Mr. Swart: After two and a half years of a Liberal government in this province, the horrendous auto insurance injustice still exists. I want to tell the House about Christine and Jeff Dakin, a young couple who live in my riding. They both drive the same 1978 Pontiac Parisienne and they both have excellent records.
On September 1 of this year, on his way to fight a fire, Jeff’s car slid out of control on slippery pavement and hit a signpost. He is a volunteer firefighter with No. 2 company in Welland. On the advice of his broker, he pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving. Shortly thereafter, they received a letter saying they had not made the broker aware of the charge and that their insurance rate would be increased from $60 a month to $234 a month until their policy expired in June, at which time it would not be renewed. Jeff and Christine have now been quoted premiums of $4,000 a year for the next three years.
If Jeff and Christine lived in Brandon, Manitoba, their insurance would remain the same, although Jeff would have had to pay a one-time surcharge on his driver’s licence of $150. Yet this Liberal government is unashamedly backing and promoting the Ontario private insurance companies, which have been and are perpetrating these horrible kinds of injustices.
Mr. Jackson: The philosophy of education in this province has evolved since the Second World War into a humane process in which children learn at a pace commensurate with their abilities and aptitudes. This philosophy of individualized instruction has moved Ontario to the forefront of education throughout the world.
In the speech from the throne, much was made of returning back to the basics through standard benchmarks, testing and reporting to parents. In addition, the government mentioned the encouragement of the entrepreneurial spirit of children, which will reinforce the competitive nature of children. As necessary and basic as entrepreneurial skills are in the curricula, great care will need to be taken to ensure that pre-established benchmarks do not result in stultifying the pace of both gifted children and those children who have difficulty in keeping pace with their peers in Ontario.
Mr. Beer: I ask members to join me today in congratulating an organization in my riding by the name of Hospice King. Their recent video production, At Life’s End, has been chosen by the Palliative Care Foundation of Canada as the best 1987 professional Canadian production about palliative care services. Hospice King is a community-based home care service for people suffering terminal illness who have chosen to spend their remaining time at home.
Hospice King is one of Canada’s pioneer services in this field. Team volunteers assist the patients and their families to find the greatest satisfaction available within the time remaining by providing support, companionship and friendship through home visits, short-term respite care and around-the-clock availability of volunteer health care professionals. No diagnosis and no age limits are excluded from the Hospice King program.
The video, At Life’s End, was produced to meet the need to educate the people of King township about the services available at the hospice. Its première showing in September was before an audience of 250 representatives of government health and social service agencies and interested citizens. Since then, word has spread about the video and requests for taped copies of it have been received from all parts of the country.
Further to our exchange of both Monday and Tuesday last, I would like to reiterate my frustration at how his ministry is handling health and safety concerns in this province. I am appalled that in a specific case related to him last week his simple answer was that there will not be charges laid against Inco Ltd. I do not believe it is all that simple.
When the ministry itself is responsible for the loss of a file, wherein prosecutions most likely would have occurred, then the ministry must assume responsibility for that incompetence. I cannot believe that nothing further can be done in the way of laying charges. I find it very strange that in a case where charges probably would have been laid, the file is lost before a final determination is made.
Last Tuesday the minister stated that as a consequence of this affair a special investigations officer had been appointed to track cases in the system. The fact that an individual must be put in place solely to follow files through the ministry reinforces the belief that chaos reigns in the Ministry of Labour. It does not bode well for the workers of Ontario. My sense is that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.
Finally, in reference to the minister’s comments that I am stealing other people’s lines, let me say that if the shoe fits, wear it. If he does not like the terms of reference, then he had better do something about the public perception of his ministry.
Mr. Eves: I would like to rise to bring to the government’s attention once again the need for the district of Parry Sound to be included as part of northern Ontario for the purposes of all government ministries, agencies, boards and commissions.
Not so long ago, the parliamentary assistant to the then Minister of Northern Development and Mines, who was one and the same person as the Premier (Mr. Peterson), was in my riding. He is sitting over there squirming a little bit. I do not doubt that he would be. He promised municipal leaders and officials, during the course of a provincial election campaign of course, that Parry Sound district would be included in northern Ontario and that he would be very supportive and make sure the government delivered on this commitment.
I am looking forward with some interest to see whether the government chooses to move on this in one of its next few cabinet meetings -- it takes all of about five minutes of cabinet’s time to take this very initial and important step for the people in Parry Sound district. We have all kinds of assurances from the Premier and other people in government that indeed the district of Parry Sound should be part of northern Ontario.
In its last session, this Legislature unanimously passed that the Parry Sound district should be included in northern Ontario. We are looking forward to people on that side of the House delivering on this commitment, especially the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon), who is also the Deputy Premier. If the Treasurer is not so moved in a cabinet meeting before then, I hope in his upcoming economic statement he will move to give the importance to Parry Sound district that it deserves from every single ministry in this government.
Ms. Bryden: The recent announcement by the Toronto Transit Commission, proposing a five per cent fare increase, effective this January, draws attention to the fact that under the present cost-sharing formula transit riders in Metro pay 68 per cent of TTC operating costs while the province contributes only 16 per cent. In contrast, the province pays close to half of the operating costs of GO Transit.
The Peterson government should immediately increase funding levels for the TTC to end this discrimination against Metro riders, who now pay a larger share of transit costs through the fare box than riders in any other Ontario city.
The proposed fare increases will raise the cash fare from $1 to $1.05 for a one-way ride and will increase the Metropass rate by 5.7 per cent from $43.50 to $46 per month. Tokens and tickets will go up to $7 for eight instead of $5 for six. Hardest hit by these increases will be the low-income earners, the unemployed, the single-parent students, the disabled and seniors.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) my very serious concerns about the sanitary waste problems not only in my county of Wellington but also in Metro and many other parts of the province.
The minister seems concerned about solving major problems of the world such as acid rain but he does not pay much attention to the problems relating to small rural municipalities such as Fergus, Elora and Nichol township. The member for Norfolk (Mr. G. I. Miller) will realize that some of the places he was in not long ago do have a problem with sanitary waste.
They are looking at energy from waste facilities, recycling and many other ways of solving the problem. What they need is leadership from the Minister of the Environment to provide them with the kind of incentives to encourage them to take that direction instead of simply burying the garbage.
Companies in Ontario, like those across Canada, know they must have a competitive edge to thrive in international and domestic markets. In 1985, Ontario manufacturers exported more than $55 billion in goods and employed more than one million people. However, some manufacturing industries are more sensitive than others to the pressure of international trade. The proposed free trade agreement will heighten these sensitivities.
In 1986-87, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology consulted with the representatives of manufacturing industries that are the major employers and exporters in the province. We needed to know how well they thought they could do under a trade agreement with the United States and what advantages and risks would be imposed on their industries.
In the summer of 1987, the initial version of this report was forwarded to the federal government for comment. Our discussions resulted in a report that is called The Sectoral and Regional Sensitivities of Ontario Manufacturing Industries to Tariff Reductions. I am releasing this report today and an executive summary is available which outlines the findings.
The report concludes that there are 400,000 jobs at risk to increased imports from the United States as a result of the proposed trade pact. These jobs are found in 74 different industries located throughout the province. Even those industries which responded favourably to the federal initiative based their support on obtaining secure access to the US market, free from trade harassment. The proposed free trade pact does not achieve this goal.
Let me say how much I value the advice and years of experience that members of my advisory council bring to their work as we co-operate in the job of achieving full social and economic equality for disabled persons.
I would like to point out that the council now has a new name -- the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons. This is an important name change, which reflects a broadening of their sphere of concern. The Ontario government is committed to finding solutions to many issues affecting all disabled persons. The new name of the council emphasizes that fact.
The assistance of the advisory council is crucial as the Ontario government shapes policy to improve opportunities for disabled persons in employment, independent living, education and transportation.
Last year the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons prepared an excellent and in-depth report on transportation issues affecting disabled persons entitled The Freedom to Move is Life Itself. The report was produced with the co-operation of the Ontario Advisory Council on Senior Citizens and represents a tremendous investment of effort and time.
The Freedom to Move is Life Itself addresses short-term, medium-term and long-term goals and makes 56 recommendations aimed at solving transportation problems for disabled persons and seniors. The interministry committee on accessible transportation is reviewing the report and will present all of its recommendations in the new year.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: As the throne speech noted, our health care system does an excellent job of treating people who are ill; but our government is on record as supporting a concept of health which gœs beyond the treatment of disease.
In recent years, we have seen tremendous growth in new medical technologies, new procedures and new patterns of care. Paralleling these developments has been a change in our basic attitudes and understanding about health itself.
This new attitude says that health is much more than the treatment of illness. Instead, health is seen as a resource for everyday living, and people should be given encouragement and incentives to protect that resource. This attitude of health promotion says that our six biggest killers, our six biggest health threats -- including cancer, trauma and heart and stroke disease -- are largely preventable.
In the last year, our government has received three studies on the state of our health and health care future. Two of these reports, that of the Ontario Health Review Panel, chaired by Dr. John Evans, and the Panel on Health Goals for Ontario, chaired by Dr. Robert Spasoff, have already been made public. Both reports have recommended, among other things, that Ontarians be encouraged and given the incentives to take more personal responsibility for their own health and that government must become serious about health promotion.
Today, I am pleased to table in the House the third and final link in this stocktaking process, the Podborski report on health promotion in Ontario. We believe it will help our government plan that healthy public policy to which Evans and Spasoff referred.
The report is a direct result of public discussion with citizens in nine Ontario communities on their health needs and expectations. By going to the source -- the people of Ontario -- the group learned exactly what people think of their health and the factors affecting it.
We will always need the expert care of our hospitals and health care professionals. What the Podborski report -- indeed all three reports -- are suggesting is that we must broaden our understanding of health and the health system to include those programs that keep people well.
With the announcement of the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy, our government has made a commitment to reorient the Ontario health system towards the prevention of disease and not just the treatment of illness. Our $100-million health innovation fund will allow us to try out several new health options and choices, and programs that emphasize health promotion and disease prevention will be a priority of this fund.
We have established a new health promotion branch whose staff is currently helping to implement a $2.5-million program of community health promotion grants and healthy lifestyles advertising. This effort, a first for the Ontario government, involves the distribution of matenals to groups to carry out health promotion on their own, grants for nonprofit groups for worthwhile health promotion activities and the development of a sophisticated healthy lifestyles campaign.
We expect these efforts, as they get under way in earnest, will be reinforced by the Podborski report. Members of the Pod squad, as they are known in the Ministry of Health, were supposed to be in the visitors’ gallery today; they will be here later this afternoon. I will introduce them when they arrive, but I would like to thank them in advance for the thorough manner in which they undertook their assignment.
Their report will be an important resource as we work to establish health promotion, whether it is showing people how to manage stress -- especially here in the Legislature -- and avoid heart disease, or teaching young, disadvantaged mothers-to-be about proper nutrition as part of everyday living.
Mr. B. Rae: I want to reply to the statement that has come under the name of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. Kwinter) and again emphasize that although these studies are all very well, they are hardly news. In fact, they represent precisely the views that were expressed to the select committee on economic affairs more than two years ago and simply confirm precisely the statements that have been made for some time.
We, of course, can now expect to be receiving reports on an almost daily basis. I suspect we will receive one soon from the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell) and from a number of other individuals in the House with respect to the studies the government has been preparing.
However, I do think the government has to make up its mind; that is to say, it cannot make a statement saying that 400,000 jobs are at risk and then not tell the House what it intends to do to make sure those jobs are protected. The government cannot come into the House and say the sky is going to fall in and have no plan or provision to deal with the consequences of what it is announcing. It will not do for the minister to come before us in this House and make statement after statement saying, “This sector is going to be devastated; this sector is going to be devastated; jobs are going to be lost here,” and then throw up his hands and say, “I wish we could do something about it.”
Mr. R. F. Johnston: I would like to welcome the minister’s first statement in the House as minister and welcome the change in the title of the advisory committee to include more disabled people than just the physically handicapped. His predecessor’s habit was mostly one of spending money on pictures of himself to be sent around the province; we will just hope that in the future we will not see the situation in the last annual report, where even in a letter to the minister, his predecessor somehow got his picture on it. I hope we will not see that happen next time.
As always, the advisory committee is careful in its wording and its criticism of government but helpful in what it focuses on; less noisy perhaps than some of us who have been critics in the past, but talking about issues that are of vital importance. I would like to draw to the minister’s attention a couple of those we have been talking about a great deal.
One is the recommendation about a universal disability insurance plan for Ontario. I would ask the minister to make this one of his concentrations over the next little while. The other is the concern about employment equity, something on which I do not believe we have yet seen the follow-up action we were expecting from this government. Finally, if the minister will note the comments about accessibility to housing in Ontario, it says that all high-rise buildings should be totally accessible to the handicapped and not just segments of them, which is present government policy.
Mr. Reville: I want to respond briefly to the announcement by the Minister of Health (Mrs. Caplan) today of the tabling of the report called Health Promotion Matters in Ontario. I think everyone in the House will have no trouble in agreeing with some of the sentiments expressed in the minister’s statement, but I might point out that this is not news, and in fact it is typical of the style of this government to regurgitate ad nauseam stuff that is not news and then to say that it is committed to studying the concept which it has borrowed from generations past of health promotion advocates.
I think we should be grateful that the Pod squad has, in fact, managed to collect a lot of the wisdom of many years in a nice book, but this government has already generated lots of nice books and has generated little in terms of real action. It seems to me it is past time when we should be talking about puny amounts like $2.5 million in community health program grants when it has already been demonstrated over and over again in tiny little projects that struggle to deliver their mandate that, in fact, health promotion is what we should be doing in the province and what we should have been doing over these many years. I, frankly, am finding it very stressful to hear the Minister of Health talk again about being interested in health promotion but doing almost nothing about it.
Mr. Brandt: I would like to respond briefly to the report that was released by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. Kwinter) and also in reference to the comments he has made. It is interesting to note that the reports being released by the minister are, in fact, telling us about jobs that are “at risk” or that are sensitive, but on all of the occasions that we have received releases of reports in this House the minister has not as yet identified any job gains that are going to be realized as a result of a trade deal that would be entered into with the United States.
He knows full well that there are two sides to the coin and he knows, as well, that Ontario has benefited very substantially by a reduction in tariffs through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations over the years and that what they are talking about with respect to a free trade deal is, in fact, a level playing field that would make the trade activities between ourselves and the US more fair and more equitable than they are now.
The minister may gain a headline tomorrow saying that 400,000 Ontario jobs will be lost, but I can tell him that headline will be totally inaccurate because there are many other studies that have come to an entirely different conclusion than the one he has presented to us this afternoon. The national economic council has indicated that 350,000 net new jobs will be created in Canada as a result of a trade deal with the US. That runs absolutely contrary to the kind of information the minister is presenting before us.
Also, there is no reference whatever to how many of those 400,000 jobs would be at risk without a trade deal. Last week when the Minister of Labour (Mr. Sorbara) made some comments with regard to 100,000 jobs, primarily female jobs, being lost as a result of a trade deal with the US, it was pointed out very clearly in the last report that was released that some of those jobs are now at risk as a result of competition from Third World countries.
We know full well that the trade arrangement that has been entered into at the moment, which is to be ratified in the near future, calls for an adjustment period of one, five and 10 years, and it is interesting to note that the very industries the minister has identified in his report have in many instances already indicated they can live with that. Industries that are represented by the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, banks, accountants and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have all indicated they are in favour of a trade agreement, yet the minister’s report comes out and once more highlights nothing other than the negative side without giving us a balanced and I think fairer picture of what will actually happen under free trade. When is the minister going to come forward with the other reports, which are in his ministry, regarding the net job gains that would be realized from a trade package?
Mrs. Marland: I would like to join in commendation of the Ontario Advisory Council for Disabled Persons on this very excellent report. However, I would like to point out to the government that the report it refers to in the statement by the minister today, The Freedom to Move is Life Itself, in fact was a report that was issued in March 1987. I am rather disappointed to read in this statement today that a report issued in March 1987 is to be referred to the interministry committee on accessible transportation. They are to review the report and will present their recommendations in the new year.
I have to ask how long it takes to review a report from March 1987 and not consider any recommendations until the new year. When we look at the number of disabled people in Ontario, we are talking about in excess of half a million people. The Premier (Mr. Peterson) announced in his campaign when he was reaching the height of enthusiasm of his re-election announcements that there would be $84 million in the next five years to improve transportation for the disabled. I suggest that $84 million over five years is simply not enough to address the problem, nor is it coming quickly enough.
Mr. Swart: I have a question for the Minister of Financial Institutions. I am sure he will be aware that just a few days ago the universities of Canada decided they would institute their own nonprofit self-operated insurance system to get away from the ripoff of the private insurance companies. He will also know this follows similar action by Ontario hospitals, school boards, rural municipalities, architects, lawyers and various other groups.
Given the success of these self-operated plans -- and they all say they are extremely successful -- why does the minister reject out of hand a nonprofit, self-operated, driver-owned system for the motorists of this province?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: The honourable member will know that the government of Ontario was supportive and in fact instrumental in the reciprocal types of insurance he is referring to, particularly as it pertains to our schools. The present House leader, the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway), was very much involved in the initiative for reciprocal insurance for school boards, hospitals and a variety of other provincial institutions. Only the municipalities have not proceeded in any enthusiastic way with reciprocal insurance.
Even the government of Ontario itself is self-insuring and if, God forbid, anything were to happen to this fine building and it had to be replaced, we would simply have to turn to the taxpayers rather than insurance underwriters in that connection.
The member is talking about a driver-owned automobile insurance alternative. In the case of a good many of my constituents, they are insured with the Co-operators insurance, which like other mutual companies is legally owned by the insurers. Everybody has that alternative available.
Mr. Swart: The minister must know that the Co-operators is not a co-operative insurance company but that it is a part of the present system in Ontario that has been ripping off the motorists of this province. Does the minister not realize the tremendous savings these nonprofit, self-operated insurance exchanges are providing? For instance, the universities estimate they are going to save $2 million to $3 million for the universities in Canada. The hospitals’ self-operated, nonprofit insurance system is saving about $7 million in Ontario this year.
Given that auto insurance premiums in this province now approximate some $3 billion annually, will he not have an independent firm of financial consultants such as Woods Gordon do a comprehensive comparison of the nonprofit, driver-owned auto insurance system in the three western provinces, compared to the exploitive, unjust system in this province?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: The member will know that we have before the House now a very well constructed and well-thought-out bill which we hope will be debated and approved just as soon as the throne speech debate is completed. We look forward to the constructive type of debate that we always get from the honourable members on all sides, particularly the member for Welland-Thorold, and as soon as we get it carried, if we do, and get it reviewed by a committee, we hope to appoint a rate review board which is going to be in the best interests of the consumers of automobile insurance services right across this province.
Mr. Harris: I have a note here that the Premier (Mr. Peterson) is due at about 2:30. I understand he is on a phone-in show from the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, up to his knees in something. Unfortunately, that is more important than the Legislature, so I will ask a question to the Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek).
Mr. Harris: The question was what we have gotten out of it. So far, I assume from that that the minister has not read it or that staff did not give the minister a briefing note on anything that is in it.
The Premier, as leader of the official opposition, three years ago called on the government of the day “to do the humane thing and put the commission out of its misery.” The minister’s boss also charged that the commission had lost all credibility and should he abolished.
Last year, an aide to the former Minister of Housing was reported as saying: “It doesn’t matter what Mr. Thom concludes. If we don’t like it, we will dismiss what he says, and if we do like it, we will say, ‘Isn’t this wonderful?’”
Given these facts, can the minister tell us why her government spent nearly $1.5 million over the last two years on a commission which it claims had no credibility, to get a report which it indicated it intends to ignore?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: The Thom commission report is indeed completed, it is in the process of being translated and it will be up to the members of the House to see, when it is released, how much credibility they believe it has. We believe it has some things to say that people may find interesting.
Mr. D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the Treasurer. Why, right after the stock market crash, did he indicate that pension indexation may have to be delayed as a result of the stock market crash, when one considers that the annual return in Canadian pension funds in the past 10 years, on average, has been 14.2 per cent, that the average yearly total return on the Toronto Stock Exchange 300 over the past two years has been 16.7 per cent and that it is estimated there is still at least a $10-billion surplus in pension plans? Why would the minister’s immediate reaction be that the people who have paid into these pension plans, the workers, are going to have to be further penalized by not having indexation because of the stock market crash?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: To begin with, it was not a very useful comment on my part. Second, I thought it was quite important that we find out just what effect the reduction in the portfolio of stocks held would have on the viability and the surplus, as is in most cases the fact, in the various private pension plans that are under the jurisdiction of the Pension Commission of Ontario. I have looked into that, and while I cannot verify the information that has come from the honourable member, the fact that in a good many cases the losses in stocks are balanced by gains and improvements on bonds is certainly a part of the factual position.
I would say further to the member that while we await the report of the special committee that is going to advise the government on indexing, recognizing that the bill that has been approved by the House recognizes and accepts the principle of indexing, we are going to have to look at all the changing factors that relate to it. I do not really apologize for the fact that those matters have got to be considered, and they will be.
However, does the minister understand that a very small portion of the pension funds are actually in stocks, about $35 billion out of $129 billion? Does he also remember that when the committee that was studying pensions was talking about indexation, companies like Ford, General Motors and Chrysler made presentations and said that if their pension plans were indexed, they would go broke? They very recently negotiated contracts that indexed their pension plans for their employees.
Would the minister give us a commitment today that pension indexation is fair and that when the report is received, the government will proceed quickly so that workers can get their fair share in return on their pension funds?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: Mr. Speaker, you would be aware that the government of the day took the initiative in presenting legislation to this House that accepted the principle of indexation, and that has been approved by the House; it is now the law of the land. When the report --
Hon. R. F. Nixon: Who could possibly have put pressure on us to do that? It does not make sense. It was simply a decision taken on its merits. Further, we are awaiting with a great deal of interest the report that will be forthcoming, and the government action of the day will be announced at the appropriate time. I do not think there is any great battle about this thing; indexing is now a part of our legislated law.
Mr. Sterling: l have a question of the Attorney General. On June 8 of this year, he stated it was his intention to have the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act proclaimed on either September 1 or October 1. We have been continually denied reports and information that would be available under the freedom-of-information act. I can understand why he did not have it proclaimed during the election period, but now October 1 has long since past. He took two years to have this legislation carried through this Legislature, when it was the first bill introduced by his government in 1985. Are we going to see the freedom-of-information act proclaimed before this session rises for Christmas?
Hon. Mr. Scott: I thank the honourable member for his question. I recognize his commitment to freedom of information over a long period of time, and I recognize that he has found it a constant frustration that over 15 years he could never get his party or the government which it formed to take the slightest step in releasing information. Now, I too am concerned that there should be access to information, and I know that the press and others are lined up to get as much information as they can about what went on during the last 42 years. I do not intend, frankly, to impede that --
But as the honourable member knows, we intend that the bill will be effective January 1. The interim acting commissioner is already in place assembling his staff and developing an office, and it will not be long before this Legislature will be asked, on address, to appoint him formally.
January 1 is the date, and I join with the honourable member and, I am sure, the members of all parties in saying that after 40 years, this is a significant achievement of which all those who supported the bill throughout can be proud.
Mr. Sterling: I think it is important to know that it is being declared on January 1 because of an amendment I introduced during that particular hearing, but it could not be proclaimed later than that particular date. The only reason we are now seeing it is a matter of the opposition’s attempt to get it forward.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I want to make plain that I am very grateful for the efforts the honourable member has made in support of this legislation. His efforts to persuade -- to suborn, if necessary -- the attitude of his caucus over many years, to trick them, if that is not unparliamentary, into supporting legislation to which they have never exhibited the slightest commitment, have been a major achievement, and I am grateful to the honourable member for the creative role he played. For my part, I think his leadership campaign should be able to raise the prospect to commitment to freedom of information às a sign on his escutcheon.
Mr. Wildman: I have a question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Would the minister be prepared to grant additional financial assistance under subsection 5(2) of the Ontario Unconditional Grants Act to those municipalities within the jurisdiction of the Central Algoma Board of Education whose ratepayers have experienced unreasonable increases in levies this year because of the 1986 underlevies by the board of education?
Mr. Wildman: Is the minister aware that while some of the levies remained the same this year, those that went up substantially went up because last year the Ministry of Education apparently gave wrong advice to the board and, as a result, underlevied substantially, so that we now have a situation where levies are increasing between 50 per cent and 100 per cent in some municipalities for educational purposes.
If the minister is prepared to give assistance to the municipalities that have been hurt this way, can he indicate what, if anything, this government is prepared to do to assist those ratepayers in the unorganized communities in that area who are also experiencing significant increases because of the errors made last year?
Mr. Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services. My question relates to provincial vacancies on the board of management of Belvedere Heights home for the aged. It is a letter that was sent on October 14 from the chairman of that board, James White, to the Minister of Community and Social Services, and I quote from the letter:
“On August 31, 1987, our administrator, Mr. Jack Agema, received a telephone call from one Mrs. Geraldine Walker advising that she had been appointed to the board of Belvedere Heights, effective July 1, 1987, a date two full months before. Shortly thereafter, one of our board members was advised on the street by Mr. Don Heidman that he expected to be the other provincial appointee. However, neither seemed to regard their new appointment of sufficient importance either to attend or to advise the administration of their unavailability to attend the board meeting on September 9. Neither myself, as chairman, nor the home’s administrator have yet received any formal notification of the change in appointees. In fact, the Sudbury office of your ministry is as ignorant of developments as we are.
“It is very disturbing to learn of board appointments in the manner outlined above. I am extremely disappointed that the ministry has not afforded the home the courtesy of an official notification of the changes.”
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: What the member just described, in fact, did happen. It is unacceptable, and I sincerely hope the new procedures we have put in place will prevent it from ever happening again. It was a member of my staff who did not do what that member was supposed to do. That member is no longer with my staff, and that is all I can say.
Mr. Eves: I suppose the qualifications of these two people have nothing to do with the fact that Geraldine Walker was the defeated candidate seeking the Liberal nomination in Parry Sound riding in the last provincial election. She is currently the vice-president of the provincial Liberal riding association and a director of the federal Liberal riding association. Don Heidman is the treasurer of the provincial riding association, and he is also director of the federal Liberal association. I presume that has absolutely nothing to do with their qualifications or how this was gone about.
Can the minister give us his assurance that there are no more of these skeletons in his closet, in either Parry Sound riding or anywhere else? Can he outline for us what are the new procedures he just referred to?
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: I can assure the honourable member that my reference to inappropriate procedures had nothing to do with the qualifications of the people who in fact were appointed -- absolutely nothing.
With respect to the second part of the question, I can advise the honourable member that as soon as a renewal or a lapse of membership on a board like that comes up, the person who is currently on the board will be notified well in advance that it is going to happen. The chairman of the board of directors will be notified at the same time.
As soon as another person has been approached and has agreed to accept the new position, once again the chairman of the board will be notified, the person who is being replaced will be notified and, obviously, the person who is going to get the new placement will be notified. That is what did not happen in the past; that is what is being changed.
Mr Reville: I have a question for the minister of health. The Ministry of Health operates a dungeon which is called, in local parlance, the Ridge. It is referred to as Oak Ridge by those of us who do not live in the Penetanguishene-Midland area, and it is called a lot of other things.
In December 1985, Dr. Hucker, who was a consultant commissioned by the previous government to look at Oak Ridge, recommended that it be replaced. In December 1986, the previous Minister of Health of the current government suggested that it should be replaced, and again in April 1987. Now, in October 1987, the Liberal house organ, the Toronto Star, has also suggested that it be replaced.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: I am pleased to respond to the Health critic, and I am familiar with the Oak Ridge issue. I am also aware of the structural limitations of the Oak Ridge facility and of the report of Dr. Hucker.
Many of the steps which have been recommended have already been implemented recruitment of additional medical and nursing staff, enhancement of recreational facilities, electrical upgrading, installation of kitchenettes, laundry rooms and stall showers, renovation to provide physiotherapy rooms and a new admissions ward, reorganization of hospital administration and the establishment of a co-ordinated program for the development and training of staff. Discussions with the federal government are under way as well concerning a new maximum security hospital.
Mr. Reville: It seems that the Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek) and the Minister of Health get together and plan the style of answer. I am not interested in all those wonderful recommendations that are being implemented. What I am interested in is knowing what the schedule is for the replacement of the Oak Ridge facility, a facility which is called by the psychiatrist-in-chief a time bomb.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: Yes, I share the concern of the critic, and I believe that this cannot happen in a time frame which will be acceptable to the critic. I am aware that whatever course of action we take on this, he will tell me it is not fast enough or quick enough. We are making progress in implementing the recommendations of Dr. Hucker, and I share his concern for the people who are at Oak Ridge. I say to him that we are moving on it as expeditiously as we can.
Mr. Wiseman: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Shortly after this minister took office, I had a commitment from him and his office that Highway 29 between Carleton Place and Franktown would be reconstructed, and up until this year that commitment was followed: He bought the land and moved the services. But the highway was to be reconstructed in 1987. We found in 1987 that it was put off for this year and perhaps another year.
In view of the fact that there have been about 130 serious accidents on that road over the last three years, 32 of them serious accidents and eight to nine of those resulting in death; in view of the fact that he has made a commitment; and with the condition of this highway and the number of accidents and the numbers of deaths, would the minister give a commitment today to the people of Lanark-Renfrew and all the people who use that section of road that he will reconstruct it early in 1988?
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I thank my friend for the question. He would be aware, of course, that there are times when, because of soil conditions or weather conditions, as we have experienced, some projects are delayed. But I certainly will give him the undertaking to review the circumstances, and certainly the accident rate around Highway 29, to see if there is something that can be done to speed up that project.
Mr. Wiseman: I would ask the minister, in view of the fact that the Liberal candidate in the last election said he had it from a reliable source that if he were elected, that section of highway would be reconstructed at once; and in view of the answer he gave me just a few minutes ago and the added money that was pumped in prior to and during the election for additional highway construction, does he not think it about time that he stop playing politics with the lives of the people of Lanark-Renfrew and all the people who use that highway to get to and from their tourist establishments? Will he not give that commitment to them today? Does he not think he owes it to them?
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I would not want to be sitting over in those benches and suggest for a minute that we have used highways as election gimmicks in this province. I could start with Highway 1 and finish around 699. We will not even talk about Highways 16 and 17 down his way.
But of course, as I said in my first response, I would be only too happy to take a review of the situation relative to Highway 29, as the member has indicated. Certainly where highway safety is concerned, this government is out front, and has been. As I answered in a question the other day, fatalities in this province for the first time in over 20 years have taken a significant downturn. It shows where our priorities are.
Mr. B. Rae: A question to the Premier: I welcome the Premier back from the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and say to him that he was apparently aware 10 days ago, according to what he has told the press, of a preliminary finding by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade panel with respect to the sale and distribution of wine and beer in Canada and the penetration of our markets by other countries. That is a fact he chose to conceal from the House last week when he had an opportunity to make it very clear that he understood what the ruling was.
There were meetings, we gather, on Friday at which Ontario was represented, and in fact Canada is presenting a position today at meetings with the European Community countries. I wonder if the Premier can tell us precisely what position Ontario has been taking in those discussions.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Ontario has not formally put forward a position to the federal government in that regard. There may well be some meetings -- I have read about them as well -- I gather in Europe with respect to this particular ruling. We are in the process of consulting very widely at the moment with the industries affected: the wine industry, the grape growers and the beer industry as well as the liquor industry.
As my honourable friend will know, this is potentially a very damaging ruling. I should tell him, though, that it is not a final ruling. As I understand them, the way the GATT rules operate is that, shall we say, a draft ruling or preliminary ruling is put forward. That is not published. That is not made public. It is only if there is a failure to negotiate a satisfactory settlement that there is a ruling. That is expected, barring some negotiation, in the November 25 and 26 area.
As my honourable friend will also know, it is a ruling against Canada and not against a particular province, even though we are involved in this, so there are serious constitutional questions involved in this. There are precedent questions as well as relationships not only with GATT but also with our sister provinces in that regard. We are consulting widely. Nothing definitive has been put forward but I can tell my honourable friend there have been a substantial number of meetings with the industries affected over the last few days.
Mr. B. Rae: I do not think I heard an answer to my question. The government of Ontario has been at meetings. The Premier cannot deny the fact that meetings have been held with other provinces and with the government of Canada to put forward a common position. If one is going to negotiate, one has to have a position from which to negotiate. What is Ontario’s negotiating position in the discussions that have taken place with the federal government? There must be some position that is being taken by the government of Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: As I said to my honourable friend, the answer to his question is not there at the moment. We are consulting very widely with the wine industry, the beer industry and others that are potentially affected. I think everyone understands the potential seriousness of this ruling. If he is asking me if a negotiating position is being put on the table as of this moment, the answer is no.
Mr. B. Rae: Can the Premier explain what kind of negotiated settlement can be possible if one of the parties representing the heart of the wine industry in this country, representing the heart of the grape-growing industry in this country, representing the most substantial brewing industry in this country -- if he does not have a position, if the government of Ontario does not have a position going to the negotiating table, how can anyone expect people on the other side to take the government of Ontario, or indeed the government of Canada, seriously on this question?
I would like to ask the Premier precisely, what is the position of the government of Ontario with respect to the preliminary ruling he knew about 10 days ago and did not even have the courtesy to inform the House about when those very matters were being discussed, when he said it was a ruling that had not yet come down when he was personally aware of precisely what that preliminary ruling was?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I think my honourable friend is getting exercised. I have read his comments about it. I have read his reaction to the way we have handled this situation. I have also read his reaction that he feels we should fight, that we should not do anything in this particular regard, that we should disregard the rules of GATT and let the consequences be damned. I understand his view in that situation but let me say that it is a far more complicated situation than that.
Obviously, there are negotiations that have to go on at two levels: number one, with the industry, other provinces and the federal government; number two, if there is a common position, that will be negotiated with GATT. As I tell my honourable friend, that has not been determined at the moment. If and when it is and if it is appropriate to share it with him, I will.
Mr. B. Rae: One would expect that when there is a basic industry with thousands of jobs at stake, the Premier of this province would be prepared to say that he is going to stand up and fight for those jobs and that this is going to be the position of the government of Ontario, instead of the wool he has put forward today.
Mr. B. Rae: By way of second question to the Premier, the second round of bumf which has come out of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology with respect to free trade, which was deposited today in the House by the minister, contains this comment in the executive summary: “Therefore, adjustment programs must be flexible and wide-ranging, individualized according to need and circumstances. Adjustment assistance must address marketing, production, technology and skills training as well as assistance to dislocated workers.”
Will the Premier not agree that the people of Ontario are getting a very mixed message from the minister? This is now the second statement he has made to the House indicating almost tacitly that an agreement is going to take place and that the question for Ontario is not whether to fight the free trade agreement but what kind of adjustment assistance to bring down. This is the second occasion on which the minister has done this. I wonder if the Premier can tell us what the position of the government of Ontario is. Has the government accepted the deal and is now talking about adjustment assistance or is the government going to move heaven and earth in order to see that this free trade agreement does not happen in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Unlike my honourable friend, I do not have a direct line to heaven in this regard, but let me say that we are completely against the deal. My honourable friend understands this. We are doing everything we can to assist in a detailed discussion of the effects of this particular deal as well as any potential ramifications that would come if it were implemented. That being said, we are against it and we are doing what we can to persuade Canadians it is not in the national interest.
Mr. B. Rae: The Premier had better have a look at what his minister is saying. His minister is talking about adjustment assistance and the assistance that is going to be necessary when the deal comes through -- and this is the second occasion on which that has happened -- but apart from publishing reports, what is the Premier going to do to stop the deal?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I have said before and I will say again that ultimately the resolution of this question will be at a national level. It will be in a political forum and there will be an election on this issue some time in the not-too-distant future. The member has heard his national leader speak on this question, and the leader of the Liberal Party as well as the Prime Minister on this matter.
Treaty-making is within the purview of the federal government. That being said, all Canadians have a responsibility to put forward their views in whatever way they so choose. I would argue with my friend opposite that Ontario has put forward its position in a very thoughtful way, not just based on emotion and rhetoric and simple things like, “You have to fight, fight, fight,” but on a very thoughtful analysis of the situation.
I believe that as this debate unfolds, more and more Canadians will become familiar with the reason Ontario took the position it did, and hopefully, when the resolution is taken at the federal level, they will agree with our point of view.
Mr. B. Rae: The professorial approach the Premier has taken today stands in quite remarkable contrast to, “That’s my bottom line; I’m going to fight, fight, fight,” which was the position he took during the election campaign. If it is good enough to win votes in an election campaign, why is it not good enough for the people of Ontario when he and the 95 members of his Red Army chorus have the ability to actually do something on behalf of the people of the province?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: As I told my honourable friend, we are examining all the constitutional aspects of this deal, all the parts that would fall potentially under provincial jurisdiction. My honourable friend has referred in the past to the wine situation. I told him then that this was further complicated by the potential GATT ruling as well as the potential 301 ruling.
The Attorney General (Mr. Scott) is looking at all aspects of the matter constitutionally, and we will share with the member any aspects we have if there are aspects exclusively under provincial control that could, as we say, end the deal. That answer is not apparent at the moment, but if my honourable friends have some ideas, then I would be delighted to hear them.
Mr. Brandt: My question as well is to the Premier. It is in regard to the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade ruling with respect to the wine and beer industry. Will the Premier clarify for us the position of his government relative to the recent comments of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. Kwinter), where he has indicated that in fact Ontario may not abide by the GATT ruling?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I am happy to clear that up for the member. Both the minister and myself were asked innumerable questions by very thoughtful members of the press. One of the questions coming forward is, could Ontario not abide by this deal? I think that is a theoretical possibility and I want to put it in those terms; it is a theoretical possibility.
Obviously, one would have to contemplate the consequences of so doing, of turning our backs on GATT. Even though we may not agree with every ruling, particularly as it affects us, we have traditionally in the past respected that body and the rules it has put forward; Canada, after all, being an original signator. We have to figure out the consequences and relationships with the federal government, other provinces and our industries as well as with GATT; so there are many aspects to determine. I think, as l understand it, the minister shared the particular view that this is one of the potential options and the answer was given in that context.
Mr. Brandt: It is interesting to note that last year the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) indicated that one of the options available in the dispute over softwood lumber would be a referral to either the US courts or to GATT as being an appropriate decision-making body. Is the Premier now saying that GATT is in effect not the appropriate decision-making body?
We know what his position is on free trade. He is opposed to it, although he cannot do anything about it, apparently, from his response to the questions from the leader of the official opposition. But relative to GATT and in the context of whether that is the international tribunal he feels should make a decision in these matters: now that he has a decision he does not like, is he taking GATT off the table as a means of resolving disputes, as well as the free trade agreement?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Not at all, may I say to my honourable friend, but the other aspect one has to ask oneself in this discussion is whether that ruling violated any of our established constitutional precedents in this regard. As the member knows, it was a ruling against the national government but it affects areas of provincial jurisdiction. I am told that some other countries are concerned about this, other federal states such as Australia, Germany and others who have delegated certain areas of responsibility to their provinces. So the question that bears some examination, I say to my friend, is whether this judgement was legally flawed and whether it could be looked at from that point of view. That is one of the options the government is pursuing. I am very mindful of the legitimacy of GATT and it is something we generally support.
Mr. Brandt: In terms of the almost knee-jerk reaction, the kinds of responses we have seen come forward, and recognizing that for the last two or three years, certainly the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, the previous minister and the current minister, would have been aware that a GATT ruling was coming down and could very well be negative in terms of its impact on the Ontario industry, why would the government not anticipate that ruling and attempt to do something about it in advance instead of now indicating that GATT may have brought in a flawed decision? The Premier has done nothing.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: That is a typical line of questioning my honourable friend raises. Every time there is an earthquake, he will say, “Why did we not anticipate it?” If it were a tornado, he would say, “Why did we not anticipate it?” Maybe the member knew about it when he was the minister. Why did he not do something about it? I can tell my honourable friend that lots of people knew it was before a GATT panel. Everybody knew a decision was coming. I shared that in the House before. Nobody knew specifically the results of that, vis-à-vis wine and/or beer and/or distilled liquor. It is reasonable, I guess, for the member to say: “Why did you not prevent this? It is going to rain tomorrow. Why do you not do something about it?” But these things happen in life, as I am sure my friend knows.
Mr. Brandt: The Premier indicated with respect to Bill 51, and I am going to try to quote him so that he will remember exactly what he said in regard to this matter, “This bill, Bill 51, is seen by thoughtful, moderate observers to be a solution that protects both sides, the landlord and the tenant.” I would like to ask the Premier a very direct and simple question that has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is going to rain tomorrow or whether there is going to be an earthquake tomorrow. Is it possible for a landlord to receive a decision in regard to Bill 51 that in fact gives a higher settlement in terms of the rent that is allowable than what that landlord actually applied for?
Mr. Jackson: Last week the minister was unwilling or unable to advise this House with specifics about whether or not whole building reviews have been applied for and have been approved by her ministry. Even though almost a year ago the Premier assured this House that this bill was going to be helpful to tenants, today he appears not to know the answer to the question if a landlord can get an increase greater than what he has applied for.
I have in my possession a confidential memorandum from the Ministry of Housing. It is dated October 19. It is signed by a Brigette McConkey, a program assistant and addressed to Jim Parker, the director of the rent review services branch. The memorandum states very clearly, “Please find below documentation of all orders issued for the week of October 19 to October 23.” The section 74 orders to be issued -- those are whole building reviews -- are contained in this document.
Mr. Jackson: The minister has advised this House that just because a landlord makes an application does not mean he is going to get that kind of an increase. In this document it clearly states that for a property at 66 Park Street in Brockville, the landlord has asked for a 26.5 per cent increase --
Mr. Jackson: -- and he was awarded a 29.5 per cent increase. How can tenants and landlords rely on this government for any degree of certainty given the fact that the Premier and the minister seem to be unaware of the fact that a landlord can acquire a greater increase than he has even applied for?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I gather there is a question. It is tough to get the question out of this tag team they have sicked on me. The British Bulldogs, the Killer Bees, Jake the Snake -- who is it over there? I know, Jake the Snake and Gorgeous George.
My friend has a specific question. I regret to tell him that I am not apprised of the particular incident he brings forward. If I can look into it and be helpful and get back to the member with the circumstances, then I will be happy to do so.
Mr. Jackson: These matters are being raised so someone might investigate what is going on in the Ministry of Housing. By virtue of this confidential memo, we have established that tenants could be paying higher increases than their landlords have requested. What is interesting is that in a random check with the landlords who are noted in this document, they have not been apprised of the increase, nor have their tenants. Yet this document was dated a month ago. The ministry has been sitting on these awards. They are not issuing them in any public fashion whatsoever. The minister has not been forthcoming in this House to direct questions about where the rent review program is going and how it is being administered.
How long will tenants have to wait until the Premier is able to resolve the problems that are associated with the administration of this program? When will we be getting some clear documentation that we can give to landlords and tenants so they can have some certainty about this bill?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: All right; there are some problems and I think the minister is addressing her mind to solving those problems with dispatch. I appreciate the member bringing that to our attention. As he knows, one of the problems of the bill -- I gather he did not support that bill so he is against rent control and the leader of his tag team did support that particular bill. It did bring a lot more people under the rent review process and that indeed led to some of the backlog that developed. I can assure my friend the minister is working with her considerable talent to solve those problems and I expect we will be able to tell him shortly that there has been a resolution.
Mr. Philip: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. The minister is obviously aware of the criticisms against Bill 150 by the people who are involved in the trucking industry in this province -- the bill that he calls reregulation and everyone else calls deregulation. Maybe that accounts for why he did not answer my question last week concerning it. I wonder if he will answer it today.
Will the minister give a commitment to the House that the contents of Bill 150, which did not pass third reading in the last parliament, will not be reintroduced in any form in this House and thereby cause the loss of thousands of jobs in the trucking industry in Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I can only reiterate what I answered to the gentleman opposite last week. I have not introduced any legislation; therefore, I do not understand how I can be questioned upon it. His party was committed to oppose those bills long before they were introduced. Before seeing what was contained in them, they were “agin it,” and they voted in force against them in committee.
I answered the gentleman’s questions last week. We are not about to savage that industry or any other industry. In fact, the opposite is true: based on the experiences that we have examined, total employment is in fact enhanced with those bills that were introduced last year.
Mr. Morin-Strom: The minister knows that the Ontario Trucking Association’s position has changed quite remarkably on these bills as a result of the free trade agreement which has been signed by the federal government. They are now absolutely opposed to those bills, and I do not know why the minister cannot give the people of this province and the people in the trucking industry the assurance that he is going to stand up for their interests and assure them that we have better services in the trucking field in our province and that we will have more jobs, not fewer jobs; that we will be protecting that vital industry and that the service will be available in areas such as northern Ontario and some of the remote areas such as those that have lost services in the United States as a result of deregulation.
Will the minister give us the assurance that those bills are now dead and that if he is going to introduce reregulation, it will be something that will improve the services for this province and will provide more jobs, not fewer jobs?
Hon. Mr. Fulton: I appreciate that the member now understands it is reregulation or regulatory reform, not deregulation, that took place. There is a very significant difference and some members opposite know that.
We have stated clearly from the very beginning of the process that we are very conscious of remote service, particularly in northern Ontario. It is our intention, and the assurance from the industries involved, both shippers and carriers, that they would not in any way decrease shipping in northern Ontario. That is one of the paramount goals this government and this ministry were attempting to achieve through those bills.
Mr. Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. The minister listened to the previous exchange with the Premier (Mr. Peterson). My question simply is this: has she been apprised by her ministry staff that awards were coming in from the field offices for amounts greater than the landlord had applied for, and if so, when did the ministry apprise her of that fact?
Mr. Jackson: If I can ask the minister then -- I am trying to establish the level of support the minister is getting from within her own ministryv -- has her ministry advised her that awards had been completed as early as the first two weeks of October? If her ministry advised her that these awards had been ready, at what point did she decide, or was it a ministry decision, not to advise landlords and tenants, because her ministry has been sitting on these for a month?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: The ministry is processing the information on rent review in an orderly fashion; not as timely as I would like, but orderly. It will be issuing the various decisions that have been made in due course.
I share with the member opposite his concern about the information coming as quickly as possible. I have already indicated to this House as clearly and forcefully as I can -- and I am glad to do it again -- that we will do this as quickly as it is possible for us to do it, and we will try to speed up the process with all the resources available at our disposal.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I have a question for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology about the potential impact of the free trade agreement on an industry which the free trade proponents claimed was going to be one of the big winners in free trade; that is, the steel industry. Can the minister tell us whether this free trade agreement that has been negotiated will provide for the steel industry any exemptions from countervailing duty actions, antidumping actions or the voluntary restraint quotas on the steel industry which are currently in effect?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member will know that at the present time the steel industry has a gentleman’s agreement with the United States whereby it will have 3.5 per cent of the market. In their appearances before my committee, they indicated they have no expectation that the market will increase, other than with the normal growth of the market, in which they have 3.5 per cent.
To answer the question as to whether or not they will have any jobs, they maintain they do not expect to get any, other than the normal increase, but it will protect them from being cut off. That is where we are.
Mr. Morin-Strom: If the steel industry is not going to be a winner, and in fact it has not declared that it is going to increase investment in the steel industry and has been unable to provide any assurances that more jobs will be coming in that industry, can the minister tell us which industries will be providing increased jobs and new investment in the Canadian economy as a result of this free trade agreement?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I cannot really answer the question for the member, because we do not have that information. I can tell him that the perceived winners, every time they appear, whether it be the petrochemical industry, the steel industry or some aspect of the agricultural business, all maintain the same thing: they cannot identify any new markets. All they feel is that if they can get a free trade agreement, they can keep the markets they have.
Hon. Mr. Riddell: There is a fairly quiet mood out in the farming community, with the exception of the grape growers and the wine industry, until such time as we have a chance to see the final legal text. The dairy farmers feel at the present time that there are sufficient safeguards in place to compensate for the removal of tariffs over a period of 10 years. Until such time as the agreement spells out whether certain products can be added to the import control list, the dairy farmers really are not prepared, at this time, to say whether it is a good deal or not.
Mr. Sterling: I take from the minister’s reply that he is, in general, in favour of the intention of the free trade agreement as it affects the dairy farming industry. I understand as well that yoghurt and ice-cream are going to be added to the protected list. Will this not put the dairy farmers in Ontario in a better position after a free trade agreement is signed than they were in before, if that follows through?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: I do not know how the honourable member could suggest that, because there are import controls and duties now in place for yoghurt and ice-cream. I think it is something in the neighbourhood of 12 and 15 per cent, respectively.
To suggest that I feel the deal is a good one for the dairy farmers is being a little unfair. I do not think I made that suggestion. I am just saying that until we all have a chance to see the final text, we do not know whether the safeguards that are being suggested are going to be effective.
Mr. Breaugh: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. It concerns these orders for rent review issued for the week of October 19 to 23. The range of these orders is beginning to fall into a pattern of between 20 per cent and 30 per cent. Does her ministry consider that will be the norm for rent-review-approved increases for this year: between 20 per cent and 30 per cent?
Mr. Breaugh: I wonder whether the minister can explain how the lowest order in this week’s decisions is nine per cent. How can she possibly explain that she will be anywhere near her guideline when the established pattern through orders already issued is clearly around the 20 per cent mark, some going as high as 30 per cent, and some giving the landlords more than they actually asked for? How does her ministry come to the position, then, that her guideline will mean anything to anyone except an increase for most tenants of between 20 per cent and 30 per cent, which is the pattern her ministry has established in the first public information we have received on the matter?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: The pattern of release of information has nothing to do with the overall numbers as they will come forward. All of the work that was done by the people in the ministry indicates that the vast majority of increases in rent will be 4.7 per cent or less. The ones that are being referred to contain other issues than the basic support for maintaining a building adequately; including, presumably, with the ones that are being mentioned today, increased capital costs for repairs and maintenance. I think it is extremely important that it be possible for landlords to repair and maintain their buildings in order for tenants to live in appropriately maintained buildings.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: In the Speaker’s gallery at this time, I would like to introduce Steve Podborski and the members of his task force -- Marilyn Knox, Nancy Shosenberg, Dr. Stuart Robbins and Dr. Andrew Pipe -- and thank them for their contribution to health promotion in Ontario.
Mlle Martel: Je voudrais présenter une pétition signée par 58 membres du personnel du groupe parlementaire néo-démocrate. Ceux-ci voudraient exprimer leur mécontentement face à la décision du gouvernement de l’Ontario de réduire le nombre des cours de français qui leur sont offerts. Étant donné que ce même gouvernement a pris l’engagement d’étendre les services en français aux habitants de l’Ontario, ils sont profondément déçus par la réduction du nombre de places disponibles pour les membres du personnel pour apprendre la langue française. Je suis complètement d’accord avec eux.
Hon. Mr. Conway moved that, notwithstanding standing order 71, the House shall meet to consider government business on the morning of Thursday, November 19, 1987; that private members’ public business shall not be considered until the morning of Thursday, November 26, 1987; and that the requirement for notice be waived for private members’ ballot items 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: The bill provides for new legislation to deal with the recent federally mandated expansion of the betting system and to reflect more closely the actual operating practices of the betting system. The bill provides for the imposition of tax on every person who places a bet in Ontario on the amount that he or she bets on a race in Ontario or elsewhere.
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître moved first reading of Bill 20, An Act to provide an Incentive to Ontario Employees of Small- and Medium-Sized Corporations to purchase Newly Issued Shares of their Employer Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: The bill introduces the employee share ownership plan, ESOP, proposed by the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) in the 1986 budget. The employee share ownership program will support investment by employees in their employer corporations. The program has two objectives: to promote and enhance an environment of co-operation and participation in the work place by employees and employers, and to provide a new source of equity capital for small- and medium-sized businesses in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Grandmaître: The amendments to the act would empower the Minister of Revenue to enter into reciprocal exchange-of-information agreements with governments in other jurisdictions for the better administration of statutes and trusts under his direction.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am pleased to reintroduce an important consumer protection initiative, the Motor Vehicle Repair Act. Since the bill was originally introduced in the spring of this year, we have added two provisions: first, that invoices be provided for warranty work done at no cost to the consumer; and second, that the original repairer be given, where practical, first opportunity to rectify any problem.
Mr. Brandt: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having this opportunity to respond to the speech from the throne on behalf of my party. Before I get into my constructive remarks with respect to that particular document, I would like to offer you, sir, the congratulations of my party on your appointment as Speaker and give you our commitment that we will, as we have in the past, co-operate with the chair in every respect and in every regard, and we will take all of your rulings in a very serious manner, as we have tried to do in the past.
I would like, as well, to offer my congratulations to the newly appointed members of the executive council -- the cabinet. I wish them well in their undertakings. I would like to wish them luck, but not too much in certain respects. I look forward to working with all the newly elected members of the Legislative Assembly, those who have come here into this historic place for the first time; and, of course, I would like to offer my congratulations to those who have been reelected.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my more formal remarks, I would also like to indicate my thanks to the leader of the official opposition (Mr. B. Rae) in regard to the kind comments he made in his response to the speech from the throne. He did indicate to me, sir, that he would not be able to be in attendance today because of another commitment or he would have been here to listen to the remarks that I am going to offer in regard to the speech. As members will be aware, I was also unable to be in attendance during the course of his remarks, but I did take the opportunity to read them and I thought he made a very healthy contribution to some of the areas that could have been strengthened in the speech from the throne.
After having had the opportunity to look very carefully at the speech and to digest it quite thoroughly, I can offer nothing more than my feelings with respect to the speech being an agenda for inaction. Throughout the speech we have the government’s intention to undertake more studies, more commissions -- three select committees, as an example -- the commissioning of reports and on and on ad infinitum with respect to more and more work that I believe is simply going to slow down the whole process of change and the entire process of strengthening the policies and the direction that we are hopefully going to undertake in Ontario.
I hope that the newly elected members, and particularly those who did not receive an appointment, will be active in committee and will let their voices be heard in regard to the work that we are going to undertake both in this House and in committee. I hope as well that the commissions, boards and committees I spoke of earlier are not going to be simply a delaying tactic for inaction on the part of this government and I hope that we will be able to bring forward some positive change that I believe is very necessary in Ontario.
It is interesting to note that one of the initiatives brought forward by this government, which I had waited for with some degree of anticipation, related to the measures introduced by the government in regard to conflict of interest. I have to say with some degree of concern to the members opposite and to the government that although I am in support of the strengthening of conflict-of-interest legislation, I am not in support of the kind of direction and the thrust that is being proposed by the legislation that we are going to be dealing with in this House.
I say that because the new government is going to be introducing legislation, and with its majority will undoubtedly pass legislation, which will be the weakest conflict-of-interest laws in Canada. What those laws will do, very simply, is make legal those things that were fundamentally illegal in any previous conflict-of-interest legislation that was passed not only in Ontano -- and any guidelines that we had in Ontario -- but virtually anywhere else in the entire country.
It will allow all ministers, for example, to retain certain holdings, vested interests in corporations and private ownerships that would not have been allowed previously. Just because this legislation calls for the public identification of the ownership of a particular interest that a minister might have, that should not set aside that minister’s potential longer-term interest in the viability of that corporation or of that particular industry and what the financial impact may be on that minister on a personal basis.
It will allow certain ministers who would have had great discomfort, I might add, with the previous legislation, now to be able to sit very comfortably in cabinet without any problem whatsoever, because the new conflict-of-interest laws are being framed in a way that will simply allow them to be appointed to cabinet. I take issue with the framing of these particular laws in that fashion.
Who is going to be protected? Are we going to have additional protection for the people of Ontario? I would suggest to the members that we are not. There is nothing I can see in the new conflict-of-interest guidelines that are being proposed by the government that is going to give the people of Ontario more protection against a potential conflict that a minister might have. What we have, in effect, is a law which is riot protecting the people of Ontario, but a law which will be protecting the interests of a few cabinet ministers who may have had some degree of difficulty with the previous legislation.
The greatest weakness, however, I see in this document, the throne speech, and the biggest shortcoming, if you will, Mr. Speaker, in this address to this House is the lack of vision that the government had in trying to put forward some form of agenda for action, some form of direction or focus on what the problems of Ontario are going to be, which I hope to identify in the course of my remarks, and to give us some belief that the government has the necessary resolve to take action on some of those problems.
This government has been very fortunate in that it took over in 1985, at a time when Ontario was coming out of one of the deepest recessions that we have had in two or three decades. It was a very debilitating period of time for those of us who were in government in the years immediately preceding 1985, primarily because the dollars obviously were not there and it is very difficult to govern when the economy is either showing a limited amount of growth or no growth.
This government, however, had the opportunity to do a number of things which it did not do when it took over in 1985. I hope to return to some of the questions of fiscal integrity and economic planning that I feel this government has been very short in bringing forward during the course of the past two years. Certainly, it gives us no hope that it is going to take some measures to improve in the course of the next year or the years to follow.
The growth in this province over the course of the past couple of years has been driven in great part, and I think this is even an admission made by the members of the executive council on the other side, by the automotive sector of our economy. The fact is that we have had tremendous growth in automotive manufacturing and assembling in this province, the net result of which is that stimulus, that growth, has permeated right through the entire economy, has affected a number of other spinoff jobs and opportunities that developed as a direct result of that buoyancy in that particular sector.
What we have now found, however, is that anyone who is taking even a cursory look at the automotive sector, anyone who is even trying to anticipate how the future might unfold, sees very clearly that there is a very substantial overcapacity in the automotive sector. That overcapacity is estimated to be something on the order of three million units on the North American continent: three million units more than we are probably going to be able to sell; three million more units that can be produced than we are going to be able to market in any way, shape or form, by way either of domestic or export sales.
That concerns me; and it concerns me because this is a government which is driven by big spending, a government which had an opportunity during a time of a buoyant economy to do a number of things it did not do and which now may be looking at a period of time in the not-too-distant future when that economy may well slow down. I am not simply referring to the stock market collapse on Black Monday of a few weeks ago; I am also looking at the prognostications, if you will, of those who are in the industry and those who are are very close to the industry and who have indicated that the problem I am outlining for members today with respect to the automotive sector is a very real problem and one that this government should take some action on.
Where is the response of this government? In a question I raised with the Premier (Mr. Peterson) today in regard to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade decision, he said that I was asking the government to respond to a future earthquake or to a future rainstorm, if I can quote him properly. That is not what I am asking for at all. What I ask for, and what the members of my party feel is appropriate, in regard to the automotive sector and to the economy generally, is that the Premier attempt at least to look at what is going to happen in the future, attempt to look at the world competition and make some judgements with respect to what actions he has to take based on the facts and figures he has before him.
I have to tell members we may be in for a rocky road indeed in connection with this particular sector if all of the predictions come to pass. Where is the economic blueprint in the throne speech to respond to those kinds of problems? Where are the job creation programs? We have a Minister of Skills Development (Mr. Curling) now who is going to be looking certainly at ways of retraining in certain sectors of the economy, but I see this as being far too little and far too late in regard to a great many activities in this province. I would hope that the ministers would look at this much more seriously than they have in the past.
Let me talk for a moment about managing the economy. I indicated earlier that I would come back to this point. I think it is a point that bears looking at in regard to what this government has done economically in the course of the past two years. They have gotten away with it to a certain extent; I recognize that in terms of the number of members who were elected. But I say to this government that the next couple of years may not be quite as easy as the last two years, in terms of managing the economy of Ontario.
We are presently saddled with a debt of about $1 billion. It is interesting, and my colleagues are aware of this, that the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) brought forward a budget estimate of $970 million. We all know full well that he grabbed at that figure because it was comfortably below that psychological breaking-point of $1 billion. But in order to reach the $1 billion, if I can round the number, what he did was, he fudged the books.
How he was able to accomplish that, very simply, was that he indicated to the various ministers of the crown that they were to bring forward $350 million in end-year cuts. As a result of that, that reduction of $350 million would arrive at a total deficit of $970 million.
All of that sounds all well and good, except for one thing. The Treasurer, in the history of this province since he has taken over that very high-profile portfolio, has never been able to bring in a budget on target yet. If he erred on the downside, if he spent less than he was suggesting to this House that he was going to spend, then perhaps I would have some additional degree of confidence in the figures he has given to us. The problem is that with regard to the Treasurer’s performance over the course of the past couple of years, he has always come in erring on the side of having spent more than he has anticipated.
That causes us great consternation on this side of the House, because as the ministers who are in the House well know, this is a government that has had a prolific spending record over the past couple of years, a spending record virtually unmatched in the history of this province in terms of increased expenditures.
What has the government done with the money it has received? It has not all gone to areas that we do not feel are an appropriate or a sound or a needed investment in Ontario. I see that government members are sitting there in great anticipation, waiting for me to tell them what those areas might be. As an example, the investment in the expansion of a hospital in London or Sarnia, or many other places I could think of, is the kind of investment and expenditure on the part of the government that we applaud.
The sort of thing that causes us some justifiable concern is when the government goes out and starts to hire new civil servants, without really showing any net benefit to the people of Ontario. We have to bring forward for the government’s attention the fact that those additional civil servants, that bloated bureaucracy which it is now becoming very much a part of --
Mr. Brandt: As well they should, because I gave them a great deal of opportunity to work very hard when they worked for me as a minister. However, I did not promise them additional colleagues to sit alongside them while they were contemplating their day’s activities. I appreciate the fact that the minister says the bureaucrats had --
a great deal of confidence in me, and I have a great deal of confidence in the bureaucracy in Ontario, most of whose members, I might add, this government has retained, even though Liberals used to be highly critical of them when they were on this side of the House. But they have kept most of them. Most of the deputy ministers, most of those fine people who were trained by the former government, are still in place and doing an excellent job.
Mr. Brandt: That is right. My colleague says it is about the only thing that is keeping the government afloat over there, the expertise that we have been able to transfer its way and to provide for it by way of well experienced personnel who are there to prop it up and support it.
What causes us some real concern -- and I say this to the government very seriously -- is the additional personnel it has taken on staff and, in the longer term, what the implications are for Ontario when it hires that many additional staff.
The 5,000 additional people were certainly needed in some areas of the government, but they were not needed in the Ministry of Housing, as an example, where three times the number of bureaucrats are now in the rent review area and have yet to bring in one decision. All of that time they have been sitting there -- l imagine shuffling paper or doing whatever those people do to keep busy at those kinds of things that are involved in the activities of the Ministry of Housing -- and there are no results showing. There is nothing coming out of the other end of the system, except for some outlandish increases that are being proposed for some of the tenants in this province.
What could they do with that quarter of a billion dollars if they did not spend it on hiring new people? Well, my colleague spoke today of Highway 29, which is badly in need of reconstruction. That highway could have been built many times over for that $250 million. There are hospitals across this province, there are schools, there are all kinds of programs that are desperately in need of the attention of this government. But what did they do? They took the money, which is going to amount to $1 billion during the course of this government over the next four years, and they squandered it needlessly on increasing staff. I think that is wrong, and my colleagues and I feel very strongly about that particular point.
Let me say that we see our role as members of the opposition bringing to the attention of the government those areas where the government perhaps has had some modest degree of shortfall; where perhaps it is bringing forward legislation that requires strengthening; where perhaps the government has not thought through a particular program in an adequate and appropriate fashion.
We see ourselves, as members of the opposition, not attacking personalities, which we will refrain from doing, but attacking issues on which we feel the government has not provided the kind of leadership that we feel this province is in need of.
Now, we all recognize the realities of the decision that was made by the people of Ontario on September 10. Those realities indicate that we now have a majority government and they can do literally what they want. They literally can bring forward virtually what they want and they can have it passed because they have the numbers over there. But our role as opposition members is, in a very responsible and, I hope, in a very civil and effective way, to add to whatever the government is going to do the voice of people who also voted. I might add that more than half of the people of this province voted against those folks over there, more than half of the people, even though they ended up with three times as many seats as the opposition members have. Those are some of the problems that develop in our democratic system here.
But, I say to the members opposite, the reality is -- and we recognize those realities -- that they have 95 members and they can virtually force through any legislation that they feel strongly about. But it is also -- and I ask them to respect this reality of September 10 -- that there were 19 New Democrats elected and there were 16 members of my party elected. As 35 members of the opposition --
To get back on topic, if I can for a moment, what I wanted to indicate is that the 35 of us also have a very real responsibility in this particular forum. That responsibility is obviously to be constructive in regard to the things which the government wishes to carry out, to be constructive in terms of what we can add to the debates in this House and to committee and to the work that we are to carry out as legislators.
We would ask the government, in spite of the fact that they have a very substantial majority, to listen to the views of the opposition on occasion. The reality is that they will find that on occasion the opposition has some ideas that are worth while considering.
Our opposition will be based, perhaps somewhat unlike that of the members of the official opposition, on sound fiscal management, on the reduction of the deficit, on a belief in the rights and responsibilities of the individuals in our society, but more particularly on the limited role of government intervention in society.
We see this as being an interventionist government, a government that intervenes in virtually every walk of life, a government that believes it can throw new laws and new money at a problem and that it will automatically correct itself. That is not the philosophy of my party. That is not the philosophy which I espouse as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party. It is, in fact, a philosophy which we believe is supported by a great many people, if not the majority of people, in Ontario.
I want to say to the members opposite, and to the members of the executive council in particular, we will not oppose simply for the sake of opposing. The members will find, perhaps only on limited occasions, that we will support the government in some of its initiatives, and we will attempt to be responsible as we fulfil our role in representing, between the two parties on this side of the House, well over 50 per cent of the people of Ontario who did not vote for the current government.
Housing is one of the issues that we have been talking about a great deal. I want to say a few words on that today and on the issue of the environment. We feel that there are, perhaps, some very positive comments we can make in regard to education, which I want to discuss a little later.
I have touched very briefly on fiscal management, but I would like to elaborate on that, as well as on the issues of agriculture, the trade agreement, health, job creation and a number of other issues that I perhaps may not have time to get into this afternoon but are of importance to the members of my party.
We have some real concerns, I say to the former Minister of Housing, the member for Scarborough North (Mr. Curling), whom I am pleased to see in the House today, in regard to the direction that the government is taking in the field of housing. I wish that the minister herself was here because the former minister, I know, had his heart in the right place; the only difficulty was that the programs did not work.
It appears in this throne speech all we have is a repetition of the same kinds of programs that did not work, which will ultimately result in a net shortfall in the housing requirements of the people of Ontario.
As an example, I say to the former Minister of Housing, the government promised, during the course of the last election, some 102,000 housing units within a two-year period. I was quite prepared, and I indicated this in a question that I raised with the Premier a week or so ago, to allow for the expansion to the third year, which appeared to be an amendment to that campaign promise to three years. We are not fighting over the fact that it may take three years to develop the 102,000 housing units.
The numbers are not of that much importance other than, even with the very ambitious projections that were brought forward by the former government’s ministry officials and by the current minister, it would appear that there is going to be a need for 130,000 housing units in Ontario between now and the year 1990, just to keep up with the demand.
The former minister can criticize, as he does very frequently, the programs of the previous government, but we had housing in better shape than this government. The housing programs we had in place during the years that this government sat on the opposite side of the House --
Mr. Brandt: My colleague reminds me it was during the depression years, but we did not have the numbers of people who are living on the streets, and we did not have the numbers of people who are living in accommodations which are either unaffordable or certainly do not meet the needs of a great many citizens in Ontario. We did not have the kinds of high rents as a result of the new rent review legislation that the former minister brought in.
Mr. Brandt: It is his legislation. Does he take responsibility for anything? He says we voted for it. Some members of my party did vote for it, but the reality is that he was the minister and it was his legislation that was brought forward. Now he finds out that legislation is not working, and it is not working to the extent that in the next couple of years --
Let me tell him what is going to happen, though. I know the member is no longer responsible; he got out of there while the getting was good. Over the course of the next couple of years, we are going to have 100,000 additional people in Ontario who are going to be without accommodation. How can that government stand before the Speaker of this House and before the people of this province and say it has a good grip on the housing problems in this province? It simply does not have.
The problem is going to accelerate and become more aggravated, believe me, in the weeks and months ahead. The government is quickly losing the confidence of the private sector: they are simply not building. The takeup on the Renterprise program was negligible because the private sector did not believe the government was going to give it any opportunity to realize a decent profit on its investment.
Second, the government is going to lose the confidence of the tenants in this province. When they, as the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh) indicated, see the rent review decisions coming down in the 20 to 30 per cent range in terms of the levels of increases that are deemed to be appropriate by the board, I think a great number of people are going to lose confidence in the direction that has been taken by this government as it relates to housing. It is a critical issue.
We do not blame the new minister for this problem, we blame the former minister. We have to lay some of the fault on the shoulders of the former minister, as likeable an individual as he may be. I happen to have great personal respect for the former minister, on a direct basis, but I have to tell him his policies were flawed, and those flawed policies are now going to cause great concern and great problems in Ontario as a direct result of some of the things I have been pointing out to the members.
Obviously, this was part of the decision-making responsibility of the former minister. How could he allow for the enlargement of the bureaucracy in his ministry, one of the fastest-growing ministries in the entire government in terms of new staff, and have all of those people in place only to end up with the result that nobody makes a decision? We still have not got any decisions coming out of that group. We have the absolutely ridiculous situation where tenants do not know what their increases are going to be, where landlords do not know what their increases are going to be, and they are going to find themselves in a position where it will take a mathematician or a genius in higher algebra to figure out exactly what it is that a tenant is going to have to pay.
When the retroactivity clauses come into effect with respect to some of these settlements that are going to be made by the rent review board, there will be great concern among the tenants of the province, great concern because not only will they be getting a 10, 20 or 30 per cent increase -- not the 4.7 guideline the government advertised at great expense in the newspapers over the course of the past couple of weeks. That 4.7 per cent is a phantom number as far as most people who are tenants in this province are concerned. What they are going to get is an increase that is double, triple or quadruple that level, and they are going to have to pay that increase retroactively. When the impact of that strikes, there are going to be some very real problems in this province. What the implications are going to be for the social ministries, I have no idea, but people will simply not be able to afford accommodation in this province based on the new rules and the new guidelines.
I indicated that I wanted to speak briefly about the environment, and I want to be constructive with respect to environmental issues. I served for two years in that particular ministry, enjoyed it immensely, and I wish the minister well, because if there is one issue that I have said on many occasions is not a partisan issue -- it is an issue upon which most of us can agree -- it is matters of environmental concern. Everybody on all sides of the House wants to see an improved environment.
I for one know that it cannot be done overnight. I recognize the complications; I recognize the challenges of that ministry; and I say to the minister that the comments I am going to make in regard to perhaps some of the directions he is taking are meant to be constructive and healthy, rather than destructive and simply trying to point out the shortcomings of the ministry. But there seems to be a mindset, if you will, in the ministry at the moment that does cause me some concern.
That mindset is almost similar to or very close to the attitude of the Ministry of Housing as it relates to increasing personnel, on one hand, as opposed to putting that selfsame amount of money into some of the hard services in the environmental abatement programs that are so badly needed.
The minister has acknowledged that he is going to be hiring more inspectors. Well, there are a limited number of people in this province and, I might add, I do not include a great number of industries in this category -- but there are some people in this province who are engaged in environmental criminal activity, and they should be charged and should be brought forward for the kind of degradation that they are perpetrating on the environment.
I agree with the minister’s taking action on those kinds of activities. I did it when I was the minister; I think it is totally appropriate. What I do not agree with, however, is where the emphasis seems to be on policing rather than on correcting some of the problems that the minister and I know are out there -- some of the problems that have been in existence for a long time and will be in existence for a long time in the future as well, on which he could be taking some action. Let me mention a few areas that I think are of concern to me and probably of concern to the minister as well.
In the area of municipal sewers and sewage treatment plants, the minister, without having a police force out there, knows full well -- and the documentation with respect to the discharges and the quality of the effluent that is being discharged by many of our municipal treatment plants is well known to him. He has studies that he can draw forward which will give him all the evidence he needs as to what kind of remedial or corrective action is necessary.
What is missing, I say to the minister, is any kind of co-operative program on the part of the province to put more money in and to assist the municipalities in carrying out the responsibilities that he has given to them. They simply cannot do the job alone.
Mr. Brandt: The minister is putting a small amount of money into those programs relative to the overall need and he knows it. On a number of occasions, the minister knows full well, when applications for assistance have come before him, the response has been, “If we could only get the federal government to help us, we’d be able to move forward with some of those programs.” Historically, the minister knows full well, the federal government was not a participant in those kinds of programs other than in a very limited degree. One example would be the sewage treatment plant in the Niagara area.
I say to the minister that in terms of making a judgement call on that particular issue, I would put more money into the hard services that I feel are so essential to this province and that will do so much more to correct environmental shortcomings we may have than simply adding more personnel to the Ministry of the Environment and adding to the police force, if you will. I do not believe that is going to be sufficient.
Many of the industrial discharges, as he well knows -- he can do sporadic checks on those industries to determine whether or not their discharges meet the quality levels required by his ministry. He knows full well that new technology is coming forward; we are at the brink of it right today. Constant monitoring of all discharges of industrial effluent into water courses is a technology which is virtually available right at this particular time, and I might add, technology that was developed in my riding in industries with which the minister has worked. He knows full well there are ways of reducing the requirement for manpower, relying on the technology that is available today, in order to give us the kind of information we need to undertake the kind of remedial programs that are required.
I will leave aside for a moment the separation of sewers, which is a massive, multibillion-dollar program, and the improvements in sewage treatment plants, because I see an even more crushing problem coming down around the minister’s shoulders very quickly. That is the problem of municipal landfill sites, as a result of bringing in additional control measures relating to municipal landfill sites, to which I take no exception. With respect to the engineering requirements, the site selection process and the environmental reviews that are needed today, I am in concert with the minister on these and I believe they are necessary.
On the other hand, the minister has not provided any additional dollars for that program, or very limited. The minister has to acknowledge that, when I talk about no additional dollars, if he is providing a fraction of a per cent of what the total program is going to cost, that is not sufficient in terms of the needs of municipalities, but the catch 22 --
I want to talk about municipal landfill sites because I truly believe -- and this was not in any way identified in the throne speech as a matter of major concern or an undertaking that the government appeared to have any apprehensions about -- it is a matter of very critical concern to a great number of municipalities. What is happening in regard to municipal landfill sites is that a very large number of them are at the point of exhaustion in terms of their capacity to accept additional garbage.
Mr. Brandt: The minister would blame it on the previous government. He has been over there for two years now. He cannot blame everything on the previous government. He has been around for a couple of years. It is his job to solve these problems, not leave them all to the previous government.
When the minister talks about the problems of incinerators, which were identified in the newspaper recently I fully appreciate that the technology of municipal incinerators leaves a great deal to be desired. At the moment the minister does not have air emission standards which can appropriately monitor those incinerators or determine a safe level of operation, because of the potential for dioxins, dibenzofurans and other toxics that are discharged from those incinerators.
I appreciate all those problems, but when he places a municipality in the position where it has a landfill site which is very quickly going to run out of space in terms of being able to take any additional garbage, when he does not allow it to use an incinerator and when he gives it a very elaborate process to go through for approval for a new site, the municipality is placed in an absolutely impossible position. There is no answer to the problem, unless municipalities get some additional help -- part of it is money from the minister either to streamline the process --
One of the responses that the minister has come up with in regard to the question of landfill sites is that he has increased the amount of money -- this is the throwing of money at a problem, which I referred to earlier in my remarks -- that has gone into recycling programs. By quadrupling the money -- I believe that was the number the minister used in terms of his commitment to recycling -- what he is going to do is get recycling in Ontario maybe up to one or two per cent of the total volume of solid waste that is now going into landfill sites. He is such a long way away from being really able to use recycling as a method of reducing the volume of waste that goes into these landfill sites that it will be years before any real impact is felt by the municipalities.
If one goes down the litany of what is available, the municipalities cannot go to incineration; they cannot get approval for a new landfill site; they cannot go to recycling, because they simply cannot reduce the waste sufficiently through recycling. The costs have increased very substantially, from five to 10 times the amount in many municipal budgets just to look after the garbage that is being disposed of by the average householder in this province.
All of these things have resulted very directly in a situation in which the minister sits back very glibly and says, “Well, let the municipalities figure out the solution to the problem themselves.” I have to tell him that the municipalities do not have the wherewithal; they do not have the capacity, financially or otherwise, to be able to move towards a solution to this very real problem. The largest municipality in the entire province, namely, Metro Toronto, is caught on the very issue that I am trying to share in a constructive way with the minister at the moment.
I do not believe he fully appreciates the level of apprehension of municipal leaders when you go to talk to them about this problem, because not only are they faced with huge increases in cost but they are faced with environmental demands that in some instances are virtually beyond their reach. The minister says: “Well, that is your problem. We want to have a better environment.” I agree. We all want a better environment, but we also have to have the means by which we can dispose of our garbage.
I see the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr. D. S. Cooke) here. He has on many occasions raised the question of the Detroit incinerator, which is presently being constructed and about which the minister has stood up, quite appropriately, and said, “I am going to fight the Detroit incinerator because it does not have adequate control of the dioxins and furans that will be coming from that particular facility.”
By the same token and at the selfsame time, the minister allows certain incinerators to operate in Ontario, which appears to be some kind of double standard. How can he argue with our neighbours and friends, the people of Detroit in the state of Michigan, that their incinerator is not going to be adequate while we have other incinerators --
Whether octachlorodioxins are coming from an old or a new incinerator, they are a known carcinogenic, and the reality is, whether it is an old or a new incinerator, the environmental impact is exactly the same.
Mr. Brandt: Now we take a leap in logic, and the leap in logic is that I am now supporting the installation of an incinerator in Detroit proposed by Mayor Coleman Young. The reality is that there are a few things that I support in Detroit. One of them happens to be a very well known baseball team. Beyond that, I do not take exception to the opposition the minister has put forward in regard to the incinerator that is being constructed in the city of Detroit. What I take exception to is the double standard established by the minister when he says: “It is not okay for Detroit to do it, but it is okay for Toronto to do it. We are going to incinerate the garbage here, but don’t you incinerate the garbage over there.” That is a double standard and he knows it, and he ought to be embarrassed by it.
Mr. Brandt: Let me simply repeat that the emissions of octachlorodioxins and dibenzofurans, which the minister is well aware are emitted from the stacks of incinerators, whether they be industrial or municipal, are a known carcinogenic. Until the minister establishes air emission guidelines which indicate that there are safe levels for some of those toxic materials, he cannot take a position that is anything other than hypocritical with the city of Detroit while he is allowing incinerators to operate in his own jurisdiction. He cannot have it both ways. The minister wants it both ways on landfill sites and on other environmental issues as well. I ask him simply to look at that.
Mr. Brandt: I can see the minister is very sensitive about environmental problems, as well he should be, but I want to touch very briefly on what l feel is another initiative that the minister should take. Again, I say this to him in the constructive spirit of all the comments I have made this afternoon. I hope the minister will take some action in regard to the need for scrubbers with respect to the acid rain emissions or the sulphur dioxide emissions from Ontario Hydro.
The minister knows full well that the technology, which was not available and was not sufficiently advanced two or three years ago during the period of time of the former government, has now been brought forward in a much more effective way and has proved to be one of the answers to reducing the emissions of SO2 in our environment.
I ask the minister to move that program along. He will get the support of my colleagues on this side of the House when he takes some initiatives to get government emissions of sulphur dioxide reduced, as he is trying to do with Inco, Falconbridge and other private industries.
Mr. Brandt: It applies to Hydro as well. I fully recognize that. I am simply saying the minister can accelerate the process and make it much more effective much more quickly if he brings in scrubbers or lower-sulphur coal from the western parts of Canada. Those things will all be a substantial improvement over the present situation we are faced with.
Moving off environment, which I am very reluctant to do because the minister and I had an opportunity to exchange some healthy discussion related to our respective views on this particular question, I want to touch for a few brief moments on the concerns my party has in the whole field of education. If there is an area of the throne speech that was not appropriately addressed where we feel that this government has certainly shortchanged the people of Ontario, it is with respect to any kind of a directed, focused program as it relates to educational policy in this province.
It is interesting to note how many of the election campaign promises are now falling by the wayside, even those that were made back in 1985, let alone those that were made in 1987. I recall in 1985 where one of the principal thrusts, one of the key measures, one of the campaign platforms of the government of today was that it would without any question raise provincial participation in educational financing to 60 per cent. There was no question whatever that is what they had intended to do: but what are the facts?
The facts are that educational funding had fallen from 60 per cent to about 48 per cent before the government took over in 1985. Then all my colleagues and I, when we recognized the tremendous windfall of new dollars that this government received in transfer grants from the federal government and in new revenues from an economy that was showing a degree of buoyancy and growth that perhaps had not been realized by the previous government -- all of a sudden those new revenues came pouring in -- knew full well that one of the first initiatives of this government was going to be to increase the level of provincial participation in educational funding. Boy, were we misled, because that did not happen.
Do members know what did happen? The former minister is in the House and he knows. He knows the release of the report indicating what the level of provincial participation was supposed to be has been rather late in being brought to the attention of the members of this Legislature. It should have been brought out and should have been released prior to the election campaign. It is interesting that there are some guesstimates being given now to all of us in regard to the current level of funding of education in this province.
Those estimates are being provided by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. They have indicated that, on the basis of the preliminary figures that they have received, not only did the funding fall from 60 per cent to 48 per cent when the government took over, but it has fallen further, from 48 per cent to 44 per cent, and in all probability has gone down another two per cent over the course of the past year.
The minister takes issue with that and says I am probably wrong, but where is the report? Why are we not getting a report which will indicate to us what the true figures are? Where is the Minister of Education (Mr. Ward) when we need him? I cannot entirely fault the former minister.
The reality is that it is all well and good to come out with nice, glossy press releases and with all kinds of reports with respect to the initiatives that this government is going to take on the education front when we know all too well that one of the key platforms -- namely, that of returning provincial funding to 60 per cent -- is now a rather moot point with the current government. They do not even talk about it any more. It is just not a matter that is high up on the agenda, and certainly it was not mentioned in the throne speech.
What we have heard about is that they are going to do a couple of things in terms of education. Hundreds of thousands of computers will now be made available to the students of the province. In addition, they are going to reduce class sizes in grades 1 and 2 from 30 to 20 pupils, on average. We applaud that initiative, but we ask a question.
Mr. Brandt: We are not applauding that loudly, because we have a question that is associated with that initiative. At the selfsame time that they propose to reduce class sizes in grades 1 and 2, and with all of the attendant capital expenditures that are required to go along with that initiative and all of the additional costs for teachers -- I believe some 4,000 new teachers will be required for that initiative as well -- how can they make those comments, knowing full well their government over the past two years has brought forward policies which have resulted in the number of students in portables going from 110,000 to 150,000?
It is absolutely totally unacceptable to our party that they would allow 150,000 students in this province to be taught in portable classrooms at the selfsame time that they are talking about reducing class sizes in grades 1 and 2. Do they not realize that there is going to be a capital requirement for grades 1 and 2? When they reduce the class sizes and when they increase the number of teachers who will be involved with those particular students, they are going to require some capital expansion. I ask the government, why would it not address the immediate needs of trying to reduce the numbers of portables?
I can recall the members of the current government, when they were in opposition, talking about the dastardly deeds that were being committed by the previous government when it did not recognize how inappropriate it was, in this day and age, in the richest province in Canada and with the kind of resources that we could bring forward on issues of this kind: how could we allow 110,000 pupils to be taught in portable classrooms?
I raise the question with this government. If it was wrong to teach 110,000 students in portables in 1985, then it is even more wrong, more serious, more critical to be teaching 150,000 students in portables in 1987, and that is what they are doing.
The other concern I have in regard to what the government is doing, relative to education funding in particular, is that for all of the platitudes, for all of the pious phrases and for all of the quasi-commitments that come out of the government relative to education, the reality is that it is reducing the funding as a percentage of the provincial budget. It is going down. Other areas of the budget are going up, obviously, but education is not the priority this government said it was going to be. Education is not getting its fair share of funding in Ontario from this government. It is a category, an area, a ministry of the government, if you will, that is receiving less attention than was previously the case.
I urge the government, because it certainly did not bring forward this kind of commitment in the throne speech, to bring forward programs to properly support the financial requirements of the educational system.
I would like to speak for a few moments about the question of fiscal management and the economy. I have some very real concerns about the management of the provincial economy by the current government; again, I make my comments in a constructive way.
Ontario, as we well know, depends on trade for its survival. The reality is that two out of every five jobs in this province depend on export and the reality is that 90 per cent of our exports go to the United States. Now, we enter into dialogue virtually daily in this House on the merits or the lack of merits of any kind of trade agreement with the United States. I respect the views of the official opposition in regard to its being opposed to a trade agreement, as I would hope it would respect our position in being in favour of a trade agreement. The one position we have never been able to figure out is the position of the government because the government goes around with its press releases, with its studies it has released and with the comments it makes to the media virtually on a daily basis, indicating it has some opposition to a trade agreement but not indicating what it is the government proposes to do about it.
They want the best of both worlds. They really want to find some way to remain straddled on the picket fence for as long as they possibly can, thinking that this kind of inaction, this lack of a definitive decision on the part of the government, will appease most of the people of Ontario. I have to tell the government that I believe this lack of action, this lack of a decision, will ultimately cost those 95 members and this government very dearly in the time ahead.
Again, we look at what this government wants in terms of future trade and the expansion of that trade, which I believe is so vitally important and is such a critical matter to Ontario. The government on the one hand said it was in favour of decisions brought down by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That was the position of the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) when we talked about softwood lumber about a year ago. He indicated at that time that GATT would be the appropriate tribunal, and if not GATT, then the US court system would be the mechanism that would be used to resolve our trade differences.
Then on the first decision that is brought down by GATT that the government disagrees with, now the government is indicating, at least through the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. Kwinter), somewhat clarified today by the Premier and modifying the position somewhat -- but the initial position of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology was that they would simply ignore the GATT ruling.
That is an absolute absurdity. How can you ignore the GATT ruling without bringing upon yourself all of the retaliatory powers of our trading partners who have taken this action and brought it before the GATT tribunal for a decision? What other areas of the economy is the government throwing to the wolves as a result of attempting, quite properly, to protect the wine industry and the beer industry? What other sectors of the economy are going to be hurt and how many jobs are going to be lost as a result of that?
I have to tell the government that there is no status quo on this issue, as there is no status quo on the trade issue. You are either going to get free trade, you are going to get protectionism or you are going to get some kind of retaliation somewhere from someone. You can bet on it because that is what world trade is all about.
Mr. Brandt: I did not say that. There is that quantum leap in Liberal logic again when you talk about a mechanism that has resolved a dispute in a certain fashion. What the member is saying is that it is, “Throw the grape growers to the wolves,” and that we have no sensitivity towards their plight, no concern about their welfare.
The member is wrong. We are concerned about that, only we would have taken some action maybe a year or two years ago to try to negotiate a better deal than we have today. We would have anticipated the problem, which the Premier and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology were well aware of, that there was going to be a decision brought down with respect to GATT and with respect to that particular sector of agriculture and industry in Ontario. Something could have been done by this government to bring in a better decision than that arrived at.
The reality is the government now has the worst of both worlds. It is shoving aside GATT as a mechanism which is inappropriate and it is shoving aside free trade. One of the only alternatives it is going to have is what was done back in the 1930s as a result of the stock market crash in 1929, because there was a series of things done at that time when people found themselves in a competitive dilemma similar in some respects to what we have today.
First, we had a very substantial erosion of the value of stocks that occurred on Black Monday a few weeks ago. One of the knee-jerk reactions back in 1929 and the early 1930s by the government of the United States at that time was to raise interest rates. Thankfully, we have not done that yet, because if you want to destroy consumer confidence in a hurry, if you want to bring the economy to a crawl very quickly, then raise interest rates. Thankfully, the government did not do that.
The second thing they did back in 1930 was to reduce government spending. It is interesting that the first, almost knee-jerk reaction of the Treasurer of this province was to send out a signal to the municipalities and the school boards that, “By golly, you may not get the level of funding we had promised you because times are tough.” He said the same thing about pension programs. He sent out all the negative signals, all the wrong signals to the economy at a time when people needed some injection of confidence.
Instead of taking a longer look at the situation -- he did not have to cut back at that particular time; the moneys and revenues were committed in this budget by this province and he could have maintained a very equitable kind of direction in terms of staying on course. He did not have to take what I consider to be nothing other than a knee-jerk reaction, but he did. I think that may have caused some slippage in the economy as well because of the concerns those kinds of comments made. There were headlines, I might add, across this province in many local newspapers with remarks from local officials indicating their concerns about a cutback in the transfer grants from the province.
The third thing that happened, however, back in 1929 and 1930 that I think we should look at carefully in terms of the reaction of the current government to some of the very real and critical problems we face today is that the government back in those days raised tariffs and built a higher protectionist wall. Members can anticipate what happened as a result of that wall being constructed. What happened, very quickly, was that there were retaliatory measures brought about by some 40 countries in the world as a result of those tariffs going up.
The end result of all that exercise was that world trade was brought to a crashing halt. It was almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy, what they did and how they went about doing it. As a result of those three measures -- cutting back government spending, increasing interest rates and putting up protectionist barriers -- trade started to slow down.
That is why I guess the members of my party happen to be free traders. We believe in a level playing field. We believe we can enhance and expand our trade with the United States. We believe we can do that in a way that will increase jobs in this province. We have confidence in the ability of the people of Ontario to compete because what has happened over the course of the last few years -- only about 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the products that flow back and forth between Canada and the United States are now under discussion with this free trade deal. Most of them are already exempt from tariffs. Most of them are outside any kind of tariff barriers.
As those tariff barriers have come down, as there has been a sensible and logical removal of those barriers to a trading arrangement between ourselves and our largest trading partner, an interesting phenomenon has occurred. More jobs were created in Ontario. Some industries became far more competitive and the net result of it was that we ended up with a much stronger economy in this province than we had previously.
So the kinds of forecasts we have seen, in connection with what will happen in a trade deal, that have been circulated before us as they were today by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, suggesting there are 400,000 “sensitive” jobs if there is a trade deal -- we recognize there are going to be some sensitive jobs. How many jobs are going to be sensitized in any fashion if there is no trade deal? There are many jobs in the apparel business, in the shoe business and in light manufacturing that are under intense competition today for which we have to develop programs of retraining, industrial support programs to help them respond to the changing conditions, the changing realities of today’s competition in order to retain and keep those jobs for the future.
You do not undertake protection for those jobs simply by increasing tariff barriers and tariff walls. It has never worked before. You cannot hide behind them for ever because we are a trading province, a trading nation, and we require that kind of interrelationship with other countries in order to survive. In my view, the implications of the government taking the kind of stand it has taken are very serious.
It is interesting to note that seven out of the 10 provinces are committed to a trade agreement at the present time. There are only three provinces that are opposed. Prince Edward Island has indicated its opposition. Ontario, obviously the largest province, has indicated its opposition but has not done anything about that to this point in time. Third, we have the Premier of Manitoba who has changed his tune somewhat in that he is now opposed to free trade, but not all that long ago he was making comments to the effect that he thought a trade agreement with the US would enhance and enlarge our market capabilities and opportunities and that this would be good for Manitoba. As he has changed his position, there are three provinces opposed; seven are in favour at the moment.
Let me say in regard to what I consider some of the concerns about the economy -- I have talked a little bit about the free trade arrangement and we will be making comments on that as the days and weeks ahead unfold. I want to talk a little bit about the spending on the part of this government which I think is going to cause some real concerns in the province unless it is brought to a slower rate of growth. I do not say to cut back entirely and I do not say it should be reduced, but I do say it should be more in line, if you will, with the level of inflation.
It is interesting to note that over the course of the past two years inflation arguably has been in the range of about four per cent a year. So over those two years you would have, you would think, in order to keep up with the level of spending that inflation would call for, an increase of about eight per cent overall in the budget over that two-year period. But that is not what happened on the other side. What did happen on the other side was a rate of spending increase that went up three times as fast as the rate of inflation. That is a little scary for some of us who recognize that there may be a rainy day coming for which they should have put aside a little bit of money or perhaps prepared in a somewhat more anticipatory fashion for the requirements the government will need if the economy slows down.
What has happened is that they have marginally lost the triple-A credit rating, which increases the cost of borrowing on the part of Ontario. They have expanded the civil service by 5,000 employees; a quarter of a billion dollars. They have enlarged the provincial budget by 25 per cent over what it was previously. Now we go into the next fiscal year with a throne speech that addresses none of these questions. It does not indicate, “Well, we had to expand the budget to look after some serious shortfalls in funding on the part of the previous government,” which is their line on virtually everything, never recognizing that we came through a period of recession -- the reality is that they have expanded the expenditures very rapidly.
I know there are some closet fiscal conservatives over there because I saw one of them once. I would hope they would recognize that in all probability they have a budget deficit this year of something in the range of $1.3 billion in a period of time when we have experienced some of the strongest growth Ontario has realized in many decades. It is also interesting to note -- I want to be fair in my comments in relation to the increases in revenues on the other side -- that they have not taken all the credit for those increases or for the buoyant economy because they know full well they are going to have take full blame for the downturn if they take all the credit for the increases.
The reality is that the economy was turning around very substantially in 1985 and they experienced the good parts of that turnaround in regard to both employment growth and the expansion of revenues. I say to them again that kind of revenue growth will not happen in all probability in the next couple of years ahead, so I ask the government to look very carefully at its budget in the months ahead in an attempt to keep those expenditures under reasonable control.
Let me make a comment, if I can, about something I feel the government should be aware of. Perhaps some of the members of the government have not had it explained to them in the fullest sense that may be necessary. This is in regard to the role of the opposition and the financial resources an opposition party needs in order to appropriately carry out its responsibilities in this forum.
We recognize that we are outnumbered about three to one in terms of the members who were elected on September 10. As I indicated, we accept that reality; but we also, as members of the opposition, have a very important role to play. The opposition parties went before the government and requested a decrease from what they had previously received in the year before the election. They actually asked for a $500,000 -- was it not a $500,000 decrease?
Mr. Brandt: That is right. There was a $500,000 decrease that we were prepared to negotiate with the government. The government at that time put forward the position that we had to accept the fact we had some 35 members and as a result of having only 35 members we were going to get allocated a very substantial cut in the number of dollars we felt were necessary. That again is the prerogative of the government. They have the numbers to make those decisions and I want them to know that we recognize they do have those kinds of prerogatives.
But that is not what happened in Ottawa. In Ottawa when there was a very substantial majority elected, the government of the day, some three years ago, recognized the rights of the opposition and gave it exactly the number of dollars it had with the government previous to that. In other words, they provided the opposition members with the wherewithal financially to be able to carry out their responsibilities. I think this is perhaps a small indication of the creeping arrogance we see coming forward on the other side.
Mr. Brandt: Some have suggested that it is not creeping arrogance, that it is galloping arrogance. Just because they have 95 members does not mean they can run roughshod over this House. It does not mean that the opposition members do not have certain rights and responsibilities. The government also, I believe, has a certain responsibility to provide the members of the opposition with the financial capacity to be able to put forward a responsible opposition on the questions of the day, in order for us to hire for our needs and our requirements in terms of research staff and personnel.
However, the government chose not to do that. I would hope that is not a signal of what is to come in terms of the approach this government is going to use in its relationship with the members of the opposition parties, because I want to say this: Either we can co-operate with the government and make life easy for it on a number of its initiatives, or we do not have to co-operate. I have committed myself earlier in my address to dealing with issues, not to dealing with personalities, to try to expedite the business of government, to help it when it is doing what we feel is right for the people of this province. But we card also flip the coin and take the other side, if you will, if it is necessary for us to be a touch more obstinate in terms of our response to proposals that come forward from --
In the light of the remarks I have made in response to what I feel is an inadequate speech from the throne, I want to indicate the Progressive Conservative Party will be voting against both the amendment of the member for York South (Mr. B. Rae) to the throne speech and the government’s motion to the throne speech.
Mr. Beer: It is a pleasure for me to have the opportunity this afternoon to rise and speak in this debate, as it offers me the first opportunity I have had to do so since the new session began. I believe it is appropriate, when a new member speaks -- and for a new riding, as I do today -- to make some reference to that riding, and I do so with particular pride for a reason that I will outline in just a moment or two.
Before doing that, I want to pay tribute to my predecessor, the present member for York Centre (Mr. Sorbara), the Minister of Labour, who from 1985 to 1987, was the member for a much larger riding. Because of the tremendous growth in York region, we were able to add an extra riding.
I know my friend and colleague the member for Markham (Mr. Cousens) appreciates the fact that we now have four voices, including that of my colleague the member for Durham-York (Mr. Ballinger), whom we share, in a way, with our neighbour Durham, to speak on behalf of issues that affect York region.
My predecessor established, among many other things, one very important trait; that was his openness and the fact that he was always accessible to the electors in the riding to discuss with them the various problems and issues they wished to raise. It will certainly be my intention to continue that tradition in the riding.
I want also at this time to pay tribute to William Hodgson, who was the member from 1967 until 1985. As some members will be aware, during the summer he suffered a heart attack. I did want to take this occasion formally to tell the House that he has recovered and is in good spirits. I think we all wish him very well in the years ahead.
The new riding of York North comprises the towns of Newmarket and Aurora and King township. One of the interesting aspects of the riding is that although the urban areas have been growing at a tremendous rate, one of the major attributes of the riding is the largest part of the Holland Marsh, which of course is one of the great agricultural areas that we have in the province.
Historically, this has been an area where the tradition of dissent, the tradition of reform, the tradition even, at times, of rebellion has been very strong. It is significant that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the 1837 rebellion. As everyone knows, William Lyon Mackenzie found his greatest reform strength in the area known as York North.
I commend to all members who have a strong interest in history -- and I am sorry that the government House leader, the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway), could not be with us at this time because he does have a strong interest in history -- Rebel County by Terry Carter, a Newmarket resident, which sets out much of the history 150 years ago. I think it is fair to say that my riding has a strong, true Grit tradition, and I am proud to continue as the member for that area.
I have had the pleasure of listening to the speeches of both the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party. I noted that they set out what they hoped would be a constructive approach that they would take in this debate and in others, and I welcome that. As one who, a number of years ago, worked when our party was not quite so fortunate and sat in the opposition, I recognize that there is always a dilemma within the opposition parties in terms of what one wants to put forward in a positive and constructive way and what, simply because one is the opposition, one must be involved in opposing and, in many cases, negative approaches to different problems. But I appreciate what it is that they hope they can do over the next three or four years from their particular perspective.
There were several comments made about the extent to which we on the government side would be listening to the comments of the opposition and, in particular, comments about us being complacent, inactive and arrogant. As a new member, I want to address those comments very specifically. In our caucus at this time, 48 of us were elected for the first time on September 10. I want to make very clear to the Leader of the Opposition, to the leader of the third party and to all members of this House, that we did not decide to run, we did not seek the nominations for our party in our riding, we did not campaign to be elected simply in order to sit back and do nothing. Far from it.
If we look at the members who were elected in the recent election, I believe we will see men and women who were active in their own communities in a variety of ways, who are definitely not those who tend to sit back and wait, but who rather want to get involved, to deal with the issues and the problems of their constituents and therefore, globally, to deal with the problems and issues that are facing the people of Ontario. I take great exception, and I know my colleagues do, to the charges that somehow, because there are 95 members on this side, we will become complacent and fail to act on the issues of the day.
Another point that was made, and I think needs to be addressed, is the question of who represents whom in this House. We hear a lot about ordinary people, the working people, and it is sometimes suggested that there is only one party that somehow can represent those interests. With respect, I think everyone elected to this House had to be supported in some fashion by all the people in the riding, including those who were defined as being the working people, the ordinary people. I take great pride in the fact that there were members involved in my campaign who are strong unionists and who feel strongly about that, but who felt that the Liberal government from 1985 to 1987 had demonstrated qualities of leadership and that it was putting forward a program they could support. As their member, I must now speak for them as strongly as I would speak for any other resident in my constituency.
I think we have to accept -- and the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman), in our emergency debate on housing that we held the week before last, put it quite well -- that we do get involved in a great deal of rhetoric in this House. But if we are honest with each other, we recognize that perhaps the people for whom it is most difficult for all of us to speak are those people who are the homeless, those without hope. In that sense, none of us in any of the three parties in this House, in any real sense, can say that he has that kind of experience and can speak for them, with the possible exception of our colleague the member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston), who as we know -- and I have great respect for the work he has done in that regard -- has tried to look very deeply into questions of poverty.
It is our role as individual members to speak for all the people in our constituencies as much as we possibly can, and certainly that is the view that I believe all my colleagues take on this side of the House. We intend to be open. We intend to be progressive. We intend to be activists. I do not intend to sit here -- and I know my colleagues do not -- and let problems wash over us. We will attack those problems and we will try to bring forward policies that will, in the long run, demonstrate that this is a government that is going to deal with the agenda that is at hand.
I want to deal with a number of critical issues. I will be dealing with them in the context of my own riding, but I believe these are issues we will see right across the province, and I am sure other members will raise similar examples. In my own area -- and here I speak not just for York North but for York region, because I think the problems we have in the region, whether in York Centre, in Durham-York, in Markham or in my own riding, are very similar -- the problems I want to touch on are education, housing, health, seniors, day care and transportation.
I do not want to get too much into statistics, but I think there are a couple that we need to put forward in order to understand the magnitude of the problem which we in York region are facing. Our problem, simply put, is growth. It does not matter what area of interest or what issue you discuss, we are feeling the tremendous impact of growth. From 1985 to 1986, our population went up over eight per cent, from 324,000 to 350,000, and it is expected this year to hit some 380,000. This has affected absolutely every area of activity, and none more so than education.
Much was made by the leader of the third party earlier today of the fact that there are some 150,000 children in portables. I do not think anybody in this House accepts that even one portable is something we want to see, but if there is one thing that I believe it is fair game for us on this side of the House still to say to the former government, the government prior to 1985, it is that that government was the father, the mother, the grandparents, the uncles, the aunts of underfunding, and we are still paying for what it did not do.
When we look at the increase in educational capital funding which this government brought in between 1985 and 1987, we can see the nature of the problem. In my own area of York region last year, separate and public school boards were allocated over 40 per cent of the total allocation of capital funds in Ontario. We recognized at that time, with that incredible amount of money, some $88 million, it still was not going to be sufficient to match the growth of the area. So we have in York region some 600 portables.
I know my colleagues the member for Durham-York, the member for York Centre and indeed the member for Markham all recognize that is not acceptable. I believe that one of the reasons I am here is that during the campaign I specifically addressed that question, and I will be working very hard in the days and months ahead to ensure that York region continues to receive a significant proportion of capital funds, because that is where the people are going. That is where the growth has been.
It has been said that we have been paying less attention to education. Certainly it seems to me that by the allocation of capital funds we show that not to be so. There is much more that can be done and we are doing it.
There is a second part to the problem of education. Obviously, capital is critical and obviously, in the fast-growing areas of Durham, York, Peel and Ottawa-Carleton it is particularly important. But I think it is significant that the government has also chosen to move in temms of what we are doing in the classroom, because we must never lose sight of the fact that the most important thing that is going to happen is what is happening within the classroom; what are the programs? To that extent, the initiative that was announced during the campaign to provide increased funding so that we can lower the class sizes in the primary grades is an extremely important move.
When we look at the problems we have that deal with literacy, when we look at the problems we have of drop-outs, clearly where we have to begin is to address the education received by those in their earliest years. If you speak with teachers, if you speak with trustees, I think you would find that there is acceptance that the initiative is a positive one, and it is one we plan to move forward with as soon as possible because, with those smaller class sizes, I think we will be able to teach the basic skills in a much firmer and more co-ordinated way and, hopefully, as the children then proceed through the system, we will begin to see less of a problem with literacy and less of a problem with drop-outs. I am not saying that is the only factor that affects those two areas, but clearly, the stronger the education in the lower grades, the better those students will be, I believe, as they move through the system.
The next issue that is a critical one in our area is that of housing. I listened and I found extremely helpful the emergency debate we had two weeks ago -- helpful because I felt each member who spoke raised very legitimate issues and concerns, and in that sense it truly was a debate. The honourable leader of the third party stated earlier that it is important that we listen to each other in these debates, and I think that was one where there were comments, perspectives that were offered that, as a member of the government, I quite accept we have to listen to and indeed act on.
I would not for one moment try to argue that the housing scene in Ontario is acceptable, but then neither does the Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek). We have a challenge before us. We have an opportunity before us to try to get significant movement on a number of critical issues in housing. In my own area, we have, ironically, seen an incredible increase in housing in all parts of the region, but of course our concern resides particularly with what is termed the affordable housing area, and there are many problems there.
I think it was clear in the debate we had two weeks ago that there is in fact no one simple answer. There are probably a number of answers. There are probably still some mistakes we will have to go through before we can get the kind of housing we require, but I think every single member in this House knows that within his or her riding there are serious housing problems.
I am committed to see this government play a lead role in a number of ways. Obviously, we have a role with respect to funding, but it is more than funding, and I think we have to ensure that we look at the different aspects of this housing dilemma. It gets into red tape, it gets into planning, it gets into restrictive bylaws, it gets into what is often termed the NIMBY syndrome -- not in my backyard -- and, if you like, leading and convincing people that we must assume obligations for those who are perhaps not as well off as many of us are.
Certainly, in York region we need more kinds of a broad range of housing. Whether it is rental, co-op or assisted, there is really no category of housing that we will not require in the future. One of the interesting things I discovered as I went around to plant gates during the election campaign was where many of the younger workers lived. I found that many of them lived in parts of Metro Toronto or in the far northern part of York region beyond my own riding, where they were going to try to find cheaper accommodation.
I am sure every one of us has examples of individuals who came to us, or whom we met during the campaign, who set out a housing problem with which we could be nothing else but sympathetic. Yet, at times, we felt very frustrated because we were not able to instantly offer some solution to their housing problem.
I make it very clear that housing must be a priority of this parliamentary session. It will certainly be a priority, I believe, for many of us on this side of the House in the government. I believe we have a minister who is very much aware of the magnitude of the problem and who is going to attack it in an activist and courageous way.
The next issue that I want to touch on briefly is health care; in particular the question of seniors and seniors’ health care. Again, growth is overcoming us in York region. Last spring, we received two major sums of money for the expansion of York Central Hospital in Richmond Hill and York County Hospital in Newmarket, yet we know it will take three or four years before those additions come on stream.
So we have a real problem, with the tremendous growth in the population, in providing the beds and the services that everyone requires. That is another capital funding problem that we are going to have to address. I have to say, from this side, clearly we do not have all the funds that would allow us to meet all of the capital problems.
I was speaking of education before. The basic, most serious school problem in York region is where we want to have the schools. If we were to meet what the two school boards want this year, it would necessitate something in the order of $100 million in capital for this one year. When we add that to the various other areas, such as housing, health care and transportation, members can see the magnitude of the problem we face, the need to set our priorities clearly and the need to try to find, in some cases, nonfinancial ways, nonfiscal ways to get over some of those problems.
Related to the health care issue, and one which I think is very important for us, is the issue of seniors. We have in York region an institution known as Greenacres home for the aged, which a number of members may be aware of. This home is operated by Metropolitan Toronto, but in the next year or so will leave its control and come under the aegis, possibly, of York region, or there are other approaches that we may take. It raises the significant question of how we handle those seniors who, despite all other efforts, will still require some form of institutional care.
I support fully the program of deinstitutionalization, of finding alternatives; none the less we must also recognize that with the increase in the population, with the dramatic increase of those people over the age of 85, there still is going to be a real need for institutional care. It is our obligation to make sure that care is first-rate.
Indeed, that was set out in the new agenda which the former Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs, the member for London North (Mr. Van Horne), put out a year or so ago. I am very pleased to see that the new minister, the member for Dufferin-Peel (Mrs. Wilson), has recognized that we are going to have to work very hard to make sure the kind of care that is required is there.
There are, again, opportunities here, I think particularly in the case of Greenacres, to begin to develop a variety of alternative care, including things such as the Alzheimer’s day care program. One such centre has been set up in the riding of the member for Markham. I think this is an approach that we want to explore carefully and see expanded throughout the province, but we are going to have to be very innovative in terms of finding various ways of caring for seniors and making better use of those institutions we will have in the days ahead. Greenacres will play an important role in York region in that care.
There is probably no part of the province where day care is not an issue or any place where it will not continue to be an important issue for some time to come. Growth has meant for us a dramatic lack of available spaces. In one way, I suppose, we may be able to turn the problem of school construction into a plus, because there has been what I believe to be an innovative approach, in that as we build the new elementary and secondary schools we require in York region, we are also going to be providing a day care facility attached to those schools.
There has been much discussion in York region, and I am sure there will be in other areas, from a number of people who have been concerned about placing a day care facility as part of a school. While I believe there are perhaps some technical or administrative problems, it seems to me that can be a very positive approach and in our own case, in York region, where the need is quite desperate, I see this as an important way in which we can begin to address the problem of having more day care spaces. There are obviously other issues as well that go along with this, but that is one of the most important ones, simply to get the spaces we require.
The final major issue I would deal with in terms of York region is that of transportation. We have seen in the last year a move to develop Highway 407, which is greatly needed. Highway 404 is being finished up to Newmarket and we hope will go beyond, but there are other needs related to that, such as transit. As we grow, our need for better bus service and better train service becomes increasingly apparent. In York region, the regional council is trying to address this and will be launching a major study next year on transit we require.
Clearly, in all of these areas, the province is going to have to play an important role from both funding and planning points of view. The dilemma will be to what extent we will be able to offer leadership and to offer, where we can, the funds that will be required to ensure that these transportation services go forward.
I accept that these issues I have raised in terms of York region are not unique to the area, but I think we all recognize that these are the areas where we are going to have to work very hard over the next session. Particularly in the fast-growth regions of Durham, York, Peel and Ottawa-Carleton, I think we may have to look for new funding formulas and new planning formulas to ensure that a lot of these services come on line much faster than would be the case perhaps in more slowly growing communities.
I feel it is appropriate today to note another anniversary. Almost 20 years ago this week, former Conservative Premier John Robarts launched the Confederation of Tomorrow Conference. Many members will recall that the conference in November 1967 did, in fact, open what at that time was the new Toronto-Dominion Centre, but that conference launched us on a road which, in a sense, we are still on.
As honourable members know, in this session we will be addressing the question of the Constitution. The throne speech pointed out that a select committee would be formed and I think it is appropriate that we reflect back on where we have come from over the last 20 years in terms of a variety of public constitutional discussions and changes, and how important it will be for all of us as members of this Legislature to reflect very seriously and at length on the issues that will be brought before us in terms of the select committee.
I think it is appropriate that we remember the contribution the former Conservative Premier made to this process, and in that context I want to pay tribute to the leader of the third party with respect to his statement on bilingualism shortly after he was appointed interim leader. One of the things I found most difficult to accept -- and I believe this was shared by a number of members of the Conservative Party -- was what seemed to me to be a real shift from the historic position that John Robarts set out with respect to bilingualism and the position that the party took during the last election. I am pleased to see that the word “never” has been taken out, and I believe there will be a more constructive approach on this particular issue. I commend the member for Sarnia (Mr. Brandt) for making those statements several weeks ago.
J’aimerais maintenant ajouter quelques mots au sujet de notre engagement, c’est-à-dire l’engagement du Parti libéral, du gouvernement, à l’égard du bilinguisme en Ontario. Même dans ma propre circonscription, je suis fier que nous ayons vu une augmentation importante de la population francophone depuis des années. Nous avons maintenant non seulement des écoles d’immersion française, mais aussi une nouvelle école de langue française comme langue maternelle. Je pense qu’il y a une nouvelle ouverture vis-à-vis des questions du bilinguisme, vis-à-vis des questions de l’éducation en langue française.
Je pense que le gouvernement de mon leader, le premier ministre (M. Peterson), a pris une décision très claire en présentant ce que l’on appelle la Loi 8. Dans cette loi, nous pouvons tous voir comment nous allons assurer des services en langue française pour la population franco-ontarienne. Il me semble que notre politique vient en ligne directe de l’ancien premier ministre conservateur John Robarts, dont j’ai parlé tantôt.
“Mais il n’y a pas de problème plus urgent ou plus pressant que celui de reconnaître l’existence historique, dans notre pays, de gens plus ou moins groupés dont la langue habituelle n’est pas celle de la vaste majorité de leurs concitoyens. Le Canada peut-il faire place à ces deux courants principaux de notre héritage et peut-il en être plus riche? Ma réponse”, alors la réponse de M. Robarts, “est un ‘oui’ très positif.”
Il a continué: “En Ontario, nous sommes prêts à passer des paroles aux actes. Et en fait, nous sommes en train de satisfaire, partout où cela est pratique et faisable, les besoins reconnus et réels des Franco-Ontariens.”
Alors, le gouvernement libéral, le gouvernement qu’on a élu le 10 septembre, nous allons continuer de développer nos programmes et nos services d’une façon logique et pragmatique, non seulement pour assurer l’expansion de ces services, mais aussi pour assurer que les francophones, comme Canadiens, pourront se sentir chez eux, ici en Ontario.
In closing, I would like to end as I began and to make very clear that this government is not about to go to sleep, this government is not going to become complacent, this government is not going to become arrogant. This is going to be a government that will be concerned with the real problems that people have.
In the throne speech, in the election campaign, in the throne speech of last April, if we take all of those together, there are proposals, plans and programs. We have made a commitment to act on all of those during the next three to four years, so that when we go back to the people, if we have not been able to do everything that we said, we will have at least tried. I think that is what is important to underline, and I hope the opposition will understand that complacency is not the order of the day. We will prove that by our deeds, but it is important to state that at this time.
I think I would be remiss if I did not first congratulate the member for York North (Mr. Beer) on a very strong maiden speech in this Legislature. I am sure his constituents will read it with great pleasure. I hope they will follow along in the speech as the days and months go by to see whether the hopes the member has so eloquently expressed are, in fact, realized.
Perhaps I can take, as a partial text at least, one of the remarks that the member for York North made when he was talking about the housing situation. I, too, was glad we had an emergency debate already, at this early stage in this parliament, because I do not believe there is a crisis more severe than that which faces us in the area of housing. I do hope the government of Ontario will be aggressive as it moves to meet the housing crisis.
The member for York North says it is more than funding. Of course, he is quite right: it is more than funding. He noted there was red tape, there was restrictive zoning, there were planning concerns and considerations, there was the not-in-my-backyard factor. While that is true, I would submit that none of those is a real problem until there is adequate funding to provide for all of those projects that people have proposed.
In fact, the problem we have faced over the last number of years is that there has not been enough money in the pie that the government has created to fund housing construction. So if, indeed, there are communities that have restrictive zoning or have planning delays or have neighbourhoods that are going to resist housing for vulnerable people, those factors in themselves have not contributed appreciably to the housing crisis.
For example, the city of Toronto, I am pleased to say, has done fairly well in avoiding the restrictive zoning practices of some other municipalities and, indeed, the city of Toronto, through its Toronto Non-Profit Housing Corp., of which I had the opportunity to be a director for many years, has managed to create within its boundaries upwards of 5,500 social housing units, which I know to be significantly more than any other municipality has been able to do.
The problem, of course, that the Toronto Non-Profit Housing Corp. faces, as well as the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Co., which builds mainly for seniors, is that it cannot get enough allocations from the provincial government to build all the housing it is ready to build, nor can it get allocations in a form it can use. So the Minister of Housing, bless her heart, has got to deal with another problem, in that units that have already been recorded as under construction, in the odd way that the Ministry of Housing does these things, will not in fact ever be built. A considerable number of units, probably about 500, that were allocated for those two providers in the last fiscal year will never appear. That is because the amount of money that was allocated by the provincial government to those two providers is inadequate to cause that housing to appear.
That problem is a difficult one, because what it will involve is changing the rules so that in areas where the cost of land is very high, for instance, it is not going to be adequate to continue to offer the same kind of maximum unit price that you would in an area where the land costs were less.
That fact seems to have escaped the Ministry of Housing for some years, not only the Ministry of Housing under this administration but the Ministry of Housing under that administration. It would be appropriate if the new administration smartened up and realized that when you are trying to build some housing in downtown Toronto, you will have to come up with a different kind of allocation than if you were going to build it in Thunder Bay. In fact, it should be built in both places, as well as in a lot of other places in the province.
I share those interesting views with the new member for York North in the hope that as he continues to wax eloquent about the future accomplishments of his government, he will have some opportunity to ensure that those accomplishments are real rather than rhetorical.
I do not want to speak at great length today and, in fact, I want to indicate just how long I am going to speak so that those who are waiting to speak can plan their agenda accordingly. If they are not going to get to speak, they can go and spend some time listening to something perhaps more interesting than my speech.
Mr. Reville: The member can come back probably next Monday. I am going to speak until 27 minutes after -- no, that is a bit long. I think I will speak until 5:25, so people can govern themselves accordingly.
I want to return to the subject matter of my question to the Minister of Health (Mrs. Caplan) today because I think it is instructive and will provide an appropriate response to the speech from the throne. One of the sets of cheerful comments in the speech from the throne that I provided myself with, just in case I might have to say something today, related to some useful comments about a health care system that government might want to have.
I quote from these deathless words: “Throughout the last decade, Ontarians have been adopting a more positive attitude towards the lifestyles they choose to lead.” It goes on about some things that happen to us if we make inappropriate lifestyle choices and it talks about a system that would emphasize the prevention of illness and disease. It flows right in to the incredible document that we received today called Health Promotion Matters in Ontario.
There are such incredibly puerile statements included in this document that it is hard to imagine an adult politician authoring these words with a straight face. For instance, on page 57 of Health Promotion Matters in Ontario, authored by the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet, who was then the Minister of Health -- this was in the spring of 1986 when clearly not much was growing in Ontario -- he said: “The task we face is a difficult one. We are moving to change basic thinking about health care.”
I find it astounding that in 1986 a Minister of Health for Ontario could stand up and say, “We are moving to change basic thinking about health care.” As I had some time today, I leafed through this document, and there is nothing untrue about anything I find therein. It is all true; it is just so banal, so trite and so worked over. In fact, there were documents available in the mid-1970s that went further than this document released today by this government.
Mr. Reville: It certainly lacks any freshness and it lacks any faint clue about whether the government understands how to implement a program that would go to the wellness of the citizens of Ontario rather than carry on with responses to the sickness of the citizens of Ontario. Frankly, I think this government has got to be able to do better than that.
I raise this in connection with the Oak Ridge question that I asked today because of the minister’s responses to my question about where is the schedule and where is the calendar for the replacement of that facility. What I got back was a list of recommendations that in fact are being implemented in connection with Oak Ridge but do not deal with the central problem. That particular facility can never be renovated in such a way as to provide a therapeutic environment for anyone. Staff, patients, anyone else in that particular facility, however renovated, will never find it a therapeutic environment, will never find that in fact what can happen in that kind of structure is going to contribute to the kind of awareness that the government says it has stumbled on recently about what should happen in a health care system.
For those members of the Legislature who have not yet had an opportunity to visit this experience -- and it is truly an experience -- l would invite them to call the administration at Oak Ridge and arrange for a tour. People who do not live in southwestern Ontario may have a whole different mythology about Oak Ridge than those of us who do but, in fact, quite simply the facility is a dungeon and involves a series of cells into which putting an animal would be a crime in this province. Notwithstanding that, in this place we house and pretend to treat people who are considered to be ill.
I think it is shocking that the minister does not have a plan to deal with that situation. There is no question that it is a difficult situation with which to deal, because there is a large number of issues, a whole constellation of issues around the question of how we provide a therapeutic environment for people who are considered to be criminally insane. There is another constellation of issues around the economy of the Penetang-Midland area that has to be addressed.
But it is not fair to say that the Minister of Health and the preceding Minister of Health did not have, spelled out very carefully, all the details of this problem as long ago as December 1985. Here we are almost in December 1987 and the best that has been managed is a commitment to build a much-needed recreational facility there but no plan to deal with the larger question of how it would be possible to create a new environment for people who need it and who are being dealt with partly in the mental health system and partly in the criminal justice system.
It is not a large number of people. Perhaps the people who are being dealt with in this facility are not particularly sympathetic. That is because some of the actions they are alleged to have committed are not actions that any of us would feel comfortable with. In fact, some of the actions that were alleged to have been committed by people there would make anybody feel rather ill, but our society has decided to deal with those people as people who are ill and not as people who are criminals, and in fact we have failed to do that.
I think that failure of this government actually to come up with a plan to deal with some of these long-known problems is an indictment of this government and indicates that in fact it is complacent, and it is asleep, and it is going to try to lull the people of Ontario to sleep by constant repetition of expressions of concern about everything -- concern about this, concern about that, concern about the other -- and by restating the concern over and over and over again, it perhaps hopes that people will be lulled off into a semi-comatose state and not notice that this concern is not often followed up by any action on the concern.
In fact, if you read this throne speech, you discover that very little action is described but there is a whole bunch of concern. This is probably one of the most concerned and actionless throne speeches you could ever have, and the only thing I can say for it is that it was quite short. It was a lot shorter than the previous throne speech, and I guess that was a blessing -- at least one of the blessings.
Mr. Reville: Actually, it is not between the lines; I am just waiting for lines to come. The member for Burlington South (Mr. Jackson) is really good at providing lines, and if he cares to do that, I will pick his up too.
One of the things I want to compliment the former Minister of Municipal Affairs on is what I believe was his determination finally to get after the whole question of the way the municipality of Metro Toronto governs itself. In fact, I welcome the announcements that were made by the current Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr. Eakins) about changes to the electoral structure in Metro, changes which are long overdue. Before any members of the government begin to sit back in their chairs and smile at the praise I am heaping so effusively on them, I am going to follow up this bit of praise with some criticism, which of course is the job of an opposition member.
One of the concerns that I have, and l am sure it is a concern that is shared by the member for Ottawa East (Mr. Grandmaître), is that in fact the time frame within which Metro has to implement this new system may be somewhat tight, given the necessity of redrawing all the ward boundaries and the necessity of all the incumbent politicians making their minds up about which of these wards looks best for them, which looks worse and whether they want to represent a city constituency or a Metro constituency. There will be much anxiety at the municipal level in Metro, and there is, indeed, just now.
l can see the newly elected member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Kanter) over there, who also, by the way, was an architect of this scheme. I should congratulate him on his vision and, of course, on his victory. I have not had a chance to do that publicly as yet, but members will know that the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick and I did share some time on one of the councils that I have mentioned. We had many laughs there, and of course we are looking forward to lots of laughs here too.
One of the things that I do hope will come to pass -- which l read about in the newspapers, in the organ which I refer to as the Liberal house organ -- I believe I read some hope in the Toronto Star that there will be some election expenses legislation and some spending-limit legislation brought forward that will apply to municipal politics. That would be a really good idea as well and also will throw many of my former colleagues in the municipal field into quite a tizzy; but high time, I should say, high time.
Mr. Reville: I think I read that in the Toronto Star. I keep seeing Anne Johnston around here, and I am sure that she continues to encourage the current Minister of Municipal Affairs to kind of get on with a number of these things so they will be in place for the next series of municipal electoral high jinks.
I am pleased to participate in the debate on the speech from the throne. It is a 28-page document that does not enlighten us a great deal. However, it is what some people call a blueprint; it is what some people call a lot of rhetoric; and it is, I guess, what this government is going to try to expand upon. I hope there is a great deal of expansion that occurs.
In this document, there is only one short sentence pertaining to agriculture in all of its 28 pages. Does this mean that Agriculture and Food has been relegated to the very back bench of cabinet? I hope not, because Agriculture and Food is most important to this great province. I will read the one sentence because I believe it bears being brought to the fore. It says, and I hope someone can further explain it, “In the midst of sustained global pressure affecting the agriculture sector, we must maintain a commitment to develop innovative approaches to assisting Ontario farmers.”
Mr. Villeneuve: I gather motherhood is important. I would hope this government has a real and true commitment to agriculture. Agriculture employs directly and indirectly almost 25 per cent of the residents in this province. That in itself is of utmost importance. We are exporters of food, as we are importers of food, and one short sentence in a 28-page document does not bode very well for Agriculture and Food.
We are going through some very difficult economic times in agriculture. The ministry, by its own formula, tells us that grain producers, for instance, will be faced with a 12 per cent reduction in gross income in 1987 following reduced gross income in the two preceding years. Effectively, a ton of corn is fetching the price it did 20 years ago, yet the input costs are still 1987 costs and producers are living with 1967 incomes.
We in eastern Ontario look at our fellow farmers in Quebec, where they do have a very rich support system for agriculture, and I commend them for it. I will from time to time be reminding the minister that income is of utmost importance to agriculture, and that is where his ministry should be looking towards correcting some of the grave imbalances that have occurred recently in agriculture. We have full elevators, elevators that cannot handle any more grain, and in eastern Ontario we probably had the best corn crop we have ever grown. Added to that, we have the best-quality corn we have ever grown in the great eastern part of Ontario.
I have suggested on a number of occasions to the Minister of Agriculture and Food and to the ministry that we must diversify grain into nonfood production. Ethanol-methanol, for instance, would be a great way of utilizing a good portion of our surplus grain production here in Ontario. A three per cent ethanol mixture with five per cent methanol added to 92 per cent regular gasoline would be a nonpolluting alternative to the existing leaded and unleaded fuel.
We have in eastern Ontario a very large grain elevator at Prescott, which happens to be right in the riding that I attempt to represent, the great and historic riding of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and east Grenville. I think it would be an excellent opportunity to utilize those facilities in the production of ethanol.
Also, the Ministry of Transportation has recently been to court, and it has been found guilty in a situation where some orchards have suffered damage from road salt. We now have, through research in the United States, a calcium magnesium acetate, more commonly known as CMA, as a substitute for road salt, which the US Federal Highway Administration began researching as far back as 1982. The Chevron Chemical Co. in the US has test-produced a product called Ortho Ice-B-Gone from corn, which could be utilized to manufacture the acetic acid used in making CMA.
The de-icer CMA is only one tenth as dangerous as road salt to the environment. To the Minister of Transportation (Mr. Fulton), we find many of our overpasses and structures along some of our four-lane and two-lane class 1 provincial highways deteriorating more rapidly than they should because of high uses of road salt. This, I believe, would stretch the life of these structures very considerably, while using home-grown, nonpolluting products. I think it is well worth looking into.
Another area of concern is tax rebates to senior citizens who have chosen to remain living on farm land. I brought the question to the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Grandmaître) last week. I do not know whether he was really aware of what I was speaking of, but I will quote from a letter I received -- and I have received a number of such letters -- which explains the situation quite well.
I certainly hope the Minister of Revenue, and also the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs, will look into a matter that is unquestionably discriminatory to senior citizens living on nonproductive, nonproducing farms and not getting the tax rebate they should be getting.
I quote from a letter received November 4: “Recently my mother received a letter stating that since she lives on a nonproductive farm, the government has decided to punish her by cutting back on the refund of farm taxes. Mom has lived on this farm for 60 years with her husband, who passed away last February.”
The letter goes on: “The tax rebate to senior citizens is now predicated on the residence and one acre. If there is any additional farm land attached to this farm holding, the tax rebate does not apply as a senior citizen.” It would apply if this was a producing farm that would qualify under the farm tax rebate. However, this is a situation that is occurring in rural Ontario.
I have spoken to a number of my colleagues, and they are receiving correspondence, very concerned that our senior citizens, who have, in many cases if not all cases, operated these farms for many years, educated their families and chosen to continue living on the farm, are being discriminated against. It is certainly not a fair situation at all, not in this day and age, when discrimination is a dirty word and, I think, maybe does not exist in the Liberal vocabulary. However, this is a case in point, and I am pleased to see that the minister is here this afternoon and is taking very copious notes.
Also in regard to farm tax rebates, last year the minister who is now Minister of Revenue was Minister of Municipal Affairs, and we did have a fairly major problem in a small number of cases. I guess most of them must have been in my riding because I got many phone calls. The situation was finally corrected; however, the tax rebates were not received in many cases until February and March of 1987. This applied to taxes paid in 1986. I hope these people are taxable, but if indeed they are taxable, they will have to pay income tax on the rebate that should have been received the previous year.
Another area of concern that I have revolving around agriculture and farm families is the availability of the Ontario student assistance program to students who happen to come from farm families. Many of these students wish to go to college and, certainly, they should not be discriminated against because their parents happen to live on a farm which theoretically and on paper has considerable capital value. In reality, were this farm to be liquidated in today’s very depressed agricultural real estate markets, it would probably not obtain the value that the paper says it should be worth.
We have these students working all summer on mom and dad’s farm for whatever the family can afford to pay and use of the family car probably. However, when it comes time to apply under OSAP, they are very graciously refused because the family assets are beyond the criteria which allow OSAP assistance. This is an area that must be looked at. We cannot discriminate against these students who happen to live in a rural surrounding and happen to be helping their parents on the family farm, doing the very heavy work that is required throughout the summer months.
I think haying and a number of farm chores have probably driven many of our farm boys and girls to search for and seek higher education and an easier way of making a living. Be that as it may, we must not discriminate against farm families when they are applying under the Ontario student assistance program.
Pollution is a very important area. I want to discuss at some length some of the pollution, problems that have been recently reported in a television program on CBC involving the residents on St. Regis Reserve, the Mohawk residents and the Akwesasne people. I believe we have polychlorinated biphenyl pollutants in Lake St. Francis, east of Cornwall, which is also the St. Lawrence River, in numbers that are very scary.
What I saw on this television interview and program persuaded me immediately to write a letter to the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Tourism and Recreation (Mr. O’Neil). I am still awaiting the response from two of these three ministries.
We have some of the worst types of pollutants, PCBs, in amounts that are very alarming along the southern extremity of the riding that I represent. I am pleased to see my colleague the member for Cornwall (Mr. Cleary) in the Legislature this afternoon. I am sure he will agree and is as concerned as I am.
I was very pleased to attend the closing ceremony of a centennial celebration which was held in the little town of Lancaster last Saturday night, a little town that has taken as its centennial symbol a cairn: a cairn that is sitting out in Lake St. Francis, a cairn that is in an area that has very many times more polychlorinated biphenyls than is allowed normally, and is also the area that is so well known for its famous Lancaster perch. I think this is something that must be addressed by this government, and particularly by the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment, as quickly as possible to try to correct what is a very alarming situation.
The weed harvesting has also occurred in that immediate area of Lake St. Francis. I am pleased to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this was initiated under a previous government for two years on a trial basis in 1984 and 1985. This government saw fit to discontinue that program in 1986. However, through local initiative, many concerned sports fishermen and many concerned residents, the program was initiated under the very capable guidance of the Raisin Region Conservation Authority, and I am very pleased to say that the program in 1987 has worked very well, with some financial assistance from the government but primarily through local initiative in the area of Lancaster-Summerstown and that area which I very proudly represent and have represented over the past number of years.
I want to mention again, going back to the speech from the throne, that this government seems to be very determined on setting up committees, councils, etc. -- the Premier’s Council on Health Strategy, for instance, as if this government cannot go to the different health councils and to its, I am sure, very voluminous file on record and find out where the problems are and correct them instead of procrastinating and having more committees and more groups of people giving advice for whatever.
I am convinced that in the three hospitals in the riding I represent, a half a day at Kemptville, Winchester and Alexandria would outline what the problems are in those community hospitals and, indeed, proceed to correct the problem as opposed to procrastinating.
Select committee on education: I could not believe that one. In 1986 we had a committee, on which I did substitute from time to time, on the implementation of Bill 30, and I do believe we have ferreted out every bit of information that anyone needs to have on education and proceed to corrective measures. The Premier during the election campaign told us he would have 4,000 additional teachers and 4,000 additional classrooms. The problem with that is that we already have almost 4,000 portables. That, in simple mathematics, would mean to me that there would now be 8,000 portables. I do not believe the people of Ontario want or deserve that type of education system. We do not need a select committee on education to outline problems that have been clearly outlined on numerous occasions.
Select committee on energy: Is this the same party that, before 1985, had all of the answers for energy? I recall sitting in this Legislature on that side of the House, and time and time again the then opposition had all of the answers to correct the problems with Ontario Hydro and with energy in general. Have they forgotten them, or has there been such a turnover of people in this party that they have lost all of the answers they had? I do not know, but a select committee on energy, along with what the Ontario Energy Board does, I believe is a simple duplication of needless bureaucracy.
Conflict of interest I will not dwell on. The Premier has appointed a very prominent Ontarian to effectively remove the burden and responsibility that had been the Premier’s all along up until now. I have severe reservations about the new conflict-of-interest guidelines. However, it is my understanding that under Bill 1, in this particular sitting of the Legislature, those problems with conflict of interest will be addressed. It will be interesting to see just how that legislation eventually pans out.
Mr. Speaker, I must congratulate you. It is my first occasion to address the Legislature while you, my colleague and neighbour in eastern Ontario and also the Deputy Speaker of this Legislature, are in the chair. I am sure that you will share many of the things I have just said and that we have very similar types of problems in eastern Ontario. I was very pleased when you were named Deputy Speaker.
In the great and historic riding that I represent, we have seven of the 14 bicentennial farms across Ontario. That in itself basically says it all; that agriculture and eastern Ontario have been the backbone of all sections of Ontario and that indeed Ontario started in the east and proceeded west.
In the town of Winchester in 1988 we will have centennial celebrations. Whenever any of our honourable members of this Legislature are going to Ottawa or Montreal, they will be in the immediate area of Winchester and there will be celebrations throughout 1988. The neighbouring village of Chesterville will be celebrating its sesquicentennial celebrations, and members are certainly also very welcome there. As I mentioned, Lancaster is just wrapping up its centennial celebrations, which occurred throughout 1987.
In speaking of Lancaster, which I alluded to a while ago, would you believe -- and I must tell the Legislature this, I was pretty proud when it occurred on Saturday night -- this little town of approximately 700 inhabitants had numerous centennial activities, a parade in July and a number of other things. Certainly Lancaster perch was high on the agenda of the get-togethers. However, on Saturday evening they turned over the profit of their centennial celebrations to the recreational association, and this nonprofit centennial committee turned over $5,000 to its recreational association. They did get an initial grant of $3,000 from the municipality, the village of Lancaster, and a further $2,250 from the federal government. However, that is to tell members how efficiently and just how well these rural people can operate, Mr. Speaker, and I know you agree with that.
Thank you very much. It has been very interesting participating in this debate and I certainly look forward to the developments in this speech from the throne. Again, I hope that agriculture has not moved to a back bench of cabinet.
Mr. Harris: And east Grenville, that is right. I apologize that I was not able to be here for the entire text. I wondered, and I have read through the throne speech, whether the member had made any comments on the weeds.
Mr. Harris: I apologize. I missed them. Perhaps the member could elaborate a bit, because I was having breakfast with a number of people at Carl’s Restaurant in Sturgeon Falls. We were talking about the weed problem in Cache Bay.
I know this is not a new problem, the problems we have had there, but I know that on a number of occasions the member has expressed concerns. The member and I know that the government has weed harvesters sitting and rusting away, which it refuses to bring out to help solve the problems that the member has down his way. We are having similar problems up our way, which is why I ask the member, in the two minutes which will be provided to him, whether he can elaborate any more on where these weed harvesting machines are and whether, through any of his investigations, he has been able to determine why the government refuses to get involved when it has the equipment, when it has the machines.
There was some work done when the former government was in power, before 1985, the good old days. Perhaps it would be of interest to my constituents, particularly those from west Nipissing and the Cache Bay area, if there is anything more the member has been able to determine on that end
I tried to winnow out some kernels of substance from his presentation. I am interested in his comments about the tax rebates for the seniors on the farms. I am very concerned about that issue myself in that it seems some seniors who are staying on the farms in my constituency who, in the past, have been eligible for the farm tax rebate as well as the seniors’ property tax rebate have now found they are being discriminated against even if they are renting the land and the land is in use for farm operation.
In passing, I wonder if the member for Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and east Grenville could explain why the provincial government -- I think it is the Ministry of Citizenship that is responsible -- has not contributed to the centennials and sesquicentennials he mentioned. As I understand it, there is a grant of up to $5,000 available. I think it would be most unfortunate if the communities of his constituency were left out of this program, either through some sort of misguided partisanship on the part of the government or the fact that the local member did not inform his own constituents of which grants might be available.
Mr. Villeneuve: I appreciate the opportunity to comment on a few of the subjects I did touch on. To my colleague the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris): yes, the weed harvester did sit at a marina and was rusting throughout the year 1986 after having been put to use for two full summers by the previous government. Yes, there was a previous government prior to this government. The weed harvester was used, as I mentioned, in 1984 and 1985.
This is a very important area to the fishermen of the area, particularly to the sports fishermen. The Lancaster perch is renowned throughout Ontario. Yes, the weed harvesting is now back on schedule, I say to my colleague from Nipissing. However, it is being done through the Raisin Region Conservation Authority. Some funding came from the city of Cornwall, some funding came from the united counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and some funding is coming through the Raisin Region Conservation Authority.
Mr. Villeneuve: I do not know. We do not want to leave that machine go at all. We want to keep it where it is doing a lot of good. I am sure the member could use it in Nipissing in many of those great lakes to try to clean them out and improve the fishing and the tourist facilities.
Tax rebates for seniors, to the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman), is something I feel must be corrected immediately. I am pleased to see that the Minister of Revenue was here taking notes. It is something we must not allow to go on.