LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Wednesday 4 May 2005 Mercredi 4 mai 2005
The House met at 1330.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): Many Ontarians are truly disappointed with the lack of consultation on the Liberals' anti-tobacco bill. Two hundred and twenty-five associations and individuals applied to testify before the finance committee; only 88 were allowed to appear.
On the fourth day, I tabled a motion for more hearings. My motion was defeated by the Liberals. Now we learn that House leader Dwight Duncan and Minister Sandra Pupatello have joined my cause in calling on this government to hold additional hearings. The Windsor Star quotes MPP Duncan: "`It's quite unusual,' he said of his and Pupatello's request that the committee, headed by Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Pat Hoy, hear from an additional delegation."
The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, if passed as is, will impact many people and businesses. Why wouldn't we want to hear from all those who know first-hand what Bill 164 will do to them? One hundred and thirty-seven associations and individuals were not allowed to testify.
This morning in the media studio, we heard from the Ontario Convenience Stores Association and the Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association. They explained very clearly the crime and the danger that their owners, operators and employees suffer as a result of Liberal tobacco taxes and display bans.
The question is, what is this government afraid of? Do the right thing: Hold additional hearings. I'm getting hundreds of faxes from Korean businessmen asking for the right to come forward.
Mr. Bruce Crozier (Essex): I rise to speak again about an issue of great importance; that is, four-laning and safety improvements on Highway 3 in my riding of Essex. I was pleased to see that since I last rose in this House in March to urge the minister to get on with these safety improvements, the project has begun to move forward. The information session held in the town of Essex on April 7 was a step in the right direction. Improvements to intersections, which will take place this summer, are also a welcome start.
But for the residents of my riding, the widening and safety improvements on Highway 3 cannot come soon enough. Some have lost friends and have themselves been injured in the many accidents that have occurred on what many consider to be a very dangerous stretch of highway. Traffic counts now reach as high as 15,000 vehicles a day during peak commuting times.
With the environmental studies and design work still to be done, MTO officials have said that the beginning of construction could be two years away. This is too long, too far away. I urge the minister to speed up that process and ensure that funds are in place to move ahead on this important project once the studies are completed. My constituents need to know that the widening of Highway 3 in my riding will remain a top priority of our government.
FOLEY CATHOLIC SCHOOL
Mr. Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): On Sunday, May 1, I had the privilege of attending the rededication of Foley Catholic School and the blessing of the new school addition. Foley Catholic School is located in the community of Brechin, which is on the eastern boundary of the riding of Simcoe North and part of the township of Ramara. The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board and the Foley Catholic School community have been preparing for this addition for several years. It was very nice to see both Monsignor O'Neill and Father Doyle take part in the blessing.
I'd like to thank the following people for their outstanding contributions: principal Paul Campbell and all the staff at Foley; Michael O'Keefe, the director of education, and his staff at the board; chairperson Diana Riffert and the board of directors at the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board; Mr. James Canning, the local trustee for that region; Ms. Sheri Black, chair, and all the folks of the Foley Catholic School Community Council; and the community of Brechin and area for their continued support of the young people of Ramara. Finally, in this Education Week, I would like to congratulate the students -- past, present and future -- for their commitment to quality education at Foley Catholic School. Their commitment has made this beautiful new addition a reality.
On a personal note, I am extremely pleased that since my election in June 1999, all four elementary schools in the township of Ramara have now had beautiful new additions.
MENTAL HEALTH WEEK
Mr. Tim Peterson (Mississauga South): Yesterday morning, I was at the GO station in Clarkson at 6:30 a.m. to help the Peel branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association kick off Mental Health Week. With Sandy Milakovic, the executive director of the Peel branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, her trained panda bear and several volunteers, we gave away over 2,000 chocolate Hugs and 2,000 cards with the 10 tips for mental health. I have also distributed a chocolate Hug to each member of the House, along with the 10 tips for good mental health:
"(1) Build a healthy self-esteem.
"(2) Eat well and keep fit.
"(3) Create positive family relationships.
"(4) Make friends who count.
"(5) Create a meaningful budget.
"(6) Get involved as a volunteer.
"(7) Manage stress effectively.
"(8) Learn to cope with changes that affect you.
"(9) Identify and deal with your moods.
"(10) Find a spirituality to call your own."
As we all know, mental illness strikes people from all walks of life. It is now becoming a problem for our youth, manifested in the form of eating disorders and depression. Early diagnosis is one of the keys to a fast, sustainable recovery.
Today we remind everyone that it's Mental Health Week, and in celebration of it, please give someone you love a hug.
Mr. Cameron Jackson (Burlington): The month of May is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and I am pleased to support the work of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and its thousands of volunteers.
Canadians have one of the highest rates of MS in the world, and as the most common neurological disease affecting young adults, three more people are diagnosed with MS in Canada every single day.
Although first identified by a French neurologist, Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot, in 1868, we unfortunately still do not know what causes MS, although researchers are now closer than ever to finding the answers.
I'm pleased to acknowledge the ongoing contributions to MS research by Dr. Brenda Banwell of the world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children here in Toronto. She is part of an international effort, including more than 20 Canadian hospitals and universities, to study MS in children, who can be stricken with this disease as early as age three.
The annual Carnation Day fundraiser for MS begins this week, leading up to Mother's Day, to especially underscore the fact that MS affects twice as many women as men. I would like to take this opportunity to urge everyone to wear their carnation and to support this campaign.
On behalf of my leader, John Tory, and the Ontario PC caucus, I congratulate the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and its many volunteers and researchers for all they are doing on behalf of those suffering with MS and their families. This Mother's Day, we should all buy a carnation in support of their important work.
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): After making it to the Sutherland Cup Ontario Junior B championship series in three of the last four seasons, the Thorold Georgia Pacific Blackhawks finally won the cup before a capacity crowd at the Thorold Arena on Tuesday, April 26.
Since the team was formed in 1982, it has gone through tough years, but those tough times steeled the resolve of the team to build them to the formidable force they are today.
The Hawks won four out of five games in the Junior B League championship series, and the only game they lost in this series was the team's first loss since December 17, 2004 -- a 30-game winning streak.
As impressive as the team has been, the loyalty and fervour of its fans is even more impressive. In just over an hour, the tickets for the final game were sold out, filling the Thorold Arena to its 1,750-fan capacity. Stalwart fan Mel Swart drove from Thorold to Chatham and returned home again that same night for the fourth game -- regrettably the first game Thorold lost after 30 consecutive wins.
I want to thank the team's sponsors, Georgia Pacific and Big Red Market, for their support of the team. In fact, Dan Timmins, who works at Big Red, is the coach of the Thorold Blackhawks, and I want to close with words from Dan Timmins: "We put Thorold on the map for junior hockey in Ontario."
Ms. Deborah Matthews (London North Centre): I stand before this House today in recognition of Education Week and of the fine accomplishments this government has made. Under the leadership of the Premier and the Minister of Education, we have made great strides to reconcile the terribly acrimonious relationship the Tories developed with the teachers, the parents and the children of Ontario.
The Tories played hopscotch with our schools. They stomped on teachers and jumped over students. The leader of the official opposition should be made aware of the legacy left to Ontario by his party. Under the Tories, children lost 24 million days to labour strikes. While the Tories forced teachers out of work, the Liberals have brought long-term peace and stability to our schools. The Tories allowed the dropout rate in Ontario to skyrocket to 30%. The Tories closed more than 500 schools. The Tories took teacher-librarians, art teachers, music teachers and support staff out of the schools.
This government represents a new era for education in Ontario. And who will this benefit the most? Our children. Our children are our future. Unlike the Tories, the Liberal government doesn't play politics with our children. Parents need to know that their schools are finally able to focus on what is important: educating Ontario's children.
We've put more money than ever before into special education. We've reduced class sizes in 1,300 schools, and more than 100 programs have been approved to help reduce the dropout rate and improve outcomes for students at risk. And that is just the start.
This is meaningful change for Ontario. Children across the province now have the tools to build a brighter future.
Mr. Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North): Today, I'm joining parliamentarians across Canada by recognizing Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. I'm wearing an MS Society of Canada HOPE bracelet as well as a red carnation in support of the fight against this unpredictable and often disabling disease. I would encourage all members to join me in showing our collective support for those who live with multiple sclerosis.
Unfortunately, Canadians have one of the highest rates of MS in the world. In fact, three more people in Canada are diagnosed daily with MS. It is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada.
A French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, first identified this condition in 1868. As a doctor myself, I can tell you that I have personally seen how MS can cause loss of balance, impaired speech, extreme fatigue, double vision and paralysis. To this day, we don't know what causes MS, but every day researchers are coming closer to finding the answer. MS affects women twice as often as men, making the MS carnation campaign particularly relevant during the Mother's Day weekend.
With your permission, Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the presence of Himani Ediriweera in the gallery today. Himani was recently diagnosed with MS. I would also like to recognize the presence of several representatives of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
Speaker, I would formally ask for unanimous consent to wear this red carnation in support of the courage and efforts of the MS society.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): Before I ask if there is unanimous consent, I would have appreciated that this be asked before it was worn. Anyhow, many members of Parliament here now are wearing them, and I presume that you are now asking for unanimous consent to wear them. You could take it off and put it back on, but since you have it on, it's OK.
Do we have unanimous consent? Agreed.
LIBERATION OF THE NETHERLANDS
Mrs. Maria Van Bommel (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): This week, we pay special honour to the Canadian soldiers who fought so bravely for the liberation of the Netherlands over 60 years ago.
My mom and dad would tell us, as kids, about the Nazi invasion of their communities and about being forced from their homes. But it wasn't until we were adults and time had eased their memories that we learned about the true suffering and horror they had witnessed. We heard about the bombings of their villages, the running for cover at the sound of approaching airplanes, the boxes of documents floating in the Rhine and the shooting of anyone who ventured out to retrieve them, and the hungry winter, when the Nazis tried to starve the Dutch into submission.
My father-in-law and mother-in-law had their own stories. Martin Van Bommel was by then the father of nine. When the Nazis raided their village for young people to add to their dwindling forces, Martin raised the alarm and then hid the young local men on his own farm, at great risk to himself and his family.
The Allied forces were a welcome sight that spring, and my mother still tells her grandchildren about the liberation by the Canadian soldiers. In the months that followed, Dutch families came to know their liberators better. As the need to rebuild their lives became apparent, Dutch families followed their Canadian heroes to Canada, many settling here in Ontario.
Out of respect and admiration, a tradition of tending the graves of the fallen Canadian soldiers has been established in the Netherlands, and Dutch Canadians continue to tell the next generation about the bravery of those Canadian soldiers.
So to all those Canadian soldiers I give our heartfelt thanks. Hartelijk bedankt.
Mrs. Linda Jeffrey (Brampton Centre): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to recognize my co-op student, Fabianna Khan, in the audience and her two teachers, Ken Logan and Pat Lee, from Heart Lake Secondary School in the gallery today.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): That is not a point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
EDUCATION AMENDMENT ACT, 2005 /
LOI DE 2005 MODIFIANT LA LOI
Mr. Kennedy moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 194, An Act to amend the Education Act / Projet de loi 194, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
I understand that the Minister of Education will be making the statement afterwards.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AMENDMENT ACT
(PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP), 2005 /
LOI DE 2005 MODIFIANT LA LOI
SUR LA PROTECTION DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT
(GÉRANCE DES PRODUITS)
Mr. Miller moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 195, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act with respect to the stewardship of products and of the packages or containers used for products / Projet de loi 195, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement en ce qui a trait à la gérance des produits et des emballages ou des contenants utilités pour ceux-ci.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): This bill will allow for regulations that can require manufacturers of packages and containers used for products, or other persons, to implement and comply with plans concerning stewardship or waste management. It also allows for the institution of a deposit return system on various products.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN OF
RECENT IMMIGRANTS /
ÉDUCATION POUR ENFANTS
Hon. Gerard Kennedy (Minister of Education): I rise today to speak to legislative amendments that would, if passed by this House, unlock our school doors for children of recent immigrants.
All students need the advantage that a good education provides, and I believe that publicly funded education is the cornerstone of a fair, productive, civilized and socially cohesive society.
Chaque enfant a le droit d'apprendre. Nous avons la charge d'enlever les barrières qui laissent des enfants dans un vide administratif, sans égard au statut d'immigration de leurs parents.
Every child has the right to learn, and we all have a responsibility to remove barriers that leave children in administrative limbo regardless of their parents' immigration status.
Our mission and our moral purpose are to ensure that children are educated to a high level. It should not matter where you came from, but rather where you are going. How do you put a price on education or on someone's future? Currently, the Education Act requires boards to charge fees, which can be as high as $7,000 or $10,000 annually per child, for temporary residents to attend school. There have been several cases where children of immigrant parents were kept at home for long periods of time because their families did not have proper immigration status and could not afford to pay fees. We take the view that this is simply unacceptable in Ontario. Today's proposed legislation is an important prelude to ensuring that Ontario students enjoy a good outcome from our publicly funded education system.
Le projet de loi que nous déposons aujourd'hui s'inscrit dans l'engagement que nous avons pris, consistant à veiller à ce que les élèves de l'Ontario obtiennent un bon résultat de notre système d'éducation financé par les deniers publics.
We need to give our children an Ontario education advantage so they can develop the skills they need to get good jobs and enjoy life to the fullest. Our province needs an Ontario education advantage too. We need a workforce of the future, one that attracts investment and supports a strong and prosperous economy.
Many of the government's education initiatives already underway are helping the thousands of students across Ontario, including reduced class sizes in the primary grades and programs to help struggling high school students. But there are also niche education needs that should be addressed, and this is one of them. If we are to build better citizens and a stronger society, our education system needs to be one that embraces all Ontarians, especially newcomers to our province.
Si nous devons former de meilleurs citoyens et créer une société plus dynamique, notre système d'éducation doit inclure tous les Ontariens et Ontariennes, et en particulier les nouveaux-venus dans la province.
We all know that newcomers to Canada face many challenges, but getting their children into school should not be one of them. If passed, this legislation would ensure that children are no longer penalized because of their immigration status or that of their parents. The current list of exemptions we have in the Education Act would be expanded to allow children of certain classes of temporary residents to attend school in Ontario without being forced to pay fees. These new exemptions would include children whose parents have applied for permanent resident status to Citizenship and Immigration Canada and plan to stay in the country, and children whose parents are studying at a publicly funded Ontario university or college.
Today I believe we have with us in the House Albert Koehl, who's the chair of the Education Rights Task Force. He has been an advocate for the rights of immigrant children seeking entry to school in Ontario.
It is our firm belief that many of these students -- in fact, it's in the track record that we have for many of these students -- will end up being Canadian citizens, making it even more important that we provide them now with the opportunity to get a good education.
Ontario's public education system can and must deliver excellence for all of our students. This is, I put, a simple issue of fairness. Every child must be able to attend school and make the most of their future. That is why I'm proud to introduce legislation today to amend the Education Act that would open the doors of learning and opportunity to children new to Ontario, children who will grow to become valuable members of our civilized society.
Chaque enfant doit pouvoir être scolarisé et bâtir son avenir. C'est pourquoi je suis fier aujourd'hui de déposer un nouveau projet de loi qui modifierait la Loi sur l'éducation, qui ouvrirait les portes de l'apprentissage et qui offrirait des possibilités aux enfants qui viennent d'arriver en Ontario, des enfants qui deviendront plus tard des membres à part entière de notre société civilisée.
Ontario's education system must be one that welcomes all young minds and ensures that every child has a place to learn and grow. I ask all members to join with me in supporting this bill.
CHILDHOOD IMMUNIZATION PROGRAM
Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): It is with great pleasure that I rise today to report to my colleagues on one of the great successes we've had in improving health care in this province. I want to tell you about the progress we've made in our childhood immunization program, progress that has now made this province a leader in North America in protecting young people against vaccine-preventable diseases.
As of last January, three new vaccines were added to Ontario's immunization schedule for young people. They will protect children against chicken pox, invasive meningococcal and pneumococcal diseases. These are serious -- and in the case of meningitis, extremely serious -- but preventable childhood diseases. That is the critical point: They are preventable. It's as easy as getting a needle. It's free, and it saves lives.
Altogether, since September 2004, we've administered 136,000 doses of the varicella vaccine against chicken pox and more than 200,000 doses of vaccine against pneumococcal disease. While it's impossible to say precisely how many young people have been vaccinated against these diseases, because multiple doses are often required, suffice it to say that it's around 100,000.
In addition, more than 180,000 youths have now been immunized against meningococcal meningitis. That is more than 180,000 young people who are now protected against an extremely serious and occasionally fatal disease. Meningitis can strike even the healthy with tragic results. It's very dangerous. It spreads easily, but it is preventable.
While we've made a great start in preventing it, the fact is that thousands of young people who should be receiving this vaccine haven't yet. That is the second message I want to deliver today.
We've launched an ad campaign to inform parents about the expanded immunization program and to encourage them to make sure their kids' vaccinations are up to date. We would encourage parents to talk to their doctors or call their local public health unit for more information about where and when they can get their kids immunized.
The ad campaign is also directed quite specifically at teenagers, with banner ads running on popular Internet sites. These young people are at an age when they're sharing everything from soft drinks to kisses, and are therefore more likely to spread this disease. We need to warn them about the dangers of contracting meningitis through contact as casual and innocent as a shared soft drink or a kiss. We would say to teenagers, if you know you haven't received a vaccination, tell your parents, tell your school. All it takes is a needle and a few moments of your life. You'll be protecting yourself and your friends.
The benefits of immunization are obvious. Many experts have made a very strong argument that immunization is the single most important public health triumph of the 20th century. The general disappearance of diseases such as polio is a powerful demonstration of the effectiveness of immunization.
But that success has inevitably led some to complacency about the further need to vaccinate. The fact is that such diseases are only under control because of immunization. Examples in other countries demonstrate that a decrease in immunization rates leads to outbreaks of disease. We need look no further than Oxford county and the rubella outbreak that's going on there to see the importance of immunization. That's why we must remain vigilant and continue to ensure that our kids are getting these important and sometimes life-saving shots.
Of course, there's also a collateral advantage to immunization. Immunization is the happy exception in health services. The savings it creates from reduced medical care and fewer hospital admissions can help to offset its cost. This really is a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Our free immunization program will save Ontario families approximately $600 per child for all three free vaccines. It's a big part of our overall commitment to revitalize public health in Ontario, which in turn is a big part of our overall plan to improve health care. We are reducing wait times, increasing access to nurses and doctors, and helping Ontarians stay healthier. By doing these things, we are taking the vision of health care we share with Ontarians and making it a reality. That vision is of a system that helps people stay healthy, delivers good care to them when they get sick and will be there for their children and grandchildren -- a dependable system, now and in the future.
ANNIVERSARY OF MINISTRY OF COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL SERVICES
Hon. Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for women's issues): I'm proud to rise in the House today to inform all honourable members that this year marks a significant milestone in the history of the province. It's the 75th anniversary of the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
When the Ontario government created the new Department of Public Welfare in September 1930, nearly a full year had passed since the stock market crash triggered a worldwide economic collapse and the start of what would be one of the most turbulent decades in our country's history.
Despite the new department's name, Ontario in 1930 lacked a public welfare structure as we know it today. If you were poor in 1930, you didn't have many options. Like the rest of the country, Ontario had no regular system of providing assistance to people in need. In fact, the prevailing attitude was that charity would make people soft, and poverty was considered the result of personal failure, a defect of character, especially if you were able-bodied.
When the Department of Public Welfare was established, Ontario's social assistance programs were rudimentary, unevenly distributed and provided assistance only to a needy few: World War I veterans and their families, poor widows with more than one child, and meagre pensions to eligible people 70 years or older. As a last resort, you could go to a house of refuge where the homeless, the destitute, the elderly and the insane were all housed together under one roof.
The Depression was a watershed. It's hard for us today to comprehend the immense suffering of those harsh times and the despair people must have felt as the global economy faltered and then collapsed, and more and more people lost their jobs. At the height of the Depression, one in five Canadians was unemployed. Until the Second World War, unemployment never declined below 12%.
If the Depression was a watershed event in Canada's social development, it was our ministry's baptism by fire. The heartache and despair of the 1930s show us all too clearly how vulnerable we are to events over which we have little control, and how through no fault of our own, we can stumble. Sometimes we come to a point in our lives when we need to grasp hold of a helping hand in order to regain our footing.
In many ways, the early history of the Ministry of Community and Social Services is the story of enormous events: the Great Depression and the Second World War. It's the story of the people battered by those events and how this ministry helped them, people like:
-- the British child guests, the children who came to Ontario seeking a safe haven from the bombs of wartime London. The Ontario government enacted legislation to make these children wards of the Department of Public Welfare.
-- the thalidomide babies of the early 1960s. When the tragic consequences of that drug became evident, the Department of Public Welfare took immediate steps to implement a program of financial assistance to help the families of these special-needs children, despite the fact that drug control was, and still is, a federal responsibility.
-- Hungarian refugees fleeing a homeland ripped part from civil unrest. In January 1957, the Department of Public Welfare helped nearly 20,000 Hungarian refugees by establishing a special nursery at the Toronto refugee centre to free the parents to make the arrangements necessary to become part of their new country.
The history of this ministry is the story of the thousands of people who, over the years, have worked tirelessly with compassion and dedication to help Ontario's most vulnerable -- people like Dr. Dorothea Crittenden.
Dr. Crittenden's remarkable career began with this ministry in 1937, when Ontario was still grappling with the effects of the Great Depression. When the Department of Public Welfare took on unique responsibilities during the Second World War, she was there. She contributed to the historic expansion of the ministry's programs and services that characterized the post-war years.
It was fitting that Dr. Crittenden's career culminated with an achievement remarkable for those times. In 1974 she was appointed Deputy Minister of Community and Social Services, making her the first woman deputy minister in the history of the province.
After her retirement in 1978, she continued her commitment to the province's well-being by leading the Ontario Human Rights Commission and serving as interim chair of the Social Assistance Review Board.
On April 30, Dr. Crittenden celebrated her 90th birthday.
Today, not only do we want to congratulate her; I also want to, on behalf of everyone, thank her for what she has done for the ministry, this government and this province. Her work, grounded in genuine compassion for the people of Ontario, is her personal and professional legacy to us. In so many ways, her achievements and contributions are the foundation of our work in the ministry today.
The history of the ministry is also the story of the thousands of Ontarians who have needed our assistance over the last 75 years. We're very proud to feature one of the former residents of our facilities on the cover of the 2005 Government of Ontario Telephone Directory, which many people likely will have seen. Our client today is proudly still living in our community. This speaks to the ongoing commitment of our ministry and our staff to support vulnerable people and to be there for our citizens with assistance when it's needed.
This year, Community and Social Services is looking back with pride on a long history, and we're also looking ahead with confidence and optimism. We work now to transform our developmental services, strengthen the Family Responsibility Office and restore integrity, fairness and equity to social assistance programs, shattering the myths and breaking down stereotypes. We're renewing our mandate, mission and vision. I'd like to think that in 25 years, when our ministry celebrates its centennial, the year 2005 will be deemed a watershed in the ministry's history: the year that heralded in a new era for Ontario's social and community services.
Through all the stories that make up the fabric of our ministry's history, there is one thread that remains constant: For 75 years, our ministry has provided the transitional supports and programs to which Ontario's most vulnerable turn when they need a helping hand. For 75 years, our ministry has been the heart -- and the soul, we say -- of the government and of our communities.
EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN
OF RECENT IMMIGRANTS
Mr. Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Ajax): In response to the statement by the Minister of Education: We have the best interests of children in mind, of course, as paramount in Ontario. The legislation seeks to make sure that all children in Ontario have access to education. To that extent, of course, it must be supported.
The bill, though, that we just got is this massive thing. I'm sure you'll understand if we want to review it, perhaps, before we endorse the entire document, because you never know what we might find in there once we have a chance to go through it.
This idea, by the way, has been around since last year at least, when the member for Burlington told the Minister of Education about this problem, even with Rotary exchange students having to pay to go to the schools in Ontario. So I'm glad that finally the government is doing something about it, especially since we've got this young student in Hamilton who hasn't been in school for two years while your government dithered about this.
The other point that needs to be made: This costs $8,000 to $10,000 per year per student. This cost should be borne by the federal government, not by the people of the province of Ontario. The federal government is responsible for immigration. I don't know why this Liberal government can't work that out with that other Liberal government. I hope they do so soon, so we'll stop putting all these burdens on the overburdened taxpayers of Ontario.
CHILDHOOD IMMUNIZATION PROGRAM
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer (Kitchener-Waterloo): I'm pleased to respond to the statement on immunization. This government, of course, was forced to take action due to the efforts of my colleague the member from Nickel Belt, who had a private member's bill on the need for universal access to immunization on the record for a long time. I introduced a similar private member's bill, and then, fortunately, the federal government decided to invest $300 million in a national immunization program. Finally this government was moved to action, at a time when, if you lived in the United States, Mexico or some of the other provinces, you would already have had access. But we are pleased that people are responding, and I would encourage all parents and all families in this province to make sure their children are immunized and take advantage of the free immunization program in order to keep them and themselves healthy.
ANNIVERSARY OF MINISTRY
OF COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL SERVICES
Mr. Cameron Jackson (Burlington): I too would like to publicly acknowledge the extraordinary and compassionate record of thousands of public servants in this province who have served in the Ministry of Community and Social Services for the last 75 years, and in particular our former ministers and deputy ministers, who provided the leadership.
As we know, Ontario has a rich tradition of being a leader in social policy development: the first jurisdiction to outlaw slavery, the first jurisdiction to bring in a human rights code, the first child labour laws -- the list goes on and on. Ontario has a world-class reputation of understanding the needs of the vulnerable. It's a great tribute to this ministry and to the large number of public servants who have extended their compassion and created this high standard for all of Canada.
I know there's been an open-door policy for many years in the Ministry of Community and Social Services. For the seven years I was a critic in this area, it was not uncommon to pick up the phone and speak to the deputy minister.
I remember clearly a time when I had a challenge with a family who had a daughter who was stricken with developmental disabilities. I was able to pick up the phone and talk to Dr. Charles Pascal, under the NDP government. Dr. Pascal and I discussed the challenges facing this family, which was going to surrender the child to a crown ward. He said, "Cam, do you want to call Vince Tedesco at the southwest regional office or should I?" I said, "No, Deputy, that will be just fine. I will make the call."
Within a day we had a case management review, and a plan was put together. That has been part of the legacy of this great ministry, one which stands as a testament to the ability to make sure that persons with disabilities aren't pigeonholed and put into various categories, but that we look at their complete needs.
That's why I would like to say to the minister that I would ask her to build on the trust that's historic in this ministry and to remove her edict which prevents these same bureaucrats from talking to elected members of this House, on all sides of the House. I believe we should continue to trust them, and I believe we should continue to support them.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): Before I ask for responses from the third party, I'd like the conversation to be a little bit quieter. I'm having difficulty --
The Speaker: Order. I would ask the conversations to be a little bit quieter. I recognize the member from Beaches-East York.
Mr. Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): I'm here to respond primarily to the 75th anniversary of the Ministry of Community and Social Services. I have to tell you that it is a great and long legacy.
The minister said toward the end of her speech that when we look back 25 years from now, 2005 should be seen to be some kind of a pivotal year. And I put it right back: I hope it is a pivotal year. I think Ontarians will know next week whether 2005 is a pivotal year to those who are desperate and poor in Ontario, because next week we are going to find out whether or not all of those children who have the money clawed back from them and their families -- and this government promised to do something about it. We're going to see whether or not you continue the tradition from the previous government or the tradition from wonderful people like Dr. Dorothea Crittenden.
You have a choice to make, and that choice is abundantly clear, I would say to everyone on the government benches. You can have a legacy that is 75 years old of a caring and compassionate Ontario that looked out for poor children, whether those poor children came as a result of the bombing in London, whether they were the children of Hungarian refugees, or whether they are the children of ordinary Ontarians who do not have the luck and the good fortune to have good-paying jobs and to be out there in the workforce. Because, quite frankly, what is happening to all of those children today who have their monies clawed back from them, if they have the misfortune of living in families whose parents rely on the ODSP or general welfare, is that they have an extended life of poverty. They have $122 per month, on average, taken from each and every one of them every month -- money that they could use for food; money they could use for clothes; money that they could use in their own family for housing or heating or electrical bills or the thousand other good purposes for which it could be spent.
I spent half an hour or so last night with 25 parents from Beaches-East York, and I was talking to them about the clawback. I was surprised to learn, although I shouldn't have been, that most of them were unaware that your government claws back the money from the most vulnerable and the poorest children in this province. It came as quite a shock, because they had thought, for once, that you might be compassionate.
I want to talk as well about the ODSP rates and the rates for those on general welfare. Yes, you have increased them by a paltry 3% this year, and yes, I'm sure that the people who get the 3% increase are somewhat thankful that at least it went up and didn't remain the same, as it has for the previous eight years. But I have to tell you that that is not an amount of money that you can justifiably be proud of. It is not an amount of money that allows people to live decent lives. It condemns them forever to a life of poverty -- grinding poverty, poverty which is inescapable.
You have an obligation, if you want to live up to a 75-year-old wonderful tradition, not to follow the dictates of the previous government or your own weakness in the last budget. You have an obligation, if you are to do the right thing and to live up to the wonder of Ontario, to work for these people and on behalf of these people.
You need to increase the shelter allowances, which you promised to do in the last election.
You need to start working on the FRO and its total mismanagement. You have a bill. You have a bill that virtually does nothing to help those children who require money through the Family Responsibility Office. There's no budget for additional staff. There is nothing there for resources. There's no new computer system. I don't think taking away a fishing licence from a father who doesn't pay quite cuts it.
We believe that we are the voice of those ordinary people. We stand day after day in this Legislature asking you to do the right thing. It is not good enough that you stand up here and celebrate 75 years of other people's and other governments' accomplishments. You have next week to prove yourself, and simply going back over what happened 75 years ago and all of the history of Ontario does not cut it. You have an opportunity next week to show exactly what you are made of. If you increase those rates, if you end the clawbacks, if you do something about the Family Responsibility Office, then you will be worthy of carrying on the tradition. If not, you will be even worse than the government you replaced.
Mr. John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I would like to draw the members' attention to the member's gallery east, where we have here today a constituent from my riding, Sarah Shannon, who is the mother of Sabrina Shannon, a child who lost her life to an anaphylactic reaction in September 2003. Sarah is here today with other members from Anaphylaxis Canada and NASK for committee hearings in support of Bill 3, introduced by the honourable member from Brant. We welcome her here today.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): The member knows that is not a point of order.
OF PEEL ACT, 2005 /
LOI DE 2005 SUR LA MUNICIPALITÉ
RÉGIONALE DE PEEL
Deferred vote on the motion for second reading of Bill 186, An Act respecting the composition of the council of The Regional Municipality of Peel / Projet de loi 186, Loi traitant de la composition du conseil de la municipalité régionale de Peel.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1420 to 1425.
The Speaker: All those in favour, please rise one at a time and be checked by the Clerk.
Bradley, James J.
Broten, Laurel C.
Brown, Michael A.
Cansfield, Donna H.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Flynn, Kevin Daniel
Racco, Mario G.
Takhar, Harinder S.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Speaker: All those against, please rise one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Tascona, Joseph N.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 52; the nays are 27.
The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): I would ask that the bill be referred to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs.
The Speaker: So ordered.
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I believe we have unanimous consent to move a motion without notice regarding the standing committee on finance and economic affairs.
The Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent? Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Duncan: I move that notwithstanding any standing order, in addition to its regularly scheduled meetings, the standing committee on finance and economic affairs be authorized to meet on Friday, May 6, 2005, for the purpose of considering Bill 186, An Act respecting the composition of the council of The Regional Municipality of Peel.
The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
APPOINTMENTS TO LOCAL HEALTH
Mr. Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: The government has submitted to the standing committee on government agencies candidates for appointment to the local health integration networks, which are fiduciary transfer entities that, by the government's own admission, do not exist because no legislation exists.
The Minister of Health has indicated, through documents made public by his own ministry, that legislation is forthcoming to this House. But before that legislation has even been introduced, the government has run advertisements and hired people, as if the LHIN entities are a fait accompli.
I maintain that the evidence shows that government is in contempt of the Legislature because the Minister of Health has presupposed passage of the legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I'm asking for you to rule whether the minister and this government are in contempt of the Legislature, because it is my understanding that there is due process in the Legislature where bills are debated, changed and may be rejected, and that people appointed to entities that such bills might create need the bill to be in existence before they can be appointed.
The evidence is as follows -- and I'll make four points:
(1) Government advertising was published in major daily and regional newspapers that called for applications to entities that had not been created, and the government Web site for the Public Appointments Secretariat from December 12, 2004, said:
"The government of Ontario seeks chairs for each of the 14 local health integration networks that are being established across the province. Local health integration networks are a key component of Ontario's health care transformation agenda with a unique mandate to support local capacity to plan, coordinate and integrate the delivery of care at the community level within their defined geographic areas. The chair will provide leadership to the board and ensure that the board operates in accordance with legislative and regulatory requirements of the province of Ontario."
The words "that are" presuppose that legislation creating LHINs would pass. Keep in mind that this wording was published on a government Web site and similar ads were placed in newspapers.
The posting on the government's Public Appointments Secretariat Web site clearly gives the indication and inference that LHINs were a fait accompli.
The words "in accordance with legislative and regulatory requirements" imply on the part of the government that legislation for LHINs exists, which it does not, by the government's own admission.
(2) Additionally, a list of 42 order-in-council appointments for the 14 LHINs was submitted to the standing committee on government agencies on April 27, 2005.
The submission of the names, in and of themselves, is a presupposition of the legislation, because the names provided were the outcome of a hiring process that was based on an absolute absence of legislative or regulatory frameworks but with the inference that such frameworks would exist.
(3) The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care's own Web site and their most recent LHIN bulletin, number 11, published May 2, 2005, clearly state the following, on page 1, section 1, paragraph 3: "Through LHINs, the government intends to devolve a good deal of power and authority to the LHINs, leaving the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care ... to function as a head office, providing more strategic direction."
This clearly indicates that the government intends to devolve power and authority regarding the delivery of health care to the LHINs.
Since dozens of pieces of legislation exist that govern the provision of health care in Ontario, one can therefore assume that to devolve power, new legislation and corresponding regulations would be needed.
The government even admitted this in the standing committee on government agencies on March 30, 2005, and this point shows that the government is intending to move forward with legislation but has not as yet.
On page 2, section 2, paragraph 1: "Legislation will be needed to enable LHINs to perform certain functions that are envisioned for LHINs as they evolve toward their mature or end state. The ministry is working on policy options for the proposed legislation."
"Legislation will be needed" clearly shows the government is in contempt because legislation for LHINs has not even been introduced into this Legislature. Given the fact that the ministry's own document was published on May 2 and that the names for the LHIN boards were submitted on April 27, 2005, the government has moved forward with appointees of major fiduciary entities without even a framework for those entities in place or terms of reference.
(4) The terms of reference of the standing committee on government agencies given by this House state that the purpose of the committee is to review the Lieutenant Governor in Council's appointments to an "agency, board or commission."
Since LHINs are not an agency, board or commission because no such entity exists at law until such time as legislation is brought forward, the appointment of people to a non-existing entity is arguably outside the scope of the committee under the standing orders.
Some people might cite the precedence of the appointment of the Employment Equity Commissioner in 1991 or the education review commission in the mid-1990s, which were Lieutenant Governor in Council appointments made before their respective commissions were created in law. However, a commission is an advisory body that does not have fiduciary responsibilities of billions of dollars as the proposal of the government indicates with respect to LHINs.
Precedence for this comes in that all major transfer partners of the government have legislative frameworks, from hospitals to school boards to universities to municipalities, and that governments of the past have created these institutions first.
Therefore, if positions have been advertised and filled, then the government is once again presupposing passage of a legislative framework that requires the blessing of this House.
There is precedence for ruling in contempt on similar issues. It was on Wednesday, January 15, 1997, that the then member for Oakwood, Mr. Colle, now the government member from Eglinton-Lawrence, rose on a question to express concern about the government's use of print media to communicate its agenda.
The advertisement questioned by the member from Eglinton-Lawrence was about the government's program for reforming municipal governance in Toronto. The member indicated that the advertising occurred in advance of consideration by the House of legislative measures that would implement the reform agenda and in advance of public hearings. The member asked the Speaker to determine whether this advertising affected was contempt.
In like manner, the creation of LHINs is part of the government's so-called transformation agenda, and the advertisements published by the government left a clear impression of inevitability and conclusiveness with respect to the creation of the entity known as a LHIN.
This can be compared to the same argument made by the member regarding the finality of legislation to amalgamate Toronto in 1996, whereby Speaker Stockwell ruled the following on January 22, 1997:
" ... the member for Oakwood also asked the Speaker to determine whether the same circumstances amounted to contempt. Erskine May explains the concept of contempt in the following terms ... :
"`Generally speaking, any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence. It is therefore impossible to list every act which might be considered to amount to a contempt, the power to punish for such an offence being of its nature discretionary....
"`Indignities offered to the House by words spoken or writings published reflecting on its character or proceedings have been constantly punished by the Lords and the Commons upon the principle that such acts tend to obstruct the Houses in the performance of their functions by diminishing the respect due to them....
"`Other acts besides words spoken or writings published reflecting upon either House or its proceedings which, though they do not tend directly to obstruct or impede either House in the performance of its functions, yet have a tendency to produce this result indirectly or by bringing such House into odium, contempt or ridicule or by lowering its authorities may constitute contempts.'
"That is what Erskine May said on contempt."
Speaker Stockwell went on to say:
"...the ministry pamphlet, which was worded more definitively.... To name but a few examples, the brochure claims that `new city wards will be created,' that `work on building the new city will start in 1997,' and that `the new city of Toronto will reduce the number of municipal politicians.'
"How is one to interpret such unqualified claims? In my opinion, they convey the impression that the passage of the requisite legislation was not necessary or was a foregone conclusion, or that the assembly and the Legislature had a pro forma, tangential, even inferior role in the legislative and law-making process, and in doing so, they appear to diminish the respect that is due to this House. I would not have come to this view had these claims or proposals -- and that is all they are -- been qualified by a statement that they would only become law if and when the Legislature gave its stamp of approval to them....
"It is not enough for yet another Speaker to issue yet another warning or caution in circumstances where the wording and circulation of the pamphlet appear on their face to cross the line. I say in all candour that a reader of that document could be left with an incorrect impression about how parliamentary democracy works in Ontario, an impression that undermines respect for our parliamentary institutions.
"For these reasons then, I find that a prima facie case of contempt has been established. At the end of this ruling, I will entertain a motion with respect to the matter of the ministry pamphlet raised by the member for Oakwood."
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, given the precedent set, I submit to you copies of the ministry publication, the terms of reference of the committee, the list of appointees and the government advertisements that suggest the government is in contempt of the Legislature.
I would ask that you make an interim ruling to stop the appointment process that has been initiated by the government with respect to LHINs through orders in council and that they be stopped until such time as you render a final decision on this point of privilege.
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On that same point of privilege, Speaker: I want to tell you that New Democrats endorse the position advanced by the member for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford and join with him in calling upon the Speaker to make a finding of prima facie contempt. We also join with the member in his request that you consider an interim interlocutory ruling, in view of the status of these purported appointments before the committee.
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): On the same point of privilege, Mr. Speaker: The definition of "contempt" is broad and is generally designed and used by the opposition because of its broad nature.
The fact is, the LHINs were -- in December 2004, the government approved establishment of LHINs on an interim basis by letters of patent under the Corporations Act and supporting activities, including the wind-down of district health councils' operations. Not only does this not constitute contempt, as defined by any of the authorities, the argument the member puts forward is patently false, simply because this is in fact an interim or a conditional opportunity that the government used in order to get the wind-down of the district health councils, and it in no way prejudices the discussions that are going on in the Legislature nor does it presuppose a decision of the Legislature.
With respect to some kind of interim ruling by the Speaker, there's no ability, as I understand it, in the standing orders that gives the Speaker that. There are consistent rulings by Speakers over the years that recognize the broad nature of contempt and don't try to refine it, especially based on the rather tenuous argument put forward by the member that doesn't take into account the fact that this is an interim arrangement that was established under the letters of patent under the Corporations Act in December 2004.
Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): On that point of privilege, Speaker: I wanted to add one request. It hasn't been mentioned yet in debate. It may be helpful for you to know, as Speaker, and for the table to know, that the deadline for the subcommittee members to make their selections from these order-in-council certificates is 5 pm this Thursday. So if it's possible to provide a ruling before then, it would simply assist the committee in its deliberations.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): I just want to first thank the member from Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford for making the point of privilege available to me some hours before. I appreciate that very much. Your point is well taken. I will say that I take this under advisement as soon as possible. I will also tell you that I will not be ruling. I have no power to make an interim ruling on this matter until we complete the entire decision. So I will get back to you as soon as possible on this matter, and then I will make my ruling. Thank you very much.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): In the absence of the Premier and the Minister of Finance, my question is to the Chair of Management Board. For two days now, you and the Premier have refused to provide any sort of meaningful answers on your plans for managing Ontario's books. No wonder we're left with the impression that you're making it up as you go along, which, of course, is exactly what you're doing.
This past year, your deficit tripled to $6 billion and you got caught attempting a creative accounting manoeuvre, as members of the media called it. Despite this, your third-quarter financial update showed your spending continued to increase sharply by over $5 billion, or close to 9%. Would the minister confirm that the 9% spending increase was well in excess of the budgeted number of 6.9% -- that number comes from your own budget -- and that this will be pushing the deficit even higher? Surely you can confirm that.
Hon. Gerry Phillips (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): First, what the public would expect is exactly what we will deliver, and that is a comprehensive plan, fully outlining our plans, here in the Legislature next week.
The member opposite, when he looks at the figures, will recognize that the expenditure increase that he saw in the budget was to deal with health care. It was to reflect the federal money that came to the province of Ontario. Are you saying, Leader of the Opposition, that we shouldn't be spending that money that's coming in from the federal government on health care? That's exactly what we are doing, as I think the people of Ontario expect: strengthening health care, as our Minister of Health is doing, by reflecting the money that our Premier was instrumental in helping to get for the province of Ontario. Surely you would expect that's exactly what we would do.
Mr. Tory: The minister is fond of talking about what the public expects. What they expect is an answer. The answer is simply to the question as to whether the increased rate of spending was something that was going to force your deficit higher -- a yes or no answer.
Let's just carry on. The numbers speak for themselves. They're contained in your own third-quarter financial update. We have a 9% increase in spending, dramatically higher than the 6.9% provided for in your own budget, plus we have $200 million or so in just the first year cost for the teachers' settlements and the doctors' settlements, which were not included in the budget.
Since you don't seem to have the number at hand and you don't want to answer the question, can you tell me if it's reasonable to expect that, with your increased spending of $1 billion and the new wage settlements at $200 million, the deficit will be higher by $1.2 billion?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have the numbers. I just reported them. Again, I would say to the people of Ontario, expenditures were up. Why? You look in the third-quarter results. We increased health spending by $828 million to reflect the federal money.
If you look at the numbers, total spending went up $605 million. So in fact the rest of the budget went down and health went up $828 million. Why? Because of exactly what the public would expect: We took that money from the federal government and we invested it in improving the quality of health care. That's exactly, as I say, what the public would expect and that's what we did. Congratulations to the health minister for making sure that happened.
Mr. Tory: On page 28 of last year's budget speech, the Minister of Finance stated, "The law as it currently stands does impose a fine of more than $9,000, to be paid by all cabinet ministers in any government that runs a deficit." As I have --
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): Order. This is question period and I would like --
The Speaker: Order. We've just started question period. This is the first question by the leader of the official opposition, and I'm getting a lot of heckling on the government side. I would like to proceed with question period. I think this is the final supplementary.
The leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Tory: "The law as it currently stands" -- this is quoting from the budget speech, page 28 -- "does impose a fine of more than $9,000 to be paid by all cabinet ministers in any government that runs a deficit. As I have made clear, we have chosen" --
The Speaker: Order. I fully agree with the leader of the official opposition that as soon as he starts, there is some heckling going on. I would appreciate it if we could be quiet until we hear the question. Could we be quiet, please.
Mr. Tory: Do you know what? The people are embarrassed at you, not at me. Your conduct in this House is a disgrace, and the people have had enough of it.
Let me try to continue with the quote.
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): It's not a Rosedale tea party.
The Speaker: It is not; it's the Parliament of Ontario, where we need some proper decorum.
The leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Tory: "The law as it currently stands does impose a fine of more than $9,000 to be paid by all cabinet ministers in any government that runs a deficit. As I have made clear, we have chosen to run a deficit in the short term ... and we will pay the fine for this year."
Since then, Minister, you have brought in your fiscal transparency act that, not surprisingly, removes any fines and any responsibility for running a deficit. When the going gets tough, remove the penalties.
My question is, can you confirm that your ministers paid the fines as of June 1 last year, as you promised they would, and will you commit to taking responsibility every year that your government runs a deficit, at least until 2007 when you'll be gone, and continue to pay those fines, or are you going to reward yourselves for continuing to run deficits?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is very rich. Yes, we did pay the fines, and the public should recognize this: Days before the last election, your party issued a report saying the books were balanced; days after the budget, the previous Provincial Auditor looked at the books and found a $5.6-billion deficit.
The Speaker: Order. I can hear as much as you do. Chair of Management Board, you'll get an opportunity to respond if your colleagues would just be quiet a bit.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We then introduced legislation that would make certain that before any provincial election, the Auditor General would be required to look at the books and determine the state of the books. That party voted against it. So I would say that on fiscal transparency, yes, the cabinet ministers took a $9,000 cut in pay, exactly as we said we would. But what the public should understand here is that this party, the McGuinty party, will now ensure that we'll never go into another election where we don't know the true state of the finances. Your party voted against it, Mr. Tory, and I think that's very unfortunate, to say the least.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): This question is to the Chair of Management Board as well. Minister, your main role at the cabinet table is to keep an eye on government spending. That's your job. In last year's budget, your government forecast a $2.1-billion deficit for the year just concluded. Last month, you signed an agreement with the Ontario elementary teachers that will cost $1 billion over four years -- approximately $102 million of that for last year alone. Was the cost of the wage settlement, now worth $102 million with elementary school teachers, factored into last year's budget?
Hon. Gerry Phillips (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I think I've said before that we are extremely proud of our Minister of Education, who has been able to reach an agreement, a plan, with our teachers to ensure that over the next four years we strengthen our schools, we have smaller classes, we invest in teachers and we provide our teachers with a fair and equitable settlement. The quick answer is that everything the minister did had the approval of cabinet; it is part of our fiscal plan. It is part of our long-term fiscal plan to bring both peace and stability to our schools, to improve the quality of our education and to manage our finances responsibly. I'm very proud of our Minister of Education for accomplishing that.
Mr. Tory: Perhaps on the supplementary the minister could try answering the question, which was whether the first settlement I referred to, for $102 million on last year's deficit, was included in the deficit projection of $2.1 billion made by the minister in his budget. And then I'll add to that, could you confirm -- and if you just told us yes or no it would be a lot easier -- whether the additional cost of the settlement reached with the secondary school teachers, at $61 million for last year, was included in last year's budget. Could you confirm, yes or no, included or not?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can absolutely confirm that all of the plans that the minister has come forward with have been included in our plans. You will see the details a week today -- seven days and one hour from now -- and I would again say it won't be at an auto plant; it will be here in the Legislature. But I can assure you and the public that the agreement the minister reached is a fiscally responsible agreement, it has the enormous benefits of bringing peace and stability to our schools for the next four years, and it's a fair agreement for our teachers and, importantly, a fair agreement for the public. Those finances were all planned for and part of our fiscal plan.
Mr. Tory: This is the most troubling thing of all. The fact is that you are the man in charge of safeguarding the public's expenditures and their money. In your own budget papers of last year it said that there were expense risks and sensitivities where you'd estimated what they'd be on a per point basis, as to how much you settled for and so forth, and the numbers were not included in your budget, so that these two numbers -- for the teachers' settlements and the effect on last year, and I was going to ask you about the doctors' settlement -- were not included, because they are listed here as expense risks and sensitivities. They're not included in the budget. How can you come in here and tell us they were included in the plans when your own budget says they weren't?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The public may not have heard, "Make it up as you go," and that from the party -- I hate to say it -- that said there was a balanced budget one day, and 30 days later the point was that it was a $5.6-billion deficit. The making it up as you go is over there.
Again I say to the leader of the official opposition, I'd ask you to wait until next Wednesday, when the details of our fiscal plan will be outlined. But everything the minister has come forward with is part of our fiscal plan, responsibly done. I think you will see on Wednesday that the finances of the province are well planned for, plus we are doing what we said we would do: improving the quality of education, improving the quality of our health care, and making sure we have a strong economy.
FUNDING OF PUBLIC SERVICES
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Acting Premier. Yesterday we learned that Premier McGuinty is going to have a meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin on Saturday; we are told it's for the purposes of discussing the gap. The only gap that Ontarians care about is the gap between the McGuinty government's election promises and your failure to keep those promises. Ontarians want to know that any additional federal money that you receive from Paul Martin won't simply be pocketed in the same way that the McGuinty government has pocketed money from the national child benefit.
My question is, will you commit today to the people of Ontario that any new money the McGuinty government receives from the federal government following this weekend will be used to restore Ontario's public services, as you promised?
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): Premier McGuinty identified a major issue for this province as it relates to the federal government and equalization: a $23-billion gap between what Ontarians pay and what we get back. The Premier has taken a responsible position that acknowledges the importance of this province's contributing to the health and well-being of our country, recognizing that Ontarians see themselves first as Canadians, and the Premier has convinced the Prime Minister to meet with him to discuss these issues. I'm sure there will be a range of issues that are discussed. I'm glad that for the first time in many years, a leader of the province of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, has raised this issue and done it in a way that will yield benefits not only for Ontarians but for all Canadians, as a result of this economy's being able to function better and more strongly.
Mr. Hampton: I thought it was a very simple question. We heard Dalton McGuinty promise before the election that money was going to be committed to improve Ontario's public services, yet today I can't get an answer from the minister.
I just want to review with you again the sorry situation of the national child benefit. These are the lowest-income children and families in the province. Before the election, Dalton McGuinty said it was wrong to take money from these low-income children and families. He said he was going to end the clawback of the national child benefit, and it is actually federal money; it's federal money that's supposed to go to these low-income children and families. Now, two years into your government, you haven't ended this sorry situation.
A simple question: Will you commit today that any new money you receive from the federal government will be used by the McGuinty government to end the clawback, to stop taking money from the poorest children in this province?
Hon. Dwight Duncan: This government has moved in a way that no previous governments have to assist children, and the most vulnerable children, in this province over the course of its first two years in office. This province ranks last in investing in colleges and universities and second-last in federal funding for health care. We are talking about improving public services, all public services: We've put $3 billion into health care and schools; the gas tax money we've transferred to municipalities.
The member opposite simply has it wrong when he tries to suggest that this government has done nothing for the children of this province. We on this side of the House are proud that our Premier will be meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada on Saturday to discuss the $23-billion gap. We are hopeful that the federal response will assist us as we continue to aid the most vulnerable in this province, as we continue to invest in public services and undo the damage of the previous two governments.
Mr. Hampton: This is unbelievable. It was Dalton McGuinty who said that it was morally wrong to be taking federal money -- $1,500 a year from a one-child family, $3,000 a year from a two-child family -- from these low-income kids and their families. Now we have Paul Martin going across the country, handing out hundreds of millions of dollars in British Columbia, in Saskatchewan, in Manitoba and now in Ontario.
I simply ask the McGuinty government, will you keep your promise to the lowest-income children? Is there some reason? Didn't you mean the promise? Was the promise insincere? If you're going to get hundreds of millions of dollars of new money, will you at least stop clawing back the money from the poorest kids in the province?
Hon. Dwight Duncan: Again the member opposite neglects the fact that $7 million from the national child benefit is going to children this year, and more than $22 million will be going next year. That question is simply not accurate in its presupposition.
The Premier of Ontario has led the fight to ensure fairness for this province, to ensure that the economic engine of our great nation continues to thrive and prosper, so that Ontarians, who see themselves first and foremost as Canadians, can continue to produce the wealth that will see other parts of this country with a higher standard of living.
I am proud of the leadership role our Premier has taken. We look forward to the discussions between the Premier and the Prime Minister next Saturday. I only wish the member opposite had as wide a vision of this country and its future as does the Premier of Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): New question.
Mr. Hampton: A new question to the Acting Premier: My vision right now is of a Premier who makes a promise to the poorest kids in Ontario, kids who are trying to struggle to survive on social assistance, and says, "We're going to stop taking money out of your pocket." Now we have the prospect of the federal government turning over more money to the province. I'm simply asking you, will you keep your promise? Will you stop taking money from the poorest kids in Ontario?
Let me ask the question a little differently. Before the election, the Premier promised that children over age six would receive IBI treatment. Now your government is spending taxpayers' money fighting against those very children receiving IBI treatment for autism. Will you commit today that you'll stop fighting autistic children and fund IBI treatment for children over six, as Premier McGuinty promised?
Hon. Mr. Duncan: I'll refer this to the minister of children's services.
Hon. Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration): There are more services available to children with autism today than ever before. We have significantly increased the funding. We've expanded our preschool program. We have implemented a new school-based program to supplement the good programs already happening in the schools across this province, and closing the gap between the rural and the non-rural areas as well. So we're moving very well on this file and for all special-needs children in Ontario.
Mr. Hampton: A justice of the Superior Court listened to that argument put forward by the McGuinty government and said it was complete hogwash. In fact, she said you are breaching the constitutional rights of those autistic children. That's where you can take that argument, Minister.
I want to ask about another McGuinty promise, that $420 million would be added to long-term care for our seniors, a very specific promise. Now into the second year of the McGuinty government, we haven't seen $420 million in funding for long-term care. We've barely seen $116 million. Will you commit today, Acting Premier, that any new money you receive from the federal government will be used to keep your promise to seniors who depend upon long-term care in this province?
Hon. Mrs. Bountrogianni: The Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, please.
Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): A careful examination of the estimates of the Ministry of Health for the year 2004-05 will indicate that our total expansion and funding for long-term care in fact totals closer to $450 million, combined with enhanced care and standards for existing beds and the expansion of beds in Ontario.
I look forward to continuing to work alongside those organizations that are lending important support to some of our most vulnerable who call long-term-care home, working to restore a culture of a home-like environment. All of those people who are involved in those sectors on the front lines, I think, would comment to the honourable member that they've been involved in a very considerable effort on a variety of fronts to enhance the quality of care for some of Ontario's most vulnerable.
Mr. Hampton: Before the election, the McGuinty Liberals made up the promises as they went along. Now, after the election, you make up the numbers as you go along.
I want to ask about another number. This is about the promise to hire 8,000 additional new nurses. What we saw earlier this winter was that in fact almost 1,000 nurses were being laid off. Can the McGuinty government commit that any new money you get from Paul Martin as a result of discussions this weekend will be used to keep that promise to hire 8,000 new additional nurses rather than firing almost 1,000 nurses, as you did earlier this year?
Hon. George Smitherman: The honourable member's tenuous grasp of reality is becoming evident in question period today. First off is the reality that I met this morning with Doris Grinspun, the executive director of RNAO. Doris could not name one nurse who has been laid off. Obviously there is a --
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: Then send me that name, please.
There is a contraction of the number of hours in some institutions, but the reality is that through a variety of funding initiatives, in hospitals large and small, in long-term-care homes, in community mental health, in home care, 3,052 new full-time nursing positions have been created by this government to date, toward our commitment of 8,000.
REPORT OF THE ONTARIO BEVERAGE ALCOHOL SYSTEM REVIEW PANEL
Mr. Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Ajax): My question is to the acting Premier, in the absence of the Minister of Finance. Where is the report of the Ontario beverage alcohol system review panel?
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): The report is still being developed. There have been consultations ongoing. The report has not come back to cabinet yet, but as to the Premier's undertaking and the government's undertaking at the time, that report, when it's complete, will be available and will likely be discussed at great length both here in the House and, indeed, across the province of Ontario.
Mr. Flaherty: What is the date set for the delivery of the report? The terms of reference provide that the panel is to provide its advice and recommendations in a written report to the Minister of Finance in spring 2005, on a date to be approved by the minister. What is the date that has been approved by the minister, and will you guarantee to the people of Ontario that the LCBO will not be dealt with in the budget before the report of the panel is produced and the people of Ontario have a chance to consider its recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Duncan: Obviously I can't comment on the contents of the budget. The government has said that this report will be back this spring. Perhaps the member is anxious to get it back because his opinion and his leader's position on the LCBO differ. The member opposite wants to sell it; the leader doesn't. They are quite worlds apart on that whole issue. That might explain the member's ambitions to leave this place and run for a seat for the federal Parliament.
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): My question is for the Minister of Children and Youth Services. Minister, as you know, Friday you will be announcing the federal deal on child care. Last week, Manitoba and Saskatchewan both announced that they had signed their agreements. Manitoba's agreement says it will "make investments in its community-based non-profit early learning and child care sector." Saskatchewan's agreement says it will "support the development of regulated early learning and non-profit child care." Why? Because non-profit is better for kids, and it's easier on taxpayers' wallets. Minister, will your agreement this Friday commit to a not-for-profit system?
Hon. Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration): I'm looking forward to signing the agreement with the federal government. We've announced our Best Start plan. The majority of the new spaces will be in schools. Right now, 95% of the spaces in schools are not for-profit. We don't anticipate this to change.
Having said that, we do need to have flexibility in the system. That's what the rural areas have told me. In some areas, there would be no child care spaces if we closed the for-profit spaces. We have to be reasonable and not base our decisions on blind ideology like the members opposite do.
Ms. Horwath: Well, Minister, once the multinational companies hear that there's $281 million of federal money coming to Ontario, the floodgates are going to open. It happened in home care -- we've learned that -- and it's going to happen in child care, too. You can grandfather today's mom-and-pop operations and close the door on future big-box operations like Blackstock, like Knowledge Learning Corp., like ABC. Don't be naïve, Minister, don't be naïve. If you build it, they will come. But you can build it right this time. You do have the opportunity to commit to closing the floodgates and making sure that non-profit child care is the standard in your agreement.
Hon. Mrs. Bountrogianni: I can assure the honourable member that we will build the system right. We've already begun to build a good system of child care in this province. We've created more than 4,000 spaces in our first year alone, and spent child care money from the federal government on child care for the first time in a decade. And I want to reassure her not to misinterpret my flexibility and patience as naïveté. I know what I'm doing.
SEXUAL ASSAULT CRISIS CENTRES
Mr. Peter Fonseca (Mississauga East): My question today is for the minister responsible for women's issues. As you know, May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While sexual assault awareness and prevention are something that we are always concerned about, the importance of this issue has recently hit close to home for the constituents of my riding. There's been a dramatic increase in sexual assaults in Mississauga, particularly in and around my riding. In fact, over the past few months the number of reported sexual assaults has now reached double digits.
Minister, could you please tell the House what this government is doing to raise awareness around this issue, and what we are doing today to prevent sexual assaults in the future?
Hon. Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for women's issues): This is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is a time where every one of us in this House must do our part to ensure that our communities, our attitudes in our societies, change. It's very difficult to understand that one third of all Canadian women have experienced some form of sexual assault. The largest group, in terms of victims, is those who are under the age of 25.
We were very pleased to work with our Attorney General to announce this spring an increase of $1.9 million, going to 36 different sexual assault crisis centres. This was an increase of over 8%, the first time they've seen any new funding in the last 13 years. We're very pleased to provide that kind of support because we understand that the work they must do today is growing, and we absolutely have to respond to the particular needs of women.
Mr. Fonseca: I'm glad to hear that our government is working hard to prevent sexual assaults through education and through raising awareness of sexual assault.
In addition to awareness and prevention, it's crucial that we provide victims of sexual assault with necessary community supports and programs. Minister, can you tell the House what we are doing to support victims of sexual assault to ensure that they're getting the access to the resources and help that they need?
Hon. Ms. Pupatello: I'm very happy to take this opportunity to indicate that Madeleine Meilleur, the minister responsible for francophone affairs, joined me in this very large announcement this spring. What that meant was that we were able to fill gaps in some of the areas that were lacking for our sexual assault crisis centres' providing services in French. We know that there was a huge response to that: finally, a government recognizing that there was a gap here.
We provided an additional $900,000 to sexual assault centres to increase and bring their level of funding up to those other sexual assault crisis centres. So, yes, they're on a stronger financial footing. This House should also remember, in the release of our domestic violence action plan, a significant historic funding for public education in the order of $4.9 million over the next four years, getting at the very root of gender equality. That is something that we have a responsibility to do, and finally our government is getting at it.
Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): My question is for the Minister of Health.
The Speaker: I understand that the minister is on his way and will be in his seat as you ask the question.
Mrs. Munro: Minister, the GTA/905 Health Care Alliance shocked all of us yesterday when they revealed that the four regions around Toronto received $544 million less in hospital funding than the provincial average. At the same time, the residents are paying $573 million a year for the McGuinty health tax. Yet Kirk Corkery of the alliance told us that many 905 residents must still travel to downtown Toronto for chronic treatments such as chemotherapy and kidney dialysis.
Minister, when will your government stop talking and start taking action to meet the health care needs of 905 residents?
Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I'm surprised that a member who until 18 months ago was part of a government would pretend that this is a circumstance that was created on our watch. Of course, we acknowledge that there are real growth pressures in the 905, but to suggest that a municipal boundary is not permeable, from the standpoint of the delivery of health care services, is I think a little bit rich.
The honourable member asks the question, what are we doing? I should say that South Lake Hospital, the one closest to her home and in her riding, has received a $53.2-million increase in funding as a result of our government's initiatives. Of the 11 hospitals covered in that study, here's what's happening: A new program for cardiac surgery at Trillium Health Centre, $19.2 million for a new cardiac care centre at South Lake Hospital, a new cancer centre at Credit Valley, a new cancer centre at Lakeridge Health, a new hospital at William Osler, $46 million for an expansion at York Central and a new MRI, a new MRI at Markham Stouffville -- all acknowledgement that growth to be supported in the 905 is important, and more to come on that point.
Mrs. Munro: Our PC government increased health spending by $10 billion. We did increase the number of both cardiac centres and cancer centres by one third. We expanded emergency room capacity from 3.5 million to 5.4 million visits per year. We launched a new hospital in Brampton and gave seed funding to a new cancer centre in Newmarket. We had a plan for hospitals and health care. Expansion in the 905 was a vital part of our plan. Your government has shown that it has no plan, and you have been in office for 18 months. When will we see your plan?
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: Your announcements do not make a plan. The reality is that it was left to our government to fund the expansion of health care services in the 905, and we have done that. There will be a continued pattern of that, respecting the fact that there is growth going on in the 905.
Rather than take a partisan approach to this, which is what surprises me on the part of the honourable member, I think we can all acknowledge that there's a need for very necessary investments in the 905. We have no quarrel on that point.
I merely suggest that the analysis that they did around the numbers discredits the idea that someone living in Woodbridge should have to travel, as an example, to the Humber River health care system, that there's some problem because you cross Steeles Avenue. I'd just argue that I think that the analysis was flawed on that basis.
I can confirm for the honourable member, though, that in the work we do, we must do a better job of acknowledging the growth pressures that are there in our health care system. As we move forward, I think the honourable member will see that the funding work we're doing, as an example, with the Ontario Hospital Association will work even harder to acknowledge the growth pressures for those precious 905 hospitals, which we value so much.
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): To the Minister of Health: In your election platform, Liberals promised, "We will ban countertop and behind-the-counter retail displays of tobacco products." Will the government keep that promise by supporting the NDP amendment to your bill that will ban power walls immediately?
Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I can't speak to what decisions might be arrived at by the legislative committee that's doing a fine body of work in considering this bill, but on the point, I could answer with one word and say yes; that is, I'd be offering some advice to members that the amendment brought forward by our colleague from Ottawa is an important one.
Having said that, the legislation, as written, does give the government the appropriate power in regulation to achieve that commitment that we made and that we stand by. All of these things taken together mean we will have one of the most comprehensive and powerful bills on tobacco cessation in North America.
Mr. Kormos: Minister, your colleague's amendment to ban power walls in 2008 maintains the most pervasive and influential and impactful advertising and propaganda scheme that influences young people in particular to smoke that remains in this province. The Martel NDP amendment allows you to keep your promise, which is to ban countertop and behind-the-counter retail displays of tobacco products. Will you keep your promise to ban power walls?
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: Yes. By supporting the amendment brought forward by the member from Ottawa-Orléans, we will be in a position to do that and, at the very same time, move forward within one year, if the amendment is supported by members of the committee and eventually the Legislature -- support that I don't presume but that I'm hopeful for.
Not only will we achieve that, but we will achieve it in a fashion which recognizes that small business operators also have challenges associated with their operation. As a former retailer, I can assure the honourable member that this government is extraordinarily mindful of the challenges associated for these store operators.
Yes. In a one-word answer to the honourable member, will we fulfill this commitment? Yes, we will.
Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn (Oakville): My question today is for the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Oakville recently has seen some great investments. I bring up the $1-million commitment by Ford of Canada to my community, but there is another Oakville success story I would like to ask you about today. Recently, the first Airbus A380 landed after its maiden voyage in Europe. When the Airbus lands, it's travelling at about 200 miles per hour and 167 tonnes come smashing on to the axles of the landing gear. Thanks to the skilled and dedicated employees at Goodrich, this incredible new plane and its passengers will be landing safely. Airbus trusted one company with the manufacture of the landing gear for the A380. That company is Goodrich, which is right here in Oakville, right here in Ontario. Minister, could you expand on this announcement and what the building of the Airbus A380 means to the Ontario economy?
Hon. Joseph Cordiano (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): I'm delighted to report on the great work that's being done by Goodrich in Oakville. It's another fine example of a great Ontario economic success story. The plant has 770 workers. The contract to produce landing gear for the Airbus is expected to be worth about $6 billion. But Goodrich is not the only beneficiary. Cantwell, Cullen of Oakville will be supplying circuit boards to Honeywell for eventual use in the A380. Honeywell Mississauga will have 300 employees on their project, which required a 3,200 foot expansion. The Airbus contract should lead to a 20% to 25% increase in business. CFN Precision in Vaughan makes nuts, pins and squares for the Airbus. This new contract will mean long-term work for Mississauga's Likro Precision, another 50 employees. So there's a lot of good news in the aerospace industry, and this is good news for Ontario's economy.
Mr. Flynn: Certainly, the Airbus contract is a huge vote of confidence in the Ontario economy. Goodrich is, of course, only one of many aerospace producers in Ontario. The aerospace sector is a large part of the Ontario economy. The aerospace and defence industry employs about 23,000 people in Ontario. The Ontario aerospace industry has sales of over $6 billion. Minister, this House has heard a lot about our tremendous success in the auto sector, but could you please inform the House of your efforts on behalf of Ontario's aerospace industry in general?
Hon. Mr. Cordiano: I would remind the members of the opposition who were heckling that the aerospace sector is a very important sector of Ontario's economy. It employs 23,000 people. This government is taking a leadership role when it comes to the aerospace sector. We're working with the national aerospace partnership council to further Ontario's interests, as part of a country-wide aerospace plan. I've been working with tier 1 suppliers like Goodrich and Honeywell to keep this industry strong and viable well into the future. This government has taken action with respect to investing in education and in health care, ensuring that we have a highly skilled, highly productive workforce. That is the key to our long-term economic success. We are doing all those things to make certain the aerospace industry is strong well into the future.
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): My question is to the Minister of Energy. I was reading in the local press yesterday, specifically in the Brantford Expositor, about smart meters. The article says, "City council wants the Ontario government to pull the plug on its surprise plan to set up a new corporation that would own all hydro meters in the province."
My question to you on the smart meter debate is, will you assure the House that the McGuinty government will not turn over the ownership of smart meters and their operation to yet another layer of bureaucracy in the Liberal government?
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): We have begun to have discussions with local distribution companies, indeed municipalities, around the implementation of smart meters. We believe very strongly in smart meters. By the way, most LDCs, I think, share our view that smart meters are the way to go. I wouldn't want the member to characterize anything that's said as being in opposition to smart meters. We agree with the C.D. Howe Institute.
Unlike the previous government, we do consult, we do listen to people. I know there are many local distribution companies here at the Legislature today. In fact, I will be meeting with the association after question period today, yet again, to discuss the implementation of smart meters. I will remind members in the House that this government is committed to putting in 800,000 meters by 2007 and all meters by 2010. We're committed to that. We will achieve it.
Mr. O'Toole: I'm well aware that the Electricity Distributors Association, which we would call in our communities the local distribution companies, is here today in the Legislature, and I'm hearing from many of them. The Rideau St. Lawrence Utilities, Waterloo North Hydro Inc., Atikokan and others have made it very clear that you're in a bullheaded way moving forward.
Here's what they're saying, Minister: "Stripping meter ownership from LDCs would have negative impacts on the vital contributions that local distributions have to local government." Another comment: "Stripping meter ownership from LDCs would unnecessarily require complicated new accounting mechanisms to create support markets to settlements." "Stripping meter ownership from LDCs would unnecessarily complicate utilities' access to the very data to develop the bills."
Minister, you know that LDCs have a first-hand relationship with the consumer. Why would you create another level of bureaucracy and strip this valuable asset from the local distribution, all this in the context of yesterday's discussion on Bill 92? Have you consulted with the municipalities of Ontario, like AMO?
Hon. Mr. Duncan: As I indicated to the member, we have begun consultations. We will be discussing the issue with AMO.
One thing should be clear to the people of Ontario: We are moving to smart meters. People like the member opposite may not want them. They may want to use 100-year-old technology in order to measure electricity. We think there are advantages to smart meters that will pay benefits to both small consumers -- indeed, many large consumers have had them for some time. Implementation, how we implement, what means will be used to implement, are decisions that have not been taken at this point by the government. We have begun consultations with the EDA as well as a number of other individual local distribution companies. The decisions will be forthcoming. We will establish a legislative framework. Unlike the previous government, we'll send that framework out for consultation. Many of the issues that are of concern to the LDCs and others who have an interest in seeing that these meters do come into place and understand the benefits of them --
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): New question.
Mr. Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): I have a question to the Deputy Premier. Deputy Premier, you'll know that ATV trail associations and snowmobile associations across this province are struggling to purchase liability insurance. When they go to renew their insurance, the rates go up and the coverage goes down. My question to you is, are you prepared to do something to lower the liability insurance for these organizations this year?
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): No government certainly in recent memory has done more to lower insurance rates than the McGuinty government has. I will say this: Unlike that member and his party, who made commitments on auto insurance, publicly owned auto insurance, and then failed to keep them -- indeed, the member for Welland was forced to leave the family as a result of that broken commitment -- we have done as much as any government can do to lower insurance premiums for people in this province. I remind the member opposite that your broken promise did nothing for these people either. This government and our finance minister, assisted by his parliamentary assistant, Mr. Colle, have worked tirelessly, and we've seen real decreases in insurance premiums in Ontario as a result of this government's undertakings.
Mr. Bisson: What a crock. I can't believe the member gets up in this House and tries to make us believe that all of a sudden liability insurance in this province is going down. The reality is, under your watch, liability insurance has increased. It has not gone down; it has gone up. People are not able to renew their insurance when it comes to liability. You've got some of the ATV clubs that have already shut down, others that are announcing they'll probably shut down this summer because they can't afford the liability insurance.
My question is a very simple one, and I'd like you to do something about it. Read my lips here: What are you prepared to do to lower liability insurance for those organizations?
Hon. Mr. Duncan: I'm prepared to refer it to the Minister of Tourism.
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism and Recreation): First of all, I want to compliment my parliamentary assistant, Tim Peterson, who has been relentless in pursuing this matter with those who have an interest in trails. In fact, he has led the consultation on a trails policy in Ontario. In addition to that, the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation has brought together representatives of the insurance industry, led by Mark Yakabuski, along with representatives of those who are operating snowmobiles and, in particular, ATVs to try to find some common ground.
You will know that there was a concern on the weekend that some trails would have to close down because of liability considerations. I can assure you that that matter was resolved on the weekend. There's a reasonable price now and those trails remain open. That doesn't mean we won't continue to work with these associations, my parliamentary assistant and others, and that we'll develop policies --
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): Thank you very much. New question?
COMMUNITIES IN ACTION FUND
Ms. Judy Marsales (Hamilton West): My question today is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. On March 16 this year, I had the pleasure of announcing a communities in action fund grant in the amount of $39,180 to Sport Hamilton in my riding of Hamilton West. It was a wonderful ceremony in the council chambers of Hamilton city hall that was met with tremendous appreciation. If you could only have seen the look on the faces of these new Canadians who were able to play soccer. It was just absolutely terrific. Minister, can you tell the Legislature today a little more about the communities in action fund?
Hon. James J. Bradley (Minister of Tourism and Recreation): I would like to thank the member for her question. It's an outstanding question. I can tell her that in many communities throughout the entire province of Ontario, especially in the large urban centres such as Hamilton, there's a need for government to invest in programs which provide recreational opportunities for distinctly underserviced sections of the population.
The communities in action fund is part of this government's sport and physical activity strategy called Active 2010, which aims to help Ontarians become more active. The communities in action fund aims to bring about a physical activity and community sport culture in Ontario by helping local and provincial not-for-profit organizations provide and enhance opportunities for physical activity and community sport and recreation, especially for those who face barriers to participation.
So I think the member's question is a good one and the fund is an excellent one.
Ms. Marsales: To me, the communities in action fund is important because it's a grassroots program led by local organizations that truly understand and are committed to providing opportunity for those often neglected segments of our population. For instance, the community in action fund grant I announced will give over 400 immigrant children and adults throughout Hamilton, especially the concentrated immigrant populations in downtown and in the east end, the opportunity to participate in recreational activities and train them to provide these opportunities within their own immigrant community. Minister, can you give a few more details about this particular grant in my riding, and why grants such as the community in action fund are so important to communities like mine in Hamilton?
Hon. Mr. Bradley: The member certainly recognizes this as an important program. I can say to her, the Sport Hamilton project will provide recreational opportunities for immigrant children and simultaneously assist the immigrant community in Hamilton to develop skills that will help them take ownership of the future direction of these recreational opportunities. Participants will gain a sense of ownership of the recreation program, enabling them to support its ongoing delivery for other new immigrants and their families.
I want to say that the member is exactly right when she speaks about this money going directly to caring, dedicated organizations like Sport Hamilton to assist those parts of our population that often do not have the opportunity to participate in sport due to the lack of financial resources available to them and other barriers, such as language. This government is committed to removing those barriers through the program, and will continue to make investments to promote active living, especially amongst those most vulnerable in our ridings.
ONTARIO DRUG BENEFIT PROGRAM
Mr. Cameron Jackson (Burlington): My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Minister, on March 3, I asked you a question in the House where you confirmed that your government was considering implementing a strategy called reference-based drug pricing for our province, which would affect seniors and persons of low income on the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan.
Lillian Morganthau, who is the president of the Canadian Association for the Fifty Plus, has said, "Make no mistake. Any policy which forces seniors to stop using a medication that works well for them will be viewed as nothing more than a health care cut."
Minister, will you confirm today that you have now taken this offensive policy off the table, as recommended by seniors' groups and Ontario pharmacists, and that you are not considering implementing that in our province?
Hon. George Smitherman (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I find it interesting that the honourable member, who, on June 10, 1997, said, in part, "Why has no government to date, at the federal or provincial level, been listening to them about why they are so overmedicated, why prescribing guidelines aren't here, why we're not reviewing drug pricing mechanisms," would now be taking up an issue with that tone.
I had a very good chance quite recently to speak to the individual whom the honourable member quoted in his question. We're going to do more talking on this issue as we seek to grapple with one of the biggest fiscal challenges that the government faces, while at the same time recognizing that there are some medication challenges out there for our seniors. All I acknowledge to the honourable member is that we have a $3-billion program that's under a 15% annualized pressure. As a result, of course, we're going to be doing a lot of talking to determine what mechanisms would be appropriate.
Mr. Jackson: Minister, we both agree that Ontarian seniors are overmedicated. It's the strategies that are going to be implemented in order to get better health outcomes. What seniors are telling you, if you will listen, is that increasing their costs or reducing access does not lead, in and of itself, to better health outcomes.
Ontario's seniors have come to trust the Ontario professional pharmacists in each of their communities to speak up on their behalf. These pharmacists are alarmed that your government is still considering restricting access and increasing costs for about 2.1 million of Ontario's citizens through the use of these reference-based pricing mechanisms.
Minister, you said on March 3, in answer to my question, "I look forward to the ongoing interest" of seniors' groups. I'm asking you, Minister: Will you sit down and have meaningful dialogue, invite the Ontario pharmacists to the table, whose interests are in the best interests of the health outcomes for seniors in this province, bring them to the table, take reference-based pricing off the table and put pharmacists at the table so they can come up with a solution?
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: First, the honourable member suggested that it would be inappropriate to increase costs because it has an impact on seniors. Maybe he wants to revisit the decision made by his government to introduce co-pay. Maybe that's something that you want to do in retrospect.
With respect to this issue of --
Hon. Mr. Smitherman: I'm going to tell John Tory that you're heckling.
With respect to the issue of dialogue and involvement, first, I had, I think, an hour-and-a-half-long meeting with Lillian Morganthau and others from CARP. I'm meeting, I believe, this next Saturday with the Ontario Pharmacists' Association -- part of an ongoing series of meetings that I have with them.
To the issue of talking to the people whom it would be appropriate to talk to about a policy as important as that, I sure can confirm for the honourable member that that's not just our plan but it's already scheduled.
INDUSTRIAL COGENERATION FACILITATOR
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Energy. Minister, in February of this year you said, "Cogeneration can significantly reduce costs for large industrial users and result in tremendous operational efficiencies.... The appointment of an industrial cogeneration facilitator is yet another example of our government's commitment to deal with electricity issues in a practical, sensible and responsible way."
Two and a half months later, Minister, while paper mills are shutting down paper machines and pulp mills are closing, and hundreds of good-paying jobs are being lost, where is the McGuinty government's cogeneration facilitator?
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): In fact, since that announcement, we have been working with a number of representatives in the industries that'll be most affected. We've identified 12 sites that we believe are the most pressing. We have been meeting with them individually to discuss what their needs are. These discussions will lead to the appointment of the industrial cogeneration facilitator. I expect to be in a position to announce that shortly.
I don't believe two and a half months is too long a period. To suggest that nothing has been going on over that course of time is simply not accurate. The information we are gathering from a number of these potential cogeneration sites is important as we define the mandate of the new facilitator. I believe we'll be able to hit the ground running as a result of these last two and a half months and the discussions that have been ongoing with respect to those.
Mr. Hampton: Minister, the pulp and paper companies, through Bowater, came to the Bill 100 hearings in August last year and told you that your policy of increasing industrial electricity rates was going to force paper mills to start shutting down operations and laying off hundreds of workers. You've literally had nine months to do something about this, and you promised to do something back in February.
More mills are closing. Companies have announced that they're selling mills with the prospect of them being closed, and yet your government has done nothing. Minister, where is the industrial cogeneration facilitator you promised, or is this again just another McGuinty broken promise?
Hon. Mr. Duncan: This is the first government that has actually talked about industrial cogeneration facilities with that industry. For instance, two weeks ago, the Premier met with the CEO of Bowater. There are a number of issues we have been canvassing, as I say: the most likely facilities where cogeneration will work. I believe this work is going to lead to good recommendations to allow the cogeneration facilitator to begin his or her work when we make the appointment, which I can assure the member will be very soon. To suggest that nothing has happened since last year is patently false.
What I would suggest is, 14 mills closed when the NDP was the government of Ontario. Had his party and his government not cancelled the Conawapa deal, maybe this wouldn't be so urgent. Had his party not cancelled all conservation initiatives, this wouldn't have been necessary.
This government has a plan. We're implementing it. We're doing things you never dreamt of. We're going to help the people of this province deal with the crisis in electricity that you and the Tories left behind.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): These are petitions with signatures garnered at the finance committee hearings in Tillsonburg and also submitted by Delhi District German Home. It's entitled:
"Bill 164 Deserves Additional Hearings
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario" through the legislative committee on finance and economic affairs:
"Whereas House leaders negotiated four days of hearings on the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, but 225 people and organizations applied to testify; and
"Whereas 137 people" and organizations "have not had an opportunity to testify; for example, Avondale Stores Ltd., Ontario Minister of Health, Imperial Tobacco, Ontario medical officer of health, Taps Tavern, Toronto Councillor Frances Nunziata and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health;
"We, the undersigned, request that the Ontario government consult with the remaining 137 applicants and, subsequently, this Legislative Assembly committee hold additional hearings."
I agree with the call for more hearings and affix my signature to these petitions.
Hon. David Caplan (Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Could we can stop the clock? In light of all the ministerial statements and deferred votes, I seek unanimous consent that we have a full 15 minutes for petitions in today's proceedings.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): Do we have unanimous consent? I heard a no.
Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): I'm pleased to submit petitions signed by 109 people from all across Ontario who have written to support action on behalf of anaphylactic students. I particularly thank Lee Perrin and the staff of Honeywell in Mississauga; Geoffrey Smith and the members of the Lisgar Residents' Association; and Raouf Barakat, Palwinder Kahlon and the staff of ICNSS in Mississauga. The petition reads as follows:
"Whereas there are no established Ontario-wide standards to deal with anaphylaxis in Ontario schools; and
"Whereas there is no specific comment regarding anaphylaxis in the Ontario Education Act; and
"Whereas anaphylaxis is a serious concern that can result in life-or-death situations; and
"Whereas all students in Ontario have the right to be safe and feel safe in their school community; and
"Whereas all parents of anaphylactic students need to know that safety standards exist in all Ontario schools,
"Be it therefore resolved that ... the government of Ontario support the swift passage of Bill 3, An Act to protect anaphylactic students, that requires that every school principal in Ontario establish a school anaphylactic plan."
I'm pleased to sign the petition -- I agree with it wholeheartedly -- and ask Jonathan to carry it for me.
FREDERICK BANTING HOMESTEAD
Mr. Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas Sir Frederick Banting was the man who discovered insulin and was Canada's first Nobel Prize recipient; and
"Whereas this great Canadian's original homestead located in the town of New Tecumseth" -- Alliston -- "is deteriorating and in danger of destruction because of the inaction of the Ontario Historical Society; and
"Whereas the town of New Tecumseth, under the leadership of Mayor Mike MacEachern and former Mayor Larry Keogh, has been unsuccessful in reaching an agreement with the Ontario Historical Society to use part of the land to educate the public about the historical significance of the work of Sir Frederick Banting;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the Minister of Culture and the Liberal government step in to ensure that the Banting homestead is kept in good repair and preserved for generations to come."
I agree with the petition and I've signed it.
CREDIT VALLEY HOSPITAL
Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): Our neighbours in northwest Mississauga support the capital expansion so badly needed at the Credit Valley Hospital. I'm pleased to submit petitions signed by 56 people from the nearby catchment area of Credit Valley Hospital. I especially thank the McClure, the Williamson and the McMillan families for their help. The petition reads as follows:
"Whereas some 20,000 people each year choose to make their home in Mississauga, and a Halton-Peel District Health Council capacity study stated that the Credit Valley Hospital should be operating 435 beds by now, and 514 beds by 2016; and
"Whereas the Credit Valley Hospital bed count has remained constant at 365 beds since its opening in November 1985, even though some 4,800 babies are delivered each year at the Credit Valley Hospital in a facility designed to handle 2,700 births annually; and
"Whereas donors in Mississauga and the regional municipalities served by the Credit Valley Hospital have contributed more than $41 million of a $50-million fundraising objective, the most ambitious of any community hospital in the country, to support the construction of an expanded facility able to meet the needs of our community;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care undertake specific measures to ensure the allocation of capital funds for the construction of A and H block at Credit Valley Hospital to ensure the ongoing acute care needs of the patients and families served by the hospital are met in a timely and professional manner, to reduce wait times for patients in the hospital emergency department, and to better serve patients in the community in Halton and Peel regions by reducing severe overcrowding in the labour and delivery suite."
As a resident of that area, I wholeheartedly support this petition. I affix my signature to it and ask Alexandra to carry it for me.
REGIONAL CENTRES FOR THE
Ms. Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Victoria-Brock): "Save the Rideau Regional Centre, Home to People with Developmental Disabilities!"
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal government were elected based on their promise to rebuild public services in Ontario;
"Whereas the Minister of Community and Social Services has announced plans to close the Rideau Regional Centre, home to people with developmental disabilities, many of whom have multiple diagnoses and severe problems that cannot be met in their community;
"Whereas closing the Rideau Regional Centre will have a devastating impact on residents with developmental disabilities, their families, the developmental services sector and the economies of the local communities;
"Whereas Ontario could use the professional staff and facilities of the Rideau Regional Centre to extend specialized services, support and professional training to many more clients who live in the community, in partnership with families and community agencies;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to direct the government to keep the Rideau Regional Centre open as a home for people with developmental disabilities and to maintain it as a `centre of excellence' to provide specialized services and support to Ontarians with developmental needs, no matter where they live."
I'm pleased to support this on behalf of Don Lytle in my community, Don Wilson, Mayor Barbara Kelly, Councillor Faye McGee and many hundreds who have signed it.
CREDIT VALLEY HOSPITAL
Mr. Kim Craitor (Niagara Falls): I'm pleased to submit this petition on behalf of my colleague. It's a petition to the Ontario Legislative Assembly for Credit Valley Hospital capital improvements.
"Whereas some 20,000 people each year choose to make their home in Mississauga, and a Halton-Peel District Health Council capacity study stated that the Credit Valley Hospital should be operating 435 beds by now, and 514 beds by 2016; and
"Whereas the Credit Valley Hospital bed count has remained constant at 365 beds since its opening in November 1985, even though some 4,800 babies are delivered each year at the Credit Valley Hospital in a facility designed to handle 2,700 births annually; and
"Whereas donors in Mississauga and the regional municipalities served by the Credit Valley Hospital have contributed more than $41 million of a $50-million fundraising objective, the most ambitious of any community hospital in the country, to support the construction of an expanded facility able to meet the needs of our community;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care undertake specific measures to ensure the allocation of capital funds for the construction of A and H block at Credit Valley Hospital to ensure the ongoing acute care needs of the patients and families served by the hospital are met in a timely and professional manner, to reduce wait times for patients in the hospital emergency department, and to better serve patients in the community in Halton and Peel regions by reducing severe overcrowding in the labour and delivery suite."
Mr. Cameron Jackson (Burlington): I move that, in the opinion of this House, the McGuinty government must keep its election promise to our oldest, most frail and vulnerable citizens by providing an increase in long-term-care operating funding and introducing an effective strategy to rebuild and/or upgrade the older long-term-care homes across Ontario in the 2005 provincial budget.
This opposition day motion is addressed to the Premier.
The Speaker (Hon. Alvin Curling): Mr. Jackson has moved opposition day number 3.
Mr. Jackson: I'm very pleased to rise today to speak on behalf of Ontario's 1.6 million seniors, and a growing number of those seniors in our province who grow increasingly dependent on the services provided by the province of Ontario to allow them to live with comfort and dignity in their elder years.
For the record, to put this debate in context, I want to make sure that people who are watching this today realize some basic principles about long-term care in Ontario. For example, the primary services required by seniors in this province, and all Canadian seniors, are not covered under the Canada Health Act. Therefore, if you are a senior and you need access to a drug plan, it's not covered by the Canada Health Act, and therefore there's no federal money. If you need a nursing home or a long-term-care placement, there is no money from the federal government because it is not covered as an essential health service under the Canada Health Act. If you require home care support services in a whole range of those, as a result of being able to live independently, without some of those essential supports in daily living exercise -- Meals on Wheels, a whole range of home care supports -- these too are not recognized by our federal government and therefore are not included in the Canada Health Act. Therefore, we do not get a single penny of financial support for our seniors.
Having said all that, it's incredibly important to note that Ontario today continues to develop one of the best infrastructures for its aging population. I'm very pleased that over the 20 years I've had the privilege of serving in this House, it has been a pre-eminent dimension of the work I've done on behalf of my constituents, in particular my vulnerable constituents and those who have seen previous governments not speak up to support their needs or, to make matters worse, that lack the vision to plan for the future for an aging population. That's the point I want to begin with.
As I recall my first entry into this House, many will remember -- at least the five of us elected that year who are still here, including Speaker Curling -- that the government was changed on the basis of an accord between the NDP and the Liberals. I vividly recall reading that two-page document -- Sean Conway, the member for Renfrew, who used to sit at the seat I'm at today, helped negotiate that package. I was shocked to read through that document and not find one reference to senior citizens and our aging population. The price of bringing down 42 years of Conservative government was to do a whole range of things, but in a two-page document, the priorities of the Liberals and the NDP were exposed to the extent that this was the price of forming an alliance for two years to wrestle power away from the Conservative government even though we won the most seats in that election.
What concerned me as well, as I stood in this Parliament over the next decade, was that I watched a period in Ontario's history when the size of the deficit rose by $64 billion during Liberal and NDP governments, five years of each, and yet not one new long-term-care bed. A net new addition of beds did not occur in Ontario. Oh, they tore down some old, decrepit homes in northern Ontario and transferred the bed licences down to southern Ontario. But the net new allocation, the growth of long-term-care beds, was not occurring. This was creating a terrible situation in our province because of the fact that, not only were we not keeping pace with the costs of operating nursing homes and providing quality care to our seniors, but just as severely punitive for that seniors population was the fact that we weren't building any new long-term-care homes.
Today's motion isn't necessarily about looking at all of what went on in the past, but I think it's important to note a couple of the important features of what constitutes the basis of our current system.
First of all, I want to say that the NDP members of this House and the current Liberal government will have an opportunity to participate in this debate. For the record, we can thank the NDP for bringing in the standardization process for charging resident co-fees and formalizing that into legislation in 1993, and the largest single increase of residents' fees, which went up by 47% in 1993. We subsequently had the social contract that saw wages torn back for many of the front-line, already low-paid workers and professionals in long-term-care facilities. It was a very, very difficult period for persons who were providing services for seniors in those settings.
The 2.25-hours-of-care policy will be discussed this afternoon. It was a Conservative government that said, "We don't need to have a minimum or maximum restriction of 2.25 hours," and at the time we increased funding by $25 million in order to provide more care for those individuals who had greater acuity rates. The government announced $2.1 billion to build 20,000 new long-term-care beds. Members of this House will be familiar with the work I did in terms of developing the program and announcing those.
Perhaps one of the most significant issues, something that all past governments had not considered, was that 16,000 long-term-care beds in this province that we refer to as class D facilities were the most inappropriate environments that seniors were asked to call their home. These were homes that were so old that they had four-, six- and eight-bed wards. We were congregating 120 people in one room to feed. This was a terrible issue that had been unaddressed by past governments.
Again, $1 billion committed to completing the tearing down and rebuilding new, to the highest standards for long-term-care beds anywhere in the province -- that issue in and of itself is worthy of note. Ontario today has the highest standards for construction of long-term-care facilities.
I know there's going to be discussion about the Casa Verde coroner's inquest and the issues around managing persons with dementia in these facilities. The fact of the matter is that Casa Verde is a class C facility. Today's resolution calls upon the current government to put in place a program, like the Conservative government before them did, to eliminate 16,000 class D facilities and rebuild them. We're now asking this government to look at its long-term planning for seniors and for an aging population and come up with a strategy in order to eliminate the C facilities in this province. Quite simply, there are 16,000 older D facilities, as I've said, but there are 31,000 Ontario residents currently in C facilities in our province.
We can thank the Ontario Long Term Care Association for doing the work, in terms of research, and developing a concrete proposal to present to the government of Ontario, saying that this is an absolute priority, and the quality of life for those individuals in C facilities is just as important as the quality of life for those in the current, new facilities -- the 20,000 additional beds brought in by the former government.
Much has been said about the fact that the Liberal government has made many, many promises, and they are having an increasingly difficult time honouring them, keeping them and being held accountable for their word. The truth of the matter is that they promised $450 million, some $6,000 per resident, yet to date we know that they have only received $110 million.
I want to quote Donna Rubin, executive director of the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors, who said in her report to the Treasurer, "The much-publicized figure coming out of the 2004 provincial budget of $191 million to support residents in long-term-care homes has been repeatedly challenged ... in the Legislature, and it was in fact acknowledged by the Premier that $75 million of this amount is for additional services to assist patients to move out of hospitals...."
She went on to say, "In the end, approximately only $110 million of the $191 million was actually added to the base budgets of long-term-care homes to increase care and services for long-term-care residents."
It has been highly suspect, looking at the commitment made by the Liberal government in their most recent budget. Now we have a new budget coming. What figure are we going to see that they're not going to actually honour? They promised that they would drive these dollars into the base funding of long-term-care facilities so that those dollars would go directly to resident care, and now we find that they've diverted significant amounts of this money to the hospital system but called it long-term care. They are $334 million short of their promise, so we call upon them to honour that commitment.
Just for the record, if much is going to be said about how much money the Conservative government put into the long-term-care system on their operating budgets, the figure I received from Karen Sullivan, executive director of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, is that under the Conservative government, the increase of funding was $485 million. That is a matter of public record. That number has been audited. Quite frankly, that's the level of support, as we continue to expand access to services in the long-term-care sector throughout our tenure, something that sadly did not occur in the previous NDP and Liberal governments.
The issues have been well documented from public opinion polls, through letters to MPPs, media reports, a coroner's jury findings and stakeholder activities. All of these report to the fact that Ontarians want to make sure that the quality of services enjoyed in our long-term-care centres continues to grow and continues to be supported so that we can achieve even higher levels of care for the acuity levels for the average senior in our province.
I obviously have much more I would like to add to this debate. I want to say for the record, without enumerating the many cuts, that I do acknowledge that the Liberals, the current government, have increased additional funding. It is far short of what they promised. I also want to acknowledge that they have cut services. Hidden in the last budget was a retroactive cut to those long-term-care facilities which pay municipal property taxes, and there was quite a protest over that. But they are still phasing out the support payments to that. They've cancelled the short-term sustainability grant program that dealt with vacancies in long-term-care facilities. So when they take from one hand and give back to the other, it still doesn't net out as a really positive experience for seniors in our long-term-care facilities.
I just want to close by saying that tomorrow I will not be in the House as I will be attending the funeral of my uncle, a veteran, who passed away of Alzheimer's on the weekend. For members who are familiar, I had the privilege of being able to develop our Alzheimer's strategy in this province. It just overwhelms me at times to reiterate the importance of ensuring that we're supporting our long-term-care facilities, that those people struggling with dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other challenges need our support and, in the absence of receiving that direct support, this is a very difficult time for a growing number of seniors in the province.
I implore the members of this House to support a very simple resolution that calls upon a political party that received the support of the voters of Ontario on the basis that they believed that they would do what they said they would do. There's no greater group of people that could be disfranchised from their hope for the future as a group of seniors who are relying on the this government not only to do right thing but to do what they promised.
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): I'm disappointed that the government members aren't speaking to this motion -- perhaps not speaking to it yet.
Last week, I rose in the House to speak to a motion requesting that the McGuinty government keep its election promises to Ontario's children. Today, one week later, I am standing to demand that government keep its election promise to Ontario's elderly, and I quote from the motion before us today: "... to our oldest, most frail and vulnerable citizens by providing an increase in long-term-care operating funding and introduce an effective strategy to rebuild and/or upgrade the older long-term-care homes across Ontario in the 2005 provincial budget," which we will be seeing next week.
It doesn't seem to matter whether you're young or old, obviously this government doesn't discriminate. It simply breaks promises to people in Ontario, no matter how old they are. I digress a bit.
Today, we're focusing on unfulfilled promises of this government to our seniors and, on that note, I'd like to read the preamble to this motion we're considering -- a bit of perspective:
"Whereas Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party promised in the 2003 election to increase levels of long-term-care operating funding by $6,000 per resident for a total funding increase of $450 million; and
"Whereas only about one quarter of the funding to fulfill this commitment, or $116 million, was provided in the 2004-05 budget; and
"Whereas the former Progressive Conservative government honoured its election promise to invest $1.2 billion" -- that's billion, with a "B" -- "to build 20,000 new long-term-care beds and redevelop 16,000 older `D' class beds to the highest long-term-care building standards in Canada and increased long-term-care operating funding by $485 million" -- that's getting close to half a billion dollars in operating funding.
Things were a little different under the former government. Speaker, you will remember that that was the government that, in 1998, announced the $2.1-billion investment in long-term care -- again, to build those 20,000 new beds and to rebuild the 16,000 beds found in the province's oldest facilities. New beds were awarded in 1999, 2000 and 2001. As of the end of February 2005, 18,418 new beds had been built and 9,191 D beds had been either upgraded or rebuilt.
I can tell you that down my way, elderly people are reaping the benefits. In 2003, Haldimand county received a real shot in the arm with 64 new long-term-care beds awarded to Parkview Meadows. In May of that same year, the Ministry of Health announced an agreement for the sharing of long-term-care beds between Grandview and Dunnville hospital. That agreement would see 128 beds remain at Grandview Lodge and an additional 64 beds operating in Haldimand War Memorial Hospital in Dunnville. That was followed by a request for proposals for an additional 64 beds in the west end, which subsequently were awarded to Parkview Meadows. Construction is well on the way with respect to Parkview Meadows. We're also looking forward to progress in Norfolk county with the new Norview Lodge. That's a $13-million project of provincial money, depreciated over 20 years.
I'm very pleased with the progress and certainly with the work that our member by the name of Cam Jackson has done in this sector.
Ms. Monique M. Smith (Nipissing): I am delighted to speak to this motion today. I find the revisionist history of the previous speakers interesting, to say the least. Mr. Jackson, in his resolution, spoke of the history of the parties with respect to long-term care and spoke a great deal about the 20,000 new beds his party has built. However, what he failed to mention was the fact that many of those beds have been built in overbedded areas, in areas where they're not needed.
We now have a situation where, under the previous government, they changed the regulations to allow for more private rooms and fewer basic rooms, although the demand for basic rooms remains the same across the province. Now we have a situation where we are dealing with areas that are greatly underbedded for basic accommodation. We have people on long waiting lists for basic accommodation and we have single beds going wanting because of the previous government's mismanagement of its new build. The demand is huge for basic beds across the province, and unfortunately, the investments the previous government made were ill-advised at best.
The previous speaker also noted that they invested $438 million in long-term care, but to what end? They did not advise us of the period of time -- I believe it was at least eight years that he was referring to -- and there was very little accountability with respect to the investments that the previous government made. They also failed to mention some of the things they did do. They removed a lot of standards in our homes, which we are now working toward re-implementing to ensure that our seniors across the province are well looked after.
They failed to mention the copayment increase of 15% that they threatened our seniors with. They talked a little bit about the short-term sustainability program, which was a program they had to introduce to try and deal with the problems they created in their ill-advised and unorganized new build.
Let me tell you the good news. Let me tell you about all the great things our government is doing, because I don't think our government can be compared to any other government with respect to long-term care. The amount of work that we've done, the commitment that we've shown --
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Michael Prue): Order, please.
Ms. Smith: -- the commitment that the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care has shown is unsurmounted in the history of this Legislature.
When we were elected in October 2003, I was asked to be the parliamentary assistant for health and long-term care. Shortly thereafter, we had a series of articles in the media about problems in our long-term-care sector, and the minister asked me to take a --
The Acting Speaker: Members, please. The member from Nipissing has the floor. She is speaking to the topic. I think we owe her the opportunity.
Ms. Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would have thought the person bringing the motion would like to hear what we have to say, particularly because he seems to lack the knowledge of all of the changes that we've made over the last year and a half in long-term care.
I was asked to do review of long-term care in December 2003, and I undertook that review with great zeal. I visited over 25 homes, unannounced and unaccompanied, across province. I visited large, small, urban, rural, for-profit, not-for-profit, culturally specific; I visited with over 100 stakeholders, individually and in groups; I met with groups that represented seniors and that represented the unionized workers in the homes; I met with workers directly, as I visited the homes, residents, their families, geriatricians, psychogeriatricians, nurses, administrators and the advocacy groups that work on behalf of our seniors across the province. I also shadowed an RPN for an eight-hour shift in one of my local homes in order to see first-hand exactly what kind of care was being provided in our homes.
From all of that I developed a report which we launched last May, called Commitment to Care, which has set out, really, a blueprint for the changes we have since undertaken in long-term care across the province.
One of the main themes of my report was that these homes should not be referred to as facilities any more. They are homes. These are the homes in which 72,000 of our most precious residents live. Seventy-two thousand seniors across the province live in the 620-some long-term-care homes in our province. This is where they live; this is their home, and for many of them, this is their final home. It's important that we emphasize that word "home." We want to make sure that they don't feel like they are in an institution, that they don't feel like they are in a facility, but that they feel cared for and loved and still a part of the community. It's so very important that our seniors still remain a vital part of our communities.
Through the introduction of my report, we introduced a number of changes, and over the last year we've introduced many of those changes through regulations and through new policies and initiatives in the province. I'd like to talk to you for a minute about a few of those.
We introduced some standards which the previous government had eliminated, like 24-hour RN coverage in a home, so that every resident in whatever home across this province is entitled to the same level and expertise of care.
We introduced two baths a week. The previous government took that standard away. They didn't think there was any need for minimums in bathing in our homes. We reintroduced two baths a week for residents.
We introduced spousal reunification. We had residents in our province who were living in two different homes in the same city, but because of the placement system that we had, they couldn't be in the same home. These were people who were married 40, 50, 60 years. In order to ensure that they lived in a home, we wanted to make sure that they could live as they would in a home, with their spouse. We introduced spousal reunification.
For the benefit of residents of the province, we introduced a public Web site. It's the first in Canada. It allows any resident in the province access to information about every single one of the 620 publicly funded homes. This information allows family members better access to what's going on in a home, and also what homes they have within their geographic area, to choose a place for their loved one.
We froze the copayment, so that our residents did not have to pay more for their residence, and we increased the comfort allowance for first time in 19 years. In 19 years there had not been an increase. The comfort allowance allows our seniors who are frail and at the lower end of the income stream to access a little bit of money per month so that they can buy a gift for a grandchild or so that they can buy themselves a chocolate bar at the snack bar. This is what we did -- the first time in 19 years.
We funded a report to be completed by the activities professional that will be best practices for our activities professionals across the province, so they can start implementing some innovative activities for our seniors in the homes.
We funded the family councils and residents' councils across the province to ensure that we have residents' and family councils in each of our homes across the province, because they bring such a vital link to our communities.
We are also building stronger enforcement and compliance in the homes, and we've undertaken, for the first time in over 20 years, a full review and revamping of the legislation that governs our long-term-care homes.
We have been incredibly busy. We've made some major strides forward in ensuring that our seniors across the province live with dignity and respect.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, there is a spectrum of care in our communities, and many seniors would prefer to age in place. I heard that a lot as I did my visits and as I've done my consultations with respect to the new legislation and with respect to long-term care in the province. We have seniors who are living in their homes who want to stay in their homes, and we hope that they will stay in their homes as long as possible. To that end, we've invested in home care to ensure that our seniors are receiving the care they want, and that they deserve, wherever they can.
Last week, I had the privilege of visiting Sophie Rousseau in my riding. She celebrated her 102nd birthday on Saturday. Sophie, if you are watching today, I just want to wish you a happy birthday. I know that she had a fabulous celebration in her home. Sophie has a walker. She is completely alert and aggressive and engaged in everything that's going on in our community. She had lots to tell me when I stopped by to visit her, lots of comments to make. She is enjoying her final years in her home. She was able to celebrate her 102nd birthday with her loved ones and her family members, who stopped in to visit her. She is a vital part of our community and part of my neighbourhood. I think that's a very important part of the investments we have made to increase the quality of life for our seniors across the province.
I cannot tell you how important our seniors are. I've met so many of them as I travelled the province. I talked to them about how they enjoy living in the homes they're living in, what we could do to improve life in the home, what we can do to make sure they feel safe --
The Acting Speaker: The member for Burlington.
Ms. Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, it's unfortunate that the member for Burlington doesn't want to know what's actually happening in long-term care, despite the fact that he brings this resolution today. I think he'd be shocked to see the improvements we have made and how wonderfully our residents are being treated across the province by those hard-working front-line workers -- nurses, personal support workers, activities coordinators, administrators -- all those people who are bringing care to our residents and ensuring that wherever they live, in whichever of our 620 homes across the province, is truly a home for our seniors, where they can live with dignity and respect, and where the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and I are very committed to ensuring that they do live with dignity and respect every single day of their lives.
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I'm pleased to join the debate. I want to commend my colleague the member from Burlington, who is celebrating his 20th year in this Legislature. I can tell you without any reservation, Mr. Speaker, about my observation of what a strong advocate he has been on behalf of the frail and elderly in this province during all those 20 years.
I only have a few minutes, and I have a lot of things I'd like to put on the record. My mother -- and I'm sure this is an experience shared by many in this place -- is a resident of a nursing home, a fine home: Wellington House in Prescott. I am there on a weekly basis and have, I think, first-hand appreciation of the challenges they face in nursing homes in terms of staffing levels and other challenges. It happens to be a C home. The member from Burlington talked about the need for a plan on the part of this government to allow C homes in the province to expand to meet the needs of the approximately 31,000 residents who inhabit those homes in Ontario.
I've had the opportunity to visit Hilltop Manor in my riding recently and Carveth Care Centre in Gananoque -- excellent facilities. I met recently with Sherwood Park Manor, St. Lawrence Lodge and Mapleview Lodge.
Rather than get into a political discussion where we'll have this back and forth, I would like to put on the record again some observations made by Sherwood Park Manor at the finance committee pre-budget hearings in Kingston a few months ago.
Announced policy: "The government has publicly announced new funding" to long-term care "and significant enhancements.... They promised that all residents would have the right to two baths a week and that there would be an increase of 2,000 jobs...."
The reality: "In fact, no new money was received at all until October 2004, and then the amount barely covered the costs of service in place. Coming late in the year, it amounted to 0.5% of the 2004 budget. Carried into 2005, the ... funding becomes 2.5%.... These increases do not include `in and out' adjustments such as pay equity or case mix index adjustments."
Increased demands for care: "From the time of the announcement of the new funding in October, the provincial government gave us about two weeks to sign an amending agreement saying we would use the new money to provide two baths a week instead of the one required now -- an addition of 107 resident baths a week when our staffing and service are severely compromised already." The reality is that the new funds do not support any new staff, although they're placing these standards and requirements on these services. If they don't provide the baths, they receive citations of unmet standards. There are new draft standards, again, without the money being provided.
Food and accommodation: "The funding for raw food was not increased at all in 2004 and 2005, and yet we all know how the cost of food has increased."
The cost of petroleum-based products: There's no recognition for that.
We know that the nurses' association and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union are in for significant increases.
There's no recognition from this government with respect to those increasing challenges that the nursing home sector is facing.
The Acting Speaker: Before I recognize further debate, I would ask the minister and the member from Sarnia-Lambton: Please. Thank you.
Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): It's my pleasure to enter into this discussion. You may recall that fairly recently I was asking the Minister of Health about a particular facility that exists in my community that is quite controversial at this time, mostly because the previous government made some commitments around rebuilding this facility and the current government has decided -- well, hasn't really decided anything yet; I think that's the crux of the matter.
I find it interesting to hear the members of the government side talk about the things that I think, in our minds, we would all agree with in theory and we would all think are appropriate, like the dignity of people who need care, the fact that seniors and people who need some assistance in their daily living should be given some choice and that decisions about care should be made in connection with these people. It's not just a matter of warehousing people; it's a matter of ensuring that decent quality of life and decent standards of care are being provided in facilities.
The unfortunate reality, though, is that although it's nice rhetoric, that's not happening in my own community. I can simply point to a facility at Chedoke that was supposed to be rebuilt and have major investment. The people who are there right now -- as I speak, there are probably about 60 residents of that facility who are still there -- have been strung along for quite some time, several years now, by the previous government and initially this government. There are quotes from the health minister talking about what a great vision this new facility is going to be when it is built. He mocked me in the House, saying that I was the only one who believed the previous promises of the Conservative government in terms of their goals for building this facility. He was in the media himself extolling the virtues of this particular facility.
The thing that's problematic here is that nobody's prepared to be honest with these people. Nobody's prepared to actually be up front with these people and to say to them, "Yes, we'll build the facility," or "No, we won't." So they're still being strung along. In fact, I had Carolyn Bennett in my office last week. I'll be going up to the facility myself to talk to some of the residents. Why? Because it's important to actually do what you say you're going to do and to undertake the kinds of things that you claim you believe in, when it comes to providing dignity and ensuring that people's voices are heard.
It's a dismal situation in Hamilton, and not only the situation that exists with those residents at the Chedoke site right now. Not just that; not just the nasty way they've been dragged around and the way they're still not being told by government what is going to happen with their facility and with the future of their loved ones and of the people who are living in that residence. That's bad enough. But the other issue that's occurring there -- again, totally against the principles that are being expounded by members of government during this debate -- is that they are not being given the broadest range of options when their future is being discussed with them. At this point in time, they are being talked to about their future and are not at all being told, "Here are your options." Rather, they're basically being pressured, and it's a sad situation, because these are very vulnerable people. These are people who have had their hopes built up and dashed several times over probably the past decade or more in regard to this facility.
Now they're in a situation where they're being coaxed or convinced or prodded or just dealt with in an inappropriate way. They're being spoken to about whether or not they should be making some decisions fairly quickly about long-term care because their facility isn't going to be there for them; their facility is crumbling; their facility is in bad shape. Instead of having real choice, they're being pressured in a very subtle way to make choices about long-term care because the spectre of being stuck with the not very good homes is what's being put before them. "So you'd better hurry up and make a decision on where you're going to be going, because if you don't hurry up, all the good places are going to be gone."
That illustrates two things: One is, the talk is just that -- it's talk -- when it comes to respecting the dignity of people and the choices they have to make in terms of their care and support as they age and become unable to care for themselves. That's the first thing. The second thing is the idea that the long-term-care system is one that we can in any way be proud of. If, in this one small example, everybody in the system is indicating to people, "Well, you'd better make a decision quickly because the good places are all going to be gone," what it really says is that there are lots of not-good places that need a lot of improvement that the governments need to get a grip on. There's no way that anybody should be forced to have to decide to live in a place that has a bad reputation or that's not providing an appropriate quality of care.
I thought it was important to raise this issue because it's often the detailed situations in communities that reflect, that show, that illustrate what the problems are with the broader systems across the province. Certainly long-term care is one of those systems that is in crisis and has been for some time, notwithstanding what some of the members of the previous government are saying.
How do we know this? I just gave that example of the facility in my own community, but not so long ago we dealt with in this House -- in fact, my leader talked about -- the Casa Verde situation. That's another situation that illustrated problems within the long-term-care sector. People will remember that there is a coroner's inquest that investigated this case, that was asked to look into what happened in this facility, where violence occurred, where an older man was responsible for the deaths of a couple of his roommates in this facility. At that inquest, there was evidence brought that 11 homicides of this nature had taken place in Ontario long-term-care facilities since 1999. There were more than 3,000 cases of violence and aggression that had been reported.
It's safe to say that there's no one community or one facility that has this kind of concern. I think it's clear that the problems with the system are just that: They are system-wide, and we need to get a real handle on that because, with an aging population, as we all know, the propensity of people to be moving into these kinds of facilities is much greater as time goes on.
When the jury's findings were released, they indicated that the long-term-care system in Ontario was in crisis, that a major overhaul was needed as soon as possible, and that the province had not kept up with the diversity, the number and the mental health complications that existed in long-term-care facilities, with the residents of those facilities. Eighty-five recommendations were made in the Casa Verde inquest. That number itself is a damning indictment of the McGuinty government's lack of commitment to mental health and the physical health of our seniors and of the residents in long-term-care facilities.
Nonetheless, a number of other issues were raised in the Casa Verde inquest. Almost half of institutionalized seniors are showing some kind of aggression -- 50%. That means that this is an issue that definitely needs some response. One out of every three people will develop some form of dementia. Complaints about residents assaulting other residents and staff have grown exponentially over the past five years.
As a result of the inquest and the evidence brought before the jury, some recommendations were made. The unfortunate thing is that very few of these recommendations are being acted on. They're not recommendations that should be ignored; they're recommendations that will actually deal with the systemic problems. If the government will take the opportunity to take the advice of the people who looked into this one example and implement some of those changes, than maybe we'll see a system that begins to do what it needs to do in terms of providing appropriate and quality care, and a decent quality of life with dignity and comfort for the residents of the facilities.
What are some of those recommendations? They're fairly basic, and they are ones that any one of us would say make a lot of sense:
-- Minimum staff-to-resident ratios need to be implemented and assured.
-- Permanent staff needs to be hired in facilities, as opposed to contracting out, so that there is continuity of care, an understanding of the residents and their needs. I think one of the other members talked about having a loving and caring environment, as opposed to simply services. That's what would do that: having permanent staff, as opposed to just contract staff.
-- Mandatory reporting by long-term-care facilities on how nursing and personal care envelopes are spent.
-- Major changes to the way in which residents with dementia are cared for.
-- Finally -- well, not finally; there are many more; these are just the broad strokes of it -- basic revisions, fundamental revisions to the funding model. It's actually quite a coincidence that tomorrow morning the estimates committee will be reviewing long-term care in terms of the budget process. The estimates process tomorrow morning: I believe I'll be subbing in on that. It will be a good opportunity for me to spend some time doing much more specific examination of what's been happening in the long-term-care system, because I have to tell you that not only are there problems with the funding model, as far as I can understand it and from what I've been able to research in the notes that I've been provided and what I've looked into myself, but there are serious problems with a number of aspects.
So it's the funding model, yes, but it's also the standard of care and it's also the accountability regime. It's a number of things. It's not just a matter of saying, "Throw money at it," or making esoteric commitments about the number of nurses, but rather, how do we make sure that these plans or announcements are actually being implemented and followed up so that the theory is put into practice, and then the analysis is taking place to ensure that what is meant to be happening is actually happening?
Unfortunately, it appears as though that's not the case in the long-term-care system. We have significant problems in standards of care. Before the election, Dalton McGuinty railed against the Harris-Eves government's elimination of basic standards of care, promising to restore provincial standards of care for nursing home residents. He said, "Ontario Liberals are committed to reinstating the standards of care for nursing homes that were removed by the Harris-Eves government, including minimum 2.25 hours of nursing care daily and three baths per week."
Last October, the McGuinty Liberals broke that promise. There would be no 2.25 hours of care per resident. In fact, we're finding that because the government indicated a certain number of baths and didn't deal with all the other issues of standards of care, the facilities are just trading off. They're saying, "Gee, we have to make sure we get those baths in, so we're going to ignore other things that need to be done. We're going to ignore other components of the care of the residents," so that they can get these baths in.
I don't think that's what was intended; absolutely not. I'm sure that's not what was intended, but unfortunately, for the government it's just fine to announce, "This is going to be the standard," and not follow up to ensure that the standard they set is actually being effective and doing what needs to be done to make sure these residents are getting the care they need.
Let me give you another example. The Casa Verde inquest showed that residents of long-term-care facilities in Ontario received just a few minutes of direct registered nursing care per day. So the 2.25 hours of care that were supposed to be implemented, that the McGuinty Liberals had promised, never got done. Instead of the average of about 2.5 hours of care per resident, our residents of long-term-care facilities are not receiving anywhere near that -- a mere few minutes of care a day. That is completely unacceptable. We have some of the lowest levels in the whole country of care for people who are living in our long-term-care facilities.
What the jury said in this particular inquest is that standards are required for long-term-care facilities so that levels increase from where they are now, which are the lowest in the country, to over three hours of overall nursing and personal care for residents in long-term-care facilities. The examples go on in terms of what needs to be done.
Funding for the long-term-care system is something that has been neglected. Again, promises of hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to deal with this glaring problem -- and the government has reneged once again. There is a huge gap between the over $400 million that they promised and the amount that they've invested. Again, this is something that we'll be dealing with tomorrow morning in greater detail, but the promise, some people may recall, was for $420 million for long-term care. Eight months later, in May 2004, less than half of that amount was announced. Before the election: $420 million. What happens in the budget? Less than half was announced; only $191 million was announced.
That's not even the worst of it. The worst of it is that, up until October of last year, we still see that even that lesser amount, that less-than-half amount, has not been spent, has not been invested, and only $116 million has been provided to the base budgets of these facilities. So, not the $420 million, not the $191 million; now we're down to $116 million. Where's the $75 million in the gap between the lower amount and what actually flowed? It's completely inappropriate. The sad thing is that that's directly relating to the levels and quality of care that are provided to our most vulnerable seniors in Ontario. Vulnerable seniors are being cheated of decent care in our communities, and that's just a sad scene.
I have to say that the long-term-care priorities are not there for the government. Although they talk the talk, we see that the walk is not being walked. We have about 70,000 senior citizens and people who are vulnerable who live in more than 544 long-term-care facilities in Ontario. As I said earlier, that's a number that's only going to grow, and it's really time that we recognize that not only sufficient resources but sufficient accountability for those resources and appropriate standards are put in place once and for all so that quality of life is addressed for people who live in long-term-care facilities in Ontario.
Another issue that we raised in regard to the long-term-care system: You may recall that the leader of my party, Howard Hampton, brought to light in this House a case of a facility in Port Perry. We brought a group of nurses and personal support workers from Port Perry to visit us here in the Legislature and talk about some of the concerns they had. One of the things that came to light was that the community nursing home in Port Perry was having a reduced quality of care at the same time when the government was making all of these announcements about how long-term care was being improved. These people came to us and said, "We don't get it. The government's talking the talk, but we're seeing a reduction in quality at our particular community nursing home in Port Perry." We wanted to understand why it was that hundreds of hours of nursing and personal support were being cut -- totally opposite from what the government was claiming it was doing in the system. That was back in March.
Almost two months after we raised this issue in the Legislature, the community nursing home in Port Perry is still standing to lose about 111 hours of care per week. The Minister of Health said that "all members of this House can be assured that the dollars we have allocated ... will be spent on the provisions that were intended, which is in enhancing the quality of care for those most vulnerable residents."
Last October, Community Lifecare Management signed a service agreement with the ministry that obliges the operator to increase the care for the residents every day in return for increased ministry funding. The problem is, though, that there's nobody keeping an eye on the service agreement. The service agreements are being broken, being breached, and there's nobody to follow up, nobody making sure that those service agreements are actually being fulfilled.
Despite funding increases in August 2002, July 2003 and October 2004, Community Lifecare Management has not once hired staff to increase the number of hours of care, as per a requirement of the service agreement they signed with this government. The company has not kept their end of the bargain, yet they're getting the money. That's the crux of the problem when we talk about accountability in the system. It's not good enough to say, "We're going to fund it and we're going to make sure that we have standards," unless there's some kind of mechanism -- and it shouldn't be left to whistle-blowers -- to make sure that the investments are being appropriately directed to the people who need the care and not simply put in the pockets of those companies that are signing agreements willy-nilly with the government. That is totally inappropriate, and unfortunately it appears to be happening.
The service agreement states very clearly that "the operator shall apply the funding ... commencing January 1, 2005" -- and remember, they came in March, a couple of months later -- "to: increase registered nursing staff (registered nurses or registered practical nurses) representing new net nursing time per resident; and increase personal support workers and other direct care staffing representing new net personal support time per resident." That's fine. That's what the contract says, that's what is supposed to be done, and yet it's not being done. So the very contract that was signed isn't worth the paper it's written on; the very commitments that the government speaks to in this Legislature that they think they're accomplishing are not being accomplished in communities, are not being realized on the ground. That's a huge problem.
I don't understand it. I don't understand why this government is not prepared to enforce its own contracts. And when these things are raised in the Legislature and the government is put on notice that this is a problem, still nobody is paying attention to what's happening in that system.
Workers at the Extendicare nursing home in St. Catharines said that they're not allowed to change the diapers of residents who are incontinent. You'll recall that, again, this is an issue we raised in this Legislature. It's a disgusting situation. You want to talk about dignity; you want to talk about quality of life; you want to talk about providing care for people --
The Acting Speaker: Excuse me. The noise in this corner is overwhelming. I can't hear the speaker. Thank you.
Ms. Horwath: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
We brought to light this horrendous situation, here in the Legislature, where people were forced to sit in their own waste for hours on end because some chart, some measurement, was not reached to its fullest capacity and people were forced, I guess for money-saving purposes -- I don't know why somebody would do that, why somebody would force such indignity on other human beings. Obviously, it's to make sure that they're not paying too much in incontinence supplies, but there's just no excuse for it.
It's easy to talk about how we are committed to making change in the system, but until these kinds of practices are disallowed, are rooted out, are prevented from recurring, we're not going to have the kind of change we need; we're not going to have the kind of dignity and quality of life that we like to talk about in this Legislature when we're looking at long-term care facilities.
I think the bottom line is very clear when it comes to this system and its neglect. I'm not going to go on and on about what happened a decade ago or two decades ago or what happened five years ago. I think it's clear that the writing is on the wall that changes need to happen, and they need to happen now. In fact, the Casa Verde inquest was quite clear on what some of those changes need to be. There is really no excuse for them not to be implemented. I would hope that the $420 million that was promised by the McGuinty Liberals maybe will see the light of day next week, with their second budget. Wouldn't that be a nice surprise? What we really need to see is the government recognizing, admitting and making commitments to the fact that having a $6,000-per-resident investment in quality of life for people in long-term-care facilities was the promise they made and that's the promise they need to keep.
Until they do that, we're going to continue, unfortunately, to hear horror stories about what's happening not only to individuals but to their families. For people who are living in long-term-care facilities -- and I know; my grandma is in one. It's really, really difficult to go there and discover that your loved one or someone else's loved one has been sitting in their own urine or in their own waste for hours on end, has not been bathed for four or five days, does not have any opportunity for entertainment or for quality of life or for any type of recreational input because nobody has the time, because there's not enough staff, because there aren't enough nursing resources, because the contracts are not being lived up to, because the money is not being invested, because the government is not forcing accountability into the system.
While the government has made a lot of promises around long-term care, about the hiring of care providers, about standards, I think it's really clear, and what we've seen so far is that those investments are not being realized in the way they are supposed to be realized. So already the reduced investments, the paltry amount that the government put in, in comparison to what they promised, even that is not having the effect it could have because the agreements are not being followed up on. And nobody is watching to ensure that those dollars that were very specifically supposed to go into nursing and personal care are not going there. I don't know where they're going, but in some cases, in the ones we've been showing in this Legislature and the ones we've been illustrating here in this very place, it's really clear that the money is not going where it's supposed to go. So this should be a big concern to government. I'm really looking forward to our committee tomorrow, where we can spend some more time on specific questions around how the government expects to put accountability into this system.
The reality is that in this Ontario, in Dalton McGuinty's Ontario, people are being left behind. Unfortunately, in this particular case it's people who are senior citizens, people who are our most vulnerable, people who need this kind of care and support, people who are living in long-term-care facilities. Those are the people who are being left behind. Why is that? Because the McGuinty government has broken so many promises. You can ask anybody, and they have been personally disappointed in one way or another by broken promises: promises to parents, promises to children, promises to workers, and of course today we're talking about broken promises to seniors. It appears that all those promises that were made, all those things that people got excited about during the last election, every day their hopes are being dashed more and more because of this government's lack of action, this government's lack of commitment to fulfilling the obligation, fulfilling the contract they made with the people of Ontario to fix the services that were falling apart. The Minister of Health tearfully promised legislation, "It's going to happen. We're going to make this work. We're going to fix it." Lo and behold, there's nothing. It never came.
Regulations are being quoted, standards are being espoused, but nothing's really happening. In reality, these things are not being done. It's quite easy to hide behind service agreements and say, "Yes, this is what's happening. We've signed on the dotted line. We've got the commitment." But again, the commitment is a house of cards because nobody is enforcing those agreements. Nobody is making sure that what is being committed to by the contractor is actually being realized by the resident, and that is a problem.
So the tears that were shed a year and a half ago over the treatment of seniors in long-term care have long ago dried up. They've been forgotten by this government and they've been forgotten by this minister. The Casa Verde jury said, "Nursing homes are in dire need of more funding, stiffer regulations and better-trained workers." We knew this a year and a half ago. The minister admitted it. But unfortunately here we are, months and months down the road, and nothing really has changed.
They said there should be a fixed staff-to-resident ratio, something the minister doesn't even bother to monitor.
They also said that the funding model doesn't make sense, because even if the resident population remains stable, the funding does not. I'll be getting into more of those details tomorrow at committee, but if the funding model doesn't work for the residents, and what we're saying is that we want the system to work for the residents, it's pretty clear that there needs to be a major overhaul of the funding model. Again, I haven't seen any commitment to that overhaul.
They said that the McGuinty government needs to revise the funding system presently in place within the next fiscal year. I don't hold out much hope, seeing the way this government operates, seeing the way they are so able to break the promises they make to Ontarians. I really hope that in this particular case, with these very vulnerable people, with these people whose quality of life, whose basic personal dignity, whose existence, quite frankly, we should all be very concerned about. I hope that with this group this government might finally keep a promise. These people really do need your help. They really do need to make sure that your promises on investment, your promises on accountability, your promises on standard of care, your promises on personal care workers and nursing staff, on ratios and on not only baths but hours of attention and time that these very vulnerable people need for their quality of life, are really the promises you should be keeping. You should be making sure that none of us can get up. That would be the ultimate response. The ultimate response would be that none of us would be able to get up and criticize the government, that the system will be changed, that your promises do get made, so that we can turn around and say, for once, "Gee, the government did the right thing."
That would be a nice thing to do. In fact, I would like for that to happen. I would be the first one up on my feet saying congratulations to the government if they did what they need to do, if they followed the recommendations, if they implemented the recommendations of the Casa Verde inquest, if they listened to the front-line service providers in those facilities who are saying, "You're signing the contracts and you're giving the operator the money, but it's not going to the staff. It's not going to the hours of service that are being provided to the residents of our particular facility." It's really a matter of making sure that not only is the money in the budget, so maybe next week we will all be surprised and be able to get up and laud the government for keeping their promises on the $420 million -- that would be a nice start. But that's only a start, because the system that the minister so tearfully bemoaned and indicated was in such a bad mess and really needed a great deal of attention is still in a big mess and still needs a great deal of attention, and yes, it needs the investment. But it needs a heck of a lot more than just the investment.
The investment would be a start -- and we hopefully can hear that next week -- but I've got to tell you that unless the report that the previous speaker was talking about earlier gets off the shelf and we start getting the dust off that report and start implementing some of the changes that need to be made, unfortunately, five years from now we'll look back and say, "Gee, another five years have gone by"; another government that's done nothing about the long-term-care situation, another government that talks the talk when it comes to dealing with vulnerable residents of Ontario's long-term-care facilities and another number of deaths, another number of horrible incidents that we should all be ashamed of are happening to our seniors and vulnerable members of our communities.
I'm running out of time. But I do have to say that I think there is hope here. I would like to be one of the first members of the opposition to get up and congratulate the government that they've fixed the system. Like our children, our seniors can't always advocate on their own behalf and they need our voices -- both the ones on the opposition side and the ones on the government side -- to make sure they get the things they need to have a decent quality of life in their golden years, in their difficult last years, oftentimes. If it's my mom or my grandma or my granddad or yours, you want to have the best care for them, and the responsibility is in the hands of the McGuinty government to live up to its promises and to do the right thing by these senior citizens and residents of long-term-care facilities in Ontario.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate, the member from Essex.
Mr. Bruce Crozier (Essex): Thank you, Speaker. For that you get another Smartie, but I'll explain that on another day.
It's a pleasure for me to get up and speak to this motion today because, coincidentally, I am going to visit the Country Village nursing home in Woodslee this Friday as part of the Take Your MPP to Work Day for the registered nursing association. It won't be the first visit I've made to the Country Village nursing home, nor will it be to others that are in my area.
I think what we should be debating or discussing today is not so much the specific content of this motion but the fact that there should be somewhere in it a recognition that this government, the McGuinty government, is in fact keeping its promise to our senior citizens when it comes to our work, our expenditure and our commitment to nursing homes and to the residents of those nursing homes in the province.
I can go through a number of things that would indicate that we are certainly moving in that direction much more rapidly than has been done in the recent past, and with good cause. I don't think there's anybody in this Legislature who doesn't consider the elderly, and particularly those who are resident in nursing homes, as needing the care that they're entitled to. When you think back, just a short time ago we heard horror stories of residents in nursing homes who weren't getting the proper care, and we owe that to all of them. The families of those who reside in nursing homes should feel confident in the fact that their loved ones are being taken care of, and that they're being taken care of just the same as you and I would want to be taken care of were we in that same position. We're working toward that.
Our residents in nursing homes now get two baths a week. I, in fact, heard stories in some instances where they weren't even previously getting one bath a week.
We were the first in some 19 years to increase the comfort allowance of residents in nursing homes. The comfort allowance, for those at home who may not know, is the allowance that residents are allowed to keep for some of those personal things that they like to have. It might be a little bit of candy; it might be a flower from time to time. But it's those little things; people feel some independence when they can have the opportunity to buy something for themselves.
I can also remember one hot summer day several years ago when the former government tried to increase the daily cost to residents by some 15%. That was really an unfair move at the time. We took steps as soon as we could to eliminate that. So some of these little things that you can do mean an awful lot to the residents in the homes.
I can talk a lot about the amount of money that's been allocated above and beyond what has been allocated by those previously. You know, we can provide bricks and mortar, but that isn't really what it's all about. The residents in our nursing homes can expect to live in safe, secure surroundings. We can increase the care for the residents of our nursing homes, and that's no more than they should be able to expect. They should be able to expect a clean room to live in, clean beds to sleep in, nurses to work with them and staff to work with them and keep them comfortable.
But the one thing the government can't provide is that loving, compassionate care from a visit of a relative or friend. There's nothing that bothers me more than going to a nursing home when I, as a stranger, get thanked for the visit I've made, when you know that that resident hasn't had anyone else visit them in the past. In many nursing homes there are good home care groups, volunteers who go into nursing homes and help care for the residents. But let's all remember that there's nothing that can take the place of the compassion and love of a friend who visits them. When we're not there, when it's our relatives or friends, we need to live with the understanding that they are being taken care of in our absence. So I can say with some confidence that this government is working toward that end, and I think we're making progress. With that, I will say thank you for the opportunity to make these few comments.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): It's a pleasure to get up and respond to the member from Burlington, who has put forward this opposition day motion to bring to the attention of the people of Ontario the plight that our long-term-care facilities find themselves in.
It's my responsibility, as the member for Durham, to first acknowledge and thank many of those persons both in the administration and the front-line duties of the nursing homes like Strathaven Lifecare Centre, which is in Bowmanville, and its administrator, Patrick Brown. They've had their struggles over the last while. I have been there and I have worked with them to resolve the ongoing relationship with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Marnwood Lifecare Centre, with Tracey Werheid, is also in Bowmanville -- very highly respected, a 58-bed unit with two respite beds. Strathaven, as I mentioned earlier, is 170 long-term-care beds. Fosterbrooke is probably the more friendly environment of all of the homes I go to often. I find its 81-bed unit in Newcastle, with Tina Bravos, is not the most modern facility, but it's a very, very caring facility. Wynfield is one of the new ones built under the 20,000 new long-term-care beds that started probably when Cam Jackson was minister. I know just how hard he personally has worked with Katherine Jackson, the senior administrator there, who has been very instrumental in keeping me informed. I have visited there, and visited with many of the patients, so I want to put that on the record as thanking them, the staff, for making the lives of seniors and those who are dependent on others for much of their care.
What is missing here is a real partnership with the ministry. If you look at the work done in our time, we increased the funding and we increased the number of long-term-care beds after the many years they were ignored.
I want to bring to bear the Community Nursing Home in Port Perry. Kim Mitchell is the administrator. I've been there two or three times in the last while. The issue has been raised in the House, and I'm going to raise the issue here. On January 17, 2005, I sent a letter -- I actually hand-delivered a letter -- to George Smitherman. I'm going to read it:
"Minister, recently your long-term-care staff completed a review of Community Lifecare Inc. (Community Nursing Home, Port Perry.) This 107-bed facility had its review during September and October of 2004. The final report from the compliance officer was received January 5, 2005.
"As was mentioned in MPP Monique Smith's report entitled Commitment to Care: A Plan for Long-Term Care in Ontario, the case mix index," often referred to as CMI, "`remains problematic.' A staff person at Community Lifecare Inc., Ms. Dorothy Algar, has indicated that the front-line staff are often too busy to fully complete their reports, which are used to determine the CMIs. As a result, the CMI is under 6, which means a reduction in funding. The front-line staff are concerned that patient care will be affected by the elimination of five staff positions.
"With the recent changes in service level requirements (two baths per week etc.), the loss of front-line staff is problematic. Ms. Algar and others wish to know if the cuts could come from areas other than the nursing envelope. They have also asked for a review of their CMI," which is 5.4, just barely under. "They feel the CMI of 6 is extremely dependent on their documentation," which I mentioned.
"The recent funding challenge will be evident very soon with layoffs" taking place just recently. I respectfully asked for some kind of review and compliance.
The minister's staff, the communication staff -- I've called because of the meetings I had upcoming. They ignored it. They promised the letter. I waited. They promised. I'm still waiting for that letter. It's one more indication of the lack of responsiveness from a government that's become more and more rigid and basically arrogant with respect to the needs of seniors in this province.
I stand, as do many members on this side, behind Elizabeth Witmer and the work she did, as well as Cam Jackson and the work he has done. I can say without question that I'll be supporting this opposition day motion. With that, there are many other members on our side who are dying to tell the stories of people and their lives.
My final remark would be that my mother-in-law, Madge Hall -- some of you have heard me mention her name before -- is actually a resident of Centennial long-term-care centre in Millbrook, Ontario. I send my regards to her. She watches every day. I've programmed the television so she can get it. I have a little tape recorder there. I'm just going to say, "Hello, Madge. We'll see you this weekend."
Ms. Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): I'm pleased to be part of the debate on this opposition day motion, which has been brought forward by the member from Burlington, who says that we have to have an effective strategy to rebuild or upgrade the older long-term-care homes across Ontario.
I say that I am pleased to be part of this discussion because, of course, the member from Burlington was a former cabinet minister and also a part of a government for eight years that certainly has a record they have to defend, I would suggest.
We have been in government for a year and a half. If we were to make a comparison of what we have done in the year and a half against the track record of what was done in eight years under the Conservatives, we would see a dramatic increase in positive outcomes that we are delivering in our year and a half over the eight years of the Conservatives. Let me explain.
Our government under Dalton McGuinty, which has been in place for a year and a half, has taken some significant steps to enhance services to these facilities. We know that we have an aging population, but also a population that lives longer. Long-term-care facilities and the demographics are going to -- we have to continuously improve the services in these facilities. We all agree that many improvements are needed in the physical structures as well. I want to put on the record the significant steps we have taken to improve the services to long-term care. The services needed to be built first; now it's the service, the extra staff, the extra care that's needed.
What we've done significantly there is that we've invested $191 million to increase the standards in long-term care. What does it include? It includes the funding to hire 2,000 staff; it includes 600 nurses and 1,400 other staff such as personal support workers. That is significant. Why? Because after eight years under the previous government, we had instead a deterioration of standards. That deterioration of standards is evident in the auditor's report. In 2002, in his report, the Provincial Auditor noted that between 1997 and 1999, fewer than half of all nursing homes were inspected annually. So we're talking about standards. You have bricks and mortar, but you also have standards on how care is being delivered.
None of the long-term-care homes that were reviewed by the auditor in 2002 had a valid licence. In fact, 15% of them had licences that had been expired for a year and a half. That comes from the provincial auditor's report of 2002.
I would suggest that the reason we must rebuild the services -- the member from Burlington said we have to rebuild the services. Well, services evolve. It doesn't just happen in one fell swoop that you have a good service or a bad service. In these systems, they evolve over time. The fact that we have a member who was part of a government and part of a cabinet now saying that after a year and a half that we're in government, they're challenging us to rebuild the services speaks to the erosion that took place for eight years and the challenges we're faced with in rebuilding the system.
We are rebuilding the system, and in a way that is effective, that has quality care. We are going to, long term, continue to build that infrastructure instead of erode it. In those eight years, and there's evidence in the auditor's report, not only did the services and lowering of the standards -- what has compounded the problem of long-term-care facilities is that by not having enough long-term-care beds at the time, they carried out this revolution of closing hospitals, of cutting hospital beds, and at the same time we don't have enough beds in long-term-care facilities. So we went through a revolution of eight years in this province that we now -- let's put it this way: It had a draconian effect on all our services -- the holes it left in terms of what we have to do. But we're doing it.
We introduced unannounced inspections in January 2004. This resulted in 482 unannounced annual inspections, 2,528 unannounced compliance visits, a 61% increase in overall inspections. Why? Because government has a responsibility to make sure the services that are being provided are up to snuff. That's our responsibility, and that was not there.
I would suggest that this motion speaks to the erosion of care that took place prior to us coming into government, because for a member of a very recent government to stand up and again challenge us to rebuild a service indicates that it needs to be rebuilt. So I will stack up our record in a year and a half against eight years of erosion of long-term-care facilities in this province.
Ms. Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Victoria-Brock): It's my pleasure to rise today to speak in favour of the motion brought forward by the member from Burlington, who has been a strong advocate for seniors in long-term-care facilities in this province.
Today we're debating the motion -- just for the people at home -- that, "In the opinion of the House, the McGuinty government must keep its election promise to our oldest, most frail and vulnerable citizens by providing an increase in long-term-care operating funding and introduce an effective strategy to rebuild and/or upgrade long-term-care homes" across the province in 2005.
Just for the record, the member opposite was commenting on the state of long-term-care centres in Ontario. It was the previous government that made the record investments, and I know that in my riding alone there used to be three- and four-year waiting lists. We do not have those waiting lists any longer.
They promised that they would add $6,000 in care for every resident. Well, we'd like to see the plan, because so far, there hasn't been a plan to help seniors. They've delisted the chiropractic. They instituted the health care tax that even residents of our long-term-care facilities have to pay. So they are paying more and getting less. They repealed the education property tax and the vehicle tax credit that helped seniors maintain their independence and mobility. They repealed the seniors' tax credit, and the electricity rates haven't done anything for the people on fixed incomes. They're bribing doctors to reduce prescriptions and they're introducing reference-based pricing for drugs that seniors depend on.
Long-term-care facilities are facing a number of challenges. One of those which has an impact throughout my riding is the requirement that they maintain a 97% occupancy level in order to qualify for full funding. In my riding, we have a large number of seniors. Haliburton county is the highest in Ontario for population of seniors, at 24%; 19% in Kawartha Lakes; 16% in Brock. The average for the entire province is only 12%. That puts into perspective the number of seniors who are in my riding and who will be accessing long-term-care facilities.
The Durham, Haliburton, Kawartha and Pine Ridge District Health Council that your government did away with worked hard at keeping track of what the health care needs are for our area. In 2003, they observed that with one quarter of the population in Haliburton county over the age of 65, there is a need to plan for age-appropriate health care services, including long-term-care supports and services.
I appreciate the long-term-care homes. There has been a lot of talk today about the number of baths that are available. Just for the record, the staff in most of those long-term-care centres go above and beyond the requirements. I want to compliment them for taking care of our seniors in long-term-care facilities. I'm in full support of this member's motion today.
Ms. Kathleen O. Wynne (Don Valley West): I'm really happy to speak to this motion today, and the first thing I want to do is make a comment that it's an interesting opposition motion in light of the Leader of the Opposition's questions in question period today. It seems to me that this opposition day motion is asking for more money to be spent on services, and it seems to me that the questions that Mr. Tory was asking in question period had to do with cutting services, in fact. He's really not interested in increasing services; he's interested in cutting services, and I think that demonstrates that there's a real conflict over on the other side of the House.
Having said that, I want to commend my colleague the member for Nipissing on the work she has done on this file. It is outstanding. I sit very close to the member for Nipissing, and I've watched her, over the past months, put together a plan that is going to revolutionize and make huge changes in long-term care in this province.
The goal of a responsible government has to be a higher standard for quality of life for all of our citizens, and that means whether we're talking about a citizen who's a four-year-old in a kindergarten class, in a class that needs to be smaller, a grade 12 student who's looking for a place in a post-secondary institution, or a rural citizen who wants the assurance that his or her lifestyle is going to be supported in terms of sustainable farming and clean water. Those are all things that citizens in this province need to be able to count on their government to provide and monitor.
Along with that goes the care of our elderly in long-term-care homes and nursing homes. Families need to feel assured that the responsible government of the day has got standards in place and is going to monitor and fund those standards. That is what we're doing.
It's all very well to talk about the dollar amounts. We have put new money into the system. My colleagues have spoken to that, and I'll talk about it in a moment. But if there are no standards, then we are wasting taxpayers' money, and that's not what responsible government is about. In some cases, those responsibilities can be dispatched with increased funding alone, but increased funding without a vision of what it is we're trying to accomplish is a waste of taxpayers' dollars. What we're doing is putting in place a plan and initiatives that will fulfill the vision that we have of high-quality care for our elderly in our nursing care and our long-term-care homes.
As I said, we are putting money in. There's been $191 million to implement the standards that are being put in place across the province. That combination of money and standards -- some of my colleagues have talked about higher standards, in terms of two baths a week and more personal care needs being met, the reinstatement of the registered nurse on-site at all times, the reunion of spouses, and the requirement that meal plans be reviewed and delivered by a dietitian. Those are the standards that need to be in place in order to guarantee higher-quality care in our nursing care homes, and that's what we're funding.
It has been remarked by my colleagues that the members of the opposition who are bringing forward this motion actually lowered those standards. I think what we're looking at here is that again, on another front in society in Ontario, we're trying to catch up. We're trying to put back in place some of the guarantees and the protections that were removed by the previous government.
So what's happening on the ground? We can talk about the grand plan, we can talk about the big dollar numbers, but what's happening on the ground? I called two of the long-term-care homes in Don Valley West just to check on what's happening: Suomi-Koti, which means "my home" in Finnish, and also Taylor Place centre, which is called Thompson House, in Don Mills. What I heard was that our plan is working. Both centres said to me that the guidelines, the standards, are a very good idea and they need to be in place. Both of these homes had high standards in place to start out with. That's one of the things we need to remember, that there are many homes across the province that are delivering very high-quality care. So for those homes, the transition's not going to be so difficult.
They both said the standards are excellent. They need to be in place. The Thompson House folks said to me that, in fact, the funding has helped enormously. They've been able to hire one new full-time personal support worker, two part-time personal support workers and two new RPNs. So they've actually got increased staffing, which is what we intended. We intended that high-quality care be delivered by increased staffing, and that's what's happening. They both mentioned that the money for new medical equipment and lifts has been enormously helpful.
On the ground, in our ridings, the standards that we're putting in place are being implemented. They are improving the quality of care for residents in our long-term-care homes, and surely that's what responsible government is about. Surely responsible government is about actually seeing impacts on the ground. We can stand in this House and throw large dollar amounts around; we can talk about large amounts of money; we can respond to the accusations of the opposition by saying, "Yes, we've invested this number of millions of dollars in our long-term-care homes." The reality is that, yes, we've done that. Yes, we've put in money but, even more importantly, we have increased the standards. The standards are being implemented and the quality of life for people in our long-term-care homes is going up.
Mr. John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): I am very pleased to stand in support of my colleague from Burlington on today's opposition day motion. In fact, he has been a very, very strong advocate of care for seniors throughout his 20-year career here in the Legislature.
I met with administrators of the long-term-care centres of my riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke a couple weeks ago. I have Bonnechere Manor, Miramichi Lodge, Groves Park Lodge, Caressant Care, Marianhill, The Grove, Valley Manor, North Renfrew Long-Term Care and the Deep River hospital, which is the Four Seasons Long-Term-Care Facility. We met with them a couple of weeks ago, and one thing that they have a huge concern about is that the --
Mr. Yakabuski: I mentioned that, Monique; thank you. The government and the member from Nipissing did an evaluation of long-term-care centres throughout the province and they came up with a bunch of new standards. All of the administrators agree that the standards were welcome. However, you cannot impose standards on people without flowing some money for them to be able to implement those standards, and the money simply hasn't been flowed. You're expecting long-term-care centres to increase the amount of personal care, but you're not increasing the amount of funds with which they have to deliver it, and they're finding that to be extremely difficult. Plus, all of these new standards are forcing them into greater amounts of paperwork and administration.
I ask you one thing: When you're looking at our oldest people -- and the average age of the people in our long-term-care centres today in my riding is 86 years old. Sometimes what is more important is ensuring the political side of things, so that the government can say, "These are the standards we've implemented. This is what we're doing." You've got people filling out paperwork as opposed to continuing to give that personal, compassionate care they are so noted for giving the people in our long-term-care centres. What they are being forced to do by this government, because they're not giving them the money, is to take these quality people away from their job of providing that care to the people and filling out paperwork. That's a great deal of stress on those people because what they really want to be doing is caring for these individuals, the old and the frail who need it the most.
I could go on for a long time about what this government is not doing -- not keeping its promises -- but we've grown to expect that from this government. My time is up, and there is another speaker. I want to pass that time on to another member of our party who has also been a strong advocate for seniors in her time here.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The member from Waterloo-Wellington. No.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer (Kitchener-Waterloo): Kitchener-Waterloo; you're close.
The Acting Speaker: Kitchener-Waterloo. Sorry, my apologies.
Mrs. Witmer: I have just a couple of minutes, but I want to speak this afternoon very briefly in support of the motion put forward by my colleague Mr. Jackson, that "In the opinion of this House, the McGuinty government must keep its election promise to our oldest, most frail and vulnerable citizens by providing an increase in long-term-care operating funding and introducing an effective strategy to rebuild and/or upgrade the older long-term-care homes across Ontario in the 2005 provincial budget." Of course that was addressed to the Premier of the province.
I also want to congratulate my colleague Mr. Jackson on the work he's undertaken as the critic with responsibility for long-term care and seniors, and his very strong advocacy efforts on behalf of those individuals in this province. I think everyone in this House is well aware of the fact that this was an area that had been neglected for years and years, and it wasn't until the Conservative government was elected in 1995 that steps were finally taken to improve and expand the quality of accommodation available to those who needed accommodation in long-term-care homes.
In fact, it was our government that made the announcement of $1.2 billion. That allowed for the creation and construction of 20,000 new beds, plus we also embarked upon a program of rebuilding old beds.
This motion here today speaks to the need to continue to put in place an upgrading of the older long-term-care beds. I would say to this government: Keep your promise. Look after these frail and elderly people.
Ms. Jennifer F. Mossop (Stoney Creek): I'm very pleased to stand up and speak to this motion today. It's interesting. I started my day when all of you were here and engaging in, shall we call it, the antics of question period, and I was doing a foxtrot or something of that nature at the Legion in my riding of Stoney Creek with some veterans. I think we were dancing to Tipperary at that point. This is appropriate, because there were about 200 seniors in that room, many of whom were veterans, who fought in a number of the wars of the 20th century, who are still with us, and who, yes, are looking at potentially being in long-term-care facilities at some point, probably in the not-too-distant future.
When we think of the contribution of those individuals, it's unrivalled by any contribution that anybody has ever made to their country. It's almost impossible for us to adequately thank them and pay tribute to that contribution, except that we must continue to always try to find ways to thank them and recognize what they have done. One of the ways is to make sure that, down the road, when the time comes when they need to be in a long-term-care facility, we are providing them with the best possible care.
Let's face it. Everybody in this room, if we are lucky enough, will probably end up in a long-term-care facility, because we will have lived long enough. We will have survived all of life's many challenges and hurdles and will actually get to that final spot where we are living out the last chapter of our lives. Nobody -- no one party, I don't think -- has a monopoly on compassion. We all want the best for our seniors, our parents, our grandparents and, potentially one day down the road, ourselves.
Like many of my colleagues in this House, I have visited long-term-care facilities in my riding. I was at one not that long ago, quite recently, and discussed with the administrator, with the staff, with the patients, the changes this government has brought in. Quite frankly, they were very pleased with what had been taking place. They said that for the first time in a very long time, they had a real voice at the table. Their concerns were being responded to. Money was being flowed; services were being provided; support was being provided in a very real way.
We talk about money, but we came through the door and did two things right off the bat. We dispatched the member from Nipissing to do a complete top-to-bottom review and assessment of long-term-care facilities in this province, and she did a spectacular job all over this province, visiting people. All the people I talked to who are in this community know her name, and know it well, and they are really pleased with the report and the recommendations she came back with, and the fact that we're acting on that.
The other thing that happened pretty quickly was that $191 million flowed out the door to support long-term-care facilities. That is a pretty significant down payment on the commitment we made, and we did it right away -- more than 30% right away. Bang. "There you go; let's get moving and let's start making those changes." And it makes sense to do them incrementally but as fast as we possibly can.
I want to talk a little bit just to make sure that everybody understands the changes that we have made and have acted on, despite what you may have been hearing this afternoon. One of the things that I'm not sure has been mentioned, but the equipment and the support that we've provided for nurses, the lifts and things like that, are just really, really practical help and make life better for the patient and the staff. That's incredibly important.
But I just want to go over a few of the things. It was pretty disgraceful. One of the saddest things that I heard during the campaign was that standards had dropped so far under the previous government that people living in long-term-care facilities, if they were lucky, were getting one bath a week, and that's it. We have changed that. One of the first things we did was to change that and to increase that standard right away. That's just a huge difference; it's just a basic human, compassionate thing that had to be dealt with right away. So let's just mark how far we had to come from.
We also reinstated the requirement that long-term cares have a registered nurse on-site at all times. We provided a set of requirements that will support reunification of spouses in long-term-care homes -- again, just something very human, very simple. We're not talking about dollars; we're just talking about being human and considerate -- the things that we all would want to have. We required that all meal plans be reviewed and approved by a dietitian, and this again is just a common sense thing that should be done to keep our elderly as healthy as they possibly can. And we increased the comfort allowance for the first time in 19 years.
We have done a tremendous amount, we continue to do much, and we look forward to working with that community and making sure that our seniors have the best that they deserve.
The Acting Speaker: Mr. Jackson has moved opposition day motion number 3. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard some noes.
All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion, the nays have it.
There being five members, call in the members; there will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1747 to 1757.
The Acting Speaker: Order. Members will please take their seats.
All those in favour of the motion will please stand and be recognized by the Clerk.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Runciman, Robert W.
The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will please stand and be recognized by the Clerk.
Broten, Laurel C.
Brown, Michael A.
Cansfield, Donna H.
Di Cocco, Caroline
Flynn, Kevin Daniel
Mossop, Jennifer F.
Racco, Mario G.
Van Bommel, Maria
Wong, Tony C.
Wynne, Kathleen O.
The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 15; the nays are 45.
The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion lost.
It now being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 1800.