That, in the opinion of this House, recognizing that difficult financial and trade pressures threaten the viability of Ontario agriculture in 1990 and recognizing that the provincial government must make a significant financial commitment to the preservation, expansion and prosperity of family farming in Ontario in the forthcoming spring budget and recognizing that farmers’ economic success in the 1990s will largely depend upon their ability to access and manage required capital resources and recognizing that Ontario farmers experiencing financial hardship would benefit from provincial government financial guarantees designed to encourage lending institutions to engage in mediation rather than foreclosures the Ontario government should reintroduce, this year, a program of interest rate assistance (similar to the OFFIRR program) with sufficient funding and of adequate duration to bring about meaningful farm interest rate reduction in this province and, further, that the Ontario government should enact legislation similar to Manitoba’s Family Farm Protection Act to assist farmers facing foreclosures by enabling them to renegotiate manageable credit terms.
Mr Wildman: I introduced this resolution this morning because of the serious financial and trade pressures that are threatening the survival of agriculture in Ontario today, and I believe that the provincial government must make a financial commitment to the preservation and expansion and prosperity of family farming in this budget coming up next month.
Net farm income is projected to decline 6.8 per cent in 1990. This is due to declining cash receipts, increasing operating costs and a significant decline in government payment programs both at the federal and provincial levels. All members will recognize the serious problems facing agriculture because of the so-called free trade agreement with the United States and the current GATT negotiations.
We have all heard the announcement from Ault Foods, for instance, of its problems in competing with processors from south of the border and the need to have the raw product delivered to the processors at prices which are equivalent to the prices in the United States. This problem facing the food processing industry, which I certainly recognize, threatens supply management, and that then is putting further pressure on the prospects for adequate farm incomes, the return on the investment, the management and the labour that all farmers put into their farm operations.
We have these trade pressures on Ontario farming. At the same time the chartered banks’ interest rates have reached 14 1/4 per cent. With the coming imposition of the federal government’s goods and services tax, which will almost inevitably have an increasing effect in inflation, we are likely to see the interest rates pushed even higher after the new year. In Ontario already the long-term farm debt is calculated at $14.7 million, and with the new negotiated shorter renewal intervals for servicing that debt, more and more of the long-term debt is being affected by interest rate changes and fluctuations. At the same time, the estimated short-term debt of Ontario agriculture is approximately $900 million. So with each one per cent increase in interest rates, the costs of servicing that debt rises approximately $9 million in Ontario.
Yesterday, the Conference Board of Canada suggested that we are going to face in Canada high interest rates for at least two years. The Conference Board does not predict a decline in interest rates for the foreseeable future. Significantly, the spread between the interest rates in Canada and the United States is also increasing, which puts Ontario agriculture at an additional difficulty in competing in the world marketplace. The spread between US rates and Canadian rates right now is approximately 3.5 per cent. Interestingly, in 1986, when the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program was in force, the spread at that time between Canadian interest rates and US interest rates was only about one and a half per cent.
So we can see that Ontario agriculture is facing a more difficult time today in regard to interest rates than it did at the time when the former government instituted the OFFIRR program and when this government continued the OFFIRR program after it came into power. Surely if the OFFIRR program was required to assist farmers to finance their investments and their operating costs at that time, it is needed even more today.
I note with interest that the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, which carries on an investigation of budgetary policy for this government and for the Legislature each year prior to the spring budget, has recently come down with a report, and one of its recommendations deals with farm finance. That report indicated, as we all know, that farming is very capital-intensive and that farmers are dependent on debt financing and, as a result, are vulnerable to interest rate fluctuations. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture appeared before that committee and requested a short-term program of interest rate assistance.
I note that on page 36 of that report, which has been tabled in the House, recommendation 33 of the committee, which was a unanimous recommendation, reads as follows, “Government should consider a program, similar to the OFFIRR program, that would demonstrate the government’s commitment to help farmers in times of high interest rate crisis.” That was a unanimous recommendation of members of that committee from all three political parties.
My resolution of course would simply, in the first part of it, implement that recommendation and recommend to the government that it include that kind of assistance program in this year’s budget. In its peak year, OFFIRR paid out $67 million. In my view, any new program should be aimed at lowering interest rates to an effective level of eight per cent for farmers. That would mean that the minimum amount that should be budgeted for a new program should be at least $50 million, even though I recognize that at the $50 million level that would probably not be sufficient to lower rates effectively to eight per cent. But at least we should be looking at $50 million in this year’s budget. I think such a program should be in effect as long as interest rates remain high in Canada, and I believe sincerely that the need for this kind of interest rate reduction assistance is immediate and is necessary now.
The other part of my resolution deals with those hard-hit farmers who face foreclosures. I am proposing that a mechanism be developed, either through legislation or otherwise, which would assist Ontario farmers to benefit from government action to avoid foreclosures. I am suggesting that the government should consider enacting a law similar to Manitoba’s Family Farm Protection Act, which would assist farmers in danger of losing their farms to foreclosure.
In my view, the government of Ontario should provide financial guarantees which would encourage lending institutions to engage in mediation rather than foreclosures and should provide a hearing mechanism, if necessary, to enable that process to work. The financial guarantees would amount to $10,000 annually in guarantees, and this guarantee could be applied to a mortgage, to land leases or to operating costs. These guarantees should be available for up to five years because I believe that the need for protection against foreclosure is going to become more and more serious as interest rates rise and as farmers are faced with these new problems related to trade and the effects that it is having in the marketplace.
I encourage members of the House to look seriously at this recommendation in my resolution and to consider that this is indeed a resolution that is encouraging the government to take action in the Ontario budget.
I also want to indicate to members of the House that the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, in its recommendations to the provincial Treasurer as part of the pre-budget consultation process, recommended both of these actions: an OFFIRR-like program to lower interest rates for farmers and protection for farmers facing foreclosure similar to the Manitoba legislation. I would hope that the members will support my resolution. If there is any time left of the 15 minutes for my party, I would reserve use of that at the end to sum up.
Mr Villeneuve: I too am very pleased to rise and support my friend the member for Algoma on his private member’s bill. Last October, I brought a private member’s bill somewhat similar to this to the Legislature, asking the government to reconsider the lack of priority that it had been giving to the agricultural community. Well, lo and behold, our friends from the New Democratic Party supported my private member’s motion, but the Liberal government could not see fit to give agriculture the priority it deserves, or should have, particularly going through these very difficult economic times. I still to this day do not understand it because you cannot talk out of both sides of your mouth continuously, and that is what is happening with this government.
During the time when the member for Huron was Minister of Agriculture and Food, that ministry projected 1988-89 expenditure estimates of $579 million; actual expenditures were $522 million. What are they this year? They are $490 million. Almost $100 million has been taken away from the province’s basic industry, that of agriculture, the one we take for granted. We take food and farmers for granted but do not let them fail, because then the public will rise up in arms. We have had a very marked increase in the Ontario Farm Debt Review Board applications in January 1990. What is happening? Interest rates are climbing and they are telling us that they are going to continue high for two more years. What we have is a very bad combination: low commodity prices and high interest rates. So what have we got? We have got an increase in applicants to the farm debt review board.
They thought the price of their grains or whatever the commodities they are producing would increase and they also hoped that interest rates would level out. Well, it went in the wrong direction both ways: Interest rates have continued to climb and commodity prices have softened. So we now have farmers going to the farm debt review board to restructure their credit, their repayment schedules, and also to try to organize themselves to put in a crop this year. And it does not look all that bright out there this year.
I can assure members that the cutbacks that this government has seen fit to bring upon the agricultural community are nothing but very shameful. I have, and I will be presenting to the Legislature this afternoon, a petition signed by a number of very concerned farmers regarding the cutback in engineering services, for example, that has been recently announced.
I am going to read part of a letter that I have from a drainage superintendent in eastern Ontario, Peter Addison, who is very concerned as an employee of a municipality and as a farmer and a man who deals with agriculture on an ongoing basis. He writes:
“As usual, eastern Ontario shall be at a very special loss. The elimination of -- and he states the employee’s name, our engineer in eastern Ontario -- “Mr Glen Slater’s job of 23 years serving Glengarry, Prescott, Russell, Stormont and Dundas and beyond is totally incomprehensible. This engineer has assisted farmers on the farm over the years in their designs of farm buildings, ventilation systems, manure systems, erosion control and farm and municipal drainage to name only a few. He has kept abreast of new technology and assisted farmers on the farm to develop the farmer’s innovative ideas. Over the years, Glen Slater” -- and that could be any one of the 14 engineers, 14 of them, but this is pertaining to one in particular -- “has displayed the courage of his convictions and skill by assisting groups of farmers in presenting their ideas to OMAF and the local municipalities. He has proved indispensable to many local municipal councils in both French and English, in the implementation of the municipal drain maintenance program. I am sure these councils shall not take this grim news lightly.”
I could continue. However, that is another cutback. The on-the-farm, hands-on, front-line people are being removed and, I guess, replaced by bureaucrats or not replaced at all. The entire budget for the ministry has been slashed by almost $100 million from what was anticipated two years ago to what is actually being spent this year. So I certainly fully endorse the motion of my friend the member for Algoma.
I hope that this government is now starting to realize the extent of the problem. I know the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and farmers in general are getting to the backbench members of the government and saying: “Hey, what’s happening to agriculture? Are you going to do away with our ministry entirely? Are you going to amalgamate it with another ministry? Where do we stand on the list of priorities?” The answer to those is, agriculture stands very low on the list of priorities for this government, and it is proven by the shortsightedness of the reduction in the agricultural budget.
In closing, again I congratulate my colleague the member for Algoma. I and my party will be fully supporting him. I am looking forward to participation in this debate by Liberal backbenchers to see if indeed the message is starting to come through to them that agriculture is very unhappy with what they are doing to this very special industry.
Mr Dietsch: I rise today to speak on behalf of the farmers of St Catharines-Brock concerning farm interest rate reduction. As a member from the Niagara Peninsula, I have a good understanding and a deep concern for the plight of today’s farmers. Since my election I have had, and continue to have, ongoing discussions with the Minister of Agriculture and Food. These discussions focus on the serious challenges that lie before farmers in my area as well as across this province.
Over the past years I have witnessed the mounting pressures facing the agricultural community through the results of unusual weather conditions -- the hail storms, the drought -- rising production costs, high interest rates, low crop prices and, because of free trade, the reduction of the traditional protection tariffs. It has been predicted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food that there will be annual losses of $50 million to the fruit and vegetable industry alone due to the free trade agreement. The federal government seems to conveniently ignore the fact that with the signing of the agreement it chose to write off the agricultural industry.
When farmers bare their personal lives and their financial souls for severances for cash flow or when farmers face the refusal of banks to approve new credit, because the banks are looking at cash flow instead of equity as security, we know that if we want to keep families to continue to farm, it must be economically feasible to do so.
Since 1987 I have tirelessly promoted Ontario foods in this very Legislature. I have appeared before the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to promote usage of food products in this government and this province. I have introduced resolutions in this House which later became a reality, with the promotion of credit cards so that consumers can purchase Ontario fine wines through credit cards and at winery stores on Sunday. I have long advocated strong marketing policies within the public. We have also had wine tastings and meetings with our rural caucus.
Marketing and irrigation, which we are working on, help, but they are not enough. Financial assistance in some form of interest rate reduction is a necessity. In the last four years, the average grower has had to contend with the negative return on gross sales due to the many factors which I have previously outlined while the rest of our region has economic growth. We must not allow our farmers to feed us while they lose their very land or go hungry. If we preserve the farmer, then we will preserve the farm land.
Let me assure members that in the Niagara area my colleagues and I have actively pursued our discussions with the Minister of Agriculture and Food. He has heard from us and placed ministry personnel on the federal-provincial task force. He is reviewing farm programs to put money in the farmers’ pockets. But we must continue to work together to assess the challenging financial needs of Ontario’s agricultural industry. I am confident that our collective efforts will allow us to arrive at an effective solution, one which will combine financial needs and innovative marketing strategies for the good things that grow in Ontario.
Mr Kormos: I am aghast at being able to follow the member. Some members make bigger impressions on me than others, and those ridings I remember. On the member for St Catharines-Brock and his pitch for the member himself, it would seem that what we saw here was the scripting of an election pamphlet and not a response to the issue that is before the Legislature this morning by virtue of the motion by the Agriculture and Food critic for the New Democratic Party, the member for Algoma.
What is similarly incredible is that the member for St Catharines-Brock would be so ready to dump blame -- and blame is attributable to the federal Tories, no two ways about it -- on the federal Tories with apparently the sole purpose being to deflect attention from the inadequate approach and the inadequacies and the shortcomings of the Liberal government in Ontario with respect to farmers.
The one thing that the member for St Catharines-Brock said that indeed was the height of accuracy is how important farming is to the Niagara region. Just as he, who represents people in the northern part of the region, including many farmers, can say that about the northern part of the region, I can tell members that it can be said equally accurately about the southern part of the region, about the area of Welland-Thorold and on into Wainfleet, Wellandport and Fenwick, large areas where farming is of significance, not just currently in terms of food production, but historically. I say that knowing that, for instance, farmers like Art Gill, down in the east end of Welland, have been farming land for many years. He himself has been farming the land that his father farmed decades earlier, land that his children hopefully -- and he certainly hopes this -- will farm when it comes their time.
At the same time, we have grape growers in the Niagara region who have been deserted by this Liberal government, grape growers who sought relief from the grape acreage reduction program, grape growers who find themselves in dire straits as a result of the state of siege that they, along with other farmers, find themselves in from interest rates, as has been cited, from the type of free trade agreement that the Liberals here at Queen’s Park insisted they were going to fight until the free trade agreement was enacted. As was said then and as can be repeated now, you could hear the sound of the towel hitting the floor as the Liberals gave up that fight.
One hears the same thing because one hears the same shallow, hollow, effete promise from the Liberals that they are going to fight the GST. Once again, if that promise has the same validity as the promise to fight free trade, one can expect to hear the sound of the towel hitting the floor come January 1991. One wonders about the real agenda, because we look at a Liberal government here that stands to make big bucks off the federal Tories’ GST. In fact, it has been demonstrated on more than one occasion to be, as often as not, in a clandestine sort of way supportive of that same GST program that the federal Tories want to impose on people in Canada and, indeed, in Ontario.
If we can talk for just a moment, please, about the grape growers down in Niagara and about the grape acreage reduction program, it is one where in excess of some 20 grape farmers made application in good faith for subsidization, for funding, for protection under that program. Members should know that the funding was there, and that is to say that their interests were budgeted into the moneys allocated to that program. Their acreage was counted as among that acreage which was to be compensated for as a result of what the federal government and provincial Liberals have done to them by virtue of free trade, among other things. Yet these same 20-plus farmers are being arbitrarily denied compensation under that same grape acreage reduction program.
And it is not that there was anything devious taking place, because nobody is arguing the fact that these 20-plus grape growers are being denied compensation under the grape acreage reduction program. Nobody is daring to suggest that they are anything but legitimate farmers, legitimate grape growers who are faced with an incredible economic burden as a result of free trade and the destruction, by both the federal government and the provincial Liberals, of those prime grape lands in the Niagara region and the Niagara Peninsula. The provincial government has got the proverbial short arms and deep pockets when it comes to these farmers. The provincial government talks big but fails to deliver once again.
If the member for St Catharines-Brock spends a whole lot of time talking to the Minister of Agriculture and Food, maybe he would like to remind the minister of the obligation that the provincial Liberals, the provincial government here at Queen’s Park, has to those grape growers in Niagara who are being denied compensation under the grape acreage reduction program.
Basically, the minister tells those people: “Sue us. Take us to court.” Those same grape growers have agreed to participate, if necessity requires it, in an alternative dispute resolution process. The federal government, which appears far more willing in this instance to live up to its obligations under that program than these provincial Liberals ever would be, is agreeable to participating in that same alternative dispute mechanism. What do the provincial Liberals tell the same grape growers, who are suffering enough as it is? “Sue us. Take us to court. We’ll see you in court.” Again, these same grape growers know that their chances against the leverage, the power and the finances that the government can muster up, their chances in court, are modest indeed.
We have got Liberals here at Queen’s Park saying one thing but doing another. Mind you, the Minister of Agriculture and Food, I suspect with his own agenda, suggests using the Ombudsman. He knows or certainly ought to know, being a minister as he purports to be, that the Ombudsman would not have jurisdiction over a program that entails, among other things, the federal government. The federal government has been so kind as to point that out to the provincial Minister of Agriculture and Food. Hopefully, he understands their particular explanation.
I am proud that the agriculture critic for the New Democratic Party, the member for Algoma, has brought this resolution forward. I know that farmers, not just grape farmers but farmers in the Welland-Thorold area, those farms having been in the possession of families and farmed by families for generation after generation, feel the state of siege that I have indicated farmers are undoubtedly under in this province. It is an industry wherein those same farmers are dependent upon debt financing, and now they face ongoing high interest rates, possibly for the next two years, if not longer.
I look forward to being able to support this resolution on behalf of the farmers of Welland-Thorold. I look forward to seeing the other members of this Legislature show the same empathy and sensitivity towards the needs of farmers as the member for Algoma has in having moved this particular resolution.
Mr McLean: I am extremely pleased to have this opportunity to say a few words to this resolution, because I can identify with the plight of the family farmers in Ontario. I can identify with the current agricultural situation because I have been a long-time dairy farmer in Oro township and many friends of mine have been struggling to maintain family farms in this province.
‘That, in the opinion of this House, recognizing that difficult financial and trade pressures threaten the viability of Ontario agriculture in 1990 and recognizing that the provincial government must make a significant financial commitment to the preservation, expansion and prosperity of family farming in Ontario in the forthcoming spring budget and recognizing that farmers’ economic success in the 1990s will largely depend upon their ability to access and manage required capital resources and recognizing that Ontario farmers experiencing financial hardship would benefit from provincial government financial guarantees designed to encourage lending institutions to engage in mediation rather than foreclosures the Ontario government should reintroduce, this year, a program of interest rate assistance (similar to the OFFIRR program) with sufficient funding and of adequate duration to bring about meaningful farm interest rate reduction in this province and, further, that the Ontario government should enact legislation similar to Manitoba’s Family Farm Protection Act to assist farmers facing foreclosures by enabling them to renegotiate manageable credit terms.”
The story of agriculture in Ontario is the story of growth and change. It is the story of coming together of peoples of diverse backgrounds, beliefs and customs, and the effects the struggle to build and maintain family farms had on them and on the land where they chose to anchor their dream of a better life. But the story of agriculture in Ontario has a sad chapter, and that chapter details the decline of the family farm in Ontario over the past five years because of this government’s failure to provide a higher budgetary program priority for agriculture, its failure to consult with farm organizations prior to instituting major program cutbacks, its failure to provide leadership in the promotion of alternative crop uses and its decision to cancel interest rate relief at a time when interest rates have risen and also its reneging on its intention to protect agricultural land and its failure to provide a replacement for the OFFIRR program. That is a sad chapter in the story of the family farm.
Members of this government fail to comprehend that about 30 per cent of our farmers live in financially strained circumstances. They do not understand that poverty is just as much a rural problem as it is an urban one. Our farmers may not be unemployed but, no matter how hard or long they work, they just cannot make ends meet. They fall deeper in debt and lose hope. Our cheap food policy and this government’s lack of leadership are neither kind nor just to these people.
In a nutshell, family farmers are part of an economic system that does not treat them fairly. They earn less than the minimum wage, even though they produce something we cannot live without. They produce the food we put on our tables. Yet our farmers would make a decent living if only we paid them fair prices. They would make a decent living if this government would introduce a program of interest rate assistance and legislation to assist those who face foreclosure. Others in the food chain can prosper but not our farmers, and that is an injustice.
We here in Ontario are particularly fortunate to have some of the best agricultural land in the world. Our harvest is bountiful, but most of the time this government tries to take this abundance for granted. It becomes the responsibility of all of us in society and especially this government to collaborate with our farming community to ensure productivity and fair distribution. This implies that we all do our part to ensure that the inheritors of the good earth can stay on it, can work it profitably and can preserve it for future generations of farmers. Any modern province like Ontario that fails to protect and promote its farm community is heading for some very serious trouble. A province that cannot be reasonably self-sufficient and secure in its production of food risks losing a precious measure of security, independence and prosperity.
I found it rather troubling when I tuned in on the national television station recently and watched the day-long Farm Aid 4. This concert was from the United States and this was the fourth time that major stars in the music industry answered Willie Nelson’s call for them to perform on an internationally broadcast program to raise money for beleaguered farmers in the United States. It was noted that approximately 180 farm families fail each and every day of the year in the United States. That is a very sorry state of affairs.
I would certainly be dismayed to see this happen in Canada, and especially in Ontario. Our family farms are extremely important to all of the people in this province. Family farms produce the food we eat, family farms instil traditional values in our youth and I know for a fact that family farmers are more concerned about the protection and preservation of the environment than any corporate farmers would be. Family farms are a valued and integral part of our heritage, our economy and our values in this province.
I would like to spend a few moments providing an example of how this government tends to ignore the agricultural sector in Ontario. In fact, some of my fellow dairy farmers say that their dealings with this government to get low-fat dairy products on the market are so slow that at times it is like pulling a cow through the eye of a needle. In the United States, consumers can buy a growing range of low-fat and low-cholesterol dairy products, but this government is slowing the move to get these same products to grocery shelves in Ontario. Many processors I have talked with complain about Ontario laws that ban butter-margarine blends. This province also prohibits margarines from being the same colour as butter, which I agree with, and while margarine can be mixed with dairy byproducts, including buttermilk, whey and skim milk powder, there is still some question whether processors can promote the fact that their margarine is made up partly of dairy products.
In conclusion, I would like to state quite clearly that the preservation of the family farm in Ontario is not and should not be a partisan matter. It should not be an issue that pits one political party against another. It is of importance to every man, woman and child in this province, no matter what political party he or she supports because, as I said earlier, it becomes the responsibility of all of us in society to collaborate with our farm families and the farming community to ensure productivity and fair distribution. This implies that we all do our part to ensure that the inheritors of the good earth can stay on it, can work it profitably and can preserve it for future generations of farmers in Ontario.
Mr Riddell: As a farmer and the minister of the day responsible for the introduction of the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program, I rise in support of this resolution asking that a program similar to OFFIRR be reintroduced. In a non-political way, I want to provide some observations about the farm economic situation in Ontario today and the reasons for my support.
Farmers lost a considerable amount of equity during the last decade as the cost-price squeeze intensified. In the early 1980s, with interest costs soaring above 20 per cent, many farmers were forced to the wall trying to service carrying costs of mortgages and operating credit. In spite of the Ontario farm adjustment assistance program and the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program, which were designed to give farmers a break on interest rates, some eventually gave up farming in despair, while others sought eventual salvation through the Ontario Farm Debt Review Board experience.
Many feel that banking institutions were the main benefactors in these programs, and in many respects they were. Unfortunately, many good young farmers simply had too much debt and not enough return from the agricultural marketplace to cope. Even farm families with one or more off-farm jobs have and are continuing to have a major struggle meeting financial commitments.
As we enter the 1990s, aside from the standard risks and uncertainties associated with farming, there is a gut feeling by some that we may be on the verge of another period of low commodity prices and escalating interest rates. At a recent Royal Bank seminar in southwestern Ontario, senior bank staff were less than optimistic about the farm income picture in the short term as well as in the long term. Forecasters predict that input costs will continue to rise while commodity prices, especially for corn and soybeans, remain below the cost of production.
As well as feeling frustrated, helpless and depressed by poverty-level returns from agriculture, the new wave of consumer demands about food safety and environmental concerns have added new dimensions to the anxiety levels of farmers.
Although there is a desire to reduce debt levels, many are faced with the problem of actually having to borrow to live. At the same time, bankers are tough. Cash-flow financing reigns supreme, while equity lending is a thing of the past. Many find that it is next to impossible to cash-flow a small profit, let alone a decent return to labour, risk and management.
A significant number of Ontario Farm-Start cash crop operators actually lost money in 1989. Therefore, because they cannot make the required $5,500 income from farming as required by the Ontario Farm-Start program administration, they will not be eligible for their first-year grant of $11,000 for their 1989 efforts. Now their financial problems will be compounded because bankers are unlikely to extend a line of operating credit.
Many will be forced to seek high-cost supplier credit or rent out their land to established farmers who have little or no debt because they started farming years ago when cost structures were low. More and more farmers continue to seek off-farm employment in order to support their farming endeavours.
Because of external, non-farm economic forces, land market values are considerably higher than agricultural productive values. This makes it very difficult for those wanting to begin or expand farming operations. On the other hand, high land values have bailed out some farmers in financial distress and have been welcomed by older farmers wanting to retire and relocate in an urban area.
The farm debt review board administration reports an increase in activity, and local board panel members sense that with the tough times on the farm, new cases will continue to come up for consideration. Certainly the anxiety level in the farm community is very real. The free trade deal is clearly not what it was cracked up to be, and the promises about continued protection for milk and feather quotas appear to be in jeopardy. In fact, some futurists predict that marketing boards, as we now know them, will soon be dismantled altogether.
Even those who claim to be eternal optimists, those who in springtime, as the adrenaline surges, get pumped up for another season’s promise, are all clearly worried about continuing tough times. The better days ahead, longed for by so many farmers, may be a long way off.
Clearly, a significant number of good farmers are in need of economic assistance and protection right now, before it is too late, and it is for the reasons outlined that I support this resolution, fully cognizant that it is yet another Band-Aid solution to a much longer term problem.
What we need, in addition to improved crop insurance and meaningful long-term stabilization programs, is a federal-provincial lending institution which will lend money to farmers at reasonable rates of interest, subsidized by government, for it is the cost of borrowing short- and long-term credit and servicing debt that is causing much of the despair which I referred to in my opening remarks.
Mr Reycraft: I want to compliment the member for Algoma for the resolution he has brought before the Legislature this morning. I also want to let him know at the outset that I will be supporting it. The resolution is a very timely one, because I am sure that even as this debate is going on in the Legislature, there are farmers in Ontario who are out there negotiating with their banks for operating loans for 1990.
Farmers are finding that this year those negotiations to obtain the operating loans are particularly difficult. There are really two separate issues related to those operating loans. One is the simple availability of credit and the other is its cost. With respect to its availability, farmers are finding that because of low commodity prices, because of the impact of a drought in 1988, and in parts of this province in 1987 as well, and because of rising input costs, it is becoming more and more difficult for them to obtain the credit they need to get this year’s crop into the ground.
They are also finding that, for a number of reasons, the cost of credit is presenting difficulties for them. The member for Algoma talked about the prime rate of chartered banks now being 14.25 per cent. That is true. However, I suspect that perhaps by the end of this day 14.25 per cent will look attractive as a prime rate for our chartered banks, because yesterday the Bank of Canada announced that it was increasing its rate to 13.61 per cent, and some have predicted that perhaps even today the chartered banks may be increasing their rates by as much as or more than one half per cent. That means that by the end of the day we may be facing a prime rate of 14.75 per cent.
For that reason, this resolution is timely. It is also timely because this is April and we know that the Treasurer is now considering provisions of the 1990 budget. It is most appropriate that arguments like this one now be made to him.
I am pleased that the member for Algoma has chosen to endorse the recommendation of the all-party select committee, which did recommend as he indicated earlier. Recommendation 33 provided that the government should consider a program similar to the Ontario farm family interest rate reduction program that would demonstrate the government’s commitment to help farmers in times of high-interest-rate crisis. This was the first time the Ontario Federation of Agriculture appeared before the finance committee as part of its pre-budget consultation and I am very pleased that the committee, of which I am a member, chose to accede to that recommendation.
Mr McGuigan: I am pleased to join my colleagues in supporting at least the first half of the resolution of the member for Algoma. I cannot, however, support the second half, which says that Ontario should enact legislation similar to the Manitoba Family Farm Protection Act.
First, we should look at the 1934 Farmers’ Creditors Arrangement Act and its results. The act gave the courts power to facilitate compromises between bankrupt farmers and creditors in the prairie provinces on debts incurred before 1 May 1935. The legislation resulted in debts on land being forgiven on an average of 35 per cent for land debts and 45 per cent for machinery purchase debts. While it gave some relief to farmers, it had two long-term, ill after-effects. It set farm family against farm family, because the creditors in those days were often farmers, and it effectively removed the banks from the farm lending field until the early 1950s. From 1935 until about 1952, they were removed from the field.
In 1982, Ralph Ferguson, MP for Lambton-Middlesex, introduced a private members’ bill to resurrect the Depression-era act. The bill died on the order paper, but many interest groups made representation to the committee about the negative impact of the bill on the supply in terms of agriculture credit. This morning we had the corn producers talking about not only the cost of credit but the availability. The federal government has since introduced farm debt relief review boards without the capacity of imposing court settlements to assist in arrangements between farmers and their creditors.
The Ontario Farm Debt Review Board is very effective in helping financially stressed farmers deal with their lenders in a constructive manner. Ontario supports the efforts of all parties involved in the farm debt review process. Many farm families have used the counselling services provided by OMAF’s farm family adviser program to prepare for their board hearings. The federal government has just announced that it intends to increase the flexibility of the farm debt review process. Rather than duplicate the federal Farm Debt Review Act at the provincial level, this process should be supported and developed within the existing framework. The Manitoba act is very similar to the federal Farm Debt Review Act.
I cannot split my vote, but I will support the resolution at this stage with the caveat that I encourage the member to give regard to my comments on the second part of his proposal. At this first reading I will allow my support for a return of an OFFIRR-type program to override my concerns about a Manitoba-type act.
Mr J. M. Johnson: I thank the member for Algoma. I would like to first of all compliment him and congratulate him on his amendment. It is an excellent proposal and I hope the members will support it. I would like to compliment the former Minister of Agriculture and Food on his remarks this morning. I think they are very appropriate.
In the two minutes that I have, I would just like to make one point, and possibly it is to the members who represent city ridings. A large number of people in Ontario feel that we should be preserving our farm land, that there is an erosion of the cities on to the farm land and that it is a major problem. It has been going on for many years and it will continue.
One factor that the members should consider is the point that if we preserve our farmers, they will preserve the farm land. When farmers are forced into the position where they cannot make a living, as has been pointed out many times this morning, then it is impossible for them to stay on their land.
We have a case of a young man up in my riding who tried his best to stay on his land. He was forced off the land. He obtained a job in real estate, and in the last two years he made over $100,000 a year selling real estate. The argument is that he should have left many years ago, but he loves farming; he wants to go back into farming when he can. It demonstrates that the people who have the ability to make livings in many other ways want to work on the farm, and we should encourage them. To encourage them is to provide whatever assistance we can, and the resolution presented this morning by the member for Algoma is a step in that direction.
With regard to my friend the member for Essex-Kent, I appreciate his position and I recognize that he cannot split his vote. I appreciate his view that our needing an OFFIR-type program overrides his concern about the legislative route as well as part of the resolution.
I just want to point out, though, that the Family Farm Protection Act enacted in Manitoba is not the same as the legislation the member for Essex-Kent was referring to. It does indeed require application to a court and it sets up an advisory board to assist in developing mediation with the lending institutions.
The objects of the act are to afford protection to farmers against unwarranted loss of their farming operations during periods of difficult economic circumstances, to preserve the agricultural land base of Manitoba and to ensure that farm land is farmed and managed during periods of difficult economic circumstances, to preserve management skills of farmers during periods of difficult economic circumstances, to preserve the human resources of the agriculture community of Manitoba and to preserve the existing lifestyle of farm communities in Manitoba and the tradition of locally owned and managed family farms.
I think those objects would certainly be supportable by all members of this House for Ontario and I am not wedded to a particular legislative approach. If the government could come up with improvements to the approach taken in Manitoba for that part of the resolution, I am quite amenable to that.
I also want to thank my friend the member for Middlesex. His observation that it is not only hard to pay for credit is hard to obtain credit for farmers today is certainly correct. If his prediction that we may see a half percentage point increase in the prime interest rate today is correct, that will mean an additional $4.5 million in the cost of servicing short-term farm debt in Ontario. There is no question that we need action in this budget.
I particularly want to thank my friend the member for Huron. His experience in the agriculture community and in agricultural policy is well known. I appreciated his sincere approach in his speech and I agree with him completely when he brands this resolution as really a Band-Aid approach. I agree; it is that. I think we are in a crisis situation and we need to take action, but there is no question that this is not the long-term answer for farm finance in Ontario. I agree with him that we need a federal-provincial lending institution that is dedicated to ensuring that family farming can operate at a profit and prosper, not just in Ontario but throughout Canada.
I regret the fact that I must agree with my friend the member for Simcoe East when he says the history of Canada and the history of Ontario have really been a history of the decline of family farming. When he points out that 30 per cent of the farmers in Ontario are in difficult financial straits, that indeed is evidence of a crisis.
I remember that a year or two ago I sat down with a young farmer in my constituency because he was going out of business and he wanted to show me why he was going out of business. We went over his books. He had just recently purchased the farm and he had all the financial problems that all beginning farmers have. He had assistance from various farm programs, but the bottom line, as we went through his previous year’s books, was $10,000. That is what he had, $10,000, as a return on his investment, his management and not only his labour but the labour of his wife and other members of the family. He just could not support his family on $10,000.
That is the kind of situation we are facing for young farmers, but the crisis is not just for young farmers today. With the problems we are facing with regard to the so-called free trade agreement and the GATT negotiations, and the pressures they are putting on farmers in Ontario and the future of marketing boards in this province, many farmers, not just young farmers, are going to face this problem. I think we must take action in the short term, in this year’s budget, as a way of tiding those farmers over until we can get a properly developed and negotiated federal and provincial approach in this country to assist agriculture across Canada and throughout Ontario.
I appreciate the support that has been voiced by members for this resolution. I hope that in passing this resolution today we will be giving a message to the Treasurer, in his preparations for the spring budget, that we will see a family farm interest rate reduction program included in the budget, that it will have sufficient funding to make a difference and that it will be of the duration required to last throughout the period of high interest rates. Again, I thank members very much for their support.
That, in the opinion of this House, recognizing the increased incidence of behavioural problems and violence in schools, and recognizing that children in Ontario currently do not have a right to mental health treatment, and recognizing that there are 10,000 children presently waiting for treatment in children’s mental health centres, and recognizing that there is a lack of legislation in Ontario which specifically governs mental health services for children, the present government should make the provision of children’s mental health services a government priority and take immediate action to ensure that all children in Ontario are provided the mental health services which they require and deserve.
Mr Brandt: I am not overly pleased to have to bring this motion to the House, because I want to identify what I consider to be an extremely critical problem that I believe very sincerely requires the attention of government.
I do not think there are many members of this House who would disagree with the position I put forward that there are problems in connection with the services that are presently being provided in the field of mental health for children. We may disagree, as we sometimes are wont to do in this Legislative Assembly, on the solutions, but I believe there is reasonable agreement to the extent that we have a difficulty that has to be identified very clearly, one that has to be addressed by the government of Ontario.
The resolution I have put before this House is a fairly general and broad resolution. It has specific implications that I would like to identify in the context of my remarks this morning. But generally, in terms of this particular resolution, what it does is identify the fact that there are children on a waiting list, that there are serious problems relating to the mental health conditions of those children and that government does in fact have a responsibility to provide some services at least to assist in part in overcoming those problems.
The numbers are really quite frightening. Some 10,000 children are presently on waiting lists that range from a time frame of six months to as long as two years. When we are talking about situations that involve child abuse in many instances, the question of incestuous relationships within a family, sexual abuse on the part of some of the situations relating to these children, I do not think there is anyone in this assembly who could justify that these kinds of critical problems can be allowed to fester for a six-month or one-year period or, heaven forbid, a two-year period.
Can you imagine a member of this House, Mr Speaker, meeting a two-, three- or four-year-old child on the street and having that child come up to a member of the Legislative Assembly with a frightened, hurt and frustrated look on his face, saying: “Help me. I’m being abused at home. My father is an alcoholic and he abuses me physically on a regular basis”? You look at the pleading look in this child’s eyes and the response of a member of this Legislative Assembly is, “We are going to help you, but come back in six months, come back in a year or come back in two years.” These are the kinds of problems, I suggest, that do not have any kind of waiting period that we can allow to occur.
Let me give a specific example. I have read some of the histories of these cases into the record, but these are examples of situations that exist today. A four-year-old girl was the victim of incest and the alleged perpetrator is the father. She has undergone three years of abuse. The response that we have given this child to date is, “You’re on a waiting list.” This child has spent 75 per cent of her life in a situation that can be described as nothing less than a horror. Yet our only means of extending a hand of support is to say, “Well, maybe we’ll be able to help you in six months or a year or two years.” That is just not good enough.
The minister’s response, when I have addressed this question in the House, is, “Well, we’re going to wait for the Maloney report.” I want to suggest to the minister that the Maloney report was not set up in that study specifically to zero in on the question of children’s mental health services. So although that may be a satisfying response to the minister, it is not a satisfying response to me.
Second, the minister has indicated, “Well, if we got more money from the federal government under the CAP, the Canada assistance plan, we would be able to provide the help that is necessary.” Certainly, if another level of government provided some kind of bailout funding, then maybe the solution would be somewhat easier. But I have to point out, if I might, without being provocative on this particular question, that the CAP was intended for social and welfare services and not for children’s mental health services. It does not come under that particular program. It can be used, I suppose, as a convenient excuse, but the reality is again that this is not providing the assistance that is necessary.
I would suggest that children’s mental health is not a welfare or social service program, but in fact a health problem. The health of these children is being affected by the living environment they are forced into. A three-, four- or five-year-old child does not have any choice other than to live in a family situation irrespective of how unacceptable that family situation might be. When they reach out with a cry for help from this Legislature, I believe we have a responsibility to respond and to respond as quickly as we can.
I circulated my resolution to a number of agencies within a matter of the last few days. I have not received one negative response yet. Many of them are from ridings that are represented by the New Democratic Party and many of them are Liberal ridings and ridings represented by my own party. Let me read from only one of those letters of support. The director of education for the Kent board of education, in a letter that was dated to me yesterday, said:
“The board supported in principle the resolution as proposed by you, but asked that it go one step further and question the wisdom of the provision of mental health services for children under the umbrella of the Ministry of Community and Social Services instead of the Ministry of Health. Trustees had a great deal of difficulty understanding why children’s mental health services” -- they recognize it as a medical problem -- “is not under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health, which is what they would like to see happen.”
The reality is that it should be under the Ministry of Health, and I fully support any efforts on the part of the current minister to make that shift into the appropriate ministry. I see this as a health problem that should come under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, and not as a social service problem of some kind.
In the short time that is left available to me, I want to indicate that there are really three fundamental reasons why the members of this House should support the resolution I am proposing to them today. I would like to suggest to members that the most valuable resource we have in this province and in this country is not our minerals; with all respect to the earlier resolution that was brought before this House, not our farm land; not our energy resources; not our industries; but our children. They are the hope of the future for this province and this country. and money that we spend now in order to correct some of the problems that are going to become even more serious in the future in my view is money well spent.
That gets into my second problem. I believe that this -- as a Conservative I say this to members -- is really an investment in the future of our children. If we can stop some of these abuses and these living environmental problems that are unacceptable from happening, if we can offer some form of assistance to these children now, it is my view that we can save tremendous sums of government money in the future by making them productive citizens of tomorrow.
Finally, let me say in the time remaining to me that the Premier indicated he wept at the thought of what had happened at St Joseph’s Training School for Boys in the small community of Alfred. That situation, which is supposed to have occurred some 30 years ago and which we talked about in this House yesterday, is one that disturbs, I know, every member of this Legislature.
But it is not enough to weep about a situation that none of us were able to control 30 years ago when we were not here. I do believe there is a responsibility on our shoulders today to do something about today’s children. We cannot simply stand idly by and watch these children constantly being exposed to situations that -- I do not exaggerate this point -- are going to warp their minds and turn them into very confused and very troubled citizens of the future. We cannot stand by and watch that happen when there are things that government can do to correct the problem.
Before I begin my more formal remarks, I would like to take it upon myself to try to clear up a confusion that I think the honourable member for Sarnia has placed in this House this morning. He is confusing child protection, which is the responsibility of the children’s aid society and this society has the power to apprehend a child in risk, with a child requiring counselling outside the situation of risk. The children’s aid society in this province has the resources to provide counselling to children and has the ability to apprehend them. There are no waiting lists for this service; this is the law.
The government of Ontario and the Ministry of Community and Social Services remain strongly committed to the provision of an appropriate response to children who are in need of mental health services. It is critical that we, as legislators, recognize the serious problems that these children and their families are facing daily.
There is a growing recognition that to effectively serve children with special needs, we will be required to approach the challenge with the co-operation and collaboration of services that are the responsibility of several ministries. The newly formed interministerial committee on services to children and youth consists of senior officials from the ministries of Community and Social Services, Health, Education, Tourism and Recreation, and Correctional Services. This committee has a strong mandate to ensure the establishment of a co-ordinated and integrated in-service mechanism, and to ensure effective practical solutions at the local level or field level where the individual mandates of the different ministries may now be impeding the most efficient delivery of services to the children of Ontario.
The first meeting of this new committee with this exciting and challenging mandate was held on 4 January 1990. I believe that with this gathering of key providers we now have a regular meeting ground for the essential discussion that will lead to full review and reform.
There are already many examples of local collaboration among children’s mental health service providers. The northern initiatives for children with special needs project is restructuring services for children in northern Ontario. This project will ensure that health and social service providers, as well as educators in the north, plan and work together regularly.
In the important area of policy, the lead Ministry of Community and Social Services, children’s services division, is addressing mental health issues for children. The Advisory Committee on Children’s Services has been asked to identify the requirements of an adequate children’s service system in this decade and beyond.
The Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres and other service providers are participating in this review. This association represents 90 of the children’s mental health centres in Ontario and receives an annual grant from the Ministry of Community and Social Services to assist in its administrative costs.
Needless to say, we are not yet satisfied that children’s mental health care is provided as quickly as we would like it in every instance. I think it is quite clear, however, that over the past few years the Ontario government has made a significant effort to improve the whole children’s service sector.
This commitment was further manifest in last week’s announcements by the Minister of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Health that transfer payment agencies under their jurisdiction will be receiving a 5.5 per cent increase in their respective budgets. This represents an increase in dollar terms of $18.6 million above inflation.
Changes in the designation of the majority of children’s mental health service centres have permitted federal cost-sharing of services under the Canada assistance plan, but as a result of the most recent federal budget a cap has been placed on this funding source, resulting in a projected shortfall to the Ministry of Community and Social Services of $160 million. Of this total, $34.5 million will be lost to Ontario’s community mental health resource network for children with special needs. This is serious. Waiting lists will certainly not be made shorter through any help from these federal government cutbacks. We all know that waiting lists are significant, and they are a great concern to the Ministry of Community and Social Services and to this government.
If I may say a word about these waiting lists, mental health services for Ontario’s children are decentralized and are delivered by many agencies. It is therefore sometimes very difficult to determine the number of children waiting for services and then to determine whether the services that they await will be appropriate to their needs. The Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres and other service providers are working carefully to locally develop a means of identifying children in urgent need and, once identified, to ensure that the services they receive are indeed the best for their particular needs.
Children’s mental health services must constantly be prioritized and allocated to children whose need is the greatest. This is a challenge we face in every area of health care, but for children with special needs the call is very clear. The Ministry of Community and Social Services is co-operating and using the most up-to-date technologies to develop accurate data concerning those children on waiting lists and continues to work with children’s mental health professionals to assess developments in treatment and ways to ensure the effective use of professional services.
There are currently 100 mental health centres devoted to children’s needs in Ontario, providing services to a case load of approximately 30,000 children at a cost of $142 million in the fiscal year 1988-89. These children’s mental health centres provide a wide range of services: residential and day treatment, psychotherapy and counselling, early intervention and outreach and prevention activities. Three of these agencies are in my home city of Ottawa -- the Centre for Educative Growth is in my riding of Ottawa-Rideau and the Child Study Centre and the Roberts Smart Centre are in Ottawa-Carleton -- and we in the Ottawa-Carleton Liberal caucus have met as recently as December 1989 with these providers to hear their concerns.
In addition to the services these agencies provide, Ontario’s public hospitals offer several different kinds of services to children with special needs; 20 public hospitals receive health funds specifically designated for children’s outpatient service. The Ministry of Health also funds psychiatric inpatient units for children and adolescents in hospitals in three major centres:
Victoria Hospital in London, the Hospital for Sick Children and Sunnybrook Medical Centre in Toronto and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. Provincial psychiatric hospitals in London, Whitby and St Thomas also operate adolescent programs whose salary component is funded through a purchase-of-service agreement with the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
The Minister of Community and Social Services and his staff continue to be actively involved in discussions with representatives from the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres to find positive solutions to these issues and the issues that I have identified and that we are all aware of. I believe that all these ongoing initiatives indicate clearly the concern of and commitment by the government of Ontario and the Ministry of Community and Social Services to children needing mental health services in this province. The continuing efforts to develop an effective and comprehensive and responsive service system continues. We in the government realize there are great needs. We realize that we have not accomplished the task, but we are certainly trying, willing and able to do so, with the co-operation of the providers in the field. That task we have begun actively and will continue to pursue on a daily basis.
Mr Allen: I gather we have 15 minutes to share among the members of this party, in which case I will be taking a little over half of the time and my colleague the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore will be speaking to the rest.
I rise with great interest in this resolution, which I support wholeheartedly. I commend the member for Sarnia for bringing it forward. I have noted his recent questions in this House in this regard, which I was questioning the minister about over the last year or so myself. I note that he has introduced a refinement to his resolution almost implicitly in his remarks, which is that he does think the services that the children’s mental health centres provide should be transferred back to the Ministry of Health and away from the Ministry of Community and Social Services. I do not read that in the resolution, and I am not committed to that solution when I speak in defence of his resolution.
I want to say that there certainly is a great deal of evidence that there is not only a great impact of the violence of our times -- whether it is measured in family terms, in community terms, in television and media terms or international terms -- upon our children; the evidence is there in stories that one reads in papers like the Toronto Star and others, “Teen Violence a Growing Menace.” What was happening at the Lakeshore Collegiate Institute was “a drama of horrified classmates watching a young group enter the school with broken bottles and attacking students,” and so on through a number of incidents. The article goes on to affirm that the majority of kids are really great and all-together students, but the symptoms are there.
I look at a recent report from the city of Windsor and the county of Essex on the whole question of children’s services. One of the concluding remarks is that there is a definite belief that mental health problems among children and young adults are increasing in Windsor and Essex county. So it is not just in the big city; it is in the medium-sized city and it is in the surrounding counties as well. This group in Windsor-Essex is extremely concerned about the facilities that are available for the treatment of those young people.
I myself have received over the months numerous letters pointing out the problems that we have in the delivery and the availability of service, the problems afflicting children’s mental health treatment centres around the province. One, for example, is from a lawyer who specializes in work with those children, a man by the name of Stephen Biss writing in Toronto, relaying to me some of the correspondence that he has had with the predecessor of the Minister of Community and Social Service, the member for Kitchener-Wilmot, and arguing that new funding was absolutely critical for the children’s mental health centres and, in spite of the fact that in 1987 the member for Kitchener-Wilmot promised such funding, there was no evidence of it in the subsequent months after 28 April 1987. He writes:
“Two years have now passed, and I am not aware of any new children’s mental health placements in Peel for such severely troubled and acting-out adolescents. My child clients who fall within this category continue to be placed far outside Peel. Long waiting lists remain the rule. “Such clients who begin involvement with the courts under the Child and Family Services Act often quickly become young offenders with resulting damage to their lives, to their parents’ wellbeing, to victims of crime and to the community.”
I have correspondence from the Earlscourt Child and Family Centre in Toronto, more than one letter. They tell me of the problem that they are facing in resolving their priorities as they try to service a very large waiting list and at the same time reach out into the community, unfortunately having to put to one side projects that they would want to undertake and leaving the servicing of many children on their lists for months on end. One of those letters from the Earlscourt centre reads, in part, as follows:
“In a recent publication of the Canadian Council of Children and Youth, ‘Safer Tomorrow Begins Today,’ research is presented that draws correlations of parental conflict, poor parenting and troublesome behaviour in children with future criminal and delinquent activity. It would seem obvious to most reading this report that putting a priority on resources in treating these problems would be an excellent approach to preventing the negative outcomes resulting from no or minimal intervention. Currently, this could not be a priority of governments. Otherwise, why would only $3,400 be spent in Ontario on children’s mental health.. .versus $47,000 per convict per year in Canadian jails?”
I noted at that time the extreme waiting lists that young people and their families are facing as they try to seek help which is severely needed at children’s mental health centres. I noted, for example, that at the Beechgrove Children’s Centre in Kingston they had been lined up 430 deep in the past year and that in Windsor the number was 445, that across the province a demonstrated total of 6,000 are on confirmed waiting lists, and probably another 4,000. When the government member who just spoke questioned those waiting lists, she did not of course even take time to reflect on the numbers of children out there who desperately do need help who go beyond these actual waiting lists.
Stress and frustration in these centres is taking a heavy toll on staff. At the time I was speaking prior to Christmas, one of those centres was on strike and another one has since been on strike for nine weeks up at Geneva Park. The Minister of Community and Social Services, in answer to repeated questions, kept replying that more money had been spent recently, but when you talked with the mental health centres themselves, they asked the minister to provide evidence that that was indeed the case, because they saw no change -- and so on and so on. The problems that they face in terms of staff turnover arise from the low levels of funding that the centres receive. The child and youth workers, for example, can earn 6 to 45 per cent more money elsewhere. Professional staff can get from 5 to 7 per cent more in social service agencies, 12 to 17 per cent more in Ministry of Health-funded bodies and 28 per cent more in school boards. So there is a massive problem of staff turnover in this as in so many other community social services.
While the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres has been calling this issue to our attention -- for weeks and months now, it has been issuing the Children’s Mental Health Advocate on a regular basis, detailing the problems that afflict it and its clients -- it does not see the necessity for more studies. It is true the Maloney commission is out there, and Mr Maloney is a sensitive observer and he will undoubtedly provide an excellent report, but the minister already has the Heseltine report of three years back, which made a series of very specific recommendations, none of which appear to have been followed up.
There are several levels to this issue, and I would like to have time to go into them, but I do not. There is the treatment versus the care question. It is not at all clear that simply transferring these centres back to the Health ministry, where they were once, and leaving the Ministry of Community and Social Services is in itself a particularly helpful solution.
It seems to me that health and social services, the social setting of health problems, creates a single continuum and the decision that was made a few years ago under the Child and Family Services Act to combine them was a good one. But what got lost in the process was the guarantee of universal care and treatment for these young people in children’s mental health centres so that if you were ill for mental and emotional and behavioural reasons, you had at least as much of a guarantee that you would be treated immediately and promptly as you would if you were physically ill as a child.
We all know that a child who is physically damaged can be taken to a medical clinic or a hospital and receive immediate treatment. That is not the case with these equally severe or even more severe traumas that afflict young people who come out of violent situations. As a result, the problem that we face is a severe one and the leader of the third party is certainly correct that this needs to be a very high priority for this government to face when it looks at the whole problem of children’s services and the needs of our children in our society.
I would like to start by saying that I hope this resolution in fact will get the support of the government members in this House, and I say this very directly and to the point: Children’s mental health services across the province of Ontario are right now in extreme difficulty. It may have to do with changes in legislation in the past, it may have to do with a lack of funding, it may not perhaps be the direct responsibility of the government, but it is certainly a direct responsibility and related to the problems in society today.
The kinds of children who were on waiting lists some five years ago were very different from the kinds of children who are there now. They are children who are being referred with very severe mental health problems. They are children who in the past may have been ignored, or as we were trying to find a way to treat them and serve them through school systems and through hospitals and through medical doctors, we have come to the conclusion that children’s mental health institutions are best able to do that because they have the kind of staff, but the lineups are real, and all this resolution does is to ask the government to recognize that there really is a serious problem in Ontario today. I would hope that this is the kind of recognition we are going to get. That is the intent of the member for Sarnia: Put it higher up on the list of priorities. I would think that would be a very high one with this government.
We do respect, in fact, the commission that is looking at health services across the province as they relate to the treatment of children, and that is Dr Cohn Maloney and his work. However, we should also know at the same time that the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres, which is very much aware of the mandate of that commission, understands truly that it will not be dealing with the crises.
The crises are this very long waiting list, some would say over 10,000 children. Those children who are being dealt with first are children who are suicidal. We used to look at routine matters, routine cases, if members can believe it, waiting maybe three or four weeks just five years ago. Now we have those routine cases, if members can imagine their children being referred for mental health support being considered routine at all, being asked to wait some six or seven months. This is serious business.
In school boards across the province, there used to be an opportunity to create more section 25 facilities, but with the introduction of Bill 82, our boards are very much concerned about creating more of those facilities, because they are not quite certain what their role is in the delivery of mental health services and what the role of the children’s mental health associations really is. There are some 85 agencies they can turn to, but they used to create these special schools and work with the agencies. But there is confusion as to who has what jurisdiction. Right now in Ontario there is a real need to get at that legislation and clarify the mandate. Right now under the Education Act school boards in fact cannot buy those services. They should be buying the services, because the mental health people are the best able to deliver the kinds of services that are necessary, but they are confused as to who should do it.
This big issue in the province is not part of the mandate of the Maloney commission. All that the children’s mental health centres are asking for is that the government recognize that problem, that roadblock, create another separate commission to deal very quickly with legislative changes and mandates and to do it immediately. They could do this within months by establishing a commission by order in council. It is a very specific request that they are asking for.
I heard the government representative speak today of the amount of money that is going in, and I can tell the minister right now that as we take a look at responses from places such as the Beechgrove Children’s Centre in Kingston, Ontario, where the chairman of the board took the time on 15 March to write a letter to the area manager of the Ministry of Community and Social Services; very specifically, the first paragraph of that letter is this:
“Although our 1990-91 service plan and budget is not yet finalized, it is evident even at this point that the result of the increase in provincial funding being held to 4.5 per cent” -- that is the provincial funding that is going in; maybe 5 per cent but 4.5 in this case -- “will result in a reduction in mental health services Beechgrove provides to children and families of southeastern Ontario.”
This is all of southeastern Ontario. Need I talk about the services at Madame Vanier Children’s Centre in London, Ontario, where the same kind of letter will probably be presented and where a member of the board wrote not too long ago to the minister to say:
“I’ve been here for a number of years and it is not often that I would write a letter to the Minister of Community and Social Services. But I can tell you right now that we have got real problems in the delivery of services in this institution, and since I have been here a long time, I can tell you that we used to look at waiting lists, but they were for children that in fact were being served in some way elsewhere and right now they have nowhere to go.”
As I heard the representative of the government today speak about adolescent services, surely the members of this House know across the province, and we have known it for a long time that there is a serious shortage of mental health services for teenagers in Ontario. All of us in our job in 130 constituency offices across this province, day by day, have members of families coming and asking if we can help get their young children mental health services. There is a severe shortage of adolescent psychiatrists across this province. Everyone recognizes it. We cannot get young people to go into that field of medicine. How could anybody stand up in the House today and assume things are okay?
All this motion is doing is saying to recognize that there is a problem and then to get on with it. That is all it says, and I cannot believe that it could be interpreted in any other way. We will be circulating this motion and we will let the public of Ontario know what the government is doing. If they vote against this motion, I can tell members one thing, as a sincere member who wants to be part of the public discussion in this province and who has worked in children’s mental health services for the last decade: it will be because of sheer ignorance or arm-twisting that anybody could vote against this motion. We are only asking for recognition of a serious problem and letting the agencies know that we are all on side and that we are going to try to do something about it together. That is all it is about.
Let me tell members about linkages to education, as a former school board trustee who used to be able to help refer these children to agencies. Right now the Education Act prohibits boards from purchasing services except from other school boards. There is a really difficult problem in legislation, and that is why the children’s mental health associations want a commission established immediately, so that the real linkages between health, education, corrections and the Ministry of Community and Social Services can be dealt with.
I will close by saying that there is a crisis in the delivery of children’s mental health services across the province. There is simply not universal access. A child’s mental health problem is something that has to be dealt with immediately. There should be no waiting lists. There are other ways of helping these families. The legislation does not allow us to do it. The transfer payments are not helping. In fact, they are reducing the quality and the level of service. That is a problem for all of us, but I would not want to see anyone vote against the recognition that we have a problem that we should be solving together.
Mr Keyes: I am pleased today also to speak to the resolution brought forward by the honourable member for Sarnia regarding the provision of children’s mental health services in Ontario because it does provide me with a few moments, all too briefly, to show how the government remains strongly committed to the provision of appropriate services to children who require mental health services.
This government’s commitment to providing this service system has been demonstrated over and over again in our recent accomplishments, funding which was referred to earlier by the honourable member for Ottawa-Rideau. The amount of $120 million in 1985 was increased to an estimated $188 million in this current year. In the same period, annual funding for children’s mental health centres has grown from $85 million to $112 million. Even after an adjustment, this represents an actual enrichment of some $18.5 million for these services.
On 6 April the Minister of Community and Social Services announced an enhancement to funding of these agencies of an additional one per cent, which will result in an additional $20.6 million for community agencies, including children’s mental health agencies. For example, the honourable member for London North referred to my own area of Kingston and The Islands. Our Beechgrove Children’s Centre will receive an additional $52,000 as a result of this recently announced one per cent enhancement, which will help significantly to address that centre’s expressed concerns regarding increased costs from pay equity and the employer health tax.
The ministry also released a report in January 1988 entitled Investing in Children. The directions given in that particular report were based on research and extensive consultation with service providers and other professionals. The report indicated that all of our work and service should have a dual focus: first, on the evaluation or the prevention and the earliest possible intervention, since these services promise to be the most effective and, second, on seriously and chronically disturbed children through the continued development of a responsive and co-ordinated services system.
In November 1989 the Minister of Community and Social Services released a report entitled Better Beginnings, Better Futures. A co-ordinated group of 25 prominent educators and researchers, community workers etc, reviewed and evaluated not only the literature but also 45 Ontario prevention programs for disadvantaged children. As a result of that study, the three ministries of Community and Social Services, Health and Education have initiated a major research demonstration project to test the effectiveness of primary prevention in services to children at risk.
They have committed some $3.5 million for each of five years to support services to children and families that address the whole range of their physical and social needs. They have addressed it to support those with high-quality programming, tailored to community needs. As the minister announced in the House in November, we will be launching six such community projects across the province during this coming summer. The Minister of Community and Social Services also committed continuing funding over the next 25 years for research and evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.
In terms of the resolution to which I am speaking today, I must disagree strongly with the honourable member’s statement that the government is not dealing with the issue of children’s mental health. Children’s mental health centres are publicly funded and are accessible to everyone, contrary to what the honourable member would attempt to have this House believe. We are working with these centres to address the issue of waiting lists.
The government is also in the process of examining and refining the current legislation. We are working in conjunction with the various groups of professionals who work in this field to evaluate current programs, extend these programs, add new ones where necessary and review the issue of comprehensive legislation. We recognize that there is an increasing demand for such services and that there is never enough money to do as many things in this province as we want to do in any ministry of government. But we also recognize that there are children in our communities who desperately need our help.
This government has made children’s mental health a priority since coming to office in 1985 and will continue to treat it as such. These concrete efforts demonstrate our commitment to children who need services for their mental health. For that reason I will not be supporting this resolution as presented today.
Mrs Grier: Unlike the representatives of the government party, I am very proud and very pleased to support the resolution that is before us today. We have heard a great deal of justification and explanation of what the government is doing and an assertion from the member for Kingston and The Islands that in fact children’s mental health is a priority for this government.
There are almost 10,000 children on waiting lists for mental health care in the province. If mental health care for children is a priority, I cannot understand how that figure exists. When I hear other representatives of the government boast about how the government is developing data to prioritize the needs of the children on waiting lists at these centres, I am appalled.
If a child is on a waiting list for a mental health centre, that child has a need. Surely it has to be the priority of all of us, whether we are members of the Legislature, whether we are parents, whether we are grandparents, whether we are just human beings, that a child in need and a child in crisis is a priority and has to receive the help he or she requires.
The government says how much more money it is spending. Let me point out that the $20 million in extra funding, if it is allocated for mental health centres, in my community of Etobicoke alone might provide for four centres -- we already have three -- might serve another 1,000 children. There are currently 2,535 children in my community of Etobicoke, with a population of 300,000, whose social, emotional and behavioural needs are not being met. So I will take that $20 million, put it in Etobicoke and then the province can worry about all the other communities. If that is what is going to happen, they are not meeting the needs.
Co-ordinating committees, moves from one ministry to another, health councils and meetings to discuss practical solutions -- we have been talking about all that for decades. The government could have all the discussions, conferences and forums to discuss how to meet the needs. If they do not have the money to provide the services, none of that amounts to improving the situation. The costs of this underfunding are severe in the families and the children affected. There is a waiting list of up to 10 months in Etobicoke for service, and every day of delay makes the problem worse.
The majority of the members of this Legislature, I suspect, are parents and I suspect very many of them have gone through a period in their own families when one of their kids was being a problem. Members know the stress that puts upon a family. Just think of the stress it puts upon the workers in those centres. The centres are underfunded, the case loads are too big and that results in a turnover of workers, in much greater stress and burnout and in inadequate service in those centres, let alone the inability to serve the need that is out there. The cost of not acting is so high to society as a whole, let alone to the individuals and to the families.
The Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres estimates the cost at being $3,400 per child who needs help. If that child does not get the help and ends up in our criminal justice system, we will all be paying $47,000 a year to support perhaps that child in one of our criminal institutions. If ever there was an argument for prevention on economic grounds, surely that was that.
But the argument for prevention is not just on economic grounds, it is on human grounds. As a society, surely we are going to be known by how we treat our children, how we protect our children. To have jurisdictional squabbles as to which ministry is responsible or whether the children’s aid is in fact responsible is not good enough. The children of this province have got to be a priority.
It is obvious from the fact that government members are not going to support this resolution today that the mental health of the children of our province is not a priority for this government, and that is shocking.
Mr Eves: I, for one, am not convinced that all government members are going to oppose this resolution in the House this afternoon. I would certainly think that it is in the best interests of the government and everybody in Ontario to support a very important resolution dealing with the health and wellbeing of Ontario’s children, who are certainly our most valuable resource.
I am sure we are all aware that one in six children is emotionally disturbed. I am sure we are aware that mental health problems account for a greater proportion of hospital days than medical problems for individuals between the ages of 15 and 20 years of age in Canada. Suicide ranks as the second major cause of premature death for individuals between the ages of 15 and 20 years in Canada.
From my own personal experience in my region of the province, mental health services are not as accessible as we would like. It is exemplified by the 10,000 children waiting for mental health treatment in children’s mental health centres across the province. There are waiting lists in hospital treatment centres and there is a shortage of child psychiatrists, especially in northern Ontario.
The seriousness of this problem is magnified by the fact that at least 10 per cent of those waiting for treatment over one year are considered critical cases. Examples of critical cases are children physically and sexually abused and cases which involve suicide and fire-setting.
The District of Parry Sound Child and Family Centre in 1989 had to put 179 children on a waiting list for treatment. The centre has had much difficulty retaining staff because salaries are much lower than those in the health sector. Concordia Center in North Bay currently has a waiting list in excess of 60 children, and over the past three months has not been able to accept one single more child for treatment. But this is not just a regional problem; it is indeed a province-wide problem.
For the minister’s and the government’s part, they seem to be prepared to rely on the Maloney report, the special advisory committee on children’s services, before they take action. Alex Thomson, who is the president of the Ontario Association of Children’s Mental Health Centres, says that Mr Maloney has spent exactly two hours in the last 17 months of his investigation talking to mental health professionals. I do not think that is sufficient.
I would like to finish by quoting from a document, Achieving Our Potential Together -- a corporate plan, put out by the Ministry of Community and Social Services in January 1990. On page 9 the minister says, “The government has made a commitment to accessibility that strives to make all services reasonably accessible to residents in all areas of the province.”
If the minister truly believes what he says, and all members of the House believe in that, I think we will vote for this resolution today, because I think we all have a responsibility to ensure that all the children in Ontario have access to mental health services.
I drafted this particular resolution because of the indications of growing problems in our society that I believe very sincerely have to be faced head-on by this Legislature. These problems are not problems that are going to go away without our attention. They are not problems that are going to reduce in magnitude as a result of our simply ignoring the realities of what is going on in our schools and in our homes and across society in Ontario. They are problems that I believe we have a responsibility to do something about as quickly as we can.
Let me just for a brief moment address the question, since it was raised by the government members, of the amount of financing that is being made available and some of the increased funding to this particular program, and I appeal directly to the government members when I raise this particular issue.
It has been said that a 5½ per cent increase has been given to this area of government undertaking. I agree. We have no dispute with respect to that particular number. Where we do have a dispute, however, and where government members should search their souls in connection with this particular matter, is that this government has imposed on these agencies two very costly programs which they have no way of funding, since their sole source of revenue, as members well know, is the government of Ontario -- namely, the employer health levy and pay equity.
I do not take issue with pay equity and I do not take issue necessarily with the government’s right to impose a new tax. The fact of the matter is, I disagree with the tax. But the reality is, the government has performed some fiscal sleight of hand. It has taken with one hand and given a little bit with the other, and then it holds out this great promise of saying, “Well, we are going to give you five and a half per cent.” That is intellectually incorrect and members know it. It is just wrong, and it is morally wrong because the amount of increase –
Mr Brandt: I am glad I finally got the attention of the government members, because I hope they wake up to the fact that the waiting lists as a result of reductions in the staffing of these agencies, the closing of some of these agencies that are providing these services, are extremely troubling problems that I believe this Legislature has to stop. We are looking at waiting lists of 10,000, as we have already indicated today. Those waiting lists are going to grow. They are going to become even more troubling and increase in size.
Apparently in my own area, as an example, according to the director of the agency that looks after these services in my riding, if the government-imposed programs are taken into account with the very limited amount of funding that the government is going to provide by way of an increase, they have to reduce their staffing by three or four people. I indicated an agency the other day that has some eight different locations in which it operates. Two or three of those are going to have to close down as a result of inadequate funding. It is not a question of the money being adequate, because it is not. The imposed costs on the part of this government are causing serious problems to these agencies.
Adams, Allen, Brandt, Breaugh, Brown, Bryden, Campbell, Carrothers, Cooke, D. S., Cousens, Cunningham, Dietsch. Elliot, Epp, Eves, Farnan, Faubert, Fawcett, Furlong, Grier, Hampton, Jackson, Johnson, J. M., Kormos, Laughren, Leone, Martel, McGuigan, McLean, Morin-Strom, Nicholas, Oddie Munro, Owen, Philip, E., Pollock, Rae, B., Ray, M. C., Reville, Riddell, Roberts, Runciman, Sterling, Tatham, Velshi, Villeneuve, Wildman.
TAG Apparel employed 1,250 persons in Woodstock, London, Toronto and Cambridge. Last summer, management at TAG realized that in order to stay in business and keep much-needed jobs in these communities, changes were going to have to be made. Management and the union, the Textile Workers, agreed to make concessions and sacrifices. As a result, they hoped to keep the company afloat.
On 27 February, three working days before the employees and their advisers were to meet with the bank to outline their plans to save the company, the receivers were sent in. Since that time, it has been announced that all plants owned by TAG Apparel will close.
The 1,250 employees of this company took wage and benefit cuts in order to save their jobs. There were offers to buy these companies as operating entities, but they were ignored. This Liberal government could have assisted in restructuring, but preferred to sit on the sidelines and watch these jobs go down the tube.
In cases where employees of companies in financial difficulty have a specific plan to save the operation, surely the government has an obligation to assist these employees. If the government had said to the bank and the receiver, “Hold it, let’s look at the alternatives,” we would not have 1,250 people losing their jobs.
Even in closing, the Liberals are not friends of the workers. When it comes to wages, severance and vacation pay, the employees are left without protection -- protection that this Liberal government could have legislated long ago but has failed to do so.
In 1983, Gerry helped organize an MS self-help group in Mississauga, and he has been a key individual in keeping the group active. Meetings are held in his home and provide a warm, caring atmosphere for members and their families.
A positive mental attitude is of prime importance for persons with MS, and phone contact among members helps to reinforce that attitude. MS is usually harder on spouses and families than on the person with MS because of the feeling that they cannot really help. Gerry says his wife, Gayle, offers tremendous support to both him and the group.
Now in his mid-40s, Gerry first noticed symptoms of MS during his late teens, and the disease was diagnosed when he was 30. He has always been active in sports, particularly hockey and golf, and had a nine handicap. Although mostly confined to a wheelchair, he uses a walker as much as possible and exercises daily to keep in shape.
Gerry finds woodworking a satisfying hobby and specializes in crafting beautiful clocks. His 14-year-old son, Russell, plays ball, is an ardent Blue Jay fan and receives lots of encouragement from his dad.
It is fitting that the Mississauga chapter has recognized Gerry’s efforts to help others surmount their problems and face the challenges of everyday living. I am proud to pay tribute to his courage and inspiration.
Mr Adams: The Order of the Sisters of St Joseph was founded in France in the 17th century. Sisters came to St Louis in 1836, soon moving to Philadelphia. In 1851 a house was established in Toronto, then a town of 30,000, with offshoots across southern and northern Ontario soon to follow. In 1890, sisters moved to Lindsay, then Peterborough, which is now a mother house for projects across Canada and in South America.
Over the years, the sisters have worked as teachers, health care workers, care givers to the frail, elderly and orphans and as missionaries. They have ministered and continue to minister to native people, poor immigrants and the urban poor. They were there during the province’s great cholera, typhus and typhoid epidemics. They nurtured the very roots of the separate school system.
Every generation of sisters has adapted to its times, changing the emphasis of their work, changing their style and methods to address the special needs of the day. In our day, they are an eye of focused calm in the social turmoil of our times. Here is proof that continuity and change are possible together, continuity of belief and purpose, adaptation of good work based on belief. In this era of environmental concern, the sisters deserve our congratulations for their 100 years of service.
Miss Martel: On 15 March, staff at the Workers’ Compensation Board wrote to the Premier to emphasize their concerns with conditions at the board. The chaos there has resulted from management’s attempt to implement four new major strategies in one year. Along with the strategies are new imaging, telephone and payment systems which were pushed as well. Combined, the following problems have resulted.
3. The new phone system is a disaster and means workers and their representatives can rarely speak directly to WCB staff when calls are made. Two weeks ago, representatives from Local 6500 made 21 calls to the board before they actually spoke to a staff member instead of an answering machine.
4. The Workers’ Compensation Board reorganized its operations and created the integrated service units less than two years ago. They are now being reorganized yet again and management is intent on now applying this flawed model to the regional offices.
Mr Cureatz: It grieves me somewhat to have to make this statement because, as members well know, from time to time I like to poke fun at all members and remind us all that we are hypocrites at times in this esteemed, august chamber.
However, the Minister of Correctional Services visited the community of Sault Ste Marie to announce plans for psychiatric services for the medium-security Northern Treatment Centre in that city. He spoke about the issue of day passes and explained that he was aware of concerns about -- and I am using his words, I regret to say, “crazy people running around.” In fact, the minister said the residents of the Sault need not worry about the so-called crazy people, because the centre will be dealing not with violent criminals but with people who have addictions to drugs and alcohol. For the Minister of Correctional Services to be referring to inmates with psychiatric problems as crazy people is insulting and highly inappropriate.
Last week, I raised in this House the concerns of the growing number of psychiatric inmates in our institutions. By describing persons with psychiatric problems as crazy people, the minister is only reinforcing a very outdated and stereotyped atmosphere for institutions. He should be getting out and fighting for rehabilitation.
I spoke to him about the possibilities of selling the Whitby Jail to get the funds to build a new institution at the psychiatric treatment centre in Whitby. He told me his staff looked at it and there was not enough money. I say to the minister, that is his doggone job. He should get the money and build the new institution so that we can care for people.
Lisa Flood is an 18-year-old swimmer who represented us in the Winter Nationals in Saskatoon, where she won a gold and two silver medals in the 100-, 200- and 50-metre breaststroke. Currently, Lisa is working with her coach to earn a spot on the Canadian national team and aspires to be part of our next Olympic team.
Lisa has been joined by Larissa Lowing in bringing the athletic spotlight to Durham region. Larissa is a 17-year-old gymnastics star who represented Canada at the Seoul Olympics and has recently represented us at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland. There, she helped her teammates finish first in the overall team competition and, in the individual finals, Larissa received two silver medals in the beam and floor competition, after an injury.
Mr and Mrs Lowing and Mr and Mrs Flood, your patience and support of your daughters has obviously paid off. I am sure you are very, very proud. I would ask the House to welcome to this chamber the Lowings and the Floods.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Last week in the Legislature during question period, I raised a couple of examples of rent increases involving NHD Developments Ltd, which is owned by the Sorbara family. I would like to take this opportunity to update the Legislature with regard to the 62-unit complex in North York on Flax Garden Way. The tenants in that building are facing a 25 per cent increase in their rents, and the rent review decision is complete.
The rent review decision was made on 23 February 1990, but the decision affected rent levels as far back as 1 March 1989. As a result of the landlord being rewarded the rent increase of 25.7 per cent, some tenant families owe up to $1,500 in back rent. The tenants in this complex have received eviction notices from the Sorbara family indicating that they must pay all their back rent immediately. Because of the shortage of housing in this community, the tenants have gone to the landlord and suggested that the back rent should be spread out over a longer period of time so that tenants are not economically evicted from the buildings. At this point, the position of the landlord is, “You pay up now or you are evicted,” and that is why the eviction notices have gone out.
Tenants all across this province are experiencing exactly the same problems because of the inefficiencies and the poorly planned rent review situation in Ontario. We in this party again call on this government to kill the rent review system as it currently exists and bring in rent controls in this province.
Mr Jackson: I am pleased to bring to the attention of all members of the House a singular and historic event in the life of the Ukrainian Catholic Church which will occur tomorrow, Good Friday, in the Ukraine.
Soon after the Ukrainian church was officially recognized by the Soviet government in December 1989, Ukrainian Catholics intensified their efforts to have their historical cathedral of St George in Lvov returned to them. St George’s is the primatial seat of the heads of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and is a deep symbol of Ukrainian religion and its national identity. The cathedral was confiscated by Soviet authorities in 1946 after the Ukrainian church was forcibly united to the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate that same year.
Last week, the Soviet government ordered that St George’s Cathedral be returned to the Ukrainian Catholics. The head of the church, Metropolitan Vladimir Sterniuk, will take formal possession of his episcopal chair tomorrow, which this year is Good Friday for all Christians, both east and west. He will join with members of his pastva to celebrate Easter in St George’s for the first time in almost half a century.
On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party and as someone with deep ancestral Ukrainian roots, I would like to wish the worldwide Ukrainian community a most joyful and happy Easter as it continues to witness its church’s own unfolding resurrection.
Mr Mahoney: Following on the comments by my colleague the member for Mississauga South, I would like to announce the recent opening of a resource centre for the Mississauga chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. This resource centre will act as a central place of contact in Mississauga for persons with multiple sclerosis, the public and the chapter’s volunteers, as well as offering literature, information and support to persons with MS and their families.
Multiple sclerosis is the most common central nervous system disease of young adults in Canada. It interferes with the brain’s ability to control such functions as seeing, walking and talking, just to name a few. In fact, more than 50,000 Canadians are affected with MS and, as of today, the medical profession has discovered neither the cause nor the cure for this dreaded disease.
Multiple sclerosis has touched my family in recent years and I have come to realize the important role that the local chapters of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada play in the lives of the persons with MS and their families and friends.
The initial impact on a family when MS is discovered in a loved one is shock, disbelief and bewilderment. After these feelings fade, you begin to realize the inner strength of the victim and how that strength is actually support for the family. MS has actually made my family grow stronger as a result of the need to deal with this disease, and we have appreciated the support of the society.
Mr Laughren: I received the four pages in the brown envelope containing the Treasurer’s announcement. Ever since this person became Treasurer of Ontario, we on this side have been trying to convince this Treasurer that there is a better way to tax the citizens of this province. Every year, we lay before the Treasurer some options that would allow him to raise at least as much money, if not more, but to do so in a much fairer fashion.
We have told the Treasurer how he can impose a minimum corporate tax -- follow the lead of Ronald Reagan in the United States and have a minimum corporate tax -- told him how he can increase the tax credits –
Mr Laughren: Well, if even Ronald Reagan brings in a minimum corporate tax and this Treasurer will not, what does that tell the members about this Treasurer compared to the Ronald Reagans of this world? There is some difference.
We have asked the Treasurer to increase the tax credits. The tax credits in this province are worth less than they were when they were brought in by the Conservatives back in 1974, I believe. They have eroded over the years. There is an opportunity to remove everyone who is below the Statistics Canada poverty level from the tax rolls in the province. That is an opportunity that has been wasted by this Treasurer.
We have asked him time and again to bring in a land speculation tax to stop the flipping of lands and properties, which increases the prices of homes and also, of course, by pass-through, increases rents for tenants, particularly in Metropolitan Toronto.
Of all the 24 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, only two do not have a wealth tax: Canada and Australia. Only two countries out of the 24 OECD countries have no wealth tax; we are one of them. There is an opportunity there for the Treasurer to tax people in this province who can afford to pay some more, so it is not as though there are not opportunities.
We shall also be looking for the Treasurer, in his budget, to provide some more jobs to communities such as Windsor. My colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside has made a passionate and even coherent plea to the Treasurer on numerous occasions to diversify and bring some public sector jobs to the city of Windsor, the way it has been done in some other communities, for which we have complimented the government. That does need to be done.
It is going to be fine for the Treasurer to stand in his place on 24 April and announce to the world that he has a balanced budget. But I would ask the Treasurer, on whose backs did he bring in that balanced budget? There are still thousands of people in this province well below the poverty line established by Statistics Canada who are paying provincial income tax. It is completely unnecessary. We told him where he can get the money and still have a tax system that is appropriate for Ontario and, at the same time, he could remove a lot of misery. There is no question that the number of food banks in this province has grown directly as a result of his perverse tax policies.
Mr Brandt: I welcome the announcement by the Treasurer because we on this side of the House, and particularly in our party, have great expectations about the budget that the Treasurer will be tabling before this House in April. This may well be a historic budget in many respects, because the Treasurer may find it in the goodness of his heart, and in the wealth that he has accumulated through very significant increases in budgets in the past, to bring in -- can my friends believe this? -- a no-increase budget for the first time. I fully expect that that no-increase budget, which I anticipate is what the Treasurer will be tabling with us, will be the forbearer of other announcements which will follow shortly thereafter.
But I would like to say to the Treasurer with respect to the budget which he plans on bringing in, it is about time that we in Ontario looked very carefully at our competitive position. There is an article in the paper today about firms that are looking to the United States for locations, primarily in the Buffalo area, because it is so much easier and less expensive to do business in that particular jurisdiction. The reasons they are going over there are very simple. This Treasurer has brought in some 32 or more tax increases over the course of the past four or five years. Those tax increases include the employer health levy, and they include a first-time-only commercial concentration tax to make sure that we put every kind of impediment in the path of anybody who wants to create jobs in this province. We want to stop them cold in their tracks, and that is what the Treasurer has done with previous budgets.
Now he goes asking for forgiveness, he goes on bended knee before the people of this province and says: “Look at what I’m doing. I’m bringing in this very well balanced budget without any increases.” The Treasurer may well think he is going to fool the public, but I have far too much respect and far too much confidence in the intellectual abilities of the people of this province. They will see through any scheme the Treasurer brings forward on that particular date, because a budget which for the first time brings in no increases, coming on the heels of the most rapid taxation increases in the history of this province, is simply not going to be adequate.
The Treasurer is a gentleman for whom I have great respect, on other than economic grounds. He knows that I have great respect for him when it comes to most other issues. When it comes to finance and economics, quite frankly I think the Treasurer is an excellent farmer. I want to say that to him because I mean it sincerely. I do want to say that our party will be looking very closely at this budget. We intend to scrutinize it line by line and we will have an appropriate response on the date of the release of the budget documents.
Mr Villeneuve: I too want to remind the Treasurer very much that agriculture is still here in Ontario in spite of almost $100 million of chopping. He was directly responsible for a $27-million cut to a program which was brought in by the previous government to bring equity to the system. They called it the Ontario farm tax rebate program. It was simply to recognize that farmers should not be paying school tax on farm land and buildings. The Treasure, ruminating one day in his home riding, decided that $27 million would be chopped, and I am sure he did not even check with his colleague the former minister at that point in time. He unilaterally decided that farmers were getting just a little too much. Now, that was simply equity. I want to remind the Treasurer that interest rates have never been higher. Commodity prices are fetching prices of 20 years ago. Would the Treasurer please remember that agriculture is still very important to this province and consider it in a positive way in his upcoming budget?
Mr B. Rae: A question to the Minister of Financial Institutions: The Facility Association has indicated that the number of drivers who are being dumped into the Facility Association is now some 300,000 strong. The minister, in dealing with this situation, has always said that all we have to do is wait for Bill 68 and Bill 68 will deal with this problem. I want to say to the minister that if that is true, can he explain why it would be that on 1 December 1989 Mr Justice Coulter Osborne -- who, the minister will know, has some expertise in these matters -- was commenting at a gathering dealing with the insurance crisis and said this, “The incentives to writing business as a result of this” -- referring to Bill 68 -- “will result in the population of the Facility Association expanding, as it already has.” Given that fact, why does the minister continue to tout Bill 68 as the answer to the problem when he knows it is going to contribute even more to the rise of the number of people who have to pay over $1,500 for their car insurance?
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman knows that in many ways what he says is not completely the state of affairs. He knows that the gentleman who writes the things about the Facility was commenting on a perception of what was going to be happening. He has indicated that one of the reasons the Facility has grown is because of the tightness in the market and the concerns expressed about the way the product has performed, I guess, for the companies. While his critic, who has been speaking at length to prevent the bill from passing and to prevent the implementation of a system that will see average rates climb by only an average of zero per cent outside the large centres and by an average of eight per cent in the large urban centres, has indicated –
Hon Mr Elston: The honourable gentleman, the member for Welland-Thorold, has often said that the rates will go up by 50 per cent. That is not the state of affairs. If he were accurate, he would have said that there would be average increases of zero outside the metropolitan areas and only an average of eight per cent within them. That means that there will be people above zero and people below zero; in other words, getting decreases.
The fact of the matter is that not all the people in the Facility Association have been dumped there. The Facility actually puts together the coverage for people who have not met the underwriting criteria of the companies because of certain problems associated with driving habits and otherwise.
I acknowledge that there are underwriting concerns because of the fact that some companies have left this jurisdiction and withdrawn the writing of insurance. As a result, people have fallen into the Facility because of the tightness of the market. Bill 68 sets up a new system, a reasonable system, with balanced costs and benefits, and in fact this will help with respect to the Facility.
Mr B. Rae: The minister is talking nonsense, and he knows it; absolute nonsense. There is nothing in his legislation, nothing in his law, nothing in Bill 68 which stops the insurance companies from picking and choosing whom they want to insure and how they want to insure them. There is nothing which stops them, nothing which stops skimming, nothing which stops them from creaming off the market. Already, Judge Osborne says, as many as 30 per cent of the drivers who are dumped in the Facility Association have clean records. They are there because the insurance companies simply decide, “We’d rather not insure you,” for whatever reason that may be. It could be a younger driver and they decide they do not want to have anything to do with that.
My question for the minister is, why is there nothing in his new law which stops the insurance companies from doing what they are doing now: picking and choosing, creaming off the top of the market and dumping those they do not want into the Facility Association? Why has he not dealt with that issue?
Hon Mr Elston: One of the reasons that the honourable gentlemen has not seen very much happening with the bill in the committee of the whole or in the House is because those guys are filibustering. They will not allow us to debate. The reason that nothing can happen constructively in the auto insurance sector in Ontario to provide people with a better-priced product and in fact have better benefits and a market that is available is that the NDP is holding it up and preventing it from going the natural course of evolution in the system of our government.
These guys are speaking at length. That is fine. Let them go ahead. Do they want to frustrate this coming in? They can stand up there every day and say, “Prices are too high.” We have told them for a long time people are paying too much for auto insurance in this province because of the way the system has been working. We have come up with a reformed product which is comprehensive and, even though they do not like bits and pieces of it, it is, overall, the best and the only comprehensive option that we have today. We expect it will provide people with better cost product, better benefit levels and will make markets available and prevent people from going into the Facility Association, as the member contends. There is not any indication from any of the other parties that they have any option that approaches it.
Mr B. Rae: I do not mind the minister attacking me, but I would like him to think for a moment. The government asked Judge Coulter Osborne of the Supreme Court of Ontario to do a report on car insurance. That report was two volumes long. Judge Osborne, not in this report but very recently at a meeting, said, “Insurers will not want to write policies for the very people that this plan is designed to protect; namely, those who are compelled by statute to buy insurance and to whom, for whatever reason, insurers are not willing to extend coverage”. To quote him again, he says, “The population of the Facility Association will expand,” because of the fact that the government is maintaining the premise of the current system, which is that the private companies have a monopoly on providing insurance and they decide who they are going to insure and how they are going to insure them. That is the premise of the current system, that is the premise of Bill 68. The government has still left the monopoly where it is and it has done nothing to protect the consumer in doing so.
I want to ask the minister again, why is it that when dealing with a real problem he is running away and simply doing the bidding of the insurance companies when he has a choice? He could step in on behalf of consumers. He has chosen the insurance companies over the insurers. Why has he done that?
Hon Mr Elston: I do not run away from anybody. I do not run away from the member for York South. I do not run and do the bidding of the insurance companies. I am here to protect the people who are wishing to purchase –
Hon Mr Elston: As a continuation of how the members of the NDP treat this issue, they want to prevent people from putting the real facts in front of the people. We are here to put in front of the people a comprehensive plan that provides a coverage for people who want to purchase auto insurance at reasonable prices and provides good benefit levels. That is what we have done. In fact, what we have done further is we have gone through Mr Justice Osborne’s report and accepted a good number of his recommendations about how we have to strengthen, on behalf of the consumer, the regulator’s role so that we can look to make sure that the people are delivering the benefits that are required. In fact, that is key to this proposal and something that the opposition leader does not wish to acknowledge. We have in place a way in which we take a look at the underwriting rules, the fact that there has to be prior approval of the rates before they go out. The context of the setting of those rates will be viewed by the insurance commissioner. We have a very sound and solid role to be played by our regulator on behalf of the consumers of this province.
My question to the Treasurer takes on added meaning in the light of the fact that we are going to be having a budget in two weeks’ time. The evidence is growing around the province that, contrary to the public relations campaign by the Liberal government, the number of people using food banks is still very high and, in many parts of the province, is on an increase. Indeed, even the Daily Bread Food Bank, which has indicated some changes in its numbers, told us today that there are, according to its figures, 10,000 children under the age of two in Metropolitan Toronto who are still relying on food banks for their food.
My question for the Treasurer is this: What is he going to do to begin to address surely the most glaring social injustice in the province today, and that is the continued presence in an affluent province, in a province in which a number of people have done extremely well over the last number of years, of so many people who are having to struggle even to eat?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The question is an extremely important one. I follow the matter as carefully as I possibly can. The honourable member might be aware that, of all the enthusiasm and support for the Social Assistance Review Committee’s initiatives last year, I was one of the slowest to join that band of strong supporters, but was glad to do so when the usefulness of the SARC recommendations were clearly pointed out to me.
I was delighted to hear on CBC Metro Morning a couple of days ago from Gerard Kennedy -- whom the honourable member would know probably better than I and who founded, or at least operates, the Daily Bread Food Bank, which is the largest and most effective one that I am familiar with -- that the utilization and requirement for the food bank was down something like 15 per cent. He was good enough to say, and I can assure the honourable member that he has no particular political interest in our party, that he attributed this to the additional payments that had come through from the provincial Treasury, through the legislation and regulation that improved the SARC payments.
I was very glad to hear that, because that is exactly what it was supposed to do. It has been pointed out by others, including one of the honourable member’s colleagues, that the second area of recommendations from the Social Assistance Review Committee dealt with the working poor, a matter that another one of the honourable member’s colleagues raises from time to time in this House and a matter on which there is a lot of concern as well.
The statistics are important to get a sense of if you talk to people who run the food banks in different parts of the province. For example, we have been on the phone to people in Ottawa, Waterloo and Kingston recently and we find that the hard reality is that there has not been any decrease in the use of food banks in those communities. For example, the Partners in Mission Food Bank in Kingston had a 19 per cent increase in food bank use between March 1989 and March 1990. Similarly, in Waterloo there has been an increase.
I would like to simply ask the Treasurer why it would be that this number would still be as high as it is, given the fact that the government trumpeted last year that it was spending $400 million. They were taking all the credit for having gone ahead with the SARC reforms. Perhaps the Treasurer can explain to the House why it would be that the numbers would still be as high as they are. We have 10,000 kids under two in Toronto who are still using food banks. Is the Treasurer telling us that the government has basically gone as far as it is going to go and it is not going to go any further?
Hon R. F. Nixon: We did not trumpet the implementation of the SARC recommendations. We implemented the SARC recommendations, and it meant the largest single additional commitment for welfare services in the history of the province.
We are not finished yet. The honourable member, while he may take the role of Cassandra, should be aware of the specific facts in this area. That the utilization of food banks has been reduced by 25 per cent for those welfare families, families in receipt of special social assistance with young children. I believe that is an indication not of the solution of the problem, but at least that the allocation of some of these funds, which all come from the consolidated revenue fund, is having a useful effect.
Mr Allen: I would like to send a contribution to the Treasurer from the Walk a Mile in My Shoes campaign, which brought thousands of shoes yesterday from the poor of Ontario, working poor and dependent poor. Those shoes were filled with messages, and I want to give them to the pages to take over to the Treasurer as well, because they make instructive reading. I think their message is essentially -- if I can read one of them, perhaps it would be enlightening:
“I’m one of the more fortunate ones. I’m on FBA disability and live in supported housing. Even so, I struggle to survive because I run out of dollars by the third week of every month. I’ve used food banks because otherwise I go hungry. There are no dollars to buy clothes and no gifts at Christmas. I end up borrowing at the latter half of the month, pay it back at the first of the month, so I’m caught in a circle. I suffer from depression and fight it on a daily basis. The added stresses of living in poverty complicate my illness, making life absolutely miserable.”
I simply say to the minister that while what the government did last year undoubtedly is having an effect out there, the message of this man, Jim Gillespie, is that income adequacy for those on social assistance and the working poor remains to be accomplished. In walking a mile in some of those shoes, will the Treasurer go an extra mile this year and provide income adequacy for those on social assistance and the working poor so that in fact the figures of those who patronize food banks will really decline substantially?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The utilization of food banks has declined dramatically, and the honourable member should be aware of that. The statistics come from Daily Bread Food Bank. If they come from the food bank that the honourable member may run from the back of his constituency office, his statistics may be different.
I am not for a moment saying the problem is solved. All I am saying is the $415 million additional budgeted last year is having a salutary effect. The program, in addition, not only is designed to assist in the food bank problem that the honourable member and his colleagues and others have brought to public attention, but also assists those who have been caught in the trap of social assistance to move off that into a productive lifestyle, and in that connection we are also able to report significant success that I know the honourable member, in spite of his rather negative view of the world, would be the first to applaud.
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. Dr Williams, a cardiovascular surgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children, has stated that the appropriate waiting time for a child for cardiac surgery is six to eight weeks at most and at most cardiac centres in the United States a child receives surgery within two weeks.
According to an external review headed by Dr Salerno of the Hospital for Sick Children, of which I am sure the minister is aware, the situation there is that the average waiting time for children on the waiting list for cardiovascular surgery is some 14.9 or 15 weeks. Does the minister think that this is an acceptable length of time for children to be waiting for cardiac surgery?
Hon Mrs Caplan: I do not want anyone in this province to wait one moment longer than is medically acceptable. That is why we are working with the experts to tell us how we can improve on what is already a very good system.
As he knows, there are some stresses in downtown Toronto, and the recent announcement of the establishment of the paediatric registry, which links, for the very first time, the cardiovascular services available at the children’s hospital in western Ontario in London and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa with the Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto, I think, will improve that situation.
Mr Eves: That is an interesting statement that the minister makes, because Dr Williams and Dr Salerno disagree with the minister there too. She was recently announcing, and she has just said so in the House again today, that she feels children waiting for treatment can be treated elsewhere in this province, namely, London and Ottawa. I am here to tell her that Dr Williams does not share her belief. He says that the type of expertise and procedures that are required are not available anywhere else in Ontario, in most cases, other than the Hospital for Sick Children. He says that in the past week alone they have had to refer one child to the Mayo Clinic, another to Philadelphia, and that Kingston is constantly referring children to Boston to have treatment because they cannot get it here in Ontario.
They have also identified for the minister on several occasions that the real problem is the shortage of intensive care nurses at the Hospital for Sick Children. I have been trying to tell her that; we have been trying to tell her that; they are trying to tell her that. When is the minister going to do something about that?
Hon Mrs Caplan: The children’s hospital of London, the children’s hospital of Ottawa and the children’s hospital here in Toronto at Sick Children all provide cardiovascular services. There is no question that there are some very unique services which are only offered by the Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto, and we are working very closely with the experts, and I would say to the member that Dr Salerno is working very closely with the ministry in advising us as to how we can resolve the issues that we face.
We know as well that the nursing issue is very specific to downtown Toronto, and we have brought forward a package of significant nursing initiatives to create the kind of positive environment which I believe will go a long way, not only in the short term but in the long term as well. We know there are no simple or quick answers to this systemic issue facing not only Ontario but North America and the world, but I am confident that we are making progress here in Ontario.
Mr Eves: According to Dr Williams, this problem began in September 1988, which is when the nursing shortage began. That is his statement, not mine. Some 245 children have had their cardiac surgery cancelled at the Hospital for Sick Children since that period of time. That amounts to 18 per cent of their total case load. Currently there are 158 children waiting for cardiac surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Talking about specifics and what Dr Salerno is doing to help the ministry, I am glad the minister brought that up. She will know that Dr Salerno headed the external review at the Hospital for Sick Children and three weeks ago made a request to the minister for $8 million that she respond to by today to provide the necessary funding for ICU nurses so this problem can be solved at the Hospital for Sick Children today. There is an immediate solution. It is in the minister’s hands. Is she going to provide us with it or not?
“I think that what has happened in the last year or so, and I have been a part of all of this, demonstrates to me that there is a great commitment for the ministry, the hospitals and cardiac surgeons to solve this problem.”
Hon Mrs Caplan: The member opposite knows full well that the hospitals of this province are transfer payment agencies of the ministry. There has been a very significant and I would say generous allocation by the Treasury to the hospitals which will amount to some $6.5 billion.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I can say to the member opposite that we are making progress. The problems are there, we are meeting those challenges, and I am confident that by working together, with a positive attitude, as displayed by Dr Salerno, we can meet the challenges of Ontario, both for today and in the future.
Mr Runciman: My question is for the Minister of Financial Institutions related to his no-fault auto insurance plan. As he may recall, on a number of occasions I have raised the issue in this House with respect to the questions that have been raised about the constitutionality of the bill. I have suggested, and others have, that he make his legal opinions public and refer the bill to the Court of Appeal for a judgement with respect to its constitutionality.
Up to this point, the minister has refused to do that, but based on the Supreme Court decision with respect to the Patti Starr inquiry -- I think this has some relevance -- it indicates to us that there has been an overreliance on the part of the government with respect to legal opinions. I am wondering if the minister would respond in the House today: Have he and his colleagues in government learned their lesson from the Starr inquiry about their overreliance on legal opinions? Are they prepared to make their opinion public and refer the matter to the Court of Appeal?
Hon Mr Elston: We will not be referring the matter to the Court of Appeal. That is an unusual step taken, as you obviously know, Mr Speaker. It is not something that is countenanced every day. We know that opponents of the bill will challenge it on constitutional grounds, because that is the way they think they can best attack it after it goes through this House, if the opposition lets it go through the usual processes in this House.
The thing that we have to be aware of is that anybody now who has a concern about legislation always raises the issue of constitutionality. We have to check with our legal advisers as to whether or not the bill would sustain an attack under a constitutional charter charge, and we have the opinion that that in fact is the case.
That is not overreliance on legal advice. The drafting of legislation requires that sort of advice, and we must have it. We have the advice, we have indicated that, and we know that the opponents to the bill will continue to say they are going to charge that it is unconstitutional in the courts.
Mr Runciman: That is an astounding response, an irresponsible response, I would suggest. When the minister is saying, “Let this be challenged once the law is passed,” we are looking at two or three years down the road and the liability that is going to be attached to that sort of an approach.
We have a credible opinion that has been made public from Mr Henderson, former partner of the Attorney General in this government, and as I said earlier, the Starr decision very clearly indicates that you cannot rely on legal opinions from anybody.
Rumour has it -- we are talking about the suit that has been filed against this government by the Ontario Nursing Home Association -- once again this government is going to end up with egg on its face.
Hon Mr Elston: In order to conduct the affairs of government, we have to contact people who are legal advisers on a regular basis. We are in the business of providing service under legislative requirements. We check with them in drafting regulations, we check in drafting legislation, we check in what manner we can try to pass legislation through the Legislature of Ontario, which does not appear to happen very easily any more, because the members want to filibuster the bill and prevent it from going through. I am referring more particularly, of course, to the official opposition, not so that my friend the member for Leeds-Grenville thinks I am pointing an unkind finger in his direction.
But to be reasonable, when people conduct business -- and let there be no mistake about it, this government conducts a business of providing service and the implementation of policy for the people of the province, in this case with respect to auto insurance, a program which balances cost against the good benefits that are available under the plan and making the market respond by making the product available -- we have to rely on advice from legal counsel.
The member says we ought not to rely on any legal advice, and when he tells us that we cannot, he then underscores the fact that nobody should take seriously any legal opinion. I do not share the view of my friend the member for Leeds-Grenville about the relevance of putting reliance in legal opinions. We must at least take heed when we see the results of their opinions. We have ours; it says that our bill is going to withstand the constitutional challenge.
Mr Runciman: The history of this government with respect to auto insurance is one costly mistake after another, and the people who end up paying the tab are the taxpayers of this province. The minister has a letter from the president of an insurance company, Kingsway, expressing concern about the constitutionality. The minister has an opinion from Gordon Henderson expressing concern. The minister is talking about letting this thing go through the courts for two or three years, and we are talking about a liability in the hundreds of millions of dollars, so I want to pose this question to the minister: If indeed that is the course that is followed and he allows it to be followed, what is going to happen if this legislation is found unconstitutional? Who is going to be responsible for that liability, the insurance companies of this province or the already beleaguered taxpayers of this province?
Hon Mr Elston: I do not respond to the hypothetical questions of the member for Leeds-Grenville, who has taken on a certain negative cast just over these last few days. I know him as a very positive contributor to the debates on many other occasions, but he seems to have been captured by the spirit of the negative cloud that has drifted down from the people on his right, my left.
I am very sure he would want us to move forward and indicate that the bill should be passed, that in fact we should implement the system which provides for, on average, a zero increase of premiums in the next year for folks in the rural part of our province and only, on average, an eight per cent increase in the urban centres of the province. This we should do to make sure that we pass those savings on quickly. Otherwise, there will be people left at risk, left in a system which requires an adversarial-type adjudication, which I think is not as productive as we could have under the mandate of Bill 68, and I look forward to the passage of that bill very soon.
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question for the Minister of Health. On 22 March the minister responded to my question about negotiating fairly with ambulance officers at Collingwood, Port Elgin and Kincardine, as suggested by the Ontario Public Service Labour Relations Tribunal, with the following comment:
“The Attorney General’s office is making an application for a judicial review of both of these decisions, the McKechnie one as well. It has been decided, in fact, to await the outcome of those reviews.”
Since the Attorney General has been proved wrong yet again and the government has come to its senses and dropped the review, is the minister now prepared to enter into real negotiations with the many so-called private ambulance operators whose contracts are currently up for renewal or will be in the next few days?
Hon Mrs Caplan: On 9 April the government withdrew its application to the Divisional Court for a stay of two rulings made by the Ontario Public Service Labour Relations Tribunal on the issue that the member opposite raises. In doing that, we also announced yesterday that we accept the tribunal’s decision and confirmed that 21 private ambulance services where the Ontario Public Service Employees Union has bargaining rights are agents of the crown for collective bargaining purposes. The 21 private operators will continue to direct the daily operations of their ambulance services, and it is only for collective bargaining purposes that they will act as crown agents.
Mr Mackenzie: While we are talking about collective bargaining processes, a government spokesman, as the minister has indicated, did clearly indicate that the government accepts the ruling of the tribunal that they are crown employees. Does the minister agree with that comment by Bob Reguly in her ministry, and is she prepared to accept responsibility for bargaining with those agencies and organizations that are funded by the government of Ontario?
Hon Mrs Caplan: To clarify the impression that the member opposite has, as I said before, we have said that, pending the judicial review, we accept the tribunal’s decision. I announced in the House before that we would comply fully with it. We have confirmed that for the 21 private ambulance services where OPSEU has bargaining rights, they will be agents of the crown for collective bargaining purposes. That means that, as crown employees, ambulance workers will continue to have collective bargaining rights but disagreements will be resolved through binding arbitration, replacing the right to strike.
The Toronto Transit Commission is experiencing a marked decrease in the use of its parking lots. Parking lot revenues for the Toronto Transit Commission will decline this year by approximately $2.4 million because of the decline in parking lot usage, and much of the decline in the TTC parking lot usage is being attributed to the Treasurer’s tax, the commercial concentration tax. As the architect of these tax policies that are punishing transit riders, is the Treasurer proud of the fact that his government’s tax policies are contributing to parking problems and traffic chaos in Metro Toronto?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member compared the effects of our budgets in the province to those of the government of Canada. I have a feeling he has forgotten that in fact our tax policies, however disagreeable he may find them, are actually paying the bills of this government, while the Progressive Conservative government in Ottawa is going into deficit by $30 billion this year.
He should also be aware that the effect of the commercial concentration tax amounts to $1.35 per day per parking spot. The fact that the Toronto Parking Authority concentrated the effect of that tax on its 100 parking lots into about 20 parking lots, the busy ones, so it could collect all the required money in a concentrated and focused way is its decision and not mine. If the honourable member feels that $1.35 per day per space is unnecessarily high, then of course he has the right to his view, but I think he is wrong in his objection.
Because of this commercial concentration tax, municipal governments and agencies are exploring ways of avoiding the tax and, when these parking lots no longer generate revenue and become free, he will not get any money at all out of them. So what he is ending up having is a higher vacancy rate now. He is seeing people parking illegally on the streets. They are contributing to gridlock by driving their cars into the city more than they did before. It is eroding that source of revenue that he had.
Hon R. F. Nixon: It is because the money from the tax is going to support public transit and the improvement of the highway system that really serves many hundreds of thousands of people in the Toronto area, but particularly the honourable member’s constituents in Markham.
As a matter of fact, there is $2 billion extra allocated to the improvement of the highway system and the public transit system over the next five years and the funding is directly associated with the taxes that the honourable member is objecting to. He wants his cake but he certainly does not want to pay for his share of it, and I think that is undemocratic and unfair.
Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Labour, and it is with a certain amount of sadness that I ask the question. Since early March, I have been monitoring the Harvey Woods operation in Woodstock in Oxford county. As the minister knows, about 600 workers of Harvey Woods, members of Locals 1300 and 986 of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, will be unemployed because of the Harvey Woods closing.
Harvey Woods is one of our largest and oldest employers in Woodstock, and the employees are fine, hardworking people. I would appreciate the minister’s assistance in helping these employees. Could he please inform this House on matters of severance and holiday pay for these Harvey Woods employees?
Hon Mr Phillips: I share the member’s concern about the individuals who are facing this very unfortunate circumstance. I appreciate the interest that he has taken in it and his personal presentations to me and to others.
First, on the remuneration side, my understanding is that at least the wages that were owing these workers have been paid. However, it appears that some of the vacation pay has not been paid, and certainly in terms of severance or termination, none of those payments have been made.
Our employment standards branch is issuing orders to attempt to receive that, but I think the member should be aware that under the federal Bankruptcy Act, we have difficulty in securing those funds. That is a matter that we have urged the federal government to act on and it has yet to act on that.
In the other area of assisting the workers, though, I understand we have established an employee assistance program. We will be working with the union and with the workers there in terms of counselling, in terms of training and helping to ensure that they receive their unemployment insurance benefits.
Hon Mr Phillips: First, in terms of the pensions, again as a result of the member’s interest in this matter, I have discussed it with the Minister of Financial Institutions. I am told that the Pension Commission of Ontario has appointed an individual to look at the status of those pension funds. I am led to believe that there are seven different pension funds for those employees. At this moment, they are looking to ensure that the pension fund is properly administered.
In terms of training, we have a program called Transitions for workers who are 45 years of age and older, and the employment adjustment committee will be working with that to help in the training area, as well as working with the federal government to assist the people who are affected by this.
Mr Laughren: I have a question for the Treasurer concerning his perverse tax policies. I think the Treasurer will know that in 1987, using Statistics Canada Canadian-wide figures and extrapolating them into Ontario, there were roughly 40,000 corporations in Ontario that had positive incomes that used tax loopholes and write-downs to reduce those profits to zero. Because of that, we believe that there were $11 billion in corporate profits in Ontario in 1987 that were not taxed. Using 1990 figures, that would be up around $15 billion.
Will the Treasurer bring in at least a minimum corporate tax at approximately one half the statutory rate, which is 15.5 per cent, so that we can raise the necessary money to make this a more just society?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I think the honourable member is aware that the corporations that he is referring to that pay no tax even though they make a profit get that tax write-down or exemption, if you want to call it that, on the basis that their commitments and their financial expenditures align themselves with government taxation policy; that is, their profits are spent on new machinery or some sort of an expansion that is going to be advantageous to the community, or they are covered by previous losses.
Sometimes this gets rather complex when a company buys another company. Company A may be profitable; company B, which it buys, may have a loss, which might be called a tax loss, having to do with its previous experience. Under the law, that loss can be transferable. It gets a little fancy, it gets a little lawyerish, it gets written with accountants and it is all legal and probably appropriate. I have got a lot more to say about this.
Mr Laughren: If the Treasurer does not have something better than that to say, he should save it. It is passing strange that the Treasurer has all these arguments why he cannot do it. The United States has done it. I do not know what they have got that he has not got in terms of wizardry at putting together a package in Ontario that would provide a minimum corporate tax.
We are talking about lost income of approximately $1 billion a year. That $1 billion a year would allow the Treasurer to either reduce his retail sales tax to compensate for the federal goods and services tax or to remove every single taxpayer in the province from paying provincial income tax if that taxpayer is living on an income below the poverty level as established by Statscan. Will the Treasurer make a commitment to do that in this budget?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member knows, if we had a chance to carry on a proper debate at this time, rather than in 45-second spasms, that the province has a capital tax, which means that we have payments from all corporations whether or not they show a profit. He might be recommending that the capital tax be increased, and that is always something that could be considered. But we feel that it is reasonably fair and equitable.
The honourable member is living up to his tradition as a democratic socialist. Whenever there is a problem with meeting the budgetary requirements of the province, he says: “Let the companies -- Inco -- pay. Let the rich -- anybody else -- pay.” His own income is climbing up there a little bit, and he had better watch the direction of his recommendations.
Mr McLean: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. The Minister of the Environment must know about the city of Orillia’s plan to work with a private company to build a recycling and incineration plant for municipal waste from the greater Toronto area. The city council in Orillia is enthusiastic about this proposal but is not sure of the Ministry of the Environment’s position on incineration. They do know it is not to be used for the 50 per cent diversion of waste by the year 2000.
Hon Mr Bradley: This is interesting. First of all, I think I remember during the last election that the member benefited immensely because there was some kind of proposal to have north Simcoe’s garbage go to the area which he represents, in other words, Orillia. There was a great fight that they should not accept that relatively modest amount of waste coming from there. Is the member telling me now that the city of Orillia is enthusiastic about having Metro Toronto’s garbage go there for the purposes of incineration? I just want to get that right in my mind, first of all.
Second of all, the member is quite correct when he says that the policy of the Ministry of the Environment is that we cannot count any disposal method, whether that be landfill or incineration, as part of the 25 per cent reduction by 1992 and the 50 per cent reduction by the year 2000. All disposal methods come under environmental scrutiny, and there would be a hearing of the Environmental Assessment Board and assessment by the various ministries of the government of Ontario. So, as a disposal method, they would have to meet all of the environmental requirements of the province.
Mr McLean: Mayor Palmer said, “The proposal makes the best use of European technology and North American knowhow that I have seen.” We understand that this is just a proposal right now and we also understand it will go through a full environmental assessment, but what we want to know is this: Is incineration an option that the city of Orillia can support to handle the greater Toronto area waste that is not recycled in the long term?
Hon Mr Bradley: Certainly the city of Orillia or its proponent in this particular case is welcome to make application. I guess the committee that they would go through is SWISC, the Solid Waste Interim Steering Committee in Metro Toronto, which is looking at the requirements of Metro Toronto.
I want to make it clear that as a method of disposal, either landfill or incineration, if it were environmentally acceptable, that is, if the Environmental Assessment Board were to rule in favour of such an application, would be accepted. For instance, in the regional municipality of Peel there was a facility, an energy-from-waste facility in that case, which was approved by the EAB. They attached some 31 conditions to it but it was approved and has a green light to move forward.
Mr Sola: My question is to the Minister of Health. All members will know that the government is committed to moving towards a health care system which is less institutionally based and more community based. Can the minister inform the House whether her ministry’s home care program is receiving the necessary financial support from the honourable member one seat removed from her to enable it to provide more services in support of people who need them?
I am pleased to tell him that this government is in fact committed to a health system where we have a broad range of services and opportunities for people to have those services, not only in the institution but in the community and, as technology allows, in people’s homes as well.
As an interesting statistic, in 1984-85, the ministry spent $104 million on home care services, and that was an increase of just 1.9 per cent over the allocation of the previous government the year before. In 1989-90, this government spent some $350 million on home care, and that was an increase of some 25 per cent over the year before. That is over three times the allocation for home care services which was in place in 1984-85.
Mr Sola: In light of the long-term care reform initiative which the government has undertaken, can the minister comment on the implications for the home care program specifically’? Will people still have ready access to the program?
Hon Mrs Caplan: As the member knows, not only is our financial commitment clear, but also our commitment to improving access for people around the province to home support services. I want him to know that we have taken a number of initiatives to improve access to all services, one being the banning of extra billing as well as the abolition of OHIP premiums.
Specific to home care services, I believe that long-term care reform will be a significant initiative to speed access to appropriate services. What is currently in place is that anyone wishing to access services, as the member knows and has pointed out to me, has to contact each one of the service providers to try to find the appropriate services for himself. Under long-term care, the principle is a single point of access which will give people the information they need so that they can have the services provided to them in a timely manner.
Mrs Grier: I have a question for the Minister of the Environment concerning the very damning indictment of his stewardship of the Great Lakes that was issued this week by the International Joint Commission.
Mrs Grier: I take it from that response that the minister is attempting to say that he has no responsibility for the control of toxic discharges into the Great Lakes. That has certainly been our perception for the last four years –
Mrs Grier: My question to the minister is -- in response to this damning indictment, he of course quoted the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, a program he announced in June 1986 which called for virtual elimination of toxic discharges to the Great Lakes. Can the minister explain why, four years later, there is not one single control regulation in place under this MISA program?
Hon Mr Bradley: First of all, I see that the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore has made me entirely responsible for all the Great Lakes. I expect it will be the St Lawrence River and the Atlantic Ocean next, because it does flow into the Atlantic Ocean. I remind the member that of course there are at least eight other states of the United States that discharge directly into those waterways, and of course there are air pollutants that come from all around the world and end up landing in those waterways. But we in Ontario indeed have taken the initiative.
The member may have been aware, when there was a forum held partly in Chicago and partly here in Toronto at the waterfront, that a number of scientists expressed concerns about the Great Lakes, as we have. One of the people there in fact was a person independent of this ministry who was extolling the virtues of the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, a person saying that here was one jurisdiction that had an excellent program for dealing with the responsibilities we have.
I remind the member as well that all the monitoring regulations are out. They have been promulgated and are out there for the purpose of comment. Some of them are in the process of being implemented, looking at over 200 potential contaminants, where before all they used to look at were the lumps and the colours.
Even with those monitoring regulations in place, the companies involved are making modifications to their plans, even before abatement regulations are in place, and you get companies such as Dow in Sarnia and Domtar in eastern Ontario both saying that they are now committing financially and otherwise to a closed-loop system which will immensely benefit those waterways.
But let me point out that it is obvious that members of the International Joint Commission are very familiar with this minister. If I may quote one sentence in their report, they say, “It is not sufficient to respond to such threats” -- the health threats they point out -- “by reciting a list of existing programs and their merits.” That is precisely what this minister does every time we raise the issue.
Mrs Grier: If the minister is doing such a great job, can he explain why, less than a month ago, five responsible environmental groups, Greenpeace, Pollution Probe, Great Lakes United, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, had to issue a press release in which they said, “Environmentalists have accused the Ministry of the Environment of collaborating with polluters in resolving key issues as part of the provincial water pollution control program. MISA”?
They went on to say, “The public will no longer tolerate government compromises on environmental protection.” Is that not precisely what he has just described to us, compromises with industry instead of virtual elimination of discharges?
Hon Mr Bradley: Nothing could be farther from the truth. If the member would only look at the membership of the MISA Advisory Committee, I can assure her that members of industry were not very happy initially when they saw the list of people on the MISA Advisory Committee that we set up. Well-known environmentalists, not only in Ontario but across Canada, are members of that particular committee. There are some who would say it is stacked with environmentalists, scientific experts in the field who have fought for environmental reform over the years. They are there to comment on all of these regulations, to have input on all of these regulations. I think it besmirches their particular reputation to make that kind of charge.
Second, this member, and justifiably so, is as anxious as I am to see the program proceed quickly, but what those environmental groups are saying is: “Would you please pause now? Would you please slow down the program so we can have some further input?” Not with the people sitting on the MISA Advisory Committee, because even though they belong to environment groups, they do not represent those environment groups on the committee, they said.
I am quite pleased to have them involved in the process. But I do not want the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore then to get up in this House and say, “Well, you’re slowing down the process now because you are allowing these people some input.” I am prepared to allow that input. I really look forward to the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore supporting that particular pause in the action while we undertake that activity.
Mr Villeneuve: The Minister of Financial Institutions is probably aware that the Minister of Agriculture and Food keeps statistics on farm income. Realized net farm income, according to projections for this year, is in its third year of decline, and total net income for agriculture this year will only be 86 per cent of what it was last year, a 14 per cent reduction.
The minister’s Bill 68 on no-fault insurance proposes to compensate accident-injured farmers at 80 per cent of annual income. What representation has the Minister of Agriculture and Food brought to the minister’s attention when he was formulating these rules that we are attempting to deal with in this House?
Hon Mr Elston: What has happened in our cabinet is that we are highly consultative. In fact, in all cases where there are ministers who represent special and very highly regarded segments of our economy, we go directly and speak with them. In this case, nothing different has changed. We recognize the difficulties agriculture has been experiencing. We saw the member’s earlier speech about concern. It did not have to be made because the member for Brant-Haldimand of course is very much aware of the concern about agriculture.
As the member from Bruce county, I am also very concerned about farmers. We took a great deal of time to study how our system would compensate farm people. As the regulations are brought forward, we shall continue to study the exact way in which the results of farm income are to be put together so that the 80 per cent figure can be arrived at.
We have a minimum figure, as the member already knows; I am sure he is aware of it. He can in his supplementary, therefore, let the people of Ontario know about that minimum number. So that he does not leave an impression that he is uninformed, I will leave the member that ability and we can deal with a follow-up question in his supplementary.
Mr Villeneuve: I certainly will. The minister may even want to take a look at Bruce county farmers and their net income. Why is he not looking at those kind of situations? He is forcing agriculture and small business into buying income guarantee insurance. That is what he is doing.
Mr Villeneuve: Will he, as minister, table in this House the representations that have been made to him by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and why will he not consider gross income instead of net income as the criterion? One hundred and eighty-five dollars a week will not buy much replacement.
Hon Mr Elston: I had thought the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry really did know the minimum number, which is actually $232. That is where we start, not $185. I am sorry he was not able to advise the people about that number.
That is not the main concern. I know that from my point of view, from my relationships with him in the context of our discussions here, his concern for agriculture is real. He should then acknowledge that so are my concerns for agriculture and the fact that we will bring forward a program that is reasonable for those people who are actually on the farm.
The member for Sarnia had interjected -- I think he was probably thinking out loud -- that they cannot afford to pay the prices for insurance. Right now the people from the farming community are paying the costs of a spiralling auto insurance premium, and what we have brought forward is a way in which to balance the costs they will be saddled with for auto insurance premiums with the benefits they receive. We have put together a very good way of reimbursing those people for their losses as a result of insurance.
Mr Eves: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to rise to correct the record. On 9 April, Monday of this week, I asked a question of the Premier in this House, whether he was going to attend a fund-raising dinner with the Premier of Newfoundland called “Meech and Merriment.” I suggested to him it was inappropriate to do so. The point of the record I want to correct is that I now understand that Mr Wells refuses to participate in this process. He has some class. Why does our Premier not show that same class?
Mr Offer moved, on behalf of Mr Ward, that the daily hours of meeting of the House be extended from 6 pm to 12 midnight on each sessional day following the adoption of this order up to and including Thursday 3 May 1990; and this order shall take precedence over any standing order or other special order.
Mr D. S. Cooke: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to raise the matter and suggest to you that this motion is out of order and should not be placed here today. I might start by saying that it is really getting ridiculous around this place that the government –
Mr D. S. Cooke: The government and the opposition parties went through a process where we negotiated the rules by which we are supposed to operate, and now the government, day after day, is trying to subvert the rules that we agreed to as free political parties in this place. I think it should be absolutely ashamed. It negotiates rules. We negotiate them in good faith –
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. If I remember well, the Speaker is trying to listen to some points of order from all the members around the House, of all three parties. I want to listen to points of order.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Mr Speaker, it is also quite obvious that the Liberal caucus has absolutely no respect for the Speaker or the Speaker’s office or they would not, day after day, be putting you in this position of having to rule on their attempts to subvert the rules around this place.
“(b)(i) During the last eight sessional days in June and December, a motion to extend the hours of meeting during the remaining days in each period provided for in clause (a) may be proposed, with notice, by a minister of the crown.
“(iii) Not more than two hours after the commencement of proceedings of such a motion, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the motion. If a recorded vote is requested by five members, the division bells shall be limited to 15 minutes.”
“9(a) Except as provided in clause (c), and in standing order 33, at 6 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the Speaker shall adjourn the House without motion until the next sessional day.
“(c) The House may meet beyond the hours set out in clause (a) on the passage of a government motion for that purpose. The question on such a motion shall be put forthwith and without debate. However, the motion shall not be voted upon if 12 members stand in their places when the question is about to be put. If a recorded vote is requested by five members, the division bell shall be limited to 15 minutes.”
Clearly, when the rules were being negotiated, all three political parties looked at a calendar and decided the hours and days that this House will meet. We anticipated that the government, on occasion, would feel that its agenda was not being carried. Therefore, it has the protection in the last eight days of the spring and fall sessions to make the Legislature sit until midnight. There is a provision that a motion would be tabled, a two-hour debate on the motion and then a division.
The government now is trying to say that all of those rules mean absolutely nothing, that it can set the hours of the Legislature by majority and that it can set any hours it wants under motion. Mr Speaker, I do not understand what any of these rules mean and why we even have them, if it would be your ruling that they can set the hours and make us sit until midnight every night of the week until 3 May just by majority vote under the routine proceedings of motions.
Why do we even have these sections in our standing orders? We tried to arrange the business of this House, the hours and the dates that the House would sit so that no one in this place would, as happened in many years before, be sitting until midnight and two in the morning on a regular basis. Quite frankly, one of the concerns of why these rules were negotiated was because people in the past actually got sick because of the extensive hours members had been requested to put in, here and on the weekends.
We tried to build a rational calendar and hours for this place to operate. Now the government brings in this type of motion and subverts the rules that have not even been in place for a year. Mr Speaker, I ask you to put a stop to this nonsense and rule this motion out of order now, and then let’s get on with the regular business of the House.
Mr Eves: On the same point of order, I could not agree with my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside more. When the three parties negotiated the standing orders, which were negotiated over a period of many years, I might add, and agreed upon by all three parties -- we had this discussion on a point of order and a motion yesterday, as I recall -- we agreed and we set out certain sitting times, which have been clearly outlined by my friend the House leader for the New Democratic Party.
Standing order 8, standing order 6 and standing order 9, I think clearly set out when the House is supposed to sit. Provision is made to sit until midnight for the last two weeks of a session in case the government has to clear up things on its agenda that it would like to clear up before the end of a session. If the government wishes to extend the sitting orders past 6 pm on any day, it can try to do so under standing order 9(c), and all three parties agreed that if 12 members stood in their place and objected to that, it would not sit past six of the clock on any of those days.
I think the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly, as standing order 1(a) says, are supposed to be “conducted according to the following standing orders,” and then it goes on to outline what we as members of the Legislature in all three parties have agreed would be our rules of conduct and how we would conduct business in this Legislature.
Hon Mr Offer: I have listened intently to the arguments posed by members opposite. I think, Mr Speaker, you should be aware that this particular motion was made under standing order 34. It was not a standing order 9(c) motion, but rather a standing order 34 motion under routine proceedings, which deals very specifically with the matter. It says:
“Under the proceeding ‘Motions,’ the government House leader” -- in that capacity I was so acting -- “may move routine motions that are part of the technical procedure of the House, such as for times of meeting and adjournment of the House, changes in membership of committees and similar non-substantive motions. These routine motions do not require notice.”
As members opposite have spoken about a difficulty in the rules, I suggest that this is very clearly outlined under standing order 34. It speaks to routine motions moved by the House header, which I did as acting House leader, talking to and speaking for times for meetings and adjournment, which is indeed what this motion is all about.
Mr Sterling: I have to tell you, Mr Speaker, that I really am shocked and dismayed over this particular motion because of what it really tries to do. The government deputy House leader, I assume, the Solicitor General, refers to section 34 in making his pitch. Clearly, under section 34 of the standing orders, we have always used these kinds of routine motions in this House where there has been unanimous consent or agreement between all three parties as to the allocation of time, as to whether or not the sitting should be extended because there is a necessity to go 10 minutes beyond six of the clock in order to finish an item of business, or to agree for instance to allow the Liberal caucus the opportunity to go to its national convention. We agreed by unanimous consent to close down this place on 21 June or the day close to that. So that is what section 34 has been used for in this Legislature.
I would like to point out another factor to you, Mr Speaker. The very first section of our standing orders says, “1(a) The proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and in all committees of the assembly shall be conducted according to the following standing orders.” I would argue that the last part of this motion, which says, “and that this order shall take precedence over any standing order or other special order,” effectively goes against section 1(a).
If in fact the government has such a paranoia about a four- or five-day filibuster that it wants to change the standing orders holus-bolus, then I suggest it bring in a substantive motion that will in fact deal with amending the standing orders so that it can gain control of this House at its pleasure, any time it wants, and not hide behind what I would call a sneaky manoeuvre or an attempt at a sneaky manoeuvre to hijack the House and disregard the standing orders.
I want to say that in all of my 12 years in this place I have not encountered such a motion -- I dare say the former government of this Legislative Assembly, when it was controlled by the party of which I am a member, would never have had the nerve to bring forward a motion of this nature. We would not have done this. Basically what it does is it says to the opposition parties, “We do not care about the orders and the rules we have agreed to. We are going to override that with our wishes on the basis of a four- or five-day filibuster.”
I cannot express to you, Mr Speaker, the outrage that I have, in terms of the time and effort that I put into amending these orders, that members can have such little regard for the orders and for the work that the member for Oshawa and I, and the member for Middlesex, put into this whole process.
The Deputy Speaker: I have listened very attentively. I have gone over each of the points that all of the honourable members have brought up. I am governed, as you know, by standing orders 1(a) and l(b) -- l(b) if I cannot find it under 1(a) -- and I can only rule as to the validity of whether it is in order or not. That is the only rule that I want to make. Because of standing order 34, I have to rule that the motion is in order to be brought forward.
The Deputy Speaker: I have ruled. Standing order 34 is wide enough, catching enough as a general standing order to have this acceptable. This is a motion that is debatable, and if members want to debate, then –
I want to know, in your opinion, if that motion, for an example, happened to be passed at 5:45 today, would the House be sitting, by the wording of this motion, till midnight today, or would it not start to sit till midnight till the sessional day following the adoption of the order, which would be next Tuesday?
Mr Kormos: I want to start debating this motion and, I dare say, I have about as much to say about this as I have to say about the crummy time closure motion that the House leader from the Liberal Party tried to jackboot on to this House around two weeks ago. The problem is, we are partway into our discussion of time allocation. Help me, please, Mr Speaker, because I want to be perfectly clear about what we are doing here.
As I understand it, the time allocation discussion that I commenced two weeks ago is not over; it is simply held in abeyance. What the Liberals have done with this motion is, they have slowed down a process that we were eager to see developed. There I was, well into my discussion about time closure, my discussion of the jackboot tactics of this government, my discussion about the many reasons why the people of this Legislature should vote against closure.
I had the impression that there were some Liberal members here who were finding the process tedious. I had people coming to me saying, “Please, Pete,” -- because as members know, we refer to each other only by our ridings here in the Legislature. But I had Liberal members coming to me saying, “Please, Pete, can’t we get this discussion about time closure done and over with?” And I said, “Sure, Fred.”
I explained that if the House leader would only withdraw it, if he would send a note to me or to the House leader for the New Democratic Party saying, “Look, give me two minutes so I can stand up and withdraw the bill,” he would have pulled the rug out from underneath me because there would be nothing more to talk about, there would be nothing more for me to address. Then we could get down to what we really want to talk about here, which is Bill 68, the Liberals’ automobile insurance legislation. That is what we really want to talk about is it not, Mr Speaker? It is remarkable the lengths to which the Liberals in this assembly will go to avoid talking about Bill 68.
This is like sitting in the barber shop and looking at the mirror and then the mirror behind you, and the reflections just go on for ever and ever. Before you know it, in about a week’s or a week and a half’s time, the Liberal House leader -- or if he wants to avoid the flak, he will make the Solicitor General do it again -- will send the Solicitor General in as perhaps the newest, youngest member of cabinet, one who is hard-pressed to talk back, and say, “Solicitor General, move a time allocation motion on the motion that we moved on 12 April, which we moved to interrupt the time allocation debate on our time allocation motion, which we moved to avoid debate on Bill 68.” Once again, it strikes me that could be the subject matter of a whole lot of discussion.
As well, procedurally, I in no way agree that my comments about the time allocation motion be adopted during the course of the discussion of the -- Mr Speaker, I am wondering if one of the pages might send me a copy of this motion, the motion that has just been filed with the clerk, moved by the Solicitor General. Let’s take a look at what we are talking about here. It says, “Mr Ward moves,” and then it has “delete Ward” and “insert Offer.”
“Mr Ward moves that the daily hours of meeting of the House be extended.” Wait a minute, Mr Speaker. I am wondering if this motion is even sensical, because it says, “that the daily hours of meeting of the House be extended from 6 pm to 12 midnight on each sessional day.”
By the most bizarre stretch of the imagination, it is not good English, and I suspect the Solicitor General does not have to take credit for that. Rather, that can be adopted by the House leader. “Be extended from 6 pm to 12 midnight.” It is not the daily hours of meeting. I suspect what they want to suggest by virtue of this motion is that the closing hour of the House be extended from 6 pm to 12 midnight, because for them to say, “that the daily hours of meeting,” which are, as it is now, from 1:30 to 6 pm -- .this motion appears to suggest that they be extended from 1:30 pm to 6 pm to 6 pm to 12 midnight, making for a six-hour sitting commencing at six o’clock in the evening “on each sessional day following the adoption of this order up to and including Thursday 3 May 1990; and that this order shall take precedence over any standing order or other special order.”
Mr Speaker, I have a point of order. This bothers me a great deal. I am not talking now about the jackboot tactics. I am not talking about the sleazy intent that might be suggested is behind this. But I am asking, what is it that the House leader from the Liberals or the Solicitor General would have us be talking about?
My problem might be that I never practised civil law, like some of the Liberal members. I never practised personal injury work as some of them did. I practised criminal work, and I know that you, as a lawyer, Mr Speaker, would be most interested in the wording of this particular motion. I think that is important from a point of view -- let me give you my copy of it, Mr Speaker. Let me share my copy of it with you. I wonder if we might get a photocopy of that so that we can both look at it.
Spreading this one copy around is going to spread it kind of thin, but look at what it appears to say. It appears to say that we are extending the hours to 6 to 12 p.m. Got it, Mr Speaker? That causes me some confusion. I presume then that we are replacing the existing hours of 1:30 to 6 with new hours of 6 to 12.
I am not even sure if that is what the House leader intended to move. I appreciate it is causing you some concern right now, Mr Speaker, and I see Liberal members rushing out to get hold of their assistants and their aides. There go three or four more rushing out the door, realizing that they have goofed up again. There go two more out through the lounge. I do not believe it. We have created a virtual exodus of Liberal members who realize that they goofed up again and they are scurrying out of here like rats, like rats out of a ship, trying to clear up a problem that they appear to have created.
Mrs Sullivan: I would like to correct the record. I am standing up to correct the record. At the time of which the member spoke, the only member leaving the chamber was the House leader of his own party.
Mr Kormos: I am doing my very best to make the best observations that I can. I cannot help it if the member who just spoke is hard of vision and hard of hearing, as well. I appreciate that she is a little bit older than I am, but that is certainly no excuse.
The Acting Speaker: I can only advise the honourable member that I appreciate very much his advising me of the appropriate section. Now, are you referring that section to the honourable member who is speaking or to your own colleague who brought up the point of order?
The Acting Speaker: Then it goes back to our long discussion that we had yesterday afternoon about this particular area and, if you would like to do it, I could go at great length again to make a ruling, as I explained to the member for Brampton South. As a matter of fact, in terms of the overall approach, I do not think he has deviated too much yet from the motion that has been put, but I will listen very closely and also I will listen very closely to his language.
Mr Kormos: I am going to try to get in a couple of minutes’ more comment here before somebody else stands up on a point of order. I had a point of order, you might recall, but I am prepared to defer that until we get our photocopies of the motion back in front of us.
Would you not really rather be somewhere else this afternoon, Mr Speaker? Here we are on a Thursday afternoon. We were going along so nicely, at least in so far as I was concerned, about my comments regarding the Liberals’ retreat, their flight, their escape by the skin of their teeth, as they hoped, from the crisis that they were bringing upon themselves by virtue of their automobile insurance legislation.
There we were, doing just fine, prepared to wrap this up in due course when it was appropriate, and then we got slapped with this dumbly worded motion that in some respects invites, on occasion, a less than serious discussion, because its semantics are sadly wanting, are they not, Mr Speaker?
I am going to operate on the presumption here that, first of all, “12 midnight” is 12 midnight and “6 pm” is the 6 o’clock six hours prior to 12 midnight. I do not understand, because they are surely speaking about the hours of meeting, and they are currently from 1:30 pm to 6 pm. The suggestion here is that they be changed from 1:30 pm to 6 pm, to 6 pm to 12 midnight. Before we get hasty about this, let’s understand that people have to say what they mean and mean what they say.
My point of order is that this is slovenly worded and so obviously hastily thrown together, in so obviously a last ditch effort, panicky. Somebody speaking earlier called the Liberals paranoid, called them sneaky, right here in this House, and not one of the Liberals stood up on a point of order, having been referred to, not by myself but by another member, on the record as being paranoid. More significantly, the Liberals were referred to as being sneaky, and not a single Liberal stood up and exercised the privilege to raise a point of order and object to that language. You know what silence can suggest in those types of circumstances, Mr Speaker.
Mr Kormos: I will keep talking about it. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty here. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty because I have people I know who are paying close attention to what is happening in the Legislature this afternoon who say, “What gives?” We were prepared to hear more about how pathetically, abysmally deficit Bill 68 was when it came time to protect drivers and their premiums or taxpayers and their tax dollars or victims and the compensation that they are rightly entitled to.
Some Liberal stands up and interrupts the member for Welland-Thorold, as they would understand it, from carrying on in his revelations as to how crummy Bill 68 really is. I do not want anybody listening -- and we have to make this clear -- to think that I have given up the floor on that discussion about time allocation, not by any stretch of the imagination. We have a long way to go. All that the Liberals did here with this motion is create a –
Mr Kormos: Not a minor irritant; a real big irritant. We are not talking about a minor detour; we are talking about a 58-mile detour, like the one I had to take once when the highway at Marathon on the Trans-Canada was washed out once again. We are not talking about an extra half-hour. When Highway 401 washes out at Marathon, you are talking about a major portage.
Mr Fleet: The member for Welland-Thorold persists in breaching, in my submission, the standing orders, specifically 23(b)(i), in that he is not dealing with “the question under discussion,” which is a motion dealing with time. He has done so at least three times in the last three or four minutes: in discussing the road conditions that may or may not exist; in discussing Bill 68, which is not a part of the motion currently under debate; and in talking about the motion, which is no longer being dealt with, on time allocation. This is a motion dealing with the hours in which this House may continue to have a debate on whatever matter.
In addition, the member has been in breach, I would submit, of rule 23(c) with a needless repetition of matters, two of the three matters I have just mentioned. I followed quite carefully. It took some discipline, but I followed quite carefully the comments that were being made about the wording of the motion, discussing whether it was 1:30 to six or what the meaning was to him. It is interesting, I suppose, if one has nothing else to do, but it is none the less a repetitive procedure.
Mr Speaker, I would submit as an individual member here, although I realize it puts the House under some pressure given the circumstances, that you have a duty to cut off the member for Welland-Thorold as he does that, even without our standing to draw this to your attention, because he will of course continue, which is his avowed intention, to be repetitive, etc, as well as to breach the other matters that I raised. I understand why he is doing that. They have acknowledged it is a filibuster. I think that in the circumstances the requirement for the proper procedure of the House to be followed would call on this member to now be cut off, having been called to order in that respect, and that other members would then have the opportunity to deal with this matter, his having been repetitive and off the point of discussion several times.
Mr Wildman: Mr Speaker, I would like to make a couple of points on the point of order of the member for High Park-Swansea. First off, I should point out to you, Mr Speaker, that the member himself was repetitive in his point of order.
Second, this is very difficult to fathom and to deal with because we have to go through a veritable labyrinth of Liberal perfidy in figuring out what exactly we are debating this afternoon. We are in fact debating a motion that would extend the time of sitting, as the member for High Park-Swansea indicated, but it is silly, I submit, to suggest that we can only, in debating this motion, talk about the hands on the clock or the number of hours in the day.
It seems to me that the purpose of this motion, if the government has a purpose in moving this motion, is to allocate additional hours to debate a matter that is before the House. The matter that is before the House, for which we are extending hours, is a time allocation motion. The time allocation motion was put on a debate on Bill 68.
So it seems to me quite in order for a member speaking to this motion on additional time to deal with the fact that this additional time is apparently considered to be needed by the government to deal with a time allocation motion which deals with a committee-of-the-whole debate on Bill 68. It seems to me quite in order for the member to refer to the substance of Bill 68, which has necessitated such extensive debate in committee, which has required the government then to bring forward a time allocation motion and now to extend the time because it has realized apparently that there is indeed such full debate required that we do need more time.
The Acting Speaker: The honourable member for High Park-Swansea very kindly pointed out what he felt was a point of order in terms of our standing orders and the repetitive nature of the honourable member for Welland-Thorold. I appreciate the participation of the honourable member for Algoma.
I have to tell all honourable members, as I did yesterday afternoon, about the use of language and now, more particularly, about repetitiveness in one’s debate. Indeed, in my estimation, the motion itself cannot be taken in singularity in terms of the specifics of the time, six o’clock to midnight. I think it has to be taken in the overall consideration of all the matters before the House, the time allocation motion and then the matter before that again; that is, passage of Bill 68.
I also want to bring to all members’ attention that members put the Speaker into a very difficult position in having to make -- and I say it very bluntly -- political decisions in terms of the legislation before the House. It is our role solely to try to adhere to all the standing orders before us. In doing that, I am going to have to rule that I acknowledge the concern of the honourable member for High Park-Swansea but I will allow the honourable member for Welland-Thorold to continue the debate. I will listen very closely, but I have to advise the member for High Park-Swansea that I am taking the more general approach for the debate to continue.
Mr Kormos: That is right; it has been a long time since I have driven it. The last time I drove it was in a 1972 Javelin back around 1974 or 1975. It was a great year. We were on our way to the copper mines of British Columbia where we worked in the summers in an effort to finance our way through law school, as it was. My days in the copper mines of northern BC are a subject matter of another discussion.
I do want to tell you this, Mr Speaker: If at any point I appear to you or to any other member here to be in violation of any of the rules, standing orders, bylaws or regulations, please speak up. Through you, to all the members of this assembly, I welcome their assistance. I appreciate that I am the newest member of this assembly; I have not been here as long as anybody else has been here. I am not as familiar with the rules as some of these other people are. I am as eager, though, as anyone ever could be to comply with the rules to the T. I want to operate solely within the letter of the law here.
I am the last person in the world who would want to violate any of the standing orders. So if I ever do (1) I apologize in advance and (2) it is through mere inadvertence and inexperience on my part. I appreciate that understanding the many standing orders of this assembly is, at the best of times, a difficult task. That is why I have complimented you and the other Speakers of this assembly. I have complimented you for your thorough grasp of all the rules, all the standing orders, all the nuances and all the subtleties that are associated with them. I have tried to read the rules, and somehow I just cannot absorb them as readily as I can, let’s say, the broader propositions contained in Beauchesne and Erskine May.
I thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I thank the member for High Park-Swansea for his interjection. I would admonish him not to be so boring next time he rises on a point of order. None the less, I listened carefully while he was making his point of order, notwithstanding that we are at sort of opposite extremes here in the Legislature. Here I am, right up beside the Speaker; there he is, just way off, so far away. He is there, but he is just so far off in the corner, at the other extreme of the House. I understand who he is now, but were it not for the Speaker having identified him for me, looking at the players chart that we have, the program, the schematic of the House, I would not have known who was trying to be so helpful.
So I apologize for my inadvertence that gave rise to that person, that member, that Liberal from the opposite extreme of the House, the member for High Park-Swansea, I sincerely apologize for my conduct that gave rise to his interjection by way of a point of order. I apologize to you, Mr Speaker, and I apologize to the other members of the assembly. I apologize to the member for Hamilton Mountain, who is sitting beside me, for my breach of the guidelines. I apologize to the other members of my caucus, to the members of the third party, the Conservative caucus. I apologize to the Liberals here for my breach of the rules. I will make every effort not to do it again. It is all a matter of perception. In some people’s minds, by virtue of my trying to explain why we are opposing this particular motion, that was perceived as a breach of the rules. I not only do not want to breach the rules; I do not even want to be perceived as breaching the rules.
Now, I guess that poses two options for me. To avoid that perception, I suppose I could just sit down and stop addressing this issue. Then I would not run any risk of even appearing to breach the rules. But that would be the coward’s way out, would it not? That would not be fulfilling one’s duty as a member of this assembly. No, our duty is to address the issues. Our obligations are to express the arguments that we believe are appropriate, even if it means risking being seen as breaching the rules. When one has to weigh which is the more important role, I say, and I know you understand this and I know you will agree with me, Mr Speaker, it is far preferable to risk, on occasion, being seen as breaching the rules than it is to shirk one’s responsibility. Is that a fair enough comment, Mr Speaker? I appreciate your saying that.
I move on to where we were before. As I say, there are people who expected to see a discussion about Bill 68, and we have to explain that we are not discussing Bill 68, just as we were not when we were forced into discussing time allocation. The whole beginning of this series of stumbling blocks -- again, talk about filibuster. I looked up “filibuster” in the Oxford English Dictionary. There are a number of archaic English usages of the word, none of which mean the American filibuster. In short, I was surprised that filibuster, in the American sense, meant to obstruct legislation, to impede legislation. Well, here we are. It is necessary in the parliamentary system, as I understand it, to debate legislation before it is voted upon. The whole thrust of our position in the New Democratic Party has been to debate, to want to debate, Bill 68. The only time the Liberals have ever stood up and objected during the discussion about time allocation over the last two weeks, or during the discussion now about this new motion, is when we have, according to them, wandered or ventured into a debate about Bill 68. That is, to be honest, all that we have ever really wanted to do.
We do not want to have to debate time allocation motions. We do not want to have to debate motions arbitrarily and unfairly extending the hours of the House. However, we are going to talk quite frankly about how unfair it is to extend the hours of the House. There are a whole lot of people here whose stamina just is not such that they can sit from 1:30 in the afternoon through until midnight. There are some people here of more mature years than mine and I appreciate that. Again, I am not 27 any more. I am far closer to 40 than I am to 30 and I know that I just cannot do things at my age that I could do 10 years ago in terms of stamina, long hours. I cannot work a double shift any more. It is so grossly unfair to so many members of this assembly to require them to sit at their desks from 1:30 in the afternoon through to midnight, is it not? We are going to talk about that, as to why members of this assembly ought to oppose this legislation.
We are going to talk about the standing orders in a few minutes as well. To finish up on that first thought, that first little line of discussion, people are expecting to see a discussion of Bill 68. The public is expecting to see a discussion of Bill 68. All they knew, with great fear, was that this Legislature was going to vote on this auto insurance scheme; with great fear because the public out there, the people in cities and towns and all over Ontario are scared out of their wits that Bill 68 is going to pass. They are just scared to death that the Liberals are going to vote for Bill 68, and that is why they have been -- and I know this -- watching these proceedings on their cable TV, anxious to see a debate about Bill 68, anxious to see the realities of Bill 68 exposed with the view in mind of having as many Liberals as at all possible vote against it so that it is defeated.
These are the people who have been calling and phoning Queen’s Park every day. These are people like Maureen Duffy from Kitchener, who phoned in with the message, and I appreciate her comments: “Peter, you’re doing a great job. Keep it up.” I appreciate that and we will. Mr Byard from Mississauga, who calls with his congratulations on our stand as the opposition against Bill 68. A fellow by the name of Michael Heller called, again encouraging the opposition position on Bill 68, encouraging us to carry on until Bill 68 is defeated.
There is nothing wrong with doing that, is there? There is nothing wrong with knowing that a piece of legislation is so thoroughly bad, so thoroughly dangerous that it must be defeated. There is nothing wrong, is there, with persisting in telling a Liberal majority that debate is a cornerstone of democracy and that the debate must take place in an orderly, structured way. And how can that debate be orderly and structured when it is expected to last from 1:30 in the afternoon until 12 midnight every day of the week? We are going to talk about that more, too. How can that debate be a meaningful one when -- let me suggest this to you, Mr Speaker: You want to know the real reason why this motion has been put forward? Do you really want to know? You, like so many other people, do want to know the real reason.
It is because thousands and thousands of people in Ontario -- they cannot fit in the visitors’ galleries up here, can they? The few people who have an opportunity to come to Queen’s Park and see what is going on, to see their members not doing anything, they look and they say: “Sure, there’s our member, right over there. He’s not moving. My gosh, look closer. He may not be breathing. Oh, we saw the newspaper rustle. Sure enough, he’s sitting at his desk.”
These people from across Ontario say: “There’s our member, but does he participate in the debate? No. Does he barely nod his head? No. But when it comes time for a vote, what does he do? He looks up and says: ‘What does the House leader say? What instructions do we have today as to how to vote on this issue? What can I do today to blindly follow what we are being instructed to do by our House leader?”’
Very few people have the opportunity to come here and see their member in action, or inaction, as the case may be. Most people have to rely on the TV coverage, and that is a relatively new phenomenon, the TV cameras that are controlled by virtue of the regulations in the standing orders -- very rigid control -- which prescribe what can and cannot be filmed.
Those TV cameras are the visitor’s gallery for the millions and millions and millions of people in Ontario. Those TV cameras, utilizing the technology available to us in the 1980s and now the 1990s, avoid the restriction that the distance of Queen’s Park from most of Ontario creates. Those TV cameras avoid the limitations that there are on seating here in our visitor’s galleries. Look how crowded they are. Look how difficult it would be for any more people to find places to sit here in these visitor’s galleries. My goodness, they are packed, yet even at that it is but a handful of people who have been able to come to listen to what happens in this august place. The TV cameras here at Queen’s Park constitute the real visitor’s gallery for the vast majority of Ontario citizens, those people who are going to be affected by things like Bill 68.
If the members think people are not watching, they had better check around. If they think people do not take advantage of the televised proceedings at Queen’s Park, they had better look around. If they think people are not paying attention and looking forward to what would be happening the next day, they had better ask around, because they do and they are. I am going to read the members some letters later from people who have been watching on a regular basis.
Those TV cameras are the windows to democracy. The TV cameras are how people across Ontario get a chance to see what is going on at Queen’s Park. The TV cameras are how people get a chance to know what the issues are and whose side people are on. It is those TV cameras that have let the people of Ontario know that the Liberals have sold out the people of Ontario in favour of the profit interests of the private corporate insurance industry. We know that.
Even Mr Justice Haines, in his letter -- the members will recall our discussion of that. Remember yesterday and the day before when we talked about Mr Justice Haines’ critique of Bill 68? Even Mr Justice Haines -- and nobody is going to suggest, and of course they should not, that he is some wild-eyed radical, of course not. He is a very competent, skilled and learned member of our bar and of our bench, now retired, with a wealth of experience behind him. Even he pointed out that the inevitable perception when it comes to this Liberal auto insurance scheme is that the Liberals sold out the little guy in favour of the big insurance companies, the big, wealthy insurance companies.
Again, people had a chance to hear that argument, to hear that position, to note that observation or hear that conclusion when they used their television sets to plug themselves into what is happening at Queen’s Park.
The agenda of the Liberal Party, of this Liberal government, was undertaken in the course of secret studies during the course of 1989 when it conducted $250,000 worth of actuarial studies which were finally forced out of them on 6 February 1990. Remember, Mr Speaker, how the opposition had to fight to get the release of those secret documents, the secret documents that were really part of the design to establish this threshold insurance here in Ontario, the ones that told the government -- and finally, when we obtained them on 6 February, told us -- that this insurance scheme was going to generate a $1-billion payday for the auto insurance industry?
Those TV cameras are crucial to the proper operation of a parliamentary House. I tell you, Mr Speaker, the whole purpose behind this motion is to interfere with the public’s scrutiny of what happens here at Queen’s Park. It is to make sure that question period cannot be replayed at 6:30 or 7 at night when people get home from work, finish their dinners and sit down in front of their television sets so they can watch question period and listen to the Minister of Financial Institutions mumble, stammer and just knock about and refuse to answer questions from the Leader of the Opposition.
Is that not the real reason why this motion is being brought here and now, to make sure that people do not have access through their television sets to what happens during question period because the performance of the Liberals during question period has grown so dismal, so pathetic?
Mr Kormos: No, I am talking qualitative here. I am talking about dismal performances. I am talking about just abysmal conduct. I am talking about the inability to respond to even the most basic inquiries about how crummy this government is in handling some very fundamental issues here in Ontario. So it is not inappropriate to explain that one cannot divorce a discussion of this motion and a discussion of Bill 68 itself.
Before we do that, let’s take a look at Erskine May. Chapter 15 talks about the control and distribution of time in the House of Commons. I appreciate that that is the House of Commons and we are dealing here with the provincial Legislature, but I am suggesting that many of the principles talked about here in Erskine May as applicable to the House of Commons, are equally applicable to what is happening at Queen’s Park.
Let’s talk for the briefest of moments -- because the hours of this House were from 1:30 to 6 pm by the time I got here to represent the people of Welland-Thorold, it was only through anecdote that I could understand and discover what went on when the House had evening sittings. I have had occasion since I have been here in the last year and a half or so to talk to all sorts of members of this Legislature who were here when this House was sitting in the evenings who told me about the conduct of Liberal members and the conduct of Conservative members as they sat into the late evening hours without the scrutiny of television, having gone out to wherever it is they used to go out to when the House sat late for their dinners. The reference to transcripts will demonstrate to you, Mr Speaker, and to the members of this assembly how inappropriate extended hours like that indeed are.
As I say, talking about extended hours necessarily compels us to talk about Bill 68 and the reason that the Liberals want to avoid any discussion about Bill 68 and would rather interfere by bringing these secondary motions. So let’s talk about Bill 68, and more important, why the Liberals do not want to discuss Bill 68 but want to persist in throwing monkey-wrenches into the procedure, because some Liberals, the ones who are calling the shots, really know far more about Bill 68 than they would let on.
They know that under Bill 68, if a person is injured in a car accident, that person would lose his or her right to sue for damages unless that person sustained a catastrophic physical injury and that the loss of that right to sue is not accompanied by any reduction in premium. Indeed, premiums are going to go up by 50 per cent. The Minister of Financial Institutions told us that.
So not only will there be a substantial loss of a right to sue, which means a right to be compensated, so there is going to be a substantial impact on the right to be compensated, what we know is that 95 per cent of innocent injured accident victims will not be entitled to any compensation for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life. We know that now, and the public is becoming increasingly aware of that.
So you lose your right to sue, and more important, you lose your right to be compensated for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Yet, at the same time, premiums will go up by as much as 50 per cent, and similarly -- members should listen to this, please -- more and more people are going to be forced into Facility Association.
I am disappointed. This is damnable. These Liberals bring their motion this afternoon, they prevent any petitions being presented, one of the most fundamental rights that a member has and an obligation that that member has to his constituents, they bring their crummy motion in and they will not even satisfy a quorum. Come on, Mr Speaker.
Mr Kormos: The importance about a quorum is that it eliminates the need for me to repeat things when I see new members come in. One of the difficult things is that members are sitting here, they pick up half of an argument, and then they wander off to their little caucus room across the hall. Lord only knows what they are doing there, but they wander off to their little caucus room and then a new bunch comes in. Then I have to start over again. Then more people leave and then they wander back here from their little caucus room. Why they could not have sat here rather than sitting in their caucus room, I do not know. Then I have to start over again.
That is pretty frustrating, and it is not fair to the people who are paying close attention. It is just not fair at all to the people who are paying attention to what is being said, because they have to listen to things that are repeated twice or three times, just to accommodate the Liberals who are not interested. These Liberals want to sit until midnight. They cannot even sit through a half-hour of the introduction to our opposition to this crummy motion.
Let me tell members what else happens along with Bill 68, and let me tell them exactly why the Liberals want this discussed into the late hours of the night when people can no longer watch. It is just not fair to working people. People out there want to see what is happening in their Parliament. This may be news to some of the members here, but when you work in a plant and you have got to be there at 6:30 or 7 in the morning, you do not go to bed at midnight or 1 am, you go to bed at 9:30 or 10. That is the real world.
These Liberals want to have an important debate like the auto insurance debate -- because they know that they cannot win their time allocation motion. Look what is happening. They have a time allocation motion on the floor. They interrupt the debate of that time allocation motion with a motion to extend the sittings of the House because they, the Liberals, know that people are going to vote against that time allocation motion. The Liberals know that. The Liberals know that even their own ranks are going to feel compelled to vote against that time allocation motion. The Liberals know that. The Liberals sitting over here on the rump know that even their own ranks are going to vote against that time allocation motion.
Now they are panicking. They do not know what direction to turn now and they say, “My goodness, if the time allocation motion doesn’t work, then maybe we’d better restructure the hours of the sitting of the House so the debate has to take place late at night,” when hardworking people cannot watch it any more. Right, Mr Speaker? I know that. So do you. So do they.
The problem is that by the time we are finished presenting all the arguments against the hour extension so that people would have to stay up until midnight to watch what is going on, then these very same Liberals would be satisfied that that is the wrong direction to go in too. They will be aware of the errors of their ways.
Let me tell the members one of the things that the Liberals do not want to see debated during reasonable hours so that people can listen to it. They do not want to debate the proposition, because it is true, that if Bill 68 passes, if this new insurance scheme is permitted to become law, senior citizens are going to be victimized. Senior citizens across Ontario are going to be forced into multithousand-dollar insurance premiums. That is the saddest thing that one could really ever consider, that these Liberals would condemn senior citizens in Ontario to insurance premiums of thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars.
How do we know that? We know it because Mr Justice Osborne in his analysis of Bill 68 said that. We know that Mr Justice Osborne explains that the Facility Association ranks are going to swell by virtue of Bill 68 being passed and that among those people who are going to contribute to the huge increases in Facility are going to be senior citizens, because under Bill 68 insurance companies are still going to have the right to arbitrarily deny insurance to any customer, and among those people who are going to be most readily denied insurance coverage are senior citizens. Is that not correct? Seniors are going to be condemned to the Facility Association.
The Acting Speaker: It grieves me to mention to the honourable member for Yorkview that I had reprimanded the honourable member for Welland-Thorold yesterday that for too long I had let him carry on with anecdotes in terms of suggesting that other members are lying or misleading the House.
Now the problem is that when you are in the Speaker’s chair, one can try to avoid extraneous comments, because the Speaker is paying attention, albeit I am sure to other members that think we are sitting here dozing. But I can assure you, under these trying situations, we are paying a great deal of attention to everything that is being said because, from time to time, we are called upon to make decisions that can be of severe consequences to the House.
That brings me to the point of my having heard you indicate that the honourable member for Welland-Thorold to a degree of some nature was lying or lying again. I have to tell you, as I said to the honourable member for Welland-Thorold yesterday and the day before, I am going to get very strict about that kind of language, as I am with you and I am going to ask you to withdraw the comment.
Mr Polsinelli: Well, Mr Speaker, if that is what you heard, that is definitely not what I thought I had said. But the member for Welland-Thorold is using such farfetched examples that one would strain the imagination to know whether or not he is telling the truth. If it is misinterpreted to the effect that I am perceived to have been alleging that he is lying, I withdraw that unquestionably.
Mr Kormos: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I should mention very briefly, here is the member for Yorkview once again sitting there like an illustration from a Kurt Vonnegut Jr novel, and he wants to make comments. I welcome them.
The members have never heard me stand up on a point of order about what any of these Liberals would interject, because I know that my position and my arguments about Bill 68 will withstand criticism, even the criticism of a dullard. So I am not concerned about criticism that might be thrown at the arguments that I present in opposition to Bill 68.
Mr Kormos: I am not concerned at all. Members have never seen me rise on a point of order saying, “Oh, he said something nasty.” Let them say what they will because we know whose interests they are presenting here at Queen’s Park.
We know that the Liberals are fighting tooth and nail to protect the profits of the auto insurance industry. We know that those profits are going to be enhanced to the tune of $1 billion in the first years alone if this auto insurance legislation becomes law, and we also know that that is why the Liberals do not want to see it discussed during the regular business hours of this Legislature. We know that.
What we were talking about -- and I guess it is as much by way of a warning to senior citizens -- was senior citizens across Ontario who are going to be forced into Facility Association. Of course, the Liberal members want to resist that suggestion. They are fighting right now to make sure that the issue does not even get debated. Of course, they want to resist that suggestion because their interest, the interest of Liberals, is the profits of big insurance corporations.
I am going to be candid with members. We are not overly concerned about the profits of big insurance companies. They are doing quite well on their own, thank you. We are concerned about what happens to senior citizens once this legislation, Bill 68, becomes law.
We are concerned with what Mr Justice Osborne, a judge of the Supreme Court of Ontario, said when he explained in December 1989, just a few months ago, that if Bill 68 becomes law, that if this threshold, so-called no-fault insurance scheme of the Liberals is allowed to pass, more and more senior citizens, whether or not they are good drivers, are going to be forced into Facility Association where the premiums are literally in the thousands and thousands of dollars.
We know the Facility Association in itself has soared in terms of the numbers being forced into it, not because they are bad drivers but because they are seniors, and because Bill 68 permits insurance companies to continue to cherry-pick, if you will, or high-grade, if you want to use another term. If people without collateral benefits provided by employers present themselves to an insurer, they are going to be told by that insurer, “No thank you, sir or madam, we do not want to cover you,” and senior citizens are going to be precisely among those classes of people.
Not only did Mr Justice Osborne explain that, but Facility Association’s own general manager explained that. Don McKay, in his third-quarter report covering the period up to 31 July 1989, indicated that what is going to happen is this. He said:
“The no-fault scheme” -- .the so-called no-fault scheme that the Liberals are trying to ram through -- “will create a new class of borderline risks, and if the legislation proceeds as it is presently drafted, it is highly likely that underwriters” -- that means the insurers -- “will use avoidance tactics on such classes as seasonal workers, self-employed contractors, unskilled labourers, workers in the hospitality sector, other similar occupations,” those people who do not have collateral benefits provided by their employer because these collateral benefits employer-provided are the ones that subsidize the insurance company’s responsibility in terms of its insured person.
Those classes of persons include, once again, senior citizens, just like Judge Osborne of the Supreme Court of Ontario said. Judge Osborne is not unaware of what insurance means in the province of Ontario, because Judge Osborne was the author of the report commissioned by this government on insurance in the province of Ontario. Mr Justice Osborne of the Supreme Court of Ontario, in preparing the Osborne report, condemned the type of insurance that the government would propose to impose upon us through Bill 68 and pointed out that it would not reduce premiums.
Indeed, we know now that premiums, if this bill passes, are going to rise by as much as 50 per cent. More and more people who are good drivers, not bad drivers but good drivers, including senior citizens, small business people, farmers, young people and single women, can be forced into the Facility Association. Just watch and see, but by then it will be too late for so many drivers in Ontario.
By then it will be too late because they will have been hit with premium increases in the thousands and thousands of dollars. The Liberals will have rammed through insurance legislation that denies 95 per cent of all innocent injured accident victims any compensation for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.
The sad thing is that the Minister of Financial Institutions would not even participate in the standing committee on general government hearings. He sent the member for Guelph, his parliamentary assistant. The member for Guelph is sent out there –
Mr Kormos: Indeed, not a bad guy at all, but he knew diddly-squat about the insurance bill. Day after day after day, the member for Guelph was asked questions and the parliamentary assistant had to confess that he was in no position to answer them.
The parliamentary assistant was not privy to the backroom workings between the Minister of Financial Institutions, the Premier of Ontario and the auto insurance industry in Ontario. If the parliamentary assistant was there, if he did participate in those backroom hearings, he should say so right here and now. But we hear not a word from him; we do not hear a word from him.
In a brief spurt of candour and frankness, the parliamentary assistant said this to the press after a particularly trying week in Sudbury among other places: “The Liberals got hammered by the opposition to this auto insurance bill.” The parliamentary assistant said that, and he was quoted in headlines in newspapers. His kids, the kids of that same Liberal member for Guelph, were saying, “Daddy made it into the papers.” They were clipping it and taking it to show and tell. They were saying, “Look, daddy says the Liberals got hammered at the auto insurance committee hearings.”
Mr Kormos: There you go. The old clipping service is working overtime. The member for Guelph, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Financial Institutions, says, “The Liberals got hammered.” I know what he was talking about. This was not any code language. The Liberals got hammered by the opposition.
The member for Guelph is a heck of a nice guy. I have said that again and again and again. He is a great guy. What a cruel thing for the Minister of Financial Institutions to have sent the member for Guelph out into the front to take all the flak over this new insurance scheme, when the minister hid away in his bunker. The parliamentary assistant indeed took the flak.
The problem is that they had to report back to the minister that they got hammered, that the opposition to Bill 68 is overwhelming, that people across Ontario are saying no to Bill 68 and that organizations across Ontario are saying no to Bill 68. At some point during this discussion, I am going to list all the organizations that said no to Bill 68.
Mr Kormos: Page, could you come up here please and take this pencil over to the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere so that he can write these down? He has problems remembering them. There is an eraser on that pencil, Mr Speaker, because we know the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere is prone to making mistakes.
Mr Kormos: I have talked about what this legislation does. It takes away the right of 95 per cent of all innocent injured accident victims to be compensated for pain and suffering, for loss of enjoyment of life. It creates uncertainty. What happens is that even if you are seriously injured to the extent that you pass the test that permits you to sue -- that is the threshold -- in most cases there will be great uncertainty as to whether or not you pass that test.
That uncertainty will make it very difficult for people to get a lawyer who would be prepared to take on the case without a substantial retainer. Those are the sort of problems that thousands and thousands of innocent injured people are going to encounter, because that lawyer would be unable to risk spending time and money with the chance that that victim could recover nothing.
Mr Kormos: Of course. Exactly. You were not here, Mr Speaker, when I talked about the theme that is going to permeate, that is going to be the golden thread throughout this initial stage of argument. The Liberals want the debate about auto insurance. They know that their time allocation motion will not fly. They know that the argument against time allocation is so persuasive that even Liberals are going to vote against it.
Those Liberals who can muster integrity are going to vote against time allocation. Those Liberals who are going to be representing their constituents’ interests are going to vote against time allocation. Those Liberals who are not going to continue to act merely for the wealthy, powerful insurance companies are going to vote against time allocation.
The government does not want to take any chances. The government, the Liberals, know that there is a big chance that the time allocation motion may not fly. So what do they do? They bring this crummy motion before the House, because they want to see that Bill 68 debate taking place in the late hours of the evening so that the public across Ontario cannot witness it.
The Liberals are so ashamed of their sellout of drivers and victims and taxpayers that they want to have the debate about it take place at 11 and 11:30 and 11:45 at night when hardworking people are getting ready for bed because they have got to get up and work in the mornings. They have to get up at 5 and 5:30 in the mornings to be prepared for their 7 o’clock or 7:30 shift. That commences early, early in the day.
When we are talking about this motion, there are a whole bunch of other things to talk about. We could talk about the problems of having to stay here between 6 pm and midnight. That is going to be discussed as well. There are a whole number of things that are going to be discussed.
Think of how unfair it would be to these pages. Think for a minute of how unfair it will be to these pages. This particular group of pages are serving their last day here at Queen’s Park today. This particular group of pages has been an outstanding group of young people, has been extremely helpful to all of us sitting here in this Legislature. They are about as bright a group of pages as we have ever had.
This group of pages serving today their last day here at Queen’s Park is an impressive group of kids who are going to do really well for themselves and make great contributions to their own communities. I will bet money on that right now. They are bright kids, they are hardworking kids, they have been a cheerful bunch and they have been a real pleasure to have here at Queen’s Park.
Having said that, and wishing, I am sure on behalf of all of us, each and every one of these young people well and hoping that they come back to visit from time to time, I do move adjournment of this debate.
Monday 16 April is Easter Monday and therefore a holiday; Tuesday 17 April, we will deal with any previously unfinished business of the week of 9 April, which includes second and third readings of Pr Bills 8, 36, 40, 44, 47, 49, 55, 57, 58, 61 and 62, debate on government notice of motion 30, committee of the whole House on Bill 68; Wednesday, any previously unfinished business, including second reading debate of Bills 16, 107, 108, 106 and 114, which I should have included on Tuesday’s list; Thursday 19 April, private members’ ballot items 43 and 44.
Just prior to moving adjournment of the House, I would like to acknowledge, as has the member of Welland-Thorold, that this is the last day for the pages. We wish them well. We hope they have a happy Easter. As always, it has been a pleasure to have them here to help and serve us.