LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 2 June 2010 Mercredi 2 juin 2010
FIRE PROTECTION AND PREVENTION AMENDMENT ACT (FIRE SPRINKLER RETROFITTING), 2010 /
LOI DE 2010 MODIFIANT
LA LOI SUR LA PRÉVENTION
ET LA PROTECTION CONTRE L’INCENDIE (INSTALLATION RÉTROACTIVE D’EXTINCTEURS AUTOMATIQUES)
Resuming the debate adjourned on May 18, 2010, on the motion for second reading of Bill 65, An Act to revise the law in respect of not-for-profit corporations / Projet de loi 65, Loi modifiant des lois en ce qui concerne les organisations sans but lucratif.
I’m honoured to participate in this debate on Bill 21. It’s a bill that for the first time in the history of this province will regulate retirement homes. We estimate there are roughly 700 retirement homes in the province of Ontario. There are 40,000 residents in those retirement homes, the vast majority being seniors. For the first time, Ontario will regulate those.
Bill 21 is a sound piece of legislation that provides important protections for the residents of those homes. The proposed Retirement Homes Act respects the need for independence and respects the need for those residents to make informed decisions. If passed, the Retirement Homes Act would importantly create a regulatory authority. It would have strong powers to license retirement homes, conduct inspections, investigate and do other enforcement activities and, if need be, issue monetary penalties or revoke the licence.
We also will establish mandatory care and safety standards, which has been a subject of some debate. We will require the homes to have emergency plans, infection control and prevention programs, assessment of care needs and care planning, police background checks, safety standards and training for staff.
The third key segment of this is that it will enshrine the residents’ rights to many things, including the right to know the true cost of care and accommodation, the right to register complaints, the right to have those complaints dealt with, and the right to live in an environment that promotes zero tolerance of abuse or neglect.
I think every single member of the Legislature has a significant number of retirement homes in their riding. We all know they provide a variety of care, and there are a variety of sizes. This bill is about making sure that those retirement homes provide a safe and secure environment for our seniors.
This bill is a result of four years of hard work by many, many people. It was in 2006 that we, the government, made a commitment to regulate retirement homes and started the process for consultations. I’ve heard some say that we’re rushing this; in my opinion, it’s been a pretty orderly process over a four-year period.
Hon. Gerry Phillips: —including my colleague beside me here. We talked with well over 800 groups and individuals: seniors, their families, consumer advocates, municipalities, seniors’ organizations, community service providers and retirement home providers. We also received over 200 written submissions. We heard feedback on a number of issues: how retirement homes should be defined, what regulations should cover and who should be responsible for enforcing the regulations.
The summary of those consultations has been on our website now for, I think, close to three years, so that information has been publicly available. What did the participants say? First, almost all groups we spoke to agreed that a third party regulatory authority was the best way to enforce the standards. Secondly, most groups told us that there should be standards for whatever care is provided in a retirement home: food preparation, staff training and safety, including the building property. Finally, the groups gave us their perspective on the definition of a retirement home.
Following those consultations, our staff set to work on analyzing the recommendations. You can imagine that preparing a piece of legislation that encompasses a pretty diverse set of circumstances out there is not particularly easy. We had many ministries involved, and I want to just pay tribute to a couple of my colleagues, Mr. Speaker: Jim Bradley—if you don’t mind me mentioning their names; I should be saying their ridings—and Aileen Carroll, who were both ministers responsible for seniors and did a lot of the heavy lifting that I now am able to bring to conclusion. We also worked, obviously, with a lot of our partners: seniors’ advocates, seniors’ groups and others, and I want to thank all of them who participated in that.
We then prepared the legislation. It was introduced in the Legislature here in March, and we began the appropriate process then for debating it. We also briefed many of our stakeholders on the content of the legislation. Then we began the debate at what we call here second reading, as you know, Mr. Speaker. There was a good debate here in the Legislature, and the Legislature then voted on second reading, without objection from anyone. It went to the Standing Committee on Social Policy.
The committee, of course, orders its own business and established the rules for input. They advertised in, I think, six, seven or eight newspapers across the province from Huntsville to Niagara Falls. The committee heard from 22 presenters at public hearings a couple of weeks ago and reviewed more than 20 written submissions.
Following the public hearings, the committee had clause-by-clause debate, and there were 15 amendments that were adopted as a result of that debate, including some amendments that were raised by the opposition.
I just want to comment on a couple of areas that have had some debate publicly. One is on the regulatory authority. There are some who have mistakenly called it a self-regulating body. It is not a self-regulating body; it’s the regulatory authority. It will not be, and it cannot be, dominated by the industry. That’s a concern that has been raised, and I want to provide assurance to the public that that’s not the case.
This regulatory agency will, as I said earlier, license retirement homes, conduct inspections and investigations, require the retirement homes to meet the prescribed care and prescribed safety standards, will make sure that the residents are informed of their rights and make sure that if they have a complaint, the complaint is heard properly. There is an appeal mechanism if the person is not satisfied about that complaint.
Just to provide, further assurance to the public of the fact that this will not be an industry-dominated board, there will be an interim board initially established to get it rolling. That will have five members. All five members will be appointed by the government. Once the board is up and running, there will be nine members. Four of them will be appointed by the government, including the chair. The other five must follow a series of things, including—the board must develop a bylaw for how they are going to appoint these delegates. They must follow a code of ethics for every director and employer. There is an officer, called the risk officer, who must report publicly, annually, on how well the authority is carrying out its legislated mandate. The authority has the legislated mandate to represent the interest of the residents, making sure that the care standards, the safety standards and the residents’ rights are properly, adequately and completely looked after.
I wanted to review that because, as I say, there have been some who have expressed concern that this would be a self-regulatory body and would be dominated by the industry. I just want to assure the Legislature and importantly the public that that is not the case.
There’s also been a good deal of debate around what’s called the care standards and the safety standards. Again, I want to provide some comfort to those who have raised concerns about it in this respect. If the legislation is passed, which we hope will occur, we then begin work very quickly on the development of those care and those safety standards, including fire safety and public health. I want to assure the interested parties out there that we will be working with them and consulting with them to address the concerns they may have about the bill.
I’m about ready to turn it over to my parliamentary assistant. I’ve now been the minister for four months. I happen to have landed in this job at a very good time as we are, for the first time in the history of the province, going to, if passed, regulate, license and oversee retirement homes—very important.
There have been concerns raised, as you might expect when you have something as diverse as 700 retirement homes of a variety of sizes and offering a variety of care. I’ve listened carefully to the concerns that have been raised. I’m satisfied that the legislation allows us to address those concerns. Concerns about the regulatory authority: I’ve talked at length about that, but I think we can provide assurances that this will be a board that will represent the interests of the residents. Concern about the care and the safety standards: They will be developed and we will have ample opportunity for input into them. The concern about this being rushed: I actually think it’s been quite a long—I don’t think; it has been. We’re now more than four years from when we announced that we would be dealing with legislation on this; consultations right across the province; broad, broad discussions, particularly by our staff; introduction of a bill here; a good debate in the Legislature; public hearings. Everybody who wanted to be heard at public hearings was heard—everybody.
I actually do appreciate the comments by those who have concerns about the bill, because I think it has helped. We have clarified some parts of the bill. But in total I’m very satisfied that this bill provides the appropriate protections for the residents and it’s a major step forward in providing quality of life for the people of Ontario. With that, I turn it over to my parliamentary assistant.
Mr. John O’Toole: Yes, I would like the honour to have Gerry as my parliamentary assistant—he’s a very capable individual—at some point in the future. He’s just the type of person who is flexible enough to make the right decision.
But on this bill, this is the one time I have a serious disagreement with his interpretation of Bill 21. When I say that, I say that respectfully, because on this side we know that the needs of the aging population in Ontario are great. We’re hearing from them on the cost of their electricity bills. We’re hearing from them their concerns about property taxes. We’re hearing their concerns about the demise of health care in Ontario. We’re seeing it in the lack of access to long-term care in Ontario. There’s just simply no respect for seniors, it seems. Everything that they’ve done to make this province and this country great is being taken away from them because they’re not part of the vision of Premier McGuinty. In fact, I think they’re victims of Premier McGuinty’s plan. I don’t say that with malice; I say it as, the reality is that they are being left behind.
We see it in the attack on the pharmacists. We see it there, where there’s going to be less access to health care, whether it’s the emergency room in Peterborough, the one at Northumberland Hills, and I am surprised the member from Peterborough, Jeff Leal, and Lou Rinaldi aren’t standing on our side with us, in solidarity, to defend against the destruction of the hospital system in Ontario. Coroner’s reports have mentioned it as well down in the Niagara region, the implications for those decisions. It comes right down to our problem with Bill 21.
I want to make it very clear: Our critic, Mr. Martiniuk, and our former health minister, Elizabeth Witmer, see some value in regulating retirement homes. Now, let’s put it on the table here. Retirement homes, for those viewers listening today or reading Hansard in the future, are not long-term-care facilities. Each bed in long-term-care facilities in Ontario is funded to some extent by the province of Ontario, probably between $15,000 and $20,000 per bed. We know we have an aging population. We also know that one of the problems in our hospitals are the alternative-level-of-care beds; that’s the long-term-care, complex, continuing care beds in hospitals. We know they’re in hospitals where there are all sorts of antibiotic-resistant viruses and things potentially out there to risk these vulnerable seniors, but there’s no place to put them. They haven’t built any long-term-care beds. They’re refusing to fund any of the long-term-care beds.
So what Bill 21 does surreptitiously is this: It’s acting like they’re going to regulate something that they haven’t got five cents invested in. Premier McGuinty and Mr. Phillips do not have five cents invested in retirement homes, and now they are going to tell these retirement homes some rules. The rules are fine. Where are the resources? The resources are only there in the extent of the law, and I suspect more inspectors. I think they should own up to it and say that the extension of long-term care is our ultimate goal.
I know first-hand about this because I’m dealing just now with my wife’s mother. I’m going to give you an example. In long-term care what it would cost her is this: They would take her old age security—she’s 85 years of age—and they would take their CPP portion. To that, they would add, if you had a private room, about $800 a month that you would have to pay out of your own money, and any other personals like grooming, cable television or phone, and it might cost you an additional $1,000 a month possibly. You take your CPP; it’s about $900. So it could cost $2,000 a month, and the provincial government funds the rest of it.
The argument by the NDP and others is the hours of care in long-term care. How much care is actually provided? It does probably cost $40,000 or $50,000 a year for each bed in long-term care, part of it funded directly by the province and partially funded by the individual.
Now, if you’re in long-term care and you are destitute—all you have is CPP or OAS—then you won’t be in a private room. The new standard is a shared suite with its own washroom, but there will be two people in the room.
In my mother-in-law’s case, under the discharge plan from her physician she’s not in long-term care, but she’s unable, because of lapses in memory and energy levels—I guess looking at retirement homes. She’s looking at two or three here in Toronto. Bayview Village is one, and she’s looking at one in Peterborough. We’ve actually visited it. It’s quite nice—Canterbury Gardens.
Here’s what it costs: The suites basically start at $5,000 a month. If you want a double room, like two bedrooms with a balcony, it’s about $7,000 a month. Let’s do the math: $7,000 a month. There’s no provincial money in it. Yes, there should be standards on that part. Our critics and our former health minister are fully supportive of having standards and working through the standards, whether it’s in the care section, the meals section or the responsibilities of hygiene, maintenance, cleanliness or whatever. But when you are paying $5,000 a month, that’s $60,000 a year. If someone in their 80s is on a fixed income with a modest pension—their pension wouldn’t be any more than probably $25,000 or $30,000 a year. Because of the inflationary influence from 65 to 85, over 20 years, they’ll be lucky if their pension was $25,000, if they had one.
But the real issue is that the premium rooms are in the $6,000-to-$7,000 range. That’s $84,000. If you’re living out of your RRSPs or a RRIF of some sort of collapsed investment fund, for every $50,000 you want, you have to take about $100,000 out of the fund. So if you’re 85 and you’re going to live to be 95, you better have $1 million in your RRSP or your RRIF fund, because it’ll take $100,000 a year to produce $50,000, so you’d need $1 million to last 10 years. Is there any Premier McGuinty money or Dwight Duncan money? No, there’s not one cent. They’re ignoring the plight of seniors and the backlog in demand for home supports.
We know the Minister of Health talks often about the aging at home strategy. What is the aging at home strategy? We call it the aging alone strategy; that’s what we call it. The aging at home strategy is the CCACs, community care access centres, working with the discharging physician to assign home supports for persons being discharged from hospitals. I think the maximum amount of home supports you can get is about three hours per day. If someone is incontinent or cannot feed themselves or is on very complex medication—it could be somebody who’s diabetic or on dialysis—there are all sorts of things that could need support. It’s going to be downloaded to the family. That’s who’s doing it.
So they’ve admitted two things: Aging at home means staying at home. It also means they’re not doing one thing for long-term care. It further means that this Bill 21 is a public admission that they’re going to allow you to pay for your own care. That’s two-tiered health care by any definition or disguise. The question then becomes, any of the services that you pay for, whether it’s physio other treatments—you’ll be paying the HST, 8% more, for physio or for hygienic care or any other personal care that you get. In a retirement home, you would be paying for that yourself. If you need private duty nursing, you’ll be paying probably $100 an hour, and on that you’ll be paying 8% HST on private duty nursing in a retirement home.
I see the Minister of Revenue there, shaking his head, which would mean he understands, probably with some stress, that indeed all the seniors in his riding are going to be paying 8% more for everything, because the heat in those retirement homes is going to be 8% more. The maintenance, snow removal, grass cutting, hall cleaning, food preparation or other kinds of services will all be payroll-taxed and there will be HST on it. So somebody who’s paying $5,000 a month now—and that would be a modest one, by the way; it’s up to $7,000 or $8,000, and some are $10,000—I just can’t believe it. They seem to be ignoring the plight of seniors completely, and it’s discouraging.
If I look here at part V of the bill, it “allows the registrar to appoint inspectors who have certain powers to enter and inspect a retirement home both without a warrant and with a warrant....” There you have it again: the warrantless entry provision. I suspect that the registrar—that’s a new level of bureaucracy that I can see, another person who will be on the sunshine list, the $100,000-plus a year. It’s quite discouraging.
The registrar—I’m reading from part V: “Upon receiving a complaint about an alleged contravention of a requirement under this act with respect to a retirement home, the registrar”—this is their new, non-medical bureaucrat—“is required to review the complaint”—he’ll probably have a bit of staff, investigators and complaint-takers—“and can exercise certain powers, including having an inspection done of the home.” There will be a charge laid, for sure. You can count on it; there will be a charge laid. “A complainant can require the complaints review officer to review the complaint if the registrar, after considering the complaint, decides to take no further action.”
Another one: “Independently of receiving a complaint”—this is without a complaint—“if the registrar believes on reasonable grounds that a licensee has contravened a requirement under the act, the registrar has the power to make certain orders, such as an order to require the licensee to do something”—fix something or change something—“to refrain from doing something or to pay an administrative penalty”—here we are, a little tax or a fine—“or an order to revoke the licensee’s licence.”
So they’re in court now, and that’s more money that will be paid by the consumer at the end of the day. There’s no provincial money. We’ve got lawyers into it now investigating or fighting or appealing these complaints.
This bill, on its exterior for the general public, sounds quite acceptable, quite in order—regulating retirement homes. There are more of them growing. Some of them are corporately organized and have several. They operate under a charter kind of atmosphere. They often have residents’ committees that consult. Customer service is a big issue in the newer ones, certainly. As I said, I myself have inspected from the point of view of a consumer, not with any requirements. I suppose they’ll have to train these inspectors.
I would say also that the issues here are more complicated, because if the province was to give seniors tax credits for care that they’re purchasing, that might have some value to it. I don’t see those sort of inventive approaches to this bill. I ask Mr. Phillips, who’s certainly a very worthy finance critic—some would argue he should have been the finance minister, but that’s another debate. I suspect he’s happy with the one cabinet position he has. But here’s the point: He can see that seniors’ incomes are not going to keep up with these pressures, because in this environment of private long-term care—really, what they’re doing here is privatizing long-term care. Let’s be honest about it.
With the aging at home strategy, we were told by the CCACs—most MPPs have been briefed—the money was cut from the LHINs: 15% was cut from the CCACs, 15% of the funding. That’s cutting services directly to seniors. Someone who has personal hygiene issues where they must be, in the morning, toileted and bathed and prepared and, in the evening, probably the same—washed and put to bed properly—I think it’s tragic, and now they’re going to be paying more for that. They’re going to be paying. This is what happens if you’re not getting support from the CCACs. They’re telling us that patients are being told, “You’re no longer entitled.” For instance, people who are on dialysis three times a week in a hospital or being dialysed at home, who have no one there and need someone to hook them up and monitor what’s actually going on, are no longer going to get the amount of care they need.
So that’s all part of Bill 21. Let’s not be fooled by the rhetoric, if you will, by Mr. Phillips, the member from Agincourt—I should get that properly here, to be honest; it’s Scarborough–Agincourt—a respectable member, who is telling you that he’s supporting the bill in the hope that it’ll become law. It’ll become law because they’re the government. They’re ramming this stuff through in the last few days, in the last few hours of this session of the Legislature, and to me, it is a very serious disappointment.
Our member from Cambridge and the member from Kitchener–Waterloo are perplexed by this bill. On the content of the idea, we’re in support of regulating retirement homes that may not be regulated today, working with the industry to make sure that that’s done in a seamless way so that they can report what’s necessary and have annual inspections.
I would say that the long-term-care facilities themselves today have inspections, unannounced, and they have an index of waiting—the care level that’s required and the average care level that’s required. It used to be called the case mix index. It has another acronym now, but it’s roughly the same thing: determining how much is paid by the province to the long-term-care facilities. But, again, there’s not one nickel of support in this for seniors in retirement homes, and that’s an admission that the government is moving ahead with a plan that provides less for seniors, and it’s going to cost them more. It fits very well with what I call “taxing seniors out of their homes.”
I’m surprised there aren’t some tax measures in here that would be much more harmonious with us. I’ve looked under the Income Tax Act; there is a topic under line 315, the caregiver amount. I would ask the provincial government to look at those provisions under line 315. They can claim caregiver amounts, which I think would make this a much more digestible piece of legislation.
You cannot be ignoring the fact that the seniors in this province are not being respected. It’s quite frankly the truth. It’s an admission here that they’re doing nothing for long-term care and nothing for the hospitals in terms of providing solutions to—respite services, at least, for complex continuing-care patients in hospitals.
I would say that the proposed Retirement Homes Act that we’re debating this morning, which was introduced on March 30 and debated on second reading on April 13—today, we’ll probably be hearing the last of it.
I would only encourage one thing: that it should go for public hearings. If I had that admission, I think there would be general support that we would still have hope that they can turn this thing around and have some time for seniors who could be suffering and aging in their own home, who need to be in a place where there’s some care provided—a modest amount at the beginning, but as they age perhaps they’ll need more care.
Mr. Paul Miller: I must say, I’m quite disappointed in the refusal of this government to come clean on this bill. The minister repeats the same mantra every time he’s questioned about the bill’s failings. He doesn’t seem to want to hear from many of the professionals who have solid advice to give. It seems that his mind is made up and that he doesn’t want to be confused by the facts.
Well, Minister, the fact is that this is an extremely flawed piece of legislation. It is geared to self-regulation of what should be a completely Ontario-owned and -operated industry. But offshore multinational corporations are the winners in this. They get to decide what happens to our most vulnerable citizens, and this government is aiding and abetting this travesty. This is patently clear to me in your refusal to listen to and act upon the advice of so many firefighting professionals.
You won’t even offer up a partial solution in ensuring that our seniors in every Ontario retirement home have equal fire sprinkler protection. You simply ignore these seniors living in older retirement homes. Why won’t you think of their safety? Are these multinational corporations so important to you? The hard-earned money that these seniors pay to live in these older places should be spent on their safety, not on excessive profits for the homes’ owners. This is absolutely scandalous, and you should be completely ashamed of your obvious lack of concern for seniors, especially during Seniors’ Month in Ontario.
I’ll read to you from a letter I received this morning, Minister. “It is my understanding that Bill 21, An Act to regulate retirement homes, will be tabled for third reading this week before the Legislature adjourns for its summer recess. I strongly urge you to defeat Bill 21.
“It is alarming that of the 92 amendments brought forward by the NDP, only one amendment was adopted,” and it was a housekeeping amendment. “Bill 21 allows private retirement homes the ability to provide medical and nursing care similar to long-term-care homes and public hospitals. If adopted, the legislation will allow for these homes to become long-term-care facilities, with minimal regulations.
“Bill 21 creates a second tier of lesser-regulated long-term-care facilities in Ontario because the homes, which are largely owned by large, multinational firms, will be allowed to self-regulate. Our elderly people deserve nothing less than the finest care we are able to provide, but Bill 21 puts corporate profits ahead of quality of life.
In this Legislature, in committee and wherever I’ve asked, I’ve expressed my concerns about Bill 21 and its complete silence on the issue of mandatory sprinkler systems in all Ontario retirement homes. Mine has not been the only voice on this issue. The Fire Fighters Association of Ontario, the fire chiefs of Ontario, the Ontario fire marshal’s office, the coroner’s office and many, many articles in newspapers have spoken on these problems.
The Minister of Community Safety, in response to my question, quoted from a single source to support the government’s not requiring sprinkler systems in all retirement homes. But, by selecting one small quotation, he did not put the position fully into perspective, rather leading one to believe wrongly. That letter from the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario also mentioned that they were on record as supporting mandatory sprinklers in all residential buildings. That would include, Minister, retirement homes.
We have retold the stories of several retirement home fires. We have tried to get through to the government that the cost of rebuilding a burnt-out retirement home is far greater than the cost of installing the proper sprinkler systems. One example: the fire in Mississauga. Total damage: $8.2 million. The cost of a sprinkler system for that facility would have been $43,000—a drop in the bucket for protection. People died, Minister.
The real cost is the loss of life, the permanent damage to the elderly and their families. It is beyond all comprehension that this government is taking the position that it is, that it’s turning its back on seniors’ safety. This is shocking enough on its own, but tomorrow starts Seniors’ Month in Ontario, and this government will be celebrating by leaving our vulnerable retirement home residents even more vulnerable.
Can the lobby of the retirement home industry really be stronger than basic, common decency, than the reality of what will happen when the next older retirement home goes up in flames and loss of life? Will this government be held responsible because they had the opportunity to change it? Will there be liable actions? I think so.
“It is of extreme disappointment that we find Bill 21, An Act to regulate retirement homes, has passed through committee without a vital amendment that was to include mandatory automatic sprinkler retrofit for those retirement homes that do not currently have them installed.
“This bill in its true meaning is intended to protect seniors in a place they are to feel the safest: in their home. It, however, falls measurably short of doing that and leaves our most vulnerable population vulnerable.
“Between 2008 and 2009, Ontario has witnessed three catastrophic fires in retirement homes. There was the Rowanwood retirement home in Huntsville that caused over $8 million in damage; luckily, no one lost their life thanks to two off-duty police officers that were able to alert the residents, and all 56 seniors escaped.
“Six months after this tragedy, the Muskoka Heights retirement home in Orillia had a fire that resulted in four seniors dead and three permanently brain-damaged. All this occurred in the last 18 months.
“This province has witnessed two of the largest retirement home fires in the history of North America. In 1980, 25 seniors died at Extendicare in Mississauga and in 1995, eight died in the Meadowcroft, also in Mississauga.
“Three other seniors died in the veterans’ wing of Sunnybrook hospital. These three fires that resulted in the deaths of 36 seniors dying had three separate independent coroner’s inquests all calling for the retroactive installation of sprinklers in retirement homes and long-term-care homes. Sprinklers save lives! The National Fire Protection Association ... reports that there have been no”—I repeat, no—“multi-fatality fire deaths in retirement homes that are protected by sprinklers.
“This is an opportunity for the members of provincial Parliament to make a big difference in the safety and protection of seniors. Using the words of Premier McGuinty when speaking on the HST, ‘It may not be a popular decision but it is the right decision.’
“The OAFC continues to recommend public fire and life safety improvements at all levels of government. Our advice is given motivated solely by protecting Ontarians from the devastation that fire causes, and for the sake of Ontario’s population of all ages, it is now time for this government to take heed, listen and make the right decision.
On behalf of all Ontario seniors and their families, I implore this government to wake up, to stand up, to finally put the safety of all Ontarian seniors before any industry lobby, and implement mandatory sprinkler systems now.
I want to thank Minister Phillips for explaining the journey this bill has taken in the last four years. The minister also did an excellent job of outlining the many provisions of the bill that deal with accountability, transparency and appropriate government oversight of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority.
This proposed act will improve the lives of approximately 40,000 seniors living in retirement homes today, and that number is expected to increase significantly as our senior population doubles in the next 20 years.
For the first time in Ontario, we’re providing legislative protections for seniors in retirement homes. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the care services that retirement home residents are currently able to receive are delivered in a safe, transparent manner.
Our government will continue to work closely with seniors, retirement home operators and various community and health organizations to develop comprehensive, flexible regulations, including care and safety standards, that all homes will be required to meet in order to be licensed in this province.
We also listened carefully to standing committee presentations a few weeks ago, and have made important amendments to reflect the feedback we heard. In the definition of retirement homes, we have made it clear that our act and regulations will apply to retirement homes and only the retirement home portion of mixed-use facilities. Those parts of mixed-use facilities that are governed or funded under the legislation, such as long-term care, will not be required to comply with the Retirement Homes Act. However, I want to make it clear that they would be required to continue to comply with other applicable acts.
—the right to clear information about the contents of a resident’s contract with the retirement home, specifically the different types of accommodation and the care services provided in the home and their costs;
—the right to raise concerns or recommend changes in care or services to the authority or any other person without interference and without fear of coercion, discrimination or reprisal from the retirement home operator or staff.
Residents who are not satisfied with the authority’s decision would be able to escalate the complaints to a complaints review officer, who has considerable independence from the board of directors. The complaints review officer would review how the complaint was handled and refer the matter back to the registrar for further action, if necessary.
The issue of restraints was raised by many groups during standing committee presentations. We heard from several presenters that our bill needs to be clearer about prohibiting restraints in retirement homes. We have made an amendment to the act to make it absolutely clear that restraints are not to be used, with the exception of common-law duty to restrain a person when there’s an imminent harm possible to the person or others.
We have strict criteria for the use of personal assistance services devices, such as temporary supports to help keep a person upright during feeding. These criteria are not inconsistent with those set out in the Long-Term Care Homes Act. Personal assistance services devices can only be used if they are included in a resident’s plan of care. The use of these devices would have to be consented to by the resident or the resident’s substitute decision-maker and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The devices must be recommended by one of the following: a legally qualified medical practitioner; a member of the College of Nurses of Ontario; a member of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario; a member of the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario; and no other person unless government agrees to pass regulations to allow it.
To conclude, I want to say that many groups deserve thanks—seniors’ groups, those who advocate on behalf of seniors, health care experts, community groups and, lastly, the retirement home industry—for their work to help bring this legislation to life. We recognize that the feedback provided so far has made our bill that much stronger, and for that, we thank you.
We all agree that retirement homes need to be regulated. There have been far too many tragedies happening to frail, elderly people who are living in retirement homes and who did not get the protection they needed. Terrible stories: stories of starvation, stories of people being detained—that is just incomprehensible in today’s Ontario.
So, finally, on March 30, the government brought forward first reading of Bill 21, An Act to regulate retirement homes. It was supposed to be a happy occasion. We had been waiting for this for so long, but quickly we realized that they had lost their way.
We will tell the world, we will tell the people of Ontario, that retirement homes are not regulated by the government. People will feel safe putting their vulnerable, elderly parents and relatives into retirement homes; they will be regulated by the government—but none of that is true. They will not be regulated by the government. They will be regulated by an industry-dominated authority. What this bill really does is it creates an authority, and that authority will regulate retirement homes.
We have seen tremendous growth. I’m sure every one of the MPPs in here can name growth in the retirement home business in their riding. Those things are popping up everywhere, and for good reason: The demographics are changing, and people like this type of accommodation.
If you are able to make your own decisions and look after yourself, you don’t need this regulation. You were doing well before, and you will continue to do well. But for this critical mass of frail, elderly or disabled people, for that mass of Ontarians who need government protection, we’re not going to do this. We’re going to pretend that there is protection, but there’s not going to be.
The government says, “Oh, we will make sure that we appoint people.” I would love to be able to trust them at their word, but what’s to say that in three years the same minister is going to be there? Why not put it in writing that it will be government supervision? They’re not ready to do this.
We’ve tried really hard. I’ve put in 92 amendments to this bill, to try to take this from an industry-dominated authority to a government-supervised, government-controlled, government-informed—heck, any kind of government supervision. They refuse all of this.
They refuse things as simple as, if the retirement home has to provide information to the possible tenant or to the people who live there, I wanted to make sure that this information would be free. They refused. They don’t want to get involved with the business model. That means that mandatory information that the government says every retirement home will have to give—well, the retirement home will be allowed to charge for this. What does that mean? That means that some people won’t get it. This is mandatory information that every tenant in a retirement home must have. But if you don’t pay, you won’t get it. What kind of a mandatory requirement is this when the government is so intent on protecting the for-profit model of retirement homes that it forgets its responsibility to the frail elderly of this province? That’s one big problem with the bill.
The second, just-as-big problem with the bill is that there is no cap on the amount of care that can be delivered within a retirement home. What does that mean? That means that what we are really setting up is a parallel for-profit system of long-term care.
Let me be clear: In Ontario we have laws for long-term-care homes. Long-term-care homes are things like nursing homes, homes for the aged, charitable homes for the aged, municipal homes for the aged. Those are all called long-term-care homes in Ontario, and they are regulated. We make sure that the quality of care that is delivered is delivered in a way that is regulated by the government, because we know that those are frail, elderly people.
You can have the exact same amount of care, the exact same needs, as a person in a long-term-care home that has all of the government’s protection—you can have the exact same thing in a retirement home and have no protection whatsoever, have no regulation of care whatsoever. As long as you have the money to pay, you can buy care that not only should be delivered and paid for by a government-sanctioned agency—a long-term-care home—but that you would see in a hospital, in a complex, continuing care bed. As long as you have the money to pay, you will be allowed to do this, and there will be this retirement home legislation that will mean absolutely nothing. There will be no standard for the care that you are given. There will be no cap on the amount of care.
Frankly, if you need care, the government should be the one paying for the care. This is the way it works in Ontario. This is the way it works in Canada. It’s called medicare. Care is delivered based on your need, not on your ability to pay.
We are throwing medicare out the window and coming in with this act to regulate retirement homes with a parallel fee-for-service model dominated by private industry. If you have the money to pay, you can buy yourself the equivalent of what you would get in a complex continuing-care bed in any one of the 157 hospitals in Ontario. You can buy this in any retirement home that is willing to offer it to you. This is not acceptable to me, to have a piece of legislation that in black and white says, “We can do away with medicare, as long as it is your choice to pay for care.” What kind of a choice is that? Haven’t we made it clear that medicare is a fundamental value of the people of Ontario, that we want care to be available based on need and not on ability to pay? We go to great lengths to say that this is a Canadian value, this is what defines us, this is what makes us different from our neighbours to the south, the fact that we have medicare. Well, we now have a bill here that says, “If you have the bucks, you can buy yourself care—no questions asked, no regulation.”
This is terrible, that a piece of legislation that is about to pass third reading right here, right now in Ontario, in this day and age—we’ve seen the battle that happened down south. We’ve seen President Obama trying to bring medicare to the people of the US. Not much luck there, was there? But now we are opening the door. The door has swung wide open to have a parallel system: Buy yourself the care you want, sanctioned by the government under the regulated retirement homes act.
There are a number of other flaws with this bill: the fact that they will have contained units. Think a bit about a cell within a range within a jail. You will be allowed to have those in retirement homes. If the owner of the retirement home decides to have a locked-in unit, they will be allowed to have this and the government won’t have any regulation regarding those. This is appalling. This should not be happening in Ontario. If somebody has a level of need that requires seclusion, they should be in a long-term-care home. They should be in complex continuing care. They should not be a tenant in a retirement home. To me, this is like opening up many jails in the retirement homes for people that are difficult. I’m on the select committee for mental health. How many of the mental health patients that the province has let down will find their way into those locked-down units in retirement homes, where we will feed and water you a couple of times of day and that will be the end of you?
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It is my pleasure to introduce in the gallery today Andy Soumbos from Curves Fitness Group, who has been with us in this Legislature before. Also, Paul Bailey of the Police Pensioners Association of Ontario, Vic Dybenko from the Police Retirees of Ontario, and Al Olsen, the president of the Police Retirees of Ontario.
Mr. Jean-Marc Lalonde: Today is a special day at Queen’s Park. I’m delighted to welcome the united counties of Prescott and Russell: Warden Conrad Lamadeleine and the mayors and councillors of the eight municipalities in the most beautiful area of the province. I have to say, when you get the beautiful sun here in Toronto, the sun has risen in Glengarry–Prescott–Russell first.
Mr. Frank Klees: We’re joined in the House today by the following representatives of the Ontario Marine Transportation Forum. As you know, they’ll be hosting a reception later on this evening and will be meeting with members throughout the day. I’d like to welcome Mr. Tim Heney, Allister Patterson, Wayne Smith, Bruce Hodgson, Bruce Wood, Ray Johnston, Mike Kirkpatrick and Pat Loduca. Welcome to the Legislature today.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: I’d like to introduce a number of parents of children with autism who are here with us today, as well as some of their children: Paul Ceretti, Norrah Whitney, Lucas Whitney, Mary Kay Whitney, Maria Bundha, Sebastian Bundha, Debra Campbell, Gail Geller, Lorraine Lajeunesse, Renita Paranjape, Barry Hudson, Susan Fentie, Sandy Senko, as well as a couple of other folks in from Ajax: Kevin Rauer and his sons Dillon and Drew.
Mr. Robert Bailey: I’d like to welcome to the Legislature—they’re joining us a little later—Tania Lee Hartmann and Peter Brain from the Sarnia–Lambton duty-free stores, Chris Foster from the Queenston-Lewiston duty-free stores, and Abe Taqtaq from the Windsor duty-free stores, who are here to meet with members today.
I also want to take this opportunity to welcome two interns from the Ministry of Health Promotion, Ms. Kartiga Thavaraj and Ms. Kadijo Afrah. Welcome to the Ontario Legislature. They are in the east members’ gallery today.
Mr. Frank Klees: I want to extend a special invitation to the Legislature today to my very good friends Wendy Davies and Sylvia Gualtieri, who are here to observe question period, take a tour of this great place and observe how respectful question period can really be. Welcome to the Legislature.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: I just want to introduce Charles and Allison Smith. Charles is my EA, and his wife is here for the first time. I want to congratulate him on his tenure track position in Saskatoon. They’re moving; we’re losing him. Anyway, I just want to welcome them.
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: I would like to welcome to the Legislature Tiger Jeet Singh and his sons Tiger Ali Singh and Rob Hans, who are also accompanied by Troy Newton. Tiger Jeet Singh had a great wrestling career which lasted nearly 40 years. Tiger Jeet Singh has recently been honoured in Milton. A public school has been named after him for his family’s contribution, and his other activities as well.
His son Tiger Ali Singh has followed in his father’s footsteps and has become a very successful wrestler himself, wrestling in the World Wrestling Federation. He is a two-time IWA World Tag Team champion, and is also the winner of the World Wrestling Federation’s Kuwait Cup.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to take this opportunity on behalf of the member from York West to welcome the Italian heritage class from St. Simon Catholic school in York West, and Noreen and Samanthi Wi-jay-sin, to the Legislature today.
Also on behalf of the member from York West, I’d like to welcome a 19-member Ghanaian delegation visiting Queen’s Park today. Those in attendance include Osahene Kwaku Atekyi, president, Brong-Ahafo, Regional House of Chiefs, Ghana; Nana Abena Boatema Domase, Number One Hemaa; Henry Peprah; Alex Kwaku Anokomoah, chairman of the planning committee; Mr. Thomas Toa, president of the Ontario Brong-Ahafo Cultural Association; Claire Budziak, manager of individual services, human rights advisory services; and Roseanne Reech, manager of corporate services, human rights advisory services.
Mr. Tim Hudak: A question to the Premier: Ontario families look to the summer for mum and dad to get away with the kids for a bit of a break. But in less than a month’s time, your greedy HST tax grab is going to take even more money out of the pockets of Ontario families. The Premier will begin taxing kids’ camps; he’ll be taxing the family vacations. Premier, you’re going to make families pay more for gas or transportation to get to their destination, you’re going to tax them on the accommodation at the hotel or motel when they arrive, and then you’re going to raise the taxes on the arts or cultural events they want to enjoy with the kids this summer. Premier, why are you trying to tax the fun out of Ontario families’ summers?
I want to begin by thanking the leader of the official opposition for his solemn undertaking and honourable commitment to keep the HST in place. He understands how important it is to families that we have in place a strong economy that creates good jobs and gives us the capacity to support our schools and our health care and our supports for our most vulnerable and protections for the environment.
In my supplementary, I’ll talk a little bit about the objective information that is out there which I would recommend to Ontarians when it comes to getting a better understanding of the rationale for the HST and the actual consequences.
Premier, families will now see that your HST will make it more expensive to register their son or daughter for soccer or baseball, it will become more expensive to rent ice for hockey school, to pay for the ballet lessons, green fees or other recreational activities. Parents now are learning that Dalton McGuinty plans to thrust the HST down on summer camps. One parent wrote to us to say the HST will cost her $84 more to send her son to camp for just one week. Parents of children who have special needs will find that their costs increase even more for camps for special-needs children.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, my honourable colleague tells us that he’s very concerned about these kinds of issues, which I believe lack a foundation in fact, yet he’s also committed completely to maintaining the HST once it’s in place. I’m not sure how he can have it both ways, and I think Ontario families are entitled to ask some important questions on that.
There are some objective assessments of the HST in our full package of tax reforms, and one of those that I’d recommend to Ontarians is called Not a Tax Grab After All: A Second Look at Ontario’s HST. It’s put out by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. I’ll quote it in part. This paper concludes that the government’s HST plan “is virtually revenue-neutral.” Generally speaking, no one in Ontario is dramatically better off or worse off as a result.
Mr. Tim Hudak: The Premier is now back to his original spin that this is somehow not a tax grab. I thought you had a moment of cleansing clarity a couple of weeks ago when you admitted that your HST is nothing but another tax grab on the backs of hard-working families and Ontario seniors.
Your tax grab also threatens another mainstay of Ontario summers: agricultural fairs and exhibitions. Agricultural fairs are important not only for the tourism they draw to rural communities but also for the money that they raise to support training for junior farmers and for 4-H. The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies say that they are volunteer-run and that they have razor-thin budgets. Premier, they cannot afford your HST on everything from the trades who set up the midway to entertainment on the stage.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I also want to take the opportunity to thank the Ontario Conservatives for all of their support and encouragement when it comes to moving ahead with this important initiative. I thank Minister Flaherty, former Minister of Finance Ecker, John Baird and Tony Clement. I want to thank former leaders of the party, including John Tory and Mike Harris, as well, for their support for this initiative. I thank Senator Runciman and I thank Prime Minister Harper.
This is an issue that transcends partisan politics. We have all known for a long time that this is a difficult but important step. It’s something that, over the long term, will ensure the health of our economy. It will have in place good jobs for our families and our capacity to support good schools and good health care for families, as well.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Here is the difference between Ontario Conservatives and Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals: Premier, you believe that you can continue to increase taxes on the backs of Ontario families. We stand on the other side of the argument, that taxes need to come down for Ontario families to give them a break, to help them spend money in local economies and to create jobs again in the province of Ontario.
Come Canada Day, Premier, you’ll also have brides and grooms in your crosshairs for weddings across our province. You’re going to increase taxes on hall rentals, on DJs and bands, on photographers, on wedding planners and on decorators. You’re even going to increase the cost of a glass of wine or a bottle of beer at the bar at the end of the celebration.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: There’s a lot of volume on the part of the leader of the official opposition when it comes to objecting to the implementation of our tax reforms, but he is absolutely silent when it comes to rescinding it. I think families should keep that in mind.
He says he’s concerned about some of the costs that our families have to bear. But when we moved ahead with a personal income tax cut for 93% of Ontarians, he voted against that. As we move ahead to reduce drug costs for Ontario families and save them millions of dollars, he’s voting against that. When we move ahead with full-day learning for four- and five-year-olds that will save a family thousands of dollars for one child when it comes to daycare costs, again, the leader of the official opposition and his party don’t support that.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Every bride and groom will see Dalton McGuinty as an unwanted guest at their wedding this summer with his hand in their pockets. Do you know what? When it comes to the honeymoon, Dalton McGuinty is going to be standing there, too, putting a HST on their airfare, hotel and motel rooms, gas for their car as they drive to their destination and anywhere else the couple may stop for that night. If they want to go for a boat trip along the Niagara River, see a play at Stratford or go to a music festival in Toronto, Ottawa or Kingston, Dalton McGuinty is going to be sitting right there next to them, too, taking more money out of their pockets.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I appreciate the creativity that goes into these questions. They’re nothing if not entertaining. But I think what Ontarians would look for from time to time is the occasional fact.
If we pursue this particular line, I think one of the things that newlyweds would be looking to is the future and possibly the beginning of a family, wondering what kind of a world they’ll be bringing their kids into. I think they want to ensure that we have a strong economy here, where there are good jobs so mom and dad can work, if they choose to do so. They want to make sure we’ve got the capacity to support good schools for the kids. They want to make sure that we’ve got the capacity to support good health care for everybody in the family. They want to make sure that we have special supports for people if they become vulnerable. They want to make sure that we protect the quality of our environment.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Premier, you will tax every young couple at their wedding this summer. You will tax them at their honeymoon. And when they try to buy a home together, Dalton McGuinty’s hand will be in their pocket once again. Buying a new home will be hit with the HST. Real estate fees will go up with your HST. Condo fees will go up with your HST. When they see a lawyer, an accountant, a financial adviser; try to exercise at Curves; or sign up the kids for soccer, hockey or ballet down the road, Dalton McGuinty’s hand will be in their pocket.
Premier, whether I am in Niagara, Ottawa, Toronto or North Bay, I’m hearing more and more people saying, “Enough is enough.” The Ontario PCs will put all options on the table to lower the tax burden for families to help them spend money in the local economy.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I want to remind my honourable colleague that, as a result of the tax reforms that we’re putting forward, we are cutting taxes for people over the course of the next three years by over $11 billion. I think that we can lose sight of that, and that’s pretty important.
My honourable colleague has very easy answers for very complicated problems, and one of those that he is going to dangle before Ontarians, it’s become quite obvious now, is that he’s going to cut their taxes; he says he’s going to cut them dramatically. I want to remind Ontarians that, overwhelmingly, the amount of money that we invest through government goes into our public servants through their public services that they deliver. You can’t cut taxes without firing nurses, without firing teachers, without firing water inspectors, without firing meat inspectors, without compromising the quality of the public services that we believe families have a right to in this province.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Premier. The McGuinty cabinet went on the road yesterday to defend their unfair tax scheme, and as often happens at these HST events, real families were nowhere to be seen.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I’m really pleased that we are engaging in this conversation and this important debate about a very important public policy initiative. One of the things I would hope that we can convey as members of the government, and I would list my colleagues opposite in this cause, if they might be so inclined, is to explain to Ontarians why it’s so important that we do this. I think Ontarians intuitively understand that our world has changed, that there was a recession. They may know that we’ve lost over 250,000 jobs, and we need to make some changes ourselves so that we can grow stronger.
When we host the G20 very shortly, each and every one of those countries has an HST equivalent in place; 140 countries have this in place. Soon, six out of 10 provinces will have this in place. Anybody who has done it has never undone it because it works; it makes our businesses stronger; it gives us more money to fund our schools and our hospitals and create good jobs for our families. That’s fundamentally what this is all about.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: In the gallery today from Ajax are Kevin Rauer and his two children, Dillon and Drew. Kevin is one of a quarter of a million people who have signed the NDP’s HST petition. He and his wife, Michelle, work hard to put food on the table for their kids and provide a comfortable home.
Kevin’s question is a simple one, and it’s a question many, many families are asking: Why is the Premier about to make his life more expensive when he should be concentrating on making his life more affordable?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, it’s understandable that families, in particular, can be confused by the conflicting information that’s being introduced in the public realm. I understand that. That’s why I’d ask them to take a look at some of the objective assessments that have been put forward. The University of Calgary—it’s a university that is not even based in this province—is saying that this will create some 600,000 new jobs. I’ve never met a mother or a father or a grandmother or a grandfather who doesn’t want to ensure there are jobs for us today and jobs for our kids tomorrow.
I’d ask families to ask themselves, again: Why is it that food banks support this? Why is it that businesses support this? Why is it that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives supports it? Because it’s the right thing to do for our families.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: The rising cost of child care and commuting have already put the squeeze on the Rauer family budget. The McGuinty HST will add another significant financial burden. An average family with two kids, like the Rauers, is going to be paying more than $1,200 extra in taxes each and every year. Kevin and Michelle won’t be eligible for low-income credits, and the tax cuts are not going to cut it.
Can the Premier actually look at Kevin and his two kids and tell them why they should believe that he knows best? Why should they believe that you know best? They know best. The HST is going to hurt them.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, I think it’s really important that we find a way to land on some objective, reliable information. I want to come back to this report called Not a Tax Grab After All: A Second Look at Ontario’s HST by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Page 4, item 7: “The net combined effect of all the changes—new HST plus sales/property tax credits plus personal income tax reductions—is very close to neutral, a $27 annual loss in income when averaged over all families in Ontario.” On the whole, it works out to be a wash.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is to the Premier as well. For every story like Kevin’s, there are thousands and thousands more. Because the Premier isn’t willing to listen, I’m going to share some more of those stories.
Janet Croce writes this: “We have a small beauty salon in Toronto. I have been in business in the same place for 42 years—our clients are mostly seniors—we have grown old together. With the PST now being added to their hair services, we are already hearing them say that they will have to cut back. I believe that this could possibly be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak. It is the small businesses like ours that will suffer.”
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I want to make reference to a story told to us by John and Marie Voortman. They are the owners of Countrywide Recycling Inc. They are in the riding of Niagara West–Glanbrook. They said, “The HST will benefit us in the building of our plant and in buying our equipment. The money we’ll be saving will enable us to do more business and hire more employees.” More specifically, they say that they can hire 50 new workers. That’s 50 new jobs. That’s 50 families that stand to benefit as a result of those new jobs.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: What we are asking of families is not an easy thing to do; we understand that. But we also understand that collectively, as Ontarians, we will do today what we’ve always done. We will do whatever it takes to secure a bright future for our children and our grandchildren. That’s fundamentally what this is all about.
Kathy Mireault from northwestern Ontario adds: “My husband and I … live paycheque to paycheque.… We cannot even afford to put away for our retirement and this HST is going to hurt us even more.… We have had mill shutdowns and layoffs. A lot of people are struggling.”
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Families want to ensure that we have a strong economy. They want to ensure that we have the capacity to support their health care. They want to ensure that we have the capacity to support schools for their kids. They want to make sure that we can continue to hire water inspectors and meat inspectors and pay for our roads and bridges and the like. They want to make sure that our businesses are strong and growing.
Here’s another example: Tomlinson construction in the Ottawa area. They’ve got 1,000 employees. They’re telling us that they will be able to buy about 20 new trucks a year as a result of the savings that we will bring about because of the huge savings on their input costs. That’s going to stand for more employees. That stands for more families that are led by somebody with a job. That stands for a stronger local economy. That stands for a capacity to support our schools and our health care and build a brighter future for our families. That’s fundamentally what these tax reforms are all about. It’s a better and brighter future for Ontario families.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Here is what Fred VanSickle, a Hamilton Pilates instructor, says: “The HST will affect by business ... [it’s] going to add more financial hardship to the senior citizens in my studio who exercise with me to keep themselves out of the health care system.”
Families say the McGuinty HST is going to hit them hard. Small businesses say the McGuinty HST is going to hurt their bottom line. If his HST is such a good deal for families and businesses, then why is it—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I apologize. I would suggest that the three members—the Minister of Finance, the member from Renfrew and the member from Hamilton East—who want to have this cross-debate please take it outside so that the other members can enjoy question period.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: If the HST is such a good deal for families and small businesses, my question to the Premier is: Why is it then that they are writing to me by the thousands upon thousands to tell me that they think it isn’t?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, my honourable colleague raises some questions, and I would put some other questions to her. Why is it that the University of Calgary is telling us we’ll create 600,000 new jobs? Why is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives telling us that this works out to be revenue-neutral? Why is it that we’ve had so much support from so many groups that transcend partisan lines?
If you take a look at what’s happening in Nova Scotia, not only do they have the HST in place there, not only have they had it for some time, not only do they have an NDP government, but they’re going to actually increase it from 13% to 15%. That’s not something that we’re prepared to adopt in the province of Ontario, but again it speaks to an issue that it’s something that’s an important policy. It’s something that you have to do to strengthen the economy. It’s something that you have to do, especially given that we’ve come out of a recession. We’ve lost 250,000 jobs. We need to grow stronger. Not everything that we need to do is necessarily easy, but we need to grow strong, we need to build that bright future for our kids, and that’s fundamentally what this is all about.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: To the Premier: In what could be considered a desperate panic attack yesterday, a band of desperate Liberal cabinet ministers took a travelling road show to a number of Ontario PC ridings at taxpayer expense to contain the mounting anger at Dalton McGuinty’s greedy HST tax grab. But this latest tactic is proving less successful—
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Again, they are pretty desperate. But this latest tactic is proving to be just as ineffective as the sales job they’re trying to do in this chamber. Only 10 people showed up for Minister Duguid in Whitby. Are these staged taxpayer-funded HST events with hand-picked audiences intended to boost the morale of your cabinet, of your caucus or both?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Somebody has got to stand up for the Conservatives in Ontario who are supporting the HST. We’re proud of Minister Flaherty and the position he has taken on the HST. We’re proud of Minister Baird. We’re proud of Minister Clement. We’re proud of the former leaders, John Tory and Mike Harris. We’re proud of Senator Runciman. We think it’s time that somebody in the province of Ontario finally stood up for Ontario Conservatives who are standing up for the HST in Ontario.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I’d like to invite the Premier to come back down to earth and meet the people on Main Street. After almost seven years, Dalton McGuinty is too tired and out of touch to hold real consultations with seniors and families in Ontario, and he’s making them pay his greedy $3-billion tax grab.
The McGuinty Liberals fought against holding legislative hearings here in this chamber in December. You were too scared to debate a motion of mine that would call on delaying the HST until after the next election. You should come to the Barrhaven Legion. You should come to Moncion’s grocery in Riverside South. You should come to the French Café in Manotick.
I have a question: Will Dalton McGuinty host the HST travelling road show so that everyday families and seniors in Ontario can meet their ministers and share their real-life concerns on what the HST is going to mean to them?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, we’re prepared to act as an honest broker to help resolve the differences between the federal Conservatives and, in fact, so many provincial Conservatives as well. I am prepared to use the auspices of my office to arrange a meeting on neutral territory for the honourable member opposite and Minister Baird so they can reconcile themselves to the differences and hopefully find a way forward. They can have it out in a civilized way. We’ll make sure that no harm comes to either side.
Mr. Howard Hampton: A question to the Premier: Your open-for-business legislation contains some truly anti-worker provisions. It contains employment standards changes that would force workers to disclose to the employer the details of workers’ employment standards claims even before an investigation has begun.
My question is: How does getting the employers carte-blanche power to intimidate their workers into withdrawing their employment standards claims even before an investigation has been held do anything to create jobs in Ontario?
Hon. Peter Fonseca: With the modernization of employment standards, what it could deliver for all parties would be faster, smarter, more streamlined ways of getting employment standards claims dealt with. In many instances, those claims are because the parties don’t have the information beforehand where they can resolve the claim before it has to be dealt with by one of our employment standards officers.
We have met with stakeholders; we have consulted on this. This will help address the time it takes to deal with an employment standards claim. It’s good for all parties, and we’ve ensured, working with advocacy groups for workers and working with employers, that this new process—
This government clearly doesn’t understand how much power employers have and how little power workers have, especially in non-union workplaces. Forcing vulnerable workers to disclose to their employer the details of their employment standards claim before an investigation of the claim has even been held will inevitably intimidate workers into withdrawing the claim or never putting in a claim in the first place.
Hon. Peter Fonseca: We have worked closely with workers’ action groups and labour groups as we work through modernizing our employment standards. This is so that we can help those who make claims to get those claims, those monies that are owed to them, paid much quicker. We also have put in provisions to address any vulnerable workers in Ontario where they may have difficulty in terms of filling out those claims. We have the supports at the Ministry of Labour, through our employment standards office, to provide those workers with those supports.
Mr. Glen R. Murray: My question is for the Minister of Revenue. Small business plays an important role in the communities of my riding of Toronto Centre. Small businesses are one of the leading employers in Ontario and provide jobs to people across the province. These jobs allow people to provide for their families and contribute to Ontario’s economy.
Jack Mintz, the economics chair at the University of Calgary, estimates that our comprehensive tax package will create 591,000 jobs, $47 billion in new investment and an increase in working wages. People understand that the HST is implemented to help people get back to work. What they are looking for is how the tax package is going to create jobs. Minister, could you please explain to us how—
Hon. John Wilkinson: I want to thank my colleague for the question. There are a couple of things. First of all, we’re lowering the cost of business for every small business—and every business—in the province of Ontario by billions of dollars starting on July 1. What we’re doing is we’re taking those savings and we’re putting that money into the wallets of consumers: the people whom you represent. For example, millions of Ontarians are receiving over a $1-billion personal income tax cut that came in on January 1. On July 1, millions of seniors will receive some $800 million more by way of an enhanced property tax credit. Millions of Ontarians will be receiving $270 million by way of enhanced tax credits. Millions of Ontarians with the least will receive billions of dollars in the new HST rebate, and just a few weeks from now, millions of Ontarians will receive billions of dollars, tax-free, by way of a transition.
Mr. Glen R. Murray: Groups from across the spectrum have voiced their support for our comprehensive tax reform package because it will make Ontario more competitive, create jobs and protect services. The president of the Canadian Auto Workers, Ken Lewenza, has said, “We are arguing about elements of the harmonized sales tax, but brothers and sisters, don’t buy into this tax rage....”
Bell Canada, on the other end of the spectrum, has stated that the implementation of a single sales tax structure in 2010 means Bell can accelerate jobs and its investments in this province from Ottawa to Hamilton.
Hon. John Wilkinson: It’s quite simple: We have a plan to have 600,000 more consuming families in the province of Ontario because a member of that family has a job, a job that would not exist if we didn’t take the bold step of reforming our antiquated tax system and getting it into the 21st century so we can compete for 21st-century jobs.
Some 600,000 jobs is good news for small business. Lowering the cost of their business is good news for small business. There is not a single large business that wasn’t at one time a small business. They generate the new jobs. According to Dr. Mintz, this will attract some $47 billion worth of new investment but result in almost $30 billion worth of more income.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Back to the Premier. Premier, you have overseen an appointment process for Ombudsman André Marin that is nothing short of a three-ring circus. It is a 17-week fiasco, where you initially tried to replace Ontario’s watchdog with a Liberal lapdog, a former Liberal MP. When that tactic didn’t work, you wanted to call for a new round of advertisements. Then you wanted to re-interview candidates. Then you wanted to introduce four candidates, then just one candidate.
All the while, Premier, the Liberal government engaged in an unprecedented smear campaign against the character of the Ombudsman. You either looked the other way or you green-lighted this attack. Premier, will you stand in your place and do the right thing? Will you apologize to André Marin and the people of Ontario?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I want to take this opportunity to thank the selection panel for the work that they did. I’m pleased that there was unanimous support ultimately for this reappointment. I want to congratulate Mr. Marin. I want to undertake to him personally to continue working with him and working well with him. He has served our government well in the past in pointing out shortcomings. We do all kinds of good things in government, but we do nothing perfectly. He has the responsibility to point out those imperfections, to provide us with recommendations, and our responsibility is to act on those recommendations. We have done that and we look forward to continue to do that in the future.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Premier, this gets down to a question of your leadership. Ontario Liberals engaged in an unseemly and slanderous attack on a well-respected officer of the Legislature. Ontario Liberals engaged in one of the dirtiest whisper campaigns against a public servant in memory. Premier, you have yet to hold a single person accountable.
Even after you told folks to heel, to pull your attack dogs back, Warren Kinsella, the man you picked to run your campaign war room, kept at it. Even after members of the assembly agreed to reappoint André Marin, where the PC party has stood, Mr. Kinsella even last night attacked the character of the Ombudsman. Premier, will you do the right thing? Will you apologize and will you chastise your attack dogs—
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, I want to take this opportunity to thank the committee for the work that they did. I want to thank Mr. Marin for reapplying, for the work that he’s done in the past and for the work that I know that he will continue to do for us into the future. These things are not necessarily easy things, and like democracy itself, they can be a bit slow, they could be a bit messy and they can sometimes be cumbersome, but at the end of the day, they always give us the right result. I have every confidence in this result, as I do have confidence in Mr. Marin himself. I look forward, as I say, to continuing to work with him.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: The question is to the Minister of Education. Minister, People for Education state that school boards continue to report that they must ration services, deal with funding shortfalls and figure out how to support an ever-increasing proportion of students with increasingly complex needs; 86% of the schools continue to report waiting lists for special education services. While these kids are waiting, they’re falling further behind. There are 32,000 students in the province waiting for special education services. When are these students, 32,000 of them, going to get the service that they are entitled to?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: First of all, I would like to thank the People for Education for their report. We always welcome receiving—it’s a very considered and thoughtful document. We also appreciate the good work that we do with the People for Education.
With respect to the highlight on special education services, that has been a priority for our government since we came to office. That is why, since coming to office, we have actually increased funding in special education services to the tune of 42%. I would offer that that has been in the face of declining enrolment across the province.
We do recognize that there are challenges, certainly, in a range of localities across the province where engaging specialized services to support special education students is a challenge. But we will continue to—
Mr. Rosario Marchese: The truth is that the 32,000 number is only the tip of the iceberg. The report states: “Waiting lists shrink when fewer students are referred for assessment,” which suggests that the number of 32,000 is a low number, that there are more and more students waiting for services. This has created a system where there are not only fewer services for students, but there is no accountability for the progress of special students. These are the neediest of the needy, and they are being left in classes without support.
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: First of all, I also want to recognize the work that’s being done by our teachers in the classrooms, by the administrators at the school level, certainly by school boards, who continue to do everything they can to engage families to understand how we can best support the needs of their students.
I think it’s also important to remind the honourable member that, with regard to the students who are in need of services, some of those services are actually provided by professionals outside of the school system, so there are wait-lists for students to be seen by professionals who are not employees of school boards but who are health professionals in our communities. We continue to work with community partners to ensure that those students receive the services in a timely way so that the professionals in the classrooms are going to be able to put a plan in place to best meet the needs of those—
Mrs. Maria Van Bommel: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. For generations, Ontarians assumed that we would always have the safest and cleanest drinking water in the world. This month, as we mark the 10th anniversary of the Walkerton tainted water crisis, we are reminded that clean and safe drinking water can no longer be taken for granted.
A key recommendation from Justice O’Connor’s review was for stronger training and certification rules for the operators of our water systems. Earlier this month, the Premier visited the Walkerton Clean Water Centre, which is a key part of the efforts to ensure that we have the most thoroughly trained water operators anywhere in North America.
The Walkerton Clean Water Centre was created in October 2004 to coordinate and deliver training for owners and operating authorities of drinking water systems with a focus on smaller, remote and older systems, as well as systems that are operated by First Nations. This new centre has followed through on a key O’Connor recommendation, and to date, over 23,000 individual water operators across this province in both the public and the private sector have been trained at the centre.
The centre delivers the ministry’s two mandatory courses: one entitled entry-level drinking water operator; and the second, preventing water-borne illnesses. It does so not only at the centre but at various locations across the province.
Mrs. Maria Van Bommel: We rely on the operators of our drinking water plants to keep our families safe, and I know the centre was initially established in a temporary site to ensure that the training could begin as soon as possible. I understand that a permanent facility will be established in Walkerton to continue this good work. This new facility will also be a flag in the ground for drinking water protection in Ontario and the transformation of the community of Walkerton to a centre for drinking water excellence.
The new facility delivers on the promise for a permanent clean water centre in the town of Walkerton. It will provide an anchor to our commitment to the delivery of clean, safe water. It’s a state-of-the-art technology to provide hands-on training to deliver every aspect of drinking-water-operator training.
The new facility has state-of-the-art video conferencing equipment so that they can provide access to remote communities for training. It also has three permanent classrooms, which will have the ability to expand. The centre has a technology demonstration facility which provides a state-of-the-art educational opportunity for hands-on training, technology demonstration and research.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: My question is for the Minister of Education. The results are in: Your new school bus tendering process means higher rates eventually, less competition, putting safety into the hands of the lowest bidders as well as driving small operators out of business.
As a result, yesterday, you know that the Independent School Bus Operators Association protested the process. They staged a demonstration at your office with over 40 school buses there. At the same time, they held a press conference here to shed light on this new, unfair process, which is forcing small operators out of business.
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: First of all, I think that it’s important that I would remind the honourable member that the priority with respect to transporting children to schools is safety. We want to ensure that we provide the safest means possible for our children to get to school. We also spend annually some $800 million in providing I think it’s 17,000 buses to carry our children to school.
We want to do this and we want to engage these businesses in a fair, transparent, open and accountable process. I believe that the taxpayers of Ontario have an opinion about sole-source contracts. We want to be able to say to them that we have exercised due diligence with a process that (1) considers safety and (2)—
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: I go back to the minister. The reality is, this new process can well result in putting safety in jeopardy if it goes to the lowest bidder and maintenance becomes an issue. I want you to know what you’re doing to people, and you’re not dealing with it.
Lesa McDougall, owner of Cook School Bus Lines of Mount Forest—her family business had 19 bus routes. As a result of this new process—and she is just one of many independent operators who have lost business—they have gone from 19 to one route. They’ve gone from employing 25 people to only two. This is in Perth-Wellington. Lesa and her family have lost their business to the large operators because of your policy.
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: What we are determined to do is ensure that our children get to school with the safest means possible. We are determined to ensure that we provide these services in an open, accountable and transparent process. That is why we continue to work with the Ontario School Bus Operators’ Association. We very much value the points that they make to us.
I would also remind the honourable member that we have done a pilot project in Waterloo region and that there are small and medium bus operators who were actually winners in that pilot process experience. I would say to the honourable member that if you’re going to present examples, let’s present all the examples. Let’s be open and tell the whole story that the process that we’re working on, and continue to work on, with the school bus operators—
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Premier. In March 2009, an RFP was issued for an independent review of this government’s new practice of benchmarking children with autism. Oddly, this RFP was not broadly circulated or posted on the MERX website, as is standard practice. After going through the FOI process, my office found that the RFP was highly restricted and invited one bid, a bid raising questions of conflict.
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I want to acknowledge the parents of children with autism who are here today in the gallery with their children. I very much appreciate the insight they gave us as to how we can better support their children so they can reach their full potential.
We are working closely with parents and clinicians to develop a system of supports that provide services for as many kids as possible. We have much more work to do, and we are already doing that work.
I want to take a moment to talk about the progress we have made since 2003. We’ve removed the previous government’s age six cut-off and almost quadrupled spending, from $44 million to $165 million. We’ve doubled the number of kids getting IBI treatment, up from 500 four years ago to 1,370 now. We’ve introduced a respite program, and we have established Connections for Students so that—
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Perhaps I’ll get an answer this time. A contract valued at more than $118,000 on a subject as important as benchmarking children who might have their autism therapy terminated as a result should be filled by the best and most qualified candidate. But there was no competition. The ministry handed the contract to its invited applicant, Dr. Louise LaRose. She had a number of conflicts, like her close ties to the chair of the benchmark panel itself, but omitted this on her RFP form.
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Dr. LaRose was selected to analyze the impact of the proposed benchmarks through an invitational request for proposals. The ministry followed all required processes in selecting the expert, and we are reviewing Dr. LaRose’s analysis and considering our next steps. As I said, we know there is much more work to do, but I am proud of our record, and I will contrast that record with that of the NDP any day.
Our record is one of action; theirs is one of talk and inaction. We promised to end the age six cut-off, and that’s exactly what we did. When the NDP was in office, they did not set up any programs to support kids and families with autism. Since we have been in office, we’ve doubled the number of kids getting IBI and almost quadrupled spending. When the NDP was in office, they cut funding to children’s treatment centres. We have increased funding to children’s treatment centres.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. With the passing of the 2010 budget, members of my community were pleased to see the budget’s schedule 2, creating a new independent board of health in the city of Ottawa.
Currently, our city council in Ottawa acts as the board of health for the city of Ottawa, a situation created when the city was amalgamated under the City of Ottawa Act, 1999. In October 2008, Ottawa city council passed a motion to call on the provincial government to amend the act to authorize an independent board of health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Recognizing the benefit of independent governance of public health in Ottawa, I was pleased to champion the idea on behalf of my community and introduced Bill 194.
Hon. James J. Bradley: The McGuinty government has made it a priority, of course, to work alongside our municipal partners to create a good working relationship. We’ve provided municipalities with the tools they need to serve their communities better. We recognize that municipalities are responsible and accountable levels of government. We understand that municipalities are better able to determine appropriate mechanisms for delivering their local services.
The request to create a new independent board of health came from the city of Ottawa. I would like to recognize the member for Ottawa Centre for his advocacy on this matter. The province is providing the city of Ottawa with the tools and flexibility required to meet the needs of its citizens. I’m confident that an independent board of health in the city of Ottawa, with mixed membership of community members and council members, will lead to better governance by promoting—
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Besides major episodes like the most recent H1N1 pandemic, many routine or community-specific public health programs also require a consistent and thoughtful approach to ensure that the best possible public health outcomes are the goal. Clearly, politics and emotional opinions can sometimes cloud decisions that need to be taken in the best interests of public health.
I commend Ottawa city council for actively seeking to improve the way we approach public health in our city. I’m pleased to have been the conduit for this important change in our provincial legislation, and along with the community, I am certain of the necessity of it.
The changes to the City of Ottawa Act allow for the creation of a semi-independent board of health responsible for the important health policy decisions. City council will retain responsibility for the financial decisions. The board will function under the framework of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and the structure of the board is modelled after the city of Toronto Board of Health. The board will make recommendations to the city council on any issues within Ottawa’s jurisdiction involving public health considerations. They will report annually to the city council on board operations.
Mr. Jim Wilson: My question is for the Premier. In a letter to all MPPs yesterday, the Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition told members of this House that “the economic situation facing Ontario farmers is dire.” Agriculture income was negative $50 million in 2009. This year, that loss is projected to be a record 10 times greater, at half a billion dollars. In their letter they say that “the future of food and farming in Ontario, without a workable risk management program, is clearly bleak.”
Premier, tomorrow this House will debate my resolution that calls on your government to implement the business risk management program that farmers have been asking for. My question is simple but very important for farmers: Will you support the business risk management program?
Hon. Carol Mitchell: I sincerely want to thank the member for the question because it is a very critical question. Before I go into my supplementary, which I’m looking forward to, I want to speak to what our farmers want today. They want predictability, they want stability and they want bankability. They want to know what the future holds for them. Our government has been working with the coalition to develop a risk management program and take that forward to the FPT. There is much good work that is happening with the coalition and the McGuinty government.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Madam Minister, farmers have asked that both levels of government fund the program, but right now neither one has any money on the table. You haven’t budgeted a single dime to implement this program this year. In fact, according to your ministry’s own estimates, you have actually cut $144 million from the program that provides direct support to farmers.
Hon. Carol Mitchell: I’ve got to say, that’s pretty rich from that side of the House. When they were in government they did not provide any income stabilization. We have put on the table $1.7 billion. We understand that the business programs today, the pillars of agri-stability, are not working. We are working with the coalition. I can tell you that one of the things in the letter that was addressed is that these programs have always been funded fed-prov together, 60-40 splits. We recognize that, and that is why we’re working with the federal government. And the coalition recognizes that.
I ask the members, when they write a letter, why would they not write a letter in support to the Minister of Agriculture at the federal level? I don’t know why they won’t. We recognize that in order for a program to work it has to be all levels of government working together. Our farmers recognize that. They—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I really think that the members need to go visit the Glengarry–Prescott–Russell reception and have some really good St-Albert cheese curds. There’s another very good business from Vankleek Hill that they might want to go visit as well, too.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Premier, the Massey Centre strike is going into its sixth week. Nerves are frayed. There have been several reportable incidents. Parents, workers and administrators are living with incredible strain. There’s fear that the centre may not survive in its current form. If this centre is damaged, your government will be accountable for that. Will you act now, today, to address the funding shortfall that has put this centre into crisis?
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I know I’ve had an opportunity to speak with the member opposite about the important services that the Massey Centre provides and the fact that, in the context of this labour dispute, the responsibility lies with the Ministry of Labour. But let me assure you that my commitment to the women and children who use the services of this community remains steadfast. The Toronto regional office is actively working to ensure that every parent, every young mother, every individual who is served by the Massey Centre continues to get those services. If that is not the case, they should connect with my Toronto regional office. It is absolutely a firm commitment that the women and children who use the services at the Massey Centre will continue to get the support and services that they need, as they have throughout this strike.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome a group of students who are visiting from Pope John Paul II school in Lindsay to the Legislature today, and also to welcome and to introduce once again our visiting delegation from Ghana. Welcome to Queen’s Park today.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): We have a deferred vote on the motion for allocation of time on Bill 43, An Act to amend the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000, the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 and the Ontario College of Art & Design Act, 2002.
Deferred vote on the motion for second reading of Bill 65, An Act to revise the law in respect of not-for-profit corporations / Projet de loi 65, Loi modifiant des lois en ce qui concerne les organisations sans but lucratif.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: There are two people that I wanted to introduce: Peter Marrese and Paul Cochrane, who are here to hear a petition that I will be introducing in a short while, and they wanted to be present for it. Thank you for coming.
Mr. David Caplan: I would like to welcome the following individuals who are here today in the Speaker’s gallery from the Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario: We have Lynda Staples, Diane McCauley, Randy Kall, Wayne Brocklebank and Bob Hunn. Welcome.
Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette: Saturday last marked the 10th anniversary of our annual Kids’ Fishing Day at Heber Down Conservation Area. I would like to take this occasion to offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to all the groups and volunteers who worked so hard at this year’s event.
Saturday was a brilliant day, and record crowds of kids and parents came out to enjoy a fun-filled day of fishing and outdoor activities. There was no cost for the event, and children were able to take part in many activities, including conservation, invasive species trapping displays, lure making, face painting, a casting competition, and fish identification. It was the generosity and hard work of many community groups, outdoor organizations and volunteers that made this day successful.
I’d like to thank Ducks Unlimited; the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority; the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, zone E; Kids, Cops and Canadian Tire; Muskies Canada; MNR, Aurora district; Ontario Sporting Dog Association; the Optimist Club of Oshawa; Oshawa Community Health Centre, Durham Regional Police; Pickering Rod and Gun Club; Lindsay Trappers Council; Valu-Mart in Lindsay; Emm’s Sports in Lindsay; Hawgtown Bassmasters; Eastview Boys and Girls Club; Simcoe Hall Settlement House; South Central Ontario Fish and Wildlife Association; WT Hawkins; Gagnon Sports; Calvary Baptist Church; the Toronto Argonauts; and Westmount Kiwanis for all their help. A special thanks goes also to Walter Oster and the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show, who, year after year, continue to contribute to the success of Kids’ Fishing Day across Ontario.
The fishing was a little tougher this year, but many rainbow trout were caught by the young anglers. Each year, it’s always a thrill to see the smiling faces, hear the words of encouragement and gratitude and know that many made a genuine difference in a young person’s life. Thanks again to everyone who made this special day possible for children in our community.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: A recent Ontario Municipal Board decision has given the green light for high-rise towers to go up behind the Ontario Legislature. These towers, however, would mar the Legislature’s distinctive silhouette, which has many residents and politicians alike upset that the interests of developers are being put ahead of the interests of the province.
Steve Peters, the Speaker of the Legislature, spoke out against the ruling, as did Andrea Horwath of the NDP and some Conservative Party members. “The ball is clearly in the government’s court right now,” said Mr. Peters. “I am appealing to the government, to the Premier, to the Minister of Culture, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs to step in and preserve this building for future generations.”
The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs can and should declare a provincial interest that would override the OMB’s decision. I will introduce a private member’s bill tomorrow that would prohibit any development north of the Legislature building that would mar the skyline around Queen’s Park. The Ontario Legislature belongs to us and to the people of Ontario. This bill will give us the power to make decisions about the building and its views.
Mr. Jim Brownell: I rise in the House today to recognize the amazing Morrisburg Grannies for Africa, an organization in my riding of Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry. They will be joining with 200 other groups across Canada on Sunday, June 13, as they strive to turn the tide on HIV/AIDS.
Their community walk will begin with a kickoff ceremony at the Cruikshank Amphitheatre in Morrisburg. The AIDS pandemic and HIV have destroyed the lives of millions and led to enormous poverty in Africa. The disease has caused the death of countless family members and has left over 13 million children orphaned throughout many African countries. In most cases, the survivors who are left to care for the orphans are the elderly grandmothers.
The grandmothers in South Dundas and across Canada are participating in a national event to support and honour the courage of those elderly grandmothers who take on the challenge to care for the orphans in countries all across Africa. The goal of the Morrisburg Grannies for Africa is to raise awareness about the role played by African grandmothers and to raise money to support many valuable projects operating in Africa through the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
In addition, the event hopes to encourage and gain support for the education of all those who wish to help children living in poverty and who provide learning opportunities for them. All monies pledged and collected will make an enormous difference in the lives of the needy grandmothers and their grandchildren in Africa.
I would like to wish all those participating in the Morrisburg Grannies for Africa event much success, and I congratulate the volunteer organizers of the Morrisburg Grannies for Africa for their efforts to raise awareness of this important cause.
Mr. Randy Hillier: This government has long known about the significant problems with nuisance elk near Bancroft. For over six years, nothing has been done to help the farmers and landowners who have had their crops and property destroyed year after year. Bill 212 has not been implemented and MNR officials recently told farmers that it may take another two years to do so.
Is this government going to dither and dawdle until farmers either take the law into their own hands and start shooting the elk or is this government just waiting and hoping for these farmers to go out of business?
We as members are here all the time. We’ve been sitting late nights the last while, but the real people who make the Legislature operate and make life easier for all of us here are the committee clerks: Deborah Deller and her team, Todd Decker, Lisa Freedman, Tonia Grannum and Anne Stokes; the Sergeant at Arms; and Wayne Butt, whom we see here, the access coordinator, whose job is to manage and make sure that the pages are all on the job and helping us out.
My own particular group that I want to thank are the librarians down at the legislative library, because when I find the need to escape from this place, I go down there. I read the newspapers; it’s nice and cool, it’s quiet, it’s relaxing.
These are the unsung heroes. They have to sit; they have to listen; they can’t take sides; they’ve got to offer fair advice and guidance to all of us from whatever party. So I think it behooves us, at the end of this session, to give them a special congratulations. How would you like to have to spend your time here dealing with us?
Mr. John O’Toole: It was my pleasure and privilege to have attended the 80th anniversary of the Uxbridge Royal Canadian Legion, branch 170, on Sunday, May 30. I’d like to congratulate president Jack Ballinger of the Legion, as well as all of the veterans and Legion members on this milestone of 80 years; and also Bill Ballinger, a former member here, who emceed the event that day.
At the celebration, I was pleased to meet the Uxbridge Secondary School students who returned from the 65th anniversary of the Victory in Europe demonstrations or visitation. I would like to pay tribute to all the students from Durham riding who were present at the Victory in Europe tour. Students from Uxbridge Secondary School, Port Perry High School, Courtice Secondary School, Clarington Central Secondary School and Clarke High School toured the Netherlands and were special guests of the VE Day observations. They were among the 2,400 Canadian students travelling with the VE education tour on a journey that helped them understand and remember Canada’s contribution to the victory in World War II.
Each year, the Thames Valley District School Board hosts a Special Olympics track and field meet. This provides the opportunity for students to participate in athletic activities, as well as forge new friendships. This event serves a twofold purpose: to encourage and provide students with developmental disabilities the opportunity to participate in athletic activities, and to provide a space for all students to learn teamwork and have some fun.
Each athlete is paired with a peer student, who coaches the athlete on their specific event. Over 1,000 peer students came from 55 different schools to participate in the Special Olympics track and field meet.
I would like to commend the Thames Valley District School Board for the efforts in organizing inclusive school events where students from all walks of life can participate and develop lifelong friendships.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you, and also I want to repeat my thanks to the Thames Valley school board for their efforts on a yearly basis to bring students together for a special event and to have fun.
Mrs. Laura Albanese: Today, June 2, is Italian National Day or Italian Republic Day, as it’s called. This official public holiday, which marks the republican and constitutional foundations of the modern Italian state, is celebrated in Italy and by Italian communities throughout the world to reflect on the country’s transition to peace and democracy following the devastation of World War II.
Over the years, thousands of Canadians of Italian origin, who have made vast contributions to the social, cultural and economic sectors of Ontario and Canada, have become accustomed to celebrating la Festa della Repubblica here in Canada too.
Earlier this afternoon, la Festa della Repubblica was celebrated here on the grounds of Queen’s Park. It’s a celebration that is organized every year by the members of this Legislature. We had the raising of the flag in the presence of the Consul General of Italy, Dr. Gianni Bardini. Many other consuls general were present, and many members of the Italian community at large. It’s a non-partisan event. We had members from the other parties who were present.
Mr. Michael A. Brown: I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Legislature for unanimously supporting my resolution last year that proclaimed Lake Superior Day the third Sunday in July.
This summer I invite all Ontarians and visitors to take a drive along this magnificent coast. You will not be disappointed. But while you’re soaking in the vistas and enjoying the experience, I want you to take advantage of the North of 49 festival, which will be held in Hornepayne. Visit Winnie the Pooh’s hometown in White River, and celebrate the 125th anniversary of the CPR coming through town. Enjoy Wawa’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Ontario stretch of the TransCanada Highway, and countless other events from Gros Cap to Thunder Bay.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to welcome representatives of the Hospital for Sick Children’s Safe Kids injury prevention program, which promotes youth safety: Amy Wanounou, coordinator, government relations and public policy; and Denyse Boxell, project leader, Safe Kids Week. Welcome to Queen’s Park today.
Bill 88, An Act to amend the City of Toronto Act, 2006, the Highway Traffic Act and the Municipal Act, 2001 with respect to accessible parking / Projet de loi 88, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2006 sur la cité de Toronto, le Code de la route et la Loi de 2001 sur les municipalités relativement au stationnement accessible.
The Highway Traffic Act is amended to provide for the issue of two categories of accessible parking permits: level 1 parking permits for persons with disabilities who require the assistance of mobility devices, and level 2 parking permits for persons with disabilities who do not require the assistance of mobility devices.
Further, the City of Toronto Act, 2006, and the Municipal Act, 2001, are amended to require the city of Toronto and other municipalities to establish a system of accessible parking and to designate accessible parking spaces for both categories of accessible parking permits.
Bill 89, An Act to implement measures relating to newcomer employment opportunities by amending various Acts / Projet de loi 89, Loi mettant en oeuvre des mesures visant à créer des débouchés pour les nouveaux arrivants par la modification de diverses lois.
It has three components: first, to provide a new 10%, non-refundable tax credit to eligible employers who arrange for occupation-specific English-as-a-second-language or French-as-a-second-language training for immigrant employees; second, to lower the investment requirements for immigrant applicants applying for permanent resident status in the investor category of the provincial nominee program, if the immigrant investor plans to operate a business outside the GTA; and third and finally, it would require regulated professions to make training materials and credentialing information available to prospective immigrants online, while empowering the Fairness Commissioner to monitor the reasonableness of Ontario’s professional credentialing processes, comparable to other jurisdictions.
Bill 90, An Act to amend the Health Protection and Promotion Act to require a food service premise to display the number of calories of food and drink items sold or served at the premise / Projet de loi 90, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection et la promotion de la santé pour exiger des lieux de restauration qu’ils affichent le nombre de calories des aliments et des boissons qui y sont vendus ou servis.
Mme France Gélinas: The bill amends the Health Protection and Promotion Act to require a food service premise with a minimum of five locations and a gross annual revenue of over $5 million to display the number of calories contained in the food and drink items that are sold or served on the premises. The bill makes it an offence to contravene this requirement and imposes fines for first, second and subsequent offences.
Bill 91, An Act to regulate the spreading and storage of sewage sludge and biosolids / Projet de loi 91, Loi réglementant l’épandage et le stockage des boues d’épuration et des matières sèches biologiques.
Mr. John O’Toole: The bill amends the Environmental Protection Act to require that a person obtain a certificate of approval from the director before spreading or storing sewage sludge or other biosolids and products derived from them. The certificate of approval may be subject to the testing, recording and reporting requirements that the director sees fit.
Bill 92, An Act to require automatic sprinklers in all Ontario retirement homes / Projet de loi 92, Loi exigeant l’installation d’extincteurs automatiques dans toutes les maisons de retraite de l’Ontario.
Mr. Paul Miller: Okay. When passed, the bill will ensure that this vital sprinkler retrofit must take place to protect our seniors from the horrors of retirement home fires. This bill requires retirement home operators to ensure that the home is equipped with automatic sprinklers. The sprinklers must comply with any requirements that the minister may prescribe.
Bill 93, An Act to amend the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 with respect to fire sprinkler retrofitting / Projet de loi 93, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1997 sur la prévention et la protection contre l’incendie à l’égard de l’installation rétroactive d’extincteurs automatiques.
Mr. Kim Craitor: The bill amends the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, to require that specific care occupancies that have been in existence since before March 16, 1998, be equipped with a system of automatic sprinklers. It has the endorsement of the Ontario fire marshal and the firefighters.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I glanced at the explanatory note, and that wasn’t in the explanatory note. I remind members to please read the explanatory note. If you have a very long explanatory note, you can shorten it, please.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I rise on behalf of the New Democrats and the leader of the Ontario NDP, Andrea Horwath, to express, first of all, our condolences to the family of Mr. Eaton, who served in this Legislature from 1971 to 1985.
We all know that members who come to this place come here with—how would you say it?—sort of a different background and a bit of a different take on what it is that they want to do when they get to this Legislature. Clearly in the case of Mr. Eaton, from what I was able to read, although I did not know Mr. Eaton—I was not serving here in 1985. I’ve gone back and looked at what was available in the library, and what struck me was that this was a gentleman who came from the farm, who understood what hard work was, who understood what it was to care for animals on the farm and to raise crops and to have the responsibilities that are so necessary to make a farm productive and successful.
When he came to this Legislature, he remembered all about that. He was all about making sure that he didn’t forget where he came from, that he recognized that at the end of the day, although he was elected to the Legislature by the people of Middlesex, he had a certain bent to him, and that bent was making sure that he advocated on behalf of the agricultural community of Ontario.
What is interesting, if you go back and look at Hansard, is that in many of the debates, even though they may not have been about agriculture, he found a way to slip it in, because he understood the people he represented in the Middlesex area. Many of them were farmers, and he understood that the people back home wanted to make sure that their issues were heard here in the Legislature, but more importantly, that the issues that were important to the farm community moved ahead.
In 1982, after a fair length of time of service in the Legislature, he was finally—actually, not in 1982 but prior to that, he was named the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, and in that time advocated in the ministry and with his colleagues in the caucus of the Conservative Party to advance those issues that are important to the agricultural community.
In 1982, he finally got promoted to cabinet. He became what we used to refer to as minister without briefcase or minister without portfolio. I think it was in recognition of the work that he did in his caucus and, more importantly, of his integrity. He was brought into the cabinet in a junior position in order to provide advice to the cabinet and to do the work that needed to be done by the then Conservative government.
Many people expected that he was going to be the next Minister of Agriculture, but as we know, in this place there are people sometimes who are Ministers of Agriculture of the day—I look at my good friend, whom I’m not going to name. They’re there in that spot and they stay there; there’s not a vacancy that happens to give you the opportunity to move ahead. So he never did get to serve as the Minister of Agriculture, not because he was not the most qualified person to do it but because others were there who served in that position well and the Premier had confidence in the Minister of Agriculture of the day.
In 1985, he lost, and that was a pretty big surprise. In politics, you go back and look at those ridings where you think the members are in good shape. People thought that Mr. Eaton was pretty solid in his riding and nobody expected in 1985 that he would be defeated, but defeated he was. In 1985 he was defeated after some 14, 15 years in the Legislature, to the chagrin of many in his constituency. Even though he lost the riding, people still came to him because he was known as a great constituency worker. Without resources and without an office, he continued to assist people in his community with the day-to-day problems that people have when they come to see their elected officials.
I think it says something about Mr. Eaton that he was here not just because he wanted to be MPP but he truly wanted to serve the people of his constituency. Even after defeat, he continued to represent people in ways that he could to advance their issues with the contacts he’d made in the time he was here in the Legislature and the contacts he made in the Ministry of Agriculture and others that were important to his constituents.
He took great pride—and I just want to say that, because it was clear as I was reading through the information—in being a constituency MPP. I that is something that we see a number of people in this Legislature do and it’s advice that I think we should take from Mr. Eaton and others as well. Although you might be elected to this Legislature in the government caucus and you might think that the work you do in the government is important, it’s all about what goes on back home. This is something that Mr. Eaton understood.
He went back to private life after 1985. He thought briefly about possibly taking another run at politics, but decided, “You know what? My family has been without me for a while.” I’m sure that his family let him know that in a very clear way. “You know what? When it comes down to it, I have a responsibility to my family,” said Mr. Eaton, and he decided—and he said this in media interviews afterwards—that he would not run again in regard to his responsibility to his family. So he turned his attention to the many community groups that he worked with.
He was a very proud Lions member. He worked with the Lions Club for a long time. He was a Lion at heart, as we would say, both in the Lions Club and just as himself. He was also very involved in starting up the Dorchester senior citizens’ community centre, which he was instrumental in getting funded.
I’ve got to say, in my last couple of comments, he was a lover of slo-pitch. It was interesting, as you go back and read some of the information that we had around clips, you would find clips in the media that referred to his time playing slo-pitch and coaching slo-pitch while he was in office and after. So, obviously, that was one of his passions.
I say, on behalf of New Democrats, to the family of Bob Eaton, we thank you for the service that this gentleman brought to the Legislature. I know that within your family you have lost somebody who’s quite important to the family, but more important to Ontario, I think we’ve lost somebody who, quite frankly, gave great public service to the Ontario people.
Hon. James J. Bradley: I’m privileged to be able to pay tribute to Bob Eaton and the contribution that he made to the Ontario Legislature. I, like my colleague across the floor Norm Sterling, knew him very well. He was no shrinking violet, I can tell you that. He was a very assertive individual, to the point where some of his colleagues from time to time perhaps thought he was too assertive. I always thought he was simply representing his view and his constituents in a very appropriate manner.
Bob was considered to be part of the right wing of the caucus. That was back when there was a Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario and right-wing was way over there. Bob’s thoughts were right-wing, but Jack Johnson, whom Ted Arnott would know very well, said that really he had a good social conscience as well. It wasn’t as though he was all extreme right-wing or anything of that nature. But by those standards, he was right-wing. Today he would perhaps fit in more appropriately; it’s hard to say.
He was a good guy—very attached to agriculture. Those of you who are from the agricultural community would know that not only did he go to agricultural college, of course, but he actually practised agriculture, breeding beef. I think he had both pork and beef operations that he was involved in deeply. So when he spoke about agricultural issues, it wasn’t from theory; it was from practice.
He was a parliamentary assistant in several areas, which meant that he accumulated a lot of knowledge, when you think of transportation and agriculture. I know he was in consumer and commercial relations, as it would have been called then. So he had built up this knowledge. He had served on a number of legislative committees, where again he was assertive. I noted in one of the articles, when reading back about Bob, that it mentioned that he wasn’t going to be muzzled by the fact that he was in the cabinet. Well, that’s always a goal that everybody has when they’re going into the cabinet, but Bob wasn’t muzzled by it. He was minister without portfolio and chief government whip, so I wouldn’t want to have been out of line, not in attendance appropriately, when Bob Eaton was around, because he would let you know quickly and vociferously that you were to be there.
My friend from the north made reference to the fact that he was involved in slo-pitch. It was over-65 slo-pitch, I think, which was really something when he was involved in that. He was always involved in that, and also what he called the Huff n’ Puff basketball and volleyball crowd. I thought the only way anybody played volleyball or basketball was huffing or puffing, but apparently there was an actual league. It mentions here that indeed the teams he was on participated in world series senior games and won Ontario and Canadian championships. While it was for recreation and fun, one thing you would say—and I think Norm would agree—is that he was a very competitive individual.
Was he a partisan? Yes, he was. Everybody in the House is a partisan. He believed strongly in the Progressive Conservative Party. I thought things hadn’t changed, because I was noting some of the things that he had had to say about the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, and just as today the Conservatives aren’t as complimentary as they might be of the Liberal Party and the NDP, he was not complimentary in those days. He criticized the opposition parties, saying that the Liberals had no policies to offer—imagine him saying that—and calling the New Democratic Party an “economic wrecking crew.” He said the New Democratic Party “would have the government in such a financial disarray in a matter of a year that any independent individual would contemplate seriously leaving Ontario for another country.”
But listen, he was a very good-hearted guy, with a family very supportive of him being in the Legislature. You all know the sacrifices, I think particularly when they’re outside of Toronto, spending as much time as he did as a parliamentary assistant and then as a cabinet minister.
Bob Eaton served the people of his constituency extremely well, he served the province of Ontario very well, and our province and his constituency and this place are all better because of his presence.
Mr. Norman W. Sterling: I would like to associate myself with the comments from Mr. Bisson and most of the comments of Mr. Bradley. I knew Bob Eaton quite well. When I got here in 1977, I soon recognized that Bob Eaton was truly a voice for the agricultural community. He was one of a group of three from western Ontario—I believe one of your predecessors, Ron McNeil, and the other one was Lorne Henderson. Quite frankly, they were quite a threesome when they got together, and on their own. All three spoke out very, very vociferously for the agricultural community. They not only spoke out in a very political way, but they also spoke out with a great deal of knowledge about that particular industry.
One must remember that they came from an area where the great Bill Stewart was from. Bill Stewart came from around the London area. I’m not exactly sure of the riding that he represented, because he was here before us.
Mr. Norman W. Sterling: It was London-Middlesex. He was probably, and has been noted by many as, the most renowned Minister of Agriculture that this province has ever had. Some might differ, including my friend from Halton. I think Bob Eaton was instilled with the principles and the work that Bill Stewart had done as a forerunner and wanted in a lot of ways to emulate what Bill Stewart had done for the agricultural community in the 1950s and 1960s in this province.
I had the opportunity to visit with Bob on his farm when he was a member in the early 1980s. I saw his farm operation. Even at the time when he was in fact a member in this Legislature, he had a significant hog farm, primarily breeding sows. I can never forget going out to the barn with Bob. I was quite amazed at the extensiveness of the operation and his knowledge about what he was doing with regard to that particular operation.
Bob not only had a great deal of knowledge about the agricultural community, but he also owned an insurance business before he got into politics and remained owner of that until the mid-1980s when he couldn’t any longer control that business or pay enough attention to it. After he left here, he went into the real estate business and back into the farming business as well.
It has been said already that Bob was a tremendous advocate for the agricultural community. He also was a tremendous partisan. He was loyal to his party. There was no question that Bob was a Progressive Conservative, and he never minced words with regard to his loyalty to his Premier and his party and that kind of thing. When he was serving as whip—I can tell you, serving under Bob as whip, you wanted to let him know when you weren’t going to be around, because notwithstanding our personal friendship, he would let you know in no uncertain terms that you were not to be away without his knowledge.
I do want to talk about one very humorous incident that took place here with regard to Bob when he was serving as minister without portfolio. From time to time I threaten my good friend Mr. Phillips that I’m going to ask him the same question that was asked by a Liberal of Bob Eaton when he was serving as a minister without portfolio. One day, a member from the Liberal Party—I think I know who it was, but I’m not going to name that particular individual—stood up and said, “I have a question for Mr. Eaton, the minister without portfolio.” The Speaker said, “Go ahead.” He said, “Since you’re a minister without portfolio, what do you do all day?” So I have threatened Mr. Phillips with that question, and I call it the “Bob Eaton question.” At any rate, Mr. Eaton did take it all in good stride, and that was something we should remember.
But it’s odd, you know. You look at the different characteristics of different people who serve in here. Bob was a very forceful person, and he used that characteristic in a lot of ways to gain successful conclusions to problems that his constituents had and the agricultural community had. He would let his cabinet colleagues and the Premier know in no uncertain terms what he wanted and that he was not about to budge with regard to that particular issue. He didn’t win all the time, but he certainly would let you know in a very forceful way what he thought the agricultural community needed in order to continue to survive.
I believe that Bob Eaton was a tremendous asset to the people in Middlesex, a tremendous asset to the Progressive Conservative Party and a tremendous asset to the Legislature of Ontario. I think we all owe him and his family a great deal of gratitude for that service and for them allowing him to be here with us for such a long period of time and making that contribution.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): It’s one of the challenges sitting in the Speaker’s chair of representing part of the riding that Bob Eaton represented too. I can’t get into any of my own anecdotes, but certainly our paths did cross at election time, and I certainly knew who he represented.
But I have to say this about Bob. Bob called my constituency office about six months before he passed away. He was advocating for a cancer drug that wasn’t on the list. I remember going out to see Bob at his home in Dorchester and sitting and meeting with him and him laying out on the table this great case as to why this drug should be listed. He was able to see that drug listed before he passed away, which just demonstrated that Bob was fighting on behalf of people right until the end.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I know many of my colleagues are wondering why I have five very large boxes, one of which is a very bright colour of pink. Today, I am proud to read the following on behalf of 100,000 Ontarians who have signed petitions opposing the HST from Curves and condominium buildings, as well as regular Ontarians:
“Whereas Dalton McGuinty’s plan to blend the PST with the GST into one 13% harmonized sales tax (HST) represents one of the largest tax hikes in Ontario history, at a time when families and businesses can least afford it; and
“This new tax, which we are calling the DST (Dalton sales tax), will raise the cost of a long list of goods and services not previously subject to provincial sales tax, including: electricity, home heating oil and gas at the pump; haircuts, newspapers and magazines.... ; home renovations; heating and air-conditioning repairs; accounting, legal and real estate fees and condo fees; new home sales; rents will also go up; minor hockey registration fees will increase; and green fees and gym fees” like those at Curves will also go up;
“Whereas, in view of the absence of enforceable standards for the level of fine particulate matter in ambient air since it was declared a toxic substance one decade ago under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act;
“Whereas, in view of the premature mortality and adverse health effects, largely attributable to fine particulate matter, which may arise from large natural-gas-fired generation facilities close to population centres;
“(a) Support the following measures to increase retirement security for all Canadians: phasing in a doubling of CPP benefits, financed by a modest increase in worker and employer contribution; and increasing old age security (OAS) and the guaranteed income supplement (GIS) for all retirees; and
“Whereas multiple industrial wind farm projects are being considered by the government of Ontario in the absence of independent, scientific studies on the long-term effects on the health of residents living near industrial wind farms;
“Therefore, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the government of Ontario to put a moratorium on any renewable energy approvals for the construction of industrial wind farms in the province of Ontario until such time as it can be demonstrated that all reasonable concerns regarding the long-term effects on the health of residents living near industrial wind farms have been fully studied and addressed.”
“Whereas Ontarians pay significantly more money than comparable US states for precisely the same generic drugs purchased at pharmacies for diabetes, cancer treatment, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart conditions and many other types of treatment; and
“Whereas Ontario taxpayers spend more than half a billion dollars each and every year on so-called professional allowances, which are money paid by generic drug manufacturers to big pharmacy chains to stock their product. This money does not assist patients, and instead pays for shareholder dividends, salaries, benefits, bonuses and overhead expenses; and
“Whereas drug costs are among the fastest-growing parts of Ontario’s health care system. Taxpayers’ funds should better be invested in improving access to new drugs to consumers and seniors and lowering prices on existing products; and
“Whereas the government of Ontario has proposed a more equitable means of compensating community pharmacists for serving clients and will eliminate abuse by big pharmacy chains of rebates provided by manufacturers of drug products;
“That the government of Ontario and all members of the Ontario Legislative Assembly support Ontario’s proposed changes to the regulations governing” pharmacies “and assist patients and Ontario seniors with lower drug prices and better access to more new drugs for all Ontarians.”
Bill 43, An Act to amend the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000, the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 and the Ontario College of Art & Design Act, 2002 / Projet de loi 43, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2000 favorisant le choix et l’excellence au niveau postsecondaire, la Loi de 2005 sur les collèges privés d’enseignement professionnel et la Loi de 2002 sur l’École d’art et de design de l’Ontario.
Hon. John Milloy: It’s a pleasure for me to kick off third reading debate on behalf of the government this afternoon. I want to begin—as Bill 43, of course, is in its final stages of debate—to acknowledge the support and help of my parliamentary assistant, the member from Ancaster–Dundas–Flamborough–Westdale, for all his work both in formulating the bill and helping to usher it through committee.
I’d also like, Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, to acknowledge the fact that my mother-in-law, the mother of the member from Kitchener–Conestoga, is watching right now, and I know that she enjoys what goes on in the Legislature. I’ve never had a chance to say hello to her before.
To put the bill in some context, it’s about post-secondary education in the province of Ontario. I think everyone in this House recognizes that post-secondary education in Ontario is key to its future. Post-secondary education really has two key components. It’s about access, and it’s about quality. As a government, we’ve made great strides in terms of allowing a greater number of students into our post-secondary system, and, at the same time, we’ve done great work to enhance its quality. We, as a government, are looking at a goal of having 70% of Ontarians have a post-secondary credential. At the same time, we’re looking at opening up our doors to more international students to come in to enhance the system. We have to do that by, as I say, ensuring there’s space in the system for these students, but also making sure that the system is one of excellence. Just to give a little bit of further context, how do we as a government, as a Legislature, ensure that excellence in the post-secondary system?
When I talk about institutions, it’s very important for the purposes of this bill that we recognize we’re not simply talking about a public college or university. We’re also talking about private career colleges, private institutions which undertake training for individuals. They’re a big part of our Second Career program, vocational training and other training that’s offered. We also have private universities. Often the ones we think of are of a religious bent, but they have the capacity to offer degrees and credentials to students.
How these institutions are governed is by individual acts of the Legislature. If you went through, you’d find there are individual acts that govern many of the colleges and universities we’re aware of. Private universities, too, are governed by various private bills here in the Legislature.
We also have something that was brought in by the previous government in 2001, entitled the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, the PSECE Act. The PSECE Act provides another way by which a private institution can approach the government and have permission to offer a degree. We could have an act of the Legislature, or an institution could come forward through this act and ask that they be given permission to grant a degree. Under the PSECE Act, they make an application and it goes to a body called PEQAB, the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board, which looks at applications that come forward from private institutions, community colleges and out-of-province public institutions for anyone who wants to offer a degree and go that route. They take a look at the offerings that have come forward and hold them to a very, very high standard. I must say that Ontario is recognized internationally for the very, very high standard that the PEQAB board, established by the PSECE Act, undertakes.
The other legislation that governs this post-secondary education amalgam is the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005. Before that, private career colleges were basically governed as any small business is governed. This, in 2005, recognized their important role in terms of vocational education, set up very important standards and enforcements for them, where the government can make sure that they’re offering the highest education. Right now, we have about 500 private career colleges in the province, the vast majority of which are doing an excellent job.
As I said, Ontario has a very outstanding reputation when it comes to the quality of our educational institutions. We’re seen as world leaders. But there’s more that we can do, as there always is. We need to make sure that we strengthen the way we govern and oversee all these types of institutions in order to make sure that students are getting quality and in order to ensure that international students are coming here and pursuing the best educational options.
So, what we’ve done with this bill is, we’ve looked at three distinct acts, and we’ve put forward measures to strengthen them. I’m going to take a minute or two and address each part of this bill and each of the acts that they address.
I’m going to start with the least controversial, and that’s the Ontario College of Art & Design Act. I’m pleased to say that after a great deal of work and consultation, we have come forward with amendments that would change the name of the Ontario College of Art and Design to the Ontario College of Art and Design University. Establishing OCAD as a university would reflect the academic evolution of the institution. Consistent with the name change, changes to the act would also establish a university senate and amend the powers of the board of governors.
This, as I said, has been based on a great deal of consultation, and I chose to start with that because I think we have pretty much unanimous consent here in the Legislature that this is a very appropriate measure to be bringing forward, just based on the debate that I’ve heard.
In bringing this forward, I want to acknowledge the support of one of OCAD’s greatest champions here in the Legislature, the member for York Centre, Mr. Kwinter. I also want to again acknowledge the co-operation with the administration, and note that we have Dr. Sara Diamond here with us today, as well as Carole Beaulieu, the director of government relations. Again, this has been working with OCAD to bring forward these amendments.
Just to give a little bit of background, OCAD was founded in 1876 as the Ontario School of Art. It was integrated into the provincial system of education in 1883, and was incorporated by an act of the provincial Legislature in 1912 as the Ontario College of Art. It is the largest institution in Canada devoted solely to the education of professional artists and designers.
In 2000, a panel of international experts was established to advise the minister on OCAD’s ability to provide fine arts and design degree programs to the standard of an internationally recognized university. As a result of that review, the government provided OCAD with limited degree-granting authority through an act passed in the year 2002. Currently, OCAD has the authority to offer the following degrees: baccalaureate degrees of a bachelor of fine arts and a bachelor of design; and graduate degrees of a master of arts, master of fine arts and master of design.
The amendments we are proposing would provide OCAD with the tools it needs to grow in strength and in stature. As I say, I welcome the support of everyone here in the Legislature. Through the debate, I think we have all-party support.
The second part of today’s bill deals with the PSECE Act, the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act. Since it has been brought in, it has been working very effectively in terms of reviewing applications for degrees. We have, however, had organizations in instances where they’ve challenged the act. To put it very bluntly, loopholes have started to become apparent where people could perhaps intentionally work around the very high standards of the act and exist here in the province of Ontario. We need to ensure the quality of it; we need to ensure the brand of it. Actually, if you want to go to the other extreme, as I said, some are perhaps starting to identify loopholes.
We also have instances where outstanding institutions with very straightforward applications under the PSECE Act to have a degree program approved by the government are finding that there are some obstacles and some administrative problems in the way.
What we have done is we have put forward a package of amendments that will address both these ends. On the one end, in terms of those who perhaps are of the unscrupulous variety, we put forward amendments that would allow us to have enforcement powers similar to those under the Private Career Colleges Act. It would strengthen those and allow us to shut down unauthorized educational institutions that are offering degrees and have no right to; they haven’t gone through the process. The amendments would allow the minister to impose financial penalties as well as issue compliance and restraining orders against unauthorized degree-granting institutions.
Finally, the amendments would allow for greater flexibility and transparency in the application process and would allow us to set up a system where there are very straightforward situations where we could make sure they were dealt with as effectively as possible.
The final part of the bill that’s before us today are amendments to the PCC Act, the Private Career Colleges Act. I think those like my mother-in-law perhaps, who are regular viewers of this channel, may be a little confused because for the last year or year and a half, they would have heard opposition members stand up in this House and say that the government wasn’t being strong enough when it came to making sure that bad actors in the private career college community were being shut down, fined and punished for the work they were doing; that we weren’t doing enough to protect students.
So we brought in a large number of measures that I’m going to be touching on in a second, and through this bill we’re in fact enhancing those measures. Those individuals who were watching the Legislature in the last few days would have heard the opposition stand up and say, “Oh, my gosh, the government has it wrong. We’re now too tough on private career colleges.” I’m, quite frankly, a bit confused as to where the opposition is coming from, and I just want to spend a second and give a bit of an outline of private career colleges and how they’ve been dealt with by our government, a record that I’m very proud of.
To start, before our government came into power there was very little oversight of private career colleges in the province of Ontario. In 2005, my predecessor, Mr. Bentley, brought forward the Private Career Colleges Act, which set out powers of the ministry to make sure that private career colleges complied with government regulation, that they were offering the highest-quality student programming and that there were protections for students. In 2006, the act came into force. Very candidly I will state here in this Legislature that for the first period of time, we were very much in an education mode as a ministry, and we were trying to work with the private career colleges sector to make sure they understood the rules and regulations, to make sure that they understood our oversight powers and, at the same time, to begin to integrate them into the new system.
Those who have followed it know that during that period of time we have had instances of bad actors that have come forward, private career colleges that were, quite frankly, ripping off students. Although action was taken by the ministry, as I say, it was a transition period. Certainly our efforts to put more teeth into our enforcement, to make sure that we brought in the type of regime that was originally envisioned, was certainly encouraged by the work of the Ombudsman. There has been a lot of talk in this debate on it, and I’m going to give credit to the Ombudsman for a report that came out about a year ago called Too Cool for School, where he looked at what was going on here in the province of Ontario and underscored the need for greater protections and stronger enforcement.
We acted as we had planned. As I say, it was hastened in many ways by his report. What have we done? We’ve doubled the number of inspectors to 12. We’ve appointed new provincial offences officers with the power to issue court summons. We’ve introduced financial penalties for PCCs that break the law. We’re also reaching out to students through a public awareness campaign to ensure they understand the importance of choosing a registered PCC and an approved program.
Part of the problem is that people set themselves up as private career colleges and they’re not at all. So one of the big messages that I leave with every student is that if you want to pursue studies at a private career college, make sure that it’s registered and that it’s complying with the rules and regulations.
I’m pleased to say that in 2010 alone, the ministry issued 63 restraining orders and 78 notices of financial penalties to private career colleges that contravened the act or its regulations. Further, we are conducting risk-based inspections and are committed to working with colleges to bring them into compliance with our act.
As to Monsieur Marin, a lot has been said about his report, but everyone talks about the report like it was issued yesterday. In fact, it was issued a year ago. I had the pleasure of bumping into Monsieur Marin several weeks ago, when he actually came up to me and shook my hand and said, “Congratulations on the good work that your ministry is doing.” In fact, a letter was sent November 16, 2009, several months after his report came forward. It was sent to the Deputy Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. I’d like to quote it into the record:
“I would like to acknowledge receipt of your first quarterly report on the progress that the ministry has made in implementing the recommendations arising from my investigation into the ministry’s oversight of Bestech Academy Inc. and its enforcement of the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
“I was pleased”—Mr. Speaker, you’ll be interested in this—“to see that the ministry has moved forward with a number of concrete initiatives focused on ensuring greater student protection and more rigorous enforcement. I am confident that the ministry will continue to strengthen its oversight in this area....”
The proposed amendments to the Private Career Colleges Act in this bill will build on the initiatives we have already undertaken and improve student protection. In particular, our proposed amendments to section 53 of the Private Career Colleges Act would provide further regulatory tools and would enable the superintendent of private career colleges to implement program standards across the entire sector over time. Over the past few years, staff at MTCU have met and worked with the sector. From these discussions, we’ve been working on program standards and a qualifications framework that will set out the expectations for each type of credential which private career colleges may award program graduates.
We know—and I want to stress this very clearly on the record—that the vast majority of private career colleges are good players. They want to align their programs with these standards to ensure quality across their sector and they want to make sure that we get rid of the bad actors, because it brings everyone down.
Based on feedback from the PCC sector and through what all members of the Legislature heard during public hearings on Bill 43, we were happy to make some changes to the legislation. Specifically, amendments were introduced and passed at committee that say that when a policy director revokes an approval of a credential—we have introduced an amendment which permits those who are currently enrolled in such a program to graduate and receive the credential associated with the program. Also, an amendment was passed that said a private career college would be given a minimum of six months to come into accordance with a new policy directive. The exception to these assurances is in cases where a policy directive introduces a new standard related to public health and public safety or whether there are regulatory changes in entry-to-practice requirements; in other words, the curriculum has changed for someone to practise a certain profession, so someone who graduates would be left without the possibility of being able to work in that field. In these cases, private career colleges may be required to comply sooner with the policy directive and students may not be able to complete the program in which they were originally enrolled.
Again, I just want to stress that the vast majority of private career colleges in this province do an outstanding job. They are supportive of the action we are taking to strengthen the sector, to make sure that a student, either from Ontario or from overseas, who comes here and sees that the private career college is registered, that they are in compliance with the rules and regulations—which they can, through a simple click on our Internet site or a call to a TCU office—that they are getting the highest quality education.
With only about a minute and a half left, I want to go back to where I started and say what this is all about at its core: It’s about quality of education. It’s also about students. We’re in a very transformational world right now. The jobs of the future are only going to those who have pursued education beyond high school, whether that’s through one of our public colleges and universities, whether that’s through a private university or an outside institution which is offering a course here in the province of Ontario or whether it’s through a private career college. What we have to do as a government is to maintain the absolutely pristine standards that exist here in Ontario.
Open Ontario is an acknowledgment that Ontario is no longer isolated, that it’s open to the world. That means open to students who want to come here and study. Through the passage of this act, we are sending a strong signal to Ontario students and a strong signal to students around the globe that Ontario is a great place to study and that the quality of higher education in Ontario is second to none. For that reason, I am very proud to support this bill at third reading and look forward to discussion from other members of the Legislature.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: It’s good to have an opportunity to speak to this bill, and it’s good to listen to the minister. He took the whole 20 minutes. He generally speaks for a few minutes and then shares the time with somebody else, but he decided to take the time, and it’s a good thing that he’s done that—
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Maybe because the mother-in-law is watching, which is a good thing. There have been a lot of concerns expressed, and maybe that’s why he decided to take the 20 minutes—and that’s okay.
First of all, I wanted to thank Sara Diamond for sitting patiently through this. It’s been almost two hours. And Madame Beaulieu, merci beaucoup: You didn’t have to come, really. We support you. Even the member from Simcoe–Grey supports you, and although they may oppose this bill for different reasons, he has made it very clear that they support the name change to “university” because you have a great reputation. You deserve it, and we want to make sure that the benefits of what you do are known across Ontario and beyond.
The member from York Centre was already thanked. He was a student there. He has been a strong supporter. We thank him as well for all the good work and the support that he has given to this now university. So that’s out of the way.
But I want to speak to other elements that the minister has spoken to, because he took about three or four minutes to talk about how great the system is working in Ontario. He talks about being in a transformational world where post-secondary education is at the centre. He sounds correct and he makes sense, except we in Ontario are number 10 in per capita funding. That doesn’t put us at the top of the list; it puts us at the bottom of the list. If indeed education is at the centre of this transformational world, why are we underfunding it? Why are we last in Canada? It’s not a proud record. We have the highest class sizes in the country, and the ratio is 27 to 1. How can you be proud of that? How can education be at the centre and then we have a ratio that is the highest in the country? It doesn’t make any sense. How can you offer the quality that students deserve when those ratios are so high, and climbing each and every year? We have a deferred maintenance program of about $1.6 billion, which is probably the highest in the country, and these Liberals are proud of it. What kind of a record is that?
Yes, education is important, but when tuition fees are the highest in the country, that’s nothing to be proud of. When the average tuition fee of students is $23,000 in a regulated field, that is extremely high. When you want to be a doctor and you leave with $100,000 of debt, that is an incredible amount of money that you have to pay off, and it won’t be easy paying it off. If you want to be a dentist or a doctor, you’re going to have a debt of $80,000 to $100,000 at the end of it. It’s huge. These are the things that make the educational system complex and difficult for students and parents who are trying to make their way in this complex world.
I wanted to just say to the minister, please, we have a long way to go in terms of what we need to do to create quality in the system and to help these students so that they don’t have to work 23 hours a week to try to pay off some of that debt. We all know, and John Yakabuski knows, that when you work 20 or 30 hours a week—when you work 23 or 25 hours a week, it’s going to affect your learning. We know you know, John. We know that a whole lot of young men and women are working on a daily basis, a weekly basis, to try to reduce that debt load, but it’s affecting the quality of their education. That’s obvious to me and it ought to be obvious to any Liberal who’s listening, except those who want to expound on how great they are and how great and how important post-secondary education is. Yet our students are finding it hard.
Please, I wanted to reject some of those comments made by the minister because he makes it appear like they’re leaders. They’re not leaders. Ontario Liberals are not leaders on post-secondary education. When it comes to the elementary and secondary levels, we are number 8 in per capita funding in the country and we are lower than many other states in per capita funding. At the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels, we are literally at the bottom. How can education be at the centre of this transformational world, yet we underfund it in so many ways that do not give us the quality that we’re looking at?
With respect to this bill, you have increased fines. And I want to point out—because I don’t want to repeat much of what I said yesterday—that the maximum fine that can be levied at the moment is $100,000, and the maximum fine that has been levied so far has been $39,000. So I have made the argument that if we have not yet reached the $100,000 penalty, why is it that you believe that you need to increase it to $250,000? I’ll tell you why you’re doing this: It’s to give the appearance that you really are going to be tough against the rogue operators, the fraudulent operators, the illegal operators. You make it appear like you’re going to get tough on them, and so far—I don’t know. The record has been very poor.
Yes, you have made improvements since the Ombudsman has written two scathing reports against your ministry. Thank the Lord that the Ombudsman did those reports; otherwise I’m not quite sure what that ministry does by way of going after illegal and rogue operators.
Paula Cooper, one of the deputants, said the following: “There were two reports, one for privates and one for public. The common denominator in the both of those reports” by the Ombudsman “was systemic failures by the ministry. The common message I read is that TCU requires better internal organization, not increased power,” and I’ll get to that in a moment.
The point is, you have the power and you’ve had the power with your bills to go after rogue operators, those who operate outside of the law, those who are not registered. The point and the problem is, you haven’t been going after them for years. Since the report made by the Ombudsman, you’ve started to do something. Merciful Lord, it’s a good thing. How could it be bad? How could you have continued not doing anything year after year? So when you finally do something—
This bill, however, does nothing to go after the rogue operators. It doesn’t. And what the deputants did, monsieur le Ministre with your hand gesture, all of the deputants who came to depute on this bill said exactly what I’m saying now: that this bill does nothing to go after those who are not registered, who are the illegal rogue operators. You may squint in negation, but this bill gives us nothing by way of what you are doing other than hopefully using the law that you have to go after them. Hopefully you will continue to do a better job, one that this government has not been doing for five and a half or six years.
It’s noteworthy to mention that the private career colleges came to depute. No one came to support your bill, absolutely no one. All of the private career colleges—and by the way, I’m not generally one who goes out to lead the charge with private career colleges. I should tell you that. But they made a good, strong argument in defence of what they believe Bill 43 does against them, and I heard them. I don’t believe most of your members did, except the parliamentary assistant, who said, “We hear you now and we will pay attention to you when we pass regulations.” Except they said that when you, Minister, went to speak to the annual Ontario Association of Career Colleges conference held at Blue Mountain, you indicated that they had nothing to worry about and that any changes that were going to be made were technical in nature. When they read the bill, they were horrified and outraged. Why would that be? Because when they read the bill, and I have the bill here, and they read the section that deals with private career colleges on page 9—that’s “Compliance.” It’s all here in this bill, private career colleges are on page 13. When they read that section, they were a bit disturbed, angry, and wanted to send the government a message.
What Paula Cooper said about this particular bill is that she is worried about the power that you have given to your superintendent that did not exist prior, because there is a power to revoke permission for whatever programs they provide. There’s a power of revocation given to superintendents. What Paula Cooper said is that the internal problem has not yet been solved. What are the internal problems? We’ve had four superintendents in four years. We’ve had changes to assistant deputies—and I added, because I’ve been the critic for this minister for quite some time, we have had changes with deputy ministers and we have had changes with ministers themselves. This is the longest-serving minister we’ve had in a while. But we have had many, many ministerial changes that have given so much instability to this ministry that these private career colleges are worried that when you introduce these kinds of changes with this kind of power that is given to the superintendent to revoke a program—a program that allows them to be able to teach students whatever it is that they’re teaching, because there are over 23,000 students in these private career colleges—they could find themselves in trouble, and they were nervous.
The parliamentary assistant said, “Don’t worry,” that whatever changes are going to be made in regulation, they will be consulted. My sense is that after the commotion and the anger that was expressed by the private career colleges, they will consult with them, and the amendments that were not supported by the government are likely to be implemented indirectly by regulatory changes.
There were some amendments made by the Conservatives respecting the private career colleges that I thought were reasonable, that were not supported by the government members. I want to repeat them for the record. One of the amendments read as follows: “If a person who has received a notice of contravention applies for a review under subsection (6), the minister shall conduct the review in a reasonable time and shall commence the review within 30 days after he or she has received the notice under subsection (6) and shall otherwise conduct the review in accordance with the regulations.” I felt it was a reasonable amendment: They would conduct a review in a reasonable time and shall commence the review within 30 days. The government members rejected that.
This gives cause for alarm to the private career colleges. When you reject such an amendment, that says to them that if you’re not going to conduct a review within a reasonable time and within 30 days, that means some of these people could be out of luck for a whole long time; they would be suspended without being able to operate for quite some time. So they repressed the simple amendment that I thought, as I say, was reasonable. Liberals often say, “by any reasonable measure or standard,” and I want to apply that language to this particular issue. This is a reasonable amendment, rejected by usually reasonable Liberals. I don’t get it. I suspect that under regulatory changes this is probably going to be done, but they didn’t want to support it by way of an amendment. I don’t know why, but we’ll see.
Another amendment that I thought was reasonable: “The minister shall ensure that the amount of the penalties prescribed under clause (1)(h) and the amount of any fines prescribed in respect of this act under the Provincial Offences Act are publicly available on a website maintained by the ministry and are otherwise reasonably made available to members of the public.”
The parliamentary assistant said, “Oh, but they are available on the website.” My suspicion is that the private career colleges know they were not on the website. It’s quite possible that there is the intent to put them on the website. Maybe it is now, but it wasn’t when this amendment was drafted. But it is a reasonable request: Make sure that the penalties prescribed under this clause or under this act are publicly available on a website. If it becomes redundant, given that you might have done it of late, then you’ve lost nothing.
The point is this: I believe that the superintendent is likely to behave in a reasonable manner, that is, likely not to rush through with some irrational decision. I believe that to be true. But the private career colleges do not believe that, and they, based on the fact that you did not consult them at all, might have a justified fear. That is the point they made that I reiterate, because it gives cause for concern.
So I say to you, are you going after rogue operators with this bill? I don’t believe you are. Are you ensuring quality, as you claim? I don’t know how much quality you’re really giving by way of what the minister was saying about this.
It’s not, in my mind, a historic bill, it’s another little bill. But for the private career colleges it’s an incredibly overpowering bill that they fear, based on the power the minister has now given the superintendent by way of being able to revoke approvals. That’s something that the government, the minister and the parliamentary assistant need to work at as they go through the approvals.
I will be supporting this bill, but I wanted to tell the minister that it’s hardly revolutionary, please. Secondly, you should reach out to those private career colleges because, based on what you have said, even though you tried to recover in your last minute by saying that a lot of private year colleges—based on what you said, you make them appear as if they’re providing bad programs. They told us in committee, “We want you to go after the rogue operators. We want you to do that because we believe that most of us”—meaning the private career colleges—“are doing a good job based on what you have approved.”
So they’re not going to feel too great after they listen to your speech, by the way, although you might have calmed them down in the last minute where you said most of them deliver good programs. I think you should reach out to them, because on the whole you’ve ruined some of the rapport you may have had with them..
Mr. John Yakabuski: I’m not sure if I’m that pleased to join this debate because I wasn’t expecting to be joining this debate. Unfortunately, my colleague has been detained, but I have been looking at some of the notes that my friend and colleague Mr. Wilson has provided for me.
I want to thank the folks from Ontario College of Art and Design, which will be becoming a university. It was interesting reading that my friend Minister Milloy did not seem to remember that it was our government that got you on the road to becoming a university by giving you your start in 2002. Like my friend Mr. Wilson, we’re very proud of that and very proud of the work that you do. Thank you for good work that you do, and thank you for joining us here today.
I guess Mr. Milloy conveniently forgot that because he was so caught up with ensuring that his mother-in-law watched today, and I hope she’s watching now, because I like everyone to have the opportunity to watch the legislative channel. Unfortunately, there’s not enough people who do watch it because, you see, in my area most people have a satellite and they don’t have cable. I’ve got a satellite because I live in rural Ontario. Of course, Bell doesn’t carry the Ontario legislative channel on the satellite system anymore.
Mr. John Yakabuski: It’s terrible. It’s terrible that they do that. Maybe the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities could force them to do that on the grounds that it’s educational. Then again, some days maybe it really isn’t.
But one of the thing that I know my friend Jim Wilson, our critic for training, colleges and universities, has consistently spoken about in this bill is the fact that after years of total inaction on the part of the government, all of a sudden, near the end of April they decide they’re going to bring in this piece of legislation and need to have it rushed through prior to the intersession when the House rises, presumably tomorrow, unless some kind of a catastrophe befalls us.
They had to rush this thing through. Ironically, just a couple of days after the bill was introduced, I believe that it was the private career colleges of Ontario that had a reception here. While I’m not the critic, I did go to the reception because the food is always good at these receptions.
I kind of thought, when this reception was going on, that these people were here because the bill had just been introduced and they were here to support the bill. Oh, my goodness, no, no, no. They weren’t here to support the bill at all. In fact, they had severe reservations about this bill because of the design of the bill and what we were all led to believe, and the minister would have you believe that the reason they brought in this piece of legislation—and when we first saw this coming, we said, “Well, yes, it’s been coming for a while; we’ve expected it for a while.” There are all kinds of reasons why there should be legislation to crack down on the rogues and the crooked operators out there that have not been doing a good job, so the initial expectation was that that’s what this bill is supposed to do. In fact, it will do less of that, and more, make it very difficult for the legitimate private career colleges to continue to operate here in the province. On top of that, of course, then the government brings in time allocation.
Now, I see my friend from York Centre, and he knows all about time allocation because he was in opposition, too. It’s sort of maybe when the government doesn’t really want to talk about it that they bring in this time allocation. But it wasn’t just time allocation in the House here; it was time allocation in committee as well. It limited the amount of time that people who had a very, very deep interest in this bill could speak to the members of the committee and voice their concerns and their objections to all or part of the bill. But one thing that was found out about the committee, and my friend from Trinity–Spadina has spoken about that in his address—I’m not on that committee and I wasn’t there for any of those hearings—the number of deputants who came in to strongly request the government to be making significant amendments to this piece of legislation and/or starting the process over again because they didn’t get it right. And that’s one thing that we do have a responsibility in this Legislature to do: to get it right.
“As a private career college (PCC) owner-operator for 20 years, I am writing this letter to express my concern over Bill 43, which is currently being debated in the House. My concern centres on the power this bill will give to one individual, that being the superintendent of training, colleges and universities (TCU) should Bill 43 be passed.
“Part of my concerns stem from the lack of knowledge that those sitting at Queen’s Park have in regard to the private career college industry in Ontario. There is a problem with illegal private trainers masquerading as ... private career colleges in this province. I have worked very hard and invested a lot of time and money to come into compliance as a registered college offering approved programs and am supportive of any efforts at shutting down those that are operating outside the PCC act 2005. However, my concerns lie with the fact that if this same bill becomes law, it provides one individual with such discretionary power which could then be used against those that operate good schools”—to my point, where the private career colleges were supportive of the principle but questioning whether or not this bill is going to capture that—“without ever having had a complaint lodged against them with TCU, such as mine.
“One example of lack of understanding by those involved is the continued use of the phrase ‘illegal private career colleges’ ... when referring to an illegal entity operating outside the PCC Act 2005, having neither registered nor had their programs approved through TCU.”
So what you’re doing is you’re using the word “illegal,” which encompasses all private career colleges, when you’re talking about an illegal entity that has never been registered as a private career college. I think it’s a very legitimate concern that has been registered on behalf of private career colleges.
Continuing: “After 20 years in business I am now being accused of not operating in a financially responsible way and must provide audited statements, my programs may be deemed inappropriate and suspended under the reaches of these new powers, and prospective students are told to ‘protect themselves.’” That’s apparently on the ministry’s website. “Program consultants have become inspectors and investigators, and I already live in fear of retaliation if I challenge the government on decisions that affect what I have chosen to do for the past 20 years, as is evidenced by the recent Licence Appeal Tribunal hearing against the Niagara-on-the-Lake Culinary School Inc. that clearly points to an abuse of existing powers that could have dire results in my business should it happen to me.
“This Bill 43 needs to be openly debated. Those that are going to have their livelihoods affected by these changes need to have an opportunity to educate those who will be voting on this bill. Not only does Bill 43 need to be considered strongly, but the PCC Act 2005 in its entirety also. If not, choice for post-secondary education could be greatly affected for the people of Ontario if this bill becomes law and its power applied to good, moral, hard-working and predominantly compliant colleges. Given the rapid change of policy and definition as it pertains to the PCC Act 2005, full compliance is elusive at best.
That’s just a sampling of the concerns that have been registered against this bill, but I know I have other colleagues who do want to speak to this and I’m going to pass that on at this time. Thank you very much for allowing me to share in this debate.
I had left some notes here because I wanted to speak on this after the minister had spoken on the Too Cool for School report from the Ombudsman. He sat on that report, which was kind of a warning, if you will, to the minister to do something.
But what was so disappointing about that is that they didn’t consult with the private career colleges. They really didn’t. In fact, that very day of the bill being introduced, we thought a reception had been arranged through the ministry because of the introduction of the bill—the bill that we’re discussing, Bill 43—but in fact it was nothing of the sort. They were shocked and disappointed by the characterization that somehow all of the private career colleges aren’t up to the task. In fact, they’re filling a void, in many cases, of what’s not being offered, alongside the publicly funded career colleges.
Even when I look at the failure of the Second Career program—I’m leaving a few questions on the table here on this. What are the careers of the future? We’ve heard over the last several years that we’re going to have a chronic shortage of skilled trades. Many of those colleges that I think are providing that training in complement to the apprenticeship program would qualify as a private career college through the union halls.
The real disappointment here—and a surprise for me—is that there’s a section of the bill that has not really been, I think, fairly opened or discussed. It’s the portion with respect to certification. It’s actually in section 2 of the bill, under subsection (2) and then subsection (3). This is kind of technical stuff, but it is important. It says:
“A diploma, certificate, document or other thing that implies or would be reasonably understood as the granting or conferring of a degree, including, without limiting the foregoing, a diploma, certificate, document or other thing that includes a reference to bachelor, bachelor’s, baccalaureate, master, master’s, doctor, doctoral or doctorate.”
In subsection (3) it says: “For greater certainty, a diploma, certificate, document or other thing referred to in paragraph 2 of subsection (2) does not include a certificate, licence, registration or other form of official recognition that attests to the person being qualified to practise a trade or occupation....”
I don’t know just how to frame it any differently, other than to say that the only persons now who would be qualified to grant a certificate—qualified to practise a trade or occupation would be the Working Families group, under the college of trades, the new college that was created under different legislation. I find that problematic.
The one common theme that I think our critic, Mr. Wilson, and our caucus would agree with is that untoward practices by any college—career college or other college—of not giving value for money, or not having legitimate instructors or course content that actually leads to skill development and pure knowledge, are wrong.
If people are being falsely lured to these unregistered—in many cases, these colleges that we’re referring to wouldn’t be part of this bill. This is the other part. If they’re not registered as part of the private career college group, how are you going to enforce the specific demands of Bill 43? And if they’re not registered, are they going to be inspecting them? These are the ones that, when there’s a complaint brought to the minister’s attention by an MPP—whatever the political party; it doesn’t really matter—where the person has been somehow defrauded of their tuition money or hasn’t gotten quality or the college goes down, how are they going to get their money? How are they going to get money back from the college if it has gone bankrupt? There has to be some proactiveness here.
He said there was going to be a program to educate some of the students or those applying to these colleges, and I still say, what are the careers of the future? Second Career in my riding—what I’m hearing now is that people are taking court recorder courses and other kinds of courses, but there are no jobs. There’s a serious problem here.
With this HST, the harmonized sales tax, this new 8% tax, they’re talking about the fact that there are going to be 600,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. Let’s put this into the light of day: Over 10 years, 60,000 new jobs—there will be more new Canadians than 60,000, so that isn’t even going to hold the numbers up. Over 10 years, 600,000? It should be 100,000 jobs a year.
I can’t believe that some of the parts of this bill are actually going to do very much. It sounds good, but the actions, I think, belie the fact that the auditor’s report should still be paid attention to. We need that, and I’m glad to hear that Mr. Marin will be back. I would say he should be. He’s one of the best we’ve had.
There are some things that I would want to be on record as supporting, and I want to put this on record again for the second time. This was published in April, and it says, “The other change to post-secondary education announced Monday will make it easier for Ph.D. students to get permanent resident status after they finish their degree.” This is actually good.
Many of these researchers from other countries who receive their doctoral degrees in research legitimacy here—and this is a commendation to the minister. A personal example here is that “Irada Ibrahim-Zada, a Ph.D. student in the U of T’s department of laboratory medicine and pathology ... is from Azerbaijan. She is doing research about why certain cancer drugs do or don’t work well with different patients depending on their genes.
“Ibrahim-Zada said removing the rule that requires a permanent job before applying for permanent” residency “will boost her chances of being able to stay and work in Ontario.” And, I might add, make a valuable contribution to this province.
But when I look at it in terms of some of the implications for the private career colleges that aren’t serving their student population well, I need assurance that this isn’t just 12 new inspectors who are going to be inspecting randomly. They should be following up on complaints lodged by MPPs or by students who have been disappointed in their programs. If I have that assurance, I gather that this bill will do something to a situation. But many of those career colleges do provide a valuable opportunity for people where there’s no space for them under the current colleges that serve Ontario.
It’s a bill that gives the impression that it’s doing a lot; it really isn’t. I leave the question on the table: What are the jobs of the future? What are we training our students, our young people, for in the future in a province that’s raising taxes and reducing services every single day in this Legislature? I find this bill an important debate today.
Mr. Milloy has moved third reading of Bill 43, An Act to amend the Post-Secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000, the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005, and the Ontario College of Art & Design Act, 2002. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
Resuming the debate adjourned on May 19, 2010, on the motion for second reading of Bill 191, An Act with respect to land use planning and protection in the Far North / Projet de loi 191, Loi relative à l’aménagement et à la protection du Grand Nord.
Resuming the debate adjourned on May 31, 2010, on the motion for second reading of Bill 68, An Act to promote Ontario as open for business by amending or repealing certain Acts / Projet de loi 68, Loi favorisant un Ontario propice aux affaires en modifiant ou en abrogeant certaines lois.
On Monday, May 31, 2010, Mr. Gerretsen moved second reading of Bill 68, An Act to promote Ontario as open for business by amending or repealing certain Acts. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
Hon. Gerry Phillips: I move that the orders for second and third reading of the following private bills shall be called consecutively and the questions on the motions for the second and third reading of the bills put immediately without debate: