39e législature, 1re session

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO

ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO

Thursday 19 February 2009 Jeudi 19 février 2009

ORDERS OF THE DAY

FAMILY STATUTE LAW
AMENDMENT ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 MODIFIANT DES LOIS
EN CE QUI CONCERNE
LE DROIT DE LA FAMILLE

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

ORAL QUESTIONS

ONTARIO ECONOMY

ONTARIO ECONOMY

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

GREEN POWER GENERATION

ONTARIO ECONOMY

POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION

ONTARIO ECONOMY

MINIMUM WAGE

CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES

DIALYSIS

HOSPITAL FUNDING

MINISTER'S EXPENSES

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

MINISTER'S EXPENSES

MUNICIPALITIES

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

HERITAGE WEEK

GÉRALD "CHUCK" CHARLEBOIS

PESTICIDES

CHILD CARE

FAMILY DAY

HEALTH CARE

SKILLS TRAINING

INTERNATIONAL
MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY

ONTARIO ECONOMY

REPORTS BY COMMITTEES

STANDING COMMITTEE ON
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

VISUAL FIRE ALARM SYSTEM
ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 SUR LES SYSTÈMES
D'ALARME-INCENDIE
À AFFICHAGE VISUEL

INACTIVE CEMETERIES
PROTECTION ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 SUR LA PROTECTION
DES CIMETIÈRES INACTIFS

1173931 ONTARIO LIMITED ACT, 2009

MOTIONS

COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP

PETITIONS

NON-PROFIT HOUSING

CHILD CUSTODY

MOTORCYCLE SAFETY

FIREARMS CONTROL

HEALTH CARE

POPE JOHN PAUL II

ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS

TOM LONGBOAT

POPE JOHN PAUL II

JUSTICE SYSTEM

BATHURST HEIGHTS
ADULT LEARNING CENTRE

PRIVATE MEMBERS'
PUBLIC BUSINESS

POPE JOHN PAUL II DAY ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 SUR LE JOUR
DU PAPE JEAN-PAUL II

CURRICULUM

ONTARIO AWARD FOR PARAMEDIC
BRAVERY ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009
SUR LE PRIX DE BRAVOURE
DES AUXILIAIRES MÉDICAUX
DE L'ONTARIO

POPE JOHN PAUL II DAY ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 SUR LE JOUR
DU PAPE JEAN-PAUL II

CURRICULUM

ONTARIO AWARD FOR PARAMEDIC
BRAVERY ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009
SUR LE PRIX DE BRAVOURE
DES AUXILIAIRES MÉDICAUX
DE L'ONTARIO


   

The House met at 0900.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Good morning. Please remain standing for the Lord's Prayer, followed by an Islamic prayer.

Prayers.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

FAMILY STATUTE LAW
AMENDMENT ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 MODIFIANT DES LOIS
EN CE QUI CONCERNE
LE DROIT DE LA FAMILLE

Mr. Bentley moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 133, An Act to amend various Acts in relation to certain family law matters and to repeal the Domestic Violence Protection Act, 2000 / Projet de loi 133, Loi modifiant diverses lois en ce qui concerne des questions de droit de la famille et abrogeant la Loi de 2000 sur la protection contre la violence familiale.

Hon. Christopher Bentley: It is a great privilege to be able to stand and address the members of this House, and those who will be watching, on this very important issue. The legislation we bring before the House today is legislation that all members of the House are not only interested in but have been calling for in various forms for some period of time.

I want to say at the outset, as I said when we announced and introduced this on November 24 last year, that the provisions in this bill are very much the product of comments and active lobbying of members of this House of all parties. They strike and they touch the very heart of our society: the family. They affect the soul of our society: our children. We are always working to make sure that what we can do as a Legislature will support that heart and that soul.

When families break up, when families are under severe stress, it can wrench not only those involved but affect the fabric of society. What we need and what we are addressing through this legislation are the tools to assist children who might be at risk, to assist partners in a relationship who might be under threat, to assist where the family is breaking up and to assist the fair resolution of the issues so that all parties can get on with their lives.

So we've introduced this piece of legislation that touches, as I say, a number of very important issues, and I, in these remarks, would like to address a number of those areas. It will be, if passed by this House, the most significant reform to the relevant legislation in several decades.

I want to let members of the House know that as they were actively lobbying and actively speaking about a number of the issues that have found their way into this bill, I was travelling the province and speaking to members of the judiciary, members of the bar and members of the public about our justice system generally, about our determination to make our system of justice faster, more accessible and more effective for the people we serve. And the people we serve are the people of Ontario.

We are looking and actively working to make sure our criminal justice system meets those needs, that our civil justice system meets those needs and that our family justice system meets those needs, because as I was travelling the province and speaking to, as I say, members of the judiciary, lawyers and members of the public about criminal justice or civil justice, they all wanted to return to a discussion about family law. And they had several key concerns: First, that issues that have been debated in this Legislature for a decade had still not been ultimately resolved. Key among those was the safety of partners in a relationship who were under threat from the other partner.

They had concerns about legislation that hadn't been looked at or amended in almost two decades and which, in its form, was actually causing extended stays in the courts when we should be getting to the decision points in legislation faster.

They had concerns about the family law process itself, which has been slowing down, getting increasingly costly and in some cases has in fact been making difficult times for families even more trying.

I say, on the latter score, that this piece of legislation will touch on a few of those issues, but we are now actively working as a government, and will be working with the parties opposite, on procedural and process reforms to streamline the approach to family law and make it faster and more accessible for all Ontarians.

But to the first two issues this legislation touches: One issue that has been before this Legislature for many years because of the concern of all of us that a partner in a relationship should not be under threat or fear from the other for any reason had still not been resolved.

We have within our Criminal Code certain protections that one who is being threatened by another can seek. Under section 810 of the Criminal Code, you can seek what is commonly known as a peace bond. The challenge is that the procedure can be longâ€"the charter affords numerous protectionsâ€"so you might not get the immediate protection you need.

Under the Family Law Act, section 46, there is the ability to provide by a judge an order restraining the threatening party from going after the fearful party. But once that order has been issued, it's not necessarily enforced as vigorously as it needs to be throughout the province, and even when it is enforced, the enforcement measures are not always up to the job.

So members of this Legislature, family law advocates and advocates of victims of violence have been calling for reform. They've been calling for reform for a decade. Indeed, we seem to be united in our need for reform, but we have not been able to come up with a means of reform that everybody can agree with. So we consulted extensively over the past year and have now introduced what is found in this legislation, and that will be the following.

0910

Judges will continue to have the ability to control the process in their courts as they have historically had, and as has been assisted by legislation, to control the conduct of the parties. But in addition to that power, there will be the ability of a judge in a family law dispute to issue a restraining order against a party that is threatening or engaging in other conduct that makes one of the parties, usually a woman, fearful for her health, safety or the safety of her children. That additional power in the court to issue that order will include the ability to issue it on terms, so that the party that has been engaging in threatening conduct or other unacceptable conduct will have to follow certain terms. You say, "Well, what if the party under the order breaches it? In the current state of the legislation there is an enforcement power but it's not always up to the job." Under the legislation before this House, if that order of a judge is breached then the order can be enforced under the Criminal Code as a breach of a court order. It's subject to the arrest and bail protections that exist in the Criminal Code; it's subject to the full force of the criminal law.

We take the safety of all Ontarians very seriously. Members of the House have been calling for improvement in this area for more than a decade, as reflected in legislation that was unanimously passed by this House. The provision in this bill is addressing this House's concern for those who have been the subject of threats or might be in the future. It is essential that we provide the protection that people need when they need it.

There is an additional aspect to this: Because some of the most dangerous threats can arise quickly, because emotions in family proceedings can sometimes be so high that they have the potential to boil over, it is important that the protection that a judge can afford in these circumstances be available quickly. There is in the legislation the ability to issue that protection quicklyâ€"very quickly. So the protection can be in existence, the order can have effect, the order can be enforced and the party fearful or under threat can receive what they need. Of course, full due process of the law will enable the other party who is the subject of the order to challenge it in the usual way, but only after the protection has been issued to the fearful partner. This part of the legislation will address what all members of this House have addressed in many different ways for more than a decade.

There is another provision of this bill which addresses the safety of our children. We are all painfully aware of the tragic death of Katelynn Sampson. Whenever there's a tragic death, we ask ourselves, "What more can we do, what more must we do to ensure the safety of our children?"â€"in this context, the safety of our children who might be the subject of an application to change the legal custody from one person to another. Of course, custody is exchanged on a daily basis in an informal sense. You give somebody your children to look after for the afternoon and they have responsibility. But what we're talking about in this legislation is legal custody: getting the force of the law, the stamp of approval from the courts for the legal exchange of custody from one person to another.

The minimum requirements that exist at the moment for information to be placed before a judge are very low. The judges, of course, can inquire, and the parties can provide additional information. But the absolute requirements for background information before the application can be heardâ€"potentially important information that relates to childhood safetyâ€"are really very minimal.

So what we're doing in this legislation is taking a different approach that begins with the safety of the child, one that says that if you want custody of a child and you want that custody application to be approved by courts, then you must provide additional information to ensure the future safety of the child. That information, for those who are not parents of the child, includes the following.

First, a background records checkâ€"the type of criminal background check you have to apply for if you want to be a playground supervisor, for example. That information must be obtained by the one seeking custody and placed before the court.

Second is a history of any proceedings that the applicant has had before the courts. We have within our courts information about different proceedings: maybe prior applications for custody, maybe other issues that might affect a court's determination about the safety of the child in that person's custody. All of that information will be made available to the judge who will be determining whether somebody seeking legal custody should be given it.

Third, of course, is information about the plan that the person seeking custody has for the child. What's the child's future to be in that person's custody? We need that information.

Fourth, has the person seeking custody had a history with the children's aid societies? The children's aid society has a statutory requirement to look after the interests of children. They have offices throughout the province and resources to do that, and they involve themselves in protection proceedings that relate to children to make sure that the children are protected.

If the applicant for custody has a history with or a history that's known to a children's aid society, we want that information to be before the court. We want the judge to know before the judge passes judgment, not after. The judge can still make the decision required by law, the decision that is in the best interests of the child, but we want to make sure that before the decision is made, the judge has all the information he or she needs to make the decisionâ€"all of it. That's why we've placed these additional requirements in the legislation.

There are some other aspects of this bill that deal with how we can help resolve family disputes quickly. Of course, our interest is, first, to assist the families in overcoming the stress or the strain, to assist the families in dealing with the stress or the strain, to assist the families in staying together. But where it is clear that that's not possible, where the circumstances dictate that that is not to happen, where there are issues of safety, we want to make sure, from the perspective of the law, that the law does not in fact extend the period of time over which families are attempting to resolve their issues but helps to shorten it. So there are several things we have done within this piece of legislation.

One relates to the division of pensions. Now, pension law is an enormously complicated area of the law, and trying to ascertain the value of an asset such as a pension so that it can be properly divided in family proceedings has proven very, very challenging. It has been the subject of great comment by all those involved and great expenditure in terms of lawyers and experts by all those who have a pension to be divided.

0920

The barâ€"lawyers involved on both sides of the disputeâ€"has been calling for years for us to step in as a government and simplify the rules; make one rule so that everybody knows what it is. It means that the pension valuation can be conducted much quicker; it means the decision can be reached much faster. And since the pension is often the most valuable asset a couple is likely to have, the family issues can then be resolved much faster.

The law commission that was set up by my predecessor, Michael Bryantâ€"it had been eliminated some years beforeâ€"has been doing some really good work. One of the things they took a look at was division of the pension asset, and they came up with a recommendation. We took a look at the recommendation and we took the heart of that recommendation and, working with the Ministry of Finance and with the pension law communityâ€"because we don't want to do anything that is going to upset those who administer the pensionsâ€"we are proposing within this legislation an approach to the division of pension assets that is clear, that will be consistent and that will be much simpler than the existing. No longer will both sides to the dispute have to retain experts to battle it out in an extended fight over the division of pension assets. This will be much faster and, for the parties involved, much cheaper, meaning there are more assets to be left for the family and for the children.

There's another area we have addressed within the legislationâ€"it's the last one I'll touch onâ€"and that deals with the provision of financial information. If one party to a relationship has an obligation to support their children and that obligation is ordered by the court, the question always arises, "Have they got an increase in their income over the past year, and can they pay more support?" On a daily basis throughout this province, we have the party receiving support going to court essentially to find out if there's any more money to be had, if the other party has received an increase in income.

You know, there's no requirement that the party paying support actually provide that disclosure without an orderâ€"no ongoing obligation to provide that information. Why shouldn't there be? We are, after all, talking about support for your children. If your income has gone down, we want to know about it. If your income has gone up, we want to know about it. So let's make it easy.

What we've done in this piece of legislation is say, "Let's take the mystery out of it. They are your children. There's only a certain amount of income. Let's make sure both sides know what it is. We take the tension out, we take the stress out, and we make it clear and transparent." That's what this piece of legislation does. It just requires annual financial disclosure so everybody knows where they stand. That's in the best interests of the familial relationship, even if it is coming apart, and that is in the best interests of the children.

All members of this House will, of course, actively engage in a consideration of this piece of legislation. What I ask is that in looking at this legislation we support it, because what it does at the end of the day is protect the partners from threats or harm, protects our children and helps streamline the resolution of these very difficult and challenging family disputes. At the end of the day, it addresses the issues which have been at the heart of the comment and legislative proposals by all members of this House, including the piece of legislation that it is proposed to repeal, not because it was bad at heartâ€"because it was good; Mr. O'Toole's bill spoke to the very essence of what we're trying to get toâ€"but because it didn't seem to be able to be applied to those that he and all members of the House wanted it to be applied to in the way that he wished. I remember, in listening to his comments on a number of occasions when he's risen to speak to the issue, he's essentially said, "If not this, you've got to do something." He's right, all members of this House are right, and this legislation addresses that very issue.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Questions and comments?

Mrs. Christine Elliott: I look forward to speaking in greater detail with respect to Bill 133 very shortly, but at the outset I would like to commend the Attorney General for bringing these important family law reforms forward. This is an area that many people do actually come up against. There are some parts of the law where there's not that much direct client contact, but there is a situation here where we're talking about many people who are not people with high incomes, not people who are in situations where they have equal bargaining power. So I commend the Attorney General on bringing forward these reforms to deal with some of these important situations, like splitting of pension benefits, domestic violence situations and making sure that child support calculations are done fairly. One way of ensuring that certainly is by annual financial disclosure and by making sure that the people who are entrusted with the care and custody of our children are placed in safe and caring hands so that we don't have a repeat of some of the terrible situations that we've heard about fairly recently.

These are all important issues. I would like to speak to them in a bit greater detail when I have my opportunity to comment on Bill 133, because there are some things that have been pointed out to me by some people who are family law practitioners, who are far more knowledgeable in this area than I am. They have pointed out some practical difficulties involved with perhaps putting this legislation into force that I hope will come to the Attorney General's attention. We will hopefully be able to deal with that in full committee hearings as we go forward.

I would also hope that we would have the opportunity to do some travel with respect to these hearings, because in situations especially involving victims of domestic violence, they're already marginalized and in very isolated situations. So I hope to expand on that a little bit further. But generally speaking, thank you to the Attorney General for bringing this forward.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further questions and comments?

Mr. Peter Kormos: I've listened very carefully to the Attorney General. I welcome the legislation because it gives us the opportunity to engage in what I say is a very important debate. I acknowledge the efforts on the part of the government to address some very critical and current issues.

My fear is that there is a superficiality, however, to this legislation, because the problems are much deeper. Most people in matrimonial difficulties use our family courts, the provincial division. It's a smaller minority that hire high-priced lawyers, that get into Superior Court with the processes that are available to them there. Notwithstanding all the best efforts of a Legislature, there are still some fundamental, intrinsic, inherent problems in our Family Court system, including the inability of, usually, women to access lawyers when they can't afford them and have to rely upon legal aid. Family law practitioners are loath to accept legal aid certificates because of the unrealistic caps on the number of hours they can devote.

The fact is that a process still has to be initiated in Family Court before this restraining order can be sought. That's why we have some concerns about the repeal of the Domestic Violence Protection Act, rather than its enactment and utilization of the immediacy in that legislation. We're going to hear from Ms. Elliott in her lead comments in but a few minutes.

I also regret that the debate is commencing in the early morning session, because it's a very important one, and my fear is that people who should be listening to it won't be available or won't have access to it. But we will be furthering this, and I'll be pleased to do my lead in the days to come over the course of next week.

0930

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further questions and comments?

Mr. Jeff Leal: Indeed, the issue of family law has evolved over the last four decades in the province of Ontario, and it's always been seen, in many ways, I think, as a non-partisan issue. We think of Jim Renwick, who was the NDP justice critic in the 1960s; Arthur Wishart; Ian Scott; Roy McMurtry; the member from Kenoraâ€"Rainy River when he had the privilege of being the Attorney General for the province of Ontario; they have all built consistently on the need to improve family law reform in the province of Ontario.

Indeed, a former family member of mine, the late H. Allan Leal, was dean of Osgoode Hall and chair of the first law reform commission in the province of Ontario in the early 1960s, appointed by the Honourable John Robarts. If you look at some of his writings some 45, 46 years ago, he talked about the need for family law reform in the province of Ontario; indeed, he started the building blocks. His successors, who chaired the law reform commission in the province of Ontario, certainly built on all that good work. It's always been seen as a bit of a uniter in the Ontario Legislature to make reforms and keep building to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens in the province of Ontario.

In Peterborough today, Lynn Zimmer, the executive director of the YWCA, has embarked on a capital campaign to expand the women's shelter in Peterborough. Those shelters, of course, will be used by abused women and children who often find themselves as the victims when there is a matrimonial breakup. But often that's far too late in the process. That is after the anger and the damage has been done for those individuals. Moving forward with what the Attorney General has articulated today to strengthen family law reform in the province of Ontario is a very important step to bring civility and justice in this area of our judicial system in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further questions and comments?

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: This is an extremely comprehensive piece of legislation that deals with seven different acts: the Child and Family Services Act, Children's Law Reform Act, Courts of Justice Act, Family Law Act, Change of Name Actâ€"it's extremely comprehensive, to say the least.

I hope that when the bill goes to committee, the government will change the tactics that it's had up until this date, listen very carefully to the presenters during those hearings and during the committee discussion, and take seriously the amendments that may be put forward regarding this act. I well remember when the Premier, Mr. McGuinty, was first sworn in, in 2003, he stood in this House and made a very eloquent speech at the time. One of the things I remember from the speech was that he said, "No one of us is smarter than all of us." In that regard, I would hope, at this juncture of his tenure, that we would listen to the amendments that are put forward. This bill is in serious need of a number of amendments and hopefully the government, during that period in committee, will listen very carefully to the presentations that will take place during that period of time.

So, with that, this is an extremely comprehensive bill, one that is badly needed in many areas and perhaps can go much further than it does in its current form. We look forward to that debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Attorney General, you have up to two minutes to respond.

Hon. Christopher Bentley: I want to thank the members from Whitbyâ€"Oshawa, Welland, Peterborough and Halton for their comments and suggestions. I look forward to the debate and the recommendations.

I think you're absolutely right, I say to the member for Halton, that we do require the collective wisdom of those in the House and the people of Ontario outside the House. Indeed, when you take a look at some of the provisions of this bill, such as those dealing with restraining orders, and you acknowledge that it has been the collective wisdom of the House that we move on this area, you wonder why it has taken so long. One of the challenges in this area is that there are many, many excellent suggestions for going further or doing a little less. It is a delicate balance coming up with the approach that can actually work and that can make sure that we afford the protections within the limits of the law that we all wish. So I look forward to the discussion.

I take the suggestions from the member for Oshawaâ€"Whitby, and I look forward to her more extended comments shortly. I take the suggestions from the member from Welland.

Of course, there are always more issues that we can address, more issues that we should address. The legislation can address some of them. Not every brick constructs the wall, but you do need some bricks to make the wall. This is a number of the very good bricks in here that we need to put together in order to extend the protections that we all wish.

I appreciate the support from the member for Peterborough and his good advice. He obviously comes from very strong legal stock, with his family having headed the first law commission in the province of Ontario. Congratulations to him for becoming a lawyer in practice, if not in nameâ€"in a good way.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mrs. Christine Elliott: I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill 133, An Act to amend various Acts in relation to certain family law matters and to repeal the Domestic Violence Protection Act, 2000.

This is a substantive piece of legislation. It is an omnibus bill, of course, that deals with a number of different areas of family law, some of which have been crying out for reform for a number of years, some more recently. Certainly, all are very important and deserve to have a full hearing in this House.

The problem, I would suggest, however, is that the devil is in the details, and the details are still outstanding. We don't know what those details are going to be. I would hope that the Attorney General will commit to full committee hearings on this, because we in the Progressive Conservative Party do support it in principle, but we really need to have some fundamental questions answered. We also believe that it is important to be travelling on this bill, for reasons which I indicated just a few moments earlier. There are people, particularly in northern communities and in areas where there are people who are victims of domestic violenceâ€"primarily womenâ€"who are marginalized and isolated, and we need to make sure that we give them the full opportunity to appear before the committee to give us the benefit of their views on these subjects.

I also had the opportunity during the winter break to speak to several family law practitioners in my riding, and they have expressed some preliminary concerns to me that I would like to bring out as I speak to the various sections of the act. I hope that they will be dealt with and resolved once we go before the justice committee hearings in the future.

This is, as I said, an omnibus bill, and as such, it amends eight existing statutes. But there are four main sections that I would like to address in my remarks this morning; they make amendments to the Family Law Act, the Children's Law Reform Act, the Pension Benefits Act, and the Domestic Violence Protection Act, 2000.

First of all, the amendments to the Children's Law Reform Act prescribe the type of information that must come before the court when dealing with cases involving custody of or access to a child. Section 21 of the act will require that an affidavit be filed with the court that will set out the proposed custodian's plan for the care and custody of the child and their upbringing, information regarding the person's current or previous involvement in any family or criminal proceedings, and any other relevant information that the person may be privy to that should be brought before the court. This is quite sensible and straightforward, and frankly, it's a little bit surprising that it hasn't already been requiredâ€"although I suspect it probably is, but perhaps just not in the prescribed format that's required by this act.

0940

There are also additional rules set out in section 21.1 that apply specifically to situations where a person who is not the parent of the child applies for custody of a child. These rules, I suspect, have been brought forward as a result of the Katelynn Sampson case, the horrendous case where a child died while in the care and custody of a person who was not her parent. It was a horrendous case of child abuse. The child was in the custody of someone who was a friend of her biological parent, and the alleged abuser had a previous criminal record and involvement, I believe, with the children's aid society.

So section 21.1 would require the applicant to obtain a criminal record check, which is sort of a basic screening mechanism that is required for most volunteer organizations and is certainly a good thing to do. They would also be required to submit a request to certain children's aid societies to provide any information they have regarding records concerning the person applying for custody, and also the clerk of the court must provide information regarding any previous Family Court proceedings involving the person who is the applicant but not the parent of the child.

It all sounds reasonable, and I think it's important to get this information, but my discussions with counsel have raised a number of concerns that we hopefully can sort out in committee but which do suggest that perhaps there was a little undue haste in drafting these sections without full consultation with the parties involved. Some of the concerns that have been expressed to me include the following: One is that the children's aid society might not currently be keeping the kinds of records that might be required by the court under this new legislation. My understanding is that the record-keeping varies from society to society, and they may need to make some fairly significant internal changes in order to be able to respond properly to the legislation.

There's also a concern regarding child protection files and privacy issues, particularly if some of the children's aid society or Family Court files bring up issues involving the applicant and another child, not the child who's the subject of the custody application here. So there is a great need to protect the privacy of the other parties who perhaps may be mentioned in the proceedings and who may not be the ones for whom the custody application is being sought.

The other issue, which is raised as a practical matter, is: Why should these requirements apply only with respect to someone applying who's not the biological parent of the child? Surely, if this is a good thing to do, to check on these previous children's aid society records and Family Court proceedings, it should be relevant with respect to the biological parents as well. So these are just some practical concerns that have been raised to me.

The next issue relates to the amendments to the Family Law Act, to require annual financial disclosure where child support orders exist. That is certainly a good procedure to be following because it's important to make sure, on an ongoing basis, that child support payments are fair and equitable. I believe that all of us in this House have heard from many constituents over the years who felt that that's not the case, that whenever there have been significant changes, there is no mechanism to deal with it expeditiously to make sure these things are adjusted as they need to be.

Section 33 of the new act amends the Family Law Act to add a section that requires: "The amount payable for the support of a child under an order may be recalculated in accordance with this act and the regulations made under this act, by the child support service established by the regulations, in order to reflect updated income information." Then, section 69 of the Family Law Act is amended to provide that the regulations may deal with the recalculation of the child support amount and may make regulations concerning:

"(a) establishing a child support service, governing its structure and prescribing its powers, duties and functions;

"(b) governing procedures respecting the recalculation of child support amounts;

"(c) governing the recalculation of child support amounts by the child support service;" (d) also provides for a review or appeal procedure, and then (e) excludes "specified classes of provisions for child support from recalculation."

There is a very substantive issue here that is being left entirely to regulation. I have heard from the family law practitioners to whom I've spoken. They have asked me to put it to the Attorney General how strongly they feel that members of the family law barâ€"that there must be broad consultation before this child support adjustment service is put into place and that the regulations are not a sufficient way of dealing with that.

I would like to specifically refer to some of the comments that have been passed on to me by a family law lawyer in my area who says, with respect to the whole issue of this child support recalculation:

"I am not at all clear how this would be effected. It seems that a new bureaucracy would have to be created to do this. This would add another layer to the child support enforcement process. The most logical way to do this would be to have this new service added to the Family Responsibility Office, as the changed amount of support would have to be enforced for this to have any effect. The Family Responsibility Office is already a disastrous branch of the government. The computer system is badly antiquated and cannot properly deal with the demands currently upon it. The staff, although doing their best, cannot properly deal with what is currently before them. The addition of this responsibility would be unwieldy at best and a complete disaster at worst."

Also, "There should be some way to ensure that only those requesting a change in child support are involved in this process.

Also, "The calculation of child support can become very complicated if there are expenses pursuant to section 7 of the child support guidelines (proportionate sharing of daycare, medical and extraordinary extracurricular expenses.) Then, proportionate contributions by each parent must be established. The cost after income tax must be determined, and that split according to the proportions. The problem, of course, is that not all expenses are treated the same and not all have income tax deductions associated with them. There may also be other income tax benefits or deductions available to one party and not the other. This must all be factored in to determine the correct amount of support to be paid."

Additionally, "This provision does not seem to take into account that some families do not wish to have child support reviewed every year for non-legal reasons.

Finally, "There is nowhere any mention of how any adjustment will be enforced if the calculation is done on a retroactive basis. This could result in hardship to the payer."

All of which is to say that there are some significant concerns with respect to this recalculation issue. I hope that we will have the opportunity to explore it in much greater depth once we get into committee.

The third point relates to the amendments to the Pension Benefits Act and the Family Law Act. This is an issueâ€"and I would certainly agree with the Attorney Generalâ€"that has been very problematic in family law for a number of years. This is with respect to the division of pensions upon family breakdowns.

For most people, the two largest assets that they will ever have are the value of their home and the value of their pension. Certainly when you're dealing with a matrimonial breakup and how to deal with the matrimonial home, that's relatively straightforward. A value can be assigned to it, the property can then be sold and the spouses can be paid out their 50% interest less any other arrangements that are made between them. In some cases, of course, one spouse makes arrangements to buy out the other person's share. That's relatively easy to deal with.

But we certainly have been hearing from family law practitioners that pensions are much more difficult to deal with, because the valuation is, first of all, more complicated, and secondly, because most separating spouses don't have sufficient liquidity in order to pay out one spouse the value of the other spouse's pension within their pension plan.

What's proposed under this new legislation in Bill 133 is to allow for a valuation of a pension and then do a division to determine the value of the share of the person who is the pension holder and then to allow for a transfer of the other person's share into a separate account. This can already be done federally, under the Pension Benefits Division Act, so that the pensions of federal civil servants and crown agency employees can be dealt with in this way. The new system proposes similar mechanisms to allow for this type of pension splitting and to allow pensions to be divided in a fair and equitable manner.

So this is an important issue to be dealt with. Like the Attorney General, I would also like to acknowledge the tremendous work that's been done over many years by many justice partners in this area, including the Family Law Working Group of the CBAO, CATALPA, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Advocates' Society, the Law Commission of Ontario and many other individuals and organizations. This is a very important step forward in family law, and, indeed, the only concerns that have been expressed to me relate to the actual mechanics of the calculation and not to the overall concept of pension division itself.

0950

Bill 133 amends the Pension Benefits Act by setting out several new sections that allow members of the pension plan and their spouses to apply to the administrator of their pension plan for a statement of the net family law value of the pension at a particular period in time, and then to apply for a transfer of a lump sum to a plan for the other spouse's benefit.

Again, it sounds very straightforward and very sensible. It would allow for, hopefully, a minimum of costs involved in this. But, again, I would like to reiterate directly some of the concerns that have been expressed to me by family law practitioners in this respect. I hope that this will get a full hearing in committee hearings.

So if I may quote from the letter that I received here: "This proposed amendment is seriously flawed. Pension administrators aren't qualified to determine the value of a pension. Under the Family Law Act, the value of a pension for the purposes of equalization of net family property is the amount of money that would have to be invested now to generate the amount the employee will receive from the pension at retirement. This amount changes depending on when the employee retires. Also, the value must be based on a number of assumptions, including assumptions about indexing of the plan, actuarially accurate mortality, interest rates, and income tax liability upon retirement. When an actuary "assists" with this, he or she provides a detailed opinion of the family law value, often with different scenarios depending on when the employee retires.

"There is no certainty of what the cost of this would be to the employee if their staff complete the valuation.

Also, "There is a perceived conflict of interest or bias if the employer is providing the value of their employee's pension."

So if one person has been working for a particular company for a number of years and they have a pension and it's going to be divided by their pension administrator, I think it is reasonable for the other spouse to be concerned about how that's going to be done, upon what basis, and whether the information concerning how it's being calculated is going to be presented fully to them.

The other issue is, "If pension administrators value the pension, how does a party who disagrees with the value have the valuation critiqued or checked?

Also, "Pension administrators have no incentive to provide this information in a timely fashion. Their delay could inordinately delay the settlement of a matter entirely.

"When the Family Law Act was first proclaimed, some employers provided valuations of pensions. They weren't acceptable to the courts.

"It is unclear how the pension transfer will occur. This is a needed change to the legislation, as currently pensions are some of the largest assets to be equalized, but often parties do not have cash available to make the payment. Federally regulated pensions and pensions in some other provinces can be transferred at source, which would be beneficial to many parties. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to determine the terms under which the pension benefits remain locked in, until what date, and whether there are any circumstances under which application may be made to have them withdrawn prematurely.

"There is difficulty as pension plans may opt out of the transfer scheme, making it very difficult to deal with a pension payout. There will be difficulties getting pension administrators to co-operate with respect to a lump sum being deposited from another plan, when it can be released to the receiving party, under what terms, how its growth prior to its release is to be calculated," and so on. "There may also be taxation issues.

"Allowing the pension equalization to be left with the originating plan could cause a host of problems for the pension administrator. There must be some confidence that pensions would agree to this prior to its implementation. It could result in a huge increase in administrative work for the pension plan.

"Section 3(3) allows for restrictions to be prescribedâ€"presumably by regulation. This is inappropriate without proper consultation and publication.

"Restricting the pension transfer to 50% of the family law value of the pension may defeat the purpose that is trying to be achieved by allowing the pension transfer. If the total equalization payment owed is greater than this percentage and there are no other assets with which to satisfy the equalization, such limitation is unduly restrictive."

So there is certainly a host of issues relating to the pension benefits division issue. While the concept itself is a great idea, I think there are a lot of issues that need to be worked out once we get into committee. So I'll leave that. Hopefully, the Attorney General will speak to his colleagues about that.

Finally, and certainly not the least, is the whole issue of domestic violence that is dealt with in Bill 133. There is a history here that I think is relevant to discuss in perhaps short order, in order to understand how we've gotten to the changes that are suggested by Bill 133.

The Domestic Violence Protection Act, 2000, was originally brought forward by my predecessor, the previous member for Whitbyâ€"Oshawa. It would have allowedâ€"

Interjection.

Mrs. Christine Elliott: You know who that would be.

That would have allowed spouses, former spouses and persons in dating relationships to apply to the court for an emergency intervention order without notice to the respondent in situations where there was an urgent concern about a risk of harm to a person. The emergency intervention order could restrain the respondent from being near any specified person or place or from contacting any such person or engaging in any specified conduct that is threatening, annoying or harassing; require the respondent to vacate the applicant's residence; require police to escort a specified person to the applicant's residence to remove a person's belongings; and require a peace officer to seize weapons and weapons permits where the weapons were used or threatened to be used to commit domestic violence.

It is important to note that under this legislation, designnated judges or justices of the peace would be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to hear these applications without notice, and that any breaches of these orders could be enforced by peace officers under the Criminal Code.

For whatever reasonâ€"and this was before my time hereâ€"this act was given royal assent in December 2000 but was never proclaimed. It was, however, essentially restated and brought forward by my friend and colleague the member for Durham in May 2007 as Bill 10, the Lori Dupont Act (Domestic Violence Protection), 2007. This bill was approved and sent to the social policy committee and never saw the light of day again. That was the bill that the Attorney General was speaking to in his comments during his leadoff speech. Certainly, it wasn't a comprehensive answer to dealing with the issue of domestic violence, but it did go a long way toward trying to prevent domestic violence, to deal with it upfront and to try to make sure to protect people, but primarily women, from domestic violence.

Bill 133 does establish that restraining orders and breaches can be enforced under the Criminal Code. This has been lauded by all of the family law practitioners that I've spoken to. They see this as a major step forward. There is a concern that it is very difficult to get restraining orders. Often they are not fully enforceable; it's difficult to get them enforced by peace officers. This does go a long way toward establishing some regularity in that area, and hopefully all police services will be able to respond to that.

But it doesn't deal with or speak to all of the issues involved with getting a restraining order in the first place. It doesn't speak to the availability of getting emergency orders, intervention orders, 24/7. It doesn't speak to all of the issues of domestic violence that happen. It hasn't acknowledged the fact that domestic violence can happen at any time. It usually doesn't happen within normal court hours; it happens in the evenings and on weekends and so on. That is something that we would like to see dealt with as part of this bill.

1000

I would say that in all of the efforts in Ontarioâ€"and I'm not speaking only specifically of this governmentâ€"I think we are quite behind many other jurisdictions in dealing with the whole issue of domestic violence. There are some jurisdictions in the United States, some US states, that are really light-years ahead of us. The Minnesota Statute has been pointed out to me as one that is a model to take a look at because it is a stand-alone statute that deals with domestic violence. We also have some jurisdictions in Canada that have dealt with domestic violence far more comprehensively than we have in Ontario. The Protection Against Domestic Violence Act in Alberta goes even further: It is, first of all, a stand-alone statute that recognizes the importance of dealing with domestic violence as a major issue; it also goes further to deal with dating relationships as well as elder abuse. That also comes up in the context of domestic violence, and it's another whole area that I believe needs further extensive study. It's something that we're hearing about more and more in our community office, but that's separate and apart from what we are discussing specifically here today. I would just urge the government to take a look at this, and we would certainly be more than interested in becoming involved in that whole process as well.

I would say that we need to be more proactive with respect to domestic violence. It seems to occupy sort of a funny position. It's betwixt and between in terms of family law and criminal law. I hope that we will be able in the future, perhaps in the context of this bill, to take a wider view of the domestic violence issues. We also need to take a look at, as my colleague the member from Welland pointed out, the fact that there is a significant issue involved with women who are in need of protection getting assistance through legal aid to resolve the many issues they have to deal with, first of all with respect to getting restraining orders, with respect to support, custody and access issues, all of which need to be looked at.

So I would urge the government to take this issue more seriously and come forward with some more comprehensive reforms with respect to domestic violence, because it's certainly not going away. We've heard from previous speakers that at least 28 women, I believe, were murdered in Ontario last year due to domestic violence, most in situations that could have been prevented. I hope we will be able to take this up more urgently and to bring something forward more comprehensively to deal with the whole issue of domestic violence.

Finally, to wrap up, I would say, with respect to all the aspects of Bill 133, that we have heard the Premier saying quite often in recent days, with respect to the budget, that it's important to take the time to get this done right. I would say that the same would apply to Bill 133. It is important to get it right. These are important issues in family law, and so I would urge the government to allocate the necessary time in committee hearings so that we can hear from all of the interested parties that we need to hear from to make sure we get this right. We don't get this opportunity very often. I would certainly urge that as we move forward. We would be happy to participate.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Questions and comments?

Mr. Peter Kormos: It's always a delight to work with Ms. Elliott in the justice committee, and I look forward to working with her on this piece of legislation. She again highlights the fact that there are several distinct areas that are going to be of interest and perhaps even controversial.

The issue of paying out pensions: Look, I've got Atlas steelworkers down in Welland who paid out 50% of the valuation of their pension before they retired in an incident of a marital breakdown, and upon retirement received only a fraction of their defined benefit because the pension valuation is one thing one day, and as we face the demise of defined benefit pension plans and the collapse of existing ones, I'm afraid the issue of valuation of pensions has become a far more complicated matter than it was 25 and 30 years ago.

The matter of the repeal of the Domestic Violence Protection Act: That should have been, with all due respect, a stand-alone issue. Nobody's suggesting that the section 35 proposal isn't appropriate. Of course a Family Court should be able to issue a restraining order during the course of proceedings before that court, but the reality isâ€"go to any Family Court in this province and look at the dockets that those clerks and judges are dealing with, the backlogs in Family Court aloneâ€"getting before a judge is in itself a difficult and lengthy process. And in the course of that waiting time, women are getting beatenâ€"spouses, I should say rather; partnersâ€"and murdered, notwithstanding the fact that a restraining order is, in most instances, only as good as the willingness of the party named in it to abide by that order because obviously, the restraining order in and of itself doesn't prevent the murder of spouses.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further questions and comments?

Mrs. Maria Van Bommel: As I listen to the debate and the talk about the splitting of pensions, I'm reminded of where we were not all that long ago on the whole issue of property rights and reminded of why I even got involved in politics and lobbying. That was in the 1970s, and it was subsequent to the Murdoch v. Murdoch ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in which the Supreme Court ruled that Irene Murdoch's five months a year of work on her farm in haying and dehorning and quieting horses and driving equipment was the normal contribution of a wife, and she was denied her claim to the farm because of that. That woman died a poor woman because she didn't have the right to what was her share, to what she had worked for and what contribution she had made to it.

That caused me at the time, as a young farm woman, to look at my own situation. I was fortunately married to a man who felt it was important to have my name on the title of the property, but I found out that if my husband incurred debt at the bank, I was responsible, whether I'd signed for it or not. I found out that a lot of my farm women neighbours didn't have the same understanding husband who allowed them title to a farm, so if there was a divorce, they would have to fight to get what they had contributed to.

That was in the 1970s. I look at us now and I think that we've come a long way. We still have a lot to do, and that's what we're working on with this bill now. But in the short term, from my generation to my daughter's generation, and while they struggle over child custody and support payments and pensions and thoseâ€"

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Thank you. Further questions and comments?

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I appreciate the opportunity to address this bill. I want to congratulate my colleague from Whitbyâ€"Oshawa. I thought she did an amazing job of dissecting this piece of legislation, because it's an important one. It's one that we in the opposition feel is a move in the right direction, but we still have a lot of questions. As members opposite, and even in my own party, know, I'm an advocate for children. This piece of legislation deals with children, insofar as the Katelynn Sampson case, so we have some questions on who will receive information and who will contribute information. We also have some questions around the children's aid society.

As you know, I had Bill 130 introduced in this Legislature. I hope to debate it this spring and I hope to have all party-support for my own omnibus bill to protect children in this province. It includes more oversight on the children's aid society. It also includes more tools for parents to protect their kids, but also for law enforcement agencies to protect children.

I see two colleagues from the city of Ottawa here today. We were gripped a week and a half ago when we found out that a resident of our city was charged with child pornography and that that individual had subjected his preschool-aged child to this. This child has since been taken into custody.

A bill like this and a bill like mine and any bill that has protection of children as its number one concern needs to be addressed by this Legislature, but also requires full public hearings because those stories need to be told. Whenever a child or a womanâ€"or any domestic violence has occurred, and I use "violence" in terms of not just physical or sexual abuse but also verbal abuse, we have to be very concerned as a Legislature and also as a province. So I encourage theâ€"

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Thank you. Further questions and comments?

Mr. Dave Levac: I've been listening attentively to the speeches so far, and I appreciate very much the member from Whitbyâ€"Oshawa's dedication to reviewing the bill, bringing recommendations from whom she's hearing from to the Legislature and making sure that the concerns are raised. I appreciate very much the Attorney General's attentiveness to this and the fact that his commitment has been stated clearly to the House that the intent of the legislation, which mirrors that of previous legislation, is to improve the system. The member from Welland advises us wisely, as always, about the nuances of the legal profession and often saysâ€"I've heard him say it, anyway, and I stand to be correctedâ€"that lawyers have the capacity to turn the simple into the complex. Because of that, I think it's wise for us to engage in those conversations with the people who will be practising in front of the average citizenry, who need to have faith, when they stand before the judicial system, that there's equity; that there's justice; and, most importantly, what we've learned over the decades, referencing previous members' comments about history, that women are treated equally and that the children we bring into this world are treated with the utmost sensitivity and respect and not used as pawns in adults' anger.

That being said, that would be the background behind my support for this legislation. I'm looking forward to hearing some of the concerns that are out there and doing justice to this legislation in a way that allows the public to believe that we're in it for the right reasons. I look forward to the rest of the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): The honourable member from Whitbyâ€"Oshawa has up to two minutes for her response.

Mrs. Christine Elliott: I would like to thank the members from Welland, Lambtonâ€"Kentâ€"Middlesex, Nepeanâ€"Carleton and Brant for their very thoughtful and helpful comments. With respect to the comments made by the member from Lambtonâ€"Kentâ€"Middlesex with respect to the Murdoch and Murdoch case, that was certainly a bit of a walk down memory lane for me. I remember studying that in family law in law school many years ago because it was pre-Family Law Reform Act, which is a long, long time ago, and the Family Law Reform Act, of course, followed after the Family Law Act. I know that she has made a major contribution to achieving equality for women involved in farming as well and has really been a trailblazer in that area. I would like to acknowledge and thank her for the work she has done in that area.

But we certainly have come a long way in the last, I guess it's 30 years now, since the Family Law Reform Act was enacted, and I think that we need to continue to make the changes that reflect our current understanding of the law and changing conditions. Some of the changes that are being made by Bill 133 will certainly go a long way to achieving equality for spouses in situations, especially where domestic violence is a concern, and will also go a long way towards protecting vulnerable children. As my colleague the member from Nepeanâ€"Carleton indicated, this has got to be our primary responsibility; we need to make sure that children are placed in safe hands, whether they're with their biological parents or with other people. The criminal record checks and the requirements that there be communication with children's aid societies and also with other family law courts to make sure that all of the relevant information is put before the court in order to make a decision are very important, because all too often there ends up being, if not miscommunication, no communication. We need to make sure that that changes, for the safety of our children.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): This House stands in recess until 10:30.

The House recessed from 1014 to 1030.

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

Mr. Peter Kormos: I'm pleased to welcome David Kerr, Pete Wright, Paul Johnstone, Tom O'Neill, Dave Graves, John Mearini and Richard Cunningham, all members of the OPSEU corrections bargaining team.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I would like to introduce, on behalf of the member from Bruceâ€"Greyâ€"Owen Sound and page Reed Bell, in the west members' gallery, his father, Norm Bell, and their friend Susan Moyer. Welcome to Queen's Park today.

ORAL QUESTIONS

ONTARIO ECONOMY

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: My question is to the Premier. Premier, it has to do with your economic policy flip-flops, what some would suggest are your baffling public comments that are contradicted the next day by one of your ministers, and the increasingly obvious signals that you simply don't know how to respond to our economic challenges. In a column in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday it was suggested that if your time as Premier will be remembered, it will be "as the Premier who fiddled and banned, banned and fiddled, until it was too late." Premier, do you recognize that your recent public musings, combined with a delayed budget, is raising real concerns about a leadership void in this province?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I always appreciate the advice and the commentary that come with the privilege of serving Ontarians as the Premier. That's to be expected, and that is healthy in a democracy. It's a good thing. But I appreciate the opportunity as well to speak to Ontarians and to help them understand what we're trying to do here on this side of the House.

A couple of things with respect to the budget in particular: We know we need to respond to some of the consequences that have been visited upon Ontarians as a result of the global recession. Folks are losing their jobs. Businesses are struggling. There is a credit crunch. Those are real, and we intend to find continuing ways to speak to those through the budget.

At the same time, Ontarians expect us to keep our eye on the future and to build a stronger economy going forward. In my supplementary, I'll tell Ontarians a bit more about what we continue to do to deal with the effects of the recession right now.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: When you have to send the Minister of Finance out to do damage control and attempt to paper over the comments of his own Premier, I think it raises legitimate concerns about the individual responsible for steering the ship.

Premier, these are challenging times: over 70,000 jobs lost in this province last month; 137,000 since November. You've publicly admitted that your five-point plan is not working. You're at best treading water while families and communities suffer and jobs flee this province. Other provinces have acted. Why haven't you?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Well, these are challenging times. There's no doubt about it whatsoever, but I think it's important that we keep some perspective. I just want to quote a colleague from across the way who recently said: "You'd think the world is falling apart. There are negative things that are happening today. But there's probably no better place to be than where we are."

The MPP for Simcoe North said that, and I believe my colleague the leader of the official opposition would in fact agree with that. There are some real challenges, but there's no better place to be to face those challenges.

With respect to our five-point plan, that involves significant investments in everything from business tax cuts to infrastructure and innovation, partnering with businesses and investing in the skills of our people. Those are all good things. We will continue to do those things. What I am saying, and what I will continue to say, is that now we need to go deeper and further to bring about some fundamental changes in ourâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you, Premier. Final supplementary.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: I still feel good about this province, but certainly it was much better off in the hands of the government five and a half or six years ago.

In December, the Premier suggested treading waterâ€"

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Stop the clock.

The Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: You know, it's quite the norm for the Premier to say, "Everything is going to be okay; it's a modest contraction"â€"those kinds of words that he has used over the past number of years to try to supposedly deal with challenges on the economic front, especially the loss of manufacturing jobs in this province.

The reality is that other provinces in this great country have acted; Premiers leading governments in those provinces have acted. In December, New Brunswick brought in a comprehensive plan that included tax cuts, a public sector salary freeze and help for small business. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia brought in similar plans. Their premiers didn't useâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Premier?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I made this comment yesterday, and I think it's worthy of repetition: My colleagues opposite are intent on observing goings-on in other provinces and other Legislatures, and I'd ask them to pay some passing interest to what is taking place here.

Back in November 2007, we began to lay out a plan to deal with this challenge. We've made significant new investments in municipal infrastructure, for exampleâ€"that was a short time ago. As well, just last Friday, together with the federal government, we made an investment of $1 billion in communities of 100,000 or less. We invested in 289 more infrastructure projects. Just a couple of days ago, together with the Prime Minister, we invested half a billion dollars in new GO Transit infrastructure projects as well.

We're not waiting for our budget to do things. We will continue to do much along the way, as I would ask my friend to recognize.

ONTARIO ECONOMY

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: My question is to the Premier. A few weeks ago, Mr. McGuinty had an epiphanyâ€"a moment of clarity, if you will. He said he had revised his thinking and admitted that his government was a brake on growth. He was finally ready to admit that red tape was choking our economy and that we needed to do more to create a competitive business environment.

Where did that guy go? Here we are, ready to tackle the big questions, and nothing is different. We're spending our days debating cosmetic surgery and housing for young offendersâ€"important issues, to be sure, but hardly the most pressing matters facing us as a province.

Premier, when will we be discussing the big questions? When can Ontario expect some real action?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I'm pleased to speak to the issue of red tape and the importance of our government, and governments generally, becoming more competitive. It may strike some as a little bit odd to think of government being competitive, but the fact is that we do compete against other governments around the world, but particularly in the US, when it comes to landing new investment here.

One of the things we've already done, for example, to welcome new investment has to do with our public transit projects. We had in place an environmental assessment process that sometimes took from 12 to 18 months. We have now put a cap on that. We said that those environmental assessments can take no longer than six months.

We're now looking to see where we might expand that further. When we do, we'll of course be looking for support from colleagues on the other side of the House.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: Premier, in less than 30 days, President Obama introduced the most complex, comprehensive stimulus package that the world has ever seen. Our PC government did it in 1995, bringing in a $2.1-billion stimulus package to tackle an $11-billion deficit, and we did it in less than 30 days. But in six years, all this government gave us was a five-point plan. Are we not supposed to talk about that anymore?

1040

The five-point plan didn't really work very well, did it, Premier? Now there's just the five-foot plan that keeps reporters at bay. You've clearly abandoned the five-point plan and are stumbling around looking for a new one. Meanwhile, the economy has gone south. Can you give us any indication of when on earth you intend to come to your senses and help Ontarians out of the economic morass that we find ourselves in because of your inaction?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I'll go back to the issue of red tape, because I think that's an important one. In our recent First Ministers' meeting, one of the things that I asked the Prime Minister to consider, and I'm pleased to report that he has indicated he is prepared to pursue this, was that we just have one environmental assessment per project. At present, there are many instances where an infrastructure project demands that there be both a provincial environmental assessment and a federal environmental assessment. I believe the Prime Minister is prepared to act in that regard.

There are other ideas as well, and we're open to suggestions on the part of the opposition with respect to this. But the point I'm making to Ontarians is that, just as we have to enhance the quality of our workforce and the competitiveness of our businesses, we also have to understand that government itself has a role to play in acting in a more competitive, friendly and open manner when it comes to investment.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: We've been giving the Premier advice for the last five years, none of which he has taken. In that period of time, he has taken Ontario from the top to the bottom, from have-lots to have-nots. We have seen so many thousands of jobs lost in manufacturing, in forestry, and even in the high-tech industry. We have a bloated bureaucracy, a high unemployment rate, a looming deficit and a backward tax regime, but all Mr. McGuinty can do is blame everyone and everything else. How can vulnerable Ontarians trust your leadership with such a track record? Why should they believe you now?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: It's interesting that my colleague would close with a plea made on behalf of vulnerable Ontarians. Let me just offer this assurance to vulnerable Ontarians and Ontario families generally: We will not be reducing welfare rates. We will not freeze increases in the minimum wage. We will not make cuts to nurses. We will not make cuts to teachers. We will not fire water inspectors. We will do everything we can to protect the significant gains we've made with respect to public services. We will hang on to the gains that we've made in our schools. We will hang on to the gains we've made in our hospitals and in the delivery of health care in general.

Those are the kinds of assurances that I think our vulnerable Ontarians and families generally are looking for, especially at this point in time.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

Mr. Peter Tabuns: I have a question to the Premier. With each passing day, news out of the auto sector gets worse. Reports suggest that Chrysler is considering shutting its Etobicoke casting plant. Other reports suggest that a shift at Chrysler's Windsor minivan plant could be chopped. Thousands of jobs are on the line. The other day you were musing that in the grand scheme of things, it's relatively good news. So why are you so out of touch?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I've had many opportunities to speak to this issue and I don't mind speaking to this again.

As my friend would understand, the auto sector here in Ontario is part of a fully integrated North American industry that extends its reach now into Mexico as well. Our government is working very closely with the federal government, which is reaching out to decision-makers in Washington and in Detroit, to see what we can do to lend strength to the foundation of the auto sector.

It's a very difficult time for the auto sector, but more importantly, it's a difficult time for the 400,000 workers here in Ontario who depend for their livelihood on that sector. We will continue to do everything that we can to lend some strength and stability to the sector.

I know my colleague will have more questions for me in the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: The kinds of words you used the other day do not give people much comfort. You know that things are getting worse. General Motors is submitting a plan on Friday which may call for up to $4 billion in additional government aid. GM is shutting down its Oshawa truck plant in May. A transmission factory in Windsor will close next year. GM's pension plan is underfunded. Jobs and pensions for thousands of auto workers are at risk. Again, how could you say that in the grand scheme of things, it's relatively good news?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I said that because it's true, and I'll tell you one of the things that leads me to be somewhat optimistic in this regard.

Because of the investments that we've made with Chrysler and GM, and the new flex plants that we have in place, it makes us particularly attractive to decision-makers in Washington and Detroit with respect to the future of the industry in Ontario.

I want folks in Washington and Detroit in particular to understand that we are part of the solution. Given our track record, the productivity of our workers, the quality of our product, I want them to understand that we are there. Furthermore, working with the federal government, we're making it perfectly clear that both governments are committed to the future of this industry as well.

So, given what might have come out of the recent decisions in Washington, I think that on the whole it is good news for us.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Final supplementary?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: This is how it looks to the average Ontarian: Jobs are being lost on a monthly basis in the tens of thousands; entire communities are seeing economic devastation; key sectors of the economy are in crisis.

You don't have a plan, and we're waiting another month before we see a budget. Again, you say in the grand scheme of things that things are relatively good. You just reiterated your support for that position. Good news for whom, exactly?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, given what we thought might come out of the proposals put forward in Washington, there was a possibility that Ontario would have come up dramatically short, but we did not. I know that if my colleague had followed this a little bit more closely, he would have understood what was at stake. I think folks who follow this closely understand that, in fact, we've done better than we could have.

Now I'll tell you where we are on a go-forward basis. We're now waiting for the proposals to come in from Chrysler Canada and GM Canada to the federal government and the provincial government. We're eagerly awaiting those to find out what new demands might be placed on us. We are prepared to be there on behalf of taxpayers. But, again, we place heavy obligation on the workers, on the executive, on the parts suppliers, the shareholdersâ€"everybodyâ€"to make sure that we are fully committed to the future of this sector in our province and particularly those 400,000 workers.

GREEN POWER GENERATION

Mr. Peter Tabuns: Again to the Premier: It's absolutely crucial for Ontario to start making the kinds of investments that will make Ontario a leader in clean, green energy projects. Literally tens of thousands of good-paying jobs are at stake in the next five years alone. So, why, when the rest of the world has been moving ahead on this full tilt, have you been falling behind, ignoring what the reality is? Why has it taken you so long to actually recognize that there is a green energy revolution going on on this planet?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure.

Hon. George Smitherman: I would have thought that my honourable friend, a constituent of mine, in his travels across the breadth of the province of Ontario, might have borne witness to at least one wind turbine out thereâ€"one of the hundreds of wind turbines, representing more than 1,000 megawatts of wind turbines, representing more than $2.5 billion of investment in wind turbinesâ€"that the honourable member might have found some evidence that the revolution began here in Ontario because of the commitment of this government to get our province off of coal.

On Monday in this Legislature, we will move forward with a historic act, a green energy act, that, if passed by this Legislature, will build on the momentum that we have now and place Ontario at the forefront of North American jurisdictions on this subject. We welcome the honourable member to open his eyes and see what has already happened here.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Stop the clock. Minister of Municipal Affairs and the Minister of Research and Innovation.

Please continue.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: I actually have had my eyes open. I've actually had a chance to go to Europe to see where large-scale investment in green energy is making a difference to the economy.

Here in Ontario, actions speak louder than words. In the last two weeks, you rejected 30 out of 38 proposed wind projects. We need to take the lead on investment in renewable energy. You've dropped the ball, you've been missing in action, on developments that have been happening across this planet. When are you going to take substantial action to tie into the green energy revolution?

Hon. George Smitherman: I don't know what planet that honourable member has been on that he refers to in his question, but it sure hasn't been the landscape of the province of Ontario, because if he travelled to the shores of any of our Great Lakes, whether in Sault Ste. Marie or on the shores of Lake Erie or Lake Huron, he would have borne witness to government policy that has resulted so far in more than $2.5 billion of investment in the ground and, today, producing 100 megawatts of new, clean, green energy for the people of the province of Ontario.

1050

We agree that there are yet more opportunities. Building on the momentum that we've created, in this Legislature on Monday we will introduce a green energy act. I am quite certain that when the honourable member stops long enough to take a look at the initiatives that we've led and those that we are moving forward with, he will want to stand in his place and say, "I support this bill."

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Final supplementary.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: I have to say, at a minimum, I do find the minister entertaining. The simple reality, Minister, is that you are welded to a nuclear future which will cut off that opening, that future for us with green energy. Are you going to tell us right now that your green energy plan supersedes your commitment to nuclear and that you are choosing a new path for Ontario? Is that what you are going to say to us today?

Hon. George Smitherman: What I will repeat in this Legislature today and what we will show on Monday through the introduction of this bill is that because this Premier and this government had the courage to put Ontario on a path to eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels in the form of coal, we have an extraordinary opportunity to continue to evolve our energy supply mix to one of the cleanest, greenest energy supply mixes to be found anywhere in the world. We have had demonstration in hundreds of different projects in the province of Ontario of the investment in green energy. We agree that because of the momentum that has been created, we have even greater opportunities to raise the bar on our ambitions as Ontarians and move forward with the green economy to produce at least 50,000 jobs over the next three years.

ONTARIO ECONOMY

Mr. Tim Hudak: A question to the Premier: Premier, with 72,000 lost full-time jobs since the last election, it's very clear that your so-called five-point economic plan has become nothing but a five-star economic flop. People worried about their jobs, worried about paying mortgages, hear the Premier attempt to console them with bland expressions that he tries to pass off for real leadership. In response to a series of layoff announcements several months ago, the Premier said, "Trust me, folks. This too shall pass." He told the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, decimated with the highest unemployment rate in all of Canada, "We're going to be okay."

When will Premier Dad abandon this empty and patronizing rhetoric and table immediately an economic recovery plan to create jobs in this province?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I'm always pleased to speak to the advice offered by my well-intentioned colleagues. Let me just remind you of some of the things that we just did recently with respect to the Building Canada fund projects announced on Friday. We announced 289 separate projects in communities of 100,000 people or less. Those include everything from the expansion of an airport in the Algonquin Highlands to a new water tower in Minden Hills township, to replacing the sewage treatment plant in Merrickville, to the Hanes Road reconstruction in Huntsville, to repaving the runway at the airport in Atikokan, and to so many other projects. Those are the kinds of things that we have done and we'll continue to do to create jobs in the short term and enhance our competitiveness in the long term.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Tim Hudak: Another favourite: One of the Premier's recent expressions is, "It is hard to understand what is happening in the economy if all you read are the headlines"â€"unbelievable. Look at the headlines: "Ontario's Back is to the Wall: Its Industrial Pillars Crumbling"â€"Globe and Mail, January 24; "Officially a 'Have-not,' Ontario Receives Funding Boost"â€"Globe and Mail, January 27; "Job Losses Smash Records"â€"Toronto Star, February 7.

Premier, beneath those headlines are some 72,000 people who have lost full-time jobs, seniors worrying about balancing between paying their hydro bills or affording groceries, working families concerned about paying off their mortgage, and they get these kind of bland statements from the Premier in the guise of leadership.

All we've heard this week, Premierâ€"we've asked for actionâ€"is what you're not going to do. I'm coming to think that your decision about deep thinking and new ideas is actually going to be much ado about nothing and a return to your taxâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Premier?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I don't understand what my friend doesn't understand. I've been talking all day today and yesterday about the kinds of projects that we continue to invest in. This year, for example, we have committed, so far, to over $8 billion in infrastructure projects. Last year it was $10 billion. My friend has come to the understanding just of late that investing in infrastructure and stimulating the economy on an ongoing basis is something worthwhile. We have over 100 major construction projects under way right now. That's something we've been doing for a long time now. We will continue to build on the strengths of our five-point plan. Practically speaking, that means we're going to continue to invest in innovation, infrastructure, skills development and business tax cuts and in partnerships with our businesses. Those are working for us. We will continue to do more on a go-forward basis.

POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION

Mr. Rosario Marchese: The question is to the Premier. The education Premier himself has repeatedly said that the economic recovery of this province is tied to the knowledge economy. When the University of Western Ontario is talking about early retirements, job cuts and tuition fee hikes to cope with a $41-million revenue shortfall, it's puzzling. Your economic plan hinges on the health of the post-secondary education system, yet the University of Western Ontario is talking about revenue shortfalls. What are you going to do to stop the cuts and tuition fee hikes at the University of Western Ontario?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Hon. John Milloy: I appreciate the honourable member's question. I think all of us recognize that with the current economic downturn we're seeing a number of public institutions that are under pressure, but at the same time I don't think the honourable member can ignore the fact of a $6.2-billion investment made by this government in our post-secondary education. Under the Reaching Higher plan, in 2008-09 the government will allocate $3.019 billion in total operating transfer payments to universities. That's a 58% increase since we took office, and the results have been 100,000 more students in our colleges and universities and one of the highest rates of post-secondary education participation in the western world.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary.

Mr. Rosario Marchese: The minister forgets to tell us that we are number 10 in per capita funding, and with these cuts, it's going to get worse. Fanshawe College is looking at layoffs to address a budget shortfall of $6.5 million, and Brock University is forecasting a budget shortfall of $17 million and budget cuts of 7% across the board, all of which add up to fewer full-time faculty, higher class sizes and more debt for students. It is when the economy is sliding that you are supposed to be making strategic investments for the future. That's what the Premier is saying. But how are these dramatic cuts fulfilling his and your promises?

Hon. John Milloy: I disagree with the honourable member when he talks about, "Now is the time to make strategic investments." The fact is, we made those strategic investments to allow Ontario to weather this current economic storm, and the results have been impressive: 100,000 more students in post-secondary studies, and graduation rates have gone up 8% in colleges and 3% at universities; last year, Ontario's universities hired approximately 1,800 new faculty, about half of them full-time; last year, over 37,000 students from around the world chose Ontario's universities, which I think demonstrates the faith that the world has in one of the finest post-secondary education systems on Earth. Coming from a member who is part of a government that cut funding to post-secondary education, eliminated up-front grants to students and allowed tuition to skyrocket, I find it a little rich.

ONTARIO ECONOMY

Mr. Bob Delaney: My question is for the Minister of International Trade and Investment. During the last six months, the unprecedented turmoil in the global economic system has had a significant impact on our families and in our communities here in Ontario. Although our province has done many things prudently to be able to meet the serious economic challenges, we feel the effects of a global economic crisis. Falling commodity prices have caused the Canadian dollar to fall against other world currencies. Tightening credit markets and a declining US economy have caused export revenues to fall for many Ontario companies. Despite all this, your ministry has promoted Ontario and brought new investments to the province.

1100

How are you enhancing Ontario's ability to compete with other jurisdictions, and how is our province attracting new investments, new jobs, and innovative opportunities here to Ontario?

Hon. Sandra Pupatello: I'm very happy to receive the question from our MPP Delaney.

These are unprecedented economic times, and I think it's important, now more than ever, that the message of Ontario gets out around the world. So we are stepping up a very aggressive plan to get the Ontario message out to the world.

We have a tremendous amount to offer. In particular, the markets that we're chasingâ€"we are lining that up with Ontario's climate change agenda. In the middle of January, for example, Ontario announced its partnership with a company out of California, Better Place, which is a leading-edge, innovation-type company developing electrical infrastructure for the electric car, which lines up very nicely with Ontario's skill set as the largest manufacturer of cars in North America.

It's important that we look ahead to what Ontario can offer international companies that can do business in Ontario. Even in these challenging times, we will be more aggressive than ever.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Bob Delaney: Minister, I'd like to focus on your comments about Ontario's investment in green technology.

With the rapid increase in the world price of oil, consumer demand has quickly shifted toward cleaner and greener vehicles. Ontario's auto sector is one of the major drivers of our economyâ€"pun intended. This partnership with Better Place is a major step toward sustainable transportation. Electric vehicles and a related battery-charging infrastructure will create jobs, economic growth and benefit the environment. For every 10,000 electric vehicles on the road, Ontario will offset an estimated 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. This technology of tomorrow will fundamentally shape the future of the global automotive industry.

What role might other local renewable energy sources play in this interesting initiative? And in addition to a head officeâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Minister?

Hon. Sandra Pupatello: Thank you so much to this member from Mississaugaâ€"Streetsville.

It's really important in our relationship with Better Place out of California that they are linking up with Bullfrog, so that all of the energy they'll be plugging into will in fact be green energy. It is very much a part of Ontario's larger, smart-grid approach to how Ontario will be clean and green, and that's the message that we're taking out to the world.

Our opportunity with Better Place means that we, as a government, can now considerâ€"which we're in the midst ofâ€"the kind of good public policy that can lead the consumer to adopt the electric carâ€"a very important initiative.

A large jurisdiction like Ontario will lead North America where every major car company is going, with every one of them with an electric car program. That's what Ontario's name will be around the world, and that's why so many around the world are now looking to Ontario as their place to invest.

MINIMUM WAGE

Mr. Robert Bailey: My question is to the Minister of Labour. The minister will know that today the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has sent an open letter to him. In recent weeks, the CFIB has been flooded with calls from their members, who are worried about the upcoming increase in the minimum wage. Already struggling to weather the current economic slowdown, the last thing these small companies need is another increase in the cost of doing business in Ontario.

I have heard from my chamber of commerce loud and clear that businesses in Sarniaâ€"Lambton, particularly in the hospitality industry, are working hard to see that they don't need to lay off people, but any increase in their labour costs will cause layoffs. Accordingly, the CFIB is asking you to freeze the minimum wage at $8.75. Already, at $8.75, it is the highest minimum wage in Canada.

Minister, did you receive this letter dated February 19, and what is your response to the small businesses of Ontario?

Hon. Peter Fonseca: I want to thank the honourable member for the opportunity to talk about our commitment to the minimum wage.

After nine long years of having the minimum wage frozen in this province, this government has taken a prudent and responsible measure to increasing that minimum wage. We've done that every year. The minimum wage will be going up to $9.50 on March 31.

The minimum wage is part of something that we feel very proud of on this side of the aisle, and that's our poverty reduction strategy, helping those vulnerable workers. We want to ensure that those vulnerable workers work with dignity and respect and are provided a minimum wage that has kept pace. Unlike the previous government, we keep in touch with all workers in this province. We want to ensure that there is that safety net, there is thatâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Supplementary.

Mr. Robert Bailey: Minister, even studies commissioned by your own government have warned about the implications of minimum wage increases. In a 2007 report prepared for your Minister of Finance, Morley Gunderson found that increasing the minimum wage leads to slower growth in employment, that a higher minimum wage in Ontario relative to other provinces would likely exacerbate the adverse employment effects, and that the increase in payroll costs is almost three times as high for small firms as large companies. The minimum wage is a blunt instrument to curb poverty, with little or no effect on reducing overall poverty rates.

The chamber also recommends considering mandatory and regular minimum wage reviews that include an economic impact assessment on the provincial economy.

Minister, will you at least agree to examine the impact of this planned minimum wage increase on the provincial economy, which is already suffering under your government's watch?

Hon. Peter Fonseca: I say to the member that, yes, of course we will work with all our partnersâ€"with the CFIB, with small business, with employers, with trade unionsâ€"to look at the economy holistically. We've taken a balanced approach, Mr. Speaker, unlike that party, where they just froze the minimum wage for nine years, or the NDP, which has looked at an irresponsible approach to increasing the minimum wage by a huge number that would impact businesses and where there would be job losses.

We feel that we've moved in a responsible way, listening to stakeholders in a balanced approach to ensuring that we are addressing those vulnerable workers and working with small business. So I will look at anything that is sent to my office. We have met with many small business owners and look at continuing this balanced responseâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. New question.

CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES

Mr. Peter Kormos: My question is to the Minister of Correctional Services. When is the minister going to improve the very stressful, overcrowded, dangerous and deteriorating working conditions faced each and every day by more than 5,000 of Ontario's corrections workers?

Hon. Rick Bartolucci: While I appreciate the question, we'll do a little comparison here. We are improving those conditions. We're building new facilities: the Toronto South Detention Centre; the South West Detention Centre. When they were the government, they said no to new facilities. We're increasing bed capacity; in excess of 1,200 new beds will be used. When they were in government, they said no to increased capacity. We're leading a Canadian study on the changing face of correctional services. When they were in government, they isolated themselves from everyone.

Yes, we understand there are some challenges. Yes, we are addressing those challenges, unlike what they did when they were the NDP government in Ontario.

Mr. Peter Kormos: Listen, I say to the minister, I'm no fan of Bob Rae either. Lookâ€"

Interjections.

Mr. Mike Colle: â€"hiding in the washroom for five years.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Perhaps the member from Eglintonâ€"Lawrence wants to be sent there.

Please continue.

Mr. Peter Kormos: Look, corrections workers do a job that very few of us could handle, and they do it under atrocious circumstances. This government has ignored the problem and now decides that the best solution is to punish those workers by slashing sick-day provisions. The union is willing to work with the government in addressing absenteeism. Why won't this government stop the attack on corrections workers and address the working conditions that are at the heart of this public safety issue?

Hon. Rick Bartolucci: Nothing could be further from the truth, to be perfectly honest. We respect our correctional officers. We certainly hope that they will, in conjunction with government services, come to some agreement.

1110

But let's talk about respecting workers. Let's talk about really, really understanding the importance of these correctional officers. They did: They imposed the social contract, which cost them jobs, which gave them horrible working conditions, and yet they purport to stand up for the working men and women in Ontario. They have no credibility when it comes to supporting the working people of Ontario, including correctional services officers.

DIALYSIS

Mr. Reza Moridi: My question is for the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. People with chronic kidney disease often depend on regular dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant to survive. Due to Ontario's aging population and the growing number of people with diabetes and high blood pressure, the demand for kidney dialysis has been increasing by more than 7% every year. Some residents of my riding and York region depend on these crucial dialysis services. Can the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care tell the House how he plans to expand access to dialysis services in Vaughan and York region? How is he helping local residents who are suffering from chronic kidney disease?

Hon. David Caplan: I'd like to thank the member from Richmond Hill for his question and for his continued advocacy for the people of York region.

On February 5 I joined the member from Richmond Hill and the member from Vaughan, where we announced a new dialysis satellite unit and outpatient clinic at the York Central Hospital. When the satellite unit opens later this year, it will have 24 new dialysis stations.

Increasing access to kidney dialysis service is part of the Ontario government's four-year, $741-million diabetes strategy. Creating satellite units such as the one in Vaughan enables people to receive dialysis treatment closer to home. The government is deeply committed to improving the quality of life for those living with chronic conditions like kidney disease, and that's one of my top priorities. This new dialysis unit is just one of the many ways in which the government is increasing access to health care in Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary.

Mr. Reza Moridi: I want to thank the minister for his answer and for responding to a clear need for more services in the greater York region community.

Residents of my riding are thankful that this dialysis unit will help more of their neighbours and family members get treatment closer to home. My constituents will truly benefit from this latest investment.

But I am wondering whether the benefits of this investment will extend beyond the borders of Vaughan and York region. I'm wondering whether it will help the health care system as a whole. I ask the Minister of Health: How does adding more dialysis units in Vaughan and opening the satellite clinic help improve the overall health care system today? How will it help growing communities like Vaughan to ensure that its residents will have quality health care for years to come?

Hon. David Caplan: When it comes to health care, this government is doing what previous governments failed to do. Simply, we are planning for the long-term needs of the people of this province. The member is quite correct: York region is growing rapidly, and that's why we are investing in resources and infrastructure like this dialysis unit today, because we want to be able to meet future demands. When fully operational, the dialysis unit will have 33 stations. It will have the capacity to provide treatment to over 30,000 additional dialysis treatments per year. That equals to upward of 5,000 visits for 200 patients annually.

I recognize that in order to bring down wait times, we need to keep Ontarians out of emergency rooms. That starts with bringing health care closer to patients' homes. This helps people to better manage their chronic diseases like kidney disease. Chronic disease management is a big priority for me and for this government.

HOSPITAL FUNDING

Mr. Frank Klees: My question is to the Premier. York regional council is meeting today. They'll be voting on a budget measure that will add $12 million to the backs of York region taxpayers for the purpose of funding the shortfall of health care funding for capital costs for the three hospitals in York region.

My question to the Premier is this: Why is his government downloading the cost of capital funding for our hospitals onto municipalities and ultimately onto the backs of property taxpayers at a time when they can least afford it?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure.

Hon. George Smitherman: I view the actions taken by York region council as actions that should be applauded. If we look at the history of capital funding for hospitals in the province of Ontario over decades, it used to be the case, actually, that local communities paid the entire bill. Over time, that has transitioned in exactly the opposite direction, where the government of Ontario today is providing the highest rateâ€"90%â€"of the hard infrastructure costs associated with the projects.

We recognize, of course, that people are sensitive about costs associated with tax increases. But at the same time, we have noticed an extraordinarily strong degree of support for the ongoing construction and investment in infrastructure in hospitals, and it's very, very much in keeping with that that a community contribution coming through York region should be moved forward.

This is not a precedent in York region; this is done in many, many communities across the province of Ontario. We applaud the leadership of the politicians in York region.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Frank Klees: The Minister of Energy and Infrastructure may applaud the politicians in York region; they are not applauding him, they are not applauding the Minister of Health and they are not applauding the Premier for forcing them to put onto the backs of their taxpayers, on the property tax bill, a bill that is rightfully to be paid by the provincial government.

The Minister of Health clearly said that York region is a rapidly growing community: 35,000 new people a year go into that region. It's very clear that this government is not coming to the table with adequate provincial health care dollars. I'm calling on the Premier to reconsider his policy about how they are funding health care. Essentially, they are downloading the responsibility that has always been the province's onto the municipalities. Will he consider changing his policy?

Hon. George Smitherman: I'm not sure what the honourable member is up toâ€"I'm not sure why he's getting this spot in the lineupâ€"because his comments today stand in contradiction with members in that party who have encouraged and supported their local communities that are participating in paying the community share toward massive investment in hospital infrastructure.

Look at the York region picture: Southlake hospital in the last five years has grown from a very small hospital to one of our most important hospitals in the province of Ontario; Markham-Stouffville will soon move forward with a very, very substantial investment; at the Richmond Hill hospital, we have under way right now a very substantial project toward new development; and in Vaughan, there is a very, very strenuous demand on the part of that community to move forward with a hospital.

All across the province of Ontario, municipalities have determined that in order to leverage billions of dollars in government investment in new hospital infrastructure, they should make a contribution totalling up to 10%. Thereforeâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you, Minister.

MINISTER'S EXPENSES

Mr. Paul Miller: My question is to the Premier. On six trips, the Minister of International Trade spent more than $50,000 on business-class airfare and stays at luxurious, posh hotels with room service. Just a couple of examples of many: a $60 English breakfast ordered to her hotel room, a $708 night at the Monarch Hotel in Dubai and $500-a-night rooms at the five-star Taj Mahal in New Delhi and Mumbai.

With more and more Ontarians facing the prospectâ€"

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I apologize. I'm trying to listen to a question that's being asked of a minister, and there are continuing conversations going on across the floor. I would encourage you to take those conversations outside, and let's listen to the member from Hamilton East.

Please continue.

Mr. Paul Miller: Getting on, the last one was $500-a-night rooms at the five-star Taj Mahal hotels in New Delhi and Mumbai.

With more and more Ontarians facing the prospect of losing their jobs, Premier, tell us what value was derived from this extravagant spending.

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of International Trade and Investment.

Hon. Sandra Pupatello: I can tell you this: The plan for the Ontario government is to be even more aggressive on the world stage and put Ontario out there as a place to invest. I find it very interesting that this member purports to speak on behalf of working people. When he decided to send a letter to my riding with this kind of information, he received a phone call from labour leader Gary Parent, but this particular member decided not to return his call, because what he would have said is that the labour leaders in my own hometown agree that this Ontario government needs to be on the world stage. We need to be out there with our message. We need to attract investment. That is my job and I will continue to do that, and I hope that I do that well.

1120

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Paul Miller: Didn't get a letter; didn't hear anything about it. That's news.

Windsor, the Minister of Trade's hometownâ€"

Interjections.

Mr. Paul Miller: Sorry; thanks for listening.

The Minister of Trade's hometown has the highest unemployment in the country. People are struggling to get by. They can't even dream of staying inside these hotels. We understand some need to travel, but surely a swank $700-a-night hotel room and a $60 English breakfast isn't necessary to bring jobs back to Ontario. When so many Windsor people are either unemployed or facing the prospect of losing their jobs, how does this Premier justify the kind of irresponsible spending that this minister is doing?

Hon. Sandra Pupatello: Let me just say at the outset that the information that this member wants to present to this House is inaccurate. I have been more than forthcoming with my information about my expenses and I'm happy to offer them to whoever would like to see them.

Let me tell you that in just this past year we have brought in seven applications from international companies that I have met with, who've since applied to our programs and are landing investment in Ontario; that just this year alone we have closed 25 investment deals representing 3,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars. I appreciateâ€"

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I just remind the member from Hamilton East that you had just asked the question. You should have at least had the courtesy to listen to the response.

New question.

Mr. Paul Miller: Point of order, Mr. Speaker, point of orderâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I am not going to recognize the point of order. We've got a custom within this chamber that we do not allow for points of order during question period. If you want to raise a point of order, raise it at the end of question period.

New question.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Mr. Mike Colle: I have a questionâ€"

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I just remind the memberâ€"and I'm letting the clock run because, unfortunately, the official opposition will be penalized as wellâ€"that we have a practice within this chamber of trying to maintain parliamentary language. You're not helping with comments that you're making like that.

Member from Eglintonâ€"Lawrence.

Mr. Mike Colle: I have a question for the Minister of Culture and I think it's very opportune today, with the students who are here visiting us in this chamber. My question is about the importance of Black History Month, February.

As you know, every year in February we take time out to honour this incredibly important history in Ontario, the contributions black Ontarians have made to this province going back 200 years. What I would like to ask you isâ€"as we recognize Black History Month, I would like to know some of the specific undertakings that you, as minister, have taken to honour and respect the contributions that black Ontarians have made to this province.

Hon. M. Aileen Carroll: I thank my honourable colleague for the question. The government is very proud to honour the significant contributions of Ontario's black community by celebrating Black History Month. Black History Month has given all of us an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of black Ontarians, who are renowned as politicians, athletes, artists and authors throughout this province.

Earlier this month I joined my colleague Bruce Crozier, who is the member from Essex, and together we launched Black History Month at the North American Black Historical Museum in Amherstburg. Our government is marking this occasion through a number of cultural events across Ontario, and I do encourage all Ontarians to participate in the celebrations as we honour this great community, their people and their achievements.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?

Mr. Mike Colle: I'm sure that many members in our constituencies across the province have had Black History Month events take place in our communities.

In my own riding of Eglintonâ€"Lawrence, I was honoured to meet two descendants of slaves who escaped from the United States into Canada and formed the incredible community of North Buxton. They are the curators of the Buxton historical museum. That night in my riding, people came from all over west Toronto to honour these two important people, Shannon and Bryan Prince.

What I would also like to ask is, are we doing anything else to preserve this great historyâ€"which we might lose if we don't pay attention to itâ€"and to promote it, especially amongst our young people, who should never forget the lessons to be learned, especially from the 400 years of slavery that were inflicted on innocent people?

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Minister?

Hon. M. Aileen Carroll: I thank my honourable colleague, because those kinds of celebrations that took place in his riding this weekend, commemorating two exceptional Ontarians, are exactly the kinds of events that we see happening throughout the province.

We are indeed proud of the heritage and the history, and as a result we have made 18 commemorative plaques, which have been created by the Ontario Heritage Trust. These heritage plaques trace the very perilous path of former black slaves on their journey to freedom through that very famous Underground Railroad. Each one of those plaques tells an inspirational story about some very remarkable people.

While that seems very long ago, today we have President Obama arriving to visit us here in Canada. I cannot think of anybody who can make black Ontarians feelâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. New question.

MINISTER'S EXPENSES

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: My question is for the Premier. Premier, in 2004 you were quoted in various media in response to the news that your high-roller seatmate from Windsor and four of his staff were spending more than $5,500 a day on a European jaunt that included a $789 steak lunch. Your quote: "There's an appearance here, which I will assure we avoid in the future." Four and a half years later, we learn that the other minister representing Windsorâ€"we wonder if there's something in the water thereâ€"ran up a staggering, taxpayer-paid travel tab of over $128,000 in just one year.

Premier, were your 2004 assurances to the public, to the taxpayers, just another broken promise?

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Premier?

Interjections.

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I will spare my colleague the response coming from the minister herself. She's feeling her oats today; I can tell.

What I will say is that we feel a heavy responsibility, obviously, on a couple of counts. One is to act responsibly when using taxpayer dollars. At the same time, we have a responsibility to get out there and hustle business for Ontario, and there are some costs associated with travel. There are some costs associated with accommodation. There are some costs associated with having meals. That's part and parcel of doing business. Some of the travel takes us to expensive parts of the world, and there are necessarily higher costs there than we might incur here in Ontario, for example.

But my ministers well understand both responsibilities: Get out there and do the best you can to bring jobs home to Ontario, and act responsibly with taxpayerâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Supplementary?

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: I guess it only takes 20 feet to radically change someone's views on what is appropriate use of taxpayers' dollars.

Hon. Sandra Pupatello: â€"Bacardi rum tour.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: In 2002, the now Minister Pupatelloâ€"

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Minister, you can have that discussion with him following question period. Please continue.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: In 2002, the now minister criticized the minister of the day for expenses totalling $103,000 in 48 monthsâ€"two years. Her comments at the time, and I'm quoting: "Everyone in this House is embarrassed by the fact that you look like you're living a gluttonous lifestyle on the back of the taxpayer."

Premier, are you embarrassed that the same member has spent twice as much in half the time, while many of her constituents are struggling to survive? How can you allow this jet-set lifestyle when jobs are fleeing and families are suffering?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the minister.

Hon. Sandra Pupatello: Let me tell you what the difference is. In that previous government, a Toronto minister, who is not theâ€"

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Order. Order.

Please continue.

Hon. Sandra Pupatello: Here's the difference: We had Minister Jackson, an MPP from Burlington, we all recall, staying in Toronto hotels. That's the difference between us going around the world to sell Ontario for business.

I will not apologize for selling Ontario. It is not a Bacardi rum tour with the chair of the LCBO, as that particular member might remember from his trips abroad. It is hard work, and I will continue to do that for the people of Ontario, especially the people from my hometown.

MUNICIPALITIES

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Kawartha Lakes staff are forecasting a 10% increase in Ontario Works caseloads. Unemployment there is 8.5% and rising. Ballooning social services costs are straining the city's budget. Property taxes are going up by 3.9%. NDP candidate Lyn Edwards is hearing from hard-hit constituents who face the prospect of losing jobs and paying even higher property taxes.

Minister, a 10-year upload is not going to help recession-weary Kawartha Lakes. Why won't this minister agree right now to cut down the download process to two years from 10 and help struggling municipalities in this province that can't afford to pay for your social services costs?

Hon. Jim Watson: I had the pleasure of being in that community yesterday. I had the opportunity to speak to the mayor, who was very appreciative of the efforts of the McGuinty government to invest in municipalities like Kawartha Lakes.

I also had the opportunity to meet the next MPP for that area, Rick Johnson, who's going to be a strong and effective voice for the people of Kawartha Lakes. Unlike the Tory candidate in that riding, Rick Johnson doesn't need a GPS to get around the riding.

Let me just tell you what the good people of Kawartha Lakes have received from the McGuinty government: $7.1 million from the Investing in Ontario Act; $656,000 last year in gas tax for transit; rural infrastructure money of $900,000; and roads and bridges money, last year alone, of $6 million.

We're proud of ourâ€"

Mr. Mike Colle: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I seek unanimous consent, on behalf of this Legislature and the people of Ontario, to officially welcome President Obama on his visit to Canada and Ontario, and to have an official welcome on behalf of this Legislature to President Obama.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Agreed? I heard a no.

There being no deferred votes today, this House stands recessed until 1 p.m. this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1133 to 1300.

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

HERITAGE WEEK

Mrs. Julia Munro: I'm very pleased to acknowledge Heritage Week in Ontario. Everyone recognizes how important heritage is to our culture and our sense of identity. Our understanding of the past is vital. It is through the preservation of our heritage that we maintain our identity and present ourselves to Canada and the world.

Unfortunately, the McGuinty government is failing Ontario on heritage. While the federal government is spending millions preserving sites from the War of 1812, this government has only given a few thousand dollars. They have no plan to recognize the bicentennial of this seminal event. They seem to have no interest in the history of Ontario and the lives of our ancestors.

They do not care about built heritage either. In 2005, this government gave itself the power to designate heritage buildings at risk. So far they have not designated a single building in Ontario. If this government cares about Ontario's heritage, it needs to start taking action to prove it.

I encourage everyone in Ontario to take part in events marking Heritage Week, and I thank all of the volunteers and staff at our museums, historical sites and community events who work to preserve our heritage all year round.

GÉRALD "CHUCK" CHARLEBOIS

Mr. Jim Brownell: A community's greatest strength is in its people. With the right minds, ideas and dedication, anything is possible. This is certainly true for the city of Cornwall in my riding of Stormontâ€"Dundasâ€"South Glengarry. This city has produced many dedicated, creative people who have made a positive difference in their community.

One of those individuals is Gérald Charlebois, known to all of us as "Chuck." Born and raised in the Le Village area of the city, Chuck has worn many hats over the years: local businessman, city councillor and innovator among them. Perhaps his greatest legacy, however, will be with Groupe Renaissance Group. This project, started by Chuck more than a decade ago, has had a hand in at least 350 community renovation and construction projects in Cornwall and throughout the united counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

Through every phase of his career, Chuck has made a difference in his community, one that will benefit the people of Cornwall, and in particular Le Village, for decades to come. He has motivated many. He has personally achieved. He has left his mark on so many projects in the community.

After decades of service to his community, Chuck is finally going to get some well-deserved rest in retirement. Just recently, his family and friends joined to wish Chuck the very best for a long and happy retirement. I would like to commend him for his dedication to the community, his creativity, his tenacity, and especially for his friendship. Bon repos, mon ami.

PESTICIDES

Mr. Toby Barrett: I urge Mr. McGuinty to rethink his pesticide regulation. We all want a safer Ontario for our children and our environment; however, that's not the goal of this legislation. This legislation and its regulations will affect 20,000 lawn-care professionals, more than 40,000 farm families, and a food and agricultural industry that contributes $33 billion and employs 700,000. Canada's total $100-billion forestry and agricultural industries are affected by this. Hospitals, schools and municipalities could better utilize the $10 million this government is spending on the legislation.

This government calls itself the heart of North America's chemical industry and boasts of the 50,000-plus jobs that this sector creates. Well, you can't have it both ways. You can't say this and then impose unreasonable and unscientific constraints on that very business sector.

Further, farmers need every tool in the toolbox to meet the challenges of feeding a growing population, and that includes safe and effective pesticides. By saying that pesticides are unsafe for urban use, Mr. McGuinty is leaving unwarranted negative impressions on Canadians about food production and the use of pesticides in that production. Why would science-based businesses choose Ontario? This government's lack of scientific criteria makes it impossible toâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you.

CHILD CARE

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Parents in Ontario will be looking to the provincial budget for a significant increase in funding for child care. Yesterday, groups including Campaign 2000 and the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians came to Queen's Park to sound the alarm for child care. As everyone knows, providing families with affordable, licensed child care is a pillar of poverty reduction. While the McGuinty government talks about reducing poverty, people in the know are shaking their heads because they see little action from the Liberal quarter on child care.

There is a child care crisis in Ontario. Major investments are needed immediately to create spaces for 23,000 children who are stuck on waiting lists across our province. The McGuinty Liberals promised $300 million in new provincial funding but never delivered a dime. They hoarded the provincial dollars and used federal dollars to prop up their underfunded child care strategy. I call that an abdication of responsibility.

The Liberals need to wake up to the fact that affordable child care is good for the economy, good for working people and great for children. With affordable child care, mothers and fathers can take jobs, go to school to upgrade their skills and support their families.

New Democrats have consistently called for a not-for-profit, seamless system that guarantees a universally accessible, affordable program of early learning and care in this province. Ontario is getting a failing grade on child care: in Quebec, $7 a day; in Ontario, $70 a day.

I want to thank Jane Mercer, Neethan Shanâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you.

FAMILY DAY

Mr. Phil McNeely: Family Day is an excellent way to provide our hard-working Ontarians with an opportunity to take a little extra time to enjoy the company of their loved ones, and I would like to take this opportunity to share with everyone the great success of Family Fun Day in Orléans.

In our increasingly busy lives, ensuring that families are provided with opportunities to spend time together is so important. At this event, at least two families that I know had three generations skating together.

That is why I hosted a free skate at the Ray Friel arena in Orléans. It was a great chance to get families out and active together in the community. I must admit it was a great success. We had close to 300 people come out to the free skate, and of course to enjoy my company. To sweeten the deal, we made sure to offer plenty of hot chocolate and cookies for all skaters.

I'm very pleased with the success of our Family Fun Day and look forward to next year. Special thanks to the folks at Ray Friel Centre for helping us set this event up, and to all the families who came out to say hello and take a few laps around the rink.

Ontario Family Day helps to remind us all of the importance of our families and loved ones, and how we all need to take a little bit of time out of our day to appreciate them more. I want to start planning with our community organizations for next year to offer more family fun as we endure these long winters.

HEALTH CARE

Mr. Robert Bailey: Coming soon to a LHIN near you: Members, is your emergency room next?

On January 27, the Hay Group presented their bombshell report on rural emergency rooms in the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network area. Since that report was made public, the community of Sarniaâ€"Lambton has united in condemning this report. If implemented, the report recommendations would see the emergency rooms at CEE Hospital in Petrolia and the emergency room at the Sydenham hospital in Wallaceburg downgraded to urgent care wards.

It's a bit of a mystery how the Hay Group came up with the recommendations, since there's overwhelming evidence that these two emergency wards are a vital part of the delivery of health care for the residents of central and southern Lambton county.

In Wallaceburg, a community group has formed, called the Save Our Sydenham Committee, which has started a petition that calls for the Hay Group report to be shelved and the emergency room to remain open at Sydenham hospital. I would like to congratulate the residents of Wallaceburg and St. Clair township for organizing this petition drive, and I look forward to assisting them in any way that I can.

LHINs across Ontario are doing studies just like this, and all members should be aware that it won't be long before your rural hospitals are threatened as well. Right now, just in southwestern Ontario there are 27 rural hospitals under the gun. Mr. McGuinty's appointed LHINs need to be told clearly that they should keep their hands off our rural hospitals.

SKILLS TRAINING

Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I rise to today thank the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and our government. Last Thursday, Minister John Milloy announced that an additional $1.8 million will be allocated to Centennial College Ashtonbee campus, located in the riding of Scarborough Southwest. Centennial College will be training more apprentices to meet local demand for workers in the automotive maintenance sector. Through the apprenticeship enhancement fund, the college will modernize training equipment and restructure its facilities so that training will keep pace with the technological changes in automotive maintenance. It will also help the college train more apprentices in general. These upgrades are part of the $2-billion skills to jobs action plan, which gives Ontarians a competitive edge by training for tomorrow's high-skilled jobs in a greener economy.

1310

I had the opportunity to tour Ashtonbee campus recently and saw first-hand how their training programs lead directly into well-paying jobs in Ontario's workforce. Centennial has partnered with several local businesses in the area, such as Canadian Tire, Volvo/Mack Trucks, General Motors, Ford and other local companies to train their students with the most up-to-date equipment available. The injection of these funds from the provincial government will ensure that the students there are trained with the most modern equipment on the planet.

Finally, there are over 150 trades in the construction, industrial, motive power and service sectors that offer apprenticeship in Ontario. Centennial College is training about 3,000 apprentices per year, and under the leadership of Ann Bullerâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you.

INTERNATIONAL
MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY

Mr. Reza Moridi: This Saturday, February 21 is International Mother Language Day. This date was proclaimed as such by UNESCO in 1999. It aims to celebrate cultural diversity and to promote linguistic and multilingual education and awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions, based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. There are about 7,000 languages spoken in the world, and it is estimated that within a few generations, more than 50% of these languages may disappear due to lack of proper nurturing.

Each year, UNESCO has focused on a particular aspect of language. This year, the launch of the third edition of UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing will form part of the celebrations to be held at UNESCO in Paris.

Ontario is proud to be the home to people from more than 200 different ethnic origins, who speak more than 150 languages. I encourage all Ontarians to embrace and protect their mother language and impart it to the next generation.

Dhannyabad, sagh-olon, supas, zoor-mamnoon, do jeh, dhanyavaad, shukriyaa, xie xieâ€"

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you.

ONTARIO ECONOMY

Mr. Joe Dickson: I rise in the House today to highlight the McGuinty Liberals' continued investments in strengthening Ontario's economy.

Last week, the Minister of Economic Development announced that Ontario is helping an auto parts maker invest in innovative technology that will create 128 jobs in Aurora.

The province is contributing $2.4 million to support Axiom Group, a supplier for Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and other parts companies. The company plans to develop and produce a new high-output exhauster for the auto industry. Their new product is manufactured using plastic injection moulding, resulting in a lighter product that also improves air velocity and reduces noise.

The support comes from Ontario's Next Generation of Jobs Fund, a $1.15-billion incentive program to create and protect jobs for Ontario families. Partnering with business is a component of the Ontario government's five-point plan to grow the economy.

Here's what Perry Rizzo, the president of Axiom Group, said last week: "The support from the McGuinty government helps us to accelerate our growth plans and make the investments in our operations and workforce that allow us to remain competitive. Their support in commercializing our new technology and the skilled and educated workforce anchors our investment in Ontario."

REPORTS BY COMMITTEES

STANDING COMMITTEE ON
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I beg leave to present a report from the Standing Committee on Public Accounts regarding universities and management of facilities.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Mr. Hardeman presents the committee's report and moves the adoption of its recommendations. Does the member wish to make a brief statement?

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: This report comes from the Auditor General's 2007 annual report, containing the recommendations for universities and the management of their facilities. This was the third year in which the Ontario Auditor General conducted the value-for-money audit on the broader public sector organizations. The audit's objective was to assess whether selected universities had adequate policies and procedures in place to manage and maintain their academic and administrative facilities cost-effectively. We held meetings in May 2008, heard from the universities that were involved in the audit and made 10 recommendations as to how they could better set standards for all universities to utilize their space most cost-effectively.

I think one of the most important recommendations is that the grants to increase facilities are based on the quality of utilization for space within those universities. I think that will provide a better service for all the academic facilities in Ontario.

With that, I move that we adjourn the debate on this motion.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Debate adjourned.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

VISUAL FIRE ALARM SYSTEM
ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 SUR LES SYSTÈMES
D'ALARME-INCENDIE
À AFFICHAGE VISUEL

Mr. Arthurs moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 148, An Act respecting visual fire alarm systems in public buildings / Projet de loi 148, Loi sur les systèmes d'alarme-incendie à affichage visuel dans les édifices publics.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The member for a short statement.

Mr. Wayne Arthurs: This bill, if enacted, would provide a visual notice in addition to the standard audio signal that a fire alarm has been activated. This visual notice would give those who are deaf or hard of hearing the necessary warning to exit those buildings quickly and safely. I look forward to the opportunity, at second reading, of hearing from the House on this bill.

INACTIVE CEMETERIES
PROTECTION ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 SUR LA PROTECTION
DES CIMETIÈRES INACTIFS

Mr. Brownell moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 149, An Act to protect Ontario's inactive cemeteries / Projet de loi 149, Loi visant à protéger les cimetières inactifs de l'Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The member for a short statement.

Mr. Jim Brownell: This bill, if enacted, will protect our inactive cemeteries. The bill will help to preserve the sanctity of our deceased, safeguard our history and heritage and provide clear guidelines to those looking to develop near or on our province's gravesites. It is of public interest that our cemeteries be preserved and maintained in their original locations.

1173931 ONTARIO LIMITED ACT, 2009

Mr. Rinaldi moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr21, An Act to revive 1173931 Ontario Limited.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Pursuant to standing order 86, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.

1320

MOTIONS

COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP

Hon. Brad Duguid: I seek unanimous consent to put forward a motion regarding standing committees' memberships.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Agreed? Agreed. Minister?

Hon. Brad Duguid: I move that the following changes be made to the membership of the following committees: on the Standing Committee on Estimates, Mr. Craitor and Mr. Rinaldi be replaced by Mr. Flynn and Mr. Naqvi; on the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, Mr. Naqvi be replaced by Mr. Levac; on the Standing Committee on Government Agencies, Mr. Flynn be replaced by Mr. Rinaldi; on the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills, Mr. Craitor be replaced by Mr. Naqvi; on the Standing Committee on Social Policy, Mr. Levac be replaced by Mr. Craitor and Ms. Scott be replaced by Mrs. Witmer.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Motion agreed to.

PETITIONS

NON-PROFIT HOUSING

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas every citizen of Ontario should have a safe, healthy and decent home; and

"Whereas the province of Ontario recognizes in its poverty reduction strategy that affordable housing is 'extremely important for ensuring the stability and well-being of Ontario's families'; and

"Whereas thousands of individuals and families are denied this basic right when in 2001 the province of Ontario downloaded affordable housing to the city of Toronto but refused to pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred capital repairs; and

"Whereas poor living conditions undermine the safety and security of communities, harming children, youth, seniors and families living in affordable homes; and

"Whereas poor living conditions have a damaging impact on the health of communities, costing Ontarians millions in health costs; and

"Whereas investment in housing pays off in better residences and in stronger, safer, healthier communities; and

"Whereas investment in housing in maintaining a state of good repair strengthens our economy by creating employment opportunities; and

"Whereas residents of Toronto Community Housing have waited five years for the province to pay its bills in full and bring affordable housing to a state of good repair;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to:

"Accept its responsibility and" immediately "invest $300 million to ensure that all residents of Toronto Community Housing have a safe, decent, healthy home."

I'm in complete agreement with this. I'm going to affix my signature hereto and give it to legislative page Ashton to take.

CHILD CUSTODY

Mr. Jim Brownell: "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the people of Ontario, deserve and have the right to request an amendment to the Children's Law Reform Act to emphasize the importance of children's relationships with their parents and grandparents.

"Whereas subsection 20(2.1) requires parents and others with custody of children to refrain from unreasonably placing obstacles to personal relations between the children and their grandparents; and

"Whereas subsection 24(2) contains a list of matters that a court must consider when determining the best interests of a child. The bill amends that subsection to include a specific reference to the importance of maintaining emotional ties between children and grandparents; and

"Whereas subsection 24(2.1) requires a court that is considering custody of or access to a child to give effect to the principle that a child should have as much contact with each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child; and

"Whereas subsection 24(2.2) requires a court that is considering custody of a child to take into consideration each applicant's willingness to facilitate as much contact between the child and each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child;

"We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend the Children's Law Reform Act, as above, to emphasize the importance of children's relationships with their parents and grandparents."

As I agree with this petition, I'll affix my signature and send it to the clerks' table.

MOTORCYCLE SAFETY

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I have here a petition signed by a great number of my constituents and constituents in neighbouring ridings. It was brought to my office by Jim Seeds from Commissioner Street in Embro. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas to impose a total ban on an activity or sport under the guise of protecting the public from injury as presented by MPP Helena Jaczek in Bill 117 to amend the Highway Traffic Act section 38.1, 'No person shall drive or operate a motorcycle on a highway if another person under the age of 14 years is a passenger on the motorcycle,' would be an injustice to us, the people of Ontario; and

"Whereas the restrictive aspects of this proposal far outweigh the minor risks associated and confirmed by the annual Ministry of Transportation statistical safety reports, and further, there is no clear distinction that 'motorcycle-related injuries' apply to Ontario streets or highways, as stated in defence of Bill 117;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Request that Bill 117 be rejected and not become law."

Thank you very much for allowing me to present this petition.

FIREARMS CONTROL

Mr. Tony Ruprecht: I have a petition which is in support ofâ€"unlawful firearms in vehicles. It's Bill 56, and actually it has to do with our very esteemed colleague Mr. Mike Colle.

"Whereas the growing number of unlawful firearms in motor vehicles is threatening innocent citizens and our police officers;

"Whereas police officers, military personnel and lawfully licensed persons are the only people allowed to possess firearms; and

"Whereas a growing number of unlawful firearms are transported, smuggled and being found in motor vehicles; and

"Whereas impounding motor vehicles and suspending driver's licences of persons possessing unlawful firearms would aid the police in their efforts to make our streets safer;

"We, the undersigned citizens, strongly request and petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to pass Bill 56, entitled the Unlawful Firearms in Vehicles Act, 2008, into law, so that we can reduce the number of crimes involving unlawful firearms in our communities."

Since I agree, I'm delighted to sign this petition.

HEALTH CARE

Mr. Robert Bailey: "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care should recognize the importance of rural health care in Ontario; and

"Whereas the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network has commissioned a report by the Hay Group that recommends the downgrading of the emergency room at the Charlotte Eleanor Englehart (CEE) Hospital in Petrolia" and in Sydenham hospital in Wallaceburg...; and

"Whereas, if accepted, that recommendation would increase the demand on emergency room services in Sarnia" and Chatham; and

"Whereas, as of today, many patients are already redirected to the Petrolia emergency room for medical care; and

"Whereas the Petrolia medical community has stated that the loss of the Petrolia emergency room will result in the loss of many of our local doctors; and

"Whereas the Petrolia retirement and nursing home communities are dependent on" this hospital;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to urge the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network to completely reject the report of the Hay Group and leave the emergency room designation at Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital in Petrolia" and Wallaceburg hospital.

POPE JOHN PAUL II

Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I have a petition that's addressed to the Parliament of Ontario, and it reads as follows:

"Whereas the legacy of Pope John Paul II reflects his lifelong commitment to international understanding, peace and the defence of equality and human rights;

"Whereas his legacy has an all-embracing meaning that is particularly relevant to Canada's multi-faith and multicultural traditions;

"Whereas, as one of the great spiritual leaders of contemporary times, Pope John Paul II visited Ontario during his pontificate of more than 25 years and, on his visits, was enthusiastically greeted by Ontario's diverse religious and cultural communities;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to grant speedy passage into law of the private member's bill by Oak Ridges MPP Frank Klees entitled An Act to proclaim Pope John Paul II Day."

I agree with the petition and affix my signature to it.

ASSISTANCE TO FARMERS

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I have a petition presented to my by Teresa De Wetering concerning the safety net payments for beginning and expanding farmers.

"Whereas the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Honourable Leona Dombrowsky, has publicly stated that she 'absolutely' wants to help the beginning and new entrants to agriculture; and

"Whereas beginning and expanding farmers are going to be important in the coming decade, as a record number of producers are expected to leave the industry; and

"Whereas the safety net paymentsâ€"i.e., Ontario cattle, hog and horticulture payments (OCHHP)â€"are based on historical averages, and many beginning and expanding farmers were not in business or just starting up in the period so named and thus do not have reflective historic allowable net sales; and

"Whereas beginning and expanding producers are likely at the greatest risk of being financially disadvantaged by poor market conditions and being forced to exit agriculture because there is not a satisfactory safety net program or payment that meets their needs;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"To immediately adjust the safety net payments made via the OCHHP to include beginning and expanding farmers, and make a relief payment to the beginning and expanding farmers who have been missed or received seriously disproportionate payments, thereby preventing beginning farmers from exiting the agriculture sector."

I affix my signature, Mr. Speaker, and thank you very much for the opportunity to present it here today.

1330

TOM LONGBOAT

Mr. Mike Colle: I have a petition here asking this Legislature to recognize June 4 every year as Tom Longboat Day in the province of Ontario.

"Whereas Tom Longboat, a proud son of the Onondaga Nation, was one of the most internationally celebrated athletes in Canadian history;

"Whereas Tom Longboat was voted as the number one Canadian athlete of the 20th century by Maclean's magazine for his record-breaking marathon and long-distance triumphs against the world's best;

"Whereas Tom Longboat fought for his country in World War I and was wounded twice during his tour of duty;

"Whereas Tom Longboat is a proud symbol of the outstanding achievements and contributions of Canada's aboriginal people;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to recognize June 4 as Tom Longboat Day in Ontario."

I affix my name to this petition, along with thousands of other Ontarians who support this.

POPE JOHN PAUL II

Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I have a number of more pages regarding a petition here that I can submit at this time, since we will probably be debating this later on today. It's a petition to the Parliament of Ontario, and it reads:

"Whereas the legacy of Pope John Paul II reflects his lifelong commitment to international understanding, peace and the defence of equality and human rights;

"Whereas his legacy has an all-embracing meaning that is particularly relevant to Canada's multi-faith and multicultural traditions;

"Whereas, as one of the great spiritual leaders of contemporary times, Pope John Paul II visited Ontario during his pontificate of more than 25 years and, on his visits, was enthusiastically greeted by Ontario's diverse religious and cultural communities;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to grant speedy passage into law of the private member's bill by Oak Ridges MPP Frank Klees entitled An Act to proclaim Pope John Paul II Day."

I affix my signature to it and agree with it.

JUSTICE SYSTEM

Mr. Tony Ruprecht: I have a petition which is addressed to the Attorney General and the Parliament of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the Canadian Judicial Council has been asked by Ontario's Attorney General to probe the judicial behaviour of judges;

"Whereas judges are human beings and have been known to make serious mistakes in the judicial system, leading to devastating consequences and unfair justice for Canadian citizens;

"Whereas some judges are known to have fallen asleep in the midst of a trial and have admitted to making serious errors of judgment;

"Whereas some judges have been observed making biased, disrespectful comments and abusing their judicial powers;

"Whereas Canadian families need to be protected from these judges who are unable to change their habits, unable to follow the rule of proper conduct, unable to exercise recommendations set by the Court of Appeal, and consequently commit grave injustices;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens, are strongly requesting the following changes in our judicial system:

"(1) That a 'judicial demerit point system' be applied to ensure that judges are accountable for their judgments rendered; and

"(2) That a yearly review of their performance be established."

I'm delighted to send this to you and I'm happy to sign it as well.

BATHURST HEIGHTS
ADULT LEARNING CENTRE

Mr. Mike Colle: I have a petition from the good people at the Bathurst Heights Adult Learning Centre and the director, Walter Faione.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas there are over 2,000 adult ESL students being served by the Bathurst Heights Adult Learning Centre, operated by the Toronto District School Board in partnership with the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas this is the only English-as-a-second-language ... learning centre in this area of the city located directly on the Spadina subway line, making it accessible for students across the city; and

"Whereas newcomers in Toronto, and in the Lawrence Heights area, need the Bathurst Heights Adult Learning Centre so they can succeed in their career opportunities; and

"Whereas the proposed revitalization of Lawrence Heights threatens the existence of the centre;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, demand that any revitalization of Lawrence Heights include a newcomer centre and ensure that the Bathurst Heights centre continues to exist in the present location."

I support this, along with thousands of students at the Bathurst Heights centre.

PRIVATE MEMBERS'
PUBLIC BUSINESS

POPE JOHN PAUL II DAY ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 SUR LE JOUR
DU PAPE JEAN-PAUL II

Mr. Klees moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 25, An Act to proclaim Pope John Paul II Day / Projet de loi 25, Loi proclamant le Jour du Pape Jean-Paul II.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Mr. Frank Klees: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The bill for which I have just moved second reading will designnate April 2 as Pope John Paul II Day in Ontario. By passing this bill into law, this House would not only honour the man who served as spiritual leader to millions in this province and around the world, but would also ensure that the values of compassion, respect and toleranceâ€"values personified throughout the life of John Paul IIâ€"are contemplated and celebrated by the citizens of this province.

Since presenting this bill for first reading on April 2, 2007, which was the second anniversary of Pope John Paul's death, the public response to it has been, quite literally, overwhelming. My office received 5,000 signatures on petitions in support of this bill in one day alone, and I know that other members have also received literally thousands of signatures on petitions of support for its passage by this House. Of interest is the fact that many petitions came from non-Catholics, and I believe that this in itself is evidence that people of all faiths recognize the impact of Pope John Paul and that his influence surpassed denominational borders.

Some of the most interesting responses have come when people find out that I, as the sponsor of this bill, am not Roman Catholicâ€"or Polish, for that matter. In fact, I'm a German-born Protestant who studied theology in a Baptist seminary. But like many others, I have been touched and influenced over the years by the life and example of a man who, while carrying out his responsibilities as spiritual leader of millions around the world, never tired of advocating for social justice and human rights at every opportunity. And he had a way of making what he said transcend the ecclesiastical trappings and ceremony that all too often can get in the way of the message.

I was always intrigued by this man, who came from humble beginnings in his native Poland to become the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian pope since the 1500s. One of only four people to be named to Time magazine's 100 most influential people for both the 20th and the 21st centuries, Pope John Paul demonstrated a rare combination of courage and compassion: never afraid to speak the truth, yet always sensitive to and respectful of the historical, cultural and religious differences that exist in our diverse world.

I enjoyed watching and listening to him address massive crowds in various countries around the world, and was always taken by the ease with which he could move from encouraging and inspiring people from all walks of life, young and old, with his spiritual teaching, to chastising the powerful for neglecting the poor and offending the defenceless.

But it wasn't until I read this book, entitled Crossing the Threshold of Hope, that I gained insight into the deep sense of humility and generosity with which Pope John Paul accepted and exercised his responsibility of leadership. The book came about as a result of a planned one-on-one interview that was to be televised by the major networks around the world. Vittorio Messori, a journalist and writer, had been chosen to conduct the interview and was given the latitude to develop his own questions, which he then sent to the Vatican in preparation for the interview. But the interview had to be cancelled due to scheduling conflicts.

A few months later, the pope sent the following message to Mr. Messori: "Even if there wasn't a way to respond to you in person, I kept your questions on my desk. They interested me. I didn't think it would be wise to let them go to waste. So I thought about them and, after some time, during the brief moments when I was free from obligations, I responded to them in writing. You have asked me questions; therefore you have a right to responses…. I am working on them. I will let you have them. Then you do with them what you think is appropriate."

Well, work on them he did, and the result was this book, right down to the title, which he himself put on the cover of the folder containing his manuscript. I want to read some selected passages that I believe give an insight into not only the principles and values that this pope taught and lived but reveal his heart for people of all races, cultures and religions.

The very first question was a bold one: "Haven't you ever had questions and problems (as is human) about the truth of this creed?" The response is a telling exposure of the character of a man who at this point, let's be reminded, had been pope for 16 years, when he said: "Your question is infused with both a lively faith and certain anxiety. I state right from the outset, Be not afraid."

He goes on to explain that we should not be afraid to face our questions and doubts, but that we should look to our faith for the confidence to deal with them. But he points out that he began his first message as Pope with those very words, "Be not afraid," and that they apply to him as profoundly as to anyone else.

1340

In response to a question about why God has allowed so many religions to exist, John Paul gives this response: "Instead of marvelling at the fact that Providence allows such a great variety of religions, we should be amazed at the number of common elements found within them." His respect for those other religions is revealed in these words when he wrote, "The religions of the Far East have contributed greatly to the history of morality and culture, forming a rational identity in the Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Tibetans and also in the peoples of Southeast Asia and the archipelagos of the Pacific Ocean."

John Paul had a very close contact with the Jewish community in Krakow, where he was engaged in pastoral work as a young priest. He did not lose that contact when he became Pope. In fact, he had this to say about those ties: "On my pastoral journeys around the world, I always try to meet representatives of the Jewish community. But a truly exceptional experience for me was certainly my visit to the synagogue of Rome. The history of the Jews in Rome is a unique chapter in the history of the Jewish people, a chapter closely linked for that matter to the acts of the apostles. During that memorable visit, I spoke of the Jews as our elder brothers in the faith."

This inclusive spirit seemed innate, as illustrated by but this one example. When he was a parish priest during the Second World War, a young Jewish child was brought to his safekeeping in the hope that the child's parents, who had disappeared, would eventually come and reclaim him. After several months, a number of parishioners came to him to suggest that since the child's parents might be dead, he should go ahead and baptize that child. But on this, Father Karol remained firm. He said "No, because the parents might still be alive and might still come back for him"â€"and come back for their child they did at the end of the war.

His respect for those who practise the Islamic religion is evident in these words: "The religiosity of Muslims deserves respect. It is impossible not to admire, for example, their fidelity to prayer. The image of believers in Allah who, without caring about time or place, fall to their knees and immerse themselves in prayer remains a model for those who invoke the true God, in particular for those Christians who, having deserted their magnificent cathedrals, pray only a little or not at all."

For John Paul II, diversity in faith and culture were not points resulting in human conflict. Rather, they were particular expressions of human uniqueness and individuality that give added meaning and beauty to social relationships.

The international religious/cultural variety that is the human family is something that John Paul loved to surround himself with and joyously celebrate on his more than 100 trips around the world and in his many audiences and talks with people of all backgrounds. Pope John Paul II attended the yearly ecumenical meetings at Assisi, the town of the great peacemaker St. Francis, where he encouraged interreligious dialogue and where he prayed with people of all faith backgrounds. His strong and long-term relationships with people of other traditions also led to his being esteemed on an international scale.

In keeping with one of his papal titles, Pontifex Maximus, which literally means "master bridge-builder," he attempted to remove divisions created throughout history. He likewise sought to redress the historical wrongs and injustices committed in the past in former religious conflicts. On behalf of the Catholic church, he asked for forgiveness for those wrongs, and was the first Pope to pray at monuments dedicated to Protestant martyrs killed by Catholics.

During his pontificate, the Pope travelled to more than 100 countries, more than any of his predecessors. In 1984, he visited Ontario as part of his Canada-wide tour, where on September 15 he went to the fort of Sainte-Marie-among-the-Hurons and Martyrs' Shrine in Midland. At that point, pointing towards the sky, he told his hosts that he would ask his superior if he could come back one day to be a tour guide during the summer in this magnificent place. Later that day, the Pope travelled to York region, where he consecrated the Slovak Catholic Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Markham, making it the only place of worship blessed by the Pope in North America.

In 2002, the Pope again came to Ontario to take part in World Youth Day, which involved thousands of young pilgrims who arrived here from every corner of the globe, representing many religions and nationalities. In February 2004 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to reshape the world.

I submit to all members of this House today that Pope John Paul the Great, as he is rightly called, embodied the values and principles of our multi-faith, multicultural society, which are truly Canadian values. As a result of his special relationship with our province, he is also truly Ontario's Pope. At the same time, he reaches out to us all and invites us to look beyond the robes and ecclesial titles to his basic message of mutual respect and understanding, love and appreciation, peace and harmony. His words of encouragement are particularly relevant today as our province and our countryâ€"indeed, the worldâ€"face unprecedented challenges: "Be not afraid."

I ask all members of this Houseâ€"Catholic, Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Muslim, Hindu, Protestant and of no religious traditionâ€"to join me today in unanimously acclaiming Pope John Paul II Day in the province of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: It's my honour to speak at such an auspicious occasion. I want to, first of all, acknowledge that we have many prestigious members from our Polish community in the members' gallery, in particular, former parliamentarian Mr. Jesse Flis; Jesse, standâ€"

Applause.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: So, welcome. Jesse is now sitting on the board of directors at Copernicus Lodge, which is a wonderful institution in my riding.

It's fascinating that it is so rare that we acknowledge spiritual giants. It's so rare that we set aside the time, we set aside the place, we set aside a law to acknowledge a dayâ€"and that's all we are asking for here: a day, simply a day to remember this incredible man. One of the things one could say about His Holiness Pope John Paul II is that he was a humble man, but we'll try to laud him in the way that a humble man would want.

I want to focus on what he did to combat totalitarianism. I'd like to focus on the role that he played in those incredible events that ended up in the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. I knew a young Polish woman in my own congregation in Parkdaleâ€"High Park who sought refuge many times during those great uprisings of solidarity and the movement to free Poland. She said the Church was there like a beacon. It's interesting to even say that because I've also been on the Avi Lewis show and I've been in many debates with the likes of Richard Dawkins, people I would like to call fundamentalist atheists, who think that the world's sins should be placed at the feet of organized religion. We very rarely turn around to them and to the world at large and say, "And also, perhaps even more so, the world's greatest acts of justice."

Here was a great act of justice. In the words of Lech Walesa, the founder of the Solidarity movement: "Before his pontificate, the world was divided into blocs. Nobody knew how to get rid of communism." Pope John Paul II simply said: "Do not be afraid, change the image of this land."

Again, Lech said: "The Pope started this chain of events that led to the end of communism." That is what this one man did. One cannot overstate that enough. This is a phenomenal act. Because of him, every church in Poland became a beacon of freedom and a sanctuary, a true sanctuary not only for Roman Catholics but for all of those who sought justice, all of those who sought liberty and all of those who sought democracy. This is an incredible role for a religious institution.

1350

As my dear friend Mr. Klees said, I'm not a Roman Catholic, although I have many Roman Catholics in my family and I actually named my children after saints. I have a Francesca and a Damien, and those who will know know that Father Damien and of course St. Francisâ€"actually, I went to the Vatican just this last year and got a medal of St. Francis blessed by the current Pope.

We are all one family under God, and nobody knew that better than His Holiness Pope John Paul II. I can think of few others in the 20th or the 21st centuries who really are those spiritual giants. I think of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I think of Oscar Romero, shot in the back while performing mass in El Salvador. I think of Mother Teresa and the work that she did. There are so few. I think of His Holiness the Dalai Lamaâ€"and I've stood many times in this House on behalf of the Tibetan communityâ€"and think of the work that he does, which in a sense is really the continuation of the work of Pope John Paul II, in his struggle against a new form of totalitarianism, Chinese Communism. So here we have these spiritual giants who stand up to those who would step upon the throat of liberty, democracy and freedom, and they do it because their faith calls them to do it.

I think of Pope John Paul II coming to Roncesvalles on World Youth Day and the joy and exuberance of our community at that. Those of Polish descent and those who simply believe in liberty and freedom came from miles around, simply to acknowledge that he was there. I went into a Polish restaurant not long ago on Roncesvalles and sat down on a chair. The owner came up to me and said, "Do you know what chair you're sitting in? It's the same chair that His Holiness Pope John Paul II sat in when he was here." He went into a local restaurant and simply ordered some food.

This was a humble man. This was a giving man. This was the first Pope to ever visit a mosque. That in itself is a phenomenal act. He was a Pope who stood up against the war in Iraq when it was unpopular to do so. He stood in the face of incredible pressure against the joint forces of the United States and Great Britain and said, "No, this war is unjust. It shouldn't happen," and of course, much too little and much too late, the world is coming around to the point of view he had from the very beginning about that.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was this phenomenal moment in the lives of all who sit in this chamber, because had we thought that it could happen 10 years before it did, someone would have called us crazy. At that point, we were on the brink of a nuclear war. We couldn't believe that this massive behemoth, the Soviet Union, could come crashing down, really, in a sense, without a shot fired on that day. But what we didn't see is what His Holiness did see from the very beginning: that it was the result of many, many years of grassroots organizing, of incredible courage, of people who stood up, who went to prison, who congregated in the few safe places they could in the former countries of the Soviet Union, who defied the authorities and who stood for freedom. It also was an incredible testament to what he stood for and what other great spiritual giants have stood for, which is pacifism, non-violent resistance. Non-violently, this man undid the work of much violence. Non-violently, he undid one of the largest totalitarian states the world has ever seen. Non-violently, he made that happen, and he would be the first to acknowledge he was one among hundreds of thousands. We look to those lights, we look to those spiritual giants, and we prayâ€"I certainly doâ€"along with the Tibetans that the same thing happens for the Tibetans, that the same thing happens with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that their own non-violent struggle has the same result.

This is a miracle. He wrought a miracle. I certainly believe that we should always acknowledge those who bring about miracles of peace, miracles of liberty, miracles of democracy, in our lives.

The Pope, when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, said, "May the desire for freedom, peace, a more humane world symbolized by this medal inspire men and women of goodwill in every time and place....

"Warsaw, Moscow, Budapest, Berlin, Prague, Sofia and Bucharest have become stages in a long pilgrimage toward liberty. It is admirable that in these events, entire peoples spoke outâ€"women, young people, men, overcoming fears, their irrepressible thirst for liberty speeded up developments, made walls tumble down and opened gates."

That incredible sentiment, that act of great faith, which I hope we all share in this House, in the sense that we are all here, I think, called by a faith, whether we have an organized religion we attend or notâ€"a great faith that there is hope that the world can be changed, that there is no insurmountable problem, that everything we see that needs to be done can be done, that walls can tumble down, that totalitarian regimes can end, that the poor can be fed, that we can overcome, as His Holiness wanted us to do, these incredible sins of poverty and homelessness and hunger and war. You know, it's not a pipe dream. It's no more a pipe dream than it was years before the Berlin Wall fellâ€"to think that that was possible. It is no pipe dream. In fact, if anything is a pipe dream, it's that things will continue the way they are forever. The real sense of unreality is that we'll go forward and not feed the hungry and not house the homeless and not reach some kind of peace without war. That won't happen. The world, the planet itself, can't let it happen.

But Pope John Paul II, as others have before him, and as we all pray others will after him, stood for the other way: the way of peace, the way of homes, the way of feeding the hungry, the way of extending one's arms to those who are not of one's faith, extending one's arms to those who don't agree with you. That's what he stood for.

In doing so, he fomented nothing short of a worldwide revolution, and it's a revolution that was successful. So the very least we can do, I think, in the light of all that he did and all that was done through him as a symbol by ordinary men and womenâ€"men and women who served time in concentration camps and jails, abandoned by everyone they knew, in the face of all opposition, estranged from those they lovedâ€"is to remember that change costs. He stood for them and he would want to dedicate, I'm sure, the day to them, to all of themâ€"not just to those of the Roman Catholic faith but to those of all faiths, even those with simply the faith in change.

So I absolutely support this bill. I think we all should. It's the least we can do. It's an absolute joy and pleasure and privilege again to stand in support of it, and of course in support of the revolution he started that still hasn't seen the world change the way he would have wanted it to but which, because of him, definitely will one day. Thank you.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Thank you very much. I just want to remind honourable members to keep your BlackBerries away from the open microphones. It does play havoc with the translators' headsets and their ears.

Further debate?

Mrs. Laura Albanese: I'm pleased to add to the discussion of this private member's bill in this House. This allows me to bring forward the voice of those constituents of York Southâ€"Weston who have expressed through petitions that I have presented in this Legislature their support for this bill.

Pope John Paul II's charismatic personality transcended the boundaries of the Catholic faith. He successfully engaged in a dialogue with representatives of other world religions, many of whom he invited several times to pray with him for world peace, convening them to the Vatican, and often to the medieval town of Assisi, famous as the birthplace of St. Francis, as Mr. Klees mentioned.

1400

Pope Wojtyła travelled tirelessly all over the globe advocating for co-operation and peace among the diverse people of the world. He was the first non-Italian Pope. He was extremely loved, not only by the Polish people and the Italian people but by people from all over the world. He was the most travelled Pope in history and took his message to 129 countries in 104 trips outside Italy. He surprised and pleased millions by communicating with them in their own languages.

At times, he used the world as a pulpit: in Africa, to decry hunger; in Hiroshima, Japan, to denounce the arms race. But whether at home or abroad, he was a great proponent of human rights and world peace. His example assumes particular significance in our country, and in particular in our province, where so many cultures, religions and traditions come together as one. It is fitting to proclaim a day in Ontario that recognizes Pope John Paul II's legacy of promoting dialogue, co-operation and understanding among different cultures.

From a personal point of view, and as a former broadcast journalist, I had the opportunity to follow Pope John Paul II's first visit to Toronto during his cross-Canada tour in 1984. I still remember vividly the enthusiasm of the enormous crowd that came to greet him at Ontario Place. The pontiff responded to their joy, smiling radiantly upon them throughout the whole evening.

Ontario Place was again the meeting place where the celebrations for World Youth Day 2002 began. World Youth Day, which started in 1984 and takes place in a different country every three years, brings together young people from every corner of the earth. In what was Pope Wojtyla's final visit to Canada, 750,000 young people arrived here from all over the world, answering his call to unite in brotherhood, solidarity and peace. Scores of young people were welcomed in Canadian families. Some slept in school gyms, others in public buildings. During the day they filled our streets, carrying knapsacks and waving flags, singing praise to this aging religious man, who in their eyes had the status of a rock star. It was truly a moving experience to interview many of them. Their enthusiasm, their joy and goodwill were infectious and filled my heart with hope.

World Youth Day also featured Toronto on the world stage, and this made the city a destination for other religious festivals and conferences. As a field producer and television anchor, I was in Rome in 1999 when Pope John Paul II, in an historic ceremony, declared the beatification of Padre Pio, the popular Franciscan brother and priest, later proclaimed saint.

As chance would have it, I was in Rome that fateful day, April 2, 2005, when Pope Wojtyla died. The Eternal City literally came to a standstill. Since the news of his death became public, there was a palpable feeling of mourning, sadness, loss. Between April 2 and April 8, the day of the funeral, more than three million pilgrims came to Rome to pay homage to this extraordinary spiritual leader. While thousands of people waited up to 24 hours to enter St. Peter's Basilica, a surreal silence fell upon the centre of the usually bustling Italian capital. The streets were nearly deserted. Very few people ventured out, and traffic was nearly non-existent. Families gathered inside their homes. Even children's playgrounds were quiet and empty. At this historic junction, I really felt that the world had suffered a great loss.

In memory of Pope John Paul II and as a tribute to his great contribution, my honourable colleague from Newmarketâ€"Aurora proposes that April 2, the day on which Pope Wojtyla died, be declared Pope John Paul II Day in the province of Ontario. I join him in honouring the legacy of this remarkable world spiritual leader.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I feel honoured and humbled to stand in support of designating April 2 as Pope John Paul II Day in Canada's most diverse, populous province, our great province of Ontario.

Let me say this about the three colleagues who spoke before me. It is extremely humbling. Mr. Klees, from Newmarketâ€"Aurora, who put forward this resolution, is, I think, the model MPP in terms of outreach from this chamber. Whether it is a religious group, whether it is an ethnic group, he has made significant overtures to every Ontarian. I am very proud of him, and today he ought to be congratulated for bringing this forward.

My good friend from Parkdaleâ€"High Park, a minister, was able to speak spiritually today, and very powerfully, and I want to congratulate her for that. I thought your words were quite remarkable, and they came from the heart, which was wonderful.

My colleague from York Southâ€"Weston, you did a remarkable job cataloguing to this chamber for history, forever, in Hansard, your feelings when Pope John Paul II came to Canada and specifically to our province of Ontario and to your city in Toronto, and also how you felt the day that this great spiritual leader died.

I know, in my young life, that Pope John Paul II will always be remembered for helping to end the oppression of the Iron Curtain in a very passive and moral way, in a way that my generation can only thank him for because we have never known Communism quite to the extent that many in this chamber had seen. I want to again congratulate Mr. Klees, because this is a very important resolution.

We should focus on the resolution at hand. Designating April 2 as Pope John Paul II Day will be something that most Ontarians, once they find out about it, will be overjoyed about.

I support this resolution. I can say, like Mr. Klees and like Ms. DiNovo, that I'm not a Catholic; I'm also not Polish. I think most people here can tell that I'm a Scottish Presbyterian, especially during question period; at least, my husband will tell you that. I'm quite a fiery character, as you all know. I come by those roots quite honestly. But I did go to a Catholic university, St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. My mother, of course, was a Catholic. I have, just like my colleague from Parkdaleâ€"High Park, a lot of family who are still practising Catholics.

I know that we have here several members from the Catholic community and the Polish community in Ontario. I want to welcome you. This must be a very joyous day, a very important day that recognizes somebody who was not only a spiritual giant to you but also a real role model, particularly for those from the Polish communityâ€"to see somebody, the first non-Italian Pope, succeed the way he did. I'm really proud of that and to be part of this.

I would like to quote the Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbusâ€"I beg everyone's pardon in trying to pronounce the name properlyâ€"Wlodzimierz Buzny. He sent a note to my colleague Frank Klees, and it said, "the legacy of Pope John Paul II, reflecting his lifelong pledge to international understanding of peace, and promotion of equality among different faiths and cultures. The former Pope's legacy has an all-embracing meaning that is particularly pertinent to Canada's diverse religious and cultural communities." Grand Knight Buzny's comments lend the necessary reason to why this chamber should designate April 2 as Pope John Paul II Day.

As Mr. Klees points out in one of his backgrounders with this press release, "Over the years, the Legislature has designated certain days to commemorate significant events in the province or to recognize individuals, organizations and cultural groups for their contributions to the province of Ontario, its heritage and quality of life. Pope John Paul II's legacy reflects a lifelong commitment to international understanding, peace, and the defence and promotion of equality and human rights. Equally important is his consistent demonstration of respect for people of all faiths and cultures. That legacy is particularly relevant to Ontario's multi-faith and multicultural traditions and present-day experience."

Mr. Klees made a statement during his presentation and he included a quote from Pope John Paul II, who discussed in his bookâ€"or part of the transcriptsâ€"different religions. His quote was, "We should be amazed at the common elements." I know that every member of this chamber, particularly those of us who have diverse ridings, understands that there are so many commonalities among us. We are, after all, mothers and daughters and brothers and sisters and fathers, and we all share the same concerns in this daily life in Canada, which are paying the bills, and making sure the lights are on and that the kids are off to school on time. At the end of the day, as my colleague from Parkdaleâ€"High Park says, we are all one family under God.

1410

I know that many members of this chamber received petitions, and I was happy to see that today, although this resolution was brought forward through the official opposition and my colleague in the Progressive Conservative Party, many members from the Liberal Party and the New Democrats also read into the record appeals from everyday Ontarians to make this day a reality.

I would like to add for the record one more time a portion of that petition. Ontarians have said: "The legacy of the late Pope John Paul II reflects his lifelong commitment to international understanding, peace and the defence of equality and human rights. On his two visits to Ontario in 1984 and 2002, he was greeted enthusiastically by Ontario's diverse religious and cultural communities. During the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto (designed by Pope John Paul II himself, to bring joy and hope to the world's youth) 800,000-1,000,000 people welcomed him warmly, demonstrating their widespread respect and support.

"The passage of this bill would be important for several reasons. First, there's a need to remind people about Pope John Paul II's life, who exemplified values that are essential to good living and human happiness. His example of courage, forgiveness and how to die with dignity in great suffering are virtues more people should know about. Second, the day would also strengthen and encourage respect for our multi-faith and multicultural traditionsâ€"both prominent values during his life and pontificate. Third, a special day would show respect to a great man credited with many outstanding accomplishments, among them the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe."

I think that is quite significant, and among those folks, those ordinary Ontarians, of course all three major political parties in the province, not only did the Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus endorse this bill, but Mr. Klees was also able to gain the very important support of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops and its president, the Most Reverend James Matthew Wingle, Bishop of St. Catharines, who stated: "On the second anniversary of his death, we remember the outstanding witness of the life of Pope John Paul II. People of all faiths, and those with no specific religious ties, cherish his memory as one who brought the whole human family a voice of hope and a lifelong message of peace. His noble legacy lives on as he continues to be remembered as one of the great leaders of our time." Mr. Klees also received an endorsement from the Most Reverend Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, who stated, "I am pleased to see that the memory and extensive contributions of Pope John Paul II continue to be recognized by people of all faiths."

As I close, I would like to say that in a province this culturally, religiously and, in fact, economically diverse, grouped into rural, suburban and urban, it's important that we find elements, particularly in this chamber, that unite us. I believe Mr. Klees's bill has done that, and I think it's important today that we show not only him and not only the Polish community and not only the Catholic community, but all Ontarians a show of unification today and support this piece of legislation. I think it's something we can easily do to recognize somebody who changed the world. He shaped not only the way a certain religious group feels about the world or this province, but how we all do. I'm really, again, humbled to be able to be part of this debate. I want to thank my colleague Mr. Klees one more time for allowing me to be part of it. I want to thank the two folks who spoke from the NDP and from the Liberal Party for giving great speeches. I'm very happy that we could share this today with the Canadian Polish and Catholic communities. Thank you all very much.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mr. Tony Ruprecht: Today I'm delighted to join in supporting Bill 25, An Act to proclaim Pope John Paul II Day, and the second reading by Mr. Klees.

Also, we'd like to welcome very distinguished visitors from the Polish-Canadian community who are in the east gallery today: Mr. Fujarczuk, representing the Polish Credit Union; Mr. Flis, who was introduced earlier; Mr. Goldyn, the president of the Canadian-Polish Foundation; Mrs. Jacobs of the Catholic Women's League; Mrs. Morgan, who represents the Canadian Polish Congress, and Neil McCarthy, who represents the Archdiocese of Toronto. Welcome to the debate today, and congratulations, I hope.

His Holiness John Paul II became Pope in 1978. Since I was elected three weeks later, I had no idea that our paths would cross a number of times. His papacy affected me politically and personally. I first met His Holiness as cardinal of Poland when he visited the very dynamic Polish community in 1972 right here in Toronto. As Pope John Paul II, he came back in 1984 to visit the Polish community, specifically the St. Stanislaus and St. Casimir's Polish credit union. The statue in front commemorates that event, and anyone who goes to Roncevalles Avenue can see the statue in full force.

But my most significant meeting occurred when I was part of a delegation organized by the Canadian Polish Congress. We presented His Holiness with a very large painting, painted by a Toronto artist, of Nicolaus Copernicus, the astronomer who started a revolution by publishing his theory that the sun, and not the earth, was the centre of the universe. Now, why did this Pope want to see this painting hang in the Polish Pilgrim's House, the Dom Pielgrzyma? As he explained, "We, as Catholics, are not anti-science, because I believe science will embrace spiritual reality." He told me personally to study the fathers of quantum physics. I did that and I still do to this day, and I came to the most revolutionary discovery of our generation: that we have taken the Newtonian mechanical paradigm, and this is meeting its match in quantum physics. The separation between science and faith that Descartes convinced us of, mind and body: We swallowed this idea as a whole, but it proved not to be true. Through quantum physics, we have undeniable scientific proof that the observer, you and I, bring as much to reality as the world we perceive to be real. In short, science and faith do something and have something in common and are certainly able to speak to each other. They are, in fact, a way to reach the spiritual reality.

In 2005, I was invited to India by His Holiness Swamjee Harry Persaud and I had to give a talk on what's called "spiritus familiares," but it quickly changed to what John Paul II had said the week before. He asked, "How do we make Christ a personal saviour in our lives? How do we understand the Christian tradition in a way that makes sense to us?" In short, how do we bring Christian tradition specifically to an individual?

And so that kind of a traditionâ€"not only the scientific tradition, the science part of this Pope, which indicated that he was able to go beyond a very specific spiritual reality, but the scientific traditionâ€"was also enhanced by a very specific idea of how to bring this Christian idea of a personal saviour into one's life. So when this Pope said, "Christ, come into my life," the Indian tradition, and we look at the Vedas as an example, which was discussed at that time when I was in India, speaks of something similar.

1420

The major idea here would be simply this: Here is a Pope who embraced many traditions, whether it's scientific, whether it's personal, in terms of a personal God that came to him, or whether it's a multi-faith idea that many of my colleagues talked about previously.

This Pope was someone very special. His broad appeal touched many of the traditions which all of us in this chamber embrace, whether it is Judaism, whether it is Christianity, whether it is Sikhism, whether it is Hinduism, whether it is Taoism, or whether it is other traditions, in terms of Islam. It didn't matter to this Pope, because he respected one simple and basic idea, and that is that there are many ways to find spiritual reality, that there are many ways to find God.

To that end, we're here today to devote a special day to John Paul II, this very special Pope who showed us that there are many traditions that we can embrace. So I'm certainly delighted that in this multicultural Ontario, we can proclaim that we respect all religions and that this Pope was the main example that there are many ways to God. That is why we respect and, I would even say, love His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Certainly, we support Pope John Paul II Day today.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): I thank all members for their contribution to the debate.

The honourable member from Newmarketâ€"Aurora, Mr. Klees, you have up to two minutes for your response.

Mr. Frank Klees: I want to thank my colleagues who participated in this debate: my colleague the member for Nepeanâ€"Carleton, Ms. MacLeod; the member for Parkdaleâ€"High Park; the member for York Southâ€"Weston; and the member for Davenport.

This has been a very moving experience for me as well. I thank Pope John Paul II for his words, "be not afraid," because they challenged me to have the courage to bring this bill forward. I can see from the debate and the encouragement that I have had from my fellow colleagues in this House that it was, in fact, the right thing to do.

We know this room is often filled with a great deal of contentious debate. That was not present for this hour, and it was indeed a very pleasant place to be, and encouraging to hear the support of members on all sides of the House.

I want to pay special tribute to my executive assistant, Alex Roman, whose dedication to this bill was nothing short of inspirational. It would not have come to the floor of the Legislature in the form that it did without his encouragement of me, personally, and I want to thank him for that.

I want to acknowledge the presence in the House today of Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications for the Archdiocese of Toronto. Mr. MacCarthy is here as the representative of His Grace the Archbishop of Toronto and president of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Most Reverend Thomas Collins.

Also, Mr. Jesse Flis has been referred to, the former member of Parliament for High Park and the chairman of the board of directors of the John Paul II Care Centre of Copernicus Lodge, who has been an enthusiastic supporter. I want to thank him for his encouragement as well.

I want to also recognize the presence of Wladyslaw Lizoń, the president of the Canadian Polish Congress; Elizabeth Morgan, the secretary general; and Karl Fujarczuk, the chairman of the board of directors of the Polish Parishes Credit Union Ltd. Welcome to you.

I also want to acknowledge the presence of Margaret Ann Jacobs, the chair of the Catholic Women's League of Canada. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your support.

I look forward to the vote on this important bill and look forward to this important day becoming part of the annual recognition on the part of Ontarians of an incredibly important man in the history of the world as we know it today.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Thank you. For our guests in the galleries and those watching at home, we will vote on this, Mr. Klees's ballot item, in about 100 minutes.

We have two other ballot items to deal with.

Mr. Dave Levac: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I've just been notified that Mr. Kwinter is indisposed, and we would seek unanimous consent for a short, five-minute recess.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Agreed, a five-minute recess?

This House is recessed for about five minutes.

The House recessed from 1425 to 1431.

CURRICULUM

Mr. Monte Kwinter: I move that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should develop a school science strategy, to encourage more Ontario elementary and secondary students to pursue a career in the sciences.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Mr. Kwinter moves private members' notice of motion number 76.

Pursuant to standing order 98, Mr. Kwinter, you have 12 minutes for your presentation.

Mr. Monte Kwinter: Ontario is well positioned to compete in a 21st-century, knowledge-based economy. We are leaders in science and innovation and a centre for scientific learning. Research in Motion, the Kitchener-Waterloo company that developed the BlackBerry; the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto; and the Ministry of Research and Innovation, the only such ministry in Canada, are just some examples of leading-edge scientific initiatives and achievements.

We have the challenge and the opportunity to harness the Ontario scientific community's resources to increase student achievement and to build a globally competitive economy. Ontario in the Creative Age is a recently released report co-authored by Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, and Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, and it states, "It's vital that we develop strategies that position our province for sustained and balanced prosperity."

A school science strategy would guide our efforts and better deliver science in our schools. It would bring together academics, researchers, parents and others to develop a plan for our students in every subject and in every grade. Investing in science education today will mean that Ontario has the scientists, the researchers and the engineers it will need for the new economy.

Here are some quotes supporting science education.

"Practical suggestions for any and all MPs, especially the newly elected ones: Acquaint yourself with the impressive efforts being made to interest and involve Canadian youth in science and technology by programs such as Let's Talk Science and the Canada-Wide Science Fair organized by the Youth Science Foundation Canada." That was from Preston Manning, former leader of the official opposition and president of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy and chair of the board of advisers for the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta.

This is a quote from Dr. Roberta Bondar, an astronaut in the Canadian Space Agency: "As a grade 13 student, I participated in the city science fair in Toronto and then went on to represent my region at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. It was an experience that would ultimately define my life."

This is a quote from Adam Bly, the founder and editor-in-chief of Seed Magazine and Seed Media Group: "My eighth-grade biology teacher ... and my 12th-grade chemistry teacher ... sold us on the enormity of the questions, not the minutiae of the answers.... And they encouraged me to participate in our regional science fair; it turned out to be a pivotal experience in my life, and sparked the passion for what I do today."

Mike Lazaridis, the founder and CEO of Research in Motion, producers of the BlackBerry: "We need to change our culture so that science and technology are seen to be the 'in' thing.... We need them to aspire to be scientists, engineers and technologists. In the end, that will make the biggest impact on Canada's future."

This is a quote from Chaviva Hošek, who was a member in this Legislature many years ago and is now president and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research:

"Scientific literacy has never been more important to very many aspects of our lives than it is today. Let's Talk Science provides invaluable tools to help Canadian children learn about science. It creates innovative curriculum materials for science education that are used in hundreds of schools, with children who range in age from the very young to those who are completing high school. It engages very large numbers of graduate students in the sciences through outreach to the schools.

"Their work is a very sound investment in Canada's future capacity, both to create knowledge and to use knowledge intelligently."

Canadian astronaut Mark Garneau wrote, in a recent newspaper article, "Our neighbours to the south, led by Barack Obama, grasp the importance of science and so do many other countries."

President Obama, who, as you know, just by coincidence is visiting Canada today, is proposing a plan to prepare all their children for the 21st-century economy. This is his proposal:

He will make math and science education a national priority by recruiting math and science degree graduates to the teaching profession and will support efforts to help those teachers learn from professionals in the field. He will also work to ensure that all children have access to a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.

He will improve and prioritize science assessments. Science assessments need to do more than test facts. They need to measure a student's higher-order thinking skills, including inference, logic, data analysis, interpretation, forming questions and communication. He will work with governors and educators to ensure that state assessments measure these skills.

He will increase science and math graduates by improving science and math education in kindergarten through grade 12, to prepare more students for these studies in college. They will work to increase the numbers of science and engineering graduates and encourage undergraduates studying math and science to pursue graduate studies.

He will also work to increase the representation of minorities and women in the science and technology pipeline, tapping the diversity of the country to meet the increasing demand for a skilled workforce. The challenges of the 21st century can only be met by combining many skills from people with many backgrounds. The country's diversity is a clear competitive advantage if they use it.

That is the end of his statement on science education. These are laudable goals, and we applaud them.

We also take pride in our investments and accomplishments, which will provide us with an excellent platform on which to build a school science strategy. We have invested $4 billion in our schools since 2003. We are reintroducing environmental education in every subject and every grade, after it was cut by the previous government. We'll invest $1.15 billion in the Next Generation of Jobs Fund, with a new 45-day guarantee of a response to any completed application.

We are investing $3.5 million in 2007-08 to the Youth Science Foundation. We're investing $1.5 million in Let's Talk Science, to inspire high school students to pursue careers in science and technology. We're investing $650 million in the Ontario research fund, which over four years has supported 772 leading-edge research projects, leveraging $860 million in investments; and $79.7 million to MaRS has leveraged $450 million in investments; and $31.4 million in the Ontario research and commercialization project.

All of this is leading up to a need for us to really change the attitude of students about science. I'm not talking about changing the science curriculum. The Ministry of Education has a very ambitious and very, very thoughtful program for teaching science in our schools. Unfortunately, it is just that: It is being taught, but there hasn't been a follow-up. Towards the end of my presentation, in a couple of minutes, I'm going to show you a couple of examples. I've got a group of students in the gallery I'm going to tell you about to show you what can be done outside of the curriculum.

1440

Ontario's economic and social prosperity depends on our ability to compete and win in the global marketplace. We are out to inspire young people, to establish a firm foundation of interest in science, technology and innovative ideas. Isaac Asimov, the renowned science fiction writer wrote, "Science can be introduced to children well or poorly. If poorly, children can be turned away from science; they can develop a lifelong antipathy."

We are committed to ensuring that we have the next generation of innovators and leaders with the skills and qualifications necessary to support an innovation-based economy. Our government and our partners are working together to increase the level of awareness of the key role played by science, engineering, mathematics, business and entrepreneurship in a knowledge-based economy.

I want to spend the last couple of minutes that I have talking about two incredible programs. One of them was started in a school in my riding, Northview Heights collegiate, or Northview Heights Secondary School as it's known, which introduced a magazine called Canadian Young Scientist Journal. This is done by students, and it is a peer-reviewed magazine that allows professionals outside of the school system to evaluate programs. This particular first issueâ€"and they've already had two, and a third one is in the worksâ€"has a picture of a wing, and this wing has got a couple of holes in it. The article is called A Hole in a Wing: Not Always a Bad Thing. This was written by a grade 12 student, and it has been entered in several science fairs. The particular project started when he was in grade 9. He's now in grade 12. His name is Vladislav Ternovsky. He's a high school student at Northview Heights Secondary School, and he has won prizes at every level, including, in 2008, the first prize in the World Virtual Science and Engineering Fair. That's an incredible accomplishment for a young man who is in grade 12. He has a theory that says by putting holes into the wing flaps, he can improve the efficiency of aircraft. He's also working on a second paper that he will have in this magazine shortly, and it is dealing with the whole issue of getting energy from ice.

There's another group, called Switch, and they are here right now in the members' gallery. They are from William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute in my riding. They have a program to make every school in Ontario self-dependent on energy consumption with solar and wind. This is something that they are advancing very, very aggressively. The students from both those programs are in the members' gallery. I am running out of time to do it, but when I get my two-minute response, I would like to introduce them.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mr. Peter Shurman: The nice thing about a resolution like this, with congratulations to my friend from York Centre, is that there's nothing really to debate in this resolution. It is short; it is straightforward; it is eminently worthy of support. I do support it, and I will vote for it.

History is the foundation of the present, and so the present, therefore, must be the foundation for the future. I look back at my own childhood experience, and I was a science geek. But a science geek in the 1960s was somebody who played around with radios, and that's what I did. I suppose the science geeks 20 or 30 years before me played around with two cans and some string and talked over that; or maybe we pointed a light at a device called a radiometer and watched it turn as a result of its absorption of the energy that came from that light, which was the precursor to today's solar panel.

More recently, the geeks play with computersâ€"and I use "geek" in the very nicest sense of that word. Everything that computers have spawned is part of our culture today, but the things that came are a result of the work of geeks, geeks like Bill Gates, for example.

Economically, Ontario is based largely in the pastâ€"brute-force manufacturing diluted by a global economyâ€"and we're currently seeing the results of that, but there are some very notable exceptions, which I will refer to later, and we have to build on those.

Science is the key to the future success of this province. Very literally, our world depends on it; Ontario depends on it. Ontario depends on it in the very same sense and as a basic element of our employment infrastructure, going forward. Do we support our children or not? What society doesn't, and what society shouldn't? Trite, it would be, to call them the key to tomorrow, but also absolutely true. We need solutions to environmental problems. Who is going to create those? Some of them are evident, sitting in the gallery today.

Technological development is a part of our everyday life. My colleague has referred to Research in Motion, which merged technologies that we saw coming forward from about 20 years ago: the personal digital assistant, the cellular phone, e-mail, MP3 players, the video camera, the digital video camera. I dreamed of a device that put all of those things into one box 15 or 20 years ago, but Lazaridis and Balsillie and company invented that device and there's one at every desk in this chamber.

Raising Ontario's international profile through science via competitions for the young and developing a competitive edge for us all is absolutely essential. Our kids right now are a little bit scared, probably because we're a little bit scared for them. Our responsibility has to be to build confidence in and of our youth, through achievement and through scientific innovation.

My profession, or trade, was broadcaster. I entered that profession in 1966 and at that time, being a broadcaster meant AM radio. Then it became FM radio. Then it became satellite radio. Now, communicating with each other on a mass scale is primarily Web-based. Who knows what's coming? But one thing I can tell this House: The young people who are sitting here, and millions like them around the world, are the ones who are going to find that path.

I've witnessed an amazing evolution of technology: eight-track tape, cassette tape, and now iPods, which are nothing more than computer storage of sound. My son lives and works in the city of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. I see him, even though he's on the other side of the world, as a result of some of these developments. Who knows what one of the students here today will do? Who knows what they'll be responsible for, in terms of an invention that will similarly change the way we live in the entire world?

Scientific discoveries impact our world. They train young minds to be creative. Our children are bright; they are eager to learn. Without the necessary emphasis on science, without challenging them, we risk boring them and stalling all of this.

School is not just a babysitting service. School is a place of discovery. It's a place where you learn to try, it's a place where you learn to succeed, and it's a place where you learn not to be afraid of failure.

I want to thank my colleague for asking us to rededicate this province to promoting the learning of science, technology and mathematics here in Ontario. I too want to acknowledge the gallery guests. Two Toronto district board high schools are represented here, as he said. Students of William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute advanced the concept of powering schools through solar and wind power called Switch, for solar and wind initiatives toward change.

The students from Northview Heights Secondary School are the founding editorial team of the Canadian Young Scientist Journal, as my colleague has also mentioned, and they're here with my friend, Trustee James Pasternak, a very strong public servant. Trustee Pasternak has been a tireless supporter of both these initiatives and others, through the area of my colleague the member from York Centre, which is parallel to his. Dozens of parents come out to Trustee Pasternak's events because he is fully committed to his Ward 5 constituents in science, music, sports and special education.

Today we recognize and celebrate not so much the coming together of community but the celebration of an idea. At W.L. Mackenzie, Switch gives credence to the view that motivation does lead to innovation. At Northview Heights Secondary School, we salute students and their teachers whose literary study of innovation follows a long history of Canadian contributions to scienceâ€"notably Northview teacher Alexandre Noukhovitch, the mentor and motivator behind the Canadian Young Scientist Journal. In short, I support the resolution and I welcome our guests.

1450

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Thank you.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: Torontoâ€"Danforth.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): The honourable member for Torontoâ€"Danforth.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: It's my intention, Speaker, to get a large button here, visible from your chairâ€"

Interjection: For all of us.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: â€"so that all of you can know which riding I'm from. I know you know my name, Mr. Speaker.

I rise to speak on the motion to develop a school science strategy and I thank the member from York Centre for bringing this forward. Certainly everyone in this chamber and everyone in this province understands the importance and the value of scientific study and innovation for the future and prosperity of Ontario. Many people look at industrial development. They see products that are commercialized, they see technologies that transform our world, and they often think they've just sort of sprung fully formed onto the world stage, when in fact there is a whole area of scientific culture, scientific analysis, pure science that makes it possible for those technological developments and commercializations to take place. We in Ontario need a culture of science and scientific inquiry to actually make sure that we have an economy in the future that's stable and prosperous. There needs to be an emphasis on encouraging young people, through elementary and secondary systems, to explore a variety of areas of study, particularly in the sciences.

It is interesting to me that my niece, who's at McMaster University, who when she was young was always curious, very animal- and pet-focused, is studying to be a surgeon. Her early interest in animal life and animal physiology comes out in this deep interest in biology, in human health and how we function physically and biologically in the world. If we want to be a jurisdiction that's developing and nurturing a future generation that will be able to tackle the challenges we face, a generation that will generate the ideas to create the technology, fill the jobs of today and the future, we need to have a science curriculum and a science culture in our schools that will give us a population that's scientifically literate. I'm concerned, though, that when we look at the education system in Ontario as a whole, there are some fundamental challenges that go beyond the scope of the resolution we're debating today. Although this resolution is a useful one to have and it's a good starting point for debate, we will need a lot more than this resolution and this direction of the House to fix our educational system.

I want to talk about a few of those fundamental issues in our education system. Issues that create barriers for students, bar their access to academic success and in many cases keep people from accessing higher education make it something that's woefully out of reach. The first concern, obviously, is the funding formula. The approach of this government to the funding formula, one they have not dealt with in more than five years, is short-changing young people in this province. People for whom we have profound care, who in turn we hope will care for us as we get older, are not being given the education resources that they need. If you think about that faulty funding formulaâ€"what does it mean to a student, to a parent who's working hard, hoping that their children or their child will get ahead? How will they get the best for their child? Well, if you want to know what it means in concrete terms, talk to the cash-strapped school boards that have been forced to divert maintenance funding, funding set aside for cleanliness and safety of our schools, into other areas. Frankly, if you go to schools in this provinceâ€"and I've gone to many of themâ€"you will often be taken aback by the state of disrepair and non-cleanliness.

When I left local politics in 1997, the schools were still in relatively good shape. The full force of the Harris funding cuts hadn't kicked in. When I came back in 2006, holding meetings in public schools, high schools, separate schools in my riding, shocked at the change, the simple reality is that that change has not been corrected, that the schools have not gotten the funding they need. We know that when we talk to parents, funding for special education is not there in the way it needs to be thereâ€"students placed in classes without the proper support, meaning that their futures are constrained, their horizons limited, when in fact we should be doing everything we can to make sure that those students who need special education get the supports so they can live independently, so they can support themselves, so they can carve out their own lives in this society.

We have seen, and I know this from talking to parents, that their children are not getting the time from the teachers, in class, that they need. Fewer and fewer students from other countries, new Canadian students, are receiving English-as-a-second-language support that they need to succeed on their own. Instead, they are being placed in regular classes. Again, that puts them at a substantial disadvantage, a disadvantage that will reflect down through the years in terms of their standard of living and their opportunities to actually build the kind of life that all of us in this legislative building want people to have.

In this province of Ontario today, class sizes in grades 4 to 8 continue to be unacceptably large, reducing the amount of time students need that's essential for teachers to give to those students. When I talk to parents in schools throughout my riding, the reality of the commitment to a cap of 20 students in a class has been that outside of the areas that are capped, the class sizes balloon. You get double grades in a classroom. There's a tremendous burden that teachers have to carry and that students, in turn, have lowered on to their shoulders.

I need to talk about standardized testing and its impact on quality of education. If we talk today about how to inspire young people to take on a science education, to expand their horizons, to think creatively, to think analytically, to delve into fundamental issues, then you have to ask: How at the same time does that square with a system that is so focused on those students doing well on a standardized test? Too often I have had to sit and talk with parents whose children have a very narrow range of learning. That range of learning is focused on making sure that the students do well on the standardized tests, instead of the broader range of learning that you actually need in a world that is changing very rapidly technologically, socially and politically. We need, more than anything else, to develop the ability of students to think rather than to simply memorize, rather than to simply narrowly focus in on a narrow band of questions that they are going to have to deal with in a standardized test. If teachers and schools will have their ability, their future funding, their assessment of their quality based on those tests rather than the assessment of the ability of students to learn and think, then that is where those schools and those teachers are going to put their resources. That won't give us tomorrow's leaders. I understand the need to sample to get a sense of what is happening in the student population, but our current focus is not one that's going to give us the results that we want.

School closures: You can go anywhere in Ontario and talk to peopleâ€"to parents, to communitiesâ€"about school closures and the impact that they have. In my riding, Torontoâ€"Danforth, we have had a series of waves, that we've seen over the years, of schools that at one time were largely empty, and within a decade, because of changing demographics, find themselves bursting at the seams. That's the simple reality of waves in population. Families are established, children are born, children go to school, they move on, parents are left alone in their homes, there are fewer children to go to school, the numbers in that school drop, and then again those people move on to apartment buildings and other families move in.

1500

The lack of understanding that there are these demographic waves means that we may well, in the next five years, lose school properties all over Ontario that will not be economically recoverable again. Those spaces, those properties, once lost, are gone forever. We need a commitment to hold on to them so that when the children come back, the space is there for them. In the meantime, there are a variety of other needs in communities that can be met by using those buildings. It is unacceptable to go forward on education planning without taking account of those realities. We have to see an investment in the schools, in the children and in learning that broadens our thinking and broadens our minds. We need a funding formula that allows that to happen.

I see that I am running short on time, but I briefly want to address post-secondary education funding.

It's clear, if we have science culture and science teaching at another level in the elementary and secondary fields, that we're going to need the facilities, the resources and the teachers at the post-secondary level to actually fully develop that knowledge and those skills. We're not seeing that in this province.

As you are well aware, Ontario is in last place in per capita funding for students. I think we're second highest in terms of our tuition fees. We are talking today about making large-scale investments in elementary and secondary schools, and essentially choking off that development when it comes to our young people in their early adult years fully developing their abilities.

We need to take on a science culture at the elementary and secondary levels, but we also need a very large-scale reinvestment in our educational system in this province, large-scale reinvestment in our young people. That's the minimum that this province is going to need if it's going to have a future, if it's going to have the skills it needs to take on this world.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mr. Mike Colle: I want to congratulate the member from York Centre for bringing this great achievement and a series of achievements in this important area to our attention.

I certainly concur with my colleague from Thornhill. This is a time to celebrate these incredible students. We sit here and most of the time we do just what the member from Torontoâ€"Danforth said: We talk about these issues that are in the headlines, but meanwhile we forget about the students and their achievements in our schools.

I think what the member from York Centre has brought to our attention is that we've got some amazing things going on in our schools, and as much as our schools always need work and always need more infrastructure etc., there are some incredibly innovative teachers, principals and students, obviously, at the heart of them, and parents who support that innovation, and they are to be applauded. I think one of the things we don't do enough of as Ontarians and as Canadians is that we don't encourage people enough. We always look at the glass as being half empty, and we don't think of the excellent achievement that takes place in our schools.

As Mr. Kwinter said, Vladislav Ternovsky from Northview Heights won the international gold medal in this area for his project. That's something to be acknowledgedâ€"the great work at Northview secondary school and at William Lyon Mackenzie. I actually used to hang around with guys from William Lyon Mackenzieâ€"Stu Winick, if you look back on your wall. There was another guy, a great quarterback, Martyâ€"I can't remember his name; it was too long ago. Anyway, they were good guys.

Mr. Dave Levac: They kicked you out.

Mr. Mike Colle: No, no. They were good people.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is that our schools have been, in some cases, undermined by just the lack of emphasis and focus. What Mr. Kwinter is doing here today is giving us that focus.

When I was talking to the member from York Centre about this incredible achievement in your magazine, I was thinking of two experiences that I had in two schools in the west end of Toronto. At Chaminade high school, a science teacher, Bob Giza, created a hatchery at the back of the gymnasium at the school.

He went to Duffins Creek, in the far east end of city. They'd get the eggs from the trout out of Duffins Creek. They brought them back to the hatchery at the school in North York, and when the eggs became little minnows, they stocked Black Creek, which was considered almost a dead creek, with brown trout. So because of the students at the school and the leadership of the teacher, there are now brown trout in Black Creek, which there used to be 100 years ago.

There were over 300 students who went up there one day, in their boots, up and down Black Creek, taking out garbage and shopping carts, all having a great time and learning, obviously, about biology and all these incredibly important and interesting things, all inspired by the teachers and supported by the staffâ€"the whole staff was involved with it. And the community was so happy to see the creek cleaned of all this garbage.

Then there was another case further downstream on a smaller creek in Toronto near the industrial areaâ€"Minister Phillips knows this area, where there used to be the stockyards. There's another creek running back there, called Lavender Creek, and another school there, called Archbishop Romero. The students from that school got inspired by the kids upriver at Chaminade, and went in there and did geomapping of all the pollution sources up and down Lavender Creek. They did the same thing: They went to Lavender Creek, cleaned it out, identified all the polluters up and down Lavender Creek and reported to the city of Toronto. They cleaned out Lavender Creek and planted trees. There were no more soap suds in Lavender Creek and no more garbage.

That is the type of inspiration that teachers can give, and students can achieve if they're given support and inspiration and recognition. I think what you're doing by being here today at the invitation of the member from York Centre is that we get a chance to acknowledge the incredible potential there is in our high schools and in our young people. We sometimes underestimate the incredible contributions you can make, no matter whether you're in grade 9 or grade 12. You are to be praised and acknowledged, and your teachers and staff and your parents, who give you the support to do that.

Thank you so much for what you're doing. Hopefully, through this kind of focus, we can help you do more of what you do.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It's a real pleasure to be here today to discuss Monte Kwinter's resolution, which indicates that the province should develop a school science strategy to encourage more elementary students and secondary students to pursue careers in the sciences.

Of course I'm going to support this. I think we would all like to see significant investments and enhancements to our educational system. As a mother of a child soon to be going to school next year, of course we want every Ontario student, every child who goes through our great schools in this province, to have the best of the best opportunities. There is no question that science will be key to our future success in this province. I want to touch on that a little bit.

This has been a very rough year for this province, and we're only two months into the year. We're now a have-not province. We're accepting transfer payments from the federal government for the first time in our history. Last month, over 71,000 Ontarians lost their jobs. We're in the middle of a recession. We were the first in economic growth; now we're the worst in this country. And at a time when we need to be reinvesting in ourselves and in our students, we're finding even more cutbacks.

So I view this as a very promising resolution that acknowledges that Ontario is in significant rough timesâ€"economic hardshipâ€"and we need to do everything we possibly can to invest in one of our greatest resources, which are today's students. I wasn't the greatest science student in schoolâ€"

Interjection.

1510

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I know. I had the gift of gab. I was very good in English and in those other sorts of social arts and civics, but I can tell you, I was always a curious student. I look at my own daughter now, who is 3, going on 4, and she's so amazed at some of the different things that are science, in terms of the games that can be played and the opportunities that can be had. My colleague Mr. Shurman talked about two tin cans and a string: That's how kids used to speak to one another, and I think we all have fond memories of different science projects. Unfortunately I don't remember doing that, but I know that we did enjoy other things. I remember plugging a battery into a potato and somehow lighting a light bulb. There are amazing opportunities, and I think that's why we should continue to support Ontario science fairs and certainly this educational opportunity here.

I've got about two and a half minutes left and I've touched on the relevance of science in our economy and how I haven't been the greatest of science students, but I admire those who do have that forte. I also want to talk a little bit about the importance of investing in children. I have a similar resolution right now on the order paper, and it's to enshrine in legislation that November 20 be International Day of the Child and recognized as such in this chamber, in this province. I think it's important too, not just that children are aware of the opportunities that science creates, but that they are aware of their rights as children, as persons.

As you know, in 1994 this province became a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It formed the basis of a piece of legislation I have that I hope to debate in this chamber in the next few months, which is a children's safety and protection rights act. That, of course, has a series of elements in it that deal with the protection of children and enhanced legislative tools for police and for parents, but it also includes the resolution I was just talking about, which is that November 20 of each year should be considered, in the schools, a day when children are informed of their rights in society. I think it's important that we continue to invest in children and that we continue to have specific programs that teach them what they can be and give them the opportunities that we all wish we had or that we did have and were grateful for as students.

Science is going to be very important in the years ahead as we train our students, whether it is to cover off that doctor shortage so many of us have in our rural communities or in communities where, like mine, the high-tech sector has been ravaged by the recession, and we need to enhance that. It's going to be important as we, as Mr. McGuinty's government suggests, are going to become a green economy and we're going to need those students who are trained in the sciences.

Finally, I just want to say this, what with the Minister of Natural Resources here: She and I just had a discussion about coyotes in my community of Nepeanâ€"Carleton, and how we need conservationists to work with us. I'm very happy that she's working with us, but it's important that these children today are prepared for the science of tomorrow.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mr. Wayne Arthurs: I'm very pleased to join in the debate this afternoon on the member from York Centre's motion before this Legislature. Just a couple of things to start: This is always a wonderful opportunity and gives us a chance on a less partisan basis, on occasion, to share in some priorities as members bring them forward. It also gives us an opportunity to encourage government where at times they can't focus attention in this Legislature on some element of detail within legislation that's brought forward, but this process allows us to do that. Thus, I'm particularly pleased to be able to stand today in support of this particular motion, a motion which speaks to a school science strategy to encourage more elementary and secondary studentsâ€"particularly probably secondary students, but the science program is broadly basedâ€"to pursue a career in the sciences.

Many of us in this place have either been in the educational field or have family in the educational field, and certainly each and every one of us touches our local education boards on an ongoing and regular basis, so we get to see what's happening there. I'm well aware that students need to have skills in math, they need to be involved in the social sciences, they need to be involved in the humanities and they need physical activity. But they particularly need to be encouraged in the area of the sciences, and that's exactly the point the member for York Centre, Mr. Kwinter, is making,

The programs that are set out in the science programs, just looking at the foundation of those from grades 1 to 8, speak to science and technology and talk about life systems. They really are a precursor to looking at medicine, agriculture and veterinary medicine. They speak, in those years, about structures and mechanisms, and that speaks to the physical world in which we live. We're having an awful lot of discussion right about now about infrastructure investment. Without the scientists and engineers who design the types of things that need to be built or develop the products one uses to build them, where would we be today?

They speak to the idea of matter and energy: how we are going to build a culture of conservation in the province of Ontario, how we're going to conserve energy, how we're going to make good use of what we have. If we don't train young people to do that and if we don't encourage them, if we don't provide windows of opportunity, if we don't point out for them where the opportunities are to develop career paths in the sciences, if we don't make science not only valuable from a learning context but show the value of that for their future endeavours and how they can bring value-added into communityâ€"I think that too often as educators, in the role I played and I think some of those in the education field, there is a tendency to steer young people toward opportunities for their future careers based on what we feel will make them feel good or what will be a good career or what will make them good citizens, what will provide a basis to earn a living and raise their families. But sometimes we forget about ensuring that we tell them and teach them about the intrinsic values they can bring to the community by virtue of learning and using these skills, and science is an area that probably is of particular interest.

I was mentioning the three or four matters that are under the grades 1 to 8 foundation for science and technology and how those relate to future career opportunities and why educators, in particular, and parents and community have to encourage young people in the area of sciences. The fourth one is earth and space systems: What is our place in the universe? That's kind of the big picture. We look back to the 1960s. I was watching on TV, last night or the night before, the fourth in the series From the Earth to the Moon. It's the Apollo-series documentary. You think back to the 1960s and what was happeningâ€"the challenges that faced the astronaut program and the space program to get to the moonâ€"and you think about the young people we're training today about finding their place in the universe, about reaching those opportunities and challenges that present themselves.

We have to do more than just let young people know that while they have to take their physics and they have to take their biology because it's going to get them into college or university, or into a particular program, as the case might be, we have to show them the value in doing that: the value they can add to the community, the value they can add to the life they live, not just as individuals but the opportunities they have for others.

Speaker, I appreciate the bit of time you have allowed me to speak to this. I particularly said when I started that this is a wonderful opportunity we have here to bring attention and focus to matters that a government might not otherwise, in bringing forward legislation, be able to concentrate its efforts on. But if, through this type of process, government can see its way clear to being more specific in the pursuit of career as part of the science program, I think it will serve young people well. Certainly, as this economy changes, the sciences are going to be increasingly important for those young people.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mrs. Liz Sandals: In the brief time I have to speak in support of this motion to develop a school science strategy, it just happened that earlier this week I ran into the folks who work with the professional engineers, and they said, "Liz, you're just the person we want to see. We've been trying to work in high schools to recruit women into engineering, but what we're finding is that very often, even though they may be interested, they don't have the math credits."

So I would just like to leave the thought that when we look at a math and science or, at least, a science and technology strategy, we need to remember, particularly for the physical sciences, that mathematics is the language of the physical sciences. It's very importantâ€"and I would like to emphasize this, as a mathematicianâ€"that we make sure that kids also get good training in math to complement those science skills, so that they can go forward and have great careers in the sciences.

1520

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): The honourable member, Mr. Kwinter, you have up to two minutes for your response.

Mr. Monte Kwinter: I want to thank the members who participated in the debate: the members for Thornhill, Torontoâ€"Danforth, Eglintonâ€"Lawrence, Nepeanâ€"Carleton, Pickeringâ€"Scarborough East and Guelph.

I also want to recognize, in the members' gallery, the Toronto District School Board trustee for Ward 5 in York Centre, James Pasternak, and his constituency assistant, David Horowitz, and of course the students and teachers from William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute and Northview Heights Secondary School. The teacher from William Lyon is Simon Carpenter, with Paulina Bogdanova, Lucas Phuong, Victoria Bisram, Nastassia Paikoff, Ashton Taylor and Raymund Jacildo. The teacher from Northview Heights is Lisa Di Viesti, with students Larissa Dondapaty, David Opare, Kirisanth Subramaniam, Andrew Moreno and Zain Hasan.

In the initial issue of this journal, the Canadian youth science journal, there is a quote from the Handy Guide to Science: "If it's green or wiggles, it's biology. If it stinks, it's chemistry. If it doesn't work, it's physics." That is a fairly simplistic definition of science. I want you to know that these students have turned their back on the simplicity of that, and if you took a look at their accomplishments and what they have done, it really bodes well for us as a society.

I want to congratulate the principals of the schools, the school trustees, the teachers in particular, all of the students, who've really embraced what we are doing. Again, it isn't just a matter of education. It's a matter of commitment and dedication, to make sure that we have the scientific resources to succeed in the 21st century.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): We'll vote on Mr. Kwinter's ballot item in about 50 minutes.

Orders of the day.

ONTARIO AWARD FOR PARAMEDIC
BRAVERY ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009
SUR LE PRIX DE BRAVOURE
DES AUXILIAIRES MÉDICAUX
DE L'ONTARIO

Mrs. Van Bommel moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 136, An Act to provide for the Ontario Award for Paramedic Bravery / Projet de loi 136, Loi prévoyant le Prix de bravoure des auxiliaires médicaux de l'Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Mrs. Van Bommel, you have up to 12 minutes for your response, pursuant to standing order 98.

Mrs. Maria Van Bommel: I'm pleased to rise today to speak to the second reading of Bill 136. I first introduced this last December.

Before I go further, I would like to first recognize Wayne and Clara Patterson, who are here with us in the members' gallery today. Wayne and Clara have been with me every step of the way in developing Bill 136. From the bill's inception back in 2007 to today, the Patterson family has been at the forefront of promoting the need to recognize the role of paramedics in today's emergency response and management environment.

Today is especially emotional and important for the Pattersons. Just under two years ago, on February 25, 2007, four months before his 31st birthday, their son, paramedic Paul Wayne Patterson, was fatally injured while on duty, responding to an emergency call.

Through Mr. and Mrs. Patterson's strength and encouragement, Bill 136 is intended to recognize our province's paramedics, who, by the very nature of their profession, often go beyond the call of duty to rescue and care for fellow citizens without consideration for their own safety.

February 25, 2007, was a stormy winter day in Chathamâ€"Kent. The paramedics at Sun Parlour Emergency Services were busy responding to multiple emergency calls. Paul Patterson was attending an emergency medical call with two of his colleagues when another call was dispatched by the ambulance communications. The call involved a motor vehicle collision and Paul was ready to respond, together with his emergency response unit. En route to the call, Paul's emergency response vehicle left the icy, snow-covered road. Paul was killed. He died in the line of duty while serving the residents of Chathamâ€"Kent and, by extension, the citizens of Ontario.

This was not the first incident in which Paul acted selflessly. Wayne and Clara supplied me with an array of media articles, letters of appreciation and award certificates. Paul received the Above and Beyond Award from Sun Parlour Emergency Services in 2005 after being involved in an attempt to save a farmer who had rolled his tractor and pesticide sprayer into the farm pond. Paul, along with a number of others, dove into the pond that had already been contaminated by the pesticide sprayer. As the son of a farmer, Paul understood only too well the potential danger of the exposure to pesticides. Sadly, despite their efforts, they were unable to save the farmer.

I want again to take a moment to welcome a number of other guests who have come with the Pattersons to the Ontario Legislature today. I especially want to introduce Paul's twin sister and her husband, Andy and Laura Sanders. With them are a number of Ontario's paramedics who have travelled here and taken valuable time from their duties to be present for the debate and to show their support for this bill.

Bruce Krauter is also joining us today in the members' gallery. Bruce's involvement was invaluable during the promotion and the research process leading to today's second reading of the bill. Bruce is the operations manager at Sun Parlour Emergency Services and, together with the Pattersons, was instrumental in assisting me in both bringing the importance of the paramedic profession to the attention of the Legislature and, more importantly, bringing forward the need for provincial recognition of the selfless acts of service that so many paramedics provide, in what can be often very dangerous circumstances.

Back in May of 2007, Mr. Krauter wrote a letter to the members for Chathamâ€"Kent and Essex, members Bruce Crozier and Pat Hoy, inquiring as to why there was not a provincial award for paramedic bravery. In his letter, Bruce writes, "Paramedics in our community serve the citizens of these communities as well as persons from across this province and visitors from abroad during any condition, time of day, harmful situation, landscape or duration."

These paramedics are put at risk every day, whether it's environmental, biological, acts of violence or while in transit to a call. In Bruce's over 25 years of service, he has known two paramedics who have died in the line of duty, and knows numerous others who have performed their duties above and beyond the call and put themselves at risk, all in an act to save someone's life.

Bruce wrote about the N.H. McNally Award, which recognizes bravery by pre-hospital professionals in the performance of their duties. This award is presented by the Emergency Medical Services peers, but it is not recognized either provincially or federally. An Ontario award for paramedic bravery is necessary in order to give paramedics in our province the recognition they deserve for their service to all Ontarians.

A paramedic in my riding, Tony Metayer, shared with me the procedures, the medications he can dispense on the scene and en route to hospital in Wallaceburg at the southwest corner of my riding of Lambtonâ€"Kentâ€"Middlesex. He tells me paramedics can do everything from defibrillation to intravenous fluid therapy and advanced airway management. They are able to administer seven different drugs to treat conditions such as chest pain, heart attack, hypoglycemia, allergic reactions, breathing difficulties and severe nausea and vomiting.

1530

Paramedics also have oxygen that they can use in many different medical and trauma conditions. Depending on the circumstances, they have the ability to call for an air ambulance to respond at the scene, along with the traditional land ambulance. Considering the wide range of patients that paramedics see every day, their skills as primary care providers have been very beneficial to the patients they treat. I'm sure their early intervention has saved many lives.

Over the 14 years Tony has worked as a paramedic, he has noticed that the scope of practice for paramedics has evolved significantly. The reality is that when an emergency arises, there is an expectation from the public that firefighters, police officers and paramedics will be there when they're needed most.

The role of paramedics is to respond to emergencies, provide medical service and transport patients to medical facilities. In many cases, the initial emergency care provided by paramedics could be the deciding factor between life and death, temporary or permanent disability, a brief hospital stay or prolonged hospitalization. When responding to emergencies, paramedics may not always be given prior knowledge of the extent of the issues that they will be exposed to. In a critical situation, paramedics often experience unexpected and shocking events for which most people would not be prepared. Paramedics very often are required to deliver their services in unregulated, uncontrolled, unpredictable and often hazardous environmental situations.

While identified with the health care community due to the medical scope of their practice, paramedics often serve alongside police and firefighters in attending at and dealing with emergency situations and settings. Paramedics must be prepared to respond to unfolding emergency settings beyond the medical situation to which they were initially responding. Paramedics will often be required to work within an emergency setting that includes other emergency services colleagues. Examples of calls to which paramedics would attend include working fires, assaults, car accidents, drug overdoses and alcohol abuse, to mention just a few.

In Canada, it is estimated that one paramedic a year dies in the line of duty, with 18 having lost their lives between 1995 and 2006. The occupational fatality rate for paramedics is similar to that of other emergency public workers, including police officers and firefighters. It has been 2,000 years since the good Samaritan stopped and tended to an injured stranger at the roadside. There is no record of the name of this helper, but his act of compassion will be with us for all time, a symbol for all who care for a stranger.

It is my intention that Ontario's current good Samaritans, the nearly 6,000 paramedics across the province, be recognized appropriately for events which compel them to act selflessly to rescue and care for another without giving consideration for their own safety. I'm looking forward to hearing from my colleagues on this very important matter in the House today and I ask for your support.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mr. Peter Shurman: I'm pleased to rise to support Bill 136 and my colleague from Lambtonâ€"Kentâ€"Middlesex. I'd also like to extend a warm welcome to the paramedics who are visiting with us in the galleries today. I had a chance to meet with some of you during a reception at noon. One of the things they were able to perform was to take my vitals and tell me that my pulse ox, my blood pressure and my resting heart rate are significantly lower and more healthy than those of several of my colleagues from the NDP. So I thank them for that.

This bill recognizes that paramedics perform a service that is essential to the health, the well-being and the safety of our society. I, like many here, have been on the receiving end of paramedical services. Particularly as my parents aged and grew more frail, I would arrive oftentimes to find paramedics attending to their needs. I can tell you, seeing the blue uniforms in attendance makes you worry an awful lot less.

Paramedics in Ontario are new, and I speak in relative terms. We used to watch television programs featuring paramedics that came from the United States 20 years ago, maybe a little more than that. Now it has become a routine service here in Ontario, dependable and very much depended upon. We offer young, motivated people, as Paul Wayne Patterson was, the opportunity to become paramedics through courses in our community colleges.

As the critic for citizenship and immigration for the official opposition, I have been privileged to witness the recognition of many citizens who have accomplished great things. In fact, I have had the pleasure of handing out some of these awards. We in Ontario recognize bravery of police officers and firefighters, but we have not yet extended that recognition to our paramedics. That is wrong. They are first responders equal to any others where life and death hang in the balance. Paramedics, like firefighters and police officers, join the profession recognizing that this is no 9 to 5 job. Their commitment extends beyond their shift. They don't pay attention to the clock. They are never really off duty. They certainly don't get snow days, like the icy one that claimed the life of the person in whose memory our colleague from Lambtonâ€"Kentâ€"Middlesex has put forward her bill.

Paul Wayne Patterson's entire life was about helping others, and that life was cut short doing what he loved best. Paul was a paramedic on duty with Sun Parlour EMS in Chathamâ€"Kent and, as we have heard, died on February 25, 2007, travelling to assist others.

We like to recognize service and contribution here in Ontario. We have a variety of awards, as I have mentioned before. We have the Order of Ontario, the Ontario Medal for Firefighter Bravery, the Ontario Medal for Police Bravery, the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship and the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers. I think we have room for one more. Police officers and firefighters will tell you that when someone in their profession dies in the line of duty, even though they may be thousands of miles away, they grieve the loss as one of their own. Paul Wayne Patterson's dedication was celebrated by paramedics and policemen and firefighters from across Ontario and well beyond, and rightly so. He and others earned and should earn an Ontario Award for Paramedic Bravery. They do it every single day. So we need such an award; we need to create an award.

In correspondence from AMEMSO, the Association of Municipal Emergency Medical Services of Ontario, I noticed the following relating to how much this kind of tribute means at several levels: "(a) to ... front-line paramedics, whose significant contribution to public health and safety is only beginning to be fully understood and appreciated; (b) to the many Ontarians who have benefited from not only the daily professional work of paramedics but have been impacted by the acts they perform 'with no concern for personal safety'; and finally, (c) to the pioneers of this relatively new branch of public service whose vision and professionalism charted the course that has brought us here today."

In 2006, William Mann, a KAP paramedic, was on his way from Ottawa to PEI with his fiancée when they encountered heavy snowstorms that led to a deadly car pileup. After their car was repeatedly shaken by 38 or so collisions as car after car and tractor-trailer after trailer slammed into the pileup, having made sure that his fiancée was okay, Mr. Mann got out of his car in a blinding snow squall and proceeded to help other victims of this terrible crash.

Glen Gillies, executive secretary with the Toronto Paramedic Association and public relations director with the Ontario Paramedic Association, who is here today as well, stopped on the side of Highway 401 in Ajax on his way home to pull someone out of a burning car.

Back in March 2008, Patrick Chatelaine, also on his way home, pulled over on the 401 at the site of a car accident and, along with other paramedics, put out a fire and pulled people out of their cars, all before ambulances arrived.

A couple of years ago, Rob Johnstone and his partner rescued people from a burning housing unit because they arrived on the scene before the fire department.

Even in my own area of York region there are several examples. In December 1999, a car crashed into a pond at the Glenway golf club in Newmarket early in the morning. The vehicle, with two passengers, began to submerge in the water. York region EMS paramedics Mark Hinton, Ian Phythian and Shawn McLeish entered the water to attempt to rescue the male and female occupants of the vehicle. Both patients were transported to the hospital. The female succumbed to her injuries, but the male survived. In 2000, all three paramedics received bravery awards from Chief Fantino, along with York region police officers who participated in the rescue.

And in February 2008, just last year, Andrew Liski, York region EMS operations supervisor, attended a scene where two people were trapped in their vehicle following a collision. While paramedics were attending to their patients, Andrew observed live hydro wires unsecured above the scene. He ordered all responders away from the area right away. Seconds later the wires fell, setting the scene on fire.

1540

Andrew's quick actions demonstrated the strong relationship with his colleagues and other emergency services. Both EMS and fire responders realized what could have happened had Andrew not made such a knowledgeable decision. Without his leadership and courage, the outcome could have been much, much worse.

In 2008, York region EMS paramedic Andrew Liski was nominated for a Character Hero Award as part of the Character Community Awards for his concern for others. Wouldn't it be nice to give him the award that my colleague Mrs. Van Bommel is recommending?

These are acts that we all believe we would undertake if conditions arose requiring to us do so, but the people I have citedâ€"and certainly Paul Wayne Pattersonâ€"made careers and led their lives not just thinking about that but doing so every single day.

These paramedics received federal citations or recognition from their own associations and departments, as well they should have. They deserve recognition from their provincial government as well.

I would like to thank the Patterson family for Paul, as well as all the paramedics with us here today for your service to the people of Ontario. It's about time that your dedication to our province is recognized. I commend my colleague for bringing forth this legislation.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: To begin, I'd like to say to my good friend from Thornhill that I didn't have my vital signs measured at the lunchâ€"although I did drop inâ€"and had I, they would be exemplary, so thank you.

I want to begin by saying that everyone in the New Democratic Party speaks with one voice in saying that we're supportive, of course, of this bill. Certainly, this should have been in place long ago.

To the Pattersons, our prayers, our thoughts are with you. You are brave indeed to come down here, and you are brave indeed to endorse this measure and to commemorate, in a living way, what your son's bravery accomplished. Thank you very much for being with us. I know it's tough.

Paramedics are a core feature of our emergency measures services. When you phone 911, they're usually among the very first to arrive at the scene. In my prior life, I was a minister at a United Church and we ran a dinner service, close to St. Joe's, for those who had mental health and addiction issues. I can tell you that many times we would have people who would have seizures etc. We got to know our paramedics quite well at that church.

I believe your service sometimes goes unrewarded by the thank-yous that we all owe you. Hopefully, today, you're going to hear from us what you should be hearing from the entire province of Ontario, which is one big thank-you. This award will go a long way toward accomplishing that.

I had some paramedics come to see me in my riding about another issue that paramedics faceâ€"actually, a couple of other issues that paramedics faceâ€"that I really wish we would act on as well as this. Number one, all of our front-line workersâ€"police, firefighters and paramedicsâ€"are aware that their jobs can be sometimes akin to warfare. They came and told me about this situation where they went to help somebody who was in a knife fight; they just happened to be on the scene. There were knife wounds involved. They pulled people apartâ€"with great danger to themselves because one of these people was high on crack and wielding a knifeâ€"only to be jumped, literally, by bystanders. One of the paramedics was beaten up after that. This is a true incident that happened in our city. I was astounded by this.

This same paramedic went on to experience post-traumatic stress symptoms. Post-traumatic stress disorderâ€"PTSD, as it's calledâ€"is a real problem among paramedics and all front-line workers, firefighters and police. Among those who sit on the Workmen's Compensation Board, now called the WSIB, there is real concern for those cases as well. We need presumed diagnosis in this province around that kind of disability, as well as others, in the same way that we have, in this House, passed presumed-diagnosis legislation for certain varieties of cancer for firefighters. We need that same kind of legislation to cover paramedics as well. That's something that came out of my office last fall. We had a press conference around this, and brought it forward. We would love to see that bill go forward. It will be tabled shortly.

Another problem these paramedics brought to my attention was significant offload delays. This is the time it takes to get patients from the ambulance into the hospital. These delays are being caused by resource constraints in our hospitals; in short, staffing shortages. In other words, patients are waiting in ambulances. Some delays are 30 minutes; others are many hours. This strains our EMS, it strains our paramedics and it obviously has tremendous impacts on the patients they serve as well.

We're looking at unprecedented hospital cutbacks in the future of this province. We're looking at a situation where many hospitals will not be able to balance their budgets, which they're required to do by law. We need health care funding in this province to make that situation better and, in turn, make the lives of our paramedics better, because they know this is profoundly stressful for those they deal with, for the staff in the hospitals as well for themselves. Those are other areas we need to look at soon.

Certainly, for those who sit in the majority in the government, I would urge that this bill absolutely be passed speedily, but also that we look at the working lives of paramedics in other ways: what they go through, what happens if they have a disability, what happens at WSIB, and particularly post-traumatic stress disorder, where they can be retraumatized just trying to get coverage for something that definitely happened because of their work. And certainly we need to look at those offload delay times and the waits in emergency rooms, which are a plague across our province and which really need to be addressed. That's another area we need to look at as well.

I want to say again, thank you from everyone who has ever worked in a situation like I did in the ministry, anyone who has ever worked in a hospital situation where they come in contact with you oftenâ€"probably every dayâ€"and anyone who works with the public and knows what that's like. Quite frankly, even MPPs know what that's like. We know that it's not always joyous, it's not always easy, and it sometimes is extremely difficult and very often thankless. Certainly Bill 136 will award someone. I would like to see this extended to award everyone in the paramedic community.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mr. Dave Levac: I want to start with a letter written by Paul Charbonneau, president of AMEMSO, the Association of Municipal Emergency Medical Services of Ontario. I'm going to read a portion of this letter into the record:

"Although AMEMSO sees all members of protective services as everyday heroes, paramedics deserve their rightful consideration for the courageous acts contemplated by this award. The establishment of this award verifies an awareness by our elected officials (and hence our citizens) that their pre-hospital care needs are well placed and held in the highest regard.

"Again, we thank Ms. Maria Van Bommel, MPP, Lambtonâ€"Kentâ€"Middlesex, for sponsoring this private member's bill and sincerely urge all members of provincial Parliament to support it.

"Thank you for the opportunity to provide the AMEMSO perspective.

"Yours very truly,

"Paul Charbonneau

"President."

I want to thank the member from Lambtonâ€"Kentâ€"Middlesexâ€"I usually flip those around; I apologizeâ€"for the opportunity, because she is aware of the work I have been doing with firefighters, paramedics and police officers over the years, to bring attention to the fact that this particular group of people does something very few of us do and would want to do; that is, put ourselves in the line of trouble. The natural aversion of the human condition is to leave it. The special gift they have to face that is what we're recognizing today. So I want to thank the member very sincerely for allowing me to say a few words.

I also want to express to you that it's very important for us to acknowledge that the families of these individuals deserve our utmost respect and thanks, because I consider itâ€"I've said this in the pastâ€"a large thank-you for the gift of those people. Husbands, wives, spouses, children, grandparents, parents: They know every single day that their loved one is doing a job that they might not return to. We are talking about that today because we have in our presence some wonderful people who offered us that gift. So I want to thank them personally, that each and every day they go to work and they provide us with that very unique and very special gift that they have to put themselves in the line of harm.

1550

I want to thank all of the paramedics in Ontario. I also want to thank personally Charles Longewayâ€"a friend of mineâ€"and Randy Papple, who run the County of Brant Ambulance Service, and the Association of Municipal Emergency Medical Services for providing support for this bill.

In establishing this award for bravery, we will be able to record and immortalize the paramedics who perform exceptional acts of bravery and to show our appreciation and gratitude to the paramedics and their families that we take so much as a gift. We want to say, in a small way, "Thank you." The bill is important to those who are required to perform these daily acts of courage and bravery and to help their fellow human beings.

Another point that's important to make is that these people don't do this for that purpose. The more I got to learn about who they were, the less they thought it was important. The value that we're adding to this today is an acknowledgment from us to them. They're not looking for it. What they want to know is simply, do we appreciate what they do? This is our opportunity to do that. They don't want to be heroes; they don't want to be seen as heroes. They want to be seen as people who do their job. They take pride in their job and they do it well. That gift is their gift to us. So we're simply saying: "Thank you for the gift of you."

It also serves to go a long way to educate the younger generations on how important these acts of selflessness and caring are and to help them understand and feel the significance of such acts. They are wonderful role models. They go to schools, they go to churches, they go to the basements in those little halls, and they perform lessons free. They tell people of who they are and what they do. They educate. They are great role models for kids to see that these types of acts of selflessness are part of the human condition and make us attached to each other. So I want to give to them a special thank-you for that small gift that they give while they perform their actual job.

If the bill passes, it will honour the services upheld by the paramedics off duty in exceptional acts of service. However, we wish to recognize the contribution that paramedics have made to society while performing their duties, and even, on occasion, to recognize their ultimate sacrifice in the loss of their life. There is no more noteworthy act, such as that of Glen Arnold, the paramedic for the Canadian Armed Forces in Petawawa, or Josh Klukie, the Canadian soldier and paramedic from Thunder Bay, who were killed serving in Afghanistan. And of course, as we've heard before, to Paul Patterson and his entire family, thank you for that gift.

However, death is not the only reason we have to concern ourselves with celebrating this particular bill and, if passed, this award. Paramedics in emergency services are front-line performers. They get in front of the trouble, which means they expose themselves to many risks that we have to include in our society today: biological, chemical, radioactive, AIDS, hepatitisâ€"you name it, they are exposing themselves to it all the time. That is something we should celebrate, the fact that they are willing to do that for us.

I've got about another 25 pages for this speech. I want to make it clear to you that it isn't about writing a speech; it's about making sure that we stand together, unified, as we're hearing with all sides of the House, and that we celebrate our paramedics.

To you, looking you in your eyes: God bless you, and thank you very much for what you do.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Thank you. Further debate?

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: Listening to the debate today, it reminded me of the first time in my life, I think, that I saw an ambulance. I was coming home from school. It was apple-picking time. I must have been maybe six or seven. Somebody had fallen off a ladder in the orchard and they were lying on the ground and complaining about a very sore back. Our house was the closest house with a telephone, and we phoned an ambulance. I can remember the ambulance coming up our road. It was a dirt road in those days; it's Tomkin Road in Mississauga today, but it was a dirt road then. I can still remember the ambulance. It was white. It was a Cadillac; it was one of those antiques that you see in the 1950s. One driver came out and lifted the injured person onto a board and a couple of other fellows helped carry him over to the ambulance and off he went. Unfortunately, that gentleman passed away sometime later, and that would not happen today. It would not happen today with the EMS workers and paramedics. That man would be alive. So it's the kind of improvement to our lifestyle that we thank you for today.

The purposes of awards, of course, are for extraordinary bravery, and paramedics are indeed a very important part of our medical system. They place themselves at peril for the benefit of others and that's a very noble calling indeed.

In my riding of Halton, we have emergency medical services that operate, of course, 24 hours, seven days a week. It's something that people maybe don't think about all the time. In Halton they operate out of 11 stations in Oakville, Burlington, Milton, Georgetown and Acton. This I found very interesting: There are 150 paramedics who serve 450,000 Haltonians and they get over 50,000 calls per yearâ€"that's 150 paramedics who respond to that. The paramedics also work closely with the Halton Regional Police Service tactical rescue unit; that also includes a bicycle medical patrol so they can get to areas that an ambulance may not be able to get to very easily.

I used to live fairly close to the Kelso Conservation Area, where there are a couple of rock climbing places. People seem to enjoy climbing up the face of the rock wall on the escarpment that is perhaps 100 to 150 feet high. On a nice, warm day in the summertime you could count on at least one ambulance heading into Kelso, and more often than not it was a rock climber who was either stuck on the face and had to be rescued or he was stuck in a tree into which he fellâ€"he was a lucky oneâ€"or he had to be scraped off the ground; most of them just injured badly. I don't ever recall a death in that. It certainly wasn't very pleasant duty for paramedics, but they did it and they did it often in that area.

I'm not sure why it is allowed to take placeâ€"rock climbing, that isâ€"but I'm sure the participants of rock climbing find it very exciting. They should have a safety harness on but many of them don't. The paramedics, of course, do their job and rescue these people who have put themselves in harm's way.

As a society, it's a wonderful thing to have people who put themselves in harm's way to help others regardless of how they got there. So we thank you very much for what you do in your life. I look forward to this bill passing and there being an award for bravery in going beyond the call of duty for paramedics in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: Along with other New Democrats, I want to say I'm very pleased and very honoured to be able to stand in support of Bill 136 and, as with my colleagues in this House, urge its quick passage. Currently, as has probably been said, there are provincial awards for firefighters and police officers, there's a federal government award for paramedics called the Exemplary Service Medal for EMS professionals, but there's no provincial award for paramedics.

Ontarians, through personal experience, know the contribution that paramedics make. They put their lives at risk, as has been said. They're at risk of contracting or being exposed to dangerous diseases, at risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals and, I would say, at times go into situations that are themselves directly dangerous.

I had the opportunity in the last federal election to canvass with a candidate who had previously been a paramedic and it was interesting, as we were going through some apartment buildings, some of which were rougher than others. He said, "When I used to knock on the door, I'd stand aside and not stand right in front of the door," and I thought, "Yeah, now there's an interesting perspective on delivery of service in the public sector." That isn't the way most people think of paramedics and the sorts of dangers they encounter, but that is simply the reality. That is what they go into, and they go into it with a dedication; they go into it with a knowledge of the risks that they're taking on, making the contribution that they do make.

1600

We all know that when you dial 911, you get the firefighters, you get the police, the paramedics. They all come into the same situation, facing similar perils, and it makes sense that they should be recognized in a similar way.

In her explanatory note in the act, Mrs. Van Bommel's bill talks about Paul Patterson. Mr. Patterson, a Chathamâ€"Kent paramedic, was killed when his vehicle rolled over in response to a call.

We shouldn't forget the simple reality that people do put their lives at risk when they do this work. They do it to save our lives; they risk theirs.

There's widespread support for this bill. You can hear it throughout this House. Beyond this, AMEMSO, the Association of Municipal Emergency Medical Services of Ontario, has made a statement: "The establishment of this award verifies an awareness by our elected officials and hence our citizens that their pre-hospital care needs are well placed and held in the highest regard." OPSEU, which represents many EMS workers, has voiced their support for this bill. Other supporters include: Thames EMS, Middlesex and Elgin; Essex-Windsor EMS; Lennox and Addington EMS; region of Waterloo; Ontario EMS chiefs' association; county of Frontenac.

This bill is a good piece of work. I have to say that the member has previously brought in very practical private members' bills that I was pleased to support, and I'm very pleased today to support this bill as well.

To those who are here representing emergency measures paramedics, I want to say personally that I thank you for all that you've done, and I hope that this bill helps, in part, in recognizing all that you've contributed to our society.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Further debate?

Mr. Mike Colle: I again want to join my colleagues in acknowledging the effort undertaken by the member from Lambtonâ€"Kentâ€"Middlesex. Undertaking these private member's billsâ€"there are many that come to our offices and our constituencies, and we all know the effort that's required to undertake this kind of initiative. For her to do this is very much appreciated. It is something that she has undertaken and has brought to this House's attention, and it's something that obviously seems to have support. I think that the work beyond the private members' hour has to continue. I just wish her the best of luck in pursuing this, to make people aware of the contributions that paramedics make.

As we all have been aware, these are the first responders, sometimes underestimated or underappreciated, and I think that's sometimes just because we don't take time to evaluate what they've done and what they do. I know the situation sometimes in rural Ontario, but I can imagine the role of paramedics in urban Ontario or downtown Toronto. I see some incredible risks taken by paramedics trying to get through traffic in rush hour. They must risk their life 20 times in one call, trying to avoid traffic gridlock and get through lights and turns and trucks, and they're doing this most often in speed to save a life. I guess if you counted the number of lives they have saved, the number of people who have been diverted from long-term illnesses because the paramedics got there in timeâ€"and I know those thresholds, and for them the 30-second thresholds are critical.

I was very impressed a couple of years ago when I had the pleasure to work with Garrie Wright from Toronto EMS services. I worked with Garrie on trying to bring the AEDs, automated external defibrillators, into public places and to educate people on the value of having AEDs, the portable heart defibrillators, in hockey arenas, in this building. We finally, with Garrie's help, got one in this building. It took two years to get one in this building. With Garrie's passion, we went around the province trying to get people to support these heart-saving devices that are now becoming more and more commonplace. This is the work of an EMS professional, Garrie Wright, who is still doing good work with the city of Toronto.

Anyway, I was very impressed with the passion and the professionalism of paramedics in getting to know a lot of them with the portable heart defibrillators. It was a private member's bill that got introduced about seven or eight years ago, which eventually was passed, and now we have a program in Ontario where AEDs are going into public buildings. In fact, we should ensure, wherever we are in our ridings, that there are AEDs in our community centres. They should be in our schools, they should be in our workplaces, because that is a linkage between the paramedic and the life-saving 30 seconds that could be critical in saving someone who is suffering from cardiac arrest. I know the AEDs have already saved over a dozen lives at the Woodbine racetrack. At the Toronto international airport, they've saved a number of lives already, not to mention in hockey arenas.

The paramedics deserve this recognition, and I think it's incumbent upon us as MPPs to let our government and our fellow colleagues know that this is something that should go forward. It's something that recognizes their risk and achievement and the security they give people across Ontario.

Maybe sometimes we take these essential services for granted. They are always there, and that's why sometimes we don't appreciate what it takes to get to the spot. Then, as someone mentioned beforeâ€"I think the member for Torontoâ€"Danforth mentioned itâ€"when you go to a door, you don't know what you're going to find inside that door, inside that apartment or house, whether the person has some contagious disease, whether that person is violent. The person could be armed. There are all kinds of risks that take place. So it is not an automatic phone call and you just turn on the paramedic. There are all kinds of variables there that they have to deal with, and that is why they have to have the greatest professional expertise. They have to be beyond professional. They have to be passionate, and that's what I found about most paramedics I've met: They really love their work, and they are willing to risk their lives for others who are in danger. If they don't deserve a medal, I don't know who does deserve one.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Mrs. Van Bommel, you have up to two minutes to respond.

Mrs. Maria Van Bommel: I want to thank the members for Thornhill, Parkdaleâ€"High Park, Brant, Halton, Torontoâ€"Danforth and Eglintonâ€"Lawrence for their supportive words. I also want to mention that we had a letter from Paul Charbonneau, who is with us here today. I've also received a number of e-mails and phone calls of support from emergency medical services, police services, fire services, individual paramedics, their families and friends.

I want to just read one from James Kang, who is the director of Halton region EMS. He writes: "I have reviewed Bill 136 and am in full support of recognizing those paramedics who have lost their lives or put themselves in danger while providing pre-hospital patient care to those in need.... Bill 136 ... is long overdue."

I want to also talk about the fact that Paul Patterson paid the ultimate price. Paul was a hero, but first of all, he was a paramedic and he placed the lives of others ahead of his own. He was a dedicated paramedic who garnered the respect of his colleagues as an exemplary individual. Paul is one of many paramedics, including my own nephew, Jeff Millar, a paramedic in the Renfrew region, who go above and beyond the call to serve the public.

I want to just take a moment to thank those who have done the legwork to bring this bill to fruition: the Patterson family and Bruce Krauter; James Berry in my Toronto office, who led the charge and was joined recently by Rachelle MacDougall; Tracey Dorman and Marie Baker in my constituency office; and Chris Wernham of legislative counsel, who scripted the legislation proper.

Before I finish, I want to just read the prayer of the Association of Municipal Emergency Medical Services of Ontario, with your permission, Speaker:

God grant me the strength to deliver emergency medical care,

With skillful hands and a compassionate heart.

Give me the courage and ability to render my professional skills,

When called upon and lives are on the line.

Help to guide these hands with love and care as I bring new life into this world.

Let me ease the suffering of others from day to day.

And finally, to help me accept my fate and the fate of others,

With a clear mind and an open heart.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): The time provided for private members' public business has expired.

POPE JOHN PAUL II DAY ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009 SUR LE JOUR
DU PAPE JEAN-PAUL II

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): We will first deal with ballot item number 67, standing in the name of Mr. Klees.

Mr. Klees has moved second reading Bill 25, An Act to proclaim Pope John Paul II Day. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Second reading agreed to.

Mr. Frank Klees: I would ask that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Is it agreed that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly? So ordered.

CURRICULUM

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): We will now deal with ballot item number 68, or private member's notice of motion number 76, standing in the name of Mr. Kwinter. Is it the pleasure of the House that that motion carry? Carried.

Motion agreed to.

ONTARIO AWARD FOR PARAMEDIC
BRAVERY ACT, 2009 /
LOI DE 2009
SUR LE PRIX DE BRAVOURE
DES AUXILIAIRES MÉDICAUX
DE L'ONTARIO

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Mrs. Van Bommel has moved second reading of Bill 136, An Act to provide for the Ontario Award for Paramedic Bravery. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Second reading agreed to.

Mrs. Maria Van Bommel: I would ask that this bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Is it agreed that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy? Agreed. So ordered.

All matters relating to private members' public business having been completed, I do now call orders of the day.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I move adjournment of the House.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

This House stands adjourned until Monday next at 10:30 a.m.

The House adjourned at 1613.