Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): Despite hundreds and even thousands of voices calling for changes to the long-term care legislation that's before the House now, the government continues to plow on.
The NDP has said that the Red Cross has no place in future long-term care; in the same way, the Victorian Order of Nurses will be bankrupted; Saint Elizabeth Visiting Nurses' Association of Ontario, Meals on Wheels and other community agencies are jeopardized.
The NDP will not allow local communities to shape the structure of long-term care service according to their local demographics, geography, human and financial resources and other factors. Instead, it's insisting that only its approach can be used, whether or not it's the right one for a particular area and whether or not it will work.
The government must set the policy, the standards of service, the minimum basket of services which must be available, and the evaluative mechanisms to ensure that there is equity in access and equally high-quality services across the province. But surely one must take into account the diversity of Ontario and allow the flexibility for people with expertise and involvement in their own communities to design their own delivery systems.
For the next government, a singular priority must be to make reasonable changes to this law so that we will have a long-term care system that works for everyone. We must repair the gross damage that the government has done to the system.
On behalf of our party and our leader, Lyn McLeod, I want to say to the people of Ontario that we are committed to making responsible change to long-term care legislation in as timely a way as possible.
I am of course referring to the $74-million purchase in Peru, a foreign utility deal that seemed to pass without any concern from the minister. In fact, much like the $13-million Costa Rican forest plan, it seemed to blindside the minister. Perhaps the minister was not aware that the Shining Path terrorist movement is notorious for bombing utilities. Just last month, they destroyed six transmission towers outside the capital city of Lima. There is no reason to believe that utilities or Hydro's investment is safe.
I can only assume that this latest venture took the minister by surprise. Knowing how outraged people are with Hydro's globe-trotting money projects, I assume the last thing the minister would do is sanction another megainvestment in the rain forest regions.
Perhaps the minister was struck with a bout of common sense, two months after the purchase, when he requested a review of such purchases by the Ontario Energy Board. However, the minister has yet to explain to the people why he didn't ask for a review before Hydro spent the money.
Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): This Sunday, I will have the pleasure of attending the official opening of the new and improved kidney dialysis unit at the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines. This opening is a tribute to the persistence of the staff, the Kidney Foundation of Canada and perhaps most importantly the renal dialysis patients who have lobbied so hard for this expanded unit.
While it has been a team effort, I would like to single out one individual who, above all others, has poured his heart and soul into making this new facility a reality. Jack Leake of St Catharines has been a tireless advocate for renal dialysis patients at the Hotel Dieu despite the fact that he too suffers from kidney disease and does not enjoy the same level of health that many of us do. He has spent considerable time and energy on this project, and although Jack would never admit it, I'm sure it often took its toll on his own personal health.
The new dialysis unit serves as an example of how government and private citizens can work in partnership for the betterment of the community. I thank all of those associated with the Herzog Foundation for their efforts and for their commitment.
Finally, I would like to thank the ministers of Health, current and past, for putting up with the tag-team lobbying of both myself and the member for St Catharines. It worked, Jim. We got our million, our new unit and the chance for very ill people to undergo the lifesaving treatment they so richly deserve.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): Every member of the House will recognize the importance of cutting the bureaucratic red tape of government to assist small business operators in getting started in Ontario. One example of this overly bureaucratic process is the business registration process.
As the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations will know, residents from such towns as Kenora, Fort Frances and other places throughout northwestern Ontario have to mail their business registration or their name search applications to the ministry's offices in Toronto for processing. This process can take up to eight weeks, which I am sure the minister will recognize is unfair, considering the fact that a Toronto resident can simply take the forms to the ministry and have them within five minutes.
This past September 15, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations announced a pilot project creating 15 new Ontario business registration access workstations. These are to allow small business operators to complete applications at locations throughout the province themselves.
I must say that I applaud the minister in this attempt to help small business operators better negotiate the bureaucratic maze they are forced to contend with. Under this initiative, the minister announced that four of these 15 new workstations are to be located in northern Ontario, but none are to be located beyond Timmins.
To the people of northwestern Ontario, this is absolutely unacceptable. The minister has announced a potentially excellent program to benefit the people of Ontario, but in implementing it she has successfully managed to alienate the people of northwestern Ontario.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): The Ontario Council on University Affairs is holding a series of public meetings across the province dealing with the discussion paper on the future of the province's university funding system. OCUA was in London yesterday and representatives of the University of Western Ontario and the London Chamber of Commerce made presentations, including the president, Dr Paul Davenport.
Universities, faculty and students are very concerned with the report. Among the troubling assumptions of the report is that universities are inflexible, haven't responded to current realities and are in need of a funding overhaul. Particularly disturbing is the assertion that teaching and research are not interrelated. To quote Dr Davenport, "At Western we see teaching and research as integral parts of the scholarly activity of faculty and of the learning activity of students."
The OCUA report discusses three possible scenarios for the future of government funding. The first two involve either incremental or more extensive changes to the current corridor funding system; the third involves a completely new model based on purchase of service, in which government would purchase a certain amount of teaching, research and community service from the universities.
Sustaining Quality in Changing Times is a discussion paper and should be treated as just that. We expect OCUA to listen to the presentations and include the recommendations it is receiving in its report to the Minister of Education and Training. Universities believe that there is room for improvement; however, not at the expense of quality education, quality teaching and quality research.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I am pleased today to speak about important things that are happening in the area of crime prevention as we look forward to Crime Prevention Week, which runs November 6 to November 12 this year, next week.
This year, Crime Prevention Week will focus on the role of youth in preventing crime. A poster has been distributed through police services throughout the province. The slogan, "We've got an attitude...we're against crime," makes a strong statement by and for youth.
As a kickoff to Crime Prevention Week, I will be participating this weekend at a conference of youth leaders at the Aylmer police college, cosponsored by the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Safe School Task Force. The role of young people in crime prevention will be the focus.
I was proud last week on a platform in my riding with the Solicitor General to acknowledge the work of citizens in the Sault who do significant work in crime prevention. For 10 years now, Sault Ste Marie has shown leadership by hosting an annual crime prevention conference, and I am pleased that recognizing local efforts is always a part of this conference.
In the Sault, we have also been in the vanguard in recognizing the importance of community partnerships and early intervention in crime prevention. Even before the Ministry of Education and Training required school boards to consult with community partners, the police and school boards in the Sault worked together to produce a safe schools policy. I congratulate them on that work.
I encourage all members of this House and their communities to get involved in Crime Prevention Week, to acknowledge the role of youth in preventing crime and give credit where good things are happening.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): Mr Speaker, since the Premier and other members of his caucus allegedly have failed to read the latest literary work of Sir Thomas Walkom, Rae Days: The Rise and Follies of the NDP, I thought I would share with you and them one of the stories that occurred.
Apparently, according to Mr Walkom, the Ministry of Health was planning to publicize a new computer system which links Ontario's pharmacies. When the media wizards in the Premier's office got wind of it, they said: "This is a great, high-tech, photo op for the Premier....He sits in front of the counter, taps in a name and zap." Immediately, they took it over.
Walkom goes on to say they needed a location and decided the drugstore located in the Hydro building was perfect: close to Queen's Park and easy for the media to cover. But wait. That pharmacy wasn't signed up for the program. It didn't even have a computer. "No problem," Bob Rae's minions said. "We'll just borrow a computer." But wait. The pharmacist had no idea how the computer worked. He wasn't on the system. "No problem. We'll just bring in a pharmacist from another store."
But wait. Shades of Evelyn Gigantes and Shelley Martel. The computer was full of confidential health records. If Bob Rae used the computer and the media saw the information, he'd have to resign. "No problem. We'll unplug the computer."
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Opponents of violent, harmful and degrading pornography are shocked and angered by revelations that adult video stores in Toronto are selling tapes which clearly violate the guidelines of the Ontario Film Review Board and in some cases the Criminal Code.
Maclean's magazine tells us that one of the bestsellers at a downtown store called Video X is a tape that portrays two men having simultaneous anal and vaginal intercourse with a woman. This act, also known as double penetration, is not permitted by the Ontario Film Review Board because it can cause a woman physical harm.
At the same store, another bestseller is a 23-tape series featuring repeated scenes of men ejaculating on to women's faces. But last year, after enormous public outcry, the Ontario Film Review Board backed down from its plan to allow such degrading scenes in sex videos.
According to Maclean's, a store on Yonge Street called Books has a whole wall devoted to bondage videos, yet it is a criminal offence to distribute or sell a video that shows sex combined with violence.
So why are these videos available? Did the Ontario Film Review Board approve them? Obviously, the Ontario government is not doing enough to enforce either the Theatres Act or the Criminal Code's obscenity provisions.
Mrs Marland: I call on the NDP government to give Project P, the anti-pornography police task force, the resources it needs to crack down on illegal pornography. We must protect our society from the harmful effects of this violent and degrading material.
The Joseph S. Stauffer Library at Queen's University has already gained national attention. In an admiring article, the Globe and Mail described it as an "imaginative synthesis of space, light and purpose."
As you would expect of a $42-million project, very impressive statistics summarize the result. For example, the total building area is 230,590 square feet, or five acres. By contrast, the Wolfe Island branch of the Frontenac County Library cost $186,000 and covers about 1,900 square feet.
But it is the similarities between the two libraries that stand out in my mind. The new principal of Queen's, Bill Leggett, says, "A library is a university's lifeblood, vital to its function and growth as both a teaching and a research institution." At the Wolfe Island ceremony, Stephen Foster of the library board also referred to libraries giving life to the community.
The visionary quality and dedication of the supporters of both projects were mentioned at each opening. One partner involved with both buildings was the provincial government. Thus, I was thrilled that Premier Bob Rae was able to attend the dedication of the Stauffer Library. To those of us listening to his remarks, his vision of the essential role libraries play in our communities is clear. But it was also clear that to realize a vision, you need a plan to get things done.
Our NDP government's plan is to create jobs, protect services and live within our means. The successful completion of these two libraries shows how effectively our plan is working. Many jobs in the construction trades were created and there will be permanent jobs in both libraries for years to come. Library service to two different communities has been greatly enhanced, and the provincial share, $28 million for Stauffer --
Today marks the ninth wife assault public education campaign. This campaign continues to be a cornerstone of our strategy to end violence against women. It is an essential part of our commitment to changing attitudes and the abusive behaviour arising from them. Every day, women are threatened, beaten and murdered by their husbands, lovers or boyfriends.
We now have many surveys and studies which confirm how serious woman abuse is. One quarter of all women have experienced violence at the hands of a current or past marital partner. Seventeen per cent of currently married women report violence by their spouses. One half of women with previous marriages reported violence by a previous spouse, and more than 10% of women who reported violence in a current marriage have at some point felt that their lives were in danger.
Wife assault is widespread. It crosses all demographic boundaries. It affects both young and old, rich and poor, immigrants and Canadian-born women. It is a crime which results when a man uses violence to gain power and control to subjugate his partner. It is also a crime that until recently was considered to be a private matter behind closed doors, between a man and a women, to be no one else's affair.
The truth is that many people have known personally of wife assault, whether of a friend, relative, neighbour or coworker. There may be many reasons why people don't want to get personally involved if they suspect wife assault has occurred or is occurring. Maybe they don't know what to do. Some feel our social network will take care of the situation, that the police will step in even if they are not called, that the abused woman will be taken to a shelter and her partner will be charged. Others might feel it's not their place to get involved. MYOB -- mind your own business -- seems to be the watchword for those.
But wife assault is everyone's business. That's why in this year's wife assault prevention campaign we are introducing a new theme, a theme of community responsibility. We are opening the doors wide on an issue that is anything but private. We want every citizen to take personal responsibility for helping to eliminate wife assault. We want people to act both individually and collectively, as a community, around this issue.
Second, we want to spread the message in no uncertain terms that we in Ontario will not tolerate the violence of men towards women. When people and whole communities remain silent about wife assault occurring in their midst, when individuals or groups feed into the current backlash by ridiculing or belittling the efforts of those who work to end violence against women, we send a message that wife assault is just a private, personal matter, that it's not serious and that it's not a crime, and that's what we must stop.
One of the most important parts of the wife assault prevention campaign involves local activities funded by the Ontario women's directorate. This year, 92 community groups across the province were awarded grants for local projects to raise awareness about wife assault and it is an important example of community responsibility in action. I hope the members in this place will support their local communities as they carry out those programs.
We are very proud of our efforts for Wife Assault Prevention Month, but it would be naïve to think that wife assault prevention is simply a one-month activity. Fostering a non-violent community is a year-round commitment.
The prevention of violence against women is a priority for this government. Despite difficult economic times, our government has increased funding to violence-against-women programs by more than 52% since 1990. We now spend more than $100 million every year to prevent violence against women.
I am particularly proud of the aboriginal healing and wellness strategy our government has negotiated with aboriginal organizations and which the Minister of Health announced yesterday as part of the aboriginal health strategy. This new approach to address issues of violence, health and wellness reflects our government's commitment to self-determination for aboriginal people and our commitment to end the cycle of violence experienced by many aboriginal people.
Our government recognizes that to end violence against women we must work in partnership with many community organizations and health care providers. We have provided full funding for 26 community-based rape crisis centres, with another seven centres, including four francophone centres, under development.
We know that abused and assaulted women also need responsive medical services and emergency care. We need qualified personnel who can sensitively collect forensic evidence, should it be required in a court case when charges are laid. To improve these services, we have increased funding to hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres by $2.1 million and will open four more treatment centres in the coming year.
Many women who are leaving abusive relationships seek refuge in a women's shelter. To meet increased demand, we have also increased the number of shelter beds by 25% since taking office in 1990, and we have built or renovated many of these facilities to ensure that the safety, accessibility and comfort of women and children residents is ensured.
As well as enhancing services for women who have been abused, we have been making the criminal justice system more responsive. We have released new provincial standards for police services to assist in their response to wife assault, and we've added training for new recruits on wife assault, sexual assault and gender sensitivity at the Ontario Police College. We have expanded our victim-witness programs in the courts, and we have done extensive training with crown attorneys to ensure that the prosecution of wife assault is carried through in the courts in a way that is mindful of the needs of victims.
As a government, we have put our commitment into action. In communities all over Ontario, women and community organizations continue to take action themselves to end women abuse at home. All of us must make a long-term commitment as a community to change the underlying attitudes and power imbalances that fuel violent behaviour. A failure to do so means the abuse will continue and the human and financial cost of that abuse will continue to mount.
This government pledges to maintain the prevention of violence against women as a priority. We will continue to reach out and support all communities as they strive to create a non-violent society here in Ontario. Together, we can end violence against women.
Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): As Liberal critic for women's issues, I am committed to adding my support to efforts to eliminate violence against women, and in fact to eliminate violence in every sector of our society.
As the members of this House are aware, wife assault has reached dramatic proportions and has dramatic ramifications. Children who grow up in violent homes are more likely to become violent adults, and so the cycle continues; that is, unless we each take personal responsibility to put a stop to it, as the Attorney General has said.
We have taken steps to try to eliminate violence through education. Public education campaigns such as Wife Assault Prevention Month do much to let both men and women know that no one has the right to abuse another, that no one should stand by and let abuse continue.
Last year, we were shocked and horrified by a Statistics Canada survey which outlined just how endemic violence against women is. The survey showed that more than half of all Canadian women have been physically or sexually assaulted at least once in their adult lives. We must reach out to these women, but reaching out does have a price. If we encourage women to leave violent situations, then we must be prepared to offer them and their children safe havens.
As women's issues critic for the official opposition, I have spoken to many people who are working to break the silence and the cycle of wife abuse. What they've told me is that without funding for women's shelters, they simply cannot cope with the influx of women who have been reached by campaigns such as the one that has been announced today.
I've been disturbed by recent reports that the NDP government has decided to divert direct funding for women's shelters into counselling services. There is no doubt that counselling is needed both for abused women and their children and for the men who abuse. But we can't be naïve enough to believe that counselling alone will protect women and their children who find themselves in abusive situations. These women need to escape the abuse, they need to protect their children by escaping the abuse and they need women's shelters.
I'd like to bring to the attention of the Legislature a case which shows that the need for funding to women's shelters is not being met. Seven weeks ago I wrote to Minister Tony Silipo with a plea for funding for the Redwood Shelter for women. Redwood is the only battered-women's shelter in west-end Toronto and has been full since the day it opened in 1993.
"The community has taken the Redwood Shelter to its heart. It was built with volunteer labour, using materials, equipment and funds donated by members of the community, and has been largely running on community donations since it opened in December 1993. People from all walks of life...have joined together to make Redwood happen, because they recognize the need that this shelter serves. Despite this, the Redwood Shelter is in financial crisis and is in danger of closing, without your intervention.
"We have asked the government to join with the community in this venture by contributing some funds towards the running of the shelter, as it does in the case of other shelters. To date, our request has been refused. Redwood should be a model of the sort of innovative and cooperative partnership between the community and government, private and public sectors, that your government has advocated. We in the community have done, and are continuing to do, our share. We are asking only that the government play its part in ensuring the survival of the shelter."
I have a question for the government: Why not divert some of the millions of dollars you are using to promote the failed billion-dollar Jobs Ontario scheme into vital areas such as supporting women's shelters like Redwood?
For this campaign to succeed, shelters like Redwood must be available to those who need to escape abusive situations. Otherwise, we will find that we have an educated public facing the bleak reality that for them there may not be a safe haven from abuse.
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): I wish to join all members in this House to recognize Wife Assault Prevention Month, which is dedicated to increasing public awareness and assessing the services for victims of this terrible crime. We of the PC caucus support all efforts on behalf of this and any other government to halt the rise in wife assault. The statistics, as we know, have been increasing, and we deeply regret that as a society we in fact have to acknowledge this as a month.
I want to remind members that if you were to take the Criminal Code book and look through it, nowhere will you find in that any reference to the words "domestic violence" or "wife assault." They do not exist in our legal language. They do, however, exist in the language of our courts, the attitudes of the public, the police and society, unfortunately.
I'm reminded of the very highly publicized case of Kirby Inwood, who had he gone next door and punched his neighbour's wife, would he have gotten off with no charges, and had he gone next door and thrown his neighbour's child against a wall, would he have gotten off with six months' probation? The answer is he would not have, because then that would have been not domestic assault; it would have become pure and simple assault, a criminal act in our Criminal Code. I'm reminded of Franca Capretta in this province, an Ottawa woman who could barely speak English and who was dragged out on to her front porch by her husband and beaten so badly that she spent more time in intensive care than her husband spent in jail.
So there is much that we must do in this province to change the laws as well as the attitudes. What I see in the minister's announcement today is a major commitment to attempting to change attitude, but it is critical that we also change our laws.
My leader, Mike Harris, was raising the question with the Attorney General just this week. Her own pamphlet makes reference to this whole issue around a myth about alcohol causing men to assault their partners, and then a fact that it's men's desire for more power and control over their partner, but that it should be no excuse. Well, unfortunately our courts have ruled something different, and in response to my leader's questions, we in this House were very disappointed to hear the Attorney General of the province of Ontario say there's some question as to whether such a facile solution is in fact the answer, the solution here being to press the federal government for badly needed changes to our federal laws that somehow alcoholism and drinking are some sort of defence for assault and abuse.
The Attorney General has raised some doubts in our minds as to her level of commitment to press the federal government for these badly needed changes when in fact that would be going a long way in terms of changing the laws as well as changing attitude. The minister has, we acknowledge, spent millions on her public awareness campaign, and although that has created an awareness in the mind of the public, it has also increased demand, and that's a tragic consequence of providing women with the courage and the understanding to do something about it. But they must leave an abusive situation, and therefore require the necessary services.
It's already been referenced about the Redwood Shelter for women, to help abused women in the west Toronto area. We were deeply disturbed that the necessary assisted funding that would allow this program to continue has not been forthcoming, and the minister has indicated in her statement that she is moving slightly some of her priorities with respect to these expenditures.
I had hoped the minister would make some further legislative initiatives. At the recent Safety Net conference, the women and groups who were speaking out against violence have asked Ontario specifically, and the national government, to implement a victims' bill of rights, and yet this minister has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that Ontario, for some reason, is the only province in Canada to not have victims' rights legislation.
Earlier this week, my colleague Jim Wilson and I tabled a resolution to amend Bill 173 that would provide services to prevent, identify and address elder abuse, and both the government and Liberal members voted against that recommendation. It's still violence, whether it's to a senior or to a spouse in any kind of relationship.
Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I have a press release in my hand which states that consumer minister Marilyn Churley is today announcing that the Ontario government is bringing in a regulation to amend the Liquor Licence Act to prevent the exploitation of under age strippers pursuant to Lyn McLeod's challenge. I'm sure that --
Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): It is with some sadness that I inform the House of the passing on October 1 of this year of Donald Irvine of Prescott, a former member and minister of this Legislature and a close personal friend of mine.
Donald Irvine was born on a farm in eastern Ontario, the youngest of seven children. He worked on the farm during his youth, and after high school he served his country in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.
After the war, he and his brother-in-law started a grocery store which eventually turned into a chain of six grocery stores. He sold those grocery stores to the large food chain of Loeb, being able to retire in a very financially sound position at the tender age of 36.
Don gave the rest of his life back to his community and back to his province. He served on the town council of Prescott, including three terms as mayor. Of his service, the Ottawa Citizen, on the eve of the provincial election in 1971, said, "Most townspeople consider Mr Irvine's three terms as one of the best things that ever happened to them."
Don became an MPP in 1971, representing the riding of Grenville-Dundas. I recently read his maiden speech given to this Legislature, and it typified his political style. While he had a good sense of humour, he was serious and sincere about the concerns of the people he represented. Although a very successful businessman, he talked about the needs of those struggling to make ends meet, never forgetting his beginnings.
Both during his political career and after, Don always took time to stop and talk with any of his constituents or the people who had formerly been his constituents whenever and wherever they would meet him.
Unlike many politicians, Don was a very, very modest individual. Quite frankly, he would be very embarrassed at all the nice things I have said about him today. Don Irvine was a fiercely principled politician with very deep traditional values. Stephen Lewis, who was then the leader of the New Democratic Party, once described him as being part of the Precambrian Shield which ran through his riding. Don was flattered by that description.
Don rose quickly in the PC caucus at Queen's Park. He became parliamentary assistant to Treasurer John White in 1972, Minister of Housing in 1974 and continued to serve in cabinet until his retirement in 1977.
As a cabinet minister, Don gained respect from his peers in all parties and from his staff. After I arrived at Queen's Park, many members of the Legislature mentioned how helpful he had been to them in solving a problem in their constituency.
Don Irvine knew how to deal with people, how to help them achieve their full potential. Rather than scold an employee or an assistant, he would suggest new approaches to improve performance. A former assistant said to me, "Most of all, I remember a man who gave me the most interesting job of my life."
Don was scrupulously honest to himself and to the people he represented. Another former assistant told me of the ritual whereby Don would rip up credit card receipts after staff lunches to be certain they would not be included in any ministerial expense account he could have made.
One week prior to his untimely death, I played golf with Don. We had talked about having this game for some 10 years. I can tell you that I consulted with him on a continuing basis because of my deep respect for this man. Don was as interested as ever about politics. He talked about his family and his four wonderful grandsons. He talked about his beloved Prescott and his beloved province of Ontario.
Don Irvine brings forward good thoughts and good words for me: honesty, really hardworking, principled, trust and respect for his fellow human beings. He truly was a remarkable man who gave back more to his community than he ever took.
On behalf of his former colleagues in the party which he so loyally served, I want to express our sympathies and condolences to his good wife, companion and helper, Eleanor, his son, Paul, his daughter, Jane, his family and his many friends in eastern Ontario.
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I'd like to join with the member for Carleton in the comments he's made with regard to Donald Irvine. Don was somebody I didn't know well, because he retired, as the member for Carleton has said, at the same time as we were arriving here in 1977. However, I had met him a few times since then. As a matter of fact, I met him one evening here with the member for Carleton.
Mr Irvine was one of those people who, although here for a short time, was part of a very dynamic period in the province's history and, I guess it would be fair to say, a significant set of changes in government structure that were under way in the early and middle 1970s. We saw a gentleman who was elected in 1971 for the first time and who became almost immediately a parliamentary assistant and who went into cabinet as Minister of Housing in 1974. Then, you'll recall, Mr Speaker, in the restructured makeup of the cabinet process in 1975 we created the development secretariats that covered the resources field, the social development field and so on. Mr Irvine very quickly became the resources development secretary in 1975.
When I think back over my career, having been here for many years before even getting to this side of the House, it's rather an impressive short ride Mr Irvine went through in the six years he was here. I recall a number of occasions during debates in the late 1970s when references were made to Donald Irvine in members' speeches that reflected the esteem in which he was held. When many of us leave here we become very quickly forgotten, and the fact that on many occasions his name has been raised in connection with a particular initiative and so on and so forth I think is testament to a very important career in this Legislature.
On behalf of the government, I wish to express our condolences to his family -- his wife, Eleanor, their son, Paul, and the rest of his family, and their daughter, Jane, and her family -- and join the member for Carleton in acknowledging his contribution to this Legislative Assembly and to the province of Ontario and to the people of the province of Ontario.
Mr Hugh O'Neil (Quinte): On behalf of our leader, Lyn McLeod, and the Ontario Liberal caucus, I would like to join with the member for Carleton and also with the government House leader to pay our respects to Don Irvine and to his family members.
I had the pleasure of serving with Don from 1975 to 1977 and certainly agree with the comments that were previously made. In those days, as an opposition member, a new member just having arrived at Queen's Park and watching with awe what took place in the Legislature, he was the type of person and the type of government minister who opposition members could readily cross the aisle here and go over and talk to, ask for advice or ask for help within our own individual ridings.
As was mentioned by the member from Carleton, he had a very distinguished career, serving in Prescott for six years, or three terms, and during those six years in serving the public of that area started what I think is a very distinguished career, having graduated here to Queen's Park.
I think it sometimes is forgotten here in this Legislature and by the people of the province of Ontario that part of the important job of a member is to serve his constituents. Although they may not get headlines every day and be part of the higher crust, Don Irvine was the type of person who had a distinguished career serving those constituents on a day-to-day and year-to-year basis within his constituency.
I think all people within the Prescott area and the riding would tell you that if they went into his constituency office and asked for help of any kind, whether they were members of his own party or other parties, Don went to bat for them and helped them in whatever way he could.
So it's with a deep sense of pleasure that I join with the rest of the House in honouring a man of his character, who served with distinction, and a member to whom other members can look with pride and hope we copy the great job he did for the province and for his riding.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): I would like to acknowledge that the kind and thoughtful remarks made by the member for Carleton, the government House leader and the member for Quinte will be forwarded to the family of Mr Irvine. I must thank the three members for the very thoughtful and generous way in which they have remarked on the career of a former member of this House.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Most politicians only dream of the political legacy that Canon Alfred Wallace "Wally" Downer left in the former riding of Dufferin-Simcoe. Few politicians have been given the opportunity to serve their constituents for 38 years as an MPP. Wally Downer had that opportunity from 1937 until 1975. During that time he represented the people of Dufferin-Simcoe under eight premiers. When he left politics in 1975, he had been a member of the Legislature longer than anyone else in our province's history.
Wally served the residents of Dufferin-Simcoe for 38 years and is still remembered fondly by his former constituents. Wally had a special relationship with each and every person who had the privilege of knowing him. My colleague the member for Simcoe West, Jim Wilson, remembers how Wally helped his family in their time of need. Jim's grandfather often spoke of Canon Downer as the best friend a person could have.
Rev Downer was an Anglican vicar and, later, canon of the Anglican Church, who served as Speaker of the Legislature and as a liquor control commissioner. During his unparalleled time as MPP for Dufferin-Simcoe, some said that Rev Downer was elected with such ease because he either christened or married most of his constituents. Before settling down in Duntroon and starting his long political career, Wally was appointed by the Anglican Church as curator to serve in Erin and Cataract.
In 1937, at the age of 33, he joined 23 members of the Progressive Conservative caucus to serve during the Liberal government of Mitch Hepburn. Wally served in absentia as the MPP for Dufferin-Simcoe during the Second World War. His wife, Phyllis Downer, was instrumental in orchestrating a 1944 win that saw all the polls in his riding won by Wally while he was serving as chaplain of the Queen's York Rangers in North Africa and Europe during the Second World War.
In 1955, Mr Downer was Speaker of this House during the Conservative government of Leslie Frost. Serving as Speaker for five years, Wally was highly respected for his fairness and experience. He was appointed a commissioner of the Ontario Liquor Control Board in 1960. Wally died Wednesday, August 3, at the age of 90.
On behalf of the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus and his former colleagues, I would like to offer my condolences to his wife, Phyllis, his sons Harry, John and Wally, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He will be remembered at Queen's Park as one of the most successful and best-loved politicians this province has ever had.
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): I'd like to join the member for Dufferin-Peel in his comments in remembrance of the Reverend Alfred Wallace Downer. Most of the things that need to be said the member has said, but there are a couple of things in addition that I think should be said.
Rev Downer was for 38 years not just a representative here in this Legislature of Simcoe county; he in fact was Simcoe county. His relationship with his constituency was one of those that has become legend, and we should never forget the kind of relationship that members like Rev Downer had with their constituents and therefore the kind of representation they were able to bring into the parliamentary, the legislative process. Far too often -- and we've heard the criticisms here today of vested interest, interest-group politics rather than the broader representation of the constituencies that each and every one of us represents in so many ways.
Rev Downer was one of those legendary examples of a very clear and well-established relationship of representation on behalf of the county of Simcoe, and he was here for 38 years. If we think about the tributes we've gone through in this Legislature for many, many members over the years we've been here, I'm not sure we would find any, but very few, who would surpass that length of service.
That in itself I think speaks directly not only to Rev Downer's relationship with his constituents but his commitment to this province and to the political process in this province on behalf of the people of the province of Ontario. Both in terms of his religious pursuits and his political pursuits here, I guess his determination in his 38 years of service to the Legislature was also reflected in some respect in terms of his religious endeavours.
As the member for Dufferin-Peel mentioned, Rev Downer was born in 1904 and died earlier this year at the age of at or about 90. Just a few short months ago, Rev Downer attended the 75th-anniversary celebration of the small chapel in Glen Huron. I think that's also a reflection of the kind of individual who's always a part of the community he's associated with, always there and attempting to be available to serve.
I join the member for Dufferin-Peel. On behalf of the government, I want to pay tribute to Wally Downer, who did a very commendable job of representing Simcoe for so many years, and in his capacity for one term as Speaker as well. To his family, I send my sympathies and those of the government members, and wish them every help as they deal with their recent loss.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): It's my pleasure, on behalf of the Liberal leader, Lyn McLeod, and the Ontario Liberal caucus, to pay tribute to Canon Wallace Downer. Unfortunately, when some of the people who have served so well in this Legislature pass away, we have to rely on newspaper accounts and the library of the Legislature because we cannot relate directly to some of these individuals. In fact I think the only person in the press gallery today who could remember him would be Eric Dowd, who is the dean of the press gallery itself.
An interesting description has been given. I'm reading from the Toronto Star of August 7, 1994. It's interesting how you do eulogies of these people, because the members of the Legislature today just aren't the way they were many years ago. It says, "'Wally' Downer was one of the longest-serving and most colourful members in the history of the Ontario Legislature." We've heard that he represented the constituency of Dufferin-Simcoe for 38 years and was Speaker, but also he was once "dubbed the 'playful parson' in a 1961 profile," and "Rev Downer was painted as a 'jolly, apple-cheeked back-slapper,' known for his delightful stories and well-appointed luncheons in the Speaker's apartment at Queen's Park."
It says as well that his popularity crossed all of the political parties and he was known for his "floating poker games" that used to be held, I heard, within the precincts of this very building. I don't know whether --
Something else interesting about him, because I like relating these people to today's circumstances: It says here, and this follows on the policy announced by my friend the Premier and his ministers, "He attended the University of Toronto -- selling ice to pay his tuition." Indeed, we see today that there may be students who may have to sell ice to pay their tuition by the time the federal and provincial governments get finished with tuition.
It also mentions, and I think it was appropriately said, that he managed to get elected when he didn't even campaign in the election. He instead had his spouse go out -- his wife went out -- and won, as has been mentioned, every poll in the constituency. This was while he was serving his country in the Second World War. So this again may be a lesson for some.
There are some other things that talk about his views on issues of the day that I won't share with members of the Legislature because they may be somewhat outdated. However, on reflection, he may be a supporter of the Common Sense Revolution as I look at it here.
Frank Drea was also a colourful member of the Legislature. Frank always was able to capture the moment, and I guess he was at the nomination meeting where he was toppled in 1975. By the way, I should say that Mr Downer was very gracious on that occasion and not cantankerous about it, which speaks well of the man in himself. Frank Drea said this about him:
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): The thoughtful comments by the member for Dufferin-Peel, the government House leader and the member for St Catharines will be forwarded to the family of Reverend Wally Downer with our deepest sympathies.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Yesterday the member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland) rose in the House on a question of privilege. At the outset, I would like to thank the member for providing advance written documentation, allowing me the opportunity to fully consider the matter.
The situation as described by the member is that the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly in closed session on Tuesday, August 16, 1994, considered a draft report prepared by counsel. Press reports on matters relating to contents of that report appeared on the morning of Wednesday, August 17, 1994.
I have examined the facts as presented by the member and reviewed precedent and relevant authorities to determine whether or not the premature disclosure of contents of a draft committee report constitutes a prima facie case of privilege.
"The publication or disclosure of debates or proceedings of committees conducted with closed doors or in private, or when publication is expressly forbidden by the House, or of draft reports of committees before they have been reported to the House will, however, constitute a breach of privilege or a contempt."
On Thursday, June 21, 1984, the House adopted a report from the standing committee on procedural affairs entitled Standing Orders and Procedure (No.3) concerning the premature disclosure of committee reports in which it was stated:
"It is unethical for members to disclose matters relating to the contents of a committee's report, which was considered and adopted while the committee met in camera, before the report has been presented to the House. Such disclosure may be found to be a breach of privileges of the House and may constitute a contempt of Parliament."
In 1985, there were two questions of privilege raised with respect to the premature disclosure of committee reports. On November 7, 1985, and again on November 29, 1985, Speaker Edighoffer found there to be a prima facie case of privilege and allowed a motion to refer the matter to committee.
As a result of those referrals, the standing committee on procedural affairs tabled another report on the matter on Thursday, January 16, 1986. In this report, the committee discussed the general nature of premature disclosure, including partial disclosure and its impact on the activities of the House. The report stated that "leaks are more damaging when they are in fact inaccurate, partial or misconceived."
There can be no doubt that the situation before us concerns the premature disclosure of proceedings that were conducted in closed session and involved a draft committee report that had yet to be filed with the Clerk of the House or presented to this House. Both Erskine May and our own precedent support the notion that such premature disclosure does constitute a breach of privilege and possibly contempt of this House.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I'd like to thank you, Mr Speaker, for your decision, and I would like to move that this matter be referred to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly for consideration.
Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a question for the Premier. On November 29, 1993, your government announced the approval of a $19-million loan to Ontario Bus Industries Inc. The announcement said:
"The loan will secure the jobs of the company's 690 Mississauga employees and help support an additional 1,400 jobs at OBI Ontario-based suppliers. Our government's support will allow the company to resume production on back orders of 1,400 urban transit buses worth $300 million."
Today, less than one year after that announcement, the government has been forced to take over complete ownership and control of the company. It has increased its liabilities in the company from $19 million to well over $100 million. It has laid off most of the employees and is not building a single bus in Ontario.
Mr Premier, your minister, in a reply to the leader of the official opposition this week, stated, "There are over 900 buses on order that, as we gear up production, we plan to deliver." Could you tell us how and when you plan to gear up for production and deliver these buses?
Hon Frances Lankin (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): Again, let me say that I appreciate the official opposition's concern with this file. It is an important file. It's a very important strategic company in the province of Ontario and it's one that we are committed to working with to get back into production, to save those jobs and to save both it as a strategic company and the suppliers that supply to it within our province.
The restructuring is a difficult process that we are undertaking. We are currently in discussions with four prospective strategic partners who we believe will bring the production expertise to the company that is necessary to resume the production and to be able to meet the kind of strong order book projections that we have. Our hope would be that discussions will be concluded successfully in the very near future and we would aim towards gearing up production again very early in the new year.
Mr Kwinter: Madam Minister, when you advanced the $19 million to the company, it was because the company could not obtain conventional financing through regular banks and the owner was not able to attract an investment partner. At the time of the $19-million loan from the government, the back order was 1,400 buses and the company was functioning and providing employment to upward of 690 people.
On July 25, 1994, you wrote to my colleague the member for Mississauga West, who understandably has shown a great deal of interest in this issue: "New management has made substantial progress in restructuring and stabilizing OBI's operations. Production and employment have recently increased from former levels." That was just in July, a couple of months ago.
The facts are that we now have a situation where there are possibly -- and I say "possibly" because a lot of these orders are very, very soft -- 900 buses on back order, there are acute problems with suppliers of essential parts, the operation of the company is seriously compromised and the government liabilities are well in excess of $100 million and climbing.
Hon Ms Lankin: When the government first forwarded the $19 million to Ontario Bus Industries, it was at a time when the company was beginning to turn itself from a craft manufacturer of buses into an assembly line manufacturing system of buses, moving to meet larger order books with new product having been developed with the low-floor bus, innovative and ahead of its time with respect to the bus industry. It was a very important, we believed, loan and investment in an important company to keep it going.
The management there at the time was unable to successfully complete that recapitalization and conversion to a new operation and production method. I want to correct you: There is not over $100 million of liabilities accorded to the government at this time. At the time when we stepped in and took over, we brought in new management who were able to start to deal with the financial restructuring that was required and to look at some of the fundamental underlying problems within the company.
One of the things that became clear over that period of time is that there were serious production problems in Oriskany, New York; that is, the wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian Ontario Bus Industries which we require in order to meet the buy-America policy as we sell to US municipalities. Those production problems having been identified --
Hon Ms Lankin: Sorry, Mr Speaker -- management has brought in two teams of consultants to deal with that, and that has led us to the discussions with strategic partners to bring in that production expertise.
Mr Kwinter: I'm sure the minister will acknowledge that there are no other companies in Ontario that have the capability that this company has to produce buses. I think she'll acknowledge that. I think she will also acknowledge that the only two Canadian companies are one in Quebec and one in Manitoba. I think she will also acknowledge that 80% of the production of this company goes to the United States and that the handful of buses that are still in production are in fact being completed in the United States.
Given that scenario and given the fact that when you invested $19 million, you invested it because no one else would, how do you expect that when you now have -- and I would love to show you the figures -- a liability that's in excess of $100 million, how are you going to attract anybody without a massive, massive loss to the taxpayers of Ontario?
Can you assure that this will not happen? More importantly, given the fact that you yourself have said that you need a strategic production partner, can you guarantee the taxpayers of Ontario that their tax dollars will not be used to subsidize the transfer of jobs to either Quebec, Manitoba or to the United States?
Hon Ms Lankin: The member opposite began his question by saying that he was sure I would agree that this is a very strategically important company and the only company in Ontario that has the expertise for the manufacturing of buses. In fact I said that in my first response to him, and that is why we are so concerned about our investment there, about the jobs that are there, about the strategic positioning of this company and its importance to our economy and to suppliers. That is why we are working to save those jobs.
I refute again the number he says of over $100 million. He is incorrect with respect to that and it is not responsible to continue repeating it, just picking it out of a newspaper article. We are not interested in bringing in anyone --
Hon Ms Lankin: I would say to the member opposite, take a look at a number of the difficult restructurings that are taking place in this province and where the government has stepped in and worked with partners and tried to turn it around. I ask you, while you may be critical in the middle of it, how do you feel at the end, when you see Algoma turned around, people back to work, a company saved, a community saved? Kapuskasing, Spruce Falls mill, Provincial Papers, de Havilland -- strong order books.
Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): My question is to the Attorney General. Minister, you are well aware that the justice system has been wrestling with the important question of protecting our citizens from convicted sexual predators being released back into our communities. Indeed, the public is very well aware of the havoc that a Clifford Olson or a Joseph Fredericks can inflict upon an innocent public. Quite frankly, they need action now.
The Stephenson inquest jury recommended changing Ontario's Mental Health Act to permit appropriate detention of sexual predators. Indeed, you are aware that the state of Washington and, very recently, the state of New Jersey amended their mental health acts to permit appropriate definition and incarceration of sexual predators.
My question to the minister is this: It is clear a provincial solution is now necessary, so our caucus is drafting a bill to amend Ontario's Mental Health Act to deal with dangerous sexual predators. We intend to introduce this bill shortly. Will you cooperate with us by giving this bill speedy passage?
Hon Marion Boyd (Attorney General): As I have said many times in this House, it would be absolutely inappropriate for this government or any other member of any other government to agree to pass a bill they haven't even seen. There are real issues of jurisdiction that are involved in this whole area, and there's been a good deal of discussion by the health ministers and the attorneys general and the solicitors general of Canada on how to cooperate better in terms of dangerous offenders, particularly dangerous sexual offenders.
We've been engaged in discussions about a number of different possible remedies and we tend at this point in time to agree with the federal Justice minister, who suggests that the kind of vigorous use of the dangerous offender proposals that are already in the Criminal Code, the kind of vigorous use that we make of them in Ontario where we have in fact been responsible for more than half of the successful applications that have been made, is the appropriate route to go.
But we continue to discuss. We have a meeting coming up with the health ministers to look at how the crossover works between the mental health situation in each province and how that works with the Criminal Code, and we have pledged ourselves to continue to work with our colleagues to try and plug some of those holes.
The member should know there have been a number of cases, one in Ontario which was successful where we were able to continue the treatment of a person through the mental health provisions. That was upheld by the court, and we certainly are prepared to be very vigorous in terms of protecting the population against these particular predators.
Mr Chiarelli: First of all, Minister, we will be sharing our draft legislation with you before we introduce it in the hope that we will get some cooperation, but my supplementary is this: In the summer of 1993, your then deputy, George Thomson, wrote to Ontario's chief coroner, Dr Young, on the Stephenson inquest, and in referring to provincial legislation -- you do have the authority to deal with the problem here -- your deputy said: "We are more optimistic about the constitutionality of provincial legislation under the Mental Health Act. Ministry officials" -- that's your ministry officials -- "have encouraged the Ministry of Health to enact amendments to the Mental Health Act that were referred to in the testimony of Gilbert Sharpe at the Stephenson inquest."
Minister, Gilbert Sharpe is the director of legal services at the Ministry of Health and he gave the Stephenson inquest testimony back in 1992 recommending these changes to the Mental Health Act here in Ontario, not at the federal level.
My question to the minister is this: Since as far back as 1992 the director of legal services at the Ministry of Health, Gilbert Sharpe, told the Stephenson inquest that the government, the provincial government, should amend the Mental Health Act to appropriately deal with convicted sexual predators, and since in the summer of 1993 your own deputy, George Thomson, encouraged amendments to the act to deal with sexual predators, I therefore ask you again, Minister: Since your own senior officials say we have the authority and the mandate to do it here and now, will you commit to working with us to do it now, here, in this Legislature, and soon?
Hon Mrs Boyd: As the member is well aware, the Criminal Code Review Board is the body that is responsible for reviewing the recommendations in terms of the Mental Health Act, and in fact the six recommendations were designed to ensure that crown counsel, acting with the Criminal Code Review Board, were being very vigorous in terms of that action, and indeed they are.
We've set up a lot of special treatment. We've got an expert team from the crown attorneys' office that specializes in this role that works with a coordinator to ensure that when these issues come up, there is a vigorous effort to do it. We have shown that we can in fact do some of these protective measures without a change to the Mental Health Act. You know that the Ministry of Health has been reviewing the Mental Health Act, that we have a whole mental health reform process going on, and there are likely to be innumerable changes in that act as we go along.
Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): Minister, as you know, there could be as many as 1,100 of these dangerous predators in facilities across Ontario and Canada, and your government favours the proposed change called "capping," which would limit the time these predators are in institutions and release them on to the streets.
I've been in touch with lawyers for victims and police associations who have expressed concern that your political support of capping will be used by these predators to overturn the current law that keeps them off the streets. Minister, the people of Ontario want your assurance that until such time as you join with us to amend the Mental Health Act, you will vigorously fight every attempt to overturn the current law now on the books which keeps them in. We want your assurance that you won't permit capping through the back door.
Hon Mrs Boyd: There is certainly an obligation, a very strong obligation and a primary obligation, to protect the public, and there's no doubt that is the prime concern in these cases, but there is also an obligation to ensure that in doing that, we are not infringing on the rights of individuals.
The whole issue of capping and the issue of what happens when people are found unfit to serve trial, are held under the Mental Health Act, is a very complex issue. Our current situation enables that whole process to be looked at with relationship to the particular issues in each individual case, and we continue to believe that is important. Yes, there is a matter before the courts, and we will get a ruling on that and we will conduct ourselves accordingly once that ruling is obtained.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): My question is to the Premier. Premier, last night on NYPD Blue, a prime-time police drama on Global TV, one of your Jobs Ontario ads aired. According to Global TV's ad rate card, a 30-second spot on this show would cost $12,000. This is $12,000, Premier, of taxpayers' money.
I wonder if you could tell this House how much of your government's $30-million-plus advertising budget is spent on Jobs Ontario and exactly who those ads are intended to reach for Jobs Ontario. I wonder if you could tell me those two things.
Hon Mr Cooke: Since the fall recruitment campaign has begun, we have had nearly 4,000 inquiries. We've had 1,744 employers sign up and nearly 3,000 new jobs, and that continues to build each day. What that means is that there are more people today working and collecting paycheques rather than welfare cheques, and that's what this program's all about.
Mr Harris: A recent confidential document estimated your spending as at least $1.5 million in six short weeks this fall to promote your Bob's Ontario or Jobs New York program, whichever one you prefer. These are the handouts, the $10,000 handouts, to business that business is telling you it doesn't want or need.
I want to quote from your confidential document. Your confidential document says, repeated by you in this House today, that this ad campaign is aimed at employers or potential employers, but according to ad industry analysts we talked to today, the average employer or those who may be hiring do not watch prime time television, do not watch shows like NYPD.
Minister, if you had really wanted to reach employers, you wouldn't have advertised on NYPD at a cost of $12,000. In fact, you could have direct-mailed them three times a year with your $50 notices on all the businesses that have to file claims, and you could have done that at no cost, at absolutely no cost.
I would ask you this, Minister: Isn't the real truth here, the real strategy, that your $1.5-million Bob's Ontario advertising budget is less a recruitment drive for employers than it is a propaganda blitz for the NDP and it's targeted to voters, patting yourself on the back, more than it is targeted to employers? Isn't that the truth?
Hon Mr Cooke: I'd just like to quote from a document: "Thousands of Ontarians now on social assistance are able to work, yet employers cannot afford to hire them. By linking social assistance directly to employment, as recommended in the SARC report, Queen's Park could effectively create a multibillion-dollar pool of money -- topped up by employers -- to put people back to work...."
That's from the New Directions document. That's what the Jobs Ontario Training program is doing, getting people off welfare, putting them into the workplace. The program is working. The Minister of Community and Social Services informed cabinet today that the number of people on social assistance is down again in Ontario. It's working.
Marketing magazine reports that your NDP government spent more on total advertising last year than Coca-Cola or Walt Disney or Leon's Furniture spent to advertise their products all across Canada, over three times as much as Campbell Soup spent to advertise its products all across Canada.
Do you know what, Minister? It is ridiculous. There are some very important and necessary areas where the government should advertise. Tourism is probably the best example, yet you slashed the tourism marketing budget, one of the greatest potential job-creating sectors in Ontario, by almost 50% over the last two years.
Minister, since you are now the spokesman on behalf of the $30-million Bob's Ontario, pat-myself-on-the-back advertising slush fund, I would ask you this: If you in fact were sincerely interested in advertising to create jobs, don't you think you should be promoting Ontario tourism instead of promoting Bob Rae to potential voters?
I understand why the leader of the third party would shift the ground in the third question, because he knows all the evidence is absolutely clear that the JOT program is working, that the advertising gets the word out to employers, and employers are calling us and enrolling in the program and we're getting people off social assistance.
Hon Mr Cooke: -- a decrease of 4.7%. October's caseloads alone have dropped by 7,195, in one month. This program isn't doing the entire job, the economy's picking up as well, but this program is allowing people who have been left out of previous recoveries to participate in the economic recovery and get back into the workplace.
Mrs Elizabeth Witmer (Waterloo North): My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. How surprised I was to learn from a radio reporter this morning that you had released a press release regarding your government's attempts to ban under age strippers.
This was an issue that I brought to your attention in an open letter on August 23 after many people in this province, including a newspaper reporter in Niagara Falls and the Coalition for the Safety of Our Daughters, were unable to prompt your government into action. Indeed, the reporter wrote to me on August 29:
Minister, you continue today to demonstrate your lack of genuine concern for the exploitation of teenage strippers by not making a public announcement in this House, even on a day when your government speaks about wife assault.
My question is this: Why did you not make an announcement in this House? This is an issue of public importance. Why have you waited so long to make a simple regulatory change? You could have done this in August.
First of all, I think we approached this issue in as non-partisan a manner as we could, because I recognized, at least up until now, until today, that when this issue was first raised within our caucus and our party, we recognized that we wanted to do something about it. I think the member knows we explored a number of options to do this by regulation instead of legislation so we could get it done quickly. We explored different options in different ministries, all of which turned out to be somewhat problematic. We wanted to end up with a regulation that would actually work and do the job. We didn't want to do some kind of publicity stunt and say, "Here, look, we've done something" that wouldn't really work.
So I'd like to thank the member for her suggestions and her participation, and in fact the Liberals as well who put forward some suggestions that helped us in formulating a solution to this problem. I'm happy to say that we were able to announce and let the public know today that we are indeed doing this.
Mrs Witmer: I would suggest, Minister, that if you had wanted to do it in a non-partisan way, you would have had the courtesy at least to have consulted with myself and possibly the critic for the opposition. However, there was no consultation. In fact, you didn't even have the courtesy to issue the press release to us first. It was to the media.
However, I do have some questions about what's taken you so long. How will your new regulation to the Liquor Licence Act be enforced? Will you hire new liquor licence inspectors to make sure that the liquor licence regulations are not being breached? What powers of inspection will you give these inspectors to do the job effectively?
Hon Ms Churley: It's very strange to be hearing somebody from the Tory party, with their Common Sense Revolution talking about cutting back the budget by huge amounts, stand there and ask if we're hiring more inspectors to do this.
Hon Ms Churley: We have approached this issue from a three-pronged angle. We think this is not the only answer to this problem, which I think everybody in this House takes seriously. We want to come at it as well from the Criminal Code. The federal government has a responsibility in this area. We are asking, through the Attorney General, that the Criminal Code be amended to ban all under aged stripping across Canada. We think that should be done.
We're also asking the Minister of Municipal Affairs to work with the municipalities to come up with bylaws or to give them a draft model bylaw that they can try to enforce, which they have the jurisdiction to do within their municipalities. Some, about five of them now, have adopted these bylaws. Windsor has the strongest one.
Hon Ms Churley: We think in fact that's the best solution. But in the meantime we didn't want to wait until the municipalities act, although we would prefer that they do, and we adopted this regulation for the time being so we can act swiftly and quickly to deal with the problem now. But this is --
The other thing I want to point out to you is that your announcement today deals only with licensed establishments. It does not deal with private parties, such as stags. That is why today I plan to introduce a private member's bill, entitled the Adult Entertainment Licensing Act, that will apply to all those employed as strippers as well as those who carry on a business of providing or those who arrange for such performances to obtain a licence. The age is 18 to obtain the licence.
Minister, this will ensure that effective action is taken. Are you prepared to support this bill that will include all forms of entertainment, not just the licensed establishments that you talk about? It will also enable the police to take action if they believe there are reasonable grounds that a person does not hold the required licence. Will you support this private member's bill?
Hon Ms Churley: First of all, I'm sorry that the member is not a little bit happier that we were able to act on an issue that she has expressed concern about. There might have been just a tiny inkling of an acknowledgement and appreciation that the government did move on this and, within a very complex structure, in trying to find a solution, we have come up with a solution.
But, as I said, it is not the perfect solution. I agree with you that the Liquor Licence Act can only deal with a small portion of this problem. However, and I would really like the member to listen to this because she asked specifically, the municipalities have the power to do what she is asking us to do.
She has already brought up the concern about enforcement, which, yes, is a concern. We don't have the money. We don't have the resources at this time to hire new inspectors. However, we will make sure that the job is done. But given that the municipalities have the power to enact bylaws to deal with the whole range of problems she's just spoken about, we will be working with the municipalities -- I'm sure they have an interest in this -- to make sure that, the kinds of issues she's brought up today, we can broaden the whole approach we're taking. We'll be working on that with the municipalities.
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is to the Minister of Finance. Last week, the Ontario Insurance Commission revealed that auto insurance rates have climbed over 8% on average. The upper end of the rate increase that OIC announced or has approved is 20%. Indeed, many Ontarians have seen their premiums increased to that maximum. I know of one case in my own constituency where it's increased $400.
It doesn't take an actuary to realize that the increase in rates is a reflection of your government's badly flawed Bill 164. In fact, many industry analysts have said the real costs of Bill 164 have not yet been reflected in current prices. At this pace, insurance will become unaffordable to the average Ontarian. To many, the costs are already too high. Moreover, the Ontario auto insurance industry, which is among the province's leading investors, continues to see the growth of claims outstrip the growth in premiums. This suggests an urgent need for reform.
Mr Crozier: Given the rapid increase in the cost to insure an automobile in the province of Ontario, and the uncertain future that follows from it, what is the government doing to address these concerns?
Hon Floyd Laughren (Minister of Finance): I appreciate the question from the member opposite, although I'm somewhat surprised that a Liberal member of the Legislature would make any reference at all to automobile insurance and the way the government of the day should handle that issue.
I should tell the members opposite that the increased auto insurance rates in the province of Ontario are less than is being experienced in other parts of Canada. Secondly, approximately 5% of the increase, and the increase is averaging around 10%, is because of the enhanced benefits under Bill 164, which provides better benefits particularly for those people who get injured and have long-term disabilities.
I would even acknowledge that perhaps the Ontario motorist protection plan could be improved. However, you can't ignore the fact that under the OMPP, rates had stabilized, the insurance industry was better able to plan and Ontarians benefited from the inherent simplicity in it. The fact remains that your government, which introduced Bill 164 under the guise it would bring lower rates -- one of your own commission studies on the impact of Bill 164 revealed that rates would increase anywhere from 4.5% to 20%, or upwards of $200 per vehicle. Submission after submission before the standing committee backed up this concern.
Hon Mr Laughren: I remember thinking about this issue a couple of years ago and at that point and in talking to the industry and to people who follow this issue very carefully, it was very clear that back in 1993 the former legislation, the OMPP legislation, had woefully inadequate cost control measures in it, and that led to some very serious problems. So there was a point for a couple of years in which there were substantial cost increases to insurers because of the inadequate cost controls in the previous legislation.
I think that what was brought forward by the current House leader and Chair of Management Board for the government was the way in which we got control of the costs, at the same time improved the level of benefits, particularly to those people who need it the most, and also reduced the amount of money that was going to lawyers rather than to victims. That was an important change with our legislation.
Mrs Cunningham: This report that was issued this morning on behalf of the Coalition for Education Reform gave the Ontario education system a D-. It's called Could Do Better: What's Wrong with Public Education in Ontario and How to Fix It.
The people who make up this coalition are educators and parents. This report did not cost $3 million, as the royal commission will cost the taxpayers. It says basically three things: They're demanding a core curriculum with high standards for each grade, yhey want those high standards to be tested at each grade level and they want to use the information from the testing to improve the quality of education.
Hon David S. Cooke (Minister of Education and Training): I wouldn't necessarily say that the Quality Education Network is an organization that has a broad level of support across the province. They have a particular point of view; there are lots of others.
But I guess what I would say to the critic for the third party is that, yes, we are doing a lot in the Ministry of Education and Training to turn the public education system around in the province of Ontario. We have to take a look at the history of our education system and see that during the Davis years testing was eliminated, standards were eliminated, the system was decentralized and we got the education system into the difficulties that it is experiencing now.
This government has introduced math standards and language standards. We brought back province-wide testing for the first time since the 1960s. Testing is back into our school system. We are changing the system so that we can involve ourselves in national testing in mathematics, in reading and writing and science, and in international testing.
We've brought in the common curriculum and we are exploring what we need to do on the core curriculum, to see whether the province should reverse what the Davis government did over those years to take away the role of the province in terms of curriculum, and have a more centralized system where the province should play a bigger role. That's what we're doing. We're trying to clean up the mess that was left to us by the Davis years and the years that your party was in power, where the system was completely decentralized --
Mrs Cunningham: We do not have a core curriculum in this province by subject. This is not a core curriculum by subject. As a matter of fact, the Premier of this province talked about not having high enough standards by grade level in the province of Ontario.
The minister's not answering the question. We're trying to give some good advice here in support of thousands of parents and students who are unhappy with the lack of standards and core curriculum in our education system. So I'm going to repeat: They're looking for a core curriculum with standards. They want testing to meet the standards. As a matter of fact, they also want to improve the quality of education.
This minister recently spent $10,500 to have this document rewritten so people could understand it. Where are you going to put your efforts in the next few months to introduce a core curriculum into the province of Ontario?
Hon Mr Cooke: What we have done in the last few years in the ministry is introduce province-wide standards for mathematics, province-wide standards for language; we have brought in province-wide testing to test the curriculum that's in place.
What the Premier spoke about last week, and perhaps you should have been at the speech, was that whenever we do testing, we should never be satisfied with the results of that testing; we should always be insisting that we improve.
Mr Gary Malkowski (York East): It's my great pleasure to be the first person to ask the new Minister of Housing a question this afternoon. My question is: There are many older apartments in Ontario that would benefit by being covered by the new building code standards. At a recent meeting in my riding, it was brought to my attention by the tenants of Thorncliffe Park and by the East York Tenants Association that these groups have serious concerns regarding the exclusion of older units from the Ontario building code. What measures are in place to ensure that these buildings don't fall into disrepair?
Hon Richard Allen (Minister of Housing): It's a very important question, not just a question that the tenants in York East are asking but also tenants I think across the province. Therefore, it's important to answer it.
Section 15 provides that municipal officials may take action to remedy unsafe conditions whenever a complaint is brought forward to them, which would then be the trigger which would enable them to move and take action. Section 17 is probably even more effective, more far-reaching and more immediate because what it does is allow the chief building official to issue an emergency order for immediate repairs to be carried out whenever there is imminent danger to the health or safety of any person as a result of building disrepair.
The first is that the new Rent Control Act allows for the freezing of rents whenever a work order is issued by a municipality against a building. The second has to do with the possibility under the act that tenants may apply for a rent reduction whenever the maintenance or standard of repair in the building is deemed to be inadequate.
As a result, there's a significant pressure put upon landlords, especially those who do not maintain their buildings, of course, because if they wish to get their rent levels back to where they were they need to take some action. In that respect, as in others, we have helped tenants greatly in getting their maintenance problems fixed.
Mr Hans Daigeler (Nepean): My question is to the new Minister of Transportation. Let me say first of all to the minister, congratulations on your appointment, and I do wish you well for the six months or so that are left before the election.
Mr Daigeler: Just listen to what I have to say. On October 13, your predecessor, Mr Pouliot, is quoted in the Ottawa Citizen as saying, "We have submitted a business plan." This is a direct quote from Mr Pouliot, yet on the other hand, two weeks later, on November 1, I read in the same newspaper, "Farnan, who replaced Gilles Pouliot as part of a cabinet shuffle last month, sent a detailed business plan of the project to Infrastructure minister Art Eggleton on Monday," and that was October 31.
Hon Mike Farnan (Minister of Transportation): The Bob Rae government is committed, very clearly, unequivocally, to putting funding of two thirds, and we are anxious to have accelerated construction. We want the federal Liberals to stop playing games with the people of eastern Ontario, and we want them to put their money on the table. Frankly, I want to see the colour of the federal dollars.
These dollars cannot come from shared programs already allocated. The Prime Minister of Canada made a commitment to the people of eastern Ontario. I can't understand why Mr Eggleton stalls on this issue, nor can I understand the ineffectiveness of the 99 Liberal members in Ottawa who have failed the people of Ontario.
I have invited Mr Eggleton to meet me one on one. We want to get on with accelerated construction. We have no time for Liberal games. This highway is important. If the federal Liberals get their act together, we can get the highway under way on a construction fast-track.
Mr Daigeler: Minister, if you're as anxious as we are on this side of the House to build the 416, why did it take you more than six months to even submit your business plan? I would say to you that the ice age receded faster than your NDP actions on Highway 416.
When I asked Mr Pouliot on September 12 during the estimates committee whether he had his two thirds of the cost for the Highway 416 project, he said, "We have our $120 million." You can find this quote on page 541 of the estimates committee Hansard.
In view of Mr Pouliot's very questionable promises so far, can you confirm that you have committed the $120 million from the Minister of Finance, who is sitting right in front of you? Also, can you assure me that there will be no special toll tax for the only highway link to the 401 in eastern Ontario?
Hon Mr Farnan: It's very simple: When Bob Rae's government makes a promise, we keep it; when the Liberals make a promise, they don't keep it. Let me say further, in order to be very fair to both opposition parties --
Hon Mr Farnan: The Bob Rae plan for transportation calls for significant investment in highways and infrastructure. I am delighted that the critic supports that plan. Unfortunately, the Liberals don't have a plan, and as for the third party, I would say Mike Harris has a plan that calls for $300 million to be cut from transportation. What that Mike Harris plan means is no more lane widenings, no more medians, no more turning lanes, no more four-laning of congested highways, massive cuts in transfers. The result of the Mike Harris plan is more congestion, more collisions, more deaths, deterioration of roads and infrastructure.
"We, the undersigned, are concerned that Bill 173, if unamended, will mean less service, more costly service, a decrease in volunteers and less flexibility for communities to develop a model that works for them."
Ms Christel Haeck (St Catharines-Brock): I have a petition here from five residents of St Catharines, and they are opposed to Bill 165. I must admit they have a long preamble, which I will not read, but I am not in agreement with their comments.
"Whereas the nearby community is already home to the highest number of ex-psychiatric patients and social service organizations in hundreds of licensed and unlicensed rooming houses, group homes and crisis care facilities in all of Canada; and
"Whereas no one was consulted -- not the local residents and the business community; not the leaders of community organizations; not education and child care providers; and not even" -- get this -- "the NDP member of provincial Parliament for Fort York;
"We, the undersigned residents and business owners of our community, urge the NDP government of Ontario to immediately stop all plans to accommodate the criminally insane in an expanded facility until a public consultation process is completed."
"Whereas the Wellington County Board of Education has estimated that the operating costs of junior kindergarten will be at least $4.5 million per year" -- I daresay it's as expensive down in St Catharines -- "and
"Whereas the Premier ignored the advice from his own business advisers on his labour and management advisory committee to eliminate the unfunded liability and to ensure that the WCB does not negatively impact the competitiveness of Ontario business; and
"Whereas we believe that the Solicitor General should have followed the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters' advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and/or hunted for years; and
"We, the undersigned, object to Bill 173 in its present state. It must be amended to assure the residents of Ontario that their community-based health care and support services will continue to be available, that services become more accessible, that coordination of services is improved, and that the volunteer sector remains intact. The bill in its present format will not achieve these objectives."
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to ensure that amendments are made to Bill 173 to allow for provision of community care based on the needs of local communities in Ontario and acknowledge the role of volunteers in the delivery of care."
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition addressed to the Honourable Bob Rae, Premier of Ontario, the Honourable Ruth Grier, Minister of Health of the province of Ontario and members of the Legislative Assembly:
"We, the undersigned, are concerned that Bill 173, if unamended, will mean less service, more costly service, a decrease in volunteers and the inability of local communities to ensure the long-term care system meets their needs."
"Whereas we believe that the Solicitor General should have followed the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters' advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and/or hunted for years;
"Whereas we believe that we should not have to take the time or pay the cost of yet another course or examination and we should not have to learn about classes of firearms that we have no desire to own;
"That the hamlet of Desbarats in the township of Johnson, with a population of 750 permanent residents and a seasonal population which increases to over 2,500, is not presently served by an LLBO outlet." That's a liquor control board outlet.
"This poses a hardship on the seasonal and permanent residents. If these consumers were able to purchase all their needs from the established businesses, it would be of considerable benefit to the local economy.
"Whereas we, the undersigned, are of the opinion that private insurance companies are exploiting Ontario motorcyclists and snowmobile operators by charging excessive rates for coverage or by outright refusing to provide coverage;
"Whereas we, the undersigned, understand that those insurance companies that do specialize in motorcycle insurance will only insure riders with four or more years of riding experience and are outright refusing to insure riders who drive certain models of 'supersport' bikes;
"Whereas we believe that the Solicitor General should have followed the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters' advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and/or hunted for years;
"Whereas we believe that the Solicitor General should have followed the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters' advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and/or hunted for years;
Bill 184, An Act to provide for the Licensing of Persons involved in providing Adult Entertainment / Projet de loi 184, Loi prévoyant la délivrance de permis aux personnes impliquées dans la fourniture de divertissements pour adultes.
Mrs Elizabeth Witmer (Waterloo North): I'm introducing this bill today out of concern for the fact that girls as young as 14 and 15 are being employed as strippers in this province, and this will ensure that anyone under the age of 18 can no longer be employed but will require a licence.
That, pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order in relation to Bill 163, An Act to revise the Ontario Planning and Development Act and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, to amend the Planning Act and the Municipal Act and to amend other statutes related to planning and municipal matters, the standing committee on administration of justice shall complete clause-by-clause consideration of the bill on the first regularly scheduled meeting of the committee following passage of this motion. All proposed amendments must be filed with the clerk of the committee prior to 12 noon on the above-noted day. At 4 pm on that same day, those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further amendment or debate, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 128(a);
That the committee be authorized to continue to meet beyond its normal adjournment if necessary until consideration of clause-by-clause has been completed. The committee shall report the bill to the House on the first available day following completion of clause-by-clause consideration that reports from committees may be received. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on the date provided, the bill shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;
That upon receiving the report of the standing committee on administration of justice, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, which question shall be decided without debate or amendment and at such time, the bill shall be ordered for third reading;
That one hour be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill. At the end of that time, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment;
That in the case of any division relating to any proceedings on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes and no deferral of any division pursuant to standing order 28(g) shall be permitted.
Hon Elmer Buchanan (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): I understand there is an agreement between the three parties in the House that the time be divided as follows: I will address the motion very briefly and the government will reserve five minutes at the end for wrapup, and the remainder of the time will be split between the two opposition parties.
Certainly the opposition has been given precisely the amount of committee time that they had asked for on this bill over the intersession, including adding Friday sittings, and there's really no reason why the consideration of this bill has not been completed except that the opposition has decided to drag their feet on this.
It's not a problem of insufficient time in committee. They've been at it for five weeks. There have been well in excess of 100 hours in clause-by-clause hearings. This committee has travelled all across the province and has heard from literally hundreds of people, and there has been extensive debate across the province on this bill.
It's important that we proceed with this bill at this time. It provides Ontarians with badly needed planning reform. Through the bill, municipalities are going to be given greater control of the development process. The environment will be better protected by clear policy statements and legislative changes that are integrated into the social, cultural, economic and environmental value statements. Red tape will be cut from the planning process. It will be faster. This is a way of efficiently creating more jobs in the construction industry and other sectors.
The opposition have decided that they do not want this bill to finish. That has made it necessary for us to move this motion today so that we can make progress with our planning reforms that we've put before the people of Ontario.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to speak this afternoon, though I wish I were not speaking on yet another time allocation motion or general closure motion that we have before the House.
It is a matter of great regret for me, as a member of this assembly, to be forced to participate in such a debate because I well recall having sat in opposition with the now Premier of this province, who on many occasions in the past has extolled the virtues of careful scrutiny of government legislation and was one who felt that the rules of this House should be modified in those days to give the opposition and government backbenchers, frankly, more of an opportunity to debate, discuss and analyse legislation.
However, as I know the Progressive Conservative Party House leader will list in his remarks to his House, you will find that this government has used closure and time allocation far more than any previous government has done. Of course some members of this House, if not the public, will remember that there was a drastic change made in the rules of the Legislature by the Premier of this province, through his government House leader, to severely restrict the powers of the opposition and the government backbenchers in dealing with legislation before the House.
I have said on a number of occasions that I think this is regrettable for democracy, because it again places in the hands of those who are not elected, the people who cannot be accessed by the general public very easily, much more power and less power in the hands of democratically elected politicians. We're the only people they can get at. We are the ones who have to be reassessed and either elected or not elected at election time. That does not happen with those who are in the civil service; that does not happen with those who work for the Premier's office or who are political appointees in ministers' offices; in other words, people who have had in several governments many powers and I think in this government even more powers because of the changes to the rules that were made at the behest of Mr Rae.
I know that two individuals I was just discussing the rules with, Robin Smith and Shelley MacKay, who used to work for the previous House leader of the Liberal Party, were talking about the day when the government brought down its legislation to change the rules of this House and how angry many people were and how ironic we found that in fact it was a New Democratic Party government, and that of Premier Rae, that would bring in such legislation.
We know that this does not get a lot of public attention. I've said this on many occasions. I discussed this with some people when we were talking about another bill, Bill 173, dealing with long-term care, and they were absolutely flabbergasted at the changes that had been made to House rules when I explained what those changes were and how that would affect a piece of legislation in which they had an interest. They asked: "Can you in the opposition, can government backbenchers not delay this legislation, not make changes to this legislation, not allow for a full debate out there so that people across the province can be aware of the ramifications of legislation?"
I had to explain to them that under the new rules that were brought forward by Mr Rae individual members in most debates are limited to 30 minutes, unlike the member for Welland-Thorold, Mr Kormos, who took some 17 hours to discuss the issue of public auto insurance or changes to the auto insurance system in Ontario, and provided a service -- some will say it was a disservice, and it annoyed the government of the day, of which I was a part -- in that it allowed a focus of public attention on an important public issue. I think that is what is important about this Legislative Assembly.
Of course, we're going to be surprised and somewhat disillusioned by the fact that the government would already bring in this kind of legislation, this kind of motion which would cut off debate on what we call the Sewell bill, for want of another word, some Planning Act changes, some of which, by the way, merit some support, and some changes to the conflict-of-interest legislation for municipal political representatives, some of which again merit support. There's no quibbling, I think, over the need for such legislation; the argument is over the specific provisions contained within that bill.
But I guess what is galling to the people of this province is the fact that this Legislature has not sat as a Legislature since last June, and yet normally it would come back in late September to reconvene. There would be question periods, there would be opportunity for legislation to be processed both in the specific committees and the committee of the whole in the House, and of course by the Legislative Assembly as it sits for second or third reading of bills. And yet, the government chose not to bring the House back till almost November 1. It was Hallowe'en, perhaps suitably in some ways, that was the specific date that the House came back into session.
That is most unfortunate, because I think those who elect us expect us to be here at the Legislative Assembly dealing with important public business. There was a time when that wasn't necessarily so. We paid tribute to Wally Downer, for instance, who served in this assembly for some 38 years. Earlier this afternoon we paid tribute to him. In those days, the Legislature probably sat about three months of the year, most members had another occupation as well as being members of the Legislative Assembly and the amount of business that came under the purview of this assembly was rather limited.
Also, members did not have constituency offices, so they had to deal directly with their constituents on matters related to the Ontario government. Since the advent of constituency offices in 1975, much of the social work that members had to undertake personally has been in the hands of very capable staff, and each one of us knows that we are very reliant upon the people both here at Queen's Park and our own constituency offices. So there isn't a need for members now to be in their constituencies at all times, and I think there's an expectation that members should be here analysing, scrutinizing, debating and discussing important pieces of legislation and motions.
Jonathan Manthorpe, who used to be a columnist for the Toronto Star, wrote a column at one time where he called for the abolition of constituency offices, and wisely I believe, but he did it on the premise that members were spending too much time on individual constituency work at the risk of allowing legislation to pass this House which would have ramifications which were not in the best interests of the people of this province. I disagree with the part about the constituency offices being abolished, but I do agree that one of the dangers we can face as political representatives is the danger of not spending the necessary time on the individual bills before this House. I know it's not a vote-getter, I know it doesn't bring in the kind of support that one would like, but it's an important component of our work.
First of all, the members' statements, where they can bring forward issues of import to them individually, and then the government statements and opposition responses, and then, of course, the question period, where the questions are directed to the government by all members except those in the cabinet, and subsequently the other business of the day.
But what we have here is a bill that is very important to the House, that has been discussed to a certain extent, as the acting House leader has suggested this afternoon, has had some considerable discussion, but many people would like to have more discussion as to specific provisions of that bill, and we in the opposition think that would be important.
Probably this bill would have passed, because the government does have the majority in any event, had the House been reconvened about September 24 or a date in there, and then we would have had considerable time to deal with it and I think the government then could have made a good case for time allocation if indeed there had been that amount of time. But when they come back in the first week they're back and then they say: "Well, guess what? We have to have constituency week next week because we've been here four days," well, a lot of people out there, including, I noticed, the Conservative Party House leader even brought forward a motion on the first day. I don't know if it will be debated or when it's going to be debated, but he did bring it forward and express, as we have, a concern about the House coming back so late and then going off for a constituency week.
I recall that this is not the first time this has happened. I think December 10, 1992, was the last date we sat that year, and the House did not come back until April 13, 1993, again a very long period of time where the House wasn't sitting. Why would the government do that? Well, I would guess that at least the cabinet does not wish to face the kind of public scrutiny that goes with the questioning by the opposition and the media scrutiny which takes place in the hallways of this building on a daily basis.
That is why the government, which is supposed to want to be accountable to the people, would not want to sit, but rather have the Premier go around the province giving out cheques left and right, of course as he's going to do before an election, making what he considers to be good news announcements with the next government's money, and the next government having to meet those commitments, whatever that government is, whether it's his own or a subsequent party that's elected, instead of governing, instead of subjecting government programs and plans to the scrutiny that is offered in this Legislature.
The rule changes that I mentioned have been detrimental to the House in my view. First of all, we have a situation where the House, even under the normal parliamentary calendar, sits fewer days than it used to sit in previous governments. Now, as if that isn't bad enough, this government chooses to ignore that calendar and simply come back even later and sit even fewer days. It is estimated this session will be only 20 sitting days. I find that somewhat appalling as a member elected by constituents to deal with legislation and matters of importance before this House.
The only way we can really get a lot of public interest in these issues is through debating them in this Legislature. There are a lot of people who don't like the televising of the debates in the House. I am not one of those people. I think it's an important aspect of informing the people of this province. They may not like the performance of individual members or the members as a group, but it allows them to look at another aspect of the responsibility of an individual member; not simply whether the person can get a birth certificate in a shorter period of time than would normally be the case, not that the person is able to get an answer from a government office more quickly than any individual constituent, but they also have a chance to see us operate in this House, to be part of that legislative process, to listen to it.
I was very delighted to be the person who put that motion before the House many years ago as an opposition member, to have the televising of this House on a continuing basis. I think that's important, because people out there watching -- a number of them do watch -- are able to understand better the legislation before the House and the position of individual members and the parties on that legislation.
I notice something that's happening here as well, why I think you're seeing more of these closure motions. The government will contend that the opposition is more obstructionist with an NDP government than it has been with other governments. I don't think that is necessarily the case. I think it is partially the case in that this government was elected with 37.8% of the people voting in this province, I think most people would concede largely as a protest vote. This isn't the first time this has happened. This is not in any way a put-down of government members, but many of the government members are probably surprised to be here today.
A trend began in the middle of the election campaign and was favourable to the party that had never governed in Ontario, that is, the New Democratic Party. The federal Conservatives were very unpopular, and as the Conservative candidates went to the door, people would say, "We don't want Mulroney, so we're not voting for you," which was not really fair to the Conservative Party but it was a consequence. They would say to the Liberal Party, "We don't like you because you're in and we don't like the ins now; we want to get rid of you." So people turned to the one party that had not been in power before, the New Democratic Party.
I would suggest that the people who voted that way didn't necessarily believe that the NDP could run the economy well. Again, many people might have, but I would suggest that most people didn't. Nor did most people likely agree with the policies contained in the Agenda for People that the NDP put out. But they did feel that the NDP had not been there, had not been given a chance.
You know, those people always talked about the fact that they were ethically superior, morally superior, to the other two political parties. One would have anticipated that the Premier, then, would have changed the rules of the House to make it even more democratic, to involve individual members even more. Instead, we have seen a continuance of the trend over the years towards more concentration of power in the Office of the Premier of this province and in his advisers and in the civil service, which has considerable power. I don't think that is healthy for democracy and I don't think that's what the people of this province anticipated.
But many of the pieces of legislation that come forward are controversial, because my view is -- and it's a subjective view, it's not an objective view -- that the New Democratic Party does not represent mainstream Ontario. It represents a certain constituency out there in Ontario and may do so well in many circumstances, but it does not represent mainstream Ontario. That is why you see some considerable scrutiny and debate, perhaps more lengthy debate than one might have anticipated on some of the legislation being brought forward.
I think that this bill would be favourably influenced by further debate, by further representations which are made to government. I was concerned as a member of a previous government when there was a move about in the internal portions of the government to bring forward what was called Project X, and there were many people in the New Democratic Party, including its leader today, who were beside themselves at the thought that there might be a bill brought forward that would streamline the processes in Ontario and perhaps diminish scrutiny by various departments of government of proposed developments for this province. Not all of my colleagues agreed with my particular contention, but if that reared its head, that head was cut off very quickly and the government did not proceed with that.
Some of my colleagues who would speak this afternoon and who have been a part of this bill object to the piece of legislation because they feel it goes too far. My view might be slightly different from some of my colleagues on whether it goes too far or not -- I may feel in some areas it does not go far enough -- but that's why it's important to have the debates. That's why it's important for all of us to put forward those views and then for the government, as it ultimately must, to make the choice on what amendments it will accept and what amendments it will reject from the opposition.
The conflict-of-interest legislation: I believe there is a need for that kind of legislation to be changed in this province to ensure that we have honesty and everything being aboveboard, but there are people in the municipalities across this province who have made some compelling cases for changing the legislation that the government has proposed because they feel it is specifically onerous on them, more onerous perhaps than it would be on proposed legislation for members of the Ontario Legislature.
What we're seeing out there is a number of people who have retired from municipal politics because of this legislation, at least partially because of it, and some who have chosen not to run because of the legislation. Now, in some cases we have to say that's just too bad because there are specific provisions I think where there would be a consensus in this House those provisions are needed.
There are many other areas that have gone, perhaps, over the border of caution and over the border of prudence to where they intrude on the personal lives, financial lives at least, of people in this province.
There's an interesting book that has come out by one Thomas Walkom -- Dr Thomas Walkom, because he has a PhD. He was an economist at the University of Guelph and he is the columnist for the Toronto Star, formerly the columnist for the Globe and Mail. Mr Walkom could not be considered to be a right-wing ideologue. In fact, his views are probably somewhat to the left on some issues of the government in power, at least the way the government has decided to govern.
His book called Rae Days: The Rise and Follies of the NDP, produced by Key Porter Books, is available on most of the bookshelves of the province of Ontario for only $27.95. I recommend it to people of this province, and I'll tell you why I do: It is rather revealing of what has happened over the last four years in Ontario.
Mr Bradley: It is suggested by the member for Perth that it's one person's point of view. Well, David Reville was a person I always thought was forthcoming, I always thought David Reville was a person who was prepared to tell the truth and be up front with the people of this province, and he has some -- I'm not going to quote them today because I don't think this is the time, in this debate, to quote them.
Mr Bradley: The former Minister of Labour asked if I paid $27.50. Not only have I purchased one book, I have purchased several books for my NDP friends. I thought many of them were not allowed to be seen with this book, so I am now supplying them. They have found it rather revealing. But I'm not going to quote specifically from the book this afternoon because I don't want to surprise people, I like to leave people in suspense, but I can say that it's most worthwhile.
You're probably wondering, on the opposite benches, how I would relate it to this debate. I would relate it to this debate because it reveals how the views of the New Democratic Party in opposition, in its most idealistic state, have changed as it becomes a party which is interested more in power than its old philosophy. I find that most unfortunate.
Mr Bradley: The member for Chatham-Kent, who is an ardent socialist, I think, at least a social democrat -- you're not supposed to say socialist these days -- a strong, left-wing individual in his community, makes no apologies for it -- I must give him credit -- makes no apologies for it at all, still stands there. But he sits in the government benches as the Premier of this province orders a closure motion and time allocation motion to be forced on this Legislative Assembly.
I appeal to members of the government -- this is often an appeal that is not accepted, but I appeal to members of the government -- to rise up, to show your independence, to vote down this motion. I know that many of them are quite concerned about the rules of this House and are probably saying: "We can show the Premier what we think of this kind of legislation. We believe more careful and comprehensive analysis and scrutiny of this piece of legislation is necessary. For that reason, we will join with the two opposition parties in opposing this motion which would severely limit the debate and ram through a bill which does not meet the needs of all the people of this province."
I'm going to allocate some time for some of my colleagues who are eager to participate in this debate. I know the member from Vanier, which is Ottawa East, and the member for Scarborough North are both eager to participate in this debate. There may be others who come in and feel compelled to offer their suggestions on how we can persuade government members not simply to bang their desks and clap and cheer on the Premier, but to be independent minded, concerned, democratically minded individuals who are prepared to rise up.
I call upon the government members: Rise up, be the revolutionaries that you were in the past. Be new thinkers and work hard. The member for Welland-Thorold, I would suspect, will not vote for this motion. He might vote for the bill itself because he believes in NDP philosophy and policies, I think, but he does not believe and has fought in the House against the kind of closure motions and time allocation motions for which this government has become so famous.
It is ironic that an NDP government, in the past so committed to democracy, in the past so committed to the underdog, in the past so committed to parliamentary government, would be the government to bring in yet another time allocation motion and squash democracy in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
I think it's important, as indeed the member for St Catharines, the Liberal House leader, has pointed out, to go back to when the rules were changed by the current government, supposedly to expedite business in the Ontario Legislature.
I think it's important to remind people that the then government House leader, the member for Windsor-Riverside, indicated to my counterpart in the Liberal Party, Mr Elston, and myself at the time that there is no way the government would ever think of introducing a time allocation motion any more than once per session. It would be strictly confined to very significant pieces of legislation that were very important to the government of the day, and the government couldn't foresee that it would ever want to use this power more than once a session. Those were his words, not mine.
I have a list here of 17 times -- 17 times -- this government has used time allocation motions since 1991. This was the government that said: "We might have to use it once a year. We have no intention of using this time allocation mechanism as a routine way of doing business."
I'm going to stand here right now, Madam Speaker, and predict to you that not only is the government going to use time allocation on Bill 163 in the five weeks we have left -- and I'll deal with the five weeks we have left in a moment -- but I predict it's going to use it on Bill 165, the workers' compensation legislation; Bill 171, sustainable forestry; and Bill 173, long-term care. But of course they were only going to use it once per session.
Mr Eves: The member for Perth may encourage me to speak longer than I had planned. She talks about people not wanting to work. If I were a member of the government I wouldn't be opening my mouth, because we haven't been here for 17 weeks. The parliamentary calendar -- maybe you like to work a week and take a week off. Maybe you should introduce that as a piece of legislation.
Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): What about what they do to waste money and time? Read the names of rivers day after day after day. That's all you did. Talk about wasting time? You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Mr Eves: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Anyway, going back to the amount of time we've been here, I can also recall the current government House leader, the member for Hamilton Mountain, saying to Mr Elston and myself -- the former member for Bruce, who has recently resigned from the Ontario Legislature -- I can recall the current government House leader saying to both of us that now that he was the government House leader, the government would be adhering strictly to the parliamentary calendar, that it would not under any circumstances be deviating from the parliamentary calendar.
Those are his words, not mine. He has told us that several times in House leaders' meetings, and I believe he's also reiterated it during time allocation motion debates in this Legislature. He has said that he quite agreed that it should be done in a more businesslike fashion, that everybody should know what weeks of the year they were going to sit and not sit, and we would be here to do the public's business during the weeks designated on the calendar.
Mr Eves: I have the answer, so she doesn't have to answer the question. My colleague the member for St Catharines alluded to the fact that we adjourned on December 10 to come back on April 13, when the parliamentary calendar says we're supposed to be back about the middle of March. We have now been out of the Legislature since June 23 of this year. We came back on October 31, when the parliamentary calendar said we're supposed to come back the third Monday, if my memory serves me correctly, in the month of September. Why has that happened? Why have we written off over a month in this session alone? Pardon me, well over a month: 17 weeks we had off. We've lost five weeks out of the legislative calendar.
The reason we have a constituency week the week of November 7, which is next week, is because after having been back here for a month and a half, six weeks, we were then to get a week off to do constituency business because we were so busy in the previous six weeks doing the public's business that we wouldn't have time to deal with our constituents. We have a week called a constituency week because we've been working so hard at Queen's Park for the last six weeks, and then we come back and put in another four or five weeks before we adjourn for the winter break.
I have another prediction to make: We're not going to be back here the third Monday in March 1995, when we're supposed to be, again another breach of the parliamentary calendar by this government. This government has breached the parliamentary calendar far more times than it has adhered to it.
I could not believe my ears when I was down here last week to a House leaders' meeting and asked the government House leader: "Surely you're not going to take constituency week, the week of November 7, when you haven't been here for over four months? You'll have been here for one week, and then you want another week off." He said: "Oh, yes, we need the time off because the Premier is planning on travelling to China. We have ministers going here, there and everywhere." Constituency week? I didn't know the Premier's constituency was in China. Has he got a constituency office over there? He's had over four months to go to China. Why did he just happen to pick the week of November 7? He's also the individual, by the way, who dictates when this place is going to come back.
Mr Eves: "We've just taken 17 weeks off, we've come back to work for four days and now we're so tired we have to take another week off." You had 17 weeks to be in touch with your constituents. What have you been doing for the last four months?
Mr Eves: Getting around to committee work, what we have before us is a time allocation motion on Bill 163, also known as the Sewell bill or the municipal bill, out through rural Ontario. There are many components of this bill, but I'll touch on three of them that rural Ontario has problems with.
I think I can speak for rural Ontario because my constituency has more organized municipalities than any other constituency, any other riding, out of 130. I see the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs shaking his head. He's going to have to stand up and correct the record in a minute. There is no doubt that my riding has more organized municipalities than any other riding in the province of Ontario. I have in excess of 35 -- I believe it's 36 -- organized municipalities and 48 unorganized municipalities. That stacks up pretty good for the 872 in the entire province of Ontario. So I think I know whereof I speak.
With respect to rural Ontario, they have serious concerns about the planning aspects of the Sewell bill. They do not believe their concerns are being taken into account in this legislation. They have serious concerns about the wetlands designation outlined in this bill, which really amounts to property expropriation without compensation, stealing somebody's property or ordering that it cannot be built on, cannot be used. I don't think that's good legislation and I don't think it's appropriate.
If the government of the day decides that they want to issue a policy directive that you cannot use certain classes of property they choose to designate throughout the province, then they should at least have the common decency to compensate individuals for taking away their property or taking away their right to use their property.
The third aspect of the bill that people in rural Ontario have a real problem with, as the member for St Catharines has already alluded to, is the municipal conflict-of-interest provisions. They believe, and AMO is supportive of most of them in this endeavour, that this bill exacts a higher standard of conflict of interest in some instances from municipal representatives than it does for members of the Ontario Legislature or members of Parliament federally. I concur with that, and there are some serious concerns in this bill.
The member for Hastings-Peterborough alluded earlier to the number of hours that this bill has been in committee. It has been in committee for a number of hours, dealing with clause-by-clause, because of these three main problems that I explained to you that people in rural Ontario, and other parts of Ontario for that matter, have with this legislation.
The government thinks that's obstructionist, yet they didn't think that Mr Kormos's speech for 17 hours on auto insurance was obstructionist when they were on this side of the House; that was fine. But to actually sit down and work through a bill in committee and point out problems with it is obstructionist.
These four major pieces of legislation that the government wants passed before December 8, when the parliamentary calendar, by the way, ends for this session, could easily have been dealt with in committee and in the House. If the government would have come back the third Monday in September like it was supposed to, we would already have been sitting for five weeks. These things would have been dealt with by now.
The only reason these motions are necessary is because the government didn't want to work for the last six weeks. They wanted to be out doing whatever they're doing. That's the only reason it's necessary. So let's get that straight and let's make sure the public understands that. These people have been out of here for over four months, they've come back to work for one week and now they want to take a week off. I don't understand. That's why we have time allocation motions on this bill and that's why we're going to get them on the other three bills I mentioned, because they don't want to be here.
They don't want to be in question period every day. They're devoid of new ideas. They have no new significant pieces of legislation. They want to clean these off the agenda and, let me tell you, we won't be back here the third Monday in March either. We will either be on the campaign trail or we'll be waiting for a new session with a throne speech that the government will then use as an election document to go to the people. You heard it here first. I would certainly hope --
Mr Eves: The member for Perth cackles. I hear her in the background. I don't know what she's been doing for the last 17 weeks. She was supposed to be doing some constituency work sometime over the last four and a half months, but now she was back to work for four days and we want to take another week off. That's what you're voting for when you're voting for this motion, and we'll see where you stand and vote when the vote's called.
Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): As a member of the committee that dealt with Bill 163, I feel that time allocation or time closure on any bill is unacceptable, but I thought that Bill 163 was a priority with the NDP government of Ontario and I find it very surprising that they would introduce time allocation, because it affects 832 municipalities in the province of Ontario, it affects a number of organizations and it affects the public in general.
When I'm told that this very important bill is now before us and they can blame the opposition, blame committee members, because they didn't want to cooperate with the government of Ontario, it's totally false, and I'm being blunt about this, because we thought the Sewell commission, who took two years to table a report concerning planning and improving the planning process in the province of Ontario and also giving municipalities in the province of Ontario more power, more responsibility towards planning -- I will be the first one to say that planning reform in the province of Ontario is needed. It should have been introduced years ago.
But now we have reached the point where, after spending $2 million on the Sewell commission, even Mr Sewell is not satisfied with the present bill, Bill 163. He's said to AMO, he's said to the committee that he's disappointed because the government didn't follow most of his recommendations. I realize that sometime after, maybe three weeks after saying this to AMO, Mr Sewell came back and said, "Well, most of my recommendations are included," for the simple reason that he was told: "Hey, we will introduce closure, so don't worry. Your bill will go through." I call it the John Sewell bill.
Nothing is being changed. We say "streamlining the process." I say we are not streamlining the process and we are giving more responsibilities to municipalities, but at the end there's a hook: If there's a provincial interest, the minister can at any time have a veto on just about anything that's associated with planning in the province of Ontario.
Imagine having spent two years on a report on a very important bill that now the government is introducing close to 200 amendments on, and we were told, "Here's five weeks of committee work." How can a committee in five weeks deal with such an important bill? This bill, being an omnibus bill, will amend some 20 different statutes of the province of Ontario.
As pointed out by the member for St Catharines, the Local Government Disclosure of Interest Act is most important to our municipalities, to our school trustees, our municipal councillors. They want to deal with this, but at the present time they feel that they cannot respond to the needs of Bill 163 for the simple reason we don't have the definitions, we don't have the regulations. For instance, they tell municipal councillors and school trustees, "You must declare all gifts." AMO and school boards, school trustees, are asking, "Can you define what a 'gift' is?" That's only a small example. There is no definition of a gift.
I think we should take the time, and we wanted to take the time. Yesterday afternoon just before 6 o'clock, we asked the Chair of that committee, an NDP member, to sit until 12 o'clock if need be and maybe come back next week. As pointed out, next week we'll be spending most of our time in our constituency offices. I've been spending the last four months in my constituency office and I don't need another week. We could be dealing with Bill 163.
Also, what we've been told, what we've heard from different organizations or the general public in this province is that we're not improving the OMB process. As you know, the OMB process is a very difficult process. Most people are saying you need to be an expert to come before the OMB for the simple reason that it's a quasi-judicial board. You need to be an expert in transportation and planning or the environment or whatever, and people feel that they're being left out of the process.
The OMB process will still be in place, and I must say I'm glad the government amended the original bill by saying minor variances can still be appealed to the OMB. I must give them credit for that very minuscule move.
Municipalities will now be forced to have an official plan, and I am told that only 60% of our municipalities in the province of Ontario do have official plans. Under Bill 163 every municipality will need an official plan. That's a very costly matter.
A lot of our unorganized municipalities will feel left out, just like Metro. Imagine. Metro, the largest regional government in this province, representing 2.3 million people, doesn't have an official plan, and now the ministry and the minister will give approval to all planning in Metro. I don't think this is appropriate, I don't think it's fair, and it's going to be very costly for Metro if they want to abide -- they will have to abide by Bill 163 or else the planning will be done by the ministry and the minister. I think it's very unfortunate that this is the way the bill reads.
Farmers, woodlot owners, wetland owners are upset with the bill. As was pointed out, these woodlots will be taken over by this bill. Wetlands will be taken over by this bill, without any compensation. I've heard farmers telling me that they've paid taxes on these lands for 30, 35 and 40 years and now these lands will be prohibited from any development and their assessment will not change. They will still be paying the same municipal taxes. I think it's very unfair.
I know that other colleagues, other members of the committee want to address Bill 163, but I say that any time this government has introduced an omnibus bill as important as Bill 163 and introduces time allocation, this government is not a government for the people of Ontario.
Mr McLean: On the one hand I welcome the opportunity to place a few comments on the record, but on the other hand I find it highly disturbing that once again this government has chosen to seriously limit debate in this House.
We had the opportunity and we travelled this province hearing from people, listening to people, letting them have their input with regard to Bill 163. The first day of the meeting I asked the minister for the regulations and for any amendments that they may be bringing forward. The minister had neither. I asked the minister at that time what a minor variance was. He didn't appear to have the answer for that.
We're here today, as directed by the Premier, to strangle the democratic process and bring in closure. As the House leader said, we're only back in this House sitting two days and we already have a closure motion.
There were many people we listened to who had a lot of concerns. There were a lot of people who wanted some changes made in this piece of legislation. We listened to many wardens from across this province. We listened to many municipal people and we heard debate from some of the members and from the government members on how they felt the legislation could be changed.
From all of this, we had 200-and-some amendments. In all my 13-plus years that I've been here, I have never seen a piece of legislation with so many amendments. We've had some other legislation that's had 100 amendments. It's totally, totally unacceptable to be drafting legislation -- I don't know who's doing the drafting; it must be some of the colleagues of the member for London South; it's London South, I believe, Mr Winninger -- who have never drafted legislation in their life before to be doing this.
We have the parliamentary assistant, who just came in to listen to some of this debate, who tried to answer many of the questions that we had in committee. He found it very difficult to answer those questions, and the ministry staff had a lot of difficulties, because of the major piece of legislation that we had. This piece of legislation should have been three different bills. There's the Municipal Act, the Planning Act and the conflict-of-interest act.
We had some amendments we wanted to deal with, some of the amendments the Liberals had, as well as we did -- AMO wanted to have presented to the committee. We presented those amendments. There may have been one tiny amendment that passed, but all the amendments that AMO had and we had were turned down.
When you have an organization such as AMO that represents 700-plus municipalities in this province and they are not being accepted as amendments, I find some difficulty in that. I also find it difficult that when we were dealing with amendments, the ministry staff didn't feel that any of them were acceptable as much as the parliamentary assistant was.
The communities in rural Ontario had a major concern with the severance policy. They have a major concern with regard to -- I believe it's section 20 -- the erection of buildings on such land as they may deem to be contaminated or may deem to be inappropriate to be able to build on. They have put some restrictions in that I'm telling you are going to be difficult to accept.
We have had many associations, the home builders' association and some of the others, that have made some very strong recommendations. We also had the opportunity to listen to the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, who made some very good points, and we had the County Planning Directors of Ontario, who made some strong recommendations towards this bill. I don't know if there was one of those recommendations that was accepted.
Today, I'm still getting briefs from municipalities with regard to this Bill 163. I got a letter from some people who wanted to meet me the week of October 16 and 17 to discuss some amendments that they wanted to bring forward to have some input with regard to Bill 163.
We have closure today. Monday, November 14 will be the next day we'll be debating this bill in committee and, from what I gather with regard to this closure motion, we will probably only have about 30 minutes in committee. At that time there will be over 100-and-some amendments that will be deemed to have been made.
To the people out there who had input into the committee when we travelled the province, we have over 200 amendments and these people now will have no say in any of these amendments that the government has brought in. That's why I asked for some of the amendments during the hearings. Let these people have the opportunity to talk about what the government changes are going to be. These people actually have been shut out of the system, in essence. We ourselves wanted to have a look at those amendments, over 200-some amendments in a 100-page bill, which is totally, totally unacceptable in my books.
I had an amendment that I wanted to present. It was near the end, around the 200s, and it had to do with municipalities that had a 30,000 population or less, that these municipalities would not have to be included in the conflict-of-interest legislation.
There are many municipalities in northern Ontario that had input into this bill that felt they wanted to have the opportunity to not have to bother going to the OMB for approval. They felt they could make that decision in northern Ontario. Many of us felt the same way, that they could do that. But no, the legislation is changed now. That's the way Sewell wanted it, in my estimation, and that's what was in the original bill, that the severance policy would be dictated by the local municipality. Now they have changed it back whereby now you have the right to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. Unfortunately, that's what a lot of the recommendations came -- and the government looked at those very, very serious delegations and decided that it would allow that to revert back to that.
When we look at this bill and we look at the closure motion, and when we talk to the AMO people and we talk about the planning process and the private developers, and we look at the amount of days, whether it's 180 days or three years -- they've changed the two years to three years that you can continue to have the plan, and then you've got to reapply.
When we're looking at the GTA and the communities outside of the GTA, they have altogether different priorities, and I understand that, but this bill, with closure, with 100-and-some amendments not even being debated in committee -- they're all simply going to be deemed to have been made -- I find that really unacceptable in dealing with legislation in this province. Both House leaders have said that if we had been back here at the appropriate time according to the calendar we've got, then we would have been able to do the proper business of this House, and we can't do that because we were not here in time to do it.
I wanted to put a few things on record with regard to this non-confidence motion that's before us. I've attended pretty near every day in committee. The people who had their say, in my estimation, are being shut out of the process because with all these amendments they now have no input. We're going to have half an hour in committee on the 14th of this month, the bill will be passed within a day or two and it will be final.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I wasn't looking forward to debating this motion because I didn't think that this New Democratic Party government would bring about a closure of this nature on this bill especially. It is in that sense that I am disappointed that one has to rise to speak on this closure motion. I still have that little feeling in my heart that they'll come to their senses and become democratic in their process. Basically, like the rest of the people in Ontario, I've lost faith completely with this government to govern at all in a very democratic way.
You heard my colleague say that we've been off from this Legislature to conduct the business of the province for almost four months. We've been off since June 23 and we returned just a couple of days ago, October 31. Lo and behold, we found that this government, which is scared to be in the House to be accountable to the people, running scared immediately, thought that we should go back to our constituencies and maybe attend to matters there.
I've been attending to matters all along in the time that I have been in this House regularly. Constituency week at this time is completely unnecessary and, as a matter of fact, a way to hide from being accountable to the people of this province.
Madam Speaker, you know of course that as we return on the 14th, we will be out of here again, I think, December 8. My golly. Then in the meantime to say to the people of the province that we're running out of time, we're not able to do the business of the day and we'll have to put closures on many of the bills -- of course, you heard one of my colleagues talk about more closure coming here. As you sit there, Madam Speaker, you hold also my word that there will be more closures to other bills that will come in here, because they're running scared, don't want to be accountable to the people or even answer the questions that will be put forward. This is really a sad time.
As a matter of fact, as I reflect, I was in the House in the time when members of that party were debating some of the things that were put forward by our government, David Peterson at the time, the Liberal government, and they spoke for long hours. One famous member of theirs spoke for 17 hours in the House, seeing that they would more or less delay a bill that we were putting through. We did not put closure through. No, we continued to say that they have that democratic right to speak and let people hear the debate put forward.
I will continue with that. What happened? Lo and behold, they became the government of the day, and I'm sure they will put more closure into this Parliament than any other government in the time that they will spend.
But there's a good side to all of this in this wonderful democratic country. The day will come, and it can't be too soon, that the people will speak with their Xs and mark this New Democratic government out of office for this very undemocratic way that it has conducted the business of this province.
Let me just directly go to Bill 163, because I could speak for hours on this too. Bill 163, Madam Speaker, as you know, with all the fanfare -- and someone I've worked with, Sewell, has done a report on this -- was acclaimed and was trumpeted into this House when this report came out. The government of the day immediately proceeded to put legislation to that report: Bill 163.
Mr Sewell himself was extremely disappointed to see what the report he had done after, he himself admitted, going around the province, having some views of his own: "I was changed dramatically by what the people wanted, because they really want an organized effort on how the municipalities conduct their business, and how businesses were concerned about how things were done. So here is the report, not my report," he said, "but the people's report of what they saw and how things could be changed. Now, government, get together and put your heads together and put the legislation together that will reflect the needs of the people." He was extremely disappointed at what came out.
We go through the process to the people. This government said, "Let's go out to the people," and we spent approximately 14 days outside in committees around the province. I went to every single one and I heard people voicing their objections to many sections of this. As a matter of fact, while we were hearing that, and AMO came forward with a massive amount of amendments to this, while we were hearing all of that, did you know, Madam Speaker, that the government itself brought in a massive amount of amendments to the same legislation that they brought in?
There were 250 amendments brought in to this little, tiny Bill 163: 250. Of course you will ask me, Madam Speaker, and the people out there are wondering, "Did all those amendments belong to the opposition?" But 140 amendments came from the government. They themselves said, "This Bill 163 we have, we ain't got it right yet, so we will put 140 amendments in to correct it."
The parliamentary assistant, the member for Essex-Kent, sat there really surprised, as a matter of fact, as the honourable gentleman that he is. He said to us in the committee, "Yes, we have amendments." Sometimes they were changing it as it went along. We were in some sections and he said to us: "Could we stand down the entire section? Because awaiting us in the corridor are more amendments coming in to fill that big gap we have there."
Madam Speaker, you'd be surprised the members who sat there didn't even understand the bill themselves. They brought the SWAT team in. Every day we had a new SWAT team explaining the bill that the government should have, and I want to take my hat off to the civil servants who came there. They did a very good job trying to explain what the government was thinking, and I want to say to them they did an excellent job. They came about 5% near to what they were thinking. However, 140 amendments came in from the government, and the other 110 came in from the Liberals and the Conservatives. So they knew they were in trouble with this bill. They knew that something was wrong, that it wasn't right.
AMO came in with a number of amendments and said, "Listen, we are in touch, more so than you, with those municipalities, and they are concerned." Of course I would concede that AMO is more in touch with the municipality than, you would say, the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party or the NDP. So we listened very carefully and, Madam Speaker, you know how much that impact of closure should be.
So here we are. We got back into the House to do clause-by-clause. We do clause-by-clause and as we go along, even while we were doing their own amendments that the honourable member from Durham West -- you should hear it, Madam Speaker. We in the opposition would stay back while the member for Durham West argued among their members about what is right, what is wrong, what should be in it.
Sometimes the poor parliamentary assistant, as I tell you, who I know hasn't seen the doors of cabinet, was trying to represent his minister there, and I think he's an honourable and capable man. I was quite surprised that he was not called into those inner chambers when they were doing their little shuffle, and he should be there because that could have helped you somehow.
But, Madam Speaker -- and, as you change, Mr Speaker. What a conversion there; one minute you look around, and they change the Speaker. But, Mr Speaker, when they look around, the member for Durham West himself went against the grain of the whipped-in caucus of the NDP and voted sometimes against some of those amendments. But I think they're called in as a caucus. They use the caucus quite often because it is in trouble.
Closure on this bill is so undemocratic. The people outside would like to see the debate. They want to know what's going to come about. They're going to look in a very undemocratic way and turn around and say: "None of these amendments by the AMO, none of these amendments by the opposition members will be ever reviewed again. We will consider everything here as being what we want or what we had placed and to be a given."
That is a rather painful thing to feel in this very undemocratic NDP, who came in and said, "We speak for the people and we of course are in touch." Even Mr Sewell, who we know was quite familiar with the NDP, quite sympathetic to their philosophy, is today being disillusioned by the way they think, the way they carry out their work. He feels: "I have given up. I will no longer feel that I can be responsible and feel authored to the fact that I made all these changes to 163, to the Planning Act."
There were people, as we went around, who were concerned that they didn't have an opportunity to make any presentation because of the short time. They said the amount of change that was happening -- a massive change of how the municipalities will conduct themselves in many, many areas. I don't want to get into any part of that legislation now, because there are so many things that people were concerned about, but they were concerned that the opportunity to make themselves heard in this committee was denied, because this government wanted to rush things in so that when they come back and ask for an election, they can say, "We have done all of this." That's not the way you do things, to count them, and to do it badly, to rush it.
Here is the Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance which had written to us. They felt even today, and I hope they are listening, that they had an opportunity. They want to get in. They want to meet with us to talk about Bill 163, because they know that it "affects our collective membership." They say, "We express apologies for this unexpected imposition on the time and the patience of its caucus" -- because we were ready, the Liberal caucus, to hear them -- "but the extraordinary haste in which this provincial government is now proceeding with Bill 163 calls for matching urgency in advocating its searching review."
They still believe they have an opportunity to make their presentation, to make their thoughts known in regard to Bill 163, and hope they can make a difference. Somehow they thought this would make the difference for them to make their presentation.
Mr Speaker, through you and through the great media -- I hope they're listening -- that is shot now. No longer will they have that opportunity. And then this government sits here and says, "Bill 163 is about communities and how they will govern themselves properly, because they are the only ones who will be able to say to themselves, 'We are able to develop our community the way we want'" -- no way. AMO has been denied, this organization has been denied to be heard, the opposition has been denied to have any amendments to all of this, and then they will turn around and say to them, "Yes, this is about communities and how they can govern themselves."
I'll use this last five minutes to appeal to the conscience of this New Democratic Party, this democratic party that talks about democracy and involvement of all the people. I know there's a conscience in each one's mind there to say to themselves, "Don't do closure on this." Do the big thing. Say to yourselves, "You know what, I really don't believe that the people have gotten the chance to be heard, that amendments have gotten the opportunity to be examined and re-examined."
In the process of amendments, as you know, looking at amendments, what it does is it gives an understanding of the legislation. So much legislation has been passed daily through this House and no one outside has a clue what it's all about. It's been rushed through. Then we go back to the sense that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Yes, it's an excuse, because you're quickly rushing it through without the people having an understanding.
I may start with the members of the committee. I'm going to start with the member for Essex-Kent who I thought tried his best or he listened in some respect. Changes weren't coming about really, but he listened. I'm going to say to him, as the Chair at the time on that committee, to think about it. You were there all along, patiently listening to them all and patiently watching people whom we tried to schedule who were not even on that at the time to say: "We have come this far. We give you 10 minutes or 15 minutes to say your piece." Hundreds were shut out. I say to you, yes, those knocks on the door can be appealed to now and go back to your minister, who I had hoped would have visited us one day in committee, and say to him, "Mr Minister, I think we should really not put closure on this; there's a lot to be heard."
The other members, who from time to time were on the committee as we went around, listened and made their little shots and came in to get some photo ops and all that -- I know that's a part of the game, how to put their own views in their community in; to say to themselves, has your community that had appealed to you got an opportunity to have your amendments even heard? I know they have the numbers on there, I know they've got the numbers and they will vote it down if they don't want it. But the courtesy of it all, the basic principle of democracy is to be heard and I'm saying to you, go back to those basic principles and say: "Let us hear them. Let us hear them and not put closure on this bill."
There are so many important things that will happen in this legislation, this omnibus bill, this large bill that will change many things within there, within the legislation, within how we conduct ourselves in the municipality.
Let us start hearing from these people so they will have a better understanding why we're not even voting on these amendments, why we are turning it down. Those members there, as you sit there, please think about that. The others, who may be told that you should vote along with what the minister wants or the Premier wants, don't be like that, don't be led blind into all of this, because it's going to affect you. The people in your community will come back and say: "I don't even know what's in that bill. I don't understand it. I understand there were some amendments."
The colleague from the third party had mentioned how, when they started out, some of the proceedings will go through the municipal board. The fact is that after a time they've decided it will not go through there and after a time it will revert back to what normally they used to do. They saw the light in some respects, and you know why they did that and you know why you all did that? Because there were presentations and there were appeals upon appeals to say the process will not work the way they had suggested. That's democracy: legislation for the people and by the people. And all of a sudden this New Democratic Party who doubted all of that kind of philosophy once upon a time has now realized that the time has come when they have to act on some of the things they believe in.
No wonder, when I read this book, Rae Days, I thought really that it is something you all should have required reading about, because it tells you how this illusion -- some of the NDP members themselves, who feel they have been guided by a blindfold situation. The fact is that quotations and remarks are coming from NDP members and I will say to them, isn't this the time that you should then, at the night that is coming now, on the day it will come out, when you have to say to yourself, "I have to come back to my own principles and say, 'Let us be democratic, let the people be heard,'" and for God's sake, or for whoever's sake it is, let them not put closure and block the people out from being heard.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Mr Speaker, I'd like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to this closure motion. I'm somewhat disappointed that the government has decided today to move closure on Bill 163.
I suppose the thought I would like to put forward is that the government spent a tremendous amount of time in committee trying to get all kinds of people to come forward and comment on the bill, which is certainly a worthy thing to do. I certainly applaud the government for doing just that, and travelling the province and asking constituents what they think of Bill 163.
When they go out and ask constituents what they think, they should be prepared, if they're going to go through that exercise, to also follow up and sit in the committee stage and hear the amendments those people bring forward in hopes of improving the piece of legislation they're offering up.
The legislation as written was clearly flawed. The government itself will admit that the legislation as written, presented to this House on first and second reading, was clearly flawed. It was flawed because it was legislation with 85 sections and the government has offered up 140 amendments to an 85-section bill. I'm not saying that's bad. Maybe that's a government that's prepared to look at some legislation and changes to legislation in order to make it a little bit more palatable for the people who must live under that piece of legislation.
But if this government is prepared to offer 140 amendments to an 85-section bill, it should hear about those changes from the opposition parties and from those people who made representation to it at committee, and you can't hear from the people when you move closure. That's an unreasonable, unfair motion that is not accepting of the responsibility of a government to hear from the people when legislation has been introduced.
There are lots of closure motions this government moves, and there are closure motions that possibly -- possibly -- can be argued. But this closure motion can't be argued with any seriousness. The argument is simply that the legislative calendar that's left does not provide enough time to allow opposition parties to voice the concerns that have been registered at public hearings across this province, and the only reason the legislative calendar does not offer appropriate time is because this government chose not to come back to work for five weeks.
That is not the opposition parties' fault. That is not the fault of those people who came to the committee in good faith and asked for changes. That's not the fault of the ministry, which offered upwards of 200 amendments to an 85-section bill. That's the fault of you: You're at fault for this closure motion. There may be no blame placed on this side of the House.
If we came back in September when the legislative calendar said we should come back, we would've been provided with ample time to deal with this bill. We would've been provided with ample time to deal with the 200 amendments before the committee. We would've been provided with ample time to debate this as it should be debated, because it's a very controversial piece of legislation.
One of the most controversial parts of this legislation is the conflict-of-interest guidelines surrounding elected officials at the local level, and not one minute of debate was provided for that and not one amendment was moved by this government, though it offered up so many changes to the legislation. That's unconscionable. That's unconscionable because the only reason it wasn't put before that committee and isn't going to be put before this House is because you didn't come back to work for five weeks. That really frustrates me, and I know it frustrates those people who came before the committee and asked to be heard.
We on this side of the House in this party understand that this government has a majority, and we understand that at the committee level this government will outvote us, and we understand that in this chamber, when debate is finished, we will more than likely lose if the government disagrees with us. We understand all that. We understand that you have a majority and we understand that the will of your caucus and your cabinet and your Premier will rule the day.
What we in this party fail to understand or comprehend or consider fair and evenhanded is why you must move closure on pieces of legislation like this, that impacts everyone outside of Metropolitan Toronto in this province, when you didn't come back to work for five weeks. I don't understand it. I don't think it's fair, I don't think it's reasonable, and it frustrates us in opposition to the highest order.
I know this piece of legislation is not going to work in a lot of sections. I know the amendments offered by the government are in good conscience, but I know I could make some changes or offer some advice that could in fact make it a better bill. There are 50-odd people on this side of the House who have some ideas that would make this piece of legislation work. There were hundreds of constituents who came forward and offered salient, thoughtful deputations to improve this piece of legislation.
None of it will be given the time or the airing it deserves, only for one simple reason: This government didn't come back to work for five weeks. There can be a lot of reasons for closure, and maybe some of them are acceptable, but one reason that is unacceptable, unconscionable and unfair is that you won't show up to work.
There's no more debate with respect to this closure. There are no special rules of procedure that this government can bring forward. There's no legitimate argument the House leader for the government can bring forward. There's no tangible, real evidence that this government has a salient or arguable point for moving closure other than the fact that it is boldly, obviously and dangerously embarrassed by its lack of willingness to work.
I am ashamed to stand in this House and have to speak to this closure motion because 70-odd members across the floor are tired of coming in here, are embarrassed by their government, and are ashamed of what they've done because they won't stand before the people in the House you were elected to stand in and defend your actions on a day-to-day basis.
Closure on Bill 163 stinks. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the most painful and obvious and downright despicable motions this government has brought forward -- not based on philosophy, not based on ideology, not based on fact, not based on committee report, not based on committee hearings, not based on amendments, but based solely on the idea that they don't come to work and that if they don't come to work, we don't come to work, and: "To hell with the opposition, to hell with your voices. We'll just shut you down." Shame on you, government.
Mr David Johnson (Don Mills): Perhaps to build on the last speech by my colleague from Etobicoke West, we are talking about the Planning Act in the province of Ontario, and the Planning Act affects each of us where we live in our communities. It affects where we live, it affects where we work, it affects all aspects of our life.
The Planning Act governs the municipalities in terms of where they permit houses to be built, under what conditions houses can be built, the process where industry is constructed, retail stores are constructed -- basically where all of Ontario is built. It is an issue that is very close to home and impacts on each and every one of us in the province of Ontario, and it deserves the full attention of this Legislature.
It deserves to be fully debated, it deserves that we give our attention to each and every clause and that we are prepared to hear all of the deputations from all the municipalities across Ontario and be able to, on a clause-by-clause basis, analyse their concerns throughout the whole bill, all 100 pages of this bill, all 250 amendments that have been put forward to this bill, about half of those by the government itself.
With closure, we do not get that opportunity. We do not get the opportunity to scrutinize the bill, to make sure that a bill that is important to each and every one of us in the province of Ontario, that will affect our future in the province of Ontario, is given its full scrutiny and is the best bill that we can make for the people of the province of Ontario.
There is a need to streamline municipal government. All levels of government tax too much, spend too much and regulate too much. The planning process in Ontario can indeed be time-consuming, inefficient and expensive, and it's complicated by the involvement of numerous ministries, agencies and departments at both the provincial and municipal levels of government.
This bill does set out time lines -- for example, six months for an official plan amendment -- which perhaps will speed up the process. But it also introduces complications, complications that we have not had the full opportunity to debate in the committee. These complications could well increase the uncertainty in the planning process and could slow down the planning process and therefore be counterproductive.
I believe when this bill was contemplated in the first instance the concerns were with regard to environmental protection and, indeed, we know that a concern of this particular government is social policy. So this bill and the six policy statements that accompany this bill are geared towards the environment and geared towards social policy; they are not geared towards planning in the province of Ontario, and they are certainly not geared towards economic development in the province of Ontario.
Economic development should be the focus now; economic development to cut through the red tape of planning, to allow construction to occur more quickly, to permit jobs to be created. That is definitely not the focus of the bill. That is an add-on as an afterthought to this particular bill, and it is very poorly dealt with.
Just in my few short minutes left I'll say that one of the concerns that the construction industry has put forward, the home builders' association, for example, is that the wording in the policy statements and the wording in the bill itself is vague.
I point out that development will not be permitted in significant ravine, valley, river and stream corridors. Now that sounds simple enough, but the problem is, what does the word "significant" mean? Well, the word "significant" is poorly defined, and the poor definition ultimately indicates that we need to look to the regulations. So we really don't know what the word means; the construction industry does not know what the word means; the local municipalities will not know; those who are interested in the planning process will not know. It will be a complicating factor. It will be a hook on which to appeal development. It will slow down development.
There are other phrases used within the bill itself. The purpose apparently is "to promote sustainable economic development in a healthy natural environment." I asked the staff of Municipal Affairs, "What does that mean?" They couldn't tell me. They said they really didn't know. There are words laced throughout the act of that nature and words throughout the six policy statements accompanying the act that are not well defined, that will be sore points in the planning process, that will cause appeals that will slow down the planning process.
The six policy statements are directives imposed on all of Ontario. They're imposed on Toronto, they're imposed on Thunder Bay, they're imposed on the city of Ottawa; right across, rural, urban, all aspects of Ontario have these policy statements imposed upon them, and the municipalities must be consistent. There is no flexibility.
From a rural setting to an urban setting the municipalities must be consistent with these policies, whether they make sense or whether they don't make sense, whether there are local conditions where the people can agree on a course of action or not. The municipalities are put in a straitjacket. This will certainly be a hindrance to planning in Ontario.
Finally, I would just like to say that there is going to be a considerable cost to implementing Bill 163. Municipalities will be required, and there's no doubt about that, to update their official plans where their official plans are not in accordance with these policy statements. They'll have to do that. Every five years they're being compelled to do that. That will be enormously costly. It'll be a great boon for consultants, planners and lawyers, but it'll be tremendously costly to municipalities. That is what they call downloading, and I think that's most unfortunate.
Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): I'm pleased to rise and to speak for just a few short moments on Bill 163. I think it goes without saying, and you've heard it many times this afternoon, that I and my colleagues in the Ontario PC caucus are absolutely appalled that once again the NDP government is using its majority to close down public debate on this legislation and that the government is once again bringing in closure on a piece of legislation that is fundamental to the future of this province and a piece of legislation that needs more public debate, because what we've heard and what we've seen in committee and what the bill now contains is a bunch of hogwash.
The government claims that it's streamlining the planning process in this province. They're doing everything but streamlining the planning process in this province. For example, I think of the costs and the new bureaucracy being created by the planning section of Bill 163, which requires upper-tier municipalities and lower-tier municipalities to have official plans. That is a ridiculous duplication of effort, of time, of cost and of resources.
It seems to me in the area that I represent, which is a mix of rural and urban Ontario, that one level of government should do the official plan and not both, that it is indeed duplication and a waste of resources to put everybody through the same hoops and over the same hurdles, because we're dealing with the same piece of land, and surely to goodness, when you're dealing with the same piece of land, you don't need two governments, upper- and lower-tier municipalities and the provincial government, all bidding to have their way with this piece of land and with the property owners.
This bill flies in the face of property owners in this province and a right that they should have, a fundamental right that they should have, and that's property rights under our constitution. This government fails to recognize that that should be a fundamental right of people in this province. It's something that land owners and private citizens in my riding have consistently called for, and it's something that this government simply ignores and of course complicates matters with Bill 163.
Briefly, we received an excellent brief from the Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance, OPERA. The members of that alliance include the Association of Rural Property Owners, the Georgian Triangle Development Institute from my area of the province, Grey Association for Democracy and Growth, Niagara Escarpment Landowners Coalition, Ontario Citizens for Responsible Government, Ontario Ski Resorts Association -- both the member for Grey-Owen Sound, Mr Murdoch, and I have a number of ski resorts in our ridings, and the owners, operators and employees of those resorts are very worried about Bill 163 -- the Ontario Taxpayers Federation, the Ontario Woodlot and Sawmill Owners Association and the Voice of King Area Landowners.
"We find Bill 163 to be repressive, misdirected, overly complicated, expensive, ideologically driven, economically counterproductive and extremely undemocratic." They certainly don't mince words. "The people most impacted, farmers, woodlot owners, rural residents and recreational property owners, will be forced to pay higher taxes to implement urban-oriented policies they neither need nor want.
"Rural landowners' property rights are arbitrarily extinguished in the name of environmental protection by urban policymakers who have no investment, sense of responsibility and cannot be held accountable for their actions. The impacts on farmers will be unnecessary regulations which devalue their properties. Rural communities will experience a cessation of growth and economic activity. If every land owner whose property is devalued by the removal of the right to erect buildings, use existing buildings or create lots appealed their assessment, the true magnitude and cost of this 'land grab' would become apparent.
"Local politicians should pause before passing restrictive bylaws which confiscate property rights. They must consider the potential for reassessment and a smaller tax base. Provincial politicians should be aware of the costs to a provincial treasury which will be forced to supplement the resulting municipal deficits. The economic implications of this bill to rural Ontario cannot be ignored. The protection of the environment is a worthy goal, but the taxpayers deserve to be told who will pay and what the costs will be. In its present form, Bill 163 is totally irresponsible and should not be passed either now or in the future."
I could not have summarized the concerns of many of my constituents better than what OPERA has provided to us. They go on to make 10 recommendations, the greatest of which is that this bill should be withdrawn, that more public debate must be allowed on this important issue which affects the future of all Ontarians and, most importantly, affects those of us in rural Ontario because it means the end to development, the end to growth in rural Ontario. John Sewell messed up Metropolitan Toronto. This government has given him a contract to mess up rural Ontario. We reject that. We will continue to fight.
Unfortunately, this government has decided to use its majority. Something that used to be seen in the Soviet Union is now here, alive and well in Ontario. It's called dictatorship from the top. That's what Bill 163 is about. That's what the process has been about.
We reject that. We stick up for rural Ontario and we're going to keep fighting for the good citizens of my area, in Simcoe West and Grey and throughout rural Ontario, because we think this government is misdirected, is lost, and its ideology deserves to be put on the scrap heap of garbage that will be recorded in the history books when history looks at the record of the NDP government in Ontario over the past four years.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I welcome the opportunity, though brief in the light of the length of this session, to comment on Bill 163 and our socialist government's usual efforts to ram legislation down the throats of the residents of Ontario.
Judging by the stacks of correspondence and submission papers in my office, I could stand here for hours, maybe even days, talking about the detrimental effect this bill will have on development in Ontario. However, due to this government's continual denial of our right to debate, I'm only afforded minutes to speak on behalf of my constituents, on behalf of the property owners in this province, which, not unlike the committee hearings, is likely an effort in futility, because you don't listen to what the people have to say anyway.
I'll take the small scrap of time you've thrown me, and with the clock ticking I'll get straight to the point. In a nutshell, Bill 163 amounts to nothing more than petty theft on the part of this government. The rights associated with property ownership form one of the basic foundations of democratic society.
It is no secret that I'm a strong supporter of private property rights, which I feel are intrinsic to the free enterprise economic structure of this country. Last year, even Russia enshrined property rights in its first truly democratic Constitution. Apparently, the Russians understand that property rights promote social stability and economic growth. Unfortunately, this stand of logic accepted by countries around the globe continues to elude the Ontario government.
According to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, there are three underlying principles on which Bill 163 is based: (1) Municipalities will be given a greater role in land use planning and development approvals; (2) streamlining the planning process to permit environmentally sound development proposals to proceed more quickly, creating more jobs in the construction industry; (3) ensuring that the environment is better protected through a comprehensive set of policy statements.
First, the requirement for all official plans to be consistent with the provincial policy statements totally deprives local municipalities from playing any meaningful role in future planning matters. In addition, I am incapable of comprehending how this government can argue that Bill 163 will further empower municipalities, and then include as part of the same bill a section which outlines the type of development plans and establishes development planning areas which may be approved by the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
We definitely have a contradiction here. You assert that one proposal of Bill 163 is to empower municipalities and provide for more local autonomy, while at the same time in schedule A, the Ontario Planning and Development Act, 1994, you allocate more approval powers to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It doesn't make sense.
The Ontario Cattlemen's Association in its brief states that Bill 163: "takes away the flexibility of local elected councils and boards related to planning issues and places it in a centralized bureaucratic structure. This point is evidenced in the proposed purpose section to be added to the act where it states '...to provide for a land use planning system led by provincial policy.'
"What is not stated is that local councils and boards will have their hands tied by central bureaucrats using policy statements. We view this change as a coup d'état for the central bureaucrats over the authority and autonomy of locally elected councils."
With respect to principle 3, streamlining the planning process is more a façade than a reality. The proposed changes to the Planning Act purport to support streamlining through time frames and screening of appeals. I believe, for a number of reasons, that both of these are unsatisfactory and that other opportunities to shorten the process have been completely overlooked.
In addition, I foresee very few new jobs being created in the construction industry because few, if any, new development proposals will ever be considered environmentally sound. This will be especially hard on areas of the province such as my riding, which is mostly rural and where an entire host of new environmental concerns has been added to the list of factors which must be considered before any new development can ever begin.
For example, section 20 of the bill uses subjective words like "significant" to outlaw all forms of development or land use in any "significant natural corridor, feature or area." This section alone could be interpreted to include every square foot of my riding and perhaps even the entire province.
Finally, with respect to environmental protection, I question whether the environment will ever be truly protected by the overly comprehensive policy statements of this bill. When land owners -- yes, I am referring to private property owners, which you people wouldn't understand, the most evil of them all, as you've said -- become aware of the potential ramifications of these policy statements, they will eventually realize their property rights are being quite deliberately stolen out from under them.
As an example, I have in my hand a letter from two very concerned -- no, actually two very angry and frightened -- constituents of mine. This couple lives in Kimberley, and as rural property owners living in the controlled Niagara Escarpment corridor they are quite familiar with development control. Now, as if they don't have enough to worry about with the NEC, to add insult to injury they are faced with the negative implications of Bill 163.
The letter reads: "After having worked continuously for over 45 years, and having paid taxes in this province for all these years, home ownership represents our combined life savings and is the only security net that we have. This is our only home and not a second home or cottage. The Niagara Escarpment Commission and government agencies are deliberately depressing the value of properties on NEC-controlled lands by putting increasingly stringent controls on these lands. What enrages us now are two provisions in the proposed Bill 163:
What this means is that the government can take their land away without true compensation. The problem is that they won't get the true value for their land because of these controls that have been put on by the government and government agencies.
What's happened is that our rights have been away from us as an opposition party to debate these things. We have sent our committees out and have gone around the province and heard from people. Now the government comes back with a hundred mistakes it made in its first bill, but the people of this province will not have a chance to debate these concerns. The government first of all creates a bill and then ruins the bill with another hundred mistakes it made. This is a farce and this undemocratic government is ramming more things down our throats.
Mr Pat Hayes (Essex-Kent): I do find it very interesting when the opposition gets up and says it hasn't had enough time, that there hasn't been enough consultation on this bill. It's very, very interesting that this bill -- as a matter of fact, Open Local Government, members would recall, was first introduced in a discussion paper back in April 1990, and it died on the order paper.
As a matter of fact, on the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, in the spring of 1990 the Minister of Municipal Affairs released a discussion paper which highlighted issues and concerns surrounding municipal conflict of interest.
In 1991 a consultation committee was put together and toured the province, holding 24 public meetings. The committee was composed of 11 members representing AMO, the Ontario School Trustees' Council, the Law Society of Upper Canada, local government bodies, citizens' associations and the journalism and academic fields. It received 250 submissions and prepared a report containing its recommendations for change. That was in 1991.
Open Local Government proposed changes in three important areas. It proposed changes to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. It also proposed that council and local board meetings be more open, and rules to govern the sale of lands by a municipality. More than 550 submissions were received in response to Open Local Government.
Then in 1992, in the interests of fair and workable legislation, the government agreed to an AMO suggestion and established the provincial-local government working group. The group reviewed the submissions against the draft, the Open Local Government legislation, and reported in 1992.
That working group was composed of 10 members, AMO again, the Association of Francophone Municipalities of Ontario, the Municipal Electric Association, the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association, l'Association française des conseils scolaires de l'Ontario and the Association franco-ontarienne des conseils d'écoles catholiques.
The opposition talks about the 200-and-some amendments. They fail to tell the Legislature that half of them were theirs. Of course, they carbon-copied them from someone else. The member for Simcoe East -- and this is an example of one of those amendments -- said that he had an amendment that would exempt municipalities of under 30,000 population from the disclosure of interest. Out of the 817 municipalities, that would exempt 700 of them. Does that make sense? I don't think it makes sense at all, because the fact of the matter is that 40% of the conflict-of-interest complaints come from municipalities of 5,000 and less. So tell me if that makes sense.
At the same time, I do get quite a kick out of the PCs especially. One of their members gets up here and criticizes Sewell, says he doesn't know anything, and then the other member from the same party, Mr Wilson, gets up and criticizes this government for not doing everything that Sewell said. I think they should really get themselves together.
Mr Hayes: They're complaining about not having enough time. That is not the problem. When the schedule of the fall sitting was set, it was set in anticipation that because we gave the opposition all the time that they asked for in committee, we felt that would be sufficient to review the bill, but the opposition decided not to allow the bill to finish. It made almost no progress at all in the clause-by-clause. The people of Ontario shouldn't have to wait forever for planning reform in this province.
I wish I had more time to speak. The mayor of Vaughan, for example, said that full disclosure of conflict of interest should be mandatory for anyone in public office. Many of them have said it's legislation that's well overdue.
Mr Jim Wilson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd ask that Mr Hayes correct the record. I did not say Sewell was right; I said Sewell was wrong. How dare he get up here and misrepresent what I just said in this House a few minutes ago?
Abel, Allen, Boyd, Buchanan, Carter, Charlton, Christopherson, Churley, Cooke, Cooper, Coppen, Dadamo, Farnan, Fletcher, Frankford, Gigantes, Grier, Haeck, Harrington, Haslam, Hayes, Hope, Jamison, Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings), Klopp, Lankin, Laughren, Lessard, Mackenzie, MacKinnon, Malkowski, Marchese, Martel, Martin, Mathyssen, Mills, Murdock (Sudbury), O'Connor, Owens, Perruzza, Philip (Etobicoke-Rexdale), Pilkey, Pouliot, Rizzo, Sutherland, Ward, Waters, Wessenger, White, Wilson (Frontenac-Addington), Wilson (Kingston and The Islands), Winninger, Wiseman, Wood, Ziemba.
Arnott, Bradley, Brown, Caplan, Carr, Crozier, Cunningham, Curling, Daigeler, Eddy, Eves, Fawcett, Grandmaître, Hodgson, Johnson (Don Mills), Jordan, Mahoney, Marland, McLean, Morin, Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound), Murphy, Offer, O'Neil (Quinte), O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau), Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt), Poirier, Poole, Runciman, Ruprecht, Stockwell, Turnbull, Wilson (Simcoe West).