Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): My statement today is to the Minister of the Environment. Minister, your department very closely monitors waste disposal sites, particularly for leachate, and that's a good thing; that has to happen. However, you have very recently changed the legislation to ban the incineration of PCBs and dioxins. That may or may not be a good thing, but what it has caused is that municipalities that have difficulty getting rid of the leachate out of their waste disposal sites are now passing it through their sewage treatment plants. They were never designed for this.
Out the end of a sewage treatment plant comes a product that I would call sludge; you call it soil conditioner. This soil conditioner is then taken and spread on farmers' fields, farmers who have no knowledge that this sludge contains at times fairly high percentages of dioxins and PCBs.
Minister, you have a responsibility to provide a leadership role, to provide support, and to provide funding for the disposal of toxic materials. To put it on unsuspecting farmers' fields is not disposal of this product at all. The neighbours of those fields and the farmers themselves are entitled to know what is being spread on their land. Surely you recognize your mandate to protect the groundwater in this province and not to allow this cycle to happen where they return to the water and pollute more wells. I call for leadership to protect the quality of water in this province.
Mr Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): I say to the Minister of Health across the way, if you are going to get sick I would offer that you don't get sick in the town of Kapuskasing, because last night for the second time in a month we had to close the emergency department in Kapuskasing. Why? Because we have a shortage of doctors.
Your government came to power, told us that you were going to find a solution, that you had all the answers and that within a short period of time we were going to have enough physicians in northern Ontario to at the very least man our emergency departments. For the second time in a month the Sensenbrenner Hospital in Kapuskasing had to shut down its emergency department. Yes, they dealt as best they could, by way of nurses, when people walked in the door, but they did not have a physician on-site.
I say to the government across the way that there are two things you could do today. The first is that you could announce a short-term measure to assist communities like Kapuskasing to make sure they have the dollars to their hospitals to offer full locums for people to come in-outside doctors to assist and give a bit of respite to the doctors who are there. The doctors who are there are working themselves off their feet, and they don't have the ability to cover emergency wards for 24 hours seven days a week.
The next thing you could do is longer term. You could support what the NDP and others have been saying across northern Ontario, which is to create a northern medical facility where we're able to train our own young people in northern Ontario in the practice of medicine. That way, when they graduate, they will stay, and over the longer term we will not have what happened at the Sensenbrenner Hospital in Kapuskasing last night.
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): I rise to inform my colleagues that the Listowel Archives has finally found a place to call home. Last Friday I attended the official opening of the new location that will house archives from Listowel and the surrounding communities, mainly the older townships of Wallace and Elma. After moving several times over the past 20 years, Listowel Archives has found a permanent home in a part of the Listowel Public Library.
The collection of local archives began in 1975, when some residents donated items for the Listowel Centennial. These items were later organized by volunteers from the local historical society and were kept in a room at the town hall. These archives were available for public viewing, but only by appointment. Over the years, the collection of archives grew and eventually became affiliated with the Stratford-Perth Archives. The Listowel Archives is open every day, and there are now two part-time employees.
I want to recognize the North Perth council, Mayor Vince Judge and the residents of North Perth for their support of the local archives. I want to applaud the efforts of Elsie Karges, archivists Lutzen Reidstra and Carolyn Bart-Reidstra, and Listowel Archives clerks Kathy Wideman and Sonia Robin for their work in helping to preserve the rich history in the area so that future generations can acknowledge and be proud of their history.
Promoting and preserving our heritage is why I recently introduced a private member's bill that would create an archives awareness week. I encourage all members to support their local archives and indeed the Archives of Ontario as well.
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): I rise in the House today to speak about the importance of playing a leading role in advancing the equality of women internationally. Specifically, I wish to speak to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The convention came into force in September 1981 and is often described as an international bill of rights for women. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. The convention provides the basis for realizing the equality between women and men through ensuring women's equal access to and equal opportunities in political and public life.
Canada signed on to the convention but was unable to sign on to the optional protocol, apparently due to the unwillingness of this province to lend its support to this enforcement mechanism. The optional protocol provides for the ability of individual women and groups to petition directly to the committee on elimination of discrimination against women once all national remedies have been exhausted. Upon questioning by the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario, the minister responsible was unable to give her assurance that it was not Ontario which was holding back Canada from signing this protocol.
I call upon the minister to set the record straight on this issue. I call upon the minister to assure all the women of Ontario and Canada that it is not as a result of this provincial government that Canada has been unable to take a leading role in eliminating all forms of discrimination against women.
To begin with, I'd like to recognize Beth Carr, from the village of Orono, who was recently named as a recipient of the 2000 Shirley Lavis Award. This award was given to Ms Carr in recognition of her contributions to the Distress Centre Durham over the past decade. During this period, Ms Carr served on the organization's board, has been a shift supervisor and help-line worker and has also trained front-line people. I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Beth Carr for all she has done for the people of my community.
I'd also like to congratulate the members of Blackstock's ONO Club, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Founded in 1950 as a club for young women, ONO stands for Our Night Out, and its founding members were Eileen Snooks, Florence Collins, Marion Rahm, Noreen Malcolm, Gwenyth Thompson, Kathleen Dorrell and Gwen Ballingall Mulholland, who is the group's charter president. Two other long-time members are Aileen Van Camp and Joan Graham, and at present they have 20 members.
I think, most important, this community organization raises money for worthwhile activities within the community of Blackstock, in addition to several unique fundraising efforts recently for theatre groups, as well as local scouting and guiding operations in the riding, including the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation as well as others. I'd like to thank publicly the volunteers and organizations like ONO for making our community a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): I rise today to urge the Minister of Community and Social Services to recognize the serious challenges facing Ontario's developmental services sector. This sector is made up of over 400 hard-working agencies located in communities all across Ontario. These agencies provide community-based support and care to Ontarians with developmental and physical disabilities. They serve as the vital link between our most vulnerable citizens and a life of independence.
But the government has failed to recognize the pressing human resource challenges that face these agencies. As it stands now, these agencies are simply unable to pay their staff an appropriate salary. As a result, they're losing their staff to perpetual turnover which is affecting their ability to serve their vulnerable clients.
Instead of actually dealing with the wage disparity crisis in the sector, this government is only giving these agencies the ability to budget for staff increases of 1%. While 2% was deemed good enough for the broader public sector, this government decided they would allow less than 1% for the developmental services sector.
Furthermore, my office has been inundated by calls from parents and families desperately trying to find care and support for their adult children with developmental disabilities. Many of these calls are from aging parents who soon will be unable to sustain their level of support. Despite their heartbreaking efforts, this government continues to deny resources to the system to address this serious shortfall in services. I challenge the minister to recognize the issues and to respond.
Meet Father Christmas and enjoy mulled apple cider or the famous ham, apples and onions on a bun at the Keene Hotel. Take in the aromas of chestnuts roasting over an open fire at the Fitzpatrick House and indulge in the tantalizing array of traditional Christmas baking. You can learn how to make cedar garlands and other pioneer decorations. If Mother Nature co-operates, there will be horse-drawn sleigh rides through the village as well as a chance to try out snowshoeing and snow sculpting.
You can enjoy traditional festive music throughout the day at the Douro Town Hall provided by local talent called the Muskovy Ducks, and it wouldn't be a Heritage Christmas without carollers filling the air with your favourite holiday melodies.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My comments today are in relationship to the economic statement yesterday. One of the key charts in this book shows that Ontario's population grew in the last 10 years by about 1.3 million people. Eighty per cent of that was through immigration. The government recently published Ontario population projections, as they do every five years, that show that about 70% of the growth will come through immigration.
In its documents to attract industry to Ontario, the government talks about the importance of immigration to Ontario. In my opinion, a key to our economic growth will be our ability to continue to attract quality people who want to come to Ontario in the future. I might add that I don't think it's going to be as easy as it was in the past. World economies are doing well. You watch Ireland and California: they are aggressively attracting people to move to Ireland and to California.
I'm concerned. We've closed our welcome houses here in Ontario. I talked recently with someone from Kitchener who has a group of 51 foreign-trained physicians, none of whom can practise here in Ontario; word gets out about that. I talked to the Speaker of the Michigan state Legislature, who says their biggest job is to attract quality workers to come to Michigan.
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph-Wellington): Our government recognizes the value of small businesses as leaders which foster prosperity and provide jobs to our citizens in our local communities. As part of the Salute to Small Business Month, I visited one such business, called Biltmore Hats, in my riding of Guelph-Wellington. This has been an entrepreneurial success in our riding since 1919, and the key to their success lies in their vision of a company that sells only the highest-quality items. Biltmore is an impressive local story because it has maintained its local roots by operating primarily from Guelph, but has done so while breaking into the international market, gaining clients from across North America and beyond.
On my visit to Biltmore Hats, Walter Gosk, Judy McQuarrie and designer Clare Wyngaardn accompanied me on a tour. They showed me what skills and precision go into the making of a fine-quality Biltmore hat. The hats are still made on machines that were produced in the 1950s but that are still effective and efficient and produce an exceptional quality product. The factory itself is like a functioning museum.
Hockey fans would know Biltmore as the company which started the term "hat trick" and gave hats to players who scored three goals in one game. People should know that Biltmore is also promoting Canadian culture, for all our RCMP and OPP officers' hats are made in the Biltmore plant.
I would like my colleagues to recognize this fine institution in the city of Guelph. This is a very important, historic business that continues to be part of that exceptional group of entrepreneurs we all recognize and appreciate as key parts of the businesses that make Ontario prosper and do well.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: With your indulgence I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Mr and Mrs Baker, Stan and Bernice, as well as their daughter Ava and son Philip. They're the parents of our page Jared Baker from the riding of Durham. I'd like to welcome them.
Bill 132, An Act to enact the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000, repeal the Degree Granting Act and change the title of and make amendments to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities Act / Projet de loi 132, Loi édictant la Loi de 2000 favorisant le choix et l'excellence au niveau postsecondaire, abrogeant la Loi sur l'attribution de grades universitaires et modifiant le titre et le texte de la Loi sur le ministère des Collèges et Universités.
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 97(d), a minister shall answer written questions within 24 sitting days, unless he or she has indicated otherwise, where a written question has been put on the order paper. On June 20, 2000, I put a question to the Attorney General to provide specific details of all costs associated with the province's participation in the Firearms Act reference before the Alberta Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada and otherwise.
Now, the answer was due October 31, and I don't need to tell you we're now into December. It's over a month late. I don't know what the minister is hiding, but I'd like a ruling as to this violation of the rule.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I thank the member for the point of order. It is a legitimate point of order. My understanding is that in fact it is overdue, and I'm sure the Attorney General will take the point of order and be able to get an answer as soon as possible. I thank the member for his legitimate point of order.
Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like to raise a point of order with regard to standing order 97(d). The minister does have 24 sitting days. On September 25, I had asked the Minister of Community and Social Services to give an account of the following aspects of the Ontario Works program: how many Ontario Works participants have been forced to sell cottages as a requirement of being on Ontario Works; what is the actual number of Ontario Works participants who've had liens registered against their homes; and what percentage of Ontario Works recipients does this represent.
This question was put to the minister on September 25. There have been 35 sitting days, so we are clearly 11 days over the deadline. I would ask if the Speaker would assist in ensuring that this question is answered.
The Speaker: I thank the member. Again, in checking the record, it's my understanding that it is a legitimate point of order, and I'm sure the minister responsible will investigate and get an answer back as well. I thank the member for her legitimate point of order.
Pursuant to standing order 60(a), the following estimates, 2000-01, are reported back to the House as they were not previously selected by the committee for consideration and are deemed to be received and concurred in:
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill): The purpose of the Horse Riding Safety Act, 2000, private member's bill is to increase the safety of horse riders under the age of 18 by requiring the operators of riding establishments to ensure that proper safety equipment is used. I am bringing this bill forward in memory of Elizabeth Hader and countless other children throughout the province who have met untimely deaths as a result of unsafe riding conditions in Ontario.
The bill has supplementary amendments to the Highway Traffic Act and makes it an offence for any rider under the age of 18 to ride a horse on a highway without the proper safety equipment. Parents and guardians of riders under the age of 16 would have the responsibility to not knowingly authorize or permit young riders to contravene the proposed provisions.
Hon Jim Flaherty (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Our government has made a commitment to strengthen the fight against organized crime and to protect the people of Ontario from being victims of illicit activity.
In this year's budget, we allocated $4 million for the strategic deployment of specialized police forces and dedicated legal resources to focus on organized crime. Today we are taking another important step to fulfill our commitment.
A few minutes ago I introduced the Remedies for Organized Crime and Other Unlawful Activities Act. If passed, this legislation would do three things: first of all, enable the province to ask the courts to freeze, seize and forfeit to the crown proceeds of unlawful activity, as well as property that is likely to be used to commit an unlawful activity; second, create a special fund consisting of the proceeds from civil forfeitures which people who have been directly victimized by unlawful activities could access; and third, enable the province to launch civil actions in court against conspiracies that engage in unlawful activities. If the legislation is passed, the province would also create a strike force of investigators, civil lawyers and forensic accountants to ensure that these cases are vigorously pursued in court.
Today, organized crime is more than just drugs and thugs. It is increasingly sophisticated, using new technologies and strategic alliances to take advantage of any opportunity to make money illegally. Every day, organized crime victimizes honest, hard-working people either directly by defrauding them of their hard-earned money or indirectly through higher consumer prices and service fees. It is estimated that organized crime costs the Canadian economy between $5 billion and $9 billion each year. We know that most unlawful activities are motivated by profit.
Our government believes that it is time to prevent further victimization. It is time to help people who have been victimized by organized crime and other unlawful activity. It is time for organized crime to return its unlawful profits to its victims.
Hon Helen Johns (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, minister responsible for seniors and women): As the minister whose portfolio includes volunteerism, I'm proud today to speak of three important priorities in all of our respective communities. I want to speak about volunteers, the government's leadership in supporting and promoting volunteerism and, third, the government's partnering with the volunteer sector.
We all know that volunteers make this province a richer place to work, live and raise our families. One in three Ontarians involve themselves in some sort of volunteerism activity each year, dedicating much of their time and much of their energy to help others in their community. In fact, volunteers in Ontario give more than 422 million hours every year to more than 60,000 organizations.
Those volunteer activities are a vital part of the fabric of life in Ontario. We might ask why, and the answer is because where volunteers work, they shape the communities around them. Look at what volunteering does. Through the simple and selfless act of helping another person, sometimes directly and other times indirectly by working for a worthwhile cause, individuals reconnect with their communities and rekindle their faith in a future full of promise.
Look at where you can always find volunteers. You can find volunteers in our hospitals, in our social service activities, in cultural centres in each one of our communities. They are at every community event we hold. We find them on the sports fields or in arenas. The commitment and dedication of volunteers help provide quality programs. Their compassion and humanity improve the quality of life for other Ontarians.
This government values voluntary action, and supporting voluntary action has been a priority of our government from the beginning. Five years ago this government initiated consultations with the voluntary sector. We wanted to determine what the sector needed and how we could work together with them. We responded to those consultations with an announcement in the spring 1996 budget, where we put $10 million to support volunteers. In January 1997, we received the report from the advisory board on the voluntary sector. It resulted in the volunteer linkages program. Let me recall for you some of the initiatives that have flowed from that advisory program.
In 1997 we provided $7.5 million over five years to help volunteer organizations develop partnerships with other organizations in their own communities or within their sector. In 1999 we invested a further $6 million so they could do just that. Our volunteer action on-line program enables organizations to work together more effectively and more efficiently. It helps them to share resources. It helps them to develop from each other's experience.
For groups that are just beginning to make use of the current technology, we have developed a guide. This guide helps steer them through the sometimes complex decision-making process of getting connected to the Internet and to the Web.
We have expanded the mandate of the Volunteer Service Awards to include volunteers from all sectors-social services, agriculture, health, recreation, law, justice and education-and we have increased the number of public celebrations that commemorate the key role volunteers play in this incredible province. Last year there were 31 award ceremonies across the province, and more than 5,000 Ontarians were recognized for their services in their home communities.
Let me go into even greater depth with one of the new provincial award programs. This is the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers. This medal lets us recognize, in a very public way, the achievements of our young people and the important contributions they are making to the province of Ontario.
Ontario believes that volunteering gives young people a unique opportunity, an opportunity to learn about caring and compassion, an opportunity to learn about the potential each of us has to make a contribution and to make a difference in our communities. With that in mind, we introduced the student community involvement requirement. This initiative requires all students to complete at least 40 hours of community involvement before they graduate from high school.
Premier Harris in 1998 convened a Premier's Round Table on Voluntary Action. He met with volunteers from many voluntary sectors, the business community and the government to explore ways to promote and strengthen voluntarism in Ontario. As a follow-up to that meeting, 10 community round tables were held across the province. These community round tables exemplify this government's partnership approach to strengthening voluntary action in Ontario. The tables continued and expanded discussions on how to strengthen volunteerism in Ontario through the involvement of our local community representatives.
Volunteers play an important role in Ontario, one of which is found in the local grant review teams of the Ontario Trillium Foundation. When we guaranteed $100 million in annual funding from gambling revenues for Trillium for distribution to charities and non-profit organizations, we needed a mechanism for deciding which community groups were worthy recipients. The local teams have put forward community priorities. Of course, many of the charities and the not-for-profit organizations that receive Trillium grants also rely heavily on volunteers to do their work within their communities.
It's all about partnership, about our government, volunteer groups, the private sector and other levels of government all working together to celebrate and to recognize volunteer action in this wonderful province. Together we're building bridges of opportunity, bridges that will permit every Ontarian to participate more fully in life in their communities.
When we look around, we see we are surrounded by good deeds. We see that the people offer up grand gestures every day or small acts of kindness to their fellow human beings. Underlying it all is the work of volunteers giving in a quiet way and getting the job done. In the account books of this province, the contributions of volunteers are recorded in invisible ink; they don't show up. But if they did, we know the number would be impressive. So let me simply say thank you to the millions of volunteers here in the province of Ontario and everywhere. What better day to do this than December 5, International Volunteer Day, a day designated to pay tribute to and celebrate all the achievements that have been made by volunteers?
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who make the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and the government of Ontario work so efficiently. On a personal note, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all the people who take the time to volunteer to coach my kids and the kids of everybody in this House on the hockey fields, on the baseball diamonds, in the swimming pools. Those people truly enrich the lives of my children, and I'd like to thank them for that.
International Volunteer Day is a lead-up to the International Year of the Volunteer, which begins next month, about which this government will have more to say in the coming months. The International Year of the Volunteer will provide a unique opportunity to highlight the achievements of millions of volunteers in the province of Ontario who do so much to serve their community and to make their community a better place to live. We hope by doing so that we can encourage even more people to engage in voluntary actions.
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals will support any effective, constructive and lawful measures that will assist law enforcement officials and give them the tools they need in order to help victims of crime. That's why last summer, in July, Ontario Liberals unveiled their four-point plan to crack down on organized violence and organized crime.
Our concern at the time was that the government of the day seemed to only be holding summits on the issue of organized crime. The Attorney General had attended summits in Vancouver, New Jersey, Delaware and Washington; then he came back to Toronto and invited all his new friends back to Toronto for a summit there as well. Our concern was that yet again the government was all talk and no action when it came to crime.
That said, whereas I've had it for two minutes, this government has had 2,000 days to prepare for this bill. It's incredible when you start to think about it. What are this government's priorities? They say law and order, and the events of yesterday make us wonder. They say law and order, and yet it takes 2,000 days for them to come up with a bill that they had been talking about when they were in opposition.
I went and looked back, and I thought, gee, this idea of a special fund consisting of proceeds from civil forfeitures sounds familiar. So I looked in the Hansard and I found some remarkable proponents of it. Here's a quote: "We know that murderers are going to become millionaires, many times over perhaps, through the sale of their recollections of their crimes. We cannot allow this to happen. We must listen to the citizens in Ontario who are asking us to lead, to pass legislation and to make laws that will protect the victims of crime."
Mr Bryant: The government claps, yet Mrs Witmer's cabinet has had 2,000 days to pass this legislation. I say to that minister, where have you been for the last 2,000 days? Why were you all talk then and we're only seeing a bill now?
I look further and I see this about a bill that an opposition member, at the time the member for Burlington South, the Honourable Cam Jackson, had proposed. He's had 2,000 days to make that become law and we're only seeing it now. We have to be skeptical of this law. After all, listen to this endorsement:
"No political promise sells better than the age-old pledge to `get tough on crime.' Small wonder, then, that Ontario's provincial government, which is drifting along with little sense of direction at the moment, has announced plans to implement new US-style laws that would permit officials to seize property of the criminal gangs.
Our great concern here is that instead of actually doing something about crime, the government may yet again be just talking about doing something about crime. There are constructive initiatives that have been put forward by Liberal members. I would encourage the government to adopt those into law, as they wanted them adopted into law in 1993 and 1994. They have had those 2,000 days to pass them.
One more quote: "Instead of blaming the federal government, which I'm sure some members are going to do today, our province should start finding ways of deepening its co-operation with Ottawa. Other provinces have succeeded on behalf of their victims." That's the member for Burlington South, Cam Jackson.
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): The value of volunteerism in our society goes without saying, but I believe this government has done one extra thing. They have imposed volunteerism. They don't seem to understand the term "volunteer" when it comes to educators. I would suggest our volunteers are invaluable, but unfortunately are now stressed to the max.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): Yet another law-and-order announcement from this government. The Attorney General stands up like Elliot Ness and he's going to take on organized crime this time, just like attorneys general have been prepared to take on deadbeat dads. Maybe this Attorney General better start finishing some of the projects he started, consistently following up before he embarks on new enterprises.
The Family Responsibility Office remains one of the sources of the most frequent complaints to our constituency offices across this province. Four years later and this Attorney General is still screwing up and victimizing women, their kids and those fathers legitimately paying, as well as ignoring those deadbeat dads.
It would have been far more refreshing to have heard this minister stand up today and talk about getting real about the Victims' Bill of Rights and fulfilling that promise to create a Victims' Bill of Rights that indeed entails providing some rights for victims rather than the toothless one this government persists in maintaining. It would have been awfully pleasant, and we would have been far more enthusiastic, had this Attorney General stood up today and told us about the status of his sex offender registry. Big announcement, legislative effort, we've seen zip, zero, nada, from this Attorney General and this government.
This afternoon this Attorney General and his government are going to introduce a time allocation motion on Bill 117, their so-called domestic violence bill, the bill that will permit abusive spouses, abusive husbands, wife beaters to maintain their arsenal of weapons. God forbid this government would interfere with the right to bear arms by taking handguns and other firearms away from men who consistently beat their wives.
It's about time that this Attorney General, rather than the photo ops, rather than the talking tough with his new-found obsession with organized crime, contrasted with his apparent disinterest in the disorganized crime that has permeated his backbenches, started delivering some real substance rather than mere words. This Attorney General is big when it comes to the rhetoric, but he doesn't deliver when it comes to substance. Another announcement, another promise made, another promise inevitably broken. This Attorney General's got a whole lot that he better fix up before he embarks on his Elliot Ness escapade.
But we were expecting another announcement from you today as the minister responsible for women's issues. I was ready for that and excited about it. Women are dying at the hands of their male partners. Each year in Ontario an average of 40 women are killed by their intimate partners. Men are charged every day with stalking, battering, threatening and assaulting their wives or partners. You know that the cross-sectoral violence against women strategy group has called on your government to bring in emergency measures for women and children. My leader and I asked the question directly to your leader, the Premier of this province, yesterday and he promised nothing.
Minister, the time has come for you to bring in some of those measures. They are: shelter funding-the shelters are overflowing, and many women and their children have no place to go. You cancelled second-stage housing when you came into government, and women and their children are desperate for second-stage housing to be brought back.
You can gesture all you want over there, member from Scarborough. I am talking about women and children who are being battered daily in this province, and your government took away the services they need to get out of those situations. That is the reality of the situation. You can sit there and smirk and make fun of my gestures all you want. The reality is, these women and kids are suffering because of your cuts and because of your decontrol of rents. These women are suffering and often are having to go back to the very abusers they are trying to get away from. We need an expansion of the women's assault helpline. Their lineups are months long. Women cannot get through across the province. You need to bring back rent control, and you need to raise the housing allowance for women on welfare, so they can afford to rent an apartment. Because of your decontrol of rents, they can no longer do that.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Minister of Correctional Services, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Speaker: I seek unanimous consent for all parties to have an opportunity to remember Frederick McIntosh Cass, who was a member of this Legislature from 1955 to 1971 and who passed away last week.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Minister of Correctional Services, Government House Leader): Frederick Cass was the member for the riding of Grenville-Dundas, which is in eastern Ontario just south of the now city of Ottawa. Fred Cass was first elected in 1955 and rose very quickly in the government ranks. He first was made Minister of Highways. Being made Minister of Highways in the 1950s and 1960s was a considerable post at a time when construction of roads was perhaps at its peak in terms of its growth and those kinds of things. Shortly thereafter-I think about two years later-he was made the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Again, that was a very significant post in terms of the government of the day.
In 1961, as members may know, there was a leadership convention for the then Conservative Party. Mr Leslie Frost had retired, and Mr Cass was considered as one of the pretenders to the throne. He decided not to do that, but he was considered one of the people who were in the race for the leadership. He threw his support behind the then Treasurer, Jim Allan.
Fred Cass was then appointed Attorney General. One of the interesting anecdotes about Fred Cass was that even though he was the Attorney General of the day, he would go home to Chesterville, his hometown where he was born and raised, and practise law on the weekends. If we ever thought of the Attorney General of this day practising law in any way or form, it would be an unbelievable outrage in terms of conflict of interest. I must say for Mr Cass that he understood there could be a conflict in the courts and he stayed away from the courts and did exclusively a solicitor's work. But he continued to practise law while he was a Solicitor General, while he was a cabinet minister, while he was a member of the Legislature and after that period of time as well.
Unfortunately, in 1962 or 1964, when Mr Cass was the Attorney General, he brought forward through a very hurried process an amendment to the Police Act which gave wide, sweeping powers to the Ontario Police Commission. When, ironically, today we have a bill dealing with organized crime, Mr Cass put forward a bill trying to deal with organized crime as well. But his bill was hastily conceived and, as I understand it from the stories I heard, not very well vetted through a cabinet or a committee process behind the scenes before it surfaced. It gave the power to interrogate people in secret, and that bill received great resistance and led to Mr Cass's resignation some seven or eight days later.
Between 1964 and 1968, Fred continued to represent the people of Grenville-Dundas in the Legislature, and in 1968 he was made Speaker of the Legislature by then-Premier Robarts, as the Speaker was not elected at that time but was appointed by the Premier who was there.
Fred Cass was 87 when he died, but he remained active in politics after he retired in 1971. I had the pleasure of representing part of this riding when I was first elected in 1977, and that was the county of Grenville. One of the things Fred Cass had, which I guess was a throwback to the old days, was that every so often I would give a speech in the Legislature and I would receive a note from Fred Cass congratulating me or commenting on that particular speech. It was a practice of his, I guess an old-time politic practice, to write notes to a number of people, municipal councillors, congratulating and encouraging them in whatever they did.
It would really not be fair to either the memory of Fred Cass or to his wife, Olive, if she was not included in this eulogy to Fred Cass. While Fred Cass was the stomper-he was a great Speaker-while he was the man who came to Queen's Park, while he was the man who assumed many significant cabinet portfolios and assumed the speakership of this Legislature, it was Olive Cass who was the constituency person. She was the person who dealt with constituents' problems-this was before members had constituency offices or constituency assistants-and Olive Cass was known throughout the riding as well as Fred Cass. Many suggested in jest that Olive Cass had more to do with the election of Fred Cass than Fred Cass himself because she was such a wonderful person in terms of getting along with individuals and with her community.
Fred McIntosh Cass served in World War II for his country, he served in this Legislature in a noble manner and with integrity, he worked hard in this Legislature for the people of Ontario and he worked hard for the people of Grenville-Dundas and the people of eastern Ontario as well. I would like to express our condolences to his family, his sister and brother who still remain. Fred and Olive never had children but I can tell you this: the people of eastern Ontario will be long in remembering his contribution, his kindness and the kindness of his wife, Olive, and their service to this province.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): I and my colleagues in the Liberal Party are very pleased and honoured to associate ourselves with the very kind remarks of the government House leader about the death of Mr Speaker Cass. Mr Sterling has very eloquently captured much of the essence of a very distinguished public career.
Mr Cass was a serious, fair-minded, no-nonsense Speaker of this Legislature in the period from 1968 to 1971. His speakership was also substantially improved by the wonderful assistance he received from his wife, Olive. She was herself the daughter of W.H. Casselman, a former member of the Legislature for Dundas county and a bearer of one of the great political names in our part of southeastern Ontario.
Fred, as Mr Sterling has observed, had a very distinguished war record overseas between 1941 and 1945. But I think it is fair to say that in the annals of the political history and legislative history of this place, Frederick McIntosh Cass will be known for a series of events that occurred in the third week of March 1964. I think it is fair to say that those events were sensational. I see Mr Eric Dowd in the gallery. He's the only person around here who will remember those events.
Fred Cass was elected, as Norm Sterling said, in 1955, went quickly to cabinet, served very ably at highways and municipal affairs, and was known as the government's troubleshooter; he was known as the fireman. So it was no surprise that after the leadership campaign in 1961 the new Premier, Mr Robarts, assigned Mr Cass to the Attorney General's job, at a time, as the government House leader has rightly observed, when organized crime was a major issue and challenge to the then provincial government. The Roach commission had just reported and there were clearly problems.
And so, I think it was around March 19, 1964, the Attorney General, Mr Cass, brought forward amendments to the Police Act. It wasn't so much the amendments-I want all members to understand this because it's a very good lesson to all of us. The amendments weren't themselves controversial. It was what Mr Cass said about the amendments. When questioned by the press, the Attorney General said, "Yes, these are drastic, draconian measures that in some ways are really unbelievable in a country that has an English common law system." You can imagine any Attorney General saying that about legislation.
As Mr Sterling has said, those amendments gave the Ontario Police Commission the power to haul witnesses in camera and cross-examine those individuals in camera, in circumstances that were clearly at variance with the English common law tradition of Ontario.
There was a storm. There's a famous story about Mr Robarts being at a press gallery dinner during the next day or two at the Royal York. The Toronto Globe and Mail was beside itself with front page coverage. A relatively new member of the opposition with an Irish accent-a Liberal from I think Toronto-Dovercourt named Andy Thompson-made a very famous speech about that Bill 99, a bill that destroyed the ministerial career of Fred Cass, unfortunately, and made the career of Andy Thompson. That one speech made Thompson a frontrunner for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, which was to have been decided a few months later, I think in September or October 1964.
Bill 99 was not all bad, of course, because out of that unfortunate set of circumstances the Robarts government appointed the McRuer commission on civil rights and a great deal of very beneficial legislation and practice ensued from that sensational set of events in 1964.
I say again that Fred Cass, as Mr Sterling has rightly observed, served his province and his country with great distinction in the courts, in the Legislature-notwithstanding the famous Bill 99 flap-and he is rightly remembered here today as someone to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. I join the government House leader in expressing our condolences to his family.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): I am pleased to rise on behalf of the NDP caucus to express our condolences and to remember Fred Cass. There's no one in our caucus, actually, who served with Speaker Cass, but it doesn't take too long, in going through his resumé and certainly listening to the words of the previous speakers, to understand that Fred Cass made a significant contribution-obviously an individual of great talent, determination, much capacity for compassion and caring as well as vision, given the ministries that he was asked to be responsible for.
He was a member of this Legislature from 1955 to 1971. That's 16 years. That alone says a lot about the ability of an individual to reflect the views and concerns and needs of their community. As has been mentioned, having been the minister of highways and of municipal affairs, and ultimately the Attorney General, speaks to the confidence that the government and Premiers of the day had in Mr Cass.
Mr Conway raised the issue, and I wanted to just focus on it a bit more and put the actual quote into the record, of what happened in 1964. I agree it's very interesting and surprising that the government doesn't learn more from the past when they take a look at what happened in an incident similar to what's happening here in terms of trying to respond to legitimate issues in perhaps what may be called an illegitimate way.
When he was asked whether or not his Bill 99 threatened individual rights, the actual quote is that "The bill is drastic, it is dangerous, it is new, and it is terrible legislation in an English common law country." That touched off such a storm that ultimately the government backed an NDP-moved amendment that withdrew the language that I just referred to. And when his letter of resignation was read into the House, he said that he had "unintentionally touched upon the sensibilities of the public"-perhaps words and sentiments that all governments would be wise to bear in mind when we move into these areas of denying civil rights on the basis of the broader good.
Before I close, I also think it was interesting that while he was Speaker he came out with a ruling. Now, during the time I have been here we have had some interesting times regarding Speakers' rulings. It was during the time of his speakership that he determined that opposition members could no longer begin their questions during question period with the word "why." The reason, he said, was that the questions were "usually not aimed at soliciting information from cabinet ministers but at giving the questioner an opening to catalogue his complaints about the government." As an opposition member, I don't know what the Speaker's problem was, quite frankly. But when we look at the times that this happened in, apparently it was great sport to watch the verbal gymnastics performed on this side of the House as opposition members tried to find a way to say "why" without saying "why."
He was obviously an individual very much deserving of the time we spend here today reflecting on his career and his contributions to the province of Ontario. On behalf of all members of the NDP caucus, again we express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Speaker Fred Cass.
Deferred vote on the motion for third reading of Bill 119, An Act to reduce red tape, to promote good government through better management of Ministries and agencies and to improve customer service by amending or repealing certain Acts and by enacting two new Acts / Projet de loi 119, Loi visant à réduire les formalités administratives, à promouvoir un bon gouvernement par une meilleure gestion des ministères et organismes et à améliorer le service à la clientèle en modifiant ou abrogeant certaines lois et en édictant deux nouvelles lois.
My question is for the Chair of Management Board. Minister, we believe there is considerably more we can do to help the families in Walkerton. Today the people of Walkerton have been told their water is safe. They've been told to go ahead, turn on the tap and drink.
I'm sure you can understand it's going to take some time for families there, and children in particular, to adjust to this new reality. For 29 weeks, Walkerton families, and parents in particular, have been telling their children, "Don't go near the taps. Don't drink the stuff. If you do, you'll get very sick and you could even die."
The experts may tell us the water is safe, but it's going to take some time for families to regain confidence in their new water supply. A resident there talked about the importance of having an emotional weaning process. I think the appropriate thing to do in the circumstances is allow for a transition, and that means we need a guarantee from you for the people of Walkerton that you'll supply them with a six-month supply of bottled water.
Hon Chris Hodgson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): As everyone is aware, what occurred in Walkerton is truly a tragedy. Our thoughts continue to be with the families who have suffered so much through this ordeal. Last spring the Premier pledged to help the people of Walkerton with all the necessary resources of the Ontario government to provide immediate help. I'd like to thank those in the community and those in the province who have worked so hard to help turn Walkerton's water back on.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, I can appreciate that you read that note exactly as it was written, but I need you to think about this matter. People in Walkerton are going to have considerable difficulty adjusting. What residents have been saying to my office is that they'd like to have a six-month transition period. They think that's only fair in the circumstances. A tragedy befell that community: 3,200 people got sick, seven people died, all kinds of people are suffering from permanent kidney failure.
We think what we should be doing in the circumstances-we think it's only fair; we think we owe this to the people of Walkerton-is providing them with a six-month supply of bottled water. Don't you think that's fair, Minister?
What our government has tried to do is to work with the people of Walkerton. If the mayor and the local committee of health feel they want bottled water for an extended period of time, we will definitely work with them. But I want to thank those people who have suffered through this tragedy, the community and their families who have worked hard to make sure the water is turned back on, the medical officer of health, the local PUC, the Ministry of the Environment's employees and all the people of Walkerton. They've got the water back on. If they want to keep bottled water and they come to us and say they need a little more assistance, we'll definitely work with them.
The Speaker: This is your last warning now, or you'll be named. We're not going to have any arguments in here when I stand up and warn you. This is your last warning. We're not going to have any debate.
Mr McGuinty: There's something else that I believe you should be doing to help out the people of Walkerton. We owe them a full health impact study. Families are complaining of a number of physical ailments and conditions as a result of drinking poisoned water. They're talking about having vision problems; they're talking about having skin irritations; they're talking about miscarriages. We know there are 27 people who are suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome. That's a potentially fatal kidney disease. Most of these sufferers are children, and we now know that most of those will have to be on dialysis for the rest of their lives.
We think the most important thing you can do in light of those circumstances, Minister, is provide for a complete health impact study. What we should be doing is ensuring that your government is in a position to meet the very special needs of the people in Walkerton as a result of drinking poisoned water. Are you prepared to require that we have a health impact study to assess the special needs of the people of Walkerton and to make sure your government is in a position to meet those needs?
Hon Mr Hodgson: As I mentioned earlier to the Leader of the Opposition, what occurred in Walkerton was a true tragedy. Our thoughts continue to be with the families who have suffered so much through this ordeal, and we will continue to honour our Premier's pledge to the people of Walkerton that all necessary resources of the Ontario government will be made available.
We're working with the local medical officer of health, and if that's what the local medical officer of health feels is needed, I'm sure the Leader of the Opposition knows that this government, based on our record of helping the families and the people of Walkerton, will continue to be there for them.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Colleges and Universities. Minister, you will now know that Ontario faces a serious nursing shortage. What that means is that we're now looking at long waits at our hospitals, we're looking at cancelled and delayed surgeries, we're looking at ambulances being turned away, and we are looking at families going without the home care they so desperately need. The problem is going to get worse. We are now told that as many as 40% of our current nurses will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years.
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities): We have been working with the task force. We agreed during the campaign that we would begin a new program in 2001, in time to have the nurses in their places for 2005. I believe the Liberals agreed to the same task force report. We will probably be finishing up the collaborative program negotiations in another couple of weeks.
Mr McGuinty: As loath as you may be to admit it, Minister, the truth is you haven't increased spaces in Ontario, you have cut them. According to a March 2000 report, on your watch the number of first-year nursing students in our colleges has dropped by 1,250, a drop of 30%. The number of nursing students in university is down 10%. The Ontario College of Nurses says there are more nurses retiring today than graduating. That means that not only are we in the worst position in all of Canada, but we're falling further behind.
Here's a quote from your own chief nursing officer, Kathleen MacMillan: "The predicted shortage is absolutely immense in scale." Nurses are now telling us we're going to need 60,000 to 90,000 nurses in the next 12 years. I'm wondering if you understand you have a very important responsibility when it comes to addressing our nursing shortage in Ontario. I want to ask you again-you've been on the job for some time now-how many new additional spaces have you added to date to Ontario's college and university nursing programs?
Hon Mrs Cunningham: What the Leader of the Opposition is telling this House is something we've known for a long time. We have exactly the same challenge across many sectors of the economy in Ontario as across North America. In order to support a new baccalaureate nursing program, we are establishing the collaborative college nursing programs leading to the degrees. These are new programs with our colleges and universities. This year, 2000-01, we provided $10 million in one-time start-up and expansion grants to support the cost of moving to these collaborative programs.
Mr McGuinty: Why not just tell us you haven't added a single new space? That would be the honest thing to do. Tell us you have not added a single new nursing space to Ontario's colleges and universities on your watch.
Let's back this up a little. This government, understanding that a nursing shortage was imminent-on the not-too-distant horizon-proceeded recklessly to fire thousands of nurses. To make matters worse, you in your bailiwick, in your ministry, failed to make the necessary plans to begin to expand dramatically to make sure we've got enough nurses graduating here in Ontario. We know that to date you have done nothing to add new spaces.
Hon Mrs Cunningham: I would like to give the member the numbers we are negotiating, but we won't be making them final for another week or two. If I thought the member was truly interested and that giving out numbers that haven't been confirmed would help this province, I would do so. But I'm not going to do that.
What I will do is say there is a group of people in Ontario who would like to do nursing. For that reason, we have set up an academic credential assessment service to assess foreign secondary and post-secondary educational qualifications against Ontario standards. It's very important that every person who lives in this province and is qualified to nurse, who may have come from another country, is assessed immediately so that we can get them into the profession. This will help skilled newcomer nurses enter the labour force quickly. We're working on all fronts to get nurses for the people of Ontario.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): I have a question for the Deputy Premier and it is this: we want to know and need to know what is going on within the ministry of corrections under your government. You know that it is contrary to the criminal law of Canada for anyone to identify by name a young offender, to identify a young person who has been charged or convicted of a criminal offence. Not only did officials in your ministry print a list of names of young offenders, but you then distributed it. Mr Galt, one of your parliamentary assistants, was invited to this, was given a printed list with the names of young offenders. This is outrageous.
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): First of all, I think the leader of the third party would be well advised to wait until the facts are found out before he decides to invent the facts or tell us what they are. Number two, I would hope that most members of this Legislature, if not all members of this Legislature, would recognize the fact that Mr Galt, upon realizing that he made a mistake, did the proper and honourable thing and he did it immediately, as did the minister.
Mr Hampton: Deputy Premier, I'm not so concerned about Mr Galt. Hopefully, the police will deal with Mr Galt. I'm concerned about how your government is running the ministry of corrections. I'm simply taking the statements that Mr Galt made publicly. He indicated that there was a list of young offenders, that he was given the list of the young offenders, that he was invited to a ceremony at a young offenders' facility, that other members of the public were invited to attend this so-called ceremony at a young offenders' facility where young offenders' names were printed and distributed on a list.
My question to you is-it would seem to any of us here that there are several obvious breaches of the criminal law of Canada-what are you doing, you the government that lectures people from one end of the province to the other about law and order, to hold your own government accountable?
Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member, I'm sure, having been a former Attorney General, is quite aware that the standard procedure in these matters is to refer this issue to the assistant deputy minister in the Attorney General's ministry, who will launch a proper investigation to find out what went on. That person obviously is a career civil servant; they are not a political entity. That was the proper procedure when he was the Attorney General and it's the proper procedure when Mr Flaherty is the Attorney General.
Mr Hampton: That is the proper procedure for the commencement of a criminal investigation, but it would appear from the facts we know from the admissions of Mr Galt in the Legislature yesterday and afterwards that there is a whole series of systemic things in the ministry of corrections that no government could abide by. The responsibility of the ministry of corrections is to enforce the criminal law, not put in place processes which would seem to lead inevitably to several breaches of the criminal law.
Mr Hampton: -that the printed list was no accident; that the list of members of the public, who should never be invited, was no accident; that Mr Galt being there was no accident. So I'm asking you, as a government that lectures people-you are all set to condemn people on social assistance; you're all set to go after people on workers' compensation-what have you done to look within the ministry of corrections to see what could so badly go off the trail, what could so badly be in breach of the criminal law? What are you doing to hold your own government accountable, Deputy Premier?
Hon Mr Eves: The Deputy Minister of Correctional Services is launching a review of the entire matter as well. The leader of the third party, quite frankly, is talking about innuendo; he's talking about rumour; he's talking about "somebody told me," etc. I suggest that he let this procedure follow its natural course. The two individuals in this case acted very honourably. They did the proper thing. I wish the members opposite would acknowledge that. I've been in this place for almost 20 years and I can tell you that hasn't always been the case when ministers of the crown have done something incorrectly.
Mr Hampton: Again to the Deputy Premier, these are simple questions: who in your government approved the printing of a list of young offenders, the same list of young offenders that was referred to by Mr Galt yesterday in this Legislature and afterwards when he talked to reporters? Who made the decision to print and distribute that list? Who made the decision to invite members of the public and give them copies of the list? What have you done to get copies of that list back since, as Mr Galt points out, the list was distributed to other members of the public besides him? What have you done, Deputy Premier, to repair the damage that was obviously done? And don't tell us about another criminal investigation. What are you doing to hold your own government accountable?
Hon Mr Eves: When the investigation and the inquiry into these things is concluded, we will then have the facts and we'll be able to deal with them. The leader of the third party insists on inventing facts, manufacturing facts and talking about facts through rumour and innuendo. Why don't you just wait until the facts come out and then we can talk about the facts.
Mr Hampton: Deputy Premier, if you were truly interested in government accountability, if you were truly interested in your government complying with the criminal law as you lecture that other people should comply with the criminal law, you'd be asking those very questions. You'd be asking, "Who came up with the inane idea to print a list of young offenders and distribute it?" You'd be asking, "Who invited members of the public to come to this facility when that would obviously be a breach of the Criminal Code?" and you'd be out there trying to recover that list before it gets further in the public.
And you'd be doing something else: you would be scrapping the very act, the very bill that was under discussion here, the so-called Corrections Accountability Act, because if you can't run the system now, you won't be able to run it at all when you put it in the hands of your private sector corporate friends.
Hon Mr Eves: Does the leader of the third party think an investigation from the Deputy Attorney General is improper? Is that an inappropriate way to proceed? Why won't you let that individual complete the investigation, come up with the facts, and then we would be more than happy to discuss the facts in this chamber. That is the proper procedure. It was the proper procedure when you were the Attorney General and it's the proper procedure today.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): My question is to the Minister of Finance. I have in my hand the year 2000 annual report of the Provincial Auditor. He has a lot to say in this report about the operations of the new electricity market in Ontario. The auditor tells us, for example, that in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2000, the net impact to the provincial government is a loss of $354 million because, of course, expenses were higher than expected and revenues were lower than expected. Then the auditor goes on to tell us and to tell the Legislature that he has looked at the plan of the government to retire the $20 billion worth of stranded debt and he concludes that there are some additional risks to Ontario taxpayers from the plan that the government and the successor companies have in place.
My question to you, Minister of Finance, is simply this: given that in year one the government lost $354 million in this matter, can you tell us how the report of the Provincial Auditor highlighting these losses is good news for electricity customers in the province of Ontario?
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): First of all, I'm sure if the honourable member reads further he will find out that in a couple of short years there will be a huge surplus with respect to this amount.
Hon Mr Eves: That's quite true. We changed the structure of Hydro as we know it. It's now become a commercial entity. There are three separate companies. I'm sure the honourable member knows all that. I guess we could go back to the days when his party was in power or when the NDP were in power and we could go back to the days when the taxpayers of Ontario were on the hook for every single thing that Ontario Hydro did with respect to-
Hon Mr Eves: They are not, with all due respect, if you knew what you were talking about. Hydro One, for example, went out and financed $1 billion on its own, without the backing of the province of Ontario. If you knew what you were talking about, you wouldn't utter such nonsense. They are out there on their own, rated by the credit rating agencies on their own, and the credit rating agencies, I might add, included all this stuff in their comment on-
Mr Conway: Minister, I was there; I heard the auditor. I've read his report and I listened to what he said. It's clear that after year one, for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2000, the government has lost an additional 354 million bucks. The auditor tells us that given the long-term plan to retire the $20 billion worth of stranded debt, it is the auditor's professional opinion that there is an additional exposure to Ontario taxpayers.
My question remains this: having a view to the interest of hydro or electricity ratepayers, residential, industrial and commercial, can you tell us that a year from now, Minister, the auditor is not going to be here reporting that we've lost hundreds of millions more dollars and that this kind of loss and borrowing is not going to do what appears to be obviously the case-that electricity rates for all classes of Ontario electricity customers, residential, industrial and commercial, are going up, and they're probably, and sadly, going to go up sharply once the market is opened sometime in the year 2001?
Hon Mr Eves: First of all, the number that we're talking about here is debt that was already owed by Ontario Hydro, and was already owed, with all due respect, by the taxpayers of Ontario. There's no new $354 million that's popping out like a jack-in-the-box that wasn't there before. So understand that.
"We requested that the Ministry of Finance, in consultation with us, arrange for an independent review to be conducted of the assumptions underlying the long-term plan to defease the stranded debt of OEFC. The result of that review and the cash provided by the government to OEFC allowed us to conclude that OEFC was a `going concern' as at March 31, 2000. The plan's long-term cash flow projections indicate defeasance of the stranded debt by 2017 from dedicated revenues from the electricity sector."
Mr Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. I find worrisome media reports of a man who is infected with tuberculosis. This man immigrated to Canada in December 1999, as I understand, and my concern is that he's been living in Hamilton ever since with this infectious disease. Minister, what is the health screening process for immigrants? Secondly, what went wrong? What happened in this particular case? I'm receiving concerns from people in Haldimand-Norfolk.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): In response to the question from the member, I would like to indicate to him that the responsibility for the health screening of all potential immigrants resides with the federal government, and specifically with the Ministry of Citizen and Immigration Canada. All potential immigrants coming to this country are required to undergo a thorough medical examination prior to their arrival in Canada. Active TB is a reason for someone to be denied admission to Canada.
It is my understanding that in this particular situation there had been a medical exam that did take place. I understand that the federal government has acknowledged responsibility that there obviously was a gap in the screening process.
Mr Barrett: Thank you, Minister, for explaining the role of the federal government in health screening of immigrants through Citizenship and Immigration Canada. I wish to also ask, what role does the provincial government play with respect to not only the prevention but also the treatment of tuberculosis? Secondly, are we assisting the local health unit in Hamilton?
Hon Mrs Witmer: I would like to strongly support the decision that's been made by the federal government that they completely review the screening process that is in place. I think it is absolutely necessary that we protect the public safety of people living not only in Ontario but in all of Canada, and I'm pleased to see that they are going to move forward.
In the case of our responsibility, our chief medical officer has been in touch with the local medical officer of health in the Hamilton community. We have offered our assistance in any way possible. I'm also pleased to say that we continue to pay 100% of the cost of any drugs in the treatment and prevention of TB and will continue to do this. As well, I'd like to note that in the past budget, the finance minister acknowledged that we were putting aside an additional $1 million in order to ensure that people who didn't have health insurance could be treated if they needed-
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Health on the same issue. Clearly, as you are aware, there's a serious health crisis in our community. This is a potentially deadly type of tuberculosis that was brought into the Hamilton area. There's a real concern in the region as to the ability of the city of Hamilton health department to properly carry this out with the financial limitations and resources they now have. As you know, 35 people have tested positive for the virus. There is going to have to be testing of about 1,400 people through all of this.
The federal government has a responsibility. I have made a call for inquiries as to the role of the federal government. I believe they must take some responsibility. It is not a question of pointing fingers or blame. I think there's plenty of time for that later. It's a question now of substantially helping the city of Hamilton and the region deal with this problem and deal with what is going to be a heavy financial burden from the point of view of the staffing. Eleven staff people to this point have been used full-time to track this disease. Many more are going to be needed. This is a serious problem we are facing.
Minister, I ask you today, will you commit to the necessary financial resources from the provincial government to deal with this issue and to pass that on to the city and the region of Hamilton-Wentworth so they can take all of the extensive testing and follow-up that is necessary to make sure we track and treat all of the individuals involved? Can you commit today to financial assistance for the region and the city to deal with this problem?
Hon Mrs Witmer: Again, we need to make it clear that at issue here is a need for all three levels of government to continue to work co-operatively together. Unfortunately, the screening process that is presently in place didn't detect this case and there was not the appropriate follow-up. There was a case that slipped through the cracks of the federal screening process that presently takes place. I think I've indicated that the federal government acknowledges this and is prepared to undertake a review.
In our case, we are working very co-operatively with the municipality. As I say, our chief medical officer has offered our help and our assistance. I'm very pleased to say that we are continuing to provide 50% of the funding in the attempt to track down the individuals who may potentially be infected.
Mr Agostino: Again, the minister is talking about a previous budget that had been allocated without anyone believing there would be an outbreak that could affect up to 1,400 people, if not more, people in our region. The region doesn't have the financial ability right now to do this work.
My office spoke to the medical officer of health about an hour or an hour and a half ago. Frankly, they've been asking for help since November. There hasn't been one additional cent committed. We need help. They need to hire more people. We need more nurses, we need more clinical specialists to deal with this problem, and the resources are not there. Not only do we need human resources from the provincial government, the estimated cost at this point is $1.4 million to simply track and follow up on the individuals who may have been exposed to the disease. That is $1.4 million for this year and another $1.4 next year.
They have not budgeted for that, Minister, and neither have you-your acknowledgement of only $1 million in the last budget for the whole province of Ontario. Significantly more than that is needed for the city of Hamilton.
Minister, I am not blaming your government for this. That's not the intent here today. We understand there are other levels of government that are responsible. I am coming to you and pleading with you to give us a commitment today that you are going to commit yourself and your government to financially helping out, covering the costs, and giving us the human resources that are necessary for the region to deal with this problem. It's $1.4 million they don't have. This is a serious health issue. It's a serious community issue.
Minister, in a non-partisan, non-political manner I am asking you today, will you commit the province of Ontario to the $1.4 million that is necessary for the city of Hamilton to deal at this point with this disease?
Hon Mrs Witmer: Despite what may be said here, I think there is a bit of an attempt being made to politicize this issue. I've stressed now in my responses that we and the chief medical officer of health for the province are working co-operatively with the local public health unit. We have offered our assistance in any way we can help. I think we've made it abundantly clear and I feel very confident that, if there is a need for additional assistance, that decision will be reached and it will be reached by people who obviously have first-hand knowledge of what is necessary.
Let me again add that our finance minister this past year made available, because we do place a high priority on public health and safety, one million additional dollars to ensure that people in this province who didn't have access to OHIP and health insurance could receive the treatment they received.
Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph-Wellington): My question today is for the Minister of Education. This past week, officials from the New York City Board of Education were in Toronto on a recruitment drive. It appears the New York City Board of Education is facing a teacher shortage. This is worrisome, because in addition to seeing other jurisdictions possibly raid our fine teachers, we know we're facing some challenges, some demographic issues, for instance, not only in education but in the field of health and others. Minister, for my constituents in Guelph-Wellington and for members here in the House, can you tell me what actions the government is taking to ensure Ontario has enough teachers for its education system?
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education): It's interesting that the opposition, which likes to say they support teachers, when my honourable colleague stands up and says something about fine teachers in Ontario, we hear hoots and hollers from the Liberal caucus over there. They were laughing. The member for Windsor-St Clair and many others were laughing about that, and that says where they're coming from on this issue.
At my most recent meeting with the Ontario Teachers' Federation, one of my regular meetings, the issue of teacher retention was very much one of the key agenda items, because Ontario, like other provinces in Canada, like other jurisdictions in North America, is facing a teacher shortage. As a matter of fact, we have European countries as well that are facing teacher shortages, as we're facing shortages in many other professions. One of the things we are doing to help keep teachers here is expanding the number of spots in teachers' faculties by some 6,000 to take advantage of-
Mrs Elliott: This is a very serious issue that is certainly of concern to my constituents. Having enough teachers is important, but what is also important to parents, students and teachers in my riding is having teachers who are well-trained in their specific areas of instruction. I know that in some jurisdictions, as you mentioned, for instance, in Britain as well, overall improved teacher training has been a priority of their government.
Hon Mrs Ecker: As I mentioned, we not only have expanded spots in teachers' colleges for the increase in applicants-the number of people in Ontario who want to be teachers-but we're targeting those to some of the specific areas of expertise in the teaching profession where we are experiencing more shortages, to try to work with them to stop that. Secondly, one of the other things the Ontario Teachers' Federation and the government have talked about is the issue of retention, so that when a young person or someone who is changing careers comes into the teaching profession, they get the support they need to stay in the profession.
One of the initiatives we've been working on with the education sector and are going to be unveiling is an internship program, much like we have for physicians, to make sure new teachers can get the support they need. Some boards have been good on this, but others have not been as good. We want to make sure all our new teachers have that kind of support.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): To the Deputy Premier again, I'm not concerned about a criminal investigation, which is likely to take place; I'm concerned about what appear to be such obvious transgressions within the ministry of corrections. Surely you would agree with me that no member of the public should ever receive a printed list with the names of young offenders on it-no member of the public and no backbencher in your government. No member of the public should ever be invited to a public ceremony where the identities of young offenders are open to the public. Mr Galt told us that was the circumstance. Sources from within the Brookside Youth Centre told us today that was the circumstance. They also told us the assistant deputy minister of corrections, Deborah Newman, was there. It's incredible that these things could have happened.
My question is, what are you as the Deputy Premier doing to ensure these things don't happen again, that your government doesn't fall outside the law again? What are you doing to make sure that doesn't happen?
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance): My answer is the same as the answers I gave to his previous two questions. First of all, I think we should wait to see the results of the investigation. Both the deputy minister of corrections and the assistant deputy minister in the Attorney General's office have been asked to look into the matter. I suppose it's nice to speculate about what the facts may or may not be. Why don't we just wait until those investigations and reviews are complete, and then we can discuss the matter with the facts?
Mr Hampton: There's an obvious problem here. If the assistant deputy minister of corrections was indeed at this event, if all this was happening before her very eyes, then it doesn't make much sense to have the assistant deputy minister of corrections presiding over an investigation or over any process that tries to discover what went wrong.
If the minister-and we are told from sources within Brookside that the minister was also on the list of invited guests. If this originated from the minister's office, then it seems to me that if you're going to get to the bottom of this and are going to ensure your government is held accountable, you have to bring in someone from outside to look at what was happening.
I repeat my question. This is not the first time your government has fallen outside the criminal law of Canada with respect to the Young Offenders Act. It's the second time. Mr Runciman was the first. What is going on in the ministry of corrections under your government that this happened, and what are you going to do to ensure it doesn't happen again?
Hon Mr Eves: In the honourable member's question, the very fact that he thinks Mr Runciman was guilty of some criminal conduct is exactly the type of speculation I'm talking about, and exactly why we should wait until we have the facts. You're wrong about that and undoubtedly you'll probably be wrong about this as well.
Mr Tony Ruprecht (Davenport): I have a question for the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. Now it is very apparent why you made the announcement of the long-awaited academic credential assessment service just a few days before the Legislature opened. You simply didn't have the guts to face us here to make the announcement, where it should have been made, because of the contract that you've given out.
Let me refresh your memory. You had four bidders for this academic credential assessment service: York University and the Toronto District School Board, the University of Toronto assessment service, York regional school board and the International Credential Evaluation Service, and a New York-based company called World Education Services. Of these four bidders, three are Canadian and one is from the US. You gave the contract to the New York company. Therefore, you gave the distinct impression that our Canadian companies are simply not good enough to provide the service.
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities): This was a bidding process, and the company that won the bid was the one deemed to be able to do the job best. We went to the opening. Many people, a year and a half later, celebrated this great service, which our immigrant population have been waiting for for a long time. A year and a half later I don't know why I'm getting the question.
Mr Ruprecht: This is really outrageous. Just because you are going to the opening of the academic assessment service doesn't necessarily mean you're doing something about it. What you did earlier with my leader's question, saying, "Yes, we have the academic credential assessment service," and that somehow should make it easier to get nurses in here is actually totally wrong. It's your failure to provide enough nursing in Ontario. Don't use that as a deflective shield of saying something to us over here which simply isn't true.
Last year, Ontario took in 120,000 immigrants, over 4,000 of whom have a professional degree or certificate. But unfortunately, as the minister knows, these people who have this degree or certificate are unable to practise. Why? The reason is simple. It's in the report commissioned by Price Waterhouse in 1998, and that report is in your desk; you've got it in front of you. You know what it says: "Regulatory bodies are not using a standard and consistent methodology." Do you know what else? The former Minister of Citizenship, who is no longer with us, adds, "We have not gone far enough to accommodate people who come here seeking to use their professional skills." This really is code language for saying the door is shut to newcomers, who are unable to practise.
Hon Mrs Cunningham: With respect, I hope I've got the question right. Number one, every way possible that we can get more nurses into the profession, I think the member opposite would want us to try. That's why I mentioned today that we did open the academic credential assessment service. World Education Services did in fact meet the demands. We all celebrated this in this House. I'm looking at your colleague when I say this. That's the first part of the answer.
The second part is this: I think he might have been saying to me that there are more ways, in fact, to get immigrants into the country who are qualified to be nurses. Not long ago I met with the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Elinor Caplan. We discussed this. We are putting programs out in Ontario offices together and working together to get the requirements to people before they even come to this country.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): My question is to the Minister of Labour. I would like at this time to thank you on behalf of the member from Oshawa and the member from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex for making yourself available to come to our ridings, to speak to our constituents and, I might say, to the labour leaders who live in our areas. I think you did a great job, and a great service, of trying to unravel some of the mystery around the three bills, Bill 69, Bill 139 and Bill 147. There's a lot of misinformation and misrepresentation of information out there, and I believe your accessibility and your ability to answer questions for my constituents has been a real advantage.
I wonder if you could take a moment today to explain more specifically for the people listening the steps in Bill 147 and the 60 hours. Maybe you could help them understand what the intent of your legislation is.
Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of Labour): I thank the member for Durham. Let me just say quickly that the idea that somehow we're changing the maximum workweek from 48 hours is just not the case. The maximum workweek is still 48 hours. It will remain 48 hours if this bill passes. The only thing that's changing is under the old permit system if you wanted to work more than 48 hours, you had to seek a permit from the Ministry of Labour. We have studies that indicate a third of the people didn't even request the permit or seek the permit, so they were in fact contravening the law.
The fact is, there is no recommendation to move to a 60-hour workweek. I appreciate the comments from the member for Durham. We know. We understand what the union bosses out there are saying. We understand what they're trying to get across, but if the truth be known, we're not abolishing any maximum workweek time. It will maintain at 48 hours. If there's agreement between the employee and the employer, they can reshape their week, and we think the public out there is capable of making those decisions on their own.
Mr O'Toole: Thank you very much for that, Minister. I know the members on this side of the House appreciate your accessibility and your ability to explain these three important initiatives. After all, it's really about creating jobs, and that's been our initiative. I know the members from Peterborough and Guelph-Wellington are also very interested in how you can take-
Mr O'Toole: I know you're really just trying to make it easier for people to work in Ontario. Perhaps it's not just the 60-hour work issue and the employment standards issue. Minister, tell us what you're doing to make it easier to get a job in Ontario today.
Hon Mr Stockwell: The hackles from across the floor. Listen, what we're trying to do to create more work in this province is make labour legislation simpler, more understandable and easier for people to work within.
The question about what we're doing to change the law in the ESA is a good question. I compliment the member for Durham. I took the time to go to Sarnia last Friday and explain it to 600 or 700 union representatives. They themselves in fact sat there and listened, and I think they were somewhat astounded because the information they were getting from their union executive wasn't actually what the bill was going to do.
What we're trying to do with this labour legislation is create a prosperous Ontario, create jobs for people, take people off welfare and take people off unemployment. I would expect this noble goal is a cause the opposition would like-
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): My question is for the Attorney General. On November 9, Ontario Liberals introduced an amendment to your domestic violence protection bill. It was to get rid of the Charlton Heston clause, which lets wife beaters keep their guns. Instead, it would give judges tools so that they could seize weapons before they're used against domestic violence victims. That amendment was shot down and now further debate in committee and further debate in this House on this bill has been shot down by a closure motion. With respect to the former, it was because of the phony argument made by the government that the Criminal Code provision already covered it, when you know, sir, section 111 applies, whereby a police officer appears before a provincial court judge, unlike your bill, whereby a victim appears before a JP or a Superior Court judge.
Hon Jim Flaherty (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I have trouble following my honourable friend, and I respond as follows: what he's saying is we need to have strong domestic violence legislation in this province. I think most members of this House would agree that's true. Certainly, the Joint Committee on Domestic Violence which examined this issue made recommendations that are reflected in the bill that's before this House. The objection taken by my friend opposite was with respect to weapons, which are covered by the Criminal Code of Canada in sections 111 and 117, which he knows.
Mr Bryant: I don't understand why this minister hunkers down in his partisan bunker, sniping down constructive ideas on behalf of the gun lobby. First, the Liberals brought forward a bill that would crack down on phony guns and this minister shot it down. Dalton McGuinty brought forward a proposal to assist Ontario victims of crime and this minister shot it down. Now we've got an amendment that would make the bill more effective. We want to make this bill better, Minister, and now you're shooting it down. The great tragedy is, it is victims who are caught in the crossfire. Would you come out of your partisan bunker? Would you join all three parties and would you say that we're going to fight for victims and we're not going to fight for the gun lobby? Will you do that?
Hon Mr Flaherty: Our concern, of course, is with victims of domestic violence. We have had some terrible tragedies in Ontario this year, including this summer, and I'm sure all members are aware of those. It's for that reason that several months ago now we introduced a very strong piece of legislation in this House called the Domestic Violence Protection Act, which I hope will be returning to the House today.
We have a division of powers in this country between the province and the federal government. The federal government has the criminal law power. The federal government has occupied the field with respect to seizure of weapons in section 111 and section 117 of the Criminal Code. I would have thought the member opposite would understand that. We can work together. With the two pieces of legislation-the piece that I hope passes this House today-together with those provisions of the Criminal Code, our police officers will have the tools they need to combat this serious social evil of domestic violence.
Mr Brian Coburn (Ottawa-Orléans): My question is for the Minister of Energy, Science and Technology. In the fall of 1999 the government announced the biotechnology commercialization centre fund, and in June 2000 you announced up to $5.4 million in funding for the Ottawa Biotechnology Commercialization Centre fund, and I thank you for that because that is helping us realize our vision of that biotechnology cluster in Ottawa.
Yesterday you were in Ottawa to announce the biotechnology commercialization centre. Could you elaborate on the biotechnology and broader life sciences cluster in Ottawa and what we're doing to support the life sciences cluster in that city?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Energy, Science and Technology): That's a terrific question, and I'm happy to comment on the life sciences sector in Ottawa. I think most people are very much aware of the tremendous growth Ottawa is experiencing in information technology with companies like Nortel and Oracle etc. The best-kept secret, though, is the tremendous lead that Ottawa is taking in the life sciences area. Yes, we did try and spark the growth of life sciences and biotechnology and move that along by committing $5.4 million to a new biotechnology incubator. That incubator will incubate in its first few years about 17 new biotechnology companies for the Ottawa area, and we expect several hundred highly skilled jobs will be created.
People in Ottawa were telling me yesterday that they expect 10% to 15% per year growth each and every year over the next decade, creating some 4,000 new positions. That's an increase of 36% in the life sciences biotechnology sector in the Ottawa area, and we're happy to be part of the partnership in creating those jobs.
Mr Coburn: One more step to making Ottawa the advanced-knowledge capital of the entire country. Biotechnology is even going beyond the boundaries of the city of Ottawa and becoming a larger part of everyone's life on a day-to-day basis. How important is Ontario's biotechnology industry and the role it plays in the future?
Hon Mr Wilson: This government can be proud that even when it wasn't popular we were supporting, and are supporting, biotechnology. It adds tremendous value and quality to our everyday lives here in Ontario and to people's lives across Canada. Indeed, in the Third World, they don't have the opportunity and the high-tech machinery to grow food as we do in North America. Therefore, biotechnology and better crops and food species are very important, and much of that technology is being exported to those countries.
Today, biotechnology in Ontario is about a $400-million industry. We expect it to grow to $1 billion over the next decade, creating 6,500 new jobs. Since I've been Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, we've put about $2 billion worth of new infrastructure into life sciences and research and development in this province. Two billion dollars is almost as much as Jean Chrétien is spending on research and development in the entire country. So this government is helping to-
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Deputy Premier. The auditor's report today clearly highlights the trickery being used by your government to inflate your spending. The auditor has taken exception to your multiyear funding approach, which he says "distorts government financial reporting."
As an example, the auditor pointed out that last year your government said it spent $1 billion on hospital construction by March 31, 2000, when in fact this money will be spent over four years and will only be spent if Ontario hospitals can find the 30% local share they need for these projects. So it's very clear that your ministry and your government is using this funding to exaggerate your spending.
Hon Mr Hodgson: I can assure the member and all members of this Legislature that the auditor signed off on every one of Ernie Eves's budgets and financial statements in his tenure as Treasurer of this province, unlike your party's record when you had qualified decisions all over the place. I can also tell you that our accounting is in accordance with the PSAP rules and it is in line. He has discussed this with the auditor and I'm sure you'd be pleased to know that the auditor does sign off on our books, unlike when you were in government.
Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: Earlier today I wrote to you, pursuant to standing order 21(c). As a member of this assembly, I must be able to access government Web sites knowing I can obtain reliable information on behalf of my constituents. That is a privilege I must enjoy if I'm going to serve my constituents. Reliable, accurate information on government of Ontario Web sites is something all of us must be entitled to.
Today I visited the Ministry of Community and Social Services Web site. Instead of reliable, accurate information, I found partisan political propaganda, which should not be funded by my constituents and other taxpayers.
The lead item on the home page of the ministry Web site is a partisan attack on my leader, Dalton McGuinty. It is inappropriate and inaccurate. It alleges that my leader "turns his back on those truly in need." Nothing could be further from the truth. In the past few weeks he has repeatedly asked the minister to increase supports for people on social assistance and to quit beating up on welfare recipients.
This kind of partisan political propaganda has no place on a government Web site. The government has turned this Web site into a taxpayer-funded propaganda tool. It's certainly an affront to taxpayers and it's also a violation of my privileges as a member of the Legislature.
I should also tell you, Mr Speaker, that the in-house mail service, which is so capably run by your office and the Clerk's office, was compelled to deliver the same release on ministry letterhead to each member's office. It was received at my office in both French and English late yesterday afternoon.
To serve my constituents, I again stress that I must be able to access reliable, accurate information of interest to the public when I visit ministry Web sites. Instead, I and my constituents are encountering partisan political propaganda that has no place on a government Web site.
I would suggest, given the amount of money this party takes from big corporations, that they can well afford to put this kind of propaganda either on PC Party letterhead, or even through PC caucus services, but to pollute the Ministry of Community and Social Services and to draw the very capable administration of this Legislature and its precincts into what amounts to nothing more than a sad example of cheap partisan, inaccurate, ugly grandstanding ought to be unacceptable, sir. I call upon you to review this situation to determine, first, if it's appropriate that a ministry Web page should be allowed to carry such partisan information and, second, to determine if in fact it was an appropriate use of our mail service here in the Legislature to deliver what amounts to a partisan, mean-spirited diatribe against the poor and working poor in this province.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I thank the member for his point of privilege. I also want to thank him for attaching copies of the Web site. I've asked that to be done. Often what has happened in the past is that by the time we get to the Web site, technology being what it is, it is mysteriously gone. In this case you have it. I appreciate your making a copy of the Web page available. I will reserve my ruling.
"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"-that's health care apartheid and that's discrimination;
"Whereas northern Ontario residents pay the same amount of taxes and are entitled to the same access to health care and all government services and inherent civil rights as residents living elsewhere in the province;
"Whereas we support the efforts of the newly formed OSECC (Ontarians Seeking Equal Cancer Care), founded by Gerry Lougheed Jr, former chair of Cancer Care Ontario, Northeast Region, to correct this injustice against northerners"-this health care apartheid, this discrimination-"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"-and the discrimination-"which exists presently in the province of Ontario."
Hon Frank Klees (Minister without Portfolio): I move that pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 117, An Act to better protect victims of domestic violence, when the standing committee on justice and social policy next meets for the purpose of considering the bill, the Chair shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
That, the committee shall report the bill to the House not later than the first sessional day that reports from committees may be received following the completion of clause-by-clause consideration, and not later than December 12, 2000. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House;
That, upon receiving the report of the standing committee on justice and social policy, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading;
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey): I'd like to address the House with respect to the resumption of this bill, which is the Domestic Violence Protection Act. The reason this bill has come back before this House is that it became deadlocked in the standing committee on justice and social policy. In that committee we had about two weeks of public hearings, where we heard different groups and organizations address the committee for and against different items in the bill.
At the outset of the Bill 117 committee hearings, all three parties indicated they would be in general support of this bill. In fact, during the debate on second reading in this House, generally speaking, all members who spoke in this House spoke in favour of this bill. The government therefore is frustrated because of the deadlock that has arisen in the committee. The Liberal caucus introduced a number of amendments. The New Democratic caucus introduced none. We are pretty well finished with those amendments, but we clearly are not going to be able to proceed further because of the delays of the opposition and, more specifically, the New Democratic caucus.
As I indicated prior to clause-by-clause, an agreement was reached with all three House leaders. The agreement was based on the understanding that since, as I said, all parties had publicly supported Bill 117, clause-by-clause would be completed in one day. We've now gone two full days. I think we are on section 4, with no sign that we are going to finish the bill. Therefore, to my shock and dismay, I find myself in the Legislature debating this time allocation motion.
I don't believe we would be here doing that if the opposition had not flip-flopped and had kept their word to support victims of domestic abuse by supporting Bill 117. It was during the second day of clause-by-clause that the opposition's true intent to derail, for some unearthly reason, because it was contradictory to what they'd said earlier, our domestic abuse legislation became apparent.
The NDP representative on the committee, Mr Kormos, the member from Niagara, for example, used during that second day two 20-minute recesses, totalling 40 minutes of the committee's time, and it was strictly to his advantage. Clearly, it was his efforts to filibuster that brought us here today. I place it on him, which precluded the committee from concluding its work.
What puzzled me in the House yesterday was that the New Democratic Party raised a recently published book of poems and writings by victims of domestic violence and asked the Premier how far he intends to go to support victims of domestic violence. Really, the question for the NDP is, how far are you prepared to go to support victims of domestic violence? Your actions aren't showing it. Your actions in the committee clearly are not showing it.
One week ago the New Democratic caucus pulled out every procedural trick in the book that it could think of to delay Bill 117 committee hearings, and then the following week they stood up in the House, as they did yesterday, and portrayed themselves as the champions against domestic violence. Usually we criticize the Liberals for this issue of fence-sitting or flip-flopping, but I believe the label of "flip-flop" best describes the erratic actions of the New Democratic caucus during the domestic violence debate.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: My apologies to the member who was speaking, but I believe I need to get on the record this point of privilege as soon as possible after it happened.
When the Minister of Community and Social Services was leaving the House today he pointed at the Liberal caucus, waved his finger and said in a rather threatening tone, "Don't lobby me for more money. Stop lobbying me for money." I interpreted that to mean that if any of us in the opposition were to come to him for assistance on behalf of a constituent, he's serving notice to us that he won't listen to our pleas on behalf of our constituents.
I believe it was an inappropriate comment. I believe the member was abusing my rights as a member. I would like to put this on the record, Mr Speaker, and invite you to look into the matter. As I say, I find it serious that a minister would say that to the duly elected members of the opposition, particularly with his sensitive position of being an advocate, hopefully, on behalf of some of the most disadvantaged people in Ontario. But to threaten the members and essentially say, "Well, if you were to come to me on behalf of your constituents, I'm not going to help"-I would appreciate it if you would look into the matter.
Hon Mr Klees: On the same point, Mr Speaker: While I did not hear those remarks that were quoted by the member, I can tell you that what I did hear as the minister was leaving the chamber was specifically the member from Parkdale-High Park yelling at the minister and in a very abusive tone saying, "You are a sick man," and a number of other comments that certainly were not befitting a member of this House.
I would say that whatever exchange may have taken place was provoked by the antagonistic approach of the members opposite. I would expect that in any results that take place here, there should be apologies to the minister from the members of the Liberal caucus who abused him as he was leaving the chamber.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I want to reinforce what my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt has said. After an intervention was made by our House leader, calling quite properly, asking, as is appropriate in this House, for the Speaker's adjudication on a matter relating to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, an obviously agitated minister walked down the stairs and without any provocation from this side whatsoever, because at that point no one had spoken to him, simply said to us, "Don't lobby me for any money. Don't any of your members come to me for any help."
I think that's an abrogation of the kind of decent behaviour that should ensue from any member of the crown. It is such an undermining of the privileges of the members of this House, to think that one action, properly put in the format given to us by this House, to appeal to the Speaker in his abilities as a neutral arbiter of this House, should then invoke from that minister some kind of retaliatory response to try and intimidate us away from our actions as members of this House.
I want to reinforce that this is a point of privilege in my estimation because my privilege to stand in my place, to vote and to voice concerns on behalf of the people of Parkdale-High Park is undermined by the actions and the words of this minister of the crown. I would hope the Speaker would take this with the seriousness it deserves because I think it sets a terrible precedent if those kinds of remarks can be made in this Legislature and not be subject to sanction, because they stand so far outside the rules, the orders and the expectations we would have for conduct in this House.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Tony Martin): I appreciate the points that have been made and the point of privilege that is being tabled. I understand there's a difference of opinion here as to what was and what wasn't said. None of what has been alleged to be said is on the record so we don't have the privileges of being able to take a look at that. I would ask all honourable members in this place to respect the privilege of each other, as we are expected to do or are wont to do or are understood to be doing when we're sent here by the electorate, and that in future we will act accordingly.
Mr Tilson: I understand the member for Scarborough-Agincourt bringing his point of personal privilege to this House as promptly as he could. The only problem is I'm the one who's suffering because at least four-
Mr Tilson: Well, I'm sorry, but normally the practice with these types of motions is that the time is split among the three caucuses, and I've lost almost five minutes with this little altercation. Mr Speaker, I ask you to restore that to my time.
The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry, but the standing orders are fairly clear in this instance and the time is divided evenly. This kind of thing comes up from time to time. I have no way of restoring that time, so if the member would continue.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Toronto-Danforth): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: There's a closure motion here today that we're debating. I would move unanimous consent to extend this debate into tomorrow so all members can have more time on this important debate. Is that agreed?
Mr Tilson: You know, the most noise in this place is being made by the member from the New Democratic caucus. When this legislation was introduced, you indicated that you gave this bill your support. Somehow in the committee it has become quite clear that you're not supporting this legislation, a bill to stop domestic violence. That's why we're in this House: to get on with the bill so that we can stop violence against women in this province. Clearly, the New Democratic caucus has indicated that it does not intend to support Bill 117.
But I'm not going to lay all the blame at the feet of the member from Niagara. I suggest that the Liberal member from St Paul's also shares in the blame for the tactics that have gone on in this committee. It was within his power to submit to his opposition colleague the member from Niagara to stop the legislative shenanigans and delays that were going on in these committees and proceed with the completion of the work of that committee. But he was part of it. He was part of the delays that occurred in that committee. Unfortunately the opposition member from St Paul's and the member from Niagara, I believe, if you watched the committee hearings, have been exposed for playing a shallow game of politics.
It's the government's agenda to move forward with the domestic violence legislation, the first of its kind in this country. It's the opposition's agenda to find ways to stall the legislative process and not to support this critical piece of legislation. That is clearly what the opposition intends to do with this legislation. This government views Bill 117 as initially written as a balanced measure that serves the public interest.
Ontario is a great province. People are working. The economy is booming. We have a quality of life that is envied by many around the world, and part of that quality of life is the sense of comfort and safety that we feel in our communities. The people in Ontario deserve safe communities, and our government is committed to ensuring that they have safe communities in which to live, work and raise a family. Above all, people must be safe in their homes, and unfortunately we cannot take safety in the home for granted in this province. For many, the threat of violence is not from strangers, it's from people they know well. That's why our government continues to take action to help protect victims of domestic violence and to hold abusers accountable for their actions.
Mr Tilson: The government proposes with this legislation to reform the effectiveness of restraining orders, which many victims seek for protection. Restraining orders are non-criminal court orders that prescribe and/or prohibit contact between alleged abusers and victims of domestic violence. The proposed legislation and changes to current practices in the justice system address the limitations of existing restraining orders and would go a long way to better protecting victims of domestic violence. These reforms in this legislation would replace restraining orders with new intervention orders, allow victims to get intervention orders more quickly and ensure that they are better enforced in an effective, consistent and timely manner across the province.
The bill would help to better protect more victims and their children from domestic violence by making intervention orders available to a broader range of relationships, including persons in dating relationships, current or past persons who have been living together for less than three years and relatives such as elderly parents living with adult children.
This bill would provide a broader range of supports to help protect the victim from the alleged abuser. For example, an order would clearly specify that the alleged abuser should not communicate directly or indirectly with the victim or other specified people; the specific distance an alleged abuser must be from the victim or particular places, such as the victim's workplace or children's school.
Other terms of an order, depending on the circumstances, might include requiring the alleged abuser to vacate the shared residence; requiring that police are present while the alleged abuser removes personal possessions; requiring the alleged abuser to give up possession of firearms and weapons that have been used or threatened to be used to commit domestic violence; ordering counselling for the abusive partner to help prevent further violence; recommending counselling for children at the alleged abuser's expense to help them overcome the effects of exposure to the violence; granting the exclusive possession of the residence to the victim, or exclusive use of certain property such as credit cards and bank accounts; and ordering compensation for damage or losses suffered.
This bill would also see violations of intervention orders as a criminal offence rather than a provincial offence. This would provide stronger conditions for detention and release of the alleged abuser, thereby increasing the ability to detain an alleged abuser where there is concern for a victim's safety.
Our homes are where we should feel safe and secure, but for many home is the least safe place of all. It is the place where their safety is threatened from within. Domestic violence not only affects the adult victim but also has repercussions for children who witness it in the home. In the broadest sense, domestic violence is a threat to the foundation of our society's strong families.
Currently, many people obtain restraining orders to help protect themselves from their abusers. However, the current legislation and practices in the justice system create limitations that make restraining orders less effective than they ought to be. Victims of domestic violence or those at risk of violence shouldn't have to wait for the courts to open before they can obtain a restraining order in an emergency. They shouldn't have to find out that they're not eligible for a restraining order because of the kind of relationship they're in. And they shouldn't have to question whether the restraining order will be enforced and charges laid appropriately if the order is violated.
Finally, offenders shouldn't be able to go on knowing that there are no serious consequences for violating a restraining order. Unfortunately, this is what is happening now. Police, family law lawyers and other people who are representing victims of domestic violence have told us that victims need to get restraining orders more quickly. They've told us that the current eligibility criteria are too limited. For example, people who have been living together for less than three years can't get a restraining order unless they are also the parents of a child. There have been urgent calls for changes to ensure better enforcement of restraining orders.
Currently, enforcement of violations of restraining orders falls under the Provincial Offences Act. This means that alleged abusers can only be held for 24 hours after violating an order, unless there is a concern that either he or she would not appear in court. While this may be fine for a minor offence, it's not acceptable for the serious crime of domestic violence.
Bill 117 addresses these limitations and proposes to correct them to better protect victims of domestic violence and their children. Throughout the debate on this bill, the opposition has attempted to minimize the importance of this proposed law and our other achievements of making innovative changes in the justice system.
This government does not apologize for its law-and-order agenda. We make no apology for being on the side of victims. We make no apologies for holding abusers accountable. We make no apologies for our commitment to triple the number of domestic violence courts across Ontario to 24; for allocating an additional $8 million annually to ensure the crown attorneys have sufficient time to meet with victims in preparing their cases for prosecution; for specializing training on domestic violence for crown attorneys across Ontario.
Improvements to the justice system are critical in helping victims of domestic violence, because it holds all abusers accountable for their actions. This is one way of breaking the cycle of violence. When the police enforce and when crown attorneys prosecute domestic violence cases, the message that domestic violence is a crime rings loud and clear. Work in the justice system keeps the public and abusers focused on the message that domestic violence will not be tolerated in Ontario.
The Domestic Violence Protection Act addresses the limitations of existing restraining orders to better protect victims of domestic violence. With this bill, more victims would have faster access to intervention orders, which would be better enforced across the province. Experience with similar legislation in other provinces supports the need for Bill 117 in Ontario.
For example, Saskatchewan's legislation over the last five years has provided quick access to orders and has enabled more victims to stay in their own homes. At the same time, the bill is a balanced bill, and while protecting victims of domestic violence it would also provide safeguards to protect those bound by intervention orders.
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): I find it very interesting that here we are debating time allocation, in other words, closure of debate on a bill, and yet somehow the member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey blames the opposition for the denial of this bill. That's not true. The Liberal caucus will support any bill which will reduce domestic violence, no matter how small or incremental a step that bill takes.
Just a moment on process: I've sat in these committees for a year and a half now. Quite often in these bills, whatever they are, although we support the principles, there are parts of the bills that are so ridiculous we can't support them, and we find ways, whether it's the NDP or the Liberals, to oppose those bills. That's our job. These aren't stunts. That's democracy. It does hurt sometimes over there, but that's democracy.
I just want to make it clear that the Liberal caucus supports this bill. We just don't feel it goes far enough. The reason it doesn't go far enough is the majority of women who are affected by domestic violence will not ever enter these courts or go to the police. The majority of women don't feel safe to even leave their abusers until it's far too late for themselves or for their children, because there's nowhere for them to go.
You've washed your hands of social housing as of 1995 and you're proud of that. "Thank God," is what I heard one of the members yesterday say when that was pointed out to them: "Thank God we washed our hands of social housing." You've cut front-line shelter funding so that their waiting lists are longer and longer, particularly in southern Ontario, so these women have nowhere to go. They stay, they get abused, their children get sicker and sicker psychologically; then, when it's too late, you're going to get tough on the abuser. When they've already either been scarred for life or killed, or their children scarred for life, you're going to get tough with the abuser. It's too late then; it's way too late.
Ten days ago I was in Sarnia and I visited the interval home in Sarnia. Here are some statistics the papers didn't print, because quite often families of suicidal and successful suicides do not send press releases: two women committed suicide in Sarnia. They didn't even make it to the shelter. That is how helpless they felt. They knew they could only stay in the shelter in Sarnia for one month to six weeks. There is no second-stage housing in Sarnia and there are no social housing units available in Sarnia, so they stayed home. But the abuse got to them and they committed suicide.
What really brought me to tears and made me feel ashamed to be part of this Legislative Assembly, at least for that one day, was the story of a 10-year-old boy who observed his mother's abuse day in and day out and said, announced, proclaimed, "I'm not going to take this any more, Mom and Dad," and went upstairs and hanged himself-10 years old. How is this domestic violence bill going to help that child? Who is going to pay for that sin, for that murder, for that death?
The interval home in Sarnia can take only up to 17 people; that's including the children. They confess that at times they take 26 or 27. They don't want to turn anyone away. There are no second-stage houses; there are no social housing units. They know that by sending them away they're sending them back to a dangerous situation, and they often take more than they're allowed to take.
Because of the cutbacks, one of their staff members had to be laid off. Their utilities have increased in cost and yet their operating grants have decreased. I spent quite a bit of time with my colleague from Sarnia, Caroline Di Cocco, with the director of the interval home, and these women who work in this shelter do an amazing job of fundraising. But they need stable funding so they can make their clients feel secure.
I also visited the assault centre in Sarnia. What program was cut there? The program that was cut was the immigration settlement program where there was a counsellor who would counsel immigrant women who were abused. This counsellor spoke a number of languages. The funding for her was cut.
Ironically, six months before that program was cut, $30,000 worth of computer equipment was sent to the centre for use in this program. The former counsellor said to me, "That could have paid my wages for more than a year," because she was part-time.
I can get really cynical here and say, "These immigrant women aren't citizens yet, they don't vote, they don't have a voice. Cut their programs." But we should be a government for citizens and non-citizens, for taxpayers and non-taxpayers. That is what has made this province great in the past and what has made Canada great in this world. That is slipping.
Yesterday representatives from the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses came again, and the leader of the third party asked a question based on the book that was published by this group. I want to read one paragraph from a child, Rachel, who is 10 years old:
"I feel good to be in the shelter because it's a good place. When you get bored you get to do crafts. You make friends, and you get to explore a new place. They even have a toy rocket that goes up into the air by pumping water into it. I like the staff, too. They always give you a warm feeling, and that's why I like the shelter."
I have a daughter who is almost 10. There are some very basic things I read here that make this little girl happy. If you read between the lines-and you certainly don't have to be a psychologist to read between the lines-what this little girl is saying is, "I feel safe, and my mother feels safe."
This is where the cuts came. Yes, they put money into employment programs, and we applaud that. But before a woman can take advantage of an employment program or a career change, she has to feel safe. Maslow's hierarchy of needs says that safety is number one, food is number two. Self-actualization comes much later.
Earlier in the House I also talked about the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. When the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario came, they said to me that the minister was unable to give them assurances that it was not Ontario that was holding Canada back from signing on to the optional part of this protocol. What is the optional part? It allows a woman to go to the convention when that woman has exhausted all the other means in that province or country. Most of the other countries have signed on to this except Canada, and according to the Council of Women of Ontario, it is because Ontario is in the way.
All I know is what the council of women told me. I made a member's statement asking the minister to come clear and straight on this issue, preferably in writing: is it Ontario that's holding us back as a country or not?
Lest the members opposite put in a box or category the type of women who are abused and need our assistance, let me refer very briefly to a letter to the Premier by a very educated woman who was abused, a social worker.
Previously a member of the NDP pointed out that the Family Responsibility Office isn't working with deadbeat dads. That's all tied into this. Many of the same clients we see from shelters in our constituency offices also have difficulties with the FRO, of course. If a partner is going to go as far as beating and abusing, not paying child support or wife support is not a priority.
She goes on to list her very modest expenses. Some of these grocery expenses-most middle-class families spend in a weekend having two or three meals out with their kids what this woman spends in a month. She is left with $266 every month.
Our caucus has brought this up. The member from Leeds has brought up before how there is absolutely no compassion across the way when a person is attempting to own a home but is still accepting help from the government. Some of these homes are actually cheaper and the mortgages these women are paying are actually less than if they were on social assistance and paying rent, and they have the dignity of a home.
"All I want is a good job that will pay enough to cover my expenses, including child care, and allow me to pay back my debts. I need something where I am not away from my kids all weekend or all evening. Good jobs are hard to find and now even harder because I no longer have a car.
I listened, oh so carefully, to what the parliamentary assistant had to say in his opening comments to this time allocation motion, which is designed not just to inhibit debate but to prohibit debate, to end it, to ensure there isn't a thorough consideration of all the concerns that had increasingly come to the forefront as we progressed through this bill in committee.
Yes, New Democrats thought the bill held some great promise and supported the bill on first reading. Yes, we supported the bill on second reading. We were anxious for the bill to get to committee. But then we heard the modest two days of presentations, and some of the flaws in the bill became incredibly apparent.
Opposition members from both opposition caucuses-understand that we're in the minority on that committee. It's clear. I understand the government members control what happens in committees. But opposition members began to address those flaws, beginning, quite frankly, with the first section of the bill and relied upon and referred to arguments made to the committee by presenters, and relied upon and argued positions taken by any number of people who wanted to be at the committee to testify viva voce but who were forced to make their submissions in writing.
The opposition members were voted down summarily from minute one as they raised serious concerns, legitimate concerns about elements of this bill that would leave it far behind what this government is trying to pretend it is. Opposition members were, in a spirit of non-partisanship, trying to make the bill the thing that folks out there were hoping it could be for them. In comment after comment we saw the gestures from the whip of the committee indicating, "Ignore those observations by opposition members, ignore their references to comments made by witnesses at the committee," to people who took the time and who cared enough to make a valuable contribution to that committee.
You've got to understand that to most of the people across this province, that committee process is their one entree into the legislation-building process. Although I have grown, over the course of a dozen years-plus, very cynical about it, for folks out there it's their one chance to make a difference. They do it at great expense to themselves, with the expenditure of a great deal of energy, and with great commitment and sincerity. I've seen far too many now leave those committee hearings shaking their heads and saying, "Why did I bother? What was the point of travelling here?" from whatever part of the province they travelled here from. What was the point of engaging in the incredible amount of work that many of these participants do in preparation of their submissions when it was all for naught, when it meant diddly-squat to government members who were going to vote as they were whipped, regardless of what submissions were being made by participants from the public across this province in those committees?
As we went through section 1 and section 2, as I say, opposition members tried-and I'm sorry we failed-to be as creative as we could be in trying to impress upon government members that perhaps there was reason for some pause and some reflection on the arguments that were being made, that there were some serious concerns about the language of the bill, about the fact that the bill, once it's passed, will be just another statute on the shelves of this government's impotent arsenal against abusers of women and kids.
Four years later, the Family Responsibility Office, the family support plan, remains one of the biggest sources of complaints to our constituency offices; I dare to say all 103 constituency offices across this province. Four years and they still haven't got it right. Women and kids are still suffering, and this government wants to blow its horn, wants to blast its trumpet about all the great things it's doing for victims? My foot.
I mentioned earlier the sex offender registry. You remember the fanfare, the photo ops and, my God, the press conferences by the Attorney General. That legislation passed. Where's the sex offender registry? Not a whisper of it. I recall the committee process for that bill too, because opposition members, in that case New Democrats along with the official opposition, made amendments to that bill to make it tougher, to ensure that a wider range of sex offenders would be included in that registry. We were concerned that the government was leaving holes big enough for a Mack truck to drive through in terms of the sex offenders who wouldn't be registered. Were those amendments acceptable to the government? Those weren't either.
And yes, the committee process, as we were doing clause-by-clause, began to become increasingly frustrating and of increasing concern, I suspect, to all opposition members; certainly to me. When we reached the section of this bill, very early on, and observed and had an opposition amendment that would have cured the provision in this bill-this bill, as it stands, will permit abusive spouses, partners, husbands, people who are beating the daylights out of their spouses, girlfriends, partners, to keep arsenals of weapons. The bill specifically prohibits a judge, when making a so-called intervention order, from ordering that an incredibly violent respondent be compelled, among other things, in the discretion of the judge, to surrender whatever collection of handguns, long-arm firearms, what have you, he may have in his possession. That's nuts. This Legislature has been told far too often of, and has had to reflect far too many times on, the list of women who are fatal victims of lethal violence by partners in this province. You go through that list and you find that the weapon of choice, when it comes to assassinating one's girlfriend, one's wife, one's spouse, is a gun.
The official opposition had an amendment. Was the amendment perfect? I suppose not. Did it address the issue? Yes, it did. It was frustrating to see the amendment not even worthy of consideration by the government. Their obsession with letting even some of the most violent people in our society, in our provincial community, retain possession of firearms went beyond frustrating to repugnant.
It was then put to the committee, "Well, look. Let's go beyond sections 3 and 4," the two sections you're talking about. "If you don't like the official opposition amendment, let's defer consideration of sections 3 and 4, the ones that will permit abusers to continue to pack their firearms, and deal with the rest of the sections of the bill. That way you'll have time, government, you'll have time, Parliamentary Assistant-your bureaucrats, your policy advisers will have time-to draft the amendment you think is appropriate if you don't like the official opposition amendment." That was as conciliatory and non-partisan a gesture as could ever be made. But was that good enough for the government? No, because their wacko obsession with the right to bear arms overrode common sense.
I don't find it amusing to have violent men whose spouses, whose girlfriends, whose partners, whose ex-partners have been getting beaten, have had the boots put to them, have had clubs and whatever other weaponry put to them, but unless and until he chooses to point a gun at her-you see, the problem is that by the time he's pointing the gun at her, he's probably going to kill her. So women are mowed down in this province.
I don't find it comforting at all that this government that wants to wield its majority with oh, so much authority refuses-refuses-to consider the dangerousness, the incredible hazard, of letting violent men, even after assaulting the women in their lives, keep conceivably an arsenal-not one rifle, not two rifles, but handguns, rifles, modified M-16s, the whole nine yards. Does it sound overly dramatic? Think about the women who had to look down the barrel of a gun in their final moments before they got blasted away. That's dramatic.
Notwithstanding our enthusiasm and support for this bill on first reading when it was announced in the House and on second reading in our eagerness to get it to committee, this caucus is seriously reconsidering whether it should even be supporting Bill 117 on third reading and whether it wants to be a party to the false sense of security that this government is creating. This government is pretending, and it's nothing but pretense, that this bill is somehow going to protect women who are at risk. I tell you, that's a very dangerous state of a false sense of security.
I too was incredibly moved by having a chance to read excerpts and pieces from the collection of the book No More! Women Speak Out Against Violence, published by OAITH, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses. It was inevitable that I find stuff written in there that is oh, so relevant to what we're talking about today, because, you see, even these women know that more phony legislation isn't going to protect women from violence and slaughter.
One author, Catherine, who is the director of a shelter, writes, "We have a strong voice in this fight against violence against women but the government is not hearing our voices. We do not pretend to have all the answers, but we know we should be allowed to play a bigger role in the development of systems that would go a long way in providing women the safety that they so desperately need."
Another, Jeanette, who is a front-line shelter counsellor, writes that it's a lot harder-and understand the impact of this-for abused women in this province to leave their violent spouses now in Mike Harris's Ontario, since the Harris government came to power.
"The legal process has become more difficult," more complex. "There is now a manual to explain the intricacies of the family law rules.... A woman has to have a lawyer to guide her through the maze of paperwork."
One of the issues that was recurrent during our discussion of Bill 117 in committee was, where are the lawyers going to come from who are going to assist women in the course of their applications, be they the ex parte emergency applications or the section 4 ones? Where are the lawyers going to come from when this government refuses to provide legal aid with the funds it needs to ensure that women can access those legal services?
There was the proposition that somehow women would be able to use the police. The police? "Once is Too Often," by a woman, Lori: "No one at the police station would help me compile the statements and the evidence. I was told it was my responsibility because I laid the private information charge, not them," the police. "I knew I was slipping through the cracks of the system and I knew if the police didn't assist me, the system would fail me." Systems, resources.
Julia, in "On the Road to Freedom," writes about having grown up in a controlling family, writes about having her parents abuse her in a variety of ways, writes about her father dying when she was 19 and how she was left alone to fend for herself, writes about how shortly after, she got pregnant, in hindsight "probably to fill a void that my Dad left behind." Then she writes with some upbeat tone, "It has been two months since I left my one-year stay at the Second Stage. I am comfortable with my life now and happy to be me. I have gained my freedom both physically and mentally. I don't need to depend on anyone else to make my life complete."
The editors of the book, Ms Morrow and Ms Wakeling, add an addendum to that article. They draw our attention to the reality in Mike Harris's Ontario. "Second-stage housing programs," which Julia was able to access and which changed her life so radically, "are independent living programs where women can stay for up to a year." However, my friends, "In 1995, funding for second-stage housing counselling programs then delivered by the province of Ontario was cut by 100%." So there is no more funding for second-stage housing.
That's why when members of this caucus talk to this government, they try to impress on them so often that this government's cuts to social assistance have forced so many women to maintain their home in the home of abusive, violent, potentially deadly partners. If they do manage to leave that violent home where their lives and the lives of their children are at risk, they are forced back because of the cuts to social assistance, which mean that rental accommodations aren't available to them. The cuts to any number of programs and shelters across this province mean that shelters have longer and longer waiting lists and struggle with lower and lower budgets at higher and higher demand.
So I make no apologies, and I ask members of both opposition parties to deny that apology as well to this government, about having been less than co-operative in committee. I'll be damned if I'm going to sit by while this government passes phony legislation that it says is going to protect women but that is going to do nothing more than create a false sense of security and provide women who are victims of violence-some of whom will inevitably end up on that growing list of women assassinated by their partners and former partners and spouses and boyfriends. It's going to deny them real protection. It's going to force them to jump through yet more hoops and deal with yet more bureaucracies. It's going to create a house of cards that has no substance to it.
I am disgusted at this government's phony legislation in the course of Bill 117 and its even phonier closure motion today. It's the height of dishonesty. It is. I don't think women out there are buying it. My constituents aren't buying it. Other people in this province aren't going to buy it. I'll be damned if I'm going to buy it. We will be opposing this time allocation motion and, as I say, we will be reconsidering whether we as New Democrats in good faith can support legislation that is nothing more than part of a publicity stunt by this government to create the impression that they are on the side of victims and women who are subjected to violence and women who will be subjected to violence, when this government has abandoned those women beginning in 1995 and carrying on now to the year 2000 so that the list of murdered women in Mike Harris's Ontario can grow longer and longer, and so that the victims-the kids, the mothers-can continue to suffer.
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): I rise today to speak to the time allocation of Bill 117. Of course, the reason it's time-allocated is because it was at a standstill and nothing was happening. In spite of the agreement that it would go forward and that there was support from other parties, here we are at a stalemate and it comes to this.
I make no apology for going ahead on the part of this government with a bill that we feel addresses some of the concerns of a very important constituent in most of our ridings. By that I mean that I think it's important. I'm not going to stand here and tell you it's perfect. The member for Niagara Centre had the opportunity to bring this bill forward, or something like it. He chose to lie on his back and kick his feet because he couldn't start government insurance. If he had felt as strongly about domestic abuse as he did about his own agenda of change back then, he could have kicked his feet about that, because they had the opportunity to do it and did nothing.
This government believes in addressing needs, and we have made remarkable progress in the number of initiatives we have brought forward to address some of the needs of families where there is either a dysfunction between the husband and wife, or perhaps it's an unaddressed outrage of temper. I don't want to ever be accused of saying it's always men, but in our society, by far, the man is the abuser in a majority of cases, and it's not just a small majority.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has put forward initiatives to help victims of domestic violence. We've created the most comprehensive domestic violence court program in the country. An additional $10 million will be spent to further expand the program. The Ministry of the Attorney General also provides for emotional support and prepares victims as they deal with the criminal justice system. We expanded the victim/witness assistance program and we plan to do more.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has added 59 additional crown attorneys to interview and prepare victims and witnesses, and we have increased help for families in crisis by the expansion of the supervised access program.
I'm not going to stand here and tell you that I am content with the initiatives that have been taken up to this point. In my own community, in my own constituency, I am not content with the amount of access that is available, particularly for women and their families, to be supervised. It's a big need, and although I will stand here and say this government is firmly committed to doing as much as we can with the resources that are available to prevent any future abuse, in that initiative I want to do more and we will do more.
An additional $500,000 was provided to cover and streamline applications for emergency legal aid advice, and the number of hours was doubled to assist abused women seeking restraining orders. As we see from this bill, restraining orders are not the only remedy that should be available to women in crisis. In most of these crises, the ones who need the help the most are those who have deteriorated to that extent and they are the ones in need of the most help.
Not only has the Attorney General addressed and is addressing some of the needs, the Ministry of Community and Social Services has allocated $51 million in the budget year 2000 for emergency shelters and related services under the violence against women program. Some $10 million in annualized funding has been allocated by the Ministry of Community and Social Services to help children who have witnessed domestic violence and to establish a transitional support program, and $21 million has been allocated to more than 100 counselling programs for women and their children in the year 2000.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General has also been involved in help for domestic violence. The Ministry of the Solicitor General has allocated $10 million annually for expansion of services, including community-based programs such as the victims' crisis assistance and referral service and SupportLink, and to make services more flexible to meet the needs of northern communities.
These are a few of the actions that demonstrate our government's commitment to help victims. We know there is more to be done. That is why we're proposing this help for this very real crisis in those families where the situation has become a crisis.
It has been a privilege and a pleasure for me to stand in the House this afternoon. Snow is blowing in most of my riding. It's a pleasure to be here and to speak on the progress of our government's initiative to better protect victims of domestic violence. If there's anything I can do to speed up and to support this very real and important initiative, I stand here today making that commitment.
Mr Bryant: We're still reeling over here on this side of the House at the comments made by the member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey that he felt robbed of the ability to speak on this debate as much as he wanted to. I'm not allowed to call any member of this House a hypocrite, of course, but I will say that when it comes to time allocation motions, he certainly is hypocritical, if you understand my oxymoronic suggestion here. My point here-
Hon Mr Klees: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm sure that the parsing that is being attempted by the honourable member crosses the line and I would ask you to ask the member to withdraw his comments.
The Deputy Speaker: I am sure the member knows that certain language is unparliamentary and I'm sure he knows that you cannot do indirectly what you cannot do directly. So I would ask him to withdraw.
The real issue here is about getting this law right. Come on. The government introduced the bill, the official opposition supports the bill and the New Democratic Party supports the bill. So all three parties want this bill to happen. So it goes to committee and amendments are tabled to try and improve on what was there. Leaving aside the shortcomings of this government's approach to domestic violence altogether-we'll get to that in a moment-leaving that aside, we wanted to make this bill as effective as possible and so the Liberals tabled a number of amendments. At the beginning of that debate, incredibly, the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General said, "We will consider all amendments very seriously and closely." Of course thereafter they did not agree to a single amendment. The conniptions that the government was in to try and explain why they couldn't support the amendments would have been comic if not for the fact that it's victims of violence who are at stake here.
He singled out myself and the member for Niagara Centre as fighting for victims of domestic violence. We don't apologize for that. What we were hoping-I'll tell you, we wanted to get it right, and in particular we really wanted to get the Charlton Heston clause fixed. Again, it would be comic if it wasn't so tragic. Under the present clause in the government's bill, a judge cannot seize a weapon unless that person has already used the weapon or threatened to use the weapon. So if we have an abuser who has a history of violence-and we may have a number of instances either prosecuted or not under the criminal law because, as we've discussed in this House time and time again, the vast majority of victims of domestic violence don't turn to the criminal justice system. In fact, this bill does not involve going to the criminal justice system. That's the point of the bill. We heard that was the purpose of it. A victim of domestic violence could make an application under this bill. You don't have to go to the police. So you've got a circumstance where the victim has been victimized several times and it turns out that the abuser's got a gun.
You've got to be joking. How could this government be against the idea of taking the gun away from somebody who's got a history of abuse? We said, "No, that must be a mistake," to suggest that you have to use the gun before the bill can take it away. If they actually already used the weapon, then they would be charged criminally and inevitably, under one of the bail conditions, the gun would be taken away. So that's of no help. Or threaten to use the gun; again, that's also a crime. That provision doesn't do anything, so we said on this side of the House, "No, those who are domestic abusers cannot keep their weapons."
You wouldn't believe the arguments we heard on behalf of the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General on this front. The first shot out of his mouth was, "This isn't going to work in rural communities, and of course the members won't understand that." The member for Niagara Centre and Mrs McLeod, the member from Thunder Bay, don't understand anything about rural areas? I see, OK. But moreover, besides that, the idea that rural abusers somehow have some royal exemption from being prosecuted or otherwise being held accountable under the domestic violence protection bill was just a patently absurd argument.
The thinking by the opposition in the committee was that we had enormous respect for the witnesses who came forward and made their submissions and we hoped that more would talk to the government about the amendments tabled and other amendments. I have enormous respect for the counsel at the Ministry of the Attorney General, who are the best that Ontario can offer. I was hoping that the government would go away, and in fact those working in the ministry-not the Honourable Mr Flaherty and not the parliamentary assistant but those who work there as counsel-would go to the government and say, "You know what? I think we should fix this."
We tried to do everything in our power to give them that opportunity and give them time to do it. Somehow the government thought that it was OK to dig in their heels on behalf of the gun lobby on this one, and it's a disgrace.
Then they try and fix it, these Keystone Kops of Ontario law and order. They table their own amendment that was supposed to cover it, and they said, "Nothing in this act will affect section 111 of the Criminal Code." I should hope not; otherwise, it would be unconstitutional. Then the parliamentary assistant puts a closure motion on his own amendment. We couldn't even debate his amendment. He killed his own amendment. I haven't been here that long; I've never seen anything like it. So not only are they against our amendments, they're against their own amendments, they hate debate so much.
Then we heard yet again from the Deputy Premier and during question period from the minister, "The member for St Paul's knows or ought to know that section 111 covers this." I guess he assumes that none of us can read, so let me read to the House section 111 of the Criminal Code.
Mr Bryant: Fair enough. But, here, I'll show you that I can read. Section 111 of the Criminal Code reads, "A peace officer, firearms officer or chief firearms officer may apply to a provincial court judge for an order prohibiting a person from possessing any firearm," and it includes a number of weapons.
Here's the first problem: an applicant under the domestic violence bill ain't a peace officer, a police officer or a firearms officer. The whole point here was that the victim could be the applicant, not a police officer. So right away, section 111 doesn't apply. The minister knows it and the parliamentary assistant knows it. Then it says you can apply before a provincial court judge, and he knows that too. The chart set out by the ministry staff shows how you get one of these emergency interim orders. It says you go to a JP. Go to a JP? You can't go to a JP to get a section 111 order under the Criminal Code, and the minister knows it and the parliamentary assistant knows that as well. Section 111 can't be used. As if a JP or a provincial court judge would make an order under section 111 of the Criminal Code wondering what's going to happen with respect to the emergency interim order application under the domestic violence protection bill, plus there would have to be a separate application.
The whole point was one-stop shopping, as it were, for victims of domestic violence in going to the courts and getting some kind of interim order. It was a false argument. It was a phony argument. It was a sham.
We had an opportunity to fix it-all of us support this bill-yet no, no, they wanted to shut it down. We wanted to take the time to get it right because we think that this bill, as little as it may do in the broad scheme of things as per Madam Justice Baldwin in the Baldwin committee report submitted to this government in August of last year to conform to those recommendations, we wanted at least to get it right.
We heard from witnesses, including the Advocates' Society, the Canadian Bar Association and the Family Lawyers' Association that said, "You know what? If you don't fix this bill, what's going to happen is that the victims are going to have to fight the constitutional challenges from the abusers and their defence lawyers." We always have concerns about constitutional challenges. We can't let it stop every single piece of legislation.
In this case, guess who's going to have to pay for it? It is going to be like the victims under the Parental Responsibility Act. They're going to have to bear the brunt of the errors of this legislation. They're going to have to bear the brunt of any shortcomings. I have no doubt that counsel for the Attorney General did their best to get it right under the time constraints provided. All we were saying was, why don't we make sure we get it right so that victims don't have to pay for it?
Lastly, since the parliamentary assistant decided to familiarize himself with the Baldwin committee report, he started out the last round of debate on this bill in the committee by saying, "Seventy per cent of the Baldwin committee report"-in terms of what had to be done in the first year-"has or will be done." Will be done? What happened to the other 30%? The government's going to abandon 30% of the Baldwin committee report's recommendations?
This isn't good enough. These amendments should've gone through. I don't know why they want to put the gag order on this any further. I hope it's not because they know very well that this bill is flawed and they want to get this over with. We support the bill. Obviously we can't support this closure motion.
Ms Churley: Since Wife Assault Prevention Month and the December 6 remembrances in 1999, 16 women were murdered by their partners or ex-partners, and four children, in this province. We know that on average about 40 women a year in Ontario are murdered by their partners or ex-partners. We have a bill before us today that, from the outset, we were prepared to support.
The member for Niagara Centre, who is our justice critic, sat on the committee that looked at this bill. The member for Niagara Centre brought to our attention that there were some serious flaws in this bill. The major serious flaw that the member for Niagara Centre has been talking about repeatedly-he has been much maligned by members of the government. He has been accused, as has our caucus, of not being supportive of a bill that would help women who are in a situation of domestic violence. That is despicable. I think everybody in this Legislature knows that our support for programs for women who are in potentially violent situations is an issue that we bring up repeatedly in this Legislature and we repeatedly ask the government to bring in and bring back programs they have taken away from these very victims.
The member for Niagara Centre has pointed out that there is a clause in this bill that desperately needs to be amended. I want you to picture yourself, I want you-the members of the government-to imagine that you are a woman living with a partner who is bigger than you, stronger than you and has complete power over you and threatens you, say, with a knife; who is bigger and stronger and can completely overpower you physically and threatens you with a knife, perhaps slashes you with that knife.
In a closet in the next room is a gun, or perhaps an arsenal of guns. Imagine yourself in that situation when you are under that kind of threat, and because the abuser does not directly threaten you with that gun or use that gun on you, the gun will not immediately be taken away. The knife will be taken away, but the gun or guns will still be there.
Can you put yourself in that position of living with an abuser and knowing that in the next room, or perhaps the very room you're in, is a gun, and that gun can stay there after you have been directly threatened and abused? Can you imagine the constant fear you would feel, knowing that gun is there?
If it were me in that situation I would want that gun removed from my house immediately. I wouldn't want to rely on the Criminal Code that requires notice and for a date to be set for a hearing and all of that. I would want to know categorically that that gun would be immediately removed.
This is a very serious issue that we're talking about here today. I was pleased to see the government come forward with such a bill and I am very disappointed that the members refuse to make an amendment that would correct that situation.
These are just some of the very real women, and children in this case, who were shot to death by an abusive partner or ex-partner. I'm reading these names because we have to somehow get beyond thinking about this as just an issue that we're discussing here in Parliament among ourselves in a civilized way. We are talking about women being murdered here.
What does it take to get the government members to understand that this bill needs to be amended? There are other problems with the bill as well, but this is the main issue that we want corrected. The government had an opportunity to do that and refused to do so. I've heard it said time and time again that the member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey thought it would be grossly unfair to farmers to have to surrender their guns. As far as I know he hasn't denied saying that. I would say in my situation, if it were me-and I again want members to imagine it being them in that situation-I wouldn't care if it were a farmer or anybody else. I would want those guns immediately-
That's what this is all about. These names are real. These women were real. They lived, they had children, they had a future, they had dreams, they had hopes and they're now dead, shot to death. Many of these other women were strangled or knifed to death, slashed. All kinds of horrible things happened to them. Children have been abused. Children have witnessed those acts. It is unspeakable that this is still happening in our society.
We know that the government is focusing specifically on law-and-order issues around domestic violence. We support those initiatives. They are important, but we tell you time and time again that only about 25% of women who are experiencing violence in the home go through the criminal justice system. That's 75% of these women who don't go through that system, and that is why we urge the government repeatedly to bring back the community supports that used to be there to help these women escape those situations.
Second-stage housing: one of the first things this government did was cut second-stage housing. I remember when it happened. I was the women's issues critic for the NDP at the time and I toured some second-stage housing that was still at the time functioning. They have now closed down some of them. This government stopped funding second-stage housing. Second-stage housing is the next stage beyond a shelter and, let me tell you, the shelters are overflowing. We need more funding for shelters but we desperately need, these women and their children desperately need, what we call second-stage support. They need housing. Often the children have witnessed the abuse or may have been abused themselves and they need counselling. They need special services, and the success rate is well documented.
That is one thing we've been repeatedly asking this government to reinstate, and I believe deep down that they know that was a mistake. I wish the minister or the Premier would stand up tomorrow and say they're going to do that, and that they're going to bring back real rent control. One of the problems that has been documented now is that since this government got out of housing completely, they are not building affordable housing any more, and because rent control has been virtually destroyed, women are having a harder and harder time, particularly in areas like Toronto and other urban centres. They're having a very hard time if not an impossible time finding a place to live. We are hearing more and more that women are either not leaving because they can't find a place to live or they leave and find that they can't survive on their own because of the welfare cuts and, because rents are so high, they end up going back, in desperation, to their abuser.
This is not acceptable. It really isn't acceptable. We are in boom times in Ontario. We had the finance minister get up yesterday. We've had tax cut after tax cut and we had the finance minister get up and talk about how the economy is booming, but I want to remind the government of the people who have been left behind.
You know, I don't think there is any argument through all segments of our society, no matter what their political beliefs are-I don't think there's anybody who does not support programs for victims of what we call domestic violence. I call it male abuse because the majority is male abuse. I don't think there is anybody in Ontario who would object to this government's reinvesting in these programs once again to help women and their children who are in these situations. We desperately need these programs, and I would urge the government not to just rely on the rhetoric that we hear time and time again. When I asked the Premier a question in the House about it yesterday, he talked about getting people back to work, making them more independent. He said throwing more money at it isn't the answer. I'm saying this is not about throwing money at it; this is giving money so that important community supports and programs can be put back in place to help these women and their children escape from unbelievable hell that most people in this Legislature couldn't even begin to imagine. I think it's time that we all began to imagine.
Mrs Leona Dombrowsky (Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington): I have to say how disappointed I am again to have to speak to yet another-one of the many closure motions that have been brought by this government. It really did strike me as strange when we got the sermon from the member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey, who felt somewhat wronged that his time was taken away from him. I would only suggest that maybe now he knows how we feel when closure motions are imposed on us, when we're not provided with the opportunity to make our points as we would like and should have the opportunity to do.
I would like to make some comments with respect to the member for Perth-Middlesex, who said that the closure motion came to the floor because nothing was happening. I would say that nothing was happening because the government did nothing. This bill went to committee. There were five amendments presented at the committee and the members of the government did nothing with those amendments. They died at committee. So when I hear members of the government say that nothing was happening, whose fault is that? Certainly we, as the opposition, did what we thought was our responsibility, to focus on those parts of the bill that could be strengthened, that should be changed, that should be corrected, and nothing happened. Your government chose not to pay attention to those very worthy amendments that were brought for debate. So I say to the members opposite who would say, "Nothing was happening so we have to bring closure," nothing has happened because you have done nothing in a responsible fashion to address some of the very worthy issues that came to the committee table for discussion.
The member for Perth-Middlesex also made reference to the fact that, "Well, this government is doing what it can with the resources it has." It may not be enough-and he even recognized in his own riding it wasn't all that he thought it should be, or indeed what the people needed-but, "This government is doing what it can with the resources that it has." That statement really strikes me as strange today, the day following a statement by the Minister of Finance where he boasted about the $1.4-billion surplus revenues that the government will have. Yet not one of those dollars will be directed toward resources that will save the lives of abused partners. That is very sad to me. So when a member would say, "You know, we're doing what we can with the dollars we have," I say, no, you're not.
I have proof in my own riding where resources are not well-managed. In this particular case in my riding there's a women who-the example is this: she's in a violent situation. She has been advised by the Ontario Provincial Police not to stay alone at night in her residence. That's how serious it is. She has found accommodation to spend nights in a safe place. As it turns out, that location is outside the county boundary, so Ontario Works has said to her that because she does not sleep in the county at night, she is going to be cut off. That's how this government is supporting victims of violence in my riding. That's a fact my office is trying to deal with, trying to help this woman. The community and social services rule would say that because she is not sleeping at her place of residence-she is able to return there and feels reasonably safe through the day, but because she is not able to spend the night there and the location she has found to be safe and manageable is not in her county jurisdiction, her support from this government is being pulled away.
There's a great deal more I could say. I look forward to opportunities over the next few days. I'm sure we'll pay tribute and remember women who have fallen victims to violence. Over the course of this week I know I will have an opportunity to further address concerns in my riding in terms of how this government is not protecting victims of violence.
This caucus has decided we will support the bill, because it's a small step. We have offered some significant ways the government could protect victims of violence. They have chosen to ignore them. That is regrettable. I certainly cannot support the time allocation motion. Thank you for this time this afternoon.
Mme Claudette Boyer (Ottawa-Vanier) : J'aimerais encore une fois donner mes commentaires sur le projet de loi 117 et dire ma grande déception de voir que ce soir c'est la dernière chance qu'on a, la dernière occasion de parler du dossier sur la violence domestique.
Le procureur général propose encore une fois d'ajouter des mesures punitives pour faire en sorte que les abuseurs soient punis de façon beaucoup plus sévère. Bien sûr, Dalton McGuinty et le caucus libéral appuient ce projet de loi car nous croyons qu'il est nécessaire que les abuseurs soient punis. Mais ce que le gouvernement propose ne va pas assez loin. Il faut essayer de légiférer de façon positive pour prévenir la violence domestique au lieu de simplement punir les abuseurs après le fait.
It is important to understand that the entire Liberal caucus of course is in favour of stricter punishment for abusers, but we on this side of the House also know that punishment after the fact does nothing to prevent the abuse from happening in the first place. I am sure the Harris government would be very proud to say that Ontario is a province that punishes abusers the most, but even if this were true, it would still not mean that Ontario is the province with the least cases of abuse. This government unfortunately, and I'm not saying this in a partisan manner, is constantly reacting to problems rather than seeking to prevent them.
If the government were truly, and I mean truly, concerned about victims, it would strive to ensure that Ontario's women do not become victims in the first place. Rather than focusing solely on harsher punishment, why not restore the money it has already cut from women's shelters? Why not expand helpline services so that women, not just in cities but throughout the province, may have access to counselling? Sure, the Harris government tripled the number of domestic violence courts, a measure I applaud, but unless women have the community supports they need to leave their abusers, the abusive men will never reach the courts in the first place.
Nous entendons plusieurs experts parler de la stratégie du gouvernement face à la violence domestique. L'association ontarienne des maisons de passage sont de l'opinion que depuis que le gouvernement Harris est au pouvoir, nous avons vu une transition claire de l'attention du gouvernement allant de la prévention vers la punition.
« Bien sûr, » dit l'Association, « les services policiers doivent être inclus dans le processus », mais il faut se demander à quel point nous devons nous fier entièrement à eux, les policiers, lorsqu'il est reconnu que la grande majorité des femmes abusées-et je dis plus de deux tiers-ne font même pas appel aux policiers. Une des raisons, c'est qu'elles sont en position de dépendance économique face à leurs abuseurs. Elles n'ont nulle part pour se réfugier et ce, en grande partie, dû au fait que le gouvernement Harris a coupé dans les subventions aux maisons de transition en Ontario.
Il y a vraiment des victimes qui ont besoin d'aide et qui n'ont personne vers qui se tourner ; elles sont vulnérables. J'aimerais pouvoir leur dire, à ces victimes, que le gouvernement de l'Ontario sera là pour elles. J'aimerais pouvoir dire à ces victimes que le gouvernement de l'Ontario s'assurera qu'elles ne seront pas laissées en arrière à souffrir seules. J'aimerais pouvoir dire à ces victimes que le gouvernement de l'Ontario éliminera l'ombre de la peur à laquelle ces femmes abusées sont assujetties tous les jours. J'aimerais pouvoir leur dire que le gouvernement de l'Ontario y mettra le financement nécessaire pour essayer d'enrayer la violence mais je ne suis pas certaine de pouvoir l'affirmer. Je me demande si je dirais vraiment la vérité.
The opportunity is there. Ontario is currently enjoying one of the largest economic expansions in its history. If Mr Eves's budget surplus predictions are accurate and we are currently sitting on a $1.4-billion surplus, then what better opportunity to send a message to victims of domestic violence that indeed this government wants to protect them from domestic violence.
Au lieu de parler uniquement aux groupes policiers pour trouver des moyens de punir davantage les abuseurs, nous devons encourager la participation des groupes intéressés au dossier de la violence domestique pour qu'ils puissent partager leurs idées et leurs inquiétudes. C'est seulement lorsque nous aurons écouté les gens qui sont affectés par le problème social qu'est la violence domestique que nous pourrons commencer à l'éliminer.