L'hon. M. Peterson: Permettez-moi de souligner le caractère un peu spécial de cette Saint-Jean-Baptiste. L'an dernier à cette date, je formulais le désir d'un rapprochement avec le Canada français qui mettrait fin à l'isolement du Québec.
Je constate avec plaisir que l'année constitutionnelle a été productive. Je sais qu'il reste encore beaucoup à faire mais l'enjeu est important et il faut faire en sorte que tout le monde soit satisfait et fier de l'entente à laquelle nous travaillons.
M. Guindon: Il me fait plaisir en ce 24 juin, fête de la Saint-Jean, et fête des Canadiens français de saluer de façon toute spéciale les Franco-Ontariens et les Franco-ontariennes qui, grâce à leur fierté et à leur ténacité, ont su demeurer un peuple possédant une langue et une culture bien à lui.
La survie de la langue et de la culture française en Ontario n'a rien de miraculeux. C'est en effet grâce aux vaillants efforts d'hommes et de femmes convaincus qu'on entend encore le français parlé et chanté dans tous les coins de l'Ontario, même si c'est à divers degrés.
Je profite de cette journée pour rendre hommage à ceux qui ont combattu afin que le français garde sa place dans notre province. Je pense aux héros et héroïnes qui ont leurs noms dans l'histoire officielle, mais aussi à tous ceux et toutes celles qui ont réussi à garder le français dans leurs villages et dans leurs familles.
Ce sont ceux et celles qui ont travaillé pour nos écoles et nos organismes de toutes sortes afin qu'il y ait toujours du français quelque part. Il fut un temps où c'était très mal vu que de miliur le français pour cette province.
J'en suis très fier en tant que Canadien français et j'espère que cette loi sera plus que de belles paroles. J'espère très sincèrement que le gouvernement verra à une mise en oeuvre complète de cette loi dans les délais prévus et avant si possible.
Pendant trop longtemps les Canadiens français, comme tous les parlant français, ont été relégués au rang de citoyens de second ordre. Il est temps que les choses changent et ceci de façon évidente et permanente.
M. Pouliot: Permettez-moi de rappeler à tous les distingués membres de cette Chambre, comme l'ont fait nos prédécesseurs le premier ministre (M. Peterson) et aussi le député de Cornwall (M. Guindon) et plusieurs autres qui suivront, qu'aujourd'hui, en effet, est le jour de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
Pour nous Canadiens d'origine française, c'est notre fête nationale. Tous les Canadiens d'origine française célèbrent ce jour depuis fort longtemps avec le coeur, avec l'esprit. Depuis plus de 400 ans, depuis Cartier jusqu'à Champlain en passant par Maisonneuve, Papineau et Bourassa, Laurier et enfin tant d'autres. Nos ancêtres ont su inculquer chez nous la fierté d'origine française.
Si nous avons eu, parce qu'il faut aussi, même en jour de fierté et de célébration le mentionner, quelques difficultés de passage, des difficultés à se faire accepter et à vivre comme les autres, nous sentons aujourd'hui, en l'an 1987, nous sentons individuellement et collectivement comme communauté qu'enfin, dans les années prochaines, dans les années qui suivront, la chance sera donnée aux francophones de vivre comme les autres. Sauf, qu'on pourra enfin le faire en français.
J'aimerais profiter de cette opportunité pour féliciter le gouvernement. Ce n'est pas souvent que nous, l'opposition, avons la chance de le dire. La loi cadre est un projet de loi qui est devenu, la loi cadre, la loi 8 permet aux francophones d'avoir accès à des services dans leur langue. Ce n'est qu'un début, mais ce début nous donne la chance de regarder le futur avec confiance.
Au nom de tous mes collègues, en conclusion, j'aimerais remercier M. Serge Plouffe et nos collègues de l'Association canadienne française de l'Ontario, qui oeuvrent depuis 75 ans et aussi inviter les membres de cet illustre lieu à se joindre à notre part), à se joindre à moi pour célébrer tous ensemble notre fête nationale, la Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
M. Grandmaître: Je vais essayer de prendre quelques instants pour souligner de façon particulière cette journée de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, fête des Canadiens français. Pour tous les francophones de l'Ontario et des autres provinces canadiennes, le 24 juin est une journée tout à fait spéciale. Plusieurs activités populaires sont organisées dans toutes les régions de l'Ontario pour célébrer cette grande fête, qui donne à tous l'occasion de marquer leur appartenance à la communauté francophone de notre province. Les célébrations qui se déroulent aujourd'hui servent aussi à mettre en lumière le dynamisme et la vitalité des francophones de l'Ontario.
Je désire profiler de cette occasion pour offrir mes meilleurs souhaits à tous les francophones de notre province qui célèbrent aujourd'hui la fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Il y a plusieurs siècles cette fête avait pour but de marquer le solstice d'été, mais depuis 1834, le 24 juin est devenu la fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, le patron des Canadiens français. Cette année, la population francophone de l'Ontario a une raison spéciale de célébrer parce qu'il y a quelques mois l'Assemblée législative a adopté d'une façon unanime une loi qui reconnaît le droit des francophones d'être servis en français par le gouvernement de l'Ontario.
En terminant, j'aimerais souligner que cette année les francophones de notre province ont une raison de plus pour célébrer la Saint-Jean parce que l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario, qui a adopté la loi sur les services en français, reconnaît le droit de chacun à être servi en français par le gouvernement de l'Ontario. Merci bien, Monsieur le président.
M. Shymko: Je voudrais ajouter quelques remarques personnelles au sein de ce qu'on a entendu de mes collègues à la fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Tout d'abord, il y a plusieurs anniversaires, c'est très historique en cette année-ci, du fait que nous voyons l'inclusion de la belle Province, de la province du Québec, au sein de notre Confédération du Canada, nous voyons ce moment historique où le Québec fera partie de notre constitution.
C'est aussi l'anniversaire aujourd'hui, je voudrais vous rappeler, mes honorables collègues, un moment historique où, il y a 490 ans, le Canada fut découvert par Jean Cabot ou Giovanni Caboto, et c'est aujourd'hui alors la découverte, l'épanouissement de cette oeuvre historique où nous voyons ce grand pays, et est l'accomplissement de toutes les communautés mais c'est aujourd'hui que nous voulons féliciter et démontrer la contribution, la grande contribution du Canada français, des Franco-Ontariens au sein de notre province et de leur détermination à lutter pour leurs droits, leurs droits linguistiques, leurs droits politiques et constitutionnels, de maintenir ce riche patrimoine culturel et linguistique qui a enrichi notre pays et qui a fait du Canada un pays vraiment unique.
Alors nous félicitons tous les enseignants, les parents, les dirigeants de notre communauté franco-ontarienne pour les accomplissements que nous voyons aujourd'hui. En donnant respect à ces individus, à ces organisations collectives, nous voulons souligner encore une fois que l'oeuvre n'est pas totalement accomplie. En félicitant le gouvernement provincial pour l'épanouissement des services en français à nos citoyens franco-ontariens, nous voulons dire que nous sommes tous partenaires dans cette grande oeuvre, et qu'il y en a encore beaucoup à accomplir. Ajoutons que ce seront des objets de discussion dans plusieurs projets de loi et en nous félicitant, n'oublions pas que c'est la détermination des Franco-Ontariens qui est à la base de toutes ces réalisations.
M. Rae: C'est avec plaisir que je participe, même brièvement, à cette occasion de joie, de célébration. Nous participons à la célébration non seulement d'une fête nationale, la journée de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Nous célébrons aussi, naturellement, une fête nationale pour la communauté francophone dans la province et partout dans le pays.
Nous sommes reconnaissants du fait que notre pays, le Canada, est le pays qu'il est à cause de la réalité de la communauté francophone dans la province, dans le pays, nous sommes reconnaissants du fait que notre identité-même comme pays dépend de ce fait historique et sociologique de notre identité nationale et nous célébrons aujourd'hui aussi, naturellement, les contributions qu'a fait la communauté francophone à la vie nationale, à la vie fédérale, à la vie provinciale et à la vie politique de notre province.
Comme l'a dit mon collègue, le député de Nipigon (M. Pouliot), nous aussi, nous prenons beaucoup de fierté dans le fait que cette année, ces deux années, nous avons fait un progrès important à reconnaître la contribution de la communauté francophone à la vie provinciale. Nous avons réussi à développer la législation du projet de loi 8 sur les droits francophones de la province, mais je dois dire, et je prendrai l'occasion aujourd'hui pour le dire encore une fois, que j'attends personnellement et de la part de mon parti, j'attends avec un peu plus d'impatience le jour où notre province sera une province où le français est reconnu officiellement dans notre constitution comme une langue officielle de la province, parce que nous voulons vraiment que ce soit le cas.
Mais, en tout cas, ce n'est pas une journée pour un débat politique, c'est une journée de célébration. Je suis heureux de voir mes amis de l'ACFO et mes collègues francophones ici pouvoir célébrer pour quelques moments cet évènement si heureux et si important dans la vie de notre pays.
À titre de Franco-Ontarien, de député de la circonscription au plus grand pourcentage de Franco-Ontariens et Franco-Ontariennes, et à titre de président de la section ontarienne de l'Association internationale des parlementaires de langue française, j'ai l'honneur d'avoir l'occasion de saluer en ce grand jour toute la communauté grandissante de francophiles sympathiques à la communauté franco-ontarienne.
Aujourd'hui, nous prenons le temps pour souligner l'apport à l'Ontario des gens d'expression française qui, du tout début, du temps de Samuel de Champlain et d'Étienne Brûlé ont contribué à bâtir l'Ontario que nous connaissons aujourd'hui.
La dernière année à l'Assemblée législative fut des plus heureuses pour les francophones de l'Ontario. La promulgation de la loi 8 garantissant aux francophones l'accès aux services en français du gouvernement provincial, l'installation officielle de la section de l'Ontario de l'Association internationale des parlementaires de langue française, la traduction simultanée en Chambre et en comité ainsi que la visite de nombreux dignitaires francophones d'ailleurs, dont nul autre que le président de la République française.
L'avenir s'annonce très prometteur pour la communauté franco-ontarienne. Nous savons que les députés de cette 33e Assemblée législative ont joué un rôle primordial à faire avancer les dossiers clés à un rythme inconnu dans le passé. Je suis confiant que la communauté ontarienne pourra compter sur notre appui collectif de plus en plus certain et évident.
En terminant, je tiens à remercier tous mes collègues de cette 33e Assemblée législative pour leur appui à la communauté francophone de l'Ontario. Les temps ont grandement changé, le vote à l'unanimité en faveur de la loi 8 faisant foi.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention that even though I have been an MPP for only two and a half years, I have noted a big change in the attitudes of the Ontario community. To my anglophone colleagues, Ontarians, I say, thank you for the support to the Franco-Ontarian community. It is nice to be part of Ontario, to live side by side in understanding and belief in the two official languages of Canada.
M. Morin: Je suis particulièrement fier de souligner que le fait français en Ontario devient de plus en plus l'affaire d'un nombre grandissant de nos citoyens. En effet, c'est avec une vive joie que je constate que beaucoup de gens, surtout chez nos jeunes, sont devenus conversants dans leur langue française.
Il y a quelques semaines, j'ai eu l'occasion de rendre visite à un groupe d'élèves de la 3e année de l'école Henry Larson, qui est située dans ma circonscription. Des petits garçons et des petites filles de pas plus de 9 ans, issus de familles non francophones, dont plusieurs ne sont même pas de foyers dont la langue maternelle est anglaise, conversaient en français avec moi. En quelques mois de cours d'immersion, ils étaient devenus bilingues et plusieurs d'entre eux, j'en suis certain, polyglottes.
Je dois féliciter tous ceux et celles, et je répète qu'ils sont nombreux, qui, comme mon confrère de High Park-Swansea, parlent l'anglais, le français et plusieurs autres langues. La connaissance des langues est une richesse sociologique et ethnologique. Parler la langue de son concitoyen, c'est mieux le comprendre et se familiariser avec sa culture. Il est important de souligner ceci à l'occasion de la fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
Je tiens aussi à souligner qu'il m'est très agréable de m'exprimer dans ma langue maternelle ici à l'Assemblée législative. J'apprécie davantage que je puisse être compris par tous mes collègues grâce aux services de traduction simultanée institués déjà depuis plusieurs mois. C'est un avantage important de la loi sur les services en français dont vient de parler mon collègue d'Ottawa-Est. Je voudrais aussi vous annoncer que non seulement c'est la fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste mais aussi du ministre des Affaires francophones, Bernard Grandmaître.
En terminant, il me fait grand plaisir de vous présenter, ainsi qu'à mon chef, l'honorable premier ministre, et les deux chefs des autres partis -- je remarque que M. Grossman n'est pas ici -- peut-être le représentant de Nipissing et de York South, l'insigne de boutonnière portant le drapeau franco-ontarien. Qu'il soit un souvenir de cette fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
Mr. Shymko: As I mentioned earlier in French, today marks the 490th anniversary of the discovery of Canada by Giovanni Caboto or John Cabot. What better occasion than today to unanimously pass a resolution which is in Orders and Notices and says:
"That, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should grant permission for the erection of a statue honouring the world-famous Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) at an appropriate site on the grounds of the main Legislative Building of the parliament of Ontario in recognition of his landing ... as well as honouring and recognizing the Italian Canadian community's immeasurable contribution to the development, growth and prosperity of Ontario and of Canada, and that appropriate funding be provided by the government of Ontario jointly with other levels of government to a community-based organization that may wish to initiate and carry out this project under the auspices of and/or with the co-operation of the National Congress of Italian Canadians as well as under the patronage of the Governor General of Canada, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of Ontario and other prominent citizens."
This organization has represented students in this province extremely well. It represented students as it tackled the difficult challenge of confronting the former Tory government over a decade of devastating cuts to our post-secondary institutions.
It now, of course, faces the equally difficult task of tackling the new government over issues such as accessibility, where universities are rewarded financially for cutting back on enrolment, and of fighting this government over the issue of the governance of colleges, where this government stands in the way of the democratic spirit being expressed on campuses.
Of course, it fights equally hard, especially in northern Ontario, for college residences, something which both the old government and the new government apparently cannot understand -- why students, especially in northern communities, need college residences.
I congratulate the Ontario Federation of Students for the excellent work it has done over 15 years and wish it well as it tackles an equally tough government. Of course, we will do everything we can to assist it in its quest for better education in this province.
Mr. Ferraro: The new ventures program was launched by the government last September to guarantee loans of up to $15,000 for promising new businesses. As chairman of the committee of parliamentary assistants for small business, I recommended this initiative. I am very pleased to report to the House on its progress today.
The loans are made by chartered banks, trust companies, credit unions and caisses populaires. Seven such institutions made these loans and two more have now joined the program. They provide excellent regional coverage for prospective entrepreneurs.
Mr. Eves: The Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara), in response to a question yesterday about the inadequacies of the Ontario student assistance program for single parents, stated that perhaps one should do a little bit more investigation with respect to some of the benefits that these single parents are or are not receiving.
There are a number of single parents whose educational future is threatened by the minister's new OSAP provisions, which have meant up to $5,000 less this year in OSAP funding for some of them. One of those individuals, Lynn Daly, is in the gallery here today. She is receiving $5,000 less this year than she would have been entitled to last year. She is not one of the grandfathered-in students.
Yesterday the minister said the OSAP provisions were not discriminatory. Perhaps the minister can advise the House why the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues is in support of these single mothers. Why is the Ontario Federation of Students in support of these single mothers? I would venture to say that the minister answered all these questions himself yesterday when he said, "Perhaps I have got it wrong."
I suggest to the minister that he immediately address the wrongs he has done to single parents like Lynn Daly throughout Ontario, who have some initiative of their own and who are striving for an education so they will not have to be dependent on his government; so they can find better jobs for themselves and provide a future for themselves and their children.
Mr. Laughren: Once again I rise in my place to extend an invitation on behalf of the government to all entrepreneurs out there to buy Ontario lottery tickets and sell them in any jurisdiction in the world at whatever price they want to sell them. It matters not what laws are in those jurisdictions; Ontario is looking the other way and allowing those entrepreneurs here to sell those tickets anywhere else.
At the same time, on behalf of the government, I would like to extend an invitation to all other jurisdictions to flood the Ontario market with their lottery tickets because, surely to goodness, if we are allowing our entrepreneurs to sell our tickets in those jurisdictions, we cannot say a word about other jurisdictions that decide they want to flood the Ontario market with their lottery tickets. That is exactly what the government is doing.
On behalf of the government, I do not know why the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins) is hiding his light under a bushel. This is something he should be out there broadcasting around the world on satellite: "Come on. Come one, come all to Ontario. Flog your lottery tickets here. Don't worry about the price. Don't worry about our local laws. Come here and do as you want because we believe in an open season on lottery tickets all around the world."
Mr. Reycraft: I would like to rise today and report to my colleagues on the official opening on Monday of this week of two schools in Mexico City. Both schools were reconstructed by the Ontario government. I had the great pleasure of attending the opening ceremonies on behalf of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway).
Shortly after the news of the September 1985 earthquakes which caused massive destruction in Mexico City, our government moved to make available $500,000 in financial aid to assist the victims of the earthquakes. Of this amount, $250,000 was immediately made available to the Canadian Red Cross for emergency relief projects.
After consultations, the reconstruction of two primary schools in Mexico City was identified as the most suitable contribution for Ontario to make with the balance. I must say I was amazed to see for myself the excellent reconstruction of the two schools, which they were able to do for only $250,000. We all know what a small drop in the bucket that would be for the reconstruction of a school here in Ontario.
The money our government provided will truly make a difference for the young people in those schools. I was very proud of Ontario's contribution as the schools were reopened on Monday. In recognition of Mexico's appreciation of our assistance in their time of need, one of the schools, Antonio Manuel Marquez Muro, was renamed Ontario.
Mr. Sheppard: I would like to take this opportunity to extend an open invitation to all the members of the Legislature to come out and attend the Hastings Blue Heron Festival of the Arts, which will be taking place in Hastings on the weekend of July 24 to 26.
The Hastings Blue Heron Festival of the Arts combines a strong representation of Indian art forms intermingled with the traditional works of many artists, including those of Debbie Fitzgerald, the festival's founder.
Mr. Warner: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I understand that it is parliamentary practice for the individual caucuses to report baseball scores when they take on the press. I am informing you that last evening the New Democratic Party caucus gave the press gallery an opportunity to play the game of baseball. Our caucus ran up a spectacular 12 runs, whereas the press gallery managed a measly 27.
The members should understand, in putting that score in perspective, that there were no points awarded for skill, only for luck; and there were no points awarded for style, otherwise we would have won. We have enjoyed the practice and we look forward to the real game next week.
Hon. Mr. Ruprecht: As Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons and on behalf of my colleague the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens' affairs (Mr. Van Horne), I am pleased to announce a matching capital grants program of $15 million over the next three years to encourage private sector nonprofit organizations serving disabled persons and senior citizens to increase access to their facilities.
Just a year ago this month, this government proclaimed the Decade of Disabled Persons. The proclamation marked our province's formal commitment to the goals of full equality and participation of disabled persons in all aspects of economic and social life in this province.
As this Legislature is aware, the government is working on a number of fronts to promote the independence, integration and full participation of disabled individuals in community life. One is by improving physical access and thus creating a more complete barrier-free environment. Another is by enabling disabled persons to take a greater part in activities in their own neighbourhoods. We are very pleased with our new program because it addresses these two needs at once.
Private sector nonprofit organizations sponsor numerous activities and offer many services that have wide community appeal. In many cases, however, senior citizens and disabled persons have been unable to take part because of lack of physical access. Our program will therefore open up new opportunities for these two groups. The new program, together with other initiatives taken by this government over the past two years -- such as the reform of the Ontario Building Code and the Human Rights Code -- constitute, I believe, striking evidence of our determination to improve access significantly.
My announcement today flows from the throne speech commitment in April to provide special funds to improve access to community facilities. The revised Human Rights Code provides that denial of access to services, goods and facilities constitutes discrimination, unless providing access creates undue hardship. New regulations are being drawn up to deal with this complex issue, and the disabled community will be asked for input before they are finalized.
Our new capital grants program for private sector nonprofit organizations serving the disabled and senior communities provides further community support. Grants will be available to organizations, such as service clubs, service agencies, consumer groups and senior citizens' centres, and to church-related facilities, such as church halls and meeting rooms, if they are open to the community at large.
Eligible capital renovations projects include access ramps, elevators, grab bars, brailled and other tactile features for visually impaired persons, alert systems for hearing-impaired persons and renovations for structural features, such as widening doorways and redesigning of washrooms.
The program will be administered jointly by the Office for Disabled Persons and the Office for Senior Citizens' Affairs. The $15 million will be allocated evenly between them. We will provide matching funds to a maximum of $50,000 per agency or organization. Payment will be 50 per cent upon approval and the remainder when the project is completed.
The fund will be in operation this fall. The disabled and senior citizens' communities will be represented on the selection committee. Its duty will be to recommend priorities and to ensure the equitable distribution of funds.
We will continue to address the issue of accessibility. In the future, we want to see improved access to health care, educational and cultural facilities and government buildings and institutions. While substantial progress has already been achieved, programs and approaches for further improvements in these areas are being developed.
Hon. Mr. Eakins: As I announced to this House in January, my ministry is undertaking a comprehensive long-term set of initiatives to promote safety in amateur sport and fitness. Today, I am pleased to bring the House up to date on the progress my ministry has achieved in the past few months.
We are dealing with a growing and complex set of problems. We cannot hope to implement lasting solutions to these problems without the strongest of public support. That necessitates thorough consultation with the public and those groups that are most involved in amateur sport and fitness.
My ministry developed the long-term, comprehensive safety strategy which I outlined in January because our ability to deal with the problems across the entire spectrum of amateur sport and fitness activities was limited in the past.
In January, I focused on the issues of injury and violence in amateur hockey and my concern about safety in fitness activities. Since then, my ministry and the groups responsible for amateur hockey and for fitness have made considerable progress on these fronts.
I would like to report to the House that my ministry has initiated the requirement of a safety component as a condition of grants under my ministry's various sports, fitness and recreation funding programs.
Our program for the installation of safe goal nets with breakaway capabilities has also been initiated. Although the program has been under way only since February, a number of grants have already been approved. My ministry expects to receive many more applications for funding as we get closer to the next hockey season.
The response from consultations with the Hockey Development Centre for Ontario has been excellent. The hockey development centre has identified safety as its number one priority. Just as significant is the progress that is being made towards the creation of a single provincial sport organization for amateur hockey. This is recognized as an essential step towards improving safety in amateur hockey.
In addition, a number of working groups have been appointed to focus on various safety initiatives in amateur hockey. We want to reduce injuries in amateur hockey and we also want to improve the way an injury is dealt with if one does occur. That is why my ministry has also provided the Hockey Development Centre for Ontario with financial assistance to deliver and improve the trainers' certification program.
My ministry has also held preliminary consultations with organizations involved in fitness and the fitness industry. As a result of these consultations, the Ontario Association of Sport Sciences has agreed to undertake the development of safety standards in conjunction with the fitness industry.
As members can see, we have made progress on a number of fronts. This is a long-needed start in tackling the problems of sports safety. Mr. Speaker, you will remember that I said I intended to introduce sports and fitness safety legislation during this session. However, a necessary element in the development of any such legislation is the final report of the Ontario Sport Medicine and Safety Advisory Board. This board has been examining sports safety issues for two years and it required an extension of its deadline in order to complete its study and recommendations.
I am now awaiting the final report of the sport medicine and safety advisory board before introducing the balance of the comprehensive sport safety strategy that I announced in January. I hope to have this report in hand within the next few weeks.
I want improved safety, but I want it on a solid foundation. It is clear to me that strong public support is required for lasting safety improvements, and that is why my ministry will use the upcoming summer months to refine further options with the groups most involved. At the same time, a ministry advisory group will continue its work to develop sports safety legislation and the necessary research and data collection to support the broad safety strategy that will also continue to take place.
In the fall, I will then be in a better position to present the honourable members with legislation that I believe will ensure our young athletes and the public enjoy a sports and fitness environment free of the fear of violence or injury.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: In January of last years I announced in this House the appointment of a Task Force on Hours of Work and Overtime. The appointment was the result of growing concern over what appeared to be excessive amounts of overtime being worked by some individuals while, at the same time, many others were without any work at all. Although many workers were happy with the extra income that their overtime earned, others wondered whether such overtime could not be translated into new jobs.
These questions raised other questions about the effects of excess overtime on health and safety, about employers' ability to compete in the marketplace and about the social consequences of long work hours. Ultimately, we had to ask ourselves whether the eight-hour day and the 48-hour work week maxima which were legislated under the 1944 Hours of Work and Vacation with Pay Act should not be reviewed and, if necessary, amended.
Consequently, the terms of reference of the task force were to study and make recommendations to me with respect to all the issues related to permissible hours of work and overtime under the Employment Standards Act. I asked about the need for overtime hours and whether there were practical alternatives, such as new job creation. I wanted to know about health, safety and absenteeism where long hours are worked, and about the effectiveness and efficiency of the existing legislation, what improvements or other approaches could be proposed, and what would be their cost and other implications for both employees and employers.
Today, it gives me great pleasure to set before this Legislature the report submitted to me by Dr. Arthur Donner, chairman of that task force. The report contains a thorough analysis of the issues and culminates in more than 20 recommendations. Let me share the highlights with the House.
Empirical evidence from the United States indicates that requiring employers to pay double time instead of time-and-one-half for overtime would reduce overtime by about 20 per cent. This in turn could lead to a maximum employment increase of only 1.25 per cent. The task force states that much of even that, however, is likely to be diluted by various factors.
Among the report's recommendations are the following: the standard work week should be reduced from 44 hours to 40; overtime after 40 hours per week should be voluntary and paid at time-and-a-half; the Employment Standards Act should be amended to provide for compensation for overtime in the form of time off at the premium rate, instead of pay at the premium rate, where both parties agree; the act should also be changed to provide universal entitlement to unpaid leave after 10 years of service with one employer and additional unpaid leave four years prior to retirement; three weeks' vacation after five years is also recommended.
There are many other thought-provoking recommendations and findings in this phase 1 report and I want to assure all members that it will receive the most careful study and consideration from my ministry that it properly deserves.
In due course, the government will place before the House its response to these recommendations and the recommendations of phase 2, which deals with special treatment for such groups as domestics, construction workers, truckers and agricultural workers. I expect to receive phase 2 in the fall.
In the meantime, I want to take this opportunity to place on the record the government's appreciation of the thorough and painstaking effort of Dr. Donner and his task force colleagues, Ms. Judith Andrew, Sam Gindin, Fitz Allison and Ray Silenzi.
I also want to thank all those employees and employers who contributed both individually and organizationally to the public hearings and through written briefs in response to the task force's invitations to make their views, experiences and ideas known.
Mr. Grossman: I want to respond to the statement made by the alleged minister for the disabled. We have a minister for the disabled who is trusted to stand up and read a statement obviously prepared elsewhere, a minister who admits he does not know what the poverty line is in Ontario while he is supposed to be looking after the disabled persons' interests, and a minister who clearly was not able to participate at all in the questions surrounding the robbing of the $100 a month, which was sent for the disabled persons out of their own Canada pension plan contributions, by his government.
Today he stands up and announces that a government with $8 billion more to spend than it had when it came to office, a government which is spending almost $300 million a year for more civil servants, is going to find -- count it -- $5 million a year under the first announcement, the capital grants program, for the disabled. That is a disgrace: $5 million to improve access; $5 million when they have $8 billion to spend and $275 million to $300 million for civil servants.
Might I also say to the minister that he is not announcing a grant from the government to the disabled. What he is announcing is that he has taken money from the disabled to build access opportunities for the disabled.
It is incredible that the government's capital grants program announced here is $15 million, which is almost exactly the same amount that was taken by this government out of the CPP contributions and increases in pensions for the disabled, which was sent to this government by the federal government and ended up in Robert Nixon's Treasury. Of all the money sent by the federal government for the disabled persons' pensions, $15 million was diverted between the federal government and the disabled persons into the provincial Treasury. Today the minister stands up and announces he is going to spend that $15 million on access ramps.
At least the minister should have the dignity and honesty to stand up and tell the disabled what he has done with the money he took from them, because this is not largess of the Premier (Mr. Peterson), the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney), the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) or the Liberal government of Ontario; this is just the minister redirecting money which the disabled had every right to get under their CPP contributions and he took it from them, without authority, without permission and without the slightest shred of justification.
He and the Minister of Community and Social Services should hang their heads in embarrassment, as they have taken the money from the disabled and have the nerve to stand up today and suggest they have done something new for them.
Finally, consistent with this government's policies, my colleague the member for Mississauga South (Mrs. Marland) approached five ministries on behalf of Christ Church in Clarkson, which wanted to put in access ramps a year ago. It was tossed from ministry to ministry, each one saying they had no intention to do what the minister did today.
My question to the minister is: if he is more interested in the disabled and access than he is in taking political credit, will he ensure that those who proceeded without his help, because he and his colleagues said they were not going to help them, now get the funding they are offering? Will Christ Church and Knox United be able to share, even though those people turned their backs on them a year ago and they proceeded without them?
I suspect the answer is no, because the minister is not interested in access for the handicapped and disabled; he is interested in getting political credit for access for the handicapped. He should hang his head in shame.
Mr. Gordon: I would like to respond to the statement of the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) with regard to the calls of the Task Force on Hours of Work and Overtime for access to hours-of-work records and so forth.
I would like to say to the Minister of Labour that while we recognize there is flexibility built into this act or the recommendations of the task force when it comes to employers being able to find sufficient overtime, at the same time we also have to note that it would mean that with the 250-hour limit, and a permit after, it would mean an employee would work as much as six weeks during 52 weeks; or if we took the basis that the average employee works 48 weeks, if he worked five hours a week, that adds up to 240 hours.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: In response to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr. Ruprecht), I must say it is disappointing to see he is putting in $5 million a year, something this past Tory government managed to do itself a number of years ago before that program was dropped. But he cannot talk about access unless he deals with the questions of right to access and right to reasonable accommodation. Eighteen months ago, in committee, the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) promised there would be regulations to enforce reasonable accommodation. He in fact said -- there was hollow laughter -- which would follow the Tories' inaction of 42 years, and his regulations would make guidelines possible.
They are still not in place 18 months later. Why? Because the Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton) and the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) have basically sandbagged those regulations and have stopped that reasonable accommodation from taking place.
It is ridiculous to talk about access if one is not going to deal with the undue hardship that might be caused to various groups and organizations that wish to provide access. Again, the Attorney General said he would provide that kind of fund. It is not available today, and the minister has not announced it. This again is another sham Toryism.
Mr. Mackenzie: I wish to respond to the report of the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) on the working times task force. I would like to point out most of the recommendations in the task force are those that underline the arguments we on this side of the House have been making for some time. It says that non-compliance with the regulation of overtime hours is prominent in Ontario; that there is a significant amount of overtime in manufacturing which is job intensive and that it is done by the workers on a regular basis in this particular industry. The first two recommendations are a 40-hour work week with overtime after 40 and with voluntary overtime after 40.
I would suggest to the minister it is a bill I myself have moved since 1977 every year consecutively in this House asking for exactly that. It also calls for a third week's vacation after five years of service, which is another bill I have moved consecutively in this House. I would suggest to the minister there is absolutely no justification for the Liberal government's not moving immediately to institute the recommendations made to this House by the working times task force.
Mr. Rae: I must confess that, having read Professor Donner's report and the report of the task force and having seen the minister's statement, I am wondering whether we are talking about the same report. Talk about turning a silk purse into a sow's ear; this minister has a capacity to turn upside down a document which says, for example, that "significantly reducing working time is no longer a pie-in-the-sky issue; the surveys of worker attitudes indicate there is strong support for this concept."
The report indicates the permit system in place in the province today is in a total shambles. It produces the astonishing piece of information that for every hour of overtime worked under a special permit, 24 hours of overtime are not covered by special permits. That fact, I would have thought, speaks so eloquently of the problem and the situation, a fact which the minister chose not to even mention in his special statement.
If I may say so, he has chosen to take a report which states very clearly that our labour legislation is in need of change and reform, instead of which he is simply defensive about the government's record and indicates that in the future perhaps something will be done, but he himself sees no agenda coming out of this document in terms of something that must be done in order to address the problems that are there.
These are not academic issues. There are 4,000 workers who today are out on strike at the de Havilland plant, precisely over the question of voluntary overtime. For a Minister of Labour to stand up in his place and dismiss as trivial the question of the relationship between overtime and working time and the creation of jobs -- which is not what the report says at all; it is a misrepresentation of what the report says -- and not to mention the impact this kind of change will have on working relationships and people's ability to keep the jobs they have is just another example of a minister who simply is not capable, not capable in any way, shape or form, of doing the job which, unfortunately for the people of Ontario, he now holds.
Mr. Harris: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: From time to time, ministerial statements have run overtime and this House has always, by unanimous consent, agreed to allow extra time. In this case, both the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) and myself have run short of time for response. I wonder if we could have unanimous consent for two more minutes of responses.
Mr. Grossman: I have a question for the Premier. As a result of the way the Premier has handled the information shared with him by the federal trade negotiator, there has arisen in this country a severe question over the Premier's credibility and, shall we say, trust on the freer trade issue.
I should like to read into the record the remarks made in this House by the Premier in response to a question asked by the member for York South (Mr. Rae) a few months ago. When asked to take a position on the freer trade initiative, he declined to do so, saying: "I have no idea what he" -- the Prime Minister -- "wants out of the deal and neither does the member. The Prime Minister has not put it on the table." He went on to say, "I do not know and he does not know the substance of the Mulroney trade initiative." Those were the Premier's words a couple of months ago in this House.
Yesterday, Canada's chief negotiator, Simon Reisman, said: "I want to tell you that they'' -- the government of Ontario -- "know everything that is going on. Every last important issue was discussed with them in considerable detail." He went on to say: "I have personally, face to face with Mr. Peterson, given him briefings on everything that is going on, including everything going on in relation to the auto pact. There isn't anything going on that he doesn't know."
Mr. Grossman: My question to the Premier is this: who is stating, shall we say, the truth? Simon Reisman, who says he shared all details with the Premier; or the Premier, who says he has no idea what is going on?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I think it is important to know that the big decisions have not been made. For example, does the member know the federal government's position with respect to investment? I do not know. Does the member know? Do they know? Does Simon Reisman know? They do not know. I can tell the member this: he has not shared it with me. The reason he has not shared it with the member or me is that he does not know.
I say to my honourable friend, who is an absolute authority on lack of credibility, so I can understand his coming at the question from that point of view, does he know what the American negotiators will do with respect to contingency protection?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The member is wrong. The answer is that they have not made the big decisions yet. The member does not know the view on the auto pact. My view is very clear and has been throughout. What he wants to do is get his federal friends to stand up very clearly and enunciate a position on behalf of Ontario.
I think my honourable friend must understand that the federal government, if it has made up its mind -- and I am not sure it has not yet shared what it wants on the big issues compared to what it is prepared to give away. We have been very clear about the interests of Ontario.
Mr. Grossman: By so misstating the degree of knowledge he has, the Premier has totally counted Ontario out of the trade negotiations and counted himself out as a serious partner when Ontario needs at least to be represented at that table by a Premier who can be trusted by the trade negotiators in Canada. The Premier has clearly counted himself out.
Having made himself a nonplayer, the Premier has gone to great pains to express his concern, at least here, about the auto sector in Ontario. I wonder if he could tell us why it is that he and his government have had hardly any meetings with the federal trade negotiators with regard to the auto sector.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Just a few minutes ago the member said I was having all these private meetings with Simon Reisman and he was informing me about all these matters. Now he says I have not had any meetings with him. When my honourable friend gets his story very clear, I will be happy to respond specifically to any question. Why does he not figure out what is going on over there?
Mr. Grossman: I will tell the Premier one thing. When I say that Simon Reisman has not briefed leaders of the opposition, I tell the truth. When the Premier says that Simon Reisman has not briefed the Premiers and that he does not have the details, with respect -- and I do not want to get named by the Speaker -- that is not factually accurate.
The Premier's responsibility is to stand up and share with us his view and share with the federal government his view, given the fact, to quote Simon Reisman, that he has been fully briefed on all issues relating to the freer trade negotiations. That is either factually true, Simon Reisman's statement, or it is not, and I invite the Premier for once to give a direct answer.
Mr. Grossman: The Premier has very often expressed his concerns about the auto sector. I wonder how he can explain the fact that he and his ministry have had only two meetings this entire year with the federal trade negotiators with regard to the auto sector, and he has written only one letter, that last week -- which of course he leaked; that was the point of the letter -- to the federal government. That is the entire degree to which the Premier has been fighting for Ontario's auto interests during the freer trade discussions: two meetings and one letter. That is the degree to which he has been fighting for us this year. Can he explain why his interface with the feds on auto has been so negligible?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: At meetings of first ministers the auto issue has been raised, and my views are very clear. There were also meetings on February 17, 1986, September 25, 1986, and November 13, 1986, and a communication on May 25, 1987. This may come as news to my friend, but this has been going on for quite some period of time, although he may just have gathered that fact.
We have been very specific on Ontario's views, put forward by way of missives and letters to the ministers involved, as well as to the trade negotiator. They have a very clear view of where we stand on the issues. The member may not, but I can assure him that they do.
Just recently, the minister and his colleagues were notified by McKellar General Hospital in Thunder Bay -- a hospital I know he will know well, a hospital which services all of the northwestern part of the province -- that due to funding problems, that is it does not have enough money, it is going to limit the occupancy level to 85 per cent, it is going to give priority to people from Thunder Bay only and begin to exclude people from outside Thunder Bay, and it will have to put a freeze on the hiring of new physicians.
Given the $8 billion he has had since he came to office, given all the excess revenue he has had, how can he, as Minister for Northern Development and Mines, explain the fact that one of his key hospitals in the north is about to cut back services because of his underfunding?
Hon. Mr. Elston: The honourable gentleman has raised a question about a concern, I understand, with respect to budgeting. It is not unusual for people at this early stage in the fiscal year to project that certain deficit positions may be attained. We in the Ministry of Health take these projections very seriously, particularly in a situation where we made some substantial additions to funding at the end of the last fiscal year. We are very much concerned about the problems which have been raised.
I also must say that just yesterday I received a note which was conveyed to me by the member for Fort William (Mr. Hennessy), who also raised this as an issue for us to study. We are looking at the communications from McKellar and also from the honourable member and studying what may or may not be necessary in terms of action to take.
Mr. Grossman: We have had conclusive proof that there is indeed no Minister of Northern Development and Mines representing the interests of northern Ontario, because the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, the Premier (Mr. Peterson), would not even stand up and answer this issue, which results from a letter written to him, and received by him, from the president of the board of governors of McKellar General Hospital.
This letter, dated June 19 and addressed to the Premier, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, says, "It is unfortunate that the amount of funds we receive from government does not cover the cost of the services provided, and we must now take action to reduce costs."
That does not say the hospital is going to wait until later in the fiscal year. It does not say it is waiting upon the study of his ministry. It does not say it respects the fact that he takes this seriously. The minister's best wishes are worth nothing when it comes to providing services, the money it needs to keep its beds open.
Mr. Grossman: My question directly to the minister is whether he is prepared to stand up this afternoon and say to McKellar hospital that he will provide all the funds necessary to eliminate its deficit and allow it keep all the beds open at all times? Is he prepared to give that commitment today, or is he going to wash his hands?
Hon. Mr. Elston: It is not for me to make a commitment like that when we do not understand exactly what analysis of the hospital's projected budget conditions indicate. It seems to me that the honourable gentleman, in terms of requiring fiscal responsibility from this government, which has been shown to be the case by the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) and others, would ask that we analyse the forecast, the plans that have been submitted to us. In fact, we are doing that and it must be done in a very serious and very thorough fashion indeed.
Mr. Pierce: My leader directed the first question to the Premier and, of course, it was referred to the Minister of Health. Let me tell members that in the two years of Liberal government we have seen a steady deterioration of medical services in northern Ontario.
In the local papers in Fort Frances, we read of the intended closure of the intensive care unit. We now read where Thunder Bay's McKellar General, which is a referral hospital for northern Ontario, has advised the Ministry of Health -- and I quote from the report of the board of directors -- "that the following measures will be taken to reduce expenditures if increased funding is not forthcoming: limiting the occupancy level of the hospital to 85 per cent; new physicians, including specialists, will not be appointed to the medical staff; a freeze will be placed on all hiring; and that the priority will be given to Thunder Bay admissions over those in the outlying areas."
Hon. Mr. Elston: I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I must say there have been very few two years consecutive like the last two where an expansion of health care services has been so dramatic as what we have provided for the people in northern Ontario.
We have provided for the people of Thunder Bay extra abilities to receive services for cancer treatment and other services in that area. We have expanded the opportunities for diabetic counselling in northwestern Ontario. We have provided services for drug addiction programs. We have done a whole series of things, not the least of which is to provide northern travel grants for people who require to be referred into areas like Thunder Bay from more remote districts.
An analysis by any reasonable and fairminded person would show that the premise for the honourable member's question is absolutely out of line. The whole point of this is that we have provided for the institutional sector of our province more funding than it has seen in the past and we have provided it with a very secure base upon which to provide services for the people of Ontario.
Mr. Rae: I have a question to the Minister of Labour. The minister has had this report on overtime since May. He has been minister for two years. I think we are entitled to know where he stands on some of the fundamental questions in the recommendations.
Can the minister tell us, yes or no, is he in favour of a 40-hour basic work week in the province; and, yes or no, does he think overtime over and above that 40 hours should be mandatory or voluntary? What does he think? Should it be voluntary or not? Can he answer those questions?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The draft of the report was delivered to me in mid-May, and I have made every effort to make sure the report could be tabled in this House before it adjourned so that members could see it and comment on it, as my friend has done. That is, as the honourable member knows, the proper way of doing things. We have made no effort to delay. In fact, everything was done to make sure this report would be tabled in this House so that we could get on with this matter.
I will say to the honourable member what I said earlier when I was seated with Dr. Donner and the other members of the task force at the press conference. I am impressed in a very positive way by the fact that this report is a coherent, all-inclusive report which I think produces a general series of positive recommendations in terms of where we should be going in regard to hours of work and overtime.
I am most impressed of all with the fact that the task force -- made up of Dr. Donner as chairman, with two members of the business community, one from a larger business and another from the small business sector, and two members from labour, one at the national level and one at the local level -- has none the less come forward with a consensus report.
Mr. Rae: I think we are entitled to an answer, I think people who are now working overtime but do not want to are entitled to an answer and I think workers who are out on strike asking for voluntary overtime are also entitled to an answer. In fact, the minister's answer could help put 4,000 back to work today. He does not apparently understand any of those things.
The minister has had this report for a long time. He has been minister for two years. There are four provinces that have the 40-hour week basically, and many states have the same thing. There is no call for this kind of delay. The minister could end a lot of uncertainty out there if he indicated just where he wants to go as the Minister of Labour.
I repeat my question to the minister. Is he in favour, yes or no, of a basic 40-hour week? Is he in favour, yes or no, of the principle that hours worked over and above that 40 hours should be worked voluntarily and not forced on people, not required of people, not dictated to people, but done voluntarily because that is what they choose to do? Why does the minister not stand up for working people for once?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I think the honourable member will know that when this matter moves forward, the views of the minister will be the views of the cabinet. I would say and I would repeat that I view the report in its totality in a very positive way. Very clearly, it was my expectation and I am not surprised to see that this report has proposed a reduction in the standard work week, and I certainly respond in a positive way to those proposals.
I think this task force has produced some very useful knowledge. It has also produced some very creative solutions, such as unpaid leave after 10 years, such as a four-year runup of unpaid leave before retirement and a number of other solutions, including the area of time off in lieu of overtime. The member will note that this is in conformity with what we have just done in terms of domestics.
Mr. Mackenzie: Given the fact that this push for 40 hours has been on for years now in Ontario, given the fact that the recommendation of the task force is unanimous -- both the labour and the management people as well as the chairman -- that it be 40 hours, that it be voluntary and time and a half after the 40 hours, and given the fact that five Canadian provinces and the United States have this kind of legislation now, what justification can the Minister of Labour give this House for not moving in this particular area? What is the justification?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: No one indicated we were not going to move except the honourable member. We intend to review in a comprehensive way at our level. Meanwhile, under tight time lines, we intend to ask business and labour to respond, to have consultation and then to move the matter forward legislatively.
This is a view of a task force which represents both business and labour. I appreciate what my honourable friend is saying, but Mr. Gindin and Mr. Silenzi, for example, perhaps do not represent the views of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Unlike the members opposite, I would like to hear the views of Mr. Wilson and of the labour federation. Unlike them, I would like to hear the views of the Canadian manufacturers, but I want them to get on with it so that we can move this matter forward legislatively.
Mr. Rae: The same minister. It is about the question of asbestosis, and it relates particularly to workers in his constituency and to his own community of Windsor. The minister will know that there are some 25 workers at the Bendix plant, which is now closed, who have submitted claims to the Workers' Compensation Board, only two of which claims have been approved by the Workers' Compensation Board, both for a very rare form of cancer known as mesothelioma.
The minister will also know that those other cases have been rejected by the board, even though a recent study found that employees of the Bendix automotive corporation had 11 times the predicted number of deaths from laryngeal cancer, for example, and all other forms of cancer showed an excess among those workers who had worked at the Bendix plant who had died.
I wonder if the minister can explain why these workers and their families still are without compensation; why so many of them and so many of their families are having to fight and fight and fight again for something that ought to be theirs as a matter of right.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I think the honourable member knows -- if not, I can inform him -- that the Workers' Compensation Board has asked the Industrial Disease Standards Panel to report on what standards of exposure and what time periods of exposure ought to be accepted for compensable purposes. The figure right now, I understand, is 10 years. I hope the IDSP will produce its comments on this issue very soon.
In the meantime, I have been working with Mrs. Dunn. Members of the worker advisers have been involved. We are attempting to pull together all those cases the honourable member raises and any others that might have come forward, so that once any new standards are set we can get on with providing compensation where that is appropriate.
Mr. Rae: There is something awfully fishy here, because the minister knows perfectly well that there is no guarantee in terms of when a new standard is going to come down. He will know that asbestosis is one of the longest-standing industrial diseases in this province and that problems with asbestos have been recognized by officials in the public health field across the world. There is no reason for this kind of delay for people who have died of cancer in excess of 11 times any reasonably predicted amount. There is no excuse for this kind of delay. There is absolutely none.
Can the minister explain to me why it has taken this long for this government to even send the matter to the Industrial Disease Standards Panel when there is no guarantee how long that panel is going to take to come up with a standard, nor do we have any guarantee that standard is going to be any better than the one invented for gold miners?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: No, we do not have any guarantee, but we do have some guarantee that it has been taken out of the political arena of this Legislature and given to a panel to move forward on a scientific basis. I can say to the honourable gentleman that we have asked the Industrial Disease Standards Panel to expedite this matter. The panel took some time to put in place and it has been working on other matters as well. We have asked them to expedite this matter, and I hope they will produce a new standard that will be more appropriate to the contemporary reality of our knowledge in terms of asbestosis.
Mr. Rae: Wayne Brown is a young, 35-year-old asbestos worker. He is not working for Bendix but he is a member of the Asbestos Construction Workers' Union. He has been working with asbestos since he was 16. The minister has been involved in this case. He asked that it be fast-tracked. That is precisely what the Workers' Compensation Board did: it fast-tracked his claim and then turned him down. Not only his own doctor but also other doctors, including the doctors from the Ministry of Labour's chest clinic, his family doctor and a specialist, have all said he was suffering from the early symptoms of asbestosis and showed signs of excessive fibres in his lungs.
Can the minister explain why this worker is today without a pension, without any recognition of his claim from the Workers' Compensation Board, without any program to get him out of an asbestos environment and why today, as I speak and as I raise this question, this worker is still being exposed to asbestos? Can the minister explain why this is happening in 1987 in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The honourable member is correct that we asked that this matter be dealt with as quickly and expeditiously as possible. I did so not only as minister but also as a member of this assembly. l can say to the honourable member that like all members of this assembly, there are decisions taken by independent organizations that sometimes I do not agree with. There is an appeal procedure from the decision and that individual, Mr. Brown, can use that appeal.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: There goes my friend again. In his world, every time he disagrees with a decision he would have the Minister of Labour or whatever minister of the crown simply dictate to independent organizations what the law will be and what the rules are. There are rules and there are appeals from those rules, and the matter is going forward in an appropriate way, not in the inappropriate way my friend constantly suggests it ought to go on.
Mr. Harris: We have a question for the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley), who I was told was going to be here for question period. It is three o'clock. I do not know whether we have any information on whether he is coming or not coming. We also have a question for the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes). We were told he was going to be here. Perhaps he snuck out the back for a smoke.
Ms. Gigantes: My question is to the Minister of Colleges and Universities. I would like to know why the minister seems to believe it is okay to discriminate against single parents in the granting of Ontario student assistance, when the Ontario Human Rights Code says explicitly that there is a prohibition of discrimination in Ontario on the grounds of sex, marital status, family status and source of income. Why does he think it is okay to discriminate against single parents?
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: My friend's support of issues relating to single parents is well known, and I think probably she should do somewhat more investigation before she criticizes the initiatives we have taken in respect of single parents under the Ontario student assistance program.
What we have done, if one would call it discrimination, is increase by some 33 per cent the level of grant assistance available specifically for single parents, designed to cover the full educational costs of a single parent attending a post-secondary institution.
In addition, the initiative was taken in order to relieve single parents of a very heavy debt burden upon leaving the institution. If the member characterizes that as discrimination, I think she has a somewhat different view of discrimination than I do.
Ms. Gigantes: I wonder how the minister would feel if somebody else discriminated in a similar way against Italians, for example, to relieve them of a debt burden in this way. I think it would be helpful if the minister would get off his high horse and talk to some of the two thirds of previously registered students at Ryerson who, given the chance, are now choosing the old system. It was debt-burdening all right, but it gave them enough money to get by on.
Would he also take advantage today of the opportunity to meet with the person who was mentioned by the member for Parry Sound (Mr. Eves), Lynn Daly, who is here with her daughter Kate? She is a newly registered student at York, and she will tell him that, after rent, she has barely enough money to live on with her child and that, after assessment as a new student preparing to enter York, she will not be able to go, because she is being offered $3,500 debt-free under his discriminatory system. She might have got something close to double that under the old system, and if she had a chance she would choose it. Will he talk to her?
In addition, just by way of example, under the old system, a single parent with two children would have received total assistance of some $14,200 in a one-year period. Under the new system, that parent having children in unsubsidized day care would receive, in a combination of family benefits allowance or general welfare assistance and grant assistance of close to $8,000, some $15,000 in assistance from the government, and leave after four years without any debt load.
Mr. Jackson: On May 19, the minister advised this House that, in his opinion, tenants would save $20 million this year and possibly $40 million next year as a result of Bill 51. To justify this outrageous claim, he produced a nine-month-old report. He is familiar with the report. Unfortunately, the report does not bear out the minister's claim at all. It mentions a range of possibilities. Will he admit to this House today that one result, just as likely as his claim, is that tenants in Ontario will lose $5 million this year since that figure is directly out of the same report produced by his ministry?
Hon. Mr. Curling: The honourable member was there when those figures were given to us by my staff. I can recall, I think it was in Ottawa, when we presented that report and it was discussed. I can also recall that the honourable member took part in that discussion. We still stand by that figure. A considerable amount will be saved by the tenants with our new Bill 51.
Mr. Jackson: Actually, it was in Kingston that we discussed the report and it was incredible that the minister was able to defend the figures on that occasion. How can he quote figures at all when he stood in this House on May 13, May 14, May 20, June 4 -- again and again in this House? He has a backlog of applications under his bill for which he has been unable to give this Legislature the exact number. He has been unable or unwilling to be forthcoming to this Legislature as to the total number of increases for post- and pre-1976 buildings.
Does the minister have the information today? If he does not, how can he go around quoting these numbers and statistics all over this province? When is he going to provide the clear information that is being asked for by tenants who are paying 30 and 40 per cent increases under his Bill 51? It is going to be a $5-million increase, and he will not admit it.
Hon. Mr. Curling: There are no tenants who are paying 30 and 40 per cent increases. One minute the member is stating that there is a backlog and nothing is being dealt with. On the other hand, he is stating that people are paying 30 and 40 per cent. He very well knows that any notice that is given, whether it is 30 or 40 per cent, has to come before the administrative process and, if not, the tenant has the right to appeal that to the Rent Review Hearings Board. I cannot understand how the member can stand here and speak that way.
Mr. Wildman: I have a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services related to a constituent named Ross Delany, a 27-year-old brain-damaged young man who has been in the Dale Home in London for two years and who has a deadline of the end of this month to move out.
I have given the minister some documentation about this issue. Can he indicate which of the three options proposed for Mr. Delany to provide him with cognitive retraining, occupational training, behavioural management, psychological counselling and speech therapy he is prepared to fund? Is he prepared to fund the preferred option, the 24-hour attendant care for Mr. Delany, so he can live in his own apartment in Sault Ste. Marie, close to his family in Heyden?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: The honourable member has brought this matter to my attention and he will realize that from a larger point of view the two options that have been made available to us are to change the program for this young man at Dale in London and leave him there or to assist him and his family to have him established in Sault Ste. Marie.
It is the second one we are working on at the present time. We do not think it is appropriate to change the program at Dale. We think it is more appropriate that he be in Sault Ste. Marie, where he can be close to his family, where he wants to be and where his family wants to be. My staff and the staff at Dale, who are being very co-operative, are working on that at the present time.
Mr. Wildman: I am glad the minister gave me that response, but can he indicate how long this is likely to take? The deadline was originally the end of May for him to be moved out of the Dale Home and it has been extended to the end of June. There are only a few days left.
Mr. Delany himself has become most despondent because he knows Dale cannot do anything more for him. His family is most concerned about him. He needs therapy and he has the potential of developing into an individual who can look after himself to a higher standard than he is now.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: Given the fact that the honourable member had given me the information earlier, I have asked my staff to expedite this as quickly as possible. We have a clear indication from Dale that it will meet his needs as best it can until an alternative is in place. Regardless of what timetables have been suggested -- and of course, in order to get something moving, that is often done -- he will certainly not be put into a situation that is not appropriate for him.
I would indicate to the honourable member the primary reason for the delay is that this young man has spurts of very serious behaviour management problems, and that is the one aspect of the problem. It is not the retraining; it is not the attendant care; it is how to deal with a fairly severe and fairly frequent behaviour management problem. Quite frankly, at this moment, as I say, the staff of Dale, the staff of my office in Sault Ste. Marie and his family all agree that until provision for that is made, it would be inappropriate to make the move. That is what is holding it up.
Ms. Hart: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. The other day the member for Simcoe Centre (Mr. Rowe) raised an issue that concerns me as well. It had to do with the funding to women's softball. Can the minister --
With regard to the funding to the Provincial Women's Softball Association and the charge that the funding has been reduced from some 50 per cent to 27 per cent, it should be noted that the ministry does not fund every single organization, it funds sports governing bodies and they in turn fund their affiliates. In this case, Softball Ontario is funded by our ministry and it in turn is responsible for funding the Provincial Women's Softball Association. Our commitment to Softball Ontario has not decreased and in fact it has increased.
Mr. Pope: You're wrong about the high schools and you're wrong about this. Why don't you stand up and say what's really going on. You make the established funding rules, you cut the grants in half. You forced them to cut the grants in half.
Mr. Harris: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: The Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. Eakins), in response to a rather silly question from the member for York East (Ms. Hart), referred to the absence of the member for Simcoe Centre (Mr. Rowe). I think the minister would want to know that the member is attending his mother-in-law's funeral.
Lives are being lost and property is being destroyed through fire in Ontario. I want to ask a question of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. What is he doing in research and development to protect home owners from the loss by fire of their properties in Ontario? What is being done by the minister and his government to protect new home buyers through research and development to protect them from loss by fire?
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: That is indeed a very difficult question and I thank the member for it. I do not know whether he is referring to the recent fires he had in his area where quite a few homes were lost. If it was a question relating to them, I can tell him that one of the reasons they were lost, I understand, was that the homes were built very close together. Also, the water was not turned on and ready for access by the hoses when the fires were discovered.
The minister should know that on a per capita basis, Canada has one of the highest rates, if not the highest rate, of fire deaths in the world. Ontario leads the country in fire mortality. In 1985 alone, 182 Ontarians died and 2,065 were seriously injured in fires that cost the province $253 million. The US National Fire Prevention and Control Administration has made enormous strides by increased computer power and basic research into the physics and fluid dynamics of Are.
Mr. Cousens: Why does Ontario not have the technological capacity to implement these measures? Can the minister afford not to pursue this technological research strategy since so many lives depend on it?
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: Knowing that it is a real concern for the member, I am very pleased to hear his views today and I will be pleased to sit down with him any time to work on answers he might have to help with this problem.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: The member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) raised a question about brain-damaged adults, as others among my colleagues have done in the last little while. I would like to turn, if I might, to the question of the minister's grants program that is available to parents of often brain-damaged, severely disabled children to allow them to stay at home; the special needs contracts essentially. I wonder whether the minister can tell us today what changes he is planning to make in that program regarding the --
Mr. R. F. Johnston: There are many parents around the province with severely disabled children who would normally be institutionalized. They are very courageously doing their best to keep them at home. There are severe limitations on that program at the moment: a $10,000 maximum, a six-month renewal and some real difficulties with the eligibility criteria. We have been expecting an announcement from the minister for some time in terms of changes about that and I wonder whether he has anything to tell us today.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I have met with the advocacy associations representing those parents and have indicated to them the two or three directions in which we could move and use the resources that are available. One of them is to simply increase the amounts that are available to the existing families. The other one is to make more options available to more families.
For example, we have made a determination -- and the parents have been advised of this -- that those young people who reach the age of 18 and who would no longer be eligible for the program because it is designed as a children's program, will now be eligible. We will continue them beyond children's needs and into young adults' needs. Second, we will be providing it for adults, period, which we did not do before. Third, the member will remember that in the budget statement there was a reference to the fact that this program will be extended to the physically disabled as well as to the developmentally disabled.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I hope what I am hearing there is not that the minister is in fact going to trade off extension against raising the money for some of these families that are getting by in very desperate straits. Can the minister tell me, because I have not been able to discern it from either the budget, his estimates figures from last year or any announcements as yet, what new money he is allocating for this program for the under-18s in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: No, I am sorry, I do not have that figure at the tip of my fingers. I can tell the honourable member though that our experience to date indicates that although the maximum figure is $10,000, by far the majority of families' needs are met below that figure, and the number of families whose needs are above that figure is smaller. That is one of the reasons that we were quite prepared to allocate resources in that direction.
One of the aspects of the program is that we have asked the agencies in the various communities who help us and assist us in actually delivering the service to indicate to us the number of families who do have a serious need.
As the member will appreciate, this is not needs-tested in the same way as most of our other programs. Consequently, we do really have to allocate the resources that are available, and they have been significantly increased. I wish I could remember the figure, but quite frankly, I just cannot. We have significantly increased the total allotment of dollars, and we want to put it where the greater need is, even though it is not needs tested. That is why we went to the advocacy groups themselves and said: "Would you help us decide? We want to put not just the same amount of money but more money in and we are trying to decide now where is the best place to put that extra money," and we are trying to respond to their recommendations.
Mr. Mancini: A question for the Attorney General. It appears to be a very common occurrence as we read our daily papers to find many, many young children who have been abused by either their parents or by their guardians to the extent where they have actually died. It is also apparent that the sentences given to these people appear to be not in line with the offences that have occurred. I wonder if the Attorney General can tell me and the House whether or not his ministry keeps track of these types of offences, the punishment given out by the judges, the sentences, and whether or not the Attorney General is happy with what he has found.
Hon. Mr. Scott: In the ministry we recognize the fact that there are over the course of a year many hundreds of cases of child sexual abuse in the province in which convictions are entered and sentences fixed. I am glad to say that there are only a relatively small number of these in which there is a consensus that the sentences are inadequate. Those ones, of course, are the ones that naturally tend to get press and public attention.
In the ministry we have a section that reviews these cases when they are brought to our attention either by the crown attorneys who prosecuted them or by others, to determine whether an appeal should be taken to the Court of Appeal and whether an appeal is likely to succeed.
I should tell the honourable member that his concern is mirrored by the concern of a lot of other people who are good enough to keep in fairly regular touch with us about the cases as they see them in the courts. Our crown attorneys and crown law staff find that a useful asset in determining whether cases should be reviewed and an appeal taken.
I bring to the attention of the Attorney General a specific case that appeared in this morning's Toronto Star, dated June 24, of course. It refers to an Ontario Supreme Court judgement. I would just like to quote what the judge said before he sentenced an aunt and uncle who were put in a situation where they were placed as guardians of a small, two-and-a-half-year-old child. The judge stated, referring to the aunt: "`Her neglect of the child was gross and must be seriously condemned,' the judge said. `She let this child...suffer three days and then die.'"
Hon. Mr. Scott: I think the honourable member and I, and perhaps many other honourable members, share the view -- perhaps universally shared -- that child sex abuse is a critical and important question; and I know the member for Sarnia would want to be sure that we have an adequate opportunity to deal with important matters of this type in the House.
Mr. Sheppard: I have a question for the Solicitor General. I would like to raise a matter which has generated a great deal of publicity in my riding. Did the Solicitor General know that his legal counsel, John Chalmers, was in Cobourg on June 11, 1987, for the purpose of providing legal counsel to his spouse? The media in my riding are asking if the Solicitor General approves of this action. Would the Solicitor General care to respond to these charges in the press?
I am aware there has been some concern expressed in the area of the honourable member's constituency with regard to the appearance of an official of the ministry on behalf of a relative. I have asked my officials to determine the exact facts of that particular case to see whether there is any action that needs to be taken.
Mr. Sheppard: Does the Solicitor General normally allow his legal counsel time away from his duties at Queen's Park so that, through intimidation, the counsellor may represent his spouse on an affair that is unrelated to the business of the Solicitor General's office?
We have said that we will look at the facts of the matter. The particular individual in question has been away for several weeks on sick leave and is still recovering. That is why we are asking for the facts to be determined upon his return and also to see what action will be taken.
Mr. Foulds: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. How could the minister yesterday, in replying to my dissatisfaction with the government's initiatives on speech pathology, give us information that, if it did not mislead us, tried to lead us to believe there was an actual increase in the bursaries for speech pathology, when, in fact, the increase is only in bursaries having to do with psychology and social work; and his ministry, which applied for and received from Management Board three bursaries in speech pathology last year and three bursaries in speech pathology the year before, has applied for only three bursaries in speech pathology this year; and therefore there has been no increase from his ministry?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I stand to be corrected, but my recollection of our discussion last night was that I preceded that comment by the fact that my ministry is responsible for bursaries in three distinct areas which I described and that the expansion from 20 to 39 was in all three. In response to the specific point the member raised, I indicated that the total number of new bursaries just for speech pathology from my ministry was three and from the Ministry of Health was six, for a total of nine. If the member's recollection is different from that, I stand to be corrected.
Mr. Foulds: How then does the minister expect me to be satisfied with his government's answer when l have been calling for and have asked the Premier (Mr. Peterson) specifically to double the number of bursaries for speech pathology and the minister has admitted today that his ministry and the Ministry of Health will not be increasing and have not applied for an increase in the number of bursaries for speech pathology in underserviced areas by even one?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: The honourable member will also recall, as part of our late-night debate yesterday, the difficulty of placing Ontario students in Ontario universities. Given that particular situation, nine requests from a combination of the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston) and myself seem quite reasonable.
He will also recall that we indicated, as part of that discussion, that there is an ongoing dialogue with the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) to expand the number of total spaces in Ontario, in which case we would be quite prepared to expand the number of bursaries in that field.
I went on to indicate that, if that were not possible I was then prepared to consider an expansion of the number of bursaries in universities outside, not just of Ontario but of Canada. That is still an ongoing process, but at this point in time it does not seem to me to make sense to ask for more when there is simply no place for them to go. When there are more places for them to go I am quite prepared to expand the number of bursaries. I thought I made that clear as well.
Ms. Caplan: Last week I tabled on behalf of the residents of North York some 2,000 petitions. The essence of the message, which I will summarize, is: "We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the funding for the Sheppard subway line be approved without further delay."
Mr. McClellan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I raised last week the question of whether the petitions for the Eglinton subway were in the prescribed manner and I did not have a ruling from the chair.
"We, the undersigned, do hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendations of the Powell study. We understand that this study recommends the opening of government-run abortion clinics. We believe that there are already too many abortions done in this province and would like to see access restricted and not made easier."
"We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the quality of care being at risk at the Port Colborne General Hospital due to the failure to implement recommendations concerning staffing, in-service education and orientation programs. This is a serious situation and we urge your government's immediate intervention."
Hon. Mr. Riddell: The purpose of these amendments is to protect the commercial beekeeping industry from being threatened by imported honey bee diseases and pests. The major amendment to the Bees Act will strengthen the ministry's disease control programs by requiring Ontario's beekeepers to obtain a permit to import bees from outside the province.
Other amendments will enable inspectors to take samples of bees and equipment to identify honey bee tracheal mite, the chief threat, or any of the other diseases or pests. There will also be an approved appeal mechanism for beekeepers to challenge orders of inspectors. These are necessary changes to the Bees Act to ensure that the $8-million commercial beekeeping community continues to be a viable sector in Ontario's agriculture and food industry.
Dans son rapport final sur les assurances municipales le comité consultatif recommandait l'établissement d'une base législative plus solide pour permettre aux municipalités de s'assurer elles-mêmes et de procéder à des échanges mutuels, constituant ainsi une alternative valable au marché limité de l'assurance responsabilité-municipale.
This bill will also implement the enrichments of the tax payments to municipalities for certain public institutions, as announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) last fall. The annual fixed rate payment of $50 in respect of each permanent student attending a community college or a university and in respect of the rated bed capacity of each public hospital or provincial mental health facility is being increased to $75.
Hon. Mr. Elston: I have a couple of words about the proposed amendment. It reflects some concern that was raised with respect to the passage of private member's Bill 52 that stood in the name of the member for Rainy River (Mr. Pierce). We are introducing this as an amendment to subsection 37a(2) which reaffirms in the statute the common law duty of a physician to inform his or her patient of the material risks of a procedure, in this case vaccinations.
Mrs. Grier: As the title indicates, this bill is intended to protect and enhance the drinking water quality in Ontario. It provides an opportunity for public involvement in the making of regulations to set maximum permissible levels of contaminants and other substances in drinking water. The regulations would apply to both public and private water systems.
Mr. Runciman: This is a reintroduction of a bill that died in the Orders and Notices. The act allows the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) to offer protection, including relocation and a new identity, to crown witnesses whose lives or safety are jeopardized by their willingness to testify at certain criminal proceedings.
Mr. Warner: The purpose of this excellent bill is to provide a vote on both the board of governors and the college council for students and staff members. The representatives are to be democratically elected by their peers, with equal numbers of males and females from each group.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The other thing is that the government has indicated its amendments in a revised bill that we have distributed to all the opposition members, and as a convenience in dealing with clause-by-clause discussion, I would also like consent to use that as the document we will work from.
The Deputy Chairman: As you know. there is no preamble to the bill in the copy we have here. Beauchesne states, "Where the bill, as introduced, does not contain a preamble, it is not competent for the committee to introduce one." But I think I will rule in your favour and present it right from the beginning.
Mr. McClellan: If I cannot read my motion -- I have never heard of us using Beauchesne in this way but I do not challenge your ruling -- let me make a comment on the preamble. You cannot stop me from doing that.
Mr. McClellan: If we are -- the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) nods his head -- if that is the government's game we will have a long piece of business. I do not propose to do anything other than try to achieve the speedy passage of this bill.
I do not want to get into a procedural wrangle because we have a concern with precious time, but I think there should be a provision in the bill -- I will revise this if I can get some indication from the minister what he thinks of the matter. I can always move an addition to the definitions section of the act, although it would make more sense to put it in the preamble.
At any rate, what I had wanted to do was to have a preamble included in this statute that stated clearly that the assets of a pension fund are recognized as deferred wages and are a trust held solely for the benefit of the members of the pension plan. That principle does not appear clearly and unequivocally in this statute and this is a major defect of the statute. The statute should include a clear and strong statement and it is the responsibility, I guess of the government, to include it.
Since I am ruled by Beauchesne as being ineligible to introduce it into the bill, the government should have made a statement that pension fund assets are deferred wages held in trust for the benefit of the members of the pension plan, because everything we are debating flows from the principle, which I believe to be accepted by each of the three political parties, that pension fund assets are in fact deferred wages, are in fact held in trust and are in fact the property of the employees.
In all of our discussions, everything we are talking about in Bill 170 is a discussion of the management and distribution of the property of working people. It is not the property of employers. It is not the property of Conrad Black, for him to seize and take at his will. It is not the property of anybody other than the men and women who own the deferred wages that are invested on their behalf in pension plans. For the government to rewrite the Pension Benefits Act without stating clearly the principle that pension funds are deferred wages, that they are the property of working people and not of the employer, will continue to bedevil the pension field in years to come.
There is going to be litigation flowing out of this act no matter how carefully we write it. There are going to be disputes. There are going to be cases taken to court with respect to the ownership and distribution of pension benefits, credits and assets. There should be, clearly and unequivocally, a statement in the legislation that the assets of pension funds belong to somebody. They belong to the people whose wages they are. Until this question is cleared up, we are going to continue to be needlessly confused about pension issues. We are going to be confused as to whether or not it is legitimate for a Conrad Black to take tens of millions of dollars of other people's property and put it into his own pocket. We are going to be confused about whether to have a permanent moratorium on surplus fund withdrawals or a temporary moratorium.
I am surprised I was not given some advance notice that I would be prevented from introducing a preamble. I will not belabour the point. I would like some indication from the minister, however, as to whether he thinks the principle --
Mr. McClellan: I am asking my final question, I have allowed myself six minutes per amendment, and I am right on schedule despite the harassment from the table. I would like the minister simply to answer the question whether he thinks the principle that pensions are deferred wages should be clearly and unequivocally stated in the legislation as a guide to assist the courts in future litigation.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: We discussed this in the committee and it is the opinion of the government that there is no preamble in the act, that it is not going to include a preamble and that there will be and is adequate protection for all the parties to the agreement in the pension document. The Friedland committee is addressing the area of mandatory inflation protection and surplus. Given that, along with the other provisions in the act, I think the issue is adequately covered.
"`Pension plan' means a plan organized and administered to provide pensions for members under which the employer or employers of members of the pension plan are required to make contributions, or only the members are required to make contributions, but does not include,
Mr. McClellan: The purpose of the amendment is to add a section that was originally in the government's draft but was subsequently taken out. The operative phrase is that pension plan means a plan where "only the members are required to make contributions." For some reason, the ministry has excluded from the definition of "pension plan" a plan organized to provide pensions where "only the members of the plan are required to make contributions." I think that is a serious defect.
If something looks like a pension plan, smells like a pension plan and has all the appearances and characteristics of a pension plan, it should be defined in this act as a pension plan. There should not be a barrier to its legal establishment and registration solely by virtue of the fact that only members are required to make contributions. Can the minister explain whether he is prepared to accept this amendment; and if not, why there has been a change of policy on the part of the ministry?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: There has not been a change in the policy. The purpose of the Pension Benefits Act is to set minimum standards for private pension plans in order to protect plan members. A plan that is wholly funded and organized by employees generally does not require the protection of government legislation, and the members of most of such plans, for example group registered retirement savings plans, do not wish to be covered by pension legislation. Presumably, employees would have the option of not participating in an entirely employee-funded plan. This seems to be a preferable method of protecting employees in comparison to extending government regulation.
It certainly has not been a change. One of the conditions of being registered as a pension plan is that the employers must be making a contribution. So it has not been changed; that is just the way it was.
Mr. Ashe: I think the amendment as put forth in the reprinted bill is more appropriate to fulfil the intent of the pension legislation. Therefore, we will not be supporting the New Democratic Party amendment.
"(1a) Notwithstanding clause 8(1)(a), if a majority of the members of the pension plan that is not a multi-employer pension plan so resolve, the pension plan is not eligible for registration unless it is administered by an administrator that is a pension committee composed of an equal number of representatives of,
"(b) if the trade union that represents the members of the pension plan that is not a multi-employer pension plan so requires, the pension plan is not eligible for registration unless it is administered by an administrator that is a pension committee composed of an equal number of representatives of,
Mr. McClellan: What we are simply trying to do again flows from the notion that pension funds and the assets of pension funds are deferred wages and are the property of the members of the pension plan. They are not the property of somebody else. They do not belong to somebody else. They are assets, property, and much of this debate ironically is a debate about property rights. We are talking about the property of employees that is held in trust and managed on their behalf, but our laws up until this point have not reflected this reality.
If we put our money in the bank and it earns interest, there is no confusion as to who owns the interest on the depositor's investment; but if we put money in a pension plan and it earns interest, that interest very often can be legally pocketed by the managers of the pension fund assets. Again, I refer to our old friend Conrad Black who did precisely that. He took the surplus, which represented the investment earnings of the pension plan, and stuck it in his own pocket.
What I am trying to do in this amendment is to make sure that all plans be administered by a committee or board of trustees, at least half of whom are representatives of members of the plan. I want this law to recognize that the people who own the assets, whose deferred wages are being held in trust, are entitled as a matter of statutory right to at least equal representation on all pension administrative bodies, other committees or boards of trustees.
I do not know for the life of me how my colleagues in either the Conservative Party or the Liberal Party can fail to go along with this amendment. If they pretend to defend the rights of property, as they so eloquently do -- it is ironic that it is the socialist party that has to bring this to the attention of the House -- in this case we are talking about property rights, the rights of working people to the protection of their own property and to a share in its management and administration. How they can deny employees who request it -- that is what the amendment says; if a majority of the members of the plan request equal representation on the pension committee, they should be granted it. That is what this amendment says. I defy the minister or my colleagues in the Conservative Party to oppose this amendment.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Bill 170 provides an advisory committee under section 23, with employee representatives, that can monitor the administration of the pension plan and make recommendations. This is a major improvement over the existing Pension Benefits Act.
In defined benefit plans, the employer bears a risk and must make up any shortfall in the funding. The employees do not bear any risk at all and they are guaranteed their defined benefits no matter what the return on plan investments is. Therefore, it is inappropriate to have 50 per cent employee representation. The advisory committee is a first step in increasing employee participation in the plan administration. We will monitor this and consider changing the degree of employee representation if we feel it is appropriate in the future.
Mr. Ashe: The New Democratic Party, of course, put forth a very eloquent case as to fairness, equity and so on. Frankly, it is a little out of perspective. They happened to use one -- and I agree with them -- unfortunate example that has been in the private sector not long ago, namely, Mr. Black. I concur with them in their reaction, if you will, to some of his public pronouncements, etc.
Having said that, I do not agree, and I think the minister put it in the proper perspective, that all the assets of a pension plan rightly belong to the employees. I can cite example after example where employers, to meet current needs, if they have excess funds and shortfalls in the actuarial demands in any given year, are being asked to put in a great deal of money over and above what is required. I think they have every right, in fact responsibility to their shareholders, to have the ability to direct those funds at a future time when the situation is a little different.
Again, putting it out in the context of fairness, 50-50 is fine, but that is really not what a plan is all about. An employee puts in X number of dollars or X per cent of his salary per week, per month, per hour or whatever the case may be; the employer carries the responsibilities over and above that to a much greater degree and, frankly, should continue to have the greater say in that opportunity.
The issue has been distorted by my Conservative friend. I am not calling for a unilateral majority control by pension plan members. I am calling for equal representation of pension plan members, that is to say employees, and the employers, those who are contributing to the defined benefit plans. I am calling for an equal sharing of responsibilities.
Mr. McClellan: It is deferred wages. You push the Conservatives or the Liberals a little inch off their dime and the notion that pensions are deferred wages that belong to employees evaporates. This is why I think it is so important that it should be in the bill. It is a principle people pay lipservice to, but when it comes to fulfilling the responsibilities of the principle, suddenly an advisory committee is good enough.
You can have your two cents' worth, but in terms of sharing the responsibility of managing your own property, your own deferred wages, the answer is: "Nix, nix. No, a thousand times no." Eventually they are going to be forced to say yes. I have absolutely no doubt about that.
This is an issue that now is at the forefront of collective bargaining, the Big Four in Canada. This is one of the major items on the bargaining table: the question of pensions, the management of pensions, the administration of pensions, the ownership of pension funds and distribution of the earnings on the pension funds. This is now a front-and-centre matter of labour relations. Strikes will be decided on the basis of this issue.
We cannot pretend any more that this is somehow on the back burner; it is on the front burner. If we are not ready to deal with this issue in 1987, I have absolutely no doubt that the Liberals and Conservatives will be forced to deal with this issue in accordance with the principle of deferred wages in a very short period of time.
Mr. McClellan: I have an amendment to section 8 which is part of a package of three amendments that are designed to deal with a particular problem that confronts the members and the sponsors of multi-employer pension plans. I propose at this point to stand down each of these three sections until we have completed the rest of the bill.
The three sections are section 8, an amendment to clause 8(1)(e), section 39 and subsection 81(2). I propose that we stand down each of these sections and then come back to them at the end of the bill, either this afternoon or for a short period of time tomorrow, and deal with them as a package.
The three amendments are designed to deal with some serious problems that all of us are aware of, confronting the field of multi-employer pension plans as they relate to the relationship of the Canadian affiliates of international trade unions, and the question of what happens to the Canadian affiliate of an international trade union if that affiliate makes the decision democratically to become an independent Canadian trade union and to break away from the parent international.
Problems have arisen in the past and exist at the present time where the parent international has been unwilling to release pension fund assets in the event of a separation of a Canadian branch to become an independent Canadian trade union. I have been working with a number of concerned trade unionists over the last five months to try to come up with a solution to this very real problem that confronts trade unionists and their membership right here in Ontario even as we debate this.
There is a problem as well with what is happening -- and we must be very blunt and candid about the problem -- with the administration of some pension plans in the United States. We are aware, for example, to take the most-horrible-case scenario, that President Reagan has published a list of unions which he regards as having involvement with organized crime and which will perhaps even require public trusteeship in the use of pension funds. That is very much at the heart of these concerns.
The Teamsters union, of course, is a notorious example of a union whose pension funds have been used to finance the most amazing kinds of skulduggery. Prosecutions for the misappropriation of pension funds have been secured.
I think we have an obligation to protect the pension assets of Canadian working people and the trade union leaders in this country who are concerned about being able to protect the investment of Canadian workers. To that end, we have tried to design the package of amendments.
Having made that short introduction, I propose not to move my amendment at this time but to stand down section 8, to stand down as well sections 39 and 81, and then deal with the amendments to each of those three sections at the conclusion of the rest of the bill, if that is acceptable to my colleagues.
"(5) Where the members of a pension plan are represented by a trade union that is certified under the Labour Relations Act as the bargaining agent for the members and that is a party to the collective agreement filed as a document that creates or supports a pension plan,
"(c) the trade union is entitled to represent the members of the pension plan in respect of any proposed amendments to the pension plan and in any proceedings before the superintendent or the commission in respect of the pension plan.
"(6) Where any of the filed documents that create and support a pension plan indicates that members of the pension plan are represented by a trade union that is certified under the Labour Relations Act as the bargaining agent for the members,
"(b) the trade union is entitled to represent the members of the pension plan in respect of any proposed amendments to the pension plan and in any proceedings before the superintendent or the commission in respect of the pension plan."
Mr. McClellan: This very long, and hopefully not totally unintelligible, amendment is actually very simple in its intention and what in fact it does. It provides that trade unions have the right where there is a collective agreement that is filed as a document creating or supporting the pension plan -- that is to say, the pension plan flows from the collective agreement -- it is part of the responsibility under the collective agreement of the trade union to enforce the provisions of the pension plan. The trade union has a responsibility under the collective agreement to its membership for the adequacy, if you will, of the pension plan.
That responsibility flows from the obligations of the leaders of the trade union to their membership, through its negotiating committee and its elected leadership, in negotiating and ratifying the collective agreement. Where there is that kind of obligation on the part of the trade union with respect to the pension plan, there should be the right of the trade union to consent to any changes, so that changes which flow from negotiation cannot be altered unilaterally. In addition, the trade union is entitled to notice and to be able to represent the members of the pension plan in any proceedings before the commission.
The minister will be aware of the obligation that our labour legislation places on trade unions to represent their membership. Those obligations are very onerous, and members can have litigation against a trade union which fails to uphold the rights of an individual member under the collective agreement. We know that our own union, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, has an obligation to take any grievance from any of its members and that it can be severely penalized at law for failure to so represent its membership.
That obligation extends to benefits under a pension plan. It is a matter of simple natural justice to provide the trade union with the kinds of responsibilities and rights that are set out in my amendments: the right to consent to changes, the right to notice of any proposed changes and the right to represent the members of the plan before the commission. The trade union has an obligation to represent the interests of the members with respect to pension matters because they flow out of our labour legislation, but we have not given them the right in this pension statute to do so.
It seems to me there is a major gap. On the one hand, we impose obligation on the trade union movement under our labour legislation, and with our pension legislation we deny it the opportunity to fulfil those obligations in an adequate manner. Again, I recommend this amendment to both the other parties.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Members currently have the right to notify their unions if they wish and to ask for assistance. We feel it is not appropriate to require union-employer agreements in all pension plan amendments. If we mandated this in Bill 170, there would be a legislative override of existing contractual arrangements regarding how plan amendments can be made.
It is also not appropriate to require that the union be the sole representative of members. Members may request their union to represent them whenever they wish, but we do not wish to deny individual members the right to make their own representations. If it would help the member, we are not prepared to accept a veto by the unions, but if he wants to include a provision that they be notified, we would have no problem with standing the amendment down and working out some method of doing that.
Mr. Ashe: In the way of clarification and a question: the one problem is the question, that really was prompted -- l do not see anything within present or past pension legislation that would not allow a union to represent a person which would seem to be implied by the honourable member from the third party; and again I do not agree.
Frankly, I do not particularly disagree with most of the amendment except clause 5(a), "the superintendent shall not register an amendment to the pension plan unless both parties to the collective agreement consent to the amendment." Surely that is the whole purpose of the superintendent, to be able to handle proposed changes to any plan, and then notification is fine. Both sides make their case, if you will, and the superintendent approves any changes or otherwise, depending on the case that has been made and the decisions that are finally made.
I would go along more with the idea -- and I am not suggesting the words; that should be done more appropriately by others -- that the notification aspect is probably more appropriate. It not only fulfils the spirit and the obligation of labour legislation as far as the unions are concerned but also still recognizes the fact that the superintendent is there and, hopefully, is a body that will be able to deal with both sides and make determinations, without having unanimity going in. If there were unanimity going in, there would not be any need or purpose for the superintendent to start with.
Mr. McClellan: If I understand what the minister is saying, he objects to clause 5(a) of my amendment, but he would be prepared to accept clauses 5(b), 5(c), 6(a) and 6(b). That is to say, trade unions would be guaranteed an entitlement to advance notice of any proposed changes to a pension plan and would have statutory entitlement to represent the members of the pension plan before the superintendent or the commission. If that is what the minister is indicating, then perhaps it would be wise to stand down the section, rewrite it in a way that the minister is able to accept and come back to it.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I do not agree with all the member said, but I am certainly prepared to stand it down, revisit it and see if we can work something out that would satisfy his concerns within the parameters I set out.
Mr. McClellan: I will agree to do that. I ask the minister and his staff to give careful consideration to giving trade unions the right to notice and the right to represent. I think those are both important provisions to put in the plan because of the statutory obligations that other legislation places on trade unions to represent their membership.
"(2) Every part-time employee who, if he or she were a full-time employee, would come within the class of employees for whom the pension plan is established, is eligible for membership in the pension plan on the same basis as full-time employees of the class.
Mr. McClellan: What we are proposing is that the provision for part-time employees be changed really quite radically. The minister has proposed that part-time employees be covered on the basis of the following criteria: That they have earnings of at least 35 per cent of the year's maximum pensionable earnings or the lesser of that and 700 hours of employment with the employer in each of two consecutive calendar years.
Numerous witnesses before the committee testified that would represent an insuperable barrier for a great many part-time workers and that these kind of criteria would serve to continue to exclude many part-time workers from pension coverage. We heard a particularly strong appeal from workers in the health care field, in the nursing profession, that this simply was not good enough, that this simply would not do.
We have consulted fairly widely with employee groups. It is a difficult problem to try to solve. What is the threshold for the inclusion of part-time employees? The conclusion of our study of the problem is simply the language we have put before you, that employees automatically be eligible for plan membership following the completion of a reasonable probationary period. A part-time worker's eligibility cutoff requirement based on earnings is unacceptable. Under these proposals, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage would not meet the earnings requirement for part-time workers. The government's own part-time workers are eligible for pension plan membership if they work approximately 700 hours per year.
Our amendment proposes that part-time employees are eligible for pension plan membership on the same basis as full-time employees and that no further eligibility requirements may be imposed. This, by the way, is the eligibility requirement for part-time pension plan members in Manitoba.
Again, we think this is a better solution to the problem the minister is trying to address than trying to set some arbitrary earnings cutoff line. We do not think it will work. We have been told repeatedly and forcibly by the nurses and other employee groups that it will not work. We have another jurisdiction that has introduced the basic equal membership criterion as full-time employees, and that is Manitoba. We think it is a good solution to the problem and we urge the minister to adopt it.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: In dealing with section 32, the member is suggesting we get rid of two or three of the clauses. What I would like to do is to respond and talk about the two-year period initially. It is a minimum standard only and plans may provide for shorter eligibility periods or unions may negotiate this in their collective bargaining. A two-year period is not unreason able and is a great improvement over the present Pension Benefits Act, which has no maximum period at all. Employers may prefer to have some indication that an employee is likely to stay for a reasonable period of time before beginning the administrative steps involved in pension plan membership, and that is the reason for this.
We get back to the other issue. I am sure the member will remember that when we were in committee we heard representations regarding the dollar amount we had proposed of $9,030 as being the minimum level when you are applying the year's maximum pensionable earnings. We have made an accommodation. We are now saying 700 hours or 35 per cent of YMPE criteria is reasonable, and even the Ontario Federation of Labour supports this formula. Most part-time workers who would be interested in making pension contributions do earn $9,030 per year or work at least 700 hours per year. We will be rejecting the amendment.
Mr. Ashe: We also do not support the amendment. Frankly, I do not think the criterion of only six months employment as being a minimum is very practical in this day and age. There are many types of employment where people are very mobile and it is really not financially attractive or advantageous to either an employer or an employee to set him up in a pension plan under those circumstances at six months. Having said that, there is no doubt there are certain kinds of quite stable types of employment where six months may very well be the criterion that is agreed between the employer and employees. Of course, that still can take place.
As far as the criteria on part-time are concerned, I think the inclusion of the 700 hours of employment is reasonable. You are talking roughly of only 14 hours a week or somebody who works year-round on a part-time basis, or obviously under either criteria -- and it is "or" rather than "and" with the maximum of pensionable earnings situation.
I suggest it is really not practical to even want to include the majority of others, because frankly, if people are earning on a much lower earning's level or are only working occasionally, usually to supplement income, they are in fact interested in how many dollars they are going to get today and are not too concerned about putting aside a few dollars for tomorrow. Although that may not be a very rational way, not worrying about tomorrow, I think it is a very practical illustration that you have to have a few dollars today before you even want to think about tomorrow.
I do not think the cost of administering a plan and setting up those kinds of small sums would be attractive to most employees for sure, and neither would it be to the employers. We will not be supporting the amendment.
Mr. McClellan: Very briefly, I think we can do better than what is in the bill. I think we are following some very impassioned representation that was made to us by a number of employee groups. They happened almost invariably to be women workers who invariably have been frozen out of the pension field. We were told very clearly that even this formula the minister has put in the bill will continue to freeze out a great many people. The minister can choose to do as he pleases, but I say again he is ignoring representations that were made to us. We have an opportunity to do what was done in Manitoba.
Mr. McClellan: Section 35 states that an employer may establish a separate pension plan for part-time workers if it is "reasonably equivalent" to the plan established for full-time workers. "Equivalent" is subjective, to begin with. There is no criteria as to what is meant by "equivalent."
It is vague, undefined, unspecific and gives plan sponsors the kind of leeway that would sell part-time workers right down the river. I am sure the minister realizes that. At least, we would delete the word "reasonably." That does not begin to solve the problem, but at least let us not add weasel words to that kind of vagueness.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: This is one of the items that was a federal-provincial consensus on pension reform. The rationale behind it was that an employer should be permitted to establish reasonably equivalent as opposed to identical plans for full-time and part-time members.
This provides a certain flexibility that may be appropriate in the light of the differing nature of full-time and part-time employment. To say it should be identical may create some problems that cannot be resolved. I think any reasonable person would accept something that is reasonably equivalent, and it will be for the superintendent to determine whether it is reasonably equivalent. We will not be supporting that amendment.
The Deputy Chairman: Mr. McClellan moves that subsection 37(2) of the bill be amended (a) in clause (a) by striking out "ten" in the third line and inserting in lieu thereof "two"; (b) by adding "and" at the end of clause (a); and (c) by striking out clause (b).
Mr. McClellan: What this amendment does is very simple. It ends once and for all the 10-and-45-year vesting rule; that is, 10 years of service plus age 45 before a worker is entitled to vested pension benefits, before he is entitled to the ownership of his own property, and replaces it with a two-year vesting period.
The minister and the government have been thumping their chests and saying, "We are introducing two-year vesting," but they do not tell anybody that the two-year vesting applies only to money that is contributed to a pension plan after January 1, 1987. They do not tell anybody that the 10-and-45 rule will continue to apply to all pension funds contributed prior to January 1, 1987.
When I was on the select committee on pensions along with the member for London Centre (Mr. Peterson) and a number of other colleagues, we heard from the superintendent of insurance of the day, Mr. Bentley, that less than 10 per cent of pension contributors ever collected a dime from private pension plans because of the archaic stupidity of the 10-and-45 rule.
I do not understand why the government is maintaining the 10-and-45 rule. The government has accepted that it has made a mockery out of private sector pension plans over the years. It has been a ripoff. It has been a way of companies amortizing their current service contributions and reducing their own cost burdens by factoring in the number of people they will be able to rip off by virtue of the 10-and-45 rule. Everybody knows that. The minister knows that. It is not a secret. It is something that has been documented for years and years. Yet the ministry is proposing to perpetuate the 10-and-45 rule for all funds contributed up to January 1, 1987.
Quite frankly, I think it is outrageous that two-year vesting is not being made retroactive to cover ail pension contributors and all their funds. I seek an explanation from the minister as to why this is the case and ask him now to reconsider his position, to wipe out the 10-and-45 rule once and for all and to apply the rational and sound principle of two-year vesting to all contributions.
The consensus position was two-year vesting on a prospective basis. Retroactive vesting would increase costs for employers. It would also raise the issue of whether two-year locking-in should also be retroactive. Employees do not want two-year locking-in to be retroactive.
It is a situation where we have made some retroactivity to April 1, 1987. That was on the basis that we had this bill out for wide distribution and we wanted to make sure people like Goodyear and things of that kind were covered, but it was certainly not our intent and certainly not the intent of the consensus to make any of these reforms retroactive past the April 1 date, because quite frankly it would bring a severe cost impact and would create several problems we do not want to address.
I admit that in the past things were not the greatest in pension plans, but that is what this bill is meant to do. It is meant to come forward with new reforms, but it was never intended that it would be retroactive any further back than April 1, 1987.
Mr. Ashe: Again, this proposed amendment is inappropriate. I think you could compare it to a sporting event in which you decide at half time, whether rightly or wrongly in the context of your rationale, to just change the rules for the second half, but you let only some of the people know. Really, that is not appropriate.
Again, as the minister has pointed out, this is consensus legislation that has been achieved after much discussion by the various treasurers and ministers of finance across Canada over quite a period of time. Ultimately, those negotiations were carried on to consensus that has ended up principally with what we now see before us. I think that is what has to be implemented.
I would suggest I have also been approached by equally as many employees who would not want what would have to be the counter of this, which is locked-in contributions. Many of them are going on the basis that they have the right to take out their contributions, presuming the 10-and-45 rule has not been met, for prior contributions before the effective date of this plan. So again, although it has some merit in terms of the ultimate intent -- and there is no doubt we are into better benefits by having locking in, vesting and so on after two years -- I think it would be grossly inappropriate for all concerned to suggest that we can make it retroactive for ever.
The minister is saying there is a cost factor that would be imposed. That is a joke. Workers have been contributing to pension plans prior to January 1, 1987, and companies have been taking actuarial formulas that tell them with some degree of scientific accuracy how many of these employees they can chisel out of the employer's share of the pension contribution. By making it retroactive, the minister would be forcing companies to honour agreements that require their employees to contribute to pension plans on a matching basis.
The minister describes that as a cost impact. It is like saying to a bank robber who has been apprehended by the police and has to give back the money he stole that it is a cost impact on the bank robber. It is absurd, it is grotesque, and the minister knows it.
We have been witnesses to a systematic ripoff of working people in this province under the previous Pension Benefits Act. One of the instruments of ripoff was the 10-and-45 rule that systematically took away the employer's share of pension contributions from the worker even though they were deferred wages. They were the worker's property, and the law permitted companies to take that money away from them and even to factor into their actuarial formulas the number of employees they could so swindle. There is no other word for it.
To hide behind a consensus is wrong. The 10-and-45 rule is wrong, and it will take 30 years, a whole generation, before two-year vesting has any impact. The minister knows that. He has an opportunity once again to do the right thing by working people in this province and give them the ownership of their own property; but no, the minister says we have to go by consensus, even if the consensus legalizes a ripoff.
This is an amendment to the portability provisions of the Pension Benefits Act. This act again is trumpeted by our Liberal friends, our Liberal reformers, as bringing portability to the pension field, but at the same time the provisions of section 43 permit employers to exercise a veto over whether an individual employee's pension credits will be accepted into a new plan.
The Deputy Chairman: Mr. McClellan moves that clause 43(1)(a) of the bill be amended by striking out "if the administrator of the other pension plan agrees to accept the payment" in the second and third lines and inserting in lieu thereof "and the administrator of the other pension shall accept the payment."
Mr. McClellan: In other words, the amendment I am proposing removes the veto from the employer and places the exercise of the option at the disposal of the employee, so that if an employee chose to join the pension plan of a new company, the credits would be assigned a certain value, presumably by the commission, and the employee would be entitled to join a successor plan according to his or her accumulated pension credit.
I understand the argument the minister is going to use: that employers cannot afford the cost, that employers would discriminate, etc., etc. We always have these kinds of economic-blackmail arguments put forward whenever we are removing power and privilege from employer groups and giving rights to working people. We always get the argument based on the threat of economic blackmail. Miraculously enough, the economic blackmail never materializes. If we had listened to all the economic-blackmail arguments, we would not have old age pensions, we would not have child labour laws, we would not have any kind of employment protection legislation at all in this country. But we are going to get the argument again as soon as I sit down.
Nevertheless, the option should be the right of the worker and, if a portability regime is to be successful and meaningful, there should not be the right of veto by employers and corporations as to whether they will agree to accept a new member into an old plan.
What we are saying is this: An employee transfers out of an old plan; when he transfers out into this new plan or a registered retirement savings plan, it is the same amount of money. It is a commuted value that the old employer gives him. What we have is a provision in this act that says the plan administrator of the new plan has the right to agree to accept that person into the new plan.
It could be that if we mandate transfers in, it will create an administrative problem, as the new plan probably will not be compatible with the old one. How is the new employer to determine exactly what that new amount is going to benefit? What is going to happen is they are going to have to get an actuary in there; the actuary will make money and the employee will not be any better off. What we are saying is that the new plan administrator shall have the option of either accepting that employee into the new plan if he thinks it is compatible or, if not, providing a registered retirement savings plan. I think that is reasonable. It does not in any way disadvantage the employee coming into the new plan.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Well, no, he does not have to be accepted. If he is not accepted, he will get an RRSP and he will still have his protection with the value that he gets coming in with this commuted value out of the old plan.
Mr. Ashe: Similarly, we will not be supporting the amendment. It is a very unpractical amendment. I think the suggestion being put out is that the employee is going to lose all he or she has earned, and of course, not one penny of that is lost. The other options are there. I think if in fact the member were really concerned about employees, he would see how unpractical his amendment is, for the exact reason that plans are so drastically different that they quite often will not be anywhere near compatible to the benefit -- let alone to the employer, to the employee.
Without obviously making it a public reason that a particular new employee was not hired, it could end up being one of the other criteria on a list if you are forcing an employer to accept an employee's transfer of pensions to a very incompatible plan.
Contrary to the member's view, we are concerned -- I am concerned, in any event -- about employees in this instance. Therefore, I do not agree that the amendment is very practical at all in doing that. It would just put one other possible obstacle in moving to a new place of employment, and that is not practical for anybody concerned.
Mr. McClellan: On a procedural point, Mr. Chairman: We are not kidding anybody here. Since the member for Durham West's amendment is going to pass and my amendment is not going to pass, I guess I need the guidance of the chair as to how we deal with this procedurally. I intend to support the member's amendment. I would ask if perhaps I could move my amendment first and have the discussion at least, and then we can move to the fallback position.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: What I would like to do is stand down the government's section 54, allow the member for Durham West to move his amendment and then maybe the member for Bellwoods can move his or do what he wants with it.
Mr. Ashe: Briefly, on this aspect, what this is recognizing is the principle, which has been agreed to by all parties in this Legislature, to in some way try to recognize inflation-related increases as something that is beneficial to the future of Bill 170 and the whole pension benefit process. Having accepted that as a premise and a general agreement, we all know that there is a committee now looking into how to do that in an appropriate manner, in what fashion, etc. As that committee has not had opportunity to make its recommendations for consideration, it is probably a little premature to try to suggest how this should be done.
But what this section does do is give indication, which is now obviously being supported by the government, that when there finally is some agreement and consensus as to how to implement some form of inflation protection, it must come before this Legislature for adequate hearing and adequate debate before finally becoming the law of the land.
Mr. McClellan: I will start by moving my amendment to Mr. Ashe's amendment and then we will have everything on the floor and can debate it all. Members will have to bear with me for a moment while I read a real inflation protection amendment and move its adoption.
"54(1) Effective the first day of January 1987, every pension plan shall be deemed to provide that an annual inflation adjustment benefit is payable to each person entitled to payment of a pension under the pension plan.
"(2) The annual inflation adjustment benefit in respect of a pension is payable at the same times and in the same manner as the pension, commencing the first month of the year next following the year in which the pension first becomes payable.
"(4) The annual inflation adjustment benefit in respect of a deferred pension shall commence the first day of January 1987, or the first month of the next year following the year in which the person entitled to the deferred pension plan ceases to be employed, whichever is the later.
"A = P x C over D - P, where A is the annual amount in dollars of the annual inflation adjustment benefit payable in the year, P is the sum of the annual amount of the pension payable in the year or, in the case of a deferred pension, the annual amount of the deferred pension that will become payable plus the total of the amounts of the annual inflation adjustment benefits accumulated in the preceding years, C is the average of the consumer price index for Canada over a 12-month period ending September 30 in the previous year and D is the average of the consumer price index for Canada over a 12-month period ending with September 30 in the year immediately preceding the year to which C applies.
"(7) The section applies in respect of every pension or deferred pension payable on or after the date on which this section comes into force and whether or not payment of the pension or deferred pension commenced before such date.
Mr. McClellan: What that algebraic perfection does, very simply, is provide mandatory inflation protection at the level of 100 per cent of the consumer price index. I take for my authority the sacred text written under the name of the Honourable Larry Grossman, QC, Treasurer of Ontario and Minister of Economics of April 1984, the document entitled Ontario Proposals for Pension Reform.
It remains an excellent document. Obviously, I do not agree with all the philosophical premises in the document, but I think it was something of a minor masterpiece to be produced by the government of Ontario. It deals with the question of the cost impact of mandatory inflation protection. I am referring to appendix C, "The Impact of Inflation and Inflation Protection Formulae on Pension Costs."
Without belabouring the point, on page 88 of the appendix is that wonderful chart which shows the sensitivity of cost to inflation and alternative inflation protection formulae, which was the basis for the policy statement made by the previous government that a figure of 60 per cent mandatory inflation protection was acceptable, feasible, rational and doable without disruptive cost impacts.
That was true in 1984 when inflation was about the same as it is today; perhaps a little higher. The study shows that at rates of inflation below double-digit figures, the cost impacts of 100 per cent inflation protection are negligible. The study shows that cost impacts would start to become a difficulty if inflation returned to double-digit figures. The study shows that cost impacts decrease at rates of inflation protection of 60 per cent, obviously because of the impact of the relationship between inflation and fund earnings, the interest accruing on the fund by virtue of profit-taking from interest and investment.
I think a strong and defensible case has been made, not just for 60 per cent inflation protection, but for full inflation protection at 100 per cent of the consumer price index. The documentation is solid. The studies are strong and valid. We have the evidence before us that 60 per cent has no cost impact -- in fact, it has a negative cost impact -- and 100 per cent is manageable.
We know from the evidence before the standing committee on general government that major auto companies, for example, have already awarded inflation protection. The major auto companies came before the standing committee like a group of terrorists and said that if inflation protection were built into the legislation, they would shut down the auto industry and move somewhere else.
The same people revealed under questioning that they already provide a level of inflation protection at about the level of 60 per cent for their own work force and that what they were talking about is the difference between 60 per cent and 100 per cent. If it went to 100 per cent, they would dismantle the auto industry, stop building cars in the Ontario market and hold their breath until they turned blue and dropped dead.
I do not think I have ever heard such an insulting presentation before members of this assembly as the presentations made by General Motors and Ford. Perhaps it was because they were at the beginning of collective bargaining and the pension issue was up front and contra on the bargaining table this year and what they were doing was rehearsing in the most insulting possible way the line they intend to use in collective bargaining. I do not know. I do not know what to make of that incredibly grotesque performance.
I hope it has not frightened my colleagues in the Legislature. I hope the Conservatives, even at this late date, can find the courage to stand by their own policy which, I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman), who is here for the debate, represented mandatory inflation protection at a level of 60 per cent.
I do not know what we will get from the Friedland task force. I intend to support my colleague's amendment if my amendment does not carry, because what the government has done is to end once and for all the confusion that was created by the minister himself when he said the Friedland task force could very well be a feasibility study which would report as to whether inflation protection was possible in the first place. At least that has been dealt with, I assume, by a series of well-placed thumps to the head of the minister from some of his cabinet colleagues.
We have now an amendment, first from the minister, now amended by the member for Durham West, which would provide mandatory inflation protection tied to a formula which will be introduced into the bill at a later date. I think we can do better than that. We have the material that permits us to do better than that and I hope we can do better than that.
I think working people in this province expect that this minority parliament would have dealt with the question of pension reform and would have come up with a reform of the Pension Benefits Act that set a definite level for inflation protection and guaranteed them the right to expect more than the steady deterioration of their purchasing power in their retirement years.
We will have to wait for Friedland, and it could well be a pig in a poke. The Friedland committee contains three representatives: one representing the finance industry, one representing the trade union community and a lawyer chairing. I do not know what to expect from this group. With respect, and I do not prejudge, I have no idea what to expect from this group.
I think we have a responsibility to do what we can here today to provide protection against the ravages of inflation which have destroyed the retirement dreams of a whole generation of Canadians. All of us have members of our own family who have experienced, particularly over the course of the last 10 years of double-digit inflation, the complete extermination of their retirement dreams and hopes. People who thought they were adequately protected with private sector pensions saw their dreams wiped out.
I hope we will deal with this in more than a token way. I cannot help thinking that the fallback position which the ministry has introduced and which the opposition parties are amending and supporting is half a loaf. I think we can do better; I hope we will do better.
Hun. Mr. Kwinter: Notwithstanding the authority of the minor masterpiece, we will not be supporting the amendment of the member for Bellwoods but we certainly will be supporting the amendment of the member for Durham West.
I just want to comment briefly. The Friedland task force is meeting. All members, if they so desire, will have an opportunity to make representations to that task force. I am confident, notwithstanding the comments of the member for Bellwoods, that it will not be a pig in a poke but that the task force will deal with it responsibly and will come forward with recommendations that all parties can accept.
I think it is a responsible way to go. There is obviously a very serious implication. It is something where there certainly is not unanimity, and when you talk to parties, regardless of who they are, depending on where their point of view is, everyone has a different perspective.
It is felt that by bringing together those three gentlemen, who represent varying interests, they can come up, along with their support staff, with something that will be rational, fair, equitable and doable. I am looking forward to that and I am looking forward to supporting the amendment of the member for Durham West.
This party in fact has not backed down from its previous commitment and its previous incarnation, if you will, when we were part of the dialogue across Canada. What we are acknowledging is the fact that it is not just black and white, as the member for Bellwoods would like to point out. There is not just the implications for the car industry in the sense that, yes, it already gives substantial inflation protection. There is no doubt about that at all, but they are also in a very competitive industry.
Once again, we are concerned about the jobs in that industry, even though sometimes the members of the New Democratic Party would enforce legislation that would drive away jobs in this province -- drive them away completely and for ever. We are concerned about people. We are concerned about jobs, and pension legislation is part of that concern. When there are changes to be made, they have to be rational, they have to be thought out in advance and put in force in a practical way.
One of the concerns of the auto industry, quite rightly -- and I have seen some of the numbers, actuarially sound numbers -- would be a comparison to the new part of the automotive industry in Ontario and in Canada that has come in from offshore. They have no current pension liabilities whatsoever, let alone anything from the past. When the member is talking from $200 to $500 of potential extra costs on an automobile in a very competitive industry, that means jobs, but not new jobs; it means lost jobs.
There are also the implications of the reserves, of something mandatory that would not be properly put in place. Again, that is jobs, because if a company does not make any money, believe it or not, it cannot stay in business for ever.
Last but not least, everything that has to be done, I suggest, is geared to increase the percentage of private pension plans that are out there. There is only about 37 per cent covered now. Any kind of a change that would reduce that number is surely not the goal of this Legislature. It is to increase the attractiveness of a plan, yes; a practical approach to increase the numbers of employers that can and will create plans for their employees, so that not too far down the line we are up to 40 per cent, 45, 50 and, ultimately, to aim that nearly everybody in this province will have a private pension plan to supplement government ones. This kind of amendment will not do that.
"54a. Any formula or formulas for inflation-related adjustments to pension benefits, pensions or deferred pensions prescribed by this act shall not increase the requirement for reserves and shall ensure that that portion of inflation-induced surplus attributable to earnings originating from contributions made under the plan in respect of retired plan members shall be distributed to those plan members."
I will begin by saying that I know the minister, who in my experience is a fair-minded person, will take care at some stage in this process to note just how much this bill tracks the work done by the previous government and the then Treasurer. In fact, I do not mind saying it is a source of some modest pride that I share with the Treasury or Financial Institutions staff the completion of this piece of work, on which I personally invested many hours, too many I would think, even though it is now dated three or four years.
I am delighted to see that the government has adopted almost unchanged most of these recommendations. That gives me some degree of gratification that the steps we took as long as three years ago proved they could stand the test of time and proved to be ones acceptable to the current government. So it is with some pride I note the coming passage of this important piece of reform, and I hope the minister will be kind enough to remember some of the fathers of this reform.
In moving the amendment we have just put, it is important for me to put on the record, for the benefit of the minister and his consideration in the policy sense and the consideration of Professor Friedland and his committee, what I remember as the genesis of this amendment. The genesis of this amendment is not a decision made by us at the time to require pension plans to index people against inflation. That was patently a policy we rejected on all counts all across government at the time we were in, in the belief that when you index to inflation, you ensure continuation of inflation.
What we were trying to do was something different. It was not inflation protection, though we adopted that misnomer and I regret that. What we were trying to do was something reflected in appendix C, to which my colleague the member for Bellwoods has referred. Let me read appendix C of the pension reform proposals which I published in April 1984. Paragraph 3 reads, "The real issue underlying mandatory inflation protection is the existence and allocation of the inflation component of pension plan investment earnings."
To emphasize the point made there, it was not to force pension plans suddenly to take the responsibility for indexing to the rate of inflation; rather the real issue was the existence and allocation of an inflation-induced surplus.
It goes on to say, "By mandating inflation protection, pension reform recognizes that a share of the inflation component belongs to plan members and should be used, regularly and predictably, to escalate their benefits." Nothing in here says that the purpose of pension reform ought to be to put a new responsibility on pension plans, to force them to take on the indexing-to-inflation responsibility. I think it says here fairly clearly that the question is the use and allocation of an inflation-induced surplus.
It goes on in the concluding paragraph to reinforce that point. "The issue of inflation protection in pension plans revolves around the existence and allocation of the inflation component of a pension plan's investment earnings. Under existing pension legislation, there are no criteria for the allocation of the inflation component. Plan sponsors have used this to enrich the benefits of active plan members, to lower pension costs or to provide voluntary ad hoc inflation adjustments. In many cases, the inflation component has been withdrawn from plans as part of a declared pension plan surplus."
Here is the key sentence. "By mandating inflation protection, pension reform recognizes that a proportion of the inflation component" -- meaning the inflation-induced surplus -- "belongs to plan members and should be used, regularly and predictably, to escalate their benefits." That is what our amendment today seeks to do.
As my colleague points out, as the auto companies said when they appeared before the standing committee on general government, they have chosen over time to use the inflation-induced surplus to provide the very ad hoc adjustments we are talking about.
There are two important issues there. First, they have not been required by legislation to index to inflation and therefore have not had to set up a massive reserve fund against that future liability. We have tried to adjust the bill to say that nothing we are doing here intends to put on a new reserve requirement. The second point is that companies should only be asked by the government to make sure that the right people share in the inflation-induced surplus. That is all we were trying to do.
In the case of the auto companies, the important point is this: Because of the voting membership of the Canadian Auto Workers, the retired plan members are active voting members of the union. Therefore, they are represented at the negotiating table when the union goes to bargain with the employer.
The genesis of this was that we looked at the 1980-82 period and discovered that inflation had come along and produced massive, unexpected surpluses. Some companies, not the majority and not all, sat down at the negotiating table with the union. Each of the negotiating parties looked at a huge, unexpected surplus and decided to bargain it away to the current employees represented by the union. The retired employees were not at the table, and in too many cases, that inflation-induced surplus was bargained to the current employees.
First, the fact that it did not happen in the auto unions proves precisely the point we are trying to make, which is that this is not an added cost because we are redistributing between benefit recipients, not adding a cost. Second, it proves the point because what we are trying to do is only to make sure that the right employees get that portion of inflation-induced surplus that they ought to be getting. Third, it makes the point that where retired employees are not represented at the table because they no longer vote in the union, there has to be some protection built in for them.
To try to simplify a complex area, the genesis of what has come to be called inflation protection is this: A look and a discovery, retrospectively, that inflation came along and produced unexpected surpluses, that these surpluses were too often, as noted in the report, either bargained away on behalf of improving the pensions for current employees or simply taken back into the company.
I asked this question: What portion of surplus, of whatever size, represents the inflation-induced return on the moneys put in by the retired employees? The answer to that question was the answer kicked out by the formula that my colleague the member for Bellwoods has referred to, in our case 60 per cent. So it was not, and this is a key point, a desire to index pensions to 60 per cent of the rate of inflation. It was a formula that would be a general guide, that would tell a person how much of a surplus was due to the inflation-induced returns on the deferred wages of retired employees.
The actuaries and accountants came back -- l would not understand it; my colleague the member for Bellwoods devised that formula himself but I could not do that -- and they said, "Minister, if inflation is, say, 10 per cent, 60 per cent of the rate of inflation, six per cent, would be the figure you would use to ascertain how much of that surplus rightfully belongs to the retirees."
That is why our amendment is so key. It emphasizes that this is not an attempt to put more cost on pension plans. It is instead simply a process by which we make sure that the people who justifiably are entitled to that surplus get it. It is simply a shift between current employees and retired employees. It is not an added cost. It is simply saying, "This formula will tell you how much you should not give to the current employees out of that surplus and how much should rightfully go to the retirees."
I have spoken to Professor Friedland and relayed this thought to him, as the minister knows. He quite properly pointed out that he had a broader mandate, an inflation protection mandate. What he did do was urge upon me that we not proceed with the 60 per cent formula because he had a lot of work to do. They had updated analyses and a lot of information that he suggested I would like to have before I moved forward with a formula. I respect Dr. Friedland and his counterparts too much to proceed until they have had a chance to have their hearings and analyse that information.
In moving this amendment, what I hope to do is allow this Legislature to give a clear direction to that committee that it does not have. That committee is seeking inflation protection in the classical sense that my colleagues to the left, the New Democrats, seek it. This process, however, started with something very different. It was redistribution of who is entitled to an inflation-induced surplus. I think, with respect, the answer the minister would get from Dr. Friedland would a be far more consistent with the goals of pension plans and what this pension plan reform process was intended to do than the broader question the minister has put to him.
I put the minister and my colleagues on notice that when the report comes back, we will be seeking to do what I have always sought only to do, which is not to add cost to pension plans and not to give pension plans the responsibility of indexing to inflation, but simply to try to arrive at a system whereby the retired person's pension contributions are protected to the extent that when inflation induces a higher-than-expected return on their investments, that return does not go into someone else's hands but goes first to those persons.
In closing, let me emphasize the point. If what we were really talking about was inflation protection, then one would advocate 100 per cent because that is inflation protection. That is why we never endorsed it; it was not inflation protection. If one were seeking to give all inflation-induced surpluses to employees, as the New Democrats would do, one would not have the amendment I put.
I believe the surpluses in pension plans fundamentally have one obligation, that the inflation-induced portion earned on retired people's investments go to the retired employees. The balance of it, provided it is total surplus above the required reserves, does in fact belong to the companies that underwrite the risk of underfunding.
It is not meant to eliminate the surplus or to take it all away from the companies; it is simply meant to ensure that the portion that belongs rightfully, in my view, to the retireds is not either taken into the company or given to the actives.
It is for that reason I wanted to have this amendment moved by our party. I ask the minister seriously to consider the amendment even if it should not pass today -- and I hope it does -- and reflect upon it together with Professor Friedland. As he and his colleagues think carefully about whether what they really want to do is index against inflation or provide protection to retired employees against their earned surpluses being redistributed to others, I suggest what the minister ought to want to do is to deal with redistribution, not added costs and not indexing to inflation, i.e., inflation protection.
Members will notice in the middle of the amendment the phrase "any formula...shall not increase the requirement for reserves." I guess there is a fundamental difference of approach between us and the Conservative Party. The Conservatives are talking, I think, about an excess-interest approach but are ruling out in advance the imposition of additional costs on employers.
That is a neat trick, but I am afraid it is not going to solve the problem of pensioners in our society. One does not rule out, obviously, the use of the excess-interest approach, but a blanket statutory prohibition against increasing cost obligations on pension plan sponsors would be simply to close a number of doors which, quite frankly, need to be kept open if we are going to deal with the question of inflation protection in a meaningful way.
Because the Conservatives have backed away so completely from their previous commitment to inflation protection, if they want an excess-interest approach, I do not know what kind of numbers they are talking about with respect to the valuation interest rate, the real economic return as opposed to the inflation return. My understanding is that actuaries are able to calculate an economic return at somewhere between six and seven per cent. If that is what the Conservatives are talking about, we are still talking about a ripoff. A real economic return should be in the neighbourhood of two or three per cent.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: We will not be supporting the amendment, but I hope the Leader of the Opposition will listen when I say that I really want to take this opportunity to acknowledge his work on a lot of the preparation for this act. There is no secret about it, and I have said before publicly that I acknowledge that the former government put a great deal of work into arriving at the consensus and coming up with a document.
I also want to acknowledge the support of the member for Bellwoods and his input into this process. I hope I am not premature in acknowledging that this has been a co-operative effort. I welcome the co-operation of all the members, especially the member for Durham West. It is something I certainly appreciate.
What I want to say, though, is that I think there has been a fundamental change. It may be one of perception, but certainly it has seemed to me all along that we have been talking about mandatory inflation protection. It would seem that we now have a different perception, that it is not really inflation protection; it is really providing for the allocation of excess interest to those retirees.
I am not in any way saying that is not something that should be looked at, but I think it is not appropriate in this particular context, because what we are really talking about is our commitment to inflation protection. What we are saying is that we are committed to inflation protection, but we do not know quite what the figure should be. That is what the Friedland task force is going to determine.