ONTARIO HIGHWAY TRANSPORT BOARD AND PUBLIC VEHICLES AMENDMENT ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA COMMISSION DES TRANSPORTS ROUTIERS DE L'ONTARIO ET LA LOI SUR LES VÉHICULES DE TRANSPORT EN COMMUN
"I invite you to come to speak with me over dinner in a congenial manner to discuss the reasons why I, like many other physicians, am on the brink of ending my career in family medicine. You will not see anger, but you may see tears in my eyes."
The health care system is in crisis in the towns of New Liskeard and Kirkland Lake, which I represent. Just about half the doctors in New Liskeard are planning to leave. Two have gone to the United States; five more now have engaged the services of recruiters who are actively recruiting our northern doctors.
This is a time bomb. This is just the very beginning of the doctors who are leaving Ontario. It's a province-wide phenomenon. Doctors who have access to the OMA members' forum on the World Wide Web tell me that hundreds of doctors are signing off from Ontario.
Our medical graduates are also planning not to practise in this province. After spending $2 million to $3 million on these bright young men and women in Ontario, they are leaving for greener pastures in the United States.
I implore the Minister of Health to stop what he's doing right now and prevent this crisis from happening. We are on the brink of losing hundreds and hundreds of some of our brightest men and women who have put in a lot of years in Ontario and those who have put in a lot of hard work in our universities.
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): The legitimate concern, the lament, emanating from the people of Lake Nipigon continues. Hundreds of people in my riding have taken the time to voice their anger and frustration at this government's arbitrary decision to simply dismantle OPP services in northwestern Ontario.
Because of cutbacks, residents of Schreiber, Terrace Bay, Upsala and Manitouwadge now have to travel for up to two hours along often treacherous highways to get certain OPP services. Travelling along Highway 17, as you may know, Mr Speaker, on the north shore of Lake Superior during winter is not a pleasant journey; most hazardous, indeed.
When people need OPP assistance, they expect to speak to a real person when they arrive at the station, only too often to find that the doors are locked, nobody to address their concerns to, no one available. Once again, rural communities such as Manitouwadge in the great riding of Lake Nipigon are being deprived of services they are entitled to receive.
Later in the House, as part of routine proceedings, I will present a petition which is signed by close to 1,000 residents of our riding demanding essential services that they so rightly deserve and that Torontonians take for granted.
Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): Along with my distinguished colleague from Etobicoke-Humber, this past weekend I had the pleasure of addressing a delegation on the opening day of a week-long conference held here in Toronto. The name of the conference is the Canada-Ukraine Business Exchange, in which over 100 business leaders from Ukraine are participating. More than 80 of them are with us today in the public galleries.
This week's important conference has been organized to assist Ukraine in better meeting those challenges. Ukraine is a large country of 60 million enterprising, hardworking people. It has an abundance of natural resources and a groundswell of intellectual and technical expertise to share with the countries of the industrialized western world.
I am proud that Canada was the first country to recognize Ukraine as a free state in 1991. I'm equally proud that in 1996, Ukrainian business leaders have come to Ontario to deepen our mutual economic cooperation and partnership. On behalf of the Ontario government, I salute all participants in the Canada-Ukraine Business Exchange and assure them of our commitment to working with them towards the goal of ever-expanding trade relationships between Ontario and Ukraine.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): The Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation is aware of the Underground Railroad and the significant role it has played in the rich history of this great country. One such area is Holland township, south of Owen Sound. Many blacks had settled, raised families and contributed to the economic wellbeing of the region.
As far back as 1851, it was recorded in historical documents that the name Negro Creek Road was established in that vicinity. It has recently come to my attention that this road has been renamed Moogie Road. This name was changed with total disregard for this most significant historical contribution.
The Ontario Historical Society, the Oro-Medonte History Committee and the Ontario Black History Society, to name but a few, are concerned about the threat of tampering with Ontario's documented history. I urge the Minister of Citizenship to undertake and to ensure that the black historical heritage of Negro Creek Road and other such landmarks is protected for future generations and that the changes are not done to further any private economic ventures or individuals with ulterior motives.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Speaker, you know that Harris and the Tories told voters during the course of last year's election that their government would work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions government takes will not result in increases to local property taxes.
Well, I'll be darned, because just yesterday down in Welland, the Niagara South Board of Education had to increase property taxes to the tune of 2.8%, and that's after they had gutted their reserves by in excess of $2 million, after they had slashed hundreds of jobs, including hundreds of classroom teachers and support staff, after they had to eliminate junior kindergarten.
I suppose this lends credence to the adage that if you're going to lie, lie big, tell the big one, because that's what folks heard and that's what people are saying down in Welland-Thorold today after being confronted by higher property taxes, real slashing and attack on the quality of education in the classrooms of Niagara south, the prospect of police stations being shut down, roads being unrepaired and indeed fewer and fewer services for people who need them.
People in Welland-Thorold aren't going to take it any more than people across this province are going to take it. They know when they've been had. They know when they've had their pockets picked. These are Mike Harris's taxes that are the new taxes being imposed upon property owners in Welland-Thorold. Nobody else can accept responsibility for them but Mike Harris and the Tories. People in Welland-Thorold are saying now, more than ever, Mike Harris lied.
Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): Today I would like to speak about an issue on the minds of every motorist in the province, and that's the price of gasoline. I believe many of the concerns motorists have with the changing price of gasoline could be well addressed if the major oil companies were required to pay a price for gasoline at the gate, that is, as it leaves the refinery.
Currently, large oil companies require independent operators to pay for the gasoline when it gets to their stations, but the large companies do not have to do this because they only pay for the gasoline after it gets in the consumers' tanks. This puts a large strain on us as tax collectors, because they do not pay it until after the customer starts to burn it in his car.
Paying for gasoline at the pump really disadvantages the small individual companies and allows the large companies to abuse our system. By making all the major oil companies start paying that price at the gate, this will alleviate the price fluctuating up and down.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): An era came to an end in our city yesterday when the St Catharines Standard was purchased from the Burgoyne family by Southam Inc and one of the last independently owned newspapers became part of the Southam chain.
Over the years, the emphasis has been on community coverage, and strong support has been provided by the Standard for local projects, programs and initiatives. No event in St Catharines and surrounding area has been too insignificant to merit an article or a photo, and no issue of local importance has been deemed subservient to those of international or national significance.
The quality of the Standard has been a justifiable source of pride, not only for those who have been part of the family of reporters, printers, advertising personnel, office staff, production employees and circulation staff, but also for the community at large. Many who have been in the employ of the Standard have, on their own or as an extension of the responsibilities at the newspaper, contributed immensely to the community organizations and community endeavours, and all residents of our city have benefited as a result.
From William B. Burgoyne in 1892 to Henry B. Burgoyne in 1996, the Standard has been an extension of the Burgoyne family which has set an outstanding example of community responsibility and involvement. A fine tradition has been established in the independent, family-owned, community newspaper known as the Standard. Its staff is highly competent, proud of its independence and ready to continue to serve the community in an excellent fashion.
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Yesterday I asked a question to the Minister of Health regarding appointments to district health councils. Appointments are supposed to be made based on local recommendations. If appointments are made from the centre, that is, Toronto, then this government will completely destroy the credibility of the councils and will destroy the purpose of those councils. The health councils are set up as community bodies that inform and advise the ministry about local health concerns.
The appointment process has always been one where the candidates are recommended by council, not where the minister imposes his selection on the council. Previously, the council's recommendations were always based on the candidates' merits, not their political affiliation. This open and transparent appointment process was the case under both the Liberal and New Democratic governments.
When we were in government, the appointments we made were the people whom council recommended. We listened to the council. This government is listening to the Sudbury and District Medical Society and local Tory hacks.
Yesterday, the minister was petulant and defensive in his response to this issue. This proves that this government is not interested in working with communities but wants to impose the government's will on them instead, and that is wrong.
Multiple sclerosis, MS, is the most common disease of the central nervous system affecting young adults in Canada. An estimated 50,000 Canadians have MS. As yet the cause and the cure are unknown, but recently drugs to reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks have become available. In addition, many MS symptoms can be helped by medication and therapy.
MS affects more women than men by an almost 2-to-1 ratio and usually strikes people between the ages of 20 and 40. MS is more common in countries that are farther away from the equator, like Canada. Canada has one of the highest prevalence rates of MS in the world.
The reinvestment of $170 million to expand community-based care announced last month by the Minister of Health will help persons with MS to live independently through the development of flexible service arrangements in home care, attendant care and palliative care, as well as a greater flexibility to allow services to change with the condition of the consumer.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I'd like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today a delegation from Ukraine headed by Professor Stefan Volkovetsky, Premier and head of the Ivano-Frankivske regional state administration in Ukraine. Please join me in welcoming our guests.
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Today marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Prevention Month in Ontario, a month in which the government, in partnership with voluntary organizations and others, focuses on our initiatives to stem violence against women.
Too many women are not safe in their own communities, are not safe in their own homes as a result of violence. Sexual assault, wife assault and sexual harassment are just some of the forms that violence takes.
According to Statistics Canada, more than 50% of women in Canada over the age of 16 have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. But statistics alone don't speak to the terrible human cost in pain and suffering endured by women and their children, nor do they speak to the economic hardship that violence imposes on its victims.
Both the human and economic costs to the victims of violence are high. Not only does violence inflict personal pain on its victims, there is also a huge cost to society. Violence against women costs Canadians more than $4.2 billion a year.
We must continue to focus our energies on women's safety. This government is firmly committed to that direction. Two examples are the government's recent announcement of an additional $11 million in capital funding for nine women's shelters and our ongoing commitment to provide front-line services to women and their children. More importantly, this government is committed to ensuring that the $100 million it spends annually on violence initiatives is spent on programs and services which are effective, responsive, efficient and accessible.
The government provides funding for more than 50 programs and services, including 97 shelters, 34 rape crisis and sexual assault centres, 27 hospital-based sexual assault treatment centres, community counselling services, 16 male batterer counselling programs, and victim/witness assistance programs in 13 crown offices across Ontario.
However, governments are only one part of the solution. Just as important is the dedication and hard work of thousands of volunteers and professionals in communities across the province. I would like to take this opportunity to salute their efforts on behalf of all Ontarians.
Our government firmly believes that shared responsibility, like the initiative demonstrated by these volunteers and professionals, is key to stemming violence against women. That is why we are providing funds to 78 community-based organizations across the province to develop public education projects on sexual assault. These are projects born of the community, tailored to the community, and best positioned to address the problem within the community.
Grants support numerous projects, from public seminars designed to change attitudes towards sexual assault, to initiatives in schools to change sexual attitudes and behaviour, to advertising directed at raising awareness of the seriousness and impact of sexual assault.
While the range of public education projects is great, the initiatives of community organizations is just one example of the government community link which we are fostering. It will take our best collective efforts to end sexual assault, not just in this month, but every day of every month, and as a result deny sexual assault a future.
Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I can't believe what I just heard here. The minister's announcement, her statement today, is nothing short of a joke. She speaks about the record of the government and I'd like to take you a little bit through that record.
This is a very serious record. Don't talk to us about the wonderful record of this government. Let's look at the very latest figures, the business plans that this government brought forth for the office responsible for women's issues. The Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues is going to be disbanded with cuts resulting from that. They are streamlining, so they say, the administration of violence-against-women prevention programs -- another cut of $1.6 million. The Ontario women's directorate is going to be restructured with additional savings, supposedly, of $2.1 million. There's going to be a transfer payment program saving for women's centres -- another $1-million cut.
"Restructuring" is a code word for this government. It's a code word which really heralds an ideological war against women, against women who are least able to look after themselves, against women who are victims of situations which are beyond their control. So they tell us, "Well, we're investing $11 million." That's capital. What about services? Where are the services for women anywhere?
As if that weren't enough, this minister threatened women's groups in her own community with funding cuts if they didn't stop criticizing the very severe situation that this government was creating. It's so bad that the White Ribbon Campaign of men working to end violence against women refused to send ribbons to this government because of its shocking record.
The record speaks for itself. It's not what you say today. The record is abysmal. Quite frankly, this government and this minister ought to be ashamed of themselves for standing up today on behalf of women who are sexually abused.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Might I just continue. In the minister's statement today she mentions that the government must continue to focus energies on women's safety. I'd like to suggest that the focus must be greater than that and in particular why this topic should involve children. I would urge the government to consider a focus on children's services and why they are certainly related to Sexual Assault Prevention Month and why they must be highlighted.
So many of these children, who are children at risk in Ontario, will either be abusers or they will be assaulted if we don't continue to focus on several ministries that deal with children and focus on the preventive nature, how to keep children out of those family circumstances and community circumstances which do lead to assault and how to speak to the prevention issue, that it does go far deeper than that.
If I look at my own community, the sexual assault treatment centre that is run within Grace Hospital at the moment is suffering from a 6.5% decrease in funding because it is affiliated with a hospital. What that means is that they must find those savings this year out of medical supplies. But that won't be the case next year, and yet they'll be hit again with a decrease in funding next year. This is such a vital area that I urge the government to continue to look at the very special needs of children at risk.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): It's absolutely disgraceful that this government is cutting funding to prevention-of-violence-against-women programs to help finance a 30% tax cut that is mainly going to benefit the rich in this province. This government has mastered the sleight of hand of taking millions of dollars out of vital programs and then putting a small amount back a few months later and patting themselves on the back and saying, "Look at the good work we're doing." That is exactly what they are doing.
The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres was told by the Deputy Solicitor General on Monday -- I hope the minister knows this -- that funding to rape crisis centres would not be cut in the coming year. Well and fine, but they were cut by 4.8% last September.
Ms Churley: -- but it doesn't change the fact that in this month of May we are talking about sexual assault prevention. Prevention is a major area that's suffering from this government's agenda, which is to focus on core services, which we must do. But in order to stop the violence and the sexual assaults that go on out there, the minister has to pay attention to prevention and make sure that the province --
I'm going to remind the minister of something the Ontario women's directorate wrote just last year, in 1995. About half of the cases of wife assault result in physical injuries to the woman. In 80% of wife abuse cases, children are present. Violent behaviour is learned, says the OWD. Some studies indicate that between 40% to 60% of assaultive men witness wife assault during their childhood. There are many, many reasons why prevention and prevention programs are absolutely vital.
The Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres said in a news release this morning, "Budget cutbacks from the provincial government have made prevention work a distant, seemingly unachievable goal leaving little hope for the future."
The coalition has not been able to get any information from the Ontario women's directorate -- and neither have I -- on where those cuts announced in the so-called business plan are going to be made. They have reason to believe the major cuts will be in training for police officers dealing with sexual assault. I really hope that isn't true.
Normally the OWD puts out public service announcements, buttons, leaflets and fact sheets on Sexual Assault Prevention Month. This material has been seriously cut back. There are no public service announcements. Where is the material for this year?
The coalition has also not been able to get confirmation that funding for long-term counselling will continue from the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Health. Coalition president Anne-Marie Aikins said, "Prevention must be a priority for the government, for agencies and for individuals if we are ever to stop violence against women and children."
I understand the minister is starting up a whole new review of the OWD once again, after our government spent three years looking at it. I would like to get information as to what this review actually involves. I understand they're going to be looking at a policy-based review and services review.
Let me say to the minister, if indeed there is a review going on, that prevention be part of that review and be looked at very, very seriously, because cutting back now is going to cost far more money and pain down the road.
This statement arises out of my increasing concern over the last several weeks for the dignity of this chamber and its parliamentary traditions. I find that the use of unparliamentary language is becoming commonplace. This is unacceptable. Members should refer to each other with respect and in a manner in which they themselves would like to be addressed. All members of this House are honourable and should be treated as such.
This chamber is the focal point for parliamentary debate and should not be used for actions that do not support that function. Demonstrations in this House by the public or by members themselves are out of order. I would ask all members to take this into consideration the next time they consider making their point by unparliamentary actions rather than parliamentary words.
Other Speakers have made statements similar to this one. I myself have addressed this House before on such issues and I again ask members on all sides of this House to conduct themselves honourably and to cooperate in imposing on themselves the order and decorum that they expect of others in this chamber.
Let me conclude by repeating what I've said before: The efforts of all members are required to maintain order and decorum in this chamber. The Speaker cannot do it alone. However, I can and will enforce the rules rigorously, and I have confidence in your capacity as members to behave with dignity. Thank you.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question today is to the Minister of Health and concerns the Harris government's plan to privatize much of Ontario's health care sector. Yesterday you told this House, in response to a question from the Leader of the Opposition, that you and your ministry knew nothing about the involvement of an American company, National Medical Care of Boston, in the Ottawa-Cornwall dialysis project which you happily launched last week at the national capital, that you and your department knew nothing about National Medical Care's involvement in that proposal until after you made the announcement in Ottawa last week. Is that still the official position of you, as minister, and your department?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The short answer is no. I think Dr Posen is correct that an official of the ministry was told about it, probably back in January or February. The problem with the RFP, I guess, is that the officials knew this is a sensitive area for us, the politicians, the people of Ontario, and they informed me -- I'm not putting any blame here, but reading through the RFP, it has Canadian proponents and a Canadian company. There is no American company in the RFP. It is called NMC Canada Inc all the way through the pages. They said, "Minister, we didn't think to flag this to you as an issue because under the rules of Canadian preference here, we're dealing with a Canadian proponent," Dr Posen and the nephrologists in Ottawa-Carleton, who have a non-profit Canadian company as the proponent. Also, the management team that apparently is mentioned in the RFP is a Canadian company. It turns out it is a subsidiary of the Boston-based American company. That's what I know of it.
Now that we know of it, of course, we're in the normal process, which is to have the interviews with the leading contenders in this tender process, as is required under the Independent Health Facilities Act, and questions about the management team and quality measures will be asked and answers will be sought.
Mr Conway: The minister has said today that the information he gave to this House in a very declaratory fashion yesterday was at the very least incomplete, if not inaccurate. I submit it's both. The answer tendered yesterday to the House from the minister was, I believe, both incomplete and inaccurate.
Now we have Dr Posen, a distinguished physician, according to the minister's own words, telling the press over the last 24 hours that he, Dr Posen, told a senior official in the Ministry of Health three months ago that he, Dr Posen, was aware of the criminal investigations into National Medical Care of Boston. Dr Posen said that not only did he tell the senior official, Mr Donald Walker, at the Ministry of Health in January of this past year, but, quoting Dr Posen, Mr Walker admitted to knowing. Three months before you made your announcement in Ottawa last week, your official told Dr Posen that the department was aware of the criminal investigations into National Medical Care of Boston.
Hon Mr Wilson: Perhaps the question is best answered by explaining the process a little more clearly. Prior to the request for proposal going out, the Kidney Foundation and other renal services experts in the province were brought together to develop the RFP and the evaluation process. Of course, what we're at is the first stage of the evaluation process, in which a point system was assigned to those proponents and proposals that were believed to be able to deliver the stringent quality services demanded by the RFP.
This particular proponent, Dr Posen, became the lead contender for both the Cornwall and Ottawa services. As a result, the normal process in the Independent Health Facilities Act is to sit down now and talk about: "How can you assure quality? You have to sign a quality agreement with the College of Physicians and Surgeons." It's their inspectors who make sure quality is maintained and that sort of thing.
Yes, there has been a slipup in the chain of command, but Mr Walker and the officials -- and Mr Walker is not that senior; he's a consultant, which is several layers below the minister's office in the ministry. I think it was an honest mistake. I think they said, "We didn't think to flag it for you, Minister, because we thought we were dealing with a Canadian company and certainly Canadian proponents in this case."
Mr Conway: The minister offers bureaucratic bafflegab, and it won't wash. We now know today that a senior official in your department knew three months ago that a company that was actively engaged in this tender, National Medical Care of Boston, was under not one but several criminal investigations in the United States. We know from Dr Posen that senior officials in your department knew that in January of this year, and you're asking this House to accept your answer that you, as minister, and your entire ministerial staff didn't hear a thing about that from your department and your officials?
Mr Conway: They are very tender, and they should be. This is a government that not only wants to privatize health care; they want to privatize Hydro and Norm Sterling's liquor stores. With this kind of ignorance and incompetence, we'll find out some day that the Las Vegas mob has won the contract to run Normie's liquor stores.
I want to say to the minister that ignorance and incompetence is not going to get you off the hook. I ask you again, are you asking this House to believe that three months after your department was told by Dr Posen that National Medical Care was under a series of criminal investigations in the United States, nobody in your department, nobody on your political staff, breathed a word of that to your ears?
I don't think the honourable member is suggesting I interfere in a tendering process. This is a sealed process. It's only appropriate for the minister to be involved at this time, after the awarding of the original preferred provider contract. It would be inappropriate for me or my political staff, during the awarding of the contract, to interfere.
Yes, I will tell you that I wasn't aware that a very fair and equitable process was set up in consultation with the Kidney Foundation and other experts to do a point system to rate the tenders as they came in, and there certainly wasn't any political interference there, and yes, I wasn't informed. Again, I think it was an honest mistake from people who felt they were dealing with a Canadian company, and the minister's office was not informed of this being a subsidiary of an American company. There really isn't much more to this.
Mr Conway: I think there's a lot more to this. All I know today is that the information you offered to this House yesterday on this subject was both incomplete and inaccurate. I know that. You've already admitted to most of that. That's what I know.
What I also know is that the New York Times, just a few months ago, wrote a series of articles about National Medical Care, and some of these headlines are absolutely breathtaking. "Death and Deficiency in Kidney Treatment" is one headline. Another headline is, "At Big Kidney Chain, Deals for Doctors, Ruin for Rivals." I can't believe it. If you haven't seen these New York Times articles about the kind of conduct that National Medical Care was involved with, and for which it is under criminal investigation in the United States, then you're even more incompetent and you're even more confused than I wanted to believe at the outset.
Hon Mr Wilson: After I became aware of the involvement of this company, or its Canadian subsidiary, last week, I did spend the weekend reading articles, including articles by Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star, about this company, and I did read the New York Times articles. If that's your question, the answer is yes, I've fully done as much reading as I can on this company.
Mr Conway: This is a government all on about privatization. You were all set to ink a deal with National Medical Care of Boston which, according to the New York Times, is up to some of the most despicable behaviour and is well known and well reported around the medical community.
Let me say again, I do not believe you when you ask me and this House to believe that no one in your office told you or no one on your political staff was informed by your officials who were told three months ago that there was trouble with this particular tender. But you can certainly be helpful, Minister. You can do something today.
You indicated yesterday that you were quite prepared, and I'll quote your words, "You" -- meaning the opposition -- "are very free to check the tender here." Let's just cut to the quick. Minister, will you table in this House in the next day or two the tender that you are about to endorse on behalf of the Ottawa group that involved National Medical Care of Boston, a tender, by the way, which I understand has National Medical Care of Boston all throughout it?
Hon Mr Wilson: I would be happy to table that as soon as I'm allowed to by law. The freedom of information office of our ministry informs me that because there's commercial proprietary information in these tenders, that only after a final decision of yea or nay is decided then of course all the information is made public, as required under law, and the member's fully entitled to review the documents at that time.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Health. I'm reading from Hansard, July 15, 1994, about the time these reports were made in the United States. "It's extremely disturbing, to say the least, that this minister" -- meaning another individual -- "would not be aware of such a serious allegation circulating in his ministry for some time." Further on, "He's simply furthering the coverup of this matter in my view and, I think, the view of all of us on this side of the House."
That's a quote from the member for Leeds-Grenville in which he is acknowledging, as all members of this House are aware, that a minister is ultimately responsible for what is going on in his ministry and for knowing what's going on in his ministry. At about the same time that those comments were made in this House, there was a report from the American Food and Drug Administration, reported June 1994 in FDA Consumer Report which describes National Medical Care as a chronic violator. They're under investigation for not following approved methods for testing finished products, investigation for device failures. They were under review and evaluation for improper maintenance of master records, improper inspections of critical device components and so on.
Beyond that, it became evident in the press at the time in the United States that the parent company of this company, W.R. Grace and Co, was accused by the federal United States tax officials of tax evasions and payouts of chief executives in the order of $20 million to cover up sexual harassment allegations.
Does the minister agree with his colleague from Leeds-Grenville that it is the responsibility of a minister to be informed by his staff and to know what is going on with his ministry and therefore he should have known about the allegations about this American company which were widely publicized over a year ago in the United States?
Hon Mr Wilson: I believe strongly in the principle of ministerial responsibility, and as I said to the media on a couple of occasions today, I will take responsibility for not having been informed on this issue. I take responsibility for that.
I would reiterate to this House that we are dealing with a non-profit Canadian company sponsored by Dr Posen and his nephrologist colleagues in Ottawa, and the employees of this facility are to be Canadians, the doctors who would be there would be Canadians, and of course the patients would be Canadians. If there is responsibility, a breakdown in communication in my ministry, I accept that responsibility.
Mr Wildman: Yesterday the minister said, "Where his" -- meaning Dr Posen's -- "management team was coming from, which I assume is one or two people, no, we did not check that. We were not aware of that.
"Very clearly, the company we were dealing with is a non-profit Canadian company owned by Dr Posen. That is what the tender documents show and we took him on good faith with respect to those documents."
We've talked to Dr Posen and to Ed Berger of National Medical Care. Dr Posen informed us that he had worked closely with the official of the minister's ministry, Donald Walker, in developing the proposal for the management of the dialysis units and Mr Walker was aware of the criminal investigations involving National Medical Care. Mr Berger also said, "Canadian officials were well aware that National Medical Care was the subject of numerous police investigations."
Does the minister agree with his colleague the member for Leeds-Grenville in his comments made in July 1992: "We in this House and the public at large find it difficult to believe. That a civil servant with over 20 years' experience" -- referring to another civil servant -- "in the government did not inform the minister, did not inform any other official at a senior level in government simply boggles the mind. It's not acceptable." It certainly is not acceptable.
Hon Mr Wilson: It's the same question I've asked those officials. I have asked them to explain to me when they knew that this was a sensitive issue in terms of the control and management of our health care system, and all I can say is that I don't want to point fingers. They work very hard, and I will take whatever responsibility I have to take for this matter and do so happily and in the terms of good government in the province.
Mr Wildman: Again I refer to comments made by the member for Leeds-Grenville in this House. I'll just place to this minister the question that was placed by his colleague: "When did the deputy minister know? Did officials of the minister's office know, and if they did, when?"
If the deputy minister did know, why didn't he inform the minister and why didn't he refer the matter to the investigative unit that was established in the Ministry of Health in 1993 to look into these very types of matters, to find out if there are criminal investigations into companies that deal with the Ministry of Health? Why wasn't that done? When did you know, when did the deputy know, and why wasn't the proper --
Hon Mr Wilson: It's quite a presumption that my deputy minister is a male. My deputy minister is Mrs Margaret Mottershead. She's doing an excellent job and has some 29 years of service to the people of Ontario in public service. I don't know when the deputy minister knew. She's on vacation right now. When she comes back, you're free to give her a call and ask her when she knew, if she knew, because I don't know.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Yesterday, when my colleague from Welland-Thorold asked you a question about the impact of the tax cuts on municipalities, you didn't get a chance to finish your answer. Being the fairminded person I am, I want to give you an opportunity to finish your sentence.
You said yesterday, "The user fees are an excellent way for municipalities" -- and then the rest you didn't get a chance to answer. I'd like to ask you to finish that sentence, and to help you out I've put together a couple of options, a couple of possible conclusions to that sentence.
Is it (a) user fees are an excellent way for municipalities to deal with the transfer cuts, (b) user fees are an excellent way for municipalities to raise hidden taxes or (c) user fees are an excellent way for municipalities to kill any potential benefit to consumers from your tax cut? Which one is it?
Mr Silipo: I could go on with another three or four possibilities, but if it's none of those, would the minister care to finish the sentence on his own? He started to say, "The user fees are an excellent way for municipalities" -- could I ask the minister to complete that sentence.
Mr Silipo: Let's look at what some of those options are that municipalities have had to not only look at but indeed implement. We've seen over the last few months, and are likely to see more in the next few months, new user fees for health care -- the drug plan copayment as well as new hospital fees -- as a result of Bill 26; $13 million in new fees from the Ontario public service as a result of the so-called business plans; and through municipalities, as a result of these actions and others, increases in daily care fees, increased fees for parks and recreation facilities, new library fines, fees for garbage collection, fees for firefighting, transit fare increases -- this against the backdrop of what this minister and his Premier have been saying, that there is only one taxpayer.
How can you possibly say, as you've been saying in this House, that you're not responsible for these new user fees, indeed for these hidden taxes? How can you possibly justify them, given everything else your government is saying? If you don't think your tax cuts, which are resulting in these new user fees and property tax hikes, are going to negatively impact consumer spending, then I would say to you what you said to my colleague yesterday, which is that your plan is not only a sham, it's quite hypocritical. How can you say that your tax cuts and your cuts in spending are not forcing municipalities to simply raise taxes through user fees?
Hon Mr Leach: I thank the member for the question. I don't think any of the fees the member mentioned are new fees. There are fees that have been charged by various municipalities for years, for decades -- garbage fees, fees for skating rinks, fees for recreation facilities. None of those are new fees. I don't know what the member's point is.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): A question for the Minister of Transportation: When Arthur Ryan, the executive director of the Ontario Road Builders' Association, appeared before the finance committee, he was shocked at the cutbacks that you had made to road maintenance and reconstruction on existing roads. He said very categorically: "Since the election of this government there's been effectively no moneys being spent on the roads in this province, on the highways in this province, and this is unbelievable. It's never been faced with that before."
How could you, as the Minister of Transportation, knowing that the roads in this province were in such bad shape -- as confirmed by Mr Ryan, you weren't spending money, as confirmed by the Provincial Auditor. How could you continue with a program of cutbacks of simple road maintenance and repair? Didn't your officials warn you the roads had to be taken care of?
Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I certainly want to thank the honourable member for the question. I believe it's a very good question. I don't know where Mr Ryan has received his information. This government at no time has cut any money from the provincial refurbishing budget, so where you're getting those numbers from Mr Ryan, I do not know. But I want to say to the honourable member that this government is committed to spend more money this year refurbishing our provincial highways than any government has spent in the last six years.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): Despite what the minister says on the road maintenance in eastern Ontario, what he says he's been doing about the repairs and everything else that goes along with it, the insurance claims continue to roll in. A few weeks back I gave the minister countless examples of individuals who have sustained personal injury and vehicle damage. I know very well what he's talking about, because one of the potholes just cost me $350 to repair the undercarriage on my vehicle.
I want to ask the minister: Do you think the $50-million compensation for the worn-out provincial highways that you are going to transfer back to the municipalities and download on them is sufficient? My constituents and many of the residents all over eastern Ontario want to know, is the government going to pay damages and claims for the damages resulting from maintenance cutbacks on the provincial highways?
Hon Mr Palladini: I believe that potholes are not only a provincial problem, but also a municipal problem. But we have been saying all along that highway transfers are going to be done in a very orderly fashion. To answer your question, yes, I believe the $50 million that we have set aside is sufficient to get us through to that time period when eventually highways will be transferred. They are going to be phased in over a three-year period, and I believe this government is going to act responsibly.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): In the interest of connecting the tax cuts to a reduction in jobs and a negative effect on the economy, my question today is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism.
A reporter in Sault Ste Marie, having done an independent review and report, says in last Thursday's Sault Star that the Tory cuts mean 500 fewer jobs and that the city is $30 million poorer in provincial funding since the Conservative election win.
Minister, do you have any idea of the impact of this on my community? What do you have to say to the over 500 people in Sault Ste Marie who are losing their jobs, and what do you have to say to the retail sector of my business community re the loss of $30 million in economic activity in Sault Ste Marie?
Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): To the member for Sault Ste Marie, I'd like to say that we have got some very good news in the last few weeks about new job creations and I think your community will also benefit from this new job atmosphere in due course. So I would suggest that you go back to your constituency, sir, and remind them that the policies we have in place are going to be creating jobs in the north.
In the early 1990s Sault Ste Marie faced some major challenges to its economy, and with some significant contribution and leadership by the Bob Rae government, in fact by Bob Rae himself, Algoma Steel was restructured, St Marys Paper was restructured, the ACR was restructured and Lajambe lumber was restructured. What you're doing is the equivalent of closing St Marys Paper, the ACR and Lajambe put together. In the interest of even creating new jobs, we have attracted one company that's going to create 100 jobs in Sault Ste Marie. You've wiped out about six of them with the decisions you've made so far in your nine months in power.
What are you going to do? Where are the 725,000 jobs that you talked about in your Common Sense Revolution and that you talk about today for Sault Ste Marie? What do I tell the people in Sault Ste Marie re this government's agenda and its plan for them?
Hon Mr Saunderson: Let me say to the member for Sault Ste Marie what we are doing. We're going to be doing in northern Ontario what's happening in southern Ontario and in all of Ontario: We are creating jobs. Let me tell you some of the jobs that are being created.
Last week Magna announced that it will be creating 1,000 new jobs in St Thomas. Dana will be creating 100 new jobs in southwestern Ontario. This is a big list of jobs which I could go on and on with. I will not take the time but I'd be happy to share this with the member.
I'd like him to tell us what his policy is for jobs. We haven't heard a thing from him all during this study, and from you over there either. We're creating jobs and we're creating lots of opportunities for people in this province.
I would like to hear something constructive from the opposition benches. We're sick and tired of a bunch of Chicken Littles running around yelling out that the sky is falling down on Ontario. The sky is not falling on Ontario. We're creating jobs.
Mr Martin: I want to register my dissatisfaction with that answer. Are you suggesting that the people of Sault Ste Marie move to St Thomas? Is that what you're saying? I will be asking for a late show from this minister today.
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Recently on the public affairs program Focus Ontario, the York South by-election Liberal candidate entertained viewers with the statement that social assistance recipients cannot work or participate in welfare activities in their community while they are in receipt of social assistance. My question to you is, why does the Liberal candidate in this by-election utter such silly and misinformed statements?
Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I can't possibly give a justification of why the Liberal candidate in York South is saying this. Just to clarify it, I think he indicated it was illegal for social assistance recipients to do volunteer work while they're on welfare. It is pretty important for us to set the record straight. There's nothing in the regulations that forbids people on welfare from taking part in volunteer work. As long as they take care of their job search requirement, they're certainly free to volunteer.
I must admit I'm quite shocked at Mr Kennedy, who is the candidate there. Given his background and his apparent knowledge of the volunteer field from working with the food bank, I would have suspected he might have had some idea of what he was talking about. I can confirm for you that social assistance recipients can do volunteer work.
Mr Hastings: In regard to this sort of irresponsible misinformation, what can your ministry do to undertake to counteract such illogical statements and what specific assurance will you give social assistance recipients that they can participate in voluntary activities in their community while receiving social assistance?
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I suppose the Liberal candidate in York South is learning now that, since he's a political candidate, he's going to have to start to be a little more accountable for what he says, and accurate. He has a responsibility as well to make sure he is speaking accurately. Clearly what our government is going to be doing is trying to assist people to break the cycle of dependency, to give themselves sufficiency, and that is where workfare comes in.
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I'm not quite finished yet. I just want to end with the words of someone -- not myself. I just want to quote this. It says, "One of the things I like about it is often you hear people saying" --
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Premier of Ontario. On September 6 you were delivered a box of cereal as a constant reminder that you owe Ontario a provincial breakfast program. I'd like to know the status of that program today.
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I appreciate the question. The member will know that school nutrition and making sure that every child is not hungry during the school day has long been a priority of mine. I think since the member has been elected and come to this Legislature, it has been a priority of hers as well.
I'm pleased to report there are more programs under way now than there have been in the past. The member has, I believe, talked with my parliamentary assistant, Julia Munro, who has been canvassing all of the existing programs to see how we can coordinate them and assist in a better way, both from government coordination and also involving the private sector.
I want to congratulate the member for being part of that exercise and that team of people. I know that when, in the not-very-distant future, a significant new program thrust is announced, inviting all members to participate, the member will want to be one of the first to be part of the team.
Mrs Pupatello: In September, the Premier instructed me to go about and be constructive, as some ministers have indicated today they would like us to be. On February 2, your office was delivered the package of research that we had done. Three months after you indicated your PA would work on this, your PA, in November, had yet to attend a school to visit such a program. It was delivered to you and several of your ministers, three ministers, all of whom are related to this program.
Today what I'd like you to do is confirm stable funding for the Ontario Social Development Council, because it's critical. Will you guarantee leadership from your office, will you guarantee that the package you received, which is the research you have been waiting for -- will you stand today and tell us you will guarantee that funding and that leadership from your office?
I want to assure the member that my parliamentary assistant has visited numerous programs, has visited and talked with a number of groups involved and very much values your presentation and the research you have done and contributed in a very positive way to this program. We very much appreciate that. I want to say that, just in case you want something for campaign literature in the year 2000 or so. Would that other members of your party and your caucus did the same; it would make our job easier.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I too have a question to the Premier. A while back the member for Frontenac-Addington attended a meeting sponsored by the Reform Party, I would say a meeting to speak about national unities. At that particular --
We'll try it again. The member for Frontenac-Addington attended a meeting put on by the Reform Party about a month ago, a meeting sponsored by the Reform Party on national unity. At this particular meeting the member for Frontenac-Addington made a speech, from which I have quotes here, in regard to the construction of a French-language high school in Kingston. I would like to read it to you. It says:
"In a time when there is definite need to foster understanding between the French and English speaking populations, as well as others, perhaps further division or separation of the population and our cultures should be re-evaluated. The word `apartheid' may bring thoughts of extreme events in South Africa, but continuing to segregate segments of our communities, for whatever reasons, has the potential to illustrate literal meanings of apartheid which is happening right here at home."
Mr Premier, these are extremely inflammatory comments to the francophone community, and my question to you is: Do you agree with these comments and was the member announcing new policies on behalf of your government?
Mr Bisson: The question then that needs to be asked is simply this: If you do not agree with the comments made by the member for Frontenac-Addington, and you indeed support the policy that has been in place in this province for many years, supported by all three parties in this House, in regard to French-language education, what are you going to do about members of your caucus who are out there saying such comments as the member for Frontenac-Addington did? What are you going to do about it and what are you going to do about the member for Frontenac-Addington?
Hon Mr Harris: I think I appreciate the member's sensitivity to the whole issue; I hope I do. Let me say that on the issue of separation, of separate schools or immersion within schools, there is a great deal of controversy among a lot of people. I can recall francophones in my own community of Nipissing when the issue was raised of whether a separate super-French school would be desirable. This was when a previous administration was in government. It was pretty evenly split, and eventually a vote of francophones decided no, that was too much separation. So I think that's a valid discussion that takes place a lot in the communities and among francophones.
However, I would say to the member -- and I appreciate his colleagues' sensitivity as well -- that the word "apartheid" in no way is an appropriate word that ought to be used to apply to that, and as such I have talked to the member and wrote him a letter on April 8 indicating that.
I am sure that members of the Legislature support the efforts of senior education administrators. However, I find it disturbing to learn that there are 11 directors of education in Ontario whose salaries are over $100,000 and yet they are responsible to boards with fewer than 4,000 students -- some of them as low as 700 students.
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for Lambton for an excellent question. I believe it's addressing an issue that's important in the minds of taxpayers and parents across the province.
The sunshine law has certainly allowed for a lot of public discourse on this subject, and I think it's an important one. There are directors in very small boards across the province who are paid over $100,000 a year, and that has been an issue that's been brought forward to my office.
There's also a gap between the salaries of directors in some small boards and the directors of larger boards in a very close geographic area, which is somewhat curious. Also, if we look at some of the administrative costs of other school systems, this is extraordinary.
So the member understands, I want to make very clear that the province does not hire directors or set the salaries; that's a function of the local school boards. But I believe the public expects the provincial government and the school boards to work hard to make sure that as much as is possible our administrative costs are as low as they can be so that we direct the largest amount of public funding into the classroom, where it makes a difference. We'll be doing everything we can to encourage school boards to do just that.
Mr Beaubien: Minister, I realize that the salary scale is the responsibility of the local boards, but to your knowledge, are you aware that any of these boards have attempted to make any savings by reviewing the salaries of these administrators?
Hon Mr Snobelen: No, I am not aware of any board that has currently taken on that issue as a way of finding savings outside of the classroom. There have been different responses to the public demand that we find those savings by different boards, and I can assure the member that this government and this minister will do everything we can to encourage our boards to make sure they look at every possible opportunity to find savings, tax-dollar savings, outside of the classroom.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training as well. Minister, in January 1995, in the edition of the Conservative Party document entitled A Voice for the North, your leader stated, and this is your campaign document of 1995: "Parents are...telling us they want a renewed emphasis on basic skills and knowledge in the classroom. They feel that the province's Ministry of Education is out of touch and remote from northern concerns."
Well, Minister, nothing has changed. Your government has given little or no consideration to the unique concerns facing northern students, parents and educators. We have here detailed and specific commitments to northern residents during the last campaign. What do you have to say to the 50 students from Lakewood school who are so concerned about the cuts you are making to the education system that they decided to visit my constituency office yesterday morning to demand that their voices be heard?
As well, students from Thomas Aquinas separate school in my riding marched from their school to their board office to demand an explanation for the fact that all but five of their teachers were declared redundant. That's 26 of 31 staff members in a high school of 401 students declared redundant. What do you say to them, Minister?
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I think the commitment of this government is well known. I appreciate the honourable member opposite bringing up again the fact that our government let the people know and made commitments to the people of Ontario a full year before the last election so that people were well aware of our agenda for change and well aware of our commitment to the schools in the province of Ontario.
We believe that schools are there to instill the skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours that are necessary for young people to pursue their life goals. I think that's consistent with children really across this province, young people across this province, that they need those skills and that knowledge.
I accept, certainly, the honourable member's notion that being in the schools is very important, that talking to the students and teachers is very important. In fact, I've spend about 25% of my time in the schools over the last six months, and I intend to continue to do that and to visit communities in the north and to examine the conditions there.
Mr Miclash: Minister, it states very clearly in your election document that you and your party agree with northern parents and educators that the Ministry of Education is out of touch with northerners' concerns. Here in southern Ontario, your backbenchers refer to it as being "out of whack."
Northerners are frustrated with the lack of consultation from your ministry. I am willing to help you keep your commitment to consult. You indicated that you wanted to consult with northern residents and northern students. Again I ask you, will you meet with the students who have many concerns about their classroom education in northern Ontario?
Hon Mr Snobelen: I will be in northern Ontario at the end of this week -- I've been in northern Ontario several times over the last few months, during the term of this government -- and I will see what my schedule allows. I don't know; I haven't looked at my schedule for the end of the week. But you can be assured that I will be in schools, I will be in schools in the north, and I will continue a dialogue with teachers and with students and with parents because I think that's important.
I want to remind the honourable member opposite that this government has taken actions to make sure we understand the problems particularly of small boards, and they tend to be northern, and that we've taken action to help those boards find savings outside of the classroom. We continue to listen to the people of Ontario, to listen to the boards, to listen to the teachers, to listen to the parents and to listen to the students, because we believe that's where we'll find the nucleus of a better school system in Ontario.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. We continue to get two messages from you and the government regarding health and safety in Ontario: One is your words; the other is your actions.
On Monday, you gave us more words when we discussed the day of mourning. You said, and I quote from Hansard, "As well, it is a day for the government, for labour and for management to reaffirm our shared commitment to the prevention of illness and injury." Further, you say, "I would encourage everyone in this House and outside of this House to continue to work cooperatively in order that we can achieve our common goal of preventing injuries and illness."
Those are the words, but your actions are: abolishing the Workplace Health and Safety Agency where workers and business had an equal say in training of health and safety representatives; your actions around WCB where you scrapped the structure that gave workers and business an equal say in the running of the WCB; and now we hear you're planning to cut funding to the Workers' Health and Safety Centre.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): We have been diligently pursuing our objective of preventing workplace injury and illness. We have put in place a vision. We are putting in place strategic directions. We have introduced programs that are going to be able to demonstrate for the first time in the history of this province whether or not we are achieving our objective of reducing illness and injury.
You know full well that the Provincial Auditor took a look at the Workplace Health and Safety Agency and indicated to us that despite the fact that they had spent $83 million, there was absolutely no evidence that there had ever been an impact on any reduction in injury and illness.
I can assure you, we have committed funding to the workers' safety centre in the same way we have extended it to the other health and safety organizations. They all have their funding. They have all received the commitment from our government. No agency is being treated any differently than any other.
Mr Christopherson: The fact is that your actions have already placed a heavier burden on worker participation in providing workplace health and safety training, your actions in the issues I've already mentioned, the gutting of your own ministry, in fact $40 million coming out of your ministry and a further $8 million coming out of the health and safety budget of your ministry.
I ask you very directly, to put some meaning and honesty behind your words, because all we get are words, will you recognize that the Workers' Health and Safety Centre, in addition to being one of the most efficient and effective organizations providing training, is a key component of workers playing an equal role in health and safety? Will you recognize that today by guaranteeing that you will not eliminate the centre? Don't talk about treating it the same as others. You've already treated workers in an unequal fashion. Please give us a commitment that the Workers' Health and Safety Centre will not be eliminated.
Hon Mrs Witmer: If you were to take a look at the cooperative relationship that has developed in the construction industry between labour and management, the commitment they have made to health and safety is an example we need to duplicate in all the other sectors throughout the province. That is the type of cooperation we are looking for. We want to --
Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): My question today is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I wonder if the minister could dispel some rumours I have heard again and again, rumours that concern many in the farming community.
There has been much said about the future of agricultural colleges, including Ridgetown college in Kent county, and there is concern about the possibility of closures. I'm certain that I don't have to remind the minister of OMAFRA of the importance of education, training and research in one of the most important sectors of Ontario's economy, the agrifood section.
Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I can assure my colleague, firstly, that we have consulted widely with the agricultural community and that indeed the future of the colleges at Ridgetown, Kemptville and Alfred is very much assured, that they will continue to provide the leadership, the education and the agricultural research they have become famous for. As we speak today, negotiations with the University of Guelph, a world-recognized leader in agricultural education and research, are ongoing to ensure that the future of these colleges is going to continue as we have been used to in the province of Ontario.
Mr Carroll: I'm glad to hear that the minister realizes the importance of agricultural research in the agrifood sector and I'm glad to hear his commitment to our college in Ridgetown. I know the minister is aware of the promise we made to agriculture during the 1995 election campaign to maintain the agricultural programs and to squeeze the waste of duplication from the bureaucracy to ensure that we could maintain systems for our farmers.
Considering how during the past 10 years the two parties opposite overspent and mismanaged the economy of this province so badly that we now have a seemingly insurmountable $100 billion worth of debt, I would like to know if the minister could explain to me, was the status quo a possibility as it related to our agricultural colleges?
In the short period of time since we've been elected -- in the book we promised to reduce government spending; we are in the process of doing so -- accomplished: The agricultural labour relations; we've fixed that. The farm property tax rebate remains in place. The ethanol projects have been supported, something the Liberal Party didn't always agree with; that's been done. Eighty-five per cent of the safety nets; that's been done. The Sewell report has been addressed; it's done. Waste management has been addressed; it's done. Provincial wetlands policy: We've looked at that and we fixed it. We initiated a managed forest tax rebate under my colleague the Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines. This all happened in less than a year.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I move that the standing committee on social development be authorized to meet on the morning of Thursday May 2 for the purpose of clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 30, An Act to establish the Education Quality and Accountability Office and to amend the Education Act with respect to the Assessment of Academic Achievement and that the committee also be authorized to sit on the morning of Wednesday May 8 for the purpose of public hearings, and on Wednesday May 29 for the purpose of clause-by-clause consideration of Bill 34, An Act to amend the Education Act.
"Whereas this recommendation will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital, which will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health for the growing population which the hospital serves, many being elderly people who in numerous cases require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions;
"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendation contained within the final report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee as it pertains to North York Branson Hospital, so that it retains, at minimum, emergency and inpatient services."
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I trust that this most important petition will find the good office of the table. It's on good bond. More importantly, it's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and signed by close to 900 concerned citizens in the riding of Lake Nipigon. It reads as follows:
Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition which has been forwarded to me by my constituents and which I'd like to file. It's signed by approximately 20 of my constituents and it concerns tax cuts.
"Whereas we believe that the family support plan is a viable and necessary service provided by the government of Ontario, we, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"Whereas a number of Conservative candidates in ridings with high tenant populations" -- can you believe that? -- "campaigned during the 1995 election on a platform of protecting the current rent control system;
"Whereas security of tenure and the right to remain in our homes is a basic need of all humans and where uncontrolled rent increases force many tenants from their homes for both economic and other reasons, and as the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Premier of Ontario have both expressed publicly their desire to abolish rent control;
"Whereas during the 1995 election campaign, the Conservatives clearly promised to defend the health care system by protecting ministry funding, stating in a campaign backgrounder, `There will be no cuts to health care funding by a Harris government,' and calling this their first and most important commitment; and
"Whereas the Conservative government has already cut $1.3 billion from the budget of the Ministry of Health when on November 29, 1995, the finance minister announced a series of spending cuts designed to reduce the deficit; and
"Whereas the recent actions taken by this government contradict election promises and have confused a concerned public still coping with the negative impact of the previous NDP government's mismanagement of the Ministry of Health;
"Therefore, we, the undersigned, call on the Minister of Health to restore the $1.3 billion that was cut on November 29, 1995, in order to maintain the promise made by this government to protect health care funding and not cut health care, to reaffirm this government's commitment to no new user fees and to ensure that the health care budget will stand at $17.4 billion for every day of the life of this government."
"Whereas the cut, slash and burn policies of the Progressive Conservative Party have forced seniors, families and social assistance recipients to rely more than ever on rent-geared-to-income public housing in order to maintain a decent quality of life; and
"Whereas the administration of rent-geared-to-income OHC properties by our local housing authority of Hamilton-Wentworth is conducted in a more responsible and cost-effective manner than the proposed privatization shelter allowance concept,
"Therefore, we, the undersigned representatives of the three area tenant advisory committees in Hamilton-Wentworth, petition the Legislative Assembly to ensure that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing address the concerns and answer the questions of the hundreds of signators of the accompanying letters and we request consultation with OHC tenants beyond Metro Toronto regarding the proposed sale of their homes."
"Whereas the government of Ontario has announced its intention to reduce provincial grants to primary and secondary education by 10%, colleges by 13% and universities by more than 15% in fiscal 1996-97; and
"This reduction in provincial funding will cause increased class sizes at all levels of education, massive increases in college and university tuition fees and decreased quality of education because of fewer program and course offerings at all levels of education and reductions of teachers, staff, library resources and services; and
"We, the undersigned, petition this Parliament to reverse the decisions made by the present government as to the funding reductions in primary, secondary and post-secondary education announced in a statement by Finance Minister Mr Ernie Eves, QC, MPP, on November 29, 1995; and
"Whereas Ontario's ex-psychiatric populace relies heavily on prescription drugs to remain stable and mental health care providers and the general public are scared of the outcome if these patients cannot afford to buy their medication because of the $2 dispensing fee, when it is normal policy to only prescribe them two or three days of medication at a time to prevent potential misuse or overdosing; and
"Whereas the perceived savings to health care from the $2 copayment fee will not compensate for suffering and misery caused by this user fee and will not even cover the costs of extra emergency services, nor repeated hospital services. The $2 copayment fee will consequently not lead to cost savings but will rather increases in the case of expensive health care services;
"We, the undersigned Ontario residents, strongly urge the government of Ontario to repeal this user fee plan before it takes effect on June 1, 1996, because of the potential dramatic increase in emergency and police services, and the suffering and misery of human lives -- especially psychiatric outpatients and those who depend on medication for their daily survival."
"We, the undersigned, oppose your government's plan to dismantle the workers' compensation system, including reducing benefits, excluding claims for repetitive strain injuries, muscle injuries, strains, sprains, stress, harassment and most occupational disease, eliminating pension supplements, handing over control of our claims to our employers for the first four to six weeks after injury, privatizing WCB to large insurance companies, integrating sick benefits into WCB, eliminating or restricting the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT) including eliminating worker representation on the board and eliminating the bipartite WCB board of directors.
"Therefore we, the undersigned, demand a safe workplace, compensation if we are injured, no reduction in benefits, improved re-employment and vocational rehabilitation, an independent appeals structure with worker representation and that the WCAT be left intact and that the WCB bipartite board of directors be reinstated."
Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Thousands of people across the province are rising up against the Attorney General's clear intention to close the regional offices of the family support plan, and the people in northwestern Ontario are no different. I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
ONTARIO HIGHWAY TRANSPORT BOARD AND PUBLIC VEHICLES AMENDMENT ACT, 1996 / LOI DE 1996 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LA COMMISSION DES TRANSPORTS ROUTIERS DE L'ONTARIO ET LA LOI SUR LES VÉHICULES DE TRANSPORT EN COMMUN
Deferred vote on the motion for second reading of Bill 39, An Act to amend the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act and the Public Vehicles Act and to make consequential changes to certain other Acts / Projet de loi 39, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la Commission des transports routiers de l'Ontario et la Loi sur les véhicules de transport en commun et apportant des modifications corrélatives à certaines autres lois.
Mr Leach moved second reading of Bill 38, An Act to amend the Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act, 1993 / Projet de loi 38, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1993 sur l'administration de la zone résidentielle des îles de Toronto.
Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'm pleased to provide further details about the amendments we are proposing to Bill 61, the Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act, now known as Bill 38.
This legislation, which was passed in 1993 by the previous government, has been a concern to us from the very outset. The legislation was described to this House by the previous minister as being an innovative and fair solution which resolved the problems associated for many years with the Toronto Islands community. In particular, the previous minister told this House that the solutions contained within the legislation came at no cost to the province, the municipalities or the taxpayers. To say the least, and I'll be very kind, that was a very optimistic assessment on his part and rather a shortsighted one.
In our opinion, the legislation passed by the NDP amounted to nothing more than a sweetheart deal which gave the islanders considerations available to no other citizens in Ontario. Most distressing of all, it is a sweetheart deal which would have cost the taxpayers of Ontario millions of dollars.
Last summer, after our government took office, we ordered an independent audit of the financial status of the islands community under Bill 61. One of the problems pointed out by the auditor was that Bill 61 required the implementation of an extremely complex and non-traditional land trust and leasing arrangement. The legislation required the creation of a trust known as the Toronto Islands Residential Community Trust Corp. The trust was to sell land leases to the residents of 250 houses on the islands. The trust was also to sell up to 110 additional land leases. Eighty of these additional land leases were to be sold to a cooperative housing corporation known as the Flying Toad Co-op, which would have constructed a non-profit housing development on the islands. Thirty of the additional leases were to be sold to select individuals.
The independent audit of this arrangement confirmed our worst suspicions. For starters, the audit revealed that the trust was almost $1 million in debt. Specifically, the trust spent $916,000 more than it received, including $426,000 in legal and consulting fees. The trust had only managed to sell 113 of the 250 leases at the time of the audit. The trust's operating costs continued to increase, and because it refused to charge any kind of annual levy to the audit, its debt continued to mount. At the same time, the former government gave the Flying Toad Co-op special considerations under the non-profit housing program. This allowed the co-op to exceed the standard guidelines for construction of a non-profit project. In the end, it would have cost the taxpayers of Ontario approximately $200,000 to construct each unit of the Flying Toad Co-op. The ongoing operating subsidies would have been equally exorbitant.
Last year, on July 25, our government stepped in. We cancelled the dreaded Flying Toad Co-op, along with 385 other non-profit projects where final commitment to build had not been given. The cancellation of the Flying Toad Co-op and the private housing saved the taxpayers $984,000 in infrastructure costs, plus subsidies of $1.5 million annually.
Our next step was to introduce legislation designed to put the Toronto Islands community on a financially sound basis over the long term, and that is the purpose of the amendments we are proposing to Bill 61 under Bill 38.
First and foremost, we must clear off the debt which has been built up by the island trust. To achieve this, we have turned to the recommendations of the auditor, who suggested that infill lots be developed and sold to enable the trust to break even without any further provincial funding and without incurring substantial infrastructure costs.
This legislation will allow for the development of up to 12 lots within the existing community using the existing infrastructure. The trust will use the proceeds from the sale of these lots to pay off its debts. The legislation requires that the trust start a new purchasers' list which will be administered through a public process, and lots will be offered for sale to people on that new list.
In addition, the trust will no longer be allowed to accumulate serious debt in the future. This legislation requires the trust to raise sufficient funds to carry out its daily operations and ongoing operations by charging regular fees to the island residents. Under the new legislation, the province will retain the responsibility for appointing members to the board of directors of the trust. We want to ensure the board is financially accountable and acts in the best interests of the entire community.
The amendments we are proposing also eliminate the ongoing financial obligations of the province to the island community. Bill 61 required that the taxpayers of Ontario provide $12 million in mortgage guarantees to help the island residents purchase their leases and bring their homes up to fire code standards. That is quite a sweetheart deal, no matter how you look at it. The island residents are perfectly capable of obtaining conventional mortgages in the same manner as any other citizen of Ontario.
On top of that, Bill 61 exempted the island community from the conditions of the Planning Act. Again, that's a sweetheart deal, if you can get it. The island community will now be subject to the same provisions of the Planning Act and the environmental act as every other community in Ontario.
Finally, it is clear that the island community needs many of the same services as any other residential neighbourhood. We believe the municipal level of government is the most appropriate to deliver these services. For this reason, the responsibility for the island trust and the residential community will be transferred to the city of Toronto.
The government is acting in response to the audit of the Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act. The changes we are proposing will eliminate the current and future financial liability of the province. Our legislation will restore the financial accountability of the Toronto Islands trust. Most of all, it will bring some common sense to the entire issue.
Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): There are a number of questions that aren't quite clear in this bill. When this bill, in its former life, came before this House as Bill 61, the members of the opposition at that time, being the government party, were very concerned about the so-called 99-year lease homeowners on the island were given. The big concern was that this 99-year lease was essentially a giveaway of public land at a great bargain price. I guess the call at that time from members on the opposite side was that this was a sweetheart deal where you would get lakefront property for $1 a month. I think the honourable member for Etobicoke West at that time really was emphatic about it when he said, in November 1992:
"I'll say it 50 times. I'm going to keep saying it in committee, I'm going to say it in this House, because it's one of the most unbelievable affronts to the taxpayers in this province that you can suggest, considering you won both polls on the island, that you can pay these people off for 100 years, to give them rent on a house in a park on the island for a buck a day for 100 years."
I don't think this legislation changes that. In essence, that 99-year lease is still in place for those existing homes on the island. I don't know if I'm missing something in the legislation, why that hasn't been taken out, because that seemed to be the main objection from the government side when it was in opposition.
If you look at the history of the island, those of us who live in Metro look upon the island as a public, open park. It is a very easy getaway for people, and even though it's very close to the downtown core, with a short ferry ride you can almost be out in the country. A lot of people can't afford to buy cottages or to get away on trips, but with a short ferry ride it's almost like being in another part of the province that's away from all the hustle and bustle.
The island is a great respite. It's got all kinds of fish; you can fish there. You can swim. It's got -- it had, I should say -- still one of the best beaches in all this part of the GTA at Hanlan's Point. It's sandy, with very clear water, despite the fact that there's been some pollution in recent years. It was a great swimming spot, and it was a very remote part of the island.
The island's got three parts. You can take one of three ferries. You can take it to Hanlan's Point, which is a bit more remote; you can go to Centre Island where they have the activities for children, where they have more intensive use of the parkland; or you can go to Ward's Island. That's where the housing is, on Ward's Island.
This island is a great, affordable getaway for people on limited income. People come there to play tennis. There are even people who own boats who dock there. There were all kinds of opportunities, and there still are, for people who wanted to bring their families for a picnic, who wanted to play baseball, who just wanted to be on the waterfront, to be involved in it.
The sensitivity -- myself, being in Metro those years -- we were very concerned that Metro was losing part of what we considered to be a public park to the housing. It's not that people were against providing housing. Many of us on Metro council at the time were very concerned about giving up what little parkland we have left in the downtown core. It was the principle of giving that up and allowing it really for private use.
Those of you who have parks in your constituencies will know how sensitive people are to giving that up. That's why over the years it was such a contentious issue. Metropolitan council over the years did not want to give up a square inch of that park because they knew they had a mandate to provide regional park spaces. The islands are a regional park. If you go to an island on a Sunday, Saturday or Friday, people come from all over the GTA, from Oshawa to Burlington, to that regional park. They take the ferry boat over and they like experiencing the island experience.
I know there was always controversy about the city of Toronto's position and Metro's position. The city of Toronto was essentially a lot more favourable to the housing perspective on it. Metro, on the other hand, had a mandate to ensure that this park remained a public park. That's why Metro opposed the extension of housing and building on the island.
This is one of the major inconsistencies of this bill, in that in principle it continues the 99-year lease. They still are going to be allowed to live on the island and those people on the island -- again, it is not trying to condemn the individuals who live there, but the principle of having the right to have a home on the Toronto Islands.
One of the things that was very irritating to people at Metro and people in the city was that some of the people who had homes on the island were found to have homes also in the city. They had two residences. Some of them had homes even in Rosedale, in Moore Park. I know there was someone who had a home in a very wealthy area, to the south of where I lived, in Wychwood Park; they also had a home. It wasn't as if it was their single residence. The ordinary people who couldn't afford cottages or couldn't afford to live in Rosedale were quite upset that the government was subsidizing people in Rosedale who had a second home in a public park.
That's where the opposition to the housing and the lease arrangement came from. In principle, people said, "Why is it just that a certain group of people have the right to have an island home and I do not have that right?"
As you know, there was a lot of confusion over who had the leases: Were they original owners, were they squatters, were they opportunists? I'm sure among the islanders there were some very bona fide people, but we know through the records and through the intervention of the members on the government side that a lot of those people were not original islanders. They came in when they saw an opportunity, and then when the government basically subsidized this opportunity with this 99-year lease for $1 a month or whatever it is, it really upset people. That's what this bill does not address.
I'd be very interested to see what the members who were here in the last House have to say about that continuation of the 99-year lease. Do they still think that's a good idea? In my reading of the bill, it perpetuates that so-called sweetheart deal. I'm really trying to understand where the minister is coming from when he's saying he's ending the sweetheart deal. Is it still in here or is it not? Is the 99-year lease still in this bill or is it not apparent that this is in there?
Another concern is in terms of a cost -- I don't see any reference to it in the bill -- that is, in terms of the provision of ferry service. As you know, in order to provide for transportation to the island, you have to maintain a regular ferry service. My understanding of it is that Metro still has to provide for the ferry service, and I wonder whether the province is going to subsidize Metro or whether the city of Toronto is going to take over the cost of providing that ferry service, especially during the winter months. There's no reference to who is going to pay for that ferry service. I hope the minister can make that clear, or the member for High Park-Swansea can make that clear, whether Metro is still going to pick up the tab for that or whether it's the city or the province.
The main opposition we have to this bill is on the principle that there seems to be in the public perception an advantage given to people who are now living on the island in terms of being able to reside on the island, and that the provision of financial support by the government to maintain their housing on the island is contrary to the opportunities other people may have. Certainly all of you here, and everyone, would love to have an opportunity to live on the island or own property on the island. It is a very attractive place. The only trouble, is how do ordinary citizens get that same opportunity, to buy property, to have those leases, to maintain that residence on the island? That is the reason I think most members of our party that I've talked to do not support this bill.
Despite the protestations that were brought to this House when the NDP was in power -- in terms of the NDP government, at least they were very straightforward on it. They supported the island community. They were very forthright about it, unequivocal about it, and this is them fulfilling that mandate they had in the last government, so they're being consistent.
What I wonder about is, is the sweetheart deal for the lease arrangements still maintained or has that been changed, and does the government now in power feel it is no longer a sweetheart deal, this 99-year lease for $1 a month or whatever it is? I would like that clarified. At this point, as I said in my opening remarks, this government is essentially not clear on what happened to the sweetheart deal. Has it been eradicated? We know the co-op has been taken out, but what about the 99-year lease provision? Has that been taken out? That's the main question I have for the members opposite.
Hon Mr Leach: I want to thank the member for his comments on our legislation. I just wanted to address the last issue he raised on the sweetheart deal. I fully agree that this is one of the world's greatest sweetheart deals. However, the residents of the island, in good faith, under the laws of the land of the day, have taken out mortgages, committed themselves to expenditures, and it would be extremely damaging to the 250 homeowners on the islands and the 600 people who live there if we were to change direction at this point in time. If it wasn't for that, I can assure you we would just scrap this. But they've taken out mortgages to rebuild the houses, to bring them up to building code standards. Being a reasonable and caring government, this is the most appropriate thing to do to ensure the residents don't go under any further concern.
Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I think the member for Oakwood gave us a clear picture of what was happening on the island. But, Mr Minister, I do have some questions. Now that the Flying Toad Co-op is cancelled and you're responsible for the debts, I'd like to know the amount the government of Ontario is responsible for. How many dollars are you responsible for?
Also, now that you're allowing 12 lots to be built on, I want to make sure these lots are not located in the floodplain, because you will recall that when the previous government gave the co-op people the go-ahead to build 110 units, most of them were built in the floodplain. Also, the government was responsible for building a retaining wall to accommodate the co-op. I was dead against building such a retaining wall.
Another question: What about the building code? You say that the building code and the Planning Act will be respected under this. Can you assure us that the existing homes on the island have been inspected and that they meet all building code and Planning Act requirements?
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): This will be my only contribution to this debate, but I did listen very carefully once again to a position being put forward by the Liberal caucus. I don't know, maybe it's just the fact that I'm in my mid-40s now and I'm easily confused, but I don't understand where the Liberals are coming forward on this again. When they were in opposition in the early 1980s, they went after the Tory government time and time again to save the island community. Then they were in power from 1985 to 1990, and Mr Peterson said, "We will save the island community," brought in a piece of legislation which was a transitional piece of legislation and said, "We're going to come up with a permanent solution."
Anybody who knows there's going to be a permanent solution over on the island knows that community has to be added to to maintain it and to strengthen it, to have the level of investment, the numbers of people living on that island. The member from Ottawa whatever knows that. But what the Liberals are doing once again is trying to have it both ways: "We favour the island community"; "We don't favour the island community."
We've got Hansards for people on all positions on all issues in the province of Ontario. I must say on this one the Conservatives suffer from the same disease, because Larry Grossman promised that the island community was going to be saved and put forward a plan to save the island community. Then, when we came up with a plan to save the island community, the Conservatives railed against it and said it was terrible. I remember the criticism from the members from Etobicoke whatever and Mississauga whatever; I remember those criticisms very clearly. At least now we will see some stability in the island community. I recognize that. I recognize that the minister was forced into that by what I think was very solid, good policy by our government.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I'm certainly grateful that you do recognize Mississauga South. I'm disappointed that the third party House leader said "Mississauga whatever."
Mrs Marland: You certainly would recall the number of times that I stood as the housing critic for the Conservatives in this House and, to use your words, railed against the NDP government on the issue about what was taking place on the Toronto Islands. The biggest injustice to building anywhere in this province was the legislation that was passed by the Bob Rae socialist government as it pertained to Toronto Islands. They exempted every single statute on the books in this province that every other developer in Ontario has to abide by --
When they were going to build this co-op housing project on Toronto Islands, they said they could build anywhere, even if it cost $5 million to build, and a retaining wall because they were building in the flood lands. They were building on wetlands. No one else in the province, thank goodness, is allowed to build on wetlands, but that government was behind a project that was going to permit that. That government also was behind the island trust having this wonderful lottery where anybody could put their name in, including the lawyer for the island trust itself. Ironically, he and his family's name was drawn out of the hat as being eligible for one of those homes.
Thank goodness this government has the fortitude to correct a major, gross error made by the previous government that was a lottery for life and benefited so few. It's an island resource for Ontarians, not just Metro Toronto.
Mr Colle: The government is very quiet, but the biggest complaint it had was this 99-year lease for $1 a day to have these waterfront properties. They are silent on that now, because despite the fact they were so easy to criticize the NDP on this part of it, now they have basically said, "The NDP were right, we were wrong and we are now partners in a sweetheart deal." The government now has changed its tune. They now know the sweetheart deal can't be broken because of political reasons, so now not only has Larry Grossman made the deal, not only has David Cooke; it's now Al Leach, the Minister of Municipal Affairs. There's now the third dealmaker who's involved in a sweetheart deal which continues --
The member for Etobicoke West said that if you can get a deal like this, it's like stealing: "They'd call that a thief in Metropolitan Toronto. If you can get a place to live for $30,000 for 100 years, you've just fleeced somebody. That's a steal. You've just ripped them off." You are continuing the ripoff if you really believed what you said in opposition before, and that is the major craw in people's throats, that this is a steal and people are continuing to be ripped off and this bill continues the ripoff at the peril of the majority of taxpayers who believe this is a public park that should be used for everyone.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I'm very pleased to stand and speak to Bill 38. I was going to begin by giving a brief chronology of the island and the islanders from 1867, and I will do that, but I want to address some of the remarks made by the representative of the Liberal Party, the member for Oakwood, who talks about his own position in Metro and their concerns around Metro losing a public park, that it's a regional park and all the poor folks outside of that park won't be able to have access to it because there are all these islanders spreading and they're going to take control of the park.
That's nonsense. No one was about to lose that park. We were not going to lose that park. Five per cent of that island was controlled by the islanders; 95% of the rest of that island was used for park space by the rest of the city, by Metro, the GTA, and any other Ontarian who came down to the island. There was lots of space. There was always a lot of space on the island for any poor or wealthy individual who wanted to go there on Monday, on Tuesday, on Thursday, on Saturday and on Sunday, any day of the week.
So for this member to talk about what Metro was concerned about in terms of losing the park space, it's completely wrong and false; misleading, I would add. Because 95% of that island was used as a public space for any resident or any constituent, elector, who obviously was a resident here in Ontario.
Peterson, their former Premier, wrote a letter to the islanders saying, "Don't worry, I will fix it for you." He was the Premier of the province and the leader of the Liberal Party and he gave a commitment on paper and sent it to the islanders saying, "I'm going fix this long-standing problem."
The Deputy Speaker: I want that microphone off, please. I'm a patient man. Let me correct that; I was a patient man. There is too much heckling. I would ask you to, if you want to carry on a conversation, please leave. If not, I would like, and I'm sure every member would like, to hear the speaker speak.
When the Speaker stands, the microphone usually disconnects the member, so I want to repeat what I had said in the event that the microphone was not on, and just to remind the Liberals that it was Peterson who gave that commitment. He was a Liberal and he was a Premier of this province. They now conveniently forget that promise.
By the way, the former Premier of this province never maintained the commitment that he gave to the islanders to fix the problem that they've had there for decades. So not only did he say he was going to fix it, but he didn't keep his promise. Of course, I would add that Mr Grossman, a fellow Conservative of theirs on the other side, as a former cabinet minister of the Conservative government, said that they were going to fix it as well and they didn't. Every government promised they would fix it and they did not do that.
So I wanted to make those remarks, because they're fresh in my mind, about what other people have said in the past as a way of reminding them when they make their comments that it's good to remember what was promised by your leaders in the past.
From 1867 to 1956, houses were built on the island and they were leased from the city of Toronto. In 1956, the land title was transferred to Metro. In 1975, the Metro government terminated land leases and initiated evictions against strong opposition.
Metro, you must remember, for the people across who are interested in this, was always hostile to the islanders, never liked the islanders being there, and of course wanted to bulldoze them all out of the island as fast as they possibly good. They did their job.
Mr Marchese: A good Tory indeed, Mr Godfrey. Lots of Tories on Metro council, in fact. They didn't like the islanders being there. They wanted to evict them. They wanted to bulldoze them all out and they did a good job, but in 1981, the same Conservative -- it was a Conservative government at the time, much like Conservative Metro members at the time -- based on a report of the Swadron commission, said as he attempted to try to solve the issue that the community would be allowed to remain until 2005, Metro given title to land and houses, city to lease land and houses from Metro and the city to collect land and housing rents from islanders.
The point was that when we got into government in 1990, we decided for the first time to restore peace on the island, based on a promise that we made, which we kept -- unlike previous leaders of other parties we were able to keep our promise on that issue -- and we solved it.
Mr Marchese: One of the members across said we didn't say anything about co-ops, but that's not why he opposed it. It's not because we decided to put more housing on the island that some members on the other side said: "That's going too far. Because of the co-ops, we're opposed." You, Mr Stockwell, wanted to bulldoze them much before governments thought about building infill housing or co-op housing over there, so it's not because of the co-ops that you suddenly decided, "We're against this."
In 1990 we kept our promise and began, in my view, to restore peace. Many of us on this side have argued that having islanders makes for a safe community. It makes it safer for people who go to the island. We believe that having islanders on the island has been very good for those who visit, for those who go there for whatever reason, and that has not been a detraction at all to anyone wanting to visit the island. In fact, we believe it was an important supplement, an important addition to have. Contrary to other views, it did not take much land away from those who wanted to visit, because it only constituted 5% and added to the safety of the overall community that visited there regularly or from time to time.
If a government wants to solve a particular problem, sometimes that requires some money, that's true. As we developed our own structure to solve this, through the proclamation of Bill 61 in 1993 we gave title of land and houses, which was transferred to the province; terminated all leases, in particular the lease between Metro and the city; and cancelled all debts in respect of rents, with no compensation other than that set out in the act.
We set out a trust, which was a unique thing to have done, we believe: The province leases the land to the trust, the title of the houses to be vested in residents, 250 land leases to be sold to existing residents following vesting and the trust to offer to sell up to 110 additional land leases, 80 of them to be cooperatives and 30 would have been sold as infill housing to individuals. The bulk of the proceeds from the 250 existing and 80 co-op housing leases was to be directed to the city in terms of covering their costs to Metro over many years.
We believed that in doing this through our bill, we had kept a promise that no other government was able to keep or wanted to keep. We believed and believe still that it restored peace on the island and restored peace between the islanders and the city, the islanders and Metro, and the islanders and the province. There was to be no more fighting after this. We believed it was a practical solution and it was a fair solution, but it's never fair to those individuals who are opposed to it. If you are opposed to having residents on the island, it's never a fair solution. Nothing a government ever does, therefore, is fair or reasonable.
People like me thought it was always important to have a residential community on the island. I never harboured any jealousies about the fact that some of those people have been there for 50 years or 70 years, with their children, of course. I never thought that to be a problem, but for many people, obviously, it's a problem where they argue these are fine cottages for people to have.
In my view, if people have lived there for a long time, they're entitled to something, they're entitled to title to the houses and it should be vested in the residents. That's what we did with Bill 61. We corrected a long-standing problem that had never been corrected by anybody else.
One of the points changes the composition of the board of the trust. In the previous legislation, Bill 61, we allowed for two thirds of the trust members to be islanders. We believed in democratic control, we believed in community control, as opposed to what this government appears to be doing now: "What we need is autocracy. What we need is draconian rule to make sure that what we want as a government is done in the way we want it."
In Bill 26 you had draconian measures, which you would rather not be reminded of, where you wanted to force doctors -- in fact, they would not have gotten their billing numbers unless the doctors went where you sent them and in a specific region. How much more autocratic and draconian could you be?
But what one observes from this government is this: that when you disagree with something it's draconian. Employment equity, in your view, was draconian, so it had to go. The Advocacy Act, in your view, was draconian, so it had to go. When the government doesn't like something, it imposes its will on communities or residents, and when it says that in its view something is wrong, "We will call it draconian because it imposes on us as government and on individuals a great burden, and we've got to get rid of it." It is interesting how they can contradict themselves continually.
In this particular bill what they're doing is saying: "From now on the board will be controlled by us, the government. You will no longer have two thirds of the trust coming from the islanders." That, in my view, is draconian. That is taking away the democratic ability of the residents to manage their affairs. You're saying, "We're not going to allow you to run your affairs." You're taking that away. That is draconian. It's contrary to your view of getting governments off the backs of communities.
How can you argue from time to time that that's what you want to do -- less government, less imposition of governments on people -- but in this particular instance where it suits you, you say: "That's okay, because in this instance we want autocratic control. We don't want any democracy on the island, we want to be able to govern the island and the islanders in the way we see fit." That, I suggest to you, is contradictory. It contradicts what seems your basic philosophical approach to things, that is, that there should be less government, less imposition of governments on people.
We are concerned about the makeup of the trust. I'm concerned. The residents are concerned. I talked to the minister about this, and I know he believes it will be all right and that nothing untoward will happen, that the residents shouldn't worry. That's between the minister and I having that kind of discussion, but to be frank, I'm not entirely sure it's going to be as easy as it seems. The islanders certainly are very worried about the composition of this new trust board and in fact what they are going to do.
We're not clear yet who will be part of that board. We're not sure whether there are going to be any members from the city, or simply staff members from municipal affairs or other people from who knows where. We're not clear on that. At some point we will have clarity, I'm sure, but at the moment the islanders are very worried about not being able to run their affairs as they see fit. That's a worrisome thing, and I wanted to put that on the record. I think it's contrary to democratic principles, but how do you argue with a government where they have 82 members and they have decided autocratically, as they do with so many other things, that this is the way it's going to be? That's the first point.
The second point has to do with the trust being allowed to sell 12 vacant lot leases for the purposes of building infill housing. This is down from the original 30 that we had permitted, and it's down further from what commitment they had gotten from the minister, because the minister had a discussion with the islanders. The islanders had believed they would have 20 infill houses, and when it went through cabinet obviously cabinet in its wisdom decided, "No, 20 infill lots is not good; they will only have 11 infill lots."
I argue, what was the problem with that? What was the problem with having 20 infill lots, remembering that the existing community occupies 5% of the park? How do 20 infill lots affect the overall territory and the makeup of the island? Not by much. But 20 infill houses would have gone a long way to, not just paying off their debts to the city of Toronto largely, but it would have allowed, had the islanders been able to build the extra nine houses, enough money to be able to support those on the island who are not well-to-do, because contrary to the view of many, they are not all wealthy, as some of you have claimed in the past. Yes, some are well-to-do, like any other community anywhere in Toronto or Metro or Ontario. You will have the range of people who are well-to-do, and some in the middle range and some not so well-to-do. So the point of having the additional infill houses was that they would be able to assist members who are not very well-off.
So there are two things: First, there was a promise and that promise was not kept. I don't blame the minister; he may have meant well. But obviously cabinet decided to overrule that decision the minister made. But the islanders went back home after their meeting thinking, "We've got 20 infill houses," and when the announcement came there weren't 20; there were 11. So the promise was broken.
Mr Marchese: Now it's up to 12. I've said that. The point is that the selling of those 12 lots allows them to pay off their debts to the city, and that's important. I understand that. I'm saying the other component was that it would have been very helpful to be able to assist the other poor members of the island. Now, that's in keeping with what this government is doing as well. They don't want to be --
I obviously disagree with you and all the other government members about that because I have always believed that it's the government's responsibility to take care of many of the citizens who are not so well-off, who are not so fortunate. I believe it's a responsibility of government to assist people because housing is a basic right. Security of housing is a basic right. And not every individual in this society has security of a home. Not everybody in this dog-eat-dog society is going to do well. We know that. I'm sure all of you know that as well. So whose responsibility is it to take care of those in society who for a variety of reasons are not economically well off?
The government on the other side said: "It's not ours. It's not the responsibility of the government. Somebody else should do it, but not us." I say to you, if you are not doing it as a government, who is going to do it? Who will do it?
They argued, "The private sector will do that." But the private sector isn't building homes. They build homes if it's profitable to them. If it's not profitable, they will not build. We know that. When it was profitable in the early years when we had a booming economy, they were building, and they built lots of condominiums. Then we had a crash. People stopped building condominiums and they stopped building houses because they weren't making enough money.
Part of what the NDP argued in the past is that when you build non-profit housing and cooperative housing, you're building with a view in mind that you are building housing as communities where you're able to fit into those communities people with serious illness such as AIDS, people with disabilities in the same building, people with a range of incomes. We think that's how you build homes and that's how you build communities. But this government obviously has no view on the matter, has no philosophy on this matter, except, "Let each of those individual citizens out there take care of themselves." That's your basic principle, and we profoundly disagree with that.
So we make two points. The 12 lots was a broken promise, and I'm saddened about that, but obviously the minister couldn't control that, because when you get into cabinet, cabinet has a way of changing promises that have been made or understandings that have been made between people and ministers.
There is a third point. The islanders will no longer have priority over the purchase of vacant land leases, and the trust will also now have to begin the process of compiling its waiting list all over again. They have done this process of advertising in 30 community newspapers across Toronto before. It was a long process; it was a fair process. This government is undoing that and is telling them, "You've got to begin again."
Mr Marchese: There aren't just NDP cronies on the island, the member from nowhere up there. There are, on the island, as Mr Stockwell knows, a number of Conservative folks who are your friends -- colleagues. So it's quite a mix of people not just in income but also political affiliation. For you to simply say they are NDP cronies is completely inaccurate, from the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.
You have taken away the protected occupancy from a number of people, and there weren't that many. There may have been up to seven people who were protected, people who probably had been on the island for many, many years, some of whom had applied through the commissioner to be able to have their land title vested to them and lost it in their appeal with the commissioner, and as they lost that particular legal matter, they had protected occupancy, which meant they were first in line to be able to get a house or to be able to lease land, one of the infill houses as well. That is gone. Those people have no protected occupancy now. And so I say to myself, why would you do that? Why would you, on that particular matter, on those protected occupants, say: "No, they will not be protected. We will undo that"? Why would you do that? Why the mean-spiritedness around that particular issue? I'm not quite clear.
I can understand that you would want to create a new waiting list for your own political purposes, to make your own point, whatever that is -- I can understand that -- but why eliminate the protected occupancy status of those other individuals? I'm not quite sure. I think it's mean-spirited to have done that.
I think it was a problem that you caused. I know that you don't care, but I'm just making the point that you just didn't have to, for the seven protected occupants there or so, say to them: "No, you will not be protected. You've got to go through another waiting list. We're going to create another waiting list, even though we know you took six or eight months to go through a long process of advertising in 30 community newspapers to create your list. That's okay. It's not good. We're going to have to do that again."
Mr Marchese: They're up to seven, there may be less than seven, and some of them have been there for many years. Let's say seven years, five years. The point is that because they have been there for a while, we had created a category that says these people would be protected, and you eliminated it.
Another point: The trust is being given broader powers to levy fees. That may not be such a problem. I think the trust should have the power to be able to do that, but when you do that in the context of having a new trust board appointed by the government, we're very worried. In fact, the residents are very worried about what that levy will be. The minister might say, "No, it's not a big deal. It's not a problem. Don't worry," but residents worry about what governments do. They have a right to be worried, given that they have changed the composition of the board. I'm worried about it and I know, from talking to many of the residents, they are worried as well.
Just to recap on some issues, and then I will complete my remarks on Bill 38: First, the Liberals promised through Mr Peterson, the former Premier, a Liberal, to solve this problem that islanders have had for many years. He failed them. He didn't keep his promise.
We came in 1990 and we delivered on our promise. We believe the solution we came up with is a fair one and a reasonable one. We believe it restored peace to the islanders and their fight with all the different levels of government: infighting between Metro and the city, fighting between the islanders and all the various levels of government, particularly the Metro government, but as well with other provincial governments. We finally did something that brought an end to all of that.
Bill 38 obviously will complicate it a great deal. I am hopeful, however, in my discussion with the minister, that when he says this new board will not harm the islanders in any way other than just simply being a watchdog for a short while before they transfer this power to the city -- if I'm to believe that, then I will not worry about much of the damage that could be caused to the islanders. But, until then, I am very concerned about this trust that has broader powers to levy fees and I will worry about the composition of a board that's not controlled democratically by the islanders but by the minister and some of the staff in his ministry, and that worries me.
I will be opposing Bill 38, as presented, because I think it will cause unforeseen damage. We hope, however, in spite of the remarks by the minister, that it will not be as bad as I fear and as bad as some of the islanders fear.
Mrs Marland: I can understand where the member for Fort York is coming from because the Toronto Islands residents are his constituents, and I also understand, he being a member of the New Democratic Party philosophically, where he would be coming from. But what is really being lost in this debate, especially on the part of the NDP, the third party in this House, is what the Toronto Islands are. They're not an enclave for members of the New Democratic Party. The New Democratic Party and its supporters do not own the Toronto Islands; neither does any other political party. Nor are they a preserve, in my opinion, of people who live in downtown Toronto. The Toronto Islands are a wonderful resource for this whole province.
The fact that they exist in the first place hasn't been achieved, thank goodness, by any government. Successive governments have not made very wise decisions on how the property ownership should be managed, whether we should be providing heavily subsidized transportation service all year round in the form of the ferries to the island, a lot of related issues that are required services because people live there in the first place.
I realize there's a very extensive history for some of the families who live there, but the point is that there are not a lot of property owners any more who have lived there for a very long time. Perhaps if it had been possible, the best decision would have been to return all the island property to parkland for all the people who can have access to it.
Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): To comment briefly on the remarks by the member for Fort York, I don't blame the NDP for having done what they did. I can see that the member is still keeping that particular mentality, to assist the tenants, if you will -- no owners -- of the island. He explicitly mentioned that in his presentation, especially when he addressed his remarks to democracy on the island, that security of the home is a right, and that when the NDP arrived, they came in and restored peace on the island.
I have to remind my colleague and the rest of the members of the House at what price they restored peace on the island. And security of the home goes for everybody in Ontario, not solely those enjoying living on the island, cottage type, at the expense of the rest of the people of Ontario. As for democracy on the island, democracy reigns for every home in Ontario, not solely those very few who enjoy the atmospheric conditions of an island during the summertime, the pleasures of a cottage during the summertime and many other amenities at the expense of the rest of the people of Ontario.
I am going to have, hopefully, some time to address this issue further, but I just wanted to address these particular issues the member for Fort York mentioned, as I think they relate heavily to the decision they made.
Mr Stockwell: I just want to get a couple of things on the record. I've had a very long and interesting past with respect to this issue dating back to 1982 as a member of Metropolitan Toronto council, and before that I took a keen interest in how the island issue was dealt with.
Let's dispense with a couple of myths. First, this piece of property was sold by the city of Toronto to Metropolitan Toronto in 1956. In 1956, Metropolitan Toronto issued eviction notices to well over 600 people who lived on the island, different parts of it -- Ward's, Algonquin etc. Of the over 600 people, all but 250 moved out, knowing full well that this was a park, treated as a park. The 250 who stayed from 1956 on fought successively with governments very successfully.
Today, the member stands there and suggests that the people he's defending now to stay on the island are people who have been there for a long time. I will say categorically: But a handful are original islanders. But a handful.
To make the suggestion that some aren't johnny-come-latelys is unfair. They are johnny-come-latelys. They've seen a beautiful little operation, they've seen a cottage on the island, they've taken full advantage of it. In hindsight, we know full well that they were supposed to be paying rent and they never paid rent, for heaven's sake. They didn't pay rent.
I know it's in the member's riding and he must defend them. He has that option, and he is doing so. He was very full in his government to try and create this deal, and it bugs me to no end to think they have signed a deal with all these people that's going to tie up good, public, open space parkland in a city that's starved for parkland for a buck a day for 100 years. That still grates me.
Mr Marchese: I thank the members for their comments. I disagree with all of them rather strongly. There are several things. As you can see from the comments of Etobicoke West, the hostility from Metro was immense. You can see it. You can feel it. It's palpable. It's palpable. Think of the kind of the kind of things that must have gone on in Metro with that kind of vile and bile and violence. Right?
Mr Marchese: Secondly, everyone has access to the island. I keep on repeating that 95% of the islands is accessible to everybody. Only 5% of the land is occupied by the residents. It has not taken away space from anybody wishing to go to the island. So I'm not quite sure why they continue to do that.
Mr Marchese: It is a public park for all and we had the guts, we were the only government that had the guts, the fortitude, the political will to deliver on a promise that every other government failed to deliver on. The Tories failed them and the Liberals through Mr Peterson, who wrote a very clear letter about his support to the islanders, failed them. They have all failed them, and that, I think, is shameful. So if you can fault us for anything, it's for delivering on a promise.
Mr Hastings: It really makes the heart palpitate to try and listen to some of the mythologies that the member for Etobicoke West has mentioned in his remarks about trying to defend the indefensible. It's like the Maginot line, the type of stuff that the member for Fort York has tried to coat over or cover over in this whole debate regarding this particular issue. It doesn't matter how many stretches he does of the imagination; the use of the elastic in any direction in any issue or any aspect of this issue is absolutely incredible.
Let me just start by stating that there is no doubt in my mind that if you look objectively, as best as you can, at this particular situation, the mess created by the previous regime in trying to resolve this issue and what the member for Fort York says, in trying to bring peace to a situation which really didn't have to have any peace brought to it -- because there was undoubtedly some hostility by Metro taxpayers regarding the ongoing catering to the new people who moved to the islands during the 1960s and 1970s. My remarks aren't directed at any of the folks who have lived there for many, many decades, the older generation. But what the member for Fort York loves to do is to mingle the two to create an illusion about this whole situation.
You might ask why there is any hostility by Metro taxpayers regarding this whole mess. It's not hard to figure out. The members opposite usually use the word "fair," and when you apply the word "fair" in the context of this issue, Metro taxpayers and Etobicoke taxpayers weren't treated fairly whatsoever at all regarding the expenditures of moneys to restore so-called peace to the Toronto Islands regarding this situation.
They spent a million bucks. They never asked the local councils; they just used the Metro council and the taxpayer to spend these moneys. And get this, members of the House. Just around election time last June, this is an outgoing government, but it saw fit to spend another, "What's a million?" Lots of taxpayers ask me where all the moneys have gone over the years in terms of the hard-earned moneys they pay in, whether it's through the retail sales tax, personal income tax, gasoline sales tax or any other tax. Here's a prime example of where the $1 million went: for consulting and legal fees, into the deep, dark hole of debt and deficits in this province.
You're darn right there was peace brought to the Toronto Islands -- at the cost of $1 million of Metro taxpayers' hard-earned bucks, particularly with taxpayers' money from the five municipalities that have been paying into this federation and into this issue for umpteen years. That's the first myth we ought to deal with in the elaborate reconstruction of mythologies the member for Fort York wants to talk about regarding the community over there.
As a member of a previous council, I couldn't believe the amount of money that was spent on this issue when the money that we need today for so many things isn't there. But it sure was there to deal with this issue.
I want to get to the purpose of this bill, which is designed to eliminate the current and future financial liability of the province of Ontario, to restore some fiscal accountability to the Toronto Islands land trust and to transfer the responsibility for the affairs of this situation to the islands trust and the residential community back to the local level. That's very consistent with the values of this particular government -- not having Big Brother impose a settlement through the use of taxpayers' money; ie, "What's a million?"
But the most important point about Bill 38 is that it gets over all the sweetheart matters that were in the original legislation, in Bill 61, that were given to the island residents, or at least some portion of them, by the previous NDP regime. Members opposite like to talk about deals that have been made. This is probably the prime model of a sweetheart deal made with a minority of the newer residents on that island regarding this whole situation.
The previous government introduced Bill 61. Under Bill 61 the Toronto Island residents -- and I wish I was one of them -- really hit the jackpot. It's like winning a minor 6/49. You might ask why, the Metro taxpayer might ask why in this regard. Why wouldn't they be a little jealous or a little hostile, if you want to use the terminology of the member for Fort York. Here's why: The residents only paid 30 bucks a month. That's a good deal. I think anybody in this House who had the opportunity to pay 30 bucks a month to cover a whole pile of services would be right there to line up. You've got ferry service, policing, fire, ambulance paid for by the Metro taxpayer.
I know the member for Fort York doesn't want to remember that, because that's a bad memory. He wants to create the mythology that they created peace as a result of the expenditure of the $1 million under the sweetheart deal the previous regime brought about. It benefited certain people on the Toronto Islands. One portion that it certainly benefited, which we weren't a part of -- and this is why the member for Etobicoke West has his blood up somehow and is sometimes exercised over this thing -- is a certain political élite.
Mr Hastings: Nothing wrong with that. That's called, I guess, members from the Liberal Party who helped create this mess, political patronage, which they're always saying it's dreadful to be involved in when we appoint somebody, but now it's okay. An interesting, inconsistent standard, but what would you expect from members of the opposition party? I wonder which ones are -- the centre today, I guess, is what's dealing with this issue.
When the member talks about bringing peace to the Toronto Islands situation and talks about community, the one part of the community he doesn't want to have you talk about or remember is the political élite of that community, because in this whole Bill 61 not only were they going to build a nice set of new homes called the Flying Toad Co-op -- I thought that name was rather exotic in a way, and I can't figure out why they used that term, because to some extent this is the party that's the champion of the environment. These are the folks who protect the environment. They're the only ones who have a monopoly on caring about protecting the environment.
But guess what? This particular project was going to be built in a floodplain. They're always lecturing us about how bad it is to damage the valley lands or build anything in the floodplain, but that's the bottom factor here, the reality. He doesn't talk about that. That's why the cost of this particular Flying Toad Co-op was going to be increasingly costly, because when you build in a floodplain you obviously don't want to have people at risk who would live in those homes, would you? No way. You would have to build a breakwall. If you go to the spot where this floodplain is, they would have added to the cost with a breakwall, a very expensive one, to help the people they were putting at risk by erecting homes in a floodplain.
How do they reconcile this? They're the champions of the environment on the one hand, but here they were going to allow this particular project to be built in a floodplain. How were they going to get around it? Not a problem. What they were going to do, and did under Bill 61, was exempt this particular non-profit co-op from the floodplain. They were going to exempt themselves from the Environmental Assessment Act and the Planning Act. These are the very folks who are always in an uproar whenever any exemption comes across from any other government, including the previous Liberal regime.
Now, how do they reconcile protecting the environment on the one hand, building 120 units of housing in a floodplain on the other and then turning around and getting all upset any day this particular government makes any changes to environmental legislation? It's an amazing leap of faith or triple canyons they're involved in.
That's a good beginning, if you're friends of the NDP in this regard, because what they called "preferred occupants" -- I wonder who they were? If you look at some of the folks who were on the board of directors of the non-profit co-op, 10% of them at least were going to be allocated to one of the political élites, in this case members of the NDP staff of the previous regime or their associates.
Mr Hastings: Yes. That's how they work. They had an ABC list, a preferred list, but this is part of the community. They weren't even going to allow, probably, the older residents in there. On the preferred list the folks from the political élite get top priority. But that's okay; that's called equality.
Mr Hastings: There weren't any penthouses, but they were right in a floodplain. The more I think about this, the more astounding it becomes. How could the environmental champions have even thought about putting this project in a floodplain?
Getting back to the name, I can understand now, I think, how they came to the name "Flying Toad." This is the group that wants to protect the environment. Probably in that floodplain or on the edges of it, if you go there today, you would find varieties of toads in their habitat, in their ecology. So if you built this housing in the floodplain, guess what would happen to the toads. They would fly away or they would walk away. How are a bunch of toads going to be able to coexist with people living in a non-profit co-op situated in a floodplain? I don't know how you figure that one out.
One of the other things they came up with in this bill which the member for Fort York doesn't even reference is that the ferry boats, operated by the Toronto Transit Commission, I presume, Metro, have a certain rate. If you look at the regs under their Bill 61, guess what they were going to do to protect the folks who use the ferries every day, especially those of the island residents who were working here at Queen's Park. They decided to freeze the rates during the winter so that they were the same rate as during the summer.
That of course was in the public interest, as you know, because this group was part of the community. Again, they forgot about the older island residents, but if you call something "in the public interest," it must be in the public interest.
This whole situation about building this thing in the floodplain and all the other related items regarding it is absolutely astounding in terms of the blatant disregard, I think, for the taxpayers of Toronto, Ontario and Metro particularly, because shortly after June 8, this is how they decided to spend the $1 million I've referred to.
If people want to know what the $1 million was for, well, they had to do an audit. It was commissioned by the government. They spent $416,000 in legal and consulting fees. The question crossed my mind -- and I'm sure the member for Etobicoke West will bring this out in his remarks -- I'm wondering to what extent the consultants of the firms involved in this little public interest charade were also consultants to the Fair Tax Commission when it was running up big bucks three or four years ago to aid the Treasurer at that time in how to bring about fair taxes and minimal taxes to the Ontario tax system.
However, I'm not going to retell the whole story about this NDP nightmare. I'd rather focus back on the benefits of this particular bill, the contents of it and why it was necessary to bring about a new arrangement, long, long overdue.
First and foremost, Bill 38 eliminates the current and future liability of the province by repealing the requirement that the province give a loan guarantee to enable the owner of a house on the islands to purchase a land lease or bring the home up to fire codes. With this bill the province will no longer receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a land lease, particularly the one that was in the floodplain.
Bill 38 restores financial accountability of the islands trust because the trust will be restricted, as the minister said, to the sale of 12 land leases for sufficient land for 12 homes that are infill. That's reasonable, to get back the fiscal mess that was created. And they're not going to be built on the floodplain, because I specifically asked about that. At least we've stopped that nonsense. We've also stopped the nonsense with the Flying Toad Co-op having been built in what you call a non-profit co-op. Really, that's a hidden name for what you call luxuriously affordable housing. That means where the taxpayer gets to pay for 35 years the amount of interest due and principal on the mortgage on each one of the 120 units that were to be built in this marvellous piece of housing on the floodplain. So at least the 12 lots for sale will be within the existing residential community with access to the existing infrastructure, which is another matter, of course; if they'd built the co-op, they'd have to bring in hydro, additional water and sewage, costs that weren't even estimated in their particular proposal.
This particular bill ensures there will be no further development in existing park areas. That's the other point that is absolutely astounding about the previous regime. Not only did they end up wanting and requiring that this Flying Toad Co-op be built in a floodplain, they were building in a public park. Can you imagine if this government tried to bring in some legislation that would have allowed 10 members of Conservative staff to live in a private-sector-financed co-op in, say, High Park or Centennial Park, or any other of the parklands in the greater Toronto area? My God, the horrific outpourings of shame and all the reaction back -- we would never have heard the end of it. But curiously enough, in this particular case, it seems to me the media have been very quiet about this whole proposal. I'm just wondering whether some of the members of the fourth estate might have been eligible as preferred occupants to live in the Flying Toad Co-op. Who knows?
There are other things about this bill that will help restore a little fiscal sanity to this mess. The proceeds from the sale of the lots are absolutely key to Bill 38, because the revenue generated from the development of these infill lots will allow the trust to pay off the debts that were run up by the previous regime, remove the provincial guarantee on its line of credit, and restore the trust on firmer financial footing.
Bill 38 also transfers the responsibility for the Toronto Islands trust and residential community to the local level which, as I said before, is the specific value of this political party and government, by changing certain aspects of the leasing arrangements. Under the previous regime's act, the province would lease certain land -- you see, Big Brother in there, telling them how to do it -- and buildings to the city of Toronto and other land to the Toronto Islands Residential Community Trust Corp until December 15, 2092. We're all going to need a pile of new stuff put into us to see how this works out in another 100 years -- Bionic Man.
Bill 38 will remove the exemption from the Planning Act that was granted by the former government for the Toronto Islands community. This will ensure that any future development contemplated on the islands will be subject to provisions of the Planning Act, as they should have done in the first place, instead of providing themselves with a little private exemption for parkland in a floodplain. I can't believe that one.
After all, as unique as the Toronto Islands are, they are no different than any other community in Ontario, so why is the province assuming the responsibility for this lone community when it should fall under Metro's jurisdiction? Three years ago, the previous regime were in power, the top priority was to ensure that their own people were looked after first and foremost in the name of the public interest. Now that these Rae days are finally over, thank goodness, and they're behind us, at least responsibility for the island community will be transferred to the city of Toronto.
Let's be reasonable. The Toronto Islands require the same services that every other community needs. It also makes sense that these responsibilities be assumed by the appropriate level of government that can deliver the services to the residences as efficiently as possible.
I agree that this bill does give the province the right to retain the responsibility for appointing trust board members. So why is the province still going to appoint these board members when it wants to reduce its involvement in the islands? Our government believes it is more important that the islands community and the trust remain viable over the long term, as the minister has alluded to in his remarks. By retaining this responsibility, we will ensure that the board will be strong and representative. We also want to ensure that the board reflects the diversity of the islands and acts in the best interests of the entire community, not some segment of the community.
As I mentioned earlier, the previous NDP government's agreement's cost to Ontario taxpayers was $360,000, as part of that million, and taxpayers are going to ask how much our deal is going to cost them. Zero, zero -- a big, big difference between the so-called peace bought by the previous regime at a big price to the so-called settlement of the issue. In fact, we feel that our government will save taxpayers money by eliminating any future provincial liability relating to the islands.
The elimination of the Flying Toad Co-op alone will save the government about $1.5 million in annual subsidies, so if you move that along 35 years, you can see how costly it was going to be and how unfair it was going to be to both Metro and Ontario taxpayers. In addition, the government will save an additional $674,000 on infrastructure costs that would otherwise have had to be spent if this co-op had proceeded.
It seems to me that the solution our government proposes is a compromise solution which recognizes and retains the existing residential community. Our government is attempting to normalize this community by bringing it under the jurisdiction of local government, in this case the city of Toronto, and to take steps to place the trust back on firmer financial footing. It'll be a first in that regard. Islanders will be able to live on the islands, but should not be treated any differently from any other community -- I think that was one of the key sources of frustration and hostility from Metro taxpayers about the previous sweetheart deal -- and they, not the provincial taxpayer, should pay for the debts the island has run up over the last couple of years, and the sale of the 12 infill housing units will help us to get on that particular road sooner and faster.
Finally, I'd like to comment on the member for Fort York's sowing of seeds of distrust and suspicion that somehow a change in the composition of the board of directors of the island trust is going to lead to imposition of changes that wouldn't be in the interest of the whole island community. Having known the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the composition, we will succeed, I believe, in bringing to rest any of those scurrilous aspersions which the member for Fort York has raised about the problems that could be brought about because they lose two thirds of the majority of the board. I know this minister's door is always open to consultation, and both his parliamentary assistants, regarding this, will be able to deal with the issues if they are some things that really need to have the minister involved.
Finally, let me say again, I'm glad to see an end to this mess, because as a member of a local council I couldn't believe the time in which political energies were spent at a number of levels trying to bring about restoration of "peace on this issue" at such an unfair price. This particular piece of legislation brings about much more needed stability and sanity to what was an unbelievable and frustrating experience by many members of council, both at Metro and in the local governments, and it's a better break for the taxpayers of Ontario and Metro.
Mr Sergio: Yes, I have to, I have to be fair, you know. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale did mention a couple of things going back to the history of the island residents. But let me say this in all fairness to the attacks on the Liberals and the NDP, which have left us, I have to say, a real problem.
We told all the members on the other side here that the Conservative people have had over 40 years to rectify once and for all this particular problem. It's not since 1956, according to my figures, as the member for Etobicoke West was saying. It's one year after the creation of Metro, as we know it, in 1953. It was in 1954 when the city of Toronto gave it to Metro, gave a hot potato to Metro, and said, "We can't handle this." They gave it to Metro to solve the problem, and ever since 1954 nobody was happy. Absolutely no one.
I wonder where the Conservative people have been for the last 40 years and more, that now they are attacking the Liberals and the NDP. Excuses, excuses, but the fact is that for 40 years and more the Conservatives had the ball in the field and they could have solved this problem for the residents of the islands, for the tenants, for all levels of the various governments, and for the rest of the people of Metro and Ontario. So don't come today accusing the Liberals and the NDP.
Mr Marchese: I'm not quite clear yet what the Liberal position is. I think that they're opposed to the bill because it didn't go far enough, and I presume they're saying you should have simply undone Bill 61 and bulldozed the islanders away from the island. That's what I think their position is. Perhaps in the next turnaround I'll get a better idea of what they're proposing, but at the moment I think they're opposing the bill.
The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale says that we served a "political élite" on the island. I'm not sure what this political élite is, but I have to tell the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale that there have been many islanders, over a long stretch of time, who have supported different political parties over the years. I'm not sure what you're talking about. But if that's what you're talking about, I have to tell you that political affiliations have changed over the years for a long time.
If you don't mean that, then I don't know what this political élite group means, because I don't know who they are or what your reference is to this political élite, but there are a number of people, yes, who have been very political over the years and, yes, they've supported different parties over the years. That is true.
With respect to this member saying that we were going to build on a floodplain, talk about a myth. That is one of them. Our government has done the biggest and largest study and research on any shoreline ever, and it determined that we were not building on a floodplain: the longest, biggest study we've every done, and we were not. The study said it was safe to build where they were going to be building. So talk about a mythology around where we were going to build. But that's another issue, because quite clearly that's not the issue for you anyway.
Mr Stockwell: I just want to briefly comment on the member for Fort York's revisionism. If you weren't building on a floodplain, why were you building yourself a $5-million wall in the water? Get a grip, for heaven's sake: $5 million for a wall because you weren't building on a floodplain? Holy smoke.
Mr Stockwell: It was the Great Wall of Marchese. I don't know. What is it? Why were you building the wall? I don't know. You've really got to wonder about that one. They did a huge study that said, "We're not building on a floodplain, but we're going to build a floodplain wall anyway."
Mr Stockwell: I'm still waiting to hear what -- and here's another good friend of mine. Maybe this Liberal will explain to that Liberal what position they're going to take and this Liberal will vote in favour and that one will vote against.
If you want to do something different with the island than what's been presented by the minister, say it. If you don't want the houses there, say you want to bulldoze them. If you don't like the legislation, say you don't like it. Tell the islanders that you're in favour of bulldozing those island houses, because if you ever get elected again, you could go in and break those leases and bulldoze the islands. I think you should be on the record. Not only is it important that you get on the record; I think it's important you find the record.
Mr Bradley: I think there is a problem with the islands, because there appears to be something in the water that is drifting down to Etobicoke. When I listened to my friend from Etobicoke West speak today, it makes me -- and Etobicoke-Rexdale had a very interesting speech. But I was listening to the responses as well, and I wonder about some of the history and some of the memory of the member for Etobicoke West as he responds.
I listened carefully when he was sitting on this side of the House, approximately where Mr Smith from Middlesex is sitting now. They wouldn't let him into the front row. I always thought he should be in the front row. They wouldn't let him into the front row for the Conservatives. He made a compelling case that does not square with what I hear the government doing today. I'm glad that another member for Etobicoke -- in this case Rexdale -- has recognized this and is trying to rescue his colleague from Etobicoke West from some of his previous speeches.
The fact is that what this needs is a keen analysis. What you have proposed is rather interesting. It's somewhat helpful. It has nothing to do with the tax break, which I was wondering about, how this could be possibly related -- Mr Speaker, you may be able to help me -- to the fact that the government is going to have to borrow over $20 billion in order to deliver a tax break to the people of this province, all with borrowed money.
Mr Hastings: In wrapping up, let me just say I waited with bated breath for the analysis of the Liberal position on this particular bill, and he's trying to suggest or imply that somehow some of the items I dealt with are not connected to reality. Well, if that's true, then I don't know where that leaves the Liberals.
In terms of the member for Fort York, I didn't want to bring this up. He said he couldn't figure out who were members of the political staff we were talking about. I don't want to get too personal here, but one of the people who certainly was going to be a member, I guess a preferred occupant, of this Flying Toad Co-op, was, dare I say, one of the principal architects of Bill 61. He was the former policy adviser to the former Minister of Municipal Affairs. Can you imagine? There's no connection here whatsoever between the minister's policy adviser in this area and the minister. They're completely separate people from completely separate political ideologies. That's only one. We could go on and give you a list if the member for Fort York insists on it, but I don't want to pain him with all the good folks he lost in the last election.
Finally, what is the position of the official opposition on this issue? Could we please hear a solid position as to whether they like some of the things in the bill, they think it's a lousy bill, it should go to committee? We're not hearing anything from them in terms of those directions. I'd be very interested in hearing the member for St Catharines' analysis of the actual bill, rather than the tax cut he's so worried about that he can't get unobsessed about.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I welcome the opportunity speak on Bill 38, which is before us today. As I heard my colleague speak on this bill, I wondered, as he said, what was the rationale for this bill. But just as the member from Rexdale finished speaking, I then gathered that the rationale for this bill is --
Mr Hastings: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm new to this House, but I always thought that you make the best effort in trying to identify where the member is from, whatever the name of the riding. I always thought that was in the standing orders. I'm from the riding of Etobicoke-Rexdale.
The rationale that I find, the reason why this bill came into being, it seems to me, is to get even with the NDP. As he stated, all those NDP who are living on the island, maybe we should have a bill to get them off. What a reason to have a bill. I have far more respect for the minister who has introduced it, and I hope that's not his reason.
This Toronto Island, the specific place, has been a political football for years; as a matter of fact, for a very long time. As I was reading my notes, I realized that this island, which was acquired way back in 1867, has been going from one extreme to the other, being debated and being put into different hands over the years. As a matter of fact, people have been living on that island way back from 1894. One would want to believe that this came about just recently, maybe when the NDP came about, that this island issue was there, but that's not the case.
The other observation I've found is how interesting it is that there are many former municipal politicians who are in the Parliament of Ontario. They should have much more intimate knowledge of what happened, and I thought they would have helped to resolve some of these problems we've had over the years, but what we have is a lot of rhetoric, a lot of speeches, a lot of political football being played with this issue. It is very sad.
My main reason for speaking on this bill is an aspect of it where this government again came to attack co-op housing. I'm not quite sure where they stand on co-op housing. One minute they are against social housing and one minute they are for co-op housing. After the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale spoke, I found that he seemed to be against co-op housing. I hope the minister will stand up and say, "We are for co-op housing and we will strongly support the building of affordable housing," especially co-op housing, with the assistance of government to bring that into place and not leaving it to the private sector.
I would like to establish -- and I hope they will be able to establish -- that they are in strong support of affordable housing and co-op housing. I know you're going to get some help from the federal government in assisting building more co-op housing, but you don't state that very well in many of the speeches. I'm speaking directly to the minister, who of course is much more privy to all that wonderful information from the feds who are telling him and encouraging him to continue to build co-op housing. I hope you will continue to do that.
I also understand and empathize with my colleague the Minister of Housing, because as his members speak, it seems to me they don't have a full understanding of what all that means about housing and affordable housing. First, I fully agree that to build housing on the Toronto Islands, with a floodplain like that, with conditions not conducive to building more houses like that, should be looked at very seriously. From that angle, I can support a cause that maybe they should not be building co-op housing or building more housing in that area.
What bothers me is that the Minister of Housing brought forward no plans at all for housing or affordable housing. He has this slash-and-burn approach to anything that's called affordable housing. He decided, "I will take a look at the terrain of this land and, as far as I can see, if there is any evidence at all of building of affordable housing or co-op housing, we're going to slash that and put it away." Gone, as he would have said and his Premier would have said when he just came in -- gone. All that would have gone. No support, no assistance at all to those people who want access to affordable housing or to co-op housing.
When I heard the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale speaking about the people living in co-op housing, he said they were people who could afford to go there. I don't think he does understand who comprises the residents of co-op housing or affordable housing, to realize they're not all people who need support or government assistance. It's a mixed income that is there.
I know it's difficult. I think once you educate your caucus and your members about that strategy and that program, they'll gradually come around to understanding why it is important to build more affordable housing and more co-op housing. I emphasize that, because killing the 110 co-op houses on the island is to say you must create another 110 somewhere else. But you haven't done so. What you have done is put a lot of people, those who need that type of housing, into a position that they don't know -- they are scared, they are frightened, they don't know where they should go later on, because this government does not speak for people who need support.
Mr Curling: What I'm driving at is that if this government here could represent all the people of Ontario and not only the select few people of Ontario, then we'd say we have a government that is representative. They brag about privatization, they brag about helping the rich and the élite, but in no way support those who need assistance, as government is all about.
When they do collect money and when they talk about spending taxpayers' money, they speak as if the people who are lower-income don't pay taxes. As a matter of fact, if they do pay taxes: "We'll take it from them and give it to the rich and give it to those who can afford it, or if we want to give back a tax return, for instance, then we'll look and say who should we give it to. Well, we should give it to those on the top end of the ladder, of the strata of income, and then that will be of more support."
That is why, Mr Speaker -- I don't know if you were there; I don't think you would be there because it was a fund-raiser held for the Tories, and I know that as a Speaker, you're quite neutral, of course, and you would not have been sitting there at that fund-raiser when the Premier was bragging about how much money he got in and said, "You know, I feel so good, I could give you much more taxes back." He wasn't talking to those who would need it most because, guess what, it is those on the bottom end who are paying up for those on the top end of the scale, which is unfortunate.
I want to appeal to my colleague over there, the Minister of Housing, who has now I think kind of learned and understands that there are people who are most in need of government support and assistance, that laws put in place should be for all people, that the laws in place should give some support for those people in need more. But no, we find a government that comes about and says, "I want a tool." They speak about the toolbox. The toolbox must have a sledgehammer and a machete so they can go and chop programs for the poor and beat up all those who can't afford to survive in this society. I tell you, this pains my heart, because the fact is, they come about with that smirk on their face as if: "We were elected by all the people and to heck with all the poor people. They should go out and get a job, they should go out and get off welfare." In the meantime, they have cut off that support from the people who need their support most.
Mr Curling: While my dear friend from Etobicoke-West is asking how we will vote on this, let me be very clear about how the Liberal Party will be voting, and I will stay for the quiet: We will vote against.
Mr Curling: I'm so glad I brought some order to the House. They hear very clearly that we will not vote for a bill that seems to be just vindictive. Somehow it would resolve nothing, and no policy there, and we go about with this sledgehammer, this slash-and-burn approach of this government, and to say, "Yes, we will get all those NDP who are living there." That's not the way you make policies. This issue has been around for over 100 years, and they come and say, "Oh, those people in their co-op housing and that place that is not conducive for housing, we will just slash that, yes." But where are they creating?
I will tell you a story, Mr Speaker, and you will associate with this. You have visited -- and I will use an example of Cuba. You remember when Fidel Castro and his friend Che Guevara went off to liberate Cuba and when it was all over and Castro was in charge, Che Guevara wanted to go on to other places, to destroy and to make sure that he can liberate other places in South America. Castro said to him an old saying, "There's a time to destroy and there is a time to build. There's a time to build up."
I'm saying to this government, when you have a policy that you won in June and feel it is time to destroy -- it is the month of May in 1996 and I have seen no creative way in which you are building a society to make sure that people feel a part of it, but you continue to go about destroying, driving the living fear into the most vulnerable in our society when you should be protecting those who need the protection in our society. This government feels that big business needs more protection than anyone else, that big business and people in the upper echelon of income should be given more money because what they will do is give it back.
The fact is that people are in fear that they have done a job and feel, "Yes, I've done a job by voting." Most of the people who voted for you expected you, as the government, to protect all people, especially those who are most vulnerable. Those people who have great incomes, larger incomes, and are living in good homes and all that don't really need government support; they can do it themselves.
They don't need the government to cut away its support as it has to the lower-income people, to say, "You shall now have less money because you're on welfare," "You shall have less money for those who are supporting battered women in the shelters, "You shall have less money for those who need day care," and, "Go fend for yourself," or, "You don't need transportation because the fact is that the people we represent all have cars." No wonder the Minister of Transportation tells us in the House that if you're in trouble on the highways you can use your cellular phone. The mentality and the thinking is on that upper area, those who can afford it.
I appeal to you, if you bring laws into place, to make sure you are sensitive. That's why we talk about consultation. I want to spend a little moment on that word. It means a bit of listening. It means not only just listening but to respond to the concerns of those people who are telling you that they are hurting, that they have no home to go to, and the seniors who are fearful that you're going to destroy the protection of rent control, you're going to destroy some of the things put in place to protect them.
You have come out and said, "We're out of the business of housing." But government is in the business of everything that is legislated to protect people. When they come out of it, which they have openly -- and I must say to them, they are pretty honest about this. They said, "We are out of the business of everything." Then we asked the question, "Who should do the business of government?" Their answer is: "Private industry. We shall get private industry to come in."
Today, and for a couple of days as it has gone on in question period, we have shown that even when they bring the private sector in to take over some sectors of the things that government does, these people are corrupt. The government on this side doesn't even stand back to say, "Let me check all this out because I'm going to hand over my responsibility to the private sector." These people that they have found guilty of criminal activities are going to run the industry that the government has been doing for years and years.
There's nothing wrong with the private sector being involved in some of the situations we have, but we must make sure that if we hand it over to any private sector, it will represent and make sure that the services that are available to people are accessible to all people, not only those who can afford it but those who can't afford it too.
For instance, one of my constituents called me and told me they have stopped the bus -- and this is a good example here -- running up Tapscott Road. She said to me, "How could you appeal to the members, the government, to say that I leave work at 6:30?" The person who called me works with the Ministry of Housing and said: "I leave at 6:30 down here in Toronto. The bus stops at 7 o'clock. When I get home, I have to walk almost a mile in the night, and I'm fearful, I'm scared. My kids go to night school and they have to walk." Why? Because there are no services; they have cut back the services.
Can you imagine what we'll do when they hand over most of these services to the private sector? That is why I say to you that this Bill 38 has no structure, no program, no policy to say, "If we destroy this, we will then create the other aspect of things; if we get rid of 110 non-profit co-op housing units, what we will do is we will eventually tell you we will create otherwise." No. They are saying, "We are depending on the private sector if we destroy it, on the good heart of the private sector." If they can make enough money, sufficient money and sufficient profit -- and there's nothing wrong with profit; I am one who believes that if the private sector's in a business, it should make a profit. But why would they build housing at a cost, with such low returns with the rent that would be paid? Why would they build it if they can't have a return, make a profit?
That is why I'm saying to you, if you destroy 110 non-profit co-op housing units here -- it may be ill-advised, badly directed, to build there -- then create it somewhere else. There is a need. I'm so glad that many of the members listening so attentively will realize how important it is.
Don't forget those people who need your service. You don't answer to your constituency here. When you go back to your constituents and they ask you the basic questions, "What are you doing for me because my accommodation increase is so high? What are you doing for me because I don't have a job? What are you doing for me because I and my kids can't afford proper education?" if you respond that the private sector, as soon as it gets around to it, will provide all that, that's not good enough.
The wonderful thing about democracy -- and I'm very patient. I am very patient about this. The people, who are very alert to what's going on in this very civil society, will wait for the next election and assess those who have helped them and supported them through this process. If they did not respond to their needs, what they will do is say, "We shall not vote for you."
That's the wonderful thing about democracy. That's why when polls are asked every day -- and you know how polls are. I don't believe in polls today. The polls I like best are those at the polling station. That day, when it comes time to vote for those who have not supported the cause of those who need government most, I hope the response will be resoundingly clear for those individuals here who have destroyed some of the basic supports of people in our society who need help but get no encouragement from this government, get instead a sledgehammer and a machete in a slash-and-burn approach to destroy and nothing else comes with it.
I hope when the time comes for the budget that I can see in it -- and I'm pretty patient -- that 110 non-profit co-op housing units will be created somewhere else, that all the hundreds and hundreds of projects you have destroyed in non-profit housing will once again evolve and that we see you supporting that. I do hope you don't come back and say to me: "We will wait for the Reaganomics, that trickle-down stuff. As soon as the private sector is done building at the top end of the market, they'll build affordable housing for those people."
Let me just point out a couple of discrepancies with the Liberal Party's policy here. We heard from the member for Oakwood today. If you understand the island issue as it sits now, there are homes presently in place that have lease agreements for 100 years and there was a proposal to build a co-op.
Mr Colle, the member for Oakwood, stood up, and his rationale for not supporting this piece of legislation -- I might add in parentheses that Mr Colle's a Liberal -- was that they weren't going to tear down the homes and make it all parkland. He was firmly entrenched as a Liberal in the position that, "Since you're not going to break those leases, tear down the homes and make it all parkland, I can't support this."
I sat here long enough to hear another Liberal speak, and that was my friend from Scarborough, Mr Curling. It's curious that Mr Curling and Mr Colle are in the same caucus. I can't believe it, because Mr Curling says, "I can't support this bill because you're not building the co-op." Mr Colle says, "You should just clear it all out and make it all parkland or I can't support you," and Mr Curling says, "Unless you start building on the island, I can't support you."
I've got to ask you, when you caucus something, are there two different rooms? When you come to an agreement at the end on what you're going to do, have you people talked to each other, or is this all done by e-mail? I can't for the life of me understand how Mr Colle can say, "I don't support it unless they tear the homes down and make it all park," and how you can rant on for 20 minutes that the co-op's necessary and should be built.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): It's very interesting listening to that member talking about belonging to the same caucus. This morning, that member and the member for Wellington came before the standing committee on social planning and development or whatever it's called dealing with the education bill, Bill 31, and they came there and pleaded with their eight Tory members on the committee to allow the College of Teachers to be open, the membership be open on it, so that the 17 members would all be in teaching positions. How successful was this member with that amendment? He didn't get anywhere. He could not get one out of the eight people to agree with him. So he's asking us whether we belong to the same caucus. We sure do.
I'm very pleased to see the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in the House today, for one reason and one reason only. Our member made reference to that, and that deals with, what business is the government in? Mr Minister, it may very well be that the government is not in the business of housing, but the government is also not in the business of invoking fear and anxiety in people, especially elderly people, who are clearly upset, who live within Ontario Housing Corp units clear across this province, a quarter of a million of them whom you have upset over the last four to five months by telling the people that basically the units are going to be sold out from underneath them without any protection whatsoever.
Some general remarks with respect to what the member for Scarborough North said. I agree with him. It is true that this government is engaged in some malodorous acts around many, many issues. That is true.
With respect to housing, much of what he said is true. This government cares very little about people who are in need and creating security in housing for people in need. It is true what the member says, that this Conservative government cares very little about that. I agree with that. That is in fact the case.
On the other hand, I remind him, the member for Scarborough North, and other Liberals that the former Liberal Premier, Mr Peterson, promised to restore peace on the island and never did. He promised to solve --
Mr Marchese: M. Grandmaître and the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale pointed out the shoreline problems. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, with a great deal of palpable puffery, said, "They're spending $5 million over there on the shoreline."
Half a million was spent on the shoreline, and much of it was needed by Metro for the following reasons: for the water filtration plant, for parks, roads and sewers, and most of that was on the other end of the island, nothing to do with housing. The housing was well protected on the shoreline where it was going to be built.
Mrs Marland: You know, if you spend enough time in this House, everything comes around full circle. We've often said that. Really, it's almost like it's this person's turn to repeat what that person said five or six years ago, and particularly for me this afternoon, of course, because when the honourable member for Scarborough North was Minister of Housing, I was his housing critic.
The thing that I would say in response, because I know I'm supposed to respond to your comments -- however, there's been a great deal of latitude in the last five minutes because I noticed other members were attacking my honourable minister directly, a Minister of Housing, by the way, who has had the intestinal fortitude to make a very difficult decision about the Toronto Islands situation.
What is so significant is the short memories of people who have been in this House, and I say that with respect to the member for Fort York. You have been saying that certainly the seawall, as an example, was needed, but actually where the Flying Toad Co-op was being built was totally underwater. That's why it had that name.
One of the greatest training grounds I've ever had in this House was to be the Minister of Housing when all my colleagues were bringing out all their guns, even the Conservative Party in that respect. We took tough decisions, and I took some very tough decisions. No wonder today -- Mr Speaker, you knew me when I had black hair, and now it's all white. The fact is we tried our best to represent all people, all people of all strata, landlords and tenants, and take some very tough decisions to make sure we have fair protection for the tenants. I'm appealing to the Minister of Housing to make representation fully on that ground for all people.
I was tempted, of course, to respond to the member for Fort York when he tried to make some sort of scathing attack on me, but we know how the NDP stands in regard to building non-profit housing. We all saw they are committed to that, of course, but somehow, in the wanton way in which they were doing it, nothing really constructive in this for us. No wonder the Conservative Party today can attack the 110 co-op housing on the island, because as we know, it was not a good, sensible decision.
Mr Stockwell: On a point of order: I know the member from Scarborough ran out of time. I would seek unanimous consent, because he clearly forgot about my question, and I know he would want to respond to it in the fullness of time.
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Seeing as I just have a couple of minutes on the clock, I'll be brief. I was told I also have to be gentle, because the comments made in the last couple of minutes have actually added a third position to the two outlined by my colleague the member for Etobicoke West. We had Mr Colle suggesting that the houses be bulldozed. We had Mr Curling suggesting that we should build the co-ops. Now we've got Mr Gerretsen suggesting, and I quote, "that the people of the island don't matter." But I'm not going to make any editorial comments.
Mr Gilchrist: I'm not making an editorial comment. But let me just add another couple of comments in here relating back to when the NDP passed the sweetheart bill that created the environment we are dealing with today. That was their Bill 61. I note there is one member from the Liberal government -- there weren't many who stuck around, but there is one still in the House here today.
I'd like to read from Hansard two quotes attributed to him, Mr Bernard Grandmaître, the member for Ottawa East, a Liberal member: "But I would like to remind him that the Cooke deal that's been agreed to...is not the best deal possible. I think it's a good deal for the islanders but a bad deal for Metro, a bad deal for Toronto, and a bad deal for the Ontario taxpayers." I couldn't agree more.
The bottom line is that we've got a number of people living on that island, paying only $30 a month rent, incredibly subsidized by the taxpayers of the rest of Metro Toronto. The fee to get across on the ferry is $5, but I'm told that the actual delivery cost is about $20. From a purely fiscal rationale, we've got to deal with this. What this bill does is allow the sale of lots to deal with the half-million-dollar debt.
I see I'm getting the high sign here. With all deference to the party whip, I'd just like to add that in the interests of all the taxpayers of Metro Toronto it's critically important that we deal with this issue once and for all. I'm very proud that the Minister of Housing has had the courage to bring this bill forward.
Mr Gerretsen: Mr Speaker, I just want the record to be clear that my comments with respect to the islanders were in relation to what Mr Curling was talking about, about how the seniors and the people in public housing were being dealt with. I have all the respect in the world for the islanders.