nonetheless, I raise the points that come out of the Michigan study that point to the fact that there is a higher rollover rate, higher accident rate, that the bigger trucks are incompatible with the smaller roads within the Michigan communities.
The other thing that comes out of the Michigan study, which is another reason for asking why we have to do what everybody else around us is doing, is that all the northeastern United States are with the longer tractor-trailers, and I guess out west we are into the same situation. Does Quebec have the same as well? So Ontario is isolated unless it goes along with this.
That is the reason we are going to do it. That is the reason we will have the longer vehicles in Ontario, not because we have thought about it, considered it and looked at the evidence, but because everybody else around is doing it. Because they are doing it, it is therefore right.
That is not necessarily the way we should do business, yet I can see the economic sense of what is going to happen. That is why I say, not only do we have a Liberal majority, but there is a certain inevitability when everybody else around us is doing it. If everyone in Rome is doing it, then we should do it as well.
Notwithstanding that, the factor is that the damage to pavement, according to the Michigan study, will increase by a margin, not enough that I would be able to measure it, but they are certainly saying: “it is estimated that pavement damage will accrue at a rate which is approximately 20% higher when freight is transported in 53-foot semitrailers as opposed to 48-foot semitrailers.”
That just means that that much more money has to go into the maintenance of our roads and our highways. I do not see this government putting the money out there. They are not doing it down in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. They are not coming along and putting more money into road maintenance. They are not doing it in Wellington. They are in all the Liberal ridings around the province, but certainly there is not enough money going into road construction, let alone road maintenance. In Markham I get the odd thing, but –
Hon Mr Wrye: Liberal ridings in Markham?
Mr Cousens: I just have to look after all the province of Ontario. The fact of the matter is that I do not see the minister increasing his expenditure on road maintenance --
Hon Mr Wrye: How is regional road 16 coming?
Mr Cousens: -- to help overcome the extra cost that is going to be waived by virtue of the higher cost to maintain this, that the roads will be more costly to maintain with the bigger trucks.
Hon Mr Wrye: How is the new Stouffville train?
Mr Cousens: I have a number of points that I could -- now if the minister is going to start bribing me to come along and be more supportive of it, I want the Stouffville train, I want many highways, I want Highway 407, I want, I want, I want. I want it for our riding. I want it for the greater Toronto area. On that side of it, there is definitely the side that says we need certain things that are part of an infrastructure for a growing community. Why we need longer transport trailers right now, that has to do with some thinking that goes on in the minister’s mind.
I would like to go on at greater length on this, but I know that there are other people who would like to participate in this debate. I just know that there is not universal support for this change that is being brought forward by the minister. I know that it is going to be more costly to maintain our roads. I know that it is challenging the drivers of small vehicles more by virtue of the size of the large trucks.
I think compact car owners tend to be very, very much worried about what is going to happen with rear-end collisions. There has been some study in Michigan and other places about decapitation because the height of the truck and the height of the car are such that people have lost their lives by virtue of the height being such that there was not any protection for them.
I just have to believe that when the ministry comes forward with a suggestion like this, there have to be ways in which the Legislature gets involved with it as well.
Just yesterday I received Partners in Safety from the Ontario Trucking Association. I am impressed at the way the truckers are really making an effort to educate every one of us with the need for safety. The fact of the matter is that people who are taking this program in now might well be interested in what the OTA is trying to do to educate people on preparing for a long trip, expressway driving, maintenance, braking, seatbelts, night driving, treating trucks with understanding. I think when we are going to have the longer trucks, we are going to have to learn how to keep to the left when behind a truck, how to do certain things. If people want to get a copy of this, I suggest they call a Toronto number: 416-249-7401.
Safety is the kind of thing that everybody has to be promoting. If there is any one reason why I am concerned about these longer vehicles, it has to be the safety consideration. When this goes to committee and there are public hearings on it, we hope then to hear the government give a defence of what it is suggesting and why it is making the trucks longer and what it is doing to encourage more safety on the roads.
I think a lot of it has to do with driver education, not just in trucks but also in vehicles and cars. I think it has to do with better maintenance on the roads, making sure that cars and vehicles are properly maintained as well. I think it calls for a whole understanding of what it is we want to have on our roads and how we are going to do it.
I sense that there seem to be more trucks on the road right now. I sense that the trucks are already pretty big, that there are already an awful lot of accidents on the highway caused for a variety of reasons and that we are not doing enough to promote safety here in Ontario. If there is anything we can do to make the roads safer, then we must do it.
I challenge the Minister of Transportation to take this seriously. I challenge him not to be at the beck and call of the people who happen to want to have certain things. Let’s have the balance that takes into consideration all the varied needs that are required in order to do the right thing.
I look forward to seeing this discussed in committee, at which time I know there will be considerable debate. I hope that the Legislature will not try to rush the committee process, but that there will be ample opportunity for those municipalities that are opposed, for those other groups that are opposed to it, as well as for those that are in favour, to come forward and give us their perspective on why they believe that Bill 96, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act, is a good thing or a bad thing.
Unlike so many other instances when we have gone to committee and they have just had all the hearings and all the presentations and then they just went and voted as a block without ever even thinking about all the things that they had heard presented, I hope that the Minister of Transportation will allow that kind of openness in thinking by his backbenchers. If that is the case, then this bill might well have certain amendments to it that will take into consideration the concerns that I am expressing that deal with the one thing, and that is safety.
I know that there is a chance for others to speak now and I pass the debate on to them.
Mr Mackenzie: I am pleased to rise in my place and speak in this particular debate. I want to make it clear also that I do not support the bill that the minister has brought forward.
I may have had a little bit of an advantage, I guess, in 1977 and 1978 in sitting on the select committee on highway safety. That not only did a bit of travelling around Ontario but also visited some jurisdictions in Europe at the time, and one of the issues that we discussed at some length was longer trucks on the highway.
I know that that particular committee unanimously, as near as I can remember now, the NDP members, the Liberal members and the government members decided, based on what I thought was pretty good evidence, and I do not see anything that has changed, that longer trucks on the road were not the way to go. Back at that time, 12 or 13 years ago, as my colleague just said, there were probably a lot less of the small cars and more of the larger cars on the road. Yet there was certainly a concern and fear of motorists travelling on our highways with the longer trucks.
I do not know whether the minister has talked to a lot of individual drivers. I think, if you took a look at the number of cars on the road and the number of trucks on the road, you would find one hell of a lot more cars than there are trucks, even though Ontario is the leading province in Canada when it comes to the number and the number per kilometre of trucks that are on the road. We have something like 46 or 47 trucks. In the term of the measurement they use, I think the next highest province is British Columbia with 18 and the average for all of Canada is only 13. So we are way ahead of any other part of Canada in terms of the number of trucks that are already on the road.
As I said, I do not know whether the minister has talked to individual drivers, but I would be interested in knowing how many of the individual drivers have told him that they support the idea of longer trucks on the road. I have talked to dozens at least, maybe not hundreds, but certainly dozens of people about this particular issue. I have been interested in it ever since we issued our report in the select committee on highway safety.
I have yet to find an ordinary car driver who says that he would agree with the longer trucks on the road or who does not express concern at driving on our highways today in Ontario with the number of trucks and the speed of the trucks, and particularly if you run into a nasty or a wet or a rainy day, the kind of splash you get, and if it happens to be wintertime and a bit of snow, it is even worse.
I do not think there is support among the populace, the car drivers in the province, who certainly outnumber the truckers by several times, for this kind of legislation. Even more than that, Mr Speaker, I am convinced that if you talked to the truckers themselves, certainly a large number of them and probably a majority of them would also tell you that they do not agree with the longer trucks. I am not talking about the major trucking companies and the owners of those trucking companies, but I am talking about the people who drive the rigs.
I know that the Teamsters local in my town, in Hamilton, voted and voted heavily to oppose longer trucks on the highway. I believe it was also a position of the provincial Teamsters. So the people that represent at least the organized truckers in this province are not in support of this legislation that the minister has before us. The only people I can see who are in support of it happen to be some of the major trucking concerns.
I suspect as well, from calls I have had and from talking to the Teamsters and from talking to the officials at the auto club, that many of the smaller trucking companies are not enamoured of this legislation for a variety of reasons. Many of them cannot afford the additional costs of going into the bigger units. Whatever kind of a living they are making, they are making it now on trucks up to the maximum size currently allowed or on the smaller trucks. So I am not sure you would find all of the industry in support of it.
I am simply suggesting to members of this House that there is a very small, narrow constituency that wants this legislation for a variety of reasons. I do not know why this government continually ignores the view and the voice and the concerns of a large number of people. They have done it on the Sunday shopping, regardless of the arguments that are made. They have done it on the workers’ compensation. They have done it on health and safety. They certainly did it with the increase in sales taxes, which is a regressive form of taxes. Now they are doing it when it comes to the fear that people express, and it is very real, of a much larger number of larger units on the highways.
I think I heard a suggestion from my Conservative colleague that maybe it makes some sense because everyone else is doing it, and that is about the only argument you will really find in favour of it. I am not sure that is the case either, because there is nothing, with trucks up to the current level, that stops whatever competition our people can give, even in moving into the United States.
But if only the big boys can afford the larger units, which will be the case in Ontario, I am not sure that they have much of a leg up on any out-of-province or American trucking firms that already have the larger units that are shipping into this country. I suspect we are losers in that game.
It seems to me that where we have protected jobs, we have done it with some kind of content legislation or we have done it with regulations or rules that guarantee a certain standard on Ontario highways. We are still able to compete there. I do not think that is a valid argument.
I know that there have been some comments raised about the campaign of the Hamilton Automobile Club. I think it is an excellent one. It is not a new one; it is one it has conducted for a long time. That is their concern on behalf of their drivers, and there are a lot of people who belong to the Hamilton Automobile Club and the other automobile clubs in this province and this country. They have raised a number of arguments that I have not heard answered here, and I doubt very much quite frankly that the minister is going to answer them.
I will start with Facts About Longer Trucks. I suspect most members got this, but I think it is useful putting it on the record. The auto club sent out a sheet, Facts About Longer Trucks, and it makes the following points:
“Fact: Trucks, as a percentage of vehicle registrations in Ontario in l987, was 17.9% and yet truck involvement in fatal accidents, as a per cent of total vehicles involved in fatal accidents, was 26.5%.” That is a pretty devastating statistic, but it does not seem to have entered into the minister’s calculations.
“Fact: Not all accidents are caused by the trucks but the consequences regardless of who causes them, are disastrous, with the motor vehicle driver and passengers coming out the losers.” I think that is pretty obvious when we see where there are accidents with vehicles and trucks, and particularly the smaller vehicles. I am talking about passenger cars that are on our roads today.
“Fact: Ontario has the highest density of trucks per kilometre of provincial highway of any province in Canada. Ontario is 46.3 vehicles per kilometre with the closest province being BC at 14.9” -- it is not even the 18 I thought it was -- “and the average across Canada at 13.6. The industry is very healthy in Ontario even with the basic 23-metre truck lengths permitted.
“Fact: The Dr Uffen truck safety commission in 1983 was composed of eight advisers including the medical profession, the police, truckers, the motorists’ representatives, the Teamsters and government officials. The Teamster representative along with all remaining advisers and the commissioner, except for the trucking representative, were opposed to any increase in truck lengths. The truck drivers are not to blame. It is a few large trucking companies that want this advantage. This will disadvantage the medium to small trucking companies as well.”
I think that makes the point I was trying to make. Not only will you not find probably 95% of car drivers in this province happy with the longer trucks; you will not even find a majority of the drivers of the trucks in this province happy with or in support of the longer trucks. I go back to my point: It becomes a very narrow, very small constituency. I think my colleague from Nickel Belt is right that we have to ask why that has been able to carry today with this minister.
“Fact: In the Uffen commission we did recognize the need to improve the stability of tractor-trailer combinations and consequently approved an increase from 21 metres to 23 metres to encourage cab-behind-the-engine tractors versus cab-over-engine which were unstable.
“Fact: If the proposed metre increase is permitted to go in, it means we will have increased truck sizes in four years by four metres or 13 feet -- a 20% increase. Just another step on the road to achieving the trucking industry’s goal for the 120-foot-long monster trucks on our highways.
“Fact: Despite the contribution to our economy in terms of delivery of goods, the increased number of bigger trucks with diesel engines raises environmental concerns. According to a 1988 report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, diesel vehicles which do not have to meet the same stringent control for cars, contribute to air pollution, not only with nitrous oxides and sulphur compounds, but also with fine particles which can cause hereditary deficiencies and cancer. According to the OECD report, big trucks cause vibrations and they do cause early wear on our road surfaces and early failure of our bridges. The environmental cost of big trucks is very high in comparison with smaller commercial and private vehicles.”
I have not heard answers for any of these facts as outlined and sent out by the automobile club and, I believe, endorsed by the national club as well.
“Fact: More axles and wheels create more air turbulence and more splash and spray during bad weather and road conditions.”
If I can digress for just a moment, I drove, partly for cost reasons and to bring some of my riding’s delegates with me, out to Winnipeg for our recent convention. I drove back through the United States and we did hit some bad, snowy weather. It was in the wintertime, and I can tell members it was not a pleasant drive. The most unpleasant part of it, and this is just exactly the comment that is being passed out by ordinary citizens across this province, were the trucks on the highway and the splash, because we had some snow and we had some slush. I thought I was going to be relieved when I crossed the border at Sarnia, but on the stretch from Sarnia past London and into where we cut off at Brantford to come into Hamilton it was a nightmare. I do a lot of driving, as probably a lot of members in this House do. I drive better than 50,000 kilometres a year and I can tell members that was not a pleasant drive. I know my concern, my fear literally on that highway, and I know that is a concern that is shared by many drivers.
My dad still has his licence. At 84 or 85 he is taking the yearly test now. I do not know how long he will have it. At that age, he tends to drive a little more slowly which, I sometimes warn him, is not necessarily the safest way to drive. But I can tell members also that the trucks on the highway terrify him, and they terrify most older drivers. He happens to be driving now, for cost and upkeep reasons -- he is on pensions now -- a smaller car, as so many people are; and you have not got a chance in a smaller car. One of my sons drives a larger car, and why? Simply because he is terrified in the small car. He also does, like myself, an awful lot of driving when he has to deal with the large trucks on the busy highways, cutting across Ontario as he is.
I go back again, and I will do it several times before I finish: How many individual car owners, of which there are probably two or three million in this province, has the minister talked to on this issue? How many have told him they support this longer bill? How many of the truckers, driving the trucks that we want to put on the highway, the longer trucks, support this legislation? I will bet my bottom dollar that you will get down to a very small handful of the truckers and an even smaller group, but powerful in influence and with a lot of money obviously, the major trucking companies. I suspect if the government canvassed even the smaller trucking outfits, it would not find the support for this legislation. Once again, it begs the question of why the minister has done this about-face on this particular piece of legislation.
Let me go on with the fact sheets.
“Fact: Truck accidents cause enormous economic costs. A study of the Los Angeles freeway system reported that economic costs of truck accidents amounted to $190 million a year.” That is the Los Angeles freeway area alone.
“Fact: Trucks do have blind spots; ie, a truck turning from the second lane cannot see a motor vehicle in its right-hand blind spot and can crush that vehicle as has already happened on occasions.
“Fact: In a 1989 spring safety blitz conducted by the provincial government, inspectors took 20% (one in every five) of the trucks” they investigated on the road “out of service for serious” -- not minor – “safety violations.”
This is the industry, these are the vehicles this minister wants to increase in length and put on our highways? I think there is an awful lot of answering to be done before we allow this to go through this House and I would hope that the minister and the committee that this bill will be referred to are not the kind of a rubber stamp we have become so used to in this particular period of government. That would be a tragedy. Some of the government members may say, “Hey, we don’t agree with that,” but certainly the evidence is clear. On most of the major bills that have been referred to a committee, the members have had their marching orders and there has been little change based on any input from the citizens or the people who appear before the committee.
I want to deal with another letter that went to the Minister of Transportation. It is one that was sent just two weeks before the 15 December letter that my colleague the member for Nickel Belt quoted from when he was speaking to this particular bill. This also is from the Hamilton Automobile Club. It is signed by Alfred Oakie, who recently retired from his job of many years as head of the Hamilton Automobile Club. He was a tremendous person. I have known him ever since I came to Hamilton in 1963. He was one of the real fighters for protection of drivers and one of the real opponents of this piece of legislation which the minister has now brought into this Legislature. I want to put his letter on record because I think it also invites a number of questions of this minister:
“December 5, 1989
“Dear Mr Wrye:
“Again, we acknowledge your courtesy in receiving Mr Eatson, Mr Laviolette and myself at the meeting with you and your staff on November 9, 1989.
“Consequently, we must express a sharp note of disappointment in your announcement a mere two weeks later that you would be considering an increase to 25 metres for trucks in Ontario. This simply underlines the skilful manner in which some of the major trucking companies, through their trucking association, are able to sound so convincing. We have dealt with them for a good many years and are quite familiar with their patterns of persuasiveness.
“The fact is that the circumstances have not altered one bit since the cabinet made a decision in February of 1988 not to permit the 25-metre trucks on our highways. The Honourable Mr Fulton reaffirmed cabinet’s position in a letter to us dated June 20, 1989. In early October 1989, you publicly reaffirmed the lengths would not be increased.”
It does beg the question, what happened in a matter of a couple of weeks? Did the minister somehow or other stop and talk to hundreds or thousands of drivers, the vast majority of whom would have said no to this legislation, or did a handful of trucking company executives get to him and convince him to change what he had made as a commitment to the automobile club just two weeks earlier? I think that is a legitimate question and not a nasty question. It is one that obviously has to be asked. The minister is not listening to the thousands; he certainly was listening to a very small number. I ask the minister, what did they offer to get his support?
Hon Mr Wrye: Careful. Be very careful.
Mr Mackenzie: I do not need to be careful. The minister is the one who has to answer for this. Two weeks before, he told the auto club there would be no increase in the lengths. He did not talk to the drivers, but he did obviously talk to the trucking industry; not thousands of drivers in Ontario, not the automobile club and not their executive members who met with him. But all of a sudden he changed his position, and the trucking companies’ views, not even those of the trucking companies’ drivers, were what carried the day.
Let me go over that paragraph:
“The fact is that the circumstances have not altered one bit since the cabinet made a decision in February of 1988 not to permit the 25-metre trucks on our highways.”
It is not my letter. This is from Alf Oakie of the Hamilton Automobile Club.
Let me suggest also that the circumstances have not changed one bit since our highway safety committee made the same recommendation against increasing the length back in 1977-78, an all-party committee reporting unanimously out of this Legislature.
“The Honourable Mr Fulton reaffirmed cabinet’s position in a letter to us dated June 20, 1989. In early October, you” -- referring to this minister – “publicly reaffirmed the lengths would not be increased.” What happened almost overnight?
“Truckers claim that this increased length was merely for safety purposes. Somehow there is a contradiction when the trailer portion is going from 48 to 53 feet. The fact is that the determined stance of the truckers that this is to improve safety, with greater stability of the tractor portion, is a fallacious and redundant argument. When I served on the Uffen commission under Dr Bob Uffen, we recognized the stability of cab-behind-the-engine versus cab-over-engine, and consequently we agreed that the truck lengths should be increased from 21 to 23 metres to provide for safety factors” -- permitting an increase from 21 to 23, not for the 25 – “but without permitting an increase in the trailer size. The trucking association’s stance” -- this is the letter; I am reading it to members verbatim – “that there are no economic benefits and that only safety is their concern is extremely hard to swallow when one considers how the increase in length is being utilized.”
Mr Miller: No, it isn’t. Safety is our number one priority; safety first.
Mr Mackenzie: I did not know the member disagreed so strongly with Mr Oakie, but nevertheless.
“We gave you a copy” -- I am quoting further from the letter verbatim – “of various research reports and studies conducted over the years. All of them indicate clearly that we cannot allow trucks to get bigger. On the Uffen commission, we had truckers, myself representing the motorists, police, a truck driver training school representative, a medical doctor and others representing various disciplines including the government. I should add the Teamsters were also represented. The Teamsters from the standpoint of their members’ safety were opposed to increases in truck lengths. The police were opposed to it from the standpoint of critical accidents on our highways and safety; the medical representative, Dr Green, was opposed to it because he had to deal with the trauma from such accidents. All these agencies are still opposed to any increase in truck lengths. You will no doubt be hearing from some of them. Municipal engineers who appeared at the Uffen hearings pointed out that even with 21-metre lengths permitted on urban streets, they contributed substantially to congestion, road damage and difficulties in moving traffic. Adding four more metres to that original 21 metres will pose serious problems for urban areas. They simply cannot cope with longer trucks. We recently had a call from a person whose wife experienced a terrifying accident involving a truck making a right-hand turn from the second lane, crushing her on to the sidewalk. The fact is these trucks have a blind spot on the right-hand side and they cannot see a car. Trucks making left-hand turns at intersections in municipalities need two and three lanes to complete the movement and this ties up lanes of traffic. The alternative is to run their wheels over the sidewalk curbs causing damage and possible injury to pedestrians.”
I think the letter -- I say this seriously to all members of this House -- is a devastating one, an indictment of the move this minister has made.
“Recently we did an examination of the truck density per kilometre of provincial highways in each province and Ontario has such a high density of trucks versus other provinces to make such comparisons a mockery. Quebec only has 7.7 trucks per kilometre of highway and Ontario has 46.3.” That is six and a half times.
“We have received numerous calls from concerned motorists and in fact, even from those who have had some experience in the trucking industry. All the calls we have had from people who have been employed in the past or are currently employed in the trucking industry, have expressed deep concern about the increase to 25 metres. Their concerns reflect their experience, having worked in the industry. There is concern expressed that this is the thin edge of the wedge and there will be ongoing movement by the industry to keep increasing the size of trucks. We are quite familiar with this pattern and that is why it is essential to stop them at the 23 metres. Small trucking companies cannot afford to change their equipment to be competitive. Consequently the only ones that will benefit are a few large trucking companies and possibly some shippers, to the detriment of small trucking companies and to the motorists at large.
“I guess we are also very concerned about the very blatant statement made in the Toronto Star by a trucking company representative, ‘We are happy the minister is a friend of the truckers.’ The question millions of motorists will be asking is, ‘Where does that place the minister as the representative of the motorists and the ordinary citizens of Ontario?’” The remark I made earlier, which seemed to catch the ire of the minister, is just a direct reflection of that piece in the Toronto Star.
Hundreds of thousands of drivers: I doubt if the minister can find very many who agree with this legislation. Most of the truckers themselves do not agree with it, so he has a very tiny constituency, the major trucking companies. To see this kind of statement in the Star by the trucking industry, “We are happy the minister is a friend of the truckers,” does beg the question of what made him do the sudden about-face in a period of less than two weeks. What was the price of this change and who the blazes in this province is speaking up for the drivers of Ontario who, I am totally convinced, do not want the longer trucks on the highways?
Continuing with the letter to the minister: “At a safety research conference I attended some three years ago in the United States, the technical director for one of the large trucking companies demonstrated the weakness of the air brake system on trucks. When he concluded with his presentation accompanied by illustrations, I asked him point-blank, ‘You mean we should be more worried than we are right now?’ His response was, ‘You should be terrified.’ Braking efficiency of the trucks are in doubt and stopping distances are much higher than for cars. When you have this combination in play dynamically on 12-foot laneways on our congested highways, it’s a formula for disaster.” That is not my comment. Once again, that is the comment and the response by a trucking official to Alf Oakie, at the time head of the biggest single automobile club in this country.
“No matter from what angle we examine it, it just does not make sense to permit trucks to become larger. The fact is that the trucking industry in Ontario is probably the healthiest in Canada and they have done it with 21- and 23-metre trucks. If Ontario had larger lengths than permitted in other jurisdictions, then the truckers would face a problem, but the fact is they can travel anywhere, except the Maritimes, with total freedom.” Once again, what is the economic benefit? If anything, the benefit is the other way, if we do not increase the lengths, because we at least have some protection in the province of Ontario for our trucking industry.
It goes on to say: “Mr Wrye, I sincerely hope that all of the information we have provided to you, including that provided to your predecessor, will be given thorough study. Pat Jacobsen has promised me she would read some of our material which is replete with substantial evidence that longer truckers in Ontario are simply not viable. When we put the statement in a debate with Mr Cope on radio, that the issue was dollars versus lives, he argued that it was a safety matter and returned to the redundant argument that this will provide for more stable tractors. We did take care of that and we would urge you to please not allow him to use that redundant argument to support 25-metre lengths.
“We will be urging motorists to write to you and we sincerely hope that based on their personal experiences and personal concerns, supported by all the research we’ve done, that you will reconsider this decision for the benefit of the major users of our highways, particularly the motorists who contribute to the vast proportion of the taxes to build our roads and highways.
“Hamilton Automobile Club,
“Alfred U. Oakie,
“Spokesman for government affairs,
As I said, that is not my letter and it is a letter from a very well respected gentleman. Some of the members were at the retirement dinner for him in the city of Hamilton recently. He has spent a lifetime arguing the cause and the case of motorists in the province of Ontario.
That letter and a further letter I could go to, a letter to members of the assembly of Ontario that they sent out, outline so strongly and so positively the fact that the benefits are not there, that the dangers are there, that the costs are there to our towns, our municipalities, our roads and to our people in terms of accidents, deaths, injuries, trauma, the mental and psychological trauma of older people, particularly in smaller cars competing with ever longer trucks on the road.
There was the fear, almost the terror I felt coming back from Winnipeg on that drive in slushy, snowy and wet weather, trying to go around the trucks or having the trucks pass me and the big splash of slush up on the windows; and I am not driving a larger car, so I suppose I am doubly at risk as well.
That says to me, as does the fact that we are not seeing any kind of campaign or support from drivers in this province -- at least if there is, it is invisible to me. I am going to be very interested in having the minister tell us how many ordinary drivers agree with this legislation. The fact that the drivers themselves, the truckers, and their organization, the Teamsters, have not agreed with it once again narrows it down to a very tiny constituency.
On motion by Mr Mackenzie, the debate was adjourned.
The House adjourned at 1800.