The Deputy Speaker: Before we start, I beg to inform the House that I have today laid upon the table the first annual report of the Commission on Conflict of Interest for the period 1 September 1988 to 31 December 1989.
Mr Kormos: Serious allegations have been made about incidents of sexual assaults and other physical assaults upon young boys by the staff of the now-defunct St Joseph’s Training School for Boys in Alfred. These allegations are joined by the revelation that the Ontario government of the day conducted a secret investigation in 1960 and confirmed complaints of physical and sexual abuse and that no charges were ever laid.
To know that physical and sexual violence was imposed upon children by their caretakers is in itself a repugnant prospect. That the government of this province could have aided in a coverup and protection of those responsible is abominable.
The children of Ontario must be able to grow up protected from violence, physical and sexual. As citizens we must have confidence that those in authority will pursue and prosecute those responsible for attacks upon young people. The message from St Joseph’s is to the contrary.
It is unacceptable that the complaints of youngsters at St Joseph’s were not acted upon. The passage of time is no reason for failing those same people now. The greatest tragedy is that the victims of this violence have had to live with their pain without comfort or aid, or even the decency of acknowledgement of having been a victim.
It is imperative that this government commence a public inquiry and that it be initiated without delay to investigate violence upon children at St Joseph’s prior to its closing and possible violence at other similar institutions, and to determine how the province could have allowed a coverup as it did. In addition, it is clear that the needs of those victims, now adults, must be determined and met with charity and generosity.
Mr McLean: My statement is directed to the Minister of Financial Institutions and concerns Bill 68, the Insurance Statute Law Amendment Act. The people of Simcoe East are opposed to Bill 68 and they are making their feelings known through letters and calls to my constituency offices in Orillia and Penetanguishene.
They are opposed to Bill 68 because it sacrifices fairness for accident victims in the name of political expediency; it will result in Ontario taxpayers paying more for lower coverage, fewer benefits and reduced rights; it contains a type of threshold insurance that will be no more cost-effective than the current system; it will likely bar 95 per cent of accident victims from access to compensation in excess of the no-fault benefits; it has the potential to reduce insurance for the very people who require protection most, the poor and the unemployed; it will do nothing to reduce premium costs or even provide a measure of price stability; it creates a tremendous social cost by eliminating the deterrent function of the current tort system, and the minister has made no effort to determine the cost to the public of administering this proposed insurance system.
Mr Faubert: The Premier has said, “Our ability to handle education, skills training and labour adjustment effectively in the 1990s will determine our capacity to develop a competitive economy and a high standard of living for the people of Ontario.”
Since this government took office in 1985 we have demonstrated our commitment to providing quality education for all Ontarians by increasing operating grants to school boards by $1.3 billion, or 41 per cent. We have also increased capital grants by $258 million, or 350 per cent, province-wide.
This year operating grants to school boards will increase by 8.7 per cent and capital grants by 7.1 per cent. In post-secondary education this year Ontario’s universities and colleges will receive an eight per cent increase in operating grants. This represents a total increase of almost $200 million, which does not include the $122.7 million in capital grants to post-secondary institutions.
Yet the message coming out of Ottawa is the opposite. The Prime Minister talks a good game, as he says things like: “I want to see Canadian education standards that match those of our toughest competitors. I want to see reforms that will generate education from coast to coast. I want to see action.”
The action the federal government has taken is to cut transfer payments to provinces for health and post-secondary education by $7.4 billion. Ontario alone will lose $378 million. Clearly his commitment does not match his rhetoric.
We are fortunate here in Ontario to have a provincial government committed to quality education and the willingness to support that commitment with the necessary resources. Unfortunately, our federal government’s commitment to education is more talk than action.
Mr Charlton: At long last the Liberal Party has come full circle on the issue of nuclear power generation in Ontario. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the federal Liberals, in conjunction with the provincial Conservatives, dreamed up and created the nuclear power industry in the province.
Fifteen years later, in the mid-1970s, the provincial Liberals started to climb down from that nuclear power bandwagon. In 1977 they opposed adamantly Ontario Hydro’s uranium contracts. In 1978 they demanded the cancellation of two units at the Bruce nuclear heavy water plant. In 1983 the Premier, then the opposition leader, said that the building of the Darlington nuclear plant was madness and warned Ontario against moving too quickly into a nuclear future.
In 1985, during the campaign, the Premier said that finishing Darlington was a horrible mistake. In 1986 the Liberals said we should finish Darlington only because too much money had already been spent to warrant its cancellation.
In 1990, on the eve of the hearings on Hydro’s proposals for the next 25 years, which include three and perhaps four nuclear plants, the Liberal Party has finally passed a resolution supporting nuclear power. Their circles are making the people of Ontario dizzy.
Mr Jackson: On Friday this government announced the educational grants or general legislative grants for 1990. The minister boldly claimed that operating grants to school boards would increase by 8.7 per cent. But in reality school boards will get only a 4 per cent increase because 4.7 per cent will be used to finance government initiatives, such as the employer health levy, pay equity, new pooling, reduced class size in grades 1 and 2 and new kindergarten initiatives.
This is bad news for the property taxpayers of Ontario. Reduced provincial funding for education cost them an additional $1 billion last year. This year the boards will need an additional $800 million to cover the cost of provincially mandated programs. The net result will be double-digit tax increases for the third year in a row.
Local taxpayers will complain and school trustees will be held accountable for budgetary increases that are clearly beyond their control. This offloading of responsibility cannot continue. Education is too important for the Liberals to pursue their own political agenda at the expense of a basic public education agenda.
In 1985 the Premier promised to increase the provincial share of education funding to 60 per cent. Since making this promise the provincial share has fallen each year and will be at an all-time low of about 40 per cent this year. Clearly the Premier has not done what he said he would do. It is time the government acted on the recommendations of the select committee on education and introduced a rational basis for education finance in this province.
Mr Chiarelli: I would like to take this opportunity to join with the member for Nepean, who last week asked the Minister of Transportation’s assistance in urging his federal counterpart to address a major concern raised by the Ottawa business community, namely, the provision of a direct air link between Ottawa and the US Midwest.
To continue to thrive in increasingly competitive business markets, the establishment of such an air link is critical to the Ottawa-Carleton economy generally and the region’s high-technology sector in particular. Because most US-based customers must make at least two transfers to get to Ottawa, most choose not to visit the facilities of Ottawa-based suppliers, putting our highest-growing sector at a distinct disadvantage with other regions in Canada and the United States.
Canada’s capital is the only major community in Canada that does not have direct access to the US Midwest. In the words of Len Potechin of the Ottawa-Carleton Economic Development Corp: “For a government that claims to be concerned about the deficit, diversifying the economy, decreasing reliance on the public purse and wants to see the private sector do more, particularly in research and development, it seems ironic that in Ottawa, we are simply grounded.”
Mr Philip: As someone who represents a large number of constituents who are members of the visible minority community, I am particularly appreciative of the valuable work being conducted by the Whyy Mee! Foundation.
In 1982, while working in the medical profession, Eugenia Pearson realized that many of her patients had needs that were not purely physical in nature. She recognized that their major problems were frequently those related to the psychological stresses resulting from the challenges of adjusting to a completely new society without the benefit of adequate support systems. This led her to become involved as a volunteer with correctional services and to found the Whyy Mee! Foundation.
Whyy Mee! is recognized as a non-profit organization with charitable status. Its doors are open to anyone who has a problem coping with legal and social services in our community; however, it places a special emphasis on attempting to reach out to immigrants and racial minorities. Its services include counselling before and after court appearances, counselling and assistance to the families of those who find themselves tied up in the Canadian legal system, advocacy in court and counselling on immigration problems.
I believe that Whyy Mee! plays an important role in bringing about a greater understanding among peoples of different colour and cultures. It deserves the congratulations and support of all members of the Legislature.
I invite my colleagues in the Legislature and their constituents to join my wife, Suzanne, and I at a fund-raising event for the Whyy Mee! Foundation on Sunday 29 April at 4 pm. This will be held at the Organ Grinder restaurant. Tickets are $10 per person and can be obtained by telephoning 481-5462.
Mr McCague: During the past few months, a number of Liberal members and cabinet ministers have been in the news for the interesting ways in which they use public funds, either in the way of salaries for staff or for cost of material, in promoting causes that have little to do with their public duties.
The most recent example came to light this past weekend. The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations in a letter dated 26 March 1990, in a constituency envelope and using constituency letterhead, trumpeted the qualities of one Paul Costello for the position of vice-president of policy in the Ontario Liberal Party.
All those who received this letter, mailed through the Queen’s Park internal mailing service, were asked to consider the qualities of this gentleman when casting their ballots at the Liberal convention this past weekend in Windsor; if they wanted to meet Mr Costello, then they were urged to attend a hospitality suite the minister was hosting at the local Holiday Inn.
To be sure that he did not miss any potential voters who might throw their support behind Mr Costello, the minister must have cast a very wide net indeed. The letter I am quoting from was received by my colleague the member for Hastings-Peterborough who, in spite of the minister’s enthusiastic support, did not vote for Mr Costello.
Mr Brown: Elliot Lake offers the best of everything. It provides excellent accommodation, health and recreational facilities both for its long-time residents and for a new seniors population that has recently been attracted by Elliot Lake’s highly successful retirement living program. However, the recent announcements of workforce reductions by Rio Algom mines and Denison Mines was a severe blow to the community; 2,000 primary jobs will be lost to the area.
In single-industry towns such as Elliot Lake, this is an economic setback of great magnitude, but not one that could not be overcome. We must strive to improve and enhance opportunities for new local employment through economic diversification. The province has decided that its response to these workforce reductions will coincide with and support the goals and strategies of the community.
This method was chosen because the government truly believes that local solutions to local problems will work better than solutions imposed from Queen’s Park. Therefore, this government will be a full-fledged partner in the implementation of Elliot Lake’s strategic plan.
An interministerial committee of concerned ministries has already met and will be co-ordinating the government’s responses to this great problem. By working together, we will build a strong and diversified society and economy for both ourselves and our children.
Hon Mr Scott: Today I will be tabling two reports of the Ontario Law Reform Commission. These are the Report on the Liability of the Crown and the Report on Damages for Environmental Harm. The commission, as members will know, is an independent legal think tank established by the Ontario government in 1964.
The commission’s Report on the Liability of the Crown notes that in spite of earlier major reforms, the current law governing liability of the Ontario crown still provides the government and its servants with certain privileges and immunities that are not enjoyed by ordinary persons.
The commission finds that this inconsistency can make it difficult in some situations for a member of the public to obtain redress against the crown. As well, many crown immunities and privileges are not, in the view of the commission, in conformity with the general principles underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On the basis of these findings, the report recommends the abolition of many crown privileges and immunities and an overall rationalization of the rules relating to crown liability which would simplify the law in this area. The general principle underlying the commission’s recommendations is that government and its servants should, like any member of the public, be subject to the ordinary law with the exceptions only of certain unique powers and immunities necessary for effective government.
The Ontario Law Reform Commission’s Report on Damages for Environmental Harm recommends the creation of a new statutory remedy for the protection of the environment. The commission’s view is that those who cause harm to the environment should be liable to pay civil damages to compensate the public for the harm.
The remedy is intended to reflect the commission’s perception that a harm to the environment has a broader dimension, distinct from any direct injury suffered by individuals for which redress is due to the general public. Damages collected under such a remedy would be given to a special government body to be applied to the restoration and rehabilitation of the environment.
The commission suggests that such damage claim for environmental harm might be brought not only by the government, but by individuals and public interest groups that have standing under the proposed new standing rules recommended in the commission’s 1989 Report on the Law of Standing, which was tabled in this House.
I invite all members of the Legislature and of the public to review the recommendations, some very contentious, that the commission has made with regard to the protection of the environment and to the liability of the crown, and to let the government have their views thereon.
Mr Kormos: We welcome and appreciate the recommendations of the Ontario Law Reform Commission, particularly in so far as they expand and increase the tort rights against wrongdoers. It is remarkable that the law reform commission would be saying that, and it is remarkable that this government would be so out of step with the forefront of thinking when it comes to tort and civil liability.
We very much hope that this government embraces these recommendations, as we do, and recognizes the value of them to people across Ontario, especially in so far as our environment is concerned, and how valuable the tort system is to maintaining an environment that is livable. At the same time this government is denying innocent injured victims of motor vehicle accidents those same tort remedies that the law reform commission, in a progressive way, is recommending the government provide in terms of the interests of the environment and the community in general.
This government not only wants to deny to 95 per cent of all injured innocent accident victims the right to be compensated for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, but this government wants to take away, in its Bill 68, the right of those very same innocent injured victims to go to a courtroom to seek redress if they feel that is necessary.
This government is so out of step and so regressive. This government has a law reform commission that makes progressive and beneficial recommendations. This government unfortunately is obviously not prepared to listen to the people of Ontario. One suspects that if it follows suit, it is not prepared to listen to the law reform commission either. This government has taken the people of Ontario back five decades instead of forward into the 1990s.
My colleague the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore has brought forward a private member’s bill that stands in her name entitled Bill 12, the Ontario Environmental Rights Act, 1989, which deals with a subject that is entirely parallel to the one being discussed by the law reform commission. It is a very significant question; I am sure the Attorney General will want to listen to this, as he always does want to listen to others. Unless we give to citizens the right to enforce the law, and if we leave it entirely in the hands of a government bureaucracy, it will not happen on its own.
We now understand that until we give to citizens the right to enforce the law, the law will not be as effectively enforced as it needs to be. The fact that the law reform commission, in a very thorough document which has gone through a number of the remedies being applied in other common law jurisdictions, has looked at expanding the notion of the law of standing and given to the public and given to citizens acting in the name of the public the right to enforce the law is a significant move forward.
But it is only as significant as the definitions of the environment and the standards for water quality and air quality set out by the government of the day. As long as we have governments that are unprepared to bring in effective standards, it is not going to be enough to say that we give to citizens the right to sue for damages on behalf of the general interest.
This is indeed a creative report. I know it is one that will cause a great deal of public discussion. One can only hope that it will cause public action. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that after the next election it will cause public action.
Mr Sterling: First of all, I would like to congratulate the Ontario Law Reform Commission for what appears at first blush to be another very good piece of work. I only hope the Attorney General and the government of Ontario will pay some attention and not put these reports on the shelf with so many other reports that seem to be piling higher and higher but seem to evoke no positive, real legal reform on the part of this Liberal government.
It is hard to either support or reject all the ideas contained in the overview the Attorney General presented to us. However, I do say that there is room within our legal system to provide more accountability on the part of the government for its actions to its citizens. Therefore, we would welcome in some ways the widening of the rights of the citizenry of Ontario to sue the government for wrongs in a civil manner.
The second area that I think is of extreme interest and has been mentioned by the leader of the New Democratic Party is the Report on Damages for Environmental Harm. I do not hold out great hope that the government of Ontario will be a successful litigant in the courts against an individual or a corporation with regard to environmental harm. However, I do hold out significant hope that an individual, a group of individuals or a private interest would have a great chance of success in the courts in seeking damages for environmental wrongs. I think it is only by widening the net of responsibility for environmental harm that we will face the environmental problems we have in this province.
I see this second report as extremely important to us in the next decade of our history in Ontario. I would only urge the Attorney General and the government of Ontario not to shelve this particular report, but to start generating public input and start introducing legislation to put these reforms into effect.
Mrs Marland: Speaking to the report of the Ontario Law Reform Commission as it pertains to environmental harm, I think first of all we should recognize the significance of this report based on the fact that here we have a highly respected, auspicious body that recognized something that obviously this government fails to recognize. We have a Minister of the Environment in Ontario today who by his lack of proactive programs, maybe even through the error of omission, might be guilty under some of the recommendations that are in this report today.
It is very interesting when we look back to last year that we had this supposedly innovative, exciting throne speech that, for example, announced with respect to the environment a new lottery, Cleantario. That was a lottery, we understood, to protect the environment. What do we have instead of the fulfilment of yet another Liberal government announcement? We do not have a new lottery in terms of protecting the environment; we have another hand digging into the same pot of our existing lottery profits, along with the hospital operations.
All we can say is that the Ontario Law Reform Commission is to be congratulated. They recognize what is going on today in this province in terms of the risk and danger to the environment. It is fortunate that somebody knows what is going on, because the Liberal government does not. Their remedy at the moment for environmental damage is simply to announce programs after the fact.
Certainly the Hagersville tire fire will live on for ever and haunt everybody’s responsibilities, because after the fire they made an announcement. Therefore, when the Ontario Law Reform Commission says that there should be a new statutory remedy for the protection of the environment, it is because what is going on is not working.
Mr B. Rae: I would like to ask a question of the Premier. It has been reported in the media, and I want to ask the Premier how he feels about it, that a member of the staff of the Minister of Financial Institutions phoned a shareholder of an insurance company, Kingsway General Insurance Co, asking the shareholder to put pressure on the president of that company not to send the Premier a letter with respect to the insurance bill that is before the House today. Can the Premier explain how a member of the Liberal government’s staff would possibly have got it into his mind that this is something he ought to do?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman makes an assertion that is, first of all, not proper in the sense that pressure was applied. Contact was made by the member of my staff, who in fact was not putting pressure on anybody to do anything but was inquiring what had been done with the company in the direction given to the particular gentleman.
No pressure was being applied by my staff member, but just in case there was anything misconstrued about the call, I have advised my staff member that such action should not be taken in the future. In fact, he has received a reprimand with respect to the call, although I am satisfied that he was not applying pressure, was not intending to apply pressure and in fact did not apply pressure in this particular case.
Mr B. Rae: The minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot say to his staff member, “You didn’t do anything wrong, I agree with you, but whatever you did, don’t do it again.” That does not make any sense. This minister and this government have claimed all along how independent they are of the insurance industry. If we ever needed proof that this government is in bed with the insurance industry, it is phoning shareholders of individual companies asking them to take steps with respect to what is going on on an individual letter.
Hon Mr Elston: In relation to what the honourable gentleman first started out with, he indicated that my staff person had asked the gentleman not to send a letter. That in fact is not the case. The letter had been sent on to the Premier’s office and had demanded a two-day turnaround in terms of reply. The staff member had spoken, rightly, to the sender of the letter and said, “Listen, people are away; give us some time,” in appreciation of the time to do correspondence and not to require a two-day turnaround. Then he set about trying to understand the basis upon which this letter had been sent.
I will tell the member one thing: The fact that this particular president of this particular insurance company is complaining about it does not bear out the fact that there is some cosy relationship, but bears out the fact that we are inquiring into what is going on in the business. In fact, this president takes offence at our trying to understand what the pressures are inside the insurance industry. They are concerned about the fact that we are trying to take action on behalf of the consumers of this province, and this is just a way in which that president wishes to respond to our wanting to know about the insurance industry and wanting to know what it takes to protect the consumers of the province, rather than the version that the Leader of the Opposition has been trying to create here in the question.
Mr B. Rae: Let me say to the minister that he has a story to tell. His staff member has a story to tell. Mr Star has a story to tell. I would think that his shareholder in the United States has a story to tell. The minister says he is right. Mr Star says he is right. He was on one end of the phone. The minister’s staff person was on the other end of the phone. What I am suggesting is that it would be fair and reasonable for this government to agree to refer this entire matter to a legislative committee. If not, what has the minister got to hide? Why is he hiding the kinds of activities that are going on in terms of contact between members of his staff and individual shareholders of the insurance industry? What has the minister got to hide anyway?
Hon Mr Elston: There is nothing to hide with respect to what was going on. In fact, I have taken steps to indicate to my staff person that I understood what he was attempting to do and where the pressure for a two-day turnaround in the letter to the Premier’s office was coming from. I tell all of my staff people to be thoroughly advised of the facts and to come up with the truth of the case, to make the inquiries that they need to.
I told the person in this case, although I understood the matter was being handled properly in his view, that perhaps he had overstepped his bounds -- I do not believe he tried for one moment to put pressure on anybody -- and if he left the impression that there was pressure, he should not do it again. I have told him and reprimanded him to make sure that he understands how serious this is in terms of having a call made from the minister’s office. I can tell the honourable gentleman that since I have dealt with this and taken the steps to deal with it, I think the matter has come to an end satisfactorily. I think that will ensure that sensitive dealing with issues about pressure being put on anybody will be handled better by that particular staff member.
Just let me say one other thing. We will always attempt to get the clear, factual basis upon which pressure is being applied on the ministry and on the minister’s office. We will continue to make thorough investigations on behalf of the consumers. When those people call us about inappropriate activity by those companies, my office will continue to make the inquiries to ensure that we are protecting consumers. We will not be put off by the requests of the honourable gentleman.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Premier. On Wednesday the Premier will be hosting the inauguration of Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. This gives international recognition to what the Canadian Commission for UNESCO has described as Canada’s first large-scale environmental land use plan -- a plan, let us remind ourselves, that was supported by all three parties in this House. I am, and I know the Premier is, very proud of this designation by UNESCO and I welcome it. I would like the Premier to tell the House what plans he has to transfer administration of this environmental land use plan and the Niagara Escarpment Commission to the Ministry of the Environment.
Hon Mr Peterson: I appreciate the honourable member’s suggestion on how to administer that particular plan. Some may feel it is better administered in one area as opposed to another. I am not sure that is the main issue. The main issue, I believe, is the substance of that great plan, which as my honourable friend has said was not conceived by this government. It was added to substantially by all members of this House. I look at a number across the floor who added a lot to it and I highly respect that.
It had its genesis many years ago. There may be some compelling reason to change it to the Ministry of the Environment -- I am certainly open to suggestions in that regard -- but I think my honourable friend would be the first to admit that it has achieved this international recognition the way it is done. If there is a better way to do it, I am always open to it. It is not, frankly, a matter of major public policy to me one way or the other, but I am always open to new suggestions.
Mrs Grier: This morning the member for York South and I visited an area of the Niagara Escarpment in the Halton Hills area. We saw gravel pits, proposed gravel pits, land being prepared in anticipation of gravel pits and worked-out gravel pits that are proposed to be used for the garbage from Metropolitan Toronto, all on the face of this internationally recognized environmentally significant piece of Ontario.
The legislation that inaugurated the Niagara Escarpment plan says very clearly that the purpose of the act is to provide for the maintenance of the Niagara Escarpment as a continuous natural environment. How can the Premier possibly justify accepting designation as a biosphere and yet say that he is quite happy with the substance of the plan and at the same time allow garbage pits to be created, to be expanded, to be inaugurated on the very brink of the escarpment?
Hon Mr Peterson: I appreciate the advice of my honourable friend on this matter. As she knows, these things are in the hands of the escarpment commission. But I recognize my honourable friend stands up and exemplifies the schizophrenia of her party. On the one hand she would like to take credit for this international award and believes that she was instrumental in that, and on the other hand she is so critical. Why would she not stand up and celebrate on this happy occasion; get out of the pits, stand up and celebrate?
Mrs Grier: I think the Premier has hit on the nub of the issue. We all celebrate this designation. Citizens’ groups along the escarpment celebrate it and, as they celebrate, they wonder why they are forced time and again to fight to protect the escarpment. The escarpment commission does not have the resources to do the job it would like to do and citizens’ groups spend their time, their energy and their money to try to prevent this government from putting garbage dumps and quarries in the escarpment.
Hon Mr Peterson: I want her to come and take credit for this, as she always does, and she can make her little speech. But she should look at what is happening. I think she should celebrate, enjoy. I think she should not be so negative on the situation. The United Nations has recognized that this process is working extremely well. It is highly democratic. We have very able people making the decisions with respect to the escarpment and compared to the other things in the world.
My honourable friend will always criticize. I am used to that. That is in her nature. It is tough for her to summon up any charity for these matters, but let me say, since I have invited her, she should come and celebrate.
Mr Brandt: I did not receive an invitation. If I had received an invitation I might have accepted and I might have joined the Premier and the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore in the pits that particular day. I know the Premier will be making little speeches, along with the critic for Environment.
My question for the Premier is on a very serious subject that relates to perhaps one of the most difficult challenges that his government has to face, that being the housing crisis that I believe we have here in Ontario. As the Premier is well aware, back in 1987 during a particular activity in which he was involved in the fall of that year, he made a number of promises and commitments to the people of this province relative to a certain target number for rental housing units that he was proposing to have completed as part of his totally completed agenda which he talked about rather recently.
Hon Mr Peterson: The minister will be able to assist the honourable member with respect to the specifics, but may I say before I refer the question, recognizing that he has very few invitations these days, he is very welcome to attend on Wednesday next.
Hon Mr Sweeney: From 1985, when this government first assumed responsibility, up to the present, there are approximately 55,000 units that have been completed, as the honourable member would be aware, and roughly 30,000 that are in various stages of completion. I would expect by about 1993, or maybe a little earlier, we would be up around the 90,000 figure.
Mr Brandt: The minister will be aware that the promise made was to complete the 102,000 units by the end of 1989. We have now passed the end of 1989 by some three months. The figure I have, and I will give the minister the benefit of the doubt, is considerably lower than the figure he has shared. It might be of further interest to some of his colleagues to be advised that fully half of the units that the minister has constructed to date have been with the assistance of the federal government.
Since the minister has fallen far short of his target, which was 102,000 units by the end of 1989, what plans does he have in place to catch up with this absolutely dramatic shortfall in meeting the very numbers in terms of objectives that the government set?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would say that 90,000, compared to the approximate 100,000, is not a significant shortfall. But the honourable member is well aware of the fact that we do have about 5,000 units a year which we cost share with the federal government, and that number has been declining every single year since we formed the government. At the same time, the number of units which this province produces unilaterally has been climbing every single year since we formed the government, and I think that is a pretty good tradeoff.
Mr Brandt: Again I want to advise the minister that the numbers I have received through our research are considerably lower than the numbers he is suggesting. Would he agree to share with this House the numbers that he has relative to rental completions so we can work from the same agenda and ask questions with respect to this matter in an area where perhaps we can reach some agreement?
Again I want to say to the minister that 102,000 units were promised. It is my understanding that the number actually completed is closer to 20,000, not 55,000, as he has suggested. Will the minister agree to table with this House information relative to the number of housing units started and completed and where he is relative to his promise of 102,000 units?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would be quite happy to share with my honourable colleague the source of the numbers that I used. In partial response to his previous question, I should point out to him that I have been in consultation with the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association and the Co-operative Housing Association of Ontario looking for ways to extend this program even further.
The honourable member will be aware of the fact that our cost-sharing mechanism with the federal government also includes rent supplement programs whereby we work out an arrangement with the private sector to assume responsibility for some of the units which it builds. That is built into the figure as well, and that may be part of the reason for the difference.
Mr Runciman: I have another question for the Minister of Financial Institutions related to the conduct of his executive assistant and his efforts to pressure -- and I think that is the appropriate word -- Mr Star and the shareholders of his company to not make a certain letter public. I think that was where the pressure was exerted, certainly not to hold back the letter and get a two-and-a-half-day turnaround on the letter.
I inferred from the minister’s nonanswers earlier that he found out about this matter simply through press reports. He says “true.” I would like him to stand up and confirm that on the record, that indeed he just found out about this through press reports. If that is the case, what does this say about the conduct of his staff and his own competence?
Hon Mr Elston: I found out that there was concern being expressed to my staff member by Mr Star last Friday, and we talked about things that he had spoken about, both to Mr Star and the company in the United States that has a substantial interest in the Kingsway insurance company, prior to the weekend. So I did not find out about it just through the press.
Mr Runciman: I would think that the minister should find that totally unacceptable conduct. It is an abuse of power by the government, and there is obviously an ethical vacuum in the minister’s office. We are talking about his own executive assistant applying pressure to shareholders of an insurance company, really an effort in damage control. Again, as has been said earlier, it reflects the very close ties of this government with the insurance industry in respect of Bill 68.
Hon Mr Elston: My executive assistant has told me, and I have inquired with him the exact nature of the discussion, and I am satisfied that it was not his intention to even be seen to be applying pressure. His way of contacting people, I have indicated to him, may have been inappropriate inasmuch as it left an impression.
I am satisfied that there was no intention on his part to exert pressure, and I have told him that when he exercises his judgement again -- and that is, in fact, what I meant by the reprimand -- that he in fact leave no impression in discussing anything with anyone who calls him or whom he calls about issues which are current that there is pressure being exerted by my office. I have advised him of that, I have taken the steps necessary to ensure, in my mind, that his conduct will not be repeated and in fact it is, in my view, now completely concluded.
Mr Runciman: Well, for the minister to stand in this House and suggest that this gentleman was not applying pressure, he must have been born yesterday or think other members of this Legislature were born yesterday.
The quote is from an individual in the Premier’s office: “It is not the way we do things in the Liberal government.” That is a good one. He is also saying this is a very serious matter. The minister here this afternoon is trying to just shrug this off: “This is not a serious matter.” Indeed, members on this side of the House think it is, and it also reflects very seriously on the minister, his competence and the operations of his office.
I want to share the view of the opposition leader in calling upon the minister and his colleagues in government to give this matter a full public hearing before a committee of this Legislature. Why is he not prepared to do that?
Hon Mr Elston: If I might continue to reply to the honourable gentleman, there is, in my view, nothing in the sense of being hidden. There is nothing to hide. I have told the members of the Legislature that the call was made but that there was not an intention to apply pressure. In fact, we were looking to find out exactly what was happening inside that organization, and that does not bear out the contention of the member for Leeds-Grenville or of the member for York South that there is such a cozy relationship. In fact, what we are trying to do as an organization, as a government, is to find out exactly what is happening inside the insurance companies so that we can determine how to best protect the consumers of the province. We will continue to communicate with people who we think can provide us with assistance in coming up with the best package of insurance for the consumers.
I have told my executive assistant, however, in this case, that it has left an impression with Mr Star, who is the president of Kingsway, that there was some pressure being exerted and I have told him that I did not find that acceptable behaviour -- that is where the reprimand comes in -- and that he had better not leave any impression whatsoever. If he must start every phone call by saying, “I am not putting any pressure on people” or whatever, then he is to do it, but there will be no pressure exerted through his telephone calls and that should not occur again.
I am now satisfied that it puts an end to this issue, that it puts an end to any concern they ought to have about my executive assistant, whose morals and ethics I have quite a high regard for in the sense that he is a very honourable individual. But the people over there are trying to create a misimpression of this individual’s integrity, and I am concerned that they wish to do that in this particular forum.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question for the provincial Treasurer. It is concerning the massive shift of taxation from his level of government to municipalities that has been occurring since he has been the Treasurer of this province. In 1984 the provincial government covered 47.8 per cent of the cost of education in this province; after the announcement on Friday the government will be covering 40.8 per cent of the cost of education at the elementary and secondary levels in this province. How can the Treasurer possibly justify this massive shift to property tax -- an unfair, regressive tax -- when it was his government, his party, that promised that it would be raising the rate of grants to 60 per cent for education in this province?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member, who is a fair-minded member indeed, would want to add to the knowledge of the members who might not be aware of it that the increase for school boards this year was just about eight per cent. It really means that it is, in absolute dollars, one of the largest additional funds for educational purposes that I have had the honour to announce to the Legislature.
The fact that the school boards have an independent responsibility to fund education as they see fit means that they go forward with decisions relating to school costs at the local level. The fact that this increase is more rapid than the increase of our expenditure, even though our transfers are at eight per cent, is not in my control.
Mr D. S. Cooke: There are things that are under the Treasurer’s control. The arguments he uses are absolute nonsense. They are not the kinds of arguments he used when he was in opposition and used to say that the other party should be bringing in a 60 per cent rate of grant for secondary and elementary.
The 8.7 per cent that the Minister of Education announced on Friday, all of it but 2.5 per cent, was for new initiatives that the government initiated, not the school boards. That means there is going to be another transfer of costs, where educational property taxes will be going up 14 and 15 per cent across this province.
The Treasurer criticizes the Mulroney government for shifting responsibilities on him, and he does it exactly the same way, except the only response the school boards have in this province is to raise property taxes, which hurts low-income families the most, as the Treasurer knows.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Is the Treasurer going to promise again in the next provincial election a 60 per cent rate of grant, and is that promise going to be as good as the ones he made in the last two elections?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member was accusing me of speaking nonsense, since I used to say the same things that he is saying at the present time. Surely it is nonsense to suggest that a per capita funding rate of over $6,000 per student is inadequate when it is as high as any one would find anyplace in the world. Our funding for education from both levels, the municipal and the provincial levels, really gives us as much money in the public and separate school systems as one will find in any jurisdiction. I think that school boards and the Ministry of Education should be quite proud of this.
The honourable member knows that when we took office just five years ago, the support for capital, for example, was about $74 million a year; this year the honourable Minister of Education has announced $300 million. So I would suggest to the honourable member, if there is any nonsense in this debate, it is not on the side of the government.
Mr J. M. Johnson: My question is for the Minister of Health. Dr James Murray, chairman of the board of trustees of St Joseph’s Hospital in Guelph, is distressed and angered by the Ministry of Health’s decision to change the direction of its 1987 plans for hospital redevelopment in Guelph. Dr Murray is concerned not only about the delay that will result but about the additional capital costs of this new project. Will the minister guarantee that this new hospital complex can be built with the same capital commitment of $58.6 million from her ministry and within the time frame projected for the 1987 plan?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am very aware of the issue that the member raises and want to assure him that the member for Guelph has in fact been an excellent advocate on behalf of meeting the needs of the community. I want to say to him as well that the ministry will keep its financial commitment to meet the health needs of the city of Guelph and that we believe that by working together we can do that within the financial commitment that has been made.
Mr J. M. Johnson: The citizens of Guelph and Wellington will not be deceived again. In the words of Dr James Murray, the delay is “intolerable to the trustees of St Joseph’s Hospital without an immediate assurance from you that the physical infrastructure of that facility will be brought up to the required safety standards. Assurance on a more realistic capital cost allocation from the ministry is also needed.” Will the minister now provide the House with those assurances?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I can say to the member opposite that our capital planning framework in fact addresses the very concerns that the member raises as a priority. Infrastructure renewal, health and occupational safety issues, and the convenience of both the staff and the patients is a priority.
I would say to him as well that we are committed to seeing the development of an acute care facility for the city of Guelph. We will be establishing two committees which will expedite the necessary planning. One group will deal with the planning in hospital services, the other with the governance and the organization of a health system for the city of Guelph.
We are committed as well to the development of a state-of-the-art long-term care system within the province and see this as an opportunity for the city of Guelph in fact to be a model hospital centre and a model community when it develops an appropriate network and system of services within its community.
Mr Neumann: My question too is for the Minister of Health. The minister is certainly aware of the far-reaching work that has gone on with the health professions legislation review. Draft legislation was proposed last year, and she has been consulting with a number of groups.
I too have had groups from our community and across the province mention to me their concerns about some of this legislation, and some of them are anxious for it to get on: the Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association, the Ontario Naturopathic Association. My colleague the member for Kenora mentioned to me that he recently met with health care professionals and volunteers in Dryden. What they would like to know is, when will the minister complete the legislation and introduce it into the House?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I want to thank the member for both his question and his interest in this very important package of legislation. As he knows, the health professions legislation review began some seven years ago. I hope this spring, in fact, to be tabling a package of framework for the self-regulation and the self-governance of some 24 professions in the province of Ontario. I have met with all of those professions which are included in the legislation, and I must say to the member that there is a remarkable consensus that the time is appropriate for this package to be tabled in the Legislature for discussion and I hope that that will occur this spring.
Mr Neumann: One of the recommendations dealt with deregulation of some professions. There seems to be an ongoing concern that if this recommendation is approved, how will this affect the average citizen? Will they still be able to meet with the deregulated professions? This is an example of ongoing concerns which might continue despite the introduction --
Hon Mrs Caplan: As in any package of new legislation and proposal for a new framework, there are always questions and concerns. Over the past seven years since this discussion began, most of the discussions in fact have been between the professions. I would commit myself today to the honourable member that we would seek full public hearings after second reading to ensure that all of those concerns can be addressed.
I would say specifically that I met recently with some clergymen who expressed the concerns that the honourable member addressed, and I would say to him, as I said to them, that there was no intention to in any way impact on the important work of the clergymen of this province and that during the hearings process I think that amendments can be forthcoming which will address all of their concerns.
Mr Charlton: In the absence of the Minister of Energy, I would like to address my question to the Premier. Ontario Hydro has been touting its demand management and energy-efficiency programs as the most aggressive on the continent. As a matter of fact, in response to a question which I raised on 20 December, the Premier himself said, “I am told that this is the most ambitious conservation program by any utility in North America.”
Perhaps the Premier could tell us: When Ontario Hydro, or any other crown agency, for that matter, boasts in that way, who over there does any checking to ensure that that kind of boast is in fact valid and worth repeating on the part of the government?
Hon Mr Peterson: It is all there for the public to see. I am sure my honourable friend, with his very large research budget, would want to look into the matter. It has been reviewed before committees here, and he may have some information to bring to bear on the subject. There are no secrets about this. It is all there for everyone to see.
Mr Charlton: It may be all there for everyone to see, but it is obvious the Premier and his staff and the staff of the Minister of Energy have not done very much checking or they would not bother to repeat this kind of incorrect information.
Hydro not only does not have the best energy-efficiency program of any utility on the continent, but it is not even close to the best. A small utility in Maine, Central Maine Power Co, a utility less than a tenth the size of Ontario Hydro, in 1990 is spending more than twice what Ontario Hydro has budgeted for energy efficiency --
Mr Charlton: When are the Premier and the Minister of Energy and the bureaucrats over there going to get on top of Ontario Hydro to ensure that what they have said will happen in this review in fact happens, that all of the facts and all of the alternatives are clearly looked at?
My honourable friend equates results to spending. That is one of the structural problems of the New Democratic Party. They do not understand how the real world works. He has got every right to say that, but if he has information to bring to bear, or any constructive suggestions, I will certainly pass them along.
Mr Cureatz: I have a question to the Minister of Correctional Services, but while I have 15 seconds, I would like to congratulate the Minister of Energy, who is not here, but also the Minister of Labour and the Premier for averting what could have been a very serious Hydro strike. As critic of the Minister of Energy, I have been very critical of this administration, but it does not embarrass me from time to time to throw out a few little laurels.
Mr Cureatz: -- in the facilities of the Don Jail, Metro east, Metro west and in my region of Durham in the Whitby Jail, there has been extensive overcrowding of inmates, which has put a great deal of mental pressure on not only the correctional staff but on those inmates in those institutions when overcrowding occurs.
We have seen recently what has happened in Europe in terms of the intense frustrations that can result from overcrowding. I realize this cannot be resolved on an immediate basis, but would the minister again share with us some of his thoughts about the progress he is making on trying to alleviate the serious overcrowding situations that are taking place in our correctional institutions?
In terms of the population pressures that we have in our particular ministry, it is well known. We have talked about this and debated it. The member will recall some of the announcements I made in late October related to our intentions, and more recently some specific announcements on adding beds, particularly in the Metro Toronto area, that we believe will go a long way to help relieve some of the overcapacity pressures that we have. There is a whole series of approaches that we have in terms of transferring people on remand, for example, or intermittence on the weekend, where we receive abnormal numbers from the police forces that bring some of these persons who are charged into our care.
More particularly, the member mentions that I have been touring these facilities. I have visited well over 60 per cent of the institutions to this point, and I think it is important to note that it is not a universal pressure across the province. It is of particular concern here and we are taking a number of measures to address those.
Mr Cureatz: I would appreciate it if the minister could inform us whether he has had the opportunity of visiting the Whitby Jail. My colleague from Oshawa and I had the opportunity three weeks ago of visiting the institution for almost a full day. I can assure the minister that in terms of present-day institutions, in regard to rehabilitation, the place is extremely archaic. It is antiquated.
There are some funds, as we were told, that will be spent in terms of making the facilities a little more pleasant, if that is possible, for the correctional officers, but I had the opportunity of reviewing in great detail some of the problems encountered by the Whitby Jail, and I am going to be pursuing this with the minister over the next few months --
Mr Cureatz: Will he investigate the possibilities of selling that institution, which is now located on a prime piece of real estate land in the town of Whitby? With the funds garnered, he could build a new, up-to-date institution down the road on property owned by the government of Ontario, some 100 acres at the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital. With the new institution, we could be striving for something called rehabilitation to ensure that we do not have repetitiveness in terms of inmates who are coming in constantly and causing the overcrowded conditions in, among other places, the Whitby Jail.
Hon Mr Patten: I would welcome at any time particular proposals that the member for Durham East has, or perhaps members of his constituency or any other, that can make a contribution to the continual upgrading. I know that the member indeed does appreciate that over 50 per cent of our institutions are very, very old institutions. He well knows as well that we have made major capital allocations to this particular area, and it does not take much to eat up tens of millions of dollars for expansion or renovations.
I would like to point out to him that in the Whitby Jail we have made some staff additions, and I believe he knows about this. We are also refurbishing the administrative portion, where staff are far too crowded in their operations. What that will mean is that there will be an addition of some program space for the inmates in that institution, which will help to provide a little bit more elbow room in the institution. At this particular point, I do not have a date for some additional expansion space for more beds, although it is part of our longer-range plan.
Miss Roberts: My question is to the Minister of Education. Since 1985, $265,000 have been spent on roof repairs, boiler breakdowns, leaking pipes at St Joseph’s High School in the Elgin riding. A large portion of this school was built before the turn of the century. There are many problems being faced with this building, overcrowding being one of them.
With these problems and the fact that St Joe’s is the only Roman Catholic high school in my riding, the Ministry of Education granted $200,000 for site acquisition for this new Roman Catholic school in 1989. Taxpayers are now awaiting capital allocations from the ministry to build. My question is, when and what response can the Elgin County Roman Catholic Separate School Board expect from the ministry regarding capital funding for 1990 and 1991?
Hon Mr Conway: The honourable member makes a very good point, as many other members, including the member for Sarnia, have made representations on behalf of school boards with older facilities, facilities that did not seem to get much attention from a previous administration, but this government over the last few years has been dedicating very considerable additional dollars, not just to build new facilities in growth areas but to improve or replace facilities such as the one the honourable member has raised.
I can assure her that the fact that an initial allocation for a new site was approved by my predecessor, the member for Wentworth North, in recent times is a very encouraging sign. We are looking at the most recent capital requests from school boards, and I can assure the member that later this spring I hope to be in a position to announce some additional capital allocations for school boards across the province.
Miss Roberts: I heard the minister say that he hopes some time later this spring. The school board is now trying to find space for the new pupils that it is gathering as a result of looking forward to a new high school being built. They are having to rent church basements to find new spaces. When will the allocations be ready? How much later this spring?
Hon Mr Conway: It is a good question, because the member, I want it said, has made very vigorous representations on behalf of both her school boards, and I commend her for that. I believe there was a meeting involving her office and mine on these matters a few weeks ago, and I expect that, hopefully later this month, I will be in a better position to speak to the capital pressures, which are very considerable.
I think it has to be observed that as our allocations have increased to three and four times what they were four and five years ago, the requests out there from school boards have also increased by the same factor.
Mr Wildman: I wonder if I could ask a question of the Minister of Agriculture and Food regarding the grape and wine industry adjustment program. In the name of fairness, could the minister explain why the provincial government is not prepared to accept the approach of the federal government? The federal government has agreed to review the entitlement of the group of grape growers that has been denied eligibility for the program on the basis of arbitrary retroactive dates. The federal government is prepared to accept an independent tribunal to make the final decision. It is such an equitable approach; why is the provincial government not prepared to take the same approach?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I am happy to have the opportunity to inform the member that he is misinformed on this and that the federal government has agreed that we use the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario, the offices that any Ontarian can go to to redress what he may perceive as being a grievance against the government. The federal government agrees with our department that going to the Ombudsman to take a look at this particular grievance would be the correct course of action.
Mr Kormos: I have a supplementary. The problem is that the grape growers of Niagara have been shafted again and again and again, and now the screw is finally being put to them by the provincial Minister of Agriculture and Food.
The fact is that he is wrong about what the federal government is prepared to do. The fact is that the provincial government is refusing to live up to its obligations under the grape acreage reduction program. This provincial government, notwithstanding that the grape growers, who have worked long and hard in their fields, are prepared to go to alternative dispute resolution, is saying no.
Perhaps the Minister of Agriculture and Food should consult with the Attorney General and understand that this government is displaying a commitment to alternative dispute resolution that the minister denies to those grape growers of the Niagara Peninsula, who will be forced off their farms. Why will he not permit them to use alternative dispute resolution? Why is he forcing them into litigation?
Hon Mr Ramsay: I would like to inform the member that this government does not shrink in its responsibilities, especially towards tender fruit and grapes, and I would like to inform the member that we have entered, as the member knows, into a tripartite agreement and $39 million have been spent on the grape producers in the Niagara area; $17.5 million came from our ministry. Nearly $31 million has gone to growers as part of our acreage reduction program. I think the grape growers have been well served down there. They have a dispute on how the program was designed, and I think that the Ombudsman’s Office would be the appropriate place to take that dispute to.
Mr Sterling: As the Premier may know, there are some problems with the high-technology industry in the Ottawa-Carleton area. Representing the city of Kanata, I have a very high interest in that whole area. What is the Premier doing to address the problem where there are some layoffs occurring in the area and the stock prices for high-tech companies are falling? What is the government doing to address the problem?
Hon Mr Peterson: I know if my honourable friend thinks through his question, he will realize that no government controls stock prices, and I cannot expect that he honestly would believe that a government should be involved in manipulating stock prices for any company, let alone high technology.
Let me just take the member back though a moment. I think that if my honourable friend was fair in analysing the things this government has done, there is no government in this country that has given more support in the high-technology area. It has been a fundamental part of our agenda. The Premier’s Council, the centres of excellence and the technology funds were heralded, indeed plagiarized, by other governments in this country to try to get the industry moving. I could give my friend endless details of that if he would so choose, but I think that if my honourable friend is truly interested in this subject, as he appears to be, then he would want to study the actions of the government so he could explain them. He would be very proud of what is happening.
Mr Sterling: I think the Premier does me a disservice to indicate that in some ways I was thinking that he should manipulate the stock market. Of course what I meant by that, as everybody else knows, is that the stock market falls when profits fall within that industry and it is a general indication of an ailment.
Denzil Doyle, who is a consultant in the area and a former president of Digital Equipment of Canada Ltd, said that the main problem is a difficulty in financing new businesses. What we need is some good, hard-nosed money in the Ottawa area. In that the government is competing in the new global economy, and that six of the 12 recommendations went to the financing of new high-tech businesses, when is the Premier going to take some action on those particular recommendations?
Hon Mr Peterson: I have read them and we have implemented them. The member is not familiar with this. Let me just take a moment to help out my friend. He should look at the capital cost allowance that has been brought in by the Treasurer. He should look at the research-and-development superallowance that was brought in in the last budget.
I know my friend does not know this, or he would not ask me this question because he would not want to display his lack of knowledge about a very important area in his own constituency. We have the most attractive rates for new manufacturing investment in this country today, and better than a lot of our competitors in other states. This is because of direct initiatives of this Treasurer that have gone on following the reports of the Premier’s Council.
I think my friend would want to do his research, look at the recommendations of the Premier’s Council and see how they have indeed been important in formulating government policy. These are subjects I have spoken on many times. My honourable friend knows of our deficit in the high-technology area. We are importing roughly $8 billion in high-technology goods today. One can make the simple argument that we are exporting yesterday’s technology and importing tomorrow’s. We have a structural problem in this country. Our initiative of $1 billion through the Premier’s Council is probably the most important shot in the arm that this country has had in this particular area.
Hon Mr Peterson: What I think the member might want to do, because I know he is very close to the federal Conservatives and the federal government -- I know he supports all their policies -- is look at what they have done and the promises made there as opposed to the performance delivered, because I think Mr Doyle understands even better than my honourable friend --
Mrs E. J. Smith: My question is for the Minister of Citizenship. I would like to inquire of the minister regarding a particular problem that I often see in my constituency office and that I am sure other people see in their offices too.
Several people who come to my office are recent immigrants from other countries. They have brought with them to our country training in their own trades and professions. They have the certificates and degrees that prove their abilities and their expertise in these areas. They come to our province, which needs these abilities and this expertise, but find that their degrees or certificates are in no way recognized. This puts them in a very difficult position, not only of not being able to contribute, but not being able to properly support their families. What is the ministry hoping to do about this?
The problem, I believe, is magnified when we appreciate that studies have been done in the United States and in the United Kingdom which indicate that up to six to eight per cent of a country’s gross national product might be lost due to discriminatory employment practices. As a result, this government saw early on the priority of tearing down the barriers to ensure access to people regardless of racial or cultural backgrounds or where they studied.
What is important here is that the task force report, which I tabled late in 1989, had 104 recommendations and the government is currently focused on implementation, determining the most effective way of implementing some or all of these recommendations so that people who are foreign-trained, who have the ability and who are qualified can have easy access, like every other Ontarian.
Mrs E. J. Smith: For many of the people I see, who are supporting families and trying to plan their lives, it is a matter of time -- to know how to plan the weeks and months ahead. This is now the beginning of April. Is there any hope that any of these people will find a more rich and ready climate by the fall of this year?
Hon Mr Wong: With respect to the specifics, the Ministry of Citizenship is currently co-ordinating a nine-member inter-ministerial working group which is focused on how best to implement some or all of these recommendations, most of which pertain to the provincial government. In addition, we have sent out over 700 letters to specific stakeholders to make sure that we get their input on the best way of implementing these recommendations. Further, I hope to be visiting a number of cities across Ontario in order to discuss once again with the various stakeholders the best ways to implement the themes and initiatives that were proposed by the task force to the government.
So in the end analysis, let me say to the honourable member that by the fall, hopefully, we will have an effective working paper or plan that will discuss how this can be implemented, not only by the government but also by the professions and trades and other people who can help make this work.
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question for the Solicitor General. On 8 November 1988 Mr G. Mertins was fatally injured at the Campbell Red Lake mine. Can the minister tell this House why an inquest was just recently ordered after a further death in this mine, on 6 February?
In dealing with the whole question of inquests in general, I would like to indicate that under the Coroners Act it is the responsibility of coroners to call inquests when they want to investigate matters around the death of an individual, to deal with the who, what, when and where of any one particular incident. In dealing with the actual calling of an inquest, they want to make certain that any potential investigation has been completed. When an investigation has been fully completed, that is when the coroner, in the usual case, makes his decision.
Dealing with the particular question which the member has brought forward, being specific as to one particular inquest, certainly I will undertake to get specific information on that. But in dealing generally with the whole calling of inquests, that is a matter for the local coroner to determine. He makes that determination in dealing with the actual questions as to whether it is necessary, dealing with the who, what, when and where of any one particular incident and that the investigation has been fully completed.
Mr Mackenzie: Surely the responsible minister is aware that the law calls for an inquest in all mining fatalities. Is this minister prepared to order an inquest into individual industrial fatalities as well and ensure, whether it is workers in mining or in industry, that they do not have to wait over 17 months, as occurred in this case, for an inquest which might very well have provided answers that would have prevented the death of Mr Barnhardt in February of this year in the same mine?
Hon Mr Offer: Let us be perfectly clear that I am aware of the provisions under the Coroners Act. I am also aware, and the member will be aware, that in some instances the calling of an inquest is an automatic type of call but the actual holding of the inquest is not, under the Coroners Act. That can only take place after a full investigation has been completed. I would expect that in this case that is the situation. As such, an inquest has been properly and accordingly called.
Mr Runciman: My question is for the Minister of Tourism and it has to do with the decision by the St Lawrence Parks Commission to close a number of camping grounds along the St Lawrence system. I am sure he is aware that the commission announced this decision as a fait accompli. There was no effort to talk to municipalities in the region to discuss the possibility of closure and other ways and means of perhaps making the commission’s operations more efficient. In fact, the municipalities and the people who have utilized these campgrounds for a number of years have been told this is what is going to happen.
I am wondering if the minister has been made aware of this, if he supports the decision by the St Lawrence Parks Commission, or if he is prepared to review it to see if indeed we cannot have those parks open this year and carry on with some sort of public discussion to see if there are not other answers out there available.
Hon Mr Black: The member is quite correct in saying that the St Lawrence Parks Commission did in fact make a decision to reduce the operation of a certain number of campgrounds along the St Lawrence this year.
I would first of all tell the member -- he is well aware of this fact -- that the St Lawrence Parks Commission is made up of representatives of communities from across eastern Ontario. As such, those people on that commission are well versed in the concerns and the needs of the area.
He would also be aware that the St Lawrence Parks Commission has been the subject of a number of studies by committees of this Legislature. I think the member would be aware of the recommendations of those committees, that it be a cost-effective operation. The fact is that the parks in question have not been drawing large numbers of visitors during the past two or three seasons. In an attempt to make the operation of the St Lawrence Parks Commission more cost-effective -- and the member is always concerned about the way in which government dollars are being spent, and I compliment him for that -- the decision has been made to try to find ways to make the operation of campgrounds more effective along the St Lawrence.
Mr McLean: On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: I have had questions in Orders and Notices since last June for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. They have not been answered and there are several other questions on the order paper in the same position. Why will the government not complete its business?
Mr Brandt: I have a petition signed by approximately 135 residents of Sarnia and area. It is a lengthy petition; I will not read it. It deals with Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act and points out concerns that these individuals have with respect to services being provided to children.
Mr Brandt: Second, I have a petition signed by 50 residents of Sarnia and area. This petition deals with the possibility of Metropolitan Toronto garbage being shipped into the township of Plympton. These residents indicate their opposition to such a proposal.
Mr Brandt: Finally, I have a petition signed by approximately 170 residents of Sarnia and area who request that the Employer Health Tax Act be amended to prohibit employers from passing on to employees the costs associated with the implementation of this tax and, further, that any employers who have made deductions from employee paycheques with respect to this matter be required to reimburse such employees.
Mr Wildman: The purpose of the bill is to establish Flag Day as a public holiday to commemorate the national flag of Canada. Flag Day would be observed on the second Monday of February each year. Since this is the 25th anniversary, in 1990, of the choice of the red maple leaf flag as our flag, which represents our commitment to Canada’s duality and unity and diversity, we should reaffirm and celebrate this commitment. At a time when the unity of Canada and our constitutional relationships are uncertain, I believe that the acceptance of my proposal for a Flag Day holiday would demonstrate Ontario’s commitment to Canada.
That, in the opinion of this House, while reaffirming its support for the provision of French-language services where numbers warrant, while confirming that the French Language Services Act, 1986 was not intended to apply to municipalities, recognizes the elevated tensions and misunderstandings which have developed over language issues throughout this province, and therefore calls upon the government of Ontario to establish, as soon as possible, an all-party committee of the Legislature to travel across the province to receive public input on the administrative guidelines, regulations, and implementation of the French Language Services Act, 1986 (Bill 8).
Que, de l’avis de cette Chambre, l’Assemblée législative raffirme son appui à la prestation des services en français là où le nombre le justifie et confirme que la Loi de 1986 sur les services en français ne vise pas les municipalités. Elle reconnaît, par contre, que la question de la langue est à la source de graves tensions et malentendus dans notre province. Par conséquent, l’Assemblée législative demande au gouvernement de l’Ontario de former dans les plus brefs délais un comité mixte de l’Assemblée législative pour sonder l’opinion publique à l’échelle de la province au sujet des directives administratives, des règlements et de l’application de la Loi de 1986 sur les services en français (projet de loi 8).
Mr Eves: It is certainly an honour for me to have the position of leading off in this debate. I consider it to be an extremely important matter in the province of Ontario today. I think that this is a debate where partisan politics have no place, quite frankly. I think that it is an issue that is surely above and beyond partisan politics. I do not think there is any controversy around Bill 8 and the basic principles enunciated by Bill 8, and indeed by governments in the province of Ontario long before there was a French Language Services Act, which, as we all know, came into being in 1986.
Our party has been consistent in its position with respect to this legislation ever since it was passed in 1986. Indeed, the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry is quoted, in a letter of 7 October 1987, as stating that the fears and suspicions surrounding the act’s implementation -- he stressed the real need for public examination of the French Language Services Act and he expressed the real need for this act to be explained to the people of Ontario and, perhaps more important, for the need of a legislative committee which could examine the government’s implementation plan of Bill 8 in light of confusion and concerns which he was hearing by concerned citizens throughout the province of Ontario.
This letter was sent to the Premier of the province of Ontario, as I said, on 7 October 1987. The Premier’s reply came forth on 22 December of that year rejecting the idea of a legislative committee dealing with the French Language Services Act. He was quoted, in part, in the letter as saying, “Any misgivings are based on a misunderstanding of the objectives and the impact of the legislation, aided by a deliberate campaign of misinformation by those who are opposed to any reasonable language policy in Ontario.” He went on to say that the “act requires careful and sensitive implementation” and that “greater public awareness of the French Language Services Act is the most effective means of combating unwarranted fears about its effects on individuals.”
I would certainly agree with the last two statements made by the Premier in that letter, the two quotes I have just read. It indeed does require careful and sensitive implementation, and I think greater public awareness is probably one of the most effective means of combating the unwarranted fears and the misunderstandings that have arisen about the implementation of Bill 8, as it has commonly become known in this province. However, I do not think there can be any doubt that there indeed are some misunderstandings and misgivings about Bill 8, or at least about its implementation by the people of Ontario.
When we have over 50 municipalities in the province of Ontario that have now passed English-only resolutions, as they are commonly referred to by the media and the press, I think we as members, and the government in particular, have not been successful in communicating to the public at large exactly what Bill 8 means and exactly how it is to be implemented throughout the province of Ontario.
I quote the minister responsible for francophone affairs, who is in the assembly this afternoon and for whom, I might add, I have nothing but a great deal of admiration. I quote from an article in the Toronto Star on 10 February this year: “‘We begin by looking back and saying yes, undoubtedly there were things perhaps we ought to have done,’ said Charles Beer; minister for francophone affairs.” I quite agree, and I am not saying that in a negative or critical sense, but I am trying to communicate that I feel now that, with the extent of the fears and misunderstandings out there, the only way I can see, as a member of this assembly, to clear up those fears is to hear from members of the public.
Over the last few weeks there has been much debate, there has been much conversation and there has been one meeting that I am aware of among the three leaders and among the three parties. It was hoped that there could be an all-party resolution that was put forward. We have made it known since the beginning -- as I have said, since 7 October 1987 -- that our position in this matter was quite clear.
One of the principles that we feel very strongly about in our party is an all-party committee of the Legislature to hear from the people of Ontario about the concerns that they have with respect to the implementation of this legislation. That is not something that has just come about in the last few days or weeks; it is something that we have been on record about since 7 October 1987. It is something that was confirmed by the minority report or opinion of our party in a committee with respect to this issue in 1989 and it is something that we have consistently spoken in favour of. I would seriously hope that all members of this Legislature, whatever their political stripe, will be voting in favour of this resolution this afternoon.
I do not see anything in this resolution that could possibly be offensive to any member of this assembly. It confirms the principles about French-language services where numbers warrant, the principles that have been in place by various governments in this province for many years. It confirms the fact, which has been misunderstood, that the French Language Services Act, 1986, was never intended to apply to municipalities except on a voluntary basis.
It goes on to emphasize that there have arisen tensions and misunderstandings with respect to the implementation of the legislation. I do not think that is in dispute. How else could over 50 municipalities in the province of Ontario have passed so-called English-only resolutions if there were not some misunderstandings and misgivings about the legislation?
To ask for an all-party committee to travel the province to hear those concerns and to try to explain to the people of the province, perhaps in a more effective way than has been done to date, exactly what this bill is about and exactly how it is to be implemented -- I do not see how any member of the assembly could possibly vote against any of those things. We are not asking and we do not presume that this committee would start to travel immediately. It has been a known practice in this Legislature for many years that select committees of the Legislature only sit and travel when the House is not in session. It is the intention of this resolution.
I have heard there are apparently some concerns by some members of the assembly that this might confuse the Meech Lake issue, which has to be approved by 23 June 1990. That is a red herring if I have ever heard one. This is a very important issue. We are not confusing the two issues. We propose that this committee would travel during the summer months, after 23 June 1990, and anybody who has been around this place knows that that is the practice for select committees of this Legislature, unless agreed upon by all three parties. I say to my friend the honourable Leader of the Opposition, it does not say that it will commence travelling immediately.
Mr Eves: I am sure the leader of the official opposition will have an opportunity and will participate in this debate. I certainly hope that the Premier of the province will be participating in this debate, because I think it is probably one of the most important debates that has taken place in this Legislature in the last period of time.
I certainly hope it is not the intention of any member of this assembly to find some excuse or some fabricated reason for not voting for a resolution which is based on good intent, which has been consistent with what our party has asked for and stood for with respect to French-language services since the act was passed.
This resolution was made on the basis of what our party has enunciated time and time again and it is based on, I think, the principles of French-language services where numbers warrant in the province of Ontario. But there can be no doubt in anybody’s mind, I do not think, that there certainly are some misunderstandings and misgivings, and those should be cleared up.
I think the most effective way of clearing them up is to hear from the people, to communicate with the people, to have some dialogue with the people and to try to have this situation where the people of Ontario do indeed understand what Bill 8 says. If there are problems with its implementation, and there undoubtedly are some throughout the province or we would not have the criticisms and the comments that we have had from various parts of the province of Ontario, then those should be dealt with in a positive sense, not in a negative sense, so that we can all continue on with the tradition of which we have been so proud in this province of Ontario in the future.
Mr Grandmaître: All of them? I am pleased to hear this. I have read in the newspaper that the member for Leeds-Grenville wrote to the mayor or the council of Sault Ste Marie congratulating them on their unilingual position. I am very surprised, but I am pleased to speak on the leader of the third party’s motion. The leader of the third party and I have been long-time friends, and I know exactly where he stands, not only on Bill 8 but on French issues, and I want to assure this House that my comments will be non-partisan.
I feel that I have been in court for the last three and a half years. I have fought for Bill 8 and now I am facing the same jurors, the same jury, and I am still pleading not guilty. I do not think it is a crime in this province to speak French and to require French services. Some people have said that it was a crime, but I am here to defend myself and I am here to defend the government I was representing when I was the minister responsible for francophone affairs.
“Whereas the French language is an historic and honoured language in Ontario and recognized by the Constitution as an official language in Canada; and whereas in Ontario the French language is recognized as an official language in the courts and in education; and whereas the Legislative Assembly recognizes the contribution of the cultural heritage of the French-speaking population and wishes to preserve it for future generations; and whereas it is desirable to guarantee the use of the French language in institutions of the Legislature and the government of Ontario, as provided in this act.”
I agree with the member from Parry Sound that it excludes municipalities and I have said it on a number of occasions. Yet I remember after second reading some members of this House wanted to include municipalities, but we thought it was so important that the government show leadership and our own committees and our own ministries would lead or would be leaders of Bill 8.
This is why we asked for three years for the implementation of Bill 8. The New Democrats approved or supported us in this approach. Yet members of the Conservative party wanted a two-year implementation program, if I can call it a program. At that time, I was successful in convincing them that a two-year period was too short. But the opposition members at that time were so eager to pass this bill that they wanted this bill to be in place in two years. Something has happened in Ontario, something has happened in Canada, and I do not know why they are changing their minds today.
I am very sorry that the member for Parry Sound is saying, “We all agree with the principle of the bill,” yet, “Take it around on a circus throughout the province. Let people bring down their anti-French opposition.” I think it is intolerable and I do not know why some members of the third party are acting that way today. Maybe it is to protect their own political future. I really do not know. I cannot answer this.
Mr Speaker, let me remind you, or maybe I do not have to remind you because you may have been part of the history that was made in this House -- not in 1968 when Mr Robarts started French services, but the francophone population is very grateful to Mr Robarts because I think in 1968 we were given the opportunity, we were very hopeful that the future governments of this province would react favourably to the needs of francophones.
Judicial and educational services and rights were guaranteed in the days of Mr Robarts and also in the days of Mr Davis. But in the days of Mr Davis these services were really privileges because at that time the government never wanted to enact these services into a law. Thank God that in 1985 a new government, with the alliance of the New Democratic Party and the Liberals, a real progressive conservative government came into place and a bill was passed in this House. Thank God for 1986.
After many months of thoughtful and careful crafting of this bill, it was introduced in this House for first reading, and I remember at the time that nobody spoke against Bill 8. I remember at second reading nobody spoke against Bill 8. In fact the opposition -- both opposition parties -- were very helpful in trying to improve the law by introducing amendments. But again I want to emphasize the fact that no one in this House spoke against Bill 8.
In fact we made history. For the first time in the province of Ontario the three leaders -- the member for London Centre, the member for York South and I think it was the member for Nipissing at the time who replaced Mr Grossman -- spoke French and we made history. Mr Miller also participated in French. So we were making history, and I am very, very proud of those moments.
What Bill 8, as I said, is all about is a recognition of the historical role that francophones have played in this province, and I am very surprised, after three years of implementation -- I know that this government, this law, is not perfect; nobody in this House is perfect. I think that Bill 8, after three years of implementation, of going around this province, asking people what they thought of Bill 8, asking municipalities -- at that time, as the members know, I was the Minister of Municipal Affairs and I wrote to 839 municipalities in this province, telling them about Bill 8. I have met with AMO, and I must say that municipalities and AMO were very grateful that finally we were recognizing the French factor in the province of Ontario.
But after royal assent to this bill in 1986, a great number of things happened in this province, in Canada. A number of discontented and dissatisfied groups of so-called Canadians went on a campaign of misconceptions and misinterpretation of the law and sowed dissension in this province and right across Canada. Was it because of Bill 178 in the province of Quebec? Was it because of the Official Languages Act of the federal government? Or was it pure intolerance? I do not know.
Many municipalities were led to believe that bilingualism would be imposed on them after November 1989. Bill 8 spells out very clearly that municipalities are excluded but may offer French services through the Municipal Act. But again I do not expect municipal politicians to be perfect; nobody is perfect. They were led to believe a number of falsehoods and today we are faced with a number of criticisms and not only of Bill 8. More intolerance has cropped up against immigrants, visible minorities, our Jewish society and so on, and I am very disturbed about the intolerance that has been shown.
At the time the dissatisfied groups were going around the province trying to influence municipalities that were not in designated areas -- I realize that four or five municipalities in designated areas have identified themselves as unilingual, but I am just wondering why these people pick on innocent municipalities. Is it intolerance? I do not know.
The media at that time tried to pursue or challenge these groups to provide them with more facts on their accusations that people were losing their jobs. None of these accusations have ever reached the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario. I cannot understand why they would not pursue this in front of the Ombudsman because these accusations were very, very serious.
I must say that I have tried to answer all the accusations of these crimes and that I should move to Quebec where I am from. I am proud to say that I was born in Ontario and I am a Franco-Ontarian. I am a Franco-Ontarian and I am very, very proud. If I have to move to Quebec to speak my language it will be a terrible day for this province and for Canada. Yet a candidate of the Progressive Conservative Party is saying that we should resolve all this intolerance, that francophones should move to Quebec and anglophones should live in the province of Ontario. Now they are saying that they are reaffirming their goodwill and their good intentions towards Bill 8.
I cannot accept this. I think the government has gone a long way to provide francophones and anglophones and members of this House with the opportunity of asking questions in the House. I am willing to answer any question.
Depuis un certain nombre d’années, en Ontario, les francophones, les Franco-Ontariens, ont été privilégiés. Les privilèges ont débuté en 1968 lors de la formation d’un nouveau gouvernement sous le guide de M. John Robarts. C’était le début des services en français en Ontario. Ces services se sont maintenus jusqu’en 1971 avec l’arrivée de M. Davis et M. Davis, je dois l’avouer, a voulu continuer le processus qui existait.
Par contre, je dois vous dire que le processus était lent. Les Franco-Ontariens recevaient des services au compte-gouttes, pas tellement souvent, et les services n’étaient pas de grande qualité. On remercie M. Robarts aujourd’hui mais, par contre, on a voulu élargir les cadres de ces services-là. On voulait que la loi ait pour effet d’affermir les politiques existantes dans un cadre législatif et de garantir le droit d’une personne à recevoir des services en français.
Alors, en mai 1986, lors de la première lecture du projet de loi 8, j’étais satisfait de la réaction de la Chambre ; personne ne s’est opposé à la loi. À la deuxième lecture, je me souviens que l’ancien député de Cornwall m’avait affirmé et garanti la position du Parti conservateur, et je le crois encore aujourd’hui. Peut-être que ces gens-là étaient plus tolérants à ce moment-là, en 1986. II y a sûrement des choses qui sont survenues en Ontario et au Canada pour faire changer d’idée de certains députés du Parti conservateur, et je le regrette.
Je crois que nous devons aller de l’avant ; nous devons présenter la vraie image de l’Ontario. Nous voulons, comme Franco-Ontariens, participer au succès de cette province, non seulement du côté culturel, mais aussi du côté économique. Je crois qu’il est grandement temps, et non seulement pour les trois partis en Chambre, que tous les Ontariens prennent conscience une fois pour toutes de l’importance de l’unité d’une province, de l’unité d’un Canada.
Alors, je crois que l’Office des affaires francophones, la Commission des services en français de l’Ontario qui était en place, les sous-ministres qui ont eu la responsabilité d’implanter la Loi 8 ont fait un travail gigantesque et je dois les remercier ; ils ont consacré des heures et des heures a défendre leur position. Je dois aussi féliciter le Secrétariat des ressources humaines de notre province qui a travaillé très étroitement avec la Commission et l’Office des affaires francophones pour présenter la mise en oeuvre d’un plan d’implantation qui serait acceptable.
Je crois que nous avons été généreux et responsables en désignant 6,2 pour cent de nos postes comme postes bilingues. Je crois que, sur un nombre de tout près de 90 000 employés, nous avons été très généreux.
Alors, je vais me rasseoir mais, par contre, j’aimerais garantir que je le fais, non pas parce que je suis entièrement satisfait. Je ne suis pas entièrement satisfait avec ce à quoi nous avons à faire face aujourd’hui avec cette résolution. Je suis satisfait qu’ils réaffirment la Loi 8 ; ça, je l’accepte. Mais, par contre, je ne pense pas que je devrais, trois ans et demi plus tard, me présenter devant la même cour et tenter d’expliquer la position des Franco-Ontariens et encore une fois dire : «Non, nous n’avons rien fait de mal. Nous voulons simplement garantir que notre langue et notre culture soient préservés pour donner l’occasion et la chance à nos futures générations de pratiquer leur langue et de pratiquer leur culture.»
So I will conclude by asking myself questions again. Is it intolerance in this province? In 1986 I must say that I was very pleased with the atmosphere of this House. I thought intolerance was behind us. I am finding out in 1989-90, and in 1991, I am sure, we will be faced with intolerance again.
Mr Speaker, on your behalf, I would like to ask every member of this House to please be tolerant not only to francophones but to native people, immigrants, visible minority people and handicapped people. In other words, let’s be fair and let’s go on with Bill 8.
Mr B. Rae: I realize that other leaders have yet to speak, but I did want to participate in the debate and I did want to participate early on in order to make it very clear, first of all, that our party will not be supporting this resolution but that we are prepared to discuss other resolutions and we are prepared to discuss with members of the House the need for a continued dialogue.
I see no merit in our ducking this issue. I see no merit in our refusing to recognize that Canada -- I will be speaking of Canada as well as of Ontario -- is going through some very difficult times. One of the most difficult features of the times we are going through has to do with the growth of linguistic intolerance.
The member for Ottawa East has mentioned and has spoken very eloquently about the nature of the challenges facing the country and facing the province. I do not want to add very much to what he had to say, except that I really do believe that the country’s capacity to survive very much depends on our willingness as Canadians to recognize not only the importance of tolerance, but also the importance of our continuing to recognize that this tolerance is not something vague and not simply a feeling, that it is based on our willingness to recognize certain rights and mutual obligations.
Canada has never had an easy existence. Indeed in the province of Upper Canada I would suspect that in the Legislative Assembly, prior to 1867 and certainly after 1867, the question of the relationship between the English-speaking majority and the French-speaking minority has been a subject of debate and discussion within this group, in this House, in this place and in previous places for over 150 years.
I would suggest to members that the debate has certainly not been confined to this place. It has been a debate that has taken place on the street. It has been a debate that has taken place in bars and in taverns, in church halls and in church basements, in service clubs or in union halls, wherever it is that people have gathered, in eastern Ontario, northern Ontario, southwestern Ontario. This issue, the issue of the relationship between the English-speaking majority and the French-speaking minority, has always been an emotional, difficult question.
I want to go over some ground. I want to remind this House, as the member did earlier on, that we have reached where we are in terms of the provision of French-language services by a series of historic compromises and all-party agreements.
We have had an unhappy history in this province. There was a time when it was illegal to speak French in school. There was an edict brought down by a government -- I am not going to get into a partisan game about which government it was or which party it was; that is irrelevant -- that said you could not speak French in school. That became a cause célèbre in the Franco-Ontarian community in this province, a sense of outrage and a sense at the same time that this was a historic wrong that had to be erased.
So you have a community in this province that numbers in the hundreds of thousands, which has its own sense of identity, which has created its own schools, which has its own churches and service organizations, which has its own clubs, which has its own sense of itself, which has a stake in several institutions of higher learning in this province, which has contributed an enormous amount to the life of this province.
I am not speaking simply of Canada, but I am saying of Ontario that we have a French-language community in this province without which Ontario would be far poorer, and without which we would not have the rich and diverse place we have, and we should take pride in that.
We have come a distance. There was a time throughout the 1960s and the 1970s when the party in power, the Conservative Party, took steps, and they were significant steps. Premier Robarts took steps. Premier Davis took steps in terms of education, in terms of access to services in the courts and in terms of some administrative changes. He was not willing to confront the laws of the province because that was felt to be too disruptive.
I want to tell members that when I was first elected leader of the party, in the very first conversation I had in Premier Davis’s office I said to him: “There are two issues on which you will always find me willing to talk and willing to move ahead together. Those issues are separate education and the future of separate education, and the future of French-language education and French-language services in the province.” I said to him: “You can expect from us the toughest, most aggressive public opposition on every issue you want. On those two issues, I don’t regard those issues as worthy of partisan debate and you will not find me playing partisan games with those issues.” I made that pledge to the Premier of the day eight years ago, I would say. I was elected in February 1982 and it was shortly after that point.
I believe that to be as true today as I believed it then. I believe that it is important for us to recognize that there are some emotions in this province that run so deep that to turn them into partisan issues is an act of public irresponsibility of the highest order. I believed that then; I believe it now.
That does not mean issues cannot be discussed, and I want to make that very clear. I do not think there is anything in this province that should not be subject to a robust discussion, and I do not think governments are perfect with regard to any particular piece of legislation. I do not think we should err and say that it is taboo to even raise an issue or to discuss an issue if it is a controversial or difficult one.
But I do think that in discussing these things it is a question of how as leaders -- all of us are here in some sense as leaders -- we choose to discuss them. That is why, when the resolutions began to come with respect to the unilingual declarations from a number of municipalities, our caucus discussed them. I suggested on behalf of our caucus that it would be a good idea if the three party leaders got together and tried to formulate among ourselves a resolution that would reflect the mood of the House, not only with respect to Bill 8 because I do not think this debate is only about Bill 8.
People say, “It’s about Bill 8.” It is not just about Bill 8. It is a much bigger issue than that. It is in measure about Quebec. It is in measure about Meech Lake. It is in some measure about an identity that people feel they are losing. It is in measure a sense that Canada has changed in ways that a few Canadians -- I do not believe very many -- find so bewildering that they have to lash out and strike out at every change that they see taking place.
I suggested that not only in public; I suggested it as well in conversation with the leader of the Conservative Party and with the leader of the Liberal Party. When our caucus drafted what a resolution might look like, that resolution was presented by my House leader to the House leaders of the other two parties.
We did not have a meeting until last week. The first time the three leaders of the parties were able to get together was after the first week the House was in session, and members will recall that was the so-called McKenna week with respect to the proposals on Meech Lake. I had some personal problems that were well known in the House in terms of obligations I had to fulfil to members of my family and to friends who tragically died in a car accident. We all attended together the funeral of the member for Ottawa South. In the following week the House was back in session, we were in full gear and it was proposed that we have a meeting last week.
That meeting took place at around 5:45 in the evening. I went to that meeting assuming there was going to be a frank discussion among the three leaders about what a joint resolution might look like, what form it would take. As soon as I sat down at that meeting, the leader of the Conservative Party pulled out a piece of paper and said: “This is being deposited in a few moments. This is being debated as an opposition day. This is our position.”
I have done a lot of negotiating in my time -- some of it successfully, some of it not so successfully -- but I have always tried to be very straight when negotiating. My understanding of what that meeting was about was that we were going to discuss, without particular prejudice, without any particular lines being drawn in the sand, where we felt our caucuses were coming from and whether there was any possibility of our finding common ground.
I found that the Conservatives had already taken its position. There was no interest in negotiating anything. There was no concern about what the impact of the resolution might or might not be, whether there might not be another way of expressing a similar view, whether there might not be a slightly different way of expressing it or whether there might be a way of expressing a policy that we could all agree on.
I am not going to attribute any motive. I am only going to say that is not how I do my negotiating or how I expect to be dealt with by other party leaders. I did not appreciate being put in that particular kind of position and being told by the Conservatives: “There it is. Take it or leave it.”
On reflection, our caucus has decided to leave it. The reason is this. First of all, you cannot pass a resolution at this particular time in our history as a country without having some appreciation of where we are and what the impact of this resolution will be, not only on the rest of the province but on the rest of the country.
If the message that comes out of Ontario and this assembly in the very weeks after we have had serious proposals put forward by Mr McKenna, when we are in the middle of an extremely difficult, delicate and enormously important national debate with respect to the unity of the country, if the very first time we get together to discuss the question of the relations between French and English Canadians in Ontario, we say in an offhand way that “while reaffirming its support for the provision of French-language services where numbers warrant, while confirming that the French Language Services Act, 1986 was not intended to apply to municipalities, recognizing the elevated tensions” -- and then it says that there should be a committee travelling across the province “as soon as possible,” to focus exclusively on complaints about Bill 8 -- I do not think that is wise. I do not think it is wise for that to be the message coming out of this House on this day, at this point in our history, on 2 April.
Is the very best and the very most we can say about what we have done, “We have done a little bit, but now let’s really focus on these problems that people have with Bill 8”? Is that really the best expression of the generosity of the people of Ontario? Is that the extent of our national vision while we are in the middle of a debate about the future of Canada itself? I do not think so. I fail to believe that really is the best we can do.
It is in that spirit that I went into that discussion last week saying, “Let’s try to work something out.” But that was not the way the third party wanted to do it. They wanted to have the debate exclusively on this subject and they wanted this to have the support of the other two parties. That is what they wanted. I am sorry, that is not the way we intend to play it.
Lest members of the Progressive Conservative Party say, as I am sure they will, that the members of the New Democratic Party are in some sense afraid of public opinion on this issue, let me state clearly and categorically for the record -- and I will use it and I hope members of the Conservative Party will use it when they are communing with the people in this regard, if that is what they choose to do -- that the New Democratic Party supports entirely the principle that the public of Ontario should be consulted on issues of significance. We believe that the relationship between the English-speaking majority and the French-speaking minority is an issue of public importance, and we believe that consultation should take place. We also believe that the consultation should take place after 23 June.
We also think that the resolution that is passed by this House should be far more generous in its expression of support for the progress that we have made together in the provision of French-language services in Ontario. That is the kind of resolution that we have suggested.
If I may say so, we suggested it, and we suggest it still, in a spirit which is entirely non-partisan. I frankly do not care if members of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party get their red pens out and say: “Well, I’d like to change this sentence and I’d like to change that sentence. I’d like to add this paragraph. I’d like to add this sentence.” I am quite happy if members of l’ Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario and others have a look at the resolution, or members of all kinds of groups, and say, “Well, we’d like you to think about this and that.” I am quite happy to do that because that is the spirit with which I enter this discussion: that this subject is one which needs to be discussed; it is not a narrow subject.
The Supreme Court of Canada, just two weeks ago, came out with an enormously significant decision with respect to the management of education and the rights of the French-language minority to manage education, the implications of section 23 of the Charter of Rights and how those rights are to be made real in the real world of provincial politics and of provincial administration.
The government of the day, it is fair to say, is in a state of some indecision with respect to the impact of that decision on how it is going to proceed. I do not think I am unveiling any terrible weaknesses on the side of the government when I say that the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision faces it with a decision. If I were them, before I entered into any decision with respect to a change in or an expansion of Bill 75 -- which, for the benefit of those who perhaps are watching or listening, is the bill which deals with the question of the administration of French-language schools -- I would suggest it would be in the government’s interests, and it is in the public’s interests, for us to consult with the public before we proceeded.
Let’s also reflect on what the possibilities will be after 23 June. There are, I would suggest, possibly three. One is that Meech Lake is down the tube. The second is that Meech Lake is resolved and is passed. The third is that there is some sort of even more ambiguous possibility that an effort will be made to declare some sections and to move ahead on some ground. I happen to believe that is fraught with even more uncertainty and more problems.
Let me suggest that I am not afraid of turmoil, but I want it to be constructive turmoil. If we are going to get into a period in Canada when we once again begin to discuss the very fundamentals about the partnership between French-speaking Canadians and English-speaking Canadians, let’s at least see the kind of progress that we make and the kinds of decisions that we make in Ontario as being part of that debate. They are not happening on the moon. They are happening in the context of a Canada that is very divided at the moment and that we have a responsibility to try to keep together.
There is ambiguity on all sides. I have in front of me here an ad which was taken out by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology which is called “Ontario” which appeared in Business Week on 19 March 1990. I might point out that the title of the cover story is “The Failed Vision.” It is not about the Liberal government. However, this ad is about Ontario and is paid for by the government of Ontario. I want the member for Ottawa East to listen to what the Liberal government of the day is describing as the Ontario advantage. “Size: Ontario is as big as Texas, California and New Mexico combined. Proximity: more than half our 9.6 million population lives within 100 miles of the US border. Official language: English. And a fifth of our people speak at least one other language as well. Climate: Year-round, southern Ontario is like Boston or New York.”
This is an official publication of the government of Ontario. This is an ad declaring that the official language of the government of Ontario is English. It is not just the official language of the government of Ontario; presumably it is the official language of the province. I am not aware that Ontario actually -- in a sense, the whole province -- has something called an official language. English certainly is the working language of the vast majority of the citizens of this province. It is now, it has been and it will be in the future. The vast majority of the questions and answers that we ask in this House, the daily language in most workplaces, is English. That is true. In my opinion, that will not change. The notion that English is under some kind of threat in Ontario or that somehow English is in need of official preservation because it is a language of such vulnerability is utter nonsense, and it is time we started to say that it is nonsense that this is the case.
I think the status of English in Ontario is strong enough that it does not need the kind of official promotion that it has received in this piece of Liberal government advertising. Having said that, I would simply say that is the kind of ambiguity that can be cleared up. That is the kind of coming to terms with who we are that needs to be done.
Je veux dire que c’est un temps difficile pour notre province et pour le pays et que nous voulons, franchement, encourager une discussion constructive. Nous avons même, je dirais, comme chef de parti, et comme l’ont tous les chefs politiques de tous les partis, l’obligation d’encourager le sens de débat, débat qui est positif et où les choses sont débattues avec franchise mais, en même temps, de façon positive, tout en clarifiant la situation ; et où on espère que la raison aura toujours la possibilité de s’exprimer, au lieu de seulement l’émotion négative ou le sentiment d’exclusivité.
C’est pourquoi nous avons proposé une résolution qui dit clairement que nous reconnaissons le fait que nous sommes au milieu d’un débat difficile et constitutionnel. Oui, on se lève le matin et on se rend compte que oui, on n’est pas sur la lune; on n’est pas n’importe où. Les résolutions qui seront passées ici auront un impact sur le reste du pays.
En même temps, nous disons que nous reconnaissons, avec bonne volonté, le fait que la dualité linguistique est une réalité du pays canadien. En même temps, nous insistons sur le fait que nous avons réalisé des progrès en éprouvant le sens de compromis entre les trois partis et en réalisant un consensus profond entre les trois partis.
En même temps, nous reconnaissons qu’après le 23 juin, qui est, comme le savent les députés, le jour magique pour l’accord du Lac Meech, le comité spécial de la réforme constitutionnelle de notre province aura non seulement l’occasion, mais l’obligation de discuter non seulement de la question des services, non seulement de la question de la Loi 8, mais de questions beaucoup plus larges que celles-là, comme la question des relations entre la majorité et la minorité en ce qui concerne l’éducation et aussi la question des services. Ce ne sera pas une question facile mais ce débat est nécessaire. C’est une discussion nécessaire que nous ne pouvons pas éviter. Je dirais que c’est une mauvaise idée de l’éviter.
J’espère que les autres partis, naturellement, pourront appuyer cette résolution comme une résolution qui reflète beaucoup mieux, je crois, que la motion des conservateurs le vrai sens de cette Chambre et le vrai sens de cette province face à ce problème historique et à cette réalité historique de notre province, la dualité linguistique et les tensions que, de temps en temps, nous voyons dans les communautés à cause de cette réalité.
There is no such thing as an ethnically homogeneous country in the world. There is no such thing as a linguistically homogeneous country anywhere. Canada will never be and can never be a linguistically homogeneous place, a place where only one language is spoken, a place where only one language is official. The idea that one could ever have such a Canada is simply absurd. It requires that we make a desert of every difference, every variety and everything that gives us personality and gives us identity. It is an absurd notion.
I would say that with respect to Ontario, we are making progress in terms of recognizing the extraordinary diversity that is in the province. One important aspect of this diversity is the fact that the French-language minority in Canada has a strong presence in Ontario. I believe that the laws of Ontario properly should reflect that. That is why I supported Bill 8 and that is why our caucus supported it. We supported it as an expression of the fact that to preserve the rights of a minority and to recognize those rights in terms of access to services is important to do.
So I say to members -- and I have taken a little longer than I perhaps had intended, but I hope I have the indulgence of my caucus and the House in doing so -- that we enter into this debate in a spirit of wanting to find some common ground. I am sorry that there were such significant misunderstandings, apparently, in terms of what the purposes of last week were all about, that we were not able to find that common ground. In effect, we are now doing our negotiating in public. That is not such a bad thing, perhaps, after all.
I will simply say to the Conservatives that their draft, in my view, does not reflect the very best this House can do. I would say to the Liberal Party that it is important for there to be a draft, for there to be an expression of the will of the House. I think it is important for us to continue to make efforts to do that, so I would see the defeat of this resolution and perhaps the acceptance of another one as the way in which we should go as a positive step, as a constructive step and as one which I hope we would have the support of the House in so doing.
Mr Villeneuve: Thank you for the opportunity of participating in this very important debate, a debate that I believe has been just too long coming. We have a situation here where the province is very confused as to what is happening in the implementation of Bill 8. I appreciate where some people are coming from, but some people are genuinely concerned and confused as to what exactly is happening.
I am to some degree disappointed to hear the Leader of the Opposition with a great impassioned speech. I believe I saw a copy of his resolution, and if it is not a mirror of this one, it is very close. As members know, this Legislature sits until the end of June. There are no travelling committees until that time unless there is unanimous agreement throughout, so in timing we are talking basically the same time frame.
I want to emphasize, my friend from Ottawa East claims that he is now being subjected to being put back on the hot seat, back into the trial and being judged. That is not the case at all. The confusion that has been experienced by municipalities, by school boards, by operations such as Ontario Hydro, liquor control boards, hospitals, must be straightened up.
As a matter of fact, some of my colleagues have spoken to some municipal officials who are toying or even almost decided to go ahead and declare themselves officially unilingual. My colleagues have told them: “Hold off, please. We will be providing some leadership from Queen’s Park.” This is where the leadership, I believe, begins.
I had occasion to write to the Premier in October 1987, and I requested, in order to clarify the implementation of Bill 8 to the residents of Ontario, and in particular to the residents of the great riding of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and East Grenville, exactly what would be happening. In reply to my letter, the Premier -- and I will quote in part. I am not going to read the whole thing, because time is of essence, but in part our Premier says:
“I agree that greater public awareness of the French Language Services Act is the most effective means of combating unwarranted fears about its effects on individuals. The work of the Office of Francophone Affairs and the contributions of all members of the Legislature should go a long way in achieving that objective.”
“I do not feel that the creation of a Legislative committee on this matter would substantially contribute to the end we all seek. The examination in committee of estimates of the minister responsible for francophone affairs will permit members to fully examine the methods of implementing the act and the progress which ministries have done to date.”
I could go on. However, the gist of the letter is that the Premier and his government -- I presume he was speaking for all of the people who had been elected in September 1987 -- will allow the bureaucrats to disseminate all of the information, and hopefully people will understand.
Well, it is two and a half years later and we have a lot of misunderstanding, and that is the reason why I say it has been too long in coming to have a committee to look at the implementation of Bill 8.
Que, de l’avis de cette Chambre, l’Assemblée législative réaffirrne son appui à la prestation des services en français là où le nombre le justifie et confirme que la Loi de 1986 sur les services en français ne vise pas les municipalités. Elle reconnaît, par contre, que la question de la langue est à la source de graves tensions et malentendus dans notre province. Par conséquent, l’Assemblée législative demande au gouvernement de l’Ontario de former dans les plus brefs délais un comité mixte de l’Assemblée législative pour sonder l’opinion publique à l’échelle de la province au sujet des directives administratives, des règlements et de l’application de la Loi de 1986 sur les services en français (projet de loi 8).
Alors, quand on se fait accuser d’avoir reculé, j’ai de la difficulté à accepter n’importe laquelle de ces accusations-là pour la simple raison que nous voulons éclaircir l’air. C’est tout simplement un fait, que nous voulons renseigner le public ontarien, les municipalités, les commissions scolaires, les employés dans les hôpitaux, en fin de compte, la fonction publique en entier. Nous avons beaucoup de questions auxquelles nous n’avons pas eu de réponses.
I will cite an example that was experienced in Glengarry county, and after a number of consultations -- and we did meet with the Minister of Agriculture and Food; it pertains to a position of agricultural representative in the county of Glengarry -- the minister told us that he had no control over the way this position was advertised and there was a wrong message being given out within this advertisement.
This advertisement, and I will not quote the whole thing, said, “Job qualifications include advanced oral and superior written French language skills, good command of the English language.” You read that and, literally, there is a wrong message that is being extended to the public there.
As a matter of fact, I spoke to my federal colleague the honourable Don Boudria, who represents part of that county, and he advised me that, from simply reading it and not looking into it any deeper, he would probably qualify on the English-language requirement but was highly doubtful that he would qualify under the French-language requirements. That was strange, coming from my colleague, and I know where he is coming from.
That prompted a meeting, and we did obtain a meeting with someone from the Premier’s office. They admitted readily that there had been, across the province of Ontario, in advertisement for bilingual positions, a wrong message.
If we had had a committee in place, one very similar to what we are considering here today in this Legislature -- and I do not blame the minister. I do not blame the previous minister. There was no message sent, and whenever the people started taking the ball in their own court and they started saying what their message was, well, a lot of confusion was created. Had a committee been sitting there, a steering committee, a group of people who have to answer to the public -- and the elected people are the ones who ultimately and always answer to the public -- I think we could have brought some sort of correction at the early stages and prevented the polarization that has occurred in the last two and half years surrounding the implementation of Bill 8.
I have no recourse but to feel very sad from the message I am getting from the Leader of the Opposition and from the former minister, who has spoken previously, that they cannot support this particular submission, I think a resolution that is as fair as it can be. It is a resolution that I believe is very similar to that being brought by the official opposition. The timing is the same. They may look at education and what have you, and that is fine. I think we are flexible enough to have that incorporated. We have no problem with that. Flexibility, I believe, is what this very volatile issue is all about.
Also, we have to remember that with Meech Lake coming up, as was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, we cannot confuse the two issues. I know it is going to be fairly easy for people to say, “Well, Meech, Bill 8 and Bill 178,” and I must tell you that Bill 178 is probably as symbolic, and symbolism at its worst, over in the province of Quebec. Certainly I, who represent a riding very close to Quebec, am reminded of this on an ongoing basis, and I must tell you, Mr Speaker, that I remind my provincial colleagues on the other side of the Ontario-Quebec border that they are not providing very good guidelines or leadership. If they indeed are prepared to look at Bill 178 and eliminate it, they would certainly make life easier, considerably easier, for the people in Ontario of the minority French language.
In closing, I have to plead with my colleagues in the Legislature that effectively what we are asking for is almost mirror to the resolution I have had the opportunity of seeing from the New Democratic Party. The quicker we can look into this situation following 23 June, the better, because we cannot have people getting the mixed message from whomever, whatever, whenever. We must provide leadership and guidance, and it has been too long coming from this Legislature.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Cureatz): I would like to thank the honourable member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry for his participation in the member for Sarnia’s opposition day motion. Continuing with the debate, the honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Hon Mr Sweeney: Let me take this opportunity to thank the honourable leader of the third party for providing us with an opportunity to participate in this debate to clarify, for those who may be paying some attention to us and perhaps to send out a message to our colleagues in municipal levels of government around this province, exactly what is or is not intended by Bill 8 and its various companion pieces of legislation. For that, I believe it is to be commended that we have an opportunity for this debate.
I have sensed for a long time in the province of Ontario that we have a special obligation in Canada, we have a unique situation in Canada, to speak to all of the citizens of this country about the linguistic dualism of this country. If we realize that the almost 600,000 francophones in Ontario -- almost 600,000 -- represent more French-speaking Canadians than all of the other provinces put together outside of Quebec, that gives us a particular role. It gives us a role of having to say to the rest of Canada we need to find ways, we need to demonstrate in very practical ways, how two linguistic groups -- as a matter of fact, in Ontario, many linguistic groups, but two in particular -- live together, because it seems to me that if we cannot demonstrate that, who else is going to?
I was born in the province of New Brunswick, and as the members probably know, the percentage of the population in New Brunswick which is francophone is higher than in Ontario but the numbers are considerably smaller because the population of the province is smaller. I recognize that fact. But, again, let me say Ontario has a particular opportunity, and I would say a particular responsibility, to speak to the rest of the country, and in many ways to speak to our fellow citizens, our fellow Canadians in the province of Quebec.
I say that because I remember so vividly, as I am sure others in the House do, the dramatic and sensitive debate that took place in this chamber when the yes-no vote was anticipated in Quebec. I see my colleague opposite shaking his head. I can honestly say I cannot remember a time -- I have been in this House almost 15 years now, and I really cannot remember a time -- when all of us were searching to the very depths of our souls -- and I am not trying to exaggerate -- about, how do we speak, what words do we choose, how do we make sure that people not only hear what we are saying but almost feel what we are feeling?
Yet somewhere in these last nine or 10 years we seem to have lost that. If today, in the next months or however longer, we can recoup that, we can get that back again, it is going to be good for all of us. It is going to be good for us as members, it is going to be good for this province, it is going to be good for our sister province of Quebec, and it is going to be good for Canada.
We had something then, and we knew that the eyes of French-speaking Canadians in Quebec in particular were on us and we had to say what was in our hearts and in our souls. Let me repeat, I think many of us found the words. I remember many of us struggling to say a few words in French -- I, too.
I lived in Montreal for four years. I went to elementary school in Montreal for four years, and as the members would probably know, I studied French there. When I came to Ontario in the beginning of my secondary school years, I took four years of French in secondary school, and since I have been a member of the Legislature I have tried on three different occasions to take the French classes that have been offered to members of this Legislature.
I am still struggling. I guess it is my weakness. I just cannot get my tongue and my mind around other languages, and I have tried several. The short time that I lived in the United States, I tried to learn Spanish and I tried to learn other languages. I just do not have that facility, and I envy so much people who do, who seem to be able to pick up not one, two or three but several. I cannot. Maybe that is what makes me as sensitive as I am about this issue, because I realize how important language is and how difficult it is to struggle in another language to make yourself understood and to get your point across.
I remember, in the four years I was within the Ministry of Community and Social Services, that on two or three occasions when we were dealing with children in our various children’s mental health centres across this province -- and as we well know, that is still a concern of this province and the people of this province -- one of the things that brought this particular issue home to me so clearly was when I visited some of these centres and the staff of the centre would tell me about young children coming in whose first language was French.
These were still young children. They had not been out in school too long, and they were speaking mostly French. They had a smattering of English. But the point that they made to me over and over again was that when children are in this vulnerable situation, they tend to lapse back to their mother tongue, to the language that they learned at the knees of their mother and their father, and it was the language that they felt so much more comfortable in, even though they could speak English. When they were in this kind of situation of having a serious emotional problem, it was so important for us to have available to these children the opportunity to speak to them, to counsel them, to provide support to them in their own language.
That is what Bill 8 is all about. That is the very heart and soul of Bill 8, that we say to the French-speaking people of the province of Ontario, “You ought to have the opportunity to be able to speak in your language at those particularly vulnerable times in your life: when you go to a hospital, when you go into a courtroom and when you visit a range of professional people,” for example, some of the support programs that we offer in our children’s aid societies.
In my last year in Community and Social Services, I was down in Cornwall. We have a double-stream program in the children’s aid society in Cornwall, because approximately 25 per cent of the population of Cornwall is francophone. We recognize the need, not just for the kids but also the parents. Many of the parents of our children down there have French as their first language. They have learned English, of course. But, again, at those points in your life when you have this sense of vulnerability, you turn back to that first language. That is what Bill 8 is all about.
What I can never understand is English-speaking people in this province saying, “You’re not going to jam French down my throat.” That is not what we are saying. Bill 8 does not say that. Bill 8 does not mean that. It has nothing to do with that, and you honestly have to believe that when people say that, they must have another agenda. I am never quite sure what it is, but they must have another agenda.
As Minister of Municipal Affairs, as members well know, this is an issue of particular concern to me. Members may know that I just recently finished a three-week tour around the province, mainly in eastern Ontario, northern Ontario and southwestern Ontario. That was deliberate, because that is where the concern is, primarily.
I want to tell members that I did not go just to the big cities. I went to a number of the smaller communities to meet the councillors and to meet some of the people. In every single one of those places, I held open public meetings and invited people to come in to talk to me, to share with me and to give me an opportunity, first of all, to really hear at first hand what it is they are feeling, why they are doing these things and why they are saying these things, and second, to give me an opportunity to reflect back the kinds of things that others have said in this chamber today and that I am trying, in my own way, to say.
The second thing we have done -- and I am really very pleased with this -- is that Grant Hopcroft, the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and I in February jointly co-signed a letter that we sent to all the 840-odd municipal councils in the province of Ontario, both of us putting our position down, both of us clarifying what Bill 8 does and does not do. I will not read the whole letter, but I want to read one little part, just to show the members that we are trying to understand why this misunderstanding is occurring. One example occurred to us.
When we talk about the designated areas in Bill 8, the word “municipality” is used. Let me just read this, “Some of these areas are listed as municipalities and this may be causing some confusion.” Grant Hopcroft and myself went on to write this: “The term ‘municipality,’ as it is used in the schedule” -- that is, Bill 8 – “denotes a geographical area, not the local governing body. Therefore, municipal governments, whether or not they are in designated areas, are not required to provide services in French. Municipal governments were excluded at the time that the act was adopted because the government of Ontario respects the autonomy of municipalities.”
I wanted to mention that just to be sure that people realize how supportive the association of municipalities has been on this issue. I meet with them on a fairly regular basis. Just coincidentally, I happened to meet with them this morning in one of my regular meetings. We talked about this once again, and they said once again how important it was for them and for us, meaning all of us in this chamber, to keep speaking out loudly and clearly about what this issue is all about.
It so happened this morning that they brought to my attention another concern they had heard, another possible point of misunderstanding, and said again that we might have to send out another letter to clarify that one, or that one of the two of us do that. We are quite prepared to do that. We are acting.
I want to share with my colleagues in the third party that at the end of that meeting one of the members of the executive took me aside and said: “Minister, please don’t have that tour now. This is the wrong time. This isn’t the time to do it. This is the time for healing. This isn’t the time to once again stir things up.” That was his sense, and I share it with my colleagues, in whatever way they find helpful.
I want to refer to two acts that speak to this. The first one is the Municipal Act, which clearly says a municipality may conduct the affairs of the municipality in any language it wants, not even just English and French. If it wants to conduct some of its affairs in Italian, German, Polish or Ukrainian, it can do that. It says “may.” Of course, the French Language Services Act says exactly the same thing. The municipal councils may pass bylaws providing that the administration of the council be conducted in English and French. “May” -- that is what this is all about, and we have to clearly understand it.
I think one of the things that we as legislators have to be so cautious of is to know that buried in every one of us -- and I know, God help me, in me -- there are biases, and they come out from time to time. We try through our whole life to keep them in control, to keep a rein on them. And we have to be so careful as provincial, federal or municipal legislators not to open that Pandora’s box which says to our constituents, at whatever level, “It’s okay to let those biases roam freely.” We cannot do that.
The whole basis of civilization, of which we are a part, is a clear understanding that each and every one of us cannot do whatever we feel like doing. We have to keep our feelings, our emotions, our biases under some kind of control. It is not “anything goes.” That is what civilization is, that is what this province is, that is what the communities that make up this province are. We have to be so careful.
I say that because I recall reading a short little news story that occurred in one of the northern communities after this issue blew up there, where a young francophone working in a local factory suddenly found himself the victim of harassment because he was a francophone. It had never happened to him before. Why now? Why at this particular point? I suggest to members that it happened at that particular point because somehow some people in that municipality got the message that it is okay to do that kind of stuff. Well, it is not.
I want to say first of all that this resolution presents us with three fundamental problems. The first is where it came from and how it arose; the second has to do with the question of the implementation of Bill 8 and whether there is or is not a substantial crisis around its implementation in the terms in which this resolution states, and the third is whether this debate does not touch upon such larger issues and inevitably bring into play a much larger debate on whether this resolution and the proposed means it suggests that should follow -- namely, a tripartite committee addressing the problems of a technical kind in the implementation of Bill 8 -- can really carry the freight of that kind of discussion. Unfortunately, my response on each of those points is negative.
Implicit, as my leader has declared, in what happened mid-last-week, when the three leaders -- the two leaders and the Premier -- met to discuss a three-party resolution, implicit in the member for Sarnia’s presentation of a fait accompli with respect to an opposition resolution framed in this fashion was a rejection of the opportunity to present a three-party resolution on this subject. I say that with regret, but none the less one can hardly read the actions any other way.
I do not want to labour the point; I simply want to observe that casting this discussion, the first opportunity that we have, returning to this House, in the context of an opposition day, we all know that, whatever pretensions and so on we want to build around opposition days, they are intended to confront the government, to be over against the government, in significant ways and around important issues. I understand that. Those are proper debates and they have their place.
But this matter was brought forward in the context of an opposition day, and that inherently, in the very spirit of things, ran against the concept of a resolution that would be three-party, non-partisan and a full expression of the best thought and feeling of this Legislature. I state that with great regret, but that is the only way in which I, and I think this House, can read what has happened. It makes it impossible for me, and for my party, to rise and support this resolution.
The second major problem I have with this resolution is that it suggests that the great problem around Bill 8 and the implementation of French-language services in Ontario has to do with administrative guidelines, regulations and such technicalities of implementation. It may be true that there have been some misunderstandings around Bill 8 with respect to its obligations upon municipalities. I do not understand how that really can be the case.
I would have thought, and I believe, that most municipalities are governed by competent, able and intelligent persons who are able to read legislation. They do it all the time, presumably. They get enough amendments and legislation from this place, enough things written in legalese, that they must by now have a considerable competence in reading legislation and an understanding of what it says and does not say. And if there is anything that is clear with respect to municipalities in the text of the bill, it is that the whole question of French-language services is an entirely optional matter, an entirely open question, an entirely voluntary matter for the municipalities.
If one, for example, wanted to refer to the way in which official bilingualism was implemented in Canada at large, that did not lay a specific obligation upon the provinces. It certainly did not lay a specific obligation on municipalities. Bill 8, although it imposes no official bilingualism anywhere, by the same token is meant for the province and provincial services and agencies that derive from it, but not municipalities. That is clear. So if there are misunderstandings around that kind of question, if there are misunderstandings among some persons with respect to employment options and otherwise, that information was readily available.
It is quite clear from information that has been open and accessible, in and from government, from this place, that at the very most the numbers of positions that would be designated as requiring competence in French would be 10 per cent, at the greatest, probably more likely something like seven per cent; that the actual cost of implementation of this, if one looks at the figures that are publishable and readily available, does not amount to more than about one tenth of one per cent of the provincial budget, not a stunning and overwhelming amount; none of it an obligation upon the local taxpayer, upon the property taxpayer, upon the commercial and industrial tax base, because nothing is being done through, of and by the municipal government.
So those questions that have been put forward, those arguments that have been put forward, were ones that could readily have been answered and do not require that there be a formal legislative committee that travel the province in order to answer such small details of finance, of numbers of employees, of courts of appeal or grievance procedures through the union, or through to the ministry and through to the Human Resources Secretariat of the government.
All those matters are readily soluble. So in the words of the last person who spoke, the Minister of Housing, one has to believe, one has to understand, that there was another agenda that fed on a good deal of rumour, that fed on a lot of insinuation, that fed on a lot of the worst aspects of those of us who belong to the human race. We are all there and we all recognize them in ourselves and, as the last speaker indicated, we all try to keep them under some measure of reasonable control.
So the terms of this opposition day resolution when it refers to a crisis in implementation that could be responded to in the way in which it suggests, in a reasonable and informational kind of way, quite miss the larger dimension and the undercurrents of this particular issue that has struck so many of our communities in these last few months.
I want to tell members that when this wave of declarations of unilingualism by municipalities struck in our province, which has now encompassed some 50 municipalities -- I remind members it is still not even 10 per cent of the total in the province -- I was sitting in a living room in Jonquière, in the Lac Saint-Jean region of Quebec, watching the news. I was in a relatively well-informed household which subscribes to publications from the federal government and agencies to keep abreast of language issues in the province.
They were utterly surprised. They could have believed their ears a decade or two or three decades ago if they were hearing what they were hearing, but they were beginning to believe, they were beginning to understand that there had been major steps forward in this province in the field of education for the francophone community; that there had been major steps forward taken in services of all kinds that predated the French Language Services Act, in the courts, in the promotion of the arts, in the development of the possibilities that the French communities were experiencing in Ontario, and that now the French Language Services Act was building on that. They were beginning to appreciate, as many people in Quebec only very recently were beginning to realize, the major steps that their sister province was taking in response to the fundamental duality of Canadian life.
Those actions by those municipalities have set back the reputation of this province immeasurably in these last few weeks. One has to wonder whether there was not a certain deliberateness among some of the agencies that were at work in the background, like the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada, in seeing that that happened.
I remind members that a century ago there was a movement called the Equal Rights Association, which was unilingual, Protestant, anti-Catholic, that swept through Ontario and parts of the west and that poisoned Canadian life for the better part of two generations. It wiped out multilingual schools in Manitoba. It was the background for the infamous regulation 17 that made it illegal to be speaking and teaching French in Ontario schools.
That is not the way we want to go today. This country has made tremendous progress. It has in recent years become one of the more cosmopolitan societies of the world. This is a place of many languages, but that diversity builds on the fundamental fact of an original diversity, which was the foundation of this country in a compact and understanding between two linguistic communities in the 1770s, 1780s and 1790s, on which the roots of this nation were built, both constitutionally and spiritually. That foundation recognized that there was a duality of culture, a duality of language, and every single instrument of our Constitution subsequently has reaffirmed that. Without that basis all other diversities, all other multiculturalisms, would be impossible. That is the central thrust of our country and that is the central thrust we need to keep alive.
When we come, this summer, to the travelling work of a Constitution committee of this Legislature, we will deal not only with the smaller questions that are in the motion of the member for Sarnia but the larger issues that we still have to face in this country in order to promote, preserve and protect the fundamental duality of our society and, at the same time, our linguistic heritage and the fundamental base upon which all other diversity rests.
I would like to refer to some of the comments that have been brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition, who indicates that he cannot support the resolution. In my view, there is no hidden agenda in the resolution. The resolution is pretty straightforward. It states: “That in the opinion of the House, while reaffirming our support for the provision of French-language services” -- I am pleased to be here today to do that, to indicate that I was in the House when Bill 8 was passed, that I spoke on Bill 8 and I support the principle to this day.
It confirms that the French Language Services Act was not intended to apply to municipalities. This, as I understand what the Leader of the Opposition has proposed, ought to be reaffirmed lest there be any confusion. I do not think there is confusion among municipalities. I think there is among people in municipalities, but I think the municipal politicians themselves do understand.
It calls for an all-party, non-partisan committee to travel the province and hear the concerns about the implementation of Bill 8. Anybody who says that there are no concerns out there has not been travelling the province as I have been travelling the province.
I would agree with a number of members on this: The issue goes beyond Bill 8, it does go to Meech Lake, it does go to Quebec, it does go to a frustration of municipalities, school boards and the public that they are not being consulted. They have seen program after program after program from this government enunciated without any consultation, and then the municipal taxpayer or the school hoard is told, “You pick up the tab.” They are frustrated, they are mad and they are concerned about what the agenda is. “Why won’t people discuss this? Why won’t they come and talk to us?”
This is a sensitive issue. I appreciate that. It is a difficult time in Canada’s history, and I appreciate that. But I think it is important that we pass this resolution today. I think it is important that we not have any more municipalities pass unilingual resolutions between now and 23 June. I do not think it is good enough to wait until after 23 June, because there are a number of municipalities that have told me they are planning and they want to come forward with these kinds of resolutions. I have asked them not to. I have said, “Would you step back and consider how that appears to Quebec, how that appears to francophones in this province, because they are interpreting what you’re doing differently from what you tell me is the reason why you are doing it.”
We have said that we would discuss this, that we would bring it forward. Pardon me for being cynical, for both of the other two parties, that we would actually get an opportunity to discuss this in the Legislature and to debate it, because we have not had those opportunities before.
I say as well to all members of the Legislature that the public is fed up with the Legislature deciding its vision of the country, its vision of the province, its position on Meech Lake, its position on free trade, its position on Sunday shopping or its position on insurance, and then saying, “We’ll strike an all-party committee to hear what the public has to say.” People are asking me, “What damned difference does it make what we have to say if you decide first and consult later?”
Members know that the first opportunity for a committee to travel this province is in July. A committee of the Legislature cannot travel while the House is in session. But I think it is important to signal now to Ontarians, to municipalities, school boards and those who have concerns, that this summer, which will be our first opportunity, we are going to listen to them before we come up with our provincial response, because we have not done that very well over the past number of years.
I am the first to acknowledge, as a backbencher in a majority government, that we did not do very well in the early 1980s either. That is no excuse for not listening to what the people are telling us on a whole host of issues, including this issue.
I say to the member for Hamilton West: J’ai étudié la langue française à Jonquière au Québec aussi et j’ai habité avec une famille francophone. Je comprends les inquiétudes des Québécois. But I think it is important that we understand what Ontarians are thinking. They think there is a hidden agenda. I can tell the members that. They think there is more to come, and I think unless our political leaders clearly stand up and say where they stand and listen to the people, they are not going to quiet those concerns.
The leader of the New Democratic Party has campaigned extensively that he is in favour of official bilingualism for the province of Ontario. The Premier of this province, the leader of the other party in this House, continues to say that he thinks official bilingualism for this province will be a natural evolution. As late as February, when he comes into a French-speaking area, he says bilingualism is inevitable. Is it any wonder that municipalities are concerned that official bilingualism for the province of Ontario is inevitable? It does scare me, because I am opposed to official bilingualism for the province of Ontario, and I want to explain why to the members.
This country came together, Upper Canada and Lower Canada, with an understanding that Lower Canada would be French and Upper Canada would be English. Lower Canada was Catholic and we were Protestant; they had a Napoleonic system of justice and we had a British system of justice. At that time we agreed with Quebec: “You can be French, but you must provide services to the English minority. We will be English, but we will provide services to the French minority.” We said: “You in Lower Canada will provide education to the Protestant minority. We will provide education to the Catholic minority in Upper Canada, in Ontario, and we will each keep our system of justice.” That has worked quite well, and we have those commitments today, which is why I support Bill 8. We must provide more services to the French in this province.
It is a tragedy. In my office this morning, there was a French-speaking parent of a unilingual French-speaking child in Nipissing who has learning disabilities and cannot get speech pathology in the French language. I have been in eastern Ontario where there are elderly people, a widow for instance, who cannot get into a senior citizens’ home and be served in the French language. She cannot even die in her own language.
There are many services that we still must provide. That was our commitment to the country as we came together. That is our commitment today. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, “Meech Lake is involved in this too.” I agree. I support Meech Lake. I support Quebec’s right to be French.
Trudeau came in with a new vision of this country. He said if we were all bilingual from sea to sea in every province, we would not have any of these conflicts. He envisioned that we would all be officially bilingual and we would not have conflicts about how much French service is enough in Ontario, how much English service is enough in Quebec. He is right. We would not have that problem if that could have evolved 50 or 100 years from now.
But Quebec was the most honest province of all. They said to Trudeau: “No. You told us we could be French. We think if we are officially bilingual in the province of Quebec that over 50, 100, 200 years the French language will disappear and diminish.” I think they are right. I think it would. So Meech Lake is an attempt to recognize that Quebec is distinct. They are French and they ought to have the right to keep their province French. I support that. That is why I support Meech Lake. That is why I support “distinct society.”
Those were the commitments we made. That is the way we are today. There are nine provinces that predominantly use one working language and provide services in the other. It seems to make sense, where Quebec is 80 or 85 per cent French, that French be the predominant language. But it is important that services are provided to the English-language minority. There are eight provinces where English is the language that is overwhelmingly predominant. It is very important that we provide services to the French-speaking minority. There is one province that is about 60-40. They said, “It makes sense for us to be bilingual,” and indeed they are. That is New Brunswick.
I do not think very many people in this Legislature understand what the significance is of official bilingualism for Ontario. There are two definitions of official bilingualism in this country that legally come into play. There are many people who feel that once Bill 8 comes fully into force, all we have to do is entrench that and we are officially bilingual. Of course, that is not the case for Ontario. It would be for Quebec, but it is not the case for Ontario.
There are two constitutional models of official bilingualism. The first is official bilingualism as defined in the British North America Act, 1867. Under the BNA Act, official bilingualism means the right to speak in French in Parliament, in the legislatures and the courts. That is the version of official bilingualism used in Quebec and Manitoba. They have declared themselves officially bilingual under those terms and conditions of the BNA Act. Under that model, all other services can be unilingual. That is why Quebec’s Bill 101, which prohibits the use of anything other than French everywhere except the Legislature, the courts and schools, is constitutional under that definition, because they opted in in 1867.
Manitoba, as members know, does not provide bilingual services beyond the minimum required under the BNA Act, yet it is officially bilingual under the BNA Act. Ontario, as members know, has fulfilled the requirements of this version of official bilingualism for some years. However, this constitutional model is not available to Ontario. According to constitutional law, this model can only apply to those provinces that accepted it at the time of their entry into Confederation. The recent court case in Saskatchewan centred upon this point in law.
Members must ask themselves, what does official bilingualism mean for the province of Ontario? It does not mean what it does under the BNA Act. That is not constitutionally legally available to Ontario. So, should Ontario wish to become officially bilingual, it must accept the constitutional model available under the Canada Act, 1982. That is the act to which Quebec said, “No way will we sign that act.” Now we are attempting to bring Quebec back into the constitutional family. I think we should listen to why they would not join in 1981-82 and what minimal conditions they are asking for right now.
Under the federal legislation, government offices and designated areas must recognize both French and English as equal languages of work. This means that if an employee at that office wishes to conduct all or part of his or her work in French or English, he or she must be allowed to do so. Thus, unilingual employees, whether they speak French or English, would find it impossible to work effectively in that office. No unilingual individual could ever be put in a supervisory position according to the definition of official bilingualism that is available to Ontario, which one leader says is inevitable and the other says he is promoting.
Those are the concerns that are being expressed across this province. I say to the members they had better be clear to the public where it is they stand. They had better be clear. They had better listen and consult with the public. They are fed up and frustrated with the whole lot of us because we seem to act and then pretend to consult later with a committee.
If members want to stop the unrest, if they want to give Meech Lake a chance, if they want to give the country a chance, I ask them to support this resolution in the honest, upfront spirit in which it has been brought forward. I ask members to send a signal to Ontarians and to the municipalities and to those who have concerns that we support providing French-language services; that we support the principle of Bill 8 and that we are prepared to listen to whatever concerns they have over how it is being implemented; that we are prepared to listen to Nipissing, to Cornwall, to Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry where services are still not being provided and much more needs to be done; that we are prepared to look at the priorities this government has chosen to take in how it implements this particular piece of legislation.
I am a little surprised that members of the other parties interject and appear to think that this party is not sincere, the party that began the process of providing French-language services, the party that designated most of the areas in this province, the party that began to provide services in education, that guaranteed French-language education, the party I am proud of that began French-language services in the court system, that led the way in this country in tolerance to both the French-speaking minority in this province and to the new Canadians who have come to this country, the majority of whom come to Ontario.
I ask members to accept the resolution in that spirit because I accept it in that spirit. I ask them to support it. I believe if they do support it they will see an end to the unilingual-only resolutions that have been coming across this province, that are so badly misunderstood in sending out so many of the wrong signals, which we do not want to send out. I think we can come together and listen this summer across the province to what concerns people have. I think accepting this resolution will allow us to go forward with the discussions on Meech Lake and the very significant problems we have in the next three months in keeping this country together.
The recent actions of a number of municipalities in adopting unilingual English resolutions seem to be breeding a new spirit of intolerance in this province. I have to ask why this resolution was brought forward now. I question the timing of this. Members from the third party have said there is no hidden agenda, but I still have to be satisfied that there is no hidden agenda here.
We have had about three years since Bill 8 was first discussed in this Legislature and everywhere else. To everyone who has written to me about Bill 8, I have responded as I thought fit. I think the third party members have had the same opportunity to do so. I cannot believe right now that it is Bill 8 we are talking about. I think there is more to it and there seems to be some agenda that I fail to understand or perceive here. Why the sudden rush to discuss it now?
That party has lost its sense of direction. This happened at the time Premier Davis resigned. Just before he resigned he brought in the separate school funding issue, a good issue, but the question was, why just when he was resigning? Now we have the present leader of the third party just about to step out of his position and he is saddling his party with a very divisive issue again.
They say there is no hidden agenda. When the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry spoke, he said that his party believes in Bill 8. Then I have to question why the member for Markham questioned the Speaker when the Speaker spoke in French one day in this very House here. I think we all remember that incident.
When Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie passed their resolutions making them unilingual English I had received a plaque from Thunder Bay, a beautiful plaque by the mayor, to say that I was a friend of Thunder Bay. On 22 February I sent that plaque back to the mayor. I said, “I have a great deal of regret that I return to you and the members of the council your generous gift to me.” It is a long letter, but I said, “When the council comes to their senses and rescinds this resolution, I will be glad to receive this plaque again.” What did the member for Leeds-Grenville do? I read in the paper that he wrote a letter to Sault Ste Marie encouraging them, thanking them for what they had done and saying, “Stick to your guns.”
The member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry has to recognize that within his own party there are differences. We heard the member for Nipissing. I still do not understand what he said. I do not know if anybody else did. But when he said that he goes to meetings all across the province, the people who are concerned do not even attend meetings of the Progressive Conservative Party, the minorities and the francophones because they know they get short shrift from that part of the party.
Mr Velshi: I thank the member. I appreciate that. The member for Nipissing is saying that it is not a partisan speech, that it is a good non-partisan speech. I am partisan because when the French fact disappears from this province, who is next in line? The visible minorities? The women?
Mr Velshi: The member for Nipissing shouts the “Liberals.” We are all in danger here. I will fight this resolution. I had prepared a lot to say, but we are running out of time. Some members before me spoke very eloquently and I think a lot has been said. We will fight this. My party will fight it. The visible minorities and other minorities will fight it.
I feel very, very sad for the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry sitting in this same caucus here with people who do not even understand what he is all about. I would welcome him to step into the Liberal Party because out here we do not accept the French fact or the visible minority fact; it is part of life with us. We do not need to say, “You’re welcome.” Everyone is and everyone has a comfort factor within this party.
Mr Wildman: I rise to speak in a very troubled state of mind. All members know how important and sensitive this issue is in my part of Ontario. That is a part of Ontario that has a well-deserved reputation for friendliness and harmony.
I represent a riding that is the fourth largest in Ontario and that is very, very diverse in its population. I represent a significant number of our first nations. I represent 80 per cent of the population of my constituency who speaks English. Many of those are from various countries throughout Europe and Asia. About 20 per cent of the population of my constituency is French-speaking.
I feel very fortunate to represent such a diverse riding, a very rich riding, rich in diversity. I have fought since I was first elected in 1975 for unity in that diversity so that we can all grow and benefit from the wealth of diversity that is Algoma, that is Sault Ste Marie, that is Ontario and that is Canada.
One of the communities I represent is quite unique in Ontario in that it is really a unilingual francophone community, Dubreuilville. As you know, Mr Speaker, I am not a bilingual person. I can stumble along in French, but I am not bilingual. I represent a community where a very large percentage of the population does not speak English and yet we can communicate and do communicate.
One of the reasons I supported Bill 8 when it was introduced in this Legislature was that I had the experience of having to deal with a young man from Dubreuilville who did not speak English and who was wrongly diagnosed as a schizophrenic, not because he was a schizophrenic -- he did have emotional problems -- but because he did not speak English, and the person who was trying to treat him and deal with his problems did not speak French. That poor young man did not understand the questions that were being asked him. He did not know how to answer them. The professional who was attempting to assist that person did not understand the answers. It took us three years to have that mistake rectified for that young man.
If anyone does not understand why French-language services should be provided to Franco-Ontarians, that individual should be required to go to Dubreuilville for just one day. As a unilingual anglophone, when I go to Dubreuilville I have to concentrate so hard to understand what people are saying to me and to determine how I should respond that I come away from that experience physically tired. I know that whenever those individuals who are my constituents from Dubreuilville go to Sault Ste Marie, if they have to go to the hospital or for other professional services, or even if they are just going shopping, they go through that same experience.
I agree with my leader and other speakers who have said that this debate in Ontario today is not just about Bill 8. In my view it is about a concept of Canada. What is this country about? Are we about understanding and generosity? Are we about celebrating the richness of diversity in this country? Or are we somehow narrower than that?
I attended a meeting on the weekend of the Algoma District Municipal Association, a meeting that was a very emotional one. I am happy to report that a motion was put to support unilingual English resolutions which did not carry. However, it was a very emotional debate.
Part of that debate centred on the fact that the Ministry of Transportation was establishing or tendering a licence bureau for the small community of Thessalon, which is an anglophone community in the southern part of Algoma district, and around the fact that the applicants were required to be bilingual even though, over the last five or six years, only one individual has asked for service in French. This led to a very, very emotional debate in which it was said that all municipalities would be required to provide bilingual services, perhaps not now but in the future.
It was also said that in order for anyone in this province to get a job in the provincial civil service, the individual would have to speak French and not necessarily English. It was stated that, even if you were to get a job as a bus driver, you would have to be bilingual in this province if you were driving school children to school.
If anything showed that there is a need for an education program, not just on Bill 8 but on the relations between French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians in this province, then that debate at the Algoma District Municipal Association demonstrated it. We all know that Bill 8 specifically exempts municipalities from having to provide bilingual services in Ontario.
The law applies only to provincial government services in the 22 designated areas of the province. No municipality in Ontario is required to provide French-language services by Bill 8. The law is not a significant cost to municipal property taxpayers, so the argument that has been made by some municipalities that resolutions are being passed for economic reasons, in my view, just does not hold water.
I would hope that the discussions in this House around this issue would lead all of us to become involved in trying to educate the public of Ontario not only about the ramifications of Bill 8 but the importance also of our understanding one another in this province. I realize that councillors who passed resolutions, whether it be in Sault Ste Marie or other municipalities, did not intend offence to any minority group. But the fact is that francophones and others in Sault Ste Marie, Algoma district and across Canada have indeed been offended by these resolutions. They feel humiliated and angry. The resolution passed in Sault Ste Marie has hurt the image of that community, and it is going to take a long time for the divisions that have developed in that community to be resolved.
It is indeed a time for healing in Ontario. In my view, it is a copout for fairminded people to argue that it is better to remain silent in this controversy because speaking out might exacerbate community divisions. To remain silent is to leave those people with other agendas open to propagandize virtually unchallenged. I have made that point before and I still believe it.
It is a time for voices of moderation. It is a time for voices of tolerance and understanding. It is a time for voices of compassion and generosity. It is a time for leadership in this province from all three political parties and all politicians at all levels of government. We must not remain silently at the sidelines in the face of the kind of divisions that have developed in our communities across Ontario.
I urge all members of this House to genuinely take a non-partisan approach to try to work out a wording that deals generously and thoughtfully with the concerns of the citizens of this province around the issues related to language and to our position as a leading province in Confederation. I think we have an opportunity. I think we can meet the challenge. But we do not meet it with partisan speeches on this issue; neither do we meet it by not making speeches on this issue. We must speak with genuine concern for the future of our country and with genuine concern for the needs and problems facing the citizens of Ontario and Canada. If we do that, we can meet the challenge, and Canada will survive and grow as a united country -- united in diversity, just as Algoma district is.
Mrs Cunningham: I support my party’s resolution before the House, a resolution which my colleagues and I in the Conservative Party today believe to be genuinely helpful. That it was necessary, however, is a tribute to the abject lack of leadership that the government continues to show on this sensitive and important language issue.
When my colleague the member for the great and diverse riding of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry wrote the Premier after the 1987 election asking for an all-party committee so that any concerns, questions or issues about cost or implementation could be addressed, the Premier, as has been the case on the important issues from Sunday shopping to auto insurance and from language rights to health care funding, chose to dither and did not respond. Dither he did for weeks, until he finally said no. And now he chooses not to campaign dramatically for minority-language rights but to mumble quietly, evade the issue and avoid making any real decision.
That is why our motion is necessary and that is why, in part, so many in Ontario are feeling confused and anxious about language policy rather than comfortable and assured, as so many of us are trying to travel this province right now to reassure, in the lack of clear direction.
This Premier and this government do not understand that the road to language harmony, the road to minority-language rights, the road to interlinguistic and national understanding and tolerance require far more than hollow gestures and self-congratulations.
The problems with the French Language Services Act are ones of government mismanagement, lack of accountability, lack of consultation, lack of consideration of community impacts and lack of good judgement and common sense. All these words have been given to us as we have travelled this province looking for solutions to problems. These are not my ideas; these are the ideas of the public which I represent. The government’s refusal to acknowledge that problems exist and that something should be done about them has encouraged the growth of anti-Bill 8 sentiments across Ontario. It is as simple as that.
This government has chosen to implement the French Language Services Act in a way that does affect communities, through government contract jobs and a number of agencies, which is not easily explained and certainly not explained as to the implementation of the bill. Displaced workers and affected communities deserve an explanation when jobs are filled from outside those communities and from outside the province.
Those are the real concerns of Ontarians as we travel about. I have tried to get the answers, and I am not able to do so. Specifically, one by one, community by community, we need an explanation. The municipalities, however, worried by a combination of provincial cutbacks and added responsibilities, as well as a mix of individual concerns, have responded with English-only resolutions. No one is fanning the flames; the flames are being fanned by those very individuals who are confused and concerned and looking for leadership. That is what this province needs -- leadership.
The present Premier likes to model himself on premiers Robarts and Davis. He has said so himself. Let me give you an example, Mr Speaker, of the actions of those gentlemen. When Premier Robarts provided for French minority education in this province in the 1960s and the 1970s -- and I was there -- he did so brick by brick, school by school and county by county, and it was tough. They explained, they reasoned, they answered questions and they built trust from community to community, from school board to school board, from family to family, and it was hard work.
When the Conservative government made our legal system bilingual to serve all Ontarians, it worked long and hard to make it happen. They did not sit back and hope and push it under the rug when it was not working. When the Conservative government got minority-language education rights guaranteed in the 1982 charter, a guarantee that has been used time and again in the courts to protect both English-language minorities in Quebec and French-language minorities elsewhere, it bargained and laboured long and hard both for that provision and for the charter overall. You build understanding by working with people, explaining, listening and compromising and getting out in the real world and doing it.
No province has passed on more costs to municipalities and no government in this province’s history has passed on more heavy burdens than the one in power today. Whatever reason they are able to explain in the future, I do not know. The employer health levy, Sunday shopping, lot levies, courtroom security -- all have become operating burdens of high proportion. Add to that the withdrawal from school board financing to the lowest provincial level ever, and we have a clear picture of cost transfer and fiscal desertion.
The reason I raise it today is the atmosphere in which an underexplained and poorly complemented Bill 8 was sent out into the land of Ontario. In that kind of atmosphere, we are asking our municipalities, our communities and our people to accept this piece of provincial legislation and work with it with no clear direction.
From the beginning, the Liberal government has exercised poor judgement and it has led to deep divisions in the province. They have allowed Bill 8 to run out of control. They have no idea of the cost of implementation, they have no idea of the potential divisiveness which would arise as a result of the misunderstandings of Bill 8, and they show a total lack of leadership when problems first surface.
Mrs Cunningham: So much for why we are here today. What we must do is move ahead. We should do it with some clear priorities. As soon as possible, in spite of interjections from my colleagues in this House, we should establish an all-party committee as we have described today in our resolution.
We should go further. We should complete a program and finance audit of existing services for committee deliberations. That would be the norm in a committee. We should make it public so that the public understands what it is getting and what it is paying for.
We should invite representatives from the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, AMO and l’Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario to act as official committee observers to show them that they are the people we need for good input to decision-making. At the same time, we should allow no further unilateral action on Bill 8 until the committee recommends appropriate implementation.
Furthermore, I believe down the road, some time in the near future, we need in this province a language ombudsman for all Ontarians so that there is a fair and appropriate way for French-speaking and English-speaking Ontarians to have concerns about fairness, equity and cost addressed on an ongoing and civilized basis. I say that as a result of literally months of travelling around this province and hearing concerns that I had no idea were there to the level they appear to be today.
I shall close by reminding this House that when Sir John A. Macdonald, George-Ètienne Cartier, George Brown and others inspired Canada into existence, it required endless hard work, advocating, negotiation, concessions and, above all, working almost town-to-town to build trust and understanding. It was hard work then, and it is hard work now. It has never been easy.
It is not for the lazy, the dilettante, the immature or the superficial. It is not today within the abilities of this government, and certainly not the Premier. Today’s resolution is a clear example of the principle and the price we all pay when we have a government in Ontario not up to the nation-building task. This should have been their resolution, not ours. They are the government. Sooner than many may believe, the people of Ontario will make it clear that they and their children, their province and country truly do deserve better.
Mr Campbell: I am compelled to take part in this very important debate because, as other members know, I come from a region that is privileged to have a vibrant French-speaking community which has made significant contributions to our history. The French culture in Ontario has been present for a long time and has contributed to the development of this province for centuries. Last year marked the 350th anniversary of French life and culture in this province. My concern is for the real people, those men, women and children who speak French and who are confronted with hostility, anger or hatred during their day-to-day lives.
I know in my own family my son Tyler asked me why people looked at him differently because he was speaking French with some of his friends after his bilingual class. “Dad, why are they doing that?” Or talk to Father Lemieux, an elderly Jesuit priest, 80 years old, who went around this province with an ancient tape recorder finding the real francophones in very spread out areas in our northern Ontario area. He tells me that one of the main difficulties he has encountered was locating francophones and making them tell their stories.
Yes, in fact there were times in this province when speaking French on the streets or at work was not tolerated. Intolerance to any minority was the rule. Fortunately, times have changed. Now there are more than 3,000 French-language community organizations in Ontario, including clubs, associations and educational institutions operating at the regional and provincial levels.
These people are genuinely concerned about the possibly nastier aspects of this language debate. What are we saying to those people who are directly involved who feel personally affected by this debate surrounding their language? Are we protecting this minority?
In my view, we must help them to feel that they are an integral part of the fabric of this province. We must avoid stirring up destructive feelings which will make them feel excluded and hurt. A real problem at this time is intolerance towards one another and how to deal with it.
Will the third party’s proposal be helpful in solving this problem? I do not believe that a special committee conducting public hearings solely on the implementation of Bill 8 will help resolve the situation.
Let us not forget that in all our discussions, we are dealing with real people and vibrant communities. They seek only to contribute fully to the life of this province, without having to sacrifice their language and culture. This government must, and will, continue to support the provision of French-language services and their effective implementation.
Miss Martel: In the short time that I have remaining, I want to say that I am pleased to participate in the debate and I want to return to the three issues that were raised by my colleague the member for Hamilton West in dealing with this particular resolution.
The first is the manner in which this arose. I think it is unconscionable for me not to mention here that it was unacceptable, the manner in which this particular resolution arose. My leader, the leader of the Liberal Party and the leader of the Tory party were, at the very moment that this resolution was being moved in this House, also in a meeting to describe how the three leaders and their respective three parties could work together to bring to this House a resolution we could all live with to reaffirm Bill 8, to deal in some way, shape or form in a constructive way with the municipalities that had passed unilingual resolutions and so on. I think we would have been far more constructive and far better off had that process been adhered to and we all worked together on this particular matter.
Second, the question arises concerning, is there a crisis around the implementation of Bill 8? I, for one, will stand in this House and say that yes, on several occasions in this House, in particular in estimates on francophone affairs, I raised with the minister at the time my concerns around information, disinformation, lack of advertising, too much advertising in different sections of the population and not enough in others and suggested to this government that it was high time that there be a co-ordinated effort in the anglophone community to tell people what this bill meant.
But is there a crisis at this particular point in time solely around Bill 8? I would have to say no. In fact, people are not so concerned about regulations, guidelines and administrative manuals as they are with the whole broader context, which involves Meech Lake, which involves Bill 178, which involves people’s fears around free trade, about the loss of their jobs, loss of Via Rail, Air Canada and on and on and on. All of those kinds of fears and anxieties that people have around their employment and around their future come together, and I think that debate is much broader. It is not only a question of Bill 8 and implementation; it is a much broader debate about where this country is heading and what our role in it is.
Third, there is the question of, what can be our positive contribution to this debate? I think that the Tories should join with us, and so should the Liberals, in agreeing that there are much broader issues that affect our country, that affect our nation and what our future is, and that a committee of this Legislature should go out and not only deal with the very strict guidelines and implementation about Bill 8 but should look at this province in the context of the whole country and where we are heading and what we think is best for francophones, anglophones and cultural minorities within their particular province. It seems to me to be far more acceptable to put it all on the table, to talk about Canada’s place, to talk about Ontario’s place in the Constitution, to talk about where we are heading in terms of education in this province, French-language services, etc. It seems to me that Ontario can come to the table, as my leader said, in a very positive way and contribute a great deal to that debate.
That is why I will not accept the resolution put forward by the Tories on the very strict, narrow interpretation of Bill 8. I think if a committee is going to go out and do good work in this province and dialogue with the people, then we should be dealing with those major constitutional issues that are affecting our nation that people are worried about.
Hon Mr Beer: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I rise to take part in this debate, and the issues that I think have been brought forward by many members are certainly the critical ones that we have to deal with. I think we all, as legislators, accept that we must do that in a public fashion and that we must be prepared to go and speak with everyone in the province, not only around what Bill 8 is all about, but I think far more deeply and more specifically what the whole question of duality and linguistic rights means for the future of our country and for our province.
I would approach today’s debate perhaps a bit the way the Leader of the Opposition did in saying that, if you like, we are having a public discussion around a draft, a draft which is not yet acceptable, a draft which does not meet, I believe, all of the different concerns and needs which different members in our three parties have expressed from time to time, and where I think there are still grounds for belief that we can come together for an all-party approach to the question of supporting the basic principles of Bill 8 and finding an appropriate forum in which to ensure that we can all have our say and the public can participate more fully.
But I think, as a number of our colleagues have mentioned, that forum needs to be expanded, needs to take in the context of the debate which right now is going on in our country, because as we approach the issue of linguistic rights, we are approaching a fundamental characteristic of this country and this province.
We must never forget the fact that in dealing with the issue of the protection of minority language rights, we are dealing, in part at least, with French-speaking people who were born in this province and who have been here since well before we became a province, indeed from the very, very early days. That is a reality that is part of us as Ontarians, just as much as it is part of us as Canadians.
As we go forward and talk with our fellow residents of the province and with fellow Canadians, how do we find a way, in a constructive and positive approach, to express those views and have vigorous debate? Certainly over the last two months, in talking with municipal councillors and going into different communities, I have felt at times the concern, the anger, the resentment, at times, that have come from many people who are perhaps confused about the context of the debate around language. That is real and we have to face that. We have to admit that that is there. We have to deal with it. I think that is one of the reasons that we are elected. I believe we are leaders in our own communities and we must sit down and talk about what our minority language policy means.
I think that we build on a foundation, which I admit and accept began many years ago, long before this government came into place. Indeed, I had the privilege in the early days, in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, to work with a number of members of the Progressive Conservative and the New Democratic Party, as well as with the Liberal Party, who were seeking to find expression for the protection of minority language rights in this province.
So we have had a history. We have had a development in which, little by little, we have built a framework to protect minority language rights, to provide for French-language services. That, after all, is what Bill 8 is all about, and that, I think, is what we seek to ensure in our province, as we would seek to see it ensured in the province of Quebec with respect to the English-speaking minority, New Brunswick, Manitoba, wherever -- practical, sensible, but coming in behind the protection of minority language rights.
I think that we have been able in this province, through debate -- much public debate over the past 25 years, all across the province and in this Legislature -- we have found the way to develop educational services, we have found the way to develop judicial services, we have found the way to develop provincial government services, and I think all of us in this chamber can take great pride in what we have accomplished, and I believe we can take pride in the situation that we have today.
Can we do better? Of course we can. Is there more to do? Of course there is. Can the government be in a position to explain more clearly, if people are not sure that they fully understand? Of course we must do that. We must not be afraid of the fact that at times we do not always explain things as well as we would like. Let us not look upon that as a failure, but rather as a challenge that all of us have to do a better job. I certainly see that as part of my own particular responsibilities.
But let’s not lose sight of the fact that in doing this we have a certain vision of Canada. We have a vision of where we want to go in which the fundamental respect of minority language rights is as important for this legislative body as it is for all others. When we go as political leaders, as community leaders, to discuss this issue, let’s put it in the context that as Canadians we do not approach it from an overly narrow perspective but rather look at it in that broader context, which is: Where is Canada going? What kind of Canada do we see after the year 2000? What are the things that we can be doing to ensure that English- and French-speaking Canadians have a fundamental set of linguistic rights that are protected?
J’aimerais dire aussi à nos compatriotes de langue française qu’il est très important, avec les changements qu’on vient de voir dans notre province depuis les 25 dernières années, de voir que nous, pas simplement comme gouvernement mais comme l’Assemblée législative de la province de l’Ontario, allons continuer à appuyer la protection des droits minoritaires dans notre province, que c’est extrêmement important et que ça doit rester une priorité. Comme d’autres députés l’ont exprimé aujourd’hui, l’importance au Canada de démontrer une ouverture d’esprit, de chercher un «vouloir-vivre», ensemble, entre eux, Canadiens d’expression française et Canadiens d’expression anglaise.
C’est tellement important que nous devons toujours nous assurer, quand nous discutons de ces questions en public, que ce sont des discussions qui traitent des principes de base et que nous disons à nos compatriotes, soit ceux de langue française où ceux de langue anglaise : mais pourquoi voulons-nous protéger les droits minoritaires ? Pourquoi est-ce si important pour le Canada ? Je pense que c’est en répondant à ces questions que nous voyons que la Loi 8, les changements dans le domaine de l’éducation, les changements dans le domaine judiciaire ont été appuyés par tous les partis politiques de cette Assemblée. C’est pourquoi il est si important que nous continuons notre travail.
I accept fully the statement of principle. I have been on a public platform with the leader of the third party and I have heard him speak eloquently in defence not only of the principles of Bill 8 but indeed of Ontario’s linguistic policies. He has recognized the contribution of his own party and that of the New Democrats and the Liberals, so I think there is that agreement on principle.
What we have left then is a question on the procedure: What is the appropriate way that we go forward to try to ensure that not only do we continue with our public debate but that we are in a position to ensure that others can participate in a forum which is going to allow us to move ahead?
There are other suggestions that have been brought forward that need to be discussed. We have many different mechanisms within this chamber, and some have been proposed as well by the New Democratic Party.
What is required with the motion that we have before us is, in fact, more discussion. As a draft, as part of a discussion among the three leaders, this could have led to something that we would all have been in a position to support today, but as yet it is not what we see as being the most useful way of going forward. So for that reason I share with the Leader of the Opposition his views in terms of why we have to continue to work together in seeking other approaches.
But, in dealing with this today and resolving to go on to continue to find agreement, let us resolve that it is a responsibility that each of us has as a legislator to ensure that when we are discussing this issue with our constituents in town hall meetings and the like, we speak very clearly to what it is this assembly is trying to do, and that is to provide French-language services for the people of this province in the designated areas in a targeted and focused way, in a fair and reasonable way, because we want to reflect within our own province the bilingual and multicultural elements of our Constitution and of the charter.
If we can do that, I think then we have a real opportunity to bring people together again in support of Ontario’s historical linguistic policy and we can ensure that the two linguistic communities are going to be able not only to live together but to work together and contribute to a strong and united Canada.
Mr Brandt: The debate that we are engaged in this evening is necessary for one very compelling reason, and that is, for the past three years the government has not, in my view, done an adequate job of explaining Bill 8 and the extension of French-language services in the province.
I have heard some speakers earlier refer to what they perceive to be some hidden agenda. I would say to all members of this House, as a colleague and as someone who has worked with them, that I have never been more sincere in saying that there is no hidden agenda. There is no ulterior motive. Our motion, our resolution, was very specifically and very narrowly intended in order to bring all members of the House on side as it relates to what we believe to be a very important and a very critical issue in this province.
I listened carefully to what the member for Ottawa East had to say. He is a friend and a colleague and someone who has worked hard for Bill 8. He indicated that he felt that he was perhaps on trial after having spent two or three years working with this bill, and I can understand those kinds of frustrations. I think that in this debate this evening it is important for us to perhaps identify where the problems are, where Bill 8 has come off track to a certain extent, and where perhaps some of that healing process, which I think is necessary, can be applied.
It is easy for members of this Legislature to blame the municipalities or the local councils for some of the things that have happened which cause some of us concern in this House. There have been -- the latest number that I have heard -- some 56 municipalities that have passed English-only resolutions. In speaking with some of those municipalities -- and my colleagues put forward this argument rather eloquently earlier -- one of their concerns, which I believe is a legitimate one, is a concern over the cost.
They have had some programs passed on to them, offloaded if you will, which concerns them, and they can see a hidden agenda not on our part but on the part of the government as it relates to the extension of French-language services and placing that, if you will, as another responsibility on local governments.
There is also some confusion about the implementation and the regulations as they relate to the bill itself. But it was my view that we could overcome some of those regulatory nuances, some of the implementation problems, if we sat down and perhaps dialogued with the public with respect to what the real intent was of Bill 8. I believe that in so doing we would be able to work towards strengthening, if you will, the public’s essential understanding of this bill and strengthening as well the attitude and the feeling of the people of Ontario as it relates to the extension of French-language services. At the moment, let us recognize the reality that there is a great deal of anger, a great deal of rancour and a great deal of misunderstanding out there that we have to deal with.
The resolution that I have put forward, again in a spirit of goodwill, is not intended in a partisan way but in a spirit of goodwill, hopefully to address some of those growing concerns. We may have different ways of approaching a solution to the problem, but I believe that there is essentially, among the 130 of us here in this House, an interest in finding a way to solve the problem.
Let me first of all clarify the resolution. It is not about Meech Lake. Some have suggested that this resolution is intrinsically interwoven into the Meech Lake debate, and it is not. Meech is about, as we all know, Quebec becoming part of the Constitution of this country. Bill 8 is about the extension and the provision of French-language services.
My motion is based on two very critical points. It is based on the Ontario Legislature reaffirming its support for French-language services where numbers warrant, and second, it very clearly points out, in order to overcome some of the misunderstanding on this point, that it is not intended to apply to municipalities. I see no fundamental disagreement in this House on those two points, having listened to virtually all of the speakers to date, either in my office or in this House.
We believe that an all-party committee would be the best forum for dealing with some of these concerns. I have to say to members that after some three years of attempting to get some agreement on this fundamental point, it was through a feeling of frustration, through the delays that were coming forward at simply every turn we took, and certainly the misunderstandings that were starting to heat up with respect to Bill 8, that caused us to move ahead, as some have suggested, perhaps, in a precipitous manner as it relates to this particular bill.
We did so with this resolution because we felt some action was necessary. We also knew as a party that both of the other parties had rejected out of hand any suggestion of a committee. The very word “committee” struck fear into some members’ hearts, the very idea of opening up the dialogue and having people communicate.
Here is a Legislature where we have spent dollars in intervenor funding with a view towards getting some participation on important matters such as the environment, yet when it comes to a matter like Bill 8 not only are we not prepared to spend any money, but we are not even prepared to open it up to the public.
I have not been given nearly adequate time to cover the view of our party as it relates to this resolution. Let me say by way of a final appeal, if I might, that on the part of our party there is no hidden agenda. We have very clearly put forward the principles that we believe in as they relate to the extension of French-language services. We also believe that some community and public dialogue is essential on this issue if we are to find some level of accommodation with our citizens of this great province of ours.
Allen, Ballinger, Beer, Black, Bossy, Brown, Bryden, Campbell, Caplan, Carrothers, Charlton, Chiarelli, Collins, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Cooke, D. S., Elliot, Elston, Farnan, Faubert, Fawcett, Fleet, Fontaine, Grandmaître, Grier, Haggerty, Henderson, Hošek, Kanter, Kerrio, Keyes, Kormos, Kozyra, Laughren, Leone, Lipsett, MacDonald, Mackenzie, Martel, McClelland, Miclash, Miller, Morin, Morin-Strom, Neumann, Nicholas, Nixon, J. B., Nixon, R. F., Oddie Munro, Offer, 0’Neill, Y., Owen, Patten, Philip, E., Phillips, G., Polsinelli, Rae, B., Ray, M. C., Reville, Riddell, Roberts, Ruprecht, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., Sola, Stoner, Sullivan, Sweeney, Velshi, Ward, Wildman, Wilson, Wong.