Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): I attended two full days at school in my riding of Sarnia-Lambton, and what I found was overcrowded classrooms. The principals and teachers told me they had never seen such high numbers in the classroom.
My riding had no previous problems with extracurricular activities, but today, since Bill 74, we have had many extracurricular activities dropped at school in my riding. I found classes did not have enough textbooks. Science labs do not work, and there is no money to renovate and repair them. Students identified with learning disabilities have lost the resource teachers who could assist them.
United States legislators say they must create environments whereby educators are valued. The United States has increased investment in education and is working aggressively to recruit teachers by giving financial incentives to attract and retain teachers. The Harris government is doing exactly the opposite. It has a confrontational, arrogant approach that devalues and disrespects educators. It has no plans to address the problems, and I believe it is jeopardizing the future of this province.
Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): October is Small Business Month in Ontario. I am pleased to rise in the Legislature today to pay tribute to small businesses in Ontario. This month celebrates the enormous contribution that small businesses make to job creation. In Ontario, businesses with less than 50 employees created approximately 80% of the three quarters of a million net new jobs ever since our government took office.
Businesses are changing, and we need to create an environment to encourage even more job creation. In 20 years, the number of women owning businesses has doubled. More than 43% of new business starters are young people between the ages of 25 and 34. Our government has helped by cutting red tape and taxes for small businesses. We have a Web site full of useful information at www.Ontario-Canada.com/smallbusiness. Our government has worked hard to provide the right economic conditions for business investment and growth, but it is Ontario's entrepreneurs who have run with the new-found opportunities and succeeded tremendously.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan): No one would ever believe that Mike Harris claims to represent a northern Ontario riding, not when the statements he made last week demonstrate such ignorance of the realities of northern Ontario residents.
The Premier suggested that health travel grants are discriminatory to southern Ontarians, who do not receive a grant when they have to travel to get health care-unless, of course, it is to get cancer care, when all their travel, accommodation and meal costs are covered. Northern Ontario residents who have to travel to get cancer care receive a maximum grant of $420. It's pretty clear where the discrimination lies.
Let's make another thing clear: only northern Ontario residents are expected to travel long distances on a regular basis to get health care. This is not a temporary situation for northerners, and it is not just about cancer care.
I have constituents who bring young children 1,600 kilometres to get treatment for leukemia, but I also have constituents who spend weeks in Toronto waiting for kidney or liver transplants. I have many constituents who have to travel to Toronto, Hamilton or London for cardiac surgery. I have single parents who don't know how they can afford to take a sick child to Winnipeg, which is 500 miles away, for the treatment of a neurological disorder. This woman has to make repeated trips, and she cannot go and come back in a single day. The maximum grant any one of these people receives is $420 for their trip, no matter what it costs them.
These people are spending tens of thousands of dollars to get medically necessary care. They are exhausting pension funds and mortgaging houses to get the health care that is supposed to be universally available at no cost. They are being treated unfairly and unequally, and the Premier should realize that.
This morning I kicked off the third annual Ontario Agriculture Week, with help from my colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, along with representatives from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, junior farmers and many other commodity organizations.
I also want to thank the members from all parties who joined us this morning for breakfast. Agriculture Week is an opportunity to recognize Ontario farmers and the importance of our agri-food industry.
I was born and raised on a farm. The hard work and dedication of my parents when raising our family was truly an example of what makes the farmers of Ontario great. The strength of our province depends upon farmers, and I'm proud to be the representative for some of Ontario's best. The people from places like Mitchell, Lucan, Listowel, Granton, Milverton, Ailsa Craig, Ilderton and St Marys all work to provide for others.
This week we give thanks to those who do not often receive the recognition they deserve. This year in particular it's important to provide recognition to those farmers who have had a difficult year due to inclement weather conditions and low commodity prices. I'd like to thank the farmers in my riding of Perth-Middlesex and the thousands of other farmers across the province for their contribution to the quality of life of our citizens.
In particular, I would like to recognize the tremendous accomplishment of Sharon Donnelly of Kingston, who despite tremendous adversity and a near disastrous bicycle crash completed the race with dignity, showing tremendous courage and utmost determination.
Simon Whitfield's gold medal is truly legendary. His dash to the finish line had all of us shouting encouragement, leaping with joy and crying tears of happiness as he crossed. I personally know that his parents, Geoff and Linda Whitfield, have always provided him with positive support and encouragement. They instilled in him the love of all sports and encouraged him to pursue his dream of winning gold at the Olympics.
Little did we realize a dozen or so years ago, when our sons and daughters played together with Simon on a variety of sports teams, that the spirited prankster and agile soccer goalie would one day realize his dream of winning gold.
But what is equally important is the impressive manner in which he handled himself following his victory. His good humour and self-assurance, his tributes and concern for the other participants and his love and pride for Canada speak volumes of a young man of whom we can all be justly proud. He will truly serve as an outstanding role model for all our young people.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): Over and over, we hear from Mike Harris and his ministers talk about the economic health of Ontario. But what about the health of Ontarians? What about the health of Ontario's environment? All the tax cuts and $200 cheques are of no help to the people of Ontario if they do not have safe water to drink and can't breathe the air because it is so polluted.
Take the Minister of the Environment's announcement of a SWAT team. What a cruel joke: 65 temporary staff, the majority taken from other positions within the ministry, to deal with a crisis this government has caused by its cuts and its firing of qualified staff.
Perhaps the minister would like to hire some of the SWAT extras from the movie production that is being filmed across the street. There are certainly more Chicago police extras hired for that movie than the minister's 65-member SWAT team. But that is not surprising. The Minister of the Environment is in charge of a bad, low-budget horror film-Dan's Environmental Horror Show-one that can't even hire enough people to protect Ontarians. So it tries to fool the public by having people play multiple roles: scientist in the morning, environmental officer in the afternoon and SWAT team member at night. But unlike the B movies of Hollywood that bomb at the box office, the consequences of failure here are much more serious.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): October is Community Living Month. We all live, work and play in our communities. But if we cannot participate in the common daily activities of our community, we are unable to enjoy all the benefits that life can provide.
For the past 40 years, the Campbellford and District Association for Community Living has played an intrinsic role in the lives of many of my constituents. It's an important organization that has nurtured and supported developmentally disabled children and adults within Campbellford, Brighton, Warkworth and surrounding areas. The ultimate goal of the association is to develop a community that works to realize the dreams and aspirations of all.
Back in August, I visited the Association for Community Living and toured their resource centre with the Minister of Community and Social Services. We were truly amazed at the success of this organization. Success is what recently earned them the three-year Award of Accreditation, the highest level possible in the field. This was awarded by Accreditation Ontario following a quality review which recognized the excellent standard of service that the Association for Community Living provides for people with disabilities.
Everyone in our communities should have an equal opportunity. To kick-start Community Living Month, I know that you join with me in saluting the Campbellford and District Association for Community Living for their continuing effort in providing outstanding services and support to people with disabilities.
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): My statement today is to the Premier. The citizens of Ontario listened last week with interest to your priority speech regarding your so-called promises kept and promises to be fulfilled.
Premier, we're not aware that you'd made a promise to waste thousands of taxpayers' dollars by giving the McMichael art collection back to the McMichaels, despite winning a Court of Appeal decision stating the opposite. Ontarians are shocked that this item has been your first priority.
We're only too aware, however, that you committed in writing in 1995 to bring in an effective and meaningful Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In 1998, this House approved 11 principles for this act to follow. In 1999, the House unanimously approved a resolution establishing a timeline for the act.
Premier, a visually impaired person cannot to this day enter this Legislative Building and have access to an elevator with Braille buttons. There are 1.5 million citizens with disabilities in this province. If you don't care about the disabled, if you're not going to fulfill your promise to pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, be honest and say so.
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): As one of the proud members representing a riding in the Niagara region, it gives me great pleasure to speak of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival that just wrapped up this past weekend.
On the weekend, I joined the member for St Catharines and the member for Welland-Thorold on the reviewing stand for the excellent parade that goes hand in hand with the grape and wine festival every year.
I would like to acknowledge this year's grape king, Matthew Speck, viticulturist and vice-president of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery. Mr Speck happens to be the festival's youngest ever grape king. Congratulations also to Jim Clark, vice-president and general manager of Colio Estate Winery. Colio was named winery of the year.
Every year the grape and wine festival is held in recognition of the grape and wine industry's ongoing excellence in the production of quality wines. The grape and wine festival continues to be a great way to show off Ontario's wine and grape industry.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): I seek unanimous consent that a statement be made by a representative of each party in honour of the memory of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
When a man this great leaves us, many want to claim him as their own. I can tell you that we certainly feel that impulse. After all, we're Liberals and he was ours. Perhaps as politicians, all of us in this chamber feel he was one of us.
Some have said that Trudeau simply belongs to Canadians. I met one of those Canadians in my constituency office this past Friday. He was about 70 years of age and his accent was still thick, although he had came to Canada during the Trudeau years and made a home here for his young family. This man wept openly when he told me how much he loved Mr Trudeau. He didn't say he admired Mr Trudeau and he didn't say he respected Mr Trudeau; his feelings went beyond that. He said he loved him. For this man and for the millions of others who are proud Canadians first and everything else second, Mr Trudeau was theirs.
While many will claim him, the truth is that Pierre Elliott Trudeau was his own man. Always. If he belongs to anyone left on this earth, he belongs to those who loved him, not as a leader or as a legend but simply as a man. So let me start today by offering, on behalf of the Ontario Liberals, our sympathy to those closest to him, those who were at his bedside when he left us; his sons Justin and Sacha, and his former wife, Margaret.
A man this great inspires strong emotion from all who knew him, even those who merely watched him from afar. But a special kind of love and a very deep kind of grief is reserved for family. Our first thoughts and our prayers are reserved for them. Let us not trample on their place in his life in our rush to feel that he belonged to us.
Un homme de cette stature inspire de fortes émotions à tous ceux et celles qui l'ont connu, même ceux et celles qui l'ont regardé de loin. Mais l'amour spécial et le deuil profond sont réservés à la famille, et nos premières pensées et nos prières leur sont adressées. N'essayons pas d'usurper leur place dans sa vie dans notre hâte de l'accaparer.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau-now there was a man. His friends knew him as charming, witty and intellectual. His political opponents knew him as tough, relentless, even ruthless. He was often controversial, he was never ignored and he was always a good and loving father to his sons.
Trudeau the man may have been many things to many people but he was absolutely steadfast in being true to himself. All of us, and I mean all of us in politics in this country, are compared to him. Sixteen years after he left the Prime Minister's office, we are still compared to him.
It seems to me that if all of us in public life could together draw one lesson from Trudeau the man, it would be this: just as he was true to himself, so should we be true to ourselves. So should we be strengthened always by the courage of our convictions. What a man and what a leader.
Today too often we confuse standing for something with standing behind ideology. Trudeau wouldn't suffer the restrictions of ideology. He was driven by ideas and inspired by ideals. He fought for those in a unique and powerful way. He actually fused passion and reason. If the sheer power of his passion didn't blast obstacles out of his path, then the precision of his argument would reduce them to rubble.
He didn't fret about headlines. He thought about history and our place in it. Who else could have stood up so boldly to those who sought to divide this country, those who came to the table armed with their phony arguments and those who came in the night, simply armed?
I suspect that Mr Trudeau, a writer and man of reason, would measure his own success in tangible ways: legislation passed, a Constitution patriated, the words in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, perhaps. But I propose that we measure Mr Trudeau's success in another way-in the lives of our children. For the job of a leader is not to resurrect the past or simply react to the present; the job of a leader is to shape the future. Our sons and daughters may not have met the exciting young politician that we met in 1968 or the accomplished Prime Minister that we bid farewell to in 1984, but they know his Canada. They know a Canada where they can learn both official languages in their schools. They know a Canada where our definition of "special status" is being lucky enough to carry a Canadian passport. They know a Canada where multiculturalism is a fact. They know a Canada that is a symbol of tolerance and freedom to the entire world. They know a Canada that is strong and united and always worth fighting for. They know his Canada, Trudeau's Canada, because it's the Canada they are living in.
During his time, as now, Canada was held out in the world as a place of great hope. Our focus and his focus on democracy, on fairness, on sharing, on compassion, on understanding that our obligations to each other go beyond our own provincial borders and our own national borders and indeed encompass the world: this happened at a time long before globalization was taking place. Still, countries around the world look to Canada because Canada is seen as a country with a lot of the inherent problems that many older nations have in terms of the stresses and pressures upon our nation, and yet a successful country as we're able to hold the country together, as we keep it bound together.
Mr Trudeau in many ways reflected that energy. I would say that only in Canada would a middle-aged man represent youth and vigour and vitality, but that's exactly what happened. Around the world, people took note, and like at home, not everyone agreed with the direction that Mr Trudeau took.
There are many of us who have secret confessions that have to be made about Mr Trudeau when it comes to politics. The federal election of October 30, 1972, happened to be three weeks after I became old enough to vote. Not being active politically other than hearing about John Diefenbaker and how wonderful he was because he was my grandmother's family lawyer back in Saskatchewan, there wasn't a lot of political exposure in my life at that time. I walked into that voting booth and I can remember thinking, "Well, he's prepared to trust me. I guess I'll trust him." I cast that vote. It was very much for Trudeau, and it was very much for the fact that this was the individual that I thought at that time gave me the right to vote. That meant a lot to me. That unspoken and, to Mr Trudeau, completely unknown bond between the two of us was first broken by him in terms of wage and price controls, and later by me when I joined the New Democratic Party. Yet in no way do I feel that was an inappropriate vote at that time for where I was in life and for what was happening in this country.
Much of what Mr Trudeau brought to Canada has been the foundation of the expansion of Canada as a modern democracy, as a leading democracy. It has also been the foundation of some of our greatest turmoil, and continues to be. Yet can there be a Canadian ever who was not moved, was not touched in some way, by Trudeaumania? Even now, my daughter at eight years old is exposed to the reflective glory of Trudeaumania and is learning what was happening in the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s.
It's a tribute to Mr Trudeau that there is the outpouring of emotion that there is. It's not like us to do that; it's very un-Canadian. We think of that more in terms of our friends to the south. Yet when anyone has moved us as much as Mr Trudeau has, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect there would be the outpouring in the sense of an era having passed.
I say to members of this House and to all Canadians that the NDP caucus extends its very heartfelt condolences to his former wife and his two sons, as we did, oh, not so long ago when their youngest son died, and also to his daughter. We would only wish that when all of this grief leaves us as a nation, the family is able to find some personal peace, which I suspect they are having trouble finding at this moment.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Government House Leader): I guess this privilege comes to me as the longest-serving member in our caucus and perhaps one of the few members of the government caucus who had the opportunity to meet Mr Trudeau on a number of occasions.
The first time I met Pierre Elliott Trudeau was during a law class at the University of Ottawa. Mr Trudeau at that point in time was our justice minister for Canada. Having graduated, as you know, Mr Speaker, from engineering and always appreciating a person who used logic and reason to get to a point of decision, I must say I was most impressed with Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his ability to reason, through logic to come to a reasonable, logical and sometimes brilliant conclusion. I walked away from that day, I can remember, most impressed, not only impressed with Pierre Elliott Trudeau but impressed that our political system attracted people of the calibre that Pierre Elliott Trudeau was then and was, I think, during his period of time in politics.
I also had the opportunity to sit at the constitutional table with Mr Trudeau in the early 1980s, when I was responsible for aboriginal affairs for the William Davis government, and witness first-hand his ability to control, to share, and to be pragmatic in reaching and coming to conclusions and dealing with some very diverse and difficult interests.
I was amused when Mr Christopherson from the New Democratic Party admitted he had voted for Mr Trudeau in 1972. I think this is the first time that I could put Mr Christopherson and Ralph Klein into the same kind of room, because I understand that Mr Klein made the same mistake back at that time. I do admit that I, along with Mr Christopherson and Mr Klein, also made the same mistake, and I think that is really a testament to the brilliance of this man. I, of course, like many other people, after that period of time worked very diligently on the other side of the ledger, but it was perhaps for me at that point in time a recognition of Mr Trudeau's ability to capture perhaps what the younger generation was seeking of Canada and was seeking of political leaders.
I will remember Pierre Elliott Trudeau of course for a number of reasons which have been enumerated so many times over the last weekend when one turned on the television or listened to the radio. But I think his conviction for Canada, as a federalist coming from Quebec, was perhaps the most significant thing to me as an English Ontarian. I appreciated how difficult his task was back home in Quebec and how skilfully he was able to speak to the people of Quebec and hold them to our country and convince them that being part of our country was more important than being on their own.
I would say to his family and to all the people who have been involved with Pierre Elliott Trudeau, we appreciated the time that they gave Pierre Trudeau to the rest of Canada. He did some great things for our country, and he will never be forgotten.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Agriculture. Our farmers have had a very bad summer. It's been too cold and too wet, and commodity prices have been too low. Farmers have an insurance program to help them out in times like these, and your job is to safeguard that insurance money. But it turns out that last fall, Agricorp, a body for which you are responsible, started day trading with farmers' insurance money and lost over $300,000.
Hon Ernie Hardeman (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): I thank the honourable member for the question. I want to assure honourable members and all those who are listening today that I share the concern that farmers' money needs to be protected. The farm insurance programs and all the safety net programs administered by Agricorp are what the farmers depend on, and they need to be assured that that money will be available to them when the need arises.
I can assure you that when it was found out that the situation at Agricorp was that some actions had been taken with money that shouldn't have been taken, we immediately asked the Provincial Auditor to look at the matter. He did, and made recommendations as to some things we should do to ensure this would not happen again. We have taken all those measures. But I want to assure the member opposite and all the farmers in Ontario that at no time was any money that was designated for the farm assistance program or the farm safety net program in danger or used for these purposes.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, you shut the barn door after the horses had escaped. Just as in the case of Walkerton where we had a government-run water inspection service which was turned over to the private sector, turned away from government, you took a program that had been run by the government, turned it elsewhere and didn't put in place proper rules to ensure that this kind of thing could never happen. You said that what happened there was not illegal. You said they didn't break any rules. Why is it that your government didn't put in place rules at the outset that would absolutely safeguard this money for farmers, and what have you done today to ensure this can never happen again in the future?
Hon Mr Hardeman: Again, I want to point out that the losses at Agricorp are regrettable. I don't think anyone would wish that that should happen, particularly with money that was there to administer the program on behalf of the farmers, and in this case, the farmers were not given the opportunity to be part of the decision-making as to how that money should be used.
I want to assure you that all the money the member is referring to has been absorbed in the operation budget of Agricorp to make sure that none of this money will come out of the safety net and the insurance program for the farmers. We want to assure you also that with the assistance of the Provincial Auditor and all the other people involved at Agricorp, we have put in controls to make sure that something like this could never happen again.
Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): The issue of trading practices at Agricorp could not have come at a worse time. Since your government has taken power, you've taken millions of dollars from provincial safety nets. Now we find that an additional $300,000 has been lost from the fund. The farmers in this province are losing faith in the very system that is supposed to be there to protect them from failed crops. Not since the year of no summer in 1992 have farmers faced such devastating weather, resulting in 100,000 acres left unseeded and drastically reduced yields. By all accounts, we could easily see $140 million in crop insurance payouts. That is more than four times the amount that was paid out for last year's crop.
Minister, in your letter to me, which I received on September 13, you said that the $300,000 was absorbed from its start-up capital. That is unacceptable. A dollar lost is a dollar lost. What steps are you taking to recover the $300,000 that is missing?
Hon Mr Hardeman: Again, I want to say that the loss is inappropriate, and I don't think anyone could justify the action taken at Agricorp. I believe that's why, in conjunction with the Provincial Auditor, we took immediate action to put the systems in place so that this would not happen again.
But I want to refer to the honourable member's question as to the commitment of this government to the safety net program. I agree with him that we have had a tremendously difficult growing season for our farmers, because a lot of the crops have been lost through spring flooding, through inclement weather through the growing season, and in fact now we are all suffering through the lowest commodity prices that we've had in a great number of years. I want to assure you that the crop insurance program, the market revenue program and indeed the whole safety net program is funded in order to make sure that we can make those required payments to our farmers. In fact, this year in our budget we have $120 million of safety net money, which is about a third or half more than we had in previous years-
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane): I have a question today to the Minister of Natural Resources. As the Minister of Natural Resources, your sworn duty is to protect Ontario, to be the Ontario protector of our rivers and our lakes. In fact, your ministry's business plan states that the ministry acts as the custodian of our natural legacy and safeguards the public interest in Ontario's resources.
Minister, the proposal to ship millions of tonnes of Toronto's garbage to the Adams mine threatens the very future of our lakes and streams. It will contaminate billions of litres of water over its lifetime. But you have been silent. As the custodian of our natural resources, why this silence?
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): In fact, there was the environmental assessment process that was undertaken with respect to the Adams mine project. There were the Environmental Assessment Board hearings that took place. There were judicial reviews of the process that took place with respect to that project. There was an appeal of that process as well. The experts reported back, and all environmental safeguards have indeed been protected.
Mr Ramsay: Minister, you continue your silence on this project. Maybe it's because of your involvement with Waste Management Inc. Shortly after joining the cabinet, you sold your 100% interest in Jarsno Equipment and Mid-Ontario Equipment to Waste Management Inc, which you know is a major partner in the Adams mine project. But your business dealings didn't stop with the selling of these companies to Waste Management, which, by the way, could earn hundreds of millions of dollars from the Adams proposal. It didn't end there. According to this lease that we have here, over the last five years you have received $10,000 per month from Waste Management Inc for land that you still own in Mississauga. It also stipulates that Waste Management Inc pay all the taxes, assessments, fees and utilities. Minister, over the last five years, you have cleared $600,000 from the company that is at the centre of the Adams mine proposal. With this in mind, I ask you again, as the custodian of our natural resources, why have you been strangely silent on this proposal?
Hon Mr Snobelen: I thank the member opposite for asking the question. Yes, indeed, I did own a company engaged in the trucking industry in the province of Ontario for many years; that's been publicly disclosed. Yes, I sold it to one of the largest waste companies in the world on a cash-for-shares basis when I assumed this office; that's publicly disclosed. And yes, the conditions of that sale have been publicly disclosed. There is no issue with any of those.
Last week I stated that the Adams mine EA was a fraud. I cited the Integrity Commissioner's investigation into the Premier's 10-year involvement with this project and I noted that your government hired the proponent's lawyer to rewrite the EA act to get this thing passed, which he did, representing Notre Development at the scoped hearing, which took only 15 days to get this largest landfill in North America passed.
Minister, your silence on this issue shows that you've not only failed in your duty as minister, but your involvement with Waste Management now tells us why. It appears that the fix was in from the very beginning, that this EA was a fraud.
Hon Mr Snobelen: I take my job in this government very seriously. I take my role in this government very seriously. I take the role of the Ministry of Natural Resources very seriously. I can tell you that while there is a discussion going on now about the disposal of solid waste, I suspect it's a discussion that's been going on for some 50 years in this province, if not longer. I can tell you that I don't think the discussion is helped by insinuations as made by the member opposite today. I think they are unhelpful and in fact they are very, very inaccurate.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): To the Minister of the Environment: Minister, you killed one law, you rewrote another, you took campaign contributions from the American company that will run the site, you brought in the Adams mine lawyer to change the terms of the environmental assessment, and you put the water of thousands of Ontarians and Quebecers and the Timiskaming First Nation at risk. Why? To help the Premier's friend get rich? To get $74,000 in your campaign funds? This project is wrong and your so-called environmental assessment of the Adams lake is a fraud. It was rigged. Don't poison our water. Don't invite another Walkerton.
Hon Mr Newman: This project has undergone extensive and thorough technical analysis to ensure that the environment was protected over the long term. I think that's important to know. As part of our commitment to protecting the environment, the Ministry of the Environment ensured that a full environmental assessment took place. The Minister of the Environment of the day requested that the Environmental Assessment Board review the hydraulic leachate collection and containment system with respect to the groundwater. There was a certificate of approval issued after further technical analysis on the report, and that certificate carried with it 66 conditions. In fact, there were eight independent peer reviews that carefully analyzed the details of the plan and submitted their reviews to the Environmental Assessment Board.
Ms Churley: Well, this is cold comfort, coming from the government that gave us Walkerton. Minister, I ask you, is there anything you wouldn't do to push through the Adams mine deal? When Ontario law stopped the Premier's high school chum, Gordon McGuinty, from getting rich by shipping Toronto's garbage to Kirkland Lake, what did you do? You scrapped the law. When the plan was obviously so bad it couldn't pass an environmental assessment, you brought in Mr McGuinty's own lawyer, Robert Power, to rewrite the Environmental Assessment Act so that the deal would pass. After rigging the EA, you let Mr Power tell the EA board how to approve the Adams mine under the very changes he promoted. He was so good at it that your Premier made him chair of the Trillium Foundation.
Hon Mr Newman: Let's do something different; let's talk about the facts. Let's look at Rail Cycle North's contributions to the NDP in 1999-Cameco, $7,500 donated to the NDP in Ontario. So it takes a lot of nerve to have the member opposite come here and lecture this government on protection of the environment after a full environmental assessment took place, after there were Environmental Assessment Board hearings, after the certificate of approval with 66 conditions applied to it and after the eight independent peer reviews that took place in that project. It takes a lot of nerve coming from that member and that party.
I ask you again, what is your price? How much does it take to get you to site a landfill in a beautiful lake, a landfill that should never be built? Is helping the Premier's high school friend Gordon McGuinty so important that you are-
Ms Churley: Minister, is helping the Premier's high school friend Gordon McGuinty so important that you are ready to poison groundwater and surface water in Ontario and Quebec for hundreds of years, or is it because the US waste company, Waste Management, gave your party $74,000 for its re-election campaign? I ask you again, is that the price? Is that what the people of Ontario have to do to get you to stop this crazy scheme, give you-
Hon Mr Newman: The only crazy thing there is the question. I want to tell you that waste management is a growing global problem and also a very emotional issue. We've seen that. I want to assure you, Mr Speaker, and the member opposite that this government takes very seriously its responsibility to preserve and protect the environment. The project has undergone extensive and thorough technical analysis to ensure that the environment is indeed protected over the long term. That's the role and responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment. Again, there was a full environmental assessment; there were the Environmental Assessment Board hearings, which lasted six months, and the board actually attached 62 conditions to the plan; the certificate of approval was issued after further technical analysis-66 conditions; and as well, eight independent peer reviews on the project.
Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York): My question is to the Deputy Premier-and it's to you, not to the minister responsible for women's issues. I want to know if you will immediately rescind the order of your women's issues minister to cut grants to at least four Ontario women's centres. She allowed funding cuts to women's centres and specifically to programs for survivors of domestic abuse in the very week your Premier claimed to make domestic violence a priority. Women's centres are the front-line community resource that are accessible and help women get the services they need to help themselves. They put power in women's own hands to stop the violence and protect themselves from violence.
Just a week and a half ago, a coalition of over 95 women's groups who are demanding implementation of an emergency package to save women's lives called on your government to increase funding to women's centres by $2 million. Instead, the very next day you cut grants to at least four women's centres, threatening their very existence.
Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women): Let me just, first off, say that I actually can't believe this question. Their research is incredible.
In 1999-2000, the money we put into women's centres in the province was $850,000. In 2000-01, that number climbed by $500,000 and we're now funding at $1.3 million. We're going to increase the number next year to $1.9 million.
This year 30 women's centres are receiving funding and that includes 18 new centres-18 new women's centres. We're doubling the amount of money people can receive, from $45,000 to $90,000, and we have more and more money being put into that area.
Ms Lankin: Minister, cut the rhetoric and deal with the facts. The money that you put into the Ontario Women's Directorate, you put in to go to employment development programs, not women's centres. You're sending them to generic agencies, not women's centres. The grants that you have cut this year and last year and the year before are grants from core funding from existing women's centres that are out there on the front lines.
The program that you cut just last week in North York was a program that dealt with survivors of abuse. You said to them that because it wasn't focused on women leaving violent situations, you weren't going to fund them. So what do you want, those women to go back to the violent situations and then you'll give the centre the money? They were helping them take the next step forward in their lives, the next step to keep free from violence. And you cut that money.
Minister, six women died this summer; 44 women have died since May Iles. May Iles's jury recommended expansion of community supports. Your government has not done that. If you want a program to support employment development, go for it-I support you on that-but don't take money away from existing programs in women's centres to fund it.
I want to know if you will stand up for women, if you'll join with the Liberal critic and I and insist that your Premier meet with that coalition of women's organizations and respond to the package of emergency measures to be implemented this fall to save women's lives.
Let me say, in this particular example, that in one of the proposals that I received, and I'm not saying which women's shelter it was from, they asked for $300,000 to help 10 women in the province of Ontario. The 30 programs we decided on will help 500 women find new jobs, 123 women start new businesses, 102 women become better informed about career options, 160 women pursue further training to meet employment needs; 250 women will be able to leave abusive relationships through enhanced economic opportunities, 182 women will improve their personal safety and 60 women will receive assistance for children's custody.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, I have a question about your dangerous plan to privatize jails in Ontario. When I travelled the province this summer, I had the opportunity to speak with many Ontarians on many topics. One of the recurring issues was your plan to privatize jails.
Police told me that they're against it. Communities which might serve as hosts for these private jails told me they were against it. People who work in our correctional services told me they were against this plan. Victims of violence told me they were against this plan.
They're all against it because it is clear from international experience that private jails are more dangerous than public jails. So can you tell me, Minister, why you are insisting on proceeding with a plan which experience has shown will be dangerous to the Ontario public?
Hon Rob Sampson (Minister of Correctional Services): We are making reforms in corrections because it's a business of this government that has not had the attention of previous governments. What has happened? A lack of focus on how to properly rehabilitate inmates; a lack of focus on whether we have the appropriate institutions in the appropriate parts of this province to house inmates and deal with the responsibilities of the criminal justice system as laid at our feet; a lack of focus on safety and security for those not only inside the institutions but outside the institutions.
These are problems with the publicly operated system in this province. So to stand in this House and say that the challenges of corrections across the globe should be laid solely at the feet of a private operator is inaccurate. It's inaccurate here in this province, it's inaccurate across the country and it's inaccurate in every jurisdiction in this country. When will you-
Mr McGuinty: Minister, your first priority is to public safety. That's what it's all about. The international experience tells us that publicly owned and operated jails are considerably safer than privately run jails. That's the experience. The jury is in. We don't need to conduct a dangerous experiment here in Ontario.
Take a look at some of the facts. Assaults on correctional officers in private facilities in the States are 50% higher than in public jails. California has shown that prisoners are 37 times more likely to escape from private prisons than from government-run facilities.
Minister, you might want to consider the economic aspect of this. The US General Accounting Office reported in 1991 and 1996 that private jails did not save money. They are more dangerous, they don't save money, our police don't want them, our communities don't want them, our correctional services people don't want them, we don't want them. Who in Ontario wants them?
The member wants to speak to the experience south of the border. What I think he's trying to say is that we intend to import the failed private experiment south of the border. We're not. I've said that many times. I agree with him; we don't want to do that here. What we want in Ontario is a correctional system that will deal with its job, which is to incarcerate and properly rehabilitate individuals.
The Leader of the Opposition believes that today's correctional system in this province is a model for the rest to follow. That model is allowing 80% of those who come in the front door to reoffend when they leave the correctional system. That's the measure of success by the Leader of the Opposition-
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. We'll stop the clock for a moment. I hate to interrupt question period and the flow of questions, but we have an honoured guest who unfortunately does have to leave.
I am pleased to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have with us today in the Speaker's gallery the Honourable Stephen Kakfwi, Premier of the Northwest Territories, and assistant Linda Sorenson. Please join with me in welcoming the Premier of the Northwest Territories.
During the summer, I know our government presented a cheque for $2.2 million to Chief Julian Fantino of the Toronto Police Service as part of our community policing partnership program. Through that partnership, I know the Toronto Police Service will get an additional 250 front-line officers. To date, 192 of those officers are actually on the street, and I know many of them are at 42 division serving my riding.
Last year we gave $106,000 to the Toronto Police Service for their Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere program, or RIDE. That means that since 1995 our government has given over a half-million dollars to their RIDE program.
Minister, all these investments have been made by our government to help keep the streets of Toronto safe. Could you please tell the House whether this is all our investment or whether we've made other investments to make sure Toronto and other-
The battle against crime takes place not only on the front lines, which is very important, but also through investments to the Centre of Forensic Sciences. I'm pleased to say that the Centre of Forensic Sciences for Ontario is recognized worldwide as one of the leaders in their field.
As a result of and as a follow-up to the Bernardo investigation, we had Mr Justice Archie Campbell provide a report. Through that report, certain recommendations were made in terms of public safety. That resulted in about $25 million being invested, but this is invested in certain areas such as the establishment of the serial and predator crime unit in 1997, which operates out of our police services division. Certainly the establishment of the provincial violent crime linkage analysis system, which is able to analyze a large number of criminal occurrences and provide an analysis to common suspects, and certainly DNA testing is the quickest in the entire-
Mr Gilchrist: I appreciate the fact that despite the opposition members' attempts to paint a doom-and-gloom picture, there are good-news stories out there. It's great to hear we are supporting a wide range of initiatives to fight crime, something the other parties disagree with and vote against every chance they get.
You mentioned that our investment in the Centre of Forensic Sciences has led to a reduction in DNA turnaround time. The connection of DNA evidence is obviously one of the most important crime-fighting tools to come along in many years.
Recently, the federal government introduced a national DNA data bank. I know our government supports the concept of a national DNA data bank, but we have some concerns about the effectiveness of the current system. I, like all Ontarians, was shocked to see on the front pages of our papers pictures of Karla Homolka enjoying birthday celebrations inside Club Fed, a federal Liberal prison.
Minister, could you tell my constituents of Scarborough East and the people of Ontario how our concerns over the current national DNA data bank are related to the Liberal policy of being soft on criminals?
The DNA data bank is a very important first step we have in order to clamp down on crimes and help investigations. But we need more data, and the problem here is the retroactive collection of DNA. The federal government has decided to define very narrowly who we can get retroactive DNA from, which means you have to be either a serial murderer, a serial rapist or designated as a dangerous offender. That means you have to be a serial killer or a rapist to have your DNA taken retroactively. I believe that one homicide or one rape should be enough to qualify you to have your DNA taken. I don't believe this is rocket science.
We need to press the federal government. We need to make sure they have to take DNA samples from all criminals who are in our penitentiaries. I think it's an important step to ensure public safety in Ontario.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park): I have a question for the Minister of Education. I want to ask about the sham you make of helping special-needs students in this province, because all around this province are special-needs kids who are falling through the cracks that you have made in the school system. You and your government have reduced funds available to the boards over the last five years and left them to pick up the pieces. You make a show of putting a little money back this year. Instead, what's happening is that boards are out of pocket and, to add insult to injury, you're making them do documentation, paperwork, taking on tests and so on. Parents in one board have spent $10,000 just on the medical letters. One board has spent $1 million worth of special education time just to qualify for your funding that then you won't provide.
Minister, will you admit here today that the $4 million missing from one board in Hamilton, for example, is your responsibility and that you will fund all of the special-needs cases that can be demonstrated on the part of school boards across the province? Will you put kids first someplace outside of your-
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education): Only a Liberal could turn a 12% increase in funding into a cut. We are spending $1.3 billion on special education in this province because it is a key priority. It is an important support for students out there with special needs. They deserve to have the opportunity to learn like every other student.
I should also remind the honourable member, since again his facts are in error, this is the third year in a row-the third year-that this funding for school boards has increased. Maybe the honourable member would simply like us to hand out cheques to school boards without any accountability, without ensuring that the money is going out for special needs and that those special-needs dollars are being used for those students in the appropriate way. That's not what the experts told us needed to be done. That's not what parents said. That's not what school boards said. They want a way to fund that is accountable to parents and those students-
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): I'd like to make you aware of something that I'm really hoping you are unaware of. I'd like to make you aware of a detail that perhaps your bureaucrats haven't told you about, a crack that kids are falling through in Ontario.
In the past, kids in the borderline range of intelligence-in the olden days we used to call them the slow learners-were eligible to get educational assistance and extra resources. With the recent changes to special education funding, they are ineligible. When we did research on this seven years ago at McMaster and at the Hamilton Board of Education, we found that these kids actually went on to community colleges and technical schools with the appropriate support. This isn't going to happen if this criterion isn't reinstated.
I'll tell you about Justin at St Teresa of Avila School in the separate school board of Hamilton. He came home yesterday in tears, his mother said, and called himself dumb because he recognizes that he's not the same as his peers. If the education assistance is not reinstated, parents know they have a major crisis. He is eight years old, he's in grade 3, he's of average intelligence, but he's so severe that he can't even read yet and yet he can be successful with the proper resources. Minister, will you tell me here today that you will look into this crack and fix it?
Hon Mrs Ecker: First of all, there have been no changes in criteria this year. Secondly, the reason school boards get special-needs funding that they can use flexibly-whether it's the Justins or whoever-is so that this money is not tied to an individual child. The school boards said to us, "We need special-needs money that is flexible so we can deal with the Justins and all of the others who have difficulties," so they don't have to be categorizing and labelling every single child in their school board. That's not appropriate. The funding that-
Hon Mrs Ecker: If the critic over there would be quiet and listen once, he might understand what is going on. School boards get resources for children with special needs in a general pot so they can use it flexibly. That money has increased for school boards. They also get additional monies for those who might well have higher needs. That amount has also increased. They have the flexibility-
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. There are various municipalities, lenders and community environmental groups that are showing an interest in redeveloping contaminated properties-
Mr Galt: My question is directed to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Minister, various municipalities, lenders, community environmental groups have been showing an interest in redeveloping contaminated properties that were previously owned by commercial and industrial companies. They've referred to these sites and facilities as "brownfields" and there's been a real success story with a brownfield in my riding.
In the downtown waterfront area of Cobourg, landowners, the public and the municipal government got together to clean up and redevelop land that had been contaminated with petroleum, hydrocarbons and heavy metals, which I understand are typical harbourfront contaminants from historical port, railway and oil storage operations. The proposed use of the new land will be mixed residential, commercial, open space, marina, campground, waterfront trail and sandy beaches-indeed, good news.
Minister, could you please tell me, is this good news spreading in Ontario? Is the brownfield redevelopment something that our government is examining as an option for other areas in the great province of Ontario.
Two weeks ago, I, along with Minister Palladini and Minister Newman, announced the appointment of an advisory panel to provide expert advice on the environmental cleanup and the rejuvenation of old industrial and commercial sites, like brownfields. It's going to advise the government on policy improvements, to encourage and facilitate the voluntary cleanup of these sites. They will consider matters like clarifying liability, increasing financial incentives and streamlining the planning process. We'll be working together with other stakeholders to identify improvements to brownfield redevelopment through possible legislative changes. This will lead to action. This is a win-win proposition.
In the case of the member's riding in Northumberland, Ontarians are already reaping the benefits of brownfield redevelopment. It's good for the environment, good for human health. It's an alternative to urban sprawl, and we're proud to be part of that.
Mr Galt: Thank you very much for the excellent response and the fact that this good news is spreading throughout Ontario, because it certainly has been good news for the town of Cobourg. It is certainly a concern for all of us, because many of these sites have been contaminated in the past from their previous use.
Hon Mr Clement: That's exactly the point. The honourable member has hit the nail on the head. You have to clean up these sites and clean up the contamination before you can proceed with redevelopment.
We have a system of checks and balances in Ontario right now to ensure that people are protected. The Ministry of the Environment, if I may say so, encourages a proponent to follow the ministry's guidelines for use at contaminated sites in Ontario; it was released in 1996. But the whole idea of this is to encourage more cleanup, encourage more of these sites to be re-used, cleaned up and then redeveloped for residential, for new economy, for new industrial and commercial purposes. That's the whole idea behind this. We're going to move from the right ideas to the right action so that we don't have to churn up that extra acre of farmland or that extra acre of woodland. That's a commitment of our government and I'm proud to be part of a government that has Mike Harris as a Premier, that has recognized this as important priority, more so than any other government, and we're going to follow through on it.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): My question is for the Minister of the Environment. Minister, let me paint a picture for you here: the Adams mine lake is so large you could drop SkyDome into it and still have room for another-
The Speaker: Thank you to the member for Willowdale. I'll handle it or he'll be named. I can't hear the question. You're talking across-you didn't even see me standing. This will be the last warning for the member for Parkdale-High Park.
The Speaker: Take a seat. It's not a point of order, and I will control the members in this House, I say to all members, one way or another, and it doesn't matter to me. If we sit here and don't have question period, the members can explain to the leaders why we're not going to have question period. If need be, I'll stand here for the entire hour and the clock will click down. The pages and I are in good enough shape for an hour and you can explain to the leadership why there are no questions. It doesn't matter to me.
Ms Churley: The plan will deliberately contaminate, on a daily basis, millions of litres of pristine groundwater by washing Toronto's garbage. Isn't that ridiculous? The one small mercy, Minister, is that you still have a chance to redeem yourself here, because they can't drain that pit every day unless you give them a special permit to take water. Minister, do you intend to enforce the law and make the proponent apply for a permit to take water before they can build and operate such a system?
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): I want to say to the member opposite that there are two approvals required from this ministry before the proponent can begin de-watering operations at the site. De-watering is necessary to expose the south pit and begin construction of a leachate collection system. These two approvals are a permit to remove water from the pit and a section 53 sewage works approval under the Ontario Water Resources Act for discharge of water into the natural environment.
While a permit to take water is to allow for de-watering of the south pit, no water may be taken under the permit until the proponent obtains the Ontario Water Resources Act approval. This application is currently being reviewed by the ministry. I want to indicate that the water from the pit meets provincial water quality objectives and is intended to be discharged through old mine tailings and pond settlings and then into the Misema River.
Ms Churley: Minister, I'm not sure if you said you're actually going to give that permit or not, but I want an assurance from you today that when whoever of those proponents who wants to run that landfill applies for a permit to take water, you will require that application to be posted on the registry for extensive public review and comments-or will you try and use loopholes once again to keep this from public view?
Minister, I'm asking you to do the right thing today. Will you make that commitment, or will you tell the thousands of people in Quebec and Ontario that you are so ashamed of this plan that you are going to continue to try to hide it from public view? My heavens, after what happened in Walkerton-this is an experimental system. The most comprehensive hearings are needed and the public need to be involved. Will you give that assurance today?
Hon Mr Newman: The permit was released in a draft form to the company on August 10 of this year, and to the members of the public liaison committee stakeholders on August 15 of this year. Comments were accepted until October 31, 2000. Some 99 comments were received and were reviewed by the director. Obviously, he's reviewing those comments.
The member opposite raises the item with respect to Quebec. I know the environment ministry in the province of Quebec has indicated today through a press release that, "It appears from this analysis that the project will have no significant environmental impact on Lake Timiskaming, as long as the proponent abides by the conditions set out in the certificate of authorization by the Ministry of Environment." This is the Quebec government speaking today on the Adams mine.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): My question is to the Minister of Energy and it concerns electricity policy. Minister, you continually say that the Harris government is interested in and supportive of competition in its electricity policy, yet in terms of the retailing of electricity we are seeing across the province the re-monopolization of Ontario Hydro. Thanks to the unfair advantages that your government has given to your company, Ontario Hydro, now called Hydro One, Hydro One is going around the province of Ontario, in small and large centres, buying up local utilities, and we're told by outside experts that in many cases they are paying premium prices for these purchases.
My question to you today, on behalf of the electricity consumers, is, why are we seeing the re-monopolization of Ontario Hydro Retail, and how is it possible that this re-monopolization is occurring under your noses, which tell us we're about to get competition?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Energy, Science and Technology): The honourable member has a couple of concepts mixed up. The retailing of electricity has nothing to do with the monopoly wires businesses that Hydro One is going around and buying up. Under law, those have to be two separate entities, and no cross-subsidization is allowed between retailing-by the way, there's lots of competition emerging in retailing of electricity.
We have over 40 applications before the Ontario Energy Board; 26 of those, I believe, have been approved to date. That's 40 more companies in the business than when the old Ontario Hydro was a full monopoly wires business, monopoly generating business and monopoly retailing business, and had 93% of the Ontario market. That's all been divided into separate companies. There's no cross-subsidization between them.
Hydro One, by the way, in the monopoly business, which is not competitive, just the wires-there's only one wire in front of your house. We don't run six wires across the field as if there was some competition in electrons; there isn't. There's one wire. Just like the CRTC, along with the federal government, controls Bell Canada's wires, the OEB is regulating Hydro One and municipalities who have been given the privilege of running monopoly wires businesses.
Mr Conway: Every day the papers contain ads: today, a big ad from the energy board that your company, Hydro One, is out buying the distribution assets of the utility in Lanark Highlands. They've already got 42 either in place or about to be purchased.
We are seeing the re-monopolization of Ontario Hydro at a cost that is going to be considerable to the ratepayers. Just a few weeks ago the Canadian bond rating agency put out a bulletin saying, "Yes, Bill 100 is very good news for Hydro One." What's going on here? My colleague from Brant tells me, as other members are saying, that orderly restructuring of electricity distribution in their communities-Brant county is a good example-is being completely frustrated by your company. Ontario Hydro is out there skewing the works in their favour, and they can do so because your government, through Bill 35 and Bill 100, has given them an unfair advantage, and they are taking it at full sail.
By the way, we are apparently about to be told that your company is soon going to announce the takeover of some of the big utilities in 905, Brampton being the one I'm hearing about. So the question remains, you talk competition, but your company, the company you control, the company where you have a big vested interest, is out re-monopolizing the distribution system of much of this province. How is that happening, and why is that happening?
The distribution business in this province is a monopoly. They are wires. Just like Bell has telephone wires that are a monopoly, the federal government and the CRTC make sure that AT&T, Sprint and other companies can put their phone calls on those wires. But those wires are a monopoly, and the rates of return are controlled by a public interest body, in this case called the Ontario Energy Board. For the first time, by the way, consumers will be protected in the distribution wires business in this province.
Hydro One is a generic name for 25 different companies that are under there. If you read the ad the honourable member refers to, I think it's probably Hydro One Networks. By the way, Hydro One Networks buys back distribution systems-again, it's a monopoly; the rate of return is controlled by the Ontario Energy Board to protect consumers. I'm told that if all 70 of their applications actually went through, they would become approximately as large as they were in terms of the rural distribution system they owned in the old days under Ontario Hydro before the NDP introduced Bill 86 and started to sell-
Hon Mr Wilson: -those distribution assets at below-market value, stealing assets from the old Ontario Hydro and giving them to municipalities. They'll have approximately 1.2 million customers when they're done, just like they did in the old days. So it's not a re-monopolization-
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph-Wellington): My question is for the Minister of Education. Twice last week I met with students from Guelph Collegiate and Vocational Institute, from John F. Ross high school and from Centennial Collegiate and Vocational Institute. These students are clearly very upset, because teachers are withholding their co-instructional activities. The students who came to my office last week are confused as to what is going on. The local union bargaining representative has told the local media that each teacher is making his or her own decision as to what, if any, co-instructional activities they will supervise. But when the students talk to the teachers themselves, they are saying the union has instructed them not to participate in co-instructional activities.
I have in my hand hundreds of names of students who are very upset about this matter. What do I tell these students who are caught between the conflicted feelings of their teachers and the political posturing of the union boss?
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education): Thank you for a very important question. I too have met and discussed this issue with a number of students. They're frustrated, and they should be. They should be angry, and they are angry. I have recommended and suggested that rather than walk out of class, it might be a little more helpful if they met with their student trustees and expressed their views that way, because they very much have a view which needs to be heard in this.
Unfortunately, we don't sit at the table to bargain those local agreements. In some communities, that local agreement, that local bargaining has resulted in solutions. We think those are very good; they've been very helpful. But at the same time, we are monitoring the situation, staying in touch with school boards in terms of what is occurring. I think we need to be very clear that we have literally thousands of teachers who are choosing to do this. In other communities, we have work to rule, which is not-
Mrs Elliott: I too am very sympathetic to these students. As a mother who has four kids who have gone through school, I know that for some students their extracurricular activities are just as important as the academic instruction they receive. These students have told me they are entitled to one school dance a year, no yearbook, and activities like sports, drama and band are cancelled. They are saying this is because of Bill 74.
Hon Mrs Ecker: We've been very clear with our education partners, as we were with the voters, that we were going to set educational quality standards. I've asked for advice and input on how best to do this, whether it's the new, tougher, more rigorous curriculum, whether it's the report card, whether it's standardized testing for students, whether it's the teacher testing program-all the initiatives we committed to the voters we would do. I've asked for input and advice on how best to do them.
But to choose to take out a political disagreement on the students, to work to rule, which unfortunately some teachers are doing, is not acceptable. We have literally thousands of teachers, even in Durham region, who are doing extracurriculars. When the students came to them and said, "We would like these activities," they did them.
We are being prudent in steps we are taking, because there are communities where they are settling and resolving these issues. But with school boards and the ministry, we will take additional steps if that is what is required.
Mr Monte Kwinter (York Centre): I have a question to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Diesel fuel prices are continuing to rise. They went up 60% to 70% last year. They're still going up. This is causing great financial hardship to about 1,800 independent truckers in Ontario.
"This government has certainly taken an active role by helping facilitate meetings within the industry itself and coming up with eventual answers that will address some of those concerns and some of those issues. I'm really pleased with the way that sectors of the industry have responded, and I think the surcharge rebate has been one of the highly rated topics, and many shippers have already come onside."
Minister, it's my understanding that the province of Ontario and the trucking industry have failed to reach an agreement on these surcharges. What are your plans now to avoid an economic disaster for these 1,800 independent truckers in Ontario?
Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): I thank the honourable member for the question. Certainly it is a topic that has not only interested the independent truckers of this province but also individuals because we all feel the pinch at the gas pumps.
One of the things I have been saying all along is that I wanted to be a facilitator in making sure that we're bringing the groups together so we can address not only the fuel surcharge but also some of the other issues within the trucking industry.
We put together a working group. I'm happy to report that the working group has in fact met. There are two scheduled meetings this week that will address some of the other issues that we need to talk about as well as fuel charges.
Mr Kwinter: Mr Minister, we are now faced with the prospect of truckers continuing their protests by parking their rigs along the side of the road and even taking it one step further and putting in place a complete blockade of Ontario's highways. If this were to happen, it would have a serious impact on Ontario's economy and a devastating effect on Ontario industries that depend on just-in-time delivery provided by Ontario's trucking industry.
You have also said-you said this in your response last week and you actually repeated it today-that your government is going to lead by example and that you are going to have to come to the table at one point or another. Minister, there are only three options, other than doing nothing, which seems to be what you're doing, and they are: cut taxes, offer subsidies or increase the fuel supply. Two of those three options are within your government's ability to aid Ontario's truckers and to help them cope with the soaring operating costs.
Hon Mr Palladini: I do believe that this is an opportunity for us to maintain calm. Certainly truckers in the province of Ontario have shown faith in our government's ability to facilitate the much-needed meetings that are going to be required to look at, again, not just the fuel surcharge issue but the overall industry within the industry.
We are addressing that. The working group, with Brock Smith as chair, is going to be facilitating these meetings with Industry Canada, with the Ministry of Transport of Canada as well, along with the shippers, the carriers and the petroleum people, to address not just the fuel surcharge but other issues within the industry. I would like to repeat that once more.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): My question today is to Minister Marland, the minister responsible for children. Minister, I read recently in the paper of an important new initiative under your careful direction, the formation of the Ontario Youth Council. As a parent of five children, I can tell you this is an important opportunity for young people to have a real direct voice with you yourself.
I can tell you, and you would know as well that in my riding, in Durham, we have a lot of very effective young people who are looking forward to this opportunity of working and participating in government. Minister, could you tell me perhaps about the formation of the council and how it will operate and when it will take place? Now, I don't want to put you on the spot here, but can you assure me that there will be a place for one of my young people in Durham?
Hon Margaret Marland (Minister without Portfolio [Children]): We are very excited about the Ontario Youth Council and we certainly need more than one minute to talk about it. But I will assure the member for Durham that there are indeed wonderful, bright, talented people all over this province, and we're looking forward to hearing from them through the children's secretariat Web site and through every member in this House's office.
You will all have received information about the Ontario Youth Council. We invite all secondary-school-aged students to apply for membership. We're looking forward to an enormous response, because as the minister responsible for children, it's going to help me be an advocate for children and youth at the cabinet table. We look forward to hearing from all the secondary-school-aged students in this province who are interested in advising and serving the government and the people of this province for their future.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): The patients at the Northeastern Cancer Treatment Centre were angered by the Premier's comments last week about the northern health travel grant and asked me to present this petition.
"Whereas the northern health travel grant offers a reimbursement of partial travel costs at a rate of 30.4 cents per kilometre one way for northerners forced to travel for cancer care while travel policy for southerners who travel for cancer care features full reimbursement costs for travel, meals and accommodation;
"Whereas northern Ontario residents pay the same amount of taxes and are entitled to the same access to health care and all government services and inherent civil rights as residents living elsewhere in the province; and
"Whereas we support the efforts of the newly formed OSECC (Ontarians Seeking Equal Cancer Care), founded by Gerry Lougheed Jr, former chair of Cancer Care Ontario, Northeast Region, to correct this injustice against northerners travelling for cancer treatment;
"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Legislature to demand the Mike Harris government move immediately to fund full travel expenses for northern Ontario cancer patients and eliminate the health care apartheid which exists presently in the province of Ontario."
"Whereas, by virtue of the common law, and the fact that the city of London is unable to give effect to the clear public interest in prohibiting businesses which offer adult entertainment services from operating within the city of London;
"The Legislature of the province of Ontario is hereby requested to consider the enactment of an amendment to section 225 of the Municipal Act ... as amended, so as to authorize the council of a local municipality, at its option to prohibit the establishment of businesses which offer adult entertainment services at any location within the municipality if such a prohibition is deemed to be within the public interest, by bylaw duly enacted for that purpose."
"Whereas diabetes costs Canadian taxpayers a bundle. It is the leading cause of hospitalization in Canada. Some people with diabetes simply cannot afford the ongoing expense of managing diabetes. They cut corners to save money. They rip test strips in half, cut down on the number of times they test their blood, and even reuse lancets and needles. These budget-saving measures can often have disastrous health care consequences;
"Whereas persons with diabetes need and deserve financial assistance to cope with the escalating cost of managing diabetes. We think it is in all Ontarians' and the government's best interest to support diabetics with the supplies that each individual needs to obtain the best glucose control possible. As you all know, good control reduces or eliminates kidney failure by 50%, blindness by 76%, nerve damage by 60%, cardiac disease by 35% and even amputations. Just think how many dollars can be saved by the Ministry of Health if diabetics had a chance to gain optimum glucose control.
"We, the undersigned, strongly object to the closing of Ottawa's Elgin Street public school, a vital and essential part of the social, economic and civic life of our community. One less school downtown is one less reason for families to live downtown."
"Whereas the northern health travel grant offers a reimbursement of partial travel costs at a rate of 30.4 cents per kilometre one way for northerners forced to travel for cancer care while travel policy for southerners who travel for cancer care features full reimbursement costs for travel, meals and accommodation;
"Whereas northern Ontario residents pay the same amount of taxes and are entitled to the same access to health care and all government services and inherent civil rights as residents living elsewhere in the province;
"Whereas we support the efforts of the newly formed OSECC (Ontarians Seeking Equal Cancer Care), founded by Gerry Lougheed Jr, former chair of Cancer Care Ontario, Northeast Region, to correct this injustice against northerners travelling for cancer treatment;
"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Legislature to demand the Mike Harris government move immediately to fund full travel expenses for northern Ontario cancer patients and eliminate the health care apartheid which exists presently in the province of Ontario."
Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): I have a very special petition from a special young man by the name of Paul Dosen. He's a visually impaired young man from Bishop E.Q. Jennings school in Thunder Bay. He has sent me the petition in Braille and asked me to make sure the Premier sees it. It's related to his need to travel to Toronto when there's the lack of funding under the northern health travel grant. The petition reads:
"We believe that the people of northern Ontario should have their travel expenses (example: meals, hotel and transportation) paid for when they need to go elsewhere regarding their health care since the people of southern Ontario are getting all of their expenses covered when they come to Thunder Bay for cancer treatments."
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): I have further petitions from CAW Local 222 in Oshawa, forwarded to me by Cathy Walker, the director of the national health and safety department. The petition reads as follows:
"Whereas this year 130,000 Canadians will contract cancer and there are at minimum 17 funerals every day for Canadian workers who died from cancer caused by workplace exposure to cancer-causing substances known as carcinogens;
"Whereas the World Health Organization estimates that 80% of all cancers have environmental causes and the International Labour Organization estimates that one million workers globally have cancer because of exposure at work to carcinogens; and
"That it become a legal requirement that occupational history be recorded on a standard form when a patient presents at a physician for diagnosis or treatment of cancer and that the diagnosis and occupational history be forwarded to a central cancer registry for analysis as to the link between cancer and occupation."
"The Mohawk people of Tyendinaga do not support any expansion plans presented by Canadian Waste Services Inc. We do not want a legacy of pollution to flow through our rivers and creeks for many decades to come as a result of the Canadian Waste Services Inc landfill disposal operations in Richmond township. Please stop the dump expansion in Richmond township."
"Whereas the northern health travel grant offers a reimbursement of partial travel costs at a rate of 30.4 cents per kilometre one way for northerners forced to travel for cancer care while travel policy for southerners who travel for cancer care features full reimbursement costs for travel, meals and accommodation; and
"Whereas northern Ontario residents pay the same amount of taxes and are entitled to the same access to health care and all government services and inherent civil rights as residents living elsewhere in the province;
"Whereas we support the efforts of the newly formed OSECC, Ontario Seeking Equal Cancer Care, founded by Gerry Lougheed Jr, former chair of Cancer Care Ontario, Northeast Region, to correct this injustice against northerners travelling for cancer treatment;
"Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Legislature to demand the Mike Harris government move immediately to fund full travel expenses for northern Ontario cancer patients and eliminate the health care apartheid which exists presently in the province of Ontario."
"Whereas just 30 long-term-care beds exist in the Espanola area with the result that a lengthy waiting list already exists and people are being placed in long-term-care facilities far distant from their home communities;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and the Ontario government to immediately approve a proposal by the Espanola General Hospital, supported by the Algoma, Cochrane, Manitoulin and Sudbury District Health Council for an additional 34 beds in Espanola."
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to retract the farmfare program until hearings have been held and to reinstate the right of agricultural workers to allow them basic human rights protection under the labour code of Ontario."
"Whereas the provincial government made no mention of opening up wilderness parks to hunting when it came up with the Ontario Living Legacy policy last year for a vast area of publicly owned land across northern Ontario; and
"Whereas the province's wilderness parks were originally established to be sanctuaries where the forces of nature would be permitted to function freely and where visitors could travel by non-mechanized means and experience solitude, challenge and personal enjoyment of that protected area; and
"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Ontario Legislature to demand that the Ministry of Natural Resources renew and reconfirm its ban on hunting in all of Ontario's wilderness parks."
Be it resolved that the Ontario Legislature demand that the Minister of the Environment use the statutory powers entrusted to him to prevent the creation or operation of a waste management facility at the Adams mine site in Kirkland Lake until the following conditions are met: a full environmental assessment has determined that there will be no negative impact on the region's groundwater; and the residents of the region confirm through referenda that they are in fact a willing host for the shipment of waste to their community;
Ontario Liberals believe that one of the most important things we can do for our families is to protect our drinking water. At its heart, this motion is all about the protection of our drinking water. As a matter of fundamental principle, the clean water that can be found today in Ontario is not ours to destroy, poison or pollute. The way we see it in our party, the water present today in Ontario is to be held by us in trust for future generations of Ontarians. In a very real sense, it is not ours to do with as we please. We sense a very heavy responsibility to act as trustees of that water. We are nothing more than interim trustees and temporary guardians. I believe that at the end of the day our children and our grandchildren and generations after that are going to be entitled to put to us some very tough questions such as, "What did you do when the government of the day proposed to move forward with the Adams mine dump site?" That's a very important question that all of us are going to have to be able to answer. That's fundamentally what this motion is all about.
This chamber is, of course, a very partisan place most of the time. That's hardly a surprise. From time to time, to be frank, motions are brought forward to put a government in a tough spot. But this motion-and this is very important-is not a trick. What it is, is a test. It's a test to see whether the government has learned anything at all from the Walkerton water tragedy. It's a test to see whether the government is now prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect Ontarians' water. And it's a test to see whether the government is now prepared to do the right thing on behalf of both today's and tomorrow's Ontarians. Let me explain.
In Walkerton, sadly, six people died, thousands became seriously ill and a town's social and economic life was devastated all because poison got into the drinking water. That community, if you can imagine this, is still without safe and clean drinking water, and this is more than four months later. As an aside, but very tellingly, during those same four months this government has managed to find $12 million for partisan political advertising, but they were only able to scrape up $6 million to help the people of Walkerton get the water back on.
A full public inquiry under Justice O'Connor is about to begin its work, and we will not prejudge its findings. But we already know that people died because deadly bacteria got into the water that came out of people's taps. That much we do know. We may not know what part of the system failed but, sadly, we know that the system failed, and failed in a horrific way. People died from contaminated drinking water. That's a fact; it's a tragic fact. Poison got into the water, and more than four months later the government still can't get it out of the water. Those two are the tragic facts.
Given those facts, one would assume that the government would now move heaven and earth in an effort to protect Ontario's water, in an effort to make sure that poison doesn't get into the water in the first place. But instead of moving heaven and earth to protect our water, the Mike Harris government seems hell-bent on moving southern Ontario's garbage up north in a scheme that does not go nearly far enough to protect our water. This government has determined to ship Toronto's garbage to Kirkland Lake so it can be dumped into an open pit that is one kilometre long, half a kilometre wide and 55 storeys deep. Imagine that for a moment-55 storeys deep, to be filled with garbage. It's not so much a pit as it is a lake, because the pit has filled with water. The bottom of the lake is now rock with cracks in it. Those cracks connect what is inside the pit, whether that may be water or toxic dump leachate, with underground channels of water. Those underground channels in turn flow directly into rivers feeding Lake Timiskaming, which in turn flows into the Ottawa River. We are about to create the largest dump in North America, capable of creating the greatest liquid toxic runoff in North American history. We're going to take that dump and put it on top of a series of channels; we're going to put it on top of a series of pipelines that run into our drinking water supply.
Remember, this is a test, fundamentally, to see whether the government has learned anything at all from the Walkerton tragedy. It's a test to see whether the government will now act to protect our water from being polluted in the first place. This is the upstream issue. It's about doing everything we can to make sure water doesn't become polluted in the first place. The dump owner has proposed that a system of pumps be installed around the garbage. These pumps, untested and unproven, will have to continue to work without fail for at least the next 100 years. How could we possibly take that sort of chance? How could we, now living in the post-Walkerton world, even consider taking that kind of a chance?
I have a tremendous amount of faith in human ingenuity, but to ask me to believe that during the next 100 years, regardless of what Mother Nature happens to throw at us during those 100 years, we humans can keep toxic runoff from entering into our drinking water is asking too much.
This motion calls for a full environmental assessment to ensure that there is no negative impact on the region's groundwater. The government-and the minister did this again today during question period-continues to assert that there has already been a full assessment. I can tell you that is not true. The Adams mine was the first dump site to go through a new process after the Mike Harris government gutted the Environmental Assessment Act of 1996. The assessment that was done up there in connection with this particular dump was incomplete and inconclusive and it was rushed. Previous environmental assessment hearings, in considering whether or not a new dump site is environmentally safe and sound and secure, have taken about 100 days. The hearings in connection with this matter were only two weeks and one day. The assessment that was done was incomplete and the results were inconclusive.
Surely one of the things that the Walkerton tragedy fairly shouts out to us here is that it is irresponsible. It is dangerous to proceed with this dump on the basis of incomplete and inconclusive results. Walkerton tells us that when it comes to protecting our water we must be absolutely sure; there can be no doubt; we can take no risks. Surely that's what Walkerton tells us.
Our motion also calls for the residents of the region to have a say. We want a referendum to determine that they are in fact truly willing hosts. There was a referendum held there in 1991 asking if people wanted to have an environmental assessment. At that time, promises were made to the people that a second referendum would be held after the assessment. Now that the assessment has turned out to be incomplete and inconclusive, people there want a say. In fact, they're demanding a say.
If government members vote against our motion, you are saying that the people living up in that community, in the Kirkland Lake region, should not have a say. You're saying that they shouldn't have a say when their small northern Ontario community is about to become host to the largest dump in North America, with the potential of releasing the greatest amount of toxic leachate in the history of North America. Again, I say to the government members opposite, this is a test to see whether you've learned anything from Walkerton.
You will recall that before the Walkerton tragedy people inside and outside of government warned the government that a drinking water disaster was going to happen. The government didn't listen then and so far they're not listening now.
From time to time I am asked, and members of my party are asked, "What would you do with the garbage?" It's a fair question. I can tell you that, for starters, we would not proceed with the Adams mine dump unless there was irrefutable evidence proving it would not poison our water. Walkerton was not lost on us. It may have been lost on the government, but it was not lost on us.
Here's what else we would do. There are three things in particular. First of all, Ontario Liberals would launch a major province-wide effort to divert more garbage from landfills. Secondly, we would encourage new technologies for eliminating waste. Thirdly, we would examine other short-term options for Toronto, including shipping more of the waste to the US, while we ramp up our diversion programs.
Let's look at diverting garbage from landfills. This is a tough thing for cities like Toronto to do now because the Mike Harris government has eliminated a $30-million municipal recycling program. This government has done nothing to encourage the private sector to do its share to reduce and recycle garbage. You collect $40 million a year from the 10-cents-a-bottle environmental levy on LCBO products, but you've committed only $9 million to reducing waste. They're committing less than 25% of the money they collect to reducing waste.
Ontario-and I say this with a great source of pride from years past-used to lead the continent in environmental protection. Now we're falling far behind. Listen to what they're doing in the rest of Canada. BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan have sweeping beverage container deposit regulations. Nova Scotia has banned all organic materials such as grass clippings and food waste from their landfills. Quebec is moving toward 65% waste diversion. Here in Ontario, we are stuck at 32%.
Halifax diverts 60%; Edmonton, 60%. These cities have put in place comprehensive plans, but most importantly, those plans are supported by their provincial governments. Toronto is only diverting 25% of its waste, but is it any wonder? Toronto, like all other Ontario communities, has effectively been abandoned by the Mike Harris government when it comes to responsible management of our waste.
I know for a fact, having spoken to many representatives at the municipal level in Toronto, that this community would love to do better on garbage diversion. But it needs the provincial government's assistance. It needs the provincial government to play a leadership role.
There is a lot of good news out there, particularly when it comes to some of the new technologies that are up and running. There's a company in Guelph that is already taking much of Guelph's garbage but was shut out of Toronto's site selection process-the SUBBOR company. Their technology has been used extensively in Europe, and it uses naturally occurring bacteria to break down garbage into harmless gases. Canada Composting is building a $26-million methane digestion test facility in Newmarket and a $10-million test facility in Toronto.
New technologies are being developed, but this innovation has to be encouraged and nurtured by this government. Instead, the government members want to make a 100-year commitment to the continent's biggest garbage dump. I ask government members opposite, is that really the legacy you want to leave to our children, to generations of Ontarians?
We understand it's going to take some time to ramp up new diversion initiatives, and we understand the pressure being felt by local representatives in the city of Toronto. We understand that. But I say to you, a bad solution is no solution. If the provincial government provides leadership, and if the provincial government were to provide its share of financial support, municipalities such as Toronto and the private sector can achieve aggressive diversion goals.
The government members opposite might say, "Well, this costs money. Where are we going to get the money?" In the last three years, this government has spent $185 million on partisan political advertising. That's a lot of money, and it seems to me that if we were to devote even some of that money to these kinds of initiatives-aggressive diversion programs-province-wide, we would be in a position to be on the cutting edge rather than be lagging behind as we are now.
We oppose expansion of the Keele dump. But it's not slated to close for another two years. That gives us a bit of breathing space. It gives us some time to improve our garbage diversion and look at some other short-term options, including shipping more of Toronto's garbage to the US on a temporary basis.
I want to contrast our approach with the Mike Harris government's approach when it comes to dealing with Ontario's garbage. First of all, I believe we should be doing absolutely everything we can to prevent another Walkerton. That means assigning the highest possible priority to protection of our water. The Mike Harris government is showing no sign of learning the Walkerton lesson. This government has still failed to hire the inspectors and enforcement officers that it fired in the past, people who have the special responsibility to make sure our water is safe.
Second, I believe the Ontario government should provide strong leadership by supporting waste diversion in our cities and towns. The Mike Harris government has abandoned our communities. He has told them that when it comes to dealing with their garbage, "You're on your own." We think that's wrong.
Third, I believe we should make Ontario a haven for the development of new waste-management technology. The possibilities in that regard are endless. All we need is some indication of genuine leadership on the part of the government and we can unleash human ingenuity. We have not done nearly enough inside this province to divert our waste in the way they have in other jurisdictions. On the other hand, Mike Harris and his government are content to continue throwing garbage into the ground regardless of the risks.
Finally, I believe we should not proceed with the Adams mine dump site because the risk to our water, and by extension the risks to the health of Ontarians, is simply too great. I wouldn't take that risk. Obviously Mike Harris is prepared to take that risk.
So I ask the members opposite-in fact, I implore the members opposite and I challenge the members opposite-to prove me wrong. Show that you and your government have learned from the tragedy in Walkerton. Prove me wrong. Show you will now jealously guard the right of Ontarians, not only the generations alive today but those yet to come, to enjoy safe drinking water. Show you now understand that today's garbage can be tomorrow's poisoned drinking water. Show you can do the right thing, government members. Pass the test and pass this motion.
Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): Let me begin by stating that this government stands 100% behind the decision to approve the Adams mine landfill. We have the utmost confidence in the integrity of the environmental assessment process, and we stand behind the numerous technical reviews that have been done on the design of the landfill. We also have confidence in the decisions that have been made by the Environmental Assessment Board with respect to the environmental assessment of this proposal and by the director on the Environmental Protection Act approval.
The decisions of the Environmental Assessment Board were reached after thorough reviews of the issues and information. I'd like to take a few moments, for all the members present, to outline the process that was brought to us and where we are on that today. I want to focus on the various stages the Adams mine landfill proposal has gone through, including those required by the Environmental Assessment Act, as well as the detailed engineering and scientific reviews. I know that the facts will speak for themselves. I will concentrate on the work done leading up to July 1997, when the notice of completion of government review was published.
The facts of the Adams mine landfill chronology point to one conclusion: it's an environmentally sound project. I say this because Ontario's environmental assessment process, as set out in the Environmental Assessment Act, has proven to be an effective protector of our air, our water and our land. The proposal by Notre Development Corp has met our Environmental Assessment Act and Environmental Protection Act requirements. The rigorous process and requirements of these acts has ensured that the proposal is environmentally sound.
Let me turn to the chronology. The proponent, Notre Development Corp, submitted its original environmental assessment for the Adams mine landfill to the Minister of the Environment on December 20, 1996. This plan called for the operation of three pits at the Adams mine as landfills. Notre proposed to develop the largest pit first, that being the south pit. This pit is capable of handling 20 million tonnes of waste over 20 years. Notre originally sought environmental assessment approval for all three pits, as well as an approval for the south pit under the Environmental Protection Act. The company planned to seek Environmental Assessment Act approval for the central and Peria pits as the need arose.
However, erring on the side of caution, the Ministry of the Environment said no to Notre's original plans for the additional pits. The experts within my ministry wanted to reserve the right to subject them to another environmental assessment process if and when the proponent chose to expand the landfill. This, I say, was the prudent approach and one which this government approves and supports.
Notre subsequently focused its plans on the south pit and provided the Ministry of the Environment with all the detailed technical information and analysis necessary to make an informed decision on the proposal.
During the environmental assessment process, eight independent peer reviews of the studies done by Notre were completed for geology, hydrogeology and hydrology. This included examining the potential for groundwater and surface water contamination from landfill activities, predicting leachate movement and also the design and operation of the landfill. These reviews were in addition to the work of the proponent's engineers and scientists and the ministry's experts.
As part of the Ministry of the Environment's Environmental Assessment Act review process, a team of government ministries and agencies, including the Ontario ministries of the environment and of natural resources, Environment Canada and the federal Department of Fisheries, analyzed the Adams mine landfill proposal. The Quebec government was also provided with information and asked for their input to the project.
There has been some concern of late that these bodies and agencies were not consulted. Mr Speaker, I want to assure you and all members of this House that they were. The consultation processes laid out in the Environmental Assessment Act and the Environmental Protection Act are exhaustive and all-encompassing, and frankly they should be and they ought to be. It is, after all, the protection of environment that is the ultimate goal of this process, and it's a goal that I know all members in this House share, regardless of which side of the chamber they sit on. I know one of my colleagues will speak to the extensive consultation process a little later this afternoon as the debate continues.
Another issue we've all heard about recently, indeed in this very chamber from the leader of the third party, is that the Adams mine site is in an earthquake zone. Mr Speaker, I want to inform you and all members here that this House currently sits in an earthquake zone. Another one of my colleagues will speak about this issue specifically a little later so we can gain a little more insight into the issue of earthquakes.
In July 1997, the notice of completion of government review was published. The review confirmed that the technical experts were satisfied with the information provided and that any remaining issues could be addressed through terms and conditions of the approval or through the Environmental Protection Act certificate-of-approval process.
A 30-day public comment period followed the notice of completion. The Minister of the Environment received 82 submissions, 53 of which were requests for a public hearing before the Environmental Assessment Board. A number of submissions were made in support of the proposal. We listened to the public and an Environmental Assessment Board hearing was called. Six months of public consultation ensued, resulting in 26 conditions being applied to the final environmental assessment.
I could go on and on, but I think I'll share my time with my colleagues a little later this afternoon so we can continue with the chronology of the rigorous environmental scrutiny to which this project was subjected.
To finish, I'd like to quote from Hansard on April 23, 1992, when a member of this Legislative Assembly said, "An environmental assessment affords an opportunity for an issue to be heard in an impartial, objective manner by a group of experts who consider these matters intelligently, expertly and in a forum devoid of emotion."
"The environmental assessment process, and more specifically the panel, has that wonderful luxury we don't have in this House of considering issues in a forum that is not buffeted by the winds of political expediency. It's not hamstrung by political ideology.
I know you're all wondering who that member of the Legislative Assembly was who participated in the debate in 1992. It's none other than the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Ottawa South, Dalton McGuinty, the very person who moved the motion before us today that we are debating at this moment. I think the sentiment he expressed in 1992, eight years ago, is very apt in describing the situation we have before us today. I hope he still believes in what he said in 1992.
In fact, there are other members of the official opposition who have made comments, and I think it's important to note that David Ramsay, the member for Timiskaming-Cochrane, on March 25, 1994, to be exact, issued a press release. This is what he said: "It's interesting to note that the Americans can see the economic advantages of disposing of waste, but our government"-that being the NDP government of the day-"is blind to that very fact. It would be a shame to see jobs created by waste management go to the United States. The government should allow Metro Toronto to proceed with an environmental assessment of the Adams mine proposal." So said Mr Ramsay.
The Environmental Assessment Act is indeed an important safeguard for Ontario's air, for Ontario's water and for Ontario's land, and we strongly believe in the integrity of that process. And just as strongly, we believe that the Adams mine landfill is a solid, positive proposal, precisely because it has proven worthy, under approval, under the Environmental Assessment Act.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to the debate this afternoon, a resolution I hope members of this House would support. I have a great concern, as I think many people have, and perhaps even more the people who are in the watershed of the Adams mine, people along the Ottawa River, people who are south of the Adams mine location and generally people who are concerned about hydrogeology in this province.
I could get up and read a lot of what people had to say in the past. I have something from the Premier. The North Bay Nugget of March 5, 1990, reported Harris as saying he opposes shipping Toronto's garbage to the north even if communities there are willing hosts. "That's not an acceptable approach," Harris said back then. "I would adopt the attitude that you must look after your own garbage." I'm sure we can go through what the Premier said here, what somebody else said there. It doesn't solve our problem of the Adams mine today and the concerns I have.
My concerns with the Adams mine are less political than they are environmental. You see, politically speaking, the government must be thinking, "It's only one riding. It's held by an opposition member. It's way up north. We're unlikely ever to win that riding in the near future," so therefore it's politically an expedient place to put Toronto's garbage and indeed garbage from the GTA. Politically, it's an attractive proposal to members of that government. I think you have to look at what the implications are for-I see one of the members from Ottawa here today. He knows that some people as far south as Ottawa have expressed concern about this. Are their concerns valid? I think that's why we need a further review, to see whether they are or not. I don't personally know that. I suspect they are, but I don't personally know that to be the case. I am one who believes in the objectivity of the environmental assessment process. I certainly do, as I think many others do.
I think this particular hearing, this particular process, was truncated, was limited too much. It wasn't just a matter of making it a site-specific environmental assessment, which I understand has happened before-I can tell you that-being site-specific; it's the fact that the rules got changed in 1997. I was going back through the old legislation from 1997. It was Bill 76, changes to the Environmental Assessment Act. It ties the hands of the Environmental Assessment Board to adequately review major environmental projects. There's no requirement that major new landfill sites be referred to the board for a full environmental review. Then there was Bill 57, changes to the Environmental Protection Act that, again, I think weakened the process.
What I was concerned about was that the new fund boss for the Trillium Foundation, a man who is well-known to this government, obviously a friend of the government-he has received many appointments-Mr Power, had a significant role in rewriting the rules for the environmental assessment process, and then he has a connection to the Adams mine. So members of the House can see how people outside are going to draw a conclusion: were the rules changed so that the Adams mine would pass the process? That's my main concern. I can look at a lot of other issues and who said what to whom and who owned what and all these other issues. They're important, and others will probably make that case. My concern is that this is something fairly new. I'm not saying it's unprecedented, but it's fairly new. After the tragedy of Walkerton and many of the other problems we've seen across the province from ground and surface water, I really wonder whether it's wise to proceed with the somewhat limited assessment that we've had of the Adams mine at this time.
That's why I think this resolution is good. I think the resolution, that wants to see another full assessment of this, is important. I don't want to see a tragedy that will cost millions upon millions of dollars to fix down the line. I hope, regardless of what decision is made by this Parliament or by municipal officials, that nothing ever would happen. I'm not one who sits and hopes for disasters out there so that one can say that a government is in contempt, or something of that nature. I'd rather not see it happen. It's all about risk, just as when the Ministry of the Environment was reduced by about one third of its staff and about 45% of its budget. What that did was increase the risk to our environment. It doesn't mean that with the most staff you could possibly have or the most money you could possibly have that nothing would happen. No, you can't tell that in the future. So it's all about risk; that's what's important. I just think there is too much risk with the Adams mine.
I'm concerned as I look at some of the discussions about the hydrogeological reports, the fractured rock we have in there. I don't think the drainage system was looked at adequately; it could have been, and still can be. I'm worried that the people up there are not satisfied with this, that there's not a willing host up there, because people are less willing to be a host if they think there are some environmental questions that are left unanswered. I think that's the status of many people now. There are some who believe southern Ontario's garbage should not go north, and I respect that point of view, but there are others who believe that if it were environmentally benign it might be acceptable. My concern is that it doesn't appear to me to be proven that this is going to be an environmentally benign proposal that is being brought forward.
We in Ontario-and I'll say North America, although there are some exceptions-have certainly not been as good as the Europeans in terms of the 3Rs. Part of that's geography. Part of that is because we've had other options which are less environmentally desirable, but there are other options nevertheless. The Europeans haven't had those options, and for this reason they have reduced tremendously the amount of garbage they produce. I think we can do that.
I look in Toronto and say that apartment buildings have a minuscule recycling program. I know it's not easy, nothing's easy, but I remember when I was the Minister of the Environment and I had the decision to ban those old dirty garbage incinerators they used to have available. Everybody said the world would end if you banned them, you couldn't tamper with the apartments. I think we need a major initiative to deal with all kinds of housing complexes and commercial complexes to reduce that amount of garbage. It takes a lot of pressure from government. I'll support this government if it is going to impose those rules on municipalities. You won't find me harping from the sidelines at you and taking the other side. I'll be there to support this government if it's prepared to do that. I think that's the route we must take.
I commend Guelph as an example. That goes way back. Guelph has been a leader for a long time in dealing with garbage. They've had people there who are really committed to it. I would congratulate them. There were three parties in power, and regardless of which party was in power, Guelph was a leader. They helped out a lot of other people around North America.
I hope members of the Legislature will agree with this. As I say, I'm not going to go back and chastise the Premier and say whose friend is whose friend. That's an approach that could be taken. I don't want to take that approach.
There are new technologies out there. There's the separation of wet and dry material. There's composting that takes place now. All of these things have to be implemented before we start thinking about where garbage is ultimately going to go. When it does, we hope it's in the most environmentally benign area possible.
I wish anyone who has the position of Minister of the Environment well in trying to deal with that. I simply caution the Minister of the Environment today that in my opinion, from the evidence I've seen, I'm not convinced yet that the Adams mine is environmentally benign, and I would hate to see this on his hands 10 years from now. I realize it's a cabinet decision and not a minister's decision alone, because the cabinet has influence, but I think it's worth taking that extra time to see if, first of all, you can ratchet down the amount of garbage produced, and second, if you can be absolutely certain that this site is acceptable environmentally. It's that nagging worry I have when I see some of the evidence that we're going to find out 10, 15 or 20 years from now that it wasn't as environmentally benign as everybody thought it was, and then we would be in big trouble. A lot of remedial work and perhaps even some tragic events might take place as a result.
I ask members of the government and members of the third party to support this particular resolution. I ask the government to go through a process which is more extensive in this regard. I ask them to consult the people in the area in a meaningful referendum in this particular case. The minister is in the House. As I said a moment ago, I will be the first one to support this Minister of the Environment if he gets tough on people who are producing garbage and really ratchets down the amount of garbage that's produced and forces people to reuse and to recycle. He won't get any sniping from me if he does that here in Ontario because I think it will be beneficial for the province if that happens. Even if it makes some people angry, even if it concerns some people, even if some in the business community don't like it, I'll be there to support any government or any person who will take that particular position, because ultimately that is the best solution for the kind of situation we find ourselves in today.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): At the outset I want to say that clearly New Democrats will be supporting this resolution. My colleague the member for Toronto-Danforth will speak at greater length than I with respect to some of the specifics of this proposal and some of the alternatives that the government should look at. She will do that from a position of having much more authority with respect to the matter than I will, given that she has been the environment critic for us for a long time now. But there are a couple of comments that I would like to make for the record.
I suppose I start form the perspective of a northerner who is not interested, frankly, in northern Ontario, my special part of the world, becoming a dumping ground for someone else's garbage. We made that very clear when we were in government. We passed a law to make it clear that Toronto or other communities couldn't adopt an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude with respect to garbage by being allowed to send it somewhere else and let some other community have to deal with it. It was one of the reasons why we supported what had been put in place by a former Minister of the Environment, who just finished speaking, some of the proposals and timeframes for recycling that would have been so important to make sure that diversion could have occurred, to make sure that recycling could have occurred, to make sure that we wouldn't end up in the position that we are facing today, which is a huge garbage problem here in Toronto and a really serious problem on behalf of council of where to put it.
Most of the dilemma goes squarely back to the Mike Harris government, because it was this government which, as one of its first actions, cancelled money to make recycling in this province a reality: cancelled the curb program, cancelled funding for the blue box program and made it incredibly difficult for municipalities to move forward to meet the provincial targets and guidelines that had been set. The government has a lot to answer for in terms of making that decision. It certainly was extremely short-sighted. It certainly did nothing to encourage, financially, municipalities from getting on with their blue box programs. It did nothing to encourage municipalities to expand blue box programs, to expand composting, to look at waste diversion in a serious manner, to ensure that we wouldn't find ourselves in the position that we are in today: with a whole lot of garbage and nowhere for it to go.
We start the debate against a backdrop of uncertainty. We know that Toronto council has to deal with this issue. We know, because it was announced in this House, that talks that were ongoing to try and finalize the details around a contract did break down on Thursday, those discussions between the city of Toronto and officials from Rail Cycle North, and that a briefing which had been scheduled for councillors after that meeting was cancelled as well. There may be some kind of deal at this time. Certainly there wasn't yesterday. We know that members form city council who have to vote on this important issue still, as of yesterday, had not seen the terms of any contract that they are going to be asked to approve on Tuesday.
We have a very significant decision facing Toronto councillors, and those Toronto councillors haven't even had the benefit of seeing the terms and conditions of a contract that will have enormous implications for residents of this city and for residents in northern Ontario, and they have to do that by Tuesday. The Tuesday vote adds to the uncertainty with respect to this important issue because we know that Tuesday, October 3, will be the last Toronto council meeting before the November 13 municipal elections, and council has now come up against an incredible deadline that kicks off this Tuesday night. We know there has been an initial vote but we know that the real vote, the final vote, the concluding vote comes Tuesday night and, as of yesterday, still no terms and conditions of a contract that people can see and make an intelligent decision on.
We know as well that yesterday there was a significant protest in northern Ontario, near Kirkland Lake, by people who are vehemently opposed to this proposal and, frankly, the numbers are growing. We know, for example, that the mayor of Kirkland Lake, Richard Denton, the majority of people who live in the community, the adjacent First Nation and a number of groups from Quebec whose watershed will also be affected have all come together and are opposing this deal. In the last number of weeks they have done that in the most strident and vociferous way they can to try and make decision-makers at the provincial level, the federal level and the municipal level understand that they don't want their community to be a dumping ground for garbage and they don't want the groundwater in their community to be polluted by this proposal that uses an untested technology. They don't want their groundwater to be polluted in a way that will poison their drinking water for years to come.
We also know that it occurs in a backdrop, I think, of other actions that took place today, if I understand my colleague from Timmins-James Bay correctly, whom I just spoke to on the phone. The highway was blocked. People are demonstrating yet again today in different parts of northern Ontario to try and make it clear to the decision-makers who count that they really don't want this scheme in their backyard.
I think this landfill proposal is all wrong. I don't think it should be built. It shouldn't be built now and not tomorrow; it shouldn't be built, ever. I say that for a couple of reasons. It was clear at the EA that the technology that was being proposed was technology that was untried, that was new. We should be concerned about consequences of new, untried technology, especially when the drinking water of thousands of people is what is at stake, and it is in this case what is at stake. Make no mistake about it.
We know, for example, that millions of litres of pure groundwater will be continually flowing into the pit that could then be contaminated by a plan that requires that water to wash Toronto's garbage in perpetuity. We know, for example, that the pit leaks. We know that even the experts who came to testify at the environmental assessment hearing admitted that the proposal for this dump is in an area that is in an earthquake-prone zone.
My leader, last week in questions to the minister, tried to raise with him again the significance of that issue. Think about it. This is as of September 27. Six days ago, there was an earthquake that measured 3 on the Richter scale only 36 miles away from this mine site. Twenty-seven days ago, from September 27, there was another earthquake that was 30 miles away. The proposal to dump this garbage is in an area that is an active earthquake zone. On January 1 of this year there was another earthquake in this area. This one measured 5.3 on the Richter scale. When you have that kind of activity in about a nine-month period, you increase the potential for the cracks and fissures in that area to expand and you increase the potential for leakage, if and when Toronto's garbage ever got dumped there.
The minister tried to say that was taken into account at the time of the EA process. We know the experts who came to testify did have to testify and say, "Yes, it's true," it was in an earthquake zone. That has been reinforced in the last nine months, when we've had three major quakes in that area. Why would you move forward with a proposal in an area that so clearly poses risk to the health and safety of residents and to the quality of their drinking water? Why would you do that? Why would any government think it was a good idea to dump garbage, which could then leach in an area that's in an earthquake zone? It doesn't make any sense. I wonder why the government wouldn't want to take into account that merely nine months ago an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale hit this area, the very area where this government thinks it's OK to dump garbage.
The plan itself runs completely counter to the government's own 3R proposals. Rather than trying to encourage Toronto to reduce the amount of waste it produces, the plan itself actually ties the city to maintaining that level of garbage so it can be shipped over the next 20 years. What are we doing, trying to encourage a proposal that will in fact lead not at all to the city of Toronto trying to actually divert out of the waste stream or enhance its recycling efforts in order to reduce the amount of garbage going into landfill? The contract depends on a minimum high level of waste continuing to go into northern Ontario. It runs completely counter to what the government professes is its own 3Rs policy.
Earlier in the spring we had the Ministry of the Environment, the deputy and other officials before the public accounts committee. We were reviewing some of the comments that the auditor had made with respect to recycling. One thing that was interesting with respect to recycling was that the time frames that had been set out by a previous government-in this case the Liberal government, between 1987 and 1990-in order to recycle 50% have been effectively abandoned by this government. They don't even appear any more in the government's own business plan as an objective, as a target that this government would want to reach.
So we have not only the city of Toronto's proposal, which will effectively mean little effort on their part to recycle, but it also means that the government itself, in accepting the proposal, has abandoned any pretense it might have had that it cares about the environment, that it cares about recycling and that it wants communities to do more in that regard.
Fourthly, the deal really does violate the traditional territory of the Timiskaming First Nation, and that's probably an area where the federal government, if it really wanted to get in on this action, could actually do so. It is clear that there is a constitutional issue with respect to what goes on on the traditional land of this First Nation, and that has not been taken into account in any way, shape or form with respect to the proposal. The federal government has hemmed and hawed and murmured and spoken a little bit about the fact that it might intervene. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that we probably have a federal election on our doorstep. If the federal government really wanted to look at a federal environmental assessment and order one to be done, they could use the fact that this plan violates traditional territories of a First Nation to do that, because of course they have fiduciary responsibility when it comes to First Nations in this country.
As I said earlier, the plan is opposed by Kirkland Lake, by the majority of residents, by the First Nations, and now we see on the Quebec side as well other groups who are coming forward because they're worried about the quality of their drinking water and the impact this proposal will have on Lake Timiskaming.
We have suggested very strongly that the government needs to be in the recycling game again, and if they were, then Toronto might not be in the position it is. We look to other major cities, other jurisdictions-Edmonton and Halifax, for example-who clearly are moving forward on recycling efforts, who clearly are diverting 60% to 65% of stuff out of the landfill so they don't have a huge problem with respect to where cities dump garbage. We are concerned that the Waste Diversion Organization, which this government maintains, has recently said that if Ontario is to meet its goal of diverting 50% of waste away from landfill, which is the target that was set by a previous government, which this government says it's committed to, then it will have to ban organics from landfill in Ontario and it will have to do that as soon as possible.
We are concerned because we don't see much enthusiasm, much initiative or much desire on the part of the government to do so, even though its own waste diversion organization has issued a clear warning that that is what must be done immediately if we're going to be able to meet the goal the province has maintained for over 10 years now of diverting 50% of waste away from landfill. We think the government, as a first step to dealing with this serious problem, must do that immediately: announce that organics will be banned from landfills in Ontario.
We have tried to say to the government very clearly that there are a number of concerns that have been raised by the local residents about why they don't want their community to become a dumping ground for garbage. We have raised with the government the spectre of the concern from the First Nation and that there is a constitutional issue here that the federal government must deal with. We've raised the concern with respect to the flawed EA process, where the government changed the rules of the EA process and, frankly, probably made it much easier for the proponent to get this through even though the decision was not unanimous. We have said to the government that if they really are concerned about the quality of drinking water in this province they will not proceed with such a flawed proposal.
It is not too late for this government to act to protect the quality of drinking water of people in northern Ontario, specifically northeastern Ontario. I hope the government will have the courage to do so.
Mr Brian Coburn (Ottawa-Orléans): As a resident of Ontario, I'd like to think that all provincial governments over the years would have had my best interests at heart in terms of protecting the environment, and certainly no less our government.
I think, when you go through this issue, that the Ministry of the Environment has gone to great lengths to ensure that all aspects have been explored. In fact, the ministry has gone to great lengths to ensure that a full environmental assessment was completed in accordance with the Environmental Assessment Act. The Minister of the Environment requested that the Environmental Assessment Board review the hydraulic leachate collection and containment system to ensure that the groundwater contamination would be prevented. Those hearings lasted some six months, and the board attached 26 conditions to that plan. In addition, a certificate of approval was issued after further technical analysis of the project, and that certificate carried 66 conditions. In addition, eight independent peer reviews carefully analyzed the details of the plan and submitted their reviews to the Environmental Assessment Board. Once the environmental assessment was approved by a judicial review, the Adams mine landfill project was concluded and that decision to approve the EA was upheld.
When I was at the municipal level in municipal politics, as some members of this House would be familiar with, the environmental assessment process was brought into being sometime, I believe, in the late 1980s. It was brought in with the intention of being inclusive, not exclusive, being inclusive in that everybody had an opportunity to participate and raise their concerns. The obligation was then to pursue those concerns and find whether they were well-founded or ill-founded.
Over the years, the environmental assessment process has continued in its pursuit of perfection in terms of creating solutions to some of the challenges that we have. Make no mistake, the challenges aren't going away. The 50,000 condoms in Australia aren't really going to make a big difference on our population growth in the long run. But that's the challenge to people in this assembly and to others, with the explosion in our population. You look at the city of Toronto, that's going to increase by another half million over the next few short years; the city of Ottawa.
In fact, part of this discussion reminds me of the environmental process that we went through in Ottawa when I was on Cumberland council. This was when the Liberal government was steering the province.
When you get into an environmental assessment process, one of the things that's fundamental is that you have some expectations, as the proponent or as the municipality or as a resident, that there's a beginning and an end and that there's a process that must be followed. If that varies at the end of it because you just don't like the conclusion, that removes some of the confidence the electorate has in all of us in our ability to govern. We're elected to be here to make decisions for the betterment of residents in this province, and hopefully the electorate believes that there is an intelligent, logical, reasonable process to arrive at those decisions.
I would like to think, after experiencing a couple of environmental assessments over my 18 years, that it is a very comprehensive and thorough process, whether it's for a road or whether it's for a landfill site. I've experienced both. In that particular case in Ottawa, when we were looking at incineration, it was the member for St Catharines who was the minister at that time. His comment today was, "Get rid of those filthy incinerators."
At that time there was a good argument that incinerators in Europe had improved the technology, and there would be an argument that it's better to deal with something you can see in the air than something you put in the ground. Those were some of those arguments then, and that was over 10 years ago.
In this particular case there has been a full environmental assessment. I don't think it's proper, at this stage of the game, to have politicians come along and contaminate the issue. There have been experts in their field, and from my experience a lot of these experts do take pride in their ability to analyze situations, do take pride in improvements to the process, improvements and solutions that have been garnered by their colleagues around the world. This situation is no different.
In this particular case, the Adams mine, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, is some 55 storeys deep. It's a pretty big hole. Open-pit mining, that had gone on for years, has left this resource, and there's water in the hole because water runs in. Contrary to some engineers-and I had that experience too; some engineers try to get water to run uphill, and sometimes they spend a lot of money, if we believe them, in trying to pursue that.
But in this particular case, the hydraulic containment is the key to the operational capability of the Adams mine. Whenever you dig a hole, of course we get down below the water table and water runs into it, and of course there are fractures in the rock. That's what creates some of the water veins and that's how some of the infiltration gets into the pit.
They talk about that extensively in some of the reports I've seen in terms of the hydraulic containment. This capability has been implemented in other areas, so it's not like, "Wow, this is going to be something new." The technology has been used in Saskatchewan, and the same hydraulic containment is demonstrated even right next door to us here in Halton and Grimsby at the Green Lane landfill, maybe on a smaller scale.
I don't think any of us here or anyplace in this province and in this country are minimizing the impact of the three Rs. That's an important component of how we're going to handle our garbage. But there is that remainder that we have to deal with. We don't have the luxury of being able to put off decisions forever and ever. Decisions have to be made, and they have to be made on the best possible information.
I think one of the striking characteristics of our government is being able to make those difficult decisions. And they are difficult, because it is emotional; it's one of those subjects that is emotional. It's in your backyard. You never thought it would be here, "Wow, it's in my backyard so, gee, my thinking's all changed now. I really don't want it to happen here." But then you look at some of the significant scientific data that were gathered by an army of experts who have analyzed and reviewed the Adams site. These experts have based this on the very simple law of gravity.
Hydraulic containment means the inward flow of groundwater towards the landfill. When you have that hydraulic pressure inward, nothing goes out. That's why it's critical in the establishment of the Adams landfill that there is the containment of leachate and the pumping of leachate where it can be treated. If you look at some of the other landfill sites, that is one of the difficulties in how you control the leachate. For those who don't have the luxury of an open-pit mine, where they're combating the infiltration of water right at the water table level, some of the solutions in some areas of this province have just been to acquire more land and they just keep moving the boundaries. In this particular situation, it can be contained and the leachate can be dealt with in a proper environmental fashion.
Engineering and hydrogeological experts have repeatedly stated that there is no potential for contaminants within the waste to enter the surrounding groundwater as long as the hydraulic containment is maintained. That, like I had said, is one of the key centrepieces of this. On top of that, by containing the leachate you get to control it in an environmentally sensitive way.
This information was presented to the Environmental Assessment Board during the public hearings on the project. The Environmental Assessment Board is an independent board that was tasked with the responsibility of reviewing the hydraulic containment plans for the Adams mine landfill project. They had the task of reviewing the testimony of the experts. They also sought the advice of eight independent peer review committees. They all came to the same conclusion: that the proposal will work.
As an added measure of protection, the certificate of approval that was issued to the company under the Environmental Protection Act contains requirements for groundwater monitoring around the site. It would trigger levels for implementation and remedial measures and contingency plans to ensure groundwater protection. Those are some of the things that we have learned in the past, when some of the plans have gone awry in years gone by: that there is a mechanism in the event that something happens, that it does trigger a contingency plan. That has been accounted for and demanded as part of the environmental requirements.
The facts, I think, speak for themselves. We're talking about decisions, not opinions-not opinions of a politician, but we're talking about decisions that are based on scientific fact that are conclusive. The EA process in this particular case had a beginning, it had an end and it was inclusive. It did invite comments, data, professional opinions and comments from the citizenry. These concerns were taken into account and evaluated and a decision rendered. Our government, and I would like to believe everyone, as I said at the outset of my remarks, does take very seriously its responsibility to protect human health, to protect the environment, to protect the very things that are important to our survival on this planet. It is our health, it is our environment and, indeed, our children's future that we are dealing with, and that's not a decision that's taken lightly by anybody in this place, I believe, or outside.
But we also recognize that we have to base our decisions on evidence. I believe the evidence here speaks for itself. It's on solid science. We do stand behind the decision to support this application and this project.
The public does expect strong leadership. They expect leadership to deal with issues. They expect them to gather all the facts and make logical, responsible decisions to move forward. In this particular case, this is something that our ministry and our government have provided.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park): It is a pleasure to rise today in support of this motion because this motion is exhorting members here to do their responsibility and giving them their only opportunity to do the thing they are brought here to do in the first place, and that is to see that people's well-being is protected.
We've had the member opposite from Ottawa-Orléans tell us that this is based on scientific evidence. What the member from Ottawa-Orléans and the government itself will not acknowledge is that they have limited the inflow of scientific evidence in the same way they are in no position today to say they'll staunch the outflow of leachate or poisonous substances into literally the bedrock of this province. This government held a very short environmental assessment that only looked at the theoretical application of hydraulic containment. It did not look at-if you look at the minutes of estimates-what the person in charge of environmental assessment says should be an environmental assessment, a full review, including looking at the alternatives that could be done.
We have some bad options when it comes to garbage in the Toronto area. We have landfill, we have incineration, but rather than looking at things that were known and risks that were known, we have this government cajoled by a large American company into taking on something that does not exist anywhere else. A uranium containment done far more expensively than what is happening or is being proposed here is something that it can't be compared to. We have no garbage dump being run the way this government wants to ship garbage 700 kilometres and have occur at the Adams mine.
I say to the people of Toronto, to the people of Ontario, this is a government on the precipice of poisoning the natural environment with an extremely risky experiment, and no assurances can be given in this House, no documents can be tabled that will actually demonstrate that. If this government was so certain, they would support this motion, because this motion does not threaten their design to have an answer; this motion only threatens a government with something to hide. If you accept a full environmental assessment, let's say on the federal standards-what the provincial standards used to be before this government passed a law to allow companies themselves to set their own environmental assessments-we would see a completely different answer or, if we did not, we would know some very troubling questions.
I want to raise the name Dr Larry Jensen, who was a provincial geologist for that area for 30 years. He says the mine will leak. I've been to the mine. I was there yesterday. It's a lake now. It's a lake about 150 or 200 feet full of water. The water does leak in and the water does leak out because there's another 150 feet that isn't full. This mine leaks in a way that no independent authority is going to be able to tell us can be staunched by manmade equipment.
We're looking at, I think, the beginning of a Lake Harris or a Harris canal in terms of what it affects. If some of the members here are just shrugging and saying, "Thank goodness it's not in my area; thank goodness it's not in a heavily populated area; thank goodness it's in an opposition riding," then I say to them, this is a much bigger issue than you're contending with. This is not about political imperative; this is about a responsibility that Walkerton should have told every member in this House is inalienable.
I want to say to the some thousand people who were there, there are people in this House and outside of this House, and more people, I say to the members opposite, as they learn of the facts of this matter, who will be addressing it in the way that we are, which is with prudent caution, not this reckless haste that cannot be explained and cannot be in the interests of the people of Ontario.
Our work in the House is predicated on the importance of informed discussion and debate. The necessity for the open exchange of information and ideas is recognized as being important no matter what the situation. This is especially true in the field of environmental protection. This is the case because the issues to be dealt with are very complex. To deal with them we need not only expertise but also wisdom, much like the wisdom that this government has shown in supporting the closure of the Keele Valley landfill site by 2002. This government has been consistent on this point, unlike the opposition where one day they want to extend it and another day they want to close it.
One of the key reasons that this government stands behind its approval of the project's full environmental process is the high level of public involvement sought and received every step of the way. The motion today calls for a full environmental assessment to be conducted. To that I say, and the minister has consistently said, it has already been done.
Before I talk more specifically about this involvement, how it's taken place and how it will continue to take place, let me first hearken back to the Environmental Assessment and Consultation Improvement Act, 1996, which was proclaimed January 1, 1997. Our reforms to the Environmental Assessment Act were significant, resulting in a strengthened environmental assessment process. Among the first that we introduced for Ontario was the legal requirement to consult with the public to ensure that environmental issues are identified and resolved early on in the development of the project.
The Adams mine landfill project has been the subject of extensive consultation over the past several years, including the public hearings lasting six months during 1997. These hearings resulted in 26 conditions being attached to the environmental assessment. The consequence was a stronger plan to protect the environment.
The Environmental Assessment Board's public hearings heard all sides of this technical issue, including evidence from seismologists, hydrogeologists, leachate management, environmental groups and members of the public. We have heard from people from all walks of life and on both sides of the issue. We have listened. We have taken their thoughts into consideration where appropriate and we've acted on them.
This government ensured that extensive public consultation occurred and that a thorough and full environmental assessment was conducted. We listened to our colleagues across the floor and the inconsistencies that are being reported. One in particular is that Mr Ramsay, the member for Timiskaming-Cochrane, said in 1994, "It would be a shame to see jobs created by waste management go to the United States. The government should allow Metro Toronto to proceed with an environmental assessment of the Adams mine proposal." Mr McGuinty in 1992 said the Adams mine project would "have dramatic positive economic impacts in terms of employment, infrastructure and promoting a creative approach to dealing with our garbage."
We have taken the time necessary to determine whether or not the Adams mine project is in fact environmentally sound. A full environmental assessment, including public hearings, has been conducted. I am surprised that after learning that the project is environmentally sound, the members opposite would change their tune.
This government's work is not yet complete. We continue our work to ensure that the public has ongoing input into the process and that the environment is protected. We recently released a draft permit to take water to both the proponent, Notre Development Corp, and to the Adams Mine Community Liaison Committee. This relates to Notre's application for a permit to remove water from the Adams mine pit. In fact, the establishment of a community liaison committee was a specific condition of approval for the Adams mine landfill under the Environmental Assessment Act.
The Environmental Assessment Board's decision following the public hearings specifically spelled out the membership, role and responsibility of the committee to act as a liaison with residents, groups and communities in the area. The committee's membership consists of people who are opposed and people who are for the proposal. This balanced input ensures that all voices are heard and that the environment receives the best protection.
We will be taking the same consultative approach when we draft certificates of approval for the applications required for other aspects of the Adams mine. These include applications for discharge of the pit water and an application for approval of the leachate treatment system for the long-term operation of the site.
Our efforts to include the public have been complimented by area councillors and other members of the public. A municipal question was posed to the people of Kirkland Lake by the town in 1991. This official question received 69% support from the electorate to proceed with an environmental assessment, and the support for the project continues today.
Councillor Bill Enouy in the town of Kirkland Lake said in June of this year, "This project has made our own communities stronger and more committed to work together. Opponents and the press keep using the reference to the Kirkland Lake community when they talk about opposition to the Adams mine. This is totally wrong, and today I want to clear up that error." Mr Enouy noted that over the past two years only one individual has appeared before their council to object. Mayor Bettyanne Thib-Jelly also notes the town of Englehart's continued support for the project. The motion in front of us also calls for a referendum. There have been three referendums called and municipal elections, and the councillors who have been vocal in support of the Adams mine project continue to be re-elected. In June of this year, Reeve Jo-Ann Thompson of the township of Larder Lake also affirmed her council's support of this project; this, after all three councillors were deeply involved in the environmental assessment process and the Environmental Assessment Board hearings.
I want to conclude by reinforcing my point that this government has consistently acted to ensure that the Adams mine landfill project protects the environment through broad public participation and detailed analysis by the technical experts. The Adams mine landfill undertaking shows that the process is working. The input we've gained through consultation has played an important role in improving the quality of the Adams mine landfill proposal.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Did you say Toronto-Danforth? It was Mr Dennis Mills who changed the name of my riding unilaterally, without any discussion with me-I want that on the record-or the community, and we're now Toronto-Danforth. There are many citizens who believe that we should have been called Riverdale-East York or East York-Riverdale. However, Dennis did say that maybe after the next federal election we might be able to look into it again. But people are still getting used to this new name, because it used to be Riverdale and then went from Riverdale to Broadview-Greenwood, and now we're Toronto-Danforth. Danforth is a great street, but there are other great streets in the riding.
I'm pleased to be able to speak to this resolution today. Our caucus will be supporting it, although we take a somewhat different stance or position on the Adams mine. We believe that it shouldn't happen. We don't believe there should be another EA, although of course we would welcome the federal government to come forward now, not wait for weeks until they get advice from the bureaucracy. Maybe then an election will be called and it won't happen. In fact, I've been hearing these rumours-I admit I can't prove it, and I hope I'm wrong-that there are certain Liberal members here talking to Liberal members at city council-and I know David Ramsay isn't one of those-asking them to support going ahead with this deal because the Liberals would like it off the table before the election is called. I really hope that isn't true, because we're counting on some of those Liberal councillors at Toronto city council to see the light here and understand, with all the evidence that has come forth since they made the initial decision, that they should not-it would be foolhardy-go ahead with this crazy, environmentally dangerous scheme.
Why I say that our position, the NDP position, is different from the Liberals' is that we made a very clear choice when we were in government. I know that at the time both the Liberals and the Tories, who were the third party then, didn't support us on that, and they had their reasons. They felt that all options should be on the table, especially during a time when we had a real environmental assessment process in this province. That was part of the argument: why not at least leave it on the table and let an environmental assessment determine whether or not it's a safe way to deal with our garbage? We took the position then, and I agree it was an unpopular decision-and we were beaten up pretty badly over the Interim Waste Authority-that there was no leadership on the garbage issue.
At the time when we were elected, garbage was a major issue. The Tories so far have been very lucky. I know the Liberals before us had to deal with it and then we walked right into it. It was a mess. Keele Valley was filling up and there was no leadership. Rightly or wrongly, we decided to take that leadership and, after consulting with many, decided that hauling waste to the north and dumping it in a pit was not an option. We also decided that incineration was not an option, that the worst thing we could be doing would be to make it easy to get rid of garbage-out of sight, out of mind-because when that happens governments of all stripes, frankly, and all levels don't have the kind of pressure from the public to move forward in an environmentally sound way and a progressive way to start seeing our garbage as a resource, not something to dump in big holes and cause pollution.
Ms Churley: Yes, and we went through hell over the garbage issue, but I've got to tell you that there was an up side to that process. We were right out front and open. There were no backroom deals being made. We set up an Interim Waste Authority with a very diverse representation and worked very hard to come up with some possible landfill sites in the GTA, knowing that we were going to have to become more and more aggressive on the 3R front.
All hell broke loose when that list of over 60-remember that list? "Oh no, not us." Then that got shortlisted to three, if I recall correctly. One of the sites that the Tories like to bring up-although it wasn't the same Whitevale site as the Liberals had proposed before us, out of those three, one of the shortlisted ones was in that area. But of course we were defeated, and perhaps that was partly why the NDP was defeated. I want to point out, because the government members keep asking us questions in question period and some of the press say, "Why don't you answer the question?"-I don't want to get off my agenda. Because here we are in the year 2000 and these guys are in government, and have been since 1995, and are still trying to talk about things that were done or not done five or 10 years ago. That's the new strategy. I can assure you it isn't going to work.
I do want to say now that the site they keep bringing up was not a final decision. It was not the final site chosen, plus out of those three which were short-listed there would have been a full, comprehensive environmental assessment and there would have been intervener funding so that the citizens-and I grant you, no matter which site would have been picked, there would have been a large citizens' coalition against it. They would have had intervener funding to participate in a meaningful way in a full and comprehensive hearing. What that means is they would have had funding to hire lawyers and to hire expert witnesses. We all know that the government will spend millions before a hearing, because they've got the deep pockets; they've got the money to hire their lawyers, their experts to prove their case.
Ms Churley: I'm getting under their skin because they know it's true. They cancelled intervener funding. There is no more intervener funding, so citizens cannot participate in a meaningful way any more.
The second thing is, the Harris government completely gutted the Environmental Assessment Act. When we were in government, we were aware that there were some problems with the act and we made some changes. We actually tightened up some of the processes within that act because part of the problem was that it was taking too long. But the overall philosophy and direction of the Environmental Assessment Act we kept, and would have kept, because it is fundamental to real democracy in this province. What this government did, and I sat on the committee as the environmental critic for the NDP and I watched-
I got into politics fighting garbage incineration in a very polluted area in my neighbourhood and I have to tell you we won. I want to say to people out there that you can win. It's a much harder job now, without intervener funding and with a process that has been gutted and doesn't take into account any more the concerns of citizens.
Let me get back to telling you, before I was rudely interrupted, about what happened with the Environmental Assessment Act. When I was sitting on that committee I knew there was an advisory committee appointed to advise Mike Harris and his government about how to change the Environmental Assessment Act. What I didn't know at the time was that one of the key people on that committee advising Mike Harris and the Minister of the Environment and others on how to change that act was Mr Robert Power.
I wish I had known that at the time. We were doing everything we could to stop some of those changes, but I didn't know that the same guy who was advising the Minister of the Environment and the Premier on what changes to make to the Environmental Assessment Act was, lo and behold, the same lawyer who was on Gordon McGuinty's payroll, preparing for an environmental assessment to get the go-ahead for the landfill. I've said in this House before that something stinks here and it isn't just the garbage. That is outrageous. Then he was able to go back with the changes made that he needs for a streamlined, scoped-that's what we say now, "scoped"-environmental assessment.
Let's just tell the truth here when we talk about "scoped." We had to fight hard to make sure that when the government was making these changes-there was a lot of concern up front with the parameters of what's going to be examined before an Environmental Assessment Board, that it was just going to be the proponents and the government who were going to sit down at a table and determine how to scope the EA, ie, what would be taken off the table that we did fight for, that citizens and environmental groups came in and fought for, and we did get an amendment that the citizens' groups could also become part of that process, of the scoping. That was the only change they agreed to.
Let me explain what we mean when we talk about scoping. What it means is that the heart and soul of the Environmental Assessment Act were just wiped out. Let me explain what I mean by that. Under the previous act-the Environmental Assessment Act before these guys ripped the heart out of it-you had to do several things and you had no choice. If you wanted to build a large landfill, you had to look at alternatives to the site and alternatives to the undertaking. Can you imagine the impact that would have had on the environmental assessment for the Adams mine scheme if the proponents had been forced to look at alternatives to the undertaking and alternatives to the site? But no, that was taken out.
The direction we need to go in here, with the latest technologies, which didn't exist pre-1995-the ability now with the latest and emerging technology is to pull out the organics, which cause the worst pollution. What we are most worried about going into the Adams mine lake is the organics, which actually cause the leachate that will poison the water. So we would have been forced to look at alternatives, and we would have been forced to look at alternatives to the site. Let's take a look. Obviously some proponents found that very cumbersome. But it was a good process because it put everything on the table, and we really, as a community and a society, had to look at the whole picture and the big picture, and it forced us to be progressive and move forward. With that taken off the table, none of those things were even raised.
Not only that, but just the bare-bones technology was looked at in this environmental assessment. Today I raised the question in the Legislature, and I've raised it before, asking the minister, because he still has to grant a couple of permits for the leachate draining and for the permanent taking of water, that there be full and comprehensive public hearings and time for a review and comment on those. If there was ever a time when we needed a full, comprehensive hearing looking at all aspects, this is it. This has not been tried before, and we have credible scientists who are on the other side of this, and I mean really credible scientists, who are saying, "This ain't going to work. You're going to poison water. There are cracks and fissures in the rocks." As my leader, Howard Hampton, revealed the other day, it's in an earthquake zone.
There are a lot of issues here. Surely to goodness, after what happened in Walkerton we would all agree that when we want to even look at something that is so experimental, we want all the facts put on the table and we want to hear from all sides and we want to make sure we're doing the right thing. In this case we are not, for a number of reasons. We're talking about polluting billions of litres of water to wash Toronto's garbage. Kirkland Lake is not a garbage dump for Toronto's garbage. What a disgusting idea-the promise of a few jobs. It really is nuts. The scheme is so crazy that I find it hard to believe that in the year 2000 we are actually going in this direction. There are alternatives.
City council is going to be making its decision in a few days, and I hope the Liberal members will work hard to convince the Liberal members of city council not to vote for this scheme. Did you know that the members of city council don't even have a copy of the full deal? They've just got a few pages of a synopsis of the thing. What are they going to be voting for? Are they going to have to pay? Is this part of the contract: if the city finally does move on and actually starts serious composting and using some of the new technologies to keep a lot of the resources out of the garbage and actually make money on it and create jobs, is there going to be a clause in there that the city has to provide a certain amount of garbage and, if they don't, they're going to have to pay anyway? What else is in the contract? Hopefully, city councillors are not going to support this.
I can tell you that our caucus is supporting this motion today but we don't necessarily agree with the direction, in that we think it should be off the table. The government does not recognize the kind of referendum the Liberal members are talking about today. We do welcome a federal environmental assessment. We want it now; we don't want it to wait until the last minute and then an election is called.
I'll end by saying this, and I can absolutely assure you that this is true. I want to say this with all due respect to my Liberal colleagues here, my Liberal colleagues down at city hall and my Liberal colleagues in Ottawa: this issue is not going to go away. I would say on the contrary; if city council votes to go ahead with this and a federal election is called and there has been no federal environmental assessment called, let me tell you this issue is really going to heat up in the election. If the Liberals hope that if city council votes for it then it's a done deal and we can go away and forget about it, not so. It's going to heat up even more and it's going to be a huge election issue, not only up north but here in Toronto. It's not going to go away; it's just going to get worse.
This is a bad idea. This is a stupid idea. This is out of sight, out of mind; send it up north and it's over. We not only don't have to worry about our garbage any more but we don't have to worry about moving on into this century and finding more progressive ways, as has been pointed out. Other jurisictions are doing it: Halifax; Edmonton; Guelph has a small project.
If we put the money and the commitment there, if we put as much energy into it as the government and others are putting into trying to make it work at Adams mine, you know what? Eventually, and the goal is, we won't have mega-dumps any more and the dumps, the landfills that are left over, from the waste that comes out-the composting and more and more of the recyclables, getting people to reduce their garbage in the first place-if there are real concerted efforts to do that, yes, there'll still have to be some landfill but the leachate won't be a problem. These things are already happening in other jurisdictions. We don't have to reinvent the wheel.
I urge everybody to support this motion. I know the Tories aren't listening. I'm just very sorry that they are sitting there and willing to leave this kind of legacy for our kids and our grandkids and many generations to come. It's 1,000 years we're talking about here with unroven technology and not a real environmental assessent; in fact, a rigged environmental assessment so that Gordon McGuinty could get his way and make a lot money. Mike Harris's friend gets paid off; the consortium that's buying from Gordon McGuinty, what do they do? They give a couple of thousand dollars a year to the Tories-Waste Management Inc. Then, in the last election year, all of a sudden it went up to $74,000 and counting. What's wrong with this picture? As I said, something stinks here and it ain't just the garbage.
This is a terrible legacy to be leaving. Mark my words, it might not happen when you're in government, but down the road we're going to have a catastrophe if this goes ahead, and you're going to be responsible for it. You're going to be totally responsible for it, for allowing this to go ahead.
In closing, what I'd like to say is that I don't believe that this is going to happen anyway, because, thank goodness, there are sensible people out there and a lot of people out there who are objecting to this, and I'm going to be there with them. They're going to block a train from coming through with the garbage, should it get to that point. There are going to be protests like this government has never seen before. The bottom line is they can go ahead with this crazy scheme if they want to, but this is one that isn't going to work. We're going to stop it, by hook and by crook.
Mr David Young (Willowdale): I want to say at the outset that what we are dealing with here today in this provincial assembly is, in fact, a matter that is within the local purview. It is a matter of local autonomy, and I think it's important that we remain cognizant of that throughout the debate, because, frankly, we haven't talked about that a lot. We must remember, of course, that what we are trying to pass judgment on here are decisions that have been made at the city council in Toronto by duly elected officials and in a number of the neighbouring municipalities: Peel, Durham and York. It is because of that, because of that context, that I am puzzled at the Liberal motion that was tabled this afternoon.
I was at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in August of this year when Mr McGuinty, the Leader of the Opposition, stood at that conference and spoke at some length about forging a new partnership with municipalities across this province. He said that if he were Premier, he wouldn't force his decisions upon local municipalities. He said that very clearly he would respect their autonomy.
We in this assembly, and the people of this province, are used to Liberal flip-flops. But I suggest that a flip-flop of this magnitude on an issue this important over six weeks is shocking even to those of us here who are, one would have thought, quite used to Liberal inconsistencies and changes of opinion. I am puzzled by that. I am wondering why Mr McGuinty would step forward at this time and say he would overturn decisions of duly elected local councils, because that is what he is saying without any doubt.
Let's talk for a moment about one of the councils whose authority he wants to take away, to usurp their authority and impose his own. The one that is mentioned most often is the city of Toronto. Of course, the Toronto city council is headed by Mayor Lastman. I know you're familiar with Mayor Lastman, Mr Speaker, as are we all. I'm a big supporter of Mayor Lastman, I might say, as is the member for Eglinton-Lawrence. I believe the member for Eglinton-Lawrence is one of the chairs of Mayor Lastman's re-election campaign. It's the second time; he had a similar role in 1997.
I ask the member for Eglinton-Lawrence publicly in this assembly what advice he has given the mayor he is trying so hard to re-elect. I'd like to know what advice he has given to the mayor on this issue. Has he been following the party line, or does he harbour a private, personal opinion different from that of his party? We know where Mr Lastman stands on the issue. A day doesn't go by without a headline appearing in the paper with Mr Lastman saying emphatically, "Stay out of our business, province. Stay out of our business, federal government. It's our decision. Let us make it." "Stay Out Of Our Trash," was one of the most recent headlines. I ponder aloud what the Liberals would say to that inequity, and I look forward to hearing perhaps from the member for Eglinton-Lawrence as to what position he takes in this very important debate.
I sat and listened as well to the Leader of the Opposition earlier today, and I was very hopeful I would hear from him constructive criticism and constructive suggestions about what should be done with our garbage. To be fair to Mr McGuinty, he did propose a couple of suggestions. First, Mr McGuinty was of the view that we should be shipping garbage to Michigan.
But before we move on to that, Mr Speaker, I ponder aloud and I ask you and the members of this assembly: has the Leader of the Opposition, who this week seems so fond of municipal referendums, gone to the people in the area through which the trucks would travel? Has he gone to the people in Windsor West, has he gone to the people in Windsor-St Clair, has he gone to the people in Sarnia and asked them, "Do you want millions of tonnes of Toronto's garbage to be coming through your city streets on a regular basis?" If he has the results of those referendums, he should share them with us. I think he has not done so.
One of the members opposite-I think it was the new member, whom I welcome to this assembly-was quick to mention that this is a temporary solution, a temporary solution indeed. One of Mr McGuinty's other suggestions was to point to what happened in the cities of Edmonton and Halifax, his suggestion being that we should replicate those experiences.
I did a little research and found that, to a degree, they have done a good job recycling there. In Halifax they're able to divert in the neighbourhood of 66% of their garbage, which leaves about a third of their garbage. In Edmonton, an example that is frequently referenced by the members opposite in the Liberal Party, one day they may get down to as little as 25% garbage-the garbage of the garbage.
Mr Young: That is pretty good. I hope the member from the Kirkland Lake area also realizes that diversion rate is so high because they have an extensive composting program that creates compost which goes to the oil sands. In fact, the process was initiated by those in the oil sands who require this material. There is a unique situation there, and I applaud the municipal politicians for having the foresight and proceeding in the manner they have. Let there be no mistake: even in Alberta it is a municipal initiative, and not provincial.
So when we're comparing, let us ensure that we are comparing apples to apples. Let us also remember that at the end of the day, you're left with garbage, whether it be 25%, 33% or 50%. There is no example that has been tabled in this Legislature of a municipality that has been able to dispose of all of their garbage in North America. Let me tell you that a quick review of the Edmonton Journal would tell you that there is in fact a very similar debate going on in Edmonton right now: how to dispose of the remaining garbage?
This is so contentious that it was recently the subject matter of a court case. For the record it's the Ryley dump site that has enraged the people in that vicinity. Let's be clear that they have a very similar debate going on there.
In closing, you're left with this: where do the Liberals suggest the garbage should go? They were very quick to say where it should not go, but they have demonstrated absolutely no leadership and no constructive suggestions at the end of the day. I think they may still have some time on the clock. I'm going to sit down and listen attentively to find out if and when, finally, we will hear something from the Liberals other than the duplicerous rhetoric that seems to occupy all of their time.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey): In the few minutes remaining for the government side, I would like to address comments that have been made by several members of the Liberal caucus and the NDP caucus that essentially take the statement that the environmental assessment, the whole environmental assessment that was undertaken, was fudged. That's not true. We should do it again; they didn't like the result, so they want to do it again.
I want to remind my friends in the opposition what they did when they were in office. If you remember, when the lifts were put on Brittania, when Keele Valley was extended, when Whitevale was extended, you know what they did? They didn't have any environmental assessments-no hearings. They canned them. So I think it is rather hypocritcal-
Mr Tilson: I withdraw that comment, Mr Speaker, mainly because I have another three minutes that I want to speak in. I want to tell you a little bit. The Minister of the Environment has already said that the government has done-and remember, you know who is asking for this? The city of Toronto is asking for this. I've had a few constituents of mine call up and say, "Stop it."
I'll tell you, Mayor Mel's telephone number is (416)395-6464. Call him. He made the application; we didn't make the application on this side. It's their garbage; it's not the province of Ontario's garbage. We do have regulations, however. We do have an Environmental Assessment Act. I'll tell you a little bit about what we've done. We had a full environmental assessment which was completed in accordance with the Environmental Assessment Act.
Finally, the Minister of the Environment requested that the Environmental Assessment Board review the hydraulic leachate collection and containment system to ensure that groundwater contamination would be prevented. Hearings lasted six months and the board attached 26 conditions to the plan. So to say that nothing's been going on-this was going on when we were in opposition. When the NDP were in office, things were going on with respect to the Adams mine site. This isn't new. That was 10 years ago.
Finally, a certificate of approval was issued after further technical analysis of the project, and the certificate carried 66 conditions. The minister has referred to this, I believe, in question period today and in his comments in the House. Finally, there were eight independent peer reviews that carefully analyzed the details of the plan and submitted their reviews to the Environmental Assessment Board.
Someone came along and once the EA was approved, there was a judicial review. It went to the courts and the decision to approve the EA was upheld. Then that was appealed. An application for appeal was filed and it was dismissed.
My friends in the opposition are saying, "Let's have another environmental assessment," because they didn't like what went on before, notwithstanding what these two parties had done when they were in office with respect to their environmental policies. They would decide things without environmental assessments.
We've also got to remember-there are some comments about what this is-this was an abandoned iron ore mine. When it was operating, these various types over here wouldn't care even though it was raping the land, with the type of environmental work that was being done by the iron ore mine. Why all of a sudden are they the great protectors of the environment? Why? Because it's politically expedient for these people to do what they're doing. We've already heard a quote in the House. Mr McGuinty has once more flip-flopped.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): I appreciate the opportunity with the few minutes that are left to say a few things about this. First of all, a lot of the details have been dealt with this afternoon and I don't intend to go over that again. But I do want to take my moment on the floor to impress upon the government the absolute importance of showing some leadership here and thinking ahead.
To be fair, I can understand the pressure that exists in the city of Toronto with regard to what are they going to do. I can equally understand some of those folks in Kirkland Lake and the surrounding areas who see this as a unique economic opportunity, one that may not come by their way again. Goodness knows, with the lack of attention this government pays to northern Ontario, they've got to grab every opportunity they have.
At the end of the day, the provincial government, being the senior level of government with regard to the issue of garbage disposal, has got an obligation to look beyond those immediate pressures. That's why we have different levels of government. If you take a look at the development and the debates and the early discussions, especially around the US Constitution, they talk right in there about what a difference it makes in terms of making policy decisions when you're not right there on the ground and you can get a little distant from the issue. Having been a former alderman, I can feel the difference when we're dealing with most issues, not all, but many. You really do have an obligation to provide something more than just facilitating an immediate-and in the context of the time frame we're talking about, I'm going to say knee-jerk-reaction, because that's what this is.
The desperation that exists in Toronto is real, but come on. In the shadow of Walkerton, so is the worry about contaminating our natural water, a legitimate concern. This is untested, unproven technology. Are you so hard up to get this issue off your political plate that you're prepared to totally ignore and disregard all of the concerns?
Mr Christopherson: My colleague from Toronto-Danforth says, "It was rigged." Certainly it would seem that there were certain moves that mysteriously fit nice and neatly with this proposal. So when you say that this had an environmental assessment, people in the public need to understand that it did not have the same kind of intensive environmental assessment that existed prior to the Tories changing the rules.
Where are you going to be if we find out that the leachate is indeed getting into the water? Where are you going to go? Let me tell you: once you privatize water in any way, shape or form, it's very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. The problems that my community has been having with water treatment since it was privatized, and the accountability that was supposed to be there-only instead you find you get resistance-are really making a lot of Hamiltonians question whether or not that was the right step.
For the life of me, I just can't understand why you're prepared to allow this when there's such lack of certainty. My leader has raised the issue of earthquakes. There could be all kinds of different natural disasters that could throw off these supposedly well-laid plans, and you're prepared to ignore all that.
It's neat. When you want to stretch time out, you say, "Well, we want to take time to do this once and do it right," but that never seems to apply when you're rushing in the face of known danger. How are each of you going to feel, as members of a government, right in the shadow of Walkerton-let's say something happens five, 10, 15, even 20 years out.
Mr Christopherson: My colleague says, "Maybe 900 years out." It could be. We don't really know the implications. We don't know whether or not the technology is going to work. Why are you lending your voice and your support to something that even may remotely, possibly, poison the water of a community in Ontario when Walkerton just happened a few months ago?
I understand that the concept of keeping and dealing with your local garbage issue locally is difficult for some, especially a large city like Toronto. Nonetheless, in terms of the long-term best interests of waste management and protection and sustainability of the environment, it makes the most sense because it forces all of us-and again I hearken back to my experience in local government. It's amazing how creative you can get when you have to. In this case, you're the gatekeeper to whether there will be the kind of creativity, determination, discipline and investment in the alternatives that are available or not, and right now, we're at "not."
I think this is yet another one of those issues where, down the road, people are going to look back and say, "How on earth did they ever allow this to happen? It was so obvious." It will seem that way if we run into trouble. Is that a guarantee-we're going to run into trouble? No. No one knows. That's exactly the point. No one knows for certain. So why allow it? Why risk it? Why chance it-over garbage-when there are known alternatives that can work? They require an investment, they require determination, they require discipline as a community, but they do work, and it's better than this.
Just to leave the debate, because I've only got seconds left, I can really feel for those people who live in Kirkland Lake who really worry about what this does to their city's self-image and to their ability to market their community to other investments. They have a legitimate concern, and they're looking to the provincial government to use your power and authority to step in, to do the right thing for those people and for our environment.
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane): I'm obviously very pleased to be able to stand in my place today to speak to this debate. I thank my leader, Dalton McGuinty, for moving this opposition day forward to give all members of this House a chance to speak on this. There have been a lot of speeches made at home on this, and I think it's fitting that there be some speeches on this issue in the Legislature, just to give people an update. It saddens me that this is the type of action that my constituents have to take, but farmers in Earlton have occupied the Ontario Northland tracks since 10 o'clock this morning in their battle to try to stop this.
It's very sad that we face a government that, instead of being our referee in an issue such as this, has really jumped into bed with the proponent. We've lost any sense that democracy is happening in this process here. It really saddens us because I think people in a free democratic state shouldn't have to go to these extremes. People ask me, "Well, gee, with so many of us against this, why wouldn't they listen?" We're still trying, and we hope today, maybe through this exercise, they will listen and they'll support this resolution.
I'd like to just address a couple of the issues that were brought up today in this debate. It seems to be endlessly debated whether this was a full environmental assessment or not. I think it's interesting, because several of the members have brought up a quote of mine from 1994 that I absolutely stand behind today. It is a shame that we have to send garbage to the United States and produce jobs there, just like it is for cancer treatment. It's a shame that we have to use the United States for anything. All the jobs should be created here. We should be able to contain and take care of our garbage within Ontario. We should be able to do that.
Yes, I've always called for a full environmental assessment. No, we didn't get one, and the reason we didn't get one is because this government, four years ago, changed the Environmental Assessment Act. Many members have talked about why that's happened, that they used the very same lawyer of the proponents, who used to work for Metro pushing this deal, then worked for Notre Development. They hired this person, they changed the act and that means they've got a scoped hearing. This never happened before. When you had an environmental assessment hearing, you could then look at all of the issues. This is the very first time that a project of this magnitude has been scoped down, narrowed down to 15 days. Previously, landfill sites in Ontario, nowhere near the magnitude of this, took anywhere from 86 to 160 days in this province. But in this case, the rule was changed, the law was changed and the minister of the day said all you could look at was the hydraulic containment issue. You couldn't look at all the other issues that we felt were important up there. The economic impact to the district could not be looked at. The cultural, social or ecological impacts to the district could not be looked at. The impact of downstream economic development could not be looked at, and the cost and the feasibility of repair and the cessation in case of a failure of the site, and that's a big problem. There really hasn't been any sort of detailed planning of a contingency if something does go wrong at this site.
It is amazing that this thing has gone through, and it is a fraud. I'm sorry to use such strong language, but it is a fraud. The books have been cooked because of the involvement of several people of this government. We've documented that over the years. We're coming down to the last days now of this thing and I'm telling you, the people are not going to accept it. Why they're not going to accept it is because of the other fraud that's unfortunately been perpetrated at home, and that is that we are a willing host. We are not a willing host. Cleverly, the proponent in the late 1980s and the early 1990s approached three surrounding municipalities of this site, which sits in none of those, by the way. This site sits in unorganized territory not governed by any of the three so-called host communities. He basically cut a deal with those municipalities to say, "I'll give you a percentage of the tipping fee if you sign on and say that you are a willing host." That's what they did.
They bring up the referendum that happened in the 1991 municipal election. That referendum-and I would have supported it at the time if I was a voter in Kirkland Lake-was to say "I agree to proceed with a full environmental assessment hearing on the Adams mine project." Sixty-nine per cent said yes and we started to embark on that study. The original proposal was for a recycling plant and spin-off industries and other ways to dispose of the waste. In the end, what we're left with is a private sector dump. That's all it is. None of the valuables come up. We don't gain anything from that waste stream. We just get a dump.
I think as we started over the years to then learn what this site was-because I think many people in southern Ontario today think either this is some sort of mine shaft, which it isn't, or that it's just a rock pit that nothing would leak from, which of course it isn't, because water flows in and water flows out. As a colleague of mine previously had said, if you put a pail out in the rain over those years, it would overflow. This pit has never overflowed. It will never do that. The water flows in, the water flows out, and it stays at about the halfway level.
Gerard Kennedy saw it yesterday and many in my caucus have seen this pit, and you see from the posters that it's a lake. It's now a man-made lake. In fact it's probably one of the largest freshwater wells in Ontario, created by the mining operation in the late 1980s. What that 600-foot-deep pit does is cut right into the continental watershed of northeastern Ontario. When that dump leaks, it's going to contaminate Lake Timiskaming, the headwaters of the Ottawa River and down the Ottawa River watershed. Maybe when that happens none of us in this room are going to be around, but it's sure going to be in our legacy, those of us who didn't stand up for the environment in the year 2000 to say, "We shouldn't have done this," and that we did this for 20 years of jobs, for 20 years of revenue for a few people to get rich. We sacrificed the environment. We contaminated water. We spent four or five months making this decision, after we had learned through Walkerton that we need to treat our water resources with respect; that we shouldn't purposely use groundwater, as this project does, to purify our garbage, with the hope that we would capture every drop of this leachate, hopefully to purify it as much as we could before we discharge it out into the environment.
This just runs so contrary to the normal engineering standards and the MOE standards of how you would construct a landfill site. It's wrong. What you try to do, as hard as you possibly can, is to keep garbage separate from water. You pick the best site, the driest site that you can, the one that you can construct in the best way, and you want to line it with rubber and plastic liners and clay, to keep that water out of there. But in this case, no, we're going to find basically the biggest source of fresh water in northeastern Ontario and we're going to put 20 million tonnes of Toronto's garbage in there and use that beautiful water to clean it up. Well, that's wrong, and I must tell you that I know the majority of the people who know about this project and who are learning about this project every day and who are developing an understanding of it understand that it's wrong, too. The people out there are so far ahead of the politicians who are pushing this thing, it's sickening.
It's too bad we don't have enough time for this really to develop as a big issue in the municipal election in Toronto, because as people in Toronto learn about this-and they tell me this every day-they feel ashamed that they're doing this to their brothers and sisters up in northern Ontario. It's wrong. I say to the people of Toronto and I say to the council of Toronto who are looking at this for one last time tomorrow that it is wrong and that if you embark down this road, that garbage is never going to arrive. The will and the resistance of the people of the Timiskaming district is strong, the first nations' will is strong, and we are working together. If there is anything good that ever came out of this, it has forced all of us to work together in a common cause to stop this invasion of our water resource in northeastern Ontario. We are going to do that.
Mike Harris said in the late 1980s that garbage would never go north, and I agree with what Mike said there. It should never go north, it should never go to this spot, it should never pollute water, and the people of Timiskaming will be on that track, on that highway, to make sure that Toronto garbage never, never gets to the Adams mine.