LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Tuesday 17 May 2011 Mardi 17 mai 2011
Bill 151, An Act to enact the Ontario Forest Tenure Modernization Act, 2011 and to amend the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994 / Projet de loi 151, Loi édictant la Loi de 2011 sur la modernisation du régime de tenure forestière en Ontario et modifiant la Loi de 1994 sur la durabilité des forêts de la Couronne.
Hon. Michael Gravelle: I am truly honoured to be here today to begin debate on third reading of Bill 151, legislation that would enable us to modernize the system that governs how public forest resources are made available to private companies and who manages our crown forests; in other words, our forest tenure system.
This bill is crucial to the economic health of so many northern and rural communities across the province. A modernized forest tenure system would create more flexibility, it would allow us to respond to our fast-changing economic environment, and it would enable us to put our wood and the people of Ontario to work. This legislation would indeed enable us to achieve those goals.
The proposed legislation and commitment to modernization is an extremely strong sign of this government’s confidence in the future of forestry in Ontario. The value of our forests to the province and Ontarians is absolutely undeniable. With 85 billion trees, our forests represent 2% of the world’s total. And 80% of the 71 million hectares of forested land in Ontario is publicly owned. The government of Ontario oversees the management of all these crown forest lands.
Forestry is a key economic driver in the province, supporting almost 260 Ontario communities, and many of those communities are highly dependent on forestry jobs for their survival. And while the importance of the sector remains vital, there is also no denying the setbacks that we have seen in recent years. Mills have been closed or idled, and certainly jobs have been lost. Despite that, our commitment to the forestry sector remains extremely firm. Since 2005, we have made available more than $1.1 billion to support the forestry sector through programs like the forest sector prosperity fund and the loan guarantee program, also the wood promotion program, the northern pulp and paper electricity transition program and, of course, its successor, the northern industrial electricity rate program and many more.
We want the forest sector to be able to adapt to change. We want it to thrive in the face of the challenges that they have. With that as our desire, the current tenure system, which prescribes how companies obtain crown wood in this province, also needs to change.
Although our current forest tenure system has changed over the years, one of its basic tenets—that, in exchange for a long-term wood supply, primary wood-using mills owned by private companies have responsibility for and strong influence over the management of Ontario’s public forest control—has not been revised for many decades. In good times, when the mills were profitable, the old system worked well enough, I believe. But the economic recession has had a significant impact on Ontario’s forestry sector and on northern Ontario’s economy.
In a letter to me, and copied to the standing committee, one forestry company said recently that, “The current model of embedded business interests and competitors is costly, disruptive, combative and unsustainable,” from a business perspective. When mills were idled or closed, it meant that no one was using the wood, with limited opportunities for new entrants. You can be sure there were new entrants who were asking for wood and who were keenly interested in investing in northern Ontario. The fact is, the current system just doesn’t meet our needs any longer.
By modernizing the system that makes crown forest resources available to the industry, our goal is to protect and create jobs, attract new investment and make Ontario more competitive, while ensuring that Ontario’s forests continue to be managed sustainably. Bill 151 enables us to do this. It is a chance to make the allocation of Ontario’s wood more responsive to market demands, to move toward a more competitive market system and to certainly create new opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Bill 151 would allow the province to move forward with two new governance models developed in collaboration with industry, stakeholders and aboriginal communities. One of them is called local forest management corporations, and the second governance model we’re calling the enhanced shareholder sustainable forest licences. Both models would make it easier for new entrants to participate and for aboriginal and local communities to be involved in and benefit from the sector. Certainly that was a message we heard consistently from our extensive consultations. While there clearly continue to be debates over the mechanics of the change, I think I feel comfortable saying that there is a strong consensus on the need for responsible and measured change.
We’ve had years of dialogue across the north. By the way, we’ve made substantial modifications to our original plan based on the discussions and consultations we’ve had, and we’ve worked closely with industry to accommodate its concerns.
For example, to address concerns about the benefits of the local forest management corporations, we’ve amended the bill to limit it to two pilot LFMCs for the first five years and to require that there is a review of those first two LFMCs and other tenure arrangements before establishing more. It’s a very important amendment we brought forward on the basis of concerns expressed by industry in particular.
To address concerns—and there were concerns expressed—that the government’s commitment to move toward the enhanced shareholder sustainable forest licence model was not visible in Bill 151, we have put forward amendments to the bill to allow for the cancellation of various wood supply instruments for the purpose of establishing an enhanced shareholder SFL. In direct response to concerns raised by the forest industry and various communities, we have made other amendments on the timber licence cancellation provisions to provide greater certainly around its application and use. Again, we are keen to work closely with industry to help us move forward together.
In terms of that particular measure, and to be quite specific, we’ve deleted a provision that would have allowed the government to develop further grounds for timber licence cancellation through a regulation. We’ve also improved the wording for cancellation in circumstances of wood hoarding, following input from a forest industry working group and others. Again, one of our goals is to see that wood hoarding is not a reality in the future. May I say, we’ve also added a very important right: One of our amendments is a right of representation in that provision.
I think I need to say at this point—perhaps it’s a bit harsh, but I think it’s true: It probably wouldn’t matter to some how we amended the bill. A significant number, I think, probably felt they wanted to stay with the status quo. It was a system that worked well for them and left them in a position to control that wood. It’s also fair to say that it’s not surprising, and perhaps it’s even understandable, that some do fear change. Some are seeking more delay, and some are certainly very aggressive in arguing further interests. That’s fair game, but we feel strongly that this was a measure that we needed to move forward on.
I guess it’s also worth saying that our government could have sat back; we could have done nothing while the forest sector continued its decline. Instead, we made the determination that the status quo was not an option, as we felt that the forest sector was simply not going to improve on its own under the present system. So our government stood up and we took the bold step to modernize Ontario’s forest tenure system—again, very careful to do it in a balanced and measured way, with an extraordinary level of consultation with industry, with communities and with their aboriginal leadership. From my perspective, to not support this legislation is to not support the people of northern Ontario. To not support this legislation is to stifle growth in the forestry sector.
The reality is, we committed to proceeding with this transformation a couple of years ago, and we are fulfilling that commitment. We have a very strong responsibility to the people of Ontario. This is a crown resource. It is the people’s resource.
Despite what you may have heard, I can assure you that there is indeed significant industry support for this bill. It was made clear that by putting in the needed amendments, many industry leaders can and do indeed support this legislation. We have heard from both individuals and companies that recognize that change is necessary. They agree with the need for that change and they do support this legislation.
Certainly, there is a lot of work left to do to further develop the details and the implementation plans before a new tenure system could be put in place. We recognize that. This is a significant change, and it will take time. It’s important for me to say that it is very much our intention and our plan to work with industry, to continue to work with industry, to continue to work with municipalities and other stakeholders and our aboriginal communities to ensure that this happens.
Working together, this new tenure modernization bill and, may I say, the provincial wood supply competitive process would support new investment in the forestry sector while creating and sustaining jobs across the province. In fact, the wood supply competition was created in the interim, in the short term, to put wood and people back to work. We have seen that, during our very tough economic times, in essence about half of our wood supply was not being used. Through the wood supply competition to date, we have been able to announce that more than 3.4 million cubic metres of wood per year will be put to use.
Businesses are creating and protecting good jobs. As a result of the announcement, so far we are creating and retaining more than 1,500 of them. They are expanding their existing operations. Others are establishing new enterprises.
We don’t have time to go through all the announcements related to that, but there are some really good ones. They’re all great, but there are some particularly telling ones. How about a family-owned sawmill like Garden Lake Timber near Thunder Bay? It has been in business for just over 30 years and never had a confirmed wood supply. Now they do, and they’re able to create some more jobs at that important company.
Whitesand First Nation, north of Thunder Bay, has plans to build a sawmill, a three-megawatt cogeneration facility and a plant to manufacture clean-burning wood pellets. We were able to provide them with a wood allocation that was crucial to them moving forward.
In our announcement a couple of weeks ago—actually, maybe 10 or 12 days ago—a leading-edge clean energy solutions company called Rentech is going to build a plant in White River to produce biodegradable, low-carbon synthetic jet fuel—the first commercial plant of its kind. That almost defines the innovative proposals that I think we were looking for and hoping to see.
Those are just a few examples. I can certainly give many others, as can my colleagues from northern Ontario. But that gives us a good sense of the good things that can happen when we make unused wood available.
There’s no question that the wood supply competition process was long, it was complicated, it was challenging, and it continues to be. But what we look at now in terms of our legislation today is to imagine the benefits for Ontarians if we’re able to get approval for Bill 151 and a modernized tenure system that would see unused wood more quickly and consistently made available to support new and existing businesses. We believe strongly that it’s time to act. We need this change now to create jobs and opportunities in Ontario’s forest sector. It’s time to support this bill.
Mr. Randy Hillier: It’s too bad that the minister didn’t give us a few more examples. He did have another seven minutes left on the clock, and I would have been glad to hear some of those other examples had he had them available.
It was interesting listening to the minister. He talked about the industry’s support for this bill. I know that the minister wasn’t at the committee hearings, hearing from industry and the municipalities in northern Ontario. But I guess I must say that the minister probably can’t see the opposition through the trees on this bill. There certainly is significant opposition to this bill—well-founded and well-justified opposition to this bill.
Over the last eight years, under Dalton McGuinty’s watch, forestry in this province of Ontario has been decimated. High hydro prices and overregulation have contributed to the loss of over 60 timber mills and the loss of over 40,000 forestry jobs. Instead of helping northern foresters, Premier McGuinty’s government seems hell-bent on causing more damage to the industry.
Last month, Premier McGuinty’s Liberals introduced the Forest Tenure Modernization Act, which will hurt foresters even further. The bill will replace sustainable forestry licences with unaccountable and bureaucratic forestry LHINs. It will allow the minister to cancel forestry licences with no compensation, no warning and no reason. Contrary to the minister’s statements, that provision still remains within the bill and has caused significant fear and uncertainty in the industry.
When stakeholders like the Ontario Forest Industries Association and the Ontario Bar Association said that the McGuinty Liberals were going to destroy the forest sector by throwing out the rule of law, the McGuinty Liberals on the committee cancelled their northern committee delegations. Last month, I tabled letters in the committee from across the north—from northern communities and councils, foresters and families. There were letters begging the Liberals to reconsider their cancelled consultations. Northerners asked the Liberal government for a fair hearing. Northern communities like Espanola, Thunder Bay and Timmins were begging the government to allow them to speak out on an issue of vital importance.
Of course, this government isn’t one to listen to anyone who isn’t a moneyed downtown Toronto lobbyist. Research by the PC caucus has shown that this bill isn’t a product of the McGuinty government at all. The root of this legislation was written by none other than a Toronto eco-lobbyist, Tom Clark, in a paper written for the Ivey Foundation. The Ivey Foundation funded Tom Clark to produce that report. We all remember the Ivey Foundation as being that organization which bragged about playing the government like a fiddle. Their mandate is to halt all forestry in the province of Ontario. It looks like the Ivey Foundation has done it once again.
The government is continuing to fiddle while the forest industry burns. Now Tom Clark has helped them create another piece of legislation which will send shockwaves through the industry. This bill is yet another nail in the coffin of the forestry sector. While the government claims this bill will help Ontario’s forestry, it was created by the very same people devoted to destruction of the forestry industry.
It was the best proof yet that Dalton McGuinty has changed. He’s not the man northerners hoped he would be. He has abandoned the north. Instead of listening, northern Liberal members began a misinformation campaign in their ridings, far from their Toronto bosses. The member—
Mr. Randy Hillier: Instead of listening, northern Liberal members began a campaign to deflect the legitimate concerns. The member for Algoma–Manitoulin came home and told the press that they wanted consultations at the same time that he actively cancelled them in Toronto.
These Liberal members have made clear that their loyalty is to Dalton McGuinty, not to their constituents. They made it clear when they passed the Green Energy Act, raising energy prices by 150% and forcing northerners to choose between food and heating this winter. These same high hydro prices are now causing the collapse of the forestry sector, as mills struggle to pay bills imposed upon them by an out-of-touch Liberal government. They made it clear when they passed Bill 191 with no consultations, their Far North—and no jobs—Act. While listening to northerners, the McGuinty Liberals have closed the north to all business and designated 50% of our province as off limits for any development. That piece of trickery was masterminded by another Liberal eco-lobbyist, the president of the World Wildlife Fund.
Now, Bill 151. The Liberals have decided that it’s not even worth appearing in northern Ontario. Why should they suffer the slings and arrows of the good, regular folks in communities like Sioux Lookout, Espanola or Dubreuilville? Why bother listening to people trying to save their families and their livelihoods? Why bother travelling up north when Dalton McGuinty is only trying to win seats in Toronto? The Liberals’ eco-lobbyist friends never leave Toronto, so why should the Liberal members? So the government cancelled all committee hearings in the north on Bill 151. It’s clear the McGuinty Liberals are so out of touch they think northerners need not be heard.
The good news: In 169 days, Ontario families will have an opportunity to send a message to this government: that enough is enough. Instead of dabbling in expensive energy experiments that are causing families’, seniors’ and businesses’ hydro bills to skyrocket, a Tim Hudak Ontario PC government will treat energy policy as an economic policy, not a social program. We will work to ensure that forestry in Ontario is sustainable, productive and prosperous. When it comes to making decisions about northern Ontario, the PC Party will not leave northerners out in the cold. A vote for the PC Party will be a voice for northern Ontario.
Here’s a story from the Chronicle Journal: “Another Sawmill Bankrupt,” May 12. “Another Buchanan sawmill has entered bankruptcy,” McKenzie Forest Products in Sioux Lookout. Why? Because they couldn’t get any fibre.
That’s Marathon and Sioux Lookout. We have letters before the standing committee from the OFIA, from Ainsworth, from Espanola, from Domtar, from Eacom, from everybody in the forestry industry—Georgia-Pacific. The list goes on and on. And what did this Liberal government do in that committee hearing? They snubbed them. Not one of those legitimate, justifiable concerns about this bill were addressed during the clause-by-clause.
They even went so far—and I’ll clarify this for the minister, because obviously he didn’t read the amendment. The amendment does read that there will be a review and evaluation of the first two LFMCs and that there will only be two LFMCs. The final clause of that amendment says that this amendment “does not apply with respect to ... the first two” LFMCs. So there will be no review. There will be no evaluation. Read it again, Minister. It was the most circular, convoluted and circus amendment that’s ever been put forward in front of a committee here.
Here it is from the township of Ignace: They’re opposed. The mayor of Timmins, the northern Ontario chamber of commerce, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Chiefs of Ontario, NAN: Everybody is opposed to this bill, but this government is hell-bent on ramming through another bill for the Ivey Foundation and their downtown environmental friends.
I would like the minister to stand up in this House and say, “No, it wasn’t because of Tom Clark and the Ivey Foundation,” which funded and came up with this idea. Stand up in this House and tell us that that’s not where the motivation for this bill came from, because we know that that is where the whole concept and the whole idea of creating these forestry LHINs came from: the Ivey Foundation.
I guess that really is the hallmark of a Liberal bill: not a bill that comes from broad-based consensus in a community, not a bill that comes from broad-based industry support, but from a very narrowly cast special-interest group. That’s what this Liberal government has become when it applies to northern Ontario.
Every one of these—here’s another one from the town of Cochrane, opposed to this bill. We even had the mayor of Dubreuilville here a couple of weeks ago, and the general manager of the mill in Dubreuilville, pleading for some fibre allocation, some certainty that that mill can operate and operate continuously. But no such confirmation came from this government.
I’ll put this on the record, Minister: All those mills and all those tens of thousands of jobs are not just statistics. Behind each one of those numbers is a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a family member who is out of work and facing the hardships of your policies. It’s time for you to stand up and listen to the north. It’s time for you to bring some certainty to this industry and have some prosperity in northern Ontario.
It’s disappointing that the Liberals time-allocated this bill, it’s disappointing that they did not listen to those justifiable amendments, and it’s disappointing for northern Ontario that they will have to pick up the pieces and pay the consequences of the Ivey Foundation’s relationship with the minister.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: As the critic for the New Democratic Party on this issue and on behalf of our caucus and our leader, Andrea Horwath, I want to put a few comments on the record on this very short debate at third reading.
The government is, yes, moving forward on this initiative for the change of the forest tenure model and the pricing system of timber in this province, something that we’ve opposed for a number of reasons that were laid out at second reading, were laid out in committee and were laid out through the media through the north and through all of Ontario.
However, we listened to the government. It’s really interesting: Here’s the government saying that if the member votes against this bill, we’re voting against northern Ontario. What a preposterous comment for the minister to make. This bill is problematic.
You’ve got the Ontario Forest Industries Association, the people who represent the forestry companies in northern Ontario, saying, essentially, you’re wrong. You’ve got major forest operators in this province who are saying that you’re wrong. You have almost every mayor in northern Ontario saying that you’re wrong. You’ve got pretty well every chamber of commerce in northern Ontario saying that you’re wrong. You’ve got unions and workers and communities across the north that say you are wrong. And you say somehow we’re opposed to the north by voting against this bill? I think you’re the ones who are wrong, and I think it will be proven on October 6.
This government, quite frankly, has completely lost touch with reality. They’re not listening to what people in northern Ontario have to say, because if they were, they would have been listening to Jamie Lim at the OFIA. They would have been listening to Tom Laughren and other mayors in northern Ontario. They’d be listening to Mr. Wilson from the chamber of commerce up in Thunder Bay. They’d be listening to all kinds of people who have been saying, “We’re not opposed to change. We understand what change is all about. We’re a resilient bunch in northern Ontario. We’ve understood for a long time that northern Ontario has some challenges, and we’ve always risen to those challenges. But this is not change that’s going to move us forward. This is change that’s going to put us back.”
You’re mucking around with the licences of forestry companies, and you can ill afford to do so. If I, as a company, go out in order to finance myself for modernization in my mill or any kind of an investment I need to do for expansion, I’ve got to be able to show that I’ve got the ability to secure the money that I’m borrowing. How do you do that? Yes, it’s by the assets you have and, yes, it’s by your balance sheet, but it’s also by being able to prove you’ve got trees to put in the mill. You’re putting those licences at risk. Forest companies have been saying to you right from the beginning, and the OFIA has been saying to you, “If that is not the case, then put it in the legislation. Put an amendment in place that is absolutely clear that you’re not going to muck with somebody’s licence, and then we can go to the next step.”
But you couldn’t even get off the curb in this debate. You came out of the cabinet room, sat on the curb and announced to northern Ontario what great ideas you had, and then you failed to listen to anybody in northern Ontario. We said, “At least travel the bill to northern Ontario so people in the north can have an opportunity to speak.” “No, no, we don’t have to send this to the north. Cabinet knows better. The minister knows better. Mr. Brown certainly knows better. We just know what’s got to be done in northern Ontario, because Queen’s Park, after all, is the best place to make decisions about northern Ontario.”
Well, let me tell you, as a northerner: Absolutely not. The people of the north had to be consulted and they weren’t. Were they consulted prior to this bill being introduced? Absolutely. Were they consulted sufficiently? Not a question. The problem is, what people talked to you about at the consultation pre-drafting of the bill was very different from what they saw come out of the process once you had drafted the bill.
So on the first point, you’ve mucked up the issue of licences for forest companies, and that is not a good thing. It puts us in line with a whole bunch of other jurisdictions where there isn’t the kind of security that companies can have in order to make the investments in their jurisdictions.
Effectively, what it does is this: For one of these companies that is either a Canadian-based or North American-based forest company which has operations across Canada and the rest of North America, and they have to decide, “Okay, we have X amount of money to invest this year, and we have to decide where we’re going to invest it,” it makes it very difficult for them, as a company, to say, “Well, let’s put it in Ontario,” because in Ontario, life has gotten very tough. We have energy rates that have gone through the roof—and I hear the Conservatives talk about energy. God, you guys started this fiasco. The nerve of the Conservatives to get up and say they understand energy, when they started the problem. Then the Liberals put it into overdrive, and on top of that, now you’re mucking around with the licences. The companies, the boardrooms and the directors, are going to have to say, “All right, I’ve got X amount of money to invest. I can invest it in Manitoba, I can invest it in Quebec, I can invest it maybe somewhere in the United States, or in Ontario.” And it’s going to make it very difficult for them to invest in Ontario, once this act becomes law.
Should we do something to deal with some of the issues that the minister raised? Absolutely. There’s not a municipality, there is not a company, there’s not a chamber of commerce or a mayor who says we should do nothing. However, what you’ve done is completely opposed to what they want. What people wanted was security of tenure, number one, and a way to utilize unutilized timber that already exists in the act that you as a minister and previous ministers of the crown under the Liberal government have refused to use. You haven’t used the power that you have in the act now.
I agree with my friend Randy: All of this is kind of like creating a LHIN, in the sense that if I move everything over to the—what do they call them?—enhanced LFMCs, local forest management corporations or whatever, and I shove the responsibility over to the private sector, then, “Don’t come to me when there’s a problem. It’s not my fault,” says the government from the Liberal side. “It’s them.” It’s the same idea as the LHINs. You’re trying to put a buffer between you and the decision-makers. You’re the minister; you’ve got the seat. You’re the government; you have the majority. You control the cabinet. The decision is yours.
I’ll tell you what I would have done if I was minister over the last seven years, and I know there are some people who would disagree with me in northern Ontario, and certain people within industry. But when a company shuts down, we currently have the authority to take the wood if they’re not going to reopen—the first thing I would do is say, “What can we do to keep your doors open? Is this a temporary closure or a permanent closure?” If it’s a temporary closure, they’ve got to hold onto the wood; otherwise, the community doesn’t have a chance in heck to be able to do anything after. If the company is going to say, “No, this is a permanent closure,” as was the case with Excel in Opasatika, as is the case in Smooth Rock Falls, I would say, “Okay, as the crown, the minister, I’m taking that wood back,” because we have the authority to do it now without this bill, with the current act, “and that wood will remain tied to those communities,” so that as the economy turns around, we have an opportunity to restart something in that community.
But the government isn’t doing that in this bill. They’re going to a forest tenure model that, at the end of the day, is not going to give the communities any more say about what happens to the trees in their backyards than the decisions of the government today. The government says, “Oh, the answer is the LFMCs. We’ve created two LFMCs, and boy, that’s like sliced bread. It’s so, so good; it’s like ice cream with cherries on it.” Well, that’s not what communities asked you for; communities asked you for a community forest model. They wanted some way of being able to have a say about the trees and how the forest is harvested and where the trees are going to be processed in their own backyard; that’s what they were asking you for. When the town of Hearst, the town of Dubreuilville and other communities went to your pre-hearings prior to the introduction of the bill, the communities were saying, “We really do want a community forest approach.”
I recognize there are some challenges with that; I’ve put that on the record. I understand there are some problems with that, and yes, it’s a bit of a balancing act. But at the end of the day, I think the essence is, you can’t muck with the existing licence. The licence is there, and you can’t take it away unless the company closes down or doesn’t meet the terms and conditions of their licence. I can tell you that in the about 20 years that the current sustainable forestry development act has been in place, there hasn’t been a case, quite frankly, where a company has not lived up to their commitment on the licence. Why? Because they’re responsible business owners. It’s not to their advantage to muck these things up. They understand that they’ve got to operate within the rules of Ontario. They’ve got to demonstrate to the public that what we do is sustainable—that, yes, it’s green.
The forest industry is a green industry, something that a lot of people don’t recognize. It frustrates me to no end, as a northerner, when I hear people talk about forestry as if it’s some sort of brownfield industry. God, we’re the greenest industry going. We cut a forest that is about to die or burn down and then we replant it. We’re farmers, except we have a crop that takes 80 to 90 years to grow. We do a good job at it, and we do so by making sure that we watch out for the habitat. We make sure, through our forest management plans, that we deal with issues having to do with the water, having to do with fauna and animals, making sure that our cutting approaches are able to respect those things.
But back to the bill: The government then says, “We’re going to do these local forest management companies, these LFMCs.” Well, you’ve missed the point on that one, too, so I’m telling you now, this is bad legislation. Thank God we’re four months before an election and the government is not going to have the chance to even enact this legislation—well, they may enact it, but they won’t have a chance to put it into play for a while yet, because the regulations certainly won’t be done by October 6. So we have a bit of breathing room, thank God, because this is really bad legislation.
On the issue of the LFMCs, one thing that I want to put on the record: You are now going to go to a competitive bid system on that wood. What the government doesn’t want to accept is that, yes, the Americans are extremely protectionist when it comes to their market and when it comes to Canadian softwood imports into their country—exports from ours—they are going to use absolutely everything, as they have before, to make the argument that we’re somehow subsidizing our industry.
We’re not subsidizing our industry. Time and time again we’ve gone before the various tribunals and we’ve made the point, and the American government has lost their case each and every time. But now, all of a sudden, if you go to a competitive wood bid system, you open two problems.
One is, let’s say they get money under the roads program—because we build these roads not just to do harvesting, but also to access the forest; there’s a dual use for our roads. Do the Americans now argue, “Well, how can you have a competitive system and, at the same time, subsidize your roads?” It’s just going to invite more countervail. I don’t know why you’re doing that.
On the other point, it’s going to be the highest bidder who will get the wood. That’s the way the model works. When you have a competitive system, it’s never the lowest person who gets the product; it’s always the highest bid that gets the product.
What do you do if, for example, you’re an LFMC, where all of a sudden you’ve got wood in your jurisdiction. You have some use that you would like to use it for locally so you can create jobs in your neighbouring community or your own community. Then all of a sudden, somebody from afar comes in and says, “I’m prepared to pay a premium on that wood.” They can be so much from afar that they can be from Manitoba, Quebec, the United States. There would be nothing to stop us from allowing them to buy that wood on a competitive bid system, and I’m going to predict that’s exactly what’s going to happen. We’re going to have situations where the LFMCs are going to have wood that’s up for sale and somebody’s going to bid for it away from the community that the wood came from. You’re going to see some local jobs when it comes to the harvesting and the transportation of the wood, and then people in the community are going to sit by the side of the highway and they’re going to be waving as the wood drives by their house to some community farther away in Ontario or a community outside of this province altogether. I just say that this is really, really bad news on the part of what the government is doing to northern Ontario.
To the issue of allocation of wood: The government has argued, “Oh, we need this because people are hoarding wood.” If people are hoarding wood, it’s your fault. You have the authority under the act now to allocate timber that is underutilized or not being utilized. The government says, “No, we don’t have the right.” What the heck was your allocation process that you just went through? You put up, through RFP, all kinds of wood through a competitive wood bidding system that you set up about two years ago for people to bid on. You did that because you had the authority under the act. And the government says, “Oh, we need to stop the hoarding of wood.” Give me a break. You have the ability to do whatever you want with underutilized or non-utilized timber, period. You have the right to put up an RFP process. You have the right do whatever you want by way of crown wood because it is the crown, it is the province that controls that underutilized, unutilized wood. So instead, the government says, “We’re doing this because we want to stop the hoarding.” I would argue that you have the authority already under the act to deal with the hoarding issue.
Let me get to the Rentech issue that was raised by the minister. Yes, that’s good news. Listen: You’re not going to hear me, as a New Democrat, say that the idea of finding a use for timber in northern Ontario is a bad thing, but a couple of questions have to be asked about this particular project. First of all, what you’ve done is, you’ve allocated timber from other communities like Dubreuilville—
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Well, he says no. You’re going to get a chance to correct my record if you want. The point is, there’s a limited amount of wood that’s available. The community of Dubreuilville and the community of Marathon are up in arms because at the end they’re saying, “Listen: The wood that’s going over to White River”—and thank God for them; they’re going to get something—“is at the expense of our communities”—number one. If that is true or not true, clarify, but that is the sense that people are getting in Dubreuilville and Marathon.
The other issue is that we need to ensure it’s a best-end-use policy when it comes to the wood that goes into that mill. The only way you can do that is to find a way to make sure that the mills in Dubreuilville and Marathon and other communities can open up, take the timber, pass it through their mills, and the wood that goes to White River is basically chips from the mills or it’s tops and scraps from the trees as they’re cut in the forest. If you do that, then that makes some sense, because we do know there’s a lesser market for chips today and that is a problem for our sawmills. That’s one of the reasons why the sawmills are shut down.
In the province of Quebec, they have a policy that says you can’t grind round logs. You can’t grind trees to make chips for mills in Quebec; they have to be residual waste from sawmills. What that does is, it allows the sawmills to make money on the sale of their chips, which allows them to keep their doors open, more so than they have in Ontario, and then supply the chips into the paper mills and into the pulp mills of Quebec.
If the government was to have an approach that says, “We’re going to work at making sure that the wood that goes into the Marathon project is going to be residual wood waste from the forest floor as we harvest the trees and the chips from the mills by which the logs are going to,” then there’s some sense to this; then that’s a really good thing. At the end of the day, it means to say that the sawmill in Dubreuilville or Marathon or wherever it might be goes into operation, because they’re going to need a lot of wood. The project in White River is over a million cubic metres of wood a year. That’s a fair amount of wood. Let’s ensure and guarantee that that mill is going to be operating with wood waste and not grinding logs, because that is what’s starting to happen in this province. In Terrace Bay, for example, they’re chipping round logs because there’s no place to send the trees through the sawmill because of the set-up we have in Ontario, and they need the chips to operate, so they’re grinding. Grinding 80- or 90-year-old spruce or whatever else you might be using is not good policy, so we need to ensure that the White River mill, when it moves forward, is one that operates on wood waste and doesn’t necessarily operate on grinding timber in the forest.
The second thing is: Is the financing really put together for this project? I had a chance to speak with Angelo last week when I was in White River at another event having to do with Agent Orange at the health fair that they had there. He seemed to think, “Yes, probably.” But there really isn’t any guarantee at this point that the financing is even in place for this particular project, and it’s probably a fair amount of time away before that project ever gets off the ground.
I say to the government: This is not a bad thing that’s happening to White River. You’re not going to hear New Democrats say it’s a bad thing. But what I’m saying is, we need to make sure that this is a win-win situation not only for White River, but that it’s also a win for the province; that it’s a win for the communities in the neighbouring areas around White River, that their sawmills are going to be able to get up and running again; and that it’s a win for the local economy and the people working there. I think we have an opportunity to do that, and there are some questions that have yet to be answered: Does the deal, at the end of the day, follow those principles that I set out?
I’ll just use the last minute or two that I have to say to what degree the Liberals are out of touch. Mr. Bartolucci, the minister of whatever, was up in Timmins at FONOM last week, I believe on Friday. He spent 40 minutes in his speech talking about how it’s not true that the government is not consulting northerners. For 40 minutes, he stood in front of the mayors and various aldermen from across northern Ontario and various people who were there and said, “We’re consulting. We’re doing a good job. You know, the Liberals are doing so great. It’s the NDP and the Conservatives who are lying to you.” That a minister of the crown has to go to Timmins and spend 40 minutes to try to convince northerners that this government is consulting tells me that they’re not consulting, and I think it’s pretty indicative of where this government is at. I think this is sad.
For a government to introduce such legislation at this point in their mandate tells me that, politically, they ain’t very wise and that, number two, they really do not understand after almost eight years in power what they could have done to make life in northern Ontario better. It will be the people of northern Ontario who will judge the results. We’ve had a precursor, looking at the federal election, where the Liberals ended up in third place in pretty well every riding except a couple in northern Ontario. It pretty well tells you what’s going to happen in the next provincial election with this government.
I was walking over to Queen’s Park this morning, and I was thinking about what I’ve learned in the general government committee hearings as we debated Bill 151. It almost makes me think of that old game—when I was a kid, I called it the shell game—where you had the three walnut shells with the marble. You would move them around and have people guess where the marble was. When you open up the shell, it was almost like when the minister made his announcement on January 13, when he opened it up and said, “This is what Bill 151 is going to be like.” Then the marble went down and the shells turned around, and then the bill received first reading on February 23, and the bill wasn’t the same as the minister’s announcement in January. There was significant difference.
We got lots of correspondence, lots of resolutions from municipalities, lots of letters from the forestry industry, saying, “How come the bill that’s presented isn’t the same as the minister’s announcement or some of the information that was given as part of the consultation that the minister and the parliamentary assistant talked about?”
So then, we have a general government meeting where the subcommittee decides that there’s going to be northern hearings. They decide that the committee’s going to go to Pembroke, Timmins, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie during our break week in April. Then the shells go around again, and the next day it opens up, and we have a meeting on April 30 when, lo and behold, the government says, “No, we’ve already had enough consultation. The minister has come forward and talked about what is going to be in the bill, so we don’t need to go to the north.”
But then the shells get changed around again, and our friend the member for Algoma–Manitoulin gets quoted in the Mid-North Monitor saying, “‘I don’t want to see consultations in the cities, that is what I said, because that is not where the people directly affected by this legislation live,’ explained Brown. ‘I want to see the hearings go to the communities directly affected by this legislation, places like Espanola.’”
So, on one hand, as part of the shell game, we make an announcement as a government. The minister says, “This what we’re going to do.” We make a decision at committee that we’re going to go to the north; we’re going to consult. We’re not sitting anyway. It’s a break week. All of a sudden, the rug gets pulled out from under northern communities, and then the quote. It’s that whole sleight of hand that this government seems to play with northern Ontario.
But do you know what? Every time you play the shell game, eventually, even though you’re pretty quick with your changes, even though you’re great with your misdirection as a government, every so often, somebody’s going to guess where the marble is underneath the walnut shell.
I was at the Canadian Club a couple of weeks ago and heard the Premier talk about a lot of things. Most things I didn’t agree with, but one thing that he did say was true. He talked about democracy and the fact that in an election the people are always right.
You can move the shells around all you want. You can make an announcement in January and table a bill in February that’s not the same. You can say to the north that you’re going to go and do hearings one day and retract it the next. But on October 6, that’s when the north is going to judge you. It’s going to judge you on whether they believe that you were good to them with this bill, that you listened to them.
It’s the same thing with the Far North Act. We did the same dance at the general government committee with the Far North Act, where we said we were going to go to the north, and then you pulled out the rug on the north for those hearings as well.
I want to also commend the member for Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington because, when we did clause-by-clause on May 4, he put forward a motion on behalf of our party that all LFMCs are to be examined on the criteria of financial viability after that five-year plan and that the report comes back here to the Legislative Assembly, comes back here for the 107 MPPs to deal with and to review. That motion wasn’t passed.
From our perspective in our party, that’s again an opportunity that we had as MPPs to review that, and this government said no. It abdicated our responsibilities as members of the Legislative Assembly. As my eastern friend and neighbour said, we need those reviews. We need to review those two cases. We need to give the north the opportunity to review that report, bring it right here and table it right there at the table—not to do it in secret, not to deal with the minister and the bureaucrats. Let’s not play the shell game with northern Ontario again.
Make no mistake: As the member for Timmins–James Bay said earlier—and he was the third member of the opposition side who was at the hearings—there are a lot of problems. The Ontario Forest Industries Association brought up some issues just prior to our third reading. I’ve read a lot of their briefs, and they’ve sent us a lot of letters on behalf of the industry. You know what? I think Jamie Lim and Scott Jackson would make a better minister and parliamentary assistant than you two, because they have brought forward a number of issues that you’ve ignored.
Mr. Michael A. Brown: I am delighted to take part in this third reading of Bill 151, a bill that has been canvassed across the province and across northern Ontario for more than two years. It has had, just so people understand, 118 hearings and consultations across this province. Of that 118, 114 took place in northern Ontario. I think that speaks loudly to the concerns, and to the government listening to those concerns, across the north.
We need to put the wood back to work, and this is what this bill is about. There are nine million cubic metres of wood out there that were not being used—some would say “hoarded,” but at least they were unused.
I have communities across my constituency that have suffered greatly because they lacked access to wood. I have proponents come into my office almost on a weekly basis who suggest to me that they want opportunities for that wood and can’t get it under the present system. There is—
Mr. Michael A. Brown: I can tell you. The member from Timmins–James Bay raised an issue that’s close to my heart and close to the minister’s heart, and that is the Rentech project in White River—1.3 million cubic metres per year to a company that is going to use unmerchantable timber. He knows what that means. It means that it’s not sawlogs. That’s what it means. That’s exactly what it means.
For him to cast aspersions on a prominent company that is going to work in White River—ask the mayor of White River. Ask the council of White River. Ask the councils and the people across that region, because in truth, it is a regional economic driver. Ask them about it. Ask Hornepayne about the fact that on Saturday I announced 220,000 cubic metres of additional wood for them. That is what this means. This means a market for timber.
I cannot understand why anybody, particularly my friends in the Conservative Party, would believe that some kind of free market would be a bad thing. I don’t understand how anybody who believes in competition and free markets could believe that this rather modest effort at providing the crown forests with some degree of response to markets, both up and down, would be a bad thing.
I’m not going to speak too much longer. But I want to know why, at committee, if the New Democrats thought this bill was so bad, they introduced but one amendment, and it was to the purpose clause at the beginning and it was already covered. And I’d like to know why the good friends in the official opposition decided that 200 of their amendments didn’t even need to go forward. I couldn’t believe they withdrew all those. Look: They’re all bluster, all smoke and mirrors—
Pursuant to the order of the House dated May 3, 2011, I am now required to put the question. Mr. Gravelle has moved third reading of Bill 151, An Act to enact the Ontario Forest Tenure Modernization Act, 2011 and to amend the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
Hon. Gerry Phillips: I move that, pursuant to standing order 47 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House, when the order of the day is called for resuming the adjourned debate on government order number 56, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the motion and any amendments thereto, which questions shall be decided without further debate or amendment; and
Mr. Norm Miller: It’s my pleasure to join in the debate this morning on the time allocation motion the government has called. I was actually, to be honest, expecting someone from the government to speak to their own time allocation motion, but it doesn’t seem like they’re interested in speaking to their time allocation motion.
This time allocation motion is kind of interesting in that it’s to do with putting an end to the debate on their very political motion that they brought forward yesterday that was a very political motion where it talks about all the wonderful things they’ve done, which I won’t repeat. Then it goes on to say that they reject the introduction of a carbon tax as a measure that would hurt Ontario’s economic growth and they reject an increase to the HST rate or a decrease to the rate that would benefit the wealthiest and take $3 billion out of the economy. That’s what this motion is all about: The McGuinty Liberal government stating once again that they’re not going to bring about a tax increase. That’s what it’s all about, and it seems extraordinary that we are debating this motion, and now we’re having a time allocation on this motion, just so that the McGuinty government can state, in a different way, the same message they’ve stated very clearly on a couple of occasions in the past.
I do believe that the Premier even states that the best predictor of future behaviour is your past behaviour. It was he that, on September 11, 2003, stated very clearly to the cameras that he wouldn’t increase taxes in that 2003 election. For myself at that point, I actually believed him. I just didn’t expect someone that went before the cameras and actually signed this taxpayer protection pledge—I just didn’t believe that he’d actually break that promise. But he did; he broke that promise, and very quickly after the 2003 election, so it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Just to refresh your memory, Madam Speaker, what he agreed to in 2003 was that he wouldn’t raise taxes. He stated, “I, Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, promise, if my party is elected as the next government, that I will not raise taxes or implement any new taxes without the ... consent of Ontario voters....” He ran 200 ads in that election campaign restating, and restating many times, this promise.
I think it was quite persuasive. I know there would be a lot of voters out there who would be worried—the Liberal brand is that they like to tax people and they like to spend money. There would be people who wouldn’t vote for them because they would be worried about that and what it would mean to the finances of the province of Ontario if they were successful in winning government. This pledge, I think, was very effective. Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
As we know, immediately after the 2003 election, Premier McGuinty brought in the health tax, which is a huge tax increase. Over $3 billion a year is being raised by that, and it’s not going to health; it just goes into the general revenues. That was just a way of camouflaging a tax increase, and they’re very good at being creative that way—an extra $3-billion tax, so that you pay up to $900 a person for this new tax that the Premier and the McGuinty government brought in after the 2003 election, after making a very clear pledge that they wouldn’t raise taxes. That’s 2003—one time.
Then, in 2007, we have another election happening. In that one, he made a different statement. I think he was accused that he would raise taxes, and when he was accused by his critics that he was going to raise taxes, he said, “They’re wrong. They’re wrong. They’re wrong.” I don’t remember the word “HST” being mentioned in the 2007 election. Perhaps the member from Simcoe–Grey could let me know if I’m wrong in that, but I certainly don’t remember it being discussed at all. Then, after the 2007 election, surprise, surprise, in the first budget almost immediately after the election, the government brings in the HST—which was a tax increase, because the way that this provincial McGuinty government implemented it—and they have choice there; whether you like the tax or don’t like it, there’s choice about how the government implements it. It applied to all kinds of things that the former provincial sales tax did not apply to.
So all of a sudden, you have a whole bunch of things that there was not provincial sales tax on that now there is HST on. Those are things like gasoline for your cars, electricity for your homes, heating oil—some pretty basic staples that the old tax didn’t apply to and the new tax does apply to, and other specific ways they implemented the McGuinty HST. One of the benefits for businesses is that there are input tax credits, where they can claim some of the tax back. Well, they conveniently deny input tax credits on any companies over a certain size. It adds up to about $1.3 billion a year for eight years that they are denying input tax credits, the one benefit business might get. The way they’re implementing it—you know, we’ve got a problem with people saving enough money for retirement. The McGuinty government is making it worse, because they’re putting the HST onto the management fees on registered retirement savings plans, meaning that if you don’t save enough money, it makes it more difficult for families to save for retirement.
Once again, this was another tax after saying that they wouldn’t bring in a tax. They brought in so many different new taxes. They brought in the diamond tax. We’re finally having our first diamond mine in the province of Ontario, with De Beers, a well-known company, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Attawapiskat. They’re a few years into the project, working with the communities around them to benefit them, and all of a sudden, the McGuinty government changes the rules of the game midstream—anything they can do to get some extra money coming their way. They doubled the diamond tax after the company was committed, so they couldn’t at that point decide, “Oh, sorry; the rules have changed. This doesn’t make sense for us anymore.” They were committed. So it was a sneaky way of going about a tax increase.
We just learned yesterday about the rules changing with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Municipalities that host the slots, and I think it also applies to racetracks, where they thought they were going to get 5% of the gross revenues—what’s the McGuinty government doing in that case? They’re changing the accounting rules. What it’s going to mean is less money for these municipalities.
That provoked a reaction from Point Edward Mayor Dick Kirkland yesterday in the Observer, in an article entitled “Casino Revenue to Shrink in Sarnia, Point Edward.” It said: “‘It’s just another tax grab by the government,’ said Kirkland. ‘The government is looking for every penny they can find to pay for their debt. I’m very disappointed if this is what their new accounting practice means. For us, the loss of $46,000 means a capital project won’t get done.’”
The communities, when they agreed to host these slot facilities, were counting on 5% of gross revenue, and they use that money for projects in the communities. I know in Sault Ste. Marie they use it to fund the hospital; they use it for physician retention. I’m sure Dick Kirkland, the mayor of Point Edward, had many good projects that he was counting on that money for. But once again, the McGuinty government has changed the rules of the game in midstream, and that’s going to hurt those Ontario communities.
What I’m establishing is a pattern here: That is, where the McGuinty government says one thing before the election and they say something very, very different after the election. They’re doing it again with this motion, which they’ve gone to the extraordinary effort to time-allocate to end debate on it, because they recognize that the opposition will keep debating this. The reason we want to keep debating it is, we want to point out and remind people, who maybe have short memories, what’s happened in the past.
In 2003, there was a pledge to not raise taxes. It can’t get any clearer when you go on TV and you sign a document before the cameras, and then you break that pledge. Just last week, a PC candidate was here at the Legislature with that pledge to remind people that Mr. McGuinty made it. Then, of course, in 2007, once again saying they won’t raise taxes, and they did.
Here we have another election around the corner, and guess what? The McGuinty Liberals are making another pledge. The question is: Should the Ontario general public, should the taxpayers, believe this pledge?
Mr. Norm Miller: Yes, they’re saying that they really, really, really, really mean the pledge this time. They’re very clear this time that they mean the pledge that says that they won’t—it’s almost like when they say they won’t do something, you should reverse it and say, “That means they really are going to do it.” So they say they won’t introduce a carbon tax and they won’t increase or decrease the HST. I’m not sure why they don’t like a decrease. I guess it’s because they’re so against reducing the tax burden on Ontario families.
But I can tell you, I’m hearing from Ontario families and seniors that they’re feeling the pressure of daily life, of pocketbook expenses. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t hear from someone in Parry Sound–Muskoka by email, a phone call or some form of communication that they’re concerned about their increasing hydro bill. Their hydro bills have gone up so dramatically, it’s come down to choices about having to greatly restrict the use of their power or, in some cases, they have to actually—I met one constituent who actually was wearing a snowmobile suit when they met me because they were afraid to have the heat on after they got an equalization bill. They had a $7,000 hydro bill because Hydro hadn’t been in to do the reconciliation for a year and a half. This constituent was in visiting with me in a snowmobile suit, turning the breakers off in her house because she was afraid of what the next hydro bill would be. That is commonplace around the province.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Jim Watson, the member from Ottawa West–Nepean in the 38th and 39th Parliaments, back to Queen’s Park today. Your Worship, welcome back to the Legislature.
Hon. John Wilkinson: I hope all members will join me in welcoming two ministers of the environment who are here today. They are ministers of the environment today for the province of Ontario. We have Georgia Berta, who is from Parkdale–High Park—she goes to St. Pius; and we also have Brandon Cormier, who’s from Holy Spirit Catholic School in Scarborough–Agincourt.
Mr. John O’Toole: Today is Community Living Day here at Queen’s Park, and I’d like to welcome, from Community Living Durham North: Karen McKeown, as well as Samantha Hillis, Laura Mercer, John Lee, Colleen Arbuckle, Tony Clayton, Nicky Jones, Tina Good and Felishia Charles. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
I’d also like to extend a warm welcome to representatives from all the local Community Living agencies here today. A special welcome to Chris Stringer, Bruce Rivers, Mary Pat Armstrong, her daughter Jenny Armstrong, Patsy Anderson and Susan Seller from Community Living Toronto.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Though they’re not here yet, because it’s Community Living Day here at Queen’s Park today, we were expecting a large contingent from Community Living Tillsonburg, who are going to be here to join me for lunch today. I want to welcome them to Queen’s Park.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to any interested members and staff in the building this afternoon. His Honour the Lieutenant Governor will be rededicating the plaque commemorating the 1939 visit of the King and Queen to Canada and to this Legislature. The event will be taking place at 1:30 on the west lawn. All members and staff are welcome.
Mrs. Christine Elliott: My question is to the Premier. Premier McGuinty is squeezing Ontario families and seniors with his increases to taxes and skyrocketing hydro bills. The Ontario PC leader is offering Ontario families relief by ending the sweetheart deal with Samsung that is driving up hydro bills.
The Premier showed what his idea of relief for families is when he sent the Minister of Finance out last week to say—and I am not making this up—that Premier McGuinty lowered gas prices by slapping an 8% HST tax grab onto what families pay at the pumps. Is that the same reason he slapped the HST on hydro bills too?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I’m glad that my honourable colleague has raised the matter of our hydro policies, our clean energy plan and our Green Energy Act in particular, because I want the opportunity to speak to that.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit CS Wind in Windsor. It’s an exciting new business. They have taken over a vacant auto parts plant; they must have over 200,000 square feet there. They’re hiring 300 people, because they have orders for 300 wind towers every single year.
In the afternoon, I went to visit Canadian Solar in Guelph. They took over a plant that was empty for three years. There are 300 people working there now, making solar panels. They’re going to grow to 500.
Mrs. Christine Elliott: Premier McGuinty has gotten so tired and so out of touch that he thinks adding 8% HST to hydro and gas is relief for families. It’s as laughable as when he said that smart meter tax machines and time of use would save Ontario families money or that his Green Energy Act only adds 1% to hydro bills—
Mrs. Christine Elliott: The Premier actually thinks that Ontario families will believe him when he says they will pay the same amount for hydro this year as they did last year. All of these hydro increases have two things in common: He lowballs how much Ontario families will pay for them, and then he slaps the greedy HST tax grab on top of that.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I want to remind my honourable colleague, of course, that without the participation and full support of federal Finance Minister Flaherty, we could not have put the HST here in Ontario. I want to remind her of that.
I want to come back to the point I was making a moment ago. I’ve had the opportunity now to meet and look directly into the eyes of people who have obtained employment in our burgeoning, exciting clean energy sector. What I’m encouraging my honourable colleagues opposite to do, notwithstanding their commitment to recklessly destroy this industry which is, really, in its infancy and represents so much opportunity to our children and our grandchildren, is to go visit those same plants. I want them to go look at those same workers. I want them to look them in the eyes. I want them to tell them they don’t believe in their jobs, they don’t believe in their future, they don’t believe in our capacity as a province to come together and find opportunity in the post-manufacturing—
Mrs. Christine Elliott: Here is the reality of what’s happening: Just as with gas, the McGuinty Liberals collect more HST on hydro every time the rates go up. Your take of the HST on hydro bills grew and will keep growing with each hydro rate increase; all the expensive energy experiments, like Samsung, that get added to their bills; and the debt retirement charge that you’ve turned into a permanent tax grab. Premier McGuinty has taken away the incentive to keep bills low.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, I want to commend the federal government and, in particular, the leadership of Minister Flaherty, with whom we worked so well in order to ensure that we laid a foundation for growth and prosperity to create 600,000 more jobs. Without the support of Minister Flaherty in particular, we could not have gone ahead with the HST.
Again, I want to say to my honourable colleagues that I’m urging them, on behalf of the workers with whom I’ve been meeting in recent days, to give serious reconsideration to their plan to kill their jobs, to kill our Green Energy Act and, particularly, to rescind the Samsung contract, which represents on its own 16,000 new jobs. On behalf of those workers, I am asking my honourable colleagues to ask themselves once again why they won’t stand up and fight for jobs that are there for us to be had in the exciting new clean energy sector.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Back to the Premier. Last week, the Minister of Revenue appeared at the estimates committee. On behalf of the Ontario PC caucus, I asked her how much revenue has been collected from the HST on hydro bills. In fact, we had to ask her 25 times, and she still refused to say how much revenue her ministry took in from the HST on hydro bills. It’s an important question given that, earlier today, the Premier was asked himself if he would promise not to raise taxes, and he said, “We’ll keep doing what we’re doing” to Ontario families. How much more money have you taken from Ontario families and seniors for the HST that they pay on hydro bills?
Hon. Dwight Duncan: I’ll remind the member that the harmonized sales tax is now collected by the federal government. The total amount that’s collected in Ontario goes into the national pool. It is then allocated—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I can see that the honourable member who just asked the question had to put in her earpiece to hear the answer, and it’s as a result of the interjections coming from her own side. I would ask that you would be respectful to your own member.
One of the interesting aspects now that we’ve harmonized not only the tax but the collection of the tax is that we’re saving Ontarians half a billion dollars a year in collection costs, and that builds on our decision a number of years ago to harmonize the collection of corporate taxes, which saves everybody a lot of money.
He has had a week to release details of what they say it will cost to end their sweetheart Samsung deal. Your energy minister had an entire weekend, with advisors, to come up with the numbers, but nothing. With the revenue minister, it’s even worse. The first time we asked her how much HST Ontario families paid on hydro bills was two weeks ago. We asked her 25 times. Ontario families are feeling the squeeze. They’re struggling to pay the hydro bills. You’ve had two weeks to come up with an answer to their question and our question.
I just want to share some quotes with my colleague opposite. Now, this is a direct quote from March 27, 2009. It says, “I’m quite encouraged by the fact that the government of Ontario decided to harmonize the PST with the GST.... This is jobs, this is investment, this is good economic policy.” Who said that? The Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance for Canada.
The member for the opposition may not want to say what they’re going to do, other than she accused Ottawa businesses of fearmongering because they dared to speak up against a Tory policy. That kind of intimidation doesn’t work here—
Jim Garchinski of the public sector retiree union says, “We’re all vehemently opposed to this HST by a government that is about to unilaterally force another massive tax grab on citizens”—he called it legalized theft.
Internal modeling done back when gas was a buck a litre shows that Premier McGuinty knew that an 8% HST on energy would bring in almost $1.6 billion in revenue. Ontario families simply want to know how much of that HST you have collected off their hydro bills.
We asked the minister who collects the tax 25 separate times. You, instead, got her to read a letter to the editor that was published in community newspapers on the record, but still she refused to reveal how much more Ontario families are forced to pay.
Hon. Dwight Duncan: Here’s another quote: “We understand that the whole tax policy is switching to consumption-based taxing as opposed to income-based taxing.… We see the input tax credit, as has been described by Jack Mintz and others, as probably the right sort of policy....” Who said that? John O’Toole, PC MPP for Durham, in a standing committee.
You know what? They’re here one day, there the next day. Their federal brethren support it. Your own colleague supports it. You don’t get it. You know what? You accused Ottawa businesses of fearmongering. You can’t intimidate them and you can’t intimidate us. We’ll stand up for Ontario families, and you’ll be given a very clear message—
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: There are rules in place which govern political contributions and I’m sure my honourable colleague is very much aware of those. It’s incumbent upon all of us to respect those, and I want to assure her that we are in fact doing that.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: In May 2008, the Premier hosted a $5,000-a-plate dinner in Barrie. One guest was Brian Tamblyn, the president of Georgian College, a publicly funded institution. What did the Premier speak with Mr. Tamblyn about at that dinner?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: If my honourable colleague honestly thinks that I can recall what I spoke to a particular individual about three years ago, then she has a higher appreciation of my own memory than I do myself.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Records obtained through the freedom-of-information process show that Brian Tamblyn, the president of publicly funded Georgian College, expensed that $5,000 Liberal Party donation to his college. The public and students paid for it. Why does the Premier think that Mr. Tamblyn considered attendance at an Ontario Liberal Party fundraiser as a legitimate cost of his job?
But I think there is a point to be made here. Maybe we can use this as an opportunity to remind all of those who have the privilege of working in our broader public sector that should they wish to attend a political fundraiser, they are obviously entitled to do so. There’s nothing saying that they can’t do that, but if they want to do so, they should be paying that out of their own pockets.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Premier. I’ve got a fairly good idea why the president thought expensing a political donation was reasonable. Mr. Tamblyn likely thought it was the only way to get a hearing on behalf of his students and his community. Does the Premier really think that politics should work that way in this province?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Obviously, I can’t agree with—I don’t think one iota of information, such as it is, is to be found within that question. I think that if you were to objectively assess our government’s record when it comes to post-secondary education, the fact that we have created 260,000 more spaces in our colleges and universities and apprenticeship programs, the fact that we have in fact tripled the number of grants—one in four Ontario students are now accessing grants. We brought grants back. They had been eliminated under the previous NDP government. We capped loans, OSAP loans, at $7,300 per year. I think the record reveals pretty specifically and explicitly that we have done much to support our post-secondary education system, and we look forward to doing much more.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I remind the honourable members that this is a historically designated building. These desks are antique and are very important, and we want to ensure that they are usable for future members. I would just ask that they refrain from heavy pounding.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I want to state to my honourable colleague that a moment ago I was left with the distinct impression that Mr. Tamblyn had not paid for this particular ticket on his own. I think we all were left with that mistaken impression. I would invite my honourable colleague to correct the record and, should she wish to do so, to in fact apologize. I think that would lend honour; honour to herself and honour to our Legislature.
The point here, though, is that the Premier should be listening to the best ideas in this province, not the best donors to his political party. Can the Premier tell us what was discussed at this $5,000-a-plate dinner, and why a college president felt that it was the best way to get the ear of the Premier to hear his ideas?
What I can say is that we have in fact banned lobbyists in our publicly funded institutions, particularly because we believe that presidents, CEOs, executives and representatives of those institutions have full access to our ministers, who have responsibility for those institutions. We think that’s the kind of government that we ought to be and, in fact, that we are: one that is accessible and open to our public partners to ensure that we have an ongoing dialogue, that we work together in the greater public interest.
Mr. Norm Miller: My question is to the Premier. The McGuinty Liberals have grown so tired and out of touch, they’ve stopped trying to make sense of what the Premier is doing. Ontario families need gas to get to work, hydro to wash clothes and natural gas to heat their homes. They’re squeezed by your tax hikes, hydro bill increases and tax hikes on your hydro bill increases. Last week, you sent out the finance minister to boast that you kept gas prices low by slapping an 8% HST on what families pay at the pump.
As of 9 o’clock this morning, here’s what gas prices across the country were looking like, on average: in Vancouver, $1.42 per litre; in Montreal, $1.46 per litre; in Halifax, $1.33 per litre; in Newfoundland, $1.39 per litre; in New Brunswick, $1.27 per litre; in Toronto, $1.25 per litre.
We have implemented, working with the federal government, a comprehensive tax reform that lowers personal taxes. I note that the federal Conservatives are not cutting the GST on gasoline. I note that they’re not cutting it on hydro. Why? Because they provide sales tax credits of roughly—
Premier, you’ll say and do anything to stay in power, including calling the 8% HST you add to hydro, gas and hundreds of items families use every day a tax cut. You’ve broken your promises not to raise taxes so many times, even you have figured out it’s time to give up.
Today you were asked if you’ll promise not to raise taxes, and you said you’ll keep doing what you’ve been doing to Ontario families. Well, that means Ontario families better grab hold of their wallets before you do, because what you’ve been doing is creating new health taxes, raising sales taxes and adding eco taxes to everything. Is it any wonder Ontario families are bracing themselves to pay 2% more for HST—
Hon. Dwight Duncan: We are in the process of implementing one of the largest personal tax cuts in Ontario history. We were delighted with the support of the federal government: almost $4 billion that in part allowed us to do that.
We brought something forward called the Ontario child benefit, which is a large tax cut for very modest-income Ontarians. That member and his party voted against it. When we lowered the personal tax rate on the first $37,000 of income for Ontarians to the lowest in the country, that member and his party voted against it. When we created the most generous sales tax credits in the country, that member and his party voted against them. And when we created the Ontario clean energy benefit, which lowers the price of electricity by 10%, that member and his party voted against it.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: My question is to the Minister of Finance. Minister, you will know that the London stock market made a bid on the Toronto Stock Exchange, to the consternation of many people in our province and many people in this country. There are plenty of people in the financial sector who saw this as a bad takeover bid on the part of the LSM, who saw Canadian sovereignty and the capital markets, quite frankly, being controlled by somebody else.
Hon. Dwight Duncan: As I said over the weekend, we welcome the new bid. It is subject to a number of regulatory hurdles at the federal level, anti-combines legislation, so we welcome the bid. I am particularly delighted and I’m glad the NDP joined with me after I had expressed concerns on behalf of all Ontarians about the importance of a Canadian-owned stock exchange.
I look forward to having the opportunity to have a full evaluation of both bids. What I want to see is the bid that benefits Canadians the most, that shows that Canadians are leaders in financial services. That’s the bid that should win. I welcome the bid by our pensions and, by the way, the people who contribute to the pension plans: workers—men and women right across Ontario.
You’re trying now to say that this is a federal government responsibility when it comes to the approval of this bid. You know that is not the case. The OSC is under the responsibility of this Legislature and this government.
So I’m going to ask you this: The committee did some very good work in taking a look at the takeover bid on the part of the LSM. Are you prepared to reconstitute the committee that looked at this bid and allow us to take a look at what the Maple bid means to Ontario and Canada and what conditions we should put to the bid, if any?
Hon. Dwight Duncan: The proponents of the Maple bid have indicated that they do in fact require anti-combines approval out of Ottawa, which is appropriate. Yes, they require OSC recognition on the 10% rule.
What is important for us to recognize is that a group of our largest financial institutions, banks and pensions, representing the provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, have come together as Canadians and put in an alternative bid. I think that is welcome and I think it is healthy. That bid needs to go through considerable scrutiny of regulators, particularly combines regulators in Ottawa. But as a Canadian, I welcome it. I believe that our stock exchange is an important national asset, and I believe we can compete and win on the global stage. I know all Ontarians share that view.
Ms. Helena Jaczek: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Minister, yesterday during question period the Leader of the Opposition made a number of alarming statements such as, “Skyrocketing hydro bills hurt families and they kill jobs.” Last week, he said he wants to cancel the Samsung deal and eliminate the feed-in tariff program should his PC Party be elected in October.
I am extremely puzzled by these statements. As I think everybody knows, the member for Newmarket–Aurora, a long-time member of the PC caucus, has been in the energy business for years, and it has been reported that he has invested in a business that has applied to the FIT program, so I would like to ask the minister to explain what impact the opposition leader’s statements have on attracting businesses to Ontario.
Hon. Sandra Pupatello: I am delighted to answer this question, because it’s important that businesspeople around the world know that Ontario is open for business. You just wouldn’t know that if you had to listen to members of the opposition who are making wild and irresponsible statements about green energy policy that is simply killing jobs—not killing jobs in October; killing jobs right now. It’s these opposition members who want to talk about sweetheart deals when they created the mother of all sweetheart deals when they were the government. We are busy creating jobs; they were busy with sweetheart deals. And the truth is that their own caucus members don’t agree necessarily with their leader’s position. Their leader’s position is killing jobs in Ontario today. We are determined to fight for those jobs in Newmarket—
Ms. Helena Jaczek: Since the Leader of the Opposition revealed his desire to kill the Samsung deal and the FIT program last week, many companies right across Ontario have come forward to express their dissatisfaction and frustration with the PC leader’s statements. Yesterday, a group of Ottawa businesses specializing in renewable energy technology sent an official letter to the Leader of the Opposition, calling on him to reconsider his opposition—
Ms. Helena Jaczek: The firms stated that the green energy economy is revitalizing the manufacturing sector and creating well-paying, high-skilled jobs. They said that the opposition leader’s pledge to scrap the—
Hon. Sandra Pupatello: Once again this morning—and virtually every morning—I receive letters from investors who want jobs in Ontario. But this is a copy of a letter that was sent to the Leader of the—
Hon. Sandra Pupatello: Government policies in Ontario are creating jobs. The Green Energy Act is creating jobs. Members of the opposition are fighting. They want to rip up contracts. We wish they would have ripped up contracts to Leslie Noble, to Tom Long and to Deb Hutton. Let’s talk about those sweetheart deals.
We’re talking about jobs, a feed-in tariff that creates jobs and members of the Conservative caucus who are having jobs created in their own ridings—and they are killing those jobs. We will be heading to those very ridings to show the people of Ontario the jobs that they are going to fight against and the ones that we are creating.
What the Premier isn’t telling families is that his FIT and Samsung deal has already made him an international laughingstock. Yesterday, Malaya Business Insight, a Filipino paper, mocked Premier McGuinty for sticking with his expensive energy experiments when Spain, Germany, China and even Korea have all scaled theirs back.
Hon. Brad Duguid: The member wants to talk about the positive impact our energy policies are having on Ontario families across this province. He and his leader should have joined the Premier and I this morning at Samco, where we met 60 people who are now back working again—laid off during the global recession, now back working again and supporting their families.
Let me share with you what one of them had to say. Mike Walker, a manufacturing engineer, said this: “My daughters, aged 10 and 13, always speak of the environment, its protection and ways we can do our part. I found myself out of work during the recession and, coincidentally, the growing solar industry provided me with a job opportunity that is close to my children’s heart.”
Mr. John Yakabuski: Premier McGuinty will say and do anything to stay in power. He’s been caught trying to blame others for making him an international embarrassment. He also tried to avoid embarrassment by demanding “specifics” on the monetary penalty to cut our losses on the sweetheart Samsung deal that he made—
Mr. John Yakabuski: His interest in the specifics conveniently comes and goes, or maybe he’d be more specific about which cabinet ministers actually gang-tackled George Smitherman when he gave the details of the shady deal; maybe he’d reveal the specific details that got them so upset. Was it the half a billion dollars you promised this multinational foreign conglomerate without getting a single guarantee of one job in this province, not a single guarantee of a job?
Hon. Brad Duguid: The member opposite can try to divert any way he wants. The fact of the matter is, last week, your leader came forward with a plan that’s going to destroy our clean energy economy and kill thousands of clean energy jobs—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The honourable member from Renfrew, you just asked the question, and you know the standing orders. At any time, if you’re not satisfied with an answer, you have the ability to call for a late show.
I want to share with you what Gary Cummings had to say; he’s a lead hand operator at Samco. “This is the first and only job I’ve ever had that has had an effect on each and every person in my” family.
Those workers are really, really proud of what they’re doing. Their families are proud of what they’re doing. They’re proud to be part of an initiative that’s building a cleaner, more prosperous future for us here today but, more importantly, for our kids. Why doesn’t your leader get that?
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Stop the clock. I’m going to warn the Minister of Economic Development and Trade and the member from Nepean–Carleton. If you want to have your discussions, please take them outside this chamber. Be respectful of the other members. So, it’s a final warning to each member.
Mr. Howard Hampton: To the Attorney General: In October 2007, almost four years ago, two young First Nations people died in Thunder Bay. Inquests were ordered into their deaths. The families of the deceased young people asked Attorney General officials for information about whether the jury rolls, from which coroner’s juries are selected, were representative. The AG official refused the request.
The Ontario Court of Appeal recently decided in favour of the First Nation families and said, “Their request for this information was quite reasonable. But they did not get any answers. Instead, they got the runaround. A lot of time and money might have been saved had the ministry ... simply provided this information.”
Since then, more young people have died on the streets of Thunder Bay. Can the Attorney General explain giving the aggrieved families the runaround and wasting time and money while more young people die on the streets of Thunder Bay?
Hon. Christopher Bentley: We’re all at one in saying that terrible tragedies have occurred. I know that those at every level with any hint of responsibility are searching for answers. I won’t comment, as my friend has done, on the specifics of the coroner’s process. We’ll leave that; that is proceeding. But at every level for us, we’re looking for answers. I would hope the federal government is, because it actually funds the school. It is a private school run by the First Nations. I know everybody is interested in finding answers and working very hard to find them and the coroner’s process will, in due course, provide some recommendations.
Mr. Howard Hampton: It’s not me who’s commenting. This is the senior justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, the highest court in Ontario. It says that your government hasn’t been doing everything it can to get to the bottom of these issues. It says that your government has been giving the aggrieved families the runaround, that you’ve been wasting time and wasting money.
The Deputy Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation says, “Tragically, there has been another death in our communities and yet the Attorney General claims that Ontario is doing everything it can. After the deaths of seven of our teenagers in similar circumstances since 2000, I do not accept that this government can claim credibly that” they’re doing everything they can.
Hon. Christopher Bentley: I agree with the Deputy Grand Chief that every death is a tragedy. We want to find answers for every death, every tragedy. We are working very hard within this government to find those answers. The coroner’s inquest will hear evidence and, in due course, provide us with information.
I know my friend will want to direct some inquiries to the level of government responsible for the education of these young people because they came from their communities to another community to be educated. I know they came, funded, to a private school run by the First Nation, and I know everybody should be working as hard as they can to find answers.
Mr. Jeff Leal: My question today is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Today in our gallery, we have some great Ontarians who are supported by Community Living. It’s Community Living Day in the Legislature for all the work that member agencies do throughout Ontario for people with disabilities. This organization is a source of tremendous support for tens of thousands of individuals. As a government, we have continued to support Community Living agencies to ensure that all Ontarians can reach their full potential.
Minister, how will this government continue to move forward in partnership with Community Living agencies to support our collective goal of assisting individuals with disabilities and transforming the development services sector for the better?
Community Living Ontario works so that people with developmental disabilities are included in all aspects of community life. As a government, we must continue to support community inclusiveness so that individuals can live closer to their friends and family.
Community Living Toronto’s Lights project is a great example of inclusion and action and a project that I am pleased our government supports. This innovative program brings families and community leaders together with the agency to help individuals find long-term housing that meets their needs.
Mr. Jeff Leal: Thank you, Minister. This year’s budget made no mention of funding for development services. As you know, people with developmental disabilities in families are anxious that development services are not being gutted by this government.
I meet regularly with clients, their families and community support agencies who advocate for more funding. Many families in my riding have told me that they want to keep their loved ones at home as long as possible, but families face daily challenges that make this very difficult. Others are aging parents who can no longer support their children.
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: Since 2003, we have invested over $550 million in new funding for developmental services—a 54% increase. This year, we are increasing funding for a further $40 million to help those facing emergency and crisis situations and to increase funding to Passport and special services at home.
Since 2003, 2,900 more adults with developmental disabilities live and receive supports close to their families and friends; 4,800 more people receive SSAH; and 2,700 more adults receive Passport. I am proud to say that the McGuinty government has been and will continue to be there for those with developmental disabilities and those who care for them.
Minister, all Peel MPPs received a letter from a Community Living agency which was shocked to learn of your government’s secret deal with OPSEU, which provides government employees with a 3% wage increase. Meanwhile, multiple Community Living agencies across the province are currently negotiating agreements with CUPE, but fear your secret deal with OPSEU will undermine their bargaining efforts. If agreements are not reached, we will once again be dealing with labour unrest in the developmental services sector.
Hon. Dwight Duncan: I am particularly proud of our government’s achievement working with Community Living right across the province. There is always more to do, and we will continue to work with those families.
Through the public and broader public sector, we negotiate some 4,300 collective agreements governing every aspect of work life in the public and broader public sectors. The average rates of settlement are coming down, which we think is an important achievement. We are achieving zero and zero on a number of arrangements, and we have more to do.
The choices that we’ve made are about enhancing public services as we move back to balance. I’m pleased that the credit rating agencies have maintained Ontario’s credit rating through the greatest downturn since the Depression. We look forward to working with our partners in the broader public sector on a range of issues over the coming four years.
You know your government’s secret deal with OPSEU puts the developmental services sector at a disadvantage once again. It puts individuals with intellectual disabilities in the same position they were in five years ago, while striking workers picketed outside their supportive living residences. This is why I introduced Bill 83, the Protecting Vulnerable People Against Picketing Act.
What I can say to my colleague opposite and to her bill is that we will not go back to their style of labour relations—26 million teaching days lost. We’ve had eight years of peace and stability in our sector. Unlike Kevin Gaudet, the Tory candidate who says that we need a Wisconsin up here, we reject that. We think that’s a mistake.
The member herself indicated to the media earlier this week that she wants to rip up the OPP contract. I wonder if that reflects Tory policy or if it’s yet another division within the ranks over there of a party that simply doesn’t have its act together and isn’t ready to govern.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Premier. Yesterday in Windsor, the Premier was asked when families would finally see some work start on a long-term-care home at the former Grace site. On the agonizing four-year process, the Premier said, “We’re getting close to the limit, but I think we’re going to push a little bit more.” But this government has already pushed. They’ve pushed Windsor families beyond their limits.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I’m happy to have a chance to respond to this question again. I can assure you that the members from Windsor have ensured that I am up to date on this issue. They are pushing very hard to have the long-term-care beds available for the people of Windsor and the Windsor area.
We’ve had great success building more long-term-care beds. We’ve got 9,000 more long-term-care beds built since when we took office. This one particular project is very troubling. We’re working with the developer on it. We’re having daily updates, and we are determined to get these beds built.
Major demolition has yet to occur on the site, and the developer doesn’t even have a building permit yet. Meanwhile, Windsor’s long-term-care system has reached a literal crisis, and patients are waiting longer and longer.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I can assure the member opposite that we are absolutely determined to get these beds built in Windsor as quickly as possible. There have been problems with this particular developer; there’s no question about it. We are working to find a solution. We’re working hard because we have a responsibility to the people of Windsor to get these beds operating as quickly as possible.
Mr. David Zimmer: My question is for the minister responsible for seniors. My question is about regulating retirement homes. The Retirement Homes Act was passed in June of last year, and it’s sort of up in the air right now. My Willowdale constituents, especially seniors and their families, have been pressing me to find out about the status of this law.
Minister, in light of the recent stories in the media profiling abuse and neglect in care homes around the province, they really want to know what’s happening with this act. It has passed, but when is it going to come into force? When is it going to take bite?
Today is an important day for our seniors in Ontario who choose to live in a retirement home anywhere across our province. I’m proud to say that our government is taking immediate action to further protect our loved ones living in a retirement home before the Retirement Homes Act is in full force.
Today, we’re announcing a few things. One is that we’re increasing the availability of the CRIS line, which is the complaints response and information service line. We’re making it mandatory for suspected harm to be reported to the registrar of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority, and we’re also obligating the registrar to order an immediate inspection on reports of abuse or neglect.
Mr. David Zimmer: Thank you, Minister. I know that when fully enforced, the act and its current regulations are going to cover a wide range of important areas, including care and safety standards, licensing, inspections, enforcement and so on. But for now, Minister, for today and tomorrow, starting right away, how can my constituents, the seniors and their families, get some detailed information on how the measures will protect their families from abuse and neglect? They really want to know quickly and in clear, simple language where they can get detailed information about how the act works and, in particular, how their complaints are going to be dealt with.
Hon. Sophia Aggelonitis: Thank you very much, again, to the member. The member is right. All of us want to know that our parents, our grandparents, our seniors are safe when they decide to live in retirement homes. That’s why, today, our government has made it clear that we have a zero-tolerance approach towards abuse or neglect in retirement homes across the province.
We are expanding the hours of the CRIS line by more than 100%. That means an additional 44 hours. The hotline number is 1-800-361-7254. It will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. What’s more is that we will make sure that the complaints helpline is posted in all retirement homes in Ontario.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: My question is for the Minister of Education. Minister, I know that your Liberal rural caucus is meeting to discuss issues affecting rural Ontario. One of the big issues is your school transportation policy. As you know, it is destroying many family-owned rural businesses. I have the list of casualties here.
When your government boasts about phantom green jobs that don’t exist, I have here a letter from Hammond Transportation in which Mr. Hammond writes that, to date, your government has forced 15 independent busing companies out of business. With them also go hundreds of jobs—jobs that actually do exist.
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: I’m happy to have this opportunity to update the House. I thank all the members in this assembly who have taken the time to bring this issue to my attention—many members of my caucus as well. As a result of their work, and because we are in regular contact with our stakeholders, we have been working with the School Bus Operators’ Association as well as the Independent School Bus Operators Association. I met with one group last week; I will be meeting with the other this week.
I’m sure the honourable member would agree that we want to be sure that we are getting the best value for our dollar. I believe it’s important that we get both sides of this issue together and work on a solution. I believe that is where the solution is to be found, by working together—
Mr. Steve Clark: Minister, the buck stops with you. This policy comes directly from your office. You and your government will ultimately be the ones to blame for the destruction of Ontario’s independent busing industry. In Leeds–Grenville, your policies are quickly pushing many independent bus operators to the brink of extinction. Recently, I’ve spoken to two companies—Brockville City Bus Lines and Healey Transportation—who are extremely concerned that you’ve recklessly pushed forward with this ill-conceived policy.
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: I’m surprised that when the honourable member was speaking with his constituents, they wouldn’t have indicated to him that they’re actually meeting with me this week and that they’ve already spoken with the Premier about this. We have been listening very carefully. We are eager to get their input and we are eager to work with them to resolve this issue, because everyone in this assembly wants to be sure that, number one, our students arrive at school safely, and number two, we are getting the best value for our tax dollar.
The folks on the other side sometimes talk about sole-sourced contracts, and I know they would recognize that some would even describe the way that we engage bus operators might be that. That’s why we want to work with bus operators. We want to understand how we can ensure that we’ve got their excellent service in place for our students—
Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question is to the Minister of Transportation. On June 3, 2008, the Photo Card Act was passed to provide for photo identification. One part of the legislation allowed for the provision of non-driver’s-licence photo ID for the public. It’s now almost June 2011: three years later. When will the government start issuing these cards?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I think the member opposite knows that we are committed to delivering an Ontario photo card. We know that photo ID is required for opening a bank account, cashing a cheque, applying for a loan, gaining admittance to bars, boarding a domestic flight, renting movies and so on. We know that there’s a segment of the population that does not have a driver’s licence, which is often used for identification, and they need another piece of identification. We’re committed to doing that. We’ll be bringing this forward soon.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: I’ve had a number of constituents contact me about this issue, and the minister has outlined the reasons why such a card is needed. Three years have passed. Will the cards be issued this decade?
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. In my riding of Ottawa Centre, there is a constant discussion regarding the relationship our government has formed with the city over the past eight years. Specifically, constituents in my riding have expressed concerns regarding some of the promises made by the leader of the official opposition and his intention to make broad cuts across the government. Similar to former Premier Mike Harris before him, the Leader of the Opposition is promising voters a simpler, smaller, less costly level of government. These were the exact same words used by Harris in 1995, and he ended up downloading extra costs onto municipal taxpayers.
Hon. Rick Bartolucci: I want to thank the member for the question because it’s a very, very important question to all the municipalities across Ontario. But I want to acknowledge the presence of the mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson. He clearly understands the importance of the uploading we’re doing with municipalities.
You know, this year Ottawa is going to see $66 million with regard to uploads and transfer of services. The reality is, when you get this type of co-operation between the municipalities and the province, the mayor of Ottawa, the city council of Ottawa—Ottawa will be able to use $60 million to put towards housing. Now, that’s a good partnership and that’s a good plan.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Constituents in my riding of Ottawa Centre will be pleased to hear this government’s unwavering commitment to the uploading process, not to mention the additional cost savings that are clearly being applied in a variety of ways across this great province, as evidenced in your answer.
Minister, in your answer, you touched upon the relationship we have formed with municipalities across this province over the past eight years. I was hoping the minister could elaborate a little bit more about the quality of relationships we have formed since 2003 and how different the landscape is today, compared with where we were just 10 years ago.
You know, it is all about respect and understanding. It’s all about forging the type of partnership that can have positive results for municipalities. So unlike previous governments, we will not amalgamate municipalities. Unlike previous governments, we won’t download services.
Ours is about respecting a partnership that we’ve entered into. Why? Because it’s good for the people of Ontario and it’s good for the people who live in the municipalities. We will not use the same approach previous governments have used. Our approach is one based on respect, understanding and equal partners, to ensure that at the end of the day, each and every citizen in each and every municipality across the province of Ontario is treated with respect, not beaten up, like previous governments. We’re about understanding. We’re about ensuring that we work with municipalities. We’re about—
Deferred vote on the motion for third reading of Bill 151, An Act to enact the Ontario Forest Tenure Modernization Act, 2011 and to amend the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994 / Projet de loi 151, Loi édictant la Loi de 2011 sur la modernisation du régime de tenure forestière en Ontario et modifiant la Loi de 1994 sur la durabilité des forêts de la Couronne.
Mr. Frank Klees: This is a very special day in the Legislature. It’s Community Living Day at the Legislature, and I take great pride in introducing some of the visitors from Community Living Newmarket/Aurora District. My colleague will be introducing the balance of them. I wanted to share the riches with my colleague Julia Munro.
It’s a pleasure to introduce Janet Lorimer, the executive director; Dr. Salvatore Amenta, the second vice-president; Andrea Sager, director of the board; Nathan Miller; Irene Cvetkovski-Dukic; John Couturier; Kim Middlebrook; Patricia Webb; Michelle Kane; Stacey Jackson; Cara Matt; Anita Willett; Zachary Birch; Sharon Winterton; Brittany Santa Maria; Heather Stratton; and Dalia Cicienne. I ask members to give them a warm welcome.
Mr. John O’Toole: On behalf of myself, Jerry Ouellette from Oshawa, and Christine Elliott from Whitby–Oshawa, I’d like to welcome the members from Community Living Oshawa/Clarington. They are Garry Cooke, Hailey Tilling, Irene Molloy, Jon Lee, Rob Romanuk and Janet Hutchuk. Welcome to Queen’s Park on Community Living Day.
Mr. Bruce Crozier: Speaker, I’m pleased and proud to introduce to you guests from Community Living Essex County: Nancy Wallace-Gero, executive director; Barrie Keith, manager; Marg Prince, president of the board of directors; Lisa Raffoul, parent consultant; Robert Hickey from Queen’s University; and especially Jessica Martin and Sterling Jolliffe, two young people supported by Community Living Essex County. Welcome.
Mrs. Julia Munro: As the member for Newmarket–Aurora mentioned a moment ago, I too have the privilege of being able to introduce those who have come from the Newmarket–Aurora district to join us here today, and welcome Kevin Moore, Sandy Kurtzer, Kim Davis, Maryrose Nakamura, Tamara Goldie, Tracey Harper, Joanne Stewart, Patsy Manktelow, Maria Curcio, Pat Townsend and Lindsay Willemse. Welcome to all of you.
Mrs. Maria Van Bommel: I’m not going to go through the litany of names, because I’m just so terribly pleased that Community Living from Wallaceburg is here, as well as Middlesex Community Living from Strathroy. One group is here in the east gallery and the other is in the west gallery. We had a great time at lunch, and I hope that they’ve enjoyed their day so far at Queen’s Park.
Mr. Bill Murdoch: I’d like to introduce Community Living Owen Sound, sitting up there. We have some people here from Wiarton—I think he just walked in now—and also from Walkerton over here. So we are well represented in Grey and Bruce today from Community Living.
Mr. Dave Levac: While I welcome all of the participants for Community Living Day, I bring special attention to the members from Brant and also from a very interesting golf tournament we hold annually—and I’m on the committee—called Circle of Friends, through Community Living Brant. We raise money to help those clients befriend at high school levels. To all of those people who are here today: Thank you very much, and thank you for the gift that you are.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I wanted to take this opportunity—there are a number of Community Living organizations represented here today—on behalf of all of us, just to say welcome and thank you.
I look up and see my good friend Marty Graff from Tillsonburg. It may be in the member from Oxford’s riding, but Tillsonburg serves much of my riding, and it serves the member from Haldimand–Norfolk’s riding too.
Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette: I’d like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to all the groups and volunteers who worked so hard for our 11th annual Kids’ Fishing Day at Heber Down Conservation Area this last Saturday.
The poor weather held off just long enough to allow for a great day of fishing and activities. A great crowd of kids and parents alike braved the elements and came out to take part in a fun-filled day of fishing and outdoor activities.
Numerous groups and organizations gave their time and effort to this special day, and I’d like to thank them—Ducks Unlimited; Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority; Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Zone E; Kids, Cops and Canadian Tire; Muskies Canada; Ministry of Natural Resources, Aurora district; Ontario Sporting Dog Association; Ontario Deerhound Association; Oshawa Community Health Centre; South Oshawa Teen Council; Durham Regional Police; Pickering Rod and Gun Club; Lindsay Trappers Council; Valu-Mart Lindsay; Emm’s Sports; Black Angus Fine Meats and Game; Eastview Boys and Girls Club; Simcoe Hall Settlement House; South Central Ontario Fish and Wildlife Association; W.T. Hawkins; Calvary Baptist Church; Optimist Club of Oshawa; and the Westmount Kiwanis Club—for all their help, and especially Frank Wick, who handled the parking on his own. As always, special thanks go out to Walter Oster and the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show, who contribute greatly to the success of Kids’ Fishing Day across Ontario.
There’s an old adage that says, “Fish bite best before the storm.” Well, certainly, this was the case on Saturday, and numerous rainbow trout were caught by the young anglers. Although it was cold and windy and rainy, the weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of tens of hundreds of kids who enjoyed a great day outdoors.
Mr. Rick Johnson: I rise today to share a secret, but you have to promise to tell at least two friends. Here it is: Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock is without comparison. It is home to exceptional hospitality, unparalleled tourism and distinctive business ventures. It is also home to 10 outstanding municipalities, and I’m honoured to partner with them all tomorrow as we bring some of the best of Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock here to Queen’s Park for the very first HKLB Day.
The event will showcase just some of the tourism, tastes and talents of Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock. Here you’ll find green energy entrepreneurs; the geocaching capital of Canada; tourism opportunities, including festivals, trails, wildlife reserves, theatre and luxurious accommodations; small business success stories; historic and cultural centres; farm-to-table freshness; and all the outdoor leisure and sporting activities you can handle—and, yes, there will be ice cream.
Our mayors, reeves, CAOs, and economic development and tourism staff do an exceptional job at raising the profile of our cultural and commercial climate. I’m pleased to work alongside them, and I thank them for all that they do.
She was a great lady in our community, one whom many of us politicians, whether it was at any level of government—municipal, federal or provincial—often took the time to talk to when we would visit a cherished institution in our community, Carleton Lodge, off Prince of Wales in Barrhaven.
Anne was remarkable because, at her age—I’ve been able to share with her many of her birthdays after she turned 100—she would often tell us stories about her life and what it was like. She was a remarkable treasure. She came to Canada, as many did, from England in—she was born in 1905, so when she was eight years old. She attended Lisgar Collegiate, which is an important school still today in Ottawa.
But what was really remarkable about Anne Jarrett was that she worked for external affairs. She worked directly for Lester B. Pearson, first when he was first secretary and later as secretary of state. She got to work on Parliament Hill in the east block, which is now home to most of Canada’s senators. She worked right next to the office of Mackenzie King when he was Prime Minister at the time. She was still devoted to her family and still very devoted to her extracurricular activities, which included, they say, dating and recreation.
She also had this great experience in 1943 when she was invited to the Quebec conference, which was an important meeting concerning the war, which was held by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Prime Minister King. In 1945, she was asked to go to San Francisco for three months to help with the birth of the United Nations—if you can believe that living history that those of us in Nepean–Carleton were able to witness so many years later in her life.
She was married to Gordon McDonald, who was an RCMP officer, for 25 years. Upon his death, she married Walter Jarrett at the age of 71 and spent another 25 years with him. He passed away many years ago, but as I said, she contributed to our community. She’s been a friend and, I must say, I’ll miss her dearly, as I know all of her residents and friends will at Carleton Lodge.
After 106 years on this planet earth, she’s decided it’s time to go to a place that’s better than this. We’ll miss her humour, her smile and here love of life. I know all members of this Legislature thank Anne and those of her generation for building this great nation and this great province.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I want to emphasize the importance of electrifying our urban transportation train system. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting with a number of activists from the Clean Train Coalition at their Railbender 2 party at the Gladstone Hotel. These volunteers provide thousands of hours for a cause they feel will help to improve the lives of all urban dwellers.
These volunteers point out that the UK’s Network Rail is able to electrify 1.6 kilometres of track each night without disruption to daily regular passenger rail service. This is 10 times faster than the timeline Metrolinx published in their study. At this pace, Ontario could electrify either the Georgetown or Lakeshore routes by 2018, with the other priority corridor coming online a year or two later.
Instead of using outdated diesel trains, GO Transit could also reap substantial benefits by using electric multiple-unit trains that would allow for faster travel, quieter operations and more service at more locations.
I would like to extend my support to the Clean Train Coalition and their volunteers for their incredible work and encourage both Metrolinx and the Ontario government to introduce the changes CTC is proposing.
Mr. Phil McNeely: Last Monday, I entered the debate on who has supported the smoke-free legislation in Ottawa and in this province. There’s no doubt that Ottawa led the way with Chiarelli, Munter, Cushman, Meilleur and McNeely. The Conservatives fought it all the way.
Ottawa failed to get the cosmetic pesticide ban as the Conservatives teamed up with the pesticide companies against the doctors at CHEO, and the bylaw failed. The same people—Chiarelli, Meilleur, McNeely, Munter, Cushman and many more—worked to pass this bylaw.
Fast-forward to the province of Ontario: We’re almost out of coal generation. We have banned the cosmetic use of pesticides, and my McNeely amendment to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act removed advertising from retail, the power walls.
Our Arctic summer ice cover will be gone in 2030, and all the Conservatives are thinking about is a shorter shipping route between markets and access to the hydrocarbons in the Arctic that will increase greenhouse gases. Our children and grandchildren will suffer the impacts of climate change, and the Conservatives again do not care.
I would like an apology from the Conservatives, and concerned parents across this province would like an apology from the Conservatives, for their consistent opposition to clean water, clean air and their denial of climate change. The latter is a pre-eminent issue of today. The time for action is quickly running out.
Mr. Bill Murdoch: On Sunday, May 15, 2011, the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League won its first provincial championship in an exciting seven-game series against the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors. I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize the outstanding play of both the Attack and the Majors as they showcased the very best the OHL has to offer. It was a hard-fought series, but in the end it was our Owen Sound Attack that rose to the occasion in a rousing 3-2 overtime victory.
This championship represents many years of hard work on the part of this small-town organization. I’d like to congratulate the coaches, management and the owners for making this championship possible. I have to thank our dedicated fans for travelling across the province and the US and for supporting our team every step of the way. And of course I have to say how proud I am of the young players who earned this championship. It was through their skill and determination that they took on Ontario’s best and won.
Few things are more ingrained in our culture than the sport of hockey, and nowhere is that more true than in Grey and Bruce. From London to Plymouth, Windsor and Mississauga, our small town and its young players beat the odds to win its first provincial championship. The Attack are an inspiration for us all.
Mrs. Maria Van Bommel: I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize the Community Living groups that serve my riding of Lambton–Kent–Middlesex. They include Community Living Sarnia-Lambton, Community Living Wallaceburg and Middlesex Community Living. These agencies have been providing service to the communities in my riding since the 1950s and 1960s. In the years since their inception, they have evolved and grown to help individuals achieve their fullest potential while inspiring inclusive, respectful and accepting communities.
The communities served by these local Community Living organizations have held a number of events this year to celebrate Community Living Month. The Sarnia-Lambton Community Living mayor’s breakfast was held on May 6, and Lambton College was presented with a hero award for their community integration for co-operative education programs.
On May 12, the mayor of Strathroy-Caradoc hosted a community breakfast for Middlesex Community Living. The Strathroy Rockets junior B hockey team was honoured for their commitment to Middlesex Community Living. This coming hockey season, Community Living in Middlesex will be cheering for the Strathroy Rockets, as Community Living is the team captain’s charity of choice, and October 2 will be Community Living Day at the game. I know they’ll all be there cheering them on.
These events wouldn’t be possible without the continued dedication and support of the employees, volunteers and our local communities, and I’m certainly very pleased that they’re here to share this with us today.
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: It’s my pleasure to share with you and the rest of the House today some great news about my great riding of Northumberland–Quinte West, a riding that’s getting better and better by the day.
Our government has put funding programs in place to provide opportunities for expansion in marketing businesses, which result in the creation and the maintenance of many, many jobs. Northumberland–Quinte West has seen significant results from these programs. To name a few: Quaker Oats, Weston Bakeries, Mirmil manufacturing, Canadian Blast Freezers, Horizon Plastics, Nestlé, Sabic Investments, Norampac, Weetabix, Metro Paper, Go Green Cobourg, Cam Tran, Quinte West YMCA, Deca Cables, Grills Orchards, Empire Cheese and many more.
In addition to the government’s investments that have created over 700 new jobs, we have also created thousands of jobs through funding to rehabilitate local arenas, local roads, bridges, water plants, broadband, sports fields, playgrounds, new schools, hospital expansions and many downtown revitalization programs.
The world just suffered through one of the worst recessions in history. When I sat down and listed just some of the funding this government has provided—funding that is creating jobs in my riding—I’m not surprised that Ontario is leading the way in recovering from the recession. I’m proud to represent a government that’s invested in our future by investing in creating jobs.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Green energy paid a visit to Thunder Bay last week, when I was pleased to announce $1 million from our government to support a $5-million bioenergy plant being constructed at Confederation College in my riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan. This plant will create enough green renewable energy to heat the college’s Shuniah Building and the new REACH facility, a project we supported with $15 million, saving Confederation over $300,000 per year in energy costs. This project will create 50 construction jobs, six permanent jobs and allow for applied research and learning opportunities for 200 students per year.
In my riding I’ve also worked very hard to see the conversion of the two coal plants, one to wood biomass in Atikokan and the other to natural gas in Thunder Bay. Our party is the only party that committed to these conversions. They will secure over 200 permanent jobs, create $300 million worth of construction work for our region’s building trade unions and secure a significant tax base for the city of Thunder Bay and the town of Atikokan. These are green energy projects; make no mistake.
Then there’s the Lower Mattagami project, near Kapuskasing, which will soon have approximately 350 carpenters and labourers from the Thunder Bay building trade union halls working on that project. These are just a few of the green energy projects that are creating new jobs and providing a huge economic boost to Thunder Bay and Atikokan.
Welcome to all of you, and thank you for the important work that you do every day. The people you help, as well as the whole developmental services sector, have come a long way because of your vision. You have played a major role in changing the public’s attitude toward people with developmental disabilities. By banding together years ago, united by a single dream for a world where everyone is welcome, you formed the basis for what we have now: a system in Ontario that is entirely community-based.
Community Living Toronto’s Lights project is a great example of inclusion and action. This innovative program brings together families, community leaders and the agency to help individuals find long-term housing that meets their needs.
We need more of these partnerships, because each of us, with our unique strengths and abilities, has a role to play. Programs such as Lights reaffirm our commitment to strengthen our communities by including people of all abilities as full members, and that’s why our developmental services transformation is working to extend this inclusive vision to everyone with developmental disabilities.
Voilà pourquoi la réorganisation des services pour les personnes ayant une déficience intellectuelle vise à faire en sorte que cette vision de l’inclusion s’applique à toutes les personnes ayant une déficience intellectuelle.
We’ve made great progress since we first began our transformation, creating the hugely successful Passport program to give adults with developmental disabilities who have left school more options for staying connected to their communities, closing Ontario’s last three remaining institutions, bringing in ground-breaking legislation and creating the community network of specialized care for people with high needs.
Come this July, we are moving forward with our vision for a fair, accessible and sustainable developmental services system. This July, we are opening Developmental Services Ontario, the new single window to support for adults with developmental disabilities. People won’t have to apply at a number of agencies for service or tell their story over and over. Decisions about eligibility will be made the same way across the province, and everyone will use the same application. This will mean more fairness and greater transparency for the people we serve.
Since 2003, we have increased funding by more than half a billion dollars, and although we are operating on a tight budget again this year, we are still finding ways to help more people. This year we are investing an additional $40 million in the system, with $25 million going to people in need of urgent care and $15 million for special services at home and Passport. Between last year’s funding and this new budget commitment, our government has increased funding by $108 million.
Si l’on combine le financement de l’an dernier au financement prévu dans le nouveau budget, notre gouvernement a accru le financement des services pour les personnes ayant une déficience intellectuelle de 108 millions de dollars.
So to Community Living Ontario and to many more community agencies serving people with a developmental disability around Ontario, I say thank you for your important work and ongoing partnership with us. It will take dedicated people like you to help us take developmental services and social inclusion to the next level and into the future.
I must first start by saying that the work that you do is invaluable. There is no way to quantify the work your 117 local associations do to promote inclusive communities throughout the province. I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from Community Living organizations since I was named the Progressive Conservative caucus critic for community and social services almost four years ago.
I have to thank Community Living for being there during the development of Bill 83, Protecting Vulnerable People Against Picketing Act. There were many individuals who helped me in developing and promoting that bill, and I would like to publicly thank Community Living Ontario’s executive director, Keith Powell; policy adviser Gordon Kyle; marketing and communications director Rozalyn Werner-Arcé; and Kory Earle from People First, who were all there and instrumental in ensuring that the message of Bill 83 was heard by all 117 organizations and MPPs.
I also want to thank the organizations, families and individuals who were most affected and wrote me and their individual MPPs in support of Bill 83. Thank you to the over 1,000 people from across the province who have signed petitions asking the government to schedule public hearings on this bill after it passed second reading last fall. I encourage you to continue the dialogue about Bill 83. I know it is an issue that is important to you and important to Ontario communities.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet with Community Living Dufferin and Community Living Brampton-Caledon in my riding on many occasions and have seen first-hand the excellent work that you do in our community.
I was reading on Community Living Dufferin’s website, “Today, Community Living Dufferin stands by their mission to support, encourage and provide choices for people with disabilities throughout their lives and to pursue enriched, healthy connections within their community.” To me, that is what the 117 Community Living organizations are all about: ensuring that individuals with intellectual disabilities feel at home in their communities and have the same opportunities as everyone else.
We have made so many strides to ensure that we promote inclusive communities. The passion for what you do and the people you serve is unmatched. I think we owe a big thank you to you, especially to the front-line staff and volunteers who invest their time to make sure your vision in the community is achieved. I hope that we will continue to see action on behalf of the government.
The Passport program, while a beneficial program, is successful only if people are continuing to apply and get approved—only to wait and languish on waiting lists, which I think is a shameful indication of the needs that we are not providing as a society and as a government.
Mr. Michael Prue: I’d like to welcome all of the people here from Community Living Ontario. I want to welcome you back to the Legislature, because about a year ago today, I stood in this Legislature and I spoke in sorrow that Community Living Day was cancelled last year. I spoke about the 2007 funding agreement, which unfortunately last year had not been met. But thankfully, to all of you and your hard work, those difficulties are now behind us.
Today, we in the New Democratic Party want to give you a message of hope. We want to work with everyone in this chamber—everyone who is here today to celebrate Community Living—and all sides of this House and all parties and all members in order that we can move forward.
It was quite a few years ago when all parties agreed that we were going to shut down the institutions. Through three separate parties in government and over many years, it happened. I hope that we can get the same kind of commitment from all members of this House today to move forward in other areas we need to do to make sure that everyone, absolutely everyone in this society and in this province, participates to the full level that is allowed to them.
We need to work with everyone so that people with intellectual disabilities who are capable of working—and that is more than 80% of all people—get to keep their wages and not have it clawed back by a government. We need to work so that people get to make their own decisions about their lives and what they want to do and to make sure that others do not make those decisions for them. We need to work and have an Ontario where waiting lists of 23,000 people waiting to get services that they so desperately need are things of the past. We need to work together, where agencies and individuals who work with people with an intellectual disability are properly compensated and never feel they have the need to go out on strike. All these things are possible, and all can be done.
I had an opportunity this morning to meet with people from Community Living. They came to my office. I particularly want to thank Allison, who is up there, because she was incredible in talking about her community of Milton and talking about the hopes and dreams of people with an intellectual disability. She gave me tremendous hope of where this organization is going and how inclusive this organization is. I want to tell you, Allison: Thank you very much, and we commit and I commit to you that over the next few years, as we move forward on this file, members of all sides of this House will find the wherewithal and find the money to build 12,000 homes for people who are today on waiting lists; that we will find the money and find the hope and find the laws to make sure that there are special services at home for 7,000 families who are today on waiting lists. We will do all the things that we can for the 4,000 people waiting for Passport funding to make sure that they get that Passport funding.
It is incumbent upon all of us, whether you are a Conservative or a Liberal or a New Democrat, to do what we can to move this whole file forward. People 20-plus years ago said that there were not going to be institutions anymore. We in this House today have to say that in the next 10 or 15 years, we have to do everything we can so that every single person with an intellectual disability will be a proud member of this society who is able to contribute in their own special way to making Ontario a better place in which to live.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I beg to inform the House that today I have laid upon the table the 2010 annual report from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, entitled Be Proactive ... Avoid the Harm.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I also beg to inform the House that today I have laid upon the table the 2009-10 annual report of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, entitled We’re All in It Together.
Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette: New section 262.1 of the Municipal Act, 2001, requires every municipality to adopt a policy with respect to filling vacancies that occur within six months after a regular election. The policy must set out whether the municipality is required to fill a vacancy by appointing someone or by requiring that a by-election be held. Section 263 of the act is amended to provide that a municipality must fill vacancies in accordance with its policy. Policies must be in place at least six months before voting day of a regular election.
Essentially, this allows outgoing councils and boards to clearly establish the replacement ground rules for vacancies occurring as a result of someone not having the ability to accept the elected position during a regular set election date.
Bill 198, An Act to amend the Co-operative Corporations Act and the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 in respect of non-profit housing co-operatives / Projet de loi 198, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les sociétés coopératives et la Loi de 2006 sur la location à usage d’habitation en ce qui concerne les coopératives de logement sans but lucratif.
Mrs. Donna H. Cansfield: Currently, co-ops and their tenants must go before the courts if they cannot resolve their disputes. This often results in costly and lengthy proceedings, and for tenants and landlords dealing with such issues this can mean unnecessary hardship.
Currently, the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, covers most residential rental units in Ontario, but it excludes co-ops and their tenants. If passed, this bill would enable co-ops and their tenants to access the Landlord and Tenant Board, which will result in a more cost-effective and timely process for all parties.
Hon. Christopher Bentley: I’m pleased to rise in the House today on behalf of the McGuinty government to introduce legislation that would, if passed, improve the provincial election process to ensure that the right to vote can be freely exercised without interference or obstacle.
The right to vote is the very foundation of our democracy. The right to vote is each citizen’s means to participate in the democratic process. The right to vote is each citizen’s voice, and that voice should be heard without interference or impediment.
According to news reports, Elections Canada received numerous complaints during the federal election. It was alleged that people falsely claiming to be from Elections Canada allegedly called voters in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario, and directed them to vote at incorrect stations. These allegations have caused us to take another look at our laws.
While such activity is prohibited by law in other parts of the country, Ontario is at greater risk because we don’t have the same legal protection. There are few things that we, either individually or collectively, value and cherish more than our democratic rights. The democratic traditions of our society and of our government have been built upon and continue to depend upon fair and well-run elections in which each person’s right to vote can be exercised freely.
Notre gouvernement doit demeurer vigilant afin de préserver et de protéger ce droit. Si cette liberté est menacée, notre gouvernement doit agir rapidement. C’est justement ce que les modifications proposées cherchent à accomplir.
We must be continually vigilant as a government to preserve and foster this right, so when there is a risk that this freedom might be interfered with, we must act quickly as a government. This is what is proposed in these amendments.
In 2007, this House passed legislation introduced by the McGuinty government to modernize provincial elections. At the time, the government took a measured approach that enhanced both access to elections as well as the integrity of elections. In short, the amendments included increasing the number of advance poll days and allowing the Chief Electoral Officer to test new voting methods in by-elections.
In 2010, in response to the recommendations of the Select Committee on Elections, further amendments were passed to make elections fairer, more flexible and more accessible. The Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2010, included provisions, first, to allow Ontarians to vote by special ballot, to provide the chief electoral officer with the flexibility to design a voting process that is responsive to the needs of voters, and to give voters with disabilities access to voting equipment that would enable them to independently mark a ballot.
Our government has continually made it a priority to modernize the Election Act. In light of recent developments, it is with a great sense of priority and urgency that our government introduces amendments to address the potential risk of limiting Ontarians’ right to exercise their vote.
As mentioned earlier, Elections Canada received complaints during the recent federal election from voters who reported that persons falsely claiming to be from Elections Canada directed them to vote at incorrect polling stations, in some cases at a considerable distance from their designated station. The bogus callers allegedly told voters that on account of higher-than-anticipated voter turnout at their designated polling station, they would be required to vote at a different station.
While the Canada Elections Act specifically prohibits any person from wilfully preventing an elector from voting in an election and some other provinces have similar legislation to prohibit such activity, Ontario’s Election Act does not include similar prohibitions. That’s why our government is proposing to amend the Election Act by adding new provisions.
These two amendments would address the specific incidents that allegedly occurred during the federal election and would also capture a wide range of spurious election activity and apply to persons inside and outside of Ontario.
As well, each time a person violates any of these new provisions—that is, interferes with a voter’s ability to vote or impersonates election officials, the candidate or the representative of the candidate—could constitute an offence. This means that two phone calls telling a voter to go to the wrong polling station could potentially be the subject of two separate charges.
Within the Election Act there are existing sanctions for prohibited election-related activities or “corrupt practices.” These amendments would be also be considered “corrupt practices” and attract penalties. In that regard, we are proposing as well to increase these penalties for those who are found guilty of a corrupt practice. The amendment would increase the fine from a maximum of $5,000 to a maximum of $25,000, and from a maximum jail term of six months to a maximum term of two years less a day.
In summary, these amendments would further modernize the Election Act and represent our government’s commitment to keep pace with developments and take measures to protect and defend our democratic traditions. These amendments would ensure that Ontarians’ right to vote remains a right that can be exercised freely, and I am sure that members of the House will agree that the exercise of the vote is a fundamental democratic right and one that deserves our immediate attention. I call upon the members of the House to support this bill.
Today is an opportunity to speak up and speak out, to talk to students, teachers, parents and the community, and to make a change by taking action. This is a time for all of us to turn up the volume and make it clear that bullying, harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation is not acceptable in our schools, our boards or our communities.
Our first commitment to our students’ success and their well-being is the driving force behind everything that we do in education, and everyone who works in education shares that commitment. Every student in our publicly funded education system deserves the opportunity to learn and to reach their full potential in a safe, respectful and inclusive environment.
We believe, and research confirms, that students who feel safe, welcome and respected in their schools are more likely to succeed. A safe, equitable and inclusive education is also central to creating a cohesive society and a strong economy that will secure Ontario’s future prosperity. That is why our government is proud to have taken decisive and real action to support equity, inclusive education and safe schools across Ontario.
Since 2004, we have supported safe school initiatives that create safe and inclusive school environments. For example, during the first annual bullying prevention week this past November, we announced the Premier’s Safe School Awards, which will recognize exceptional work in fostering a safe and inclusive school environment.
In February 2008, we engaged the safe schools action team to address issues of student-to-student gender-based violence, homophobia, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour in schools. The team submitted its report in December 2008. In 2009, we responded to that report’s recommendations and launched one of the most progressive equity and inclusive education strategies in the world. We are working with school boards and stakeholders to build knowledge, understanding and capacity on this very important issue. As a result of this strategy, every school board in this province is now required to have a comprehensive equity and inclusive education policy to support the students in its board.
As part of our strategy, we are focused on providing students with the support they need. A recent EGALE report entitled Every Class in Every School reminds us that there is still a lot of work to do to address hostile school climates for sexual and gender minority youth across Canada.
That is why we are committed to providing safer community spaces where students can promote rights for all people and build safer and more accepting school environments. Safer spaces within schools are extremely important for the LGBTQ youth, their peers and allies, because they may be the only place for youth to access authentic peer support without danger or threat of bullying or non-acceptance. Such groups also provide supports for students with LGBTQ parents, other family members and friends.
I’m very proud to report to this House that this strategy has received significant national and international recognition for helping the educational community to identify and remove discriminatory biases and systemic barriers to support student achievement.
The strategy was awarded a highly prestigious and competitive award of excellence in May 2010 from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and it most recently received the first-ever excellence in diversity education award from the Canadian Intercultural Dialogue centre.
This recognition confirms what we already know: that Ontario’s diversity is one of the greatest assets we have, that we must ensure that we respect and value our full range of differences, and that we must support success among our diverse student population. I know that everyone in this House agrees on this point.
While we are proud of what we have done, we also recognize there is more to do. To increase achievement and reduce the achievement gaps for all students, and particularly those students who are at risk, we must all work together and actively create the conditions needed for our students to succeed.
From the roads, highways and bridges that take Ontario families to and from work safely and transport goods efficiently, to the transit systems that move us within and between our communities, to the schools, colleges and universities where Ontario students learn and grow, to the parks, recreation centres and ice rinks where we pause to play, to the pipes that deliver safe drinking water, and to the broadband Internet towers that connect us to the world, infrastructure supports everything Ontario businesses and families do.
I would like to take a moment to thank the thousands of dedicated people who work in this sector. I would like to recognize in the legislative chamber today representatives of the Ontario Public Works Association, including Mr. Sal Iannello from the city of Welland, who is the president-elect of the OPWA, in the public gallery, and Mr. Terry Hardy, executive director, in the west members’ gallery, as well as the many other representatives of the Ontario Public Works Association here today. I would like to call on all members here today to join me in acknowledging the fine work of these men and women and those across the sector who help to keep Ontario moving.
En travaillant ensemble, nous avons réussi à améliorer les infrastructures sur l’ensemble de la province : en perfectionnant des milliers de kilomètres de routes et des douzaines de ponts, en construisant et en agrandissant des hôpitaux et des centaines de nouvelles écoles, en réparant ou en remplaçant des réseaux d’aqueduc vieillissants, et en ajoutant des milliers de nouvelles places pour des études dans les collèges et les universités.
Our unprecedented investments have helped people get to where they need to go faster, they’ve sped up access to education and health care in communities across Ontario, and they’ve helped grow our economy. Ontario is turning the corner. Because of investments made to stimulate growth and combat the global economic downturn, today Canada’s—and Ontario’s—recovery is consistently cited as among the world’s best. I’m very proud to say that Ontario has played a critical role in that recovery. Virtually all Canadian political leaders, from Conservatives in Ottawa to Ontario Liberals at Queen’s Park, pulled together to invest in infrastructure to help create jobs and secure the recovery, with one notable exception. The leader of the opposition Conservatives not only opposed this investment in the Legislature, but he argued against it. His position was not only irresponsible but, in the face of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, downright reckless.
In April, Ontario had an increase of 56,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate declined to 7.9%. That’s the lowest unemployment rate since December 2008. The Conference Board of Canada reported that Ontario’s infrastructure investments helped to create or protect nearly 225,000 jobs across the province in 2010 alone—jobs for Ontario families.
In fact, Ontario’s economy is now turning the corner, and our plan for jobs and growth is working. Working with our federal and municipal partners, we have invested in projects that are creating jobs and benefiting communities across Ontario, projects like the Milton Arts and Cultural Centre, the expanded Wilfrid Laurier University campus in downtown Brantford, a new baseline transitway tunnel in Nepean, and improvements to Fort William stadium in Thunder Bay.
Dans notre budget de 2011, nous avons réitéré et même renforcé notre engagement à l’égard des infrastructures en annonçant des investissements de plus de 35 milliards au cours des trois prochaines années.
And it’s why we’re currently developing a long-term infrastructure plan that will build on our record of success. As we reflect on this record and look ahead, we will explore opportunities for new partnerships and projects across a broad range of sectors and communities.
As we look towards the release of our own 10-year plan later this spring, I’m calling on the federal government to join Ontario and fulfill its commitment to craft a national, long-term capital framework.
Since 2009, the success of the stimulus funding program demonstrates that partnerships among all levels of government have helped Ontario to continue to create local jobs and attract international investment. Addressing our infrastructure challenges demands that we continue to work together.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d just remind our guests who visit the chamber today that you’re more than welcome to observe the proceedings, but as much as you may like to participate, you can’t—that is, unless you are successful on October 6 this fall.
This is an opportunity for us to take a look at how school communities across our province are promoting inclusive, safer learning environments for all our students. We all know that this is absolutely essential if our students are to achieve success.
It’s also a very valuable opportunity for us to take a look at the issues that are related to homophobia and raise awareness of those issues, not just with students but also with the wider community and with parents.
One of the issues that has been brought to my attention is the issue of bullying, harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, so it’s an opportunity for us to speak out and indicate that this is unacceptable, no matter where it takes place in our schools or in our communities.
I want to welcome representatives of the Ontario Public Works Association, which represents both public sector and private sector stakeholders in the public works field. I’d like to congratulate its current president, Kealy Dedman, president-elect Sal Iannello, executive director Terry Hardy and the membership of the OPWA and CPWA on this occasion.
Our public works assets contribute significantly to the quality of life we have in this province, and our public works professionals have the responsibility to design, build, operate and maintain these assets. We rely on their expertise, guidance and judgment.
This recognition of National Public Works Week in Ontario is well deserved. The task of managing these assets is complex, and that’s why it’s important that we consult and collaborate with organizations such as the OPWA.
Identifying and prioritizing public works projects must be technically driven, not politically expedient. That’s why the technical and professional expertise of the OPWA members is so important to the integrity of Ontario’s public works infrastructure, and also why it’s important that they are recognized as important stakeholders in public policy decision-making.
Today and throughout this National Public Works Week in Ontario, we express our appreciation to the dedicated men and women employed in the many facets of public works and for the contribution they make to Ontario and Canada.
This Thursday, May 9, Ted Arnott, the member for Wellington–Halton Hills, will debate second reading of his Bill 195, An Act to amend the Election Finances Act to ban collusion in electoral advertising. That bill will provide more real integrity than this government bill. It would limit and provide openness in relationships, like the secret relationship between the Working Families and the Liberal Party, a secret deal just like the secret deal with Samsung—which Ontarians don’t understand and don’t know about; and just like the secret deal that you had with OPSEU, doubling their contract after the next election.
Mr. Peter Kormos: I’m responding to the Attorney General’s ministerial statement that accompanied the introduction of his bill. I suppose I should put this in context. As I recall, in the House leaders’ meeting last Wednesday morning—the opposition House leader was there as well—we put to the government House leader the question as to whether or not there were any more government bills coming, and she told us no. Of course, she doesn’t lie. She’s an honourable person. She told us the truth insofar as she knew it. Well, this is what I find curious, because you talk about secrecy, and clearly the development of legislation over there on that other side is a secret thing as well.
It boggles the mind that here we are, six sitting days left—now, I’d welcome the government presenting a resolution to sit beyond June 2, but here we are, with six sitting days left, and the government House leader is put in a position where she’s compromised. And the Attorney General, with much fanfare, introduces legislation that’s based on newspaper reports? That’s one pathetically poor way to develop policy.
The member for Kenora–Rainy River was the member of the Sorbara Election Act committee, which is really a rubber-stamp process out of the Premier’s office. The Premier did what he wanted and got what he asked for. It forces me to query where these propositions were when the Premier, again with much fanfare—the trumpets were sounding, the legions were pounding their drums—set Sorbara out to conduct his all-encompassing Election Act review. It appeared like something of a swan song for Mr. Sorbara and his career, and yet these considerations were entirely absent.
The government is asking now, I’m sure, for the co-operation of the opposition parties. It’s a heck of way to get it. It’s not the smoothest move in the world. I’m left with the impression that sometimes these Liberals couldn’t organize a drunk-up in a brewery, and today is another illustration of that.
International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is an opportunity to celebrate the gains made by gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexual and transgendered people in Ontario. It also provides us the opportunity to rededicate our efforts and end the attitudes and stereotypes that lead to direct and indirect discrimination against these communities.
We’ve come a long way over the past number of years; however, we still have much more to do. Gay and lesbian students in Ontario schools continue to face harassment and violence because of their sexual orientation, and this is unacceptable. Fear should not be part of our curriculum. Student-led organizations like gay-straight alliances can help prevent their abuse. They can help create the supportive environment that leads to success. If the government is serious about inclusion, equality, and the welfare of every student, it must ensure that students are allowed to form GSAs where and when they want to.
Today is also about combating transphobia and ensuring that transsexual and transgendered persons are able to be full citizens in our province. Three times my colleague the MPP for Parkdale–High Park has introduced legislation to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to recognize gender identity. Each time, the Ontario government has failed to pass this bill. Given the opportunity to explicitly protect transsexual and transgendered people from discrimination, this government has chosen to do nothing.
Ontario New Democrats believe that society’s strength and vibrancy comes from embracing and celebrating our diversity. Today we encourage everyone in the province to join together in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities and to learn more about homophobia and transphobia. We stand united in our determination to end this discrimination and abuse and to make this province truly welcoming for all Ontarians.
“Whereas the government of Ontario has the lead responsibility to provide the tools to lower-tier governments to plan, protect and enforce clear, effective policies governing the application and permitting process for the placement of fill in abandoned pits and quarries; and
“Therefore we, the undersigned, ask the Minister of the Environment to initiate a moratorium on the clean fill application and permit process on the greenbelt until there are clear rules; and we further ask that the provincial government take all necessary actions to protect our water and prevent contamination of the greenbelt, specifically at 4148 Regional Highway 2, Newcastle”—often referred to as Morgan’s Road—“and Lakeridge Road in Durham.”
« Attendu que la mission du commissaire aux services en français est de veiller à ce que la population reçoive en français des services de qualité du gouvernement de l’Ontario et de surveiller l’application de la Loi sur les services en français;
« Attendu que contrairement au vérificateur général, à l’ombudsman, au commissaire à l’environnement et au commissaire à l’intégrité qui, eux, relèvent de l’Assemblée législative, le commissaire aux services en français relève de la ministre déléguée aux services en français;
“Whereas there currently exists an inequity in penalties under the Highway Traffic Act whereby a driver causing death or grievous harm to another due to unsafe turn or other act may only see a maximum $500 fine and such is an inadequate penalty,
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to pass into law the Highway Traffic Act amendment, as proposed by the Bikers Rights Organization, which calls for stiffer penalties for drivers involved in fatal accidents where their error caused fatality.”
“Whereas anti-temporary replacement workers laws have existed in Quebec since 1978; in British Columbia since 1993; and successive governments in those two provinces have never repealed those laws; ...
“That the province of Ontario request that the government of Canada grant municipalities the right to have enhanced participation in the placement of cellular communications towers in residential areas; and
“That the province of Ontario request that the government of Canada place a moratorium on the construction of cellular towers within 500 metres of residential homes until the implementation of an improved municipal approval process.”
“That the McGuinty government honour its commitment and take all necessary steps to complete the 407 eastward extension to Highway 35/115 by 2013, in a single stage, in accordance with the agreement with the federal government.”
“Whereas serious systemic problems have continued year after year in nursing homes under the governance of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care; there is no confidence in the ministry to provide effective oversight over nursing homes to ensure all residents are kept safe from harm and receive proper care;
“We, the undersigned Ontarians, therefore request legislative change to grant the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario to have oversight authority over Ontario nursing homes. Provincial Ombudsmen in other provinces have been granted jurisdiction to directly investigate complaints about substandard care and abuse in nursing homes.
Mr. Bob Delaney: I have a petition addressed to the Ontario Legislative Assembly. I’d like to thank Michelle Yumul of Alfred Crescent in Scarborough for having downloaded this from the web and having attached a nice note with it. It read as follows:
“Whereas many day-to-day transactions such as cashing of cheques; opening a new bank account at a financial institution; returning merchandise to a retail store; boarding a domestic flight; gaining admittance to bars, clubs and casinos; checking in at a hotel; obtaining a credit card, and even renting a video require government-issued photo identification; and
“That the province of Ontario develop a government-issued photo identification card and deliver, in 2011, an Ontario photo card identification for residents of the province over the age of 16 who cannot or choose not to drive.”
“Whereas there is a treatment for chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, more commonly called CCSVI, which consists of a corrective angioplasty, a well-known and universally practised procedure that is low-risk and at relatively low expense;
“That the Minister of Health agrees to proceed with clinical trials of the venoplasty treatment to fully explore its potential to bring relief to the thousands of Ontarians afflicted with multiple sclerosis.”
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to make PET scans available through the Sudbury Regional Hospital, thereby serving and providing equitable access to the” people of northeastern Ontario.
“Whereas there currently exists an inequity in penalties under the Highway Traffic Act whereby a driver causing death or grievous harm to another due to unsafe turn or other act may only see a maximum $500 fine, and such is an inadequate penalty;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to pass into law the Highway Traffic Act amendment as proposed by the Bikers Rights Organization, which calls for stiffer penalties for drivers involved in fatal accidents where their error caused fatality.”
“Revise the Green Energy Act to allow full public input and municipal approvals on all industrial wind farm developments and that a moratorium on wind development be declared until an independent epidemiological study is completed into the health and environmental impacts of industrial wind turbines.”
“Whereas the Ontario Ombudsman, who is an officer of the Legislature, is not allowed to provide trusted, independent investigations of complaints in the areas of hospitals, long-term-care homes, school boards, children’s aid societies and retirement homes; and
“Whereas there currently exists an inequity in penalties under the Highway Traffic Act whereby a driver causing death or grievous harm to another due to unsafe turn or other act may only see a maximum $500 fine, and such is an inadequate penalty;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to pass into law the Highway Traffic Act amendment as proposed by the Bikers Rights Organization, which calls for stiffer penalties for drivers involved in fatal accidents where their error caused fatality.”
“Whereas the number of clients served by Matthews House ... has doubled in less than three years, while funding provided by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care through Central LHIN remains substantially unchanged; and
“Whereas Matthews House Hospice is the lowest-funded hospice in Central LHIN and among the lowest-funded in the province, serving as many clients or more than others receiving substantially more money; and
“Whereas, in January, Matthews House ... was told by the Central LHIN that any adjustment would have to come from the ministry, while two months later the ministry informed Matthews House ... that it would have to work with Central LHIN to solve its funding issues;
“That Premier McGuinty instruct the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to appoint someone with authority to meet with the board representatives of Matthews House Hospice to” sort out “how they can get a just resolution for the people of south Simcoe needing hospice care, a resolution that ensures that their promise of a long-term solution is kept, giving them base funding equal to that of other hospices in Central LHIN.”
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Pursuant to the order of the House earlier today, I’m now required to put the question. On May 11, 2011, Ms. Aggelonitis moved second reading of Bill 186, An Act to amend the Tobacco Tax Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
Bill 160, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 with respect to occupational health and safety and other matters / Projet de loi 160, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la santé et la sécurité au travail et la Loi de 1997 sur la sécurité professionnelle et l’assurance contre les accidents du travail en ce qui concerne la santé et la sécurité au travail et d’autres questions.
Hon. Charles Sousa: I am pleased to rise for the third reading of the Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011, Bill 160. I will be sharing my time with the MPP from Scarborough Southwest, the PA to the Minister of Labour.
This bill is about moving forward to protect the health and safety of working people in the province of Ontario. New amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, represent the largest overhaul of the province’s safety system in 30 years.
The bill itself is a product of a spirit of co-operation and a shared vision of safer workplaces. We are proposing a road map forward for the future so that this province’s working people have a future free of injury and occupational disease. The road ahead will be one that we’ll build together with our health and safety partners. This has been demonstrated in the co-operation and hard work by all parties that went into this proposed legislation and that helped refine it. Our discussions with stakeholders and consultants, conducted by the expert advisory panel, have created what we think is good legislation: a bill we can all be proud of; a bill that can save the lives of many.
It is our hope that all parties will support this proposed legislation. This bill is the product of teamwork between employers, unions, and health and safety experts. This enabling legislation is a key step in implementing the expert panel’s recommendations, and we look forward to working together with our stakeholders to achieve continued progress and success.
On December 16, 2010, the expert advisory panel led by Tony Dean delivered its final report. The final recommendations of this expert advisory panel struck a balance between two key factors: a need to provide better protection and support for workers, especially young and new workers and recent immigrants, and the need to improve the way we reach out to and help the business community, particularly small businesses, to help them comply with our health and safety laws.
Our government has accepted the panel’s recommendations. I would again like to thank and show our appreciation for the hard and dedicated work of the members of that panel and what they accomplished. Just as importantly, these representatives of workers, business, and health and safety experts reached their recommendations by consensus, because it is only through consensus, not division, that we will move forward.
Today, I would also like to take a moment to talk about the members of a body the expert panel recommended be formed, and that is the interim prevention council. This interim council has begun the work of helping to implement the key recommendations of the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, including the recruitment of a chief prevention officer. The interim council is led by interim chair Paavo Kivisto, who is a retired Deputy Minister of the Environment and a former Deputy Minister of Labour. The interim prevention council includes Joan Eakin, professor at Dalla Lana School of Public Health; Vernon Edwards, health and safety director at the Ontario Federation of Labour; John A. Macnamara, vice-president, health, safety and environment, Hydro One; Domenic Mattina, vice-president of sales and estimating at Mattina Mechanical Ltd.; and Carmine Tiano, director of WSIB advocacy and occupational services, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario. I could not be more pleased with the expertise and commitment these people are bringing to the interim prevention council. Their input has been invaluable, and I sincerely thank them for that.
It is important to remember that the expert advisory panel received more than 400 responses and submissions during consultations, and conducted more than 50 meetings with stakeholders. There will be more opportunities for consultations and input as we continue to work closely with the stakeholders to implement the recommendations of the expert panel.
Since this government assumed office in 2003, Ontario’s annual rate of workplace injuries has dropped substantially: about 30%. We have worked hard to make working Ontarians safer, but there is much more to do, and that is why we are taking action. We believe our proposed legislation, if passed, will save lives and prevent injuries as we move forward.
Under our proposed amendments, the Ministry of Labour would assume responsibility for the prevention of workplace injuries and occupational disease. This will help coordinate, align and strengthen all occupational health and safety activities, including prevention and enforcement activities. A new chief prevention officer reporting to the Minister of Labour on strategic priorities would provide day-to-day leadership on the prevention of workplace injury and occupational disease. This change will provide new leadership and focus in preventing workplace death and injury. The Ministry of Labour would expand its involvement in workplace health and safety education and promotion, and the Minister of Labour would have oversight of the province’s health and safety associations, again better aligning and coordinating prevention activities.
A new permanent prevention council with representatives from the labour and employer communities, as well as other health and safety experts, would provide valuable input in the direction the health and safety system takes with respect to preventing occupational injury and disease. This new permanent prevention council would keep our stakeholder communities engaged and in touch as we move ahead.
This proposed legislation would provide a framework to improve the system of health and safety for Ontario’s workplaces. The major components of these proposed amendments would, if passed, come into effect on or before April 1, 2012.
Our proposed legislation would better facilitate the approval of codes of practice which, when they are in place, could provide assistance to employers, especially small business, and guide them in complying with health and safety laws.
The expert panel heard from stakeholders who said they wanted to better coordinate and align the province’s health and safety prevention activities, and we listened. So the structural changes proposed in our bill would improve the integration of prevention programs and be led by a chief prevention officer accountable to the minister. This is a change that we believe would strengthen and better align our health and safety efforts to the benefit of all.
The mandate and accountability for prevention under our bill would be transferred from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to the Ontario Ministry of Labour. This will not only better coordinate and align our efforts, but we believe it will enhance accountability and transparency and offer greater opportunities for stakeholder engagement.
If the prevention function is assumed by the Ministry of Labour, this would mean that funding would come under the same review and approvals processes of all provincial government expenditures. For example, the minister would have to seek approval from treasury board and cabinet for prevention-related expenditures. Such spending would also be subject to public scrutiny through the estimates and public accounts processes and publications.
All of these new requirements will support and, in fact, improve transparency. So in addition to helping to make workplaces safer and healthier, the new structure would be more accessible to both workers and employers and accountable to them and to the public.
Our bill provides that the Minister of Labour has oversight of the province’s health and safety associations. Our health and safety associations provide a great deal of assistance to our workers and employers. Our changes would mean that the health and safety system is working together effectively and efficiently in a new integrated system, and this was another key recommendation of the expert panel. Stakeholders asked for enhanced coordination and alignment between the activities of the health and safety agencies, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and the Ministry of Labour’s enforcement and policy priorities.
Under our bill, the chief prevention officer would be responsible for establishing a provincial occupational health and safety strategy. The CPO, the chief prevention officer, would ensure that this overall provincial health and safety strategy is aligned across all system partners. The chief prevention officer proposed in our legislation would directly report to, and provide an annual report for, the Minister of Labour on the statutory mandate.
It’s important to stress that the new model contained in our bill would be fiscally neutral to the government and would not add to the employer’s WSIB premiums. Health and safety associations would be funded through government transfer payments and work under the direction of the chief prevention officer. The revenue that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board currently spends on prevention would instead be allocated to the Ministry of Labour for the new prevention organization.
Under our bill, a new prevention council consisting of both employer and worker representatives would be an important partner in working closely and providing advice to the CPO. This, again, was a key recommendation of the expert panel report. The prevention council would also advise the minister on the appointment of the new chief prevention officer and advise the CPO on the occupational health and safety strategy. As the CPO contemplates significant new changes to the health and safety system, the prevention council chair would be asked to tell the minister whether the council endorses that direction of change.
A key recommendation of the expert panel’s report calls for increased health and safety training for our province’s workers, especially in high-risk occupations. The consultations held by the expert panel showed us that many workers are not aware of their basic rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Our amendments would empower the chief prevention officer to approve health and safety training standards for programs and providers.
We are proposing that all health and safety representatives in workplaces with six to 19 employees be trained to carry out their health and safety duties. They currently do not require any training. The expert advisory panel felt that this caused higher risk in small workplaces. These provisions would come into force on a date yet to be determined to allow for sufficient time to develop the training standards and, more importantly, to consult with both business and labour on its effective implementation and to make sure we achieve the best results for the money spent.
Vulnerable workers and anti-reprisal legislation: That’s another provision in the bill. It deals with workplace reprisals. The expert advisory panel concluded that when non-unionized workers are fired or otherwise punished by an employer for exercising their rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, there is no quick mechanism for these workers to obtain timely redress. Therefore, under our proposed amendments, health and safety inspectors would be given the power to refer such matters to the OLRB in certain circumstances if the worker agrees. In addition, we are proposing in this bill that explicit authority be given to expedite reprisal hearings. The panel has also recommended that the offices of the worker and employer adviser could in the future provide support to both non-unionized workers and small employers in reprisal cases. The proposed amendments include a regulation-making authority to allow for this.
This brings me now to the vulnerable workers’ section 21 committee. In addition to the proposed amendments, we will be setting up a section 21 committee for vulnerable workers. This will help assure that the key stakeholders who represent the workplace parties can give needed input and advice on reaching out to and protecting those workers who are often at the greatest risk in the workplace.
Then there’s young workers—secondary and post-secondary education. The expert panel has recommended—and we will be moving forward with—new and enhanced efforts to reach out to young workers. We will be developing new materials and programs to help assure that teens entering the workforce know their rights and their responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We owe it to our young people, our children, to give them the knowledge and the tools to keep themselves safe as they enter the workforce.
The expert panel also recommended strengthening the foundation of our occupational health and safety efforts and strengthening the internal responsibility system. The expert panel cited the key role that internal responsibility plays because, in the words of the report, “Ministry of Labour inspectors cannot be in all workplaces at all times.”
The workplace parties need to take responsibility for health and safety hazards to the extent that they can control them. The anti-reprisal provisions of our legislation, as well as the supports for small business, will strengthen the internal responsibility system.
Our ongoing discussions with stakeholders have further strengthened this bill and demonstrated a spirit of co-operation. There were a number of government amendments. The valuable input of these stakeholders and of the interim prevention council have led to us propose the changes to the bill that were made by the Standing Committee on Social Policy, and they are as follows:
One was to expand the responsibilities and powers of the chief prevention officer by assigning him or her a number of powers and duties that would have been assigned to the minister. This would include training and certification powers, and the monitoring of designated entities.
Another was to stipulate that the prevention council would be comprised of equal numbers of labour and employer representatives, as well as allowing for representation from non-unionized workers, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, and the health and safety experts.
Another was to remove the provision of the bill that would allow a director to establish policies related to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and require inspectors to follow those policies. This provision was previously proposed to ensure increased consistency in the interpretation, administration and enforcement of OHSA. The government has since found other instruments, however, to meet the intent of this provision.
In conclusion, we have listened to the expert advisory panel, with its representation from workers, employers, and various health and safety experts. We have carefully considered the recommendations of the panel, recommendations based on broad consultations with workplace parties and representatives. We have accepted the recommendations of the expert panel, and I thank all those who have worked so hard on the panel’s report. We are acting by bringing forward this proposed legislation. This proposed legislation is a key step in that recommendation.
Our government believes that by working together, we can continue to foster workplaces that are healthy, that are safe, that are harmonious, and by so doing, also help build our strong economy. We believe our bill, over time, can and will save lives and prevent injury among working Ontarians. The citizens of this province deserve no less.
Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I’m pleased to rise, along with the Minister of Labour, to address third reading of the Occupational Health and Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2011. This legislation is about our hope for and our commitment to safer and healthier Ontario workplaces.
The bill we have before us today has been about working together, all of us—employees and employers, health and safety stakeholders and experts, and the government that represents them. It is about working better, and that means better aligning and coordinating our health and safety system and our efforts and resources.
In our proposed legislation, we’re embarking on a major change in our province’s occupational health and safety system, the biggest since the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act was adopted over 30 years ago. We’re moving ahead to develop new partnerships, new tools and a new structure that will better serve the needs of our people, a structure that is more responsive, effective and efficient, a structure that will promote a culture of health and safety in Ontario workplaces.
At the end of the day, and certainly for the end of our citizens’ workday, the goal is, and must be, workplaces that are safe and healthy. Our proposals are a road map forward to ensure we are providing a more promising future for working men and women.
Many of the panel’s recommendations will be phased in over time to allow for further consultation on detailed proposals. We want to ensure that the workplace parties have an opportunity to become familiar with and prepared for new duties and responsibilities that will be required.
The implementation of the panel’s recommendations require not only legislative changes, but also the development of new operational policies and new procedures. This work will go forward in consultation with the interim prevention council, prevention system partners and stakeholders. This bill is a foundation for what will be a work in, and work for, progress for workplace safety.
Our bill would enable us to build a more integrated health and safety system, a system where our prevention goals are more closely aligned with policy and enforcement efforts, a prevention system that is more accountable and transparent to the people it exists to serve.
That is why we accepted and are proposing to move forward with new mandatory basic health and safety training for workers and supervisors. This training is necessary for our internal responsibility system to work, and our internal responsibility system is key in making our overall prevention system work.
We have said that Ministry of Labour inspectors cannot be in all the province’s workplaces at all times. That is why we depend on the workplace parties working together in an informed environment and constructively working toward the common goal of increased health and safety.
I want to spend a few moments to talk about key aspects of this bill. Firstly, the chief prevention officer: We talk about a transfer of responsibilities from the WSIB to the Ministry of Labour, creating a better coordinated prevention system. Our bill would require the minister to appoint a chief prevention officer who will be required to consult with the prevention council and consider its advice in developing the provincial strategy and the annual report.
Secondly, I want to say a few words about the prevention council. There would also be the creation and operation of a new multi-stakeholder prevention council. Council members would be appointed by the minister and would include representatives of workers and employers, as well as experts in occupational health and safety.
Thirdly, I want to say a few words about worker health and safety representatives. Our bill, under section 6, would add a new requirement for employers and constructors to ensure that the health and safety representative is trained to effectively perform the duties of a representative. The chief prevention officer, along with the minister, could set standards for such training.
Fourthly, the co-chair of the joint health and safety committee: Under section 7 of the bill, there are provisions that would enable either co-chair of the joint health and safety committee to make written recommendations to the employer if the committee has failed to agree on a recommendation.
The Ministry of Labour has appointed an interim prevention council made up of five members of the expert advisory panel and an interim chair. This council has already been advising the minister on recommendations. The chief prevention officer is expected to be appointed in the upcoming weeks.
I’ve outlined some key provisions of our bill and the road forward, but for a moment I’ll talk about what the Ministry of Labour has done and accomplished during our time in government. This bill will be building on a strong foundation, a foundation that we have been building since 2003. The Ministry of Labour now has more than 400 highly trained ministry health and safety professionals supporting enforcement every day. I know I’ve used some time in this Legislature to share some of these numbers before; however, I think they serve a role in emphasizing just how far we have come. The lost-time injury rate in Ontario has decreased by more than 30% since 2003. That’s a reduction of more than 25,000 injuries, and that means that, just last year alone, our inspectors conducted over 62,000 field visits. Of all these field visits, more than 41,000 were proactive. Within the same time period, over 30,000 workplaces were visited across the province. During these visits, health and safety inspectors issued over 98,000 orders. That’s progress. We’ve got inspectors out on job sites every day.
But more needs to be done, and more will be done. The expert panel was a true example of workplace parties and representatives of labour and business working together. Only through co-operation and working together can we achieve our goal. I must say, throughout the entire legislative process—and, indeed, the final product that we are debating this afternoon is a product of working together.
Let us continue in this spirit of co-operation. Let us move forward towards the common goal of safeguarding Ontario’s workers. I know we all share that goal in this Legislature, and so this bill should be one that we all support.
Mr. Toby Barrett: A few comments on Bill 160: We know it’s making some changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. Both the Minister of Labour and the member for Scarborough Southwest did make mention of prevention—very important.
For a number of years I have served on a farm safety association. I was president of the Norfolk Farm Safety Association connected with the provincial body. I see here it’s removing prevention activities from the mandate of the WSIB. It’s uploading it to the Ministry of Labour, with the creation of a provincial council and a chief prevention officer within the Ministry of Labour. The benefit of the doubt—I’m assuming that’s a good thing, an important thing where the chief prevention officer takes control over all occupational and health safety initiatives within the government.
Again, I do want to stress the importance of prevention in this business. I think of, when I was president of the Norfolk Farm Safety Association, attending one of the conferences. We heard a story from a farmer up Huron–Bruce way. His name was Ken Kelly, as I recall. Tough times in farming; this was a number of years ago. He had to lay off his hired man. He was working day and night, in bad weather. Regrettably, he got his hand caught in a PTO. He was a large man. The bulk of the weight of his body stopped the PTO. What is this, 540 RPM? And he told us: If you thought you had problems before you had an accident like this, you have no idea of the kinds of problems that you have afterwards.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I’ve got say, there were some positive things—there still are some very positive things—about Bill 160. One of the positives that we alluded to or made reference to on second reading was the fact that this bill eliminates much of the fragmentation that has existed for a long time, where the Ministry of Labour and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board were doing very much the same thing and were duplicating a whole lot of things that didn’t seem to make much sense. Eliminating some of that fragmentation has been a been a very good thing.
We stated that we had a lot of concerns in second reading. We said that we needed hearings to find out what others had to say. We hoped, based on the concerns that New Democrats had raised in second reading, that there would be amendments to the bill. To be fair, and God bless, an election coming in October has helped, I’m sure, because when you’re very close to an election and you’re worried about what your labour friends might say, making a couple of amendments wasn’t such a bad idea. So I congratulate the Minister of Labour and his team and the committee for accepting some of our amendments and for introducing some of your own. This is okay. It’s okay to admit that you did that, because you don’t do that very often in committee. So I want to say that that was good.
There’s more to be done, we argue, around the enforcement side of things. It’s something that we are very concerned about, because we say that the most effective incentive for employers to improve health and safety is a strong enforcement system based on the principle that the cost of violating the law is greater than the cost of compliance. This is something we need to work on. We can do a lot better. There will be time, of course, in the next session to think about those things, but on the whole, we made some—
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Let me say from the outset that I’d like to congratulate my colleague the Minister of Labour and his PA, the member from Scarborough Southwest, on the hard work they did to put this together.
It’s interesting that the member from Trinity–Spadina made some comments about how fragmented the legislation was that was out there before. As we deal with labour issues in our constituency offices, I must say that sometimes as we try to help our constituents navigate through any process—and this is one of them—whether it’s WSIB or some labour issues, even our staff sometimes gets bogged down. So any time that we can do something easier for who I will call Mr. and Mrs. Public—who are not entrenched in this every day, but there comes a time when they have to try to navigate through any system. Any time that we can make it more user-friendly—because, in many cases, those folks who are trying to navigate through this are not under the best of circumstances, normally because there’s some challenge that they’re facing, whether it’s—well, obviously, it’s labour-related. There is always a certain amount of anxiety, so any time that we can smooth out the process is great. So congratulations for coming this far.
I just want to make a comment. The interesting part about this is that the legislation went through its due course of second reading at committee, and there have been a number of amendments that people brought forward, and members in the opposition as well, so it’s been a really collaborative effort. At the end of the day, leaving the partisan stuff aside, it’s the people we represent who are going to be to be the benefactors. So I—
Mr. Peter Kormos: I’m looking afford to the lead by the critic from the official opposition—the lead response, the lead speech from the member for Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington. Our critic for this matter, the member for Hamilton East–Stoney Creek, will be making his lead on the next occasion that the bill is called.
I want to tell you, we don’t expect to call a large number of speakers on this particular issue. Here we are at third reading. I’m impressed at the fact that both the minister and the parliamentary assistant are here in the chamber.
It’s inappropriate to mention people’s absences but it’s entirely appropriate to mention their presence because they’re recognizing and abiding by a long-time and honourable tradition of watching their bill, monitoring their bill, as it progresses through, in this case, third reading debate. I commend them for that.
I also was incredibly impressed with, as the member just said, the level of collaboration. If only that could occur more frequently around here, a whole lot more progress would be made in a far more progressive way. Indeed, New Democrats made numerous suggestions. We were pleased to see the positive response to many of them. There were concerns raised by the constituencies that are impacted, that are affected. The government made some attempt to address those. I recognize that.
I also say this to you: The critical issue around occupational health and safety is the right of workers to organize into trade unions and to collectively bargain. If we’re going to create truly safe workplaces, we want unionized workplaces. If we’re going to have unionized workplaces and safe workplaces, we have to give agricultural workers the right to join a union and collectively bargain. Anything less is an affront to those hard-working women and men in the most dangerous workplaces in our province and country.
Hon. Charles Sousa: I also would like to congratulate and thank all members who have spoken to this bill over the number of weeks that we’ve been deliberating over this issue. Thank you to the member from Scarborough Southwest for his outstanding work. I appreciate the comments from the members from Haldimand–Norfolk and Trinity–Spadina. I appreciate the words from the member from Northumberland about consensus and co-operation. Of course, the member from Welland very articulately and very appropriately reinforced the fact that this was a consensus, a matter of co-operation.
What we are dealing with here is the livelihood of our workers. What we have done from the outset, in keeping with the spirit of Tony Dean and the expert panel, is to work collaboratively for the benefit of those workers. It’s not about partisan politics. It’s not about an election year. It’s about the ongoing safety of individuals who are out in the workplace in future years to come.
It seemed appropriate for us to have that collaborative nature continue. It’s one of the reasons why I respect the critics from both sides of the House in deliberating over these issues. That’s why we took advantage of the primary recommendation of the expert panel to have an interim prevention council, so that we can work collaboratively during the development of legislation. A number of concerns were raised, a number of them were acted upon, and I appreciate the input to enable some of those amendments to be brought forward. It’s one of the reasons we made it public well ahead of the committee, so that all people could deliberate over what we were recommending and proposing, in keeping with the concerns of the opposition as well.
Mr. Randy Hillier: First off, I want to offer up our support—but it is cautious support—for this bill. I want to congratulate and commend the minister on the whole process on this bill so far, something that we and I have not seen. Well, I’ll say I have not seen that sort of collaboration on any other bill yet in my few years here at the House.
Now, there were amendments offered up. There was clearly a willingness to listen to interested parties and take into consideration their justifiable concerns. That is a plus. I do want to mention this, though: As has been mentioned by a number of speakers so far, they refer to the present system as fragmented. That is indeed one way you could describe the present system; it’s fragmented. You might also refer to it as dispersed and decentralized. With this bill—and this is why I offer up cautious support on this—we are now going to put that dispersed and decentralized system into the hands of a single chief prevention officer.
Just to give some clarify for those people who may not realize it, at the present time we have about 20 different occupational health and safety agencies or associations that provide training and workplace safety information, and they’re based on industries. The member from Haldimand–Norfolk talked about his time with the Farm Safety Association. Myself, as a construction electrician, I was involved with the Construction Safety Association.
But each industry is very unique, and the safety mechanisms and safety training required are unique to each industry and often to each workplace. Clearly, safety in a restaurant is something significantly different from a construction electrician, even a construction electrician as compared to a high-voltage electrician. There’s very unique safety mechanisms and training required.
So we’re going to move this into a single person with an advisory body, right at the present time the interim prevention council and the chief prevention officer. Of course, there’s no way one individual or even a small group of individuals are going to be able to develop substantive, practical, workable safety and training programs for such a diverse economy that we have in this province. I want to make this House aware of that concern. That concern I think is going to be important for the minister down the road as this bill travels through and as it gets implemented, that whoever the minister is keep a good eye on how that is turning out because there are, indeed, some difficulties that my arise out of that.
I also want to talk about—we know that one of the main triggers of this bill was that tragic Christmas death of four people on a scaffold. It was clear from the investigation into that tragedy that the present legislation and the present regulations were not being followed. It was clear that there was an element of the underground economy at play here that contributed substantially to that tragedy. I think that’s an important element that has been disregarded in this bill.
Most employers in this province, I think everybody in this House will agree, the far, far greatest number of employers, are very cognizant of and very interested in having a safe workplace. I’ve worked for many employers in my career and I’ve yet to ever work for somebody who was dismissive of or had a disregard for workplace safety. But there is a very small group out there who may be dismissive of and disregard workplace safety. There are those who engage in the underground economy, as we like to call it.
I’d like the government side to reflect a little bit on why that underground economy works, why it’s there, and if you’re not doing things that are contributing to a growth in that underground economy. The Dean panel clearly focused and mentioned the underground economy, but we don’t see much on it in this bill.
We do know that what grows the underground economy is the cost of doing business. If the legitimate cost of doing business increases or goes out of skew, if it becomes more profitable to be illegitimate than to be legitimate, and things like increasing taxation are contributors to the underground economy: things like the HST, things like increasing WSIB rates. Those costs on legitimate contractors, if they get too high, actually create an incentive to go to the underground. We’ve all seen it and we all recognize it, whether it’s skyrocketing tobacco rates—that creates a black market for contraband tobacco. The cost of doing business legitimately, if it gets too high, creates that incentive to go underground.
That element, I found, was not really addressed within this bill, and I think we see some competing and contradicting ministries at play here. We certainly know the intention of the minister on this one is to improve health and safety in this province, but at the same time, other ministries increasing the cost of doing business legitimately can be conflicting and competing with the minister’s interest.
I think it’s also clear that the Dean panel report explicitly stated that this should be cost-neutral, that there should be no additional costs employed or imposed on industry. Again, I think we understand one of the reasons for that. He understands that underground economy and doesn’t want to further burden legitimate employers, but we don’t have a good handle on the cost of this bill. Of course, much of this bill is going to be left to regulations, which we in this House won’t see or be able to review, but is this bill going to be cost-neutral for our employers? Are we going to find those efficiencies and hopefully not create those incentives in the marketplace for people to expand the underground economy?
The other thing is—and I understand the difficulty here—in legislation we’re taking a piece of legal framework and trying to illustrate what that’s going to look like in practice. It’s very difficult. How do we demonstrate in a piece of legislation what a construction site is going to look like, or a restaurant or whatever the industry is going to be.
The bill is pretty light on training. There is one line item in it about training. The Dean panel report focused significantly on training. There’s widespread agreement that there is a need for training, but what that training is going to be and what it is going to cost, we have no idea about that with this bill. It would be nice—I think it would be a powerful statement by the minister—if, when the regulations were developed for this, he forwarded them to a standing committee of the House for stakeholder review. I think that would demonstrate a very powerful commitment that the minister is interested in making sure that industry is being heard and that their wishes are being seen.
As I’ve said, this is the first time that I’ve seen it. I’ve seen so many other cases, so many other examples where stakeholders have been heard but their concerns not addressed. For example, this week—significant opposition from industry on Bill 151.
The other thing is that I would like to see, and I think the taxpayers and industry of this province want to see—the Dean panel report demonstrated and illustrated the need for a tracking system on training. This could be very problematic. This training that has been received by one employer, is it going to be acceptable to another employer? We don’t want to duplicate, triplicate and create redundant training programs.
They’ve asked for a tracking system. We know that this government and our bureaucracy are not very good at creating, managing or implementing tracking systems. eHealth comes to my mind right off the bat, but I think there are a few other tracking systems like gun registries and whatnot that don’t have a very substantial or effective track record. Maybe if the minister or the parliamentary assistant has some opportunity throughout the debate, I’d like to know if there are some concepts and ideas on how that tracking system is going to actually be put into place.
The parliamentary assistant mentioned the 400 Ministry of Labour inspectors and that there’s been an increase in the inspectors. It’s important for the minister to know that your 400 inspectors—there is a wide variation in competency out there in the field. I’ve had direct experience with a number of them, both on the jobsite before I became a member of this Legislature and afterwards as an advocate and as a member representing employers in my riding.
I want to share this one story with the minister and with this House just to demonstrate the wide variation that we get in labour inspectors. I was at a home builders’ association meeting one evening in Perth. The home builders’ association had invited the Ministry of Labour construction safety inspector, the enforcement and compliance officer, to the meeting to have a discussion, because they had a number of concerns. It was interesting because, as the Ministry of Labour inspector was up giving his address about the need for a safe workplace, he referred to the contractors as “targets of opportunity,” and this is a direct quote. This Ministry of Labour inspector, who was invited to sit with all these contractors and have a meal, referred to the contractors as “targets of opportunity;” that he went out looking for fines. That’s what his view was.
This is not a story of make-believe or imagination, Minister. This is a first-hand, direct story. I’m not suggesting for a moment that all 400 inspectors are like this, but there’s a number of inspectors I’ve met directly.
One of the things that I do like with this bill—and I hope what I read in this bill and what’s in practice is that the minister will have direct accountability, that when there are problems in the field or in the training, members such as myself, members throughout this Legislature, will be able to go to the minister and demonstrate a failing or a perceived failing, and the minister will have the authority and the wherewithal to make that correction.
Too often we’ve seen that the trend over the last number of years and since I’ve been here is that there has been more and more delegation of ministerial authority to subordinate bodies of this Legislature. When that happens, we see a growth of difficulty in getting results. We get that decision-making and that influence ability being obstructed. So that is one element of this bill that has been a different trend from what we’ve seen from other bills in this House. Again, I’ll refer to Bill 151, where decisions in forestry, on forestry licences, are going to be delegated out to another agency of this Legislature. I think it’s really important that all members in this House recognize that we need to have a remedy and a process for a remedy for our constituents so that we can advocate for them, so if we do find that one oddball who thinks contractors are targets of opportunity, there is a manner in which we can correct that failing.
There is one other thing that I was disappointed with in the committee on the clause-by-clause. There was one element, one amendment, that was proposed by myself, by the PC Party, and that was to recognize non-union workers as a distinct group. At the present time, the way the bill is written, unionized workers have a distinct number of spots on that advisory and recommendation body, but non-union workers do not have the same recognition. I want to put it on the record that over 70% of the employees, 70% of the workers, in this province are non-unionized. Less than 30% are unionized. Why does the tail get certain recognitions but the rest doesn’t? Now, I could be cynical and say, well, this is just par for the course. We have seen it with the relationship between this Liberal government and unions, but regardless of that relationship, regardless of the Working Families, regardless of any of that, there is still an underlying responsibility that we recognize all workers, not just a few. Right? By all means, by certain means, we ought to recognize at least the majority of workers in this province.
With that, I’d like to end off my debate on this. I trust the minister will accept the debate as it’s been intended: to offer up some substantive but constructive criticism, and to make sure that the workers of this province indeed are well served by this new legislation.
Mr. Peter Kormos: I listened carefully to the eloquent contribution to the debate by the member for Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington. I appreciate his comments, but I want to underscore once again that the safest workplaces are unionized workplaces. The safest workplaces are workplaces where workers have some significant level of control over the environment that they’re working in, and those are places where workers can collectively bargain the conditions that they work in.
For the life of me, I don’t understand why this government, a Liberal government, turns its back on some of the lowest-paid workers and the workers working in the most dangerous working conditions in our province: agricultural workers. This government, the Liberal government, denies agricultural workers the right to collectively bargain. For the life of me, I don’t understand how individual members can justify that in their hearts or in their minds.
This government as well denies to the most vulnerable workers, the lowest-paid workers, the Walmart workers, if you will, the right to card-based certification so that they can form a union and collectively bargain. They gave that privilege to construction trades; fair enough. But why won’t it give that same privilege to the workers who most need it? Workers of whom many are new Canadians, workers of whom many are women.
The Minister of Labour the other day expressed his shock and horror that workers were having their wages stolen from them. Well, gosh, my colleague from Beaches has been telling you about that for months now, workers whose tips are being stolen, and you won’t protect them.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: It’s interesting to hear from the Conservatives that we are too pro-labour and to extend greater rights to individuals, and from the NDP that we’re not pro-labour enough. I think that’s why many of us are Liberals.
I do share some of the concerns, but I think they’re covered. I remember when I was in college, my dad lost his business and he started all over again and created another business within 10 years. He was a very entrepreneurial guy. I remember some of the things that went on. I was cleaning bathrooms and toilets in a shopping mall starting at 10 o’clock. It was supposed to be two hours, but I and all of the other folks—I was one of the few English-speaking people who worked there—were given five hours’ work for two hours’ pay. There are a lot of employers who aren’t very good, but I think this bill finds a balance between employer and labour rights. It’s not perfect; we may have to revisit it. But I know the story of our Minister of Labour, and most of us come from these families who have experienced this discrimination because of their sacrifice.
But the other issue that my friend from Lanark—and I do appreciate the thoughtfulness of your comments, but I’ve always tried to understand this from the Conservatives. We’ve worked very hard with the federal government to integrate sales taxes, to take $8.5 billion out of costs for small businesses and to make it simpler. Anything I’ve heard out of the opposition party in cancelling the HST would give as a two-tier tax system. How would you avoid putting $8.5 billion in costs—the very kinds of things that drive the underground economy. The HST actually took away a huge amount. The federal government, which has more financial flexibility, reduced it, but we have one of the lowest sales taxes right now. If you go to Europe, sales taxes in many countries are now over 20%.
The other thing: Our corporate tax rate, especially for small and medium enterprises, are some of the lowest in North America. US tax rates, our largest competitor, are now 35%, several points higher. I keep on hearing, and I’ve heard this before, that this is driving the underground economy. How can we be driving the underground economy? We’ve just cut bureaucracy and we have lower sales tax and lower corporate tax rates than most—
Mr. Steve Clark: I’m pleased to provide some questions and comments to the address by the member for Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington. I have to say that he does raise some concerns. He talked about the fact that we are supporting this piece of legislation—cautiously supporting, as he stated in his address. I share some of his caution about some of the issues that aren’t being addressed in this legislation or, in some cases, are being addressed at the time of regulation.
I, as a member, have concerns about the issue of training. Training was discussed quite openly and quite substantively at the Dean commission, and I know that, using the member’s words, Mr. Hillier’s words, it’s light on the discussion of training.
I think, for better protection and support for workers, especially young workers and recent immigrants—I can think of my son, who is 22. His summer job is working on one of the international bridges between Canada and the United States, doing painting. It’s a very high job. Sometimes they’re up over 200 feet over the St. Lawrence. That was the first question that I talked to him about when he took that summer job. It was the issue of training and how he was trained for that high height. So I am concerned, as a member.
As well, I’m concerned about the amount of regulations that could be imposed on businesses as part of this; the issues that the member talked about, the HST and WSIB rates, which drive that underground economy. But I do want to say that there is some support on this side. The issues around the interim prevention council and the chief prevention officer are issues that I think we all can support, but there still needs to be that element of caution.
As this bill has progressed, and especially at the committee stage, I think we saw co-operation amongst the three parties. We had a very important bill in front of us. I can’t think of a more important bill than one that deals with the health and safety of workers. I think every family has the right to make sure that their members come home in the evening and are able to come home safely without having either to be injured or, in the worst-case scenario, to have a death. Unfortunately, that happens periodically.
We put this legislation together as a result of the Dean report. We changed some parts of it due to some of the amendments that were brought forward. I don’t have the exact number in front of me. It could be around 12—roughly, approximately 12—amendments that were adopted at committee. I thought that was very, very good.
Addressing the issue regarding non-union representation on the provincial council: The councils will be made up of three parts. There are going to be representatives from workers and employers and, the third component, experts in occupational health and safety. I think that they’re going to be concerned about both unionized and non-unionized employees. I think that that issue, hopefully, will be addressed with the prevention council.
Also, the member made reference several times to inspectors looking for targets of opportunity. The whole idea here is to have a prevention council and chief prevention officer who are able to address these issues. That’s going to be all brand new.
Finally, I want to say one more thing. A lot of presenters said, “Let’s not politicize this issue. Let’s not politicize this.” We tried our very best to depoliticize it by giving quite a bit of power to the chief prevention officer and the prevention council.
I want to focus on maybe two points here. The first was the member from Welland’s comments that unionized workplaces are safer than non-unionized. Well, that is a popular myth and it’s one that I have seen myself, working in both union and non-union construction, that has no basis in fact. It’s one that the unions like to suggest, but it has no fact to it.
To the minister: When I was talking about the cost of doing business, the cost of doing business is not just taxation. In this province we have over half a million regulations. There is a substantial cost—not just direct financial cost, but a cost in time—to comply with those regulations. It should be understandable to the minister that we want to reduce the cost for those businesses so that they indeed are not going underground. That does not conflict with our federal counterparts.
I also just want to make mention to the parliamentary assistant that what we’re looking for, what I would think is appropriate, is, if we’re going to identify unionized workers as having a unique spot on those councils, we ought to do the same thing for non-union. Either that or just create workers’ spots on that council. If you’re going to have unionized identified, we should also have—
The minister and the parliamentary assistant know that we argued for changes to be made to this bill on second reading. We were very concerned about some aspects of the bill that we felt needed hearings so that we could get the views of labour on those issues, and we got the hearings that obviously we were looking for. We got the views of labour on this. The parliamentary assistant and the five Liberal members in committee heard very much what was said, what had to be said—oh, I almost forgot. I would like unanimous consent to stand down the lead for our critic, the member from Hamilton East–Stoney Creek.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: See, I meant to do that straight up, and then you want to get right into the debate and you forget. It’s terrible. As you get older, you forget some things. Does that happen to some of you guys—or are you getting younger?
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I have a glass of red wine every day, sometimes a glass and a half, and Ontario wine to boot, followed by Chilean wines because my wife is from Chile, followed by Italian wines because I love Italy. The wines from the Florence region, the Toscana wines, are they ever good.
But this is not about wine, is it? It’s about something else. Do you see how easily distracted I am? People just pull you in all sorts of directions, and one could talk about prosciutto and wine all day long.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Thirteen of ours. Do you see how good Liberals can be from time to time? Every now and then, Liberals and New Democrats, we just reach out, and then Sandra just reaches out again; we’re like brother and sister.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: The Minister of Economic Development says yes, there are profound differences—too many. She’s not one calling for the merger of New Democrats with Liberals, is she? Yes, siree, and I suspect there are many more Liberals feeling the same way, and I suspect many New Democrats feel the same way, and there are some who probably would love a merger so we could have stronger occupational health and safety. Because if we were one, we would be stronger, wouldn’t we? We would be able to put stronger measures in place and ward off the Conservative threat; isn’t that so? But let’s not get carried away. We’re getting ahead of ourselves.
So we have concerns about the bill, the politicization of the health and safety system. We talked about the fact that the chief prevention officer would have some powers, except the chief prevention officer would have to report to the minister, and we were worried about to what extent the chief prevention officer would be limited in his independence, would be limited in what he or she could do when he or she would have to go and seek support, advice or approval from the minister. We were worried to what extent this whole area is predicated on what the minister says about what goes or what doesn’t, so we raised that concern on second reading.
We were concerned about the potential for these powers to be used in an arbitrary way or, yes, indeed, even a partisan way, so we called for changes. We wanted changes that dramatically empower the council and the chief prevention officer. We wanted changes that would ensure trade unions are represented on the council in at least equal numbers as employers, and we wanted changes that would protect the political independence of the chief prevention officer and guarantee his or her acceptability to the council. We talked about that.
We were worried about the Workers Health and Safety Centre and the Ontario health clinics for Ontario workers and to what extent their independence was threatened by Bill 160, as it was written. We know that these organizations were respected, and we wanted mechanisms to be put in place to protect their independent governance and ability to set priorities.
We were worried about the accumulation of power by senior Ministry of Labour bureaucrats to write law, concerned about the section of the bill that gives directors of the ministry the authority without any oversight, without any warning, to publish policies that have the force of law.
We were worried about the failure to protect workers from reprisal. We know that vulnerable workers who are victims of reprisal for their attempts to protect their health and safety were not effectively protected by this bill. We said that Ontario workers have the right to participate, know and refuse dangerous work, and these rights must be powerfully and swiftly enforced.
These were the kinds of issues that we reinforced in the debate that we had on second reading, and these were some of the issues, indeed many of the issues, that came back in the hearings that the five Liberal members and others in the committee, New Democrats and Conservatives, heard about.
We say that some progress or a lot of progress was made based on those hearings. We were happy that the Liberal members in that committee heard and made some changes of their own and indeed accepted 13 of our own amendments, I’m told, which means that from time to time the government members are able to hear the other side. Now, it doesn’t happen all too often, but from time—
So as we get closer, I think the Liberals decided, “Wouldn’t it be nice to just give the NDP and labour some bones, some scraps?” You decided you can do that, that it’s in your interest to do. So you did that, and I want to say “good for you,” because it doesn’t hurt you very much, really.
Is there more to be done? Liberals would say yes. New Democrats would say yes. And where we think there is more to be done is in the area of enforcement. Long-term, the ministry’s capacity to enforce the act, its regulations and the Criminal Code in relation to serious health and safety violations has to be enhanced. We believe that, long-term, we must strengthen our current enforcement system.
Over the years, the NDP has consistently argued that the most effective incentive for employers to improve health and safety is a strong enforcement system based on the principle that the cost of violating the law is greater than the cost of compliance. There are numerous studies for many jurisdictions demonstrating that increased external inspections and external enforcement result in measurable declines in injury rates. So when we talk about enforcement and when we say that we need to enhance our enforcement rules, that is where we should be moving to.
Has the Liberal government moved in that area? No, not quite. Would that they would move in that direction. And who knows what could happen? An election is coming. They could become emboldened. They could become bold, indeed, and decide that they could make some promises for the next election. You never know.
We say that strong enforcement is vital to address the imbalance of power in the workplace. The internal responsibility system is predicated on the assumption that, when dealing with the workplace health and safety issues, all the workplace parties are equal. But we know that workers and employers are not equal, that those who employ those who are employed have more power, and they tend to yield that power sometimes most unfairly, sometimes destructively, sometimes in ways that hurt workers, and in particular workers who are very, very vulnerable to abuse.
We see the abuse of workers on a regular basis. We see it. We see it from those who are recent immigrants. We see it from those who are here on a temporary visa, those who are here but for the grace of God, and those who are here because the government wants to bring them on a temporary basis rather than on a full-time basis, because what the government really wants to do is employ them and send them back home; employ them without having the full rights that every citizen has or ought to have, and when they’re no longer useful, we discard them as if they were Kleenex. There are two million people, as far as I know, who are here on a short-term kind of status, and they’re here because we want to abuse them as much as we possibly can. And the federal government takes advantage of it as much as they can.
We know that there is no equal power between those who work and those who employ them, and that is why we say that when you have and where you have strong enforcement, you equalize those differences—not perfectly, but you equalize those disparities as much as you possibly can.
The Ministry of Labour needs more inspectors, and inspectors need more resources such as access to industrial hygienists, ergonomists, toxicologists, nurses, physicians and engineers. We need administrative penalties. The NDP supports the use of administrative penalties, which allow an inspector to impose an immediate financial penalty on an employer.
Ideally, what would we like to see? We would like to see certain violations that would result in mandatory penalties, relying on a schedule of violations and penalties. We would like penalties on repeat violations resulting in higher penalties. Penalties must reflect the seriousness of the violation, how long the violation has been occurring, the number of workers affected and the impact on workers.
Such a system would be speedy and not easily circumvented. Employers and other workplace parties would be aware of the cost of non-compliance with certain sections of the act. Fines gathered through administrative penalties would return to the ministry and could be applied to improving the ministry’s health and safety programs.
The Dean report, by the way, for those of you who don’t know, endorsed administrative penalties, and there was no mention of such penalties in Bill 160. This is something that we would like to see implemented as soon as possible.
We are happy that some changes have been made. It has made Bill 160 stronger. It has made it a better bill as it relates to occupational health and safety. Much more could have been done, but we know that sometimes compromises have to be made and we realize that Liberals, as they are, knowing who they are, can only go so far. To the extent that they could, they made this a better bill, and we say: God bless you for doing that.
Mr. Toby Barrett: Just a point of order: My wife and my daughter heard that we were sitting at night so they raced up here to get a seat. I’d like to introduce my wife, Cari, and my daughter, Brittany.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member for Nepean–Carleton has expressed dissatisfaction with a response to a question. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the minister or the parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It’s a pleasure to be able to address a question I originally had asked last week, on May 12, 2011, regarding gas prices. It wasn’t so much what the government at the time had suggested it was. I had a very serious question, and I had asked what the finance minister meant when he was talking about the HST being applied to gasoline and he said, “It might be that the price would have gone higher had that (HST) not happened.”
My question is, what is that logic? This government, of course, refused to respond to me in a reasonable manner, and that’s why I felt compelled to bring to the floor this question yet again, because apparently they think adding more tax to something will actually decrease the price.
My constituents disagree. For example, Robert LaVacca, who is not a constituent of mine, who does hail from London, said, “Since the HST has been implemented, I have had to stop my monthly contributions to my RRSP because I can no longer afford to keep up with the extra costs of electricity, heat and gasoline. I have not seen any reductions in the price of goods, nor have I seen anything benefit me personally since the HST arrived.”
Les Hibbert, also not in my community but from Lindsay, says, “My concerns centre on the fact that Mr. McGuinty has callously imposed the HST on everyday essentials such as gasoline, hydro and home heating costs. This severely and most unfairly impacts on those people who can least afford it, i.e., low-income earners, retirees, single parents and the unemployed, who in many cases are already struggling to make ends meet.”
In my community of Ottawa, Jennifer Brabbs says, “People will no longer be able to put their kids in ice sports, ice rentals ... and to go anywhere on gasoline or do anything, movies etc., let alone heat their homes, use the Internet etc. Why is it that this government can spend, spend, spend and the taxpayers just have to keep on giving?”
And finally, Paulette Davis from Katrine says, “Living in a small community in northern Ontario where you have to drive five kilometres to get to a coffee shop and 36 kilometres to get to your job, this doesn’t impress me. With current gas prices, I can barely afford to get my husband to the doctor’s or to my seasonal job, never mind buying a coffee. We have to stop this insane tax grab.”
Again, I asked a very simple question on May 12 when I requested of the Acting Premier, who was the current transportation minister, what the finance minister meant when he was talking about the HST being added to gasoline. He said, and I quote again, “It might be that the price would have gone higher had that (HST) not happened.”
At the time, I was shocked at the response by the minister, who decided to talk about the volatility of the sector. No one disagrees; it is a very volatile sector. The price of gas has been going up. However, it’s going up 8% more than it naturally would have as a result of the introduction of that dreaded HST. I actually mentioned at the time that the finance minister said that his idea of relief for families from rising gas prices is by adding 8% more. We can’t make that up on this side of the House, because it’s absurd. It’s as absurd as saying that Samsung will only add $1.60 to our hydro bills.
It comes back to another question that we have on this side of the House. It’s one that we brought to 91 different communities at 60 different events through the blue blitz last Friday, which was that in order to continue to pay for the spending of this government and for many of the scandals—and the fact that they actually believe that adding 8% more to gasoline would decrease the price of gas—it means they must be setting themselves up for a hike to the HST. That’s why we’re concerned. We believe that they’re setting the stage for a 1% or 2% increase on the HST.
Mr. David Ramsay: Before I get into some of the details about the tax reforms that our government brought forward, I would say to the member that, when you look at other jurisdictions around the world, I think Ontarians and Canadians in general very much appreciate the high quality of the services that we have in this country. We have high-quality services because we’ve decided that the people need to pay for those services to make sure we have them intact.
We look at the country south of us, the United States, which is really having an incredible deliberation there. They don’t want to pay more taxes and they don’t want to cut services. They’re basically on the edge of bankruptcy there, as many other European countries and countries around the world are. We’re not in that situation. We’re running a fiscally sound government here. We have provided, maintained and kept up some of the best services in the world for our people, so that you know that when you go to a hospital, the hospital is there, it’s open; that our health care providers are there and can provide great service. Our highways are second to none in the world. Our schools are the best education system in the world. The fact of the matter is, this costs money, and, quite frankly, you get what you pay for. We’re very lucky to live in a jurisdiction like Ontario in the greatest country of the world, Canada, where we have decided we have a tax regime that pays for high-quality services.
The member talks about some of the new taxes as a result of the HST. Yes, there’s now 8% on energy; yes, that’s on the gasoline; and yes, that’s on the electricity bills. But as you know, we addressed electricity bills by reducing those by 10%—2% more than 8%. Also, with the tax reform system, many people are paying less income tax now. So while, yes, there is, in some cases, more money out, depending how you spend your money, 90% of Ontarians have more money in their wallets and purses in order make those expenditures. A tax redistribution system is what it was, shifting more to the consumer side of the taxing, the spending on the consumer side versus the income tax side. People are able to retain more of their earned income, and by choosing how they spend their money, they will hit the HST, but most people are better off.
Also, you have to look at all the other things that we’ve been doing for people. The children’s activity tax credit: You’ve talked about families, because of the tax, maybe not able to pay for a certain extracurricular activity, yet we’ve come in with a child’s activity tax credit of $50 per child and $100 if the child has a disability. We have the Ontario energy and property tax credit: $1,025 for seniors and $900 for non-seniors—so, program after program. In northern Ontario, where we do spend a little more with energy, there are some other programs up there. We’ve really tried to bring balance to this.
We need to make sure that we maintain high-quality services for all Ontarians, so that we know that our seniors and our children have the best health system in the world, as they do. We want to make sure that we have the best education system, and we need to make sure that we don’t foist that expense on our children and grandchildren. We need to pay our way today.
We think we’ve got a system here that will stimulate job growth in the economy, because this is very sound for business, and jobs are being created every day in this province, 114% beyond what the great recession brought us two years ago.