Official Records for 18 October 2000

L091A - Wed 18 Oct 2000 / Mer 18 oct 2000

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

ONTARIO WHOLE FARM RELIEF

BRAMPTON FIREFIGHTERS

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

EDUCATION ISSUES

ERNEST C. DRURY SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

PAROLE SYSTEM

FEDERAL ECONOMIC POLICY

TOM WELLS

SPEAKER'S RULING

REPORTS BY COMMITTEES

STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT (IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE), 2000 / LOI DE 2000 MODIFIANT LE CODE DE LA ROUTE (DISPOSITIFS DE VERROUILLAGE DU SYSTÈME DE DÉMARRAGE)

ORAL QUESTIONS

HEALTH CARE FUNDING

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

TRUCKING INDUSTRY

PERSONS DAY

ENERGY RATES

CRIME PREVENTION

NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT

WATER EXTRACTION

PETITIONS

NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT

MCMICHAEL CANADIAN ART COLLECTION

PENETANGUISHENE MENTAL HEALTH CENTRE

NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT

LORD'S PRAYER

HIGHWAY SIGNS

MCMICHAEL CANADIAN ART COLLECTION

LORD'S PRAYER

WATER EXTRACTION

NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT

ORDERS OF THE DAY

TOUGHEST ENVIRONMENTAL PENALTIES ACT, 2000 / LOI DE 2000 SANCTIONNANT PAR LES PEINES LES PLUS SÉVÈRES DES INFRACTIONS DE NATURE ENVIRONNEMENTALE


The House met at 1330.

Prayers.

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

ONTARIO WHOLE FARM RELIEF

Mr Pat Hoy (Chatham-Kent Essex): I rise to direct my deep concerns to the Premier about the complete mismanagement of the Ontario whole farm relief program. The inequities of this program resulted in a meeting held by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture recently. Presenters pointed out that there were two different sets of numbers for fair market value on farm products for the 1995-97 crop years. This adds major technical error to a program farmers already criticize as arbitrary and subject to interpretation. The program is in chaos. Farmers are facing their worst crisis since the Depression. They need the help that OMAFRA should deliver.

Premier, you must step in and fix the problems. You received today a letter from Anne Meighan, a farmer who explains the financial disaster this program has brought on her and other Ontario farmers. She has told you that a legal class action may be necessary to solve the problem. Farmers don't need legal battles with your government, they need help.

In January of this year, when Anne was facing bankruptcy, I sought help directly from an ADM at OMAFRA. He intervened with staff and they helped the farmer. Now, the same staff say an error was made and Anne owes $23,000. What a nightmare.

There is no confidence in this program, Premier. You must get to the bottom of this comedy of errors. You must ensure that the Ontario whole farm relief implements a program that is clear and concise, delivered honestly and without malice to all of Ontario's farmers.

BRAMPTON FIREFIGHTERS

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton Centre): Recently the Brampton firefighters' combat challenge team has captured its fifth national title and set a new Canadian record. They recently beat a team from Surrey, British Columbia, with a new record of four minutes and 31 seconds, which entitles Brampton to attend the world championships in Las Vegas this November.

The combat challenge consists of an obstacle course where firefighters, wearing full gear and breathing apparatus, run up and down five storeys of stairs carrying 45 pounds of hose, pull up a 42-pound hose, run through obstructions and spray a target using a fully charged hose. The winning team is selected from the three fastest times. In addition to the team setting a new Canadian record, Doug Comeau, the team's coach, was proud to say that several members of the team also accomplished personal bests in different categories.

I wish the Brampton firefighters' combat challenge team the best of luck. I know that colleagues from the Legislature will also wish them well representing not just Brampton but also Ontario and Canada at the world championships in November, when hopefully they will bring home another consecutive world title.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I and so many people in Ontario, all of us, were extremely embarrassed by events that happened in Quebec City this week, where Ontario refused to sign on to a national plan to deal with air emissions, air pollution in this province, with climate change problems that are a challenge for all of us.

Headlines read, "Ontario May Doom Climate Change Deal; Other Governments Furious Over Province's Refusal to Sign Greenhouse Gas Accord;" "Ontario Won't Join National Clean Air Plan." There are quotes from virtually every environmentalist who was there, every objective observer, that Ontario is dragging its feet in this regard.

Today, the environmentalists were welcoming Mr Wilson, the Minister of Energy, and Mr Newman, the Minister of the Environment, back. They said the following:

"The OntAIRio campaign and the Toronto Environmental Alliance delivered `welcome back to earth' gift baskets to Ontario Minister of the Environment Dan Newman and Ontario Minister of Energy. Newman and Wilson are just back from the federal-provincial talks on climate change in Quebec City. At those talks Ontario was the only province not to sign on to a plan to reduce Canada's emissions."

I have a basket I'll be sending over to the Minister of the Environment. It contains a thermometer, which tells us about the earth that is heating up; coal, which reminds us of the coal-fired plants of Ontario Hydro; a polar bear, who is affected by pollution; and a rattle for those who can't play the game with others, who act like children.

It's unfortunate that this has to happen in this province. We used to show so much leadership in Ontario. We used to lead nationally and internationally, and now we have a circumstance where our province is dragging its feet and causing great embarrassment, not only across this country but internationally. I'll ask the page to send this basket across to the minister.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. I'm afraid it is a prop, so I'll ask the page to take it down to the Sergeant at Arms, if he could.

Interjection.

The Speaker: The Sergeant at Arms knows what to do with props. I'm sure he has quite a collection.

EDUCATION ISSUES

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): We all know that communication is a two-way street. Important issues need to be discussed by all stakeholders. Regrettably, this doesn't always happen.

Last week, I was extremely pleased to be invited to a school in my riding of Peterborough for dialogue between myself, representing our provincial government, and a panel of students representing students from several other Peterborough schools from both boards. Some 150 students attended that discussion. Students have told me that they are very frustrated and very much ill-informed. We had open dialogue where students asked me questions on education matters that were concerning them, and I provided them with factual information.

I commend Geoff Fucile, a public school student trustee, who organized the forum. I'm very proud of Geoff and the students who took part for their efforts to ask well-thought-out questions that represented their concerns and those of their fellow students.

I would encourage the members of this House to take opportunities, such as this one offered to me, to help our young people to understand the changes being made to our education system in Ontario, changes being made that will ensure they are able to compete in a world market for their future employment choices.

Also, yesterday I spoke at the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. I'd like to introduce the president, Mr Peter McLean, Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. Welcome, Peter.

ERNEST C. DRURY SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF

Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): My statement is to the Minister of Education. You're trying to sell the playing fields and park portion of E. C. Drury school for the deaf in Milton to a corporate land developer. This inside deal was made with no prior consultation with either the deaf or surrounding communities. Indeed, negotiations for sale were secretly underway long before the property was even declared surplus. This deal stinks so bad the police are now conducting an investigation.

The Milton town council, the Ontario Association for the Deaf and the neighbourhood surrounding the school all oppose this apparent scam. In fact, they are fighting this deal before the Ontario Municipal Board right now. The community wants this deal stopped. This land is a treasured jewel for our deaf population. It serves as the only available location for provincial games for the deaf and as a site for deaf athletes to train from Belleville, London and in fact all across this province.

The deaf have a unique history, language and culture from which we all greatly benefit. It must be protected and it must be strengthened. Minister, you have the opportunity to stand up for the deaf in this province and say this government can't be bought. This government must put the needs of our deaf citizens ahead of corporate interests. Do the right thing now and stop this sale.

1340

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): Environmentalists welcomed Dan Newman and Mr Wilson back to earth today after having spent some time in Quebec City. Did you know that Ontario is the only province to not sign on? Even Alberta, for heaven's sake, signed on and is taking positive measures to deal with climate change.

The environmentalists presented us-Mr Bradley, the Liberal critic, and I-with two baskets today to deliver to the ministers who were in Quebec. In that basket to welcome them back to earth we have a rattle. The rattle is for the ministers to help with the temper tantrums they throw when other governments actually take action. We have some coal to remind the ministers of their commitment to convert coal into gas at our energy plants. We have a polar bear to remind the minister of the dramatic effects that global warming is having on our natural environment. And we have a book. Many of you have heard of this book, Brave New World, the place where the big lie theory of government originated.

All of these things are in the basket which I am to present to the ministers today. I know we're not allowed to have props in this House, but I'll give you a demonstration of what's in the basket today. We have a rattle to help with their tantrums; we have dirty coal.

This is a disgrace.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I thank the member, and hopefully she'll turn the rattles over the Sergeant at Arms so they could be put to some good use.

PAROLE SYSTEM

Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): It's nice to have the member for Thornhill sitting beside me today.

Recently, Canadians learned that former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Colin Thatcher, a man who was convicted of murdering his ex-wife, applied to use the faint hope clause of the Criminal Code to gain early parole. Mr Thatcher was convicted of murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison without possibility of parole. He has served 16 years of that sentence. Now he is using section 745.6 of the Criminal Code to request permission to ask for early parole.

My concern is not with Mr Thatcher specifically but with the criminal law. The federal government has heard from the same victims of crime who have called out asking for justice. Throughout the life of the Chrétien government, victims of crime and their advocates have called for repeal of the faint hope clause.

The Mike Harris team has called on the federal government to follow our lead and introduce truth in sentencing and to get rid of the federal discount policy that allows serious criminal offenders out of prisons after having served only two thirds of their sentence.

In Ontario, we are fighting to make our roads, homes and our communities safer. It's about time the federal government in Ottawa started doing something to fight crime too. They could start by repealing the faint hope clause.

FEDERAL ECONOMIC POLICY

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): Mr Speaker, you will no doubt appreciate how surprised we on this side of the House were yesterday when we read that Ernie Eves has finally endorsed the budgetary policies of Paul Martin. Mr Eves was quoted as saying, in reference to this afternoon's budget statement, "I think it's a good thing for Canada. I think all of these moves are good for the Canadian economy." How ironic. For years we've heard nothing but criticism from those-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Will the member take his seat. Stop the clock. Order.

Interjections.

The Speaker: Order. I can see it's going to be a good day. Since the member was interrupted, we will give him extra time. He may begin over if he'd like.

Mr Duncan: How ironic. For years now we've heard nothing but complaints. You know, it's not the first time Mr Eves has rejected the Alliance. In February of this year, in committee, he said when he was rejecting the cornerstone of the Alliance budgetary policy, the flat tax, "It's not a brand new idea.... It's not a very progressive way of taxing people.... Those people who make more in society should pay more in terms of a higher tax rate."

We can only hope that Mr Eves will take more cues from Paul Martin. Tonight, he might want to attend the big Alliance fundraiser in Toronto.

Interjections.

The Speaker: Will the member take his seat. Stop the clock. Order. The member for Brampton Centre, come to order, please. Sorry for the interruption again.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough-Rouge River): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Could you ask them just to do the 90 seconds again?

The Speaker: He's almost done. But I would ask all members, in question period we can't have that. In members' statements it's usually a situation where we do let all members proceed. The member for Windsor-St Clair, sorry for the interruption.

Mr Duncan: I would encourage Mr Eves to attend tonight's big Alliance fundraiser here in Toronto, to take one more stab at making them see the light of budgetary policy. I should say, at $25,000 a table, that fundraiser bears a closer resemblance to a New Orleans bordello than it does to a political fundraiser. A bunch of really rich guys, their pockets stuffed with money, the aroma of cheap perfume-the perfume of the flat tax being worn by the ladies of the right; and the belle of the ball, of course, at this great extravaganza: Stockwell Day. All of this being closely scrutinized, encouraged and helped along by the noble madams of Canada's new right, Harris and his Alliance henchmen in Ontario.

TOM WELLS

Mr David Young (Willowdale): Today, I rise in this House to mourn the passing of Tom Wells, a man of integrity, a man of class, a man who, as some have noted in this Legislature, was very much the hub of Progressive Conservative rule in this province for 22 years.

Over the last number of years, Tom resided in the riding of Willowdale, which I have the privilege to represent. I came to know Tom in recent years as a member of the local riding association. I benefited from the insight he shared with me, insight that he gained from decades of public service, service as a school trustee, as a senior cabinet minister and as a tireless community activist, both in and outside of politics.

For me, Tom embodied what most current and fledgling politicians should aspire to in politics: he was a man of conviction; he was a man of dignity; he was a man of his word. Tom proved very clearly that in politics, nice guys not only can finish first, they often are unbeatable.

I offer the condolences of myself, my family and those of my community of Willowdale to Tom's wife, Audrey; his son, Andrew; his daughters, Brenda and Beverley, as well as his two grandchildren.

SPEAKER'S RULING

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): On Thursday, October 5, 2000, the member for Windsor-St Clair rose on a point of privilege to indicate that his staff was experiencing problems with the Family Responsibility Office of the Ministry of the Attorney General about matters pertaining to the office dealing with a constituent's concern. In particular, the member indicated that when staff from that office informed his staff that it would not be assisting them because of their high case load, he was precluded from discharging his functions as an MPP. The government House leader also made a submission.

When reserving the ruling last week, I indicated I would be explaining what "parliamentary privilege" means, so let me begin by doing that and referring to standing order 21(a), which states: "Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by the members of the House individually conferred by the Legislative Assembly Act and other statutes, or by practice, precedent, usage and custom."

As the standing order suggests, there are two overriding categories of privilege. The first category consists of privileges that are enjoyed by the House collectively: the power to discipline, the regulation of its own internal affairs, the authority to maintain the attendance and service of its members and the right to institute inquiries and to call witnesses and demand papers, the right to administer oaths to witnesses and the right to publish papers containing defamatory material. The second category consists of privileges that are enjoyed by individual members: freedom of speech, freedom from arrest and civil action, exemption from jury duty and exemption from attendance as a witness. These collective and individual privileges are examined in considerable detail on pages 71 to 107 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice.

The authoritative Canadian text on parliamentary practices and procedures also makes clear that members are protected in respect of their parliamentary duties, as opposed to their constituency duties. On pages 90 and 91 it states the following with respect to the rulings of various speakers:

"On July 15, 1980, in finding that there was no prima facie case of privilege in relation to a member's constituency work, Speaker Sauvé stated: `While I am only too aware of the multiple responsibilities, duties, and also the work the member has to do relating to his constituency, as Speaker I am required to consider only those matters which affect the member's parliamentary work. That is to say, whatever duty a member has to his constituents, before a valid question of privilege arises in respect of any alleged interference, such interference must relate to the member's parliamentary duties. In other words, just as a member is protected from anything he does while taking part in a proceeding in Parliament, so too must an interference relate to the member's role in the context of parliamentary work.'"

1350

At pages 92 and 93, the same text states as follows in reference to a 1978 ruling by Speaker Jerome:

"Speaker Jerome stated, `Since the member was not in the circumstances acting in the official capacities which are surrounded by privilege-that very narrow category-it would, I think, be [an] unwarranted extension of the precedents to extend privilege with respect to an act which was directed to her person in the circumstances'. In ruling, the Speaker noted that society demands much of members but not all demands strictly impose a parliamentary duty. Every member has duties as a representative of the electorate. A member may only claim the protection of privilege relating to his or her parliamentary duties, "particularly in his primary duty or service to this House of Commons here," though the line distinguishing these duties might blur.'"

Turning to our own House, a Speaker's ruling (at page 74 of the Journals for May 4, 1982) dealt with concerns generally similar to those raised by the member for Windsor-St Clair. That ruling indicates as follows:

"The only standing orders that deal with members obtaining information from the ministry are those dealing with oral and written questions and notices of motion for returns. I know that members do very often telephone directly to a ministry asking for certain information, but unless it can be established that the members have a special right or privilege to use this procedure, which the general public does not have, then it does not concern the House and is not privilege.... It is rather ... a matter between the member and the ministry."

I realize that the member for Windsor-St Clair, like other members, takes his constituency responsibilities seriously. However, the authorities are quite clear that parliamentary privilege does not protect everything a member does. It protects members in the exercise of their parliamentary duties proper, that is to say, with respect to this House and its committees. It does not protect members, like the member in this case at hand, who are engaged in constituency business or other activities that are collateral to their strictly parliamentary responsibilities.

For these reasons, I find that a prima facie case of privilege has not been established.

I thank the member for Windsor-St Clair for raising his point because it afforded me an opportunity to explain the important features about parliamentary privilege to all members.

REPORTS BY COMMITTEES

STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS

Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): I beg leave to present a report from the standing committee on regulations and private bills and move its adoption:

Clerk at the Table (Mr Todd Decker): Your committee begs to report the following bill without amendment:

Bill Pr17, An Act to change the name of The Corporation of the Township of West Perth to The Corporation of the Municipality of West Perth.

Your committee begs to report the following bill as amended:

Bill Pr2, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.

Your committee recommends that Bill Pr9, An Act respecting the city of Toronto, Bill Pr11, An Act respecting the City of Toronto, and Bill Pr12, An Act respecting the City of Toronto, be not reported.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT (IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICE), 2000 / LOI DE 2000 MODIFIANT LE CODE DE LA ROUTE (DISPOSITIFS DE VERROUILLAGE DU SYSTÈME DE DÉMARRAGE)

Mr Dunlop moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 131, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act to establish an ignition interlock device program / Loi modifiant le Code de la route afin d'établir un programme d'utilisation de dispositifs de verrouillage du système de démarrage.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

The member for a short statement?

Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): Mr Speaker, this is an amendment to my previous bill. It amends the Highway Traffic Act to provide for the implementation of an ignition interlock program in Ontario for persons who violate laws related to drinking and driving.

The Speaker: Motions?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to put forward a motion without notice regarding private members' public business.

The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? I'm afraid I heard some noes.

ORAL QUESTIONS

HEALTH CARE FUNDING

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My first question today is for the Minister of Health. Something extraordinary happened yesterday at the estimates committee hearings when you were asked about the fact that this 140-page document, prepared over a great length of time by your own staff, confirms something we've been talking about for quite some time, and that is the fact that you are now spending less in health than you have in the past. In fact, this document, your document, tells us that you're spending $1.5 billion less in the 1999-2000 fiscal year than you did in the 1998-99 fiscal year.

For months, in fact years, you've been standing up there in your place and telling us that these problems we are experiencing, terrible problems on the front lines, are in no way due to the fact of cuts that are found within your ministry. Your document itself tells us you're spending $1.5 billion less. Will you now confirm for us that this is the case?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): First of all, let me indicate I was most displeased with the information that was provided in this year's tabled estimates. As I indicated yesterday, the ministry is currently reviewing this issue. I can assure you, at a first review, that it appears to be limited to an administrative error that does not impact on the estimates information voted on before the committee.

Mr McGuinty: You tell us you're spending $1 billion more; this document tells us you're spending $1.5 billion less. This administrative error that you refer to is $2.5 billion worth of mistakes. That's what we're talking about here. This is your document. It says "Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Estimates Briefing Book 2000-01, Elizabeth Witmer, Minister." You're telling us that we can't rely on your information as found within this document.

There's something else that we picked up recently. Maybe you can speak to that. You've been telling us that you're spending more in Ontario hospitals, particularly GTA hospitals. Here's a confidential Ministry of Health document recently filed at the Joshua Fleuelling inquest. Do you know what it tells us? You are spending $88 million less this year on GTA hospitals than you spent last year. But you, on the other hand, stand up and tell us that you're spending more.

Can you tell me, in this particular instance, whom we should believe? Should we believe your ministry documents or should we believe you?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I think this is another example of fearmongering. There's only one government in Canada that has decreased the amount of funding available for health services in the province of Ontario and throughout all of Canada. The only government that has taken away money from provinces and territories is the federal government.

In fact, I am very disappointed to tell you that they made announcements recently indicating that there had been an agreement reached between the provinces and territories. I am disappointed to tell the House here today that the bill that would have provided additional money for medical equipment has not yet been passed by the federal government. If an election were to be called on Sunday, it now appears we would not be getting that money and we would still only be funded 10 cents on every dollar.

Mr McGuinty: I can see why the minister wants to talk about anything other than the fact that her own ministry information is telling us that-first of all, in your estimates briefing book it's telling us that you in fact spent $1.5 billion less this year than in the year before. When we look at your confidential document filed at the Joshua Fleuelling inquest, it tells us that you are spending $88 million less in GTA hospitals than you were prepared to admit in this House. Maybe the real proof, Minister, can be found on the front lines of Ontario patient care, and maybe you won't deny this. Listen to this: in Peterborough, 16 surgeries have been cancelled in just over one month; a few weeks ago at the Ottawa Hospital they cancelled 18 operations, including an operation for a woman who had been waiting for five days to have her broken forearm set; earlier this week, more and more surgeries have been cancelled in Hamilton.

1400

This is the real, live evidence backing up the fact that you have, in fact, been making cuts to your ministry. Why don't you, for the first time ever, be honest when it comes to this issue and admit to the fact that you've been making cuts to your ministry?

Hon Mrs Witmer: The Leader of the Opposition obviously doesn't understand that each year since 1995 we have been increasing funding at the Ministry of Health. The only government which doesn't and hasn't increased funding is the federal government. We are, as he knows, providing additional money for hospitals. We are presently at-

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Minister, take your seat. There's too much of a roar. We can't hear. If we do that, we're not going to have a question period. We'll just sit here and watch the clock tick down. Minister of Health.

Hon Mrs Witmer: We have increased the funding. We have been working with our hospital stakeholders. In fact, if the Leader of the Opposition wanted to be absolutely correct, he would reflect the fact that the CEOs throughout the province of Ontario, people in the emergency rooms, are indicating that there are improvements, that our government for the first time has acknowledged that there are problems, problems that are 15 and 20 years old, but we have had the courage to address them. We are working forward with a comprehensive-

The Speaker: I'm afraid the minister's time is up.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of the Environment. Minister, just when we thought it would be impossible to further disappoint the people of this province, when we thought it would be further impossible for you to renounce your responsibilities to fight against polluters and for clean air, you sank to a new low yesterday when you represented the only province that walked out of a deal that is about to be inked by nine other provinces, together with the federal government, which is going to go a long way toward protecting the quality of our air in our province. You made it perfectly clear yesterday that in a fight against polluters you have chosen to stand with the polluters and against clean air and against the interests of Ontarians.

Tell us right now, Minister, why is it that you found it impossible to sign on to a deal which is obviously in the interests of Ontarians?

Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): On this issue, the Leader of the Opposition has it all wrong yet again. I say to him that all Ontarians deserve clean air, and climate change is indeed a global problem.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Minister, take a seat. We'll just wait.

Interjections.

The Speaker: Now I'm going to give a warning to the member for Hamilton East. Come to order, please.

Hon Mr Newman: The member for Hamilton East is right, the federal government was wrong, because they didn't want to bring forward national standards. That's what we were fighting for, for national standards. We wanted to also see some international leadership shown by the federal government. But just like the Canada-US ozone agreement, they dropped the ball on this one; they sold Canada out. In fact, in Quebec City at the joint ministers' meeting, Minister Wilson and myself were there demanding that the federal government show some international leadership and establish tough national standards for climate change. They failed Ontarians, and I believe they failed all Canadians.

When we went to that conference, we issued four challenges to other provinces and to the federal government, which are based on programs we already have in place here in Ontario. We asked that there be a vehicle emissions program in place in all provinces and jurisdictions in Canada, just like we have in Ontario. We asked all the provinces to match the Ontario-

The Speaker: I'm afraid the minister's allotted time is up.

Mr McGuinty: I'm sure you heard some of the comments made by people who have devoted their lives to cleaning up Ontario air. This is what John Bennett of the Sierra Club said: "Your plan is weak. You're not a leader. You are standing up here and you are lying.... You've cut back on every program that existed when you came into office."

The Speaker: Order. You can't use that language in here quoting something. You can't do something that you can't do. I would ask all members to watch their language. What happens then is the other side just yells back. I know he's quoting from somebody else, but using language like that is not helpful. I would ask the honourable leader of the official opposition to be careful using that. All it does is inflame things and all we'll end up doing is yelling back and forth when that happens.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: My understanding is that Speaker Warner allowed a similar quote into debate about five years ago in this House, and I would ask you to check that.

The Speaker: I will check that, but I'm not going to allow it. What we can't do is have situations-

Interjection.

The Speaker: Thank you very much to the Minister of Labour. I appreciate his help. If you would stay out of it that would be very helpful. It doesn't help when you yell across the floor while I'm standing up. I appreciate it.

The leader of the official opposition.

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of Labour): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: May I ask why he doesn't have to withdraw the statement?

The Speaker: I've warned him, and I thank the Minister of Labour very much. I've warned him about it. He is quoting from somebody else. I say to both sides, that's what happens when we get into situations like this. I know you're quoting somebody else, but if you do that, all we're going to end up doing is yelling back and forth. I thank the Minister of Labour for his comments, but I'll handle it.

The leader of the third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I've just watched two minutes of question period time go down the drain while we're engaged in something you've already ruled on.

The Speaker: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. I will say to the member that we have got more questions, and as you know, it's our intention to get down there. I will say to the leader of the third party that on some occasions we don't get down there. There were two occasions: on one occasion last week where your member from Timmins-James Bay did a point of order, and also on one occasion your member for Toronto-Danforth got named. So there will be some days when we will get down there; there will be other days when we do not get down to that type of question. This is probably one of the days when we won't get down.

Leader of the official opposition for a supplementary.

Mr McGuinty: To continue with the Sierra Club's quote, "You've cut back on every program that existed when you came into office."

This is what the David Suzuki Foundation had to say: "It's ludicrous. Ontario is lagging behind damn near every jurisdiction in North America when it comes to greenhouse gases. They simply don't know what they're talking about."

They are confirming what we have said over and over again. There are 1,900 Ontarians who are dying prematurely every year as a result of breathing bad air. We've had a 400-fold increase in childhood asthma rates here in Ontario. We are the second-worst polluter in North America. All of this has happened on your watch. I ask you again: why are you refusing to ink a deal that is in the interest of Ontarians?

Hon Mr Newman: Yesterday's agreement failed to set out national standards for all Canadians. It didn't meet our demands of offering Canadians an effective, environmentally useful way to address the issue of climate change. They asked us to bring our ideas to the table. That was the challenge in Vancouver in March of this year. We did. Our approach, if nationally adopted-

Interjections.

The Speaker: The member take his seat. If you want to yell, there won't be any questions. If you want me to stand here for the entire hour, I'm in good enough shape, I can stand here for 45 minutes. There will be no question period in the province of Ontario.

The childishness of yelling like that because of rulings isn't going to work with me. If you think I'm going to back down, I'm not. The time can continue to run down. We're going to have some semblance of order so I can hear the answer, or there will be no question in the province. It's as simple as that.

Minister of the Environment.

Hon Mr Newman: Yesterday's agreement failed to set national standards and it didn't meet our demands-

Interjections.

The Speaker: The member take his seat. That's the last warning to the member for Niagara Centre. We're not going to have a situation where, when I've sat down, you immediately yell out. This is his last warning. If he wants to do it again, we'll name him and he can spend the afternoon in his office.

Minister of the Environment.

Hon Mr Newman: Yesterday's agreement failed to set out national standards. It didn't meet our demands of offering Canadians an effective, environmentally useful way to address climate change. We were asked to bring ideas to the table, and we did. Quite frankly, our ideas and our approach, if nationally adopted, would bring us clearly a third of the way to our Kyoto target. The agreement will be used to put Canada's position forward at the Conference of Parties at the Hague in November-

The Speaker: I'm afraid the member's time is up. Final supplementary.

1410

Mr McGuinty: What you did yesterday was a pathetic abdication of your responsibility not only to the people of this province but to this country. We are now North America's second worst polluter. We not only owe it to Ontarians but we owe it to our neighbours in other provinces right across this country and to our American cousins to clean up our own act.

There's only one person who can crack down on polluters in Ontario. That's you. That's your job. That's your responsibility. You are failing to live up to that responsibility, and the people of this province are continuing to pay the price. They're getting sick. Our health care costs are going up as a result.

The Speaker: The question has been asked. Minister of the Environment.

Hon Mr Newman: The federal government struck out on three fronts in the past week. They failed to deliver in last week's smog talks with the United States. We clearly gave the federal government a 44% reduction to bring to the table, and they couldn't even get a similar reduction out of the United States. All they could get was 36% from the United States, and somehow they're championing this as some sort of victory. They sold all Canadians out. That's the first strike against the federal government.

Strike two is that they failed-

Interjections.

The Speaker: Order. Minister, take a seat. This is the last warning for the member for Timmins-James Bay as well. If he continues to shout out, he'll be named. If you want to go through the entire list, I'll continue to do it. We're not going to have a situation where one rotates and somebody else yells. If I can't hear, you're going to be named; you spend the afternoon in the office. It doesn't matter to me.

Minister of the Environment.

Hon Mr Newman: As I was mentioning how the federal government struck out at the ozone annex talks, they also failed, strike two, to deliver again when they-

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York): How does Canada go to the environmental table?

The Speaker: Member, take a seat. Last warning for the member for Beaches-East York as well. The last warning for the members for Timmins-James Bay, Niagara Centre and Beaches-East York. We're not even going to get to your leader's first question the way we're going.

Minister of the Environment.

Hon Mr Newman: The federal government struck out at the ozone annex negotiations. That was strike one. They struck out again yesterday at the joint ministers'-

Interjections.

The Speaker: This is the last warning to the entire caucus of the NDP. If anybody shouts out again, you're going to be removed. We're not going to rotate with people. When I go home at night, I wonder why my legs are tired, and now I know, from getting up and down so much. I've never been in as good shape. But we're not going to continue. This is the last warning for the entire caucus. If you continue to shout out like that, I'm going to name you.

I believe it is the Minister of the Environment wrapping up.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I realize that you are cautioning the whole caucus here, but I want to make it clear that I, as an individual member, have not been shouting here and I-

The Speaker: I understand that. I appreciate that. The member is right, although I could add it's one of the few days that she doesn't yell, if I wanted to.

The situation is this: when I've warned a couple of members and the same caucus rotates and somebody else yells out, we can't have that. It is a little bit funny, I guess, to do that, but we can't have people rotating shouting. If you're going to do that, then it doesn't matter, we just won't have any questions or I'll name you, one or the other.

Mr Hampton: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It seems to me that you cannot judge one member's decorum based on someone else's behaviour. It seems to me that is an infringement-

The Speaker: You know what I say to the leader of the third party? I don't even need to give the warnings. I could have had three of your members already thrown out. If you'd rather have that, where there's no warning and members get thrown out, we can do that.

What I want to do is make it clear to everybody that when you get down to your last warning, and I say this with all due respect, most members are very good when we do get down to the last warning. In fact, some members, so they don't yell out, will actually leave the chamber. I do that because I want to be very careful that members know very clearly that they are at their last warning. By the same token, I'm not going to have a situation where I warn one or two members and other members of the caucus then begin shouting out. We're not going to have that type of circus in here, and if you do that, we're going to name you. I have done that in the past with the Liberal Party when they've done it. I'm doing it to the NDP on this occasion. If you shout out, yell and interrupt and I have to stand up again, you will be named and there will be no warning.

Ms Lankin: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I understand the letter of your ruling. I don't understand the impact of your ruling. Are you suggesting that if another member of the New Democratic Party at this point in time calls out, you will eject the entire caucus, including the member from Riverdale?

The Speaker: No, the member who shouts out will be. Let me say this: the members of the NDP caucus have been very good about being well behaved and getting down to the question. It appears we're not going to get to that question.

Mr Hampton: Why bother?

The Speaker: That's the same. The leader of the third party says, "Why bother?" We have got to those questions more times than any other Parliament. The way it's going now, with 40 minutes we're not even going to get the leaders' questions.

I'll say it again: it doesn't matter to me if we get one question or 15 questions. The one thing I will say to all members is that we will maintain order in here, and if anybody wants to challenge me on that, go ahead. You've seen in the past that I'm not prepared to back down, and I'm not prepared to back down in this case. One of two things will happen. Either we will spend the entire afternoon watching me stand here and have no questions in Ontario or I will name as many members as it takes, but we are not going to have a situation where you fly in the face of my ruling and immediately upon sitting down, when I ask for order, you yell out. If you want to do that, you can yell all you want. You'll do it in your office in front of your own TV.

Ten seconds to wrap up for the Minister of the Environment.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I've not been engaging in the back and forth here this afternoon. I feel my personal privileges are now under attack by yourself-

The Speaker: I appreciate the opportunity.

Interjection.

The Speaker: Member take his seat.

Interjection.

The Speaker: Member take his seat, please.

Interjections.

The Speaker: Member take his seat, please. This is the third time I've asked the member to take his seat. If he doesn't take his seat, he'll be named. Thank you very much.

We've got about 10 seconds to wrap up for the Minister of the Environment and then I believe we're down to the leader of-

Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: You would know that the minister of the environment met in Quebec City, and I would ask for unanimous consent that the Minister of the Environment be named as the dolt of the ministers of the environment-

The Speaker: Order. Unanimous consent? I heard a no. Ten seconds, the Minister of the Environment.

Hon Mr Newman: The point I was trying to make 15 minutes ago was that the federal government struck out three times. They struck out on the ozone annex with the United States. They struck out at the joint ministers' meeting by failing to have national standards, and they failed again with the COP6 coming up by failing to show international leadership.

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Very quickly, last week the Liberal House leader rose on a point of order. I listened carefully to it, I made some comments in response to that point of order and I listened carefully to your response. That was with respect to this concept of collective naming, which the Liberal House leader maintained is not permitted by virtue of the standing orders.

I indicated at the time that I myself accepted the right of the Speaker to admonish a caucus. I understand that and I accept that the Speaker has admonished this caucus. I also understand that there's a difference between admonishing-and I put this to you, Speaker, on this point of order-and naming, and that naming is a prerequisite before ousting.

I understand that I have been warned. I risk being named, which means I'll be escorted out of here should I engage in anything that the Speaker finds, according to the rules, to be inappropriate. But with respect, Speaker, knowing full well that you have the right to admonish a caucus, I submit to you that the rules of the standing orders very specifically require you to identify a given member as the House leader for the Liberal Party has indicated-

The Speaker: I've got the gist of the point of order, and I'll say it for the last time. There are provisions for group naming in the standing orders. Hopefully, we'll never have to get to that point, but there are. You can name two or three members at the same time. Hopefully, we'll never get to a situation of doing that.

Do you know how we can solve all this? If members would behave and not shout out when people are trying to answer the questions. It's as simple as that. You can ask points of order all you want, all afternoon and waste the entire time or we can get down-which I think the people of Ontario want-to asking some tough questions of the government of the day. It's entirely up to the members how they want to do it.

It's now time for the leader of the third party's first question.

Point of order?

1420

Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Given the argument that was just made, and having listened to your answer, it would be very helpful to me if you could just indicate where in the rules you are saying that the group naming applies. I'm not familiar with that. If you could just, through the assistance of the Clerk, help me out.

The Speaker: It's on page 398 of Parliamentary Practice, Erskine May. I will read it out to you: "Not more than one member may be named at a time unless several members present together have jointly disregarded the authority" of the Speaker. It's there in writing for every member to take a look at.

It is now time for the leader of the third party.

Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I understand Erskine May as well as other treatises or texts containing precedents from a number of Commonwealth jurisdictions. With respect, Speaker, our standing orders speak for themselves. I understand that if a precedent is clarified in Erskine May or in other authorities to help interpret our standing orders, that is to be applied by the Speaker by virtue of-what do lawyers call it?-stare decisis.

The Speaker: I thank the member-

Interjection.

The Speaker: We can stand here and debate Erskine May. As you know, it is standard practice to refer to Erskine May, which we've done in a number of rulings, and not only here; in the House of Commons and in every Parliament across Canada. That is standard practice. If the member wants to look it up, it's there in black and white. We can show him the one.

It is now time for the leader of the third party's first question, I believe.

Mr Hampton: My question is for the Premier. Today your government is a national embarrassment when it comes to the issue of global warming. At a time when the Ontario Medical Association tells us that 1,800 Ontario citizens die every year from the effects of smog, your government was the only government in the country to fail to sign on to a strategy to reduce the emission of gases that cause climate change. Even Alberta signed on; even Quebec, which hardly ever signs on, agreed to sign on; and Ontario is an embarrassment.

Premier, when are you and your government going to take the prevention of pollution seriously? What's it going to take?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'm happy to take the first question. I will certainly refer the details to the minister who, in Quebec City, was the only minister to talk about a national plan with national standards. You're right that Alberta agreed to the plan. According to the article you're all quoting from, here's what Alberta agreed to: they're going to retrofit some schools to make them more energy-efficient. Boy, I'm going to tell you that's leadership.

With all the coal-fired plants, 23 coal-fired plants across the country, we took a leadership role and said: "We're prepared to do better. But surely every plant in Canada has to do better. Surely we've got to take a national strategy. Surely you're not going to sign an international agreement that condones every state in the United States with more emissions per electron, with more overall emissions than Ontario."

Our plan, if we have to go it alone, will lead all of Canada, will lead all of the states that we're dealing with. It will be the only credible plan for smog reduction, for emission reduction that's available across Canada.

Mr Hampton: If the Premier is leading-

Interjections.

The Speaker: Member take his seat.

Mr Hampton: You've done it once. You should do it again. You should be naming the whole caucus. Next time they interrupt, out they go.

The Speaker: This is the leader of the third party's last warning. Last warning. Another outburst like that and I'll name him.

Interjections.

The Speaker: Fine by me. You've got the next question. If you want it, you can take it; if you want to be named, you can be named. It doesn't matter to me.

The leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: Thank you, Speaker. Premier, if you're leading, then the whole world, according to your standards, is going backwards, because this is what you've done: you cancelled support for public transit in this province, which means more cars, which means more smog, which means more air pollution. You have allowed Ontario Power Generation to increase their greenhouse gases by 34% since you became the government, which means more smog, more pollution, more people die. You have repealed sections of the Planning Act, which allows for more urban sprawl, which means more cars, which means more air pollution, more people die. You cancelled the Home Green Up program doing retrofits to reduce energy use. At least Alberta is going to do something. You cancelled what was in place and then you cancelled the ban on new municipal incinerators, which means more air pollution, more people die. Premier, is that what you and your government call leadership?

Hon Mr Harris: The national plan, as presented by the federal Minister of the Environment, is one of the cruellest hoaxes and jokes that we have ever seen. The national plan says it's up to the provinces to do what we want. Some provinces say they're going to do more in transit. After billions of dollars, they will still be way behind Ontario in transit. We in fact, two years ago, committed $2.5 billion a year in tax points to municipal transit and transportation efforts at the request of the municipalities. That is an ongoing commitment that is there.

If you think that Alberta, with seven coal-fired plants, all of them spewing far more emissions into the air than our coal-fired plants, at a time when we have lower electron emissions than Alberta does-we're prepared to go even lower. We're lower than all the US states on the borders there and we're prepared to go lower. The federal government wants to give them all-

The Speaker: The Premier's time is up. Final supplementary.

Ms Churley: The only leading that you are doing is leading thousands of people to their death in Ontario. That is the reality of your leadership and it is well documented. In fact, you have made things worse. It seems to me, from what I've heard, that your idea of a national program is to bring in vehicle emissions testing programs in rural PEI. Give us a break here. This is a joke. People are dying.

Premier, I say to you today, admit the truth that not only are you not only moving forward, you have cancelled programs that the NDP put in place and you are going backwards. Will you ask your Minister of the Environment to resign today and put somebody in there who will take the deaths of the people of Ontario seriously and do something about it once and for all?

Hon Mr Harris: No.

TRUCKING INDUSTRY

Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Two weeks ago, the Minister for Economic Development was telling truckers across Ontario that he was going to ensure that they were not stuck with bearing the costs of higher fuel prices. He even said that he was going to legislate, if necessary, to make sure they got a fair deal.

The minister's cynical game has been discovered. We now know that you have no intention of legislating. We now know that you, for all your brave talk, aren't going to do anything to stop the shippers and the corporations from sticking the truckers with the costs of higher fuel. You know what this means. It's going to mean blockades. It's going to mean disruptions. It's going to mean all kinds of difficult situations for people who are trying to earn a living.

Minister, why did you promise truckers that you were going to pass legislation to help them, to make sure they weren't stuck with the full cost of higher fuel prices, when you had absolutely no intention of ever introducing and passing legislation? Why did you engage in such a cynical game?

1430

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): If the honourable member from the third party thinks we're playing a game, I'm disappointed, just as I was disappointed that the independent trucker owner-operators turned down the proposal on a plan that was put together by the industry. Our government has always said that we need to come up with industry-led solutions, and our government has helped facilitate those meetings, putting things in place so we could actually allow industry to do the right thing within their own group, in their own corps.

I am happy to say that the shippers and the carriers have come to the table with a proposed plan that can work. Now all we need is for the trucking industry, the owner-operators, to come prepared, at least with their leaders, and negotiate and talk about it in a democratic way rather than doing things in a disruptive way.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): Minister, you entered into the debate clearly saying that you're going to help the truckers. That was the purpose of the discussion. They understood, you understand and we all understand that the issue is that the shippers don't want to pay more and they're not about to agree to something that's going to cost them more money in the end.

You said quite categorically that you were going to put fuel escalation clauses in the contracts and if the shippers didn't agree, you were going to legislate. There are truckers all across this province-in northern Ontario, in my home community of Timmins, in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Kenora-who are going to lose their rigs because you're playing politics.

You got into this for a photo op and now you're doing absolutely nothing to assist the truckers. Will you get out of the back pocket of the shippers and for once help the independent truckers?

Hon Mr Palladini: I have been acting as an emissary for the truckers, for the trucking industry, because I know the predicament they're in. I understand the difficulties they face. That's the reason I have been facilitating those meetings with the shippers and the carriers.

Legislation, as I said we would consider doing, is not the answer. Legislation in Ontario, a regulation, will-

Interjection.

The Speaker: The member for Timmins-James Bay, that's it. You can't shout out like that. You asked the question. I name him and ask Mr Bisson to leave for the remainder of the day.

Mr Bisson was escorted from the chamber.

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I refer you to rules 15, 16, and rule 1 of the standing orders. I am not challenging the Chair. I understand what the Speaker has said.

Speaker, may I submit to you, especially in terms of what rule 1 says, that "in contingencies not provided for" you of course decide the matter, as you have, and you can of course rely upon "applicable usages and precedents of this Legislature and parliamentary tradition"-however, it also indicates that your rationale or your position must be based on "the democratic rights of members referred to in clause (b)," which is, to wit, these members.

I suspect, Speaker, that we all of us may be embarking on very dangerous turf in terms of having addressed this matter too promptly or at least in too rushed a manner. I know that I risk being named and ousted should I do anything inappropriate. I also fear, though, that by virtue of my conduct, I've put some of my colleagues at risk of being named. I submit to you that that is in direct violation of paragraph (b) of standing order 1.

Speaker, I would put to you that we not address this matter today. I would ask you to defer making any hard and fast ruling-and I refer to standing order 16, of course, which says that in the case of mass or grave disorder you can shut the operation down. I submit to you that you defer any hard and fast decision until we get to debate this and discuss it in a more-

The Speaker: No, it is not a point of order. The decision has been made. We're going to maintain order in here. As for democratic rights, you do have democratic rights. The only thing you can't do is disrupt the duly elected Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario, and if you do that, you'll be asked to leave. Sometimes that's yelling out where I can't hear. All we ask of all members is that they behave. I've said it before. There will be some shouting out. It will not be quiet in here. We're talking emotional issues, and so occasionally there will be some shouting out, but we're not going to have a situation where people just continually shout across. If there's a situation like that, members will be named and they will be removed. We are going to do one thing in the province of Ontario: we're going to maintain order in this House or members will be asked to leave. It's as simple as that. So I say to the member, we have discussed this. He can continue to get up on points of order. I am not going to change my mind; that's the way it's going to be.

New question, the leader of the official opposition.

Hon Mr Palladini: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe that the member for Timmins-James Bay had asked me a question, and I thought I had some time left so I could give him the answer. I know he's not in the-

The Speaker: I think your time was just about up anyway. In all the wonderful commotion, I have missed the time, but I think we were pretty well up. My apologies to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade if I am wrong. During the commotion, you sometimes do lose track of the time.

It is now time for the leader of the official opposition's question.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. This trucking crisis is looming larger with each passing day, and more and more Ontarians are coming to understand that trucks bring the parts for our cars, they bring the food for our kids and they even bring things like medical equipment for our hospitals. Of course, we're talking about a huge number of truckers, who have responsibilities to their families.

We have taken some assurance, some hope in the fact that you led us to believe if things continued to go awry, you would step in and fix them. In fact, your minister said, on September 22, "I do believe that the industry can police itself, but if they refuse to do that, then we will regulate." I'm just wondering, Premier, do you agree with your minister, who maintains that if this can't resolve itself, we will regulate?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): The minister has involved himself and the government in two ways: first of all to take a leadership role and set an example. With all contracts that we have, we have insisted that where truckers are involved we will increase our payment to those contracts, and that must be flowed to the truckers involved. This is a very important precedent, and then of course we are asking the private sector which has contracts with truckers to do the same. The second area in which the minister has taken a role is to facilitate on behalf of the truckers, bringing them together and using his office to facilitate as best he can. He said he would look at all options, including regulatory options, and the overwhelming number of truckers and the trucking associations have said, "Minister, provincial regulation alone would be far worse than what you've already negotiated and have on the table." Accepting that advice, the minister has continued to try to mediate and improve-

The Speaker: The Premier's time is up.

Mr McGuinty: I guess this is becoming a bit of a pattern. It's another public humiliation of a minister. Last week, I asked the Attorney General and the Minister of Municipal Affairs if they might address a particular problem. They took a particular position. The following day you took a different position. Just a few weeks ago, this minister said that if matters couldn't resolve themselves, he was going to step in and regulate, he was going to pass a law here in Ontario. Now you're telling me, no, that is not in fact the case. Is this going to be an ongoing pattern now: a regular and public humiliation and embarrassment of your ministers, who say one thing one day only to be overruled on another day by you?

This minister said he would legislate. He said he would regulate. He said he would fix this problem and, in so doing, held out some hope for truckers and the people of this province. You are now pulling the rug out from under him. I'm just wondering, Premier, are you going to do this on an ongoing basis?

1440

Hon Mr Harris: This minister indicated he was prepared to look at all options. I can tell you already that with the offer we have made to all of our contracts that involve truckers and the negotiated agreements that are in place so far, the vast majority of the truckers, independent and otherwise under the associations, have said, "Minister, what you are doing and what is already on the table obviously is far better than any provincial-only regulation, given that 86% of the trucking industry in Ontario is regulated federally, given the international and national nature of trucking."

They have rejected this option that the minister has said he was prepared to discuss with the industry and with the truckers. They have said, "Thank you very much. What you are negotiating and doing is far better than any provincial-only regulation." So, unlike you, we actually listen to people when we're in there trying to facilitate solutions.

PERSONS DAY

Mrs Julia Munro (York North): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Today, October 18, is Persons Day in Canada. As the minister responsible for women, can you explain the significance of this day to the people of Ontario?

Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women): I'd like to thank the member for York North for her question. Persons Day honours the genuine milestones that women have made in this great country. In 1929, the Privy Council ruled that women were included in the definition of "persons." Women were therefore declared to be persons in the eyes of the law all across this country. We owe this landmark ruling to five outstanding Canadian women who took their fight both to the Supreme Court of Canada and to the Privy Council in England. These five women helped change the lives of women for future generations. Thanks to the legacy of these five women, women have taken a leadership role in virtually all areas of society.

In politics I'm thinking of women like Ellen Fairclough, the first woman to serve in the federal cabinet, as a minister of the Conservative government of John Diefenbaker in 1957. I'm also thinking of other women who have made their mark. For example, in Ontario we think of Lyn McLeod, the first woman who ran for Premier of this great province. We also think of Frances Lankin and the Honourable Dianne Cunningham, who each ran to be leader of their party, and of all women who have made a difference and made a statement with dignity and honour in this province.

We should be proud of them all, and this is a great day.

Mrs Munro: In honour of Persons Day, of those women who fought for legal recognition, what are you doing to ensure that women in Ontario achieve a measure of economic independence?

Hon Mrs Johns: In this province, one of the goals of the women's directorate is to make sure that economic independence is a priority of this government. My ministry has developed several programs to assist women in participating in areas of the economy where they traditionally have been underrepresented, programs like the $5.8 million invested in the women in skilled trades initiative designed to increase the participation of women in the automotive parts industry, and the $2 million which is used to increase the participation of women in the technology sector. The 2000 budget provided increased access to capital for woman entrepreneurs in small communities. We work hard to make sure-

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. The minister's time is up.

New question. The member for Renfrew.

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I raise once again my concern about the ruling you made. I would ask for clarification as to whether or not-

The Speaker: Will the member take his seat. We're not going to get into doing this. We've had the ruling. I've made my ruling. The member might not like the ruling, but that's the way it's going to operate in here. I'm sorry the member doesn't like that. We're not going to get up on points of order and waste valuable time. I've now had to stop the clock. As you know, on a number of occasions I have stopped the clock in order for the third party to get down to their question. I've worked very hard to do that, and I've done that by making sure we maintain order in this House, and we're going to do it. If there's another point of order, which I take seriously, I'm going to get up very quickly. But you're not going to go on, and if it's on the same subject you're not going to have any debate on it. There is no debate on it. The ruling is there and that's the way it's going to be in this Legislature.

The member for Renfrew. Sorry for the interruption.

ENERGY RATES

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): My question is to the Minister of Energy and it concerns rapidly increasing energy costs for Ontario consumers and businesses for the upcoming fall and winter. Millions of Ontarians awakened this morning to the shivering news that the Ontario Energy Board has just approved a 45% increase in natural gas prices effective October 1, 2000, for gas distributors in the province of Ontario. My first question to you is, what, if any, relief does the Harris government propose to offer, particularly to those hundreds of thousands of senior citizens and low-income individuals who are going to face increased costs in the order of $450 to $500 per household this winter?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Energy, Science and Technology): Yes, a couple of weeks ago the Ontario Energy Board did approve an increase in natural gas prices. Everyone should know that the company that distributes natural gas, Enbridge in this case, is not allowed a profit at all on that gas; that is the actual cost of gas. The only thing they're allowed to include in addition to the wellhead cost of gas is the distribution cost. That's why we have the Ontario Energy Board there, to make sure that it acts in the best interests of consumers.

Certainly it's a difficult situation. Supply is being exceeded by rapidly increasing demand right across North America. In fact it's a worldwide problem at the moment. We expect to see prices come down in about eight to 12 months, and things should level out at that time.

Mr Conway: The second question concerns electricity, because it's quite clear from the recent ruling of the Ontario Energy Board, in response to your directive earlier this year, that electricity rates are going up. Let me read from the Ontario Energy Board decision of September 29, 2000, a decision in which the energy board says that on the basis of the evidence presented to it in the hearing this past summer, they-that is, the Ontario Energy Board-conclude that when the electricity market opens in Ontario, in the next few months presumably, and when your government decides to lift its five-year freeze on electricity rates-and that freeze is expected to be lifted at the end of December of this year-the millions of consumers of electricity in the province can expect, minimally, a 13% increase in their electricity bill.

Minister, can you tell this House when the five-year rate freeze is going to terminate; and would you care to comment on the energy board's observation in its September 29 ruling that for the millions of customers of Ontario Hydro One, when that rate freeze ends and when the market opens, both events anticipated in the next few months, those Ontario electricity customers ought to expect, minimally, a 13% increase in their electricity bill?

Hon Mr Wilson: I'm certainly aware of the Ontario Energy Board's comments. It's something that we're reviewing as a government. To date, though, the only pressures on electricity prices in the province have come from municipalities, some of which have tried to take windfall profits out of their utilities and spend that money on municipal purposes other than their local electricity system. I remind people again that this is a monopoly business, it's a local distribution business, and municipalities should not be stealing money from the electricity sector to spend on some other municipal project or something else. So Bill 100 has been introduced in this House to protect consumers.

The other pressure we have, of course, is the commitment that the Premier reiterated here today for Ontario to be the best environmental performer in this country. We are already leaders. We are going to continue to be leaders in that area, and that's going to cost money.

1450

CRIME PREVENTION

Mr Frank Mazzilli (London-Fanshawe): My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. I know our government has always been committed to maintaining a safe environment for all Ontarians. Part of this commitment includes cracking down on the use of illegal drugs. As Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, you came up with the idea that would see people from all disciplines working together to make our communities safer. Could you share with us how you've approached this task and what role you've played?

Hon Robert W. Runciman (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I thank the member for London-Fanshawe for the question and for his interest. In our party's Blueprint document, we promised to crack down on establishments where it can be shown that drugs are habitually being used or sold, and the Harris government keeps its promises.

In March, the Solicitor General and I sponsored an interdisciplinary enforcement summit where we looked at ways to clean up problem establishments. There were over 100 participants from police and fire services, health and licensing officials, and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, where we discussed ways of working together to crack down on illegal activities. I asked participants to finalize their recommendations so that all levels of government could develop a strategy to deal with illegal incidents. I am pleased to say that I will be releasing the final recommendations of the working group tomorrow morning.

Mr Mazzilli: On behalf of my constituents in London-Fanshawe, Minister, thank you. I look forward to seeing the report tomorrow.

You've always been a leader in the fight against crime. From your days in the opposition you showed leadership as a justice critic, and then as a Solicitor General. Now that you've changed portfolios, I'm pleased to see that you're continuing that fight against crime from a different angle. Minister, could you give us a preview of what you will be releasing tomorrow?

Hon Mr Runciman: I don't want to scoop myself, but I can assure you it will strongly address public concerns about drug dealing, prostitution, money laundering, and other illegal activities in clubs and bars in Ontario. These are tough, innovative recommendations that the Solicitor General and I are very supportive of and hope to see move forward as soon as possible.

The vast majority of liquor licence holders in Ontario operate responsibly, and the bad actors should be put out of business and kept out of business.

NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT

Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): My question is for the Minister of Health regarding her ongoing discrimination against northern cancer patients. On May 8 you promised this House that you would do a review of this inequity between northern and southern cancer patients. We know that this inequity exists; in fact, your Minister of Finance publicly admitted that in early May.

On September 13, after waiting four months to get this report released, I finally filed a freedom of information request, because I believe the work is done and I believe the document clearly shows the discrimination exists. I just received a letter from you that says you won't be able to reply to my request until after November 14 because you need to complete consultations associated with this request. Minister, this is nonsense. This is complete stalling on a really serious issue. You are showing your contempt for northern cancer patients by deliberately delaying a positive response.

Minister, where is this report and when are you going to end the discrimination against northern cancer patients?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): We are doing a comprehensive review of the travel program and we will be in a position to bring forward some recommendations at a later date.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York): You've finished the review and you know it.

Ms Martel: Minister, the question was-

The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): The member take her seat. The member for Beaches-East York can't continue to do that. I've got to name her and ask Frances Lankin to leave as well. Stop the clock.

Ms Lankin was escorted from the chamber.

Interjections.

The Speaker: I will say this. My colleagues in the other provinces are amazed at the number of people we throw out. If we look at the record, we throw more people out in Ontario than any other province across this country. In fact, when I told some of my colleagues about the people I've thrown out, some of them have been in a lot longer than me and haven't thrown anybody out.

Let me say this. If we want to hold the record and we want to continue to throw people out, that's fine by me, because I'm going to continue to maintain order. If people are going to continue to shout and fly in the face of the Speaker and want to challenge my determination, then they can go ahead. But the Sergeant at Arms and myself will be up removing people every day if that's what it takes.

The Minister of Health.

Hon Mrs Witmer: The travel grant that is referred as the northern health travel grant is only available for people in northern Ontario. I just remind the House that there is no travel grant available for people in southern Ontario, even though some of those individuals may travel similar distances. I would also remind the House that the Cancer Care Ontario referral program applies equally to all Ontarians.

Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): Come clean and be honest about it.

Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of Labour): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member accused the minister of lying on top of lies. That's out of order.

The Speaker: I didn't hear it. I was distracted a little bit.

Interjection.

The Speaker: Yes. Stop the clock, if we could. If the member did say it, he can choose to withdraw it. I'm sure we're all honourable members in here. If he did say it, I'm sure he will withdraw it.

Mr Kormos: Withdrawn, Speaker.

The Speaker: Let me say this. All members are honourable. I don't sit and listen to people yelling across when the answers are being given. I think we're all honourable members. But if need be, then I will listen a lot more carefully and people will get thrown out for things like that. There's no need to do that. I thank the chief government whip. When I'm standing up here, we don't need comments yelled as well. It's a difficult day, but we are going to maintain order here. If anybody wants to challenge my determination, they can go right ahead. But we are going to maintain order.

Interjections.

The Speaker: The member for Niagara Centre is named. I ask Mr Kormos to leave as well. Stop the clock.

Mr Kormos was escorted from the chamber.

The Speaker: Quite frankly, the idea of preventing one of the other parties from getting one question is extremely childish, to be going back and forth so that we get people thrown out so you don't get one more question. That is extremely childish in my estimation. If you want to do it-and I apologize to the Liberal Party, I have been slow in stopping the clock. In that case, I appreciate their letting me know. We will get to that question. I'll stop the clock, because we are going to get down to that question.

Hon Mrs Witmer: There is no discrimination in the Cancer Care Ontario referral program. It is available to all Ontarians whether they live in the north, the south, the east or the west. I would also just remind members that cancer patients in the north, when they do travel, do receive free accommodation in lodges that are operated by the regional cancer centres.

Ms Martel: My question was: Where is the report and when are you going to end this discrimination? Your government pays 100% of the food, travel and accommodation costs for southern Ontario cancer patients who have to travel far from home for cancer care. Yet every day across northern Ontario, northerners travel far from home to go to Thunder Bay or Sudbury or to Toronto and Ottawa, and your government only pays a fraction of the travel costs when they have to do that. This inequity has gone on for 18 long months now and it's going to go on for at least a year longer because of the long waiting lists in southern Ontario. There's nothing fair, nothing just, nothing right about your two-tiered system to pay cancer patients in this province. When, for goodness' sake, are you going to end the discrimination against northern cancer patients?

Hon Mrs Witmer: There is no discrimination. The cancer care referral program for breast and prostate cancer, that is available to anyone, no matter where they live-

Interjections.

The Speaker: The minister take her seat. Stop the clock. The member for Nickel Belt is named, Shelley Martel. I will ask her to leave as well.

Ms Martel was escorted from the chamber.

1500

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Do you know how many miles northerners have to travel?

The Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie, I name him as well and ask him to leave as well.

Mr Martin: I don't get a warning?

The Speaker: Order. I will remind the member that if I ask the Sergeant at Arms to remove him, he will be out for the entire session, and I will do that if need be.

Mr Martin was escorted from the chamber.

The Speaker: I believe the Minister of Health has about 10 or 15 seconds, but I might be wrong about that.

New question.

WATER EXTRACTION

Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): My question is for the Premier. Last May, I spoke about the frustration of municipalities in Ontario with the fact that permits to take water are being issued without notification. When I called the Ministry of the Environment, they told me that they couldn't tell me how many active permits were in my riding because they no longer had the staff to track these statistics. On the first day of hearings into the tragedy at Walkerton, Dr Kenneth Howard referred to this lack of control. He said that it's like writing a cheque on your bank account when you don't know how much money is coming in.

It is critical that we process these permits so that we can begin to catalogue the use of groundwater in the communities and watersheds of Ontario. Not all permits are posted on the EBR, such as those for less than a year or renewals. Also, some municipalities and conservation authorities don't have access to the Internet.

Yesterday, when Dalton McGuinty asked you about your groundwater strategy, you said you were open to suggestions. My private member's bill, Bill 121, will require a director to notify municipalities and conservation authorities prior to issuing a permit to take water. It's a good first step. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario supports Bill 121, along with many conservation authorities. I ask you today, will you support Bill 121?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Let me say to the member from Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington that I appreciate very much the question and I appreciate the information she has put forward. She is quite right, we do take positive suggestions very seriously on this side of the House; the minister does, I do, the cabinet does and the caucus does. While tomorrow is private member's day and I don't believe I personally will be here, I can tell you we've had a substantial amount of discussion about your bill and about 50 other initiatives of a similar nature and ways that we can improve the whole area of understanding of groundwater, both from a quality and a volume point of view. I think it was the sense that your bill had some things in it that were quite constructive and positive. We don't think it goes nearly far enough, I would add, and I think there are a number of other areas where we need to go significantly further. But I applaud the effort and look forward to the debate and perhaps a strengthening and advancing on your bill that may take place in that debate. I'm sure it will contribute to an overall better groundwater strategy.

PETITIONS

NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the northern health travel grant was introduced in 1987 in recognition of the fact that northern Ontario residents are often forced to receive treatment outside their own communities because of the lack of available services; and

"Whereas the Ontario government acknowledged that the costs associated with that travel should not be fully borne by those residents and, therefore, that financial support should be provided by the Ontario government through the travel grant program; and

"Whereas travel, accommodation and other costs have escalated sharply since the program was first put in place, particularly in the area of air travel; and

"Whereas the Ontario government has provided funds so that southern Ontario patients needing care at the Northwestern Ontario Cancer Centre have all their expenses paid while receiving treatment in the north which creates a double standard for health care delivery in the province; and

"Whereas northern Ontario residents should not receive a different level of health care nor be discriminated against because of their geographic locations;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Ontario Legislative Assembly to acknowledge the unfairness and inadequacy of the northern health travel grant program and commit to a review of the program with a goal of providing 100% funding of the travel costs for residents needing care outside their communities until such time as that care is available in our communities."

I affix my signature to that.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): There's too much noise and commotion.

Interjection.

The Deputy Speaker: I want to respond to that, if I can: the clock of life goes on and nobody can stop it.

The Chair recognizes the member for Rainy River.

Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): I have a petition. It concerns the northern health travel grant. It says:

"Whereas travel, accommodation and other costs have escalated sharply since the program was first put in place, particularly in the area of air travel; and

"Whereas the Ontario government has provided funds so that southern Ontario patients needing care at the Northwestern Ontario Cancer Centre have all their expenses paid while receiving treatment in the north which creates a double standard for health care delivery in the province; and

"Whereas northern Ontario residents should not receive a different level of health care nor be discriminated against because of their geographic locations;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Ontario Legislature to acknowledge the unfairness and inadequacy of the northern health travel grant program and commit to a review of the program with a goal of providing 100% funding of the travel costs for residents needing care outside their communities until such time as that care is available in our communities."

This has been signed by hundreds of residents from my constituency and I affix my signature to it as well.

The Deputy Speaker: Further petitions?

Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): This government needs to understand that we are not going to give up our battle to get fairness for the northern health travel grant. Petitions keep coming in.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the northern health travel grant was introduced in 1987 in recognition of the fact that northern Ontario residents are often forced to receive treatment outside their own communities because of the lack of available services; and

"Whereas the Ontario government acknowledged that the costs associated with that travel should not be fully borne by those residents and, therefore, that financial support should be provided by the Ontario government through the travel grant program; and

"Whereas travel, accommodation and other costs have escalated sharply since the program was first put in place, particularly in the area of air travel; and

"Whereas the Ontario government has provided funds so that southern Ontario patients needing care at the Northwestern Ontario Cancer Centre have all their expenses paid while receiving treatment in the north which creates a double standard for health care delivery in the province; and

"Whereas northern Ontario residents should not receive a different level of health care nor be discriminated against because of their geographical locations;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Ontario Legislature to acknowledge the unfairness and inadequacy of the northern health travel grant program and commit to a review of the program with a goal of providing 100% funding of the travel costs for residents needing care outside their communities until such time as that care is available in our communities."

Hundreds more have come in today. I'm very proud to add my name to this petition.

MCMICHAEL CANADIAN ART COLLECTION

Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has introduced Bill 112, An Act to amend the McMichael Canadian Art Collection Act;

"Whereas the McMichael Canadian Art Collection has grown and evolved into one of Canada's best-loved and most important art gallery collections of Canadian art;

"Whereas the passage of Bill 112 would constitute a breach of trust made with hundreds of other donors to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection; vest too much power in the hands of the founders, who have been more than compensated for their generosity; diminish the authority and responsibility of the board of trustees; limit the focus of the art collection and hamper the gallery to raise private funds, thereby increasing its dependency on the taxpayers; and significantly reduce its capacity and strength as an educational resource;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Ontario Legislature to withdraw Bill 112."

I fully support this petition.

1510

PENETANGUISHENE MENTAL HEALTH CENTRE

Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): To the Parliament of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned inmate patients detained in the maximum security prison at the Oak Ridges division of the Penetang Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene, Ontario (Oak Ridges), hereby call upon members of the Legislative Assembly to inquire into the fairness of a decision made by the Minister of Health to deny us the funding we requested for the provision of cable television in our cell rooms, which the inmates in other prisons have been receiving for many years."

It's very long, and it goes on to discuss the reasons. I'd like to present this to the Legislature.

NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is to the Ontario Legislature, and it's part of the 53,000-signature petition we have, northerners demanding that the Harris government eliminate health care apartheid.

"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 a cancer tumour knows no health travel policy or geographic location;

"Whereas a recently released Oracle research poll confirms that 92% of Ontarians support equal health travel funding;

"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."

I affix my signature to this petition.

LORD'S PRAYER

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that reads as follows:

"Whereas the prayer Our Father, also called the Lord's Prayer, has always been used to open the proceedings of municipal chambers and the Ontario Legislative Assembly since the beginning of Upper Canada under Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe in the 18th century; and

"Whereas such use of the Lord's Prayer is part of Ontario's long-standing heritage and a tradition that continues to play a significant role in contemporary Ontario life;

"Whereas the Lord's Prayer is a most meaningful expression of the religious convictions of many Ontario citizens;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"That the Parliament of Ontario maintain the use of the Lord's Prayer in its proceedings, in accordance with its long-standing established custom, and do all in its power to maintain use of this prayer in municipal chambers in Ontario."

HIGHWAY SIGNS

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has been spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars on a provincial sign campaign accompanying highway construction sites which reads, `Your Ontario tax dollars at work,' signed by the Premier;

"Whereas these signs serve no particular purpose except to promote the image of the Premier at taxpayers' expense;

"Whereas this kind of public relations exercise is a completely inappropriate waste of taxpayers' dollars and certainly is not a wise use of our tax dollars at work;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Ontario Legislature to demand that the Ministry of Transportation immediately remove all of these partisan highway signs from provincial highway construction sites across the province of Ontario;

"Furthermore, we petition the Ontario Legislature to pass Bill 44, An Act to amend the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act to prohibit partisan highway signs," which was introduced by Michael Gravelle, the member for Superior North, "which, if passed, would prevent the Ministry of Transportation from issuing to the crown any permit to display a sign which contains the name or image of a member of the provincial cabinet or a member of the Legislative Assembly or a partisan message."

This private member's bill was introduced and passed first reading in the Ontario Legislature on December 21, 1999. I agree with this petition and I've signed it as well.

MCMICHAEL CANADIAN ART COLLECTION

Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has introduced Bill 112, An Act to amend the McMichael Canadian Art Collection Act;

"Whereas the McMichael Canadian Art Collection has grown and evolved into one of Canada's best-loved and most important art gallery collections of 20th-century Canadian art;

"Whereas the passage of Bill 112 would constitute a breach of trust made with hundreds of other donors to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection; vest too much power in the hands of the founders, who have been more than compensated for their generosity; diminish the authority and responsibility of the board of trustees; limit the focus of the art collection and hamper the gallery to raise private funds, thereby increasing its dependency on the taxpayers; and significantly reduce its capacity and strength as an educational resource;

"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Ontario Legislature to withdraw Bill 112."

I support this fully and I'll be signing it.

LORD'S PRAYER

Mr Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): I also have a petition with respect to maintaining prayer in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It's a petition almost identical to the one read by the member from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

"Whereas the Lord's Prayer, also called Our Father, has been used to open the proceedings of municipal chambers and the Ontario Legislative Assembly since the beginning of Upper Canada in the 18th century; and

"Whereas such use of the Lord's Prayer is part of Ontario's long-standing heritage and a tradition that continues to play a significant role in contemporary Ontario life; and

"Whereas the Lord's Prayer is a most meaningful expression of the religious convictions of many Ontario citizens;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"That the Parliament of Ontario maintain the use of the Lord's Prayer in its proceedings, in accordance with its long-standing established custom, and do all in its power to maintain use of this prayer in municipal chambers in Ontario."

Speaker, I am on record previously as supporting these petitions and hereby affix my signature to this one.

WATER EXTRACTION

Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): My petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas we strenuously object to permits to take water being issued by the Ministry of the Environment without adequate assessment of the consequences and without adequate consultation with the public and those people and groups who have expertise and interest;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"We request a moratorium on the issuing of permits to take water for non-farm, commercial and industrial use and the rescinding of all existing commercial water-taking permits that are for bulk or bottled water export, outside of Ontario, until a comprehensive evaluation of our water needs is completed. An independent non-partisan body should undertake this evaluation."

I proudly sign my name to this petition.

NORTHERN HEALTH TRAVEL GRANT

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough-Rouge River): This petition is to the Ontario Legislature, and Tom Wells would be very happy about this:

"Northerners demand Harris government eliminate health care apartheid:

"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 a cancer tumour knows no health travel policy or geographic location;

"Whereas a recently released Oracle research poll confirms that 92% of Ontarians support equal health travel funding;

"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, 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."

I am in full agreement with this petition and I affix my signature to it.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The time for petitions has ended.

Hon Frank Klees (Minister without Portfolio): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I seek unanimous consent to revert to motions.

The Deputy Speaker: Mr Klees has asked for unanimous consent to revert to motions. Is it the pleasure of the House? It is agreed.

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker: I didn't hear dissent until after I made the announcement.

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker: I'll take a moment.

I will remind members that it's not only important that we do the right thing at the right time, but the reason it's important to me-I really don't care how many times a person shouts no until I ask the question. When I ask the question and I don't hear, then I make an announcement. I want to say that.

That being said, in this House you require unanimous consent. There is obviously not unanimous consent. Therefore, my ruling is that we did not get unanimous consent for the motion that you are asking for.

1520

ORDERS OF THE DAY

TOUGHEST ENVIRONMENTAL PENALTIES ACT, 2000 / LOI DE 2000 SANCTIONNANT PAR LES PEINES LES PLUS SÉVÈRES DES INFRACTIONS DE NATURE ENVIRONNEMENTALE

Mr Newman moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 124, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act in respect of penalties / Projet de loi 124, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement, la Loi sur les ressources en eau de l'Ontario et la Loi sur les pesticides en ce qui concerne des peines ayant trait à l'environnement.

Hon Dan Newman (Minister of the Environment): At the outset, I'd like to indicate I'll be sharing my time with the member for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant.

I'm pleased to have this opportunity to join with my colleagues in the Legislature to debate the Toughest Environmental Penalties Act, 2000. This is the first bill I have put forward as Minister of the Environment and it's a piece of legislation that I'm very proud of. This legislation has great potential to add to the safeguards to protect Ontario's air, water and land.

I know everyone in the House shares a belief in the importance of environmental protection and in the importance of solid legislation to protect it. This is a belief of the Mike Harris government. We are firmly committed to safeguarding our environment and ensuring that Ontario's communities are healthy, safe and prosperous. We are just as firmly committed to legislation that helps us achieve these ends. We believe that penalties are essential to any viable framework for protecting the environment. This is why in the Blueprint, and again in the October throne speech, we promised to introduce legislation that would ensure the toughest penalties in Canada for major pollution offences.

Just eight days ago, I had the privilege of delivering another initiative toward meeting this commitment. On October 10, I introduced in this Legislature for first reading the Toughest Environmental Penalties Act, 2000. This government has set ambitious environmental goals and is taking unprecedented action to achieve them.

As Minister of the Environment, I am proud of what has been done and what we are continuing to do to meet our environmental commitments. Step by step we are putting in place the legislation and resources we need to ensure that our environmental laws are enforced and to provide penalties that fit the offences against our environment.

We have, in essence, a four-step action program:

First, 1998's Bill 82 strengthened the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act. It also laid the groundwork for the ministry to impose administrative monetary penalties when a contravention of any of these acts has been detected.

Second, there was the creation last month of an environmental SWAT team to crack down on deliberate and repeat polluters and bring them into compliance with the law.

Third, the bill now before the Legislature provides strong and appropriate penalties for offenders.

Fourth, there is an administrative monetary penalties, or AMPs, regulation which I expect to release for consultation before long.

But make no mistake, the vast majority of people in this province respect the law and care about their environment, and that also goes for our companies, services and industries. They have no inclination to break the law and to put their neighbours, their communities and their environment at risk. But we must be vigilant to ensure the integrity of our environmental protection system, and that integrity depends on a credible system of punishment and deterrence for offences against the environment.

I assure the honourable members that our new legislation is a major environmental milestone for Ontario. If passed, this bill would give Ontario the toughest fines and the longest jail terms in the nation for major environmental offences. If passed, the proposed bill would increase the maximum fine for a first conviction of a major offence for a corporation from $1 million to $6 million per day, and for a subsequent conviction from $2 million to $10 million per day. It would increase the maximum fine for a first conviction of a major offence for an individual from the current $100,000 per day to $4 million per day, and for subsequent convictions from the current amount of $200,000 to $6 million per day. It would increase the maximum jail terms for a person convicted of a major offence from two years to five years and it would increase the cap on administrative penalties from $5,000 to $10,000 per day.

I want to make it very clear that if this bill is passed, officers and directors of companies convicted of an offence under our laws would be subject to the toughest fines and jail terms in Canada for major environmental offences. These are very substantial increases. In one case, that of an individual convicted of a major offence against the environment, the penalty goes from $100,000 to $4 million per day. That's a 40-fold increase.

These proposed penalties that I have outlined would apply to offences under the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act.

In addition, the penalty structure in the Ontario Water Resources Act would be amended to ensure that these tough new penalties apply to the most serious offences under the new drinking water protection regulation, those being failure to report samples that exceed standards in this province and failure to ensure minimum levels of water treatment.

It's obvious that the vast majority of individuals and companies in this province care about the environment and comply with the rules. They care first for the sake of the environment and of health. They realize that their long-term well-being and that of their children and that of generations to follow depend on well-protected air, water and land.

The people in this province also realize that a clean environment is a cornerstone of economic growth. They understand the concept of sustainability. Often this belief in sustainability has been made to them because improved environmental performance has reduced bottom lines in their businesses, or they have seen what has just happened in other jurisdictions where environmental degradation has gone hand in hand with economic stagnation.

1530

For these people-and again, they are the vast majority-the penalties we are proposing are great news. They will help level the playing field by taking away any incentive to pollute. It's difficult to see where that incentive is. It's difficult to see how anyone could put short-sighted economic interests above the interests of the environment and above the interests of a healthy, prosperous community.

But let's face it, there are those people. They are the people who wilfully, stupidly and arrogantly turn a blind eye to the law and to the health and well-being of their communities. Of course, their behaviour is the very antithesis of good community spirit. It is true that sometimes they have made short-term economic gains by cutting environmental corners, but the bill we are debating today, Bill 124, is bad news for them. Polluters will not prosper, and we are sending a clear message: a message of deterrence. If you are caught committing an environmental offence, you will face a much greater fine, should this bill be passed.

Let me provide some context to the bill we are debating today. Back in 1998, when we introduced Bill 82, the Environmental Statute Law Amendment Act, most of the regulations and other legislative tools that were available to ensure compliance and enforcement were more than two decades old. Where changes had been made, they were done piecemeal or they were so restrictive on staff that they were unworkable and therefore hardly ever used. Offenders were able to continue to operate, knowing the ministry's hands were tied, to some extent, tied by its own laws.

Compounding the problem, we had inconsistency in the way new provisions had been added. The result was that we worked with different powers and penalties under different acts. This caused confusion for our officers in applying environmental laws, and it also created confusion for the regulated community in understanding its responsibilities and its rights. We needed rules and penalties that were stronger and clearer for the regulators, for the people they regulate and for the public at large.

The ministry's legislation was also lagging behind other Canadian jurisdictions in making available the use of modern compliance tools such as administrative monetary penalties. Clearly, we needed reforms to bring our province in line with other provinces and to make our laws better able to perform their intended purpose: deterring and punishing polluters, as well as protecting our environment.

Bill 82 laid the foundation for our action program. It strengthened the compliance and enforcement provisions of the legislation administered by the Ministry of the Environment. We increased the ministry's capabilities to deter and punish those who do not obey the law. We gave ministry staff more modern investigative aids and techniques. We enabled ministry staff to go after not just those who were actually involved in the commission of waste offences but also those who were at work behind the scenes, such as the brokers who make arrangements for illegal dumping and tell transporters where to take their waste. We also gave the courts a tougher penalties regime in which to punish and deter polluters.

And now we are making justice even tougher to avoid. We are taking square aim at the small group of companies and individuals who would sacrifice the environment for their own profit. We must do everything in our power to ensure a clean and health environment for today and for generations to come.

This will be a new group of environmental officers, with an innovative approach to identifying new and emerging problems, a group with a mandate to act quickly and effectively. The SWAT team will focus on cracking down on companies or individuals who deliberately or repeatedly break the law and jeopardize our health and our environment. The team will be very mobile. The ministry will be able to quickly deploy SWAT to address immediate threats to the environment. The SWAT field units will be equipped with state-of-the-art communications technology to draw on broader resources without leaving the field, and that's very important.

Ministry district staff will continue to conduct inspections and respond to pollution reports. The SWAT team will be able to focus on targeted sources, sectors or areas of concern, and it will be able to conduct inspections and follow up on them.

We realize the vast majority of companies and individuals are very conscientious in meeting environmental requirements. They should be encouraged by the creation of the SWAT team, because it will provide a level playing field. Environmental offenders will no longer benefit from their actions at the expense of law-abiding companies and citizens.

We intend to have parts of the environmental SWAT team operational in late fall. I expect when they are operational that prosecutions, especially for the most serious offences, will increase. Strong enforcement is necessary to provide a deterrent effect to motivate compliance. It provides fairness in the marketplace to ensure non-compliant facilities do not gain an unfair competitive advantage.

The ministry's commitment was reflected in the increase in total numbers of charges laid, convictions and fines issued in 1999. The number of charges laid in 1999 was 51% higher than those laid in 1998. Convictions rose by 48% during that same time period. All told, there has been a 200% increase in the number of orders issued for the period between 1996 and 1999 to this year. During the same period, the number of tickets issued has increased even more-by 225%.

Job number one for the Ministry of the Environment is the environment. In building the best possible system for doing this job, we are aiming our compliance and enforcement activities where they can do the best for the environment: at those activities which present the biggest threat to our health and to our environment. In 1995 we introduced a priorities exercise, and I'd like to add that this process was already in place. The NDP government also recognized the need to get the best use out of their resources. How they went about getting there, at best, was another issue, but at least we agree that there needed to be priorities set.

I'm returning to SWAT, which itself will have a set of priorities. The team will help the Ministry of the Environment achieve its mandate by effectively and visibly deterring deliberate and repeat polluters from crimes against the environment.

This brings us to the matter that we are discussing, the Toughest Environmental Penalties Act, 2000. We believe that where there's a crime there must also be punishment, and there is no doubt that environmental offences are serious crimes that deserve commensurate punishment. The Toughest Environmental Penalties Act, 2000 puts teeth in the mouth of Bill 82. It will result in the availability of the highest fines in Canada and jail terms higher than most other jurisdictions for major environmental offences. Jail terms will be on a par with those of the Yukon, which currently has the longest jail terms in the country for pollution offences.

It is, of course, up to the courts to determine the appropriate punishment, be it a fine or a prison sentence for any offence. The courts must consider a number of factors when deciding the appropriate fine and/or jail term in environmental cases. These factors include the maximum penalty prescribed in legislation, the nature of the environment affected and the extent of the damage.

It is up to the government to set the statutory maximums for a given offence, and we are doing just that with this bill. By increasing the maximum fines and jail terms for major environmental offences, we send a clear message that the government considers that these offences are serious. High statutory maximums will give the courts additional flexibility in deciding how much an environmental polluter should be penalized. I'm sure the honourable members from all parties will agree that this government, that all of us want serious pollution offences to be met with serious penalties.

Lawbreaking would be even less enticing because of the stiffer fines that we now propose. Because of their ability to play the system, some polluters have seen fines as just another cost of doing business. We propose to make fines play their proper role as both punishment and as a deterrent.

1540

The Aquatech conviction just a few months ago sent a strong message to potential polluters, even under the old rules. Fines totalling more than $1.135 million were handed down in the case involving the discharge of petroleum liquid hydrocarbons into the Keating Channel in Lake Ontario between September 1996 and March 1997. Two of the senior people involved were sentenced to six months in jail and a third to four months. This was in addition to significant personal fines.

I predict that even stronger messages will be sent to potential offenders when all the elements of our action plan are in effect. Pollution simply doesn't pay. It can be very damaging to the polluter and in direct proportion to the damage to the environment.

We are also sending a message out to the great majority of Ontarians who do obey environmental laws that we are taking strong and appropriate action to ensure that the environment is protected and we are taking strong and appropriate action to provide the best possible environment today and for generations to come.

As I said earlier, I intend to release an administrative monetary penalties, or AMPs, regulation in the next month or so. Administrative penalties are already in place in other Canadian jurisdictions. The new regulation would help spell out how this power is to be used. We are considering a maximum administrative monetary penalty of $10,000 for every day that a contravention occurs.

I want to stress that these penalties are not fines. They would cover minor contraventions that normally wouldn't go to prosecution. I also want to stress that administrative monetary penalties are not a replacement for prosecution. They are a much-needed tool to help us strengthen compliance with Ontario's environmental laws. Ensuring compliance is, after all, the main way we protect Ontario's environment.

There is one point I'd like to make here that I believe is very important. According to one media report, the member for Beaches-East York has said that we are repealing the ability to fine officers and directors of polluting companies. This is not accurate. The ability to fine officers and directors remains unchanged. In fact, we are getting tougher on them. So the honourable member had it all wrong. I want to repeat again for everyone that we are getting tougher because the bill would also require us to go the tougher prosecutorial route with the officers and directors of polluting companies. And, as I stated, earlier, the bill that we are debating today would apply the tougher fines and jail sentences to these officers and directors.

One way these penalties can help us protect the environment is by resolving many minor contraventions that normally wouldn't be resolved. We have other mechanisms for dealing with major offences, but it will help the environment and help level the playing field for honest operators if we can get companies to remedy situations that may have continued in the past. We would also be able to deal with more non-compliance situations than we can at present.

One further way to deal with non-compliance situations would be a pollution hotline, where we can get input from the public, the very people whose health and well-being are most affected by environmental offences. We are looking at options for creating a hotline.

The toughest penalties we are proposing build on the strong record of environmental accomplishment that we have in this province. This summer we announced Operation Clean Water, which focuses on a province-wide effort to improve water quality and delivery in the province. The centrepiece of Operation Clean Water is the drinking water protection regulation. By requiring immediate notification to appropriate authorities and full public access to water quality information, the regulation ensures that the process for protecting Ontario's water supplies will be crystal clear, as the water itself. We all know today more about the state of our drinking water than ever before in the province's history.

We have raised the bar where water quality is concerned. For the first time, drinking water testing and reporting requirements have the full force of law. Individual discretion has been removed from the equation. The rules are there, the rules are clear and they have to be followed to the letter.

We are also looking at how to best ensure the quality of water coming from small waterworks. A discussion paper has been circulated, and we need to determine the appropriate level of regulation for these systems. We are currently holding meetings with stakeholders across the province to help with this task.

As well, we are providing at least $240 million in SuperBuild funding to help smaller towns, cities and rural areas to upgrade their water systems and to help pay for sewage treatment projects. Our investments also include a $6-million groundwater network to help us ensure the sustainability of Ontario's water resources. Among other initiatives, we'll be working with municipalities and conservation authorities during the next three years to install more than 350 electronic monitors to measure groundwater levels across Ontario.

As you can see, we've been very busy at the Ministry of the Environment in the past few months, doing everything in our power to protect the water, land and air of our province.

We are also continuing the momentum we have developed in other areas of environmental protection. Drive Clean, for example, is well on its way to meeting its goal of reducing smog-causing emissions by 22% in program areas. Drive Clean is complemented by the smog patrol, which continues to target the most grossly polluting vehicles on our roadways.

We have announced unprecedented initiatives to clean up Ontario's air and address global climate change. This year alone, Ontario has introduced strict air emissions limits and mandatory monitoring and reporting requirements for the electricity sector. We placed a freeze on the sale of all coal-fired generating plants pending an environmental review, and we've implemented the new Air Quality Ontario initiative to ensure all Ontarians have early and improved access to air quality information.

Ontario is developing emissions caps and mandatory monitoring requirements for other industrial sectors. As well, emission performance standards are being developed for electricity generators from outside Ontario selling electricity into the province.

We've announced a policy review and expert panel on the redevelopment of old industrial lands, which presents a great potential for both cleaning up contaminated sites and spurring economic growth, something this government is all for.

I want to thank the honourable members for the attention they give to this very serious issue of how to best protect the environment. I believe the penalties that I am proposing and that we are debating here today in the Legislative Assembly are part of the best possible environmental protection system for Ontario. Our five-step action program is a comprehensive overhaul of the way Ontario deals with environmental offences and with offenders.

We have new investigative tools and procedures to allow ministry staff to be more efficient and effective in the field. We have tightened the net to catch some of the less visible pollution offenders who have in the past slipped through the loopholes in the system. We'll have strong and clear legislation setting out appropriately stiff penalties for offenders. This sets a framework for our courts to apply these stiffer penalties.

We'll have an elite and mobile SWAT team which will strategically target the most serious and most persistent offenders. We'll have new administrative tools to deal more effectively with contraventions. We'll have the power of a concerned and alert public, armed with a hotline that gives each of them direct access to action when they see a pollution offence.

Our new toughest penalties bill and the rest of our action program show we are serious about ensuring that companies and individuals comply with Ontario's environmental laws. If this piece of legislation is passed by the members of the Legislative Assembly, Ontario would have the toughest fines and jail terms in Canada for major polluters. The results will be cleaner communities for all Ontarians.

I know this is a goal that is shared by all members of this House and I urge my colleagues in the Ontario Legislature to support this very important piece of legislation.

1550

Mr Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): I'm delighted to have this opportunity to talk about a piece of legislation that my colleague the Honourable Dan Newman has introduced for first reading. Environment Minister Dan Newman calls the Toughest Environmental Penalties Act, 2000, an environmental milestone for Ontario and I agree wholeheartedly.

I know that all of the honourable members of this Legislature want the strongest possible protection for Ontario's air, water and land. We all share the desire for cleaner, healthier and more prosperous communities across this province.

I'm equally sure we all agree on the need for strong laws to ensure these important goals are met, and tough penalties for those who break the law, penalties tough enough to provide an effective deterrent for those who might be tempted to do the same. There was a comment about enforcement and I wish to take an opportunity to talk about the SWAT team that was announced during the last provincial election, which is described very briefly in our Blueprint document. If I have the time, I will talk a bit more about the new SWAT team.

From some of the comments back and forth, I'm aware that we may not all agree on what road to take, but we all want to get to the same destination. That destination, as Minister Newman has very recently described it, is a set of safeguards for our environment to ensure that Ontario's communities are healthy, safe and prosperous. Like him, I'm proud to be part of a government that has set ambitious environmental goals and is taking unprecedented action to achieve them.

The name of the bill describes it well: the Toughest Environmental Penalties Act, 2000. If passed, this bill, which was promised in the Mike Harris government's Blueprint, as I mentioned, would give Ontario the toughest fines and the longest jail terms in the nation with respect to major environmental offences. The proposed penalties would apply to offences under the three acts that are administered by the Ministry of the Environment, and I'll name them: the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act. In addition, there would be amendments to the penalty structure in the Ontario Water Resources Act supporting the new drinking water protection regulation. These changes would ensure that the most serious offences under the new regulation would attract the highest penalties available.

This regulation is noteworthy because it is yet another example of the strong action this government is taking to protect our environment. As members will recall, the drinking water protection regulation introduced this summer is an integral part of Operation Clean Water. With that regulation, Ontario has, for the first time in its history, legally binding requirements for not only testing but also reporting.

This Toughest Environmental Penalties Act, 2000, is another first of sorts. If passed, these will be the toughest penalties Ontario has ever had for major pollution offences.

As Minister Newman has just explained, the proposed penalties would increase the maximum fine for a first conviction of a major offence for a corporation from $1 million to $6 million a day. For subsequent convictions, a corporation will see maximum fines increasing from $2 million to $10 million a day.

The proposed penalties would also increase the maximum fine for a first conviction of a major offence for an individual. This maximum fine would go from $100,000 a day to $4 million a day. As Minister Newman has explained, that's a 40-fold increase. For subsequent convictions, the maximum fine would increase from $200,000 a day to $6 million a day.

We're also proposing to increase the maximum jail terms. This would be again for a person convicted of a major offence, jail terms going from two years to five years. I'll expand on that point a little further in my presentation.

We typically, and rightly so, associate prison sentences with the most serious offences committed against our society. Unfortunately, environmental offences haven't always been seen as being on the same level as these most serious offences. However, there is great potential for harm to individuals when a few bad environmental players in our society decide that the laws are beneath them.

Clearly, disregard for the environment is disregard for the health and well-being of other people. This is compounded by the very nature of pollution. Pollution is interrelated, it's cumulative over time and its effects are not always known. Pollution offences really are the ultimate in out of sight, out of mind. Environmental lawbreakers themselves can't see an immediate effect, so they persist. We all know there are many cases where environmental lawbreakers do see the effect yet they still continue to pollute.

The only thing we know for sure is that we will pay a big price if polluting activities are not stopped, and we see evidence of this every day. So it's entirely appropriate that with the bill being debated today we are proposing to increase the maximum jail sentences for environmental offences. Again, the penalty must be proportional to the crime. Environmental offences are serious, very serious, and so are we with respect to dealing with these issues.

Getting back to what is being proposed by the bill, there's also a provision to increase the cap on administrative penalties. This increase will go from $5,000 a day to $10,000 a day. Without getting into too much detail here, these administrative penalties are just one more way to provide the ministry with the tools and the flexibility it needs to get the job done.

This bill, if passed, would increase the Ministry of the Environment's capabilities to deter and punish those who do not obey the law, those who choose to sacrifice the environment for their personal gain. I can't stress enough that while what we are doing here will make life more difficult for polluters, it's also designed to be fair to those who do obey the law, because of course lawful operators as well are victims of pollution and are victims of these same polluters we are cracking down on with these tough measures. We will also give these lawful operators a level playing field. For too long the field hasn't been level. For too long many environmental offenders have been able to avoid justice. When justice did come, sometimes it wasn't as tough as we would have liked.

As Environment Minister Newman has pointed out, this bill is part of a comprehensive overhaul of the ministry's regulation and enforcement powers. It's an important part because it enhances and it adds to the reforms that were made two years ago with the Environmental Statute Law Amendment Act. That legislation strengthened the compliance and enforcement provisions of the legislation administered by the Minister of the Environment, the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act. Taken together, Bill 82 and the new tougher penalties act are fair to those who do comply with Ontario's environmental laws. However, these measures are very tough on those who break them.

I welcome Mr Newman's announcement of the new environmental SWAT team to crack down on deliberate and repeat polluters and bring them into compliance with the law. The SWAT team will include highly trained inspectors and new investigators, as well as environmental program analysts, environmental engineers and scientists. This SWAT team is a new group of environmental officers with an innovative approach to identifying new and emerging problems, a group with a mandate to act quickly and to act effectively. That's an exciting prospect, and I look forward to seeing them in action.

1600

While we are focusing on bad environmental performers, let us never forget that there are good corporate players out there. They choose to obey the law for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it's morally right to do so. They want to see a clean environment. They do not want to get ahead by sacrificing our air, by sacrificing our water, our land. They do not want to get ahead by sacrificing the health of the people in this province.

The right to make a good living carries with it important responsibilities to the community of Ontarians, not the least of which is carrying on business in an environmentally responsible way. The vast majority of companies and individuals who do business in this province are aware of those obligations, and many go out of their way to meet them. Good corporate players believe that if the rules are fair and if the rules equally apply to all, you should be able to comply with those rules and you should be able to do well for yourself. That truly is the nature of our rich province of Ontario. The Ontario government certainly shares this belief.

We're firmly committed to ensuring that this view prevails. The Toughest Environmental Penalties Act, 2000, is another step in the right direction. As I said at the outset, if passed, this bill would give Ontario the toughest fines and the longest jail terms in the nation for major environmental offences. It's good news for the environment and it's good news for citizens of Ontario. I will point out, and we do stress this, this will be very bad news for those who would pollute.

In his presentation, Minister Newman this afternoon addressed the question, "Why do we need a SWAT team?" As is the case in law enforcement, a more aggressive and targeted team is required if we want to better address specialized problem areas in a strategic way. The team must have the ability to move to new and emerging problems, as I indicated, and it must have the flexibility and the support to stay in the field to ensure that polluters are caught. Minister Newman refers to this SWAT team as the soil, water and air team, a SWAT team that will target specific areas of concern.

The team will be comprised of a very highly qualified, specialized group of ministry employees. By putting all their efforts into compliance inspections and enforcement, the team will be able to focus on specific targets and conduct inspections and follow up quickly. This new team will complement our existing staff in the district offices of the Ministry of the Environment by focusing all their efforts on compliance inspections and enforcement activities on specifically targeted sectors. They will have a different approach and a different type of technology support.

I will mention that existing staff respond to more than 22,000 notifications of spills and pollution reports. Existing staff within the Ministry of the Environment assist with more than 16,000 certificates of approval, permits and licences that are issued annually by the Ministry of the Environment. These staff complete about 4,000 inspections on an annual basis.

Current baseline inspections done by the district office staff ensure that all major sources and facilities are inspected on a routine basis. Existing field staff will continue to do baseline inspections and respond to pollution reports. However, as a separate entity, the SWAT team will be able to strategically focus on those targeted sources, those targeted areas, that need special attention and will be able to conduct compliance inspections, enforcement and all the follow-up activities that are required in a much shorter time period. Inspection schedules will be integrated to ensure that there's no duplication between the role of existing staff activities and the new SWAT team initiatives.

Initially this newly created SWAT team will have 30 inspectors and nine investigators. The approach is new, obviously, so appropriate training, job definition and technology supports must be put in place. As these actions mature, the nature of the employment contract will also be finalized.

The ministry also wants-we all want-to retain flexibility and ensure that this new approach is consistent with the best practices review that's being conducted across the ministry now by Valerie Gibbons.

We intend to have the SWAT team operational by late fall. There's an estimate for start-up costs of about $10 million, and there will be an annual cost of about $8 million to maintain the SWAT initiative.

The money for SWAT will come from general revenues. There are no plans to cut other programs to pay for this program. Increased fines that are anticipated from this SWAT initiative will go to the provincial consolidated revenue.

I'd like to put some of these inspection activities in perspective. The Ministry of the Environment issues, as I've mentioned, about 8,500 new certificates of approval each year. There are about 7,000 new permits and licences for pesticides alone, and 1,000 permits to take water are issued annually. This was discussed earlier in the House. While some of these will have expired, there's still in excess of several tens of thousands of activity sources, each of which should be inspected occasionally to check for compliance status.

Records indicate that in 1998 we had 414 convictions. Cases have become much more complex in recent years and defendants have become increasingly aggressive in fighting charges. This results in investigators spending more time in court dealing with existing cases and less time investigating new cases. With an enhanced compliance inspection and enforcement program, through the SWAT team, we'll be able to ensure that polluters or potential polluters will be caught and that the odds of catching them will be increased; second, that they will face convictions and pay those significant penalties, as described today by Minister Newman, for their actions.

I want, however, to reiterate-and I don't want to dwell on the negative-that most Ontario companies are good corporate citizens; they do obey the law. Only those companies that defy the law, only those companies that engage in practices that are damaging to public health and damaging to the environment need worry about the newly created SWAT team.

Over time, the program will also act as a deterrent and encourage compliance with our environmental laws. A strong enforcement presence may also result in businesses developing and implementing more innovative technologies to deal with some of our environmental challenges.

We clearly expect prosecutions to increase with the SWAT team. It will focus its efforts on those companies most likely to be breaking the law. In addition, they have the flexibility and they will have the backup support to stay in the field, where the polluters are, and to ensure that the polluters are caught.

1610

Together, the SWAT team and the tougher penalties will increase our ability not only to deter but also to punish those who choose to jeopardize both the public and the environment.

I stress that we have gone beyond what we promised in the Blueprint document. With respect to our Blueprint, both the jail times and the fines described then are now proposed to be much greater than originally promised. Presently we do have the toughest fines and jail terms in all of Canada for major environmental offences. We are keeping our promise in the Blueprint to get tough on polluters. These tougher fines and jail terms send a message that we will not tolerate anyone who operates outside the law and threatens our environment.

It is up to the courts to decide on the appropriate penalty to impose on convicted environmental offenders. The courts consider a number of factors when deciding the appropriate fine or jail term. These tougher penalties send a clear message that the government considers major offences serious, and high statutory maximums will help the courts decide on how much a polluter should be penalized. Only companies and individuals that defy the law, jeopardize public health or our environment, or cut costs at the expense of the environment need worry about these tougher fines and jail terms.

With respect to the penalty structure, I mentioned before the three acts that this involves. The Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act establish a three-tier penalty structure. Each level includes a maximum penalty for individuals and a maximum penalty for corporations, which are further broken down into categories for first and subsequent offenders. The first tier or level is minor offences, such as failing to file a monitoring report as required by regulation. The second level would encompass those offences which pose or may pose a risk to the environment, such as a contravention of a certificate of approval or a contravention of an order. The third level is major offences, such as those which result in environmental damage or impair water quality. This bill will amend the penalties for the third level-that's the focus-those offences which result in environmental damage or those offences which impair water quality.

These tougher penalties send the message that we will not tolerate anyone who operates outside the law and threatens our environment. The more serious offences, under the new drinking water protection regulation that was just introduced this summer as part of Operation Clean Water-for example, failure to treat water supplies or failure to report a problem with drinking water-will also become subject to these new penalties. Again, we are sending a clear message that failure to protect Ontario's drinking water supplies is a very serious offence.

With respect to these penalties, they are tougher than they have been; there's no question about that. These penalties are tougher than we originally indicated during the election campaign. We are keeping our promise to get tough on lawbreaking polluters. As I've mentioned, we now have the toughest fines and jail terms in all of Canada for such major environmental offences. These tougher fines and jail terms send a message that we will not tolerate any individual, we will not tolerate any company that deliberately threatens our environment or our public health. Only those companies and only those individuals who are repeat offenders, those companies or individuals who deliberately pollute or jeopardize public health and the environment need worry about these penalties. On the positive side for business, this will level the playing field, and those who break environmental laws will not benefit at the expense of Ontario's good corporate citizens who comply with these laws.

This act, the Toughest Environmental Penalties Act, 2000, would amend the penalty structure of the Environmental Protection Act, Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act. If passed-again, I wish to stress this-the proposed penalties would increase the maximum fine for a first conviction on a major offence for a corporation from $1 million to $6 million a day, and on a subsequent conviction from $2 million to $10 million a day. This new Toughest Environmental Penalties Act will increase the maximum fine for a first conviction of a major offence for an individual from $100,000 a day to $4 million a day and for subsequent convictions from $200,000 to $6 million a day. This act will increase maximum jail times for a person convicted of a major offence from two years to five years. This new legislation will increase the cap on administrative penalties from $5,000 a day to $10,000 a day.

The penalty structure in the Ontario Water Resources Act would also be amended to ensure that these tough new penalties apply to the most serious offences under the new drinking water protection regulation; for example, failure to report samples that exceed standards and failure to ensure minimum levels of treatment.

When it comes to protecting the environment, people have told us they want to see two important changes. First, they want government to crack down hard on companies that are polluting our land, our air and our water. Second, they want to make sure that they and their children will be able to enjoy even more of Ontario's natural beauty in the future.

Our government has already passed an environmental protection law that made it easier to enforce anti-pollution rules and made it easier to deter people from breaking the law. Now we want to back up those laws with the toughest penalties in our country.

As I've mentioned, we have to enforce those penalties-I think that question came up-and to that end we will create the environmental SWAT team, a specialized group of environment ministry staff who will audit industries to make sure they're obeying the rules. We will also combine the patchwork quilt of laws that protect the environment into one clear, comprehensive and easily enforced set of environmental laws.

We also think that the public can be a tremendous resource for protecting our environment against polluters. To help people get more involved in protecting the environment, we've developed and promote the toll-free pollution hotline for people in Ontario to report possible acts of pollution.

I certainly look forward to working with Minister Newman on some of these initiatives. Much of my work as a parliamentary assistant has the objective of helping cabinet to implement election commitments as outlined in our Blueprint: commitments for clean water, clean air and clean land, in addition to and coupled with creating a level playing field, assisting to cut property taxes and income taxes, getting people back to work, balancing the books and beginning to pay down the debt. As the parliamentary assistant, I feel there's a key role for me to play in this. There's a team that works on this; not everything need be focused on Environment Minister Newman.

Just to reiterate some of what I've said, the bill that we're debating will ensure that tougher penalties are possible in situations where human health is put at risk. The more serious offences under the new drinking water protection regulation are addressed forcefully; namely, failure to treat water supplies or failure to report problems with water supplies. These are clearly subject to these new penalties. By bringing in this legislation, we want to send a very clear message that failure to protect Ontario's drinking water supplies is a very serious offence.

1620

Just like in the drinking water protection regulation, we're not engaging in a lack of consultation. Minister Newman made mention of the small waterworks consultation. I joined Minister Newman a week or so ago in Peterborough to get views from eastern Ontario. I was in Thunder Bay recently to get the views of people who operate small camps, bed-and-breakfasts, some of the challenges we face with lumber camps, mining camps, people who are in the bush fighting fires. More recently we held consultations in Guelph. Many of the presentations were from small campground owners and from farmers who were concerned not only with their need for water-taking permits but farmers who are involved in intensive agriculture with respect to growing potatoes, strawberries, tobacco, all products that oftentimes are grown in light, sandy soil and require irrigation, especially at times like the summer before our last summer, which in contrast was very, very wet.

People are concerned. They've been following events very closely. People realize that to have safe and clean water will require economic resources. It requires the commitment of financial resources from the Ontario government, the federal government, the private sector and individuals themselves.

Again I want to stress that this particular legislation does not include minimum fines. We stress maximum fines to provide guidance for the courts. Minimum fines were repealed by Bill 82, which came into effect in 1999. Minimum fines in legislation may draw the courts to impose a lower fine rather than a higher fine. It is up to the courts to decide on the appropriate penalty, however, to impose on convicted environmental offenders. The courts consider a number of factors when deciding appropriate fines or jail terms, and through the courts, through these very high fines, these tougher penalties send the message that government considers major offences to be very serious.

I wish to wrap up my presentation. I look forward to further debate and I encourage all in the Ontario Legislature to support this legislation in the spirit of protecting our public health and continuing to ensure a safe, clean environment.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comments and questions?

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough-Rouge River): I'm delighted to respond to the minister and the member from Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant, the parliamentary assistant on this bill, which really surprises me. You would never believe this is the same government, the same people who have created a crisis. Of course this government's motto from its inception has been, "Let's create a crisis and then we'll go about trying to solve it." You would never believe that this is the government that cut 880 jobs from the Ministry of the Environment. That's about 36% of all the staff laid off; $121 million, 42% of the budget, slashed. You'd never believe it, and they come today and talk about how tough they are with the environment. They have left that ministry without any resources to operate.

Legislation and regulations protecting the environment have been weakened with the Environmental Assessment Act and the Environmental Protection Act. You would never believe it. You would never believe that this is the same government and that the public today has no faith in their ability to ensure clean water.

Just recently we saw seven confirmed deaths resulting from the Walkerton drinking water tragedy, and as you know, nine other deaths have been under investigation. You'd never believe, with the cost of the inept attitude and the cutbacks that are causing some of the situations today in our environment, that this government is talking about how tough they are on environment. The public has completely lost confidence in this government.

We over here will support anything that moves progressively to support protecting the environment. This is not enough, but I'm sure we support it. I would never believe that this government which caused such a tragic crisis in our-

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for Toronto-Spadina.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): Toronto-Danforth, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: I'm sorry, Toronto-Danforth.

Ms Churley: It's OK. I'm happy to speak for a couple of minutes here, although shortly I'll be speaking at length about this bill before us today. I've said in the House and I'll say it again, I actually feel distraught and sad about what's going on here with the destruction of our environment. Here we have the minister-and I believe the parliamentary assistant is quite sincere. I believe that when he stands up and speaks to this bill, with the data that's been provided to him, he believes it's a good thing. But I hope that the minister and the parliamentary assistant will listen, because it isn't.

Often we don't know what is the motivation for some of these bills; in this case we know absolutely what's going on. What's going on here is that Walkerton happened, and during that time, a draft cabinet document was leaked to the NDP. It said very clearly in that draft submission that there was a perception by the public that this government was not protecting the environment, and something had to be done about it. This is a direct reaction to make it appear-it's smoke and mirrors again-as though the government is doing something.

Sounds good; high fines. The reality is, under the existing fines, under the existing laws, this government is not inspecting, not enforcing, not prosecuting. That is documented even within the government's own documents. I am not making this up.

In 1996, just in waste water offences alone, there were 1,000 violations and only four prosecutions; in 1998, there were 3,300 violations and one prosecution. I will be speaking more about this later.

The Deputy Speaker: I must apologize to the member for Toronto-Danforth. I had that well-known north-south thoroughfare mixed up with that equally well-known east end thoroughfare. My apologies. Comments and questions?

Mr Bob Wood (London West): As members know, this bill is going to give us the toughest fines in all of Canada for major polluters. These tough fines and jail terms are going to give us greater ability to deter and punish those who choose to operate outside the law and threaten our environment. This will level the playing field. Those who defy environmental laws will not benefit at the expense of good corporate citizens, who are in the majority and comply with the laws.

Members are, of course, aware that we have cleaner air, cleaner water and cleaner soil than we did five years ago. This bill is part of that strategy, which is working to protect our environment.

Members are aware of a number of initiatives that were introduced by this government: Drive Clean, which is on target to reduce emissions by some 22%; the brown field remediation, which will reclaim abandoned lands; the anti-smog action plan, which is a public-private partnership now involving some 50-plus industrial participants. We have as well Operation Clean Water, which has its objective of strengthening the protection of our water supply.

Taken as a whole, this is a very strong strategy. It's a strategy that has built on things that have been accomplished in the past, but has introduced some major new initiatives which I think are going to be very helpful in providing for Ontarians of today and for Ontarians of the future the kind of environment of which we can be proud and the kind of situation where all our citizens will be able to take full advantage of the magnificent natural setting for which we've all been blessed and with which we've all been blessed.

1630

Mme Claudette Boyer (Ottawa-Vanier) : Il me fait plaisir d'avoir l'occasion de réagir au projet loi 124, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement, la Loi sur les ressources en eau de l'Ontario et la Loi sur les pesticides en ce qui concerne des peines ayant trait à l'environnement.

Of course we will support this bill in any significant initiative that will do everything in its power to turn around this government's dismal legacy of Ontario being the third worst polluter in North America.

What a shame. How can this government actually enforce these penalties without new resources? We all know that as a direct result of the Ministry of the Environment's losing its capacity to enforce our pollution laws, mostly because one third of its staff has been fired and its budget has been slashed 45%, without a significant increase in staff for inspection, enforcement and prosecution this bill is absolutely meaningless.

This government really refuses to get tough with criminal breaking of environmental law. Statistics show that more people have been convicted of begging money and squeegeeing cars than for penalties concerning water and air.

Je trouve que même si on va voter pour ce projet de loi-

The Deputy Speaker: Time has expired.

The Chair recognizes the member for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant. You have two minutes to respond.

Mr Barrett: I appreciate the member for Ottawa-Vanier's saying that of course she will support this bill. I appreciate her concerns with respect to implementing these kinds of fines and, second, her concerns with respect to staffing. Staffing issues were also raised by the member for Scarborough-Rouge River.

I want to make it clear that this new SWAT team, which will be very instrumental in implementing these new tough penalties, will complement existing staff by focusing all their efforts on compliance and inspections and enforcement activities on those specifically targeted areas that really need to be zeroed in on. This team will have a different approach from existing staff in the ministry and will be using a different type of technology.

The member for Toronto-Danforth-I've heard this phrase before-said, what is the point in increasing the fines? What is the point in increasing the jail terms for environmental offences? The increase is very tough. You raised the issue of whether it would be enforced and what would courts do with that. It's up to the courts to decide on the appropriate penalty to impose on convicted environmental offenders. The courts consider a number of factors when deciding the appropriate fine or jail term. I stress that it's only those companies and only those individuals who defy the law and only those groups that jeopardize public health and the environment that will be in trouble.

Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I seek the unanimous consent of the House to stand down the leadoff of the official opposition.

The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker: I want to just address a couple of things. If you're talking, you can't listen; and if I'm standing, you're to listen.

I only want to know if there's unanimous consent. If you want to debate it, then it will have to be a motion. Is there consent? It is agreed.

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker: I will have order.

Further debate.

Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): I will be sharing my time with the member for Windsor-St Clair.

I would like to say this afternoon that I'm very happy to have the opportunity to stand in the House and speak to Bill 124. It's important that the members of the government understand that, as members of the opposition, the members of the Liberal Party of Ontario think it's important for you to know that any act or any piece of legislation that comes to this House that will work toward improving the environment for Ontario, that will address the issue of polluters, we certainly are prepared to support.

Having said that, however, I think it's important that I take this opportunity to share some of the concerns I have about Bill 124. I've indicated as a Liberal that-it has been very clearly presented, certainly during the last election campaign-Dalton McGuinty had a very comprehensive plan with regard to the environment. It's important for the people of Ontario to know that Ontario Liberals are advocates for the environment. It was part of the Ontario Liberal Party platform to enact a new Ontario safe drinking water act. This act would set clear and enforceable standards, would restore water testing programs that had been cut by the Harris government, and would restore and enhance funding for cleaning up the Great Lakes and target the most toxic hot spots.

The Liberal Party of Ontario would stop the Harris plan to privatize the Ontario Clean Water Agency and prevent municipalities from selling their water and sewer assets to the private sector.

The Ontario Liberals would have introduced a new Ontario clean air act that would convert Ontario's five coal-burning plants to cleaner-burning natural gas plants. That's what Liberals represent: we are advocates for the environment. We have a plan for a cleaner, safer, healthier environment for Ontarians.

We would give Ontario the cleanest gasoline in North America, instead of the dirtiest. We would set new air emissions standards that would be among the toughest in North America. Let's get tough on our own standards.

The Ontario Liberal Party would have introduced a new hazardous and toxic waste act. We would have implemented a new annual state of the environment report card. I think it is a very important point to make that this act, when passed by a Liberal government, would identify major polluters. It would list major incidents and what has been done to fix them. It would include up-to-date health information, such as the incidence of respiratory illness. It would also include a major audit of the government's own performance, so it would be a report to the people of Ontario on how the government legislation has actually been followed through.

That's what the Liberals in Ontario stand for with respect to the environment. I'm very proud of the policy statement we put forward at the time of the last election, and I believe it allows me to very comfortably stand in this House this afternoon and support the bill. It also provides a backdrop from which I can make some comments that I would hope the government might consider in terms of where I think the bill falls short.

I listened with great interest to the presentation from the member from Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant. He indicated that this bill will introduce the toughest environmental laws in North America, and certainly that is to be commended.

1640

The great concern I have with that, however, is that we may have the strongest, the toughest, the most punitive laws, but the greater question is, who will be there to enforce them? What resources have been presented to enforce them? I know there was a presentation in the member's remarks, and I'm going to address the SWAT team issue in just a few moments, but it's also important at this time to remind the members of the House that this is the government that cut one third of the staff at the Ministry of the Environment. They cut 900 people from the Ministry of the Environment, the ministry with the responsibility of protecting our resources. It's important to understand that of those numbers that have been cut, the one third of staff, $15 million was cut from the compliance and enforcement branch of the Ministry of the Environment, and 141 staff members were cut from the compliance and enforcement branch. The member from Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant talks about a SWAT team of 65. So the ministry has cut 141 people; 65 does not even replace 50% of the amount the government has cut.

It's important for the people of Ontario to remember that when you cut the people who lay the fines, there's got to be an impact, and the impact is that the number of fines falls. In fact, fines have fallen by 66% from the number of environmental fines that were laid in 1995. It's very easy to see, to make the connection, that when you cut a budget, when you cut a ministry, when a government makes those choices, there are impacts. It has an impact on the environment. What we have seen in Ontario is that the number of polluters being prosecuted for the sins they're committing has fallen.

I want to make some reference with regard to the newly established SWAT team. I did try to listen very carefully and I tried to write down the words of the member, and certainly Hansard would bear me out, but I believe the member from Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant indicated that they have created 65 positions at the Ministry of the Environment. It's important for the people of Ontario to understand that it would probably be more accurate if the member had indicated that some of those 65 people will be redeployed from other branches of the Ministry of the Environment. They've not gone out and hired 65 new persons to fill in this role on the SWAT team. Those persons who might be newly engaged are engaged on a contract basis for an 18-month period. So for the member to present that the government has very responsibly established a new unit, many of these people have been redeployed from other parts of the Ministry of the Environment, which really gives me some great concern because it begs the question, who's doing the job they were doing if they are now participating in the SWAT arrangement? It's very important for the people of Ontario to understand that.

As a member of the Liberal Party, I am certainly prepared to support an act that will address people who pollute, that will penalize them, that has tough penalties. What I'm saying is that we need to have more resources provided within the body of this bill so that it can actually become reality. It looks good on paper, but the reality is that, until we start supporting the Ministry of the Environment in a meaningful way with dollar resources, all the laws in the world will not enable the people to address the myriad, the thousands of polluters who are out there who are not being made to account for their activity.

I thank you very much, Speaker, that I've had the opportunity to address the assembly.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): I'm pleased to join the debate on Bill 124, an Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act in respect of penalties. Let me begin by saying that I, along with my colleagues, will be voting in favour of this bill.

I appreciated the comments of my colleague from Hastings, particularly with reference to our leader, Dalton McGuinty, and the very clear policies that our party and my leader, Dalton McGuinty, outlined in the last election: our clean water act, our clean air act. They were, in my view, groundbreaking recommendations that, had Dalton McGuinty become Premier, we likely would have in place now.

I want to spend the balance of my time talking about Bill 124 in the context of the government's overall environmental record. I'm sure other members will be talking about these numbers, as I am, to remind the people at home, in my case the people in the great riding of Windsor-St Clair, the east end of Windsor, the home of Paul Martin Jr, who today gave an absolutely inspiring mini-budget that really showed what you can do if you have a compassionate and balanced government in this country.

In Windsor-St Clair we deal with the whole question of cross-border pollution every day. The now government House leader, who at the time was environment minister, will remember a couple of years ago when the American authorities fired up the Conners Creek energy generating station in Detroit. Conners Creek is a coal-fired energy facility that is directly upwind from many of the tens of thousands of people in my riding. When we made representations to the state officials in Michigan about our concerns with respect to Conners Creek, they laughed at us. They laughed at us because of Ontario's abysmal record in this regard. I had the opportunity at that time to meet with officials of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, with concerned citizens in the great city of Detroit, Michigan, along with constituents in my riding. That in a nutshell I think puts the dilemma into context.

We've seen this government get up on a bill that on the face of it makes good sense-increase the fines, increase the penalties-but we have to keep in mind the context that the government has cut one third of the environment ministry staff and slashed its budget by 45%. They've cut inspections, enforcement and prosecutions. The level of fines levied under various provincial statutes has declined dramatically under this government. So as I prepare to vote for this initiative, I have to remind myself that it's absolutely meaningless if we do not undertake to improve our record of inspection and enforcement.

Nine hundred people were cut from the Ministry of the Environment. Let me tell you what that meant in my community: they closed five air quality monitoring stations. The government talks about the effect of cross-border transboundary pollution. I acknowledge that is a difficult challenge for any government. It requires enormous overlays between federal, provincial, state and local authorities to deal with it. But in my community these penalties will be meaningless if we don't get more air inspection stations. It's just that simple.

We don't have a local Ministry of the Environment any more; we get people down from Sarnia. Oftentimes some of the good people in my constituency call me and request my assistance with environmental matters and, like members on all sides of the House, diligent members who attempt to respond, we do so, but we find ourselves having to call Sarnia to get a response to local issues.

1650

Fines enforced by the ministry since 1995 have fallen by 66%. They were only $850,000 in 1998. The Sierra Legal Defence Fund issued a report showing that in that same year, the last year to which there is data available, there were 3,300 documented cases of industries violating Ontario's water pollution laws. Only one of those companies was ever charged and convicted of breaking the law. That's an abysmal record, and this from a government that prides itself on fighting crime. Well, when you violate our environmental protection laws, that's a crime, in my view. It's not in the Criminal Code, I understand. I understand those distinctions, but it is a crime.

I had the opportunity to speak with Robert F. Kennedy Jr a week or so ago. He was here in Toronto at a fundraiser for my leader, Dalton McGuinty. He spoke quite passionately about the need for enforcement. He spoke about American laws allowing individuals the right to sue when polluters pollute the environment. It's something that he said is lacking here in Canada for a variety of legal and constitutional reasons. He talked about his own experiences in enforcing, trying to enforce our understanding of the problems we create for ourselves, and indeed for our children and grandchildren, when we don't enforce our existing laws.

This government promised in its Blueprint document to bring in an environmental SWAT team of inspectors and enforcement. In March of this year, two months before Walkerton, Ministry of the Environment staff prepared a cabinet submission calling for a minimum of 130 new staff positions for that team. The submission said that the team could be up and running by this fall. When the submission was leaked to the media in June, Mike Harris called it a "phony-baloney" cabinet submission. In September of this year, four days before our House was set to resume, the Minister of the Environment announced that the government was going to bring in a SWAT team of only 65 members, ignoring his own bureaucracy's recommendations. We have also learned since then that all of these may not be new positions. Some existing ministry staff are being seconded into these positions and they will be on 18-month contracts. This leaves us to be concerned that the team may not be continued after the political storm over Walkerton has died down.

While I can support this bill, and I don't think any of us could disagree notionally with increasing the level of fines that are levied against polluters who are convicted, we need to revisit the budget cuts to the Ministry of the Environment and the staffing cuts to the Ministry of the Environment. We need to review very carefully the impact that those cuts have had on regions like my home of Windsor, where we live day in and day out with the effects not only of pollution generated in Ontario but the infamous transboundary pollution.

I urge the government in the strongest possible terms, in an era when surpluses are large, when the economy is growing due to the leadership of men like Paul Martin, to seriously consider reintroducing or re-establishing a meaningful level of funding to the ministry. Look at your own, to quote the Premier, "phony-baloney" cabinet document. Invest enough so that you can enforce this new law. Don't just talk about it. Don't talk the game, don't talk the talk, but walk the walk. Without those kinds of initiatives, I fear not only will we not move forward, we will move backward.

I truly regretted that yesterday the Minister of the Environment of Ontario embarrassed the people of this province, indeed the people of this country, by not signing on to that national agreement. I was embarrassed for us as a people. I was embarrassed because in my community of Windsor we deal with the effects of transboundary pollution. Every major jurisdiction in the world is prepared to sign on to that. Instead of doing what was right for the people of my community, the great riding of Windsor-St Clair, he chose to play political games and allow the environment to deteriorate further.

The Deputy Speaker: Comments and questions?

Ms Churley: I'd like to point out, after listening to my Liberal colleagues, that since they invoked the name of Paul Martin and his budget-and of course he's competing with Mike Harris now in who can make the biggest tax cuts; in fact they're in bed together. We've got a situation where Mike Harris is congratulating Paul Martin on his latest budget. Very interesting.

But I want to say in all sincerity to my Liberal colleagues, look at the federal Liberal government's environmental record. It too is pathetic. They have made massive cuts. I would say part of paying down the deficit in Ottawa was not only due to people who are on employment insurance being cut back, health grants and other grants to provinces being cut back, but also the environment was deeply cut. There was a lot of deregulation.

Now we have an election coming and, hopefully, because at election times we see huge expenditures of money-this is an area where the federal Liberals are also very weak-I'm hoping very much that the election will cause some good announcements to be made by the federal Liberals, particularly in the Adams mine situation, where the Harris government, Mayor Mel Lastman and the majority of his council are planning to go ahead with a plan to dump millions of tonnes of Toronto's garbage in a lake. We know there is fractured rock in that lake.

After Walkerton, for heaven's sake, we need somebody to intervene. Mel Lastman did get a motion passed that said if the federal Liberal government called for a federal environmental assessment, they will not go ahead with the deal. The ball is now in the federal Liberals' court, and we are calling on them to call an environmental assessment to stop this crazy plan.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I believe the member from Toronto-Danforth probably is closer to the truth. The federal Liberals have it all wrong. It was our Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Dan Newman, who was here today, carefully listening to the debate on Bill 124. What we're looking for is balance, not pointing fingers. I think Ontario, under the leadership of Minister Newman, is calling the federal government's bluff.

It's very important today to read for the record a very good article from the Ottawa Citizen, dated Monday, October 16: "10 Myths about Global Warming." Viewers today should get that. You can call me at my constituency office, and I'll get it to you. It debunks, calls into question, the whole issue, and it puts some balance in the debate. There's no question that each of us here wants a safe environment. That includes clean air, water and soil. I'll just give you one fact here.

"Myth #2: `The most important greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide,' the principle gaseous by-product of fossil fuel use." Greenpeace and other radical environmentalists have a fantasy for a theory.

"Fact: Water vapour causes 98% of the greenhouse effect, with additional contributions from carbon dioxide, or CO2 ... methane, nitrous oxide and other trace gases. An increase in water vapour at the equator due to El Niño in 1998 caused worldwide average temperatures to spike by almost 1 C that year. The human contribution to the atmosphere's total water vapour content is trivial in comparison" to the actual natural process of nature.

This isn't just some editorial. Tim Patterson is a professor of earth sciences at Carleton University in Ottawa.

What we're looking for is balance in the debate, and I believe Minister Newman is doing the right thing.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.

1700

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell): First of all, I would like to commend my colleague from Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington and also the member for Windsor-St Clair.

The member for Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington has learned pretty fast. She has joined a team that does believe in a safe environment. She has joined the Dalton McGuinty team.

When I looked at this bill, I just hoped that the Ministry of the Environment would enforce and follow the procedure. This bill applies for everyone in the province of Ontario-the private sector, the business people, the individuals.

But just lately the MOE has sprayed a forest in Mattawa, in the Premier's riding, with a pesticide called glyphosate. After calling the MOE, the MOE told us, "Well, we're not too sure but would you please call Health Canada?" We did, and they sent it to us by fax, and it's marked clearly-and we know the hunting season has just started. The message we got about this pesticide was, "Unfortunately, we cannot determine the health risk to hunters, or others .... Consequently, it may be prudent not to consume deer meat."

When I look at this, at the present time the Ministry of the Environment has not followed their rules lately, especially in the water treatment plant, when they drill a well in St Isidore, L'Orignal and also the Hawkesbury CIP lagoon, which is the property of this government.

Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): I want to commend my two colleagues for their efforts in bringing forth their comments today. It's important to recognize that Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Party are committed to working on improving the environment, and we're extremely disappointed at the pace that this government is taking to try and do anything to rectify the environmental problems in this province. All one has to do on a daily basis is read the clippings: "Toxic Results in Doubt"; "Cleaning Toxic Waste Could Cost $40 Million"; "National Standards Urged for Greenhouse Gases"; "Officials Cautious After Waterlines Break"; "Water at Risk Across Ontario."

This government has decimated this Ministry of the Environment. It's a shame what they've done to the environment in this province, and they have no regard for the damage that they've done. Look at the downloading that's taken place. Look at the water plants that have been downloaded. I can look at the Elgin area water system. The due diligence report that was completed on that water plant showed that the capital investment had been underfunded within that plant since 1995. That's a direct result of this government's mismanagement of the environment ministry. Look at the cuts that have taken place across this province within the Ministry of the Environment. This government is not committed to the environment and safety for future generations. We look around this room at the young pages who are here and look at the damage that this government has caused for future generations in this province. It's an extreme shame what you've done and it's a disgrace what you have done.

One of the things that we need to do and understand, all of us sitting within this Legislature and everybody in this province, is that we all do have to accept a collective responsibility for what has happened. We, as the Liberal Party, recognize that the damage has been done, and when we're in power in 2003 we're going to make sure that these cuts that have been put in place by the Ministry of the Environment are going to be removed. There is going to be a commitment to environment, because there is no commitment to environment from this government.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington has two minutes to respond.

Mrs Dombrowsky: I would like to thank the members who participated around the comments that I made-the members from Windsor-St Clair, from Toronto-Danforth, from Durham, my colleague from Elgin-Middlesex-London and my colleague from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

The people of Ontario will be able to detect the common thread of concern from the Liberal perspective, and certainly it is worth restating that we are always in support of any piece of legislation that is going to improve our environment, that is going to provide tougher penalties for those who would not regard our environment and work to ensure that it can be safely passed to, as has already been referred to, the pages who are here, our future. That of course is our great concern as the Liberal Party, so very well articulated by Dalton McGuinty.

So while we will support the bill-I certainly am prepared to support the bill-it is with concern and with reservation and some serious questions about the government's ability to follow through with these tough new laws that they made, because quite honestly I don't believe the people to do the work in the field are there. They have fired, let go, released from their responsibility 151 people whose role was to enforce compliance of regulations, and they are being replaced by 65. I think that's not good enough and I would have liked to see a much better and stronger plan for Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Ms Churley: Bill 124, which we're debating here today, repeals some of the toughest provisions in the existing law. That's the joke. That's the tragedy of this that we're debating here today. I don't know if any of the members here have taken a look at this, if the minister has taken a look at this document that goes along with the bill. I have taken a very good look, and I find a lot of problems with this. I'm going to outline some of them right now to the minister-he's here-and perhaps he would agree to some amendments. Because I can assure you that without those amendments I will not and the NDP will not be supporting this bill before us today. It has some serious flaws that need to be addressed. We have addressed those in the Legislature before. On Monday, when I was in Walkerton for the first day of the public inquiry as to what happened there, my colleague Frances Lankin, the NDP's deputy leader, asked a question in this House about one of these serious flaws and did not get an answer. This is one of two-and more-very serious flaws with this bill.

Right now, the existing law allows administrative penalties against a director or an officer of a corporation who has failed to take all reasonable care to prevent the corporation from polluting the environment. This bill actually weakens environmental laws while pretending to make them tougher. That is the reality; it's right here in the bill. Bill 124 is an exercise to be seen to be responding to the tragedy in Walkerton and the public criticism that is out there. The funny thing is, what I don't understand is-and we didn't get an answer to this question-why is the government amending these environmental penalties that were brought in by a former Minister of the Environment, Norm Sterling? This was one of the very few good things we could point to that this government did. At the time we criticized it for the same reason we're criticizing this public relations bill we're debating today, because this government doesn't monitor, doesn't enforce, so what's the point of penalties at all, because they're not doing anything about it under the existing law. Fines and penalties have gone way down under the existing law. But the reality is, we thought it was a good thing that the former minister brought this amendment in, so that those who were accountable, those directors, had to show that they had taken reasonable care to prevent the corporation from polluting the environment. If they couldn't show that, they could be prosecuted.

This minister is taking that out under this bill. You have to ask why. What friends are they protecting now? How did this come about? Who was mad at Norm Sterling and the government for including this, for making an amendment to the Water Resources Act so that those directors and CEOs could actually be held accountable if it was shown they were not taking measures to protect the environment?

1710

The other problem we have pointed out, one of the many problems-and I've asked the question about this as well, with no adequate answer. I don't know if the minister knows about this or not, but I'm glad he's here because he can fix it. Last November, November 25 to be exact, the Supreme Court of Canada issued an important ruling on the deductibility of fines and penalties under the Income Tax Act. Do you know what this means, Minister? The effect of this court decision was to allow companies to deduct fines and penalties from their income for tax purposes. Therefore, let's look at what this means. If a company is fined $1 million or $10 million, they could then deduct that amount from their income, thereby reducing their tax liability, taxes that would be paid to the province of Ontario. So, if they're fined and under this court case they can now deduct that fine, the taxpayer ultimately pays for it, because that is money that then will not be coming into the coffers of the Ontario government to provide services for the people of Ontario.

This is ludicrous. If you put these two together, alone, they make this bill worthless. You've got a situation where they're taking out the component about directors and CEOs being able to be prosecuted, and they're not doing anything about this court decision that was made to allow corporations to deduct any fines for income tax purposes. This gives them the licence to pollute. It's just the cost of doing business.

From the government, I believe I've heard some noises that this is a federal matter, that there's nothing we can do about it. But there is something they can do about it. Ontario can do something. My staff and I have looked into this. We think it's so fundamental and monumental that something like this can be happening, so we looked into it, and here's what Ontario can do: it can amend section 11 of the Ontario Corporations Tax Act by providing that no deduction may be claimed by a corporation in computing its income for taxation year in respect of an amount as a fine or penalty.

Now, if the government does not have the resources to do the research and the drafting of such a bill-and we all know that the minister and the ministry have trouble with resources these days; there just aren't enough there. But despite the fact that there are only nine people in my caucus and a limited staff, I'm here to tell the minister today that we've done the research and I'm quite happy to provide the minister with a copy of the bill. I am not allowed under existing laws in Ontario to make such-I'd present it as a private member's bill if I could, but I can't. But I'm happy to give this to the minister so he doesn't have to use any resources, so he can introduce this bill. I have it right here. It reads, "Corporations Tax Amendment Act, 2000," and the explanatory note is quite simple. It "amends the Corporations Tax Act to provide that fines, penalties and levies are not deductible as business expenses." The bill itself is very short, very clear and to the point.

I very much hope that the minister will take me up on my offer today and will accept this bill in good faith-I'll have an unmarked copy sent across later; this one is marked up a bit-so he has the opportunity to do something about this. I would ask as well, if he really is serious about bringing in the toughest penalties that have real effect, that he will not only pass this bill but that he will also revert back to the provision in the bill that will allow officers or a director of a corporation to be prosecuted, because otherwise it's just the cost of doing business.

The other very compelling reason why this bill is an absolute sham and a disgrace is that it doesn't do anything for the problems, the crisis we have in environmental protection in this province right now. Everybody in Ontario who knows anything about the environment, who's following what happens here, except the government of the day, is saying categorically that we have a crisis with environmental protection in this province and something needs to be done about it.

Just listen to this. In 1995, environmental fines in this province were at $2 million. You might say that's not enough, but it was $2 million. Under your government it dropped to $850,000. That's under the existing laws. That's under the existing maximum fines for offences. So you're not enforcing existing laws. You are not prosecuting. Raising the limit means nothing if you don't have the staff to monitor, enforce and lay charges and if you don't have the political will to go after those who are polluting our air and our water.

The cabinet document that was leaked to the NDP, which we released in this House, said that you needed 500 new staff. So even if they had the political will to prosecute, so that people would end up having to pay for crimes against the environment, the staff aren't there to do it. The staff aren't there to monitor, the staff aren't there to enforce, the staff aren't there to make sure that the polluters are caught.

I'm going to read some quotes from the document we released. It's dated March 14, 2000. In my opinion, and I've said this before, it was nothing more than a cry for help, because we know how low staff morale is at the Ministry of the Environment and has been since these guys came into power and started cutting and slashing. Get this, because it is a very important point made by the staff who work in the field at the Ministry of the Environment. Again, this is not me, a member of the NDP, saying this; this is what the staff who are on the front lines are saying: "Less than 10% of sources of pollution, those most likely to cause health or environmental problems, are inspected in any one year"-less than 10%. It goes on to say, "To get to a level where all sources of pollution are inspected annually would require in excess of 500 new staff."

Knowing that the Harris government was not going to put the money into hiring 500 new staff, what the document-come on. The minister is looking amazed by that, after they cut out even in the last budget I believe another $17 million, the only ministry in the last budget, when the budget was balanced, that still got a massive cut. The document recommends a 138-member SWAT team, they call it, "to focus on four or five special assignments per year." A sample list is provided, detailing issues not currently being addressed which the SWAT team special project should be chosen from and indicating the benefit of each. What they do say is that there would have to be choices made for even a 138-member SWAT team to do part of the job, to try to get at that over 90% of environmental problems which weren't even being inspected because the staff weren't there to do it.

We waited and waited for this so-called SWAT team to be announced. Then, lo and behold, just a little while ago in September I went to the big announcement, fully expecting to hear that there would be a 138-member SWAT team. I was prepared to be critical of that because our party, the NDP, said clearly in the election-the Liberals said they would hire 100 new staff back; the NDP was very clear that we would hire 500 new staff. This was prior to Walkerton. This was part of our campaign promise because we recognized that environmental protection is connected to the health of Ontarians and we were very worried about where we were going without the staff there to do the job. That was the campaign promise we made.

1720

Then it was one of the recommendations-the recommendation-in this cabinet document, but knowing it would be rejected, they came up with I guess an innovative solution. But they also said in that document that there was a public perception that the government was not doing its job, was not protecting the environment, so it even dealt with that.

It talked about press opportunities. The cabinet decision document notes that there is a growing public perception that the government is not protecting the air, water and land. It goes on and says, "This is partly the result of a perception that Ontario is not enforcing its environmental laws." I think that's very nicely put, because it's not a perception; it was a reality which was proved time after time after time in this province.

Mr Caplan: With fatal consequences.

Ms Churley: With fatal consequences. Eventually people died as a result.

Since the Harris government decimated the ministry budget and shed some-it's not 900, you know; it's over 1,000 environmental staff. So this would come as no surprise, that there was a perception that the environment wasn't being protected.

The cabinet document said that 500 of the staff would have to be hired back to do an adequate job of environmental protection and enforcement, and proposed instead this high-profile, low-cost option of creating the SWAT team. When I went to the announcement, lo and behold, the minister didn't announce a 138-member SWAT team. To our shock and dismay-it was just unbelievable-what the minister did announce was a 65-member SWAT team, so it's half of the 138 that was recommended.

Hon Mr Newman: An important first step.

Ms Churley: "A first step," the minister says. It's a bit late for first steps after firing, getting rid of 1,000 staff. Now they're talking about this as a first step, 65 members.

The cabinet document frankly sets out the cons to the low-impact SWAT approach, as opposed to hiring enough staff to actually inspect pollution sources. It says it will not achieve the goal of high visibility and increased prosecution. Less environmental protection. It also had the solution-and this is what the SWAT team option is all about. It's written right here in the document. Listen to this. Again, I'm not making this up. This was in the document: "Staging SWAT photo opportunities, encouraging feature stories on the team's enforcement efforts with targeted sectors, and issuing periodic news releases at the onset, during and following special investigations."

I can see it now: cute little uniforms, the SWAT team going out one day in a specially marked car and the press all being called, speeding down a highway and going to some targeted factory that is a known polluter, going in there and issuing tickets, and that's what they do.

They're all centred in Toronto. They've laid off and shut down front-line services across the province, and these 65 people-after what happened in Walkerton and all the evidence in their own cabinet submission, the best they can do is come out with a 65-member SWAT team which the cabinet document clearly shows is all about PR. "There is a perception we're not doing the work here, so let's set up this little team to go out and get photo ops."

I want to talk about what a total sham this bill before us today is. The minister continues to look perplexed. I don't know when he's going to get it. They laid off 1,000 staff. Let me give you some numbers here. Let's see. Since 1995 the Ministry of the Environment budgets have been cut by about 60%. People talk about 30%. Listen up. It's 60%, because that includes the capital and operating expenses. We talk about 30%. I've been doing some work on this. I suggest the minister look again. It's not just me saying this. It is all documented in government documents. It's there to read if you want to know what's really going on. It's 60% when you add up capital and operating budgets since 1995. That's how much your ministry has been cut.

In 1994 the MOE operating budget was almost $400 million. That wasn't at its peak. When the NDP was in power-I don't have the numbers in front of me-I think it peaked in 1992-93. Because of the recession we actually cut back some of the new money we had put in, but it was still at $400 million. The capital budget in 1994 was more than $150 million. That was in 1994. Compare that. Think about it.

I'm going to repeat the numbers. In 1994 the operating budget of the Ministry of the Environment was about $400 million; the capital was more than $150 million. Now listen to this. For the 2000-01 budget, under the Mike Harris government, there is now $158 million-compare that to $400 million-for operations and $65 million for capital. That's gross. That's beyond the pale. That's such an important ministry. It's as important as the Ministry of Health because protecting our environment, as we learned tragically in Walkerton, is about protecting our health. That's how much has been cut out of the budget since these guys came to power.

I know-once again I stand here; it's enough to make you despondent-that on many occasions in this Legislature in the early days, as environment critic I went to all the committee hearings when the government was busy cutting and deregulating and changing all the acts to water them down and dilute them. I sat in those committee hearings, and I stood in this House, and all you have to do is go back through Hansard and you will see that time after time my leader, Howard Hampton, and myself rose in this House and warned the government that the cuts were going to cause harm.

We specifically talked about the cuts to water and water protection. I said quite frankly then and I'll say it again, that when we were in government we did a number of things to improve water quality in this province. We knew we hadn't done it all and that a lot more needed to be done. We had the privilege of having a lot of information this minister has now and we started to actually take some action to deal with it.

We didn't have an opportunity to do a lot of things that should've been done and that I wish we had done, but I can say categorically, and it's not just me saying this, that the NDP, the Liberals and the Tories before the Liberals all took positive steps to move environmental protection in this province forward. We absolutely did that.

We set up the Ontario Clean Water Agency. One of the big differences between this government, the Harris government, and the NDP when in government is that we took 1,000 staff and transferred them all to the Ontario Clean Water Agency so we'd have a dedicated group of staff who would deal specifically with water issues. This government took 1,000 staff and put them out on the street. That's one of the big differences between them and us and now and then.

The other thing we did was transfer $200 million immediately from the Ministry of the Environment over to the OCWA as a dedicated fund. I know that when Walkerton first happened, for a while the minister and others must have been given a briefing note saying that the NDP cut $200 million out of the Ministry of the Environment. Well, they stood corrected. They're not saying that any more. I'd like to think they didn't know this when they were saying it, that somebody gave them wrong information. But in fact that $200 million wasn't cut out of the Ministry of the Environment; it was transferred directly to the Ontario Clean Water Agency to deal specifically with water issues.

1730

There are a lot of steps that we took, but I want to make it clear that corrective action was being taken, despite a very bad recession. We had the Tories sitting over here as the third party and the Liberals sitting there as the official opposition who were on their feet every day saying, "Stop spending money. The deficit is the problem. Stop spending money." We continued to spend money on the Ministry of the Environment because we felt it was absolutely essential to make sure there was enough money, adequate funding in that budget, to continue to at least take positive steps forward.

In May 1991, the MOE granted $5.9 million to improve sewage collection and water distribution systems. That was with the aim to improve water quality and water supply systems. We set up the CURB program, Clean Up Rural Beaches. It was a small program. It was a multimillion dollar program, but considering what we know today and what we were learning then about manure runoff, it was an absolutely essential, important program. The idea was not to blame farmers for the problems, but the growing awareness that agriculture manure runoff was a problem for our drinking water. So we started this program to work directly with the farmers, with dollars attached, to help them come up with real solutions to keep the manure from running off. What did this government do? They came into power and, unbelievably, didn't extend or expand that program; they cut it. It's just unbelievable.

One of the many other things that's not talked about very much in this Legislature is leaking underground storage tanks. It was interesting that on the first day of the hearings in Walkerton, a hydrogeologist was talking about some of the main problems with groundwater and the forces of contamination. He repeated on several occasions-his data were from the US; he didn't have comparable data here in Canada, but he said he had no reason to believe it's different-that one of the main sources of contaminants of our groundwater actually comes from leaking underground storage tanks. Think about it. We don't see them. They're sort of out of sight, out of mind, but all over Ontario, underground, are these storage tanks.

What I did, because as Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations it fell under my jurisdiction, was bring in the toughest regulations in all of Canada, perhaps even in North America, to protect our groundwater from leaking underground storage tanks. As far as I know, those regulations are still on the books. I doubt they are being enforced any more because there's nobody to enforce them.

I also know that leaking underground storage tanks, because they come under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, come under the-what is it called? It's gone out of my mind now, and I should know because I was there. Remember, we had the debate in the House where the ministry was transferring-and that just passed. In the middle of Walkerton, this happened. All of the safety laws of Ontario, including underground storage tanks, have now been passed off to a private body which has no accountability to this House, no accountability to the auditor, no accountability to any other body. They are the people who are now in charge of making sure these leaking underground storage tank regulations are kept in place.

I think there are some good people over there, but we cannot be putting our safety laws, when it could again mean a matter of life or death, as we know in Walkerton, as we know with the tragic bungee-jumping accident, because that too is part of the safety laws that were transferred from the ministry and from government accountability. We can't be passing these things off to the private sector and certainly we can't be passing them off to an unaccountable body. That's what's happened there.

That was another thing I didn't get any attention paid to at the time. I knew as an environmentalist that it was something that had to be done, and I did it. An announcement was made in the House and that was the end of it, but I was very proud that that was something we here in Ontario brought in to protect our groundwater.

In 1993, the NDP brought in something called MAP, the municipal assistance program. Most of the money in that program-millions of dollars again-went directly to municipalities to help them with their sewer and water upgrades. Then of course we established the Ontario Clean Water Agency, and that's where we transferred the 1,000 staff and the $200 million to get it started.

There is a whole lot more we did when we were in government to try to address some of the massive problems that we knew were there with water. That is why, when I watched-this is my background. I came into politics as an environmentalist, so I watch very carefully and I have some understanding of the issues and the implications. As I watched the deregulation and the staff cuts and the budget cuts, I knew we were in big trouble because I was very much aware of how much more we needed to do to protect our groundwater.

Again, if you read Hansard, you will see warnings from my leader, Howard Hampton, and from me and indeed, of course, from Eva Ligeti, the former Environmental Commissioner, who said repeatedly, "There are going to be tragedies if we don't do something about carry-on programs and make sure the money is there to help municipalities upgrade their systems." Well, this government did the exact opposite. They cancelled the annual funding-I forget how much it was, about $143 million a year or something like that-and put in a three-year, one-time-only grant for municipalities, and then it ended; that was the end of it. That's what this government did, on top of cancelling so many other programs that had started. We were beginning to fix the problems.

I admit that those problems are monumental. We've been told it's going to cost at least $9 billion to fix and upgrade our sewer and water systems across the province. That's a lot of money. That's why I'm outraged and enraged-I just got my $200 cheque in the mail a couple of days ago. I wasn't happy to get it. I recognize that there are some people out there who need money, especially lower-income people. If they qualify, it's money that's needed. But for most of us, if you asked me, if you asked most people, especially after Walkerton, if they had a choice, for the government to take that money and put it into a dedicated fund, when we know we need $9 billion to upgrade our system-after people died as a result of drinking their water, wouldn't you say that would be a good way to spend that money?

But no, this money is going back with a nice little note from Ernie Eves, talking about how, "It's your money. You earned it. We have too much. You can have it back." Well, you have to put it in perspective. We have to think about the role of government in our lives. I watched the debate last night-it was interesting-between Al Gore and George W. Bush Jr in the US. I consider them both fairly right-wing, but there is a difference. The focus comes right down to smaller government. George Bush Jr was saying, "We need smaller government and Al Gore stands for bigger government. Big government is bad, and he doesn't trust you with your own money." That's the mantra of today.

However, I believe it's starting to go away. I don't believe that people are buying that any more, because they understand there's a big difference between wasting money-as we see right now in Ottawa. Waste has been revealed by the auditor there in the human resources area. Often there are situations where you find that governments waste money or use it in a political way. That should be revealed and should be stopped. But we should not confuse that with our taxpayers' money that is put there to protect the people of Ontario and to help the most vulnerable in our society. That is what has happened here and that's this government's excuse for everything they do: "These people, the NDP, want to take your money because they don't trust you with it."

1740

Two hundred dollars is not going to help the people of Walkerton. You can't take your $200 and go out and buy a new sewer and water system in your community. It is our collective responsibility to make sure our vulnerable are supported and our health is protected and that we have laws in place to protect them. That's what this government has done: it has taken that away from us and is using incredible PR, good spins, making it sound like they're doing good things for the environment. That's what I find so dismaying about this, that after what happened in Walkerton we have a government stand up today and cynically, in my view, announce that they're bringing in great new laws that are going to help protect us, when all the evidence in front of us shows that these increased penalties just mean nothing. They mean nothing.

Again we see the minister responding on an ad hoc basis to criticisms over his own inadequate water regulations announced this past summer. We have a minister who's reacting to a crisis, and it's a crisis of their own doing, as I said before. There were programs in place, that had been started, that this government cancelled, which in fact brought us back further than where we were before. So this is a crisis of their own doing, and now the government is introducing inadequate measures that will not protect the environment and the health of Ontarians. I'm offended that we're standing here today debating this bill when we know categorically-all the evidence is there-that's it's just more smoke and mirrors to try to fool the people once again. That again is made clear in the leaked draft cabinet document that the NDP revealed in this House.

Instead of the minister, especially after Walkerton, sitting down and developing a comprehensive safe drinking water act, like the NDP's Bill 96, which this government shamefully put off public debate on-the government members stood up. I was so happy to see that government members were going to support my bill. As you know, the usual tradition in this place when a private member's bill passes is that it gets sent off to committee. The member stands up and says, "I don't want it to go to committee of the whole House," because we all know that's the end of it; it's a black hole and it disappears forever. I stood up and said, "I'd like this bill to go to the general government committee." The government stood up, forced a vote and voted it down. They wanted to have it both ways so that on the record it looks like, "Yes, we voted for it," but it was a cynical political ploy to vote for it but then vote against its going to committee, so public debate has been shut down. I just want the government to know that this is well known and they're going to hear about it out there in the communities.

Now the government with this bill, because this is not just about increased penalties, decides to tack on almost as an afterthought legislation on water. At the time that the government defeated public hearings on Bill 96, the Safe Drinking Water Act that I introduced-I just find it really outrageous that the government would play such a cynical political game after the deaths that are now up to seven people for sure in Walkerton. We have a government, after that, which knows there is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with, not just in Walkerton but across our province, and they play cheap political games. We see the spin doctors now with this bill. They're at it again. There's more public relations from this government. We have bits and pieces tagged on to this legislation for the protection of water, but it's not a solution to the water crises. The government, the minister and sometimes the Premier, stood up and said, "We don't need a safe drinking water act, because we just brought in these tough new regulations." I want to tell you what those who understand why we need a safe drinking water act in law, not just regulations, have said about this. The Toronto Environmental Alliance and the Canadian Environmental Law Association said this about the minister's new water regulations in a release they put out on August 8, 2000:

"`The new regulation is only an interim step,' stated Richard Lindgren, staff lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association. `The new regulation does not contain all of the safeguards needed to fully protect the quality and quantity of drinking water in Ontario.'"

"`In our view, the new regulation does not displace the need for special drinking water legislation in Ontario,' said Shelley Petrie of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. `In the wake of the Walkerton tragedy, we reasonably expected a far more substantive response from the Ontario government.'"

And here's what other environmental groups have said about what is needed in Ontario to ensure safe drinking water and the regulations that the minister introduced that he so proudly touts every time he's asked a question about this. Here's what's been said about it from experts in the field who know what they are talking about. You need to:

"Create a clear statutory right to clean and safe drinking water." My bill did that.

"Require the environment minister to create a water quality registry which compiles all water testing results from public water suppliers." My bill did that.

"Require the environment minister to publicly report on the state of Ontario's drinking water, to conduct research into drinking water matters, or to establish a special fund to provide financial assistance."

Let me interrupt myself for a moment on this, because when I asked the Minister of the Environment if he would support my safe drinking water bill, I think it was that section that he referred to as, "We don't need more red tape in Ontario." I don't think this is red tape after what happened in Walkerton and what we need for all the monumental problems we need to be dealing with over time, both with water taking, water quantity and water quality in this province.

We need "financial assistance to public water suppliers," which means that we need that partnership to be set up again which this government dismantled.

We need to "impose a mandatory duty upon public water suppliers to notify consumers if there are operational problems (ie, equipment breakdown) or testing delays or difficulties." My bill did that.

We need to "prohibit tampering with or degrading public water supplies or threatening or attempting to do so."

We need to "prohibit public water suppliers from providing drinking water that exceeds the maximum permitted levels for contaminants."

We need to "create citizen enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with the regulation."

"Create a statutory cause of action, allowing citizens to sue violators of the regulation; or impose a mandatory duty upon drinking water suppliers to assess the vulnerability of drinking water sources to contamination."

These are the kinds of things that experts in the field, who have been following the water policies and the problems in this province for a long time, are saying that we need. I and my staff worked very hard to make sure that we came up with a bill that was a good framework, that included these things. We recognized that it wasn't perfect for a private member's bill; we needed to have an opportunity to take that bill out to committee hearings, to have government input, to have the environmental community input, to have input from the people from Walkerton, to have others, communities, involved so that we could have come up with the best safe drinking water act, not only in Canada, in all of North America.

Some of the components of this bill that I worked on were not just plucked out of the air. Some were original ideas that we came up with because we thought that we would need these components in the bill, but a lot of the information we got has already been developed it the US. The US just celebrated 25 years of having a safe drinking water bill there and you know why they brought it in? Not just regulations-a tough, safe drinking water bill-because 25 years ago they were having similar and very serious problems with their drinking water. They're celebrating 25 years. Ontario used to be the leader. As I said, successive governments kept bringing in new regulations, new guidelines, new policies to enhance and make our drinking water safer. It wasn't enough, but we were moving in that direction.

1750

What I wanted to do, especially, again, after Walkerton, although I was working on this bill before that tragedy happened, was to say that now is the time, that all of the hodgepodge of guidelines and regulations and policies are no longer adequate, particularly in light of the fact-and this is why I was so worried and so scared before Walkerton happened. When you have a government that cut the ministry by so much, 60%, operating and capital budgets combined, and up to 1,000 staff, I knew nobody was minding the store any more. I knew it was even more important than ever to bring in such a law to protect our drinking water. Of course, after what happened in Walkerton, it became increasingly clear that we had to do that.

It's only five minutes to 6, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: We're not going to have time to finish your allotted time this afternoon. Unless you have a better time to do it, is this a good time to interrupt?

Ms Churley: I have a few more minutes. I think I have till 6 o'clock. I thought I would just finish this particular-

The Deputy Speaker: Your time will be reserved for another time.

Ms Churley: I thought I would just finish this thought and then end it here for today. Thank you very much.

Where was I? Instead of the government allowing this act to go ahead and bringing in a Safe Drinking Water Act, sending it to committee so we could-something we could all have been proud of. The government could have been part of this. In fact, I would have been happy, in a case like this, if the government said, "We think this is a great idea. Do you mind if we take over the bill?" I would have said, "Yes, thank you very much. I'll do everything I can to support you in getting it passed."

Instead, what we have here today and what we're debating-the government is engaging in another public relations exercise. What is disheartening and what I find so cruel about this after what happened in Walkerton, after all the warnings and after all of the concerns that have been expressed not only about our water but about our air-and I'll get into that when I finish up, because I want to speak to that a little better-is that the minister and the government still do not get it. It takes far more than meaningless words from the Ontario government, far more than this bill, to protect our health and the environment. It just takes far more. It takes real laws. It takes real investments in people, and money. That's not what we're seeing today.

This bill is meaningless. It looks good, but when you actually look at the accompanying document, you see in fact that there are some real problems with the bill. I can't support it unless the government agrees to make amendments and to actually hire staff to make sure that people are-the minister is shocked. I think if the minister actually listened to what I had to say and paid attention to the concerns expressed in this bill-

Interjections.

Ms Churley: The government members think they know it all. That's part of the problem: they don't. That's part of the reason why-

Interjection.

Ms Churley: No. I would say to the members that I know a little bit about environmental protection and water protection, but I rely a lot on the experts. These guys don't. It's in your cabinet document. What you decided to do was come out with another spin doctor kind of law that isn't going to do anything. That is the reality. Don't just listen to me. I tell you that time and time again. I know you're cynical about my views, but listen to the other experts out there who are trying to tell you this as well.

The Deputy Speaker: Your time is up. That clock is slower than the one I go by.

It being almost 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 6:45.

The House adjourned at 1755.

Evening meeting reported in volume B.

Debates (Hansard)
Webcast
Contact an MPP
Participation in Committees
Watch the Legislature in Action
Use of Assembly Grounds
Petitions