Mr R. F. Johnston: It is with great pleasure that I rise today to introduce this bill. Members have seen another bill in Orders and Notices, and I will explain some of those changes, if I might, in a few minutes.
This all began for me, I guess, in April 1988 when Gary Malkowski from the Ontario Association of the Deaf came to my office to talk about strategies for trying to get change within the Ministry of Education around deaf education. I was so stunned by the litany of problems that he brought forward at that time that I introduced a resolution on 5 May 1988 which was passed by this House unanimously, or by voice vote, and which called for a review of education. The Minister of Education then kindly took up that challenge and brought forward a review.
It had been my intention to bring forward this piece of legislation last December because I was becoming worried that the report of that review was taking too long coming in and I wanted to use this bill to promote that kind of process. It was due to be debated on 21 December. On 20 December the government brought forward the review -- one of those great modern miracles -- and on 21 December the House leaders basically said that we would not have private members’ day that day anyway.
My difficulty since then has been to try to bring forward a piece of legislation that would in fact reflect the review, but it is very difficult to do that when you are not supposed to change things dramatically between sessions. So instead, I decided to stay with much the same point and thrust that I had brought forward in December, although there are many things in that external review report that I applaud and would hope the government will move on.
Looking back on my resolution, I see it addressing very specifically affirmative action for teachers and, as well, the administration of schools for the deaf and that kind of thing, and I hope the government will move on that wide range of issues.
But the one I have chosen to focus on is the issue of American sign language and its use in the school system as a language of instruction and as a heritage language. The reason I have chosen that as a place to focus is not because it is the only thing to deal with but because in some ways it points up what was the most long-standing division within the deaf and hearing-impaired community over the centuries, going back to the fights between the founder of Gallaudet University and Alexander Graham Bell in terms of the most appropriate way to teach people basic literacy and the ability of people who are deaf to communicate.
I have chosen this because the coalition of forces that supported the resolution and then worked so actively with the government on the review put aside all their differences and raised the whole notion that choice should be available for the various methodologies that are there and that nobody should be excluded.
At the moment, of course, in our legislation the group that is excluded is the group that wishes any instruction in American sign language, because under the Education Act one can only instruct in English or in French. Those are the languages of instruction here in Ontario. What I wanted to bring forward was what would be permissive legislation to allow people to be able to provide American sign language as a language of instruction.
It was pointed out to me only last week that we had in fact made an error in our language. The language of the bill made it look like we were eliminating choice and making it required that everybody would have to take American sign language. That was not the intent of the piece of legislation known as Bill 83; so we changed it from being the language of instruction to being a language of instruction. We thought we had dealt with the problem until a good friend, Ruth Baumann of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, pointed out to me that it still looked like we were requiring the use of ASL, which could also be interpreted as meaning that we were going to again force everybody to use this methodology rather than signed English, total communication, auditory approach or whatever might be the choice often that people would like to use.
That is not the intent of this legislation. The legislation’s intent is one of choice. Therefore, as the government has done on a couple of occasions when it has put in legislation and noticed at the last minute that there has been a problem, I would propose an amendment that would be accepted, I hope, by all people if we went to committee on this, which would basically require the American sign language to be made available for use, rather than require it to be used. This would then allow the regulatory process which this bill opens up to provide for ways that this could be done which would not exclude other kinds of options in the school system.
I think it is very important to do this, even though I am one of those people who is absolutely convinced about the importance of American sign language to the culture of the deaf in our society and to their empowerment, as we have seen in that wonderful explosion at Gallaudet a couple of years ago and now the development of our own community here in Ontario speaking out so much more strongly as a group.
People have written in on this matter talking about parallels between this notion of education and pedagogy; that is, to have people develop their own basic language for the deaf and then move on to English or French or whatever other kind of studies they may wish to do, as a better way of learning languages and in fact a better way of learning in general. The outcomes for students will probably be greater if we move to that kind of approach.
The parallels are made with a lot of bilingual theory for people who learn English and French. They start off with their maternal language, take that maternal language into the school system and then move on to the other language of instruction as a second language, essentially. They do much better in both as a result of that.
This notion, this concept, has been recognized in a number of jurisdictions, and the one I wanted basically to point to is the United Nations. Something I was really not very aware of until recently is that UNESCO for quite some time now has accepted the notion that sign language should be seen as the basic language of deaf people worldwide; that it is a different kind of language altogether than most of our linear, prosaic, verbal, oral languages that we use; that its spatial concepts make it quite different from other languages and it should be seen as the base. From that, you then develop the other capacity in whatever the language may be, French or English in Canada, Italian in Italy or whatever situation worldwide would be appropriate.
I think that kind of notion is one that we should be adopting as well, but I do not want to foist that on the province and say that is the only way to go. I want to open the door for it to be possible, because we must recognize that it is not possible in Ontario now to have American sign language reinforce that basic cultural fact.
There are some wonderful studies out there that show the difference between deaf children who come into the school system here and in the United States whose parents are deaf, compared with children who come in whose parents are hearing. Where the language at home is American sign language, the child coming in from that home usually comes in with the same kind of capacity to read and to communicate and with the same language skills as does the hearing child coming from a hearing home, whereas the child who is deaf coming from a hearing home often comes in with major deficits in his capacity to communicate. I think it is a very important point. The difficulty is, of course, that 10 per cent of deaf kids are from homes where they have deaf parents; 90 per cent have hearing parents. So this must be recognized as well when we move in this direction.
There have been good studies out of Gallaudet. I recommend to members the paper Unlocking the Curriculum: Principles for Achieving Access in Deaf Education, which has been released by them, talking again about this notion of bilingualism being the concept that should be followed in terms of educating children with major hearing impairments.
I have had letters from parents who have been frustrated by the system. I do not know if other members have received those over the last number of months. Some of them are incredibly troubling in terms of the inflexibility of both our provincial schools and our regular school system to be able to accommodate people who want to be able to expand their ASL, but there just is not a capacity to do that at this moment.
There is one letter here that draws a parallel which I think is really appropriate, both in terms of language construction and in terms of the concept of this being a heritage language, which is the second part of this bill. The quote is from this family, the Baileys:
“We have spent some time living in the Northwest Territories. I have heard many stories of how the Inuit children were forbidden to speak their native language in school and were punished if caught. Finally the educators realized that they were trying to deny the Eskimos an important part of their heritage. Now Inuktutuk is an important part of the curriculum but that does not mean they don’t learn English.”
The final thing I would say -- and there is not much time in 10 minutes to deal with these matters -- is that as a heritage language, it would offer a wonderful opportunity for hearing kids and deaf kids to learn American sign language together in the school system, develop the communication and open the world for hearing children to other kinds of possibilities of expression that we do not have in our straight verbal and oral expression today.
I encourage members in the House to support this permissive piece of legislation and forgive, if they will, the flaw in drafting which I recognize has been there. I encourage us to move forward to finally put to rest this long debate about the denial of American sign language, this repression, as I see it, of the deaf community and to give this bill the support that I believe it deserves.
Mr Jackson: I am very honoured to follow my colleague the member for Scarborough West to speak in support of this bill, as I was honoured on 5 May 1988 to rise in this House and support his resolution, which was rather an extensive resolution but which dealt specifically with moving this province to develop the Review of the Educational Programs for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students in Ontario.
This is a most outstanding piece of work, for which the government is to be commended, but we also cannot lose sight of the fact that it was the member for Scarborough West who has been the driving force in support of the future of hearing-impaired children in our province. I cannot take enough occasions to commend him.
Every member of this Legislature is here today to present the best educational possibilities and options for deaf children in Ontario. That is the only reason we are here today to support this bill, and it is the only reason that we should be here in order to debate this bill. We should do that in a most nonpartisan way. We should do it because the issues affecting these children who we are hoping to help are in fact achieved in their best interests, their best interests for their educational opportunities in the future, for their ability to communicate more effectively, to broaden their horizon of academic learning and to unlock for them, if you will, opportunities for their own self-empowerment, not only within their own community of severely challenged hard-of-hearing friends but also within the general community.
I, for one, recognize very much the importance of the comments that many parents have made with respect to some of the concerns they have with introducing yet another option for parents to have to overcome. Some have indicated to me the difficulties which American sign language may present to them now that they have learned simple sign language.
I can tell the House from my own personal view, at one point, believe it or not, Mr Speaker, I had a minimal command of sign language. My mother is gifted with having the capacity to work in nine languages, one of which is sign, because her brother, my uncle, since the age of six was completely deaf. I recall those days of my early childhood, the difficulty communicating with my uncle, and it left a lasting impression of the limitations of his life experience because he was not allowed the fullness and the richness of these options for communication.
As we read more of the literature, which I again credit the member for Scarborough West for introducing to all members of this House, it causes us to read and rethink some of our assumptions about how deaf people communicate, the very difficult understanding that we must have to understand exactly what American sign language is all about, and yet with the information he has presented us, it is a most compelling argument to support this bill.
If I understand correctly what American sign language is, and I think I do, it is a language separate and distinct and it has its own right. It is not a visual representation of our English language. It is something unique and different. Its structure is different from that of English, and its symbols represent concepts rather than specific English words.
If we who have our own handicaps because we can only think in terms of our French or our English language, or maybe a third heritage language, can overcome our limitations in understanding what exactly American sign language is, we will have penetrated a better understanding of just the importance of this form of communication and this key to unlocking higher learning for the deaf community in this province.
I for one am supporting it for that reason. As the Education critic for the Progressive Conservative Party, I clearly see the potential for growth and development for our children. I also recognize that the report does represent some additional challenges and in fact some long-term costs on behalf of the government. But when I look at these recommendations that came from the report, I cannot help but be convinced that this is an agenda whose time has come. It is obvious that alternative action to empower the deaf community to have teachers who are themselves deaf is something we should support. We have supported that through the 1970s and the 1980s in this province when we have dealt with various issues surrounding assistance for the disabled.
The government should be supporting, for example, curriculum development. All the items that have been enumerated in the report are worthy of our support and I think the government should be supporting this basic first step, which is to recognize the American sign language as set out in Bill 112 and also to recognize that this is enabling legislation. It is a piece of legislation that provides choices, that provides opportunities, and specifically, as I have indicated in my support for the bill, it allows the capacity for children to unlock the potential development of their cognitive skills, something we are now beginning to appreciate may be limited in part by some of the current methodologies used for communication in the deaf community.
I want to commend the member for his diligence with this bill. On behalf of my colleague the member for Scarborough West, I want to welcome in the House today members of the deaf community who I know are here and anxious about the outcome of the vote today. I also am inspired by the fact that they have their own interpreters and are here to see our government in action in a very personal, meaningful way. I would also indicate to them, through their interpreter, that the number of members in the House today is no reflection of the interest being shown for this bill. In fact, more members of the House will be here at the time of the vote to show our very strong support of this bill.
When I spoke in support of my friend the member for Scarborough West in 1988, I was very hopeful the government would follow his model for a co-operative model for reviewing, with an internal and an external examination, all matters relative to educating the deaf in this province.
I also want to commend the government of Ontario for following that model. I believe the consistency of the recommendations, both from the internal report and the external report, in support of the resolution of the member for Scarborough West, speaks well not only of the government’s willingness to allow the report to be independent but also of the importance of our passing this resolution today.
I was somewhat disappointed that the Minister of Education did not respond in a more positive way in December of last year when the report was made public. However, in spite of that and, as I said earlier, in a nonpartisan way, it is our hope that he and his government, like all members of this House, will appreciate the importance of passing this resolution so we can get on with the important work of strengthening the curriculum, hiring the additional teachers, bringing in place an affirmative action plan and strengthening our commitment to the deaf community in this province.
In closing, I want to quote from the statements I made back on 5 May 1988 when I spoke to this issue originally. I was taken by the words of Harlan Lane in his work When the Mind Hears. He said something that struck me as very important: “What matters deafness of the ear, when the mind hears? The one true deafness, the incurable deafness, is that of the mind.”
This government recognizes the complexity and the sensitivity of the issue of American sign language as a language of instruction for the deaf. As a caring society, we must seriously take into consideration the demands, the expectations, the philosophies and the emotions of everyone involved in the issue of deaf education.
Language can be defined in various ways, and one of our responsibilities as legislators is to determine which language or languages can best serve the needs of deaf people in Ontario, which language can remove those obstacles which tend to impede the progress and limit the capabilities of those with hearing impairments.
I am pleased to speak in favour of the principle enunciated in Bill 112 as put forward by the honourable member for Scarborough West. This government is supportive of it on the basis of his introductory explanatory remarks, which makes ASL available as an optional language of instruction.
In keeping with the recommendations of the external and the internal review committee, we agree that ASL be made available as a language of instruction in the future in Ontario schools, but keeping mindful some of the limitations and the guidelines that were put forward by that review to which the members have referred: that it be publicized and promoted as one of a number of options; that the ministry immediately begin to work in practical arrangements and procedures for curriculum development; that the schedule for gradual implementation at selected locations and selected grade levels be introduced; particularly that there be extensive training for parents in ASL; that there be pilot project and research studies to provide a theoretical and a practical basis for the use of ASL as a language of instruction.
It is most important to foster and maintain the variety of communication systems currently employed throughout Ontario. The government is very much aware of the support of the Ontario Association of the Deaf and the Canadian Hearing Society, which support ASL as an option rather than as the mandated language of instruction. We must also be aware of the concerns that have been raised by others in this particular field. I reiterate the comments made as the team travelled this province and heard about the strong emotions of people in the community, parents as well as teachers, who are involved in the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
Some parents fear that their children will become isolated from them as they become fluent in ASL and that the use of ASL instead of English as a primary language would hinder the child’s acceptance in the larger society. Together, hearing parents and teachers face difficulty in becoming fluent in what, to them, is a difficult and sometimes intimidating language.
It should also be remembered that no other jurisdiction in the world -- no other school, no post-secondary institution has ever mandated ASL as the language of instruction, but as referred to by the member for Scarborough West, it is permitted as an option in some jurisdictions. It is very important to reiterate the intentions of the government to initiate a pilot project in ASL at the E. C. Drury school in September 1990, and hopefully and most likely, two other provincial schools for the deaf by September 1991.
The Ministry of Education will continue to foster and encourage program opportunities and placements that take into consideration the diverse demands of various stakeholders, the local concerns, the expectations and the conflicting communication philosophies. Education of the deaf is a complex matter, but yet we all agree that these children, deaf and hard-of-hearing children, should not be denied their natural birthright, which is language. I urge members to support the honourable member’s bill.
Miss Martel: I want to join in support today of the bill that is being moved by my colleague, Bill 112, and I want to support as well some of the changes, amendments etc which we recognize now are necessary in order to say exactly what we want to say around having a choice in this province for students who are deaf and hearing-impaired. I hope all members recognize what we are trying to do: the fact that we expect there will be changes and that those changes are necessary, and that government members will vote with us based on the fact that those changes will come.
I went to my colleague the member for Scarborough West and asked if I might be able to say a few words on this matter, given that I had been lobbied on it and also that I had spoken in favour of the resolution at the time some months ago. We decided to divide up our remarks between the two of us, he talking about ASL and myself dealing with LSQ, mainly because my French is a little bit better than his. But after that we agree on almost all of the principles, and I will be supporting in very general terms what he has said about the need to have a sign language in conjunction with both signing exact English, signing exact French etc, or oral skills if they are available.
I would have liked to have more information on LSQ. Unfortunately, two things happened that I want to mention. First, like anything else we do around here, I left it a little bit too late. By the time I contacted legislative research to get some information from Quebec on LSQ, I did not leave them enough time to get some of the information. So while we had a great discussion with people working in centres there concerning the language and how it is used by people in Quebec, we were not able to get some of that surveying documentation here. I will have to give it to my colleague when it arrives. I do want to thank legislative research for the work it did in very short order.
The second point -- and this is far more important; I am sorry the Minister of Education is not here today -- is that many members will know that the English recommendations and the English report on the external review committee were released and tabled in this Legislature in December 1989. A companion document was being put together by the francophone community around services and around particular problems that deaf, hearing-impaired francophones were having in Ontario to access those services.
That report, I am told, was given to the minister on Monday. It has been printed and was presented to him, but he has not presented it to this House. I have been told that he was waiting to make an announcement about it and then would table that document here in the Legislature. I think that puts some of us at a very distinct disadvantage when we are trying to deal with a bill of my colleague that talks about both ASL and LSQ.
I am a little bit resentful if the minister has this document on his desk, knowing full well we are debating this bill in here today. He should at least have presented it to us so that those of us who are concerned about this matter, as I assume all of us are, would at least have had the opportunity to review the document and make some comments about it here today. I am sorry the minister is not here, and I did want to say that part of the problem I am having is that he has not had the opportunity or the willingness to release that document to all of us.
In any event, there are two things I want to deal with around LSQ: first, some very basic information about what LSQ is and, second, two of the recommendations that come from that report. While the minister has not tabled the report, I know one of the people who sat on that review committee, and last night at midnight we got that information together over the phone. It was an interesting process because the gentleman involved is deaf. I was using the relay service at midnight, talking to the operator in French. He was pounding out the recommendations on his telecommunications device for the deaf and gave it to me over the phone. I have missed a few words, but I will do the best I can. I appreciate the Bell operator who was so good as to help us late last evening.
Il y a quelque chose à dire à propos de la LSQ : la LSQ, c’est la langue des signes québécois. La LSQ a été développée au Québec. Il existe des indications que la majorité de la communauté sourde au Québec utilise la langue des signes québécois.
La structure et la grammaire de la LSQ sont similaires à celles de la ASL, mais il y a quelques signes qui sont différents. II est estimé qu’à peu près 30 ou 35 pour cent de similarité existe entre les deux langues ; toutes les deux sont abstraites et leur concept a été développé par des idées.
La langue des signes a été développée en France : toutes les deux, la ASL et la LSQ, sont dérivées de celle-là. L’Institut Raymond-Dewar, qui est l’institut avec lequel nous avons parlé pour ce rapport cet après-midi, utilise la LSQ dans la plupart de son travail.
Maintenant, le rapport fait par le Comité spécial de l’éducation pour les sourds en Ontario -- la communauté francophone, la communauté qui parle la langue française -- fait deux recommendations à propos des services pour les francophones sourds en Ontario. Je voudrais lire les deux recommandations, même si le ministre de l’Éducation n’a pas présenté ce rapport-ci à la Législature.
Premièrement, il est recommandé que le ministre de l’Éducation établisse, dans le cadre de règlements, une politique globale quant au mode de communication utilisé pour l’éducation des élèves sourds, en reconnaissant la LSQ ou la langue des signes canadiens-français comme langue d’enseignement en Ontario ; deuxièmement, que tous les conseils scolaires qui offrent des programmes destinés aux élèves sourds aient une politique écrite au niveau des modes de communication qui respecte la politique globale du ministre de l’Éducation et, encore une fois, la reconnaissance de la LSQ comme langue d’enseignement.
In short, both of those groups, the English group and the French group, suggested that we recognize ASL and LSQ as another language of instruction in Ontario and in our school system. I think that is the principle we have to recognize and accept here today. It is not enough for the government to say, “We will institute pilot projects in Ontario around sign language.” That principle has to be accepted. It has to be put into legislation so that in future, when the pilot projects work and when the studies have been done, we can continue on and the deaf community in this province can be assured that those services will be in place and it will have an option, as it does not now have.
The time is here. The committee on both French and English deaf education recognized it is, and it is time we move to that today. There are some general comments about the need for ASL and its importance that I would like to go through. Some of these comments come from people who are deaf, from deaf educators, from people who have been involved in the review etc.
I want to deal for a moment with what the people in the review said about the use and the importance of ASL. They said: “If we believe in the importance of language in education, we have to wish for every child a natural learning context in which that child is energetically involved. So the question becomes: Which language is most accessible and most natural to a deaf child? Many believe it is easier for a deaf person to use a visually coded language, than an aurally coded language.”
The second example comes from a deaf student who attended Sir James Whitney School for the deaf in Belleville. He said that he uses ASL at home and he uses it with his deaf friends. I am quoting: “I prefer to use ASL because it is easier to communicate and get a better understanding. It lets you get a picture in the mind clearly and it is a more reflexive language.”
We have the same thing from people who are using LSQ in Montreal. In this case, the particular woman involved is a psychologist at McGill University who deals directly with deaf education. She has said, “It turns out that there’s a language centre in the brain that maps itself on to the hand or tongue -- with equally expressive abilities.”
In Sudbury, for example, not only do they want the ASL and LSQ when they can be developed and utilized in the school system, but there has been a need recognized by the Canadian Hearing Society in Sudbury that this has to start with preschoolers and that parents need much more training to deal with their children before they even enter the school system. In this case, the regional director, Sherry Malcho, said, “Preschoolers are now taught oral speech, and parents of deaf children have made it clear that they would like to have an option between that method and American sign language method or its French equivalent, langue des signes québécois.”
Finally, I was very encouraged yesterday when I talked to the Sudbury Board of Education, a group that presented to the external review committee, to find out that it has already moved forward and accepted it. They are in fact looking forward to the debate today and hope that this bill put forward by my colleague will be passed.
The Sudbury Board of Education is now running ASL courses for its teachers and for parents as a result of the task force recommendations. They also have plans to offer a credit course at the secondary level, but that is going to depend on how much interest they can get in the community. However, as a board, they feel that the interest will be there. I congratulate them on the work they are doing.
At this point, I might just mention the gentleman I was dealing with over the phone last night, who was awarded a community service award by this province in November 1989 for the work he has done with the deaf community, and particularly the francophone community. I think there would be a significant statement made by the government today if in fact it agreed with the bill put forward by my colleague. The constituent, Roger St Louis, has worked long and hard for many years promoting ASL and LSQ, and it would seem to me today that the government should put its money where its mouth is, not only giving him awards and credit but actually putting into place some of his ideas and some of the dreams that he and other people in the gallery have had for many, many years.
I conclude with what I see as our role here today: Given that there is opposition around signing but given the fact that people need to have a choice, let me quote Dr Jarnie MacDougall, a researcher at the McGill Study of Deaf Children in Canada. He says: “Obviously, deaf people need to use whatever hearing they may have, but the overwhelming majority of them want to go on using sign language. As educators and professionals” -- and I might add, as legislators – “we should accept that. It’s time we stopped deciding for the deaf community.”
Mr Sterling: A few months ago I had very little to do with this whole issue but have been brought up to date since that time, as the introduction of Bill 83, whether by intent or otherwise -- I am sure it was otherwise -- actually did raise the issue to perhaps a higher plane than it would have been on if the member had introduced and carried Bill 112 as we are considering it here today. I believe it was perhaps through my corresponding with Elgin and Sheila Duke from Kinburn, Ontario, in my riding which brought some alarm to some of the groups involved with the deaf.
Voice for Hearing Impaired Children in Ottawa wrote to the Minister of Education once it had been informed of the actual wording of Bill 83. The objections to Bill 83 related to the mandating of ASL, American sign language, as the exclusive language to be used in our educational program. In response to that, Voice wrote to the Minister of Education and, of course, sent a copy to the member for Scarborough West and indicated that many, many parents would choose another sign language or another method of communication than American sign language.
In the recent study by the Ministry of Education, very few parents would choose American sign language, but that may be because many of them are not aware of the potential of that method of communication. Today, of course, we have a bill which is very different; it is permissive and allows the use of American sign language in our schools.
I also want to say that in response to the report Review of Ontario Education Programs for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, which was prepared by the Ministry of Education, I received a response from Mrs Duke. I want to read a little bit from it, because I think there is some unfair criticism in that report. Referring to the report, it said:
“It is also reported that boards have trouble providing appropriate programs in regular schools because of low incidence of hearing impairment. In spite of this, the boards in the Ottawa area go to great lengths to provide a variety of appropriate programs. It is my personal experience that the Carleton Board of Education offers an extensive array of programs and services ranging from small class placements to full mainstreaming. Itinerant teachers of the hearing-impaired, teacher aides, educational interpreters and an educational audiologist are available as required. A variety of personal FM systems and computerized testing equipment for those amplification devices are available. Hearing-impaired students in this board are integrated with their normally hearing peers in all programs ranging from those for slow learners or learning-disabled, vocational training to enrichment and gifted programs. Students who require a total communication approach attend segregated classes operated by the neighbouring Ottawa Board of Education. Similar exemplary programs are offered by boards in Metro Toronto.
“The facts are that many integration or mainstream programs run by boards are demonstrating excellent results and these boards are not specifically recognized or given credit in this report. While these programs are successful, I do agree with statements in the report that there is a great need to develop and strengthen programs and program options in all boards across Ontario.”
I wanted to give some credit to the local boards of education which in some cases in the Ottawa area -- the Ottawa Board of Education and the Carleton Board of Education in particular are mentioned here -- have done an excellent program in the past.
I do want to add that the next paragraph deals with the funding of those boards and the dramatic decreases in provincial help and their concern that these programs that are specifically designed for the deaf will be cut out as a result of the cutback of provincial funding by this government.
Having explored the findings of the Review of Ontario Education Programs for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students prepared by the Ministry of Education in 1989 and having received a number of letters from people and organizations, some in support of the bill and some with concerns about it, I feel that all alternatives and options must be explored by this Legislature, including the use of ASL and LSQ in the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing pupils.
I note in the parliamentary debate of 5 May 1988 there was criticism of the level of literacy of deaf graduates of provincial programs and mainstreaming practices. Yet the Ministry of Education’s review states that children aged eight, 12, 14 and 16 were tested in reading comprehension, math computation and English language principles and the results for the levels of achievement for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in Ontario seem comparable or slightly superior to those achieved by deaf populations across North America.
In light of these observations, the external review teams recommended that provision be made for province-wide collection of data, including an ongoing census of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, which would allow these children to be followed as they progress through the education system and facilitate service to them. The review team also recommended that the tests of student achievement measure sign language skills as well as other communications skills such as reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Mr Epp: First of all, I want to compliment the member for Scarborough West for bringing forth this particular bill and the other members for supporting it. Supporting Bill 112 is easy for me because I believe it to be timely and helpful to the present situation and to the deaf community in this province. In fact, it was the deaf community in my constituency that first drew the importance of this amended bill to my attention. They believe it to be to their advantage, and who am I to second-guess them? I have had three representations on this particular bill: two deaf people and one hearing person. Both the deaf people were supportive of the bill and one person, a hearing person, questioned the bill and had certain concerns about it.
ASL is a visual, spatial language used by a large part of the deaf community in Canada and the United States. It has its own grammar and syntax. Unfortunately, ASL is not used in teaching deaf students in the school system, even where there are many willing students available. The deaf education review of the Ministry of Education recommends the establishment of a pilot project in 1990 and the institution of making ASL a language of instruction in 1991.
We are not talking of substituting one sign language with another but of enhancing the one we have with another, giving it an international flavour, so to speak, if only on a limited scale. Some people will ask for more study, more thought, more contemplation, more procrastination. I believe there has been enough of all four. It is now time to stand side by side with the deaf in our community. Let’s all support Bill 83.
Mr Reycraft: I welcome the opportunity to join in the debate on private member’s Bill 112. I too want to applaud the member for Scarborough West for his continuing interest in and support for improvement of the quality of education for the deaf in Ontario. That quality of education has been somewhat maligned, I believe, in recent months.
I am familiar with an incident that occurred at the Robarts school for the deaf in London, which is not in my riding but very near to it. A large demonstration was held there essentially to promote the use of ASL in the educational system and to advocate the hiring of greater numbers of deaf teachers in those schools.
Unfortunately, the message that went out to the public following that demonstration was somewhat different. The message, as indicated by the headline in the London Free Press the next day, was that the quality of education being offered at that school was inferior. In fact, the exact word used was “lousy.”
I want to respond very briefly to that because I am familiar with Robarts and I personally know many of the teachers who work there. I believe the quality of education that is available and offered to the deaf at that school is excellent. I believe there is nowhere in North America where a higher quality of education for the deaf can be obtained. Indeed, over the past few weeks I have received many letters from parents of students at Robarts attesting to their satisfaction with the education at Robarts and with the quality that is provided for their children.
I believe the perception that was created by the story in the London Free Press does not match the reality. Indeed, I have been advised that a survey of Robarts graduates over the past six years indicates that 34 per cent of them go on to post-secondary education and that fully 93 per cent of the graduates of Robarts programs are employed. I think those statistics attest to the quality of education that is offered there.
I had some difficulty with the original bill that was introduced by the member for Scarborough West, and even this week, when I read its substitute, Bill 112, I was concerned. My interpretation of the bill was essentially the same as that which was provided for him by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, that it would require ASL to be used as a language of instruction in all schools where deaf education was provided.
As I listened to his explanation this morning, I now understand his purpose to be simply to remove the restriction in the Education Act which requires that only English or French can be used as a language of instruction in the classrooms of this province. It is simply to allow ASL to be used as a language of instruction where it is desired and where the numbers justify it. That is a principle that I can support. It is a different principle from the one I interpreted the original bill to include. Indeed, as I read the explanatory note in Bill 112, it still seems to me to be saying something different from what the member for Scarborough West stated this morning.
I think many who advocate the use of ASL as a language of instruction do so because they are concerned about the achievement levels in reading and writing with which graduates of our schools for the deaf leave the educational system. They believe that introducing ASL as a language of instruction will improve the reading and writing abilities of deaf students. That may be the case, but it may not be as well. I do not believe there is any educational research that indicates that will be the case.
Like all members, I received a letter from Henry Whalen, president of the Ontario Association of the Deaf, in which he indicated that it would make that kind of improvement. I asked for some information that would support that. Mr Whalen was very helpful in supplying me with a number of pieces of information but, in reading it, I do not believe it provides the kind of information and the kind of support I was seeking. Indeed, some of the information indicates there is still a great need for research into the impact of using ASL as a language of instruction in the schools.
With those remarks, I will conclude my address. I do believe that while it is not inappropriate for political pressure to lead to changes in our system of our education, those changes should also be based on sound educational research.
Mrs Stoner: It is a real pleasure for me to rise today to speak in support of Bill 112 and in support of American sign language as an optional language of instruction for the deaf children of Ontario. My support comes from a number of perspectives. It comes from the perspective of support for the Voice organization of parents in my community. I speak as a member of the Legislature who has a deaf employee on my own staff. But most of all I speak as the parent of a deaf child.
My daughter Katie is a student at Sir James Whitney, the school for the deaf in Belleville, and I know at first hand the isolation of the deaf in a hearing world. For many, ASL will provide the mechanism for a speedy, eloquent communication language. It can help provide meaningful social interaction in a community that is not available to many of the deaf in the hearing world.
I commend the member for Scarborough West for his bill, and I commend the Minister of Education for the review of deaf education in Ontario. The ASL pilot project will be watched with great interest by all those involved with the deaf community here in Ontario, but I think it will be watched by all English-speaking countries in this world.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I want to thank all members for their support, much of it because of the changes we made. I admit the changes were only to clarify an intent which was supposed to be there. I am very thankful to everyone for their participation and support today, as must be our friends in the gallery who must be very gratified to see this kind of support. Before I go further, I would like to thank Gary Malkowski, Patricia Shores-Hermann and the others who have educated me so much in the last couple of years around these issues. They have been very important to me.
This is probably my last private member’s initiative. Some of them have been successful in the past, others have not. I am pleased that, by the sound of things here today, this will be moving forward. I think it is important for all members to be able to see the private members’ hour as a useful process, that things can come to fruition, that some change can be effected and that there can be some impact whether you are a government backbencher or whether you are in the opposition. It is my hope that from this time on we will move to seeing some major changes.
I am glad the government is moving on the pilot project. I think that is an important implementation mode to take. But the reason this bill has been brought forward is to say that the principle first has to be accepted that ASL is a language in its own right and deserves a place in the education of the deaf and in that community. It seems to me you have to accept that principle first and then move on to your pilot projects. If you just move on to a pilot project without accepting that, then the pilot project can be assessed, found wanting, even be seen to be successful and then dropped.
When I gave my speech in June 1988, I started off with a very wooden performance of sign language, which, having seen it on videotape afterwards, horrified me. That is why I am not trying it again today in terms of giving my thanks. It re-emphasizes something I have learned recently, which is that one of the major arguments for dealing with ASL early is that because it is a language in its own right, and because it has a different kind of concept within it spatially etc, it is vital to learn it early if that communication is to be really articulate. It is very difficult for old-timers like myself to try to pick it up.
I think therefore the whole question of retraining teachers and the need for emphasis on that is a very important thing for the government to start to focus on these days. We do not want to have happen what we have seen as an analysis in some cases in the past, and that is that there is a broad range of capacity among teachers of even signed English in this province and in other jurisdictions which sometimes causes problems in the quality of education that is being provided to the deaf recipient or deaf learner. We do not want to have a lot of Richard Johnston, wooden-style ASL instructors in the next little while who would destroy the beauty of that language and the whole intent of what we are up to.
I know the parliamentary assistant and the government are anxious that if this is to pass, it go on to committee of the whole House rather than to one of the standing committees. I do not have difficulty with that in the sense that we have already had a major public discussion through the-review process that has taken place. I think people understand that we can move the kind of amendment I was talking about in committee of the whole House as easily as we can do that in a standing committee of the House. But I worry a little bit about the tendency that may develop -- not to say it is developing -- which would start to use the committee of the whole House as a way of deep-sixing initiatives by private members.
I would suggest to the parliamentary assistant, if he can take it back to the minister and to the government House leader, it would be our intention and I am sure the third party’s intention as well that a session of the committee of the whole House could take place very quickly and that the next move could be half an hour later if the government wishes in terms of taking the initiative to make this law.
For a private member it would be glorious to be one of the handful in the whole history of this place who actually saw his or her legislation become law. I am not wedded to that. If the government instead wishes to bring forward its own law and bring this quickly through various stages, I would welcome that as well. I do not take personal ownership of this initiative but rather wish the initiative to be taken and a context for the pilot projects to be set.
Again, I just thank all members for their support and hope that the government will accommodate that and try to bring this forward and squeeze it in among some of its other major priorities in the next little while to show the good wishes both of myself in terms of my amendment and the government’s own commitment to the pilot project process it is undertaking.
That in the opinion of this House, recognizing that 32 tax hikes have been inflicted on the people of Ontario since 1985 because of government growth and spending increases, the government of Ontario should immediately freeze current public service staffing levels and present a balanced budget with no tax increases in the spring of 1990.
Mr Harris: I am pleased to have the opportunity this morning to talk about what I believe is leading to a very uncompetitive situation in our jurisdiction vis-à-vis the rest of Canada, vis-à-vis the jurisdictions that our businesses and our companies must compete with.
First of all, right at the outset I want to put into context what my motion means, what restrictions it would put on the Treasurer, on the Premier, on the executive council. I would urge all the members of this Legislature to support this resolution and to say that we, the people, think there is a limit as to what you can give one person the power to do when those decisions of the budget have such an impact upon all of our province.
I have said in my resolution that there should be no tax increases. If people have read the prebudget submissions that I prepared on behalf of our party for the last three or four years, the same principles were there and I called for the same thing each and every one of those times in the prebudget submissions, and it has fallen on deaf ears. I am taking this opportunity today to present it in a little different way and at least try to get agreement in principle.
If there is a tax freeze, according to the Treasurer’s own figures, revenues into the Treasury this year will go up 8.1 per cent. All our taxes are indexed. They will all go up by the rate of inflation. The 1.6 per cent real growth that Treasury has given me and that it is predicting for Ontario in the next year produces the additional revenue, and after the $1-billion windfall that the Treasurer received a few weeks ago, we should be looking at revenues, without a tax increase, of about $44.1 billion or $44.2 billion coming into the province.
The projection for inflation for Ontario is 5.8 per cent over the next year. So, if we do not cut one single thing, if we maintain all the new spending increases and programs, there will be in excess of $1 billion of new money come into the provincial Treasury this year as a result of the tax mechanisms that we have in place.
Some people have said to me, “How can you have a tax freeze and still balance the budget?” As we know, with the $1-billion windfall that came in, the budget is in effect in a balanced position today, depending on what new spending increases run amok over the last three months of this period.
What I am asking members to approve in principle today as a direction for budgetary policy does not require the government to cut anything. Those who have heard me speak in this House over the past nine years and who have followed some of the things I am calling for know that I have indicated I would like to cut some things. I have said that publicly and I have indicated some of the areas that I would cut.
But under what I am asking members to approve today, the government would not have to cut anything. All it would have to do, if this is adopted by this Legislature and by the government, is to say, “We will not increase growth beyond $1 billion of new money in the next year.” Surely that limited amount of restraint to the overall picture of how we are going to operate in Ontario ought to be supportable by this Legislature.
The second part of my motion calls for a freeze on the growth of the civil service. It has grown, by the government’s own estimates, not including this year, by over 7,000 new civil servants, an increase of about 10 per cent in the past four or five years. Some estimates have that as high as 9,000 or 10,000, depending on the base we can use for the figures. The answer is probably somewhere in between.
I believe we must send out a signal that recognizes that with the federal taxation, provincial taxation and municipal property tax base, we are at or in excess of the limits we need to be to be competitive in this jurisdiction. That is the simple principle and statement I am asking members of this House to support today and send that signal out, as it is our duty, I believe, as elected members of this Legislature to give direction.
This is a different kind of motion to be brought forward in private members’ hour. Most motions are private members’ pet projects or new spending initiatives. It is very easy in opposition, and I know this, to sit back and say: “You are not spending enough money here. We need more grants in northern Ontario. We need this. We need more four-lane highways. Why aren’t you satisfying this need? This interest group feels it is shortchanged School boards need more money.”
If we look at what has happened over the past five years during relative prosperity, economic good times for the richest province in the country, our debt has gone up 33 1/3 per cent. It was $30 billion when the government took office; it is $40 billion today. The $30 billion was a disgrace -- much better than the federal government, we know that, but it was a disgrace. Some of the people who preceded me and my party have to accept some responsibility for that. But during this boom economic time, to have run that from $30 billion to $40 billion is an even bigger disgrace, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves as elected members to have been party to that.
When the government took office, there was a tax advantage to locating in Ontario vis-à-vis Quebec. We had a Liberal government here in Ontario and we had a Liberal government in Quebec, operating in the same country and in the same federal fiscal climate. Before this government’s last budget was brought in, here is what had happened. For corporations, in 1985 there was a 9.6 per cent tax advantage to locating your company in Ontario versus Quebec. In 1989, before the government brought in its budget, there was a 1.8 per cent tax advantage. Quebec knew it was uncompetitive, and the same Liberal government through that period of time has cut taxes in Quebec.
For individuals, in 1985 there was a 10.5 per cent tax advantage if you lived in Ontario versus Quebec. Before this government’s last budget, which brought in the new increases in taxes -- the payroll tax, the tire tax and the new fees -- it was down to a two per cent tax advantage. Quebec, with a Liberal government, has recognized the reality that you must be competitive in this area if you want industries to locate in your jurisdiction, to service the North American market or indeed the world market.
The new money that they have -- they still have new money because of increased economic activity, the same way we have -- has gone into infrastructure because they recognize another reality: If we have a competitive tax climate and we put our dollars into infrastructure, sewers, water, roads, hydro -- think of the hydro investments in Quebec over the past 15 years; think of the hydro investments in Ontario, which have been none -- businesses and companies will want to locate in one’s jurisdiction. One will not have to bribe them.
When there is a new plant opening and we are all there to cut the big, fat ribbons and argue about whether they are red or blue and about how many federal dollars brought these 500 jobs to our community or how many provincial dollars brought this factory to our community, we should sit back and say, “What systems do we have in place that were so uncompetitive that we had to bribe this company to come and locate in Ontario?” It is a disgrace. Instead of trying to compensate by more and more grants to bribe them, to have to pay them to come into one’s jurisdiction, we had better begin to look at why we had to bribe them; why we are uncompetitive.
Mr Pelissero: It is a pleasure to take part in the debate today. If we look to the honourable member’s resolution, he is asking for two things: a freeze on the public service and a balanced budget. He probably should say a balanced budget again because, for the first time in 20 years, the Treasurer of Ontario has been able to balance the budget. That has been in spite of the cutbacks from the federal Conservative government in Ottawa, in some cases to the tune of almost $2 billion.
He talks about the windfall of almost $1 billion in terms of the taxes that have come back through the income tax system. A little later I will touch on how, as a province, we have been spending the people’s money.
I should tell the member right up front that I am not going to be supporting the resolution for two points. The first point is probably from a traditional role. The member, as he has mentioned, has submitted I guess a minority report in some cases to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs. In the last two or three years they have been doing a budget preparation for the Treasurer, and I think that has been a useful exercise. I was vice-chairman of that committee.
In terms of requests -- as an example, for the educational system -- we had requests, if we granted everyone’s wish list, of close to $7 billion. In education alone, we have managed to increase capital expenditures by more than $1.2 billion over a four-year period compared to what it was in the previous administration.
Second, and I think more important, it is inaccurate to try to imply or to tie together that the public civil service has an impact in terms of balancing the budget and that somehow we as taxpayers are not receiving value for our dollar.
When he became Treasurer in 1985, the Treasurer inherited really three deficits. The first deficit was the operating deficit of almost $2.6 billion on a budget of $26 billion. The second deficit had to do with unfunded liabilities in workers’ compensation and the teachers’ pension plan, and that literally was in the billions of dollars. Third, and I think most important, was the deficit that we inherited as a government and as a Treasurer with respect to a deficit on social services and spending on people.
What is the state of the union today? We heard the Treasurer announce just recently that the budget for 1989-90 will be balanced. On a $41.6-billion budget, we will have balanced it. In terms of spending -- basically, money coming in and going out -- that is the equivalent of about $110 million a day.
What has the province, through the various ministries, been spending that money on? We have been spending it on health care, education, transportation, municipalities, social services, the environment. I think it is important to put on record some of the figures in the last four or five years, when the Treasurer in fact has been the Treasurer.
For example, there have not been any cuts to our health care. In 1984 that was about $8.3 billion out of the total budget. Today, in 1989, our health care budget is approaching $14 billion. There has been about a $5.6-billion increase, or about 67 per cent, since 1984-85. Our social services spending has been up by 95 per cent since 1984. As well, our child care, as an example, has increased 30 per cent year over year. Since 1984 there has been a 90 per cent increase in money allocated to the environment.
The same is true in every ministry. In education, capital allocation for school construction was only $77 million in 1984-85. Last year, in 1989, there was a $1.2-billion announcement of capital allocation, spread over four years. For colleges and universities there were 48 per cent and 42 per cent increases respectively.
Transportation, as an example, was up 46 per cent from 1984. On top of that, there was an additional $2-billion allocation for capital programs, in terms of not only the Toronto area but other parts of the province as well. Spending on municipalities since 1984, in terms of transfers to the municipalities, has increased by 53.6 per cent.
We have also, I guess, from a cash flow perspective, advanced to the municipalities, hospitals, school boards etc, a lot earlier than normally was the case so they are able to plan their budgets more effectively and in some cases look at where they are going to spend the unconditional grants that have come along.
I would like to come back to parliamentary tradition for a second. Normally it is the Treasurer, through various mechanisms, consulting with groups individually or through the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, who presents a budget to the Legislature for its consideration. It is not the other way around, in terms of the Legislature, even though it is by resolution, placing certain restraints and constraints on the Treasurer.
Again, two things were asked for by the member in his resolution; one was a balanced budget and the second component was freezing the civil service. I think it is pretty well a common political trick to try to beat up the civil service when you are in opposition. I am sure the member can drag out all kinds of quotes where Liberal members made statements about the civil service when we were in opposition. I think it is important to remember that the civil service includes many individuals, men and women, who live in all parts of Ontario, who work and earn and are vital participants in the communities in which they reside. I think it is also most important to recognize that according to the most recent statistics, as of 1 June 1989, Ontario had fewer civil servants per capita than any other provincial government, or indeed the federal government. That would suggest that in Ontario the public service is able to provide its high quality of service more efficiently than anywhere else in Canada.
Mr Wildman: I want to speak briefly to this resolution and to say that in my experience in this House since 1975, arguments over the numbers of civil servants have always struck me as being rather phoney. I say that regretfully because, in my experience, governments of both the Liberal and Tory stripe have patted themselves on the back from time to time about keeping the numbers of the public service down and have argued that this is an indication of how much more efficient the bureaucracy at Queen’s Park is than the bureaucracy in Ottawa, for instance.
Tory governments at Queen’s Park have always pointed to the bloated bureaucracy in Ottawa. Now we hear the Liberal government arguing along similar lines. The fact is, the way the government in Ontario -- and, frankly, the government in Ottawa too -- keeps the number of civil servants down is by contracting out. It might put a limit on the number of civil servants, but that does not mean it is going to limit its expenditure of funds, and it does not mean it is going to limit the numbers of people who are actually working for the provincial government. It just means that more and more people are going to be hired as so-called temporary or nonclassified staff.
In my constituency there are people who have worked their whole working careers in the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Transportation as so-called unclassified contract employees; they work nine or 11 months a year on a contract, are laid off, collect unemployment insurance for a little while and then start on a new contract the next year, most of them with very few benefits. At one time they had no benefits; they now at least get some sick leave and some medical benefits.
It is a most inappropriate way of delivering service to the province and to the people of Ontario, and it is a most inappropriate way of treating public employees, because that is what they are. To say, “We have limited the total complement of the civil service and therefore we are husbanding the tax revenues in a responsible way,” or “We are delivering service efficiently,” frankly is just a lot of bunk.
The governments must not falsely report the number of people who are actually working for the provincial government, and I believe they must not continue to contract out because inevitably, on nonrenewable contracts, employees are paid substantially less than they would be if they were permanent employees, they have less benefits and there is almost no guarantee, in my view, that the quality of the work they are doing is the same as it would be if they were full-time, well-trained employees of the provincial government within the public service.
Despite the fact that there were promises in 1985 that this practice would end, we have seen that it has been accelerated by the Liberal government. The Ministry of Natural Resources is contracting out more and more of its work, not less. Tree planting is a very good example. Instead of hiring people, as the Conservative government had done before, even on short-term contracts, to do tree planting directly for the government, this government is now contracting with people who many times are former employees of the Ministry of Natural Resources, who then hire the people who might have worked on temporary contracts directly for the ministry but pay them $7.50 an hour instead of the $11 an hour they would have gotten if they had been working for the ministry. It is a nice way of being able to say, “We’re able to plant more trees with less money,” but in my view it is also a sort of sweatshop approach to providing service to the people of Ontario, and it is just not appropriate.
I want to make it clear that I am not talking about firefighters for the Ministry of Natural Resources or, for that matter, snowplow crews for the Ministry of Transportation. Everybody recognizes that those are seasonal jobs. I am talking about the numbers of employees who are working for the provincial government as unclassified staff on contracts, who the ministries themselves admit are required by the ministry: the ministries could not operate and could not provide the services for which they are responsible without these employees.
I would like a representative of the government -- and I honestly do not believe I am being partisan in this; I do not care whether it is a Tory government or a Liberal government -- to actually get up some time and say: “These are the numbers of people we need to provide the services that we’re required to provide to the public of this province, and we’re prepared to pay them adequately and ensure that they have the benefits they deserve. We’re not going to give out false numbers about limiting the public service. We’re actually going to be honest with the people of the province and treat our employees as they should be and ensure quality work.”
It is not just in Natural Resources or the Ministry of Transportation that this happens. It happens in every ministry of the government. We see contracting out in the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Health. It is happening right across the government.
I will finish by saying that in my part of the province, where we have had some serious economic dislocation, and that economic dislocation continues, this practice hurts not only the employees but also the communities in which they live and their families. In my view, it is a despicable way of treating the public employees.
In our area of Ontario it sometimes seems that the only growth industry is consultancy. If you want to make money working off the provincial purse in this province, become a consultant. What does a consultant do? A consultant is hired because you want to find out something; so you hire a consultant and the consultant tells you. He says, “What would you like to know?” You tell him what you want to know, and he writes it down and gives it back to you. That is, in essence, what a consultant does, in my view.
There are more and more consultants, and interestingly a number of them are former public employees who leave the public service and then are hired by the government to do the work they would have been doing if they were still in the public service. It is stupid, it is false economy, it is an unfair way of treating employees and, in my view, it does not ensure quality work.
Mr McLean: I am pleased to have this opportunity to say a few words on this extremely important resolution put forward by my colleague the member for Nipissing. I think it is so important that this resolution bears repeating once again. The resolution says, “Recognizing that 32 tax hikes have been inflicted on the people of Ontario since 1985 because of government growth and spending increases, the government of Ontario should immediately freeze current public service staffing levels and present a balanced budget with no tax increases in the spring of 1990.” We will still have a $40-billion budget with that happening.
This government has demonstrated the disastrous tendency of hiring and spending like there is no tomorrow. Unfortunately, in this case the government is right. There is no tomorrow for the taxpayers of Ontario, who are called upon time alter time to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for this government’s casual attitude to the public purse.
My colleague has outlined that since 1985 there have been 32 tax hikes from this Liberal government. It is true that spending increases have averaged 10.1 per cent annually. It is shocking when we speak of the number of new employees who have been hired and where they have been hired. The problem is that the increase has been in administration in ministry offices and not in the field where the real work is done. The government of Ontario is clearly out of step with the people. They do not realize where the tax burden lies. It lies squarely on the backs of the taxpayers in Simcoe East and those throughout the rest of the province.
We have continually raised the issue with regard to administration spending. Based on a review of the expenditures of 25 government ministries, my party determined that the administration spending programs have increased by a whopping 43.7 per cent since this government came to office. l think the people of Ontario should be made aware of this. They should be told that this government is spending like a drunken sailor and not taking the concerns of the people into account. It is going to administration.
Here are some of the facts that the people of Ontario should know. Relative to 1985-86 levels, spending on ministry administration programs in the current fiscal year is up by 50.7 per cent. Spending on administration programs has increased at a greater rate than total budgetary spending in three of the last five years surveyed.
Some of the administrative spending increases in specific ministries are astronomical. When you look at the increase for 1988-89 over 1985-86, for instance, the increase was 350 per cent for the Ministry of Northern Affairs and Mines, 297.5 per cent for the Ministry of Skills Development, 142.9 per cent for the Ministry of Financial Institutions, 116.1 per cent for the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and approximately 100 per cent for both the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
These figures are shocking. There is no other word for it when you stop to think that this government is using 32 tax ripoffs to pay administration program costs. This money is not being taken from people to help pay for programs to help people. It is being taken from people to help pay for this government’s program of empire building. That is not acceptable to me and it is not acceptable to the people of this province.
Members may recall that on 19 February, one day before the federal budget, Ontario’s Treasurer made a big production of announcing that his government would balance its budget for the first time in 20 years. But we all know it was no coincidence that the Treasurer chose to make this announcement the day before the federal Minister of Finance tabled his budget. We all know the Treasurer’s balanced budget put his government in a good position politically to respond to the federal budget, which took a hard line on spending and hit federal transfer payments to the provinces. Ontario still has a $40-billion deficit with the Treasurer still talking about balancing the books. The books are not balanced at all; there is still a $40-billion deficit.
Both the Treasurer and the Premier said that the feds were hitting the poor and our children by cutting transfer payments for health and education. But we know this is not true, because it is up to the province to determine how the transfer payments are spent. If anything, it will be this Treasurer and this Premier who will hit the poor and the children in Ontario. Last year, transfer payments from the feds to the province were up over seven per cent; this year, it will be 2.5 per cent, which is approximately $9.3 billion. So the transfer payments are not being cut. They are still being increased, but the percentage is being cut compared to the 10.1 per cent that this government is spending.
The people of Ontario know these books are not balanced. It was the result of good fortune and not good management. It was good luck and not good policy. The taxpayers of Ontario have not been fooled for one minute. They know that it is no great accomplishment to balance the budget after years of sustained economic growth and massive tax increases. They know that 32 tax increases are a high price to pay for the balanced budget. They know that the budget was balanced on the backs of the taxpayers and not through an effort on the part of this government to control expenditures.
Enough is enough. The logical thing for this government to do is to listen to the member for Nipissing. The logical thing would be to freeze the current public service staffing for their administration and to bring in a balanced budget with no taxes.
It is interesting to note that this year the Treasurer has reduced the budget expenditures in agriculture by over $39 million from what they were in 1988 and 1989. Can you imagine, the very commodity that the people need to live on, and that budget is being reduced.
It is also interesting to read Diane Francis in this morning’s paper -- I usually read her column, it is always interesting, the different perspective that she puts on -- with her views with regard to the Ontario budget. The Treasurer took the opportunity to send a letter back to her. Where she had indicated it was a 10.5 per cent average yearly increase, she says the Treasurer says: “Bottom line is you say government can spend as much as it likes as long as taxes cover it. Put another way, you say taxes are never inflationary.” Well, it is inflationary.
“In Ontario, will businesses that must pay your new medical care levy on their payroll, square-footage rent tax (aimed at landlords but paid by tenants) and additional parking lot taxes not cause inflation when they include this in their price structure? If not, that’s great news. I thought we were pricing ourselves out of competition with all these new taxes.”
But according to the Treasurer, it is not. He thinks it is fine to continue to raise taxes and continue to spend at a rate of over 10 per cent a year. He is getting $5,000 out of every man, woman and child in this province, and our debt is still over $40 billion.
It is interesting when you look at some of the statistics with regard to the Office of the Premier how the increased expenditures have taken place there, over $235 million increase in one year -- unbelievable; the Cabinet Office, the increased expenditures there; administrative costs in every ministry, the increased expenditures there.
This great tax increase has gone to pay for administration. It has not gone to pay for the government programs that people need the help from. That is in essence what raising taxes is about: to provide the services, to provide the programs. No doubt a percentage has gone to that, but the greatest percentage has gone for administration in government offices and that is a proven fact in the statement of expenditures by program.
Mr Reycraft: I welcome the opportunity to join the debate on the resolution by my friend the member for Nipissing. I have read his resolution carefully a number of times, because I thought, in a resolution that talked about balanced budgets, that the member surely would have wanted to include something commending the Treasurer for having balanced this year’s budget. While I have re-read it a number of times, I cannot find any commendation like that.
The balanced budget that the Treasurer announced in February is a very rare achievement. As my friend the member for Lincoln pointed out earlier, it is the first time that it has been accomplished in 20 years and it is only the third time that it has been achieved by a Treasurer of this province in the last 40 years. That achievement is significant because it proves that it is possible to make progress towards social justice at the same time as one maintains fiscal responsibility.
Spending by this government has increased in the almost five years since we took office. There is no argument about that. Those increases have gone into very important areas: health care, education, welfare services, child care, support for municipalities and for school boards, even for pay equity, an issue on which I notice my friend the member for Nipissing now has an opinion different from that of his party.
It is interesting that when a minister of the crown stands up to announce an increase in spending for one of those very important programs, the response of the opposition is usually to indicate that the increase is inadequate; that more should be done.
Mr Reycraft: My friend the member for Carleton says, “Not from this party.” Just yesterday his colleague the member for Parry Sound was up imploring the Minister of Health to provide more funding for nurses for critical care programs, and he says we do not hear that sort of thing from his party.
To neglect the funding of important programs like those I have mentioned in the interests of maintaining a fiscal balance is simply not responsible. Deficits can come in many shapes and in many sizes, and deficits in health care needs, pupil places in schools and social services needs are every bit as damaging to a province and its economy as are fiscal deficits. Therefore, we have introduced new and progressive programs to try to achieve a greater degree of social equity and social justice in this province and we have funded those programs.
It has not been easy, because while we have been trying to do that, the federal government has been reducing its transfers to the province. In the February budget announced by the Minister of Finance, he again decreased our revenues by some $500 million. That is $500 million that the Treasurer had planned to use for the funding of health care, post-secondary education and social services that we are now going to have to deal with.
There are only three ways to deal with those kinds of transfer payment reductions. You can reduce services, you can increase taxes or you can go out and borrow money. The Treasurer does not want to do any of those things, but somehow we are going to have to address that reduction of $500 million.
Some people have accused the Minister of Finance on other occasions of taking a shotgun approach to deficit reduction. He cannot be accused of doing that this time, because when you look at how other provinces have been affected by his transfer payment reductions, none have been affected in the way Ontario has. He has used a very targeted approach to put that deficit on to the backs of the Ontario taxpayers; there is no question about that.
Some have criticized us by saying that we are doing the same sort of thing to achieve our balanced budget, that we have somehow reduced transfer payments to municipalities and school boards and our other transfer partners, that we have passed our deficit on to the municipal taxpayers.
That is not the case. Some information done by a very astute economist named Harry Kitchen at Trent University in Peterborough on the utilization of property taxes has provided some very interesting information. When one looks at the changes in taxes over the past 20 years, one sees that since 1968, income tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic provincial product in Ontario has increased from 9.6 per cent to 12.6 per cent; so income taxes have gone up. Sales taxes over the same 20-year period have gone from 1.6 per cent to 2.7 per cent; sales taxes have gone up. Property taxes in 1968 were 3.6 per cent of the gross domestic provincial product. In 1987, 20 years later, they were 3.6 per cent of the gross domestic provincial product -- virtually no change in municipal taxes in that 20-year period.
Balanced budgets are laudable objectives, and certainly it is something that the Treasurer wants to achieve this year. We will work hard to do that. At the same time, we know that we must provide adequate funding for essential programs in this province. Those are also important.
There are other comments I would like to address this morning if I had more time. I would like to talk about the matter of the provincial debt that was raised, because the provincial debt of $40 billion was accumulated in large part by a number of Conservative governments leading up to 1985. I would like to talk too about that civil service freeze and about the process. Time simply does not permit that.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I stand in support of this resolution presented by my colleague the member for Nipissing. I know that many of the members in the Legislature will feel that they should support it too but, because of compelling reasons, they may not want to vote for it. That is acceptable. It takes a lot of nerve to defy your government, even when you know it is wrong.
Many points have been made about the hiring of civil servants and increasing the complement by several thousand. When it is mentioned, the Premier and certain ministers take exception and use the argument that these civil servants are hired for environmental protection, to be used in the Ministry of the Environment. I am sure the Minister of the Environment does not require several thousand extra people. Therefore, it is hard to determine what purpose these people serve. I think that if the government really wanted to, it could do the job it is doing with less people. The Minister of the Environment likely needs some help, because the example at Hagersville demonstrated that he does not really know what is going on in his ministry.
As far as taxing is concerned, they tax people with the new tire tax of $5 that brought in $35 million and they spend $1 million of it. That is pretty good. They are certainly fulfilling their mandate to protect the environment. Three cents on every dollar, that is not bad. It certainly does not show very much support for the Minister of the Environment’s efforts, at least that he pretends to be interested in.
They brought in a fishing licence, the first time in the history of the province that we have had to tax people to enjoy the sport of fishing. Now there is talk that the quota for sport fishermen will likely be decreased. That certainly does not strike my constituents as very fair.
I would like to bring forward one concern that I have. In the nearly 15 years that I have served in the Legislature, I have never had as many calls as I had these past few months over taxes. Our citizens are fed up with taxes -- municipal taxes, provincial taxes and federal taxes. Every level of government is taxing our people too much.
Surely there is some place where we have to say enough is enough, and I think that is what the member for Nipissing has tried to do: to tell us all that we have reached the point where we should start to think in terms of what it is doing to the people who are earning this money to pay the taxes. They are getting tired of seeing most of their wages go to taxes. For heaven’s sakes, let’s support the resolution presented by the member for Nipissing and call a halt to this tax grab.
The Speaker: Is there any time for the government party? No time, I am sorry. We have five minutes left for the New Democratic Party. No? I believe there are two minutes plus the sponsor’s two minutes which the member for Nipissing may wish to use.
First, the member for Algoma spoke on cutting the civil service and then increasing contracting out. I agree with him that if that is all the exercise is to do, that is not an accurate and true picture. That is why my resolution covers two aspects. It says that the total spending, as well, is going to have to be controlled; somebody has to stand up and put some restraint on. Given that, and now that he understands I am trying to do it from both ends to make sure the government cannot fudge the figures, I hope he will support the resolution.
Second, he said both Liberal and Conservative governments do this, and federal and provincial governments do it. He is wrong. It was the Liberal government in Ottawa that built up the civil service in its last five years; some 13,000 or 14,000 positions have since been cut back. The Conservative government in Ontario had cut back some 7,000 or 8,000 civil servants over eight or nine years. The Liberal government has added that many back in four or five years.
There is a trend. Liberals like big government, big bureaucracy; government will do everything for all people. Conservative governments would like to leave some money in the hands of the people, recognizing that perhaps they know better how they want to spend their money than government does in telling them how their money is going to be spent.
The bottom line of this, and the final argument I wish to address before I sum up, is that the Liberal members have said, “With the federal government cutting back, how can we possibly balance the budget without increasing taxes?”
On Monday, three weeks ago, the Treasurer announced, “I got $1 billion of new money I didn’t expect -- unexpected -- from the federal government in transfers.” On Tuesday he said: “I’ve been cut back $480 million. Woe is me. Where will I find the money?” He should look at the cheque for $ 1 billion he got yesterday. That is where he can find the money, and he still has half a billion left over. Now he says, “What am I going to do next year?” With no tax increases, he will get $ 1 billion of new money over and above inflation, so we can afford to make that up and still have half a billion dollars’ worth of new money.
The bottom line is this: We are becoming uncompetitive in Ontario. We are out of sync with this whole country. Admittedly, we are uncompetitive in Canada as well. We have a problem there. But that is Ontario’s problem too. It is not good enough to say, “Oh, that’s the federal government.” Who do you think pays the bulk of the federal taxes? Who do you think has to repay the deficit? By and large, it is the people of Ontario who have to pay most of it.
We are the richest and the biggest province. In a time of economic prosperity, how can the wealthiest province say to the rest of the country: “We don’t care that you are under restraint. We don’t care that the federal deficit is massive and that you’ve got to cut back your expenditures. We are going to increase our spending 10 per cent each and every year. The heck with the rest of the provinces. The heck with the federal deficit problem”? That is what is happening in this country. We are being uncompetitive as a country, and Ontario, within the country, is becoming more and more uncompetitive.
Breaugh, Bryden, Carrothers, Chiarelli, Cooke, D. R., Cooke, D. S., Daigeler, Dietsch, Eakins, Elliot, Farnan, Fawcett, Ferraro, Fleet, Fulton, Furlong, Grandmaître, Grier, Henderson, Hošek, Kanter, Keyes, Lupusella, MacDonald, Mackenzie, Mahoney, Mancini, McGuigan, Neumann, Nicholas;
Tonya is a 17-year-old resident of Dain City. Earlier this month she was selected and crowned Miss Teen Canada. This is the second consecutive time that a contestant from the Niagara Peninsula has become Miss Teen Canada, but it is a first for Welland and Dain City. Earlier, Tonya had won the Welland Winter Carnival Queen contest and then Miss Teen Niagara.
She is an impressive young person who has broad and varied interests. An extremely capable student at Notre Dame College School in Welland, Ms Goss is also an active athlete in water skiing, gymnastics, swimming, aerobics, a golfer and a power cheerleader for her school teams. In addition to all those activities, she is a volunteer for the Red Cross in Welland and a peer tutor at her school.
Tonya’s parents, Bob Goss, a General Motors worker, and Linda Goss, can and should be very proud and very pleased with Tonya. I know this Legislature joins me in congratulating Tonya, her parents and her sisters Tara and Tiffany.
In 1453 the glory which was the Byzantine empire fell at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. In the ensuing years of national oppression, Greek identity and its spirit of independence were kept alive by the work and example of heroic leaders such as the new martyrs, who promoted education and community service ideals.
Among the most famous of these was a woman, St Philothea. The schools and charitable institutions she founded survive to this day. She was given the singular tribute of having her body enshrined in the National Cathedral of Athens.
Greek dreams of independence were quickly stimulated in the early part of the 19th century, with the war of liberation having begun in 1821 under the leadership of Alexander and Demetrius Ipsilanti. Many European nations recalled the great cultural debt they owed to Greece and sent volunteers to assist the Greek nation at its moment of greatest need. Lord Byron was one of these, and upon his death, to commemorate his sacrifice, his heart was buried in Greek soil. In 1832, Greece obtained its freedom.
At this special time of remembering the heroic deeds of days past, and on behalf of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, I would like to extend my warmest and best wishes to all members of the Greek community for a happy Independence Day. Yassoo.
Mr Adams: As a follow-up to the debate on Bill 112 this morning, I would like to summarize the philosophy of education of the Ontario Association of the Deaf: to preserve and protect the interests and rights of all deaf children to learn American sign language; to give deaf children an opportunity to be exposed to and interact within a sign-language environment; to stimulate full language acquisition and a strong self-concept; to educate those associated with deaf children by providing orientation to deafness and sensitivity training programs; to encourage high-quality education counselling and human resource services to meet the intellectual, social, emotional, physical and language needs of deaf individuals; to ensure that teacher training programs of the deaf are designed to allow deaf students to become effective citizens in both the hearing and the deaf worlds the focus should be on the bicultural and bilingual approach; to upgrade and promote effective communication skills in deaf children this refers to the involvement of deaf professionals in the school systems to act as role models as well as enhancing students’ communicating skills; to actively advocate for the interests of the deaf community in all aspects of life, and to develop an effective network and strong relationship between the deaf and hearing communities.
Miss Martel: In recent weeks the Workers’ Compensation Board has run a series of advertisements regarding Bill 162 in newspapers, on radio and on television. The advertisements describe how the new workers’ compensation legislation will ensure that regardless of injury, workers can be assured of a regular paycheque, rehabilitation, reinstatement and stability after their accidents.
The Ontario Coalition for Workers’ Compensation Reform today has announced it will make a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Council and to the Workers’ Compensation Board regarding the ads. The coalition claims, and rightly so, that the ads violate the Canadian code of advertising standards for three reasons: They are inaccurate, misleading and imply that injured workers have a right to re-employment as a consequence of Bill 162. They exploit the misery felt by many injured workers by offering false hope to thousands who will, in fact, never be retrained or get back to work.
For example, the worker John states that he now has the right to reinstatement because of Bill 162. In fact, if John was injured before 2 January 1990, if he worked in an establishment with less than 20 employees or if he did not have one year’s continuous service before being injured, he will not have a right to be reinstated. John or any other worker in similar conditions is exempt from being reinstated with his or her accident under the act.
Toronto WCB clinics, in particular, have been swamped with calls from injured workers seeing the ads. They are outraged and frustrated, as they know their own experience with the board was nothing like the rosy picture which has been painted, and they also know that Bill 162 will not make it any better.
Mr McEwen was the only Canadian to take part in this classic sled-dog race which ran from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, a distance of 1,160 miles. This route for sleds, originally a mail trail blazed by prospectors around the turn of the century became famous in 1925 when 19 mushers succeeded in a desperate mission, getting diphtheria serum to Nome to quell an epidemic.
Nearly half a century later, in 1973, the first Iditarod, an Indian name meaning “distant place,” was run. Mr McEwen finished 31st out of 70 entries. It is a real achievement even to complete. Sometimes the temperature in the interior of Alaska dips to 60 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and with the wind-chill factor it is even colder than that. This was a real test of stamina and perseverance.
Mr Faubert: I rise today to bring to the attention of the House a very special day for our Greek community. On 25 March, Greek peoples around the world celebrate the 169th anniversary of independence from the Ottoman empire.
It was on 25 March 1821 that the distinctive blue and white of the Greek merchant marine flag was raised in the Peloponnisos as a symbol of Greek resistance. What followed was almost a decade of continuous struggle to overthrow the mantle of more than 400 years of Ottoman oppression. The courage and perseverance of the Greek forces eventually forced the Ottoman rulers to concede defeat and recognize Greece and its people as independent and free.
This weekend, thousands of Metropolitan Toronto’s 90,000-strong Greek community, along with Greek communities across Ontario, Canada and the world, will rekindle that spirit with their annual Independence Day festivities, in Metro the highlight being the traditional parade along Danforth Avenue. In the past, this event has featured an array of bands, floats and cultural societies and attracted many dignitaries who march with Bishop Sotirios to show their support of the Greek community.
I have myself for years joined this display of Greek pride and I can attest to the true warmth, hospitality and friendship generated by this event. In fact, it reminds me of a statement by the Greek writer Vasily Theodorakis, who wrote, “You live, you die, and in between if you are lucky, you experience Greece.”
Mr D. S. Cooke: In the 1985 election, the member for Windsor-Sandwich announced that our new chronic care hospital would start construction by the end of that calendar year. In 1986, the then Minister of Health came down to Windsor and announced that the hospital had received approval and they could go ahead; $11 million was raised at the local level as its share of the community hospital. In 1987, the member for Windsor-Walkerville and the member for Windsor-Sandwich ran for election on the basis that they had achieved the new chronic care hospital for the Windsor community.
In 1988, after the election, the hospital was put on hold. In 1989, the Liberals were concerned that without this hospital they were in deep political trouble in Windsor. In 1990, the Liberals are concerned about no hospital, the prospect of an election and a community protest that is going to occur when they have their convention in Windsor on the 30 March weekend.
Today I am announcing, on behalf of the government I am sure, that the government will in the next week be formally announcing phase I of the new chronic care hospital in Windsor. But what is phase I of the new chronic care hospital in Windsor? It is going to be a walkway from the existing general hospital to nowhere because the hospital has not been approved.
Mr Cousens: Imagine this scenario: You wake up at 6:30 in the morning, get dressed, have some breakfast and arrive at the GO station bracing yourself for the ride downtown. Things are going relatively smoothly; the trains are on time today. You find a seat, pull out your newspaper and settle in with the morning news. Suddenly, the person next to you pulls out his battery-operated razor and proceeds to shave. You watch with interest because you are too astonished to say anything. Finished, the man nonchalantly cleans his razor with a little brush and puts his utensils away. You are disturbed by this man’s lack of manners but think that is an isolated incident.
Then you look across the aisle as a young woman is intently applying makeup to her half-asleep face. Another woman sits beside her chatting away as she polishes her toe-nails. Incredible? Not in the least. People are clipping their fingernails, flossing their teeth and cleaning their ears as they merrily make their way to work on public transit. As one of my constituents has pointed out, it is like going to work in someone’s washroom.
When my constituent complained to a customer service representative with GO Transit, she was told that there was nothing she could do and that there are no guidelines prohibiting this kind of activity. Surely the Minister of Transportation could develop a public education program for passengers which reminds them of basic common courtesy.
Ms Oddie Munro: I have read with interest the latest edition of the Ontario Farm Women’s Network newsletter. As a member from a predominantly industrial-commercial city, you might wonder why I would be interested in issues concerning Ontario’s farm women. Simply put, it is because Hamilton historically, currently and, I predict, well into the future, has been and will be interested in the rights, needs and contribution of women, either expressed through women’s organizations, by individual women or by men and children who care about women.
Formed one year ago, the OFWN is new but not unknown. Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Food, David Ramsay, is well aware of its objectives, as, I dare say, are many of the members. In fact, the association is holding an annual meeting this weekend with the Honourable Mavis Wilson as one of the guest speakers.
So what are the objectives of this association? They are to support and strengthen the family farm and the farm family, to secure social, legal and economic equality, to foster agricultural awareness and to facilitate educational development. The special theme of the January-February newsletter is equality for women. The newsletter speaks to the challenges experienced by farm women due to the lack of accessible training, social services and child care, minimal participation.
The OFWN has a lot of solutions to their problems: contacting politicians and governments, networking and the development of a source base. I am confident that we will be hearing more from this association, and I commend the reading of the newsletter to the House.
Mrs Marland: I consider this a real privilege, to have the opportunity to stand and speak on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party to recognize Pakistani National Day, 23 March, which will be celebrated tomorrow.
Tomorrow, 23 March, is a day of celebration for all people of Pakistani origin. It was on this day in 1956 that Pakistan became a republic. Previously, the nation had been a constitutional monarchy. March 23 is also the anniversary of a resolution by the All-India Muslim League which embodied the demand for a Muslim homeland on the Indian subcontinent. That was in 1940 -- 50 years ago.
This resolution eventually led to the creation of Pakistan in August 1947 by the partition of Great Britain’s India empire into two nations, India and Pakistan. The division was a response to the fears of Muslims that they would be persecuted under Hindu rule. Thus, Pakistan became an Islamic state, while India continued as a homeland for the Hindu people.
I had the privilege a few moments ago of meeting the consul general. Obviously this fine gentleman who brings with him a special warmth and grace is very well appointed to the responsibility that he holds, and we offer our best wishes to the large Muslim community in this province of Ontario, which is now numbering more than 30,000 people, as it celebrates Pakistani National Day tomorrow.
Mr Velshi: I too wish to add my congratulations to all those of Pakistani background in Canada on this day of celebration and I wish to recognize once again in the members’ gallery my very good friend Tariq Altaf, consul general of Pakistan in Toronto.
Today we recognize what tomorrow will be, the 50th anniversary of the Pakistan Resolution, being the charter which led to the creation of the Muslim nation on the south Asian subcontinent. This celebration is particularly significant for me, as I am not only the only Muslim elected to office in Ontario, but my family is originally from that subcontinent. Indeed, had my forefathers not left the Indian subcontinent at the turn of the century to reside in South Africa, I might very well be addressing this House today not as a South African Canadian but as a Pakistani Canadian.
In either case, I am proud to note the outstanding contribution of the Prime Minister of this land, Madam Benazir Bhutto. Her dynamism and the democratic drive she represents is an example to all who cherish freedom. Of course, her recent election, along with the Prime Minister, Mr Mulroney, as co-chair of the United Nations world leaders summit on children’s issues such as slavery and mass starvation, to be held this 29 and 30 September, is indicative of our two nations’ great interest in aid to those who need it most.
On this day of recognition and celebration I want to mention one other important point about this great, democratic Commonwealth partner and that is the outstanding generosity displayed by the people and the government of Pakistan to three million Afghani refugees, being the largest single group of refugees in the world today. So many have been helped with the spirit of giving shown by the people of northern Pakistan, and I applaud this spirit.
I will close by once again saluting my friend Mr Altaf and all the people of Pakistan on this special occasion. I know all members will want to join me in wishing that this great nation prospers and develops even more over the next 50 years.
Before completing, I would also like to recognize some students in the gallery upstairs behind me. They are from the English-as-a-second-language class in the Georges Vanier Secondary School in the Oriole riding. They are people from that part of the world also, and I am sure they will appreciate what we are doing for them today.
Mr B. Rae: First of all, I want to join with other members in welcoming the consul general, Mr Altaf, to this assembly and to say on behalf of our party that if members would reflect for a moment, I am sure they would agree with me that it was the independence movements in India and Pakistan in the middle of this century which can fairly be said to have really transformed the world.
Indeed, they were the precursors of the modern world in the historic movement of decolonization and the establishment of sovereign states in much of the world, which prior to that time had been painted in the red or the blue or the green of various 19th century and 18th century empires. This was a historic change and one which took enormous courage and enormous foresight and dedication on the part of the leadership of the communities in Pakistan, as we now call it, and in India, transforming that subcontinent and also the world.
It is worth recalling that Mr Altaf’s predecessors, if I may say that, who were active in the nationalist movements in those countries faced imprisonment from the British Raj. They faced political persecution. They were prevented from assembling in a peaceful manner. They were in many cases treated badly and roughly by the authorities. Their lives were threatened and, indeed, many lives were lost in the battle for independence.
It took great courage, and we pay tribute to that courage as we do to the courage of the people of Pakistan in recent years, when they have made such an enormous contribution to the world; not only to their own continent, but indeed to the rest of the world.
It is perhaps an appropriate moment as well, on the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the Muslim League and the Pakistan Resolution in 1940, for us to pay tribute to the new Prime Minister, to the enormous contribution which she is making in peacemaking, the contribution which she is making to her own country. We pay tribute to her as democracy once again has been re-established in Pakistan.
Finally, of course, we celebrate the fact that many Pakistanis have come to Canada and have made it their home. Perhaps this is an appropriate occasion for us to remember that it was just yesterday that I, together with the Premier and the leader of the Conservative Party, indeed all the members of the House were presented with a pin from B’Nai Brith asking us to celebrate the fact that in our diversity in Canada, there is unity.
Perhaps it might seem odd that I should mention the B’Nai Brith in the same breath or paragraph as I am talking about the independence of Pakistan, but I do not think it is, because that shows the enormous diversity that there is in Canada and also the unity that we have in making sure that everyone in Canada is treated fairly, is made to feel at home here, and that we share a sense of solidarity, brotherhood and sisterhood, with all the people of the world who have made Canada their home.
Hon Mr Black: I would like to inform members that earlier today I announced details of a treatment initiative which will broaden the base of existing drug abuse treatment programs and will permit thorough and rigorous evaluation of the funded programs.
Today we are moving forward on several new initiatives that will allow us to provide more treatment to young people at risk as well as gather much-needed information about the effectiveness of current treatment models. Today I have allocated $1.6 million to enhance 11 innovative treatment programs in Ontario and a further $400,000 for extensive program evaluation. This funding is in addition to over $50 million the province currently spends each year on treatment programs.
As members of this House will recall, in November of last year the government introduced an innovative, community-based strategy to reduce the illegal use of drugs in Ontario. The strategy provides the blueprint we must follow if we are to keep our communities healthy and safe.
The drug strategy is based on the premise that in order to reduce the incidence and impact of illegal drug use, we must concentrate our efforts on reducing the demand for drugs and we must utilize all of the tools available to us. This includes prevention and education, enforcement and treatment activities as outlined in the Report of the Task Force on Illegal Drug Use in Ontario.
The additional funding announced today will be used to expand programs with particular emphasis on improved access for youth up to 25 years of age and to evaluate the programs to increase our knowledge of effective treatment methods. Evaluation of programming is a key component of this initiative to help us find the most effective ways of allocating our treatment resources.
In addition to providing funding for these 11 programs, we are also looking ahead. We need to know which treatment programs offer the most promise. While there is agreement about the need for more treatment programs, there is little consensus about what and where these should be. We want to help provide some of the answers to these questions.
That is why I am pleased to announce the appointment of an advisory committee of individuals from across the province with expertise in drug treatment. The Treatment Advisory Committee will review and assess promising drug treatment models from across the province, recommend priorities in drug treatment service and recommend strategies for more effective and efficient use of existing resources. The committee will also be asked to identify future research needs.
I am pleased to introduce the chairman of the committee, Garth Martin, who is with us today. Mr Martin is head of the sociobehavioural treatment services for the Addiction Research Foundation. In addition, two other members of his committee have taken the time to attend, and I would like to ask Linda Bell, the president of Bellwood Health Services, and Dr Don Pierson to rise as well. All other members of the committee are equally well qualified and represent a cross-section of expertise. The advisory committee is expected to report this fall.
We are confident these initiatives will greatly enhance current programs in our efforts to reduce the illegal use of drugs in Ontario and will help ensure effective and innovative treatment programs in the future.
Mr Reville: When we had the last series of announcements by the Minister of Tourism and Recreation, who is the minister responsible for the provincial anti-drug strategy, I was sharply critical of his announcement because it did not touch on the matter of treatment. I suppose now I have to be congratulatory because he has touched on the matter of treatment, but members know me better than that.
Basically what has happened today is that the minister has announced a little study, a little committee and a 3.2 per cent increase in the amount of money spent on drug and alcohol treatment programs in this province. We know and the minister knows that 3.2 per cent is not going to do the job.
While clearly the advisory committee is expert in its field, our experience, particularly with this government, is that it is very quick to set up advisory committees and not very quick to listen to what advisory committees have to say. In the drug field, I can only think back to, not very long ago, the Minister of Health’s absolutely tone-deaf ear to the recommendations of the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee, which of course is responsible for advising the government on the legal drug trade, not the illegal drug trade.
The government is right when it says that we have to deal with “prevention and education, enforcement and treatment.” Many of the programs in the prevention and education side are now being put together. Some of them are goofy in the extreme.
The government knows or should know that the best prevention program ever devised anywhere in the world is the real prospect of a future for people who might contemplate using drugs or who are currently using drugs. Examples are brought forward in this House, day after day, about layoffs and shutdowns that the government says it cannot do anything about, about food banks that the government says it cannot do anything about but that it might get around to doing something about in the future, about homelessness and underhousing and poor housing, which the government has abandoned. It makes you wonder why the government has a minister responsible for drugs at all.
The problem clearly is that if tomorrow is going to be just like yesterday, you might as well get blasted today. That is the problem we are facing all over the province. Not many feet away from this place, I could take the minister to stairwells where young women are selling their bodies on one step so that they can buy some drugs two steps up. The minister knows that this little mess of pottage is doing nothing about it.
MrFarnan: I would just like to add a side remark to the comments of my colleague. The minister is not just the minister for drugs; he is also, in my view, the minister for gambling. We are talking about addictions. This is something I have spoken in the House about and I do not want the minister to forget this.
As the government introduces one lottery after another, families are being destroyed by gambling addictions. There is not one gambling rehabilitation clinic in the province of Ontario, and this is criminal. There is not one gambling rehabilitation clinic in all of Canada.
I would ask the minister, as the minister responsible for lotteries in Ontario, to seriously look at this. He is using this fund-raising technique not just for the traditional groups, sports and culture; the government is adding hospitals, and indeed I believe it has plans to look beyond that, at the environment.
As the government promotes lotteries aggressively, as it markets lotteries aggressively, it should remember that there is a portion of society whose lives are being destroyed. The government is part of the problem in this respect and not part of the solution. In other jurisdictions, a percentage of lottery profits is used for gambling rehabilitation. I encourage the minister to do the same in Ontario.
Mr Sterling: In general, we welcome the announcement of the minister regarding these programs. We also think that probably it is a better expenditure of funds to support existing programs and existing treatment facilities than it is to try to go out and create brand-new ones that do not have the experience of the many it is supporting today. We are supportive of that kind of a measure.
I would add some caution in terms of the commitment: It seems relatively small with regard to a very large problem. We only take this commitment as being a step in a series of many, many steps that I hope the minister will take in the future.
With regard to the advisory committee, I would only say, as the chairman of the standing committee on government agencies of this Legislature, that last month we looked at a particular advisory committee of another minister of the crown. In that case, there were 39 various advisory committees called provincial advisory committees. Of those 39 committees, in the last year, I believe, there were two meetings. There were no minutes kept. There were no advisory documents to the minister, etc.
I would say to the members who are part of this advisory committee: Make certain that they meet often, make certain that their reports get to the minister and make certain that their reports get to the public in general in order for them to be providing a useful purpose to keep this process in motion. Other than that, in general we support these initiatives.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. We all know that after the crisis in Hagersville the ministry scrambled and that last week the minister released a list of 49 waste tire sites across the province of Ontario. Since then, we have been trying to get some more information from his ministry about the specific details of those various tire sites, and that has been difficult.
However, it is obvious that 11 of those 49 sites are landfills. So if we are charitable and assume that those 11 sites have certificates of approval, can the minister tell us: Of the other 38 waste tire sites across the province, how many have been issued with certificates of approval by his ministry?
Hon Mr Bradley: We are in the process at the present time, between the Solicitor General’s department and the Ministry of the Environment – as the member knows, these sites have been visited -- of issuing certificates of approval to all of them. The inspections have taken place on those sites which the member has made reference to, that is, both by the Ministry of the Solicitor General and by the Ministry of the Environment. People have gone to each one of them that has been in process for some period of time, and it is the levels she was given the information on, the over 5,000.
Mrs Grier: That is really very strange. One of the sites, for example, has 800,000 tires, another has 500,000, many of them have 200,000, 75,000. They did not all grow just since the fire at Hagersville. Presumably some of those dumps were there and some of those tires were dumped there prior to the fire at Hagersville.
Is the minister telling this House that none of them in the list he released had been inspected prior to 13 March and 14 March? Is he telling this House that not a single one of those 38 sites is operating legally, that there are, in this province, 38 illegal waste disposal sites he has only just discovered? Is that what he is saying?
Hon Mr Bradley: From time to time, officials of the Ministry of the Solicitor General and officials of the Ministry of the Environment have visited a number of these sites over a period of time and have evaluated them to determine whether they are in compliance or acceptable. As the member would know, these visitations are very useful in that they can advise the people as to --
Anyway, we have had our officials visit each of these sites from time to time to evaluate them and to make recommendations to people on how they should best store them. We are talking about the significant sites that the member is mentioning, for instance, and we will make sure that all of them are in compliance. Of course, with the legislation that we will be bringing in, it will clarify our right to move in at any particular time.
Mrs Grier: It is obvious from that answer (a) that none of these sites have certificates of approval, (b) that they are all illegal, (c) that no charges have been laid against any of these sites. I find that absolutely appalling. I would like to ask the minister if, given the kind of record his ministry has shown -- taking five years to try to do something about Hagersville and then deciding it could not do anything, and two years involved with the Musitano dump outside Mount Hope and nothing has happened -- that is the kind of record we may expect on 38 other sites.
Mrs Grier: -- would give the general public the right to initiate and participate in hearings before the Environmental Appeal Board. Gill the minister support that kind of legislation? If he is not going to do the job, will he give the citizens some environmental rights in this province?
Hon Mr Bradley: As the member would most certainly be aware, no doubt, people have the right to appear before the appeal board at the present time. In fact in that particular circumstance she mentions with Hagersville, they did appear before the appeal board. I think the member would how that with the inspections that have taken place, charges have already been laid against some companies that are not in compliance with the legislation.
Mrs Grier: I am afraid I have to correct the record with respect to my first question to the Minister of the Environment earlier today. There are 60 waste tire sites on the ministry’s inventory; 11 of them are landfills. That means that there are 49 which should have certificates for approval. I used the figure 38. I am afraid my mathematics were faulty and I apologize.
Mr B. Rae: I have a question to the Minister of Labour. I am sure the minister is aware of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Goyko Toljagic, who was a caretaker for over 20 years at North Toronto Collegiate Institute in Toronto. I would like to ask the minister this question: Can he explain how Mr Toljagic would have been exposed to asbestos to the point where he died of mesothelioma, and can he explain why it is that, so far as I am aware, his ministry has not prosecuted any school or any school board for breach of the asbestos regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act?
Hon Mr Phillips: It is an important subject and I appreciate the opportunity to bring the House up to date on the issue of asbestos. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, there are some very firm regulations that were developed as a result of a royal commission on asbestos. These regulations are regulations that school boards are required to implement in order to manage asbestos within the schools.
Just for the information of the House, we have asked each school board to give us a report on its program of how it is ensuring that those regulations are implemented. We have asked the Metropolitan Toronto school boards in particular -- I think there are eight of them in total -- for their program on how they are ensuring that those regulations are implemented. Those reports were presented to us in early March. We have reviewed those reports and we now are meeting with each of the school boards to ensure that those regulations are indeed implemented.
The answer to the question is that we have firm regulations. School boards are required to abide by those regulations. We have asked each of the school boards to give us its program on how it is abiding by those regulations and we are reviewing them.
I would like to ask the minister to answer this simple question. He himself has pointed to the regulations that are set out under the act. The act clearly states that every person, and that includes a school or a school board, who contravenes or fails to comply with a provision of this act or the regulations is guilty of an offence and is chargeable under the act.
There is clear -- indeed there is overwhelming -- evidence that a great many schools have not complied with this regulation and have not been in compliance with this regulation for an extended time. That is why Goyko Toljagic died. It must be the only explanation as to why he died. I want to ask the minister why his ministry has not been enforcing the act. Why has he not enforced the act?
Hon Mr Phillips: Again I go back to what I said earlier, and that is that we do in fact enforce the act. We have the regulations. We require school boards to abide by those regulations. Where they are seen not to be abiding by them, we will issue orders.
There is a school, I guess Our Lady of Victory school, where there is some asbestos. In that particular case we found that the asbestos was well managed. There were a couple of minor things that required action. We required the school board to act on that and it did.
Where we find a violation of the act, we will issue orders. If we find a serious breach of the act, we will prosecute. In this particular case with the school boards, as I say, we have asked for their programs on how they are managing to implement the regulations. They have provided those programs. We are reviewing those programs and we are ensuring that in fact the school boards in this province are implementing the regulations.
Mr B. Rae: Mr Toljagic’s family has been denied compensation by the Workers’ Compensation Board because it says it does not have any evidence that he was working with asbestos or that asbestos exposure was the problem, which is a literally unbelievable response given all the money the government has thrown at this question in studying it. We know that mesothelioma is overwhelmingly caused by exposure to asbestos. We know there was asbestos in that school. We also know there is friable material in literally dozens of schools around the province.
I want to ask the minister to read out himself and to read again the wording of section 37, which states very clearly that where there is an offence committed, “on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $25,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than 12 months, or to both.”
I want to know why it is that when a citizen is parked in an illegal parking space he gets charged and he gets fined, but when a school board leaves its workers and its students open to exposure to friable material called asbestos, which we know can cause death and we can demonstrate can cause death, why is it that those people are not charged? Why is it that does not happen? Tell me that.
Hon Mr Phillips: As I said before, we have the regulations. We ensure that school boards comply with them. Where they are not complying we will issue orders. Where there is an example where they have specifically decided not to comply with them, we will lay charges. In terms of the specific case the Leader of the Opposition has raised, as I said before, where there is a violation of the regulation we will issue orders or we will issue charges.
We are reviewing the programs of each of the school boards across the province to ensure that they are living by the regulations. Where we are asked, we will go in and inspect schools We will issue orders in those cases.
I just want to assure the House, first, that there are clear regulations around asbestos and that we have asked each school board in this province to ensure that it has a program for implementing those regulations. We are reviewing with each of those school boards across the province its compliance with those regulations and that will be an ongoing program.
The Speaker: Just before I recognize the next questioner I would like to ask all members of the assembly to join me in recognizing in the Speaker’s gallery a parliamentary delegation from Indonesia. There are 11 members in the delegation and the leader of the delegation is Mr Sukardi, the vice-chairman of the House of Representatives. We are fortunate to also have the consul of Indonesia in Toronto, Mr Isnaedi, here with us today. Please join me in welcoming them.
Mr Brandt: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. In a speech delivered at one o’clock today -- through the wonders of technology it appeared at 1:30 in today’s edition of the Toronto Star -- the Premier was musing, as he is wont to do, about the projected growth that will take place in and around the greater Toronto area. Some of his projections included estimates of a population growth of some 1.5 million people over the course of the next 20 years. As the minister I know is well aware, part of that growth is proposed to be located in the new town of Seaton.
With that growth -- I will get to my question very quickly -- obviously will come the need for transportation corridors, additional housing, dump sites, a whole host of urban services that are going to be necessary to accommodate not only the 1.5 million additional people but the portion of that which will be situated in and around the area of Pickering. The Premier is talking about a committee to review this entire matter. Does this mean and are we to interpret his remarks to say to us that this is going to bypass the environmental assessment process entirely?
Hon Mr Bradley: I am afraid I am wondering what the member is talking about in this specific case, because naturally all of the environmental implications of any development that takes place in the province of Ontario are looked at by the Ministry of the Environment which is a commenting agency. As the member would know, within the Planning Act of the province of Ontario, plans of subdivision or plans for specific developments are circulated to each of the ministries of the government and each of the ministries has an opportunity -- Natural Resources, for instance, Environment as another -- virtually any ministry has an opportunity to comment on any or all of the components of those developments. Certainly among those commenting agencies will be the Ministry of the Environment.
Mr Brandt: That is an excellent answer. It is not the answer to the question I asked, but it is an excellent answer. I will ask that question some day; the minister can keep that answer handy in case I ever do ask that question. My question had to do with the environmental assessment process. In the Premier’s speech he indicated that growth in the greater Toronto area must be accommodated in a way that preserves and enhances the natural environment. I am talking about land that is primarily owned by this government, purchased by a former government, land that is in a very sensitive area of the Metropolitan Toronto area. It is a simple question and I know it is one to which the minister is anxious to respond, as always. Does the minister intend to subject the development in Seaton to an environmental assessment process?
Hon Mr Bradley: That would be a total departure from what the member of the opposite party would ever have contemplated when he was in government, or ever did in government, and I would say that it would be a totally new departure to say that subdivisions, for instance, and community developments at large are subjected to the Environmental Assessment Act. Some of the components may from time to time be designated for specific purposes, but that would be something entirely new in the province of Ontario.
I do want to assure the member, as I hope I have already, that in fact there will be an opportunity for input from people into the process. The planning process of course incorporates that. So not only through the planning process, where you have public comments that are allowed, through the Ontario Municipal Board and so on, but also through the various ministries making comments, the member can be assured that all the concerns he now has about this specific area would in fact be addressed by the various government departments and by the input from the public.
Mr Brandt: The minister is aware that this land is for the greater part owned at the present time by the province of Ontario. He is also aware of the fact that much of the land we are talking about is sensitive, greenbelt park land, natural wilderness. I want to separate, if I might, the fact from the rhetoric and I want to see what this government is prepared to do with respect to the preservation of the items talked about in the Premier’s speech.
Reading from the Premier’s speech, he says on page 11 -- again, I received this speech through the wonders of technology and it was made available to me just after it was delivered -- “We must maintain and improve the quality of our air and water, create a large-scale system of parks and green spaces, protect our river valleys, headwaters and wetlands and prevent the unnecessary loss of farm land.”
Exactly what would happen with the proposed development is that much of what the Premier is talking about protecting, of course, would be lost. I am asking what the minister plans on doing about a proposed development on the magnitude and scale that have been suggested to his government and which has been publicly commented on already by the developers. Will the minister require an environmental assessment or is he simply going to treat this as another development?
Hon Mr Bradley: I guess that would be like saying you are going to put a new Brantford under the Environmental Assessment Act, and you would not have the town of Brantford, you would not have the town of Sarnia or you would not have the town of Carleton or something of that nature. I really do not see the point the member is getting at. The member knows the kind of commenting that goes on within government. He knows the steps that are taken under the Planning Act, which allows for full input from each of the ministries.
When there is a concern -- the member, I know, would be familiar with this about runoff and drainage areas, for instance, which would affect wetlands, the Ministry of Natural Resources makes its comments on those, on ways in which damage can be eliminated or limited in those cases. The Ministry of the Environment looks at all environmental aspects of it and makes comments. Then of course there is an Ontario Municipal Board hearing where all these are put forward. Including any of the subjects the member has talked about, I am sure there will be a very thorough review of this by all government agencies and there will be input from the public.
Mrs Marland: My question is also to the Minister of the Environment, and it is also on the Premier’s speech this afternoon. The part I want to refer the minister to is where the Premier says, “I will soon be making an announcement concerning the government’s plans in regard to the Rouge Valley.” The minister knows that the thousands of people who have been working on and are committed to preserving the Rouge Valley table lands and that entire area are very concerned about what this announcement is going to say, and whether it will protect the Rouge Valley lands and the table land area from the east Metropolitan Toronto transportation corridor, from the Metro dump and from luxury estate housing.
Although we interpret this announcement by the Premier as referring only to the Rouge Valley, can the minister assure this House that in fact that reference does mean the Rouge Valley and table lands and the surrounding area that has already been identified?
Hon Mr Bradley: I am not aware of the contents of the speech. I did not have the same access, or did not have the speech provided to me, that the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Mississauga South had, but I am sure the Premier will make known all the details whenever he makes any specific announcement that he is going to make, and that he would elaborate on all aspects of his announcement as it relates to any of the components of those announcements which are made whenever it says the announcement is going to made.
Mrs Marland: It is pretty amazing that the Minister of the Environment does not know what the Premier is saying about the Rouge Valley. I would like to remind the Minister of the Environment of his statement, since he is not aware of what the Premier is saying about the Rouge Valley. His statement last year was, “The Premier of this province, the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Government Services and certainly the members for Scarborough and others have recognized publicly the value of the Rouge area, particularly the Rouge Valley but the Rouge area as a whole, and have been clear that it is the intention of this government to retain that area as a green area in this part of the province.”
Does the minister see the fulfilment of what he made in that statement last year being possible and making the commitment that there will not be a dump site, a transportation corridor or luxury estate housing?
Hon Mr Bradley: I would not want to pre-empt the Premier on any specific announcement that he might be making, because he would be making that announcement at an appropriate time and I am sure the member will be very interested in all of the components of the announcement the Premier will make. I am sure she will see that it reflects a good deal of discussion which has taken place over a period of time: consultation with the people in the area, consultation with a wide variety of people within the government and so on. I would say that the member will likely be -- of course, I could not, because the Attorney General says that no matter what is announced, she will not be pleased with it.
Mrs Marland: I would not want to encourage the Minister of the Environment to pre-empt the Premier either, but I would expect him to be able to know exactly what is going on with this most critical issue.
My concern is that if we do not preserve the 10,712 acres that have been requested to be designated as a provincial park -- and, incidentally, every party in this House supported my resolution that this area be designated as a provincial park -- then the minister will be going back and betraying his own support of my resolution.
The Premier himself said on 20 October 1988, a year and a half ago: “It is the government’s intention and always has been to preserve the Rouge. There is no question about that. There never has been.” Does the Minister of the Environment support the statement --
I must say to the member that I was very pleased to see her come on side with many of the comments that have been made over here. I was pleased to see the support which she indicated for what the Premier has been saying for several months now about the area she is speaking about. When I see that happening, I say it is the kind of unanimous consent that I see, the kind of opposition of positive comments about government policy, that there is not enough of in this House. I want to commend the member for taking the opportunity to support the government in the positions which it has adopted over the years.
I would like to ask the Deputy Premier a question about employment equity. Can the Deputy Premier tell us whether or not the government is planning to introduce legislation this session to deal with the systemic discrimination, the real discrimination which exists again women, visible minorities, native people and people with disabilities, both in the public and private sectors? Is it the government’s plan to address this problem with legislation in this session?
Hon R. F. Nixon: Now that the community is responding so positively and favourably to the concept of pay equity, it would be reasonable to assume that the government is giving consideration to the matters that the honourable member referred to, but I cannot give him the assurances that he asks for.
Mr B. Rae: No doubt the Treasurer, casting his mind back just a short way -- mind you, a mere pico of time in comparison with his parliamentary history, but going back to 1985 -- will recall that the Liberal Party is on record, indeed his leader and I even signed a document which indicated that there was a commitment from the government to employment equity. There are several witnesses to the signatures, too, I might add.
I want to ask the Treasurer why it would be that it has taken this government nearly five years to live up to an agreement that it made at that time, and why it is that we still do not have any legislation which deals with the amount of discrimination that exists. There are levels of unemployment among disabled people which are a disgrace for Ontario and for Canada. There are hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities who are living on fixed incomes, who do not have access to the labour market and who will only get access to the labour market with a serious employment equity program.
Hon R F. Nixon: I recall very well the discussions with the honourable member’s colleagues at the time the government was formed. Unfortunately he was not able to join us at that time and that may be why they were so spectacularly successful, from our point of view. The honourable member also points out that there are still a few problems in the social fabric of the community that are not totally corrected, even after almost five years of the Liberal administration. I could just tell him that we continue to apply our thoughts and our abilities towards those solutions.
The honourable member refers to a commitment made in that document or any other, and he would know it is our record that the head of the government, the government itself and our party keep their commitments.
Mrs Cunningham: My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. I am sure the minister is aware of the child abuse tragedy in the town of Prescott, Ontario, where there were 32 charges laid against four adults and two young offenders and 42 children were the victims, we think, of child abuse. Could the minister tell us when these allegations came to the attention of the Leeds-Grenville family and children’s services agency?
Hon Mr Beer: I can say to my honourable friend that these charges were made known to the Leeds-Grenville Children’s Aid Society in the early fall of 1989. At that time they acted promptly in removing the children who were at risk, in launching an investigation and in bringing the police into that investigation. Subsequently, we provided some $200,000 to the Leeds-Grenville Children’s Aid Society to assist it in carrying out the investigation.
Mrs Cunningham: Certainly the community of Prescott has not been reassured that we did in fact respond as promptly as we could, and there are suggestions that some of these cases were known to the police and the children’s aid society for a couple of years. The minister and I are not sure of that, but somehow, when we have some 42 children involved over a very short period of time, something has gone wrong. Our position would be that there needs to be a review of the guidelines of the policies of the government that are meant to protect children in child abuse situations.
Is the minister prepared at this time to do a thorough review of the standards and guidelines for the management of child abuse cases in public and to make those results public so that the citizens of Prescott and parents across the province of Ontario can be assured that we have the absolute best policies in place to protect our children from child abuse?
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member is perhaps aware, at the present time there is a police investigation, charges have been laid and the investigation is ongoing. At the conclusion of that investigation, we will carry out, as we do in incidents of this kind, our own review of procedures. I think we are always anxious to ensure that the policies and procedures that we have in dealing with all cases of abuse are appropriate and effective. Upon the completion of that review, if a broader review is called for, we will certainly take that action.
I want to reiterate that in my view, after looking at this situation, I believe the children’s aid society and the police, both the local police and the OPP, have acted in a prompt and responsible manner and that the appropriate investigation is now being carried out. When that is completed, I agree completely that we always want to make sure that our ability to deal with these kinds of situations is as solid and effective as it can be, and if changes need to be made, we will make them.
Mrs O’Neill: My question too is on family violence. It is to the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues. A study that was recently presented on violence against women at an international urban crime conference in Montreal produced statistics showing that fear of physical and sexual violence has become a part of daily life for women in cities across this country.
Hon Mrs Wilson: In January I announced new funding of $28.8 million, new money for a government-wide initiative to address the issue of sexual assault of women. The strategy reflects the government’s commitment to reducing violence against women and expanding our efforts to do so.
Currently, one in four women in Ontario is sexually assaulted, often by someone she knows. Through this new initiative we are taking the first steps in a long-term strategy to raise awareness about sexual assault. We want to stabilize funding of the sexual assault centres, provide emergency care for sexual assault victims, increase resources for the justice system and provide prevention and education initiatives in communities across the province.
Mrs O’Neill: The Rape Crisis Centre and the Sexual Assault Support Centre in Ottawa serve the women in my constituency. What impact does the minister feel this funding will have on those two centres in our area?
Hon Mrs Wilson: The new initiative is very much victim-oriented. In fact, $24 million will go directly to providing services for victims of sexual assault. Through funds made available by the Solicitor General, rape crisis centres across the province will have their funding increased from $600,000 annually to $1.8 million annually.
In addition, both of the centres in the member’s area have applied for money through the Ontario women’s directorate sexual assault public education grants fund, and I am happy to announce that both of those centres will receive funds for public education initiatives which will raise awareness about sexual assault and the myths and actual facts about sexual assault to educate the people in the member’s community.
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question for the Minister of Health. On Tuesday, 20 March, the Ontario Public Service Labour Relations Tribunal ruled that the Owen Sound emergency service ambulance officers were crown employees and the Ministry of Health was the real employer. The tribunal ordered an immediate end to the four-month strike because it was contrary to the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act.
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member opposite knows, the government has just received the latest decision of the tribunal and will be reviewing it as expeditiously as possible. The Human Resources Secretariat negotiates with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union on behalf of government employees, but we are reviewing that recent decision.
Mr Mackenzie: I would remind the minister that they are locked out. The minister refused to implement the McKechnie Ambulance Service award for the Collingwood ambulance employees and now this award is up in the air. The minister is facing 21 more sets of negotiations with government-funded private ambulance workers. The minister appears to be trying to provoke a province-wide confrontation by not respecting her own laws on the issue of fairness and justice.
Will the minister give this House a commitment that she will abide by the decision of the tribunal and assure these vital health service workers that negotiations and, if necessary, arbitration as called for in the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act will be her approach rather than forcing the workers into confrontation and strikes?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The ministry understands that in fact the Attorney General’s office is making an application for a judicial review of both of these decisions, the McKechnie one as well. It has been decided, in fact, to await the outcome of those reviews.
Mr McLean: My question is directed to the Solicitor General and it concerns an alleged proxy voting violation in Tiny township during the fall of 1988 municipal elections. I know that other members of ridings in Simcoe county have also been contacted by their constituents about the outcome of the OPP investigation. That indicates there is a great interest in this whole affair.
The Solicitor General will no doubt recall that I spoke to his predecessor. I wrote him a letter in August; he replied in September and said he would have a reply in October. To this date, I do not have the final outcome. Could the minister relate to us today the status of this report?
Hon Mr Offer: In response to the question, I can respond that that particular investigation is one which is currently ongoing. There has been no final decision made on that but it is under active investigation.
Mr McLean: I find that a very unacceptable type of answer an ongoing investigation. How long can an investigation continue to go on? The minister said he would have word back last October. My understanding is that there are some very high profile people involved in this.
It has also been suggested that the original ballot boxes are still locked in the township vault and have never been examined as part of the OPP investigation. I would suggest that the minister come clean with an answer very quickly on this whole investigation or there could be some problems. What is he going to do about it?
Hon Mr Offer: I must say I find it incredible that a member would ask anyone to stop an ongoing investigation until it has been conclusively and exhaustively investigated. That is the obligation and responsibility of police forces, not only the OPP but also municipal and regional police. We are continuing that investigation. I can assure the member that investigation will be done, as all investigations are done, in the most exhaustive manner possible and not until it is completed will it be in any way short-circuited.
Mr Faubert: My question is to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology regarding the possible closing of the General Motors van plant in Scarborough. Concern for the potential loss of jobs for the 2,700 GM workers is shared by all members of this Legislature as well as those in Scarborough. This plant is the city’s largest single manufacturing enterprise and its closing would have a major effect on our local economy, not to mention the impact that would be experienced by related industries across Ontario which service and supply the GM plant operations.
I understand, however, that some good news has recently been announced regarding the matter. Could the minister provide this Legislature with an update on the status of the GM plant closing in Scarborough?
Hon Mr Kwinter: The member is right. Some time ago, General Motors announced that it would be closing the plant and the manufacturing of full-size vans at the end of the model year of 1991. On 16 March, they announced that they will be extending that closing for at least a year until the end of the 1992 model year. That is good news because it will give a committee that has been set up by GM and the Canadian Auto Workers union an opportunity to continue their study as to alternate sources of production in that plant. We are monitoring it very closely and are prepared to co-operate with them in any way we can.
Mr Faubert: My supplementary question is on a related matter, which appears to be one of the possible alternative production options being considered for the Scarborough GM plant. In Monday morning’s paper, there appeared an article about an exciting new technology of electric cars, more specifically the Vehma Electric G van, or, as they are known, VEVs. These vans are drive by 36-volt batteries and production is expected to start in July. While there are limitations to this technology, such as the need to recharge the vehicles after a limited amount of travel, the environmental efficiencies and lower maintenance costs will be difficult to ignore. Can the minister advise the House if the electric van technology is a possible product for the Scarborough GM van plant or other Ontario assembly plants?
Hon Mr Kwinter: The committee that I just referred to, that of GM and the United Auto Workers, is looking at possible alternative production for that plant. Whether that includes electrically motored vans I do not know, but certainly there are some interesting developments in that area. Vehma, which is a division of Magna, has recently received a 10,000-vehicle contract in the city of Los Angeles to produce an electric-powered vehicle, and that of course is something that is very exciting. The technology is being produced in a company called Powerplex, which is half owned by Magna. It has had funds provided to it by the Ministry of Energy, I think to the tune of about $300,000.
There are other developments taking place, and they are not just related to new electric-powered vehicles. We are looking at alternative vehicles, with propane and other flexible-use fuels and power sources. We will be watching it very closely. We will be providing support in any way that we can. We hope this will, in some way, resolve some of the problems in that area.
Mrs Grier: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. We have just been advised that at this very moment volunteer firefighters in the Woodstock area have been called out to fight a small tire fire in a quarry owned by the Beachvilime company. It is not a very large fire. There is more smoke than flames and there are not very many tires there. But I think it is an example, yet again, of the fact that the problem of waste tires exists in piles, large and small, right across the province.
We found, in our questioning of the ministry in the last week, that there is no central registry within the Ministry of the Environment of waste tire sites. Can the minister give us any assurance that the administrative procedures of his ministry will be improved and that, having suffered from the experience of Hagersville, he will begin to get a handle on where tires are dumped, how many are dumped and whether they are being dumped illegally in those locations?
Hon Mr Bradley: I can tell the member that is precisely what is happening. I understand the situation she was talking about. A scrap fire was taking place down there, and within that were 75 or 80 tires, or something like that. It is right on company property. They are tires they take off their equipment and put in a corner, as well as some other scrap material. I understand the fire department is there and is putting it out at this time. She has characterized it correctly.
But in regard to her other question about characterizing the sites, we have gone across the province of Ontario to characterize all of the sites, particularly concerned, as she would know, beginning with the larger sites, which we characterize as over 100,000, and then the sites which would be over 5,000, between 5,000 and 100,000, and have developed an inventory on that and will continue to develop that inventory. We have provided, I think, an initial list of those. and any others we find around, we will also look for as well.
Mrs Grier: It is not very reassuring to be told that “any others we find around, we will look after.” I agree this is a small fire, but how often have we heard this minister tell us that no pollution problem is too small that it must not be solved and that pollution spreads and knows no boundaries?
What is he going to do about incidents large and small? Is he going to place security guards, which is his answer to this inventory of tire sites, at the end of every discharge pump or pipe? Is this going to be how he does it? Or is he really going to get serious and table in this House, not only an inventory of the large sites, but of every location that is operating illegally? Would he also tell us of the charges that have been laid against those locations?
Hon Mr Bradley: There have been charges laid against several people, and I expect every time there is going to be any kind of scrap fire taking place, if there are any tires around, it will be of some interest. I do want to assure the member that I think the answer to the long-term solution -- I think she would agree with this -- is most certainly the recycling of those tires and the reuse of those tires, and that is why the program that has been provided allows for the handling of the tires in this province. It allows for certain things, such as high-grading them; that is, taking the best tires and retreading them.
There are a number of interesting proposals that have been forthcoming, particularly lately, I must say; a lot of interesting proposals forthcoming now on how to recycle tires in the province of Ontario and I am pretty enthusiastic about them. I think the member is knowledgeable about some of them that have happened in other jurisdictions. There have been people who have approached our ministry. The two things we would look for that I think she would want to see are, first, is it a technically viable recycling situation that they have there? Second, do the people have a good business plan to be able to put it into operation? I think the second is as important as the first.
The former Minister of the Environment, who has also been Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, would recognize that in fact there are two components, that one of those is the environmental component and that the other is, is there a viable business plan before one would provide that kind of funding? We will make sure that both are the situation. I think even the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore will be pleased when she sees that.
Mr Jackson: My question is to the Minister of Education. During the 1987 election, his government ran a full-page ad. It had the personal signature of the Premier. What it said was, “We have done what we said we would do.” I remember those ads well. But when it comes to St Mary’s school site in Hamilton, it appears that this promise has been broken.
In 1989, the minister’s predecessor, the member for Wentworth North, promised to transfer the old Hamilton teachers college site to McMaster University to accommodate new physiotherapy and occupational health programs. Despite the commitments in February, he, as the new minister, wrote the director of the Hamilton-Wentworth Roman Catholic Separate School Board to announce his decision to extend the lease on the government site to June 1995 and advised that there is no need for the board to continue with expropriation proceedings for a new replacement site.
It seems rather ironic that the Hamilton-Wentworth separate board has a stated preference for a new school site. Can the minister explain why the Liberal government has broken its commitment to transfer this site to McMaster University?
Hon Mr Conway: I am delighted to engage my friend the member for Burlington South in a debate on these matters. I must say though I am somewhat disappointed, because I expected to be engaging him as a candidate for the leadership of his party. Talk about promises not kept. My friend from Burlington South was boasting to everyone that he would be returning this spring as a leadership candidate and he has broken his own word to his friends in the assembly, his supporters wherever, to say nothing of his admirers in the press gallery.
I want to tell members that I am very aware of the situation in Hamilton. I am very determined to work, not just with the school board but with the university, where I have also some departmental responsibility, to resolve the situation in the interests of the students and with due regard to the taxpayers of Ontario.
McMaster University, none the less, has decided to proceed with these two very important programs, specifically on the strength of the word of the minister of this government. Unfortunately, they are not getting those classroom spaces. McMaster budgeted $10 million to $12 million for the renovation of the old teachers college site, and without it the college is now faced with the prospects of spending nearly $100 million in order to implement these programs.
It would cost the government, the ministry and the citizens of Hamilton less than $25 million to build a new school. My question is, how can the minister justify this course of action when he is in fact promoting the spending of $75 million of additional taxpayers’ money to meet the accommodation needs of McMaster University and the local school board?
Hon Mr Conway: I just want to say to my friend, on the rather disappointing news of his failed leadership campaign, that he appears to be truthful when he says he has had more support over here than he had over there, and I have to tell him there was not a great deal over here to begin with.
I am very disappointed, because I have been one of the honourable member’s strongest advocates. I wanted the honourable member in that leadership campaign. The member for Burlington South, it is said, has an ambition that knows no rest, and to see it not participating in this unprecedentedly popular leadership campaign is disappointing in the extreme.
I want members to know that in recent times I have met with the president of McMaster University to assure that learned gentleman that I, in my capacity as Minister of Colleges and Universities, will do everything to accommodate the very real aspirations of McMaster in regard to the facility mentioned.
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I would appreciate an update on the number of requests he has received from counties wishing to participate in the county reform initiative which the minister announced in January.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Let me take this opportunity to thank the honourable member for his long-standing interest in this issue, particularly given the fact that he was chairman of a committee of this Legislature that went around the province to speak to counties about the advantages of their doing a review of their structure and organization.
My only concern is that he was more successful than what I have been able to keep up with, because while we had reason to believe that about four or five counties would come forward requesting a review, we now have a list of 15 that have come forward. Our ministry has been able to accommodate seven of those 15 at this particular point in time. It is our sincere hope that we will be able to do many more of the balance before the end of this year. Therefore we currently have 15 requests, seven studies ongoing and we will move forward with the balance as soon as we possibly can.
Han Mr Sweeney: Mr Speaker, I want to assure you and the honourable member that there is no truth in that. Quite frankly, at this particular point in time, we simply do not have sufficient resources to do the reviews that have already been applied for, let alone going out trying to force anyone else into a review.
The honourable member will be aware of the fact that in January of this year I met the wardens of all 26 counties in southern Ontario and made it very clear to them that the decision as to whether or not they have a review of their county structure was entirely up to them and that the role of this ministry and the role of the government of Ontario would be to supply staff resources to them for research and management purposes of the review, but the review would be their initiative and it would be run by them.
The honourable member may also be aware of the fact that we do have a joint municipal-ministerial advisory committee looking at the whole range of funding mechanisms and cost-sharing mechanisms with our municipal partners across the province. It is my hope that the two chairmen, Grant Hopcroft, the president of AMO, and the member for Durham-York, my parliamentary assistant, will have a report to me by June of this year. I will then share it with my honourable colleague in the Legislature.
Mr Reville: My question is for the Minister of Education. He may know that for 22 years there has been at the Wellesley Hospital a program for children with severe perceptual and motor disabilities. That program is going to close next week because there is no funding. The Minister of Health, his colleague, has said it is not her problem. I am wondering if the Minister of Education thinks it may be his problem.
Hon Mr Conway: I thank the honourable member for his question. I can tell him that I am aware of the situation at the Wellesley. He is quite accurate in his description that at the Wellesley Hospital for the past 22 years there has been a program of the kind he has described, funded entirely out of the global budget of that hospital. The hospital has decided it is not going to continue that program.
I have asked my officials to consult with the Ministry of Health, local school board authorities and the hospital to see what might be done to ensure that the individuals who are receiving the benefits of that program will continue to have their needs met, even if the hospital should continue to hold to its current position that this program, which it alone has funded over the past number of years, is not going to continue there.
Mr Reville: I appreciate the minister’s interest and I certainly hope his investigations prove fruitful. I think there is a problem in the answer, however. I do not believe, as the Minister of Health has said, that this is a program that necessarily has to take place in a hospital. The hospital has offered to provide free space. They do not feel it is appropriate to fund it out of their global budget and, quite frankly, I do not think it is quite appropriate to go after a local school board to fund a program which is preventive in nature and which deals with the self-esteem of some children who are profoundly disabled.
It is a prevention program. Somebody over there needs to pick it up. If it is the Minister of Education, fine. If it is the Minister of Health, fine. If it is the Minister of Community and Social Services, fine. I do not care how they do it; I want it done.
Hon Mr Conway: I can appreciate the honourable member’s concern. I think all members and the community would support him in that. I simply repeat the point that it is the responsibility of school boards to meet the special education requirements of children, including children with learning disabilities. We as a ministry transfer tens of millions of dollars to school authorities, including school authorities in Metropolitan Toronto, so that they can meet the kind of special needs that this program appears to have been meeting in a hospital setting. It is also true that the Ministry of Education, through the so-called section-25 payments, provides for a number of special programs, often in settings like hospitals.
So I want to make the point that I recognize that the program has been long and well established at the Wellesley and that we do have special education funding arrangements that support school boards as they meet these needs across the province. I would continue to stress the hope that the hospital, working together with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and the local school authorities, will be able to work out a resolution so that the needs of these children will continue to be met.
Mr McCague: The member for Wellington had a question which required a supplementary and I know that it would have been long had the Minister of the Environment answered it. There is a request that the minister has had for quite some time for water improvements and a reservoir in the town of Collingwood. Could the minister tell me when he intends to approve that funding?
Hon Mr Bradley: No, no. The former Minister of the Environment who asked the question understands what this is. This is an independent technical and scientific committee that evaluates each of the proposals put before the Ministry of the Environment for sewer or water projects. It is at the present time evaluating them. A number have been announced. More will be announced this month and next month.
In addition to this, there is always the opportunity, as the former minister knows, for other initiatives that are forthcoming from a budget and allow for even a greater expenditure in a specific field. I want to assure him that I will fight very hard, as he did when he was the minister, for those funds out of the Treasury to allocate to projects such as he has mentioned.
Mr Wildman: I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, signed by approximately 3,094 residents of Ontario, a good number from the Metropolitan Toronto region, requesting the Parliament of Ontario to pass into law a bill prohibiting the use of animals in cosmetic and product testing. That is Bill 190.
This raises the total of signatures to approximately 79,494 residents of Ontario supporting Bill 190’s passage. I hope that this large number of petitioners will encourage the standing committee on resources development to schedule the bill for its clause-by-clause debate.
“Privatization means substandard service, waste and inefficiency and loss of jobs. It hurts the economic base of our communities and lowers the quality and level of needed public services. We urge the Ontario government to stop privatization.”
Mrs Grier: The purpose of this bill is to give the general public the opportunity to initiate and otherwise participate fully in any hearing before the Environmental Appeal Board, to ensure that there is no stay of any order made by the Ministry of the Environment while the person on whom the order is being served is appealing that order and to allow the board or other appellate tribunal the power to make orders with respect to costs as a result of a hearing before it.
The Chair: At this point I would like to know from the members on which sections amendments or discussions will be required. At this point I only have the list of the government motions for amendments. If other members from government or opposition have some proposals, please let us know.
Hon Mr Elston: Mr Chairman, I think we have sent over the last of the amendments we proposed and you have all of those. I wonder if, just for the convenience of the committee time and otherwise, I might propose that when we vote on the amendments, the votes all be stacked so that the members do not have to be called in and out of the House for each of the deliberations. It would help us conduct the business in an efficient and effective way.
I should tell you, Mr Chairman, that I did receive a package of proposed amendments dated 20 March 1990 and I went through them carefully. I want to raise this now because I am fearful that I was shortchanged. I did not receive any and I am sure it was only by mistake because I know there were a whole bunch of submissions made to the committee about how shabby the threshold was, how it hurt so many people and how it did not include psychological injury.
The government talks a lot about how it was responsive to those parties making submissions. I was expecting to see an amendment to the threshold and I did not receive one in my package. I am concerned that it was perhaps merely an over-sight of the people preparing the package. If I could have a corrected package of amendments, including that amendment to the threshold, I would appreciate it before we start.
I want to raise that now because I know the minister would not want me to not be fully aware of everything that the government is doing in response to those fine submissions made to the committee by a whole lot of concerned people including victims, head injury patients, psychologists, therapists, etc.
The Chair: What I am trying to do at this moment, believe it or not, as I asked you earlier, is just to list the sections where you would like to see amendments. As a usual starting point, we will start with the minister. If you can wait until we list where we want to make amendments and if you want to have some general discussions on the bill, then anybody will have a chance to have some general discussion.
Mr McCague: Mr Chairman, I am simply going to try to answer the first question that you asked, and that was whether we have any amendments. The members know that the schedule for this week has been slightly altered for good and valid reasons, but my colleague the member for Leeds-Grenville had to be away today and would ask your permission to give you at the next sitting the amendments of our party. Maybe the minister could ask next week for permission to stack the votes ad infinitum, but at this point I would not want to commit our critic.
Hon Mr Elston: Mr Chairman, in fairness, I think we do not have any proposed amendments either from the official opposition or from the third party. I propose that we start on the bill. Everybody has known since the committee was adjourned that this week we would start committee of the whole, and I think that we should proceed to deal with the sections for which amendments have been filed and for which we have given notice of our amendments. I think we should deal with them now.
Mr Cousens: You have all the government amendments. Do they consist of all the amendments that the minister is going to be bringing forward, or does he have any inclination of additional ones? I think that is what the chairman was asking.
Hon Mr Elston: There was one that we sent over today, but other than that we have the amendments here. Unless there happen to be, for some reason, some amendments which are filed with us by the opposition parties, which are rational, that would be an unusual step for us to see those coming forward, because there has been nothing given to us by way of notification or otherwise. I would have to reserve the leeway of doing any housekeeping that would be needed for unknown amendments at this time which would be brought forward. So this is our package of amendments. All have been given to the table and to the critics.
Mr Kormos: We in the New Democratic Party come to this committee of the whole to debate the issues. The minister wants to obfuscate and delay. As I have already indicated, first, I understand that the package has been delivered. I am fearful that my package is deficient because there is no amendment here to the threshold.
Second, the minister knows full well that we do not support a billion-dollar giveaway to the auto insurance industry. Quite frankly, the facts do not support the need for that, and that is what this bill is all about. We are not at all interested in amending something that is so fundamentally and thoroughly bad and unacceptable to the people of Ontario that it does not warrant amendment, it simply warrants rejection.
The Chair: Once we list all sections where we will want to discuss this, anybody can have a general debate afterwards as much as he wants. I am still trying, believe it or not, to just list the sections where amendments are desired. Where we start off usually is, Minister, would you please rise and list for us formally the sections where you will want to see amendments and, if there is more than one amendment to each section, list how many there are?
Hon Mr Elston: They are on: section 3, dealing with section 6h of the Insurance Act; section 3, dealing with section 6na; section 37(2), dealing with clauses 98(1)(bg) and (bh) of the Insurance Act; section 37(2), dealing with clauses 98(1)(bl), (bm), (bn), (bo) and (bp) of the Insurance Act; subsections 45(10) and (11); section 47, dealing with section 208a of the Insurance Act; section 47, dealing with subsection 208b(1) of the Insurance Act; section 47, dealing with subsection 208c(1) of the Insurance Act; section 47 again, dealing with subsection 208c(3) of the Insurance Act; section 47, dealing with subsection 208c(5) of the Insurance Act; section 49, dealing with section 209a of the Insurance Act; section 55, dealing with section 230a of the Insurance Act; section 57, dealing with section 231a of the Insurance Act; section 57, dealing with subsection 232(2) of the Insurance Act; section 57, dealing with subsection 323(5) of the Insurance Act; section 63, dealing with section 239a of the Insurance Act; section 63 again, dealing with subsection 239b(1) of the Insurance Act; section 63, dealing with section 239b of the Insurance Act;
Section 65, dealing with subsections 242a(2) and (3) of the Insurance Act; section 65, dealing with subsection 242a(5) of the Insurance Act; section 65 again, dealing with subsection 242b(8) of the Insurance Act; section 65, dealing with section 242c of the Insurance Act; section 65, dealing with subsections 242e(2) and (3) of the Insurance Act; section 65, dealing with sections 242f, 242g and 242h of the Insurance Act; section 65, adding the following section, 242k, to the Insurance Act; section 74, dealing with section 369 of the Insurance Act; section 74, dealing with clause 372(1)(a) of the Insurance Act; that subsection 82(4) be struck out and we add a new subsection 4 -- it actually adds a couple of new classifications, one for electric streetcar, and the other, dealing with the uninsured motor vehicle issue, is listed on the filed documents already; subsection 86(2), dealing with subsection 4b(2) of the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Act; section 91 is to be struck out and transitional subsections 91(1) and (2) are to be added.
Mrs Marland: I just want to place on the record the understanding of our caucus as to the process and how we will proceed with Bill 68. That is, every section of the bill will be addressed in the committee of the whole House and we will proceed through section by section.
The Chair: Clause by clause. Hence, at this moment, if any member has a specific clause that he or she would like addressed, now is the time we usually list those clauses and those sections where members want to make comments, ask questions and propose amendments. Do you have any?
The Chair: Order, please. We shall be dealing with it clause by clause, so at each clause all members will have a chance. Even if they are not listed, members will have a chance. We are doing this for convenience. I saw that the member for Welland-Thorold wanted to speak.
Mr Kormos: Yes. I want to reiterate that, yes, we are interested in each and every clause of each and every section of the amendments and that we wish to discuss, not just myself but obviously the other members of the opposition, those and question the minister about them.
The minister went through the amendments that he is proposing to move. He mentioned an amendment to section 47 that deals with section 208a of the Insurance Act. I can tell members that I have amendments that deal with 208b and 208c but not with 208a in my package, so I am wondering whether he is talking about amendments that are not included in my package.
Hon Mr Elston: Mr Chair, that was, I think, forwarded to you today, but I am really quite pleased that the honourable gentleman wants to get as far as section 208a. If we can pass all of the other material this afternoon, I will gladly postpone dealing with section 208 until the first of the week. Certainly the honourable member will have more than two hours’ notice with respect to the time that we are going to be able to get to that. I will guarantee that he will in fact have it now and in two hours we can certainly deal with section 208a. I am pleased that he wants to move that quickly through these materials. They will certainly be available.
Mr Philip: If the minister had been in committee, he would know that what he is suggesting is a complete impossibility. We intend to talk on every clause in this bill. It is a terrible bill. It has been opposed by a majority of the people who appeared before the committee, even though the minister was not there to hear them.
Mr Philip: It is not nonsense. Over 90 per cent of the presentations were against this bill. The only people who were in favour of it were the insurance company people who those people act as the dummies for. They are the ventriloquists who told them what to say.
Mr Cousens: The problem that has been found out by the member for Welland-Thorold is very simply that the government comes in and pretends to have all its amendments in place and has done all the processes. It is very obvious that the government has not circulated all the amendments, as it expects us to do it all.
But I would like to ask a question back to the minister. He read off a large number of amendments that are being considered by him. I would just like to have an idea of how many amendments he intends to bring before the House if there is a number, if someone has counted them up for him, because when he indicates that he has everything done and ready, it has taken him a considerable time.
Just every time he looks at the bill he seems to come forward with another amendment, and the problem we have, sitting on this side of the House, is that if he were to have more time to debate this bill and more time to consider it, he would obviously come up with more thinking, more ideas, more brainstorming and more amendments.
The result of that is going to be something that is far better for the people of Ontario. It is therefore in his best interests and in the best interests of the people of the province that we take this very systematically, very carefully and that we take it clause by clause so that we consider the ramifications this bill is going to have.
This is the place to do it. The government has not given sufficient time for all the people outside the House who would want to make presentations, and it is obvious this government wants to rush it through. To come along and say to the member for Welland-Thorold that the government wants to jump right through to the very end of the bill -- if it wants to see us jumping around the bill, I think it is far better that we take this bill starting right at the beginning and not try to have the government force the chair into doing something that is against the interests of the chair.
Knowing that the chair would want to have this House run in a decorous way, I would hope, Mr Chairman, that you will not allow the weight on the right-hand side of the chair to in any way try to force this through too quickly or to take away the rights of the opposition to speak about these issues
I did ask a question, and that is, how many amendments has the minister brought forward? I will say something else. If the minister does come forward with more amendments from the ministry, I for one would welcome that because I think he should keep his mind open.
If the minister comes along and says he has no more amendments, that would mean that there is not a chance that this debate could have any impact, but if he indicates now that he has 200 amendments -- it sounded like a great number; maybe not that many -- I would expect that as we debate this in the House and as people begin to talk to him and realize what it is he is up to with this legislation, he is going to want to make more changes than he has already.
I happen to know the honourable minister, for over nine years since he has been in this House, as one who has exhibited a great deal of understanding on many issues. Maybe this is the time for him to open his mind a little bit more so that on this issue in particular he is going to be able to exhibit that class approach he has had in the past.
Hon Mr Elston: If I might just reply, no matter how he begs, I will never become a Tory and I will never become a New Democrat. I will stay a Liberal, but I tell members, the number of amendments proposed is 30.
Mr Pouliot: Mr Chairman, I am a little confused. Perhaps with your wisdom you can shed some light. The member for Markham has indicated that over the nine years he has been here he has known the minister to be open-minded. It must have been all in the first four years, for I have only been here five years and I have not experienced this kind of open-mindedness -- section 208a among others.
We on this side of the House, as the official opposition, are more than willing to expedite matters. We want the taxpayers of Ontario to get value for money, but the government has been piecemealing this legislation from the first instance. Now it tells us section 208a is being drafted somewhere in the boardroom, somewhere in the corridor. Is the minister ready to acquiesce to the request from the chair and give the government amendments, every one of them, to the opposition, to favour us with copies?
Actually, what we should do is that unless the minister has each and every amendment to his own piece of legislation, he should adjourn the House. He should do everyone a favour and adjourn this debate until he is able, willing and ready to proceed, and he will find nothing but goodwill. In terms of our amendments, it is quite simple. We will debate every clause in a meticulous fashion, thoroughly. It is our duty to do so. We find major flaws, shortcomings and pitfalls with this kind of ill-fated legislation.
In the right context, we are willing to go to the wall on this issue for it touches the livelihood of every motorist in the province of Ontario. We want to proceed but we want justice to be done and we want the minister to give us the kind of amendments that will justify and recognize, more importantly, the major flaws that are causing despair among the taxpayers and motorists of Ontario.
Mr Chairman, the minister specifically enumerated a list of sections in this bill to which he proposes to make amendments. Among those he indicated section 47 specifically, an amendment to what is section 208a of the act. That is what I told you at the onset was not included in the package of amendments I have. Standing order 73 indicates to me and I think to any fair-minded person who reads it that it means exactly what it says: You cannot come in here and talk about things that are not here yet or that may be here. You have to come in here and not only talk about things that are, but there has to be some forenotice given.
There is some good reason for requesting that all of these be presented at the same time. I appreciate that if something arises during the course of discussion in the committee of the whole, then it could be understood why the minister would not have tabled that amendment at the outset, and in those circumstances, if something arises that was unforeseen or unforeseeable by the minister -- but what we are talking about here is the minister clearly in his head contemplating an amendment to what will be section 208a of the act, which is currently section 47 of the amendments. So it is not something that arises unforeseen and it is not something that arises during the course of committee discussion; it is something he clearly contemplates. That is exactly what standing order 73 is all about. That is why the requirement is there.
The reason why is this, Mr Chairman, as you well know: The reason is that amendments do not stand in isolation. One amendment could well affect the impact of a second, third or fourth amendment contained in the same package. You cannot look at amendments, sections or clauses in isolation. They have to be looked at one at a time, but in the greater context. That is why it is so horribly important for the amendment that the minister clearly has in mind to be tabled along with those other proposed amendments.
Mr Kormos: To give effect to the point of order, I would respectfully suggest that the appropriate thing for the chair to do is to adjourn the sitting of the committee of the whole to facilitate the tabling of that amendment the minister so clearly spoke of.
The Chair: Order, please. I have always asked and encouraged members on all sides of the House to submit to the table with as much time ahead as possible, in respect of standing order 73, sufficient copies for all the officials of the House, the critics, the minister and for everybody, but I also recall on many occasions proposed amendments coming in at the last minute. That has happened. Right now, for the information of the member for Markham, I have -- correct me if I am wrong -- proposed government amendments. I have received none from the other official parties. We can start. As usual I think you can trust the chair to look at clause by clause in numerical order so that all members will have a chance to address each of the clauses in time, as we usually do.
Going back to your call for 73, what has happened here is quite normal. We have received from the minister the proposed amendment to section 208a. I am sure the minister has made sure all his critics and other people have had copies. This is not unusual in past practice of this committee of the whole.
Mrs Marland: I do not have proposed amendments, but I do want to speak on this issue we are noon discussing. I think it is singularly significant that this Liberal government has in excess of 30 amendments to its bill. That should tell anyone with a grade I education that it is a very poorly drafted bill.
If this government had not put itself in the position of grasping out of the air a method of, to use its own words, dealing with the crisis with automobile insurance rates in this province, it would have taken the time to have a bill drafted that would work in everyone’s best interests. The fact that they are coming in with 30 amendments of their own says more than anything we can say about the fact that this bill should have been withdrawn and redrafted, and perhaps would have provided the solution that is needed today for automobile insurance rates in this province.
I want to just reiterate the comments that have been made because there in fact is no standing order that requires we submit our amendments beforehand. I take some exception to the minister’s suggestion that this is what we should be doing here. I also think it is interesting, when you look at standing order 73, that it very clearly says “when time permits,” and we do not even have all the government amendments. This is a very interesting situation.
The fact is that this whole subject of automobile insurance in this province is in a mess and Bill 68 is not going to provide the remedy. The government itself is looking at its own bill and recognizing that it needs 30 amendments in order to make it workable, from its perspective. Why would this government not withdraw the bill and have it redrafted and presented when it responds both to its own amendments and to the concerns of all those groups that came before the all-party legislative committee and said they had major concerns with this bill?
Why would this government not want to listen to the public for once on an issue of major concern and address that by withdrawing the bill and bringing it back in a form that responds to the concerns of the public of this province? This whole exercise, frankly, is a farce.
Mr Philip: On this point, it would not be as serious if it were not a constant pattern with this minister and this government on this type of legislation. What we have seen is a series of ad hockery in the committee that is of the worst kind.
First of all, it took us four weeks to get the research, which the government had obtained at taxpayers’ expense, tabled with us. None of the delegations that were out there and that were carefully preparing briefs had the opportunity to study that research. Finally then, when the research was tabled, we found that all the studies with the exception of one had been done prior to the introduction of the bill. So we had what can only be described as either a deliberate or perhaps an inadvertent withholding of information not just from the committee, but also from the public.
Many of the groups that appeared before us would have liked to have had an opportunity to comment on the research because it dramatically showed that this government was wrong on this legislation. It showed that it was a massive transfer of close to $1 billion from the pockets of the ordinary citizens of this province to the pockets of the insurance companies, be it the transfer of $1.5 million of tax money or the transfer of the more than $8 million in benefits out of the pockets of the driving public.
Finally, when we got that research, of course the government was embarrassed and it took considerable effort by the members of the opposition to even get permission from the Liberal majority to have one deputation back to comment on the research, the effects of the research and what it meant. So we have a pattern here. We have a pattern of the minister going around the province making statements that are as far from the truth as I have ever heard any minister gallop in this Legislature, saying one thing out in the boon -- out in the various districts --
Mr Philip: Saying one thing out in the bountiful ridings that exist across this great province of ours, saying one thing in places like Windsor where cars are being manufactured, but where people are soon not going to have the money to pay for the insurance to drive the very cars that they are helping to manufacture.
We have the minister saying one thing out there; his parliamentary assistant having to defend it or not knowing what he said and having it quoted back; the insurance companies of course saying many of the same things that he has been saying but doing it with very expensive ads, two days, one day before the committee arrived in town; and then of course we have 6 February when we finally obtained the research, the secret documents this government had withheld from the public and had withheld from its own commission.
Here we had a situation where the government at tremendous cost to the taxpayers set up a commission. The commission was supposed to look into this whole matter of automobile insurance, and the government goes out there and spends more money having research done and does not supply it to its own commission. Not only are they hiding from the public, not only are they hiding from the committee, but they are withholding it from their own commission that is supposed to be making decisions and giving advice to the government.
When I was a young man, I used to go down to His Majesty’s Theatre. I am old enough to remember. It was called His Majesty’s Theatre until finally somebody decided that it should be changed to Her Majesty’s Theatre. In Her Majesty’s Theatre there was Blackstone the Magician. Blackstone the Magician had a very beautiful show and he had a very large enactment of the little old game, the little old magic trick called the three-shell game. You hide it here and you hide it there and neither shell then knew where it was.
Being a successful business person, I know how to examine a bill, I know how to examine research and I say that this makes no business sense whatsoever. Any businessman -- we heard from plenty of businessmen; they came; they did not have the benefit of the research the minister was hiding in his three-shell game -- knew that this insurance was going to mean a direct stealing from his pocket, an expropriation of property without compensation.
We are going to be talking about that a lot later when we talk about the benefits section, where collective bargaining has taken place in this province or indeed where private businessmen have put away all kinds of payments for insurance for sick benefits and this bill steals those sick benefits. It is outright expropriation of private property without any kind of compensation.
Finally we got the research. We moved a motion that anybody who had gone to the trouble of making a presentation and who had further information in the light of the research we finally got our hands on, should be given an opportunity to comment. Lo and behold, the Liberals used their majority again, “No, we do not want to hear people who actually are going to examine this research.”
Large amounts of it were actuarial in nature and surely one would think they would have wanted to hear from the public accounting profession in this province, from the business profession, from some of the excellent economists who are working for the trade union movement and from some of the people who are working for small business organizations. But no, they did not want to hear from them. They hid that research in the same way they are hiding amendments from this Legislature.
I do not know whether it is deliberate. In the case of the research, when we finally did get our hands on it, it was so embarrassing to the government because it showed in no uncertain terms just how completely foolish this legislation was, how unworkable and how costly it was to the average consumer.
In the case of the amendments, now that the decision has been made by this majority government to go ahead with it, surely we can at least have the amendments. It is completely inappropriate that this should be done at this time.
Mr Haggerty: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I think the member is being repetitious. Under standing order 23(c), it says “persists in needless repetition or raises matters that have been decided during the current session.” We had a debate on it yesterday. The minister has tabled the amendments, which they are well aware of.
Mr Philip: The Liberal members of the committee thought the presentations were repetitious too. There were 227 presentations, and 90 per cent of them were repetitious in one sense: they were all against the legislation.
Mr Philip: I want to raise another issue with regard to the amendments, an issue which I think shows that this government is simply not listening to the public. In Ottawa, Mr Chair -- and I know that Ottawa is dear to your heart and you would be particularly concerned about this we had some very interesting presentations, including an excellent presentation by the former Liberal critic of the Attorney General, Albert Roy. Mr Roy, of course, had come out with considerable courage to attack this legislation. He said that it was simply unfair to the people whom he was representing in court.
Hon Mr Elston: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: I do not mind getting into the discussion about the bill which this gentleman wishes to carry on, but might I request that he tell us to which section he is speaking so that we can move this section and properly begin the debate?
Mr Philip: Mr Chairman, under the standing orders, the members have the right to receive the amendments. We have not received all of the amendments. I am talking about the manner in which the amendments are being presented. In talking about Ottawa, there are amendments that are not here. The minister has indicated that he has other amendments --
Hon Mr Elston: I think what we should do, Mr Chairman, since you have dealt with the issue of the amendments, and rightly so, and indicated that they have been received, and timely so, by the Chair, is now move to do what we are here to do, and that is clause-by-clause discussion. I would like at this time to move section I of the bill.
The Chair: Hold on a minute, please. Order, please. Members will have as much opportunity as all members would like to have to discuss it section by section. I have told you that before. If we are going to cover every one of the 93 sections, what is the problem? We will deal with all of them.
Mr Philip: The problem, Mr Chairman, as I was trying to explain to you and to other members of the House, is that in Ottawa we received a presentation from members off the bar association pointing out that amendments in the case of complicated legislation like this should be presented simultaneously in both English and French. A plea was made to the members of this committee that with regard to definitions and also with regard to the area concerning threshold, there could be considerable differences between an English translation and a French translation, and that in the event that a matter went to court there could be considerable dispute if we did not have an opportunity to closely examine both the English and the French at the same time to ensure that they were perfectly compatible.
We have been presented a series of amendments. Having listened to the careful presentation of the Law Society of Upper Canada and members of the bar in Ottawa, now we are completely ignoring those gentlemen of the bar, who made, I think, a reasonable presentation. They said: “This can affect our clients. This can affect the way in which we deal with a case, particularly since there are going to be innumerable cases in court trying to prove that someone meets the threshold in order to have an opportunity to sue.”
No one is suggesting that in the case of a normal, simple bill, where everything is fairly clear and understood, this is necessarily the case, but here we have a situation where we have some very complicated definitions under section 1. When we get over into the threshold section, we have whole areas where the parliamentary assistant to the minister and his staff could not explain to us what the meanings were in English.
When we get into situations like that, I think it is only fair that we have the bill presented in both languages in order that my colleagues such as Mr Pouliot and others may examine it in their language, the language of one of the two founding nations, and thereby, hopefully, if there is any misunderstanding or any contradictions between the English version and the French version, they will be corrected at this stage rather than in a very costly court proceeding. This is a matter on which I would like to hear the minister’s views.
The Chair: Since the member raised a point of order, I presume he was still speaking on standing order 73 when he made that point of order. As far as I am concerned, under the standing orders there is no provision for anybody to be forced to bring forward a bilingual bill. We have one language here. For the further information of members, if I understood well, the minister said there are 30 proposed amendments here. Did I hear the minister say that as far as he was concerned this is what he was planning to bring forward?
Mr Philip: Yes, under section 73 it says copies of such proposed amendments shall be distributed to all parties. The point I am trying to make is that the members of the bar association in Ottawa have made the argument that an English version may not be compatible with a French version, and so, in a sense, when you get into complicated legislation, if you do not table it in both languages, you are, in fact, in violation of the spirit if not the letter of section 73; namely, the tabling of copies of such amendments.
I am saying that in complicated legislation the amendments should be presented in both languages in order that we may ensure there are no discrepancies in interpretation between the English version and the French version, and if you do not do that, you are certainly in violation of at least the spirit of section 73.
The Chair: I have to rule that out. I am sorry; 73 as it is written does not permit me to answer to your request, however honourable it may be. The language is right there. As far as I am concerned it is at the minister’s discretion. It is not specifically set out in 73.
Mr Cousens: Mr Chairman, I think your ruling on that matter is quite correct. I think a committee of the Legislature is in the process of looking at the translation of documents within committees, and I think there is a review process under way on that. That was at least something that was discussed in our caucus earlier this week.
I want to go back to one of the points that was raised earlier by my colleague the member for Mississauga South when she was commenting on the drafting of this bill and the sum total of 30 amendments that have been brought forward and also the fact that it was so poorly done. I think the whole reason we are here goes back to a promise that was made by the Premier of the province when on 7 September 1987 on an election campaign stop in Cambridge, Premier David Peterson said he had, quote, “a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.”
Mr Cousens: I would not want to get into the truth of the matter. The fact of the matter is that there is no doubt that if the Premier had a very specific plan to lower insurance rates, he would not have had a series of amendments brought forward since the bill was originally drafted and presented to the House on 23 October 1989. Since that time, we have had numerous amendments and now we are having 30 more amendments.
I just have to say, as we begin the whole process of this exercise, it is rather tragic that the Premier was so presumptuous on 7 September 1987 to think that he had a very specific plan to lower insurance rates. I think it is very obvious that by the 30 amendments, by the debate that has gone on, by the close to $20 million that has been spent with the commission that has been set up, with all the different studies, actuarial and otherwise, we are facing the very tremendous waste that has gone on since that promise that was made on 7 September 1987.
At the same time he was in Cambridge, the Premier denounced the New Democratic Party proposal of government-run auto insurance stating, “You can say anything you want, but the point is if you aspire to govern, you have to be credible and base the things you say on accurate information, not just wishes and theories.” I think that is what is really going to happen through the debate in this Legislature now. We are going to be dealing with the government’s wish list, which we are not happy with, and its theories, which we are not happy with. We are dealing with a bill that is poorly drafted and poorly thought out.
It is also a breach of that faith that was established between the Liberal Party and the province of Ontario in that election of 1987. That is going to be a problem that the government is going to be dealing with in this debate, this debate that continues now from the discussions that were held earlier in the standing committee on general government.
When we look at the actual statements that were made by the member for York Mills when he was making presentations to the committee on 15 February this year, he said, “I am sure in the next 10 weeks or 10 months you will hear all sorts of arguments about wrongdoers being favoured.”
I think it is important -- it is imperative in fact that we have that debate in this Legislature before all the people of Ontario so that everyone understands more fully than ever before the ramifications of this bill, the ramifications of each of the sections and clauses of this bill, the ramifications that are part and parcel of the government’s amendments. To think that this government wants to just push it through, push it over and pretend that everybody is just going to acquiesce and accept it without any kind of reaction is a complete misunderstanding of the way the people of this province feel.
There is a real sense of concern about how this bill is going to be dealt with. I would hope the government is going to be able to respond to the questions and concerns that are raised. They have a chance now to come forward in this House and, hopefully, find some of the directions that they have taken are the wrong way and, hopefully, lead us out of the real problems they are taking us into with this bill.
I hope the Chair will allow the government to have more amendments than it has had and more insight. We cannot make them think, but we can provoke thought by our very incisive way of bringing people’s attention to things. If through this debate we can cause the honourable Minister of Financial lnstitutions to begin that process, we will have done something for the people of Ontario for a long time.
The First Deputy Chair: I have watched the proceedings to this point. I have listened to several discussions around what a member thought was a point of order. I have watched the previous occupant of the chair make a ruling on that. As far as I am concerned, that particular point of order has been dealt with and I do not intend to entertain further discussion on the matter.
If members wish to raise a new point of order, they may of course do so. Failing that, we would proceed to go through the bill, and I take it from watching the proceedings to date that the members have indicated they wish to go clause by clause. Although there has been an indication of several amendments on the government side, none has yet been put forward by the opposition side, but it has indicated that it wants to do it one by one. Is that the correct assumption that I have?
M. Pouliot: J’aimerais invoquer le Règlement, la section 73 -- on vient tout juste d’en parler brièvement -- en ce qui concerne le service de traduction. Bien sûr, chez nous, on ne demande pas que tout le projet de loi soit traduit. Mais non, nous sommes des gens raisonnables ; nous sommes des gens quand même réalistes, expéditifs en ce qui concerne la formule de mise.
Ce n’est pas nous qui demandons que le projet de loi ou les amendements soient traduits ; ce sont les gens qui sont venus nous rendre visite. Ce sont ceux qui nous ont dit, « Vous les démunis, peut-être, vous qui devrez un jour prochain faire face à la loi du gouvernement de l’Ontario. » Dans certains cas il se peut, il est possible, au chapitre de la jurisprudence, que certains articles, certains alinéas soient ambigus.
We are not asking that the whole document be translated, it does not make the least bit of sense, but what makes a lot of common sense, with respect, is that some of the articles that could have a different interpretation, that are indeed ambiguous, for they do not exactly mean the same thing in English or in French -- what we are asking is the acquiescence and the goodwill from the minister if, from time to time, they are brought forth to him to help a clientele, some people who could be in trouble, that his good office be able and willing to provide those people with that translation from time to time.
Mr Mackenzie: Mr Speaker, I ask your indulgence because I am not sure whether it is a point of order or not. It is a simple question I want answered because it was part of the discussion when I walked into this chamber here this afternoon, and that is the question as to whether or not we have all of the government amendments. I understand we have 30. We are told there are no more at the moment, but we are not told there may not be more.
In fact, it is difficult dealing clause by clause, as we found out from time to time in Bill 208, if you still have amendments that are going to be coming. Sometimes one amendment can change the intent or the meaning or the feeling of a previous amendment, and if there are going to be more government amendments coming I would like to know now; otherwise I find it very difficult to deal with this bill clause by clause.
The First Deputy Chair: I think the previous occupant of the chair made it clear that the Chair is an awkward position. As much as we would like to have advance notice of amendments, we have nothing in the standing orders which would allow us the latitude of insisting that they be done that way. The members have pointed out that they are anxious to proceed and wish to see any possible amendments that might be made. I think we have pretty well wrestled that matter to the ground.
You have what the government’s intentions are at the moment. The opportunity -- and I should point this out, too -- for any member to put an amendment is there and there is nothing the Chair can do. If time permits, within reason, you are asked to provide amendments in writing. Certainly, if you want something to carry, it makes sense to me that you try to inform other members of what it is. I think we have pretty much exhausted that argument. You can ask questions as we go through clause by clause, you can state your opinion as we go through clause by clause and, if you really want to, you can move amendments as we go through clause by clause and that is the way we will proceed.
Mr Kormos: I appreciate what the Chair is saying and I respect the Chair’s ruling. At this point, however, I would ask, frankly, for some direction from the Chair. I have operated on the understanding that the minister -- when he enumerated the amendments to be tabled, I heard him state an amendment to section 47 of Bill 68 which will be section 208a of the Insurance Act. The genesis of this whole discussion has been the fact that the minister spoke of that amendment. When he was enumerating the amendments, I was very carefully following in my package of amendments and I did not see one that referred to 208a.
The Chair might have heard that I was shocked and surprised when I did not see an amendment to the threshold in the package of amendments. I thought that had been overlooked and that indeed the government had responded to the submissions made to it. I think it is important for the Chair to have this degree of control over the proceedings taking place in front of us, because we all know about the Thursday 28 October 1989 press release, the one that acknowledged the changes to the regulations, the increase in wage replacement and the increase in the monthly payout, that came from the insurance industry, which suggests that it was party to this information long before members of the Legislature; indeed, if not in October, at least by virtue of a few days.
Is it simply a matter of the minister having made an error when he spoke of 208a, is it a matter of the insurance industry not having yet completed its drafting of the amendment or is it a matter of the insurance industry not having completed its orders to the minister? Because Lord knows, he is only following orders. The marching orders have been delivered day after day, week after and week, month after month and, as it is now, year after year by the auto insurance industry.
Mr Chairman, you may not have been there when the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Financial Institutions said to the press, “The government got hammered in the committee hearings.” He is talking about the persons who came before the committee saying, “No, no, no,” one after the other; dozens, scores, hundreds of them saying: “This is bad legislation. It’s going to hurt the little people. The only people it’s going to help is the insurance industry.” The member for Guelph said, “The government got hammered in the committee hearings.” He made that statement in reference to the majority, the 90 per cent at least of the individuals and groups that came before that committee saying no to the legislation.
The other reason why I raise this with you, Mr Chairman, is because the ministry, through its parliamentary assistant, has been adamant all along that there are not going to be any substantial changes. Even before the committee hearings were close to being ended and even before the government had heard from all those hundreds of people who wanted to comment on the legislation, the government said: “There are not going to be any substantial changes. We don’t care what people say about this legislation.”
Perhaps it is because they were beholden to the insurance industry, and that is a question that, hopefully, we can investigate during the course of this discussion in committee of the whole. But it remains that they made it quite clear, before even having heard the submissions, that they were not going to make changes. What they did during the course of the committee was some cleanup because -- Mr Chairman, I think it is important that you know this when you are considering my request -- this bill was so hastily prepared that it was chock-full of mistakes, errors and blunders in drafting. Again, no fault should be attributed because the poor personnel who were forced to put it into words were obviously getting instructions at the 11th hour, if not the 12th hour. Because of the late-night phone calls from the insurance executives to the minister, the timing was as it was, that people were working late into the evening under the worst of conditions.
What happened during the course of the committee is that some of the sloppiness in the drafting, again no individual person’s fault, because this is what happens when you force people to work hastily and under the pressure of the gun, these were being --
Mr Kormos: Ah, but the stakes are high. We are talking about a $1-billion payday for the insurance industry, $1 billion the first year alone coming out the pockets of taxpayers, out of the pockets of drivers and on the injured, broken backs of kids, crippled victims, workers, small business people.
I should say that if the chair declines to act upon my request that it merely address the minister to inquire as to whether or not there is an amendment to what will be or what is section 208a of the act the minister may have made simply another mistake. Lord knows the bill reflects a whole series of mistakes that he has made, at least in the eyes of the people of Ontario, and it is not beyond him or any of us here to have made an error. So if the minister merely erred when he said there was going to be an amendment to --
Mr Kormos: I would like to speak to the point of order. If the member for Niagara South had been listening, he would find that I have said it more than three times. I have said it dozens of times because it warrants saying to the people of Ontario, to the drivers and the victims and the taxpayers of Ontario, that this bill is going to gouge them, is going to dig deep into their pockets and is going to do so at their expense and to the benefit of the insurance industry.
Liberal members across Ontario have been approached in that very same way by their constituents. A Liberal riding association in Sudbury has requested its member to please help defeat this legislation. The riding association of the member for Hamilton Centre, I understand, according to the Globe and Mail, has begged her, pleaded with her, to do the very same thing, saying, “Please, put your constituents ahead of the partisan obligations of the Murray Elston and of David Peterson.” Indeed, the member for Windsor-Walkerville has expressed his great concern about how much harm this bill is going to do.
So when the parliamentary assistant acknowledges that the government got hammered during the course of committee hearings, it warrants reminding Liberal members of that time and time again, especially those who have had their constituents beseech them to act reasonably and rationally.
My friend the member for St Catharines-Brock, up in the northern part of the Niagara Peninsula, a Liberal backbencher, had picketers outside his office about a couple of weekends ago saying, “Please, Mr Dietsch, first read the legislation. It’s important enough for you to please do that.” I am sure he promised that he would. “Read and listen carefully to the criticism and stand up for your constituents. Stand up for drivers and victims and taxpayers. Don’t stand up for the big insurance companies. They’re powerful enough and wealthy enough. They can do that all on their own.”
The First Deputy Chair: Order. Will the member take his seat for a moment. You began this by offering the chair some directions. You have given me more directions than I can cope with. Let me suggest something that seems a little obvious in here. I think you are going to hurt yourselves if you try to go for more points of order. Why do we not simply proceed in a way that is traditional around here and allow any member who wants to make a brief opening statement? Then you do not have to pretend that you have a point of order up your sleeve. You can say whatever you want to say. It will not be a problem. It is apparent to the chair what the House wants to do this afternoon, and I am helpless. I cannot do anything about that. If that is what you want to do, that is how we will proceed, but let’s stop pretending to have a point of order when there is none. If you want to say something, simply get acknowledged by the chair, stand up and say it. How would that be?
I look at the transcript of the member for Guelph, a Liberal backbencher and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Financial Institutions and indeed, as I and other people from the New Democratic Party have said during the course of these committee hearings, a fine person, a person who deserves far better than to have been forced out to the front while the minister stayed in the bunker during the course of those committee hearings. I read the comments of the member for Guelph, a Liberal member. Among other things in reference to Bill 68, he said, two days ago, “I honestly thought I was doing something grossly wrong,” speaking about his promotional efforts on the part of Bill 68. I am reading that out of context, because what the member said was, “I honestly thought I was doing something grossly wrong,” in his promotion of Bill 68. He said he became aware of that when he listened to what they -- opposition members -- were saying. He then refers to saner moments entering the picture and indicates that helped put him back on track.
As I say, I take it out of context, but it warrants being approached in something of an analytical way, because the parliamentary assistant is indicating that indeed, yes, there were points in time when he believed he was doing something grossly wrong by virtue of his promotion and support for Bill 68. And that is the question: Is it really a matter of saner moments or perhaps, more fairly put, more rational and more partisan moments that cause him to retreat from the awareness that what he was doing was wrong, it was immoral, it was obscene, it was robbing from taxpayers, drivers and victims to pay out the biggest single payday the auto insurance industry in this province has ever seen?
That leads to this question, because the member for Guelph, Liberal backbencher, parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Financial Institutions -- and it is the Minister of Financial Institutions promoting the Premier’s Bill 68 -- says the problem is one of affordability. We have known that for a long time and we have been telling the government that for a long time, but frankly, it astonishes me and a whole lot of other people as to how you address affordability by giving a $1-billion gift, a $1-billion payoff. How do you address the issue of affordability to drivers by greasing the insurance industry to the tune of $1 billion in the first year alone, especially when it would appear it does not need it?
We are talking about affordability. Let’s talk about affordability and let’s talk about profits for just a minute, because it came out a whole lot of times during the committee hearings and before that, and it is going to come out a whole lot more, that the insurance industry insisted for months and months and years and years that it was losing money.
Indeed, Mr Justice Barr -- Rod Barr, retired judge of the Supreme Court of Ontario -- when he appeared here at Queen’s Park before the committee to tell the government it should abandon this legislation, to tell the government this was bad legislation, that it was going to hurt people, it was not going to help reduce premiums and all it was going to do was enhance the profitability of the insurance industry, talked about how it is remarkable that some of the same people who are crying poverty now were crying poverty back when he started practising law in 1955, that for the last 35 years these same insurance companies have been saying they have been losing money.
How can they have been losing money for that long and yet still remain in the business? In fact, Mr Justice Barr noticed that not only do those same people cry big tears about having lost money, but he says the environment has attracted new industry: Pafco, Safeco and others.
Mr Kormos: But I was. I look to the Canadian Underwriter, February 1990; this is the in-house journal of the insurance industry. So let’s take their word for a minute and let’s be sceptical about that, because let’s remember the auto insurance industry told the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board that it, the auto insurance industry, lost $142 million in 1987. The Ontario Automobile Insurance Board found out that when the auto insurance industry says it loses $142 million, what that really means is it made profits of in excess of $50 million.
They simply do not tell the truth; they lie. What the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board says it that the auto insurance industry plays with the figures, juggles them and can make a profit look like a loss because it is in its best interest to generate this myth that it is a losing proposition. Once again, if it is a losing proposition, what are they doing staying in the business and why are they fighting tooth and nail to retain control of that same industry?
Even the insurance industry itself, in its February 1990 issue of the Canadian Underwriter -- and this is, of all people, the Insurance Bureau of Canada president, Jack Lyndon. Once again he insists that in 1989 auto insurers will have lost money. He insists that is the case. We know that he does not tell the truth about those sorts of things. We know that his accountants can cook the books, can juggle the figures to make profits look like losses and that it is in their best interest to do so, because that is how they justify premium increases.
With their collusion with this government, they manage to get premium increases even during so-called periods of freeze, premium increases that have resulted in some pretty attractive numbers and pretty attractive figures not just the auto insurance industry but the insurance industry in general.
Let’s look at 1989. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Jack Lyndon himself, and this is the nine-month period, the first nine months of the year 1989, the first three quarters, for every dollar of premium collected, and these are the statistics from the insurance industry itself, 92 cents was paid out or -- and this is what is important -- reserved to pay claims.
They do not provide the breakdown of what was in fact paid out as compared to what was reserved because what we learned during the course of committee hearings and what we learned from people like Irene Bass of William M. Mercer during the course of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board hearings is that this is in fact one of the ways that the books are cooked, one of the ways that the figures are juggled, because reserves are treated as if they are in fact paid out when they are not.
Reserves in fact are not juggled. They are not transferred from an interest-bearing account to a non-interest-bearing trust account. Reserves are simply numbers jotted down in the accountant’s books that get treated along with the payouts for the purpose of artificially increasing payout, or the impression of payout, to create the illusion of loss. But even at that, the IBC says 92 cents was paid out or reserved to pay claims; 21 cents was paid out for operating expenses. That is a pretty hefty overhead.
That is not a particularly efficient industry when 21 cents for every premium dollar collected is paid out in brokers’ commissions and company overhead. Questions that could be asked of each and every one of those insurance company executives, with their particular and unique style and demeanour, who came before that committee and who tout their interests across Ontario, are: “What kinds of cuts did the executives of your company take in pay last year? What kinds of perks were eliminated from the president, the vice-president and the treasurer? What kinds of new car purchases were deferred for company cars for your senior executives?” The answers to those questions would be most revealing.
So we are already looking at an industry that is grossly inefficient. Talk about 21 cents paid out for every dollar taken in for operating expenses, brokers’ commissions and company overhead. Then we are adding three cents. This is according to the IBC: 92 cents paid out as reserves or to pay claims, 21 cents paid out for operating expenses, incredibly high overhead, three cents paid out as the premium tax, the provincial premium tax. This is what the government is forgiving, do not forget, among a whole pile of other things in this bill. This government is creating a tax break for the insurance industry and it ain’t creating one, by any stretch of the imagination, for the taxpayers of Ontario. We do not know who is teaching whom the lessons. Is Mike Wilson teaching the Premier or is the Premier teaching Mike Wilson and Brian Mulroney? Three cents paid out in premium taxes.
At that same time, 14 cents on every premium dollar was earned in investment income. What the Insurance Bureau of Canada says is that the net result is that auto insurance companies lost two cents for every dollar collected in premiums, based on these types of calculations.
Earlier this afternoon, a member talked about how you did not have to be particularly bright or particularly skilful at figures to perform some of the basic calculations she was proposing. You do not have to be particularly skilful with figures to realize that in the insurance bureau’s own figures, if the net loss is only two cents on every dollar, the elimination of the premium tax more than compensates for that. In fact, it compensates for that, plus throws them into a profitable picture.
But this government is not content to do just that. This government wants to sell the farm. This government wants to forgive the three per cent premium tax. This government wants to forgive the indebtedness to OHIP by the insurance industry. This government wants to eliminate over $800 million a year in compensation paid out to innocent injured victims. This government wants to relieve the insurance industry of its responsibility for economic loss to the tune of almost, if not in fact, $1 billion in the first year alone.
I read that in the February 1990 issue of the Canadian Underwriter, and I thought about that when the member for Guelph was saying that the issue was affordability, the problem was one of affordability. The Liberal solution to affordability is to let the insurance companies make more profits and still jack up insurance premiums in Ontario by anywhere up to 50 per cent. That is what the Minister of Financial Institutions finally told the public: premium increases of up to 50 per cent.
Interestingly, the March 1990 issue of the Canadian Underwriter -- and the statistics from the Insurance Bureau of Canada for the property and casualty insurance industry in Canada include auto insurance and other forms of property and casualty insurance as well -- says that for the third quarter of 1989, the insurance industry in Canada earned an eight-year record high profit. For the third quarter of 1989, the insurance industry in Canada earned profits that it had not seen in eight years, profits of $317 million for the third quarter alone.
This is not an ailing industry. This is not an industry that is going broke. There has not been a single suggestion to this government or to any member of this Legislature or to any sitting of the committee that the insurance industry has started to tighten its belt. Indeed if anything, they have spent and spent and spent, because they have persisted in spending on campaign contributions and they have persisted in spending on third-party advertising to the tune of hundreds of thousands, if not more than hundreds of thousands, of dollars.
Even during the committee hearings when the insurance representatives, the executives of at least a handful of insurance companies, came to the committee, quite frankly, acting as if they had undergone some sort of incredible conversion, as if the leopard had changed its spots, there was not a single suggestion from any one of them that they had tightened their belts, that they had cut back on executive salaries, that they had cut back on commissions to brokers, that they had cut back on company perks or that they had become more generous and fairer to injured people.
One of the things we heard time and time again during the course of those committee hearings was that the insurance industry is awfully efficient when it comes to collecting premiums. They are real good when it comes to dipping into drivers’ pockets to collect premiums and they have been real good when it comes to justifying increases. If they cannot do it one way, they will do it another. If they cannot get in the front door, they have proven they will try through the back door.
You know what happened, Mr Chairman, and the minister knows full well too. We saw the old insurance flip, the insurance company shuffle, that was happening to avoid the latest cap of 7.6 per cent, quite a generous one in itself, one that permitted this industry to make profits of $317 million in the third quarter of 1989, eight-year record high profits.
What happened, as you well know, Mr Chairman, is that a given driver was being told that he or she would not be renewed by insurance company A, being referred over to insurance company B, facing premiums that were perhaps double or maybe even as much as two and a half times what they were with the first insurer. Then we found out that the address was the same, the head office was the same and the president, treasurer and vice-president were the same. In fact, these were identical companies. They were sibling companies, if you will -- not even sibling, they were clones of each other.
In fact, this was a convenient way. The minister had to sadly acknowledge that there was nothing in his legislation, nothing in the safeguards for consumers, as he would like to have people believe, that would protect people from that.
The insurance industry has proven itself real efficient at collecting premiums, but all of a sudden this efficiency flies out the window when it comes time to pay out benefits. We heard from people who sought nothing more than their no-fault benefits. Let’s not make any mistake about it, and the minister knows this too: No-fault benefits have been in existence in this province for in excess of a decade.
There is nothing no-fault about this insurance legislation. The Liberals and the insurance industry seized on no-fault, used it and marketed it, knowing full well that -- and I am trying to speed this up as quickly as I can, and I know that time is fleeting but we are embarking on a discussion of a piece of legislation that is going to have an impact on every family in the province of Ontario -- we will get into this shortly- -- not just families in the province of Ontario but any number of visitors who come here from other jurisdictions, the United States of America or from other provinces.
We are looking at insurance companies that, as I say, have not changed their spots. We are looking at insurance companies that, we were told, not only deny benefits to third-party claimants but deny benefits to their own customers.
We heard from Joe Pileggi, who works for a litigation counsel here in the city of Toronto and who told us about a beautiful young model who was crippled by an at-fault driver but who, as the government would say, as she was entitled, sought her no-fault benefits from her insurer, no-faults because they exist now; there is nothing new in this legislation about no-fault legislation or no-fault benefits.
As we were told at the committee hearings, Ms Crawford felt compelled, out of her sense of duty to her community, to participate in an anti-drunk-driving rally organized by the Attorney General. She wheeled up the ramp on her wheelchair on to that stage to try to impress upon people, young and old alike, the horrors that drunk drivers can inflict on innocent victims like her, expecting full well that because her paralysis had not gone away, her paraplegia had not disappeared, her lower limbs were still lifeless, she would be able to receive her, at that point modest no-fault benefits the next week as well. But did she? No.
We were told during the course of the committee hearings that her insurer, her own insurer, not the other guy’s insurer -- these are no-fault benefits -- cut her off because they determined that if she was healthy enough to go on a stage and speak out at an anti-drunk-driving rally for the Attorney General, crippled in her wheelchair, she was well enough to go to work, to get off her butt and go out and earn her own income, and that she did not have to stay on the no-fault benefits of her own insurer. Come off it. Come off it.
Are there pleasant or polite words to describe that insurer in the judgement that it exercised? I think not. I do not think there is a single person in this Legislature who could come up with pleasant or polite or less than intemperate language to describe that particular insurer.
The government here says, “We are going to make the insurance companies toe the line.” The government is as much as acknowledging that the insurance companies’ performance is far less than acceptable. By virtue of the government saying, `’We are going to make them toe the line,” the government is acknowledging that the insurance companies have the proverbial short arms and deep pockets, that they do not pay out when they should.
Again, when you are talking about private, corporate insurance companies and understand what their goal is -- they are not charitable institutions. They are not altruistic organizations. Their goal is to make money and to make as much money as possible, and they have squeezed their premium payers to the nth degree and sucked every last bit of blood out of them. They have made it clear that they will squeeze victims to the nth degree and suck every last bit of blood out of them, and now they are demonstrating that they do not have to put the squeeze on the government because the government will take a fall any day of the week for them. The fact is that nothing has changed about that industry. The government acknowledges that this is their nature, that this is the nature of the beast.
I just want to say to the honourable member, I remember the last session I was awfully remiss. It has been pointed out to me that some members of the assembly from time to time use language that might border on the point of being unparliamentary, and that being the case at the moment, I am only reminding the member to be a little cautious in terms of language when it is bordering on being unparliamentary and inflammatory to the House. Thank you.
Mr Kormos: Far be it from me to ever do anything more or anything less than call a shovel a shovel. Quite frankly, if the shoe fits, it can be worn. We are just calling it the way we see it and, quite frankly, the way thousands and millions of people across the province of Ontario see it.
Let’s get back to the issue at hand. I appreciate the Chair’s concern about that, but I am also concerned about the Chair being duped or used inappropriately to try to detract attention from what we have to focus on here. Not purposely; I say the Chair is being taken advantage of, and I think it is important --
When I get down to brass tacks and talk like back-home folks, the government members understand perfectly well what I mean. So if there is anything, there is a disincentive for me to rely heavily on the Oxford English and perhaps a little more on the Studs Turkel.
In any event, we are talking about the nature of the beast. We are talking about what insurance companies are all about. We are talking about the fact that -- and again, this cannot be denied -- they are there to make money, as much money as possible in any given period of time. How do they make it? They make it by picking the pockets of drivers, and if worst comes to worst, by grabbing them by the ankles and shaking every last nickel and dime out of them by way of premium payments. They make it by investment income, and the third quarter of 1989 shows that they are not bad in that area, and they make it by denying payments to claimants. Ms Crawford is an illustration of that. The fact that there is a defence bar in personal injury litigation is a testament to that.
Let’s talk about the role of lawyers and legal costs and acknowledge that, at the most, three per cent of all personal injury claims end up in litigation. Let’s understand why they are there, why they are in litigation: because the insurance company will not pay out. There is no other reason for it: because they will not pay people what is rightly theirs. If you want to talk about a system that is going to generate litigation, all you have to do is take a look at Osborne -- and we all know the valuable job that he did in analysing threshold insurance -- and realize that, as he pointed out, a threshold system like the Liberals are trying to pass off on to the people of Ontario -- and again, I appreciate that we should not blame the Liberals alone for this legislation.
Mr Kormos: No, we should not. They are but the lackeys of the insurance industry. They are only doing what they are told. They did not dream this stuff up. So if there is real blame, ultimately it has to go back to the insurance industry itself. The Liberals here are only following orders.
Mr Kormos: I tell members this: David Peterson promised a specific plan to reduce premiums. Now far be it from me to say anything unparliamentary about David Peterson, but I will tell the House what the last 10 people I talked to in Welland-Thorold said. They say he lied when he said that back in September 1987.
I was down in Chatham last night talking to the Chatham and District Labour Council, and we talked a little bit about David Peterson and his promise that he had a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums. The people there said, “Well, David Peterson’s a liar.” That is what they told me.
Mr Kormos: Murray Elston has been trying to distance himself from the legislation. David Peterson certainly has. I mean, David Peterson has stayed so far away from the legislation. He is not here now and he never has been here when the bill has been discussed, and never will be. I guess we are honoured to have Murray Elston sitting in perhaps for the afternoon, and whether or not we will see him again remains to be seen. It is the nature of the beast.
The auto insurance industry is there to make money, to generate profits. They have to do it by increasing the amount of money they take in and reducing the amount of money they pay out. It is as simple as that. They have to do it by being as inhumane as possible, by being as cold and as indifferent as possible. They do that real well too. They have to do it by creating the illusion among the public that they are losing while they are doing it. They spent a whole lot of money to create the illusion that they are losing money. They have been somewhat less successful in that regard because they simply have no more credibility in that respect. We are talking about the nature of the insurance industry, and why we wanted to talk about that was that we are talking about what this government, what the Liberals, what David Peterson and Murray Elston say about: “Well, we’re going to make them toe the line this time. We are not going to let them get away with that stuff any more.”
Once again, as I indicated earlier, the very acknowledgement of that makes it clear that even the Liberals know that an insurance company will screw you every chance it gets, or else there would not be a need for the Liberals to say, “Well now, we’re going to make them toe the line from now on.”
Now we know what the government’s track record is when it comes to consumer protection. How many people, through how many members of this Legislature, have prevailed upon the superintendent of insurance to come to their aid when they were being gouged, when they were being beaten, when they were being battered, when they were being bashed by an insurance company -- tens, dozens, a score, hundreds? I tell you thousands, Mr Chairman. You know that. You have been here a long time and in the period of your time here, you were here with my predecessor Mel Swart. During that period of time literally thousands of people came to the superintendent of insurance saying, “Please intervene on our behalf” because the insurance companies were regularly engaging in the process of driver-bashing and victim-bashing, and they have not stopped
What is the government’s track record when it comes to protecting drivers, consumers, against the very wealthy and powerful automobile insurance industry? It is pretty pathetic, because for as many people who prevailed upon the Minister of Financial Institutions or the superintendent of insurance to please help them fight back against an insurance company that was bashing them, beating them, battering them, gouging them, as many of those people who sought help, wrote letters saying essentially, ‘`Too bad, so sad, you’re on our own.”
That was not just five years ago, it was not just four years ago, but it was three years ago, last year and carries on this year. That is the approach of the government. That is the approach of the superintendent of insurance, the most ineffective, pathetic apology, excuse for a watchdog for consumers that anybody anywhere has ever seen.
When you get down to the role of the consumer, you cannot help but reflect on the contribution that Ralph Nader made to this whole debate. I know that that contribution was not welcomed by everybody. Indeed, back on 8 January 1990, the Minister of Financial Institutions, the person whose name is on this Bill 68 and is presenting it at the request of the Premier and ultimately, not at the request, I am sure at the insistence of the insurance industry -- we will talk about that a little bit later too. How is it that the insurance industry can get away with not just requesting, but with insisting that a certain bill be presented and passed? It is an interesting relationship that has to be examined.
This is what Minister of Financial Institutions says, and he says it in the most disparaging way. Ralph Nader was not there that day; Ralph Nader was scheduled to appear in front of the committee. Indeed he appeared a week later, on Monday 15 January. He came up from Washington, Ralph Nader, one of the world’s leading consumer rights advocates, no two ways about it. If anybody wants to suggest anything other than a pure motive on Nader’s part, say so inside or outside.
What does the Minister of Financial Institutions have to say about Ralph Nader? Again, knowing that Nader is going to be here a week hence, on 8 January 1990 the minister has this to say, in the most disparaging tone of voice. You should have been there. It was incredible: the curled lip, the flared nostril, the tone of disdain and the slightest tone of fear. There was the tone of fear in his voice as well, but you had to listen very carefully to hear it.
The minister says: “Next there is Ralph Nader. He comes to Canada to tell us that we do not know how to direct our own affairs” -- a cheap little appeal to chauvinism there -- ”that our policy is somehow un-Canadian.” The minister does not deny that it is un-Canadian, he simply says that Nader is suggesting that is un-Canadian. “Then he” -- Nader – “admits he does not understand our system of universal health care, nor does he understand our commitment to providing a social safety net for our citizens.”
Mr Chairman, Ralph Nader showed up on 15 January. Let me tell you what Ralph Nader had to say, and let me tell you this: The Minister of Financial Institutions was not there to confront him dead on, head-on.
Mr Kormos: The Minister of Financial Institutions was only there once during the whole presentation. He went there to dump on a whole bunch of people and then disappeared. He was in the bunker. I have to tell the minister, through you of course, Mr Chairman, he had disappeared, gone off the face of the earth. The public was rising up mad as hell about this legislation and I thought for the briefest of moments, with some concern and curiosity, that perhaps the minister had gone into a witness protection program -- a new identity, a new appearance, a new persona and a white picket fence and a small bungalow somewhere in a different part of Canada -- that perhaps the impact of the response of the public to this legislation had forced him into that.
Let me tell members what Mr Nader had to say about this legislation a week after the minister says what he does about Nader, that Nader does not understand our system of universal health care. Mind you, Ralph Nader comes from the United States. He is one of the experts on insurance. He says, “First, I would like to indicate the interrelationship of the issues before this committee and similar issues in the United States and hope that some of the experiences in the United States can be helpful.”
That is not an inappropriate thing for Nader to have said or an inappropriate observation for him to have made because, what did this government have the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board looking at when it referred three threshold systems to the board? It had the OAIB looking at three specific American systems, so it is not inappropriate for Nader to suggest that one should utilize the American experience when one looks at and regards and analyses what is happening in Canada.
Nader went on to say, “I also want to indicate that what happens here in Ontario, I am sure, will be replayed in a number of state legislatures by insurance companies, especially American insurance companies that are operating here in Ontario.” Again, this is not an inappropriate thing to say, because it is also sadly true. We saw some of them who dared wave their flag at the committee. More than a handful, more than a small chunk of the auto insurance industry that is being served and serviced by this legislation is indeed an American auto insurance industry.
Nader goes on to say this: “There is quite an interrelationship in terms of what happens in each of our jurisdictions. Certainly, I have seen enough state legislative hearings citing Ontario and British Columbia, and I hope that my remarks will be considered in that broader context.”
Nader does not come here trying to tell Canadians how to run their affairs. Nader comes here telling us in Ontario that Ontario’s experiences and British Columbia’s experiences have been cited often enough in the United states, one, for him to be familiar with them, and two, for him to be aware that what happens here in the province of Ontario is going to have an impact on what happens in the United States.
We recall that on 8 January, the Minister of Financial Institutions said that Nader did not understand our social safety net. Nader on 15 January goes on to say this: “Second, it does seem clear that any discussion of insurance and motor vehicle accidents inevitably extends to an inclusion of issues of justice and fairness for injured people, which means the legal framework or the legal system of rights and remedies.”
Mrs E. J. Smith: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: The Chairman who previously was occupying the chair expressed the opinion that since people seemed to want to make a very brief statement of their positions, he would allow that, although it was not the general thing, and that these brief statements could be generally made by everybody present. We have since then had a half hour’s speech --
Mr Philip: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: The member has not told us which section of the standing orders she has risen on, and I would certainly have no way of responding to her point of order unless she identifies which of the standing orders she intends to raise her point under.
Mrs E. J. Smith: It was in my listening to the Chairman, as he stated his case. He said that what he was going to permit was not specifically allowed in the standing orders but he would permit each person to make a brief statement and allow that to go around the House. That was his intention in allowing something of this type.
Mr Kormos: Mr Chairman, if I may respond to that point of order, it was at my request that the Chairman provided that direction. I recall the request and I recall the direction that he provided, and indeed I am being very careful. I am very cognizant of the fact that the Chairman said “brief,” and so I am being most careful to be as brief as humanly possible. Surely the Chair or any other member is not inviting me at this point to change my address from brief to a long one.
I will tell you, Mr Chairman, I will continue to be brief as I have, but there are some things that just have to be said at the onset. That is why the Chair, in his wisdom, permitted this and indeed provided direction. I am being brief. That is my comment on the point of order.
Mrs E J. Smith: On that point of order, Mr Chairman: I simply accept his agreement that the Chairman ruled that it would be brief and that all people would be allowed to speak briefly to that point. I will let others be the judge of whether they consider this to be brief.
The Second Deputy Chair: Well now, it is Thursday afternoon, only an hour to go. Let’s be patient. I spoke with the preceding Chairperson who will be present again shortly and we discussed this matter at some length. There has been in the past a precedent or two where opening remarks are difficult to evaluate in terms of brevity and, for the time being, will allow the honourable member to continue with his brief remarks.
What we were doing was juxtaposing the comments of the minister and the comments as they reflect the attitude of the government obviously, juxtaposing those with what in fact was said. Sometimes that is so horribly important.
Mr Nader indeed was here. He talked about “an inclusion of issues of justice and fairness for injured people” and said: “It also involves overall broad auto accident prevention policy of the same jurisdiction. You really cannot separate any of these three from one another.”
What is interesting about that is that the minister and the government have tried to jump on that bandwagon -- the minister who would appear to want to reject what Nader says, “You really cannot separate any of these three from one another,” auto accident prevention policy as being part and parcel of a system.
We are going to get to that because I am going to talk about PRIDE as well, People to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere. I am going to talk about Jock Shields, a driving instructor from the London area who made submissions to the standing committee on general government.
“I have been very concerned about policymakers taking too narrow a focus on the more immediate perceived urgency of insurance rates, without getting down to the fundamental cause of claims in the first place, the rights of injured people to protect themselves as a consequence of their injuries, as well as the administrative process in the courts and regulatory agencies.”
It was a wonderful and enlightening analogy that was given by Nader at that point. If you had been there -- perhaps you were, Mr Chairman -- it was not only enlightening, it was entertaining. It was a treasure to watch and listen to. Not only were you not there, but also the Minister of Financial Institutions was not there.
He said, “If this committee” -- he is talking about the general government committee, and he came all the way up from Washington to talk to us, to shed some light on our problems, granted, from his perspective. He said: “If this committee, for example, were considering the damage done by leaking of water in homes in Ontario and the focus was entirely on, ‘How do we pay for the damage, how do we pay for the subsidence, how to pay for other expenses?’ obviously we would all be asking: ‘Why don’t we focus on the cause of the leak? Why don’t we deal with prevention as a top priority?”’
Could anything be more pointed? Could anything be more simply stated than in that example by Nader? He states, and again this is his personal view and that is fair: “I have always seen the insurance function as being more than a compensation function. It is very much a function to be used for determining risks, ranking risks and generating disincentives for reckless behaviour. That starts with the design of the automobile.” How many Ford Pintos do we need to know that is true?
It starts with the design of the automobile, the design of the highway. Do the people who live up in the Ottawa area need any more proof to know that there are highways in their area that are a significant factor as a result of ill design, any other number of reasons, a significant factor in great amounts of bodily injury and indeed death? Do people in the northwest of Ontario need any more evidence, any more data, to convince them that the design and structure of certain highways in their part of the province are significant contributors to a sad and massive amount of bodily harm and indeed death?
Design of the auto, design of the highway and the behaviour of drivers, as well as the traffic mix: “Any package dealing with auto insurance rates, if it is going to avoid the accusation of being a Band-Aid, must start with a policy focusing on prevention. That is not just a government policy in terms of regulating the auto industry; that is also very much an insurance industry policy that should be paired with its underwriting and compensation functions.”
He goes on to talk about a 10-mile-an-hour bumper and he indicates that “a 10-mile-an-hour bumper would probably do more than any single factor other than airbags to cut down on the claims in the auto insurance area, certainly for property damage,” and of course airbags for personal injury, bodily injury.
He says that we must ask ourselves, the committee must ask itself: “What is the legislation proposed before this Legislature doing to, first, signal to Ottawa to move more quickly in establishing crashworthy standards for cars? Airbags are ready to go, but they ought to be accelerated in terms of standard equipment. In the United States, three million airbags will be produced this year on the driver side of new motor vehicles. Twelve insurance companies are giving insurance discounts for airbag-equipped cars, ranging from $30 to $60, and that will go up as more cars have airbags as standard equipment.”
How could that bit of information, very American -- what he said was that three million airbags are being manufactured and hence installed in new cars in the United States this year. Twelve insurance companies are giving discounts of $30 to $60 and that figure will go up for persons who drive or operate cars with airbags in them, acknowledging that airbags are a significant factor in reducing bodily injury and death.
It is an American experience. Fine, but is there anything so endemic about it that makes it of no value here, or more significantly, that warrants having the Minister of Financial Institutions subject it to his disdain? Of course not, and that is what the disdain was all about.
He says, “So the signal from the province, since I understand you cannot set auto safety standards at the provincial level, should be to the national government to accelerate its crash prevention and injury prevention standards. The same holds true for bumper standards. At the provincial level, certainly the stronger regulation of fraudulent, duplicative, unnecessary repair practices is in order.”
Nader did his homework. He had obviously paid more than trifling attention to at least what the government had been talking about for some chunk of time. He obviously heard about the announcement about ghost cars, not quite like ghostbusters -- ghost cars. We know what ghost cars are when it comes to mechanical repairs. That is where somebody from the ministry takes a car and, let’s say, puts a bad sparkplug wire in it, one where the carbon or the copper is broken, so that plug is not firing or it is firing sporadically.
You take that car to the shop and you say: “My car’s not running as well I think it should be. Fix it.” The shop that charges you for a major tuneup and replaces your battery and replaces the radiator and all those sorts of things presumably is fingered and due process has its way. That is easily enough understood, how a ghost car can be effective in detecting fraudulent motor vehicle repair people.
In the context of insurance claims, one has a little bit of difficulty. A windshield is either smashed or it is not. A fender panel is either crunched or it is not. I have seen fender panels crunched, and automotive repairs are expensive. Most people would think, at first instance, that they are expensive because auto body repair people charge what they consider fair rates. Perhaps some do not consider them fair rates.
Getting back even to the design or the model that Nader would have us approach things from, we understand that a big contributor to the high cost of auto body repairs is the whole approach to design and construction on the part of the automobile manufacturers. It is not difficult for auto body repair people to pinpoint or to finger a car that is less repairable than a car that is more repairable.
Nader may have touched a nerve when he started talking about 11oyd’s of London. Nader may have touched a nerve there with some of the members of the government. There may be some members of the government who are investors with 11oyd’s of London. There may be some members of the government who own 11oyd’s of London stock. Nader then may have touched a nerve when he mentioned 11oyd’s of London, because he fingered and pinpointed 11oyd’s of London as being a company which, in Alaska, made 21 recommendations which spelled procedural and substantive weakening of the civil justice system in terms of injured people, preventing them from achieving adequate compensation.
He talks about how the United States looks to Canada for leadership, how it traditionally has looked to Canada for leadership in social insurance and social welfare advances, how Americans acknowledge us as being far ahead in those areas. Then he regrets how in this instance, rather than setting an example, we are merely engaging in that same lockstep, following suit.
He talks about “a certainty of taking away rights on the one hand, but not a certainty of reducing the rates on the other.” He acknowledges that there is nothing in this legislation that is going to reduce premiums, but that there are a whole lot of things in this legislation --
Mr Kormos: We are going to talk about public auto insurance. It is imperative that be discussed. We will get around to that. We are going to get back to Nader in a few minutes. The reason we have to talk about it here is that we pleaded with the government, when it had the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board analyse the three American threshold systems -- do not forget, Mr Chairman, and you know this for a fact, the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board rejected threshold no-fault, rejected the very type of system the government is proposing now, saying that the injustices it creates are far greater than any benefits to be derived. The government’s own Ontario Automobile Insurance Board said that.
While that board was sitting it was costing taxpayers literally millions and millions of dollars in Ontario, only to have none of its recommendations either accepted or even heeded, even regarded, because what was happening was that this government, the Premier, the insurance industry and the Minister of Financial Institutions were conducting a clandestine study with a secret agenda contemporaneous with the multimillion-dollar operation of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board during the course of 1989.
The government’s agenda was to establish a regime of threshold insurance in this province whether the drivers of Ontario wanted it or not, whether the victims of Ontario wanted it or not, whether the taxpayers of Ontario wanted it or not. Why? Because the insurance company wanted it real, real bad. This clandestine study involved some $250,000 worth of actuarial studies which were kept secret, which were not made available to Kruger and the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, which were not made public to the standing committee on general government and its members and the witnesses appearing before that committee.
We begged the government to let Kruger and the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board examine the impact of a public, driver-owned, nonprofit automobile insurance system here in Ontario. In question period inside the House, and outside the House, we prevailed upon the minister to let that board do some real work, to let them analyse the implementation of a public, driver-owned, nonprofit automobile insurance system here in Ontario.
Let’s look at what the Minister of Financial Institutions said about public insurance. He said it on 8 January 1990. He said the government rejected the option proposed by the New Democratic Party. He did not acknowledge that they did not investigate it; he said they rejected it.
Mr Kormos: Let me tell the member what the minister’s reasons were, and if he wants to read along with me he should pull out his general government Hansard for 8 January 1990. This is what the Minister of Financial Institutions said on 8 January 1990:
“There was another option which we rejected, one which the New Democratic Party has advocated, and that is the establishment of a public insurance system. Some argue that a government-run auto insurance monopoly would solve all our problems. But in fact its creation would cause massive disruption and dislocation in an industry which currently employs some 40,000 people in Ontario.”
That is the minister’s reason for rejecting public auto insurance. No longer is the government saying, “Public auto insurance does not provide cheaper rates,” because the government knows full well now --
The First Deputy Chair: Order. Just take a seat for a moment, please. I did note at the beginning of the proceedings this afternoon that the House was struggling somewhat, reaching for points of order. It seemed to me the obvious thing would be to let the House do what it wants to do. It obviously wants to state some things. That would be quite fair if members were succinct in their opening remarks, made a few brief remarks and everybody had his turn. It seems to me the House would then have accomplished what it set out to do. It would not however be fair to let one member speak at great length.
I am going to ask the member for Welland-Thorold to wrap it up in another minute or so. I see other members who are anxious to participate this afternoon and I would like to let them proceed. Perhaps the member could give us another minute or so and wrap up. There will be lots of other occasions during the course of these deliberations when you can speak to your little heart’s content on each clause of the bill. So if you would kindly conclude your remarks, we would like to move on to some other members.
Mr Kormos: With respect, I defer to the Chair’s ruling. I do not agree with the Chair’s ruling and I feel badly about the Chair’s ruling. I think people in Ontario might be inclined, again with respect, to agree with me, but the Chair is the Chair.
I do not understand how people across the way could ask me to read the whole thing. If they have problems with that, we can either get bigger type or we can do some remedial training after six o’clock.
What we were talking about was how the government chose to criticize public auto insurance, not because it did not provide lower premiums -- the government does not say that any more. Only the most ill-educated backbenchers would ever say that and they would be in conflict with the minister. The government does not reject public auto insurance because it says it is not more efficient; it knows it is more efficient. The Ontario government’s own studies show that it is more efficient. The ones the Ontario government paid for show that public auto insurance, as in British Columbia, is more efficient.
They are in no position now to talk about subsidies because Bill 68 creates the most incredibly subsidized auto insurance regime that surely any jurisdiction has ever seen: $141 million of taxpayers’ money in the first year alone; $823 million off the broken backs, the fractured legs, the fractured arms of innocent injured victims; almost $1 billion of subsidies in the first year alone for an industry that is already making big profits; in 1989, profits it had not seen in over seven years, record profits in eight years. And this government wants to roll over. This government wants to bite the canvas. This government wants to throw the fight. This government wants to sell out every driver, every taxpayer, every injured victim. This government wants to abuse its power as a majority to pay back this unholy debt to the auto insurance industry.
Individual members of the committee finally conceded that they took campaign contributions as low as $750 and $1,000 from auto insurance companies. They say, “Do you really think we would roll over for a mere $750 or a mere $1,000?” My response is, maybe they are right. Maybe the government members’ thresholds are somewhat higher; it takes more than a mere $750 or a $1,000 contribution to get them to sell out drivers and victims and taxpayers.
So the question is, how much did they pay government members? The question is, what do they have on them? The question is, why are government members so beholden to the auto insurance industry? Why are they prepared to listen to the master’s voice, to jump when they say jump, to pass legislation when they say pass legislation, to share secret information with them when they will not dare share it with anybody else? They know what it means: it means big profits for the insurance industry, earned on the backs of innocent victims.
We have said it before and we will say it again: the insurance companies are happy as pigs in a barnyard about the prospect of this legislation being passed. From their point of view, this is perfect legislation. They could not ask for anything more. What a wonderful world this will be for the insurance industry, the private, corporate auto insurance industry, the Liberals’ best friends. The Allstates of the world are ever so grateful to their Liberal servants. The Allstates of the world are ever so appreciative.
The problem is that government members have sold their souls, and I do not know how many pieces of silver it is. None of us wishes that anybody would ever suffer at the hands of a negligent or a careless or a drunk driver. We know that this insurance bill, this legislation, was not designed to protect consumers. It is the farthest thing in the world from consumer protection. It was not designed to reduce premiums the farthest thing in the world. It was not designed to enhance compensation and benefits for innocent injured victims -- the farthest thing in the world.
It has one purpose only, and that is what makes this whole process so obscenely evil -- it is sadly and obscenely evil -- the fact that this government has refused to address the issues; the fact that this government has obfuscated as often as it can and as frequently as it can and as thoroughly as it can; that it has misstated the reality of things day after day after day after day; and that the consultation has not been with committee, but the consultation has been with the insurance executives of Bay Street or London or Guelph. The consultation has not been with the head-injury people and it has not been with the psychologists and the psychiatrists and the therapists of Ontario, but it has been with the insurance industry.
The consultation has not been with the convocation of the Law Society of Upper Canada, one which I noted -- it is my understanding that the Attorney General is a member of convocation soundly rejected this legislation. The convocation of the law society, a body to which the Attorney General of this province belongs, soundly condemned Bill 68 and this legislation, saying that it is discriminatory, that it is unfair and could never be tolerated by fairminded people. That a body to which the Attorney General himself belongs would say that warrants more than merely raised eyebrows.
The clause-by-clause consideration of this bill has to be done thoroughly. There is not a single clause, not a single phrase, not a single section, not a word of this bill that can be looked over speedily, that can be passed hastily, because this legislation will hurt more people for far too long and will have such a horrid impact on innocent victims.
This is legislation that the government has tried to market. The veneer has worn not only thin, the veneer has worn off. People see this for what it is and the reality of it is that people will not forget what this government is doing to them now. I do not care whether the election is this fall, next spring, next summer or the fall after that. There are some people here who do, but I do not care when it is. The people of Ontario, if the Liberals persist in this obscenity, will not forget that at election time. I can promise the members that is one promise that can be kept.
MrCousens: I think we have come to a definition of what brevity is. My honourable friend the member for Welland-Thorold has had an opportunity to put on the record some of his thinking in his brief remarks and I would hope the Chair would be as indulgent with me in my brevity as well, inasmuch as we are really being cut short of time right across the province to deal with an issue that has such far-reaching implications that it will touch upon all the people of our province in one way or the other. It has to rate as the most important bill before the House in this session. I suspect it is going to take us a little while to really understand all its implications.
The government would call brevity something that would say that if it could get it done this afternoon, it would be happy; it would be passed. Somehow or other, when you consider the hundreds of presentations that were made when the committee toured the province and those received by all of us in the mail and the presentations that have come to us through public meetings in our own ridings, I have to say that in my own riding we had key presenters from the auto insurance industry; I had one from a professor in economics and law from the University of Toronto, a presenter who gave that viewpoint. I had another person who went for complete no-fault insurance and then I had another one from the insurance industry, a cross-section of people giving different views.
There was no doubt at the end of the evening that the people from the audience who had heard those presentations were concerned and worried and not all their questions had been answered. I think that through the debate in this House, since there is no further time to go around the province or to do it in committee, as we tried to do it, we are now forced to take this in a very careful and deliberate way.
Bill 68, the Insurance Statute Law Amendment Act, was really something that had to be on everyone’s burner as a subject of great importance. As I touch upon my 10 key points that I would like to raise, the first one has to do with the way the government has reneged on its promise of lower automobile insurance rates. First of all, let’s all realize that automobile insurance rates really started to go out of control several years ago and it was not just as if we had a small problem. It was something that was addressing young people looking for their licences. Car insurance was becoming prohibitive. I had people in my riding whose automobile insurance rates were reaching such a point -- $3,000 or $3,600 -- and had gone up to such a level that something definitely had to be done.
I think there was a consensus in this House that this was an issue that just could not be allowed to sit on someone else’s back burner and that we as legislators were going to have to get involved. Unfortunately, there is no one easy solution as to how it could be resolved. Some people might have thought that government should get involved in a very big way. That would probably be the position of the New Democratic Party because, as my very good friend from Welland-Thorold has said -- but also his predecessor, who was one who also had a compassion and an understanding for the people of Ontario and the high cost of automobile insurance; he was probably one of the first people who really captured this issue and said, “I am personally going to do something about it.” The fact is that now there are many others who have come to realize it. It is no surprise because the fact of the matter is we had a problem, we still have a problem and what the government is proposing in this legislation creates more problems. It is a matter of trying to find a solution to it.
The breach of faith, where the trust was broken and that began the solution that is being proposed in Bill 68, was the statement made by the Premier of Ontario in September 1987 when on a campaign stop in Cambridge he said he had “a very specific plan to lower insurance rates.” There is not a person in the province who would not have appreciated the goodness of that statement, because if he had that solution, if he actually had a way of doing that, we would not be here today after two years of discussion and deliberation and trying to come up with some kind of a solution.
He did not have a specific solution to solve the insurance cost. Had he had, Mr Chairman, you would not have to be listening to me right now or the previous brief speaker, nor would we have had to have committee hearings going across the province trying to resolve this issue.
May I suggest to you that it will not be resolved with the 30 amendments that the government is coming forward with; it is not about to be resolved with this bill. We need to have a fresh approach to it and I have to say we are so far from that solution.
When I say that we want lower insurance rates, that is where it started. The government in four different instances, since it made that promise in the form of the words of the Premier of the province on 7 September 1987, has had four rate increases -- not one or two. The rate increases have continued to grow. So on 1 January 1988, the rates rose by 4.5 per cent and then several months later, on 1 August 1988, the rates rose by 4.5 per cent. In one year they had gone up by over nine per cent. A third increase of 7.6 per cent was hiked on 17 April 1989. Under Bill 68, rates will rise by eight per cent, on average, in urban areas.
The minister has been purposefully vague on the term of what “on average” is. On average really means that if you take the broad cross-section of people who will be applying for their automobile insurance, there will be some who have a lower rate than eight per cent, but some could have as high as a 40 and 50 per cent increase in their automobile insurance rates in Ontario. It is not based just on their driving record. It could now well be based upon the cost they paid for their car. It could be based on other factors outside of this.
Also it has to do with the Facility system, where people who will not be covered by insurance companies are going to be forced to go to Facility Association insurance. That means no insurance company is covering them in the same traditional way in which they had hoped they would be covered. They are now going into an umbrella group where the prices are excessive.
So when the government says it has a solution to lower automobile insurance rates, we in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party cannot accept that statement that was made by the Premier back in 1987. It was not a statement based on fact. He did not have a solution. What we are seeing now is a perpetration of something that is not acceptable to us and we will fight it. We will fight it with every piece of vigour that we can.
When I look around and I see a government that has a solution for something, I look for it. After two and a half years, the looking continues to go on because what we have before the House in Bill 68 is not the answer. I guess to me there are some people who are happy with it, because if there are people out there who will have a reduction in insurance rates, that would be good if that was really going to be the coverage they used to have, but as we know, this is not going to be coverage that gives you continued protection. There are so many flaws, there are so many holes in this insurance that we are going to have to look at the fact that not only are they going to be paying more, they are going to be paying more for less coverage.
When I talk about a government reneging on a promise, this is one of the major and fundamental concerns that the people of the province of Ontario have of politicians as a whole. If there is anything out there, when people look to a politician they are saying: “Oh, well, you say one thing and you do another. You’re out of power and you’ll say that you’re going to do something, and when you get into power you then come along and do quite the opposite.”
I am sensing a ground swell of disfavour on the part of people across the province who are saying, with a tremendous sense of frustration: “What are politicians elected for? They seem to be going in there. They’ll do anything to get elected and when they’re elected they will come along and do the very opposite.”
That is exactly what the Premier did when he said he had a solution to auto insurance rates in 1987. That is one of the most important breaches of faith, which concerns me and so many people in this province, the Premier, who said he had that solution. That is something that cannot be forgotten. He did not have a solution and the people of Ontario will not forget that, and I am not going to let them forget it. Anyone who is listening in right now needs to remember the fact that politicians, when they are elected, should have the credibility and the honesty and integrity that if they are going to say something before they are elected, then once they are elected they are going to live up to it and not just play it down.
Mr Cousens: No names. I used to think I had a few friends. I guess they are only Tories and there are not a lot of them here to listen to my remarks. I am not going to ask for a show of hands, but let it just be said that all the people of Ontario need to have is one voice standing up there to tell them the truth and they are going to listen to it. The truth of the matter is that something was said by someone on that September day that was not true. Therefore the people of Ontario have a reason to say, “I don’t trust politicians.” When someone does that, it gives all of us a bad name.
The Premier, in coming forward and making that statement, had in a sense given hope, and now what we are seeing is a hopeless situation in which he has not come up with the kind of remedies he said he had. Do not think the people of Ontario will allow the Liberals to forget that promise, because when the members come up for the next election -- assuming it is in the not-too-distant future -- they will be reminded of that by the great majority of the people in the province of Ontario.
I have to say that one of the things that has happened -- it is coincident with my first point, where the government has totally reneged on its promise of lower automobile insurance rates is that the government’s bungling of automobile insurance has really cost the taxpayers dearly. If the Premier had had the solution when he said he did on 7 September 1987, they would not have had to spend something like $20 million to find out that they really did not have the answer.
The government since then has commissioned a number of studies. It commissioned one in 1986, before that, by Mr Slater and then there was the one in 1987 by Justice Coulter Osborne. These were important studies on the automobile insurance industry and something that tabled information and data that were well founded for people to work through and understand what was being said. In fact, when you start looking at the contents of those reports you begin to realize that the government has failed to act on the recommendations that it paid so much for.
For instance, the report that Justice Coulter Osborne presented, called the Report of Inquiry into Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation in Ontario, cost Ontario taxpayers more than $1.4 million, yet the government failed to act on the 174 findings and 147 recommendations aimed at improving the delivery of accident compensation.
One of the recommendations by Justice Coulter Osborne was, and this is significant when you realize the kind of no-fault insurance that the government is proposing in Bill 68: “Threshold no-fault should be rejected because it is relatively inefficient and unnecessarily arbitrary. There will either be no or minimal savings on transaction costs in threshold no-fault.”
Is that not something? You have one of the most capable, qualified of people join together the resources and information to assist the government in understanding the issue. One of the fundamental recommendations that is made by Justice Osborne is simply that threshold no-fault should be rejected, and yet what happens? The Premier and his magic little wand that he had, where he had a remedy, comes out with it.
There is so much evidence that the very kind of insurance being proposed under Bill 68 for the province of Ontario is in fact not the way we should be going. Not only have we had two major commissions; we have also had 39 separate economic and actuarial studies in the last two years. However, not one of these specifically recommends the type of system set out in Bill 68.
I ask, how come? Why it is that the government will go ahead and have all that research done, do all that digging, find out all that information and not follow those recommendations? Who would want to be anyone on any kind of advisory committee to a government like that?
There must be a tremendous amount of frustration with these people unless they got some good money out of it. I will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, members of the House, that is exactly what happened. It is kind of nice to come along and spend the taxpayers’ money, spend close to $20 million trying to solicit all these views, hoping that someone will come back with the kind of thing they are hoping for and put it into legislation. Well, none of the 39 recommendations came back with the very thing we are looking at here in Bill 68, and that does not make sense. One of the major recommendations that came through said, “Don’t do it.” Why spend their money asking for all this advice and not follow any of it?
It is just that kind of wasteful spending of government money that has caused a tremendous amount of unhappiness with the people in the province of Ontario. There is a sense in which there is no one looking after the purse-strings in the province of Ontario.
My third point has to do with the government’s plans to implement threshold no-fault car insurance despite the damaging criticism levelled against it just all over the place. I would say that the most damaging evidence against this report comes right out of the Osborne report itself.
We have read that report and I would like to put on the record just one of the conclusions from the report in volume 1, page 3, where Justice Osborne said, “I have concluded that aside from the provision of a modest degree of additional stability for automobile insurers, cost/premium decreases would be modest were we to proceed to threshold no-fault and those modest cost savings would be imported on the backs of over 90 per cent of injured Ontario motorists who now have the right to seek non-economic compensation.”
Is that not something? Who is going to be saving on the whole new process of automobile insurance that we are about to have? It is going to be on the backs of the injured. It is going to be on the backs of the people whom we should be protecting and helping, and that is not insurance. When a person has insurance, it is to protect him from disability and from financial hardship.
Insurance is something that we buy to protect ourselves and our neighbours. It is a sense of protection from liability. I do not pretend to be an insurance expert, but I know that I believe in it. I have it on my car, on my house and on my life. I believe we should all be looking out to protect ourselves from that eventuality, yet here now we are about to have a new form of protection that we are calling insurance protection that does not begin to give the traditional help and support we have come to expect with insurance.
Maybe that means that as a Legislature, we should not allow the government to leave this title of the bill as it is, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance. I mean, it ceases to be the kind of coverage that people have come to expect with their automobile insurance.
One other statement that came from Justice Osborne: He said in volume 1, on page 4, “Having looked at a great number of compensation systems, in the final analysis, it seems to me that while our system is far from perfect, Ontario should be an exporter, not an importer of compensation systems.”
That really means that we are in a position to develop our own model for insurance coverage in this province, using our own skills, our own people, our own experience. We could make modifications to the system in order to allow for continued protection, find ways of reducing the cost of tort, find ways of protecting people and then find ways of reducing some of the high costs associated with those who have to go and have a fender-bender repaired, find some ways of limiting the amount that can be claimed in a lawsuit and ways of allowing the courts not always to be involved in some of the differences. There are ways in which our existing system could be modified and changed.
But they have not been addressed, they have not been looked at, they have not been touched. It is just that kind of concern that begins to be part of the expression of the hundreds of people who have come forward and said, “We don’t like what Mr Elston is doing and what Mr Peterson is doing.”
I have a summary of something like 15 pages and I will not read them into the record, but it is part of the presentation that was made through the different days in which we had public hearings where we had so many people who came in with their claims of worry and concern. I would like to just put a few of them on the record and I want to watch my time because of the need for brevity on this.
The Advocates’ Society on 10 January said, “The Advocates’ Society firmly believes that Bill 68 is an ill-conceived and unsuccessful attempt to relieve premium stresses for Ontario drivers.” When we say it in the House, people say: “Oh, you’re just being partisan. You’re just being a typical Tory criticizing the Liberal government.”
There have been some things that they have done right. I have to say that, and one happens to have been the continuation of the Markham Stouffville Hospital which opens next week. There are a number of good things that have gone on, and I continue to be complimentary of those good things. I have a hard time finding them, but the fact of the matter is, as we look at this legislation, it is one of the classic examples of what can be called ill conceived and unsuccessful attempts to solve a problem.
I would like to just comment on others. There are just so many of them. The Behavioural Health Clinic on 23 January identified four aspects of this bill that could hamper the rehabilitation process: threshold definition; guaranteed provision of rehabilitation; cap on long-term care, and cost-of living provision.
The fourth point I would like to make is that the government would have the public believe that lawyers are driving up the costs of claims settlements. That is one of the things that has been said by a number of the Liberals on the committee and in a number of the rationales that have been made by the honourable minister.
But again, I suggest that if members look at the Osborne report, on page 363, volume 1, it outlines the progression of claims related to motor vehicle accidents through the courts. The report shows that in 1985 there were 232,207 third-party liability claims reported. Only 4,383 of these cases went to trial and only 3,755 proceeded through to judgement. That is just 1.6 per cent of the claims.
The point is that the government is saying, “We want to eliminate the high cost of the law in the way in which we are going to develop this new legislation.” While they have done that –“they” being the Premier and the Liberals -- they have come along with a methodology that not only is talking about the removal of lawyers from the process almost completely, except in a new way that would be formed for five per cent of those claims which people will have another way of processing, but also is talking about an approach that removes the rights of people to sue for what is actually their right.
The bill itself has grave problems with the way it is worded. In order to proceed with legal action, a person must die, in which case the estate would benefit, or the person must sustain “permanent serious disfigurement” or “permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by continuing injury which is physical in nature.”
That sounds kind of hard to read, and people who are looking on will be asking whether I am putting words into someone’s mouth. I am quoting from the bill itself when it says that this is the test you have to follow in order to claim under the threshold no-fault insurance. If people are listening in, they should almost get a copy of the bill so they can sit and think and look at these words: “permanent serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by continuing injury which is physical in nature.” That is the test that must be followed.
The Minister of Financial Institutions, my friend the member for Bruce, is leaving everything up to the courts to interpret the uncertain language of the threshold. Therefore, we would like to know, what is permanent? What is a permanent injury? Is it something that is going to have a certain period of time associated with it? Is it one year, two years, 20 years? It depends, if you are the victim. Is there not some degree of consideration as to the permanency of whatever it is you have gone through? Are we going to wait for an artificial limb? Are we waiting for a bionic something or other?
I have to say, if you look at the wording in which the test for threshold no-fault has been decided in this legislation, you have grave questions which only the courts will be able to determine, and that is the definition of what permanency is. No one knows that. What is a serious impairment? By whose standards are we going to know what a serious impairment is? How are we going to judge what accident has a serious impairment to it?
Is it going to be the courts? Is it going to be the insurance companies? Is it going to be the victim? I will just tell members this. At one of the presentations I had in my riding in Unionville, after we had had the panel of experts make their presentation, a man came to the front of the room and took off his jacket, rolled up his arm and showed a disability that had happened to him in an accident.
It was one of those startling moments when you wonder, “My gracious, what is happening here?” I was chairing the presentations and this person wanted to show us his disability that he had had in an automobile accident. The fact is that he wanted to know whether it was a serious impairment. On the panel that we had, we had an insurance executive saying, “That’s a serious impairment. You would be covered,’’ and another person on the panel saying, “No, by our understanding of the definition, that would not be a serious impairment.” What is a serious impairment?
Mr Cousens: My good friend the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere says that the experts are going to tell. That is going to be interesting, because then even the experts are like a bunch of lawyers who do not really know what they are going to do, so you will get six lawyers and three will agree and three will disagree, and on you go. The victim continues to suffer without a definition of his claim.
What classifies an important bodily function? I wonder what it is. In my mind, I might have one idea, but another will have another. Why have we not got a sense of what that is going to be? Is it going to be declared by the victims, the courts or the insurance companies as to what an important bodily function is? That is implicit to what this bill is all about. If someone has a complaint with the legislation, he will have to come along and prove that his is an important bodily function that has been impacted by that accident. If they cannot claim that, they do not get any coverage, they do not get any protection. Again, this law proves itself to be inadequate to meet the needs of people who are in need of protection by having automobile insurance.
Medicine has long accepted that there may be more than a physical component to chronic pain. How is the term “physical” to be described and defined? The threshold, as we have it described in this definition that is prepared by the Liberal government of Ontario, prevents anyone suffering psychological, mental or emotional injury from seeking legal redress. The government is telling the public that emotional trauma, psychological trauma and the emotional devastation caused by an automobile accident are no longer worthy of compensation under the new plan. That is wrong.
I cannot accept that, because in fact we have come to an age today where we can accept, hopefully, in our society that mental stress and mental problems can often be as devastating to human beings as physical disease and physical injury. And for this government to come along and exclude any sense of relief for people who suffer any kind of psychological, emotional trauma and devastation is again a tremendous injustice. That is not going to be allowed. We will fight that and we will fight it to the end.
One of the most important and frequent serious injuries that happens in auto accidents is head injuries, and special behavioural or psychological problems can arise from this type of injury. Why is it then that during the presentations, when the public came to the committee, we had the Ontario Head Injury Association coming in and saying: “Do you understand what this is going to do? Do you understand how you are limiting the possibilities of those who have had head injuries to reclaim any of the kind of coverage that they deserve from those accidents?”
Persons injured in an automobile accident face increased litigation -- one case to challenge the threshold, another case to settle the damages. It is just going to be case after case. On the one hand the government is saying it wants to do something to remove the whole involvement of the law profession, but I have to say, the problems with definition of what is an accident are part and parcel of the mistaken understanding of what it is really trying to do.
In fact, many people in Ontario do not realize that the Ontario system in Bill 68 is based largely on legislation that has been tried in Michigan. Ontario has followed their example and is incorporating the Michigan thinking into this bill. It has led to numerous conflicting legal opinions. To date, there have been over 1,200 different interpretations of the threshold as it relates to injuries suffered in automobile accidents in the state of Michigan.
So when we look at this, we really begin to understand that the government has taken one set of problems, in which there has been, I think, too much freedom to sue for everything, and then gone to another extreme and said: “In the future, if anyone wants to take action, they’re going to have to sort of fit it into the new definition of what threshold no-fault insurance amounts to. Your injury must pass the following test: Is it a permanent injury? Is it a serious impairment of an important bodily function caused by continuing injury which is physical in nature?
That is a very limiting definition of the rights of a human being. In fact, that is probably what is going to happen. This legislation will end up in court as people test their rights that are being taken away -- their own civil rights, their liberties as citizens and residents in Ontario -- because they are no longer protected by all the rights they should have under legislation by this House. For a Liberal government that says it is compassionate to all people to become so restrictive in its definition is again to force upon us and all people of Ontario a sense of being limited in our ability to claim what is ours, limited in our ability to have protection as we should have it.
My sixth point has to do with the generous benefits of this new system. They are not as generous as the government would have us believe. The level of no-fault benefits contained in the present system has not been adjusted since 1978. That was $140 per week, maximum, for loss of income. The Osborne report recommended increasing these benefits substantially, yet the government has sat on these recommendations until now.
Mr Cousens: I would be very pleased to have an opportunity. I think that if the government decides to continue with this bill, I will certainly be ready to speak against it and table further remarks about the problems it is going to have.
On Wednesday 28 March, committee of the whole House on Bill 68. At the conclusion of Bill 68, we will proceed to second-reading debate of the following bills: Bill 108, An Act respecting Business Names; Bill 106, An Act to amend Certain Acts with respect to Easements and other matters; Bill 107, An Act to revise the Police Act and amend the Law relating to Police Services; and Bill 96, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act.
On Thursday 29 March, for private members’ public business, ballot item 37 standing in the name of the member for London South and ballot item 38 standing in the name of the member for Hamilton East. For orders of the day, we will continue with any previously unfinished business.