Miss Martel: In the past few weeks I have been raising concerns about serious administrative problems at the Workers’ Compensation Board. I want to raise another problem today, that of the effects of these internal problems on agencies dealing with the board.
We are finding that many doctors and chiropractors are refusing to treat WCB claimants. Health care providers are tired of having their diagnoses and treatment methods second-guessed by WCB doctors. While attending physicians and chiropractors are treating injured workers, board doctors often deny or overrule their judgements without even examining the patient.
Members of the medical community are also reporting longer-than-ever lapses between the date of injury and acceptance of claims. This is causing tremendous additional anxiety to injured workers who, in turn, are requesting that their physicians become directly involved in dealing with the board on their behalf.
Dr McMillan in Elliot Lake recently summarized the problems as follows: “The increasing workload due to the deficiencies in the system and the extent of my WCB practice is causing a drain in my general practice and surgery. I require extra staff to administer to the WCB problems.” It is difficult enough to deal with the board because of the ridiculous amount of paperwork involved. Add to this the months and months of delayed payments due to prolonged decision-making and it is no wonder health care providers are refusing to deal with WCB patients. This problem will result in even further hardships for injured workers. It is time the Minister of Labour responded.
Mr Cousens: York region recently opened the Canadian Women’s Breast Cancer Foundation office in the town of Markham. So begins a continuing effort to educate women in our community on the importance of having early screening to detect breast cancer.
Breast cancer is not just a women’s issue. When we consider that one in 10 women is a prospective breast cancer victim, it does not take long for men to realize that there are at least 10 women very close to them who are more than statistics. When I consider that the 10 closest women in my life include my mother, my wife, my daughter, my sister and six nieces, statistically it is possible for at least one of them to be affected.
Breast cancer will affect in excess of 12,300 women in Canada this year and it is expected that 4,800 will die of breast cancer. Approximately 1,200 of these women could be saved through early detection. The public needs to be educated more about breast cancer.
Understanding the importance of early detection, the need for self-examination and to know the services that are available in our communities, these simple measures could reduce mortality by 40 per cent for women over the age of 50 and therefore prevent more than 300 deaths in Ontario per year. We all have a role to play in the breast cancer battle.
Mr McGuigan: On Sunday, people everywhere celebrated Earth Day. I have been practising a love of this earth and of healthy, productive soil all my adult life. The wise use of this planet and its soil, water and air protects us against poverty, hunger and disease. These elements have the capacity to sustain the earth’s population until the millennium.
I, with the Liberal Party, championed soil conservation while in opposition and we have advanced the program in government. As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Food, I held nine meetings across Ontario during the month of March to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the land stewardship and the Ontario soil conservation and environmental protection assistance programs.
My visits reinforced the fact that soil, climate, cropping practices, farming systems and attitudes vary widely across Ontario. There was unanimous support for the involvement of the county soil and crop improvement associations. Those attending exhibited environmental awareness of fertilizer, manure, energy and pesticide use and the downstream effects of soil erosion. Participants recognized that soil degradation is a concern to farmers and to society.
It was an informative experience for myself and the member for Northumberland, who attended eight of the nine meetings. One of those who contributed is in the gallery today: Rick Cowan, a farmer in Essex county and president of the Essex County Federation of Agriculture. I thank Rick and all those who participated in making the initiative so successful.
Mr Kormos: I received a letter just the other day from my good friend Bill Thomas. Bill Thomas is well known here in Ontario as a columnist for a variety of newspapers and an author of a number of books of a Leacock quality, the most recent being The Tabloid Zone -- Dancing with the Four-Armed Man which we will deal with later on.
In any event, Bill Thomas writes to me: “There are few issues in today’s society that are so black and white, so right and wrong,” that bring naturally with them “attention, sympathy and support. Landlords banning pets from the apartments of the elderly and low-income families has all the charm of big guys with beards beating seal pups to death without the motive of money.”
Bill Thomas writes that he does not think anybody can fathom the massive image enhancement that any politician could experience by championing this drive in Ontario and then across Canada. Recent studies “show beyond a doubt that pets keep the elderly alive, give them a purpose, a dependant, a reason to go on. Some hospitals in the United States are encouraging pets to be allowed into the rooms because they can document a speedier recovery if the patient has a dog or a cat to care for.”
The reasons that landlords are giving for fighting this highly emotional, very lopsided issue is that pets are noisy and occasionally leave an odour on the carpeting. ‘Peter,” he writes, “if noise and stains on the rug were real social issues, the Station Hotel would have closed down in 1963.” He says it is time “to go hard” on this issue; it is “one of the few stances a politician can take in which he will please everyone.” He says he is going to help all he can.
Mr Harris: Mr Speaker, I rise today to draw your attention to the plight of two rural Ontario areas that are concerned about being a dumping ground for Metropolitan Toronto’s waste. I am referring to Plympton township in Lambton county and Marmora township in Hastings county. Both have been identified as interim sites, as if there is any such thing as an interim garbage dump.
Residents feel their concerns are being ignored by the Liberal government. Having met with residents in both areas, I wish to convey a message to the Minister of the Environment. CPAL, Citizens of Plympton Against Landfill, cannot understand why the minister refused to meet with it. I believe the people of southwestern Ontario have a right to know how the minister feels about trucking garbage 200 miles to be dumped on prime agricultural land and the people of Ontario have a right to be heard, so I encourage the minister to come out of the closet and meet with these concerned individuals.
People in Marmora township are equally concerned because their site may not be just interim, but permanent. They cannot understand why the minister refuses to guarantee that a full environmental assessment will be held. Again, I urge the minister to come out from behind closed doors and say where he stands.
Surely government must begin to listen to public concerns about the garbage crisis and to address the need to reduce, reuse and recycle products before they end up in the waste stream. Pitting municipalities and residents against each other is not the answer to Metropolitan Toronto’s garbage crisis.
Mr J. B. Nixon: The T-shirt I am wearing today says, “York Mills Collegiate Institute -- Earth -- Save It.” On 22 April, we all know that the 20th annual Earth Day was a great international success. On 18 April, York Mills Collegiate also had a great success. Over 600 students, with teachers and parents, participated in a seven-kilometre walkathon.
In their invitation they said: “Apart from raising money through this event, our main goal is to bring about the awareness in other fellow students and citizens of the harm and damaging effects that pollution has on our trees and on our earth and to make other people, who still do not realize, to be aware of how serious the problem is.”
I was proud to participate in the walkathon. Students at York Mills Collegiate succeeded in their aspiration. More people are aware of the damaging and harmful effects of pollution. At least 600 students and their families are aware that humanity depends on a much larger living organism for its survival. We have inherited our responsibility for this planet and we will pass that responsibility to our children. I say that the students of York Mills Collegiate are ready to take that responsibility.
Mr Reville: A funny thing happened the other day. A person called to ask about the consultation around the community mental health legislation. Naturally, we provided the information. When the person said, “Could you fax that?” we did that too. Here is the funny part. The person was calling from the office of a government member. That is right. The government was calling the opposition to find out what the government was doing.
I just want to be helpful here. In case there are other government members who want to know what their government is doing, the subcommittee is meeting today and tomorrow in Ottawa; in London on 30 April and 1 May; in Toronto on 9, 10, 16 and 17 May; and in Sudbury on 28 and 29 May. I am very sorry, they have missed Hamilton, Kingston and Thunder Bay.
These people were hired on a temporary contract basis, pending the recruitment of qualified nursing staff. The institution is currently trying to recruit registered nurses and registered nursing assistants and the 13 unclassified workers are to be terminated on 24 June 1990.
Many of the workers have received numerous letters of recognition with respect to patient assaults on nursing staff in which they were praised for being instrumental in preventing a very serious accident. They have also been praised for their performance on the job and for the high standard of care they provide at Oak Ridge.
I would suggest to the minister that these people are valuable assets at this institution and, rather than making them join the unemployment lines, she should be retraining them as registered nurses and registered nursing assistants. I would urge her to do so. How would she feel if she worked at one place for over five years and was told that her services were no longer required after receiving many letters of a good work record? I ask the minister to look into the layoffs at Oak Ridge and to do something about them.
Mrs E. J. Smith: Twenty years ago the London area started what has now become a great tradition in the city of London, the Great Ride Against Cancer. This has become a family event in which individuals and families get out together and bicycle a long course for this good cause.
This ride not only raises good money for research in the cancer area but also serves as a tool for educating people about the disease itself. People are encouraged to learn about it and to watch for the symptoms so that they can take immediate action. They also learn of the high rate of cure that has developed as a result of research money raised by such things as these bicycle rides. This high rate of cure in itself encourages people to come forward and go to their doctors at the first sign of cancer.
I would encourage all people to sponsor riders and to get out and ride themselves. People might like to start it in their own communities as well. I compliment the people of London who have organized it.
Mr Mackenzie: I have a question for the Deputy Premier. Today we hear that Stelco Inc will cut some 800 jobs and close some operations due to a deteriorating economic situation. Jay Gordon, steel analyst with McLean McCarthy Ltd, is quoted as saying, “Further employment cuts depend on how bad the economic cycle gets, and it is beginning to shape up as a really nasty one.” Can the Deputy Premier tell us if this government’s response to this economic crisis will be more effective than its fight against free trade?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I read with great concern the stories in the press relating to the problems that the steel industry is having. The federal policy of high interest rates, which has triggered the relatively high value of the Canadian dollar, has had a very substantial negative effect on our economy to the point where we are now projecting in Ontario real growth of 1.7 per cent.
Just in December when I tabled the grey book of economic projections for this calendar year, we were expecting growth of two per cent, and we predicted a decrease in interest rates of two per cent over the year. Unfortunately that does not appear to be happening and we are very concerned about it as well. I may have a chance to continue the discussion in a moment.
Mr Allen: If we are looking at troubled times in steel and autos, a lot of smaller suppliers are going to be in trouble as well. As the Treasurer may know, the Premier’s Council was to report in April on employment adjustment policies dealing with severance, training and other closure and layoff problems. Now it would appear, as reports have it, that the inadequacy of recommendations in that initial report have delayed the report substantially.
Can the Treasurer tell us when that report will be available and whether it will be responding fully to workers’ needs for comprehensive adjustment services regardless of scale of closure and layoff and so on?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I cannot give the honourable member specific information in either area although I am a member of the council and have been participating in the discussions on both subjects which are very important. Certainly the expressions from the two Hamilton members about the state of the economy as it is reflected by the steel companies is significant. I think it is important that Ontario maintain its competitive stand and a situation where these industries can be in a position to continue real growth and the concomitant employment.
There will be references of a somewhat general nature in the address I will be delivering to the House later this afternoon but I believe that the interest rate situation -- which most people had expected to moderate by this time in the year -- as it gets worse is having a continuing difficult effect. There is not much we can do about that, other than to bring in our own programs to moderate it and give gratuitous advice to the federal government.
Mr Charlton: The reflection of economic circumstances which are represented in this question reflect more than just problems in the steel industry. Mr Gordon said Stelco’s loss in the first quarter came because Detroit screwed up on a scale that boggles the imagination, which resulted in losses of market share to the Japanese. We add to that the lack of economic, financial and employment planning coming out of this government and we are heading into a situation that is particularly destructive.
We need specific policy comment and assurance from this government that as a result of what is going on out there in the economy, workers will not be the ones who get left to pay the heaviest price. What programs is the Deputy Premier going to proceed with?
Hon R. F. Nixon: There are a variety of programs now to assist in situations where there are layoffs. I think the honourable member would be aware that our projections are for a net increase in jobs in the province this year of something over 60,000.
I sincerely hope that the initiatives the government takes in the future will have the enthusiastic support of the representatives of the New Democratic Party, which are really a part of what they are saying in their questions now. Even the Premier’s Council, in making recommendations for training and assisting the workforce in responding in a useful and flexible way to changing requirements, is something that I wait for with a good deal of anticipation because I believe it will be very useful.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Minister of Housing. The Minister of Housing is quoted as saying in the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations Bulletin, produced here in Toronto for winter 1990, that the cost of putting housing on the market in Toronto, with the land cost, construction costs and material costs, results in a monthly rent of at least $1,200 to $1,300 a month and that not many people in Toronto can afford that kind of rental cost on a monthly basis.
If in fact that is his position, which I certainly agree with, that not many people can afford that, why, for the purposes of his housing policy statement to provide 25 per cent of the units going on the market as being affordable, is his definition of “affordable” a monthly rent in Toronto of $1,320; in Windsor, $1,170; in Hamilton, $1,180? And the list goes on. Why would that be his definition of “affordable,” when he himself understands that for the people who need housing, that is not affordable?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The original reference that the honourable member alludes to was in response to an observation that developers have given to me as to the reason why they were not building rental accommodation in the city. I concurred with them and I concur with the honourable member. The honourable member will be well aware of the fact that the affordable housing range is from zero to the 60th percentile. The figures that he alludes to are at the 60th percentile. A limited number of people are at that range and many, many more people are below that. That is just referring to that 60th percentile figure. It does not refer to the 20th, the 30th, the 40th or the 50th. That is why we have our non-profit program. That is why, when we recently announced Seaton, I indicated that it would not be good enough to have them just at the 60th; they would have to have them at those other percentiles as well.
Mr D. S. Cooke: When the minister comes up with a definition that goes up to the 60th percentile and that is the requirement the municipalities must meet, then obviously the requirement he is setting is something that any municipality can achieve by building anything in its municipality. The private sector is going to respond to the highest possible level and therefore there will be no development of affordable housing in this province for those people who are at the 30th percentile or the 10th percentile, the people who need housing.
In fact, in a survey that was conducted in Ottawa by CMHC, of the 62,000 units surveyed, only 484 were over $1,000 per month currently, so just about all the units in Ottawa would already meet his guidelines. How does the minister plan on getting affordable housing on the market if he has opted out of the co-op and non-profit program and this is his tool? How is he going to get permanently affordable housing on the market?
Hon Mr Sweeney: It is incorrect for my colleague to suggest that we have opted out of the co-op and non-profit program. As a matter of fact, we will be allocating something just below 10,000 units this year, and we will continue to be allocating as we have for the last several years. He knows those figures as well as I do, and they are going to continue.
But speaking specifically of Ottawa, as my honourable colleague just did, the staff of the housing advocacy group within our ministry recently appeared before the Ontario Municipal Board to argue in support of a private developer who was prepared to bring on stream housing that would have been in between the 20th and 30th percentiles. A local community group objected to that. Our staff went to support it and in fact the Ontario Municipal Board did support that.
Not very long ago, in North York, another proposal was brought forward to provide housing in the 40th percentile, and again our task force went before the OMB. Once again, the OMB supported it. So I think that there is evidence -- I can give others, but those are just two -- that housing is being built at considerably below the 60th percentile, and supported.
Mr D. S. Cooke: As of February of this year there were 41,274 households representing about 71,000 people on waiting lists for assisted housing in this province, there is a one- to two-year waiting list to get in co-ops and, across Ontario, there are about 200,000 households of people who are caught up with paying more than 30 per cent per month for their housing or doubling up and living with other households.
If the minister is interested in providing affordable housing, why does he not change the definition of what affordable is and make it mandatory to provide 25 per cent of the units at the 30th percentile level or lower so that we really are aiming affordable housing at the people who desperately need it in this province?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member is aware of the fact that whether we are talking about the affordable percentage for private lands or for government lands, the figures that are referred to are the minimums. In other words, as I have gone around to speak to municipal councils and to speak to developers and builders, we have made that very, very clear.
For example, on our provincial government lands, the minimum figure is 35 per cent, and yet with only one exception, every single piece of government land we have brought on stream in the last year and a half has had in fact between 50 and 60 per cent affordable. So the minimum figures are not the ones that are actually being adhered to; figures much higher than that are being adhered to.
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Attorney General. Last year Judge Borins dismissed a case against four men charged with drug trafficking because it took three and a half years to come to trial. The judge said an overburdened justice system had deprived these accused drug dealers of their rights. An Oshawa judge recently dismissed five criminal cases for the same reason. The same thing has been happening in Algoma district and in Ottawa-Carleton. Trial dates have to be set at least six or seven months in advance. Major cases such as murder take longer. In fact, a recent survey found Ontario’s courts are the slowest of any jurisdiction in all of North America. How can the Attorney General tell us that justice is being served when accused criminals are walking free because of court delays?
Hon Mr Scott: First of all, it is very important to separate out the case to which the honourable member refers, which was a drug case tried in district court, because as the honourable member will know, as he goes about the province in his desperate search for telephone-in supporters, those cases are tried in a court which is provided by the province but in which the judges are federally appointed and the prosecutors are federally appointed. So the delays that we see most commonly in the drug cases are delays, as they were in Judge Borins’s court, for which the province has no responsibility. A very careful examination of the Borins case illustrates that there was no shortage of courtroom facilities in that case; there was a shortage of federally appointed judges.
Having said that, however, it would be less than candid to concede that we do not have significant delays in the provincial court. There are probably 10 districts out of the 100-odd in Ontario where the delays exceed acceptable levels as far as I am concerned. These delays have been growing significantly over a decade. The good news that I am able to report to the honourable member is that in six of those districts, we have established delay reduction committees which, as the Court of Appeal noted last week in the Morin case, are beginning to take hold and beginning to respond to what is a very difficult problem.
Mr Harris: I appreciate the Attorney General’s concern about my travels around the province and assure him that it is his record as Attorney General that makes my job much easier as I travel this province.
Last Friday five people accused in a $50-million drug conspiracy here in Toronto were freed because the case took more than three years to come to trial. One of the accused is reported to have gone to court 44 times. The biggest delay centred on the fact that it took 14 months for the crown, for whom the Attorney General is responsible, to bring a completed indictment to the court, something that the defence attorney says usually takes 10 minutes.
These are serious charges. We are talking about $50 million. We are talking about a ton of hash. We are talking about an international conspiracy. How can the Attorney General defend his failure to have this case come to trial, with a 14-month delay for something that usually takes 10 minutes?
As I have tried to explain to the honourable member as carefully as I could, the cases of drug prosecutions have to be removed from the consideration that the honourable member addresses, particularly the one to which he refers, because those cases are tried in federally appointed courts and they are prosecuted by crown attorneys who are local appointees of the Mulroney government. The cases are not tried by provincial judges and they are not tried by representatives of the provincial Attorney General’s ministry.
It is our obligation to provide courtrooms for the utilization of those trials. I have carefully examined those trials in each instance and I have not found that there has been any shortage of courtroom space. As the honourable member knows, the Provincial Auditor reported six months ago that in the courthouse where most of these trials take place, the courthouse on University Avenue, occupancy is at about 60 per cent. There is plenty of courtroom space in the district court to try those cases. If there is a shortage either of federal crown attorneys or federally appointed judges, the honourable member, when he gets his Senate seat, will know where to raise the matter.
Mr Harris: I am amazed that the Attorney General washes his hands of everything that is going wrong in this province. Setting accused drug dealers free without a trial is a strange way of dealing with a problem.
How about insurance rates? Last November, York region judges threw out 60 impaired driving charges because of delays. How about child abuse? Family court backlogs have reached a point where those with temporary custody often win by default, yet we had more family court judges in 1979 than we do today. He has had five years as Attorney General to deal with this problem and he has failed miserably.
Does he not realize how frustrating, how discouraging this situation is for the police and how encouraging it is for criminals? When can we expect the minister to take a lead role so that we can see a plan in place to have an improvement in this very discouraging situation?
Hon Mr Scott: Should I try to explain this one more time? As I have said to the honourable member, in respect to drug cases, the provision of judges is achieved by the federal government and the prosecutors are appointed by the federal government. Our responsibility is to provide courtroom space and court reporters, and that we do.
When it comes to impaired driving, we accept responsibilities for delays that are a decade old in this province. We have established a program, which the Treasurer has kindly funded, which allows the participants in the trial process -- the judge, the administrator, our crown attorney and members of the defence bar -- to consult about how the process can be speeded up in their community.
That process, called the delay reduction committee, is critical because no one player can take the decisions. The honourable member will be interested to know that a five-man Court of Appeal, in allowing an appeal from a stay of prosecution, referred with approval to the efforts that the government had made and allowed the appeal, as I say, and remitted the case to trial.
The difficulty is a serious one. We are attending to it as carefully as we can. We are getting the best possible advice about how the system, which is composed of independent players, can more effectively respond. But you know, if the member ever thought who caused this problem --
Mr Eves: I have a question of the Minister of Health. I am sure the minister is aware of the deficit problems of the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital, projecting a deficit this year of some $6 million, $2.5 million of which is a shortfall carried over from the last fiscal year and some of which is implementing a rationalization agreement which it signed with St Mary’s General Hospital last May and the minister concurred to.
Hon Mrs Caplan: I am very familiar with the issue that the member raises. I have met with some of the hospitals from that region and I am aware that they are working very closely with the ministry to resolve any outstanding issues.
Mr Eves: How does the minister rationalize, for lack of a better word, or take that statement she just made, that she is working with the two hospitals, when I am sure she is aware that the Waterloo District Health council recently talked about a progress report. As part of that progress report review, they are concerned that some of the essential proposals and rationalization that she agreed to last May -- and they have not received any word about being held up -- include the following four: no CAT scanner for St Mary’s hospital; no response from the ministry to Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital’s request for money to consolidate and expand its kidney dialysis service; no approval from the ministry to renovate St Mary’s emergency department, considered an immediate need and agreed upon by all, including the ministry; and not enough space in St Mary’s for small operating rooms to do intricate orthopaedic surgical procedures.
Why is it that even though the minister agreed to all of these things being done, and this rationalization last May, almost a year ago now, the ministry has not provided the funds for these hospitals to streamline their processes and rationalize their services?
I can tell the member that many of the issues he raises relate to the kind of new program opportunities that are always being discussed by the ministry but that, in fact, in the Waterloo region, the local member, my colleague the member for Kitchener, has been very vigilant in ensuring that I am fully aware of the concerns of the hospital and the community. I want to assure the member opposite that we are working with both of the hospitals to ensure, as part of a review of their services, that the needs of the people of Kitchener-Waterloo are met and met appropriately.
Mr Eves: I am glad the minister refers to the member for Kitchener, because the same member for Kitchener is quoted in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record on 4 April as saying, “Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital is in the same position as about 15 other hospitals in the province who are reporting a deficit.”
He is very concerned, as well he should be, about the fact that despite the fact her ministry committed to this rationalization process and to these specific needs in both these hospitals almost a year ago now -- next month it will be a year -- they still have not seen any funding forthcoming to provide CAT scanners, kidney dialysis, redoing the emergency room and expanding emergency facilities so they can do critical care orthopaedic surgery.
The minister is the one who stood in this House and made a statement in August 1988 that said there will not be this problem with funding hospitals any more as a result of the Conjoint Review Committee’s report, “We will undertake upon the ministry to get you funding and get you answers on programs immediately.” Why has the minister not done that? How can this situation exist two years after she solved the problem?
The rationalization attempt between the two hospitals in fact had no cost implications. As a result of that there were some requests for new programs. I can tell him as well that there have been some funding problems that arose in one of the hospitals. We are now working with both hospitals to review their needs and ensure that the needs of the people of Kitchener-Waterloo are met.
He knows as well, or should know, that we are reviewing policy guidelines in such areas as CAT scanners. We are also looking at expansion of regional dialysis programs. I want him to know that active planning is under way, but that he is wrong, as usual.
How can the minister justify the fact that delays in decisions by the Workers’ Compensation Board have resulted in delays not only for the injured workers who are hurt by this but for the pharmacies that have supplied injured workers with the medication prescribed for them, to the point that some pharmacies in Algoma district have not been paid as far back as July 1989 and some have a few outstanding accounts from before that?
Hon Mr Phillips: I am aware of the challenges at the Workers’ Compensation Board. I know that the member for Sudbury East has raised those with me as well. I have talked to the chairman and the chief executive officer of the Workers’ Compensation Board. I think the first thing is that they acknowledge they have been implementing a substantial amount of change there. They acknowledge that they have had some problems in implementing that change. They acknowledge that they need to make improvements in it. The second thing I would say is that the board, which has the responsibility for ensuring there is a smooth operation of workers’ compensation, is also aware of the need to improve the service.
I will just say that they are implementing substantial change. They believe, and I believe they are right, that when they get this change implemented, it will represent an improvement in service at the Workers’ Compensation Board. There is no question that over the last three to four months, as all that change has come together, service levels at the Workers’ Compensation Board have not been what I think they should be and not been what the board thinks they should be.
I am satisfied that they are aware of it. I am satisfied that they are attempting to correct it. I am satisfied that the board is looking at plans to improve it. The expectation from the Workers’ Compensation Board is that should improve over the near term.
Several weeks ago the Sudbury District Pharmacists’ Association asked for a meeting with the regional director of the Workers’ Compensation Board in Sudbury to try and resolve some of the problems my colleague has pointed out. The regional director refused to meet with them, and instead sent some lower-level management staff who of course could not resolve any of the problems. As a result of all their frustrations in dealing with the board, the association, which represents some 40 pharmacies in Sudbury and district, has proposed that it will no longer deal with injured workers and their claims. As of 1 May, injured workers who come in to pick up prescriptions have to pay up front in cash.
Everyone in this House knows that injured workers who are already on lower benefits because they are on compensation cannot afford to have to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars per month for prescriptions either. I want to ask the minister, what is he going to do to protect these workers?
Hon Mr Phillips: Again, there is a fine line for the minister, as I am sure the opposition appreciates, between ensuring that the service levels of the Workers’ Compensation Board are fair and adequate and the minister’s stepping in and becoming part of the administration of it. I am trying to walk that fine line.
I have raised the concerns about the service levels with the board, and it is not just the concerns of the opposition; it is the concerns of my own members on this side. I repeat that the board is aware of them and the board is taking action to correct them. Specific instances, such as the member has raised, I will once again raise with the board because I do not think any of the members would want an injured worker not to have proper service. So I am raising those issues.
I would ask the members to recognize that change is substantial at the board. They believe that they are working their way through that change and that the net result will be a substantial improvement in service. As the minister, I am continuing to monitor it and to raise the concerns other members bring to me. In terms of the specifics of the case of the pharmacies in Sudbury, I will raise that too.
Mr McLean: My question is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. It concerns the disturbing decline in Ontario tourism since he became minister. According to Tourism Ontario, this province’s tourism revenue dropped $3.25 billion in 1989 from the previous year and the equivalent of 30,000 full-time jobs have been lost. Trips by Ontario residents within this province declined by 27.8 per cent last year, while the number of Ontarians visiting the United States increased by 38.4 per cent during the same period. This resulted in Ontario’s share of the $3.5-billion national travel deficit climbing to 57 per cent.
Mr Jackson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: According to Beauchesne’s rule 316 on page 103: “It has been sanctioned by usage that a member, while speaking, must not (c) refer to the presence or absence of specific members.” I would respectfully ask the minister to withdraw his comment.
The Speaker: Order. The member has raised a point of order and I will respond to the honourable member. He is correct in quoting that. I have advised all members in the House on previous occasions that it is up to them whether they attend or do not attend, and it is not up to other members to draw their attention to that.
Now, if I may, I would like to try to respond to his original question. I should point out to the member that there has indeed been a slowdown in the number of US visitors to Ontario during the past year and a very significant slowdown in the number of people within Ontario who travel within their own province. That is in fact a matter of great concern to both the tourism industry and my ministry. We have been looking at it and analysing very carefully all the factors that contribute to that.
I know the member would want to know, however, that there are other factors than just the role of the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation that may be involved. Marketing programs are partnership programs; they are partnerships between the federal government, the provincial government and the tourism industry itself. So all the partners in that enterprise have a share of the responsibility for effective marketing of their programs.
Mr McLean: I am sure the average 10 per cent increase in the revenues has something to do with it. However, how can the minister defend running a four-page travel ad in a US newspaper highlighting Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara Falls and other southern Ontario points of interest with virtually no information on northern Ontario? It appears to me that the minister is not aware northern Ontario exists and has much to offer visitors. There is a lot there to offer. How does he defend the lack of interest in northern Ontario?
Hon Mr Black: If I could respond to the member for Simcoe East, I would suggest to him first of all that he should look at the ad in question and satisfy himself that the facts he has quoted are correct, because if one looks at the ad that was placed in USA Today, one would find that fully one third of that insert featured northern Ontario products. It featured the lodges of northern Ontario, the resorts of northern Ontario and the kinds of activities, such as hunting and fishing, that are prevalent in northern Ontario.
I would also point out to the member that half of our radio commercials for our spring-summer campaign, which is just starting now, in fact focus on the soft wilderness experiences that are offered in northern Ontario. I know that the member will be pleased to know that.
I should also tell him that we have just recently completed a targeted direct mail program to some 410,000 people who reside in the northeastern United States that specifically talks about fishing and hunting opportunities in northern Ontario. This ministry and this government are providing more support to tourism in northern Ontario than at any time in the history of this province.
Mr McGuigan: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. The report of the Provincial-Municipal Social Services Review identified among the key municipal concerns that there has been an unequal impact of costs from municipality to municipality.
When my riding extended to Elgin county, I learned that Elgin did not subsidize people in rest homes for the very plausible reason that there were a large number of discharged patients from the Ontario psychiatric hospital at St Thomas and, because they had no other home, even though they were originally from many parts of Ontario, they took up residence in local rest homes.
This put an inordinate cost on the county of Elgin. Then because Elgin cut off funding at some time, these people moved to the nearby counties of Kent, Middlesex, Oxford and Haldimand-Norfolk. My question to the minister is, when does he expect to address this particular inequity between municipalities?
Hon Mr Beer: The honourable member has raised an issue that has caused concern in a number of areas of the province. I think that is one of the specific reasons we launched the Provincial-Municipal Social Services Review, which was to look at the funding and management of a number of social programs, including general welfare assistance. As the honourable member may be aware, that report was released earlier this month and there is a six-month consultation period now under way with the municipalities and other interested groups.
I would also point out to the honourable member that the long-term care initiative is going through a similar six-month consultative process and there are many things with respect to the specific question the member raises that are linked in the two. I would hope very much that at the end of this study and discussion with municipalities, we would then be able to bring forward proposals that would mean that the kind of situation the honourable member refers to would not occur again.
Mr McGuigan: Recently the Kent county council cut off subsidy funding for welfare recipients in rest homes because it claims that 31 per cent of them are not county residents even though some have been residing there for 15 years. I am concerned about the fate of these people. They are frail and elderly and many are ex-alcoholics unable to care for themselves. Also the ex-alcoholics do not need to be in nursing homes or hospitals; they are difficult to handle and can best be cared for in rest homes.
Hon Mr Beer: I would say that I regret very much the action that the Kent county council recently took. We are speaking of, I believe, approximately 20 out of some 58 people who are in this particular situation. The council is aware of the process we have launched around the Provincial-Municipal Social Services Review and long-term care. It would be my hope that they would rescind their decision or defer it until we have had a chance to complete these specific discussions. I have asked my officials to enter into discussions with Kent county council to see if there is not some way we can get around this particular situation.
As the honourable member points out, our concern here has to be with the individuals who need to be in the hostels. We want to ensure that they have a safe and secure place where they can remain after 30 June. So we are going to begin those discussions and I would hope very much that the council would reconsider its decision.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the Minister of Labour. First of all, I would like to ask the minister if he is aware of the plant closure, which was announced last Friday afternoon in Windsor, of the Wayne Bus Body company, better known in Windsor as Welles Corp Ltd. The minister will know that this is one of many plant closures that have been announced in my community in the last few months. This one will result in 150 employees being laid off. This company has received $1 million in a loan from the Ontario Development Corp. What intervention has been made by his government at this point in an attempt to save these jobs?
Hon Mr Phillips: We are always terribly concerned about any layoff. As the Treasurer said earlier today in the House, the fact that we are seeing high interest rates makes it somewhat more difficult for our industries to compete against the United States. We have been fortunate over the last six years in that we have been able to see jobs created in the province at a substantially faster rate than the labour market has grown, so the unemployment rate has been able to drop.
Specifically in instances like this where we see a case of a plant closure, our involvement is to ensure that severance and termination pay are handled, that if the decision for the plant to close is made we have employment counselling help for those individuals, that we work with the federal government to ensure training is made available and that we assist the workers to find new jobs.
As we look across the province, we are seeing a number of layoffs. In each of those cases our ministry will step in with our counselling services to work with both the employees and the employer to assist those workers in finding new careers.
Mr D. S. Cooke: It might be quite difficult to find a job in Windsor when the unemployment rate is 13 per cent. The minister will have to come in and pick up the pieces, but what I was asking him is if he is prepared to intervene and use his $1 million that has been lent to this company through the Ontario Development Corp to try to save the jobs.
The minister might be aware that what this company has said is that besides closing its manufacturing operations in Windsor, it might leave a sales office to access the Canadian market. It is clear that one of the contributing factors to this plant closure is the free trade agreement which his government did not do a damned thing to stop in this country.
Mr D. S. Cooke: Yes, I will place it. I should like to ask the minister whether he or the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology will intervene in an attempt to save these jobs. We do not need them to come in and pick up the pieces after. With 13 per cent unemployment in my community, we need to prevent this plant closure.
Hon Mr Phillips: I would just like to correct the record. I was extremely proud of our Premier in terms of fighting the battle on free trade. If you look in the last federal election, it was our Premier, almost alone across this country, who continued to speak out about the problems that the free trade agreement would cause. He alone did that with great, great effect.
In terms of how we work with organizations, as I said before, MITT is always looking for opportunities to save jobs. For example, I know that both the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology and myself met recently with General Motors and the Canadian Auto Workers, talking about the future of the van plant in Scarborough.
However, there is no sense in holding out false hope. MITT would certainly like to work with organizations to save those jobs, but in the case where jobs are designated to leave, our ministry, the Ministry of Labour, will step in to provide the maximum assistance that we can for those workers, whether it be in counselling, whether it be ensuring that they receive their severance, their termination pay, whether it be ensuring for training and what riot. That is the role that we will play. I know MITT would be happy to work with organizations if there is an opportunity for that business to be saved.
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister of Revenue. On 22 March, the Windsor Star reported that the minister ardently supports a tax freeze in Ontario. The minister was quoted as saying on that day: “It would be unwise and very politically dangerous for any government to be introducing any new taxes at this time. The public is fed up with taxes in Ontario.” Would the Minister of Revenue inform this House whether he has been able to impress upon the Treasurer the fact that his ministry does not need additional revenue in this budget?
Mr Jackson: I am sure that the member for Essex South and his constituents were quite delighted to hear that, for the first time in six Liberal budgets, he has come out so strongly, so clearly, so unequivocally against and in opposition to any new taxes in Ontario.
Would the minister explain to his constituents in Essex South and to the members of this House why he voted against a resolution calling on the government to freeze taxes on the very same day that he was making that statement in the Windsor Star? How can he be for a tax freeze in Windsor and opposed to it at Queen’s Park on the same day?
Hon Mr Mancini: There has been a long tradition in the Legislature for members to look over private bills that have been introduced by other members in the House, and for an obvious number of reasons, I was unable to support the honourable member’s resolution. Had he given his resolution more thought and had it been more practical and had it been more acceptable to the House, he might have got the support of the House.
Mr Daigeler: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Recently, one of my constituents wrote that he knew of people who contribute over $600 a month to their registered retirement savings plans to reduce their income so they could still qualify for child care subsidy.
In earlier correspondence to me, the minister had indicated that 80 per cent of the people receiving subsidized day care have an annual income of less than $20,000. My constituent appreciates that, but he still wonders about the remaining 20 per cent.
Can the minister tell this House whether there are any checks in the system to prevent people from using RRSP contributions so as to qualify for subsidized day care or whether these cases that I mentioned are very isolated across the province?
Hon Mr Beer: I would want to state very clearly that those people who receive subsidies for child care in this province are indeed those who are most in need. As part of the process by which someone becomes eligible for a child care subsidy there is a needs test, and part of that is what is called liquid assets, determining what other assets besides some income an individual may have, and there is a limit on that.
For example, a single mother with one child could have liquid assets -- and by that we mean savings; it could include an RRSP -- with a limit of $5,000. If that asset is more than that amount, then that individual is automatically no longer eligible for child care. So in the case of the specific example that the honourable member mentioned, that could not hold true for a single mother with one child.
There are very clear sets of rules and regulations around exactly how an individual receives the subsidy, and I can assure the honourable member that very, very few people, if any, are able to pass through that system and somehow take money from the system they should not have.
In the context of looking at these day care questions, I found out that the minister is presently reviewing the ministry’s New Directions for Child Care plan, which was set up some three or four years ago by his predecessor. Can the minister inform this House as to when the review that I think he is presently undertaking will be complete and when he will be announcing his own day care plans for the next three years?
Hon Mr Beer: As the honourable member has said, we have completed the three-year cycle that was announced in 1987 and we are preparing our plans for the ensuing period. As the honourable member knows, the recent federal budget has caused a number of problems in looking at budgets for a number of social service programs that we have, including child care, but I would hope to be in a position to inform the House of our plans in the very near future.
Mr R. F. Johnston: My question is for the Minister of Education. Two years ago, in May 1988, in response to a question from the member for Nepean, the then Minister of Education indicated that he hoped to be bringing forward amendments to Bill 82 prior to the end of that session regarding children with exceptionalities. That was May 1988. A month or so ago, again the member asked a question of this minister, and this minister had the gall to say that we would expect those amendments before the assembly sitting this fall of this year.
It is really quite amazing to me. I would ask the minister how it is that he can stand up and face the parents of disabled kids across this province, who have been lobbying us systematically since 1987 for those changes. How can he stand up now and tell them that again they are supposed to believe him and that they are going to wait until next fall for amendments that are grossly needed?
Hon Mr Conway: I want to indicate to my friend the member for Scarborough West that I did indicate, in response to a request in this regard from my friend the member for Nepean, that it was my expectation that I would be bringing forward those amendments in the fall sitting of this year. I regret that we were not able to do it last fall, for example, but as my friend will know, we had a couple of education bills that were in train at that time, the teachers’ pension legislation and the pooling legislation, that took up a fair bit of time. But like my friend opposite, and certainly like my colleagues in the government caucus, I am determined to move forward to address the concerns that have been identified, and I look forward in a very positive way to working with my friend from Scarborough later this year to address these long-awaited amendments.
Mr R. F. Johnston: My problem is that I expected through the other minister, in conversations with him, that it would be provided a couple of years ago. I expected from this minister that it would be coming forward last fall. The first work on those amendments was done in 1986 and 1987. Both ministers have referred to that process in the past.
I want to know from the minister today, why is it that anybody out there should believe that this is coming forward? How can he give us confidence that this year we will finally see these much-needed changes so that real equality in education can be made available?
Hon Mr Conway: My honourable friend and I going back as we do over a decade of doing business, the public’s business, together, I am sure my friend from Scarborough, formerly of Pembroke, would expect that I would try to the very best of my ability to meet the schedule I have outlined.
But I want to say that I think it is something for the New Democratic Party to stand up here and complain about what the House is not doing when the honourable member for Welland-Thorold day after day after day blathers on and does not allow the government’s business to proceed. My friend the member for Scarborough West, good and responsible member of the assembly that he is, can help the Legislative agenda by trying to bring some sense and some reason to the member for Welland-Thorold, who appears to be quite out of the control of the NDP leadership.
Mr McCague: I have a question for the Minister of Housing. According to the Chairman of Management Board, it takes the Minister of Housing 45.6 working days to answer correspondence. Has the new minister been able to improve on that?
Hon Mr Sweeney: My honourable colleague will be aware of the fact that the period in time that he is quoting was the three-month period before I became the minister. He will not be surprised if I indicated to him that I found that as unsatisfactory as he did. Within the three months after I became the minister, we got that down to 35 days. At the present time, for the past three months, it is 23 days, and our goal is between 15 and 20.
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member will be aware of the fact that I am responsible for two ministries and therefore have a lot of letters to sign, but I must say that since he gave me notice, I have signed an awful lot more. Let me say to him that if I had the amount of correspondence that the Minister of Health has, it would probably take me 30 days too.
Mr Neumann: My question is for the Minister of Education. Last year I chaired hearings on the smoking-in-the-workplace legislation, and we heard from students who asked the government to provide some leadership to ban smoking on school sites. With this being Cancer Month, and the awareness that lung cancer is on the rise and that smoking is a very addictive practice, what is the Minister of Education prepared to do to provide some leadership to the school boards across Ontario to encourage young people to stop smoking and perhaps ban smoking on school sites?
Hon Mr Conway: Two things I say to my friend the member for Brantford. We have shown real leadership in this area. First, as members know, the smoking-in-the-workplace legislation does apply to schools, and the school boards across the province in many cases have gone beyond the requirements of that particular statute. Moreover, because of the good work done by our colleague the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay, and certainly the good work done by the former Minister of Education, we now have in place mandatory drug education that seeks to focus a great deal of attention upon healthy lifestyles and obviously educates youngsters about the importance of not smoking.
Obviously, there is more we can do, and we will continue to work co-operatively and constructively with our partners in education to ensure that the best possible environment is created for young people so that they do not engage in this habit, which we know is deleterious to their health.
“We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to revise residential insurance policies such that there not be a minimum-value ceiling in order that premiums may be purchased.”
“That the Legislative Assembly support the private member’s bill recognizing American sign language-langue des signes québécois as the language of instruction for deaf students and that third reading of this bill be scheduled very soon so that deaf children will be able to have full access to education.”
Mrs E. J. Smith: I wish to present a petition on behalf of the member for York East. This petition is requesting the repeal of the French Language Services Act. I have signed this document, although I do not agree with it.
Mr Philip: I do have a petition which I do agree with, and in summary, constituents of mine in Etobicoke-Rexdale object to the Peterson government charging higher taxes on the people of the greater Metropolitan Toronto area than on people in other parts of Ontario. They mention the licence tax of $90 for a year on a licence plate, compared to as little as $33 in other areas, and they are very opposed to the greater Metro Toronto area corporate concentration tax, which is greatly increasing taxes on businesses in the greater Metro Toronto area.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I would like to thank the standing committee on finance and economic affairs for its helpful report and recommendations. I have met with or heard from over 75 groups representing a wide spectrum of interests in Ontario. They have offered many valuable insights into the issues facing our province.
Finally, I would like to say to Ontarians who are interested -- some of them may even be watching -- that if they are interested in obtaining a copy of the budget, they should feel free to write to me at Queen’s Park and we will see that a copy is sent to them for their interest and, I hope, edification.
In this budget, we are putting forward a plan that addresses the realities of the 1990s: an aging population, working families, a commuting labour force, the need for clean water and the demands of competition in a global marketplace.
The economy is now in its eighth consecutive year of expansion. Real output is expected to grow by 1.7 per cent after growth of 2.8 per cent last year. Solid gains in business investment and ongoing expansion of consumer spending will be the main sources of economic growth this year. Slower growth reflects the impact of high interest rates and a high exchange rate for the Canadian dollar.
Our province’s industries must be able to grow and compete internationally. Ontario’s advantage lies in developing its technologically advanced economy, relying upon innovation and a highly skilled labour force. Ontario does not seek to compete through low wages, inadequate environmental standards or poor protection of the public interest. On the contrary, the government believes that those who make the investment decisions on a global basis are not looking for sweatshop conditions.
Maintaining this competitive strategy will require a healthy, well-educated and adaptable workforce, as well as continued development of the province’s infrastructure. In addition, business must have the opportunity to operate at a reasonable cost within a competitive tax structure and a stable and predictable fiscal climate. Only in this way can we provide a strong economy and jobs for the future.
New investment in manufacturing machinery and equipment will be vital to Ontario as business responds to the realities of the free trade agreement, increased global competition, high interest rates and a high Canadian dollar.
In the 1988 budget, the Ontario current cost adjustment was introduced to reinforce Ontario’s attractiveness for new manufacturing machinery and equipment investment. The current cost adjustment rate was set at 10 per cent in 1989, 15 per cent for 1990 and will be doubled in this budget to 30 per cent, commencing 1 January 1991.
An efficient transportation system is essential to Ontario’s growing economy. To respond to this need, the $2-billion transportation capital program was introduced in last year’s budget. This five-year program is providing $1.2 billion for various provincial highway projects throughout the province, $400 million in GO Transit service improvements and $400 million for municipal roads and transit. Total transportation spending will be almost $2.5 billion this year, including $310 million in transportation capital program funding.
The government has recently announced a comprehensive expansion of the municipal transit system for the greater Toronto area. The projects in this program will result in a rapid transit network of over 140 kilometres. As well, the Minister of Transportation announced improvements to GO services. These plans will require up to $5 billion over the next 10 years from the province, municipalities and the private sector.
To continue the enhancement of viable alternatives for commuters, the government is introducing a further service expansion: immediate GO rail extensions to Bane, Bowmanville and Guelph. Future extensions of GO to Brantford and Peterborough will be reviewed.
In January the federal government discontinued the Via Rail night train service, which provided an important link between northeastern and southern Ontario. The Ontario government, through the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, has continued its day train service. The commission will be instructed by the province to open talks with the federal government towards the commission re-establishing a night train service.
A healthy trucking industry is important to Ontario’s competitiveness. Current federal and provincial tax laws do not provide a level playing field for Ontario’s trucking industry to compete with business based in the United States. I have, therefore, asked the federal Minister of Finance to expedite the renegotiation of the Canada-US tax treaty in regard to trucking, so that Canadian and US carriers compete on a more equal basis. In the meantime, the province will introduce its own measures to require American-based truckers to pay provincial corporate income tax for business conducted in this province.
Demographic, technological and economic changes are creating competitive challenges as well as opportunities for Ontario. The government supports the view of the Premier’s Council on Technology that labour and business, working together, have a key role in addressing the training and adjustment requirements of the labour market.
The government views training as a responsibility to be shared with the federal government as well as with industry and labour. If Canada is to have a productive workforce, the provinces and the federal government must work together to build high-quality training opportunities throughout the nation.
Ontario will do its part. In our continuing effort to upgrade skills and address shortages, Ontario will provide an additional $11 million for the in-school training of apprentices this year. This will bring Ontario’s share of spending on apprenticeship and related programs to $46 million this year.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The loud laugh bespeaks the vacant mind. In case the New Democratic Party members were worried, this is in addition to the $1.8 billion for university operating grants already announced in November.
In the 1988 budget the government responded to local needs for school facilities with a $900-million, three-year commitment to school construction and renovation. This commitment was increased to $1.2 billion over four years in the 1989 budget.
The multi-year provincial capital commitment for schools is extended for a fifth year, to provide at least $300 million in 1993-94. When combined with local contributions, this will allow an additional $500 million in school construction. Through this multi-year commitment, the government will provide a total of $1.5 billion in education capital.
The government places a high priority on protecting and enhancing our environment. Funding provided to the Ministry of the Environment will total $649 million this year, an increase of 22 per cent over last year. In this fiscal year, capital outlays by the ministry will increase by 34 per cent to $279 million.
As well, the government recently announced several significant initiatives to improve the quality of life and respond to increasing urban needs in the greater Toronto area, including the creation of a major urban park in the Rouge Valley and the planned development of a community of 90,000 at Seaton.
The supply of clean, safe water is vital to this province’s future. Our current water and sewer capital programs will provide $175 million in grants and $71 million for loans this year, but projections are for greatly increasing needs for new and rehabilitated facilities. An expanded commitment to water and sewer infrastructure is required.
To meet these needs, funding will be transferred to the new water and sewer crown corporation to be established in early 1991. It will build and operate water and sewage facilities in co-operation with municipalities and the private sector. Funding of new water and sewage development will be assisted by the corporation’s ability to borrow with a provincial guarantee of its debt. This will permit more rapid progress in meeting the needs for new, expanded and upgraded facilities consistent with environmental, health and affordable housing objectives. The corporation will provide clean water and ensure environmentally sound treatment of sewage.
The new corporation will report to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who is responsible for local government and community planning in Ontario. The Minister of the Environment will be responsible for setting appropriate standards and for continued effective environmental scrutiny of our systems.
One of the consequences of our increased prosperity has been the ever-growing problem of garbage disposal. The Minister of the Environment has announced the government’s intention to achieve a significant reduction in waste requiring disposal. Funding of $70 million will be provided in support of municipal, institutional and industrial waste management, a 61 per cent increase over last year.
Ontario’s approach to waste abatement will require the producers of waste to pay for a greater share of the costs of developing new and safe landfill and incineration facilities. This will provide for a fair distribution of the costs of waste management. It will also improve economic incentives for environmentally sound waste abatement practices.
Improving the quality of our environment and preserving our natural heritage are important responsibilities of government. The Niagara Escarpment Commission is responsible for ensuring balanced use of its resource endowment while maintaining the escarpment.
Funding and responsibility for the plan and the commission are being transferred from the Minister of Municipal Affairs to the Minister of the Environment. This recognizes the unique environmental significance of the escarpment area.
Current programs such as the northern Ontario heritage fund and the eastern Ontario community economic development fund do much to encourage balanced growth across the province. In this budget, the government continues its commitment to a more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth in all regions of the province.
The $275-million northern Ontario relocation program is providing substantial economic benefits to northern Ontario through the transfer of 1,600 government jobs and the construction of six new buildings. The relocation to Timmins is complete, with construction well advanced in North Bay, Sudbury and Thunder Bay. A new office complex in Sault Ste Marie is scheduled for completion in the fall of 1991.
Relocating government offices and jobs throughout the province distributes employment and helps stabilize communities affected by rapidly changing economic conditions. The government plans, therefore, to continue decentralizing its functions from the Metropolitan Toronto area over the next several years.
Farmers face unique challenges: unpredictable commodity prices, unfair international subsidy practices, uncertain growing conditions and increasingly intensive capital requirements. All these have combined with high interest rates to reduce the outlook for farm incomes this year. To help meet these challenges, $48 million have been allocated for new interest rate assistance to farmers. The government expects that the federal Minister of Agriculture will match these funds as part of his recently announced special assistance program.
In recognition of the importance of environmentally sound agricultural practices, $48 million over four years will be provided in financial assistance for soil conservation through the land stewardship program.
The government is committed to improving the competitiveness of the food processing sector. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food will continue to work with the industry to implement a food processing development strategy.
Under the Canada-Ontario forest resources development agreement the federal and Ontario governments contributed a total of $150 million to forest management over five years on a 50-50 basis. This agreement expired more than a year ago. Ontario will again supplement its own $15-million share with an additional $18 million, for a total expenditure on forest management of $232 million this year.
A healthy investment climate for mineral exploration is needed to ensure a competitive and dynamic mining industry. The federal budget’s termination of the Canadian exploration incentive program removes support for mineral exploration at a time when base metal reserves are declining and some communities are experiencing serious difficulty as a result of mine closures or cutbacks.
To help promote mineral exploration in Ontario, an extra $25 million will be allocated over three years to expand the Ontario prospectors’ assistance program and the Ontario mineral incentive program. An additional $5 million in special incentives will also be provided over the next three years to encourage exploration in the vicinity of selected northern Ontario communities.
Efficient, high-quality social services and a fair distribution of the benefits of our wealth are fundamental to the wellbeing of the people of the province. Continued funding is provided in this budget to support the modernization and enrichment of our social programs. Despite the federal government’s decision to reduce its support for cost-shared programs, Ontario will ensure that vital services are not jeopardized.
Over the next decade, the number of elderly and persons with disabilities will increase dramatically. Governments must implement plans now to ensure that adequate and efficient services will be available. This will require fundamental reform in the way we provide long-term care in the province and represents one of the most significant improvements in health and social services since the introduction of medicare.
To achieve this goal, the budget includes funding for the comprehensive reform of long-term care. This reform will create new, community-based service access agencies. These will allow people to find the help they need in one place and will ensure that appropriate care is provided, either in their homes or, where necessary, in long-term care facilities.
The new system of community-based access and in-home support will have increased funding of up to $410 million by the middle of the 1990s. Included is $11 million in immediate funding to improve visiting homemakers’ compensation. In addition, home support services delivered by community agencies will be greatly expanded. Provincial contributions to these services will be increased by $30 million when fully established. Co-payments will offset some of the costs of non-health-care services such as homemaking and meal preparation. There will be no charges for personal care. Lower-income Ontarians will be exempt from all charges for in-home services.
To improve the quality of care in the institutional sector, a consistent level-of-care funding system will be introduced for homes for the aged and nursing homes. This means more resources will be available to care for residents with greater needs. Through increased resident and government contributions, more than $200 million in additional funding will be available to homes for the aged and nursing homes by 1992.
The Premier’s Council on Health Strategy recommended a review of the province’s health capital plan. In January the Minister of Health announced a four-point priority framework for health capital: regional and community-based health services; priority programs, such as cancer, cardiac and emergency services; maintaining standards for safety and workplace health; and services needed in high-growth areas and to meet the needs of a growing seniors population. These priorities are intended to complement the government’s long-term care reform.
To facilitate the planning framework, the government will provide $1.3 billion for health capital over the next four years. For this year, $250 million will be allocated for health capital. Approximately $300 million of this multi-year funding is designated to increase cancer treatment capacity throughout the province.
In 1990-91, total Ministry of Health spending will increase by 10.9 per cent to $15.3 billion, or $1.5 billion more than last year. Hospital operating funding will increase by 9.7 per cent to $6.6 billion, including the recent enhancement of $60 million. Other health and social service agencies have also had support for their basic operating costs increased by an additional $39 million.
This year, combined federal and provincial contributions for child care will be $396 million, an increase of 16 per cent over last year’s spending. Due to Ottawa’s limitation on Canada assistance plan cost-sharing, federal contributions will remain at last year’s level of $139 million. Ontario’s share will be $257 million, an increase of 27 per cent over last year. This funding includes $10 million to operate newly licensed spaces in schools and non-profit centres. Provincial commitments are being honoured in the absence of federal contributions, but we are hopeful that new national child care legislation will be forthcoming, to renew Ottawa’s role in sharing child care costs across Canada.
Last year’s budget announced improved compensation for lower-paid workers in agencies. A further $58 million on an annual basis is provided in this budget to increase compensation in community agencies. The initiative will be targeted to services for persons with developmental handicaps, attendant care and home support, child welfare, child and family intervention services and halfway houses. This is in addition to the funding already noted for visiting homemakers through long-term care reform. This will help agencies hire and retain qualified, capable staff to provide these needed community services.
I am announcing today a reduction in Ontario incomes taxes for lower-income families with children. The Ontario tax reduction program will be enriched to provide a $200 supplement in respect of each dependent child aged 18 or under.
The enrichment will significantly increase the income level at which Ontario income tax becomes payable. For example, a single working parent supporting two children currently starts to pay Ontario income tax at an income of about $14,100. Following the enrichment, the level at which this parent will begin to pay Ontario income tax will be about $18,700.
An additional $200 supplement to the Ontario tax reduction will be provided in respect of dependants with disabilities, regardless of age. This further supplement recognizes that many persons with serious disabilities are cared for at home by family, and in some cases these families have low incomes. Where a child with disabilities is being cared for at home, the supporting parent may claim both supplements, for a total of $400.
The improved Ontario tax reduction will provide 250,000 supplements on behalf of children and dependants with disabilities, benefiting 115,000 families. The cost of this initiative is estimated at $44 million this year, increasing the total cost of the Ontario tax reduction to $88 million.
In last year’s budget, the government undertook a major reform of social assistance to provide better opportunities and to improve benefits for recipients. This initiative was and continues to be supported by business, labour, religious groups and service providers.
The cost of reform was to be shared with the federal government under the Canada assistance plan. In its recent budget, Ottawa announced it was freezing Ontario’s Canada assistance plan entitlement at five per cent above that of last year. By doing so, the federal government is not participating as a full partner in social assistance reform. Ontario will not follow the federal direction. This budget continues to provide funding for the reform process.
In the fall of 1989, children’s benefits were improved and the supports to employment program was initiated. As of January 1990, social assistance recipients also benefited from increased rates and improved shelter allowances. I am announcing today that basic benefits and shelter allowances will be increased by five per cent effective 1 January 1991. In total, social assistance spending will grow by $406 million, or 16 per cent, over last year.
As part of the government’s ongoing commitment to the aboriginal peoples of the province, an additional $14 million will be provided for native-managed social service initiatives. The federal government provides cost-sharing for these services under the Indian welfare agreement. The Ministry of Community and Social Services will provide these funds for increased homemaker and nursing services for native elderly, new native child and family service agencies and additional counselling services for families and their children. This funding will support and strengthen our native communities.
Assessment of property value on behalf of municipalities is currently undertaken by the Ministry of Revenue. A main objective of the assessment program is to ensure that a consistent assessment base exists in Ontario. This is being accomplished by a program of first-time reassessments for all Ontario municipalities, as well as the provision of supplementary assessments and other related activities. Rapid growth in many areas of the province has generated significant demands for assessment activity, and municipalities have requested that services be accelerated.
To respond to these requests, the province will establish the Property Assessment Corp. The new corporation will be better able to meet the assessment priorities of municipalities. The province will transfer its $108-million allocation for assessment activities to the corporation.
No fundamental changes are made to Ontario’s retail sales tax in this budget. To assist Ontario’s vendors, particularly smaller businesses which play an important role in collecting our retail sales tax -- almost $9 billion -- this budget increases the rate of compensation for vendor collection from four per cent to five per cent and increases the annual maximum compensation from $1,000 to $1,500. Other minor changes are made to definitions and to administrative practices.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Perhaps I should repeat for some of my colleagues in the official opposition that our tax revenue will be reduced by $1 million on a full-year basis as a consequence of the introduction of the GST and the changes in this budget.
This budget contains a tax increase on tobacco. As of midnight tonight, the tax per cigarette will be increased by one cent and the tax on cut tobacco will be made consistent with that on cigarettes. Together these changes will raise $158 million this year.
Over the past several years, the federal government has unilaterally changed the rules for every major federal-provincial fiscal arrangement. We support Ottawa’s stated goal of deficit reduction, but we do not believe that Canadian federalism is well served by failing to live up to federal-provincial agreements.
It is therefore our intent to seek opportunities to work with Ottawa, the provinces and the territories towards the renewal of fiscal arrangements and in the process to contribute to strengthening Canadian federalism.
The government is maintaining its proven record of responsible fiscal management and social and economic progress. Ontario’s budget has been balanced while reducing taxes for many families and businesses. Existing programs have been consolidated while we have funded new initiatives necessary to sustain social and economic development. This is a solid basis for our continued shared prosperity in a healthy and safe Ontario.
In the past five years the government has modernized our programs and improved their efficiency. We have emphasized our social priorities -- education, housing, health and social services -- while increasing support for the environment, transportation and public infrastructure. At the same time we have contributed to economic stability and business confidence by steadily reducing our deficit.
Last year we achieved a balanced budget for the first time in 20 years. I am delighted to announce another balanced budget for this fiscal year and to report that total debt will be reduced by $430 million, which, the honourable members would be interested to know, is the first reduction in Ontario’s debt in 43 years.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Actually, the honourable members would be glad to know that 42 years ago, in 1948, George Drew dissolved this Legislature only three years after winning a large majority in 1945. I throw that in for the edification of my honourable friend.
The leadership of the Premier in all these initiatives has been strong, confident and effective. As we complete our first five years in office, we are proud of our achievements in fulfilling our priorities, meeting our objectives and balancing our budget.