TIMMINS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
COLLECTIF CENTRE DE SANTÉ COMMUNAUTAIRE FRANCOPHONE DE KAPUSKASING ET RÉGION
CITY OF TIMMINS
UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA
PORCUPINE MINE MANAGERS' ASSOCIATION
COLLÈGE UNIVERSITAIRE DE HEARST
CROSS COUNTRY ONTARIO, NORTHERN ONTARIO DIVISION
ELEMENTARY TEACHERS' FEDERATION OF ONTARIO, LOCAL 1
SOUTH PORCUPINE ARENA ASSOCIATION
TIMMINS AND DISTRICT HOSPITAL
PORCUPINE PROSPECTORS AND DEVELOPERS ASSOCIATION
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, DISTRICT 1
NORTHERN COLLEGE OF APPLIED ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY
MUSHKEGOWUK TRIBAL COUNCIL
Tuesday 8 February 2000
Timmins Chamber of Commerce
Mr Kirby Williston
Collectif centre de santé communautaire francophone de Kapuskasing et région
Mme Marielle Cousineau
City of Timmins
Mr Victor Power
United Steelworkers of America
Mr Jim Kmit
Porcupine Mine Managers' Association
Mr Dan Gignac
Mr Lucien Gauthier
Collège Universitaire de Hearst
Mr Jacques Poirier
Mr Raymond Tremblay
Cross Country Ontario, Northern Ontario Division
Mr Ambrose Raftis
Mr Bob Blanchard
Mr Ken Gauld
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, Local 1
Ms Deborah Murray
Mr Jim Paterson
Mr Dale Livingston
South Porcupine Arena Association
Ms Brenda Torresan
Mr Burt St Amour
Timmins and District Hospital
Mr Wally Wiwchar
Mr Esko Vainio
Porcupine Prospectors and Developers Association
Mr Robert Calhoun
Mr Stew Fumerton
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation,
Mr Tony Sawinski
Northern College of Applied Arts and Technology
Ms Cathy Hart
Mrs Rita Lecours
Mushkegowuk Tribal Council
Chief Lawrence Martin
STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS
Chair / Président
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland PC)
Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington PC)
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC)
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West / -Ouest ND)
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland PC)
Mr Monte Kwinter (York Centre / -Centre L)
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill PC)
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt L)
Substitutions / Membres remplaçants
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay / -Timmins-Baie James ND)
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane L)
Clerk / Greffier
Mr Tom Prins
Staff / Personnel
Ms Elaine Campbell, researcher, Research and Information Services
The committee met at 0904 in the Best Western, Timmins.
TIMMINS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Chair (Mr Marcel Beaubien): Good morning everyone. It's 9 o'clock and I'd like to bring the committee to order this morning. Our first presenters this morning are representatives from the Timmins Chamber of Commerce. Could you please step forward and state your name for the record.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): Chair, on a point of order while they're coming up: To the committee members, both the government and opposition sides, I'd like to welcome you to the city of Timmins, part of the riding of Timmins-James Bay. I'm sure we're going to have a varied group of people presenting from different parts of this particular riding. I look forward to the presentations, as I'm sure you do.
I want to let you know this is actually one of our warmer days, so those of you who have been complaining about the weather, I want you to know that we're thinking this is kind of warm. You should have been here about a week ago when it was -40. Anyway, everybody welcome and I hope you have a good time. If you're around tonight, we can probably show you around the town.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Bisson. We have to keep on going on our travels.
Mr Bisson: Oh yeah, you just want to get the warmer weather. I know what you're like.
The Chair: We'll spend a good day in your kind city today. Thank you very much for the welcome.
Mr Kirby Williston: Good morning. My name is Kirby Williston. I'm first vice-president of the chamber of commerce. With me is our manager, Keitha Robson-Morrell. Unfortunately our president, Ross Stringer, is nowhere to be found right now, so I'll step in for him.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your presentation this morning.
Mr Williston: The chamber of commerce represents a broad spectrum of the Timmins business community-commercial, industrial and professional-over 500 large and small businesses in the city. Since its incorporation in 1949, the chamber has been recognized as the voice of business for the community.
The chamber is proactive in voicing our members' concerns with respect to local, provincial and federal government policy while actively addressing educational, civic, social and economic issues. It is in that role that we wish to address you today.
This submission provides an overview of a number of areas of interest for the Timmins Chamber of Commerce and its membership. The three categories of priority to the Timmins Chamber of Commerce are as follows: debt reduction; investment and infrastructure; and economic development.
Debt reduction: Eliminating the debt and getting the fiscal house in order must remain the number one priority for this government. The Timmins Chamber of Commerce appreciates the government's early action to pass balanced budget legislation and thanks the official opposition for the support of this bill.
Over the last number of years one of the provincial strategies has been to download certain costs and responsibilities to the municipalities. Provincial taxes reduce while municipal taxes increase. This has caused a reverse taxation situation that is unacceptable to the taxpayer and boggling to the municipalities as they struggle with their new responsibilities and funds to provide service.
The Ontario economy is strong but will not support tax increases. In an attempt to move beyond debt elimination and move forward to an increasingly competitive province with surplus budgets, the chamber recommends that no new spending programs be introduced and that any new initiatives must be financed with a reallocation of current monies. Business in this province is continually doing more with less and they expect the same from this government.
This government has been credited with education reform and yet four school boards-separate English, separate French, public English and public French-exist in our region. One consolidated system would no doubt reduce administrative costs and funnel more monies where they belong-in the classroom.
Investment and infrastructure: Living in northern Ontario, transportation and communications are essential needs. The Timmins Chamber of Commerce would like to thank the government for their proactive approach to highway safety and the addition of passing lanes on many of the highways that surround our city.
There are some areas that need government attention in this budget.
Currently Timmins is faced with a telephone monopoly situation with both local and long-distance service. The local service is supplied by Northern Telephone, a Bell subsidiary, and long distance by ON Tel, an ONTC subsidiary. Previous application to the CRTC to have Timmins declared a high-cost service area has been denied. Current application by Northern Telephone to the CRTC, if successful, could result in an increase of a minimum of $8 per month, making the monthly cost for local phone service in the neighborhood of $28 to $29. This increase does not include a component to lower the carrier access tariff to a competitive rate to make long-distance competition a viable reality once the CRTC deems the area open. These rates are a hindrance to both business development and retention.
Tourism continues to be a growth area for northern Ontario, specifically snowmobiling. There is a need for government structure around this industry through trail development, equipment and signage. Recently, the Timmins Chamber of Commerce lobbied MTO to make provision for a snowmobile crossing lane on the proposed bridge replacement on the Porcupine River. Their response was that they are not in the business of making such additions.
Hospital funding and physician recruitment in this province needs to be addressed. As employers try to recruit a trained workforce, health care needs to be accessible and of quality. Physician loss to the US and non-location in rural settings is a growing concern.
The ONTC continues to struggle with its operations costs and product mix. Certain services subsidize others, with the sacrifice being service. The Timmins chamber feels that a needs assessment must be performed to ensure the viability of this entity. Business needs to be competitive, and the ONTC has lost that edge. A restructuring at all levels is required.
Economic Development: As discussed previously, the current reverse taxation is causing municipal tax rates to be unattractive when attracting new business.
While the unemployment rate in southern Ontario is currently at 6%, Timmins and many other northern communities hover at 11.5%. A climate that promotes job creation in all areas of the province needs to be established.
The Timmins chamber has been working on various initiatives that have the potential to bring economic gain to the region. Believing that Timmins is a regional hub, the chamber has met with Ron Barbaro, CEO of the OLC, and has had discussions with DM David Arnoff regarding future casino development in this province. While we understand that a business case must be built, opportunities such as this are of great importance to our area. Included in these opportunities are the proposed superjail and nuclear waste storage. The Timmins chamber has made every attempt to ensure that Timmins is in the forefront in the pursuit of locating these major employment initiatives in this community.
Employment opportunities are needed; there is no doubt about that. Our youth are migrating for their education and are not returning home. Our local community college has noticed a continual decline in students over the last number of years. To engage our well-educated youth, our community must have opportunities for them in their chosen fields. Without economic growth and new industry development, these opportunities do not exist and we are left with an aging population.
Our community is currently driven economically by the resource industries. With a recent rise in gold prices, Timmins becomes more hopeful that future exploration will result. This exploration has been reduced to almost a halt due to slumping gold prices and the lack of exploration incentives that previously existed. These incentives are needed to keep mining in Ontario. We recommend that this government seriously look at implementing an incentive package that would encourage future exploration in the province of Ontario. Ontario already lags behind most other provinces that already offer a more attractive incentive package to encourage this type of development.
In conclusion, decisions made by government often tend to leave the north feeling left out, rejected and unaffected by change. Northern Ontario needs to have a larger voice and more consideration. A committee reporting to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines could be pursued, with a representative from each of the municipalities. This advisory committee could address how policy affects northern Ontario. We feel that this committee would also serve to improve communications within the northern part of this province.
The Timmins chamber appreciates this opportunity to present our recommendations to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. It is the hope of the chamber that these recommendations will assist you in your pre-budget deliberations. Thank you.
The Chair: We'll continue in the same rotation that we had yesterday. I'll start with the official opposition. We have approximately six minutes per caucus.
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane): Thank you very much for your presentation. To me it's bang on-you've nailed all the fundamental issues that are very important for economic development in northeastern Ontario. I represent the neighbouring riding here, and our issues are very much the same and in fact overlap many of those that you have brought forward today. One that is of particular interest to me, that at first glance would appear to be in the federal jurisdiction, I'm glad you brought up, because there is an opportunity here for our provincial government to help with the rebuilding of the telecommunications system in northeastern Ontario. I think many people in southern Ontario don't understand that we don't even have the basic tools to work with in order to create a business and to run a business.
The telephone issue is one prime issue. There are 7,700 households in the country, right across this country, that don't have access to a private phone line; 4,850 of them are in this area right here, most of them in my riding and a lot in this riding here, under the jurisdiction of Northern Telephone Ltd, as Kirby had said, a subsidiary of BCE. That's disgraceful. It's not only disgraceful, it's harmful for our economy.
How can you access the most modern electronic devices today, let alone not even being able to have an answering machine, one of the first basic tools that businesses started to use 20 years ago-a fax machine. Of course, having your children try to get on to the Internet, not only is it illegal to do that on a party line, it's downright dangerous, because if the neighbour has to call an ambulance, you have locked out that line. It's illegal for a very good reason, except that's just handcuffing the people in our area from developing through educational opportunities and certain economic opportunities.
In our riding, we have a Timiskaming-Cochrane telecommunications committee that has been working with all of the telephone company providers, and there are quite a few of them in this region. We're at the stage now where the CRTC has responded to this need, has ordered Northern Telephone to install private-line service within the next three years, but we are going to the provincial government for some assistance to help with this, because it's a $25-million capitalization over three years. In order to keep the phone rates competitive, we have to have some government assistance for that capital project. So it's very important. I'd just like to say to the government members that application is coming, and I really appreciate, Kirby, that you have brought that up.
I have a few other things, but I'll defer to my colleague Gerry Phillips because I'm not sure how much time we have.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Thank you. I appreciate your thoughtful presentation. There are many questions I'd like to ask, but let me start with the implication of a casino. I gather the chamber has looked at that as an economic-development activity. One of the things I'm quite interested in is whether there is a net benefit to a community for a casino and slot machines, whether the amount of money that comes into the community is offset by the tremendous amount of money that leaves a community to go to Queen's Park from slot machines and from charity casinos, in that the government, just on slot machines alone, will take in about $500 million to $600 million down at Queen's Park from various communities. Has the chamber had a chance to look at the net impact-money in, money out-and determined that, on balance, you still think it's a good economic activity for the community?
Mr Williston: We've looked at a number of communities that have casinos, and it has all been positive. Today, we have people leaving this community to go south to casinos, so the money is going anyway. Queen's Park is getting their percentage, but they're leaving nothing in Timmins. As a regional centre, we believe we should house a casino here.
Mr Phillips: Good. I'd love to see any information you've got on that, by the way, just because the ones that work really well are at the border. Windsor and Niagara Falls work extremely well, and I think 85% or 90% is US money. I'm interested in the impact.
Your first priority fiscally is debt reduction, as I understand your document. The government has already indicated its priorities over the next four years, and that's about $5 billion on tax cuts, about $2.5 billion on health care and about $500 million a year on debt reduction. So tax cuts look like they're about 10 times what debt reduction is. Has the Timmins chamber any views on that as the priority?
Mr Williston: As we indicated, we see that the province is doing very well; economically, northern Ontario is not. If the tax cuts that have been put through so far have benefited the province, they haven't benefited this part of it. So let's get the debt down.
Mr Phillips: That's an interesting proposal. One of your recommendations here seems to me to be extremely sensible and one that any government of the day, I would think, would embrace, and that's your last recommendation on an advisory committee for northern affairs. Have the collective chambers brought that recommendation to the minister? I almost think that if I were a minister I would welcome that recommendation. I wonder if you've had a chance to advance it to the minister and whether there's been any response?
Mr Williston: No, as a group of chambers we haven't done that. But at our annual general meeting we have a caucus with the northern chambers, so that will be brought up at that time. This is a recommendation only from this chamber.
Mr Bisson: Just a couple of things: First of all, I'm going to start with your conclusion because I think your conclusion makes a lot of sense. We need to find some way to increase the voice of the north within the cabinet, within the Legislature and, more importantly, even within the bureaucracy of government. The geography is that there are 10 northern members. As good as we are or as bad as we are-I think mostly good; I think we've attracted very good members in northern Ontario, speaking as one-we're still only 10 of 103. This is just not directed at Conservatives but the Liberal Peterson government and the Rae government, to make sure the voice is there. I think your suggestion is a good one. I would point out, however, that that did happen. The Peterson government under René Fontaine, who was the minister of the day, had such an advisory committee and so did Shelley Martel under the Rae government. That practice was not carried through with this government and I don't quite know why.
My only caution to the government is-I think it's a great idea, I think you should try to pick up on what the chamber has said here, but I think when you do it you have to do it also in co-operation with the local northern members. Too often in these areas, because there are not the multitude of provincial offices and all kinds of things to help people, people end up in the MPP's office for almost everything. Often we're the people who have the connections with this group over here or this individual over there, so I think members would be able to play a role in that. If you do that, don't leave us out of the loop. I think that would be a wrong-headed thing to do.
The other thing you need to understand is that the north is very different politically. Not only did we not elect too many Tories up here, but we tend to be very non-partisan. Even though I'm a New Democrat-no, seriously, even though I'm a New Democrat, I know these two individuals. I don't even know what their political affiliation is. They work for the chamber of commerce. Normally, in southern Ontario that would automatically mean to say they're members of the Conservative Party. Up here I'm not so sure. We tend to be very non-partisan and we work well. It doesn't matter who the member is and who the chamber president is; by and large, we all have a common goal and that's trying to advance the benefit of our communities and generally the north. The north operates differently and I think you have to understand that when trying to put together these committees.
I want to come to the economic development issues because to me and to you those are the most important things up here. Everything derives from that, bar none. The government needs to understand that the mining industry has been a big part of what this economy is all about. As of late, we don't see the activity in exploration. That means to say we don't have geologists and prospectors in the field looking for new mines, as we've had in the past. To put it simply, as my friends here know, if you don't have people out in the field looking for new mines, the mines that are now operating eventually will come to an end and you won't have anything to replace them. That is very troubling. In our community, we've lost two mines in the last year: Detour Lake gold mines up at Detour Lake, north of here, and the Royal Oak mine. That's a substantial hit on this community and our region. We've lost probably 600 direct jobs, and the spinoffs, when you figure that out, are much higher than that.
The chamber was being very polite in their presentation here, and I commend them for that because I don't think we should come here and be confrontational. They talked about the importance of having incentive programs for mining exploration. The chamber knows, and I remind the government, that you eliminated both OMIP, which was to support exploration in mining in northern Ontario, as well as OPAP, which supported prospectors. I think the chamber is trying to say in a very polite way that those were very successful programs that resulted in the creation of new mines. I, along with them, would ask the government to look to restoring the budget to help those along. I had to make that plug because I think those programs are important. I agree with the chamber.
Now to my question: You get the same thing as I do. You have people walk into the chamber as I have people walk into my office who say: "I've got a great idea. I've got the energy, I've got the vision, but I just can't get the capital. I go to the bank and the bank says: `That's a great idea but sorry, we're not going to secure your loan. We think it's a little bit too risky.'"
What kind of incentive programs do you think the government should be involved in in order to assist an entrepreneur in northern Ontario to get that business up and running? A straight loan? What would you suggest?
Mr Williston: I can say that I haven't been approached with that problem myself, Gilles. I am sure you have.
Mr Bisson: On numerous occasions. You are polite this morning.
Mr Williston: No, I'm not normally polite. The chamber doesn't have a position on that until they go to the table and talk about it. I cannot give you one.
Mr Bisson: Do you recommend-because one of the things that used to exist before was a loan type of program that existed under the northern heritage fund, where a small industry or business is able to go and borrow money. It's not grant money, it's money that you borrow and that you've got to pay back to the government. And often it's the critical capital that's needed to get the banks interested. Now, there used to be other programs under NOHFC and NODC, Northern Ontario Development Corp, that used to do that. I know of a number of businesses across the north that started up on those particular programs. Would you be in favour of seeing the restoration of some type of program that says that if I'm a small entrepreneur from northern Ontario who wants to get started and can't get money from the bank, some sort of program be set up where they can get loan money, maybe at a bit of a higher risk, get the cash to get that business up and running?
Mr Williston: Naturally, anything that increases the business or employment in this area we'd support. Whether it's loans or grants or whatever, or in conjunction with the federal program, I can't answer that. I don't have a position on it, but certainly anything that will put more money out there for entrepreneurs to start a business we'd support.
Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): Thank you very much for your presentation. On behalf of the government side, I want to say that we are very happy to be in Timmins. Your basic point is one we agree with. We want the northern part of Ontario to benefit as much from the growing economy that we've been fortunate to experience in recent years in southern Ontario. We want you to experience that same kind of thing. So I hope that these deliberations taking place today, and yesterday in Kenora, will give the government the advice it needs to make changes in its budgetary policy to support economic development in the north.
You talked about the telephone issue, and Mr Ramsay made some very good points as well. I wanted to ask you if that proposed increase that is now before the CRTC, resulting in rates of $28 to $29 for local service, would be a business line or a residential line?
Mr Williston: A residential line or any business line that has less than three lines coming into the business, so if you have over three lines there's no increase, but less than three lines you're paying.
Mr Arnott: So that may become a deterrent to business development. Mr Ramsay talked about a program that he's supporting. I know there is a program through the Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology that has supported some communities in terms of upgrading their telecommunications infrastructure such that it can be modernized, and I would hope that the application that would come in would be supported by the government. I just want to let you know that we'll try to follow up on that for you. My colleagues have some questions, so I'm going to pass over the microphone to Mr Galt.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Good morning and thank you for your presentation. It was very much appreciated. Your comments about the gold mines: I have a few shares and every time they go down, the way to recoup is that you're supposed to buy more. It's not working. Royal Oak dropped off the map unfortunately, one not too far from here.
Your comments about your feelings in the north about being left out, being rejected, unaffected by the change may be a little more than in the rest of rural Ontario, but that's a general feeling in rural Ontario, that a lot is occurring in Toronto and in the big centres. It is a little bit comforting to know that at least unemployment has dropped some, that there's more employment in the north. Because there is a boom in some areas of Ontario, at least it's there to help and be a bit supportive.
The question I wanted to ask you has to do with northern development and your comments about an advisory committee. You may be dead on with that, but this is a ministry that has a cross-functional activity as it looks and monitors the various silos of activity within the government. Its real purpose is to monitor what happens in each one and ensure that the north is looked after. It's been there through all stripes of government, so this is certainly not a partisan question but rather, is that ministry effective in what it's doing? When you're asking for an advisory committee, I'm beginning to wonder how an advisory committee would fit in with that ministry. That is its purpose to begin with.
Mr Williston: Why we would ask for an advisory committee is because we don't feel we have any voice there when we have issues such as the spring bear hunt or Lands for Life or Operation Living Legacy, whatever you want to call it. There's very little consultation with the northern part of the province, where we're affected, where we live. We feel that a lot of the decisions are made by people in the south who don't know this region or what we represent or what we need to continue on. I guess it's a lack of input into decisions that affect us. We don't need people from southern Ontario telling us how we're going to run our operations up here. Tourism: We need economic development here; we don't need to say that there are going to be all kinds of tourists up here. We're a long way away, and we know that. We want input into decisions that affect us.
Mr Galt: There's a tremendous amount of raw resources in the north; any value added would be very helpful. I don't think you're going to get into big manufacturing, that kind of thing. But if the government were to move in the direction of this advisory committee that you're suggesting, how would it be set up? Who would sit on it? Who would appoint? Would it be councils in the north? I'm searching.
Mr Williston: We struggle with that as well. It's not an easy decision. We indicated that the major municipalities in the north should be represented on it, the Sudburys, the Sault Ste Maries.
Mr Galt: Then would the small municipalities feel like northern Ontario does towards the rest of Ontario, "We're being left out, and we're not being considered"? Would they have that same feeling if you only got appointments from major centres?
Mr Williston: I believe it would be regional representation, as we have now, but you'd have the five main regions.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this morning.
COLLECTIF CENTRE DE SANTÉ COMMUNAUTAIRE FRANCOPHONE DE KAPUSKASING ET RÉGION
The Chair: The next group this morning, le prochain groupe ce matin, c'est le Centre de santé communautaire de Kapuskasing et région. Pour le Journal des débats, pourriez-vous vous présenter et nous donner votre nom, s'il vous plaît ?
Mme Marielle Cousineau : Marielle Cousineau.
Le Président : Bienvenue.
Mme Cousineau : Merci et bonjour. Je dois vous dire, monsieur le Président, que ma présentation durera peut-être cinq à 10 minutes au plus.
Mr Chair, I'm listed on the agenda as being a municipal councillor. I am a municipal councillor; however, I am presenting on behalf of the committee that's trying to establish a francophone community health centre in and for Kapuskasing. I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak with you on an issue which is important to the constituents of Kapuskasing and the surrounding communities. I will be addressing health care issues on behalf of the collective for a francophone community health centre.
I would like to share with you that the collective is composed of several members from the community, persons who are from different walks of life. I have attached to your document an executive summary of the proposal which we submitted to the government last April, and in the presentation that you have you'll see references to that document. Due to work commitments, the other members of our committee are unable to attend this forum, so they have asked me to make a presentation on behalf of the collective and the community.
I should qualify my presence by telling you that first and foremost I am a member of the collective which is attempting to establish a francophone community health centre. I've been working in the health field for the past 21 years, and more specifically in the field of addictions. I'm the executive director of North Cochrane Addiction Services, which is referred to in the proposal and in the executive summary as the sponsor. This agency is a transfer-payment agency of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. And finally, I should add that as a municipal councillor I chair the health committee of the Kapuskasing municipal council.
Approximately eight years ago the community came to terms with the fact that health care, and I should say primary health care, was practically nonexistent in our area due to a both chronic and critical shortage of doctors. While this problem escalated to the point where members of our community did not have appropriate levels of health care and consequently feared the health implications, a few members of our community came up with one solution which it was felt would to a great extent alleviate some of the problems encountered by our population and the local health care providers. To this day, Kapuskasing and the surrounding municipalities are still victims of this shortage of doctors, and we still believe that a community health centre would respond to the needs and gaps of our communities.
Given your role as members of the provincial Parliament, I am certain that you could have written my script in regard to the dynamics surrounding the doctor shortage. This being said, we would like to reiterate to you how this particular problem is affecting our communities from a health and financial point of view.
The vision of the collective would be to provide critically needed primary health care, health education, illness prevention and health promotion to special target groups of francophones, namely seniors, low-income families, men who work in the forestry and natural resources industry, children and youth. These groups have been identified for being at a greater risk.
Kapuskasing and area were officially designated underserviced over a decade ago. Physician recruitment remains a major concern for our northern communities, and while serious attempts are being made to recruit and retain doctors, our municipalities are unable to compete with larger communities from a financial, recreational and social point of view.
For many members of our communities, not having a family doctor or not being able to access their family doctor is the rule, not the exception. A 1994 study reported that at least 25% of the population did not have access to a family physician and that a further 25% could not access physician services in a timely manner. The situation only worsened after that time. Last year our communities, which have a total population of 13,500, had five practising family physicians. Community members regularly report inadequate after-hours health care, health education, outreach and poor continuity of care.
This already bad situation is particularly difficult for our francophone population, who virtually have no access to primary care services in their maternal language. If the doctor shortage is perceived as problematic, let me assure you that the shortage of francophone doctors is even worse. We have one francophone doctor, who we can assume will be retiring within the next few years, and one young francophone doctor who started practising in January of this year. These two persons cannot answer the needs of a 67% francophone population.
Coupled with the shortage of doctors is the fact that members of our community are inappropriately accessing services. Given the inability to access primary care services in a timely manner, a significant number of persons resort to using the emergency room at Sensenbrenner Hospital. Our study indicates that during a period of 12 months ending on March 31, 1998, there were 20,665 unscheduled outpatient visits to the emergency room of the hospital. This averages two visits per person per year. Ultimately, if you cannot access a family physician for whatever reason, you may and/or will need to access hospital emergency services if no other primary care services are available.
Notwithstanding the fact that this is an inappropriate use of health care resources, it is also a very financially taxing venture for our health care system. We believe that services usually offered in community health centres could respond to the needs of those seeking primary care and at the same time prevent some illness by way of education and health promotion. Consequently, we would benefit from a better continuum of health care, which ultimately would be more cost-effective notwithstanding the fact that our local doctors would not be overwhelmed as they are with their present workload.
The distinct profile of our population is another factor which supports the establishment of a community health centre. A large majority of our population has behavioural and socio-demographic characteristics that augment the risk of health problems. These characteristics are better described as low income, isolation, low education, high occupational risk and advanced age. According to a Porcupine Health Unit report on health status done in 1995, the Cochrane district rates below provincial averages in almost every risk category. As such, members of our catchment area are more likely to smoke, drink, suffer from pain and discomfort, report living in a dysfunctional family, lead a sedentary lifestyle, be overweight, suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular problems, have accidents and eat a nutritionally poor diet. This results in significantly high morbidity, cancer and infant mortality rates when compared to provincial standards.
We contend that a health centre with appropriate primary health care services would help our citizens lead healthier lifestyles and therefore decrease the rate of health problems in our catchment area.
The project that we submitted to the Ministry of Health last April included a comprehensive plan for the delivery of primary health care, health education and promotion, illness prevention and community development.
The team would be staffed by a family physician. We have reason to believe we may be able to hire a salaried physician without difficulty. Our staff composition would also include three nurse practitioners, a registered nurse, a social worker, a health promoter, a community worker and administrative staff. I would also like to point out that the existing social service agencies are supportive of our project and are prepared to co-operate, especially as it relates to the delivery of services. A typical example could be to have a prevention worker from the local children's services or again an addictions counsellor specializing in work with seniors working on the CHC premises or delivering services in co-operation with CHC staff.
We know that, health-wise, a community centre would fill the gaps and enhance our population's quality of health. We know that, financially speaking, our proposal saves the system money in the short and the long term. I think we would all agree that the most important thing in life is good health. If we do not have that, then we have nothing. Therefore it would only make sense, when you deliberate on the priorities of our province, that you conclude that health matters are a priority and furthermore that cost-effective health care services must be implemented in our province.
The Chair: Merci beaucoup. We have approximately six minutes per caucus, and I'll start with M. Bisson.
M. Gilles Bisson : Merci beaucoup, monsieur le Président. Marielle, merci pour ta présentation. J'espérais que la présentation aurait pu être faite en français pour démontrer le fait de la francophonie dans notre région, mais je comprends que tu as choisi de la faire en anglais pour t'assurer que les membres du comité peuvent comprendre ce que vous voulez dire sans passer par le traducteur.
There are a couple of things I want to raise that I think are important, if I can have the attention of you government members for a second, Doug and Ted. Thank you.
The government members had the benefit of getting a presentation from this individual, who is one of the key players in the development of this project. I just want you to know that this is not a frill or something we would like to have just because it is a good idea. There is a real, acute doctor shortage problem in the Kapuskasing area, and that includes Moonbeam, Fauquier, Mattice, Opasatika and all the communities between.
What they are proposing, I think, as you well understand, is a model that could end up costing the government less money than we are paying now, because what she is saying is true. We have people who have to run into emergency wards every time there is something, not because they want to be there but frankly because there is no other choice. Just south of Kapuskasing and just north of here is a community known as Smooth Rock. As Marielle well knows, a community health care centre was established there, I guess, in René Fontaine's time, to give you some credit. It is immediately adjacent to the hospital. They only have one doctor in that community. If we could get more, that would be really great. What it allows is to take some of the pressure off that doctor so that he doesn't burn out, because he has to worry about making sure that the primary health care is given within the hospital. He's also the chief of staff and the physician who takes care of everything. Having it located in the way they did in Smooth Rock Falls is a really good complement.
I just want to add that one of the critical things to this is we need the government to move on the nurse practitioners issue, because in Smooth Rock Falls they're operating with nurses and they would like to be able to get nurse practitioners into the system. I know in Kapuskasing that it's part of the vision to allow nurse practitioners to practise within the centre. We've recognized nurse practitioners as a health profession through the Health Professions Act that was enacted I guess under our government, but the issue that now remains is that of funding, how we pay for these people and, as a debate, do we do it out of the OHIP pool or should it be out of the Ministry of Health budget? I urge the government to really try to bring to an end this dossier that's been going on for so long around nurse practitioners, because it would be a really natural fit with this particular one.
There's one thing maybe you can expand on. You touched on it somewhat in your presentation, but I think it's something that needs to be said because it goes back to the core issue, and that is that the mortality rate in northern Ontario is higher as compared to the south. About two or three weeks ago, as my good friend Mr Ramsay would know, there was a report on the CBC looking at mortality rates across the province, and northern Ontario stuck out like a sore thumb as compared to other parts of the province.
Many people in the health professions field-maybe I can get you to comment on this-start to recognize that part of the issue, yes, is we tend to have industries that are harder on people in the sense that working in a mine is harder on your health than, let's say, working in a bank on Bay Street. The other issue is, yes, people tend to smoke more up here.
But one of the big issues they're starting to recognize is access to health care service, because often what happens if you live in Timmins or Hearst or Kap or Moonbeam, if you don't have a doctor to get to, you say: "Well, I think I'll wait. I'm probably going to be okay-I'm not feeling so well. Oh, God, it's full blown." Now I've got a life-threatening disease, where if I had caught it earlier maybe that particular disease could have been averted.
The second issue is once you come in to see your doctor, often what ends up happening is you have to wait an increasingly longer time to get to see our specialists. As a matter of fact, this morning my wife is to see a specialist. It has taken her something like four weeks to get an appointment from the time that the doctor said, "Hey, we'd better get this checked," to the point that she was able to get an appointment. Four weeks was almost record time, considering what the situation is. So it's a real issue up here. When they come forward and they talk about the need to put together a health centre, it's looking at all of that and saying, "We don't have only a problem where we're burning out our doctors and people can't get access to services; people are dying a lot quicker."
Part of the speculation, and it would be interesting to do some really good studies on this, is that immediate access to health care services seems to be one concern. Maybe you can comment on that a bit.
Ms Cousineau: Yes, definitely access is a primary concern, but just the lack of primary health care, you know, not being able to access information that would help you prevent illnesses, is a major concern. Of course, the doctors are not able to provide us with that information, given that they are so busy.
I went to my own family physician, whom I have been seeing for the last 15 years; one day I went in, I had three problems and he told me I was to discuss two and then I was out of there. I stayed there for two minutes, and the funniest thing is you always keep the worst for the last, so he never did find out what the actual real problem was. It's that kind of situation that oftentimes people are put in, where they cannot spend quality time with their physicians because they are just overworked. We have five family doctors for a population of 13,500. I believe that the rates usually are one doctor for 2,000 people, supposedly.
Mr Bisson: Actually, about one for 400 in southern Ontario.
Ms Cousineau: Well, we're not-
Mr Bisson: It's just the case.
Mr Galt: He's wrong.
Mr Bisson: It wasn't meant as an attack on you, Doug. It's just that those are the numbers.
The Chair: I have to go to the government side.
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill): Thank you very much for taking the time to come this morning and make your presentation. We certainly feel privileged hearing from you, someone with the expertise that you have in the health care system.
We've been in the north for two days now, listening to people from the north with various issues. It reconfirms for us that one size does not fit all and there are varying needs in various communities. Certainly every presentation reconfirms that.
Some of the comments that you've made with respect to the primary health care-are you familiar with the pilot project that we have? I believe it's called primary care reform, where there's a team of doctors in a clinic, open 24 hours. It's similar to some of the comments you've made here on the delivery of primary health care, where you suggest hiring a salaried physician, three nurse practitioners, a registered nurse, a social worker, a health promoter, a community worker and administrative staff. It's similar to that type of idea. Are you familiar at all with the program?
Ms Cousineau: I'm quite familiar with community health centres: the Sandy Hill Community Centre in Ottawa, Somerset West. I know all these community health centres. I know the francophone community health centre in Toronto. The model that we chose is not very different from that one.
Mrs Molinari: Do I take it from your comments, then, that you feel that sort of model would work in this community in northern Ontario?
Ms Cousineau: Absolutely.
Mrs Molinari: Thank you. I'll leave some time for my colleagues as well.
Mr Arnott: I think you've put together a very compelling case as to why there is a need for a francophone community health centre in this area. I should let you know that there are quite a number of communities that are experiencing a severe shortage of doctors. In the area I'm privileged to represent, Waterloo-Wellington, there are a significant number of communities that are underserved by medical practitioners. So it is a problem across the province, perhaps with the exception of the city of Toronto. Many of the southern Ontario communities, even small cities like Kitchener, have a shortage of doctors. The government recognizes this and we have over the years put into place a number, of incentive programs that quite frankly just aren't doing the job to attract the doctors to the communities we need.
The government is committed to working with the medical schools and medical students to set up a program whereby their tuition would be free if they commit to practising in an underserviced community for, I believe, a five-year period after graduation. This is a program that the government is committed to undertaking. I think that will be of some assistance, although it will take a bit of time to kick in, where there will actually be doctors in the communities, but I'm hopeful that it will be a successful program.
Do you think it would be a positive thing to set up a program like that?
Ms Cousineau: Absolutely. But I think that only takes care of part of the problem. Doctors usually don't like to focus on primary health care. That, I think, is boring to them. They prefer dealing with more serious illness. They're not into doing health promotion or prevention, and that's what a health centre is all about. Hiring a nurse practitioner would, I think, to some extent take care of some of the gaps that we have. At least we would have better screening and, therefore, better referral to doctors when need be.
Ultimately, we're presenting a project that we feel would answer the needs of the community. It's not going to take care of all the problems, but I think it would tremendously help our situation right now. I'm not just talking about Kapuskasing, but the surrounding communities, which I think are probably in a worse position than Kapuskasing because they don't have clinics or doctors.
Mr Arnott: I presume your proposal is with the Ministry of Health at the present time.
Ms Cousineau: It is, yes. It has been sent to Ms Loranger, who I believe is in charge of the public health branch. I believe the Honourable Mrs Witmer has a copy also. There are a number of people who have our proposal.
Mr Arnott: Now, when would you expect to hear a response?
Ms Cousineau: Ms Loranger did respond to the mayor of Kapuskasing and to the president of the community health centre recently. What they're saying is that they're in the process of developing a strategic plan, and of course I would imagine are keeping community health centres in mind. They've been developing this strategic plan at least since last April, so we certainly hope that when they are finished with the strategic plan they will be able to support community health centres, not just for our area but for the whole province. I think it's a very cost-effective way of handling some of the health care problems. Doctors have a special place in our health care system, in hospitals, but I think community health centres are your most cost-effective way.
I'd like to remind you, if I may, that approximately five years ago the Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health and Addictions Programs related to its membership, which we are part of, that 0.5% of the health care budget in Ontario was dedicated to addiction services and I believe maybe 3% of the health care budget was dedicated to mental health services. This is peanuts, I would say, compared to the budget. So I think it would be wise to invest in the community in terms of health. If we had 10% of the health care budget, we'd be really happy.
Mr Ramsay: Thank you very much for your presentation. In fact, I've been able to have time to go through your proposal, which is most excellent.
J'ai un centre de santé communautaire à New Liskeard. It's been very successful. I'm quite surprised, since your model is very similar, why the government has not given you approval since April. What are they saying to you right now as to why this hasn't been approved to date?
Ms Cousineau: Like I said, they're working on a strategic plan and I'm not so sure that they have decided whether they're going to continue funding a community health centre. I really don't know the answer to that.
Mr Ramsay: The Catch-22, though, as you know, is that when the Minister of Health announced the nurse practitioner program and initially funded it for $5 million, the hiring of nurse practitioners was restricted to three specific bodies: native health centres, community health centres and nursing stations. In my area we only have one of those and that's the francophone health centre in New Liskeard, with their satellite in Kirkland Lake. So we have a program out there, and in our area here we have graduates from the nurse practitioner programs who can't find employment. While there is no immediate answer to the doctor shortage situation, there are people now as nurse practitioners who, as you have stated, could really help alleviate the problems because now they have the training and the authority to deal with mothers and babies and ear infections and can prescribe for simple infections. So they can do a lot of work and take a lot of that work off the doctors who, as you have stated, are overworked.
We're kind of in a trap here. I hope the government will soon make that announcement. It's frustrating, as we have talked, as you have over the last year, about the needs up here. Then the minister asked Dr McKendry to make a report. He submitted his findings in November and now the minister has formed another committee to look at his report.
I'm not sure if the government members understand how bad the health situation is up here. I was wondering, from your communications with the ministry, do you have a sense of when you might be getting the word that either this model or another model would be the model you could go with to provide primary care in the Kapuskasing area?
Ms Cousineau: We did wait after the election, of course, because there needs to be time for people to settle down or whatever, but we will start getting very active. This is critical in our community. We will be talking to Ms Loranger. We will be talking to the government. This is important. We're not asking for much; we're just asking that the government help us establish proper health care services in our community.
In terms of nurse practitioners, we are aware of the proposal. The collective has submitted a proposal to hire three nurse practitioners. We would really like a community health centre but, given that call for proposals, we did submit for three nurse practitioners, along with other people in Kapuskasing who I believe have submitted to hire a nurse practitioner. Hopefully in the near future there will be announcements that will benefit our community.
Mr Ramsay: The problem I see with the time the government is taking to try to find some sort of model is that maybe it ignores a local solution such as this that I think is appropriate for your area. I would hope that the ministry would have the flexibility to really appraise a proposal such as yours to say, "You know, in Kapuskasing and area this is probably a model that would work," because it comes from the local health care practitioners in the area. It's very comprehensive. What I like about it is that it's low-cost and that rather than just saying, "We need more doctors; bring them in"-the highest-cost health care providers-you want to establish a team of the most appropriate health care providers for all the various ailments we have. I think it's a great model and I'd certainly encourage the government to support it.
The Chair: We have one minute left.
Mr Phillips: I think it is a terrific model and it's one of the solutions we should be looking at. I'm going to give more of a statement than a question, unfortunately. The problem we run into, in my opinion, is that the Ministry of Health is in a conflict-of-interest position because they on the one hand are setting health policy and on the other hand are the insurance company, if you will. What we're finding is that right now the province pays about 60% of the cost of health care in Ontario and the private sector pays about 40%, and that is continuing to shift more to the private sector, less to the Ministry of Health. So they've got a conflict. They'd like to move cost off the province on to the private sector.
Second, we still have, to use the jargon around the ministry, the "silos" where there is a doctors' budget, there's a hospital budget, there's a drug budget. Rather than integrating those budgets to what's in the best interests of the community, we're still faced with that. I'm just telling you what I think you're running into. I think most professional people in the health area would say your model is what we should be looking at-a lot of prevention, a lot of integrated health care, even a lot of cost control. But I think we're running into these two things. The Ministry of Health has a conflict. It would be a bit like the insurance company being able to essentially dictate who pays the bill-and it won't be them; it will be somebody else. And we still have those silos.
So I'd urge you to continue to push your proposal because I do think this could end up being another one of the successful models we could use elsewhere. But I think that's the roadblock you're running into.
My apologies for not having time to ask a question, but more a comment.
Le Président : Au nom du comité, merci bien pour votre présentation ce matin.
CITY OF TIMMINS
The Chair: Our next presenter this morning is the mayor of the city of Timmins. I'll let the mayor introduce himself. I'm sure he's quite able to do that. On behalf of the committee, Your Worship, welcome.
Mr Victor Power: Thank you very much. My name is Vic Power. I'm the mayor of the city of Timmins. At this time I might say, bienvenue à la ville la plus grande, la meilleure et la plus chaleureuse au Canada.
On behalf of the municipal council and the residents of the city of Timmins, I extend greetings and welcome your presence in the city with a heart of gold.
The concept of a legislative committee travelling about the province to obtain opinions is commendable. That you are here as part of the pre-budget consultation process is even more commendable in this period of rapid change, escalating costs and downloading by the two senior levels of government.
I am certain that in its travels this committee has heard many suggestions, and most of them will cost the province money. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to inform you today that I am making a proposal which will not cost money but rather will reduce demands on the provincial treasury. This in turn will help the government to eliminate the budget deficit and continue to provide tax cuts to all provincial taxpayers.
First, to provide some background: Successive provincial governments have made it known that they want more efficiency and cost-saving measures on the part of municipal governments. From former premiers all the way to Premier Mike Harris, the message has been, "Put your house in order before you come pleading poverty to Queen's Park."
Let me assure you that in Timmins, that message was not only heard but has been acted upon. This municipality has tackled the tasks of reducing costs and improving efficiency while balancing the need to maintain, and even improve, services. I am pleased to inform you that by the end of this year, Timmins will be debt-free. Perhaps in the question period we'll have a chance to talk about that.
We have reduced the municipal payroll, increased services in some areas and kept our taxes below those in many comparable municipalities. Just as taxpayers are asking Ottawa and Queen's Park to do more with less, our taxpayers are watching city hall with a critical eye. We welcome such scrutiny and the suggestions made by various groups from within and outside the city.
I am here today to tell you that to achieve its objectives, Timmins has accepted the theory of performance management and benchmarking. Both the federal and provincial governments are insisting that all publicly supported organizations have a performance measurement framework that also can be raised for benchmarking as well as for reporting to stakeholders and taxpayers. The overall intent is to foster administrative excellence in local government, but the by-product is cost savings to the municipal taxpayer.
As creations of the provincial government, municipalities receive a significant portion of their annual budgets from it. Any savings at the municipal level are therefore translated into direct savings for the province. Timmins has been analyzing its operations for years and through benchmarking will achieve even greater savings and improved services and efficiencies.
All of which brings me to the point I wish to make today: There should be an incentive for municipalities that achieve the standards desired by the province. These incentives should be monetary in nature and come from the province. They would achieve two things: urge achieving municipalities to even higher levels of efficiency and service and spur municipalities that fail to meet the standards to improve their operations.
Benchmarking is a method of measuring a municipal service's process and performance and systematically comparing them to the performance of other municipalities to seek best practices. It is a technique for improving efficiency and effectiveness of work processes that has been developed and adapted by the private sector, the voluntary sector and the public sector. By comparing performance measures and processes, a municipality can increase its awareness of where and why to improve, what to improve, how it might improve and how much to improve.
Benchmarking takes time and resources. A municipality that commits itself to the concept must make the people available who have the authority to implement change. They must be the people responsible for the process or service and must be willing to challenge the agreed-upon common wisdom. For municipal councils to commit the required time and resources, they must see benefits beyond those produced internally.
There are some municipalities that feel they are doing fine with their present practices and processes. They don't buy into the need for ongoing change, evaluation and improved efficiency. The diversity of size and range of local conditions that municipalities have to contend with in a province as large as Ontario create excuses for some to ignore benchmarking or to pay it lip service only. Thus, our suggestion is that the province provide incentives to those municipalities that wholeheartedly embrace the philosophy and meet or exceed the criteria for their population range. Also, there must be a form of encouragement for those who fail in their efforts. Providing compensation to municipalities that achieve the performance measurement standards will not cost money. Nothing will be paid out until after municipalities have reduced costs and improved efficiency, thereby reducing their demands upon the provincial treasury. We urge the province to implement a system of benchmarking for municipalities that will reward exceptional performance financially, which will in turn encourage participation, to the benefit of the taxpayers.
All of this is respectfully submitted, and we invite your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Your Worship. We have approximately seven minutes per caucus, and I'll start with the government side.
Mr Galt: Thank you for the presentation. How refreshing to have somebody before us who's not asking for money and various spending activities, particularly in the north, where we recognize there are more difficulties. It's similar to rural Ontario; not that different, but maybe a little more in the extreme.
I love your opening comments, welcome to "the city with a heart of gold." If the price goes up, it'll be even more welcoming, won't it?
I'm interested in your comments. As I sit here and think about what you're saying, it has an awful lot of merit. I think through probably what the province and federal governments, governments in general have been doing, it's been a reverse reward. Those who let their infrastructure deteriorate-I'm thinking of water and sewers right now-get so bad they come pleading to the government, "We need more grants to replace them," and so we reward them for doing a poor job. What you're saying is, reward those who look after that infrastructure efficiently and do a good job.
I guess I'm struggling-it's something like health-to get past this treatment of disease to have enough dollars for preventative medicine, which probably would be far more cost-efficient. How do you get past this point that we're now into of supporting municipalities that are in trouble and get to the point where you're rewarding them, and not letting some of them that are in big trouble because of poor management totally disappear from the scene?
A lot of our municipalities kept taxes down and they tell us they're the best municipality going, they've just been doing such a great job. Meanwhile, their infrastructure is in terrible shape. They kept the taxes down, and they're very proud of that, but they have a horrendous infrastructure debt. How do we bridge and get to what you're suggesting?
Mr Power: For one thing, you look at their debt load and what they've done about it. In our case, in 1991, with the inaugural address, I announced that we would undertake a program to reduce our debt to zero. At that time our debenture debt was $16 million, and we've whittled it down to the point where in the year 2000, November 1, when our final debentures are paid off, we'll be at zero. So I don't think it takes a forensic accountant or an expert in business administration to see that this municipality has done something worthwhile. I think the government should recognize that and reward those who have done that.
That is not to say that we haven't made a lot of progress with our infrastructure. If you drive around the city, you'll see where we have done a lot of work, notwithstanding the fact that we have a very severe winter, which you might have noticed this morning. Our costs for snowplowing and snow removal are just out of sight, but you'll notice that even on the residential streets the snow is out of sight too. We have a lot of obstacles to overcome, but we are overcoming them, and I think we should be rewarded accordingly.
Mr Galt: A lot of what you're doing, setting at zero for your debt-as a province we set the deficit to a zero. That's just sort of stopping the debt from increasing. My hat's off to you and your council for having accomplished that, and I hope that because of that, come the next election, you're rewarded for those efforts. Certainly they're commendable and that's what all our municipalities should be working towards.
I think maybe my colleague has a question.
Mrs Molinari: It's interesting to hear some of the comments you've made and some of the recommendations that you're asking that the province-I wonder if you, as a municipality, have done any of the things you're asking us to do. I mean things like rewarding progress within the various departments. Was that something that you-
Mr Power: Yes. For a number of years we've had a program whereby if an employee brings in a positive suggestion that is cost-saving and efficient, and of course within the boundaries of safety, that employee is rewarded with a small cash award or other designations that we apply to that employee. We have encouraged input from the bottom up. It's not a top-down exercise.
Mrs Molinari: I have some experience in that as well. One of the struggles that I recall going through when we were engaging in this process was that some of the union groups did not wish to participate in a board with a large deficit. What we did was call on all of the employee groups to find savings within their own departments and ways that they could do that. Of course, we had incentive programs in place for that too, but we found that there was some hesitancy in some of the union groups to participate in it. Did you find any of that?
Mr Power: We have excellent relations with the union groups, especially over the past seven years. We did have our problems seven or eight years ago, but that's behind us. We've moved on and our relationships are very strong right now. In fact, practically all of our contracts with our union groups don't expire until some time in 2001 and with one group, 2003. So I think we've made a lot of progress. We have a good rapport there.
Mrs Molinari: I congratulate you on that. If I have time, just two quick questions: Did you ever run a deficit, and what is your annual operating budget?
Mr Power: The city ran a deficit in 1990, I believe, but practically every year we've had at least a small surplus. I didn't get the last part of your question.
Mrs Molinari: Your annual operating budget.
Mr Power: The annual operating budget is about $67 million, but with associated boards, it would be more like $90 million.
Mrs Molinari: Thank you very much, and congratulations on the progress you've made. I think it's commendable.
Mr Ramsay: Welcome, Vic. It's always nice to be in your fair city of Timmins, and you certainly are to be congratulated for the management system that you have put in place.
I just have one question, because I know my colleagues have many they would also like to ask you. I'm wondering how you're doing on handling a lot of the downloading that has been given to you in this city, especially the highway system that you have inherited and the eventual reconstruction of the highway system that you've been given and how you're planning for that and if you think you'll be able to handle that when that day comes.
Mr Power: The only way we'll be able to handle the devolution of the highways will be with help from the province. In Timmins, as compared to other northern municipalities-and I can give you examples-we have been burdened with 88 kilometres of highways that heretofore we did not have responsibility for. This compares with other municipalities-I'm talking about the major municipalities in northern Ontario: Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, North Bay and Sudbury-that have had either no highways downloaded or just a very few kilometres. We've had 88 kilometres. This is a tremendous burden.
The one-shot financing that we received a few years ago for that is pretty well gone now for maintenance; a little bit left for capital. But there is no way that we'll be able to reconstruct and do the capital work on those highways without an awful lot of help from the province. We have made representations to the MTO on that, and we're waiting for a response. Of course, if that response is not what we would like it to be, we'll have to go to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and see what they can do.
Mr Ramsay: Thank you, and good luck on that.
Mr Monte Kwinter (York Centre): Mayor Power, I'm interested in your model. I'm just curious to know, how would you reconcile the benchmarking and how would you reconcile the performance management? I'll give you an example. We were in Kenora yesterday. They have a very special situation, everybody acknowledges, which is relatively unique, so their benchmark would have to be a little bit different. Then you'd have other municipalities saying, "My performance management criteria should be different than theirs because of my special situation," which is one issue I'd like you to address.
The other one is if you're going to compensate people for meeting their criteria, you're going to have to announce what that compensation is beforehand. My concern is that municipalities would look to that as saying, "We've got to get that and we will revise our particular performance based on getting that," and they'll just take that in as their total compensation, whether they merit it or not. Do you understand what I'm saying?
Mr Power: I think the first part of the question was how do you compare Kenora with, say, Kingston or Kingston with Kincardine or whatever. I realize that every community is different, every community is unique, but I still think that if municipalities can show that they are reducing their debt load or have in fact reduced it to zero, automatically there should be a reward, because they've done something. Everybody has had huge obligations that have brought about debentures, but if you've done something about it, you've proved that you belong in the 21st century, and I think there should be a reward. The second part of your question I didn't follow. Could I have that again, please?
Mr Kwinter: The point I'm making is that you're going to have to announce what compensation you're going to get if you meet your target. It would seem to me that many municipalities could adjust their budgets to make sure that they do get that compensation. So that in fact it isn't compensation; they just take it for granted that they're going to get it because they have that ability to structure their performance and the reporting of that to make sure they get the compensation.
Mr Power: You probably have a valid point there, but surely with all the people in the Ministry of Finance, they should be able to devise formulas that would work. I can't answer that at this point, but there have to be people within the Ministry of Finance who could work out the proper criteria and rewards.
Mr Phillips: I appreciate your comment on the debt. As you took yours down, the province, since Mike Harris became Premier, has taken it up 25%. If you add in Hydro, it was $30 billion. Hopefully your message can get through to them.
Municipalities now have assumed social housing and a large part of social assistance. That's of interest to us, because that was contrary to the recommendation that Harris got from his own Who Does What committee. They said, "Don't do that," but he went ahead and did it anyway. I'm just wondering how Timmins and the neighbouring communities are managing that so far and is it, as you look down the road, quite a workable thing and in hindsight you don't see any difficulties in handling the social assistance, social housing?
Mr Power: Mr Phillips, Timmins belongs to the Cochrane DSSAB and we're a 53% shareholder in that entity. The matter of housing has not been devolved as yet. At the present time, there are three different housing groups within that DSSAB area, Timmins being of course the largest. We have the Timmins Housing Authority, which also administers the Timmins non-profit housing. I might say that in the past three years we've spent an awful lot of money on repairing and renovating those buildings. Our buildings are in very good shape to be devolved to anybody. But the actual devolution hasn't taken place yet. There are only committees meeting now to see how that can be brought about, but it remains to be seen whether that's going to be an improvement or not.
Mr Phillips: Social assistance, I gather you've worked out an arrangement-
Mr Power: Social assistance is working. It was a seamless transfer. It seems to be working.
Mr Phillips: Good. So in your opinion, it's not a problem in putting it on property tax?
Mr Power: Here we have been assured by the executive director of the DSSAB that as compared to 1998 there will be no increase to the municipality in 1999 or 2000. I can't forecast what it's going to be like in 2010. I might not even be the mayor then.
Mr Phillips: I thought you were mayor for life.
Mr Bisson: I want to follow up on that, Vic. Are you running or not?
I want to respond to a couple of things that members of the government said, not in a combative way. A comment was made by Mrs Molinari with regard to the difficulties you had with your board getting the union to participate in a process to deal with what at that time was a financial crunch and their unwillingness. The only caution I give to people who sit on boards is, don't go to them only when times are tough. For years we've developed relationships at times where both the employer and the unions sometimes are a bit confrontational because of past practices, and all of a sudden things get tough and we say, "Jeez, how come you don't want to participate with us?" Well, they've had their head bashed in a few times; they're a little bit leery of getting up there and being stroked once again. So I think it takes a lot of courage on both sides, both the employer and the union, to start those kinds of processes, and sometimes it takes time.
In fairness, in the city of Timmins I know at one point you had a very difficult time with one of the particular locals. Vic, you and I were involved in trying to mediate a solution to that, which finally in the end worked, but it takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of effort and it means sometimes that we've got to take our lumps on both sides.
Mr Galt made the comment-and I just have to react to this-that we're rewarding municipalities for letting go of their infrastructure by funding them when they fall apart. Remember, when it comes to sewer and water, municipal infrastructure by and large was a funding project of the province, which paid about 80% or 75%, depending on the programs. It's not that the municipalities let them go; they just don't have the wherewithal to be able to fund the kinds of projects that need to be done.
Vic, we've worked on a number of them-the Aunor, the Delnite and others-where we've gone out and got some dollars from the province in order to bring water and sewer up to standard. And I look forward to the Buffalo Ankerite that's coming on line, that we've been lobbying for for 10 years. So it's not a question of rewarding; it's a question that the province always played a key role in funding water and sewer. It's not a question where the municipalities didn't do their job.
I've got to come back to your idea because it's an intriguing one, but you need to explain it a bit more because I think we're having some difficulty on the committee trying to understand exactly how this would work. I agree with the concept. You're saying that those people who go out and do a good job of administering their municipalities should be rewarded and not penalized-and I think that makes a lot of sense-and those who are having a problem in being able to make the kinds of decisions that need to be made to make them accountable have to be sort of pressured a bit by maybe negative incentives or whatever it might be. But isn't part of the danger that if you reward the community to reach their goal and you give them extra money, it just resets the clock and starts it all over again, if you follow what I'm getting at?
Mr Power: Yes, Gilles. By the way, I want to congratulate you. I understand that you were the star of the show at the Chinese New Year.
Mr Bisson: I'm not going to get into that. You weren't with me there last night.
Mr Power: I want to get back to your question. We're talking fairness here. I'll give you an example: There are municipalities that have not done a good job on their landfill and their water and sewage system. We've done an excellent job on that. So we're not going there asking for a lot of money for that type of thing, other than that small project at the Buffalo Ankerite that you mentioned. We're not going cap in hand. But there are other municipalities that have neglected these things over the years and they're the ones that are going cap in hand to the province, and chances are they're going to get something. So we're saying we've done our homework, we should get the grades.
Mr Bisson: But the part I'm having a bit of a problem with is that in the case of the city of Timmins, yes, you've done a good job in building up our infrastructure-water, sewer, roads and others-but that was because this city was successful, because of the work of the council, the neighbourhood committees, your provincial members, myself and Alan Pope before, in being able to lobby the provincial government to give us the dollars, and the municipality put up its share. I guess that's why I jumped in on Doug's comments, because in some cases some municipalities have not been as effective in lobbying the provincial government for their share of dollars. In fact, I asked last year to get the Ministry of Transportation's numbers about which communities got which money last year overall. The city of Timmins got a disproportionate amount of money as compared to anybody else-I shouldn't say that-which is good.
Mr Power: That's the luck of the Irish.
Mr Bisson: No, it's because you guys are doing your job. I guess the problem I have is that if we say we're going to give an incentive to those who reach the benchmark at the end and we give them some extra money, isn't the danger that they say, "OK, I've got some extra money. I'm doing really good now. Maybe I can go back to some of my past practices," and then you've got to start all over again? Or am I misinterpreting what you're trying to accomplish here?
Mr Power: I'll give you an example. When the infrastructure program comes out, and we expect it will fairly soon, we're going to have our share from the amount that we don't have to pay off in debentures any more. That's where our share is going to come from. We don't have to increase the taxes to participate in the infrastructure program. We don't have to borrow money. We're just going to take the amount that we would normally have paid in debentures and use that for the infrastructure program. So when we go looking for something, we've done our homework and we should be rewarded. We shouldn't have to say, "Please help us because we can't participate in this."
Mr Bisson: So in fact what you're saying in the case of the city of Timmins, which has always been a big proponent of building infrastructure, is that if you're able to come up with your share, because you've done a good job managing your money, the province or the federal government should come up with theirs. That's what you're arguing?
Mr Power: That's right.
Mr Bisson: OK, I see; it's not so much on the operational. The other thing is on the DSSAB issue and the question of welfare. I've got to put this plug in because my friend Jean-Marie Blier and other mayors along the Highway 11 corridor would probably slap me if I didn't make this comment. What's happened with us in the DSSAB is that the city of Timmins, by and large, has been a fairly good winner in this because we are the largest municipality in the area. What's happened is-I think I'm correct in this, Vic-that from the city's perspective your costs have not gone up in transferring over to the DSSAB, but in the case of communities like Hearst and others, they've seen an increase on their overall costs. So for the city of Timmins, because it was the largest one, it worked out. I know we're going to get into a bit of a thing with Vic here, but we do love each other in the end, I just want you to know.
Mr Power: Well, Mr Bisson, no municipality lost anything because of anything the city of Timmins did or did not do.
Mr Bisson: No, it's not a question of what you didn't do.
Mr Power: I re-enforced that at the last DSSAB meeting.
Mr Bisson: No, I don't mean that as an us-against-them thing. I just think the reality is that once you do these kinds of amalgamations across districts like ours-and I think, Ted, you understand what I'm getting at; you represent a similar type of riding with both rural and municipal-the smaller communities end up being a bit on the losing end of those kinds of deals because things tend to gravitate more towards the larger urban areas. On behalf of those communities, I think it's just fair that I point that out.
Mr Power: We don't mind you pointing that out, but I want to emphasize that the city of Timmins did not gain because other people had to pay more. Perhaps the reason they have to pay more is that they weren't providing as much in services previously, but we won't go into that right now. We don't want to see them penalized, of course. We supported a resolution where they asked that their CRF look after whatever their increase is. We supported that, but we don't want to be penalized because we have done our job.
The Chair: Your Worship, on behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this morning.
UNITED STEELWORKERS OF AMERICA
The Chair: Our next presenter this morning is the United Steelworkers of America. Could you please come forward and state your name for the record.
Mr Jim Kmit: My name is Jim Kmit. I'm the staff representative for the United Steelworkers of America for Timmins and the Kirkland Lake area.
The Chair: Welcome on behalf of the committee. You have 30 minutes for your presentation this morning.
Mr Kmit: I come before you today to speak to you on the effect of the closure of the Pamour and Nighthawk mine sites here in Timmins.
First, let me give you a bit of history. The Pamour ore body was first staked in 1909 but for a number of reasons was not developed. In 1936, Noranda Mines Ltd opened the Pamour location and in the mid-1980s began work on a property off Nighthawk Lake. In 1988 the mines were purchased by Giant Yellowknife Mines Ltd and in 1991 Peggy Witte merged all of the mine locations into one, naming it Royal Oak Mines Inc.
The list of mines here in Timmins included Pamour, Nighthawk, McIntyre, Hollinger, Delnite, Aunor and Hallnor. My understanding is that Kinross Gold now owns all of these mines as part of their purchase which took place in 1999.
Pamour mine, Nighthawk mine and the mill were operated by Royal Oak Mines. This company was headed up by Ms Peggy Witte, who was the CEO of the company. My presentation to you will deal with the effects on people and the community when a major mining company is allowed to leave without any responsibility to those workers and to the community.
At the time the company was put into receivership, in the spring of 1999, there were approximately 250 individuals employed here in Timmins. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the company appointed to oversee the two mine sites and the mill, indicated that they would live up to the existing collective agreement and continue to operate the mine. They in fact did not continue to fund the existing pension plan, and the plan became underfunded. The issue of the pension is now being dealt with by our legal department.
What I believe must happen in these situations is that the Ontario government must pass laws in this province that stop companies like Royal Oak from destroying workers' pension plans. The laws in this province must be changed so that the pension plans are funded up front and/or companies must be legislated to put monies away to be sure workers are not shortchanged on monies owed to them from existing pension plans.
Ms Peggy Witte was allowed to rape the mines here in Timmins, take the profits and invest them in her projects in British Columbia and leave the workers with nothing. In addition, a short time after she and her company filed for bankruptcy, she became CEO of another mining company in the United States. So what occurs is that the workers and the community of Timmins get nothing and she continues to live a life of riches. Only a change in laws will stop this type of injustice. In addition to the pension issue, when the mines and mill closed, the workers received no severance and no termination pay. Again, only changes in the law will stop this type of injustice.
Companies should be made, by law, to set aside monies made in good times so that when situations such as what happened to Royal Oak occur, the severance and termination monies are in accounts and can be paid to the workers. In early 1990, the NDP government created the employee wage protection plan. In two steps the Tory government eliminated this program, under Bill 7 in 1995 and Bill 131 in 1997.
In addition, Royal Oak walks away from what I consider an environmental disaster. They, along with their predecessor companies, operate mines in the community and leave the environmental issues to the community and to the government, to pay for those disasters they left behind. Law changes, again, are the only way to stop these companies from raping the land, making big profits and leaving an environmental mess for the taxpayers to take care of.
The government of this province must act immediately to pass laws that guarantee that companies like Royal Oak and people like Peggy Witte are held responsible to workers and communities for issues like pensions, severance pay, termination pay and environmental issues. I would ask your committee to take our message back to Premier Harris, that he immediately begin to draft new legislation to protect workers and communities from the injustice created by Peggy Witte and the Royal Oaks of this province and country. We would ask that he pass legislation to make all companies responsible for the issues that I have raised before you today. We would ask that he assure us as taxpayers that we no longer will have to foot the bill for these companies.
Presently, the vast majority of workers from Royal Oak are collecting EI, with very little hope of getting a decent job here in the community. Many of them have had to sell their precious possessions that they spent a lifetime to acquire. I'm sure Peggy Witte still has her big yacht and her personal items such as her homes and cottages. Why should she be allowed to keep these items and continue to live a life of luxury while the workers who made her rich have to sell off their possessions in order to just live? Why should taxpayers like you and me have to pay for her mistakes? Why should we have to foot the bill for the environmental mess she left behind?
When the company Royal Oak Mines Inc was making money, they should, by law, have had to put some away for the workers and the community. Please change the laws and stop this injustice.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
The Chair: We have approximately seven minutes per caucus. I'll start with the official opposition.
Mr Kwinter: I want to thank you for your presentation. I'm just curious. In your presentation you say that this site is now owned by Kinross Gold, is that correct?
Mr Kmit: That's my understanding. My understanding is that Kinross Gold purchased the sites, and included in those sites were all of the mine sites that I mentioned. They did so for approximately $5 million near the end of last year.
Mr Kwinter: Does the principle of successor rights not hold that they are responsible for any of the labour contracts and things of that kind when they purchase it?
Mr Kmit: I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you that the Ontario Labour Relations Act does in fact say that we have successor rights. Whether those successor rights include all of the workers who were working there at that time-the successor rights, from my understanding, and again, I'm not a lawyer, are that the union represents anyone who works at that site. Whether that guarantees that the 200 members who were steelworkers working at those sites are the same 200 who will be there is a question that I'm not sure I know the answer to.
Mr Kwinter: Is Kinross actually operating these mines?
Mr Kmit: Not at the present moment. Kinross has said through the media-and I have meetings set up with Kinross on the 21st and 22nd of this month, because I've indicated to them that I want to sit and talk to them-that they probably wouldn't open the mine sites until the price of gold is somewhat higher than what it is.
Mr Kwinter: Could you also tell me about the environmental issue? I know that mining companies have to set aside funds, when they're through at a site, to rehabilitate it. Is that the issue?
Mr Kmit: The issue on the environment is, we probably don't know what all the environmental damage is, but all you've got to do is drive around this city and look at the open holes. Take a ride out to the golf course and be careful you don't step into one. Take a ride into Schumacher. The highway was closed for a long period of time because of the cave-ins. That's all part of the environmental issue, and God knows what else is happening under there. We don't know, and she isn't about to spend her money to find out. She's left the country.
Mr Phillips: You have your finger on a key issue, and obviously a very important one and one of the more dramatic ones, because it changes people's lives forever. It's something we have to think about. When the economy is growing, there are fewer of these things. When the economy turns down, there are a lot more of them.
Just to get myself clear on this, the reason that the employees were not paid their termination or their severance pay was that the company declared bankruptcy? Is that what happened?
Mr Kmit: That's right.
Mr Phillips: And you were left high and dry.
Mr Kmit: Everyone was left high and dry-the workers, the community, everyone.
Mr Phillips: As you point out, that's the fallout you now have because of the change in the law. Formerly there was money set aside for people like yourselves or your members where a company declares bankruptcy, because you're the ones who probably have the most direct, immediate impact. But the law was changed in 1995 and, as you point out, updated in 1997 or so. Previously, under the old law, if a company declared bankruptcy, your members would have been entitled to a formula, I think, on severance pay. Is that correct?
Mr Kmit: That's right.
Mr Phillips: What might that have provided to your members? Have you any idea?
Mr Kmit: I have no idea how much money that would have been. I'm sure it didn't set them up for life. I'm sure it was a limited amount of money, probably, and I'm only guessing, in the vicinity of $2,000 or $2,500.
Mr Phillips: It was several weeks' pay. As I think you've pointed out, this will be an issue not just for the mining community but for other communities in the future.
On the pension one, what happened there? I would have thought that was one area where your members would have been protected.
Mr Kmit: There is some protection. Right now our legal department is handling the whole issue about pension, severance and termination. Where they are with that presently-they're handling that. Like I said, I'm not a lawyer. I think that's the only way you can handle these situations.
My point is, when these companies are making big dollars-and she was making big money, and investing it all in another mine in British Columbia-she should have had to put part of that money away for issues like severance and termination, and especially issues like the pension plan. The pension plan, from what I understand, was underfunded to a small degree prior to PricewaterhouseCoopers taking over in April, and then PricewaterhouseCoopers just let it continue not to be funded. Therefore the amounts of money in there are way underfunded from what they should be, and a lot of companies in fact do that.
I know that International Nickel-"International Nickel"; I guess I worked for them too long-Inco in fact funds its pension up front. I think all companies should have to do that. When we sit down and negotiate a pension plan, they should have to put the monies up front, not take that money and invest it in some mine in British Columbia that didn't work anyway. That money should stay in the community and should stay in the workers' pockets and be put away. When a company like that goes bankrupt-I mean, she walks away from a bankruptcy-I've got to be careful I don't get too emotional here. She walks away from this and within three months is sitting as the CEO of another mining company in the United States. All you had to do was read the article: She's going to save this mining company. I don't know how the hell she's going to save anything. She made one hell of a mess of this one.
The Vice-Chair (Mr Doug Galt): Thank you very much. We need to move on to the next party, but just before I do I'd like to read a statement to you, for your protection.
"While members enjoy parliamentary privileges and certain protections pursuant to the Legislative Assembly Act, it is unclear whether or not these privileges and protections extend to witnesses who appear before committees."
For example, it may very well be that the testimony that you have given or are about to give could be used against you in legal proceedings. I caution you to take this into consideration when making comments, because this is indeed all recorded in Hansard.
I'll move on to the third party.
Mr Kmit: Just to comment on that, I was raised in Burwash, so I spent 20 years there. If you don't know what Burwash was, it was a prison farm south of Sudbury. So that doesn't bother me.
Mr Bisson: In my years on committee, I've never heard a Chair actually read that off to a presenter. I just wonder what the heck that was all about. None the less, I'm not to going to speculate.
I want people, especially on the government side, to understand what the issue is here. This community, the city of Timmins and northeastern Ontario, by and large benefited greatly by way of the mining industry. We have a lot of good operators out there, and I think Jim understands that. We have people out here who run good mines, who take seriously their responsibilities, both to workers and the environment. But every now and then we get a bad apple, and Peggy Witte was one bad apple. Parliamentary immunity or not, I would say that outside this room.
What has happened in this case is that she took a profitable operation and basically said, "I'm not going to reinvest any money into it over a period of years to keep the plant up and running." She didn't spend the kind of money she had to in exploration; she didn't spend the kind of money she had to to keep the plant operating, with the equipment in good repair; and she took whatever cash she could out of that company in order to speculate and eventually build what was the Kemess mine and some other ventures she had outside of Ontario.
I for one as an Ontarian say, "Yes, I understand in Canada we have a right, and that's protected by the Constitution, and rightfully so, to move capital across our borders within Canada from one province to the other." But the issue becomes that if you're taking money out of resources that are in Ontario without safeguards as to what happens to those communities that you're taking the resources out of, that's counterproductive to our province. What happened in this case was she really did a number on this mine. I would speculate that this mine could still be operating with fiscally prudent management. Unfortunately, because of what's happened in this particular situation, we've got 250 people in our community who are no longer employed and the spinoffs from that are quite disastrous.
I just want to say to this committee that I know most of these people on a first-name basis. I used to work at this particular mine. That's where I'm out of, the McIntyre mine, which was the former Noranda Pamour group. I have a bit of a unique relationship with the workers because I know most of them on a first-name basis.
There is not a week that goes by that I don't get calls at home-in fact, two nights ago a guy I used to work with came by my door-and I hear the stories of what's happened to these people. They have lost all their severance pay; they have lost all money that's owed to them by way of wages, in excess of $30,000 per employee. This particular guy who came to see me ended up selling his cottage. For 10 years this guy, with his family, tried to build a cottage so they can have a retirement home when they get older. The family has fallen apart. They've had to sell their assets. He's struggling to find work. He works a little bit for contractors as time goes by, but really wonders what's going to happen when his EI runs out, because he's not able to find permanent work.
I got a phone call on a Saturday night at 10:30 from one individual Jim knows, because I called him about it, where the woman was in tears as she called me and said:
"My father told me when I was growing up that when he was a young man looking for work, he used to have to line up at the Hollinger and the McIntyre, hoping he could get a job in the morning during the Depression. I never thought I'd see the day, but that's what my husband now does every day. He goes out the door and he's knocking at everybody's door trying to find work so he can provide for our family."
Nobody wants to hire him. He's been in one place for over 25 years and has no papers to show for it. He's a competent, good worker, but no papers; a little bit older. He's been banged up somewhat by the industry-you know, it's the nature of the beast-and nobody wants to hire him. These are real stories.
I think what Jim is saying and what I want to echo is that we need to put safeguards in place that say that in cases where these kinds of atrocities happen, funds are set aside to ensure that the workers and the communities are not left high and dry. For example, under previous governments-it was started by the Liberal government and it was enacted and put together by us-the mine closure plan was put under the Ministry of Mines. In fact, Monte, I think you were minister at one point through that. The idea was that mines would set aside part of their profits so that in the event they close and go bankrupt, there is some money set aside so we can go back and fix the environmental problems that we may have. Now your government has come along, by way of regulation, and stripped that back greatly.
Our community is paying for that because we've got mines that didn't have closure plans. What happened in his case, at Royal Oak, is by the time the legislation was enacted and put in place and the deadline came for the company to put in their mine closure plan, Royal Oak never did it. They never did what they were supposed to do, and your government, from 1995 on, didn't take any action. I don't want to throw stones, but we need to have laws that address this kind of stuff, and I think we need to look at set-aside funds for the cases of employment severance and stuff. I don't know how you do that, because I'm sure we'll hear from the mine managers in the next presentation about how that would be counter to good business practices. But I think we have to challenge ourselves to do the best thing, and that is to make sure that our communities and our workers and the businesses that do business with these people are not left high and dry.
On the issue of pensions, I just want to say that I get the calls, like I said, on a regular basis, where people who have worked there for 20 or 25 years are really worried about what's going to happen when they retire. I would make the plea that we need to move to some sort of portable pension system. If there is an adequate pension within a company, we'd have to have some sort of portable system that people are able to carry with them from employer to employer. Long gone are the days when we grew up and said, "One day I'm going to get a job at McIntyre and I've got a job for life." That's how I grew up. That's what we were expecting. Nowadays, young people going into the workforce-God, if they can get work for two years, they're happy. If they can get a job for six months sometimes they're happy. So we need to re-look at how we do things in today's context and have some sort of portable pension system that workers, employers and maybe the government pays into to make sure we have those retirement incomes for when people need to retire.
Jim, I know that you continue on. I'm just wondering one thing, though. Where are you now in regard to the severance issue? Are there any new developments?
Mr Kmit: Nothing new on the severance or the termination, Gilles, as of this morning.
Mr Arnott: Thank you very much for your presentation. You have very eloquently expressed the nature of your concern and I think you've represented your members very well in this. Certainly, speaking for myself personally, I would empathize with the plight of the 250 workers and their families and the community for this loss of jobs. There's no question that it creates a tremendous amount of disruption. We would hope that there should be government programs to assist with retraining and so forth. I would hope that there was some assistance from the provincial government in that respect. I would think there ought to have been.
I want to explore further the pension issue. You've indicated here that the company went into receivership in the spring of 1999. I was aware of that, but I assume that the company's difficulties were also partially as a result of the drop in precious metal prices, to some degree, that would have made some of their mines uneconomic. But certainly that's small comfort to the people who have lost their jobs.
You said that the pension has been underfunded somehow. Was the company making its required contributions up until that time, up until its serious financial difficulty, when it hit the wall?
Mr Kmit: My understanding is that, prior to it going into receivership, she in fact was already underfunding it. Then after PricewaterhouseCoopers took over and ran the receivership part of it, they didn't put anything into it. So it just became that much more underfunded. That issue, and I do say it in my presentation, is being dealt with by our legal department in Toronto. As of this morning, there is no update I can give you on that. I can give you our lawyer's name if you want to talk to him. His name is Rob Healey. He is our legal counsel in our Toronto office. He is taking care of that aspect of it. As I like to say to my members sometimes, that's way over my head. I got kicked out of kindergarten for not shaving.
Mr Arnott: Not only that, but members of the Legislature have to tread very carefully when it comes to legal issues. If there's legal action contemplated or pending, members of the Legislature really shouldn't be making comments on it or getting involved in it. I think the caution that the Chairman gave you today was in your own interest, to try and make sure that you understood the situation.
I think you've made a good presentation. Members of the government will reflect upon your comments. I'm sure the finance minister will be very interested in what you've had to say today.
The Chair: Any other questions on the government side?
Mr Galt: If I may, Mr Chair. Thanks for the presentation. On the environmental issue, certainly we've come a long way environmentally. Some of the things you've referred to are long-standing environmental issues. I think of the days when they used to pile the ore on the logs around Sudbury and smelter it that way-
Mr Kmit: You're really showing your age now, I'll tell you.
Mr Galt: You had to follow a rope to find your house, was sort of the story they told. So we've come a long way. There are still holes. Today we're supposed to put gravel pits back with topsoil to take them back to a reasonable appearance, and similarly with mines. This one in particular-what is the environmental damage that they walked away from? Is there a lot of acid material? Is it sulphur that's in the air?
Mr Kmit: I guess the most obvious one-and you can talk to anybody who lives in the city of Timmins-is the cave-in issue. Right now we have a golf course that's caving in. We had a street in the community of Schumacher that was caving in. They've now had to hire a company to come up and drill holes, and I don't know what the end result of that is. Maybe Mayor Power can tell you more than I can.
Who paid for that? You know who paid for that: you and I. That's who paid for that, and we didn't do that. That was done by the mining company. Why should we have to pay for that? If monies were set aside for those types of things, they'd be paying for it. They're the ones who made the profit. You and I didn't, as taxpayers. We didn't make any profit. They made the profit. But they can do whatever they want with their profits, and all I'm saying is, take part of that profit, when they're in good shape.
Yes, the price of gold had some impact on it. But one thing about mining is, if you don't do exploration, you won't continue to mine. So you have to reinvest money back into your mine to continue to operate that mine. That wasn't done. So even though the price of gold, yes, had some impact on it, it was the fact that there was absolutely no drilling done to find more gold and all of the monies that were made at the two mine sites were shipped to BC for Kemess.
That is a direct hit on the workers and the community. It was the community of Timmins where the mine sites were. Why should she be able to take all that money out of here and put it somewhere else and have nothing left here for the community or the workers? I don't know who paid for the drilling-I'm sure Vic Power can tell you-but I think it was the government.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this morning.
PORCUPINE MINE MANAGERS' ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presenters are representatives from the Porcupine Mine Managers' Association. Could you come forward and state your name for the record, please?
Mr Dan Gignac: My name is Dan Gignac, and I'm representing the Porcupine Mine Managers' Association.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes.
Mr Gignac: Thank you very much. I don't think I'll take that long.
The Chair: I'm sure you'll be asked a few questions.
Mr Gignac: That's possible.
Mr Chairman, honourable members of Parliament, distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen, as I said earlier, my name is Dan Gignac and I wish to speak today on behalf of the Porcupine Mine Managers' Association.
There are four main areas I'd like to discuss. They include employment, taxation, exploration and electricity. The provincial government can play a definite role in overcoming certain barriers to investment and can contribute to the prosperity of our industry and its stakeholders. Failing to address our concerns will only accelerate the decline of our industry in this country. Your attention and consideration to the points I am about to present is required so that our message is understood and seriously considered by you and other elected officials at Queen's Park.
On the employment side, the Porcupine Mine Managers' Association is comprised of individuals representing seven or so Canadian mining companies whose combined local operations directly employ about 3,000 highly skilled men and women. For those of you who may not know this, each direct job created by a local mining operation in turn creates another three spinoff jobs in the service sector. Therefore, in the Timmins area alone almost 12,000 people owe their livelihoods either in whole or in part to the mining industry.
At the provincial level this represents almost 107,000 people. Let me put this into some sort of financial and economic terms since it is the theme of this discussion. In northeastern Ontario approximately $1.2 billion per year is paid in the form of wages, salaries and benefits to mine workers. This represents 75% of the entire $1.7 billion spent by all mines in Ontario. In 1997 the average wages and salaries for an employee exceeded $60,000. So from the perspective of provincial income tax as well as a goods and services tax, revenues from these high-paying jobs represent a significant contribution to the provincial coffers, a natural flow into the next topic, which deals with the taxation issues.
The Ontario mining industry contributes approximately $1.5 billion annually to government revenues. Only mining companies pay a thing called the Ontario mining tax, which currently stands at 20%. A promise had been made to consider tax relief for the mining sector by the government when the budget was, so-called, to be balanced.
Since that statement was made, a comparative tax review task force has compared taxes paid in six mining jurisdictions around the world, including the US, Australia and elsewhere. They find that the average corporate tax rate in Ontario is 45%, which compares quite negatively to those outside Ontario that stand at between 30% and 35%. The main reason for this difference lies within the uncompetitive Ontario mining tax. We recommend that the tax be reduced to 12%, which is essentially the same percentage rate as is paid in Quebec. The impact this tax burden has on our industry is manifested in the reduced return on investment and unfavourable fiscal environment basically for a high-risk, capital-intensive industry such as mining.
On the exploration side of things, Canadian mines compete on global markets for payment for their products. We're very fortunate to be blessed in this province with some of the most prospective rock formations and mineral potential in the world. A barometer for the condition of the industry has always been the amount of exploration activity and expenditures across the country. The higher the activity and expenditure levels, the better the health of the industry, and the better the chances also of finding and developing a new mineral deposit. Between 1996 and 1998, however, Ontario mineral exploration fell from $195 million and leading the country to $124 million and second to the province of Quebec. This $70 million represents a 36% decline in investment.
From discovery to production, a newly discovered mineral deposit may take five to 10 years, or even longer, to have a mine built on it. An investment of several hundreds of millions of dollars is then required.
Access to lands is another key issue to the success of exploration. Under Operation Living Legacy, we recently saw the creation of 64 new parks and conservation reserves. We feel that inadequate attention was given to the mineral potential of these sites before they were removed from exploration. In fact, the entire process was uncharacteristically fast for government, and it is felt that some very vocal special interest groups helped fast-track the cause. The mining industry supports the Living Legacy initiative but feels we must maintain the right to be part of the process to properly evaluate the potential of these lands which are so important to our future.
Electricity is another area of concern. Mining operations spend about $250 million per year on electricity in this province. In fact, my company, Falconbridge Ltd, is Ontario Hydro's largest single customer, spending approximately $109 million annually. Ontario has the second-highest industrial rate in the country for electricity. The current freeze on rates is certainly helpful.
The move to a competitive electricity market, in theory, is welcome to industry, but conditions for a competitive market do not exist at this time. Ontario is the only jurisdiction in the world to not split up the generating monopoly and advocate gross versus net load billings. These factors discourage new investment in generating capacity. Ontario Power Generation is using its market dominance and in fact has confirmed the spectre of rate increases. There is a definite need for a genuine competitive market to be created and the elimination of the generation monopoly.
In conclusion, and how the governments can help, the recession over the past few years, as well as the collapse in Asian and European markets, has had a significant negative impact on the operations and the sales price for our commodities. Metal prices, though some have recently posted some modest improvements, continue to be volatile; in fact, over the past year, they have reached lows unseen for decades. Copper and gold will probably never again see the prices realized in the mid-1990s. These global economic realities we reluctantly accept as the cost of doing business.
Government has shown, however, a willingness to help. We are appreciative of the legislation presented recently regarding property tax treatment of vacant land and facilities. Also the 1999 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review contains a lot of good news such as the promise of tax reductions; the elimination or the cutting of red tape; moving toward a balanced budget; and the outlook for economic growth, employment, investment and inflation is good.
Mining is the main economic engine for 50 communities in Ontario. It's a wealth-creating, high-tech, high-productivity-in fact it's two times that of manufacturing-and value-added industry. We continue to invest significantly in employee training, safety, environmental protection and research and development. Unfortunately, the government's reluctance to act on taxation inequities and continued adherence to vocal southern special interest groups risks causing even further long-lasting damage to the industry.
Thank you for taking the time to consider these points. We, the miners of Ontario, offer our best wishes in your efforts to build a responsible budget that will help improve our industry and ultimately the quality of life for all Ontarians.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We have approximately seven minutes per caucus.
Mr Bisson: Your presentation, Daniel, was quite good, actually. I think it touches on a number of issues.
Let me say outright that I'm not only a northerner but a former employee of the mining industry-the talc industry, asbestos, gold and copper. I worked in different types of mines, and I understand far too well how important mining is to our northern economy. But quite frankly, these are some of the best jobs in northern Ontario-high-tech, very interesting, very challenging, everything from production workers all the way to engineers and the skilled trades. There is plenty of opportunity.
My concern, however, is that those opportunities are becoming less and less. We have not seen in northern Ontario the net growth of the mining industry. In fact, we're seeing the mining industry become smaller and smaller. There are a number of reasons. One is technology being brought in. For example, the company you work for, Falconbridge, hires fewer people now than it did before, for more production. Part of that is that we've gotten better at doing what we do best, which is mining and processing ore.
I understand that we need to keep competitive and we have to invest in those technologies; I don't argue against that. But my worry is, as I look at new mining on the horizon and I look at the activity that's going on in the exploration industry, I'm really concerned, because we're not having the degree of activity in exploration that we need to have to keep people like you prospering and to get more of you out there to provide these really good jobs for northeastern Ontario.
If the government can do a couple of things when it comes to exploration, what should those things be, in order to assist the exploration community?
Mr Gignac: There are a couple of areas, specifically dealing with exploration, where I think the government can provide some help. One of them is in the staffing levels of its Northern Development and Mines offices. Often some of our exploration people go into these offices and have a very difficult time finding anyone to provide the service for them, someone to help them with either an inquiry or some help.
The other thing is that the way the work on the land is done has basically eliminated the prospector from the equation. The prospector was always the guy who was out in the bush, who was basically bringing the projects and the properties to our people for additional work. Some of the programs, the Ontario prospectors assistance program and a couple of others, have basically ended over the past few years and are in a serious state of decline. Therefore, without that first initial input from those prospectors, we aren't getting as many high-quality projects or properties presented to us for review.
Mr Bisson: I just want to echo that, because you need to understand that the men and women who do the prospecting go out and flaunt their projects. They get, as we say in the industry, a good sniff somewhere. They do some work in order to be able to prove it up and they go to these guys and others and say: "I've got a great property. Do you want to buy into it or form some sort of partnership?" It keeps the activity going. What we've got going on right now is that there are far fewer people out there doing prospecting because of the programs that have been cut, such as OPAP and OMIP, and just generally with what's happening.
I implore the government, you have to go back and revisit the decisions you made in cutting these programs, because in the end it means that operations like theirs are going to become less and less viable. For your tax base in the province and for us in northern Ontario, it's paramount that these people be kept as prosperous as possible.
I come to another point you made in the presentation. I never looked at it that way and I thought it kind of interesting coming from the mine managers, and that is the issue of trying to find some way to give an incentive on the basis of the wages paid by way of your employers and employees. I'm not sure that's what you were saying, but that's what I saw in it when you presented it. Maybe we can explore that a bit.
That is, mining, by and large, tends to pay well. It's one of the higher-paying industries in Ontario. It is not uncommon for a good miner to be making upwards of $60,000 a year. So it's kudos to the industry and the unions for having come to that type of accommodation, and it's profitable for both parties.
If I heard what you were saying, you were saying that the mining tax that's charged in Ontario is higher than in other jurisdictions, coupled with the fact that we pay our employees more than other industries, and there needs to be some sort of accommodation given to the industry in recognition of that fact, to bring it into line with other jurisdictions. I'm wondering if we should pursue the idea of having some sort of sliding scale-not only for mining but other industries where employers pay employees higher wages-so that's reflected somewhere in their tax rate. I'm wondering what your thoughts on something like that would be.
Mr Gignac: Let me first of all clarify what I did say.
Mr Bisson: I was trying to lead you somewhere.
Mr Gignac: I know. What I did say was that there are a lot of high-paid, high-skilled people working in the mining industry. Approximately $1.2 billion per year in the form of wages, salaries and other benefits-which include dental, medical and those other benefits-is paid to our workers.
The second part of your question is that-
Mr Bisson: It was something that I saw as you were going through-I don't think it's something that the mine managers have sat down about-the recognition of the fact that mining tends to pay higher wages but, conversely, it's one of the industries that has the highest level of taxation. You talked about a 20% tax rate here compared to Quebec. I'm wondering, should we have some sort of sliding scale at the very minimum that says that if you have an industry that pays employees above-average wages, that somehow be reflected in the tax rate? That's what I'm asking.
Mr Gignac: It's an interesting point. You're right, we haven't really given that much consideration in those terms. However, what we are asking is that the Ontario mining tax be based on some formula, not just an arbitrary figure that's thrown out there. That's all.
Mr Galt: Thank you for your presentation. The two coming back to back is most interesting. The government is about jobs, and that's the kind of thing you're suggesting.
As was suggested to us by your organization in Toronto, there needs to be a 12%-I'll go back to what you said. You recommend reducing this tax to 12%, the same rate as in Quebec. That rings a bell of what was said in Toronto. My question to them, and the same to you, is, how many jobs might that create in Ontario if that were done?
Mr Gignac: It's difficult to put a number on that. Anything that can be done to improve the bottom line of this industry will definitely improve, first of all, the investment in exploration. With a reduced tax, the economic picture in this country and the willingness for either individuals or companies to invest in Ontario will therefore increase. I can't give you a number of jobs this will create, but what it does do is open the door for additional exploration, which means additional mines, which in turn means more investment, more jobs and so on.
Mr Galt: I'm amazed at how accurate economists can be in predicting what this will do. Maybe that's more good luck than good management; I'm not sure. My economics went to 101 and no further. It's a great selling point for our government, and if it can create X number of jobs, then when they buy their gizmos and widgets, the sales tax plus their income tax might more than recover the loss of that tax on mines. So if you can come up with figures and have support for them, you might be amazed what it would sell, rather than just simply asking for a tax cut. The tax cuts that have been created so far have been for a specific purpose: to stimulate the economy, stimulate job creation. The end result is a net gain in taxation.
Mr Gignac: That point is interesting. I appreciate the heads-up on that and I certainly will do what I can to make sure that our people-
Mr Galt: The other one relates to prospecting company XY coming up with a great site. Company ZW is interested in mining there. It's a small community. We're talking of, say, 50 mine sites in communities. It's a one-industry town. We constantly read in the paper about a mine shutting down and the devastation to that one-industry town. We heard about environmental and all the other things, but those people are going to have to move from that community. The work is only related to that one industry that's now shut down. What should be done as you are making an agreement with this prospecting company and it's going to become a one-industry town? We're all excited about it at the time and it's probably going to run for 20 or 30 years, more or less. What should you people be doing and what should we be doing at that point in time? That's the time for preventative medicine to nip it in the bud.
Mr Gignac: When we think of communities such as Timmins, which in my view has done and is continuing to do a great job in diversifying the local economy, they're no longer becoming the one-horse towns you referred to that many smaller mining communities are. There's a big thrust and a lot of effort being put forward in these communities becoming diversified. I believe there are issues with regard to environmental liabilities and limitations now, provincially, to inhibit or restrict the creation of these new one-horse towns or single-industry towns. In fact, I don't think it's done any more. More and more our industry in remote locations is becoming more fly-in, fly-out. The communities that presently exist that support the mining industry are seen as feeders to these remote mining locations and will continue to do well based on how well the industry prospers and how well it does fiscally.
What we're going to see in the next few years, gradually and eventually, are fewer and fewer of these one-horse towns and more diversification in the cities. As I said, Timmins, Sudbury and other mining communities are continuing their work in diversification, and we applaud that. We think it's great.
The Chair: Mr Arnott, you've got a couple of minutes.
Mr Arnott: You suggested that the mining tax ought to be cut and that would stimulate economic activity. The government is probably predisposed towards supporting that philosophy at least. As you've said, there has been a commitment made, once the budget is balanced, to look at that. As Mr Galt pointed out, the Ontario Mining Association brought forward this idea last week when we were engaged in hearings in Toronto.
I just want to make sure I understand it. You said that the mining tax is 20% of what, net tax payable?
Mr Gignac: I believe it is 20% of profits.
Mr Arnott: That's over and above the corporate income tax?
Mr Gignac: Operating costs and everything else.
Mr Arnott: Quebec is 12%.
Mr Gignac: That's right. In fact, Quebec is seen now as being more mining-friendly, as one of the most mining-friendly areas in the world, actually, because of its fiscal policies, because of its promotion of tax credits. There's a variation of the flow-through tax issue that's still alive and doing well in Quebec. There's maybe a more proactive approach to mining in Quebec than in most other places.
Mr Kwinter: Thank you very much for your presentation. As has already been mentioned, last week we had a presentation by the Ontario Mining Association, and many of the points you've raised they raised.
I just wanted to comment on a couple of things you mentioned, one in particular being the fact that Falconbridge is Ontario Hydro's largest customer, spending almost $109 million annually. When we sat on the hearings when the government announced that it was going to so-called privatize Ontario Hydro, the only area that they felt would maintain a natural monopoly would be the wires, the distribution system, because it made no sense to duplicate that. But one of the strong factors in going this route was to open up power generation to competition. We made the point at the time that the sheer size of the generating arm of this new entity would be a barrier to entry for a lot of people and that they would dominate it. You're saying that this is exactly what is happening.
It would seem to me that if you had your choice you would probably like to look at the idea of even somebody like Falconbridge doing some cogeneration, where they would possibly provide their own generation capability and then use some of it to supply other people.
Mr Gignac: A few years ago, Falconbridge did just that, and looked at opportunities. However, the conditions at the time were not favourable to those sorts of things, and I'm not sure they've changed or improved in recent years. You are absolutely right: We still see this monopoly on the power generating side of things that is inhibiting or restricting the opportunity for investment in this part of Ontario Hydro's business by third parties.
We are also looking at opportunities to buy power at economic rates from other jurisdictions such as Quebec, Manitoba or even the States, and we're not seeing that coming very easily or very quickly. In fact, as I said in my statement, Ontario Power Generation has told us that we can expect increased rates.
Mr Kwinter: I want to ask you about one last thing, which you also mentioned in your presentation. We have good geology in Ontario, probably some of the best in the world. Notwithstanding that, there isn't the same interest in developing it, because of the fiscal situation. You're talking about Quebec. They don't have any natural advantage per se. It's really a matter of the government deciding that this is an important contributor to the economy and trying to do whatever they can to encourage, in the finest sense, the exploitation of that natural advantage. Would you say that's a fair comment?
Mr Gignac: I think that's fairly accurate, yes.
Mr Ramsay: Thank you very much for your presentation. I would like to talk a little bit about one area of the four points you made, and that is exploration. It is sad that this government has cancelled programs such as OPAP. That was a great stimulus to the small prospectors, who, as you and my colleague here have said, are really the people who find the mines and come to the big players like you to develop them and to carry on the work. We need to get some of those back, but I'd also like to have your opinion about the federal government's role, possibly, in bringing back flow-through shares.
I remember that 10 years ago in Kirkland Lake you couldn't get into a hotel, you couldn't rent a car or truck and the restaurants were full. It was because of all the tremendous activity that flow-through shares had generated. I think it's more important today to bring them back than ever before, because of the great attractiveness our technology companies are gaining in attracting investment dollars, and probably some of the speculative dollars that used to go into gold-mining shares. That investment and speculative money is being attracted to other industries and away from the ones that help northern Ontario.
I think we need to get some of those incentives back, to make investment in resource industries attractive. I think flow-through, with a better program, with some limits and caps-because it was abused last time; I understand why the government got rid of it, but I wish they hadn't and had maybe just put those controls in there. I wonder what you, as a person in the industry, think about this program.
Mr Gignac: I believe that initiatives such as flow-through-and I use that term loosely, because it's different now; at least the terminology referring to that process is different. Flow-through financing, though we in the industry admittedly saw a lot of abuses in the way it was managed and manifested, did have a positive impact on the industry. I know of at least five to six new operating mines in northwestern Quebec and northeastern Ontario, which are still operating today, that were the products of that financing process. It was so successful that when the federal government decided to reduce or eliminate that tax credit, which basically saw $1.33 for every $1 invested in mining exploration work come back to the investor, the Quebec government decided they would maintain and support a form of that flow-through financing, whereby $1.16 for every $1 invested in mining would come back as a tax credit to the person or organization that invested.
So you're right. Your point is well taken. Yes, there were some positive economic spinoffs in communities such as Kirkland Lake, Timmins-all across the mining communities in Ontario. We saw some good things happen. Some mines were found and they continue to generate a positive cash flow in the form of taxes and other benefits to the government. We think there's an opportunity there for a renewal of this program in a more controlled, less frivolous format.
Mr Ramsay: So let's hope the federal government would do that against federal taxes.
Mr Gignac: I guess what I'm saying, Mr Ramsay, is that we shouldn't limit it to only the federal government providing that incentive. The province can also do something.
Mr Ramsay: All right. So you would be stating, then, that it is one of the competitive advantages of the Quebec mining industry that their government has brought in on the provincial tax side a type of flow-through system, and you would recommend that the Ontario government do the same?
Mr Gignac: That's right.
Mr Ramsay: Good.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this morning.
The Chair: Our next presenter this morning is Mr Lucien Gauthier. Bienvenue. Vous avez 15 minutes ce matin.
Mr Lucien Gauthier: Just to accommodate everyone, I'll speak in English. Hello everyone. As you know, my name is Lucien Gauthier. My family and friends call me Luc. The reason I haven't provided you with any printed material is because my presentation has to do with the family. At the present time, my family's predicament is still in front of the court, so I don't think it would be appropriate to comment in a written format.
I've read the other presentations and I have to say that mine will be a little different. First of all, I'd like to thank all of you for coming up to Timmins. I think this is one of the first times that you've come up here. I'm sure it will be appreciated by everyone who's had a chance to do a presentation. Also, I'd like to congratulate you because, in my opinion, the present Legislature has been one of the most productive that I've seen in the last few years.
I don't have a PhD, but I did study economics with Dr Francis Bregha at the University of Ottawa. I think the best way for me to explain my presentation is to say that the family unit and child care are very relevant to economics and the province and our ability to compete internationally.
Just recently, Pope John Paul stated that the best way to help people is to provide accessible quality daycare. If you look at my family, this is not quite as simple as it may seem. My daughter, France, was diagnosed with autism, a pervasive developmental disorder, in March 1995.
For those of you who are not familiar with autism, a pervasive developmental disorder, I have a pamphlet and I will make some copies available. To summarize, autism is a serious handicap where the child is often unable to express themselves and they experience emotional trauma.
With the assistance of the early childhood education program, France started to say her first few words at the age of four. It seemed to me like a miracle that a child who was so challenged could be helped. It seemed that France, my daughter, was going to be better. I have to especially thank the resource teacher, who spent many hours coming to the house and literally dragging the child away from the home. Eventually, the child became accustomed to working with the resource teacher. She attended the playgroup that we have here on Wilson, which has also been very beneficial.
Eventually, the child was placed in an early childhood education program at Northern College, and all of our efforts seemed to get some results. Unfortunately, because of a legal predicament, the moment was short-lived and the presiding justice ruled that the children both-
Mr Bisson: A legal what? I didn't quite catch what you said.
Mr Gauthier: I don't know exactly how to say it, but at the time my spouse and I were in court.
Mr Bisson: Oh, OK. Sorry.
Mr Gauthier: The children were four years old. They had never been with their mother, and she is seriously ill. The justice at the time ruled that the children would be best with their mother and they were not allowed to see me for quite a length of time. France's condition quickly deteriorated. Add to that that she received a serious head injury while she was with her mother and she basically became like a wild animal. She lost eye contact, speech. She started chewing the walls, hitting and biting herself, and she was in a state of constant distress.
The details are public record in the case of Gauthier v Gauthier, if anyone would like to go to the legal library. I am presently negotiating with McClelland and Stewart to have my daughter's autobiography published. This goes into great detail about the child. At the present time, France and Mathieu are doing fine. It is questionable if France will ever speak again.
Some of you may question what this has to do with how the province of Ontario should spend money. On the other hand, some of you may see clearly that our children are our future. I cannot stress the importance of early childhood education programs, kindergarten and pre-school programs. I believe funding for kindergarten should be reinstated. Here in Timmins, we're fortunate. We do have kindergarten, but I think the school boards are swallowing the cost at the expense of other programs.
If you look at one school board in particular that has just been separated into the English and French Catholic boards, their old offices are presently empty. They took a good school, St Anthony's, and transformed it into an office. If you have the chance, drive by St Paul's school and O'Gorman Intermediate; they have a number of portables outside, which to me doesn't make sense when they had a school they could have put the younger children in. Once I informed myself, the reason was that they could not finance St Anthony's school as a pre-kindergarten, because the province does not provide funding for that. That school could not sustain itself. My grandfather took care of that school from the time Timmins was started. It had been renovated. There was a computer room downstairs. There was a beautiful playground outside. I think at the present time the school board is looking at renovating the offices again.
This is not to criticize anyone in particular, but it's to emphasize that the funding for schooling needs to be more clear. I think you have the same problems in Toronto. I know Timmins and Toronto are worlds apart, but we've had numerous articles in the newspapers up here about portables in Toronto. I think as you look back, the problem is not solely a provincial thing. The federal government has a lot to do with this. Not too long ago, Mr Mulroney was elected on a platform of providing national daycare for our country, and there were no more daycare spaces made available during that period.
To be brief, I think those of you who are on the finance committee can look at the budget for the Ministry of Education and look at funding specifically for kindergarten and pre-school programs. As for the early childhood programs, they specialize for children who have special needs and they are not recognized per se. They are funded through other agencies like Community Living and the Cochrane Timiskaming Resource Centre. I think maybe the whole issue of pre-school before grade 1 needs to be addressed and a plan has to be made.
The vehicle for this has been that for about six years now the province has had an initiative called Making Services Work for People. I've followed this in detail for the last six years with my daughter. At the present time, we haven't heard too much about it. In a recent letter that I received as a board member of Community Living, they talked about a complete overhaul of child protection services. This is long overdue. How it should be done, I don't have the answers, but if you look at the number of cases in Ontario where young children are not being taken care of, that whole issue has to be addressed.
One thing the Legislature has presently done is pass laws that severe neglect is also a form of abuse, which it never was before. Just in the last year the laws have been changed so that if a child is really severely neglected, that is considered a form of abuse. You don't have to hit the child, but if you lock him in a room and you don't feed him and you don't take care of him, that's just as bad.
That is half of my presentation. It's somewhat confusing for you, but if you look at the Ministry of Education's reports over the last few years and this initiative called Making Services Work for People, the recommendations that have been suggested are very clear.
I think the federal government must assume some responsibility too, and I commend the present provincial Legislature for hammering away at the federal government and trying to get its full co-operation.
The other half of my presentation has to do with employment. At the present time there's the Auditor General's report on the federal government and there's some scandal going on about how many dollars are being spent for job creation and whether they're really creating any jobs. Let me tell you, I worked in Ottawa for 10 years, sometimes right out of the Prime Minister's office, and what they're talking about is just the tip of the iceberg. As long as the federal government controls employment-and I know the province has tried repeatedly to gain this portfolio and gain control of employment. But when you all get back home and you talk to the other members of the Legislature, this is probably the most important factor in the Ontario economy right now. As an individual who is unemployed, if I have to go and search for employment I go to the federal employment office on Third Avenue. From my experience, having worked 10 years in Ottawa, those programs that they're spending a lot of money on are not really working. I guess you could compare those programs to the American model after the war period, where when certain members were elected, whether they were Democrats or Republicans, so many military bases or so much employment from national defence would be given to those districts.
You just have to look at the fact that people here in Timmins filed their income tax returns this year in Shawinigan, Mr Chrétien's riding, instead of sending them here to Sudbury. When Mr Mulroney was there he built a large prison in his riding. When people are unemployed and they read in the paper that this much money that's to be designated for employment creation is being used as a slush fund, it's somewhat disheartening.
I have no criticism for you. All I have are words of encouragement that when you return to Toronto you all support Mr Harris and you continue to hammer away at the federal government to release the purse strings for employment and let each province conduct their own employment programs.
I could go into personal history. In the 10 years I worked in the government I saw a lot of employment given out and it was never on the basis of merit. Basically, people who worked in political campaigns or who were involved with the party in power were rewarded with this type of money to create jobs. I think the province of Ontario needs to make a plan, which is what you're doing right now. It needs to address the federal government's employment strategy again. It needs to look at all the current employment in Ontario, make an index and look and say: "These are the people, we have so many doctors, we have so many teachers, and here are the new fields of employment."
Now we'll touch on the first part of my presentation. There is a whole field today of caregivers, and this many involve someone who is in the first stages of Alzheimer's, someone who needs to be given assistance. It would deal with someone who has suffered an injury and is going through rehabilitation. You have a whole group of people who are challenged, like my daughter, and other people whom I work with at Community Living, and they need a certain amount of assistance to live independently. I think Mr Harris said that keeping someone in an institution cost $60,000 a year. To keep my daughter at home, I think, costs the province about $8,000 a year. I'm not telling you your business, but I think this plan has to detail the new forms of employment and they have to be supported.
In order for me to go to work, I need to get assistance from three different agencies. One of them is called Special Services at Home, another one is called Extend-a-Family and another one is called Access Better Living. I've had the caregiver hired through the three agencies and while working with my daughter get paid three different levels of salary. So one hour she's working she's making minimum wage, $6 an hour; the next hour she's working she's making $8 an hour; and then another hour she's working she's making $13 an hour. It's pretty hard to keep someone at $6 an hour when they can go work with other families or other people at $13 an hour. This whole field of care, whether it be for seniors, for people who have suffered an injury, for people who are challenged or for children, needs to be addressed.
A case in point is my daughter, who has three caregivers to keep her in school during the day. It's too much for one person; they've split it into three people. She's not in a classroom; she's in a room by herself. They have a time-out room that's very much like a jail cell, and when she is not acting appropriately she's given a time out in this room. Just to make a case in point, the position is called a teacher's aide, but she doesn't spend any time with the teacher and she doesn't spend any time in the classroom. She is a student's aide. She's there to help my daughter, and I don't mean to be critical, because the school has done some amazing things.
The Chair: You have one minute to wrap up.
Mr Gauthier: OK, that's good. Anyway, the school is doing amazing things. The little girl has not used the time-out room recently. They've started to be able to work with her. The other day she started to say her vowels, so once again the little girl is back on track.
To summarize-and I'll cut myself short here-and I think this is what you're doing by travelling over the province, you need to have a very clear plan. You have to look at employment and look at the different categories of employment and you have to look where there can be expansion and how that training can be provided to those people. You have a number of courses, from early childhood education to developmental services workers, and all these people basically provide care for individuals so they can live independently. I think there is a new initiative by the province to bring together all the colleges and universities here in northern Ontario and have them working under one flag, and not this college and this university working separately. I would like to commend, like I said, all of you because I think you're moving in the right direction.
I know it's not crystal clear and I haven't provided you with written material, but I think my presentation has given you a feeling for what I'm talking about.
The Chair: And with that, Mr Gauthier, on behalf of the committee, I would like to thank you for your presentation this morning.
Mr Gauthier: In finishing, are there any questions? Is there something I said that someone would like to make a comment about?
Mr Phillips: You did a good job.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Lunch will be served in the dining room. It will be catered over here.
The committee recessed from 1150 to 1304.
COLLÈGE UNIVERSITAIRE DE HEARST
The Chair: Our first presenters this afternoon, la première présentation, est du Collège Universitaire de Hearst. Pour le Journal des débats, pourriez-vous vous avancer à la table puis vous introduire, s'il vous plaît ? Bienvenue, et vous avez la parole, monsieur.
M. Jacques Poirier : Merci. Jacques Poirier. Je suis président du Conseil des gouverneurs du Collège Universitaire de Hearst. Je suis en présence de Raymond Tremblay, qui est le recteur de l'université.
Tout d'abord, pour ceux qui ne connaissent pas l'institution, je vais vous donner quelques repères historiques très brefs.
Le Collège Universitaire de Hearst existe depuis 1953. II aura bientôt près de 50 ans. Affilié à l'Université de Sudbury en 1957 et à 1'Université Laurentienne depuis 1963, il offre des programmes de baccalauréat ès arts de trois ans dans cinq disciplines, soit français, gestion, histoire, psychologie et sociologie. Il offre aussi le baccalauréat spécialisé de quatre ans en administration des affaires. Les programmes menant à ces grades sont offerts sur les trois campus, soit à Hearst, à Kapuskasing et à Timmins. Il est aussi possible d'y faire ses études à plein temps autant qu'à temps partiel.
Depuis la fondation de l'institution, plusieurs milliers de personnes de la région ont profité de ses services. Plus de 650 de ces personnes ont obtenu leur baccalauréat au Collège Universitaire de Hearst. Dans la région qui va de Hearst à Smooth Rock Falls, près de 50 % des personnes qui détiennent des baccalauréats les ont obtenus en poursuivant des études au Collège Universitaire de Hearst. Notre institution a donc formé autant de gens pour cette région que toutes les autres universités de la province réunies.
En 1996, le district de Cochrane comptait 45 000 personnes de langue française. Ce groupe représente la moitié de la population de ce district et près du tiers des francophones du nord-est. Ces gens vivent surtout en français dans des communautés de petite taille à prédominance francophone. La population francophone de ce district représente près de 10 % de toute la population de langue française de l'Ontario.
Une des difficultés que nous rencontrons lorsqu'il s'agit d'offrir des services à cette population provient du fait qu'en plus d'être relativement peu nombreuse, elle est dispersée sur un corridor de plus de 300 kilomètres de long. À la population de langue française du district de Cochrane s'ajoutent une dizaine de milliers de francophones dispersés à travers plusieurs communautés du nord-ouest ontarien. Certaines personnes en provenance des communautés limitrophes de Hearst, soit Longlac, White River, Wawa et Dubreuilville, fréquentent le Collège Universitaire en dépit de ces distances.
Malgré le nombre extrêmement restreint de programmes offerts, le Collège Universitaire de Hearst répond à des besoins importants pour les gens de la région. Dans un sondage que nous venons d'effectuer, nos étudiantes et nos étudiants nous disent avoir choisi le Collège Universitaire de Hearst parce que c'est une bonne institution de langue française, parce qu'elle offre des cours près de chez soi et parce que ça coûte beaucoup moins cher d'y étudier que d'avoir à déménager ailleurs. En fait, pouvoir étudier près de leur domicile leur coûte la même chose que pour la plupart des étudiantes et des étudiants du sud de la province qui ont aussi la chance d'avoir des institutions à proximité de chez eux.
Il est bien certain que, pour offrir des services de bonne qualité à des petits groupes d'étudiantes et d'étudiants, ça coûte à l'université plus cher par inscription parce qu'on ne peut pas profiter des économies d'échelle que permettent les populations plus nombreuses. Pourtant, ça ne coûterait pas moins cher par inscription si l'on avait à payer toutes les dépenses des étudiantes et des étudiants du nord-programmes d'études, logement, voyages, nourriture, divertissements-pour les forcer à aller étudier dans les universités du sud de la province. En plus, les universités du sud manquent déjà de place pour accueillir toutes ces personnes. Donc, les étudiants du nord risqueraient de ne pas trouver de place dans ces institutions.
Mais le pire, c'est que de forcer toutes nos étudiantes et étudiants à se déplacer vers le sud pour faire des études universitaires viderait le nord encore plus de ses ressources humaines. II est en effet reconnu que la majorité des diplômés du Collège Universitaire de Hearst s'installent dans le nord en permanence ou y reviennent après avoir poursuivi des études supérieures ailleurs. II ne faut pas oublier non plus que la solution de l'exil fermerait la porte de l'université à 50 % des personnes qui étudient présentement avec nous. Ces personnes ne sont pas mobiles pour des raisons personnelles ou familiales et ne pourraient donc pas aller étudier ailleurs même si on payait toutes leurs dépenses.
À tout prendre, cela nous surprendrait énormément qu'un gouvernement souhaite laisser tomber une institution comme la nôtre, ce qui ne ferait qu'affaiblir la région sans même entraîner de réelles économies, d'autant plus que même les institutions de petite taille comme le Collège Universitaire de Hearst ont un impact considérable sur le dynamisme et la vitalité des communautés qu'elles servent.
Encore récemment, nous recevions une invitation du maire de la ville de Timmins, M. Victor Power, pour participer à l'élaboration d'un plan stratégique visant à diversifier l'économie et à créer davantage d'emplois pour les citoyennes et les citoyens de la région de Timmins. On oublie parfois que le Collège Universitaire de Hearst est justement l'une de ces entreprises qui contribuent à la diversification de l'économie et à la création d'emplois.
Cette entreprise offre des services de très bonne qualité. Nous en avons la preuve puisque nos diplômés qui poursuivent ailleurs pour se spécialiser ou pour faire des études supérieures réussissent très bien. Elle procure des emplois à plusieurs personnes hautement qualifiées, soit une vingtaine d'emplois à plein temps et une quinzaine à temps partiel, pour des détenteurs et des détentrices de maîtrises et de doctorats qui ne pourraient pas travailler dans le nord sans la présence d'une université. Ces personnes apportent des compétences importantes dans les communautés où elles vivent et travaillent. De plus, les activités de l'institution ont des retombées économiques importantes partout dans les régions de Hearst, Kapuskasing et Timmins.
Les gens de la région ainsi que le personnel de l'institution connaissent très bien l'importance d'une institution comme le Collège Universitaire de Hearst. C'est pour cela qu'ils lui ont assuré un appui indéfectible au cours des années. Entre autres, lors de la récente campagne de prélèvement de fonds pour l'aide financière aux étudiantes et aux étudiants, nous avons recueilli, auprès des individus, des entreprises et des organisations de la région, cinq fois plus par inscription que les autres universités de la province en ont recueilli en moyenne.
Aussi, au cours des cinq dernières années, tout le personnel a accepté des réductions de salaire pour permettre à l'institution de mettre en place un projet d'amélioration de ses services, malgré les restrictions budgétaires qui, par un malheureux hasard, l'ont frappée plus durement que les autres universités de la province. Et cet effort se poursuit puisque les ententes collectives qui ont été acceptées pour les trois prochaines années sont extrêmement raisonnables. Elles prévoient que les salaires des années 2000-2001 auront rattrapé les salaires de 1992, donc, vous voyez, très raisonnables. Les salaires sont en moyenne de 20 % à 30 % moins élevés que dans les autres universités, pourtant les gens qui y travaillent sont aussi bien qualifiés chez nous qu'ailleurs.
Pour lui permettre de continuer son oeuvre et de progresser, et compte tenu des particularités et de l'importance de son rôle, le Collège Universitaire de Hearst a soumis une demande au ministère de la Formation et des Collèges et Universités pour qu'on lui accorde dorénavant une subvention de différenciation de 550 000 $. C'est pour appuyer cette demande que nous nous présentons aujourd'hui devant votre comité, en espérant vous convaincre, comme nous le sommes nous-mêmes, que nous avons dans le Collège Universitaire de Hearst une institution importante, efficace, utile et très nécessaire.
The Chair: Merci pour votre présentation. We have approximately six minutes per caucus, and I'll start with the official opposition.
M Ramsay : Bonjour, messieurs, et bienvenue à notre comité. Merci pour votre présentation.
I am very concerned about your presentation. I was certainly unaware of the grave financial situation that your university is in, and I was wondering if you could elaborate on how grave a situation it is to the survival of your school, the financial situation that you are in today.
Mr Poirier: I will let Raymond Tremblay answer since he deals daily with this problem.
M. Raymond Tremblay : Assez simplement, si la subvention de différenciation que nous avons demandée ne nous était pas accordée, notre université ne pourrait pas fonctionner plus d'une autre année ou peut-être deux autres années avec les réserves qu'elle a présentement.
Mr Ramsay: Well, that is very frightening. As you know, and as you've outlined in your presentation here, it's very important that we attempt to provide post-secondary education for our children in northern Ontario. One of the primary reasons we lose our children is that they go elsewhere to pursue that post-secondary education, and institutions such as yours are very vital and very important to our communities.
This has been supported lately through a report the provincial government had commissioned in regard to the shortage of doctors. Dr McKendry, in his report, has now recommended that a medical school be established in northern Ontario, which absolutely reinforces your position that it's important to support our post-secondary institutions in the north.
Because of your location and because of the small enrolment, as you've pointed out, it's difficult to keep a small university financially viable, and you're right in trying to apply for this extra funding, because it's very difficult to run a university at the scale you're trying to do. I hope the government members have been convinced by your argument that it's vital that a university such as yours is preserved, because while it may be small, it plays a very big part in the life of northeastern Ontario and our future. I certainly hope the government members take this back and reinforce to the minister that you need this money.
I find it very interesting that you are so successful in your fund raising, which I think is proof also, receiving five times the amount in your fund raising that other universities do, of what tremendous community support you have. I'd be interested to know what percentage of your operating budget is made up of monies that you raise through your fund raising efforts.
M. Tremblay : C'est un très petit pourcentage. Tout l'argent qu'on a recueilli jusqu'à maintenant est allé pour un fonds de bourses aux étudiants et aux étudiantes. À chaque année, avant qu'on a créé le fonds fiduciaire d'aide aux étudiants et aux étudiantes qui ont reçu de l'aide du gouvernement provincial d'ailleurs, le gouvernement provincial a contribué 50 %. C'est un « matching fund » qui a obtenu la contribution du gouvernement provincial, et c'est seulement pour donner de l'aide financière aux étudiantes et aux étudiants qui ont besoin d'aide financière.
En général, à chaque année avant ça, on faisait des prélèvements de fonds, mais c'était toujours pour donner des bourses d'études aux étudiants et aux étudiantes pour encourager les études universitaires dans une région où il n'y a pas une très grande tradition universitaire et où les gens ne vont pas naturellement à l'université. Donc, on voulait essayer d'inciter plus de monde à poursuivre des études universitaires en leur offrant des bourses d'études.
M. Ramsay : Merci, monsieur.
M. Bisson : Raymond et Jacques, merci beaucoup pour votre présentation.
Je pense que, s'il y a un message qu'on peut donner aujourd'hui au comité, c'est l'importance de la demande qu'on fait de la part de l'université. Comme ils ont dit, ça fait plus de 50 ans, environ, que l'université est en place, et on se trouve dans une situation où, si on ne trouve pas des solutions aux problèmes financiers-ce n'est pas un problème que vous autres ne vous gérez pas. Le problème, c'est qu'on a besoin de l'argent pour être capable d'opérer les programmes nécessaires pour attirer les étudiants et donner la qualité d'éducation, franchement, qu'on doit donner. Présentement, si vous ne le savez pas, l'université est en train de faire cette demande.
Le problème est que, si on essaie de comparer l'université de Hearst avec Laurentienne ou Nipissing ou Lakehead ou l'Université d'Ottawa, c'est un peu mélanger des pommes avec des oranges. Je pense que c'est la seule manière de le dire. Ce qui arrive, c'est que parfois quand on parle avec les bureaucrates, ou même quand je parle directement à la ministre, on nous dit, « Oui, Gilles, mais si tu regardes le coût par étudiant, basé sur les autres universités, l'université de Hearst est très bien servie. » Mais il ne faut pas comparer ces deux affaires-là ; ce n'est pas la même affaire.
L'ouvrage qu'on a à faire ensemble avec l'université-je sais que vous autres êtes en train de faire des démarches à travers la bureaucratie pour en faire la demande, et c'est quelque chose que je m'engage à faire avec vous.
Mais on veut sensibiliser les membres du comité au fait qu'il ne faut pas regarder ces institutions-là d'une manière égale, parce qu'elles ne sont pas égales. On n'a pas le nombre d'étudiants à l'université de Hearst à cause de notre géographie-c'est la seule université francophone de la province avec beaucoup d'historique-pour être capable de la comparer avec Lakehead ou n'importe quelle autre université.
Ceci m'emmène à ma question que je veux poser soit à Raymond ou à Jacques : Vous avez dit tantôt dans vos réponses à M. Ramsay qu'il y a vraiment la possibilité que, si rien n'est fait, l'université pourrait fermer ses portes. C'est quelque chose que vous n'avez pas trop dit publiquement jusqu'à date. Pourriez-vous peut-être élaborer un peu son importance ? Ce n'est pas quelque chose que vous voudriez mettre sur une pancarte ; ça va être contre-productif de l'autre bord.
M. Tremblay : Effectivement, ce n'est pas quelque chose qu'on va annoncer, parce que nous avons des étudiants et étudiantes d'inscrits dans nos programmes présentement. Ces personnes-là se sont inscrites en espérant pouvoir compléter leurs études universitaires chez nous dans les programmes de trois ans et de quatre ans. Nous devons être en mesure d'annoncer nos programmes deux ou trois ans d'avance pour intéresser les gens à venir poursuivre chez nous. Une fois rendues chez nous, il faut être en mesure de les rassurer que les programmes vont être offerts au moins pendant trois ou quatre ans après leur arrivée chez nous.
On ne voudrait définitivement pas semer la panique chez nos étudiants actuels, premièrement, chez les étudiants potentiels qu'on essaie de recruter pour venir chez nous qui sont présentement en 11e, 12e, 13e année et qui pourraient dire : « Bon, l'université de Hearst, on est mieux d'éviter d'aller là parce que sa situation financière n'est pas très certaine et son avenir n'est pas très certain. » Donc, bien sûr, ce n'est pas quelque chose qu'on annonce.
Dans notre esprit à nous, il n'est pas question que l'université de Hearst ferme ses portes. Ça n'a pas de bon sens. C'est une institution qui est tellement utile et nécessaire que l'on ne peut pas concevoir qu'elle puisse fermer ses portes. Donc, ce n'est pas contradictoire de ne pas l'annoncer, mais on va vous le dire parce que je pense que le gouvernement a une responsabilité face à la population. Ce que nous voulons communiquer comme message, c'est que de notre côté il est vrai que, à cause des conditions dans lesquelles notre institution travaille, avec une population peu nombreuse et dispersée, nous n'offrons qu'un nombre très limité de programmes. On a juste six programmes différents sur une possibilité de 100, 150 programmes qu'offrent les universités. On ne peut pas s'attendre à attirer toutes les personnes qui sont intéressées à aller à l'université dans le nord. On a juste cinq ou six programmes. Avec ces cinq ou six programmes que nous offrons, nous attirons déjà un pourcentage extrêmement élevé de la population étudiante universitaire.
Cela a des conséquences : on garde les jeunes chez nous ; nos jeunes peuvent rester dans nos familles et garder une vie dans le nord qui est intéressante et qui ajoute le dynamisme de la jeunesse.
M. Bisson : C'est un point qui est important et qui a besoin d'être fait. Le gros problème que l'on a ici dans le nord, c'est que parfois nos jeunes qui partent pour l'Université d'Ottawa ou de Toronto ou Western se font une vie dans ces coins-là et ne reviennent pas. Nous dans le nord avons besoin d'avoir le monde formé aux universités et aux collèges pour être capable de rester dans nos régions puis aider à développer notre économie, créer des opportunités économiques pour le futur. Le gros succès du Collège Boréal et de l'université de Hearst, spécialement de l'université de Hearst parce que ça fait plus longtemps qu'elle est ici, c'est qu'ils attirent les étudiants. Quand on donne l'opportunité aux étudiants d'étudier chez eux dans leur langue-c'est un point important-les francophones répondent à l'opportunité, et ces jeunes-là restent chez nous. À la fin de la journée c'est nous qui en bénéficions, ayant ces jeunes adultes formés qui sont préparés à rester dans leur région puis à participer dans l'économie avec les connaissances qu'ils ont bâties à l'université. C'est un point qui a besoin d'être regardé. C'est un investissement, ce qui regarde beaucoup aujourd'hui, mais à long terme c'est un investissement pour le nord de l'Ontario.
C'était mon « speech ». Tu peux faire des commentaires.
M. Tremblay : Je vais peut-être revenir sur ce que M. Ramsay disait plut tôt quand il parlait des circonstances dans lesquelles une institution comme la nôtre travaille. Avec de très petits nombres, c'est difficile d'avoir des économies d'échelle. Il est vrai que c'est pratiquement une mission impossible que de maintenir une institution universitaire dans les conditions dans lesquelles nous la maintenons. Je pense que ce n'est pas pour rien qu'il y en a juste une dans la province, et si elle existe encore c'est parce qu'il y a des gens dans la région qui sont déterminés qu'il n'est pas question de la laisser tomber.
The Chair: Merci, monsieur Bisson. On the government side, Ms Molinari.
Mrs Molinari: Bonjour et merci pour la présentation.
I have a couple of questions, but first I'd like to make some comments on your presentation.
One of the things we've been hearing yesterday and today is clearly that decisions that we make as a government can't be a cookie-cutter approach and that one size does not fit all. We need to take the individual situations and look at them and how they affect each situation.
I thank you for all of the comments you've made in highlighting some of the difficulties and challenges you face with a small university. Some of the questions I had have already been answered because of questions from the previous speakers, and those are as to the viability of the program and how you're able to offer a diversity of courses with such a small number. With the six programs that I understand you said you offer, do you find that a number of students are able to gain from the programs you offer what they need from a university education, or are they in need of having to also pursue a different university for things that you may not be able to offer?
M. Tremblay : C'est bien certain que les gens qui veulent absolument des programmes différents de ceux que nous offrons et qui ont les moyens d'aller ailleurs vont poursuivre des études ailleurs dans d'autres universités dans ces programmes.
Dans le petit sondage dont je parlais où on a demandé aux étudiants et aux étudiantes pourquoi ils avaient choisi l'université de Hearst et comment c'était important pour eux d'avoir la possibilité d'étudier près de chez eux et de chez elles, ils nous disent que le plus gros désavantage qu'ils voient à étudier chez nous, c'est le choix limité de programmes. Même dans les programmes que nous offrons comme, par exemple, la psychologie ou le français ou l'histoire, les gens souhaiteraient avoir un petit peu plus de choix de cours que les cours essentiels que nous offrons présentement. Étant donné nos circonstances, nous n'offrons que les cours qui sont absolument obligatoires pour que les gens puissent compléter leur programme, dont ils ont absolument besoin.
Plusieurs de ces cours-là sont offerts sur un cycle de deux ans, par exemple. Donc, les cours ne sont pas offerts à chaque année. Alors, si quelqu'un a la malchance de manquer un cours une année, cette personne-là doit attendre trois ans avant de reprendre le cours parce qu'il ne s'offre qu'aux deux ans. Cela présente des problèmes d'organisation même pour nos étudiants et nos étudiantes.
C'est bien sûr que si on avait un meilleur choix de cours-c'est ce que nous espérons, à long terme, dans notre esprit au niveau de l'institution. Nous ne voulons pas nous limiter au choix de cours que nous avons présentement. Si nous réussissons à aller chercher un financement de base convenable pour assurer ce choix limité mais de base, nous espérons pouvoir offrir des programmes dans des domaines qui sont absolument essentiels dans notre région, par exemple, du côté des sciences forestières, qui serait un secteur tout à fait approprié pour la région dans laquelle nous nous trouvons.
Mrs Molinari: Thank you very much for your response.
The differentiation grant that you're requesting here as an annual grant-in your initial presentation, you stated that if you were not given this grant, you have one more year of survival. My question is, would you be able to offer additional programs if that were given to you, not only being able to survive, which certainly we hope will continue to happen because of the unique service that you offer for the francophones? Would that money give you something to be able to increase some of the programs in forestry and other areas that you want?
M. Tremblay : Non. On aurait besoin de financement supplémentaire pour offrir des programmes nouveaux. Du côté des sciences et des sciences forestières, il faudrait obtenir du financement supplémentaire approprié pour être en mesure d'offrir ces choses-là.
Mrs Molinari: Just to finish off quickly, you have been in communication with ministry personnel and staff already, requesting some of these issues here. I'm glad that there's been some communication happening there and I thank you again for bringing it to the attention of the finance committee, because I think it's important that, as a financial issue, it's also brought here and, hopefully, can be included in our report. It will certainly be helpful. Thank you very much once again.
Le Président : Au nom du comité, merci pour votre présentation cet après-midi.
M. Tremblay : Merci beaucoup de votre attention.
CROSS COUNTRY ONTARIO, NORTHERN ONTARIO DIVISION
The Vice-Chair: I call the next delegation forward, Ken Gauld and Ambrose Raftis, members of the cross-country skiers federation for the northern Ontario division. We appreciate having you here.
Mr Ambrose Raftis: My name is Ambrose Raftis and I'm the president of the Englehart Nordic Ski Club. I'm here with Ken Gauld from the Kapuskasing club, Bob Blanchard and Don Robson.
Essentially, we work together as a committee with the northern Ontario division of Cross Country Ontario. The committee was established in an attempt to develop a little bit of political visibility. Cross-country skiing is not a mass sport but it's a sport that creates a lot of enjoyment and pleasure in lifestyle value for people in northern Ontario.
Ontario is lagging behind the province of Quebec and other areas in the development of recreational opportunities for winter adventure tourism. Additional investment and coordination are required if Ontario is to take part in this growing market. Ski clubs and other facilities have a substantial portion of the capital investment in human resources required to develop and maintain these facilities but they need assistance to move from what is currently a local community-based service into a broader winter tourism market. This paper is a preliminary discussion on how this can be done.
Like snow machine tourism, cross-country skiing requires extensive investment in facilities and machinery to compete for growing tourism industry. This project is designed to aid ski clubs and other winter adventure tourism in northern Ontario to undertake the capital investment required to develop their facilities to a standard that would meet the needs of the travelling winter tourist.
This project would see setting aside funds within the heritage fund, or other government agencies, targeted towards the continued development of wilderness adventure tourism facilities. This development would take place over a five-year period. This application would see the setting aside of matched funds for marketing, facility updating and equipment replacement in northern Ontario.
Part of this funding would be used in the development and linking of Internet sites. This site would supply information to potential travellers detailing venues for winter adventure tourism. This would allow the single sourcing of information to people throughout Ontario and the world on winter adventure tourism in northern Ontario. This part of the proposal would require additional funding.
Understanding the market: Cross-country skiing is a lifestyle sport covering the full spectrum of ages from five to 85. Cross-country skiing is inexpensive and can be enjoyed at a variety of equipment and skill levels. Skiing, and particularly cross-country skiing, is one of the most effective aerobic exercises and helps those who discover it enjoy winter. Let's face it, we have winter four or five months of the year. It's about time we got good at it.
Cross-country skiing in northern Ontario is currently done at a community club level. Maintenance and development are done by volunteers who spend countless hours clearing, maintaining and grooming ski trails, often with outdated equipment. The current market serves only community-based needs, with little or no market exposure.
But people love to travel, and there is a lot more to northern Ontario than what you see from the highways. Travel is a large part of the winter adventure but travelers need to know where they are going and what will be there for them when they arrive. Few adventure tourists would jump into a car and travel 500 kilometers to a location, only hoping that they could find accommodation when they arrive. Winter travel tourism requires reliable information and confirmed reservations.
Over the last 10 years skiing has changed. With the introduction of skate skiing, cross-country skiing has now an even broader appeal to youth, teenagers and their families. There is a large and growing intermural series of events that brings people and their families who enjoy the challenge of competition to different venues across the province. These loppets are held in major centres that attract thousands of skiers from across the continent. These major tourism events supply both classic and skate trails. Skate trails require different equipment to set and maintain trails. This equipment is currently only available in larger clubs. This equipment is large, with widths over 14 feet and a price tag of well over $200,000.
One only has to travel to the ski areas of Collingwood or Quebec to get a sense of the potential for outdoor winter recreation. These same facilities, on a smaller scale, exist across northern Ontario and could supply winter recreational entertainment to a much larger clientele base with little additional cost. People in areas that have developed a winter-based recreational industry have learned to market and celebrate the natural beauties of winter snow. Quebec, which we are modeling our market approach after, has developed a linking of individual facilities, using both central reservation services and Internet information. Our proposal would use this concept but expand on it to include information on each of the individual facilities, their trails, snow conditions, grooming policies and contact names to inform and attract tourists to the area.
The Northern Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership is spending $120 million over the next four years to market, with a "winter is fun" approach to selling winter charm. Northern Ontario is slowly awakening to its tourism potential as it continues to develop an understanding of itself as a desirable destination for urban dwellers.
Market growth: Adventure tourism is the fastest-growing tourism sector, having reached a steady growth of 20% over the past number of years. Moderate winter temperatures in the south combined with the lack of snow are building additional pressures for development of winter tourism industries in the north. Skiers and winter adventurers are slowly spilling into the north for long-term excursion holidays, attracted to the north by its reliable snow conditions. Busloads of skiers travel north to enjoy the facilities that exist. They are, however, being blocked from traveling any further by inadequate information. The consistent lack of trail conditions or facilities information has restricted the flow of tourism and the development of the industry.
Market profile: Our target market groups would be those interested in a longer-term holiday similar in nature to a summer excursion. There are two advantages to this market group. Many of these people are enjoying early or semi-retirement and have the money and time to travel. Potential markets are people who often live in expensive urban areas and are looking to downscale their homes and their lives. This may be accomplished by moving away from the high-cost, busy environment of the city to a small town. While many people think of retiring to Florida or some other warmer climate, winter people who have grown up enjoying winter weather are more attracted to areas that have summer recreation and developed winter facilities. A well-serviced small town with low housing costs, summer recreation and well-developed winter facilities is far more attractive to some than a hot, expensive and dangerous Florida condominium. The town of Elliot Lake is a living example of how northern Ontario small towns can attract retirement capital to sustain economic activities.
Let's be honest, the attraction of winter facilities is not going to pack the highways with people coming north. There are, however, hundreds of thousands of people retiring every year with millions of dollars in financial assets. The retirement age for many of these people is in their middle to late 50s and they are not looking for a sedentary, restful lifestyle. A casual survey of cross-country facilities shows that the majority of people using the clubs are of retirement age. Many people nearing the end of their working life are looking for the peaceful, neighborly atmosphere that small northern Ontario towns can offer. One way to let them know what we have is to bring them here for a holiday.
The north needs to prepare itself to take a portion of this large market by improving the quality of life available to the current and potential residents in the area. Improving winter facilities is one way of promoting this.
Current market position: In a search on the Internet of the top 90 cross-country skiing sites in North America, northeastern Ontario wasn't even mentioned. There was no mention of the 30 or so cross-country ski venues between Bracebridge and Thunder Bay, over 1,000 kilometres away. To the winter tourist who is looking for a new venue to ski, northern Ontario doesn't exist. The northern Ontario market, with the exception of Thunder Bay, is not presented as a desirable destination. This proposal will change that.
Individual clubs lack the resources required to bring their facilities up to a standard that is expected by travelling tourists. Travelling tourists have been around and they know what they want. Clubs need to improve their grooming equipment, communications and building facilities to attract their share of the much larger market in the south.
Clubs and other winter tourism facilities are undercapitalized. They are forced to purchase used, inadequate equipment and spend large amounts of money to maintain it only to end up with machinery that breaks down during the season. Clubs end up spending much of their resources on trail grooming and have little or no money to update their building facilities. These organizations need a capital infusion to complement their economic means and get them to the plateau required by tourism.
This proposal is headed up by a working group in the northern Ontario division of Cross Country Ontario. It is developing a funding proposal that is currently targeted at the northern Ontario heritage fund. It is a similar proposal, smaller in volume, to the one that was initiated by the snow machine clubs several years earlier. It is this funding model that gave us the very successful snow machine trails that attract people from across North America.
This proposal would be comprised of a set-aside fund that would be established to operate over a five-year period. The bulk of the money would be available for the first two years of the project to get the necessary capital expenditures underway. The proposal would include the development, with all non-motorized sport facilities in northern Ontario, of a complete and up-to-date Web-based information system that would allow the linking of all these venues together.
Just to stop there for a minute, Quebec has a set-up like this. If you look up the Quebec tourism industry on the Internet you'll find that they have a map of their province. The map is broken up into divisions, and each division has a series of areas that you can look into. People from anywhere in North America who want to look for a place to develop that sort of holiday, when they look at Ontario, they are locked in. Nothing goes further north than Bracebridge. When they look at Quebec, they've got the whole province covered. It's linked together and they have a common system. They've taken the structure of tourism and built it into an industry.
I think northern Ontario is getting to the point where we should be able to develop that level of maturity in the industry. We've got a lot of committed people in the industry but they work on it as volunteers, much like the snowmobile organizations. It's not a big economic infusion but it's a vital one to a lot of small areas in Ontario that have summer tourism activities and that aren't surviving because they have no winter support for them. In the areas where the motorized vehicle winter tourism activities have developed, it's stabilized a lot of the summer facilities because they can use them both year-round. So this is some of the rationale behind northern Ontario's approach.
Each participant would be linked to a central Web system that would be set up by area. This is a substantial improvement over the Quebec model. People would be able to pick any location in northern Ontario and get a subsequent page. Each area or venue would have their own page and would update their own information, so that people could actually get a fairly personal perspective of where they were going. This would give them accommodation, pictures of the facility, a description of the trails and a routinely updated trail condition report.
This set-aside fund would be available to clubs and entrepreneurs who are developing non-motorized winter recreation in a matched funding formula. These funds would be available for major capital expenditures such as buildings, trail development, grooming equipment, signage, marketing programs and Internet development. There may be some long-term funding required for groomer replacements, but new machines should last 10 years or more.
Benefits: Initial benefits arising from the investment of these funds would include the increased cash flow to local communities for travel, accommodation and trail fees to clubs. This increased level of winter tourism would complement the summer tourism, resulting in increased year-round employment in the north.
It would be advantageous to the clubs, the communities and northern Ontario as a whole to develop existing facilities to the point that they became tourist destinations. This funding will position northern Ontario to take our share of the increased growth in this sector. It will close the gap we currently have relative to Quebec and the northern US in winter tourism. It will supply a cost-competitive holiday excursion in areas throughout the north, attracting a sector of the population who are looking for a winter experience. With improved traffic, additional development can be funded by the clubs and other organizations to further enhance both the experience of adventure tourism and the local club supporter.
In conclusion, in the 1930s people took the train from Toronto and got off in Temagami to enjoy the beauty of the outdoor wilderness. Cross-country skiing offers a diverse range of touring, from the tracked and set groomed trails where both classic and skate skiing can be done, to outback trails that go between chalets, to untracked wilderness skiing. All of these activities require varying levels of support, starting with bus, train or car transportation, equipment purchase/rental, chalet/change rooms, meals and accommodations. Most but not all of the facilities required to make this are available in northern Ontario. Organization and standardization of quality are required to attract consumers who are looking for the fresh air and the facilities required for winter sport activities.
With global climate change and the length of the snow season becoming shorter in the south, northern Ontario is positioned to become a preferred destination for the larger volume of southern Ontario skiers. Some of these may enjoy the natural beauty of the north and the experience with nature enough to make it their home. While we cannot read the future, we can plan for it. We would like to prepare for the inevitable growth by moving into winter tourism with an organized and comprehensive approach.
We are looking for your support, encouragement and direction in order to assist us to move from community-based tourism to a broader provincial clientele. Thank you.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We have four minutes for each caucus to ask questions or make a statement, starting with the NDP.
Mr Bisson: I have to say to the members of the government, I think one of my great frustrations in this particular area is that organizations such as this that are in the recreational aspect, be it, in this case, cross-country skiing or others, have great difficulty just doing what they're doing now, because they're basically operating strictly on volunteers and the fundraising and do's that they do themselves.
We know by experience that when there's a lack of dollars on the part of the province-one of the things that the government did when they got elected in 1995 was take away many of the programs, in the name of balancing the budget. We can get into debate on, was that that wise or wasn't it wise, but the point is, the dollars are no longer there. There's a very small pot of money, the Trillium Foundation, that everybody is trying to access. In our region, for these kinds of projects, I think there's a total of $160,000 or $260,000 for our region, which includes Mr Ramsay's riding along with mine. So when you're trying to do something that in the end could be a net benefit, not only to the members but to the community and to the north generally, it's very hard to get the dollars going.
I just want to illustrate it one way. You're here today at what used to be called the Ramada Inn. We call it now the Comfort Inn, or-
Interjection: Best Western.
Mr Bisson: Best Western. I should know these things; I live here. You notice there were lots of snowmobiles outside today. Those aren't local people. The government back in the early 1990s, and your government again just recently, decided it was wise to invest dollars to develop the snowmobile trail. As a result, there are tons of businesses in northern Ontario that are getting the economic spinoffs of that investment that was first made by our government but then carried on with yours so that businesses such as this one, people who sell snowmobiles, people who sell tourism destination packages, local restaurants, others who have built along the trails, are basically reaping a benefit from that very small investment.
I would argue that for every dollar we invested in developing the snowmobile trail system, the northern part of the province got that back tenfold. I think we have an opportunity here for these kinds of organizations if the government saw their way to saying, "Yeah, we recognize that tourism is one of the things that we've got to do better in northern Ontario," to giving the staff of the local MTR offices in our region and giving the staff of the northern development people-who are really good people who work really hard with these organizations-the ability, by way of programs, to help these people along and developing strategies and having funding models in place that allow us to get these kinds of things up and running.
One quick question: How many volunteer hours do you put into this, any one of you guys?
Mr Bob Blanchard: Oh, 2,000 maybe, at least.
Mr Bisson: As an individual?
Mr Blanchard: Myself, yes.
Mr Bisson: These guys go out every day and are doing it for no dollars. They are doing it out of passion, and I'm sure you see similar things in your own ridings. But imagine what we can do if we give these people a little bit of support-the net benefit, not only to our communities but to our northern local economy.
The Vice-Chair: We move on to the government side.
Mr Arnott: Thank you very much for what you've given us here today. I think the analysis that you have put forward in your presentation is very sound, about the potential that exists for cross-country skiing in the coming years. I think you're absolutely right, there is tremendous potential and you're well positioned to take advantage of that.
Getting back to your specific proposal, you pinpoint the need for an up-to-date Web-based information system. Do you have any idea how much that aspect of your proposal would cost? I would think it would be fairly nominal.
Mr Raftis: Yes. Not much at all. The strategy is to move the accountability for each venue right to the venue owner so that we would basically build the central model and then they could link into that, which really has no cost to us. The cost to the clubs would be for their site. They could put local information into it so that when people contacted them it would be like meeting somebody. You could see a picture of the president here.
It makes the world a lot smaller, because when people get away from Toronto they sometimes suffer from the lack of people around them. They feel a little nervous about that. But if they know they're going to someplace where there is somebody they are going to recognize or there's a phone number and they can talk to somebody, they can get a real feel for what's there, a visual appreciation of what's there, then I think it will extend their sense of it. I don't think that's a big part of it at all, but I think it probably will pay very well.
Mr Arnott: It would be helpful to have the provincial government involvement to tie everything together.
Mr Raftis: It would fit well with some of the marketing they're doing too, but again, we're not developed to the point that people have enough confidence to present themselves to the public. That's where we're short at this point in time. When you open your doors to the public, there are expectations there. I think what we have to do is help people in the north get to that level of confidence that they can say: "Yeah, come on. We're going to be ready for you. We're going to welcome you, and we're going to have facilities that are going to keep you happy."
Mr Arnott: The one thing that I would observe is missing from your proposal is a dollar figure, what you would need to do what you want to do.
Mr Raftis: The reason that's not there is we're working with a large number of organizations. What we want to do is go and talk to a large number of the clubs and other operators and say: "What sort of plans do you have? I don't want to pick something out of the air. What plans could you actually finance, so that we can pick a figure that has some precision to it and argue that based on the fact that we have substantial information behind it?" What we're going to be doing is working with some of the clubs to put a five-year development plan together and then taking those totals and putting them together and doing some projection based on that.
Mr Arnott: If there was a set-aside fund, as you've described here, by the provincial government, you would look at local contributions matching whatever the provincial contribution was?
Mr Raftis: Yes. I think there are benefits for local people. They're willing to put money into it, and they've done that traditionally, so that would be the basis of it.
Mr Arnott: Thank you.
The Vice-Chair: OK, to the official opposition.
Mr Phillips: I very much appreciate the presentation. I looked out my window last night and there were 30 sleds out there. There are probably 30 or maybe 15 rooms that were rented here in this hotel last night because of the sleds. I think you play a huge future role.
I'm conscious of global warming. I drive a sled too, but I'm from Toronto so I'm always looking for where the snow is, and it seems to go further north every year. I wonder if your organization has looked almost scientifically at this. Over the next 10 years, what can we expect in Ontario in terms of where there will be a reasonable amount of snow for sledding and cross-country skiing? Because my intuition is that it is moving further north every year. It would be helpful for me if you know. If you've got that, tell us; if you don't have that, where might we find it? Because my instincts are you've got a great future, because people are looking farther and farther north for what you provide.
Mr Raftis: I do have a bit of a background in climate change. I've been to some conferences on it and have some personal interest in it. Essentially I think northern Ontario is probably one of the most stable areas for climate change long-term. The reasons for that are because we're not close to big water bodies and also because we have a fixed precipitation freeze-up. Our precipitation in the wintertime locks in, in the snow, so we don't have the potential for the big swings in temperature that they get in more tropical areas.
Having said that, what's projected to happen is that there will be a shortening of the winter season. It doesn't mean that we won't get winter in southern Ontario, but it will be shorter and more dramatic, and it will warm up earlier. But because northern Ontario is farther north, it will warm up later and cool off earlier. So the line where winter tourism activity will have a longer season will be moving further north. They'll still have seasons in the south, but they'll be shorter and more dramatic and start later. In this business, if it starts late it's very disastrous for us, because people don't put the capital into new equipment, new sleds. If they don't see it before Christmas, chances are they're going to say, "It's too late this year."
So the critical part of the season is the early season. That's when all the money is spent and that's when all the commitments by the organizations are made. So if everybody sees a bad winter coming, everybody stops spending money and the industry sort of freezes up. For that sort of an industry, I think northern Ontario is a place that's going to be fairly stable over the long term as far as snow loads go.
Mr Phillips: My own gratuitous advice is to make that a big part of your presentation.
Mr Raftis: OK. Sure.
Mr Phillips: David, you had a question.
Mr Ramsay: Hi, Ambrose. How are you doing?
Mr Raftis: Good.
Mr Ramsay: Good to see you. Good presentation. I'm very interested in your remarks here about a consolidated Web site. I've had a person from Haileybury in my office for about the last seven months who has a Web site but has been frustrated with the inability to consolidate all the aspects of all our communities so that, as you said, you can link to accommodations, gas stations, drugstores, everything people would need as they travel through.
I'm not sure if you're aware, but tonight at 7 o'clock at the Haileybury School of Mines there is a presentation where this fellow has linked up with the ecology centre in Mattawa and other organizations and municipalities. For the first time they are presenting their proposal for this amalgamated Web site that would include all aspects of tourism for all municipalities throughout northern Ontario. I think its tentative name is NorthNet Now. I'm going to be going to that tonight and will be very interested to see if it would be appropriate that your interests are linked there, because it seems to me that if we can get it down to one source for anybody who wants to come to the north, whether they link into it because they have put in their search engine "cross-country skiing" or "northern Ontario" or a particular community, it might be good to have one place to go on the Internet for all of this information.
I'm going to be very eager to see how this looks tonight and if this would be adequate for all the organizations and all the activities we have in northern Ontario.
Mr Raftis: One of the advantages to the Internet sites is the linking. What we would see is people would come into it from a skier's perspective, and the clubs would maintain their information, because that's the next layer of information. The next layer of information we need would be the service industries, and we could link to that. So what happens is people would receive their information in a logical, sequential fashion, the process in which they need it, and each one of them would be supported by a different source of information. The initial one would be fairly fixed. The next layer would be the club one, because they would have variable levels of information, changes they had to incorporate; and then the community, the motel accommodations, the restaurants and all that, could put in their information.
What we foresee doing is having the clubs take the accountability to ensure that their local people are represented, maybe through that Web site. They could just link automatically to the Web site. So we could build the two layers and hook on to the last layer if that accommodated it. The advantage with the Web sites is they're so flexible you just link to different areas that you want.
Mr Ramsay: Yes.
Mr Raftis: Did you have something?
Mr Ken Gauld: Yes.
The Vice-Chair: You haven't had a chance to speak. Go ahead.
Mr Gauld: My name is Ken Gauld. I'm representing the Kapuskasing Nordic Ski Club. I'd just like to interject something. Not only were we talking about the Web site, tourism and all that, but I would like to get down to the community level also, dealing with each individual community. In Kapuskasing, our ski club is right in the community. We're within one and a half kilometres of the centre of the community. The strong point about our club is the local volunteerism. Plus, I was a previous chair of our hospital board. I understand what's happening in the medical field, with doctors and all that. I can honestly say that one of the biggest selling points we have in Kapuskasing, as late as last week, is if we need an anaesthesiologist, the ski club is next door. If you want to go skiing, their paging system works very well. Sure enough, they do come, and they really enjoy it. I'll tell you this right now. They're out two, three hours a day, because they have not been able to do it in southern Ontario. That type of exposure gets them thinking about coming and living in the north with their families, even for a short period of time-five, 10 years. That is what the north needs. Also, the children see this and they encourage it: "Let's cut the smoking garbage and go out skiing," or things like that. They're constantly doing this.
At a local level our club is finding-and we passed out the brochure-that we're very well set. We're very self-reliant. We have no debt, and we're struggling to get the machinery that is needed to do the proper thing to enhance these trails and this equipment. It goes for curling; it goes for many aspects of the community. That's what makes a strong community. That's what we also have to get across. If the public come and see this as tourists, see a very strong, developed community, they know they've got a good thing and they're going to enjoy it.
You people were in Kenora yesterday. Lake of the Woods is a big attraction. The people look after it and the people want to come. We can do the same with skiing and winter sports in the north.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you, Ken. You went overtime, but that's all right. You hadn't had a chance earlier. Thank you very much for your presentation. It was most interesting. Best of luck to your organization. We'll take it under advisement.
ELEMENTARY TEACHERS' FEDERATION OF ONTARIO, LOCAL 1
The Vice-Chair: Our next delegation is Deborah Murray, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, Local 1, Ontario northeast. Welcome. Just say your name and your associates' names for recording purposes. You have 30 minutes for a presentation. Whatever of that time is left over, we'll have questions and statements from the three parties, to be divided up evenly.
Ms Deborah Murray: I'm Deborah Murray. I'm here this afternoon with the vice-presidents of our local, Jim Paterson and Dale Livingston.
I would set our comments with regard to education in the context of-for example, we're here together in a room and we just heard people talking about the enjoyment of a sport. People were sharing anecdotes about communication on skidoos. If we could imagine ourselves in a situation where we were having a dilemma in transportation and someone promised us equitable treatment around transportation, so we're all in a room listening to someone tell us they're going to straighten things out and make it so it's fair for everyone; there'll be equity involved and we're all going to get a proper means of transportation for ourselves. So the presentation is made, and I understand the structure of this equity situation that's coming forward to us. Then when we walk out to the parking lot we see a parking lot full of blue four-door sedans, and there's one for each of us. The challenge is that when we've been sitting in the room, the retired couple that does Meals on Wheels and the family of four with a dog had been envisioning a van with the doors that open on both sides. The custodian who coaches a hockey team was envisioning a Suburban. So indeed these people were given a promise of something, an equity, but their needs were very distinct and different. So when they got outside, indeed there was transportation, but not what they needed.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, local Ontario northeast, represents over 400 teachers and educational workers, from Temagami in the south to Hearst in the north. The teachers who work with students, families and communities in this northeast region have a great deal of heart. The communities have heart. It is their schools and the health of these schools that is in danger.
In a recent Environics survey, the government received low marks its for handling of education. What prompted this concern?
The funding model, with its various formulae, was set in place to establish equity among the students of Ontario. Our brief history with the model indicates that this medicine is not working. In the northeast, geography and population distribution are critical variables not adequately accounted for. Inadequate funding reveals itself in many forms.
I make a small aside: I noticed that the two members were sharing a look at the map of the province in the northeast and are very well aware of the geography and the impact that we, representing the members who work there, and certainly this district school board, face in the delivery of services to a geography of the area that you were just reviewing.
Elementary educators have been working to implement multitudinous new curriculum documents. The funding model has provided fewer teachers and the impact is played out in the reduction or complete elimination of library programs, computer specialists and music. A properly staffed resource centre is essential for this new curriculum, providing the necessary resource materials. Qualified teachers should be peopling these facilities and computer labs. In many schools in this jurisdiction the library is theoretically closed, and in others, staffed by volunteers.
The formula of one teacher for every 25 students for classroom purposes and 1.5 teachers for every 1,000 students for library and guidance will not guarantee equity in an area like ours.
Just as an aside note, when you reviewed that map, that kind of population density is not going to exist, so our single-school communities have no hope to staff a school adequately with the proper teachers who are qualified in those areas.
Inadequate staffing establishes unreasonable demands in delivering the required programs. We have the curriculum documents. What of the resources and staff to share them with the children? Despite best efforts by the board's technical departments, it is not uncommon for computer labs to be down for weeks and even months at a time. I make no exaggeration here on this one. I'm out of the school right now, working on behalf of my members, but I taught in a school where they came in to run a special program for educators and something happened to the server. Our whole lab was down for three months.
The progress review of Ontario's new district school boards, District School Board Ontario North East-the EIC report of July 5, 1999-identified that funding problems have hampered the board's efforts in this area. This same progress review acknowledges the benefit derived from sharing perspectives and experiences with a wider range of colleagues in this amalgamated board. It is fundamental that when we come together we are discussing curriculum strategies rooted in a premise that the same level of programs would be universally offered to all the children in our communities.
Again as a side note, within this district school board, the schools in the Timmins area and two in Kirkland Lake offer full-day, every-day kindergarten, but it's not universally offered in this system. When you look at the delivery of immersion programs and core French, there is a wide range of delivery. Communities have come to expect that level of service. The funding model doesn't support that, but for whatever reasons, the boards maintain those-political purposes, whatever. They maintain those because they're historically established in these six predecessor boards, but by doing that, it very severely impacts the services in other schools because they're putting staff and resources into areas that are not being funded by the government.
In order to do this, to achieve equity, we indeed have to treat situations differently. Sharing assessment practices and curriculum development becomes problematic when some teachers have the opportunity to work with early learners at the kindergarten level every day and others attempt to cover this same volume of material over a year of alternate days.
Programs such as Mathquest 2000 and Open Court, a language program, which meet the kindergarten curriculum requirements, are structured for delivery five days a week throughout the year. Some teachers are asked to deliver this in half the time but with the same observation and reporting demands. Full funding for all-day, every-day senior kindergarten must be restored as well as expanding junior kindergarten funding. We must support our youngest and most vulnerable.
I can think of a specific situation of a teacher who was in a situation of alternate days. One day, the first day of the week, she is working with 31 junior kindergarten children. The next day, she receives 20 senior kindergarten children. This one teacher is responsible for tracking 51 students. At that particular age, as well, she has the most significant responsibility in the early identification of learning needs. We have those numbers about averages of 25, but it doesn't play out that way when you have the geography that we have.
Class size: Within District School Board Ontario North East some of our largest classes exist in these early years. Statistically, the board meets the average class size criteria. Our single-school communities have little flexibility in relation to class size solutions. Research has long identified the importance of smaller classes in the primary grades, especially when considering the identification of learning problems.
Special education: Split grades are common in our smaller schools. Multi-grade situations reduce the amount of attention any individual child receives. This is compounded by past cuts to special-education funding. When you take into account inflation and enrolment changes, funding for special education is at least $50 million less than the level provided by boards prior to the new funding model. The recently announced $40 million for special education still leaves this area in a deficit situation. We can endlessly discuss numbers and play a shell game of dollars; the reality is special education services have been cut.
A stack of validated files creates pressure on the heart. Indeed, I was in the special education coordinator's office last week and saw that stack of files sitting on a shelf behind her desk, validated files of students. For lack of funding, many identified students do not have the service due to them. Provincial school students have returned to District School Board Ontario North East, and there is no support.
Funding was originally intended to be portable, but associated support dollars have not followed the students transferred to the jurisdiction this year. What I heard most recently is that we're in the net of having six identified students come into the area, never mind the ones of those validated files sitting on that coordinator's shelf. But we had two identified students, in terms of ISA funds, leave the area and eight come in, so there is that net of six. There is no money to pay for the services due those children, no money to this board.
Indeed, the funds were supposed to be transportable. For whatever reasons, when the contact was made with the ministry, they said: "That was the original intention, but the money gets sent to board X and we have no way of-how do we pick it back from there and track it with the child? It's something that is going to be looked at." But in the interim, the impact is here. On the horizon are the children yet to be identified. New high-needs students do not have funding. There must be an open review of all eligible students and an in-year review for new students.
The other class size issue: An overall general concern is the distribution of dollars to elementary and secondary students. There has been a long history to this inequity. I think we currently have a situation with regard to the foundation grants, that there is just under a $600-per-pupil difference in the dollars attributed per elementary student versus secondary, and there is no rationale to that.
The arbitrary assigning of 100 square feet per elementary student and 130 square feet per secondary student neglects the reality of space necessary for resource and music rooms, labs, special education rooms, gymnasiums and play spaces for kindergarten and primary. Elementary students are just as deserving of learning opportunities in proper facilities.
Both students and teachers grow weary of the delivery of physical education, music or special education in an open space, closet or converted lunchroom. Compounding the fact that only 100 square feet per elementary student is financed, there is no way to guarantee the money actually reaches the elementary student. Money generated by those elementary students is deposited into the board's account. However, there is no system in place to track its spending on elementary as opposed to secondary.
Staff: There is a definite impact on teacher morale. Teachers in our board are being asked to provide greater services than in the past, with larger classes, fewer resources, new curriculum documents frequently unsupported with necessary materials, fewer professional development days, greater distances to travel to meet with colleagues and increased accountability. Bill 160 recommended 200 minutes of preparation time, yet funding does not cover this. Such recommendations must be supported within the funding model.
School councils are frequently left trying to support their teachers through fundraising. The fundraising activities range from money for school trips and sending children to music camp to science equipment and computer programs. The essentials should not depend on the charity of the community.
A recent survey by Environics found that Ontarians want government spending on education to increase. A solid majority of Ontarians, seven in 10, want the government to spend more than it is now on education.
Will you listen?
The Chair: Thank you. We have approximately five minutes per caucus, and I'll start with the government side.
Mrs Molinari: Thank you very much for your presentation. It is enlightening for me to listen to some of the unique circumstances in various school boards. As I have said before, and say to you as new presenters, the cookie-cutter approach does not work, and every situation needs to be looked at individually. You have highlighted some unique needs. Looking at the map, the large area you cover here, as opposed to some of the smaller areas in some of the southern boards, certainly there are differences and unique circumstances there.
You mentioned some issues around special-education funding. Some of those areas are not new to us, in that an improvement needs to be made. It's an evolving funding mechanism. The minister did make an announcement recently putting more funding into special education. That is something that will be ever-evolving. There will be input from the boards as to how that is working and what the ministry can do to improve it.
The same with the education funding model: In the past it was clear from a number of boards and parents who had said that the model in place before this new model was not equitable and changes needed to be made, and a change was made. That is not to say it is perfect. Since the new education funding model was adopted, there have been changes to it. Again, it is something that is evolving until you get it the way that it suits everybody's needs in a perfect way.
You made some comments with respect to the 100 square feet per elementary and 130 square feet per secondary student, that there is no accounting of whether that is how the dollars are being spent specific to the different sections. Your are right, and that is because the boards are given the flexibility to spend the money in ways such that one year it may be more in one area and another year it may be more in another. There is some autonomy and responsibility with the local boards to determine those expenditures.
One thing that concerns me about what you said has to do with special-education funding, if you could expand on it a little further. It is my understanding that the new funding model put in place would move the funding with the student. It wasn't in the past, and it was the definite desire of the ministry that that would happen, that when a student moved to another school, the funding would move with that student. You mentioned today-and I have heard it mentioned by some other presenters, which concerns me and certainly I am going to try to gain a better understanding of how and why that is happening. Could you elaborate a little further on that particular case, to give me a better understanding of a unique situation of an individual school board and how they deal with it?
Ms Murray: I don't have a specific example. In conversation with people who handle special education in this district school board-as you indicated, they were given to understand that-I'm not sure of the exact language, but in terms of the portability of funds, for example, if I as a special-needs student transferred from, say, the Rainbow board to district school board 1, the money for the services that I may have been attributed should then come to this board. For whatever reason in terms of the paper chase, the trail that needed to be generated to ensure that, apparently, from what was explained to me, that does not happen. It's apparently something they are going to look into, but it has not happened this year.
Mrs Molinari: Another question, if you have the answer of what the board is spending with respect to special education-not the exact figures, but I know that a number of boards across the country are spending above the special ed allocation and the money is coming from the discretionary portion of the budget that they have, that they can access. Do you know whether the board you're with is spending above that?
Ms Murray: I don't have that information.
Mrs Molinari: Again, thank you very much for your presentation. It's very informative.
Mr Phillips: Last week, the Elementary Teachers' Federation presented one of the more startling numbers to me, and that was that the average class size had gone up by about 10% in junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, grades 1 and 2, which was contrary to the popular government description of what was going on. That struck me as serious and odd. Has that been the case here or have your class sizes dropped?
Ms Murray: For specifics on kindergarten specific to the 35 schools in this district school board, I could not give you the exact averages on that. I know of many particular schools. I gave you the example of the junior kindergarten with 31 students. I know of others of 26, 28 children. I think it's in Englehart that we have classes of 31 and 24 children, so there's a teacher tracking 55 children. The numbers are up in those communities because physically, for example, in Haileybury and Englehart, where those numbers are up like that, there is a school, a classroom.
Mr Phillips: You don't know the average class size?
Ms Murray: No. I think what you're saying about the numbers about the province was probably shared with you by our people in their presentations. When the government gave that opportunity for choice, when they moved away from the special funding to keep numbers down, the boards made other choices.
Mr Kwinter: Ms Murray, I would just like to pursue this statement you have in your presentation: "Money is deposited to the board's account, however there is no system in place to track its spending on elementary as opposed to secondary." Could you give me an example? Has that actually happened in your particular board?
Ms Murray: I'm not here attempting to make any remarks that would question the way our board tracks its money. My understanding is that in terms of the foundation grants and monies per pupil etc that are attributed, they're put into the board's account. The board has the various envelopes it can spend to, but to know that per pupil, in terms of the foundation grants, the money generated for elementary, it is definitely spent in the elementary panel-I don't know of any way that you would ask the board or how they could track that information. I'm not saying it's impossible. I'm not implying that the board's hiding anything from us. I just don't think there's any board probably that has the mechanism to track that. I think it would certainly be something for the ministry to investigate a process for. We made the comment in our piece here that elementary kids deserve equal to secondary. We certainly deserve the money that they're generating into the system to be attributed to their needs.
Mr Phillips: Another issue you touched on here is the local school fundraising, and that's of interest to me because while everyone wants and encourages parental involvement in schools, I think there is a terrific danger that if local fundraising becomes an important ingredient in terms of the quality of education in a school, you do end up, in areas where a school may be located with families of modest income, with a level of education well below that where there are families that can afford it.
There's a private member's bill before the Legislature right now that would allow for donations to schools to be tax deductible if you donate your computer and whatnot, which at least raises questions to me of-and by the way, the same thing is happening in health care, where it is somewhat easier for well-to-do communities to raise capital money for health care.
Is that an issue-and it's just emerging, in my opinion; it's just starting-that we in the provincial government should be concerned about, or is it comparatively minor in the education system?
Mr Jim Paterson: If I could speak to that, I know that in my community of Kapuskasing we have some concerns about fundraising. First of all, there's a safety issue of young children being out on the street selling chocolate bars or whatever. I guess too we have to question what the fundraiser is for. If the school really believes these fundraisers are for important parts of the child's education, then I think we should fund it; the government should fund those things. I don't think we should rely upon children to go out and raise funds.
It becomes a competitive thing, one school doing a meat sale, other schools selling chocolate bars and so on. I know as a parent there are times of the year where you can't sit down for more than 10 or 15 minutes in the evening without somebody knocking on your door wanting to sell you something. Those are some of the things that happen in our communities. There's also less of an industrial base that we can touch on to raise these kinds of funds.
Ms Murray: If I could add a point there in terms of the legislation that might come forward, I had the opportunity when I was sitting with the College of Teachers and one of the appointees from the community was a high-profile person in the financial district-it's interesting, the point you make, when we are talking about resources and supporting one's school and you consider the lobbying potential of people in that sort of profile and what they are able to donate or not compared to the average family and citizen in communities where there aren't those kinds of jobs. When you think about the 416-905 area, all those companies and corporations, when they donate stuff, where is it going to go? She was a vice-president of a large company and was saying that they are refurbishing their computer department. These were very usable pieces of equipment, but of course where was that stuff being donated? To her child's school. Are they going to be screaming to the government that they are in need? No. They just got those computers.
Mr Bisson: Three questions. The first one is, I had an opportunity sometime before Christmas, probably December or November, to meet with elementary teachers in Moosonee-Moose Factory who are teaching in the provincial schools there. One of the comments they were making, and something we've been doing some follow-up on, is what you touched on in your presentation, which is the introduction of the new curriculum that hasn't been followed by the books. In many cases, in Moosonee for example, the only book they had received was the math book, or was it the English book? It was one or the other; I can't remember which one. The rest of the program-science, mathematics etc-was being taught by basically cutting and pasting different things from books that the teachers had in their own collection or out of the school repository-I won't even call it a library, if you take a look at it. They basically cut and pasted things on to paper and gave them to the students. That is a pretty extreme case, but how much of that actually happens within some of the other schools within your area?
Ms Murray: I would say that's very common in our area. Speaking at a meeting two weekends ago to one of the teachers in Iroquois Falls and talking about how she spends a good part of her Saturday and Sunday, she's an immersion teacher, so she spends a good part of her Saturdays and Sundays translating information from old-there wasn't even, say, a new science book or whatever to translate. She was taking old resource materials, following the new curriculum and translating to generate material to present to the children.
Mr Dale Livingston: I was just going to add to that. I teach in a 7-8 school of about 325 or 330 kids. I'm currently teaching grade 7 level, and the only textbook I have to support the new documents is a math textbook, as Gilles alluded to.
Mr Bisson: Is it the math?
Mr Livingston: It's a math textbook that I have. I have about 32 copies of it. For history, which I also teach, I'm using the old grade 7 textbook, and now that the document has changed, the curriculum, I'm also using grade 8 textbooks. So I am cutting and pasting, plus the resources that I have collected over the years.
Mr Bisson: So that is more or less the norm as well as in other schools.
Mr Livingston: In the school that I'm in, and I suspect it's probably-
Mr Bisson: One of the calls that I make to the government and one of the things we ask-I don't think people are opposed to change overall when it comes to curriculum. We've been doing that for years in the system. It's not the first government to have changed curriculum within the school boards. Believe me, we've all done it. But at least when we do that, we should make sure the books are available at the same time because it makes it very difficult. I know I'm hearing that up the coast and I was wondering if you were getting the same.
The other-you were going to add something?
Mr Livingston: I was just going to add one more thing to that. In the rush last year to order new textbooks and so on, I suspect just from my own experience that for some of the textbooks that were purchased, on a scale of 1 to 10, we probably could have selected better textbooks as far as what the document wants you to teach.
Mr Bisson: The other thing is the one-school communities, an issue I'm dealing with actually with the French Catholic board, and I'm wondering if it's the same within your elementary system. Opasatika is an example, and-Dave?
Mr Bisson: Jim. Sorry. I always get names mixed up. I'm one of these guys. I should know him well, for God's sake.
Opasatika has a small community of around 800 or 900 people, somewhere around there, just north of Kapuskasing by about an hour. They have one school, which is mixed classes and they are in a situation now, because they don't have-I think the magic number is 70% occupancy within the school. They are at 65% or 66%. The school board is looking at closing the school, which serves kindergarten up to, I believe, grade 6 or grade 7, and transporting the kids down to Kapuskasing in order to go to school.
As parents, I think we all agree we don't want our little toddlers on buses running down Highway 11 to go to school 45 minutes or an hour down the highway. We're right now in a bit of a fight of our lives trying to keep the school in Opasatika around this funding issue. I know Mr Ramsay has the same problem in Iroquois Falls when it comes to the French public. So I'm wondering, in your situation-I still get lots of calls from Iroquois Falls. What a wonderful community that was to serve. You're very lucky to have it, but that's another story. I always make my plug for Iroquois Falls.
Anyway, do you experience the same thing? Do you have schools within district school board 1 that are in the same situation, where one-school communities are at risk?
Ms Murray: At this point I know the board has a process in place for accommodation review. I think we have fears that there are schools in that situation. None has come to our attention, but certainly there are areas that we are fearful of, I think more so in the southern part of this board, in the area that Mr Ramsay represents.
Mr Bisson: I haven't heard of any in the northern part. That's why I was wondering about your school board. I've heard of it in the French system but not in the English.
Ms Murray: I would say that, tragically, this is the kind of stuff, the rumour mill thing that you hear because there haven't been bona fide accommodation review meetings to this point, but you just have to look around and realize. The challenge there is that it's unrealistic, in terms of the travel time that these children would have to be on a bus, to think of closing those schools.
Mr Bisson: Jim, a quick question.
The Chair: We have run out of time.
Mr Bisson: Just a very, very quick question.
Jim, I'm getting a lot of calls in the Kapuskasing office from parents who are having difficulty with kids with special needs. I'm wondering, is there something different going on in the schools now as compared to a few years ago to see the increase in casework that I'm getting in my office in Kap?
Mr Paterson: I think this is something that is area- wide. There's more identification going on, and more and more special-ed kids, for whatever reason, whether it's society or whatever, are being identified as needing help. They are definitely there and, once again, as Deb has said, services are not there to help them.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
Ms Murray: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you.
SOUTH PORCUPINE ARENA ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presenter this afternoon is the South Porcupine Arena Association. Could you please step forward and state your names for the record.
Ms Brenda Torresan: My name is Brenda Torresan. I'm the first vice-president of the South Porcupine Arena Association.
Mr Burt St Amour: Burt St Amour, executive director of the South Porcupine Arena Association.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your presentation this afternoon.
Ms Torresan: Thank you very much. It's actually an honour to be here and to have this forum to speak to you. It's not often we have this. I apologize for my voice, but a hockey tournament took it away this weekend.
Dear sirs and madam, we are the South Porcupine Arena Association and have been in existence since 1939. We were formerly recognized as the Porcupine Skating Rink Co Ltd.
In 1977, a board of directors was formed and became responsible for the management and the operation of the arena.
In 1991, we were advised to commence application to establish a non-profit organization. This would allow us the opportunity to obtain grants and funds not accessible to corporations, as which we were legally registered. Realizing major renovations were forthcoming, and to properly reflect our position as a community service and facility, the process was initiated and obtained.
In 1993, the arena began phase one of the renovation project. This task was accomplished with the assistance of devoted volunteers and dedicated staff and board members. The financial assistance obtained through a grant from the Ministry of Recreation and Tourism was a contributing factor to the initiation of this project. The association was required to match these funds in order to qualify, and we did successfully.
In 1994, the arena continued with phase two of the renovations. Again a grant was obtained, however, this time from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. Again, the association was required to match these funds in order to qualify. However, we did not have the cash and therefore applied for a loan. The process that ensued became very discouraging. Because of our non-profit status, no lending institution was willing to finance our project. We were advised that the corporation status would have satisfied their lending requirements, but now, as a non-profit organization, it was not within their guidelines. The association did manage to obtain alternate financial assistance as a result of a board director allowing their private residence to be mortgaged for the benefit of the association and thereby completing phase two.
The arena presently operates on an approximately $300,000-per-year budget. For 10 months of the year, the arena is booked to capacity. In the two months it's not in operation, the arena staff embark on completing major repairs and maintenance work.
The South Porcupine arena is a historical and monumental building with a history of memories. It is a recreation facility which entertains old and young and provides a service to the residents of the city of Timmins and surrounding area. It is the only one, or one of the few arenas in northern Ontario, that operates at no cash value to its citizens.
At present, we are home for the Porcupine Minor Hockey Association, the Tisdale Figure Skating Club, the Timmins Ladies Senior "AA" Vipers Hockey Team, the Timmins Ladies' and Men's Sponge Puck Leagues, the Falconbridge and Placer Dome Recreation Leagues, the Porcupine Oldtimers League, the South Porcupine Recreational League, local schools and clubs.
We are now facing phase three of our project. This phase will consist of a new arena floor and the installation of handicap ramps at the main entrance. These two items are another major financial task for this association. The floor will not withstand another year and, without its replacement, numerous organizations will suffer.
In seeking financial resources, they have all but diminished in size and monetary contribution. Our facility and service is in critical need of funds to complete phase three. We are unable to obtain a loan from any financial institution due to our non-profit status, and the allocated funds that are available to our area are not sufficient based upon the government's new and/or changed criteria for qualification. We are asking you to consider providing the South Porcupine Arena Association with a substantial financial subsidy to allow phase three to be initiated and secure the placement of the numerous non-profit organizations that rely upon our existence. Without your grant or resources, this task will not occur. Subsequently, the previous major financial assistance received will be to no avail.
As taxpayers and members of the community, as board members and directors of the South Porcupine Arena Association, as volunteers of our community-based recreation facility, we are asking you, representatives of our provincial government, to invest in your youth and the future of tomorrow. Support them with one of the only arenas in our municipality, ward 2. The numerous organizations and the thousands of participants would be truly grateful. Please sincerely address our request.
I trust that if you have questions from this-I wasn't familiar with your format-we certainly could answer them for you here.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have approximately six minutes per caucus. I'll start with the official opposition.
Mr Kwinter: I'd just like some clarification. On page 2 of your presentation, in the first paragraph, last sentence, you say it operates at a no-cash value to its citizens. What does that mean?
Mr St Amour: I can answer that. We used to get funding from the city of Timmins to operate their South Porcupine arena. Right now, whatever revenue the arena brings in, as far as revenue minus all our expenses, we're at a break-even proposition. So when we say that it doesn't cost the taxpayers any money, a lot of arenas in northern Ontario probably have a deficit. One example is probably the McIntyre arena, which loses about $350,000 a year. We do not have a deficit; we always break even or we always have to make sure we have enough money in the bank to do any repairs the following year. So when I say "no cash value to the taxpayers," it doesn't cost the taxpayers here in this city any money to operate that building.
Mr Kwinter: I would suggest you change the word "value," because it obviously presents a great value to the taxpayers but no cash cost to the taxpayers.
Mr St Amour: No cash cost, then.
Mr Kwinter: That was very confusing to me.
When you talk about a substantial financial subsidy, how much money are you looking for?
Mr St Amour: We made application to the Trillium Foundation for $200,000. We understand that the floor will probably cost more. Like in the other two projects that we did-I have to give you one example. If we'd had to get a contractor to come and do all these first phases of renovations, it probably would have cost us approximately $700,000 to $800,000. We were able to do it for about $300,000 because of the volunteers and everything else from the local community.
Mr Kwinter: You state that this new arena floor is also going to consist of the installation of handicap ramps. Are you aware that there are government programs to finance handicap access to public facilities?
Mr St Amour: We are aware that it was through the Trillium Foundation, and that's the only source of revenue we have applied for right now.
Mr Kwinter: Have you heard from them?
Mr St Amour: We heard from Mr Bisson, saying that there was only so much money allocated to this region. Because it was a minimal amount and they only allow $75,000 for a one-time grant, we weren't too energetic that we were going to get it this year. You have to remember that our floor is coming up about 10 inches in the middle.
Mr Bisson: It takes a lot of water on the sides.
Mr St Amour: It takes a lot of water on the sides. It's very hard to keep level ice. That's why, when we applied to the Trillium Foundation, we found out-and that was the only access grant that we tried. We tried for the heritage corporation about six or eight months ago. They were very supportive and said, "Oh yes, that's what we're looking for: arenas to stay open 10 months of the year instead of six months, and everything else." But then something happened after a couple of months, and they said they were changing the criteria and were going more into telecommunications, and that's where the funding was going to go after that.
Mr Kwinter: I would suggest you pursue that again with the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture and through the heritage fund, because they do that. Not only that, but they encourage people to make these facilities accessible to the handicapped. You should pursue it.
The other thing I really would like to find out, because I'm involved in a couple of organizations that are not-for-profit and they certainly have not had any-there's been no inhibition about the banks providing funding. In fact, it's just the opposite. The fact that there isn't any profit being taken out by shareholders and everything that comes in stays there, as long as you can make the business case, they will fund it. I am surprised when you say that you cannot get funding because you're non-profit.
I'll give you an example. The Ontario Jockey Club, which is a mammoth organization, is non-profit. That doesn't mean they don't generate a pile of money, but it is a non-profit for tax reasons and they get all sorts of government assistance and funding. I would like to hear about your experience with that particular area.
Mr St Amour: I can only speak on the experience we had when we did the second phase of the renovations. At that time, we had to match the funds, which was $200,000, and it came up very quickly so we really didn't have the money set aside for that renovation. We didn't really think there would be a problem, because we had a building that was worth about $2 million and we thought we'd go to the bank and say, "We have an arena here that's worth $2 million; can we borrow on this arena?" Every lending institution we went to in the city of Timmins refused us by saying, "If we have to foreclose on an arena, it wouldn't look too good community-wise." Every lending institution that we went to, even though we could show in our financial statements debt servicing-we were able to show them that-we didn't get anywhere with that at all. So what we did was, like we said in the presentation, two members of the board of directors put their houses up as collateral. We're almost finished the debt already. We have about one more year left, and their houses will be clear of the debt. It was a very trying time during that second phase.
Mr Bisson: That was going to be my question, the two individuals who put up their houses. Most of us would recognize that most people wouldn't do that, put up their own houses as security towards the reconstruction of an arena or anything else. I think it shows the degree of support that, as we call it, "the barn" gets in the south end of the community. It's really an integral part of the community. There's a lot of history, a lot of good memories going back there. I think that's significant.
The question is: I understood that it was paid now. It's not?
Mr St Amour: It's got one more year, Gilles.
Mr Bisson: One more year? I thought it was paid.
Mr St Amour: Right now we have some money set aside. If we ever do get the funding for this third phase, we will probably clear off the debt totally of the other one.
Mr Bisson: The other thing is just to clarify what my colleague Mr Kwinter had raised in regard to "no cash value to citizens." You don't get an operating subsidy from the municipality?
Mr St Amour: We don't get anything. This is basically the first year that we've done this. After all my ice rentals and revenue, I'm able to operate that arena just off the revenue of my ice. So far, we also have access to funding through Nevada tickets and bingos. Right now we haven't had to touch those and we're trying to keep those for capital expenditure projects or something like a breakdown.
Mr Bisson: Which always happens. It brings me to my point to the government members, because I don't know of any other arena that is actually like yours. You say there are others, but I'm not aware of them. I know that the government, a couple of years ago, was toying with the idea of trying to figure out ways of transferring arenas off of the books of municipalities to not-for-profit or private corporations so that the operation of those arenas would not be a financial burden on the municipalities. I know the city of Sudbury was looking at doing that, and there are a few other municipalities around the province. I know that, when questioned about it, the Premier, Mr Harris, said: "This is a good idea. If we can find some sort of way of being able to involve the private sector by way of fundraising to take this burden off of the taxpayer, that would be a good thing." What we come to now is that you actually have the example to the government of what it is that you guys have been preaching. You've got one of these organizations out there that is not getting any tax dollars; they operate strictly by way of what comes through the gate and basically by way of fundraising.
The frustration that we've had, and it comes back to one of the earlier presentations, is that the Trillium Foundation is about the only game left in town. I don't just mean Timmins; figuratively, is what I'm saying. They're a great organization. I think you know them as MPPs. They support a lot of really good projects in our communities. Unfortunately, in the past we had many more dollars to access various organizations. Northern Development and Mines had programs; the Heritage Fund certainly was there. The Trillium Foundation-I'm not sure if their budget was bigger or smaller, but I know they played a bit more of a role. The Ministry of Tourism and Recreation was playing a big role at one point. It gave an opportunity to groups such as yours to go out there and work with local staff to figure out, "How can we do some planning so that next year or two years from now we can do the kinds of repairs that we need to our facilities to keep them current and keep them in good stock?"
The problem we're running across is, when basically the only game in town is the Trillium Foundation and everybody's lining up at the gate of Trillium trying to access dollars, it really makes it difficult when you're trying to do these kinds of projects. What happened in their case is that they have a project that is worth more than the maximum grant that would be allowed by the Trillium Foundation. When I spoke to the manager out of Sault Ste Marie in regard to this particular one-I think the number is actually $100,000, Jerry, maximum?
Mr Arnott: It's $75,000.
Mr Bisson: Is it $75,000? Just for the record, Jerry Corriveau works with the ministry of tourism and recreation. A great guy; you should give him a raise. He's always working with the people around here and across the riding.
The point is that their project is above that threshold, so they're really in a Catch-22 situation. If they're lucky enough to get a grant of $75,000, they're left with one heck of a shortfall. It's like the chicken-and-egg syndrome. If we make one plea to the government it is this: Give these people the tools they need. The investments we make by way of the Trillium Foundation, or whatever mechanism, to support not-for-profit, volunteer-type groups like this go a long way, because often they're the only game in town. For the Trillium Foundation, Jerry, the total budget for our region is $400,000? It's about $300,000; I forget what the numbers are.
Here's the problem: In Mr Ramsay's riding, which is almost as big as mine-you see the map-and our riding, we have all these communities that are competing for $300,000, and it's a drop in the bucket. It's money well appreciated, but we need the government to take a look at it. It's not like some other communities in other parts of the province where there is a multitude of activities people can participate in. Here that's basically what you've got, and we need to find ways to augment those funds so that organizations like the South Porcupine arena are able to do the work they do.
My last question-and I know I'm coming to the end-
Mr Bisson: I do again? I'm a lot faster than I think I am sometimes.
The Chair: You're good at talking.
Mr Bisson: You know me well, Marcel. What the heck.
If you were to go forward with this particular project and get a 50% or 75% matching grant, could you raise the rest of it? Would you be able to go forward?
Mr St Amour: Yes, we could. I think we've shown in the past that we could do it and I know that we could do it again. The first two phases, however we did it, we were able to do it. If we had to do it again, we could do it again.
Mr Arnott: Thank you very much for your presentation. You should know that this will form part of the public record that will be presented to the Minister of Finance before the budget is finalized. I would think that if there was need demonstrated across the province for these kinds of projects, there would be a good chance the Minister of Finance would want to be encouraging and supportive of the needs that exist in terms of our recreational facilities.
You said that you need a new arena floor. What's wrong with the old one? Can you give me a better idea of what the problem is?
Mr Bisson: It takes a lot of water to fill the holes.
Mr Arnott: It's cracking, isn't it?
Mr St Amour: The floor was poured about 25 years ago. What's happened is that the arena business has changed drastically over the last five years. We are one of the very few in this city that operate 10 months of the year. Our floor was not made for that many months of operation, so every time we take the ice out, the frost heaves our floor, because there is no insulation. Twenty-five years ago they just poured cement and that was it. We're now up about 10 inches in the middle, so it's a big hump right now. As Gilles says, yes, there's a lot of water filling in the sides.
We've tried to change the look in this area for these arenas. As I said, most rinks only operate six months of the year. By staying open 10 months of the year, we're encouraging other hockey teams and other organizations coming in from Sudbury, North Bay and others which come to the city of Timmins. Some people have said, "Maybe you shouldn't keep the ice in," but in other ways it's also encouraging a lot of tourism and everything else. So that's what we're trying to do with the South Porcupine arena.
Mr Arnott: Is there an arena in Schumacher?
Mr St Amour: Yes, that's the one I referred to, the McIntyre arena. There are two bigger arenas in town, the McIntyre and the Archie Dillon Sportsplex, which at one time had summer ice. I'll just give you an example. They used to bring in, say, $25,000 in revenue, but it used to cost them about $55,000 in expenses. I couldn't operate that arena if I were to operate like that. So that's the arena. They go about $1,000 a day in the hole.
Mr Arnott: Is there a recreational lacrosse program in the summer months in South Porcupine?
Mr St Amour: No. When we renovated for those two first phases-we are a hockey arena. The figure-skating club and hockey use the arena. We use it all summer. That is basically what we use it for.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
TIMMINS AND DISTRICT HOSPITAL
The Chair: Our next presenters are representatives of the Timmins and District Hospital. Could you please step forward and state your names for the record.
Mr Wally Wiwchar: Good afternoon. My name is Wally Wiwchar. I am the chairman of the Timmins and District Hospital board.
Mr Esko Vainio: My name is Esko Vainio. I am the executive director of the Timmins and District Hospital.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your presentation.
Mr Wiwchar: When we first heard we might have to make this presentation in Kenora, I was a bit concerned. As you can appreciate, having to make a half-hour presentation that far away reinforces the distances and the isolation we have to face when working in northern Ontario.
We are pleased to be here before your committee to make this presentation at your pre-budget meetings. We appreciate this opportunity to outline some of our concerns relating to the provision of health care in the north.
You have in front of you an information package that includes our presentation this afternoon and a couple of documents I will be referring to.
As chair of the largest hospital in the area, the only C-level hospital, we have a basin of referrals that serves patients from the James Bay coast west to Chapleau-or maybe it's northwest to Hearst if you look at the map-east to the Quebec border and south to New Liskeard. It would be very easy for me to present a litany of problems that have been overlooked or avoided by this and previous governments, but I think that would be unproductive and would reinforce the perception that we are beggars looking for handouts. As a chronically underfunded hospital servicing close to 100,000 residents, we have jumped through every possible hoop. We have participated in every study put forth. Our staff and our board have been committed to providing quality health care to meet district expectations and patient needs.
Our calls for help in the past have not resulted in the financial support that health care so desperately needs. Our financial difficulties have precluded us from actively pursuing some needed clinical service enhancements for patients in the district. As an example, over the past week I received four letters from residents of this community concerned about the lack of ophthalmological services here and the fact that they have to travel long distances to Sudbury or North Bay, or in one case Peterborough, to take family members for eye surgery as basic as cataract removal. I personally have had to take my mother-in-law to North Bay and my mother to Sudbury in winter driving conditions. There is a population base here that would support an ophthalmologist, but unfortunately the cost to the district hospital would be in the area of $150,000 from an operating budget that is way overtaxed as it is. Because we don't have adequate funding, we have to deny our residents that basic level of service.
Last week, we submitted our three-year deficit recovery plan to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for consideration. For your information, there is a media release and recovery plan newspaper article in your packet.
Our proposal is for a partnership with the ministry to jointly work out our financial problems in pursuit of fiscal viability. Again, we are not here to beg. Instead I am here to remind you that common sense should dictate the solutions to recurrent problems. Many of those common sense solutions-I hate to use that term, because I know it is part of a political platform-have been communicated to government through one report or another.
What is the Timmins and District Hospital's mandate? We are the only level-C hospital in what the Health Services Restructuring Commission has called network 13, composed of nine hospitals, including Hearst, Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls, Lady Minto Hospital in Cochrane, Anson General Hospital in Iroquois Falls, Bingham Memorial Hospital in Matheson, Kirkland and District Hospital, Chapleau Health Services and of course the hub, Timmins and District Hospital.
Network 13 forms the largest network of hospitals in Ontario, servicing the health care needs of its population of, as I mentioned, close to 100,000. As a level-C hospital, we are able to provide specialist services in smaller community clinics such as Hearst and Smooth Rock and to the larger scene by referral to Timmins. A loss or reduction in these specialty services would result in an increased travel requirement for patients and their families to larger southern centres.
In looking over the composition of your committee, I noted that you're all from southern Ontario and you're all within one hour's travelling distance of a tertiary care facility.
Mr Bisson: I'm from up here.
Mr Wiwchar: Oh. Gilles, I'm sorry. However, the rest of this committee is. You're within one hour of a tertiary centre. In northern Ontario, from Timmins, for example, it is a three-and-a-half to four-hour driving situation to Sudbury, to a larger centre. If you're from Hearst, it's closer to seven or eight hours. It is easy to say that you can fly, but the airline service is sporadic at best and subject to the whims of Mother Nature. So the tertiary care hospitals are not as accessible as they are in southern Ontario.
A yet-to-be-released public health report, Report on the Health and Status of the Residents of Ontario, by professor Larry Chambers of McMaster University and funded by the health ministry, has revealed disturbing results. In your packet, there is a yellow sheet that gives you some of the demography, or the incidence.
Residents north of Parry Sound have the highest mortality rate compared to six other provincial health regions. Northern Ontarians are the least healthy people in the province. If you look, you can extrapolate that the Cochrane district is even worse than the whole of the north.
People in the north are disadvantaged in many ways with health care. There is limited access to health care. These are bullets right from the report. The morbidity rates for various diseases are higher than the provincial average, for example, cardiovascular, respiratory, cancer and injuries from accidents. Chronic disease rates are higher.
The report cannot be shelved or overlooked. It must become the catalyst for action by the government. Beyond the obvious need to address today's operating deficits with long-term solutions, we are drawing your attention to several broad areas that we think the government has to look at.
Mr Vainio: First, investment in technology: In numerous government documents we are challenged to provide quality health care which avoids duplication of efforts, provides care as close to home as possible, avoids unnecessary transport or travel for hospital services, is responsible and accountable to those it serves and strives to meet or exceed the appropriate level of care as identified by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
The technology to link area hospitals and beyond, via information technology, telemedicine projects such as the North Network and digital imaging with teleradiology, is not futuristic; it is here but needs the financial resources to bring its benefits to the patients in northeastern Ontario.
Imagine a victim of a snowmobile accident in Moosonee being transferred to Timmins for treatment and requiring periodic visitations in Timmins for follow-up. Using modern technology, the initial diagnostic imaging could be done in Moosonee and the data instantly transmitted digitally to Timmins for reading. The old technology means that film would be transported by air to the radiologist in Timmins. Via teleradiology the specialist could provide diagnostic and therapeutic assistance by CT scanning, MRI or whatever. Once the diagnosis is facilitated and the treatment initiated, consultation with specialists, whether in Timmins, Sudbury or Sunnybrook Medical Centre, can be accessed through telemedicine. The North Network needs to be supported and expanded not at some time in the future, but now.
The greatest immediate need in Network 13 hospitals is the investment in information technology, essential since the structural and natural obstacles currently facing the north are unlikely to change. In health care, information technology will provide a tangible means to more efficiently respond to transferring patient data between hospitals, improve financial management, and provide the level of access and care common to patients in urban areas of the province. Information technology will assist with the recruitment of specialists, address community isolation, the weather and availability of emergency services locally. I would reinforce with you that almost 50% of the specialist work at our hospital is in servicing the residents outside of Timmins. The percentage is increasing. We expect the same levels of financial support for IT as were granted to larger hospitals reviewed by the Health Services Restructuring Commission.
Initiatives such as the NEON group, the Northeastern Ontario Network, a partnership between seven hospitals in Chapleau, Englehart, Kirkland Lake, Temiskaming, Timmins, Sudbury and Network North, formerly the Sudbury Algoma Hospital, need financial support. The partnership was created in 1998 to facilitate a regional approach to health care information systems by having all member hospitals utilize the same health care information system, which in this case is Medical Information Technology's-Meditech-integrated health care information system. Charted diagnostic test results, patient histories and previous treatments performed at one NEON hospital will be able to be accessed from any of the other NEON sites, eliminating unnecessary duplicate testing and procedures when patients are being referred from one institution to the other.
Mr Wiwchar: Within your packages there are two documents, Physicians for Ontario and From Crisis to Stability, that are part of the next portion. The McKendry report, Physicians for Ontario, on physician supply and distribution issues, as well as a northeastern proposal, From Crisis to Stability, needs to be acted on sooner than later-the reason basically being that we're losing doctors throughout the north because of inactivity.
The McKendry report identifies the larger provincial concerns and lists the recommendations on pages 73 to 87. I did not give you the whole report; I just gave you the recommendations. The entire report is quite bulky. I have attached the recommendations to our brief. Physician recruitment and retention have always been a significant issue in northern Ontario. Over the past few years, shortages have also spread to many southern communities and, in turn, have aggravated the situation in northern communities.
Southern solutions-and I emphasize "southern solutions"-imposed on all doctors have impacted significantly on northern health care and created situations where neighbouring communities are competing to attract doctors from larger communities, albeit on a temporary basis, but it causes communities such as Timmins to have doctors withdraw privileges so that they can do lucrative weekend coverage in smaller communities.
You might recall that this summer, as a result of the Scott sessional fee implemented to solve the emergency room shortages in small rural southern hospitals, we have lost doctors who have seen more lucrative economic opportunities. There are communities in the north where a doctor can leave Timmins to practise in a small outlying rural clinic and be paid $150 an hour for being on call. In order for them to work at our hospital, they are expecting the same consideration. The result is that we have had nine doctors withdraw hospital privileges and leave orphaned patients at our doorsteps, that is, patients who do not have a doctor. Orphaned patients have become a major issue at our hospital, and it's growing. Our family physicians are now required to manage the orphaned patients who now account for 4,500 patient-days per year. This represents 36% of the workload on the medical floor.
Our doctors have indicated that the current OHIP rates for in-patient work are insufficient to remunerate them for looking after these patients and are proposing a reorganization that would cost the hospital $500,000 a year, this at a time when we are facing a substantial operating deficit with no relief in sight. The end result is a reduction of services and the layoff of hospital staff. The hospital and the medical community in Timmins are in a difficult position. Everyone agrees that the physicians are inadequately remunerated to perform many of the duties the hospital requires them to do. They also agree that the funding for these services should not come from hospital operating budgets. For example, a doctor covering on a medical floor gets $16.28 for that visit. That takes him away from his office where he could see six, eight or 10 patients in the same time, because most of these visits in the hospital take upwards of 45 minutes. Then add the driving time from their offices to the hospital, parking etc. For the one hour of professional services in the hospital they are making $16.28.
The problem we have is the same as in most other medium-sized hospitals. We have fewer and fewer family physicians doing more and more work with sicker hospital patients. Physicians leaving hospital work cite the reasons as the payment system, the in-patient acuity, or the sickness of the patients-patients in the hospital are sicker today than they were 10 years ago-and lifestyle choices. Many of these family physicians have young families and they're not prepared to work 12, 14 or 16 hours a day.
Patients backed up in emergency departments waiting for a doctor to agree to look after them-to agree to look after them-is simply not a viable option for our community, for the hospital, for the physicians and clearly not for the politicians.
We need you, our elected representatives, to ensure that doctors are appropriately compensated, and we don't feel that the current negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association will result in significant changes to the levels required, particularly when it comes to on-call services. We need you to advise the Ministry of Health to free up monies for hospitals that would support new models to keep physicians working in those hospitals. We support that alternate payment programs would go a long way towards retaining our doctors.
Many current initiatives have focused on recruitment and retention in the short term but, once these initiatives expire, there is no enticement to address long-term retention. The successful resolution to the chronic shortage in the north will entail a multi-faceted approach. Governments must not create funding arrangements that further exacerbate our problems.
A case in point is a situation we recently had where a local specialist was going to Thunder Bay to cover on a locum. The doctor from Thunder Bay was coming to Timmins to cover for the doctor from Timmins who was going to Thunder Bay. Why? Because there were economic enhancements to the package for them to work in the other community, to leave their home community. This is a travesty of the health care system. Many of the solutions are right in front of us, but no one is listening.
Mr Vainio: Funding for equity of health not for competition in service: The current practice of giving money or incentives to smaller hospitals only strains working relationships and creates competition for doctors. A case in point is the special and locum incentives available to small hospitals. Smaller area hospitals are offering huge compensation packages-over $1,500 per day-to doctors willing to provide coverage in emergency rooms. These funds do not come from hospital operating funds but from grants, incentives and accrued surpluses. The targeted doctors for this coverage are doctors practising in medium-sized hospitals. Timmins and District Hospital, for example, is not eligible for these grants and incentives. To retain its doctors, the hospital is faced with providing comparable incentives out of its scarce operating funds.
Grant money and incentive assistance from government should be helping all northerners, not just a portion, especially when hospitals overlap in serving the same population, but at different levels. At best, government money must not be used to create and foster competition for scarce resources, human and otherwise. This becomes an escalating situation, and identified problems are not resolved.
Please, no more southern solutions to northern problems. They don't work. We urge you to read From Crisis to Stability, which we have attached to our presentation. Dedicate the financial resources to address recruitment and retention strategies proposed in seven identified categories: (1) educational initiatives; (2) lifestyle initiatives; (3) service delivery models; (4) remuneration retention strategies; (5) regional integration initiatives; (6) opportunities to explore expanded nursing roles; and (7) regional infrastructure development.
Not all of them cost money. Remember, northern solutions for northern problems.
Mr Wiwchar: In a recent letter to Mr Tim Hudak, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, I drew his attention to the concern over Timmins and District Hospital's ineligibility to access special grants from the northern Ontario heritage foundation for medical equipment and capital improvements because of our community's size. That same restriction applied to Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay. Timmins and District Hospital needs those precious dollars to continue to provide health care support to the small communities that were given grants. A recent study, as Esko mentioned, shows that our referrals have grown to almost 50% of the specialist work coming from these smaller communities. Once again, common sense should prevail. Please look at the larger picture when establishing criteria for special grants, because often the populations from those smaller communities are being serviced in the larger or medium-sized communities.
Mr Vainio: The bottom line of our presentation is that our province needs to provide a priority investment to improve the health status of northerners, who represent the population at highest risk for illness and disease. Again, what Wally showed you was the sheet that shows potential years of life lost provided by the Northern Health Information Partnership in Sudbury from a report they did in 1998 indicating that northerners are at very high risk for death from various diseases compared to the rest of Ontario.
The following areas must be addressed in a concerted fashion:
We need health promotion and disease prevention programs building on what exists in some parts of the north-heart health programs and diabetes programs.
We need diagnostic and treatment services; for example, expanding women's health services, renal dialysis services, as well as oncology or cancer care services.
We need rehabilitation programs. For example, my previous employment was at the Sudbury Memorial Hospital. If you're not a resident of the Sudbury area, there's only one other community in northeastern Ontario that has a cardiac rehab program. Patients who have had a major cardiac event and have had to be hospitalized in Sudbury-had balloon angioplasty, had heart surgery-go back to their communities. There is no cardiac rehab program except for one in North Bay.
These are some of the issues that face northerners. Again, Sudbury continues to receive patients from the northeast, from the Cochrane district, and those patients keep on going back again and again because there are no programs locally to help them out. The same holds true with pulmonary rehab programs.
Recruitment and retention of health care professionals must be dealt with. Resolve the hospital-based physician remuneration issues, as well, they pointed out. We need an investment in health care technology. It's very important that the hospitals are linked to provide the best information exchange for patient care purposes, not to mention being able to bring those hospitals into the modern era with some of the technologies that are required to communicate with one another, not to mention handling their own management and financial situations.
There needs to be support of northern level-C regional referral hospital needs. Again, the level-C regional referral hospitals are in Thunder Bay, North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie and Timmins.
Please don't forget about northern health care needs as you return to the south.
Winston Churchill once said, "Give us the tools and we will win the war." That too applies today.
We would like to end with a medical analogy. It is either cosmetic surgery today or it will be amputation tomorrow. You have the power to influence decisions. Do you have the will? The challenge is collectively ours to address the health care needs of today and tomorrow in the north. We must remember that the future can be managed. It should not be allowed to unfold on its own.
Thank you again for this opportunity to be part of your pre-budget hearing process.
The Chair: Thank you very much for the presentation. We have approximately four minutes per caucus.
Mr Bisson: Just quickly, how often does that happen, where you talked about doctors travelling at cross-purposes when it comes to locums? Does it happen a lot?
Mr Wiwchar: This was one incident that was divulged to us two weeks ago, when we had a meeting with a specialist. I'm sure there are other examples. I don't want to get into the specialty areas, but we heard of one where there was a three-doctor rotation to three different communities. Through that grant program, it becomes very attractive. Doctors will schedule their holidays to get the extra economic incentive of going elsewhere. Those grants do not come under the capping formula.
Mr Bisson: I know. I'm going to look into that because that's really not utilizing dollars the way that we should.
For the committee's benefit, the unfortunate problem we find ourselves in with the Timmins and District Hospital is that it's a little bit of a creature of its own success. We successfully worked towards building a new hospital. That was done in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, funding models changed in the 1990s, and that was partly our own government, given what was going on in the economy, and basically you guys have continued on with that. But the other thing is that the hospital has done a really good job of trying to develop the services that are necessary for our community. More and more it is being utilized as it should be, as a regional centre.
What's happening is that these guys are trying to operate this hospital not just for Timmins but for everybody who was mentioned in the presentation. Unfortunately, we've been having this deficit problem with the operating budget now for the better part of eight or nine years, that I can remember. Recently they've had to, by force by the Ministry of Health, present a deficit recovery plan. I wonder if you can speak to what the effect of this is going to be when it comes to existing services and future services, because we're talking $2.8 million that has to be trimmed from your budget, according to that plan.
Mr Vainio: In the first go-round with our recovery plan, and we're waiting to have a meeting with the ministry to pursue it further, we forecast that our annual operating deficit would be in the range of $5 million to $7 million in three years' time if we did nothing. Again, the range is because of certain assumptions that we were using.
The recovery plan itself identifies $2.8 million worth of savings plus $640,000-odd worth of new revenues. For the balance of that money, we're looking for support from the Ministry of Health in regard to transitional restructuring dollars as well as operating base adjustments. In essence, since we started a strategic planning process as a hospital, we have tried not to cut the level of services to our local community and the district we serve with this operating plan. We hope it will be acceptable to the Ministry of Health. If we don't receive the money the hospital needs in order to recover financially over the next three years, we would probably have to make major cuts in the level of service we provide.
Mr Bisson: And then transport more patients to Toronto, at a greater cost to the overall system.
Mr Vainio: That's correct.
Mr Galt: Thank you for your presentation. I believe you're the first hospital board to come before the committee, and maybe the only hospital board, as I glance over the list. I really appreciate your thoughts. We have heard other health groups presenting, and there is a common thread there, but a hospital board is very much appreciated.
The whole health area is such a struggle that we're going through. I think you're probably quite familiar with the study that McMaster and the University of Toronto did on the cost of health care today: $2,000 for every man, woman and child; by the year 2030 the cost of health care projected will equal our income. I think that's pretty scary. Not to belittle the comments you're making here today, but I think it sounds like chicken feed compared to the decisions we'll have to make by, say, 2010. There are going to be some pretty big, major, tough, life-type decisions, I think anyway, with the technology that's coming on and the aging population. You've heard that many times over.
Part of the physician availability problem goes back to 1992, and I'm not blaming the previous Ontario government. It's my understanding the federal government came out with a report that we had more physicians and more spaces to train them than we needed. So we shot a bunch of them down. I guess it made sense at the time, but it doesn't today.
I have two questions, and they relate to your offhanded comment that-I've got to understand this better-if a physician from Thunder Bay comes to Timmins and a physician from Timmins goes to Thunder Bay, they're both better off, and we, the taxpayers, are not better off, but the patients at least get service. That's what I understood you to say. Could you explain that so I understand it better?
Mr Wiwchar: Under the current locum enhancements, the economic benefits to a specialist from Timmins practising in Thunder Bay or Sudbury, whatever, allow them to go through the cap that is imposed on their fee structure. So, naturally there's an incentive for them to go to another community to practise.
Mr Galt: Oh, it relates to the cap.
Mr Wiwchar: It not only relates to the cap but to the incentive they would get for being on call. They could not be working one hour overnight, not be doing any consultation, and yet be paid $150 an hour for that hour that they're on call. So there is an enhancement. We have doctors from Timmins who close their practice down for a week and, with the weekends, that gives them a chance to practise in a smaller community, and they can make upwards of $15,000 in that one week. It's by the grant structure, the fee structure that exists for underserviced areas.
You'll notice in our presentation that we tried to avoid mentioning specific hospitals because-what's the saying?-as the watering hole starts to shrink, the animals start looking at each other, and we don't want to-
Mr Galt: You have some beautiful comparisons in here.
Mr Wiwchar: I'm not as good as Mr Bisson.
Mr Galt: Maybe all of a sudden I understand why in July, when I had a kidney stone and went into the Trenton hospital, the physician in the emergency ward came from Kingston, and how gracious they were to rotate in that practice to come up and serve that hospital. I think I now understand why they were so gracious.
Mr Wiwchar: And you can appreciate a young doctor coming out of training with loans somewhere in the region of $60,000 to $70,000 to $80,000 wanting to maximize their income during those first years of practice, so they're prepared to go to the smaller communities-and God bless them, we need them. However, it impacts on our level and our ability to provide in our communities.
Mr Galt: A last quick question. We've heard it before: disease, illness, chronic disease, more of it in northern Ontario than in the south. Why? Is it the weather conditions? Is it the-I don't know. Why?
Mr Wiwchar: I also happen to sit on the board of the Porcupine health unit. We have been looking at this. Primarily it's a case of lifestyle: dietary factors. In some of these situations, it's environmental factors also. I think Mr Bisson is very familiar with the workers' compensation incidents, and those have related occupational disease structures. I think we can explain them away, we can rationalize them away. Some of it is just basic dietary issues, tobacco use, alcohol use.
Mr Phillips: Thank you for a very professional presentation and very good backup material. Thank you to the board, who give all their time to health care.
You say in your brief that the solutions will not be found in the current round of negotiations between the government and the doctors. But that is where a lot of these kinds of issues seem to be debated and put into contractual language. While the solutions may not be found there, there will be agreements reached there that may make the solutions less easy to find. Have you any advice for us in terms of what we should be thinking about as these negotiations go on?
Mr Wiwchar: If you look at the two documents we passed out to you, many of them are not remuneration issues. Many of them are lifestyle issues. Many of them are factors or strategies that we can put into place without going to the remuneration package.
The current OMA negotiations are not, to my understanding, looking at issues surrounding the actual operation of doctors within the hospital. We're not too confident that's going to result. There's an undercurrent among the doctors in the north, and the doctors don't support some of the initiatives that the OMA is taking, but that's their organizing group. If you look at the power structure of the OMA, it is such that the family physicians have one voice around the table, an equal voice with all the specialists, so they are diluted by numbers and they're not very confident that their issues will come to the front. The negotiations have to be completed by the end of March, I think, with recommendations by the end of April.
Mr Vainio: If I could add to that, it's important that through the negotiations the best result we could hope for is that there is going to be more remuneration for physicians doing hospital-based work. That relates to whether it's family physicians, geriatricians, specialists etc so that there isn't a disincentive to pull away from hospitals and do lucrative office practice, which is the current disincentive.
Mr Wiwchar: I guess we're saying there is some support for Mr Harris's position to put some of the doctors on salaries. That's one option.
Mr Phillips: We had discussions earlier today about the jargon in health areas, these silos, and my feeling is that we're continuing to operate with the silos. I believe the language in the contractual agreements between the government and the doctors is fairly specific and therefore institutionalizes and legalizes some of the concerns you have. That would be my judgment. Does the Ontario Hospital Association have sufficient input into those discussions, in your mind?
Mr Wiwchar: That's a good question. I know that David MacKinnon meets regularly with the minister. He is the president of the OHA. I guess we've got some quandaries that are beyond the parameters of the Ontario Hospital Association. We're not always convinced that the Ontario Hospital Association speaks for northern Ontario. That's why we've at times almost threatened to form our own association, which we think would be counterproductive. But when you look at the structure the way it is in southern Ontario, the emergency room crisis in Toronto got rapid attention. Our crisis here is just as impending. Twenty-three million dollars was thrown at a problem in one weekend. Very quickly solutions can happen in the south, but it seems up in the north we get isolated.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, gentlemen, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
Mr Phillips: Do you treat frostbite at your hospital too?
Mr Galt: Or hypothermia. On a point of privilege, Mr Chair: Do you suppose the management of the hotel might turn the heat up just a little bit?
The Chair: We requested that a while ago, as a matter of fact before lunch. I think that's probably as good as you're going to get it today.
Mr Phillips: My glass of water is frozen.
Mr Galt: I went to get a cup of coffee just to hug it.
PORCUPINE PROSPECTORS AND DEVELOPERS ASSOCIATION
The Chair: Our next presenters this afternoon are representatives from the Porcupine Prospectors and Developers Association. Please step forward and state your name for the record.
Mr Robert Calhoun: Good afternoon. My name is Robert Calhoun, and I'm here representing the Porcupine Prospectors and Developers Association.
Mr Stew Fumerton: My name is Stew Fumerton, and I'm the vice-president of this association.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your presentation.
Mr Calhoun: In the information package you received, immediately behind my text you will find three or four pages from our newsletter, the Explorationist. The title is a little bit hard-hitting, but that's the way we feel most of the time. Behind that you'll find additional coloured graphics of what I am going to speak about. I would like to acknowledge the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada for providing the pages that make up the end of the booklet you received. I would also like to thank my colleague Mr Fumerton here for providing the beautiful colour graphics.
Chairperson and committee members, good afternoon. As I said, my name is Robert Calhoun. I am a professional geologist, and I am here today representing the Porcupine Prospectors and Developers Association.
As president of this association for the past two years, I have seen a dramatic shift in the employment level of our membership. Since December 1997, when I personally fell victim to the present downturn in exploration activity, I have received reports on nearly a monthly basis about another group of people who have lost their jobs, and too often I've had to announce another company which closed its doors completely. It's rare that any of these developments made it into the local media, let alone the media based in southern Ontario. The object of this presentation is to gain your support for what we feel is the single most viable solution to the collapse of the Ontario mineral exploration industry: the flow-through share program.
Today I will present the facts of the situation. The Ontario and indeed the whole Canadian mineral exploration industry is in the worst downturn in its history. High-risk capital, on which this industry survives, has become nearly impossible to raise. Moreover, most of the available exploration capital is going to projects elsewhere in the world. For the decade leading up to and including 1992, senior Canadian companies tended to spend proportionally most of their exploration dollars in Canada. In 1992, the ratio was 60:40 in Canada's favour. The expected ratio for 1999 is about 20:80 against Canada.
In Ontario, total exploration expenditures are expected to be approximately $80 million for 1999. This is a drop of over $120 million since 1996, when over $203 million was spent by all sectors of the industry, including monies spent around operating mines. The junior mining sector has suffered a comparable drop in their exploration budgets. This drop has left many of our junior mining companies insolvent and without the necessary funds to undertake an exploration program.
This lack of money has led to the loss of human resources. Professional geologists and geophysicists who no longer practise and diamond drillers familiar with sophisticated hydraulic and electro-hydraulic equipment have been forced to seek other types of employment. This has eroded Canada's pre-eminent global position as a provider of professional consultants and skilled operators.
There are many causes for the present situation, including economic slowdowns in other parts of the world which have contributed to the downturn in base metal demand and the weakening of metal prices, in particular copper, nickel, lead and zinc. Gold prices have been depressed since 1996 due to sales by central banks resulting in the lack of interest in exploring for gold. Just as a point of fact, gold is down $4.35 today. The Bre-X scandal and the emergence of the Internet sector have further eroded investor interest in the mining sector, particularly the junior sector.
What does this mean for Ontario? The shift of investment capital away from mining has lead to a dramatic decrease in market share. An ever-increasing share of high-risk capital is being directed towards Internet dot.com stocks. Toronto, which has long been one of the major power bases in the world for risk financing, is now losing that distinction. Ore reserves in Ontario are on the decline and have been for a number of years. This will impact on the mining royalties that the Ontario government collects in a few short years as mines continue to close and no replacements are brought on stream. Northern and rural communities in Ontario whose economies are supported by two main pillars, mining and forestry, are at risk.
The Fraser Institute, which ranks mining jurisdictions in the Americas, has dropped Ontario from the second-most favoured jurisdiction to seventh place in just one year. One of the major contributing factors to this drop was the shift in public policy known as Lands for Life. This, however, was not the only factor. Changes in government policies in other provinces have resulted in those provinces being favoured over Ontario. In particular, our neighbours to the immediate east and west, Quebec and Manitoba, have made it known that mining is important to them and they are willing to share some of the risk. Also, both of these provinces have instituted permitting measures designed to facilitate mineral development rather than hinder it.
Ontario is underlain by some of the most productive geological features anywhere in the world. Ontario also hosts a number of world-class ore deposits of copper/zinc, nickel and gold. In addition to these more traditional deposits, recent discoveries have been made in phosphate, resulting in the establishment of a new mine near Kapuskasing. Diamond exploration in the province is also on the increase and could lead to the development of Ontario's first diamond mine.
What needs to be done? There needs to be a short-term stimulus to create investment interest in Canada. This stimulus would kick-start exploration in Ontario and Canada and it would increase the probability of a new discovery in Canada. Any new discovery would invoke an industry-wide recovery and this recovery would stimulate the economies of rural and northern communities in Ontario no matter where in Canada the discovery is made.
We feel that the biggest single solution is an enhanced flow-through share tax measure. Because of the high inherent risk associated with exploration, Revenue Canada presently allows exploration companies to write off 100% of their exploration expenditures in the year they were incurred. Because most junior companies have no income, they issue flow-through shares and pass along the write-off to the investors who purchase the shares. The investor can then write off 100% of any money invested against any income.
The shares cannot be sold for one year, and when they are sold, Revenue Canada deems that the investor bought the shares at zero dollars and taxes the entire proceeds of the sale. In effect, this is a tax deferral system, a system in which everyone wins. The investor gets a deduction in the year of acquisition; the company gets funded; governments collect taxes on the exploration activities and, more importantly, collect taxes on the new wealth generated from any new mines created. Northern and rural communities also benefit from a highly effective regional development program. One other important factor is that all funds raised in this manner have to be spent in Canada.
During the recession in the early 1980s, the government allowed a premium of 33 1/3%, allowing investors to deduct 133% of their investment against any income. The funds raised in this time period stimulated the economies of northern and rural communities, led to the discovery of a number of new mines and laid the groundwork for the discovery of two world-class diamond mines in the Northwest Territories. This strengthened the tax base on which all levels of government depend.
The exploration industry has developed a new and improved flow-through system. Valuable lessons were learned from our previous experience. The new, time-limited, focused flow-through program would be defined by the following key elements: The premium would be 40% initially to capture the attention of the investment community; there would be a regional development focus on northern and rural areas; the money raised could only be used for surface exploration; and there would be a scale-down formula that will lead to the termination of the program by December 31, 2002.
There is a limited cost to the Ontario government. The program is underwritten two thirds by the federal government and one third by provincial governments. However, the program is a tax deferral situation. If the program fails, the cost to government is zero. If it is successful, the new economic activity stimulated by exploration and the discovery of new mines will generate new tax revenues to offset the initial cost. The new activity will reduce the number of people receiving unemployment benefits, reduce the welfare costs in some communities and stimulate secondary industries like manufacturing, the service industry and equipment suppliers.
In summary, there is a need to stimulate the exploration industry, and the focused flow-through program for high-risk investment has the best chance of success. It will increase exploration activity and may lead to the discovery of new mines. These discoveries will create employment and economic activity in northern and rural areas.
The focused flow-through program is a tax deferral system. Exploration and mining are still pillars on which this country is supported. So we ask you, as members of the Ontario finance committee, to lend your support to this program and to urge the federal and other provincial governments to institute the program as soon as possible. The reason we ask you, as members of the finance committee, is that we are asking the Ontario government to forgo tax revenue in the short term which will be recovered in the long term and in the interim will support the northern Ontario economy.
My colleagues and I are not looking for a handout but rather a hand up. Thank you for your attention.
The Chair: We have five minutes per caucus and I'll start with the government side.
Mr Galt: I'm just interested in the timing. We've also had the miners come before us wanting the tax structure brought down to 12%, which would be quite a boost for the mining organizations.
But you're talking here, in prospecting, about the flow-through as delayed revenue for the province, and I can follow that thinking. The one that's bothering me-Lands for Life started out where it should have been a win-win for everyone, and that seems to be what I'm hearing. You've zeroed in on 1997, when there were some problems with prospecting and mining and the environmentalists were concerned from the other side.
Where has that left you, is what I'm trying to sort out, in prospecting that's so against you, from what I'm hearing in your presentation? I'm just not getting the facts, the details, to really appreciate and understand it. Can you help me there a bit?
Mr Calhoun: As far as the Lands for Life issue-and they've now called it the Ontario Living Legacy-they have removed lands and placed them into parks on which we can't explore. As a statistic, it takes 25,000 claims to find 100 claims on which we want to do advanced exploration to find one claim that might hold a mine. So as they take away land from us, it reduces the area in which we can look. Some of the land they have taken is in high-mineral-potential areas, and that reduces those 25,000 claims that we did have down. There's still land to be looked at, but every time they take away more land for parks and restrict us from going in there, that hurts.
Mr Galt: You're telling me that the areas designated Lands for Life, or the Legacy, is 100% you cannot touch.
Mr Calhoun: Right, in the areas they have designated as parks. They do have conservation reserves in which they are restricting the forestry companies but we are still allowed to explore.
Mr Galt: That explains why I hear from the other side and the environmentalists in the south who are saying: "We didn't do anything. You're still letting them mine and carry on in those areas." I think you've explained it to me to be a little clearer on where they're coming from on both sides.
Mr Arnott: Thank you very much for your presentation. I want to make sure I fully understand your proposal in terms of enhancing the flow-through-shares tax measure. You've said that right now an investor can write off 100% of their investment, right?
Mr Calhoun: Right.
Mr Arnott: And you're suggesting it should go up to 140%, with the provincial government making up the difference?
Mr Calhoun: The 140% is two thirds subsidized by the federal government and one third by the Ontario government.
Mr Arnott: All right. And really it wouldn't cost the provincial government anything.
Mr Calhoun: You're going to forgo taxes. If someone puts in $100,000 against their income, you are going to forgo the taxes that they pay, but they get the shares-
Mr Arnott: Only in the short term, though, right?
Mr Calhoun: That's only in the short term, and when they sell their shares and hopefully make a profit on them, then you will tax it as if it was zero when they bought them.
Mr Arnott: I think I understand. Thank you very much.
Mr Kwinter: I just want to let you know that I support your proposal. I think it's important, and it's important that people understand.
You say, "What does it mean for Ontarians?" and you say, "Ore reserves in Ontario are on the decline." Well, the ore is not on the decline; it's the identifiable reserves that are on the decline because there hasn't been enough money spent on exploration to identify new reserves. I agree with you that that is a major problem. I've said this many times, that the geology in Ontario is probably the best in the world, or among the best in the world. There isn't a problem with that. The problem is that with the mining tax of 20% and with the red tape and with, as you say, the restrictions on getting into certain lands, there is a disincentive for Canadian and Ontario development companies to pursue projects in Ontario. They go elsewhere. You point that out quite dramatically when you show how the ratio has changed, and now you've got 80% of the Canadian companies looking elsewhere. I think that is a very serious problem when you consider that not only do we have good geology here but we also have, and have the reputation of having, some of the best mining people in the world. I think that is absolutely critical.
I just want a clarification. When you say the money raised can only be used for surface exploration, does that mean you can't fly over and use that kind of technology?
Mr Calhoun: No. Under the old flow-through system, and Stew will correct me if I'm wrong, you could put in an exploration shaft and charge that money against flow-through shares. You could actually do some underground mining under the old system and use those dollars to do that. This one is just for doing airborne surveys, ground surveys and diamond drilling. Once you start to get into the situation where you are developing a mine, then you would go for funding from your major company outside the flow-through system. This is just to stimulate surface exploration and put guys like Stew and me back to work.
Mr Kwinter: I think you also identified another problem. At one time the junior mines and the mining industry were one of the only games in town for investors because of the great tax incentives. It was also a chance to maybe get lucky and hit a Hemlo or something like that. But what has happened now is that you have all these Internet companies and IT stuff, which has really caught the attention of speculative investors, coupled with the sort of down reputation of the Vancouver Stock Exchange, which was a great source for raising money for these kinds of projects. I think all of that has compounded. All these things together have created a sort of negative impression of the industry, and I think it is really going to take some help by the government's allowing your proposal-the tax flow shares-and just bringing to the attention of the investing public the opportunities and how they can be exploited, in the finest sense. Do you have any feeling about that?
Mr Fumerton: Mining is a high-risk game, and your odds of winning are very slim. But if you do win, your odds of a reward are pretty good as well. So in terms of exploration, this thing is to get attention back from, say, Internet stocks that have certainly hogged the limelight for quite a while, getting attention and driving their shares up. I keep making the analogy: What are the odds of a computer engineer being able to write one line of computer code that is going to basically displace Bill Gates? In our case, one drill hole can make it. Take the instance of Kidd Creek. It just took one drill hole to set North America on its heels. You can do a lot of work, a lot of preparation, hard study and all the science, but there is still a tremendous component of luck that we can't control. So we have to keep trying to overcome those odds. This is where one drill hole, if done by a reputable company and all the rest of it, can really have an impact. I don't think that situation exists in Internet stocks and things like that.
Certainly we have a bad reputation on Bay Street, and on Granville Street in Vancouver. But it's to try to get the attention back to another valid high-risk game. Unless we can raise high-risk capital, this industry is dead. I don't think the exploration industry can survive another year on this downturn. It will be wiped out.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Kwinter. Mr Bisson.
Mr Bisson: On the issue of odds, the odds of being able to make it on the market in a mining stock are far better than you would do on a lotto ticket or at a casino. I know far more people in this community who made money by investing in these kinds of projects than people who won the lotto or at the casinos. They all say they made money at casinos, but I have never seen the actual cash.
This chart that you put together, headed "Ontario Exploration Expenditures," tells the story. Members should take a look at it; I forget what page it is, it doesn't say, but it's headed, "Ontario Exploration Expenditures." It tells the story. It's an interesting story, if you go through it. You see that through the late 1980s there was a large increase in activities in the exploration market. That, quite frankly, was because the federal government at the time, and just a bit before that, had put in place the enhanced flow-through share system which was 133 1/3%. The amount of money that was being spent in David Ramsay's riding, my riding, Len Wood's riding and other ridings across northern Ontario by private sector individuals was phenomenal. You couldn't rent a truck, you couldn't get a diamond drill. Restaurants were packed. People were shipping food into the bush. The airlines, private companies like Commercial Aviation and others, helicopters-there were all kinds of spinoffs going on. There was work to be had and good-paying jobs. What's interesting is that at the point that the government decides to stop the enhanced flow-through share system, you see an immediate drop in activity in exploration. Then it goes on further until 1990-91.
I come to my point. One of the first groups I heard from when I was elected in the fall of 1990 was one of your predecessors, Dave Meunier, and I think Steve Parry, who walked into my office and started telling me the story I'm hearing here today again. I didn't know a hell of a lot other than I worked in the mining industry and I figured it made some sense, but I didn't pay too much mind to it. They rang the alarm bell in late 1990, saying, "If your government doesn't do something, we're going to lose all our exploration and we're going to see the dollars go out of Ontario into other jurisdictions in Canada and out of the country all together." I didn't listen, to be quite blunt, when they first came in to see me. It wasn't until the group itself started Save Our North, where the mining exploration community-the prospectors, the developers, the miners, the diamond drill workers-got together and started this group called Save Our North and went after our government something ferocious. They were the most highly effective lobbyist group I've ever seen in northeastern Ontario. They scared the shit out of me, to tell you quite frankly, because I understood that if we didn't do something to try to deal with this, not only was it bad for our economy, it wasn't very good for my political future either. Because of that, I really started to pay notice, and that's what happens in politics, that's a reality.
The story goes on, and there's a point I'm trying to make here. If you notice, it finally bottoms out in 1992 and then you see it start to increase. The reason that mining exploration increased after 1992 is because they were successful in lobbying the provincial government to do some things. We put in place incentive programs for prospectors and developers under programs like OMIP and OPAP and enhanced some dollars there; we did the ERLIS project, which was the earth resource lands information system; a whole bunch of tools that the mining community needed to do their jobs and to send a message, more importantly, to the mining community and the investors that Ontario's open for business and we're serious about mining. They wanted a declaration by our government, then Premier Rae, to say, "Ontario mining is important and it's an important part of our economy and we support it." After those activities you see it start to increase and we again start to see activity in the mining sector. Not more than about four years ago, we had quite a bit of activity going on in this community as well as others.
The story goes on. After 1997, when your government decided to get rid of programs like OMIP, OPAP and a whole bunch of other things like Lands for Life, boom, it's going down again. My plea to you is that the story is in the numbers. What these gentlemen are coming forward to us and talking about today is an innovative way to utilize the power of the provincial government to lever some dollars from the federal government. If you agree that we have an enhanced system of 40% above the federal share, you automatically put on the hook the federal government because they're putting 100% in on the deferral of the taxes.
I think this is an important initiative that's being put forward. I'm going to invite these gentlemen, along with other prospectors in the north, to come to Toronto and hopefully meet with Mr Eves and others to try and convince them that this is something we should be looking at putting in our budget this spring, because it would pay back the province and the mining communities big time.
Mr Fumerton: I'd like to interject here a bit. The crucial date to us is Paul Martin's budget, if we can get pressure on him to include this flow-through in his budget, because the province and the federal government have a joint tax system. It's the federal regulations that we're pushing for at the moment, and we're basically asking for provincial support to lobby the federal government at this present moment to get this flow-through system going.
The Chair: Thank you very much, gentlemen. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, DISTRICT 1
The Vice-Chair: Our next delegation is OSSTF, district 1, Ontario North East; Tony Sawinski, vice-president. Please come forward and introduce yourself and your associate. You have 30 minutes in total for your presentation, and what's left over after your presentation is divided up between the three caucuses for comment and/or questions. The floor is yours.
Mr Tony Sawinski: My name is Tony Sawinski. I'm the vice-president of OSSTF, district 1. With me today is Tim Rorke, who is also involved with OSSTF for our local area.
First of all, I would like to thank the committee for giving me the opportunity to address some of the concerns we face in northern Ontario. I believe hearings such as this one are important in a democratic society. However, I stress that they are important only if the words spoken by any presenter are truly heard and a resulting action takes place. Are these hearings just smoke and mirrors so it can be stated that the public had a say? Is the budget already predetermined? I hope that this is not the case. Will my presentation be pigeonholed as coming from a special interest group because I am a member of OSSTF? Anyone can be labeled as such. Who doesn't have an interest or concern that is special or dear to him or her? I trust that the panel before me will take heed of the concerns I have for our educational system. Having said all that, let me begin my dissertation.
This past Christmas I was travelling home from Brantford. After North Bay the conditions of the highway were treacherous. It took over six hours to plow home. Not a single plow, sand, or salt truck was seen going northbound. Only two trucks were seen going south. Such conditions are being experienced far too frequently, unfortunately ending in tragic results. Not too long ago there would have been a fleet of trucks on the highways, ensuring the safety of those who traveled on them. Is this the result of privatization and contracting out?
How do these conditions affect the students in our northern schools? Extracurricular teams like Reach for the Top and basketball require travel to and from different communities in the north in order to compete against schools in their district. I think you will agree that these extracurricular experiences are important to the development of our youth. One can never ensure the highways will be 100% safe, but to reduce maintenance in order to fulfill the promise of a tax cut is playing Russian roulette not only with the lives of motorists but also our children.
Another result of living in northern Ontario means many students are bused to school. These buses must travel on the highways I have just described. Logic would dictate that if the roads were that bad, then they should not be traveled upon. Today, as in the past, such precautions are taken. However, these poorer road conditions exist now even when there is a light snowfall. Does this mean that whenever there is a snowfall these bussed students stay home and don't go to school? If that is going to be the reality that we in the north must endure, then our children's educational experiences will suffer. All that is required is a return to the same level of service that we had.
The busing concern will be compounded when schools are closed as a result of the disappearance of the mitigating grants. School closures will result in more students being bused and over a greater distance. The Education Improvement Commission reported: "We note that the practice of consolidating schools cannot be applied to sparsely populated areas of northern Ontario as readily as to some areas of the south. The excessive transportation distance would result in students spending too much of their day riding a bus, which would not enhance their ability to learn."
Mitigation funding will continue for 1999-2000, but it will be reduced and eliminated over the next two years. "Mitigating" is an interesting word. "Mitigate" means to make or become less harsh, severe or painful, but as the grants disappear, ironically the impact on education will be harsh, severe and painful. How many more cuts can the educational system endure? The Education Improvement Commission has reported that if the board cannot find additional efficiencies, it will experience a shortfall when the mitigation funding is no longer available.
Currently, Ontario's educational funding per pupil has dropped from 22nd to 55th out of 63 North American jurisdictions during the past 10 years. This has had a dramatic impact upon the education delivered by our school this past decade. The following are some local examples.
(1) The number of teachers has been reduced by over 5%. Fewer teachers result in larger class sizes. Fewer teachers result in fewer or diminished extracurricular activities like volleyball or wrestling.
(2) At my school, the school nurse's hours have been reduced from 40 a week to one morning a week. This service of communicating, diagnosing, treating and referring was an invaluable asset to our students. A former student and athlete of mine, Kylie Szczebonski, is completing her nursing diploma this year. She has had 17 job offers outside of Ontario. To date she has not received one offer in our province. She would love to stay not only in Ontario but in her hometown. She would relish the opportunity to be our school nurse or a nurse at our district hospital. However, the reality is that these institutions are not only not hiring but are in fact continuing to lay off nurses.
(3) There are fewer guidance counsellors and librarians to help students with their problems and research respectively. As we enter this new millennium, our society is evolving and increasingly getting more complicated. Thus, our students need to look for more direction than they did in the past. How do we offer these services with shrinking resources?
(4) There are fewer custodians available to keep our schools clean and safe. Recently, Mrs Kernick's son was required to clean the washroom at a local elementary school. The number of hours for the custodian had been cut, thus students were now being used to clean the washroom. In fact, after completing his duty, there was no soap to wash his hands.
(5) The recent funding announcement for special education is welcome news. However, will it be enough, and how accessible will it be? The funding mechanism has made it difficult for us to address the costs of delivering programs and services to new students entering our system, students who demonstrate increased need and students returning to the board from outside specialized programs and services. Despite the commitment to address such issues mid-year, there has been no process to do so. Transferring students from other boards brings with them the paper trail but no actual monies.
(6) Drastic funding cuts for adult education programs came into effect in September 1996, before amalgamation and the new funding formula for the whole public school system. At that time the funding for an adult student over the age of 21 was dropped from $5,800 to $2,257 a year, a cut of approximately 60%. It has remained at $2,257 under the new funding formula.
The immediate effect on the PACE centre, our local adult educational facility, in September 1996 was the loss of two full-time teachers. Within a year the equivalent of one full-time teacher was lost, two part-time teachers, two periods of ESL and one period of mathematics. We now have just four full-time teachers remaining, including the coordinator/guidance counsellor/teacher, who are still trying to offer a viable program, grades 10 to 12, leading to graduation.
Because of the limited staff available, most teaching sections are combined classes. In our most extreme example, one teacher in one class handles the students taking grade 11 business math, grade 12 business math, grade 11 technical math, grade 12 technical math, grade 11 advanced math and grade 12 advanced math. This situation results in a much heavier and more stressful workload for the teacher than if the same number of students were working on the same unit in the same course in a normal secondary class. It also means less help is available for the students in each course since the teacher's focus is so divided. Only three sections out of 10 this semester are single-coded classes.
Funding cuts have also caused a big change to their clientele. In order to cover the costs of this program, the PACE centre has moved to a blended model. They are forced to take in more students between the ages of 16 and 20 who do receive full base funding. The alternative students who are sent out of regular schools to the PACE program are often disruptive and need more supervision than the adult program was set up to handle. Most do not blend well with the highly motivated adult students in the class. The troubled younger students have a much higher rate of absenteeism and much poorer work habits. The culture of the school as a whole and the rate of progress within the classes have deteriorated with the increased number of students under 21. Both adult students and the alternative students deserve a dedicated program of their own, but in many boards this is no longer possible because of the funding cuts.
(7) There is a difficulty in hiring qualified teachers. The remuneration and working conditions have declined in the past decade for Ontario teachers. A number of teachers have jumped out of the factor 85 window. This has resulted in a shortage of teachers, especially in the areas of math, science, computers and technology. Fewer men are entering the teaching profession. These people are seeking employment in other careers or outside of Ontario. A number of states offer bonuses to teach south of the border; bonuses such as down payments on a home or a free car are being offered. If you were just coming out of teacher's college and could earn more money-in American dollars, mind you-receive a signing bonus and not teach seven out of eight, where would you work?
My understanding is that Quebec teachers will receive a raise of 9% over the next three years. Will this make it more difficult to attract qualified French teachers, many of whom teach in northern Ontario? Currently, jobs in northern Ontario have been posted with no applicants interested, reposted with the same result, and reposted again under a different position. Principals are frantically trying to fill these positions with anyone they can find. If it is so difficult to find qualified teachers for positions in Timmins, it is virtually impossible to hire someone for communities like Cochrane or Smooth Rock Falls.
(8) At my school the number of positions of responsibility has been reduced from 26, with time release, to 11. The proposal for next year is a further cut to six, with no time release. These people had performed a variety of tasks to facilitate the smooth functioning of the school. Their duties ranged from coordinating intramural programs, tracking and addressing poor students' attendance, to facilitating new curriculum and acting as a resource guide to instruction and teaching techniques, just to name a few. Who will now perform these duties? When will they perform these duties?
I think it is necessary to mention another effect that the recent expedited changes and the financial crunch have had on front-line workers. There is a human factor we must not forget. Teachers are asked to be teacher advisers, to teach new curriculum, to evaluate and assess in a different way, to complete report cards in a different fashion, to do on-calls in lieu of supply teachers and to perform headship duties. Last year the premiums for our long-term disability insurance skyrocketed by a 40% increase. This was a result of our poor experience. In other words, more teachers are becoming severely ill tryingly to do the job asked of them. Last year we had six out of our 100 teachers on LTDI. I believe the national average is 16 per 1,000 workers. Our rate is almost four times higher than that average. Others are coping by doing fewer extracurricular activities.
I have highlighted a number of problems of the restrictions of educational finance. I would be negligent if I did not offer any recommendations. I suggest the following:
(1) Allow boards flexibility of local taxation rights to deal with the diverse nature of their students and geographical differences.
(2) Incorporate the mitigating grants into the funding formula so no further damage occurs in our educational system.
(3) Reinvest in education the money saved by the government from the monthly debt payments of the unfunded liability. This amounts to over $300 million a year.
(4) Restore funding to adult education programs to provide these students with an equal opportunity for success.
As illustrated, the current funding for education does not adequately meet the needs of our students. Investing in our children and adult education today has a direct positive impact on our future generations. Education is not a business, and our students should not be treated like widgets.
The continued financial strain on the public schools will bankrupt the system. Will voucher and charter schools rear their ugly heads in Ontario? Such schools have failed in both the United States and Alberta. The implementation of charter and voucher schools would result in a two-tiered educational system. Businesses are waiting anxiously, like vultures, to run our schools for a profit. Thomas Jefferson once stated, "We must dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity." Public education levels the playing field for all participants. Do we want to regress back to where a doctor's son becomes a doctor and a miner's son becomes a miner only because of the unequal opportunity that will exist in a two-tiered system?
As I was growing up, I remember how proud people were living in both southern and northern Ontario. Globally, our educational system was deeply admired and much respected. Now our youth must leave northern Ontario and even leave the province to find opportunities for public sector employment. In the last half of the past decade, Ontario has experienced unprecedented economic growth and will continue to grow over the next several years. The money is there.
I remember a tune aired on both radio and television. I will not attempt to try to sing it for you, but there was one line I wish to share with you: "Ontario: A place to stand, a place to grow." Unfortunately, we still stand, for we cannot move. We no longer can grow, but wither in the desert of financial underfunding.
As you write your report and make your recommendations, I implore you to invest in northern Ontario, invest in education and invest in our children. Thank you.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We have barely four minutes per caucus, beginning with the official opposition.
Mr Phillips: I appreciate the thoughtful presentation. The first thing that caught my eye was that there are 5% fewer teachers currently.
Mr Sawinski: Yes. That was as a result of the social contract.
Mr Phillips: That happened four or five years ago, did it?
Mr Sawinski: It happened, I believe, between the years 1993 and 1995, or thereabout.
Mr Phillips: So that's the 5% fewer teachers.
Mr Sawinski: In fact, locally the impact was 6%. I think the actual number was that each school had to reduce their staff by 4.75%, but the reality was that some were reduced even more. Locally it was 6% for us.
Mr Phillips: But there has not been a reduction in the last few years, then, I gather?
Mr Sawinski: No, there hasn't.
Mr Phillips: One of my concerns is what is happening with the extracurricular activities. I happen to be a big fan of extracurricular activities because I think the educational experience is far broader than what happens in the classroom. In some places in Ontario I'm quite worried about what's happening. Extracurricular activities just seem not to be occurring. Is that the case here, or is there no problem with extracurricular activities? Is it an issue that we, if we believe in extracurricular activities, should be concerned about?
Mr Sawinski: Locally the problem varies from school to school. There are some schools that are trying to maintain the same extracurricular activities that were experienced in the 1980s and before. I'm at a school that is trying to maintain those activities, but I can tell you that in many of the schools in northern Ontario they're either not offering the same number or they are just limiting their resources to a few activities in the school.
Mr Phillips: Another area of concern to me is adult education. For years we all believed strongly in lifelong learning, that education isn't something that ends at a certain age. Yet the approach on funding for adult education appears to have turned that around in what I regard as the wrong direction, which is a lot less opportunity for adult education, when everything we know is that you've got to keep trying to upgrade your skills and your learning. I'm certainly aware of some areas where that's had a profound impact in terms of fewer adult students. I see you've got some statistics in the back of your presentation. Where do you think we're going with adult education in Ontario, and have you any advice for the committee?
Mr Sawinski: If there's continuing lack of funding in adult education, then you're going to have fewer adults who are either getting that education or being retrained and who as a result won't have the same job opportunities down the road, or any job. I feel that if they don't get a job, then they may be a burden on the social safety net, and they shouldn't have to be if they got the educational experience that they deserve.
The Vice-Chair: We'll have to move on to the third party.
Mr Bisson: I have two or three questions. It's interesting that you're the first, at least today, who's come forward and talked about the condition of roads and how it affects attendance at school. I travel up and down Highway 11, and there are many times when a two-hour drive takes three or four hours, or you end up staying overnight. Are you seeing a marked increase in actual school closures in the last couple of years because of road conditions, or a drop in attendance?
Mr Sawinski: Maybe not necessarily in Timmins, but in the outlying areas like Iroquois Falls, Cochrane and Smooth Rock Falls, yes.
Mr Bisson: That's interesting and something we need to raise in the Legislature, because this winter it's a lot more apparent. I'm getting calls in the office, and I see it myself, that a number of times the private contractors, who try hard-and they're good workers like everybody else, but there is no longer the monitoring that used to be done by the Ministry of Transportation, what they used to call the highway patrols or patrol yards or whatever it was. As well, the standards that used to be applied by MTO are lower. The contractors, trying to make a buck, are running their trucks faster. The problem with a snowplow is that you run it faster and all you do is blow the snow over the top and put it back on the highway. So we're seeing a real negative effect, especially in the snowy parts of the season.
I want to ask you a question in regard to the comments you made about the per-pupil funding ratio that we find now in Ontario as compared to in the past. We are told that the future of the Ontario economy, as it is across Canada, is in making sure that we have, as best as we can, well-trained workers and well-trained professionals within our economy. If the trend is to less funding in our education system, both at the elementary and secondary levels and then later on at the post-secondary level, what kind of long-term effect do you think this has on our economy when it comes to the professionalism and the training afforded to workers and professionals?
Mr Sawinski: Are you referring to the actual workers or the students?
Mr Bisson: I'm saying that basically we're told that a highly motivated, skilled worker makes money for a company and that's what makes your economy go, having good people. If we're spending less on education rather than more, as compared to other jurisdictions, does that disadvantage us when it comes to our competitiveness towards other jurisdictions?
Mr Sawinski: In my report I indicated that a number of teachers are leaving the profession because of retirement and the 85 factor, and we're not able to replenish those people with qualified teachers because either (a) they're not entering the profession at all or (b) they're looking outside the province because monetarily they're getting more money.
Mr Bisson: What I'm wondering about is the people who are actually working in industry: the electricians, the mechanics, the professionals who are out there, the engineers etc. If we're spending less per pupil than we used to, does that mean it hinders us and the possibilities that the economy affords us in the future? That's what I'm wondering, or is that just too far out in the future to really think about?
Mr Sawinski: I'm not sure.
Mr Bisson: Another thing: Point 4 on page 3, I've never heard of that. A child by the name of Kernick was told to clean a washroom? That's the first I've heard of this. That distresses me somewhat.
Mr Sawinski: The way I found out about this, she had written an editorial in the daily press and I called her and spoke to her about the incident.
Mr Bisson: Was it punishment?
Mr Sawinski: No, the students were asked to do that.
Mr Bisson: What school?
Mr Sawinski: Golden Avenue.
Mr Bisson: I'll check that out. Thank you.
The Vice-Chair: OK. Time is just about up anyway. We move on to the government.
Mr Arnott: Thank you very much for your presentation. I appreciate your advice.
You summarized, towards the end, four specific recommendations, and there's one I wanted to ask you about. In point number 3 you said, "Reinvest, in education, the money saved by the government from the monthly debt payments of the unfunded liability (over $300 million per year)." Can you tell me a little bit more about what that means, what you're suggesting there?
Mr Sawinski: Approximately two years ago, there was a surplus in the teachers' pension fund. Well, maybe I'll go back and give you a little of the history before that. It goes back, basically, to 1990 when there was a partnership agreement between the government and the teachers. At that time, the teachers took over control of investing the plan. There was an unfunded liability. There wasn't enough money for the future cost. The government was making monthly payments of about $30 million a month. About two years ago, there was enough surplus in money in the plan where there was an agreement between the two partners to pay off that total debt, so that essentially there is a $30-million-a-month savings to the government. I'm just saying that since that is a savings and they don't need to pay that debt, reinvest that money into education.
Mr Arnott: Has there been a contribution holiday as well for teachers?
Mr Sawinski: No, there hasn't.
Mr Arnott: They're still paying the same?
Mr Sawinski: We pay about 8.9% into our pension fund. It's quite high.
Mr Arnott: So really it's the growth in the stock market that has enabled this contribution holiday to take place.
Mr Sawinski: There has been no contribution holiday. There's been a surplus. You're correct. There's been a surplus because-
Mr Arnott: I understand what you mean.
Mr Sawinski: That's been used to offset the unfunded liability.
Mrs Molinari: Thank you very much for your presentation. It's always interesting to see different perspectives around similar issues. I also appreciate the fact that you had some specific recommendations here. You've made a presentation and you have some specific ways that the government could react with decision-making and policies to accommodate some of the comments you've made.
I have a couple of questions. The teacher that you stated is teaching six different math courses in the period of a year, is this the exception rather than the rule? You stated this is an extreme example. By that I take it that this would be an exception rather than the rule?
Mr Sawinski: There are only four teachers at the PACE Centre so that would be 25% of the staff.
Mrs Molinari: So these are specific to the PACE Centre that you're talking about?
Mr Sawinski: Correct.
Mrs Molinari: With respect to the PACE Centre, which has moved to a blended model, your presentation states that they're blended into an adult education program? That's where the PACE students are directed into an adult education program?
Mr Sawinski: Yes, they would be sitting in the same classroom.
Mrs Molinari: So that's how one specific school board reacted to the servicing of the PACE students with the funding that is available for PACE students?
Mr Sawinski: That's correct.
Mrs Molinari: There are some cases where some parents of PACE students feel that a blended model would be appropriate, but certainly when there's that kind of an age difference, it presents some difficulty. Thank you for pointing that out. I was not aware that that was happening anywhere in the province.
The flexibility of local taxation: One of the common themes before the new funding model came out was that the way education was funded before that was that those boards that were rich in assessment received more money and the boards that were poor in assessment received less money. Therefore, those in the south-Toronto-with all the commercial and industrial land and the condensed residential had more money by virtue of the assessment to provide for education, and the northern boards and boards that had less assessment got less money. The funding model was an attempt to give every student in the province equal dollars to provide for education.
The Vice-Chair: We've run out of time. If you just have a quick response, then we'll move on.
Mr Sawinski: I didn't get a question there yet.
Mrs Molinari: Quickly, how did the new funding model specifically affect your board, not having access to taxation but having access to per-pupil equalization dollars?
Mr Sawinski: First of all, the funding model, even though it gave an equal distribution of money per student, was basically down to the lowest common denominator and not raised up to the largest common denominator in terms of the funding per student. I can't tell you specifically how it affected the per-pupil expenditure locally, but my understanding is that it's less. What we're asking for is just to give the board some flexibility.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation and coming forward. Have a good day.
NORTHERN COLLEGE OF APPLIED ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY
The Vice-Chair: Our next presenter is Cathy Hart, regional director, north, of the Northern College of Applied Arts and Technology. You have approximately 30 minutes in total for presentation and also responses and/or questions from the three caucuses. We'll divide it up evenly after you finish.
Ms Cathy Hart: My name is Cathy Hart. I'm the regional director, north, for the Northern College of Applied Arts and Technology. I want to thank the committee for coming to Timmins, first of all, and for allowing presentations from the various sectors. Representing the post-secondary sector in northeastern Ontario, I think it's important that our voice be heard and I appreciate being able to be here today. I'm speaking on behalf of Michael Hill, our president, who was not able to be here today. I think you've all been given a copy of the brief I brought with me. I would probably choose to discuss that rather than read it to you. However, I will cover some of the points that I think are important to be noted in there.
I guess most important for Northern College, the college of northeastern Ontario, is that for the first time in our history we're facing a deficit, and it's a cumulative deficit. This concerns us to a great extent. We are not alone in this, as I'm sure you've heard today or throughout other presentations you've listened to. The health sector in northeastern Ontario's in difficulty. Our resource-based economy is in difficulty. It's our feeling that in order to look at the difficulties and still provide services to our region, we need to look at how the government can assist us in solving our own difficulties.
Really what we're asking today, in summary, is that the government look at how the colleges are funded, how that funding is distributed throughout the province and how it can be redistributed or reworked in some way to promote some equity throughout the province in terms of funding to smaller colleges in rural areas as opposed to the larger colleges in the urban areas that have high-tech industries, that have a sound industrial base and that have a multitude of opportunities for partnerships that are just not available to small northern Ontario communities and in particular the college. That would be the premise I would be looking at today.
We have recently restructured-I introduced myself as the regional director, north. In an effort to look at our deficit and position ourselves for the future we have restructured Northern College. We are now three regions: north, central and south. As the regional director, north, I'm responsible for the communities of Timmins, Iroquois Falls, Cochrane, up the Highway 11 corridor as far west as Hearst and Calstock and north to Moosonee and the coastal area. The north region is a fairly significant region. We also, as you probably know, go as far south as the Haileybury-Tri-Town area to the Temagami area, so that we do cover a large area in Northern College. We're hoping that with the restructuring and with the regional groupings we will be able to get into each of our communities and work with our communities to provide training and educational opportunities that will put us and the communities in good stead to solve the economic difficulties we're having as a region.
We certainly feel very strongly that an investment in education is an investment in the economy, and an investment in education is an investment in people, and I think people are the most important resource we have.
As we're struggling in northeastern Ontario to survive, Northern College certainly feels that we must invest in post-secondary education in the college system. That will allow us to not only help the communities but help the people within those communities.
We recognize that the government is providing special opportunities through programs such as SuperBuild, access to opportunities and strategic skills investments, and while we laud those initiatives by the government, they do not always work for northern Ontario. Many of the initiatives depend on private sector partnerships, particularly with head offices in large, high-tech industries which we just simply do not have in the north. Therefore, although the initiatives are very important and we would never say, "Stop the initiatives," we feel that we need to look at and have the government look at initiatives that will support the north as well and take into account the fact that we do not have all the industries that other people do.
Northern College, you may or may not be aware, and I've indicated somewhat, covers a very large area. We own three campuses: the Porcupine campus here in Timmins, the Kirkland Lake campus and the Haileybury campus. We rent campus facilities in Kapuskasing and in Moosonee. Those are our main structures. We cover a very large area. We do get rental assistance for our campuses in Moosonee and Kapuskasing at this point in time.
As we look at the campuses that we own and the physical structures that we own, we continue to have infrastructure costs. We find, of course, as everywhere, that the costs for utilities, supplies and telecommunications are increasing. Our population base is not increasing. Our student population base, on which we are primarily funded, is not increasing, and therefore, there is difficulty balancing the infrastructure costs and the utilities costs in light of the other declines that we're facing. Those costs that we have need to be addressed, and we need some assistance with those particular costs.
We have worked very hard at Northern College to provide access to the communities within our region. We've done this through video conferencing and audio conferencing. We are probably leaders to some extent in the province in that area. We were among the first colleges to offer complete programs through audio conferencing. We have financed this on our own and with our own resources. Having done that and in trying to provide access, we are now finding ourselves in the position where our reserves have run out and, as I've indicated, we are now in a deficit position. So we certainly need some help with that, as would other community colleges in the north.
You will see in the presentation the distances that we travel. Our president's office is located here in Timmins at the Porcupine campus. It's a long way to our other campuses, and the last presentation talked about the distances we have to travel to get to other campuses. Probably the one area of growth population that we have in this province right now is in the aboriginal population. Our Moosonee campus serves the aboriginal population of the coastal area, the James Bay coast. That is our only campus that is not accessible by road; therefore, our costs to service that area are increased due to the costs for travel to the area. That is another factor which affects our ability to serve our communities.
As we look at the economic relationship that we have with the communities, we feel-and I trust that you feel too-that community colleges are an integral part of the communities and they are a very important part in the economic status of communities. As I think I've quoted there, we're landlords, we're consumers, we're builders, we're investors, we're taxpayers, we're innovators and we're leaders. We play a very important role in the communities. We've given you some indication of the economic impact of our presence in the communities, looking at from approximately $15 million in the Timmins area to $1 million in some of the smaller communities. While that may not sound like a lot of money to people from southern Ontario who are used to dealing with a lot larger numbers, those numbers are very significant in northern Ontario. The economic impact of not having a college would be severely felt within our communities.
We've often talked about people who leave the north to get education and training. Very often the trend we see is, once people leave the north, they do not come back to the north. So we're facing, if you will, a brain drain within the north. I think it's important to allow and to provide access to education and training in home communities so that people can stay at home, can continue to raise their families in their home community, can continue to contribute in their community in an economic sense and in a social sense and in the total aspects of the community. So it's very important that we are able to continue to provide that access.
That leads me into the funding formula for the college system. I trust you are aware that the funding formula in the college system is such that there is a fixed pot, if you will, or a pie as we call it. The slice of the pie that you get and the size of the slice depends on the enrolment in terms of post-secondary education. As colleges grow, you may or may not get a bigger slice of the pie, depending on how the other colleges in the system grow. For example, Northern College could in fact grow by 100 students; however, if the large colleges like Humber and Seneca and Fanshawe grow by 1,000 students, they will continue to get more money than Northern, even though we have grown. That puts us at a great disadvantage in terms of trying to obtain finances to get out of this particular system that we're in.
I'm sure you know also that within the college system there are many colleges that have quite sizable surpluses. One might look at that and say: "Why does the college system need fixing? There's lots of money in the college system." I think a closer look at that would reveal that while the larger colleges are indeed seeing surpluses, the smaller colleges, and in particular the northern colleges, are not seeing that same prosperity. That's where we're asking the government and the committee to look at how the system is funded and how it can be more equitable in terms of the population base, the demographics, the industrial base of our communities. We have recommended that the funding formula for the colleges be amended to recognize and compensate for the significant regional disparities that characterize our post-secondary system and to ensure access to education for residents in small communities.
The government recently introduced key performance indicators, KPI. We at Northern College think this is very beneficial, and we're very much in support of the KPI initiative. While we support it, we do have some difficulties with it. Because we're small, our sample size is small. That can affect the statistical reliability and validity of the results that the government will be looking at to determine whether our funding will be affected by the KPI results. There is 2% of college funding assigned to each of the five KPIs, so a college is in jeopardy of losing 10% of its funding if it falls below the average for KPI.
For example, in a small community college in northern Ontario, it may not be unrealistic to think that there are nine graduates of a program. In doing the survey for getting jobs six months later, it could be that three of those graduates have jobs out of the six who were contacted. That looks like, "If six people were contacted and only three have jobs, we're only spending at 50%." That is not statistically reliable or valid in anyone's books, and yet that would be the number we would look at. If we fell below, say, the 88% standard of the province, our funding would be affected for that particular KPI.
That's a concern to us. While we applaud the accountability and we welcome being accountable to our consumers, we do have some difficulty knowing that the accountability could be affected. Of course, if you lose money, you are not able to then fix what, if anything, is broken if it happens to be broken. So another recommendation to the committee is that the funding tied to the KPI take into account regional and demographic circumstances.
As I mentioned earlier, the government has initiated several partnerships and is offering programs such as the access to opportunities, the SuperBuild fund, the strategic skills investment fund. As I indicated, the funding for those very much has been tied to partnerships with private industry, and in some cases it has been a matching dollar for dollar, that the government will match what the colleges are able to raise in their local areas, their local communities.
Because we are in the north, we do not have a large industrial base, we do not have a high technology base, and that direction is very much where the government's initiatives have gone. So, once again, those put a college such as Northern College at a disadvantage: We are not able to raise the funds and therefore we are not able then to build on the initiatives or to really gain from the initiatives.
We recommend that the initiatives supporting post-secondary education be so structured as to meet the needs of all our institutions and regions and not exacerbate further already significant difficulties of our regional institutions.
I've talked a bit about the fact that we are in isolated communities, that we have a lot of distances between our campuses. We have worked at reducing our expenses over the years. We have looked at rationalization of programs; we have looked at rationalization of staffing. We have done that on our own. We are finding now, and I guess this was inevitable as we started, that once you start to reduce staffing and once you start to reduce as much as we can infrastructure, we get to the point where we no longer have money to invest-we cannot invest in our people, we cannot invest in our facilities-and this causes us difficulty.
Our infrastructures are all aging. We have some severe weather conditions. Heat is very important. I see you sitting with your coats on over there.
Mr Galt: Especially on this side of the room.
Mr Bisson: It's about time we put you guys in the cold.
Ms Hart: That's something like my office has been for the last few days.
It's important to know that we do not have the same needs and circumstances that people in other regions of the province do. What we are asking that this government look at in this upcoming budget is, and again our recommendation, that the government recognize how well Northern College has coped with reduced support by investing an infusion of funds to ensure our ongoing ability to serve our region with quality educational and training services and to assist in the maintenance of our buildings.
In looking at an area, and this area is a continuing saga, I guess, of the federal-provincial training agreement, over the last number of years the portion of monies allocated to northern Ontario and particularly our region has decreased dramatically. We recognize there are ongoing talks with the federal government to get the funds over to the province. However, in the meantime we are suffering at Northern College because our funding has been cut back. Therefore, we recommend that the Ontario budget ensure that all citizens of Ontario have equitable access to training funding regardless of geographic area by finalizing the training agreement transferring responsibility to the province.
While we laud the initiatives that have happened, we have some concerns as a northern college, in particular our Northern College, but I think I would speak on behalf of many of the northern colleges. We request and hope that you will support the recommendations we're putting forth today. Thank you very much for this opportunity.
The Chair: We have approximately four minutes per caucus, and I'll start with M. Bisson.
Mr Bisson: Can you explain something on the key performance indicators that you talked about? If I understand what you're saying, if your college is situated in a region where there's higher unemployment and thus the graduates are not able to get employment, somehow you'd be penalized?
Ms Hart: Potentially that's true, because the statistics for the graduation employment rate are done six months following graduation. That is the window. So there is an attempt to contact all the graduates six months after graduation.
Mr Bisson: A good idea in the sense of finding out if the college did a good job, but it may not really reflect the job that you did, if you know what I'm saying.
Ms Hart: That's true. Exactly.
Mr Bisson: To what extent would you be penalized?
Ms Hart: Two per cent of the funding. Each KPI is allotted 2%, so if we fell below the provincial average to a certain extent, we could lose that money.
Mr Bisson: Is that now in place?
Ms Hart: The funding will start, I believe, next year, so not right now. There is still time to look at that.
Mr Bisson: That troubles me because-I think members would agree-in areas in rural and northern Ontario where unemployment rates might be higher, compared to Metropolitan Toronto, that could be a real problem. We've got a bit of a problem already in regard to the funding.
The other thing is that you talked about the inequity of the growth formulas-the note I put in here. I don't quite understand what you were getting at. You were saying, "If our college is to get 100 students and the other college in Guelph gets 1,000, we don't get the same amount of money per student." How does that work?
Ms Hart: The formula is based on growth. As one college grows, they get a certain percentage. So if one college grows by a larger percentage than a smaller college, their percentage would be increased-the piece of the pie, because the size of the pie does not change.
Mr Bisson: So what you're doing is redistributing the funds within the pie.
Ms Hart: That's correct.
Mr Bisson: I get it.
Ms Hart: So the smaller colleges suffer because of that.
Mr Bisson: When was the last time there was an infusion of new dollars for the operational side, an increase to the overall pie?
Ms Hart: The funding has decreased I think roughly at least 17% over the last four or five years.
Mr Bisson: That explains where your deficit comes from, partly.
Ms Hart: That's right.
Mr Bisson: I thought you were opposed to the fact that-in the case of 1,000 students versus 100, where they get more than you, I was going to say that only makes sense because they've got more students. I didn't realize-
Ms Hart: It's the percentage.
Mr Bisson: You were overall. OK.
The Chair: On the government side, Ms Molinari.
Mrs Molinari: Thank you very much for your presentation. I appreciate that you have some recommendations here as well for us to look at and narrow down exactly what you're asking us to do in order to fulfill some of the difficulties you're experiencing.
I had the opportunity to meet with Joan Hommer just recently. She impressed upon me some of the uniqueness of the colleges in the north and how what is needed in the colleges in the south and other areas is certainly different than what's needed in the north. The Ontario Jobs and Investment Board report also stated that there is uniqueness in some of those post-secondary institutions. So there is a consistent message there that it's unique and there are unique ways of servicing and assisting some of the difficulty that you experience.
The KPI, the key performance indicators that are being talked about, there are a number of results that would come out of that. Employability of course is one, but it's also graduation and OSAP defaults and a number of things. It's also to help students choose which college and university they would like to attend-it's almost like a report card-and also helping the students choose their programs and their direction.
You mentioned a bit about the labour market development agreement. There have been ongoing negotiations now with the provincial government and the federal government. We had Minister Pettigrew when the negotiations started and then the minister was changed to Jane Stewart, and with all the difficulties that exist now within that portfolio, talks are at a standstill at this point. But certainly we look forward to having that agreement, because we feel that we would be able to better service some of the needs the federal government was servicing if we can do it at the provincial level.
I'm not going to take up much more time. I know some of my colleagues have some questions and comments. But I'm looking forward to meeting a number of the various college presidents and talking about some of the uniqueness in the area. So thank you very much for your presentation today.
Ms Hart: If I may, you raised a point that was not included, and that was the OSAP default rates and the fact that it's a report card. If I could, I'd like to marry that with a comment from Mr Bisson about the report card, that we can be penalized if the report card is not good. In an area that's economically depressed, the likelihood of the graduation rate, and also then employer satisfaction, can be affected.
We are also affected by the OSAP default rate. If our students cannot get jobs, they cannot pay back their OSAP loans. Northern College happens to be one of two colleges in the province-the other one also being a northern Ontario college-that is in a position where they have to pay OSAP default rates back. So we feel that again, we are being hit by that, because if our students cannot get jobs they cannot pay their loans.
Their loans also-and I'm not sure how much knowledge you have on that-are that if a student goes to another educational institution and incurs a loan at that institution and then comes to Northern College, Northern College has to incur that loan from the other institution. Again, that's a good point. I think we will put in our submission that this also needs to be looked at in terms of that causing great financial hardship to a college that is in an area where the job rate is less, where the employment rate is less and where the students and the colleges are getting hit with a double whammy by having to pay OSAP defaults as well.
Mrs Molinari: But in your presentation you state you strongly support the initiative.
Ms Hart: We certainly support being accountable to our constituents. We absolutely support that, and we support that we provide quality, just as any other institution or public sector. Absolutely. That's not the issue. The issue is having the funding tied to the initiative in which the statistical reliability and validity would be in question.
The Chair: With that, I have to go to the official opposition.
Mr Kwinter: Right now, your funding is based on a per-student basis?
Ms Hart: Yes.
Mr Kwinter: Throughout your presentation you talk about the demographic decline and that your enrolment is declining, which automatically means that your funding is declining.
Ms Hart: That's correct.
Mr Kwinter: What are the trends? What do you see happening to your enrolment? Do you see a chance for it to turn itself around or do you see a steady decline over the coming years?
Ms Hart: I think the reports that have been done over the last-
Mr Kwinter: If I could just ask you one more thing: What has been the rate of decline historically over the last, say, five years, if you have that information?
Ms Hart: I'm sorry, I don't have a number for you, although in a report today the Far Northeast Training Board indicated that the decline of the regional population has been 7%. We're questioning that figure. We're not quite sure if it's that high. It seems like a very high rate. I think we can say with some certainty that the population of northeastern Ontario is declining. I don't have the rate. Certainly, as it declines there's a threat to our student population and the student numbers.
This is particularly why, in the past, we have looked to telecommunications, audio conferencing and video conferences to provide access, to reach out to our communities, to the smaller communities, to try and get right into their home communities. This is also the reason why we have just restructured, to focus on regional needs. I hope I stressed in the written documentation I've given you how important it is for Northern College to look at northeastern Ontario needs, and to look at those from a regional point of view. I think that's crucial. We have the answers; we just need help working towards the solutions.
Mr Kwinter: It seems to me that all governments-and this has been going on for some time-have and should recognize that the north is a special situation and that if you're going to deal strictly on economic viability there's no reason to put anything up in the north. There's got to be a reason why you have to have a northern solution for the north. I support that completely. I just feel that again, that is the point that has to be made: You can't have "one size fits all." I think that is one of the problems we have.
Ms Hart: I would certainly agree with you. I'm not here to advocate for breaking away for a northern Ontario province, but to be equitable it has to be looked at. There are inequities and one size certainly does not fit all. Nor does one size in all of northeastern Ontario fit all, or northern Ontario. The northeast, the northwest, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury-we all have different realities, and those realities must be addressed within their own regions, because each one is quite different. So one size definitely does not fit all, whether it's north-south or within the north itself.
Mr Phillips: Thank you for a very informative presentation. One of the challenges is trying to determine what is the fairest way of allocating resources among colleges. Has your organization attempted to get fairness at the table with the other colleges and been unsuccessful, or has that been a route you haven't pursued?
Ms Hart: I think certainly we collaborate with other colleges and we collaborate within our community, not just within the college system, to look at ways of maximizing the resources we have. So far, no college has offered to give us any of their reserves. However, we would be open to that if they chose to do that.
There's a limited amount that we can do, certainly in terms of brokering programs. The larger colleges in the south are more than willing to do that. That allows us to start programs but to not necessarily have all the resources to go into, say, the second or third year. Students can transfer to the south. Not all students want to do that. So, yes, there's collaboration. In terms of the funding formula, there has not been a change in that.
The Chair: We have run out of time. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
Ms Hart: Thank you very much for the opportunity.
The Chair: Our next presenter this afternoon is a representative from Lecours Explorations. Could you come forward and state your name for the record, please.
Mrs Rita Lecours: Good afternoon. My name is Rita Lecours.
Le Président : Bonjour.
Mme Lecours : Bonjour. On m'avait demandé de faire ma présentation en français mais puisque je l'ai faite par écrit en anglais, il y a des termes qu'il sera peut-être plus facile de dire en anglais.
Le Président : C'est votre choix.
Mme Lecours : Je vais lire ma présentation en anglais puis, de temps en temps, si le mot est trop difficile à dire, je vais peut-être le dire en français. C'est correct ?
Le Président : C'est bien.
Mme Lecours : D'abord, je vous remercie pour l'occasion que vous me donnez de venir présenter. Je pensais simplement rencontrer quelqu'un un à un. J'ai d'abord écrit à l'honorable Tim Hudak. Alors, je veux commencer par lire la lettre.
"Honorable Mr Tim Hudak,
"I have a matter in issue with the provincial government, which I would like to discuss with you.
"I would like to bring to your attention that some mining activities have taken place. Some prospectors and developers, including myself, would like to continue conducting these activities with the help and cooperation of the government.
"On February 8, 2000 in Timmins, I'll be making a formal representation to the government through [MPP] Gilles Bisson at a `pre-budget financing committee' where I will raise some of the issues I'm concerned with.
"As I was reading from a news release communiqué from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines dated March 29, 1999, `Mining will always be one of the cornerstones of the northern economy,'" said the honourable Mr Hodgson. "`Our government is determined to do everything it can to support the industry, particularly the prospectors and developers who are fundamental to the industry's future.'
"Based on this declaration, I hope to meet with you or your representative on that day if possible."
My name is Rita Lecours, prospector since 1994 with my son, Gérald Lecours. We're a serious small entrepreneur company called Lecours Exploration. Both my son and I came from a business/lumber industry family background. My dad, J.D. Levesque, came from Rouyn, Québec, in 1948. From a small beginning, he developed a thriving lumber industry which eventually employed hundreds of people, brought growth to the town and area, and taxes to the government.
On my husband's side, three brothers named Arthur, Georges and Fred Lecours, also moved from Quebec to eventually operate a thriving lumber industry, which was also good for the Hearst and area economy. Both families prospered in Hearst and established their families there.
The north was built by persistent, hard-working people who believed in their vision and put deep roots in the ground with their small ventures, which were eventually profitable to the town and area and to the economic growth of the province.
Now I, Rita Lecours, believe that there are other natural resources in our region which haven't been explored to their potential yet. I quote from Mario's Mineral Potential: "A treasure trove lies beneath the surface of our province. With properly supported exploration, we can continue to discover these treasures for the benefit of all the people of Ontario."
For my part, the Hearst region is my work area. Since 1994, Lecours Explorations have been active in claiming properties, assaying, trenching, beep mat surveys; we did dynamite, worked with a plugger and had visits by three different geologists. All of these costs were personally covered by Lecours Explorations.
My interest in prospecting started in 1994. For advice, I consulted my brother-in-law, Mauril Jean. He was a successful businessman in logging equipment and industrial machine shop, but also a hard-working prospector himself at the time. With his information, I went to the Timmins Ministry of Northern Development and Mines office. I purchased my prospector's licence. Louise, one of the employees, took time to instruct me about how to go about prospecting. With videos on staking and claiming properties, plus various literature, I came back to Hearst confident that the ministry would be there to help me, as I was told.
On a personal note, Mr Jean showed me what kind of maps I needed to get for the aerial photographs of the township and area I was interested in. I first was disappointed that the Ministry of Natural Resources was no longer giving that service, but the Hearst Lumbermen's Association helped me in obtaining those aerial photographs. From the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, I obtained some topographic maps of different townships surrounding ours on which we had no information.
Why would the surrounding townships have an aeromagnetic survey done while ours was blank? After many attempts on my part to the ministry, I said to Louise: "Is it possible that the work has been done in that area but the report is somewhere else?" She said: "I'll tell you what, Madame Lecours. I'll look and inquire and phone you back if I find anything." That day went by with no news from Louise. I really needed those maps to start exploring the area of interest. The next morning, there was a phone call from Louise, who said: "You know what, Madame Lecours. I found sections of maps of old surveys done in 1962 in a filing cabinet." From that point, M. Jean, the independent prospector, informed me that there was a beep mat available from the ministry.
By phone, I reserved the use of the beep mat for a week in May 1994.
With the beep mat, we found many conductors. After assaying a few, I phoned the Timmins office to have their comments on the results. We chose to bring some samples personally to Timmins instead of sending them by bus or mail, as requested. The geologists were quite impressed with the type of rocks we had and offered to have them assayed. Trusting that this offer would help us, the rocks were left with them. Time went on and on and on. We never had any results nor any acknowledgement at all on whatever happened with our samples. We had been forgotten.
I took some samples to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines office in Thunder Bay, and I'm very grateful to Mr John Mason, who helped us as much as he could, not being of his district. I guess he was limited as to how much he could help.
The Thunder Bay office had some of our rocks assayed, and within a few weeks they sent us the results, which were very encouraging. Mr Mason also offered us the use of the plugger, which we used to drill holes to do some dynamite. We did some manual trenching and found good surface samples.
When Mr Brian Atkinson was transferred to the Timmins office, I was told by Mr Mason that I would get co-operation from Mr Atkinson. Two days after we called Mr Atkinson, he was on the site to visit our property. He then realized that our property indicated that the underlying green stone was wider than indicated on regional geological maps. This is a quote from Ontario Geological Survey, open file report 5972, report of activities, 1997.
We were informed of and encouraged to attend the symposium being held in Kirkland Lake, which we did. This led to two junior companies visiting our property. Then we did some mechanical trenching. In order to advance the property, geophysical surveys are recommended to attempt to define additional targets for mechanical stripping or diamond drilling. If sufficient financial resources are available, a geological survey should also be carried out.
If I understand well, the resident geologist would come back only when we were at the stage of drilling targets. Does this mean that we need to spend $45,000 in order to have another visit from the ministry?
So far the help we had from the ministry was: no reports and no news from samples we brought to the Timmins office; a cancelled work report which was done with the help of a ministry employee after we traveled to Timmins; in Sudbury, our work report is not accepted and our claims are cancelled without notice.
Upon phoning Sudbury to know the reasons as to why our work report had not been accepted and why they did not give us time to bring corrections, I tell this particular employee that it was mean on their part to treat us that way after I had been told that the ministry was there to help. The employee asked, "Who told you that?" With an arrogant voice, I'm told that I have no business there if I'm not more knowledgeable than that.
I communicate with the Timmins office to inquire if I can put an objection against that decision. Yes, I could, but I would have to sign a letter of appeal which would represent some legal matters. I chose not to get involved in a legal battle but to start again and claim back our property instead.
Regarding the OPAP, after inquiry regarding this program, I am told that it is not worth applying. I would only lose my time, since I had no chance. This year though, in 1999, Lecours Explorations does make an application to the OPAP, but we are refused, we're told, because of lack of experience; we were working with outdated maps.
I could go on and on. Where is the assistance to the prospector and explorer?
Please allow me to quote from a news release communiqué dated March 29, 1999:
"`Mining will always be one of the cornerstones of the northern economy,' said Hodgson. `Our government is determined to do everything it can to support the industry, particularly the prospectors and developers who are fundamental to the industry's future.'"
Is there any chance for newcomers? Shouldn't a prospector who is ready to use his own money be compensated, especially if he discovers conductors which are assayed?
Lecours Explorations has spent a considerable amount of money exploring, and from that work we have given the ministry a lot of valuable information. How can the ministry encourage us, compensate and give us incentive to go on?
In any type of business, I believe that the grassroots work is one of the most important factors, if not the most important factor. I was pleased to read from the news release communiqué by the Honourable Chris Hodgson that he reaffirmed the importance of this work. More assistance to prospectors would help in ensuring that new mineral deposits are found in northern Ontario.
Mr Jean, my brother-in-law, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on 78 of his claims. He was another prospector of vision who invested his own time and money to help discover new deposits. For well over five years he poured into that industry, only to have his claims cancelled without any notice from the government. He had always been faithful with his work reports, but after a serious accident, not realizing the state of his work, he was stripped of his ownership of claims, which his wife and son discovered after his death. His death had resulted from this accident. When someone has worked so hard for so many years, would it not be fair to send a reminder to prospectors and explorers when their claims are to be brought to terms?
This is how I see the situation. Here we are in the bush, working hard, doing what the ministry requires of us. We then send the ministry our very precise work report. It becomes public and anyone working on computers and the Internet can just sit in a comfortable office, gather all that information and then, like a fox, just watch for the fallen bird and grab hold of it, if it's of interest to them. Please give us a break and inform us when the ministry refuses our work report. Since we pay more than 60% in taxes to both governments, how much or what percentage of this amount is reinvested in the exploration sector in our area? The same treatment was done to us also. Yes, it's business, but can't we treat one another with more respect? I don't see that as part of a good incentive.
Alternatives could include bringing back grants for companies, tax incentives-flow through-changing environmental laws, making new parks in southern Ontario instead of northern Ontario, and building new infrastructures in northern Ontario. There are other existing and proposed programs from our neighbouring province of Quebec which could be used as examples of incentive, and I've got copies of those that I'm referring to.
I want to believe that our government will have the wisdom to find and put in effect solutions to support and encourage exploration, which is fundamental to the industry's future.
I ask that God direct you in your decisions. Respectfully yours, Rita Lecours.
Le Président : Merci beaucoup. On a trois minutes pour chaque caucus pour les questions. I'll start with the government side; you've got three minutes.
Mr Arnott: Thank you very much for your presentation. You've given us a very thorough outline of your experience in the prospecting business since 1994, and we thank you for that.
I would say to you in response that you're absolutely right, in the sense that as a taxpayer and as a consumer of government services you have every right and expectation to demand courteous and professional service from the employees of the provincial government. If that didn't happen, I'm sorry, and we should check into it.
You've outlined the need for enhanced support for prospectors, and we hear you. If we look to the future and want to continue to have mining in Ontario, we need to support our prospectors. The concept of enhanced flow-through shares is something that has already been brought to our attention this afternoon and you've highlighted that again, and it's something that I think the government needs to seriously consider.
I don't have any questions, but I just wanted to again thank you for your presentation and wish you all the best.
Ms Lecours: Thank you.
The Chair: Anyone else on the government side? If not, I'll go to the official opposition.
Mr Kwinter: Thank you very much. I found your letter very interesting. The recommendation you made at the end of your letter we've heard from the Ontario Mining Association and we've heard today from people in the mining industry.
But I just wanted to ask you about your role as a prospector. When I've talked to mining people over the years they always tell me that the prospector is the key to their business because they don't have the ability to go out and do that. They depend on people like you and others like you who go out and sort of bird-dog these finds and then once they get them in most cases haven't got the resources to develop them on their own, so they have to go to the major people and get investors and do all of these things.
When you started you must have had some advice, some counsel, as to where to go. I'm sure you just didn't walk out on the street and say, "I'm going to go here." How did that work?
Ms Lecours: Well, you might find it funny, but it's a vision I had. One evening I was watching a TV program at home alone about mining and the discoveries. I'm a believer in God and I believe in his directive. It's like I saw that particular area in a vision, an area I already knew, but I had never thought of going prospecting before. From that, I knew precisely where I needed to go, if that answers your question.
Mr Kwinter: And the results, I assume, confirmed your vision?
Ms Lecours: Yes.
Mr Kwinter: And where does that stand now?
Ms Lecours: In which way do you mean?
Mr Kwinter: Do you still have the claim?
Ms Lecours: Yes, we still have the claims, and if we had some financial help, we have other areas we believe we would go into. We would claim more. We were with a very knowledgeable geologist. The work he proposed on the claim we have been working on since 1994 is about $45,000, just that alone. We have other areas in mind that we would like to claim also, but it's costing a lot of money. The two mining companies that came to visit our claim, because the investors have not been there really for a couple of years, they didn't have the money; otherwise, they were interested in optioning it and working on it. But because of a lack of money, that's why they-
Mr Kwinter: One last thing, just for curiosity: What is it you found? What mineral did you find?
Ms Lecours: So far it's copper and zinc, but the three or four geologists who came all said that when they look at the area, it's an area that would be good for gold.
Le Président : Merci beaucoup. Gilles, vous avez trois minutes.
M. Bisson : Merci beaucoup pour la présentation.
For the committee's interest, and I guess to make the point, often in the industry the realty is that 99.9% of gold mines or copper mines or zinc mines that are found are found by people like Rita and her company. I just give one little example. Sometimes they think, "What do you guys know? You're operating on a hunch or you've got a vision," or whatever, and often people try to dismiss you. I just want to tell you one story. A couple of prospectors back about 15 or 20 years ago believed that up in the Hemlo area there was gold, even though everybody had gone through there, all kinds of money had been spent. The majors had spent dollars in doing exploration, and everybody concluded, including Northern Development and Mines, that there was no potential for gold finds in that area. Well, the rest is history. John Larch and Don McKinnon went up there on a grubstake. They didn't even have the dollars to go out and do the thing themselves; they had to borrow money from a few individuals to have enough money to buy balogna and bread and everything else they needed to survive in the bush for a couple of weeks. They're now multimillionaires. A whole industry has been created, three gold mines, up in that area.
The complaint I got from Rita is that what seems to be happening is that because of the reductions, to a certain extent, at Northern Development and Mines on the mines side, it's becoming increasingly more difficult for people like Rita to get the kind of support we used to get out of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to help them with everything from the map systems to assistance having to do with the technical information we need. The call she made to me was: "What's going on here? We're not getting the kind of assistance we need." So I bring back the point, and it's something I'll follow up with Rita later.
The other thing you should know, Rita, is that the Porcupine developers' association was here earlier and made the exact point you do around an enhanced flow-through share system. It's something I want to work with them and others on, because I really believe that if we don't pay the attention we need to to the prospectors now, our industry is in grave, grave danger in the not-so-distant future.
Peut-être que tu peux faire un commentaire ?
Le Président : Vous voulez faire un commentaire, madame?
Mme Lecours : Je n'étais pas ici cet après-midi. On est entré plus tard mais j'aimerais savoir s'il va avoir un follow-up? Est-ce que ça donne quelque chose d'apporter ça.
M. Bisson : Pour vous expliquer ce qui arrive à ce point c'est que le comité, les membres du gouvernement avec les membres de l'opposition vont faire un rapport qui va être donné au ministre des Finances et le ministre des Finances, lui, regarde l'ensemble du rapport pour faire des décisions pour son budget.
Nous, notre responsabilité comme membres de l'opposition, comme gouvernement, c'est de s'assurer que le gouvernement prend vos présentations au sérieux et c'est ça que je m'engage à faire pour vous.
Mme Lecours : Dans les copies que j'ai apportées, le programme du Québec puis une autre proposition qui a été faite par un géologiste québécois, aussi une proposition qui a été présentée pour le Québec, je crois qu'il y a des bons points qui mériteraient d'être examinés.
M. Bisson : C'est exactement les mêmes points qui ont été faits plus tôt.
Mme Lecours : Oui? Ah bon.
Le Président : Au nom du comité, madame Lecours, je vous remercie pour la présentation très intéressante cet après-midi. Bonne chance.
Mme Lecours : Merci.
MUSHKEGOWUK TRIBAL COUNCIL
The Chair: Our last presentation this afternoon is a representative for the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council. Could you please come forward and state your name for the record.
Mr Bisson: You can also clarify the title.
Chief Lawrence Martin: The name is Lawrence Martin. I am the Grand Chief from Mushkegowuk Tribal Council.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, welcome.
Chief Martin: I am honoured to be here to do a presentation and to point out some of the issues and perhaps some of the recommendations we can make from our tribal council to the government and the corporate members who are in the room today.
I've been the elected Grand Chief of the Mushkegowuk people for about a year and a half now. This is the first time that an election like this took place, where everybody in the seven communities that I represent voted, and I, along with the Deputy Grand Chief, was elected at that time.
Since then, we have been really busy trying to develop what we call a regional government. We found that because of the status quo of our situation in our communities this could not happen. We have to unite and reorganize so that we can have a united front in terms of how we address the issues we have in our communities. Of course, we're always looking at ways in which we can forge partnerships, protocols with everyone who is involved: federal and provincial governments, corporations and so on. This is a nation-building exercise that we're doing and, in so doing, we are able to identify a lot of opportunities. I'm very excited. I see a lot of opportunities, just like the last speaker was talking about opportunities in prospecting and so on. I see those opportunities also, but there are issues in the relationship that we have as First Nations people, with the provincial government especially, that we have to resolve so that development can happen in partnership with our people, government and corporate entities.
We have to look at history for us to really understand where we come from. If you can imagine that there's a map right here in front of you, and up there you see Hudson Bay and James Bay, and Timmins is right where we're sitting-it just happened to be right here. The communities I represent up near the Hudson Bay coast are Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, Kashechewan, Moose Factory, and down south here New Post, Missanabie and Chapleau. Within those seven communities we have about 10,000 people. When you look at the history, you can see when the Europeans arrived here 300 years ago. Moose Factory, by the way, is probably the oldest community in Ontario, as you've probably read in your history books, and it's still there. What we've had to do is look at that and see all the changes that have come to our people. Some of those changes are positive and some are negative, and we have to accept both.
In the planning process we've had this past year, we looked at that history and watched as the Hudson's Bay came in, and then the missionaries and the governments, and then the BNA Act was put in place and then the Indian Act came in 1876. In 1870 there was a Rupert's Land Act, in which the lands were turned over to Canada with the condition that they would look after the interests of First Nations people in this country. After that came, in our area anyway, Treaty 9-that was enacted in 1905-and Ontario was also a signatory to that particular treaty. But nothing happened as far as treaties go until the 1950s, during which communities became organized, reservations came into play and programs and services became part of what was being provided to the people as per treaty, as per the Indian Act and so on. Also around that time, we take a look back and see that First Nations people for the first time were allowed to vote in Canada. That was only in the late 1950s and early 1960s. So the history is important to look at in this process.
As we look further and further up, we see back in 1982 the Constitution of Canada, in which it includes First Nations people being recognized in their aboriginal and treaty rights, inherit rights. That's important to note.
Also, as we go along, we see all these different changes that have happened up to the present day. My job is to look at the history and to see how we can all be working together, no matter how much development has happened here in the province, and there has been a lot. We can see that. As I fly back and forth to my communities that I represent, I can see the extraction of all the trees from the land; I can see mining sites here and there. But when I land in my community I see poverty; I see houses that are full of people, two or three families in a two-bedroom house. I see kids running around because they have no place they can call their own. I'll see a lot of dropouts in our education system because of the inadequate system that's there now, that's been run by the federal government for so many years, and we have little access to the provincial education system without having to make payment. Of course, we don't have the means to make payment.
When I look around my communities I see 80%, 90% unemployment. As I said, there's something wrong with this picture. I hope in my job, in this three-year term that I have, I can extend invitations to the federal government, to the provincial government and to the corporations, to other communities and other people, so that we can work together and change that. When that treaty was signed in 1905, the elders then had a very different understanding of what they signed. They told us time and time again that the treaty was signed to share the lands and resources, and for us to benefit together. But that kind of picture that I'm painting you, which is a realistic picture, is not our definition of sharing, that's for sure. That's what I want to change. I want to be able to come forward to strike these partnerships so we can make things happen a lot better.
When we look at some of the communities I represent up at the Hudson Bay-James Bay coast, the remoteness factor is huge. The cost of living is much higher. For instance, we did a little comparison between Timmins grocery prices and Kashechewan's. It was a 125% difference, to a community that has 80% unemployment-$19 for a bag of milk in cash in Kashechewan, compared to down here where it is $2.99 or $3.99.
These kinds of things really hamper how we can enjoy life, enjoy the benefits that everybody else is taking for granted down here. Of course, we also don't have the infrastructure. We don't have a permanent road system beyond Cochrane, I guess, and then from Cochrane we just have the railway that goes up to Moosonee, and from there you just have the winter road. There is a barge system that operates in the summer, and of course there's the air transportation, which is fairly high.
We'd like to look at an infrastructure that can accommodate these changes. Again, we've talked to the various ministries in the province and also with the federal Indian affairs people. There seems to be a need to work towards something we can collectively work at and develop for the benefit of all. So that's part of the things I'm working on.
Being where we are, we can only look and work harder to try and find ways so that we can have our children benefit from education and other services. You probably heard this past year that our Mushkegowuk council took the Ontario government to court on the Ontario Works program. We simply said that particular program doesn't work in our communities when we have high unemployment, high housing problems, no place for our trainees to be given any kind of training time, placements. It just doesn't work.
I don't want to just fill you with all these gloom-and-doom kinds of stories. There's a lot of good stuff that happens in our communities too, and much of this has to do with our language. We have been able to maintain our language and our tradition and our values and our culture. That's been really important for us. We're still very close to the land and we're always out there as much as we can be, although it's getting harder and harder. You have to look at the whole picture. You can't just focus on one section.
For instance, now a lot of our young people are complaining that since there are no jobs-and of course if they can afford a snow machine, they can't have it. If you're on welfare, you cannot have a snow machine. You have to sell it. So it doesn't make sense. You just keep going around in this vicious circle.
The other good thing that is happening in our area, and a very important thing, is the extension of the hydro grid from Moosonee up to Attawapiskat. That is going to change the cost of goods as far as hydro services go. Right now we have diesel-operated generators and the diesel is brought in on the winter roads. Sometimes it has to be flown in when the energy runs out. But now, through a special arrangement with the Department of Indian Affairs, we have a 10-year agreement with them in which they will finance up to $44 million of the $54-million project. The other $10 million is coming from Ontario Hydro Services, in a partnership, and almost $5 million is coming from the Ontario heritage fund.
By establishing these kinds of partnerships and working relationships, we are starting to make a little headway. But it was a hard thing to achieve and it took about three years to put that together. We still haven't completed the project; we're still working on it. We were hoping that this particular winter we would have been able to haul the goods to start installation this year, but because of weather and because sometimes the banking industry doesn't allow certain kinds of loans to go through, with all the deregulation that is happening in electricity and energy, that is causing some problems beyond our control. But those kinds of things are what we are looking at.
Overall, when you look at the difference, even from the 1970s and the 1980s, of how many people in our communities are now educated-I had to leave my community to go to high school in North Bay when I was 14 years old, and many of our kids have done that. But now we are starting to have high schools in our communities. We now have one in Moose Factory, in Kashechewan and Attawapiskat, and that is starting to make a bit of change. Now we are starting to have a few more people in post-secondary, now we have a couple of lawyers, now we have a couple of people with doctoral degrees in education, now we have people in business administration, and now we are really starting to move.
Of course, with that come the questions and a different understanding of what has been happening in our history. Our respected elders have been sitting there quietly waiting for those treaties to be honoured. Now the younger generation is saying: "Come on. A lot of stuff was stolen; it was not a fair treaty. However it was worded back then, that was not the understanding of our elders."
There is now a need to look at this relationship very strongly. As we pay attention to the new provincial policies, Living Legacy, where I come from it's called the undiscovered lands. It's the year 2000 and here it's undiscovered lands. I can respect that from a planning purpose; however, it feels again like we are being left out of the whole planning process, and we are not going to allow that. We don't have any choice but to say we have to be part of this. We're part of life here today as we are, just as I am sitting here, and we have a lot of young people, maybe 65% or 70% of our population, under 25. That is going to make a big difference in how our relationship is going to be. If we are going to have development-miners, prospectors, loggers and so on-we have to have that recognition of First Nations people as having been the first people here and therefore should have some significant role to play in how the development takes place from here on in.
Without any kind of government participation, we negotiated a memorandum of understanding with a diamond company up in Attawapiskat just before Christmas. There, at least, the company showed there was some respect and understanding for First Nations people to have this traditional right to the traditional lands and therefore they need to be negotiated with. At least that's a start. They are now in the advanced exploration stage for diamonds, and we anticipate more visitors of that nature.
We recently met with northern development and mines about Operation Treasure Hunt-I really like that name-to look for other samples of minerals that may be in the river systems. We do want to work with that. We are not against development at all. Don't get me wrong here. I just want to emphasize that we need to be part of it. If you come to our communities and stay with us for at least three weeks, you will see what I mean. Life would be different. So that is what I am hoping for.
The other thing that I'm hoping for too is, because we keep arguing the same topic over and over, and we're back in court at the end of February on the appeal over this Ontario Works over a very simple matter, all we're saying is, we want to work together and we're being told no. All that we're looking for now and that I want to recommend is perhaps some kind of special task force that can look at the costs of various programs that are being put on to aboriginal people-on reserve, off reserve-in Ontario, and to develop a partnership with the federal government and also the corporate entities on how we can start including First Nations people, and to apply some of these policies that I hear about that talk about equality and so on.
We're very much open to that idea. We will continue to bring these issues forward and to try to work with people who may or may not want to work with us, in the belief that our children need to benefit from the jobs. That's what we're looking for.
I shall leave it at that point. If there's any time left and if you have any questions, I'll leave that to you.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have approximately four minutes per caucus. I'll start with the official opposition.
Mr Phillips: Thank you, Grand Chief. I read the court decision. It was profoundly important but got very little attention. It essentially said that no government can unilaterally implement programs without-I think they used the term-government-to-government consultations with the First Nations. As I say, it got very little attention around the country, when I thought it was huge.
You indicated that you're back in court at the end of this month. Is that correct?
Chief Martin: Yes, the 28th and 29th. This is the appeal that's going on.
Mr Phillips: I know this is a difficult question. Any expectations on when that proceeding may finish and a judgement ruled?
Chief Martin: It will be taking over two days in the courtroom. Judging from the first court appearance we made-it took about four months to get the ruling out-we can anticipate maybe something along those lines.
Mr Phillips: I look forward to that. As I say, that ruling got little attention but it was huge.
My second question is, in terms of the consultation with the provincial government and the First Nations, how well is that going? How is that done? I can remember when there were regular meetings between the Chiefs of Ontario and members of the cabinet. Is that still going on, and can you give us any indication of whether there are any recommendations on how the relationship may work more smoothly?
Chief Martin: It seems to be a hit-and-miss operation. I know in some cases there's been some consultation with First Nations taking place on some mining activities. In some cases, there hasn't been any. My only recommendation is a need to have the various ministries that are involved in this plan of endeavours to keep closer contact with the First Nations organizations and the communities that are being affected. We did quite a bit of negotiation with a particular company, Agrium mines, just outside of Kapuskasing, and now that negotiation has been bogged down because there was no consultation supplied. As a result, the First Nation there, Constance Lake, is now seeking a legal route to try and make sure that there's consultation and there's better understanding by the community members of what is actually taking place.
The communication part needs to be enhanced. That would be my recommendation. As far as the companies go, I have found so far that most of the companies we've dealt with have been really co-operative. They just don't seem to know the rules. Nobody really seems to understand exactly what consultation means or to what extent you have consultation. That can be defined a little bit more by working with the First Nations themselves.
The Chair: You've still got a minute.
Mr Phillips: Oh, good. The distribution of the proceeds from the Rama casino, was that widely viewed as a positive step in the First Nations community?
Chief Martin: At the outset it was a very positive thing to have established with the provincial government of the day, but as it turns out, it took a real tough negotiation process to finally come to some kind of agreement as of today. The picture changed somewhat. It's still hopeful for the communities, however, to continue to try and draw some revenues from that. At this point, because of all that I mentioned in my presentation, the money that's required for the infrastructure, housing, economic development and social services, the Rama dollars represent some of that, and a lot of the communities have already gone out and spent their money even though the Rama money hasn't been distributed yet. They're paying a lot of money in interest to the banks just to make sure they get their housing projects in place and so on.
Mr Bisson: Grand Chief Martin, I want to echo something you said earlier in your presentation to members of the government. That would be to take up the offer to go up into some of these communities and stay for a while, because it shows you to what extent things have been allowed to let go.
The basic problem was that we have inadequate funding on the part of the federal government to those communities, to the point where there is no infrastructure in some cases, and we have the types of problems that lead to everything else as far as societal problems within the communities.
I was interested, because it's the first time I've heard anybody say this from within the native community, to talk in a candid way about how the newer generation, your generation and mine, within the native community are now the leaders after the benefit of having gone to university and gotten the education from universities and colleges and such. They are starting to understand and are starting to participate in a way where basically they are saying, "Listen, we want to be included in what's going on economically in Ontario," and that is difficult because people aren't used to sharing on our side of the fence. For years, if you had a lumber company go in and do logging activities next to a native community, or a mining activity, you just went out and did it. You didn't bother talking to the aboriginal First Nations community; you just did your thing.
Now all of a sudden your leadership, the leadership of our generation, is saying: "No, no, no. We want to sit down at the table and figure out how we can get a piece of the pie for our citizens." I'm glad you said it: It takes a lot of goodwill on both sides because we need to find the kinds of solutions in the end to give everybody equal opportunity.
I'm just wondering what your experience has been generally. You made the comment in the case of Attawapiskat where that particular mining company said, "We didn't know, but we recognize that and we'll sit down." Is that the norm, or is there still quite a bit of resistance?
Chief Martin: There is some resistance because the companies are saying, "We've already applied for and have received the permits that we require," from MNR, MNDM or MOE, whatever particular ministry is responsible. They feel at first that they don't have to sit down and negotiate with First Nations people, but when we start bringing up the constitutional rights, the Constitution of Canada, and map out the history, then they start to understand.
Mr Bisson: But aren't they, according to the regulations now, supposed to point that out at the beginning? For example, I'm a prospector. I'm going out to stake a claim or possibly bring a mine into operation on traditional grounds that are affected by the First Nations people. Isn't the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines supposed to point them in the direction of the native leadership right away, and is that not happening?
Chief Martin: A lot of times it's just a letter from some ministry office that gets sent maybe to the band office, and it may be hanging there, but not everybody goes to the band office. How many times have you gone to city hall and just hung around there to see what kind of bulletin-
Mr Bisson: I try to stay away from city hall.
Chief Martin: There you go.
The Chair: With that, Mr Bisson, we've run out of time. I have to go to the government side. Mr Galt.
Mr Galt: Thank you, Grand Chief, for your very thoughtful presentation. It's from the heart, particularly as you talked about the big picture.
But as I listened to you zeroing in on things like 80% to 90% unemployment, that's beyond my understanding and comprehension. I'm not disbelieving you. It's just that, being from the south or whatever, that's absolutely phenomenal. You went on and mentioned two to three families in a small, single-dwelling home. Certainly conditions are very different than we're familiar with.
I'm just curious about your election and understanding the governance, and I would just like to explore that for a moment, if I may. Are you elected from among the other band chiefs as a grand chief, and is this annual? How do you end up as a grand chief?
Chief Martin: I get elected the same way as you do.
Mr Galt: It's an open election among all those 10,000 people?
Chief Martin: It's an open election, yes.
Mr Galt: Like a mayor might; it's open in a community.
Chief Martin: That's right, and it's for a three-year term.
Mr Galt: This is like an upper tier, and then there are all the other bands, several bands within that jurisdiction?
Chief Martin: That's right. In my council area there are seven chiefs and councils. Each local community will have a chief and a council. That's representative mostly of the Indian Act system. The Indian Act says that for every 100 members you have to have a councillor, so there's a councillor for every 100 people in that community, plus a chief.
But in my case, it's been developed by the people. This is what they wanted. They thought this was something that would represent them more, over and above what the chief and council are doing locally. I was also the mayor of Sioux Lookout just a few years back, so I had that opportunity to be part of the system and understand it and know what the problems are.
Mr Galt: It's interesting you mentioned Sioux Lookout. My daughter and son-in-law lived there for six or seven years. They were with Wawatay and he is now with the aboriginal channel in Ottawa.
Chief Martin: I used to be the executive director of Wawatay. Who are they?
Mr Galt: They moved this last past summer. I'll chat with you afterwards.
Chief Martin: Oh, yes.
Mr Galt: Just coming back to this council, the tribal council is made up of other band councils. Is that the way that would be constructed?
Chief Martin: Yes.
Mr Galt: Do I still have some time, Mr Chair, or are we running out?
The Chair: Yes, a minute and a half.
Mr Galt: You've come before us and you've got a lot of problems here. What specifically can we do in this upcoming budget that would be of benefit to you?
Chief Martin: It seems a little bit too late to really do anything in this upcoming budget. That's why I recommend even some kind of a forum in which we can go a little bit further and discuss these issues that we have. I didn't even have time to put together what kind of monies are now going into our education system, or how much money is going into long-term care, child care and so on, to be able to pick out exactly how much money is coming in from the province, and also, there is the need to examine some this 1965 welfare agreement between the federal government and the province, to see what kind of a sharing of costs is associated with that and how much is actually going in from the province to the first nations.
I think there's a need to examine this. If you recognize that there is a special situation here and that we should examine it, then I think my goal would be accomplished, that we can take a look at that in the near future.
Mr Galt: Thank you.
Chief Martin: We could also do a position paper to outline exactly what I'm talking about so that you can see in black and white what these costs are. How much time is available?
Mr Bisson: One thing you could do is drop the appeal on the workfare issue.
The Chair: I won't entertain any discussion across the floor. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
Chief Martin: Thank you.
The Chair: Before we adjourn, there are a couple of items that I'd like to bring to the committee's attention. The taxi will be leaving the hotel at 7 o'clock sharp. The plane is leaving at 7:30. The dining room is also open. We're told that they're going to be fairly busy. However, they do have a buffet if you want to eat before you leave.
Mr Galt: Are you serving dinner tonight on the plane?
The Chair: I don't know if I'm serving dinner tonight on the plane.
This committee will reconvene tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock in Brockville.
The committee adjourned at 1800.