Official Records for 16 November 2015

The House met at 1030.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Good morning. Please join me in prayer.

Prayers.

Introduction of Visitors

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Mr. Speaker, I’m pleased to rise and recognize Robert Chee, who is in the gallery with us today. We’ve enjoyed his hospitality at Aviv restaurant, and we’re pleased that he could join us here in the Legislature today. Welcome to the Ontario Legislature, Robert.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: It’s my pleasure to welcome our new page Ross Cameron; his father, Gordon Cameron; grandmother Dorothy Cameron; and aunt Alison Davis. They’re in the gallery today.

Mr. Monte Kwinter: Mr. Speaker, I’d like to acknowledge that the page captain today is Megan Faith Ally. She is visited here by her father, Ferowse Ally.

Mrs. Gila Martow: We have with us today Nechama Shaki. Her husband, Professor Avner Shaki, was a minister in the Israeli government, the Knesset. She is also here with her brother Mark Sibilia. Welcome.

Ms. Harinder Malhi: I’d like to introduce today Gurmail Singh Nirman, from the Sikh spiritual event in Toronto, and Manohar Singh Bal, from the Council for Sikh Affairs. They are here today to host a memorial event to commemorate and remember the innocent men, women and children who lost their lives in India in 1984. The reception will take place in committee room 228. I encourage everybody to join us.

Mr. Todd Smith: I’d like to welcome Khushwant Singh and Bikram Singh Bal, from the Council for Sikh Affairs. Of course, they’re here to host the memorial event for those who lost their lives in India in November 1984.

Ms. Cindy Forster: Mr. Speaker, Kerry Shoalts, the mother of Benjamin Shoalts, who is a new page from Welland, is here in the public gallery this morning. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Hon. David Zimmer: I would like to introduce Michael Forian, who is the outgoing assistant to Minister Kelley, the Quebec minister of aboriginal affairs in the Quebec National Assembly.

Mr. Arthur Potts: It’s my pleasure to introduce members of the Ontario Agricultural Sustainability Coalition, who may be making their way into the gallery at this time. We have Bob Gordanier from the Beef Farmers of Ontario; Mark Brock from the Grain Farmers of Ontario; Amy Cronin from Ontario Pork; Eric Schwindt from Ontario Pork; Gary Fox from Ontario Sheep; Rob Scott from Ontario Sheep; and Judy Dirksen from the Veal Farmers of Ontario.

We’re hosting a reception at lunch in room 228, and I do hope you’ll all join us.

Mr. Jagmeet Singh: They’re still making their way into the House, but I ask members of the assembly to join me in welcoming Jasbir Singh and Atam Singh, who are also here for the remembrance event acknowledging those who lost their lives during the 1984 genocide in India.

Attacks in Paris / Attentats à Paris

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The government House leader on a point of order.

L’hon. Yasir Naqvi: Je me lève pour demander un consentement unanime pour marquer les évènements tragiques survenus à Paris la semaine dernière. Un représentant de chaque parti parlera pendant cinq minutes, suivi d’un moment de silence, et les drapeaux à l’Assemblée législative seront en berne.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The government House leader is seeking unanimous consent to mark the tragic events in Paris last week, with a representative from each caucus speaking for up to five minutes, followed by a moment of silence, and that the flags at the Legislature be flown at half-mast. Do we agree? Agreed.

Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, I know that I speak on behalf of all of the people of Ontario when I say that we are saddened and shocked by the attacks on innocents by people who can only be described as terrorists.

Our thoughts today and since Friday have been with the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, partners, families and friends of those who were murdered or injured. You have suffered most severely, and we are holding you in our hearts.

Today I extend my condolences, on behalf of the government of Ontario, to all of the people in France, and to those in France and around the world who lost loved ones in these senseless attacks.

Au nom du gouvernement de l’Ontario, je tiens à offrir aujourd’hui mes condoléances à l’ensemble du peuple de France et aux autres personnes de France et du monde entier qui ont perdu des êtres chers.

I also want to acknowledge the bravery of the first responders who worked tirelessly to treat the injured and to restore security.

The emotions we are feeling in the wake of these human tragedies are straightforward and, if deeply disturbing, pure and uncomplicated. What is much more complicated is the range of emotions and reactions to Friday night beyond human compassion.

It is almost impossible not to react with anger and loathing at the cowardice of these attacks. That anger will be coloured by vengeful rage, but at the heart of many of our responses is fear—fear that such random violence could touch any of us; fear that we will respond in ways that will further inflame; fear that we have no response that will be adequate and that will actually help the world to prevent such brutality tomorrow and the next day.

We have all been touched by this tragedy, directly or indirectly. Now it is our responsibility to support and pray for world leaders as they search for the wisest response.

This evil can be overcome, as evil has been overcome in human history before. But fear is not the answer. Vengeful rage is not the answer. Those emotions can be used as fuel as the world gathers its power to respond, but they should not be at the heart of the strategy. It is our responsibility, in our own lives and communities, to guard against and to resist the blame and generalizations that can lead to racism and hatred.

I was saddened to hear about the disturbing case of arson at the mosque in Peterborough this weekend.

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In the shadow of Friday’s violence, our open, peaceful, inclusive democracy is even more important to the world.

France will be forever changed by these events, yet as we saw less than a year ago after the Charlie Hebdo attack, the people of France will not be silenced and will not succumb to fear. The French values of liberty, equality and fraternity are strong and unwavering. In the days since the attacks, we have seen them shine more brightly than ever.

Les valeurs françaises, qui sont la liberté, l’égalité et la fraternité, sont solides et indéfectibles. Dans les jours qui ont suivi les attaques, nous avons vu ces valeurs briller plus que jamais.

Today in the Legislature, at the centre of our own democratic system, we are united in our commitment to uphold our ideals of democracy, freedom and peace. Today, we stand in solidarity with the people of France and with people everywhere who work towards a better and more peaceful world. Merci.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further responses?

Mr. Patrick Brown: On behalf of the Ontario PC caucus, I rise today to express our deepest condolences to those who have been touched by these vicious acts of terrorism that took place in Paris on November 13, 2015.

Au nom du caucus PC de l’Ontario, je prends la parole aujourd’hui pour exprimer nos plus sincères condoléances à ceux qui ont été touchés par les actes vicieux de terrorisme qui ont eu lieu à Paris le 13 novembre.

We are not immune to the hatred and terror that exist in the world. Nous ne sommes pas à l’abri de la haine et de la terreur qui existent dans le monde.

Today, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of France, just as they stood by Canada after last year’s shooting on Parliament Hill.

Liberté, égalité et fraternité : freedom, equality and fraternity—values that describe our Canadian way of life. The people of this province and country have remained united in our resolve to protect freedom and encourage equality so that future generations can enjoy the same.

Les gens de cette province et de ce pays sont restés unis dans notre détermination à protéger notre liberté et de favoriser l’égalité afin que les générations futures puissent profiter de la même chose.

It is these very values that have heartened us to provide support to those in need at home and abroad.

To those Canadians fighting ISIS, fighting this vile evil on the front lines, we say thank you for your courage and personal sacrifice. Canada must always stand steadfast in our international fight against these forces of terror and inhumanity. In the wake of horror, humanity of all faiths and backgrounds unite against acts of hatred, such as we saw in Paris and Beirut last week.

As the entire world reflects on these acts of terror, we must resolve to remain vigilant and stand together to defend what those before us have fought so hard to keep. We must be resolute in our stance against terrorism, violence and hate, and those who want to destroy our very way of life.

Nous devons être résolus dans notre position contre le terrorisme, la violence, la haine et ceux qui veulent détruire notre façon de vie.

These acts of terror, allegedly conducted in the name of religion, are nothing more than a distorted view. Religion preaches love, not hate.

Ces actes de terreur supposément menés au nom de la religion ne sont rien de plus qu’une vision déformée. La religion prêche l’amour, pas la haine.

Pope Francis, in discussing the atrocious acts last week, stated, “There is no religious or human justification for it.”

This past weekend, as the Premier mentioned, we saw a mosque in Peterborough destroyed, deliberately set on fire. We must remember that Muslim Canadians also share in the world’s grief and anguish over ongoing conflict. The Muslim Association of Canada wrote, “Violence against civilians, wherever it is perpetrated, is unacceptable and a corruption of our [Muslim] beliefs. Human wisdom and divine teachings of Islam and indeed every faith teaches us to abhor such acts.”

Any act of hate is deplorable. We must remain calm and tolerant, one of the most profound Canadian values. Nous devons rester calmes et tolérants—une des valeurs les plus importantes.

In difficult times like these, there are often isolated incidents perpetrated by individuals who seek to exploit global events to divide Canadians. It is exactly this type of behaviour that extremist groups seek to provoke.

As Canadians, we will continue to draw on our shared values to reject this violence and send a clear message to those groups that seek to divide us: We will not be divided.

Last week, on Remembrance Day, we gathered to honour and remember those who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe. It is because of these selfless acts that we can enjoy freedom. So to the men and women who serve to keep us safe with the Canadian Forces, and Ontario’s police, firefighters and paramedics, we say thank you.

Donc, pour les hommes et les femmes qui servent à nous protéger avec les Forces canadiennes, la police provinciale, les pompiers et les ambulanciers de l’Ontario, nous disons merci.

And to the men, women and children who have faced unspeakable terror these past few days, we say we stand with you, united.

Et pour les hommes, les femmes et les enfants qui ont été confrontés à une indicible terreur ces derniers jours, nous disons : nous sommes avec vous, unis. Merci.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Further response?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I rise today to join with members of all parties and with all Ontarians in expressing our shock, our condolences and our solidarity with the people of France.

There are moments when we hug our loved ones even closer, even tighter, and even longer than usual, moments when we pick up the phone and call our grown children just to say that we love them. Now is one of those times.

For all the wrong reasons, reasons born of senseless, inexplicable tragedy, we have been reminded of how precious life is and how it can be stolen. This weekend’s attacks on Paris, the worst attacks in France since the Second World War, are heinous and brutal acts of violence. They have shattered hundreds of lives: the lives of mothers and fathers, young lovers, elderly couples and children. Too many people have been killed; too many people have been injured. As we speak, families across France, Lebanon and indeed around the world are grieving. They are trying to come to terms with the sudden loss of their loved ones.

It is heartbreaking for all of us. No family and no city should ever have to experience such excruciating pain, whether it is Paris or Beirut.

Aujourd’hui, je tiens à exprimer nos condoléances au Consul général de France à Toronto, Marc Trouyet.

Our thoughts are also with the thousands of French citizens who live in our communities across Ontario. They may be far away from home, and their thoughts and worries are certainly with their friends and families back in France, but I know that their new family here in Ontario stands with them.

In workplaces and neighbourhoods across this province, Ontarians are doing what we can to help at this difficult time. This weekend, Ontarians came together to show our support for the people of France. More than a thousand people gathered here in Toronto. On chalkboards outside restaurants, menus were erased and the Eiffel Tower peace sign was drawn in their place. Signs in shop windows were changed to read simply, “Pray for Paris.” In churches, mosques, synagogues and places of worship, that’s exactly what Ontarians have been doing.

Yes, there is a disturbing report this morning of the violence in our own province: a fire set to a mosque in Peterborough. This is unacceptable. As the mayor of Peterborough said, “Attacking a place of worship is a despicable act.” The police will do their work to uncover what happened, but together we must do our work to ensure that such attacks are never tolerated. We must all reach out to the Muslim community in Ontario at this time, because there is no place in our province for acts of hate and prejudice against any community in any form.

Today in this House, we stand together with the people of France against violence and fear. We share the belief that intimidation has no place in politics, no place in a democratic society based on freedom, justice and human rights. We share the belief that these attacks will not make us more closed, more fearful and more distressful. In the face of such violence, we must reaffirm our openness, our love for each other and our determination to build a better future together.

This morning, on behalf of our caucus and all New Democrats, I extend our deepest condolences to the people of France. We stand together with their entire nation—a nation founded on the principles of liberté, égalité and fraternité. These are timeless values on which France stands tall, and they are values of our humanity that will never be shaken and cannot be defeated.

To the people of Paris: Nous sommes avec vous.

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The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I thank all members for their thoughtful and heartfelt thoughts. As part of the unanimous consent, I would ask all members of the House and the legislative galleries to rise for a moment of respect.

The House observed a moment’s silence.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

To bring clarity to what I believe was the intent of the motion, I understand that today begins the three days of grieving for France, that the flags will be at half-mast for three days and that the courtesy flagpole will fly the French flag, with the interruption of the Métis flag-raising that was arranged for today.

Oral Questions

Privatization of public assets

Mr. Patrick Brown: My question is for the Premier. I’ll save the government the trouble of touting the $1.8 billion they state the Hydro One sale IPO made. Private investors jumped at this hot stock because it was a fire sale. You wouldn’t see people rushing to buy this stock unless they thought they were getting a steal—a steal that will be on the backs of Ontario’s families who can barely afford their energy bills as it is. The fire sale isn’t going to pay for infrastructure. The infrastructure budget of $130 billion was already funded in 2014. It’s all spin: Distract the public by saying it’s for infrastructure. In reality, it’s to pay for scandal and waste.

My question for the Premier is, which one of your scandals is this fire sale intended to pay for: eHealth, gas, Ornge? Which one is it?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: My understanding is that the Leader of the Opposition didn’t think we were going to be able to realize the amount of money we need for infrastructure. Now there’s too much money coming in.

Let me just say that we are very pleased that there was a successful IPO for Hydro One that has generated almost $3 billion so far. That’s a very good thing. I’m pleased to see that the IPO was well received by markets. It was well received because people see the value of the company.

What we know is that the benefits from this process will be many for the people of Ontario. The motivation, as the Leader of the Opposition knows quite well, is that we need to invest in infrastructure in this province if we are going to be globally competitive; there is no question about that. I will tell you, having been in China talking to companies and officials across the country, that I’m even more convinced that we need those investments—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I find both sides disruptive enough, so I’ll try to get to questions and answers properly.

Supplementary?

Mr. Patrick Brown: Again to the Premier: “Broadening ownership,” “leveraging assets” and “necessary investments” are all buzzwords that Liberal ministers have been reading from their talking points. Let’s call a spade a spade: It’s a wrong-headed, desperate fire sale.

What the people of Ontario really want is for the government to protect an asset for future generations that has built this great province since 1908. People are tired of playing the government’s shell games that only help the government’s books look better for two years. The government should look beyond the next election and listen to the Financial Accountability Officer. Former Premier Ernie Eves looked at this and walked away, realizing that it hurt the province’s long-term future.

Will the Premier do the right thing: walk away and protect this important asset for Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: If we’re going to go back to the previous government’s record, Mr. Speaker, we’ll start with the 407. That’s where we’ll start, because that was the fire sale of all fires sales. We learned from all the mistakes that were made by that government.

So I talked about the investments in infrastructure that are critical. Let me talk about some of the other benefits that will flow from this. What this will do is it will allow for increased investments in those infrastructure initiatives without further raising taxes, without increasing debt or without recklessly cutting public services. This will be a better-run company. We haven’t talked, I think, enough about that. The fact is that Hydro One needs to be an improved company, Mr. Speaker. There are many, many changes that need to take place in that company. That will happen with stronger management and with a company committed to customer service and performance.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Mr. Patrick Brown: Again to the Premier: You need to get out of the Queen’s Park bubble and listen to what Ontarians are saying. I was at a rally in Mississauga on the weekend, of hard-working Ontarians, about the fire sale—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock.

Interjection: It’s all a joke—

Mr. John Yakabuski: When the Speaker stands, you’re supposed to be quiet over there.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Oh, I’ve got a quip for you but I’m just going to pass.

Finish please.

Mr. Patrick Brown: Mr. Speaker, this isn’t a joke. I was at a rally in Mississauga on the weekend and thousands of residents were concerned about this fire sale. Rallies like this are springing up all over Ontario. Leadership is understanding that if you have made a mistake, to correct course, not to proceed stubbornly despite evidence suggesting it’s wrong. Why does this government have a Financial Accountability Officer if you’re not going to listen? Why do you say that you value municipalities if you don’t take note of their resolutions?

The government has sold 15%. You still have time to do the right thing. You still have time to keep majority. Will you do the right thing?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Premier.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: So, Mr. Speaker, let me just talk about outside the Queen’s Park bubble: Outside the Queen’s Park bubble, where I have been for a number of days, people are looking at us and saying, “Are you going to build infrastructure? If I bring my company from China to Ontario, am I going to be able to”—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Dufferin–Caledon and the member from Leeds–Grenville, come to order.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Prince Edward–Hastings, come to order.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Government House leader, come to order.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, come to order.

Carry on.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: When I talk to companies in China who want to expand or bring business into Ontario, Mr. Speaker, they want to know that they’re going to be able to move their goods across the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, they want to know that we are committed to making the investments that are going to allow them to thrive, so that’s what is going on outside the Queen’s Park bubble.

The reality is that if we are going to compete in a global economy, if we’re going to be able to compete with jurisdictions that are investing in infrastructure, that are building, then we have to do the same. That’s why we made this decision.

Executive compensation

Mr. Patrick Brown: Again to the Premier: The Hydro One fire sale is causing Ontarians to be concerned for a number of reasons. One of those is that these gold-plated paycheques handed out to Hydro One executives still don’t make sense, and I’ve tried asking about this before and I didn’t get an answer.

Last year, the 61 highest-paid CEOs and presidents in the province made a combined $24 million. That’s how much the Liberals are giving just the top four people at Hydro One. The compensation doesn’t make sense, and people in Ontario want an explanation.

Mr. Speaker, will the Premier take responsibility to rein in this executive compensation that doesn’t make sense to anyone in Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, I hope that when the Leader of the Opposition is having these conversations with people in Ontario, he’s talking to them about a number of other things. I hope he’s also talking to them about the infrastructure investments that their municipalities are looking for. That’s the first thing.

I hope he’s also talking about the fact that Ontario will remain—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, second time.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: —the largest single shareholder in Hydro One, with 40% of the company, so that taxpayers will benefit from an improved company.

I hope he makes it clear to the people of Ontario that that improved company, that stronger management, that focus on performance, that company that will grow and will be a better company will actually benefit the people of Ontario.

I hope he knows those realities, those facts, as he has a conversation with the people of Ontario.

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The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Patrick Brown: Again to the Premier: In terms of this being for infrastructure, your infrastructure budget hasn’t changed. It’s still $130 billion. It’s not about infrastructure.

The CEO of Cancer Care Ontario makes just over $500,000; the Royal Conservatory of Music, $450,000 for their CEO; Colleges Ontario and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind—their CEOs make $330,000. You think it’s appropriate for Hydro One’s CEO to make $4 million. It doesn’t add up.

Mr. Speaker, why does the Premier believe that Hydro One executives deserve so much more than these other organizations that are doing so much to create prosperity in Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Finance.

Hon. Charles Sousa: The question from the opposition isn’t sincere, only because they themselves have, for long, tried to propose the dismantling of Ontario Hydro to what it became. We now have taken the necessary steps to secure the value of Hydro One, a component of that overall conglomerate that they destroyed. We have weeded out and did the necessary steps to provide value.

We have now done the first IPO, which has generated a net of $3 billion for the people of Ontario. Its valuation has now improved as a result. We’ve taken that and we’re reinvesting into the province by creating new assets, unlike the member opposite, who wants to recklessly sell everything off—100%—or provide massive cuts across Ontario. We’re not doing that. We’ve established a much-better-run company as a result of the steps that we’ve taken.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Mr. Patrick Brown: Again to the Premier: A $4-million salary—the government knows how much money other provincial hydro executives make. They know how much money other chief executives in this province make. They know Ontario hydro rates are among the highest in North America.

The government knows. They have been getting calls at their constituency offices, just like everyone in the Legislature has. Ontarians shouldn’t be put in a position to choose between heating their homes and paying their energy bills, yet the Premier continues to dance around, justifying these gold-plated paycheques to Hydro One executives.

Mr. Speaker, I’ve asked numerous times, does the Premier think it’s appropriate to pay the Hydro One CEO $4 million? And if you can’t justify it, can any one of your ministers justify it?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister.

Hon. Charles Sousa: The question is, was it appropriate for us to restructure Hydro One? Was is it effective for us to take the necessary steps to increase its value? Absolutely. Is it effective that we reinvest those net gains—$3 billion in net gains from this first tranche—into our economy? Absolutely. The member opposite knows that. The member opposite couldn’t do that. In fact, what they’re suggesting—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Finish, please.

Hon. Charles Sousa: We have definitely put in new leadership at Hydro One. We have taken the necessary steps to provide a new board and a new executive and, as a result, we’ve increased its valuation and improved the values that Ontarians still have, which is 84% of Hydro One. That company is worth more today than it was last week because of the steps we’ve taken, and we’ll continue to provide greater value as we reinvest those funds.

Privatization of public assets

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is for the Premier. Ed Clark told the Premier to sell off Hydro One. So even though 185 municipalities want to keep hydro public, businesses are worried about rates, First Nations weren’t consulted and eight in 10 families want to keep Hydro One public, the Premier is selling off Hydro One. She’s listening to her unelected banker instead of Ontario families.

Last week, Ed Clark talked about hospitals, universities and colleges and said he wanted to “link them more closely to the private sector, turn them into exporters.”

Can the Premier tell Ontarians, is this Liberal code for saying she’s going to be privatizing and selling off health and education services in Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: It’s quite clear that the leader of the third party and, quite frankly, the Leader of the Opposition are not interested in the investments in infrastructure that we know we need to make. They have been quite clear about that.

The leader of the third party, I think, has issues with creating partnerships outside of our borders. That’s really what Ed Clark was talking about. I would say to the leader of the third party that we have developed huge expertise in health and education within Ontario.

As the member knows, I was recently in China; I just got back. I want to talk to her about two examples of how we can use that expertise to create partnerships that can benefit people within Ontario and outside of Ontario. I’ll give her those examples in my supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Ontarians expect their Premier to set priorities and show judgment. The Premier wasn’t elected on a plan to sell Hydro One, and here we are. She’s putting Mike Harris to shame with her Hydro One sell-off.

And the same unelected banker who wrote the plan to sell Hydro One has now been given carte blanche by this Premier. The Premier can’t seem to say no to her unelected banker, and he has opened the door now to privatization in our public hospitals, hospitals that have already suffered years of cuts and bed closures under this Liberal government.

Will this Premier tell Ed Clark to back off of our universal public health care system?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Let’s be clear, Mr. Speaker: The leader of the third party is saying that she stands in opposition to partnerships with entities outside of Ontario in the education and health sectors, so she would stand in opposition to the two agreements that I’m going to talk about now.

These are agreements—make note—that create jobs, that actually spur investment and that foster innovation in our province. The first one is between TV Ontario and CBS Consulting Inc. of Markham. They’re entering into an agreement to provide English language high school courses to Chinese students. That’s an investment of $250,000, which will create four jobs. It’s a small agreement, but it takes expertise that has been developed here and allows people outside of Ontario to benefit.

The second one is an agreement between SickKids hospital and Children’s Hospital of Fudan University. I’ll go into the details in the supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Earlier this month, the Minister of Health gave a speech that mentioned transformation no less than 18 times. Now, Ontarians are learning that the man who is driving those changes will be the same unelected banker that was behind the sell-off of Hydro One. Ed Clark says we need to link our hospitals “more closely to the private sector” and “turn them into exporters.”

Why is this Premier opening the door to privatization in health care?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, I will just talk about this agreement between the SickKids and Children’s Hospital of Fudan University, because this is what we’re talking about.

This memorandum of understanding will initiate a multi-year partnership to support neonatology through, first, advisory services to support the design, quality improvement and workflow of a new CHFU neonatal tower; secondly, the development of education and training programs for physicians, nurses and management to be delivered in both China and Canada; and thirdly, the possible coordination of joint academic conferences and joint research projects.

Mr. Speaker, this will save Chinese babies’ lives. This will make the quality of health care better in China. The leader of the third party is standing in opposition to that kind of improvement. It’s shameful, Mr. Speaker. We live in the world, and she should get on board.

Privatization of public assets

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Canadian, Ontario-funded health care professionals and institutions should be providing health care to the people of Ontario, which they cannot get under this Liberal government. That’s where our focus should be.

Speaking of privatization, I have a very basic question for this Premier: Will the Premier rule out the selling off of more revenue-generating assets here in Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The way I see our innovation and our capacity in Ontario is that, of course, it is first and foremost to benefit the people of this province. But we live in the world. We live in a globe that has a need for the innovation that starts here.

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I just came back from Beijing with our Minister of Economic Development and our Minister of International Trade. In Beijing, it is very hard to breathe. The air is so polluted that it’s clear that there needs to be a change in those cities. The government officials know it.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, we have technology here in Ontario that we can bring to the world, that we can share; innovation that can benefit the people who live in those cities. Surely the leader of the third party thinks that’s a good thing for us to do.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock, please.

Be seated, please. Thank you.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, I asked the Premier about her intentions to sell off more revenue-generating assets. I don’t think she heard me.

The Minister of Finance has refused to rule out selling off more revenue-generating assets. The President of the Treasury Board has refused to rule out selling off more revenue-generating assets. My finance critic has written to the minister and has had no response. Now I have written to the Premier.

The Premier can clear this up with a one-word simple answer. Will the Premier tell Ontarians whether or not more revenue-generating assets are going on the auction block?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, the leader of the third party knows that what we intended to do was written in our budget. We talked about real estate assets. We said that we were going to ask Ed Clark to look at the assets owned by the people of Ontario. He has done that; he has given us advice.

Will we continue to work to share our technology and our expertise, whether it’s in education, whether it’s in clean tech, whether it’s in health care? Will we work to continue to share that with the world? Will we develop partnerships and will we help companies in Ontario to expand and export across the world, whether it’s in agri-food or whether it’s in energy? Yes, Mr. Speaker, we will do that, because the expertise that is grown here in Ontario is second to none. We’re proud of it. We are going to shop it to the world so that we can improve the lives of not just people in Ontario, but people around the world.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, this Liberal government has no mandate to sell off Hydro One—no mandate whatsoever. No matter what this Premier says, they did not tell Ontarians that was their intention during the last election campaign. Now they’re leaving the door open to selling off even more.

To every Ontarian: You deserve a government that is honest with you about what their intentions are.

Will this Premier do the right thing, be honest with the people of Ontario, and tell them here and now, in this Legislature, which revenue-generating assets are on the auction block?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, it was so clear in our budget that even the leader of the third party got it. Here’s what she said just days after the last election: “The budget says in black and white that the government is looking at the sale of assets, ‘including ... crown corporations, such as Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.’” That’s what the leader of the third party said.

Mr. Speaker, it was clear that we were looking at assets and leveraging those assets in order to be able to invest in the infrastructure that we know we need for the 21st century.

The leader of the third party can look right in the camera and she can talk solely about Hydro One. What she’s not talking about is that in those same municipalities, in every one of those communities, there are needs: There are needs for roads; there are needs for bridges; there are needs for upgraded water systems; there’s need for transit. She’s not talking about that because she has no way of funding that investment; we are. We’re building Ontario up.

Correctional facilities

Mr. Rick Nicholls: My question is to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. After serious questions were raised about the safety of the province’s new Toronto South Detention Centre, a memo on confidentiality was issued to all staff from the facility’s director advising staff to keep quiet or possibly risk losing their jobs. The memo warns that the disclosure of any information may “damage the reputation of the ministry.”

It’s clear that the government is more concerned with protecting its image than with protecting correctional officers and inmates. This memo is an insult to the men and women who risk their lives day in and day out in dangerous conditions. They have tried to go through the proper channels and were ignored. When they spoke out to an opposition critic, the government tried to silence them.

Why is the minister trying to muzzle correctional officers who are only speaking out to protect public safety?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: We very much cherish and appreciate the work that our correctional officers and probation and parole officers do in our institutions across Ontario every single day. Their health and safety is the number one priority for myself and our ministry. We’re working along with them. I invite the members opposite from both parties to work with us as we transform our correctional system to ensure that we really focus on individuals and we break the cycle of criminality that exists in our system.

Toronto South Detention Centre plays a very important role as a newer institution in that transformation because it contains innovative programming and health care services that improve our capability to rehabilitate offenders to make sure that they are better reintegrated into the community.

I look forward to speaking to some of those unique features more in the supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Rick Nicholls: Back to the minister: We may know why the ministry wants to strong-arm its correctional officers into staying quiet. Just over a week ago, five scathing reports were released about detention centres across the province. The findings range from concerning to horrific. The common issues were a chronic amount of understaffing, which in turn led to an overuse of lockdowns, which is inhumane and makes inmates more hostile, leading to more staffing challenges and more lockdowns.

The troubling reports were given to the government in March but publicly released in November.

Mr. Speaker, what steps has the minister taken in those months to address the crisis in corrections?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: I’m glad that the member opposite spoke about the reports that we made available to the public that were developed by the community advisory boards. It was this government, under the previous minister’s leadership, the current Attorney General, that created those community advisory boards so that we could create a link between our communities and our institutions. Then we gave those members of the community advisory boards access to our institutions so that they could give us the community’s perspective as to how we could improve the conditions in our detention centres and transform those detention centres.

That is why our government took the step of making those reports available publicly: so that there is more guidance for us to work together in transforming our system. It shows our commitment and devotion to ensuring that our correctional system is not just a warehousing model of incarceration but actually focuses on individuals so that they can better rehabilitate and reintegrate into our community. We all succeed when those inmates are properly—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

New question.

Privatization of public assets

Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question is to the Premier. On Thursday, the government issued a press release saying it was getting $2.2 billion from the Hydro One sale in a special tax benefit. But during estimates, I asked about that $2.2 billion, and senior public servants said the $2.2 billion isn’t cash. It’s not money that can be spent; it’s just an accounting entry.

Can the Premier explain how she can spend $2.2 billion on subways when that $2.2 billion isn’t in anyone’s bank account and doesn’t exist as cash?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Finance.

Hon. Charles Sousa: The member opposite references the deferred tax benefit that has accrued to the province as a result of this first 15% share of the tranche of the IPO, which is going to be dedicated to the Trillium Trust. A billion-dollar dividend was also established just prior to the IPO, again also going to the Trillium Trust, all of which is being used to support the renovations and the investments that we’re making in infrastructure.

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The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: I take non-answer as acknowledgement that there isn’t real cash.

The Hydro One sale gets worse every time you look at it. Ontarians are losing control of an important asset. The non-partisan Financial Accountability Officer says that the deal will leave Ontario worse off than it is today.

We always said that the Premier’s Hydro One sell-off was smoke and mirrors. What we didn’t recognize—didn’t know—was how much smoke would be generated, because now they’re counting cash that doesn’t exist.

Will the Premier admit that the $2.2 billion her government claimed would go to transit doesn’t actually exist as cash, and explain how much of the transit plan is based on this kind of bad math?

Hon. Charles Sousa: The net result of Hydro One activity is actually a consolidated number that comes into the treasury, of which $2.2 billion now is being reallocated for a deferred tax benefit, and it’s being reinvested and dedicated to the Trillium Trust. As well, an additional billion dollars is being used to pay down debt, which is why we’re doing the transaction: to not only have capital gains to be reinvested into new products, new assets, but also to pay down substantive debt, which is, in this case, a billion dollars with this transaction.

It is enabling us to increase the valuation of Hydro One, enabling us now to have a much better and more efficient, reinvigorated operation, which provides greater value to the shareholders, which is the Ontario public. That will enable us to continue fostering greater returns and reinvestment. The FAO noted that very issue and noted that he was not—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

New question.

Economic outlook

Mr. Chris Ballard: My question is to the Minister of Finance. Minister, I know that our government has made strides in our plan to build Ontario up. In my riding of Newmarket–Aurora, my constituents have noticed our government’s progress. In fact, earlier today, I was at the premier cookie manufacturer in Ontario, Cookie It Up, to help with an announcement about growth there.

We’ve made progress in creating an innovative and dynamic business environment, building modern, public infrastructure such as roads, bridges and transit, and investing in the people of Ontario, in their skills and talents. And finally, we’ve taken leadership in strengthening retirement income security.

The minister’s last update was in the 2015 budget, which was tabled in the spring of last year. Can the Minister of Finance tell this House when he will be providing us with the latest update on our province’s progress?

Hon. Charles Sousa: I would like to thank the member from Newmarket–Aurora for the question.

As the member has said, our government prepared and delivered details in the 2015 budget to achieve a strong economic and fiscal plan. I’m happy to announce today that we will provide an update to this plan. It will take place on Thursday, November 26, in this very House, when we table the 2015 fall economic statement.

The 2015 fall economic statement will not only provide an update on the economic and fiscal situation of the province, but we will also report back on the progress we’ve made towards ensuring greater prosperity for all Ontarians.

I’d like to thank the member for the question, and I look forward to tabling the 2015 fall economic statement on November 26.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Chris Ballard: I’d like to thank the minister for that answer. I know I’m speaking on behalf of members when I say that we’re very excited to hear the progress our government has made on our plans to improve the everyday lives of Ontarians.

I know the fall economic statement generally provides an update on the province’s finances. However, I understand that this statement in particular will be focused on our progress.

Could the minister please provide further details of what we can expect to hear about in the fall economic statement?

Hon. Charles Sousa: Again, I’d like to thank the member for the question. The fall economic statement will provide an update on the progress of our plan, including fostering an innovative business climate, strengthening income security, building critical public infrastructure, and, more importantly, providing investments made in the people, in Ontarians’ talents and skills.

This is a time of fundamental change, and our government is not only embracing that change, we’re driving it. The fall economic statement, presented on November 26, will provide an opportunity to report back on the actions that we’ve taken and where we will continue to achieve and go for more success for the great people of our great province.

Toronto island airport

Mr. Monte McNaughton: My question this morning is to the Premier. As the Premier knows, over half a million people in the province of Ontario are currently unemployed and looking for work. This government’s high-tax and high-debt policies are literally chasing jobs out of Ontario.

Two weeks ago, I wrote to urge the Premier to join her colleague the Minister of the Environment and affirm her support for the proposed Billy Bishop runway extension.

Mr. Speaker, why hasn’t the Premier responded to my letter? And more importantly, why hasn’t she stood up for the 2,000 well-paying jobs that this important proposal would create?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Transportation.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: I thank the member opposite for this question. I think that he would know—I think every member in this House would know—that the matter that’s being discussed in the question is actually an issue that is the responsibility to work through or work out between the federal government, the city of Toronto and the Toronto Port Authority.

But, of course, this gives me a wonderful opportunity to talk about how important it is that our government continue to proceed with our very ambitious plan to not only build the province up but to support the city of Toronto.

Since 2003, this government has invested billions of dollars in crucial infrastructure to support the city of Toronto. We have a number of projects that this member, I believe, would know are currently under way—for example, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Just a few weeks ago, we awarded a 30-year contract to Crosslinx Transit Solutions to build that transformational transit project—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Supplementary?

Mr. Monte McNaughton: Back to the Premier: In 2013, the Minister of Transportation at that time, the Honourable Glen Murray, said, “I don’t think we ever want to forget what an important economic asset that is and how important that airline is to growing jobs in central Toronto and support for our film and banking industries,” and that “the airport is critical to our economy and it’s been a positive addition to the economy.”

The proposal to extend the runway would create 2,000 well-paying jobs and over $250 million in annual economic impact. These jobs would help support the Bombardier Downsview plant in Toronto, which recently announced layoffs of 500 people.

The Premier is failing Ontario’s workers by not advocating for this important project, but there is still time. We need a willing federal partner. Will the Premier commit today to calling her friend Prime Minister Trudeau and urging him to support this important proposal?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): No, you don’t have the mike.

Now you do.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: Mr. Speaker, thanks very much.

It’s obviously quite ironic that this member from that particular party would talk about having willing federal partners. It’s also interesting to me that that member from that caucus talks about 2012 or 2013. In my time in this Legislature, since 2012, year after year, and before that point in time, members in that caucus, from that party, have consistently voted against budgets from this government that included funding to support all of the great things that member is talking about with respect to infrastructure, with respect to creating jobs.

I can’t understand why that member would stand and ask this question when they voted against the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. They voted against funding for GO RER. They voted against funding for the Union Pearson Express. They voted against funding for Toronto’s new streetcars.

Again, the irony is a little bit thick in here today, but the people of this province and this city understand exactly where this Premier and our government stand.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

New question.

Affordable housing

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: My question is to the Premier. In 2009 and 2010, the government, including the current Premier, voted to support the first two of my five bills to allow municipalities to pass inclusionary zoning bylaws. And yet, when the government released its Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy in late 2010, inclusionary zoning was nowhere to be found.

Last year, the government voted to support a bill by the Liberal member from Etobicoke–Lakeshore which also would allow for inclusionary zoning. As yet, when the government tabled Bill 73 to amend the Planning Act, again, inclusionary zoning was nowhere to be found.

After six years, why hasn’t the Premier followed through on her government’s repeated pledges to support inclusionary zoning?

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Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Hon. Ted McMeekin: Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking the member from Parkdale–High Park. She’s been a relentless advocate on a number of files related to social housing and inclusive zoning. I’ve had several good conversations with her as well as the member from Etobicoke–Lakeshore on inclusive zoning.

I want the member opposite to know that we believe it’s important that we have a strong housing platform. We’re working on it. We’re doing a long-term housing strategy, and should we decide to employ inclusive zoning—and we’re looking at it very seriously, as the member knows—it would be part of that strategy.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Again to the Premier: Three times over the last six years, the Liberal government has voted in this House in support of inclusionary zoning. The chief city planner of Toronto says that Toronto would have an extra 12,000 affordable housing units today if the city had been allowed to pass an inclusionary zoning bylaw five years ago. Instead, the wait-list for affordable housing is now at a record high, with over 168,000 Ontario households. This is a crisis. How much longer will the Premier force Ontarians to wait before she finally honours her government’s repeated pledges to support inclusionary zoning?

Hon. Ted McMeekin: Well, I suspect not much longer.

Let me just say that we continue to meet with municipalities, primary stakeholders who have a number of issues and concerns which we’re walking through, and also other stakeholders, because if you want to do something like this, particularly if the goal is to house people who need housing, you want to do it right. So should we do it—and I anticipate, knowing that we’re looking at it very carefully and strategically. If and when we do it, we’ll do it right.

International trade

Ms. Soo Wong: My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. On Saturday evening, the minister, the member from Trinity–Spadina and I returned from a trade mission to China with the Premier. During this trip, we were able to secure several trade agreements.

My constituents in Scarborough–Agincourt are well aware of the vital role that trade plays in Ontario’s economy. China is Ontario’s and Canada’s second-largest trading partner in the world, and our long-standing and productive relationship with China has generated trade, jobs and economic growth for both regions. In 2014, the two-way trade totalled almost $40 billion. As such, I’m proud to be part of a government that has targeted strategic connections abroad to continue to add jobs in this province.

Speaker, through you to the minister: Can he please provide an update on the trade deals we secured during the second trade mission to China?

Hon. Brad Duguid: I want to thank the member for Scarborough–Agincourt for that question, but more so for her valuable contribution and that of the member from Trinity–Spadina to the overall success of our trip.

I’m very pleased to announce in this Legislature that the Premier’s mission to China secured over $2.5 billion in agreements, which will net this province 1,700 jobs in over 100 agreements overall.

For example, just in the last day in Beijing, we were able to secure three trade agreements between Wing On New Group Canada and JD.com, China Telecom Group and Cross-border wholesale. This agreement alone totalled $230 million. It’s important to note that these companies could have signed agreements with companies and jurisdictions anywhere in the world, but they chose Ontario, and we’re proud of that.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Soo Wong: Thank you to the minister for that very important response.

Ontario’s economy must stay competitive in the face of challenging global economic conditions. We can only do this by attracting targeted strategic deals which are suitable for our highly skilled workforce.

One such agreement is Hydrogenics, a Mississauga company which will produce fuel cell technology for zero-emission public transport buses. Another example is Podotech Inc., a Scarborough company that developed a cost-effective 3D foot-scanner, pressure-mapping algorithm for diabetic feet and parametric shoe design software in a matter of minutes.

I’m proud of our government’s open ventures for smart, forward-thinking and environmentally friendly companies.

Speaker, through you to the minister, can he please provide an update to the House on other agreements that we reached in China?

Hon. Brad Duguid: Let me share a few more examples of some of the important agreements reached on the Premier’s mission to China.

We helped secure an $80-million agreement with China Telecom Group to import food and Canadian nutritional products to China.

Cross-border City Americo Wholesale will purchase $50 million in Canadian produce over the next three years and open 30 new stores in 2016.

CITIC Capital announced a $100-million investment toward Paradise, a new attraction and residential development that I know will be very welcome in Niagara Falls.

Shenzhen Bauzer Investment Group acquired an 80% share of EDI, a Toronto-based leader in the field of robotics automation. With this acquisition, Shenzhen Bauzer intends to create an additional 200 jobs in Ontario.

This Premier and this government are determined to open up Ontario’s economy to the global economy. This recent mission will do—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

New question.

Health care

Mr. Jeff Yurek: My question is for the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Last week was Family Doctor Week and many family doctors are quite concerned about patient access to timely health care services. Over 800,000 Ontarians are currently without a family doctor, and these patients are unable to have their health care needs met appropriately.

Ontario is blessed with dedicated and selfless family doctors, but they are facing an uphill battle. Their resources are tapped and they face a growing burden of an aging population requiring complex care, while an additional 140,000 patients enter the health care system each year. As a result, less than half of Ontarians are able to see their primary care provider within 24 hours of getting sick.

Minister, family doctors are wondering why the government’s response has been to cut $800 million from physician services, stop collaborating with OMA and, as reported by the media, threaten to cut doctors’ pay.

Mr. Speaker, will the minister explain why he targets and blames doctors for his government’s failures?

Hon. Eric Hoskins: I’m proud of the work that our front-line health care workers, including our doctors, are doing. But I have to correct the member opposite: We have been discussing with the OMA on a regular basis. I met with the president just a few weeks ago, as well. We’re prepared to re-enter discussions leading towards an agreement at any time. It’s the OMA that, in fact, has refused to come back to the table to continue those negotiations, but I remain optimistic.

I remain optimistic because the OMA did agree to co-establish with us a table that looks at the future of physician services in this province, to look at issues of compensation, to look at human resources issues, to look at important issues like what Health Quality Ontario released in their report last week in terms of wait times for Ontarians—the sorts of issues which will give confidence to our physicians that we’re working together in partnership for a sustainable health care system.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Jeff Yurek: Back to the minister: The relationship between doctors and the government is at an all-time low. This government has twice imposed fee reductions and limited options for practising family doctors. Patients are the ones who are suffering.

To build a sustainable health care system this government must collaborate with front-line health care workers. Instead, we see this government scold doctors in the media, cut resources for patient care and chase away medical residents and students to other jurisdictions.

Can the minister explain to me how blaming and penalizing doctors is helpful to patient care?

Hon. Eric Hoskins: I quite frankly don’t know where to begin. There are so many problems with what the member opposite has just presented here.

First of all, in terms of his allegation of cuts, we’re increasing the budget that goes specifically to physician compensation by 1.25% last year, this year and next year as well. There are no cuts; in fact, we’re increasing. We’re increasing to accommodate the changes in demographics and the growth in our population.

But I want to remain optimistic. I’ve reached out to the OMA, despite what the member opposite and his position might be, and the position of the opposition party. I’ve reached out to the OMA. I want to engage them. We’re always open to continuing discussions and negotiations, despite a year of negotiations. The OMA, at this moment in time, has refrained from restarting those discussions with us, but I’m optimistic that those discussions will one day bear fruit.

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Manufacturing jobs

Ms. Jennifer K. French: My question is to the Premier. People in my riding of Oshawa depend on the region’s auto industry. For many families across Ontario, including those in Windsor, London, St. Thomas, Hamilton, Kitchener, St. Catharines and Oshawa, it provides them with a stable paycheque month after month.

Last week, the Premier’s privatization czar, Ed Clark, stood up in Toronto and said that the hard-working people of Ontario’s manufacturing sector have seen what amounts to a quarter of their paycheque cut under Liberal governments. He even said that “low labour costs are part of [Mexico’s] winning formula.” It’s evident that his definition of a “new day in manufacturing” means leaving people behind and lower-paying manufacturing jobs. That is not what the people of Oshawa or Ontario need or deserve.

Will the Premier commit to standing up for the hard-working people in the province’s manufacturing sector?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know that the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure is going to want to speak to this, but let me say off the top that that is exactly what we are doing. Our strategy all along has been to invest in, to support and to work with the auto sector and the manufacturing sector at large, to allow it to become the advanced manufacturing sector that will allow us to compete. That’s why we’ve been making investments. That’s why we have set up the Jobs and Prosperity Fund and the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund. That’s why we have been making these investments: to allow the manufacturing sector to go through this transformation.

We’re not giving up on the auto sector. We’re not giving up on manufacturing. We have expertise in Ontario that is wanted all over the world. We are going to make sure that we have a modern manufacturing sector in this province, and it will include auto.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Jennifer K. French: The people in my community of Oshawa are all too familiar with the inaction of consecutive Liberal governments. They have sat on the sidelines while more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared in this province.

The latest numbers from StatsCan show that Ontario saw the largest decline in manufacturing sales in September. What is Ed Clark’s answer? Cut job security; slash regulations that protect our workers, our environment and the quality of our products.

Will the Premier commit to creating an auto strategy that leaves no one behind and creates good-paying, stable jobs?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.

Hon. Brad Duguid: I’ve just spent 19 days of my life out in Japan and China, talking about the competitiveness of Ontario’s auto sector. The fact of the matter is, in today’s economy, we’ve attracted $4.5 billion in 12 months alone to Ontario’s auto sector, including significant investments from GM, who are investing with 100 new engineers in their innovation centre. We’re building the auto sector in today’s economy, but we also want a healthy auto sector in tomorrow’s economy, which is just around the corner. That’s why we’re investing in innovation. That’s why we need to be a leader in connected vehicles, a leader in artificial intelligence, a leader in sensors. We are and we will continue to be, so that we can build the auto sector jobs of today and tomorrow, even if the NDP want to live in the past.

Services for seniors

Mme Marie-France Lalonde: Ma question est pour le ministre de la Formation et des Collèges et Universités.

Ontario is home to some of the most dynamic and innovative colleges in the country. It is imperative that our colleges, with help from our government, provide students with the necessary skills and training they need to succeed in today’s competitive labour market. It is equally important that colleges continue to be responsive to the different economic and demographic changes that are taking shape in our province. Minister, I understand that our government is collaborating in new ways with our college partners to support seniors in Ontario.

Speaker, through you to the minister, can you please inform the members of the House on how colleges are preparing students to meet the emerging labour market needs in seniors’ communities across the province?

Hon. Reza Moridi: I want to say merci beaucoup to the member from Ottawa–Orléans.

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to supporting high-quality post-secondary education for Ontarians. Ontario’s colleges currently operate a range of specialized programs that serve to fill local labour market needs and prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow.

My ministry recently approved a new retirement community management graduate certificate program at Algonquin College. This program is a strong example of how Ontario colleges are working with their communities and creating innovative programs to meet these emerging needs. With over two million seniors in Ontario, I am pleased that this program will enable students to learn and apply management skills in retirement communities across the province of Ontario.

Our government will continue to support our colleges in developing new and innovative programs that will make the lives of Ontarians better.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mrs. Marie-France Lalonde: I’d like to applaud the minister for his commitment to investing in a strong and qualified labour force that is responsive to the local needs of communities in Ontario, particularly in my riding of Ottawa–Orléans, where there is a significant aging population.

The minister responsible for seniors affairs recently announced the launch of a graduate program in retirement community management in Ottawa. I had the pleasure of working in the retirement sector for 15 years, and as a former co-owner of a retirement residence in one of the largest and fastest-growing regions in Ontario with a demand for larger and new retirement residences, this innovative program will be particularly important to me.

There are numerous challenges and opportunities surrounding safety, health and inclusion that accompany retirement community management and require specific skills. Mr. Speaker, could the minister please inform this House on how working together with colleges to introduce programs like these will help provide the best care and support for seniors in Ontario?

Hon. Reza Moridi: Minister responsible for seniors affairs.

Hon. Mario Sergio: I was delighted to be in Ottawa for the official launch of the new graduate program. As minister, I recognize the dynamic opportunity to work with Ontario colleges to support seniors in new and innovative ways.

Our government supports this program and supports prospective students planning to pursue careers in the management of retirement communities and improve the lives of Ontario seniors at the same time. This seniors program is specifically designed to align with the Ontario Retirement Homes Act, legislation that our government created to regulate care and safety standards for seniors in retirement homes.

Ontario’s booming senior population has spurred an exceptionally high employment demand for qualified management professionals in this industry. We continue to support this initiative by Ontario colleges with investment and support for what they’re doing for the seniors in Ontario.

Labour disputes

Mr. Victor Fedeli: My question is for the Minister of Labour. There is a sense of chaos and uncertainty at home due to job cuts and work stoppages at major provincial employers. I’ve spoken about the 350 front-line health care workers, including more than 100 nurses that this government has fired at our hospital, but now the government has also fired 54 workers at Nipissing University, including 22 professors.

The Nipissing University students have been without classes for two weeks as the faculty strike wears on. But this government has also fired 43 workers at Ontario Northland, and now they’re in a lockout.

These provincial actions are hurting Nipissing families, students, seniors and businesses. My question is, what is the government doing to resolve these disputes?

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Thank you to the honourable member for the question. The government of Ontario is very proud of the record of labour peace that we’ve enjoyed in the province when you compare it to other jurisdictions. When you look at the number of agreements that are made throughout the province of Ontario, you realize that over 98% of those agreements are reached without a strike, without a lockout.

The labour peace that’s been enjoyed by this province is a result of relationships that we have been able to build with both labour and employers in the province of Ontario. We have a record, sir, that’s second to none, I think, when it comes to labour peace. We work with both sides. Both sides view this government as a government that values the relationship that it has with either. We plan to continue. We know that the best agreement you could possibly reach is one that’s reached between the parties. We attempt to facilitate that. We’ve got the best mediators in the country. We reach the best agreements in the country.

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The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Back to the minister: I’m not sure about labour peace—because I’m receiving email on a daily basis from Nipissing University students and parents. They’re concerned that the students may not be able to complete their semesters.

Meanwhile, workers, friends and families are out protesting the hospital cuts every single week.

And at Ontario Northland, Unifor’s national president became involved and laid this lockout firmly at the feet of the Premier and the Liberal government.

Despite the fact that, as the Deputy Premier said, the government has run out of money, they found billions to waste on gas plants, eHealth, Ornge and smart meter scandals.

My question is, how long will the minister let these disruptions drag out?

Hon. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Thank you again for the supplementary.

As I said, we’re proud of the record here in the province of Ontario. Ninety-eight per cent of the labour contracts in Ontario are settled without any disruption at all.

When we made the decision to keep four of the five business lines of the ONTC in public hands, we made it very clear, I think, to everybody in Ontario that labour is a critical component of transforming the ONTC’s long-term relationships because we need to support that case of public ownership.

Speaker, agreements have been reached with other bargaining agents as we’ve moved through that process. The ONTC management has tabled final offers with Unifor. I know that Unifor, which is a very highly valued, integral part of the labour community in the province, is taking a look at those, is working hard. I suspect that if both groups work together at the table, an agreement can be reached in both cases.

Labour dispute

Mr. John Vanthof: My question is to the Premier. Last week, management at the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission locked out workers at its repair shops across the north—in Cochrane and North Bay—a move overturned by the Canada Industrial Relations Board. Now they’re locked out again after negotiators for the company—or the government, basically—walked away from the table.

First, the government ends train service. Then they cut back bus routes. Now they’re strong-arming workers. Northerners are getting the feeling that they fought to take ONTC—to force the government to take them off the auction block, and now it seems they’re putting them on the chopping block.

Is this government actually determined to destroy public transportation in northern Ontario?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: To the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

Hon. Michael Gravelle: I appreciate having the opportunity to speak. The Minister of Labour just spoke very well to the same issue.

The fact is, Speaker, when our government, under Premier Wynne’s leadership, made the decision, after much consultation with northerners, to keep four of the five business lines of the ONTC in public hands, that was a proud moment, and it continues to be a proud moment.

We are committed to transforming the ONTC to ensure sustainable employment, continued economic growth and a strong transportation network in northeastern Ontario. But it is also important, and we’ve made it clear, that a critical component of transforming the ONTC for long-term sustainability, certainly, is supporting a continued case for public ownership. We need to have the labour agreements in place, and there have been some that have been put in place.

I am optimistic that, as we respect the collective bargaining process, we’ll continue to carry forward and that, hopefully, they’ll be back to the table and agreements will be put in place—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): A subtle reminder: When I stand, you sit. You’ve got to look over this way every now and then.

Visitors

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: I want to take this opportunity to welcome Tony Iannuzzi, Kevin Hoy and Nikki Holland, who are members of the Carpenters Union. They’re visiting Queen’s Park today.

Mr. Victor Fedeli: I would like to introduce Mr. Bill Ferguson, in our gallery.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): There are no deferred votes. This House stands recessed until 1 p.m.

The House recessed from 1155 to 1300.

Introduction of Visitors

Mr. Todd Smith: I’d like to welcome Greg Killough from the Heart and Stroke Foundation. It has been a pleasure working with Greg on a private member’s bill that I’m going to be introducing a bit later on this afternoon, the Smoke-Free Schools Act. Welcome, Greg, to the Legislature.

Members’ Statements

School safety

Mr. Monte McNaughton: Parents across Ontario are raising the alarm after finding that their children have been exposed to extremely inappropriate material while at school. Recently, children at publicly funded schools in the Cambridge region, as early as grade 2, have unintentionally accessed images and videos of graphic pornography as well as obscene and racist jokes on school computers, school wi-fi and during school time.

In this case, there is an administrative policy in place that says that the board’s first responsibility is to provide filtering protection for Internet access which will restrict material that is inappropriate and is racist, pornographic, dangerous or obscene. Teachers reported that Internet filtration has become lax over the last two years.

One such petition has been started at waterlooregionsafeschools.com. These parents want board staff to take their concerns more seriously and do more to restrict access to this material. We can’t expect children as young as seven and eight years old to moderate their own Internet use responsibly. Parents expect that Internet filters and supervision will be in place in our public schools to prevent their children from being exposed to this type of material.

I urge all school boards across Ontario to take action to ensure that strict Internet safety filters and supervision are in place.

Bicycle safety

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Last Wednesday, people across Ontario and across Canada paid their respects to our veterans: the men and women who sacrificed their health and safety and, sometimes, lives to provide a peaceful and safe country for us to live and work in. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the remembrance ceremony at the Windsor cenotaph due to an unexpected and unfortunate family emergency.

While riding his bike to school in the morning, my son was hit by a car. My son had the right of way; he did not have a stop sign. Although the driver did as he should and came to a complete stop, he did not see my son when advancing through the intersection and hit him. My son was thrown from his bike, rolled up the hood of the car and, when the driver slammed on his brakes, my son was thrown to the ground.

I am happy to report that my son received the best of care from the paramedics and police officers that arrived on scene, as well as from one of our local hospitals. He was battered and bruised but not seriously injured. The driver of the vehicle, although understandably shaken, is doing just fine as well.

I mention this incident to, once again, bring awareness of the importance that all cyclists, regardless of age, wear helmets and be aware of all their surroundings. Motorists also need to be ever vigilant when on our streets. In a split second, someone’s life can be dramatically altered, and nobody wants to read in the news that another cyclist was badly injured or killed while cycling our streets.

Hospital services

Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: I’d like to share with the House some good news with regard to the redevelopment of Etobicoke General Hospital, but before I do that—speaking on the healing arts—I, too, would like to offer my condolences for what took place.

Je voudrais prendre la parole pour exprimer nos condoléances à nos frères et soeurs de Paris, et au peuple et à la nation de France. Nous sommes avec vous.

I’m pleased to alert my colleagues, constituents and residents about what is going to be, perhaps, a multi-million-dollar—I think we’re not really supposed to specify the exact amount, but I think it’s going to be a $200-million-plus Etobicoke General development. We’re going to be tripling to quadrupling the floor space. This will involve a larger, state-of-the-art emergency department; a critical care unit and an intensive care unit that are, by the way, four times the size of the current space; a maternal newborn unit with birthing suites and a specialized nursery; a new ambulatory procedures unit; and cardiorespiratory and neurodiagnostic services. That means more dialysis, more cardiac stress tests, more nuclear scans and more radiology of all different kinds, hopefully to improve the health, diagnostic capability and the health outcomes for my residents in Etobicoke North.

Of course, I’m pleased to be joined with moral support from the member from Etobicoke Centre, who is strategically located behind me, who was also present. I won’t share with you, because that would of course be using props, but I do have photographic evidence of the announcement.

Jewish Women’s Retreat

Mrs. Gila Martow: Yesterday, I spent a bit of time with ladies at a Jewish Women’s Retreat. It was actually in Markham. A lot of people were from Thornhill, Toronto and across the USA and Canada.

It was a very exciting weekend, and very inspirational—the 54th convention of its kind. It’s basically a gathering of women from the chabad community. “Chabad” is pronounced “kh,” so I want you all to practise and get ready for Hanukkah because that’s just around the corner.

Some of the speakers—one of them was actually here this morning. She is the wife of the late Knesset Minister Avner Shaki. She was here today—Nechama Shaki—for question period. She didn’t make it quite through, but she sat there for most of it. I’m sure she has a few words to say about all of us.

Faygie Kaplan, the wife of the famous Rabbi Kaplan from Chabad Flamingo in Thornhill, was a speaker, and Jordana Stockhamer—whose daughter went to school with my daughter—also from Thornhill, a lawyer. Betty Barmherzig spoke—she does exercises for religious Jewish women and was a patient of mine when I worked as an optometrist; Rabbi Yossi Jacobson; Miryam Swerdlow; Rabbi Avraham Plotkin from Chabad at Green Lane in Markham; Mrs. Sarah Chana Radcliffe; Mrs. Michèle Sankar; Deecla Ziv-Katz, who was in the Israeli army; Marcy Katz, who believes we have the power to change our moods; and Shulamit Finkelstein, who helps people cope with stress.

Heartland Forest

Mr. Wayne Gates: Today, I’d like to talk about an incredibly moving experience I had in my riding. Anyone from Niagara knows about Heartland Forest and the incredible work they do for children in our region.

Last week, I was happy to stop by Heartland Forest and witness their incredible workshop in action. It was an area on a property where children and adults of all ages and abilities are being taught carpentry. They have programs for young people with autism. They have programs for adults with brain injuries who need occupational therapy.

Just last week, they launched a brand new, full-day program for young people with autism. What’s better than being taught these skills by retired teachers who have volunteered their time to help those who need it the most? It highlights how important these teachers are in our community and the difference they make in the lives of our young people, both inside and outside the classroom. The work that comes out of the workshops gives these incredibly inspiring children and adults a chance to create something they’re proud of.

I’m also happy to say that the program is funded by the Ontario Trillium Benefit—just one great example of the positive role that we, as government, can play in our communities by reaching out to those with disabilities.

I want to send a sincere thank you to Heartland Forest and their founder, Dan Bouwman, for the work they do in Niagara and our community. What they offer is priceless, and I’m extremely proud to support these efforts as a member of this Legislature.

Diwali

Mr. Bob Delaney: Last week, the Indian community celebrated Diwali, the festival of light. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and also many Buddhists around the world lit candles and set off fireworks, signifying the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.

Diwali, like Christmas, is a religious festival. It commemorates the homecoming of Ram after 14 years of exile in the forests and his victory over Ravan.

Celebrants mark Diwali with prayers, the lighting of divas, fireworks and the sharing of sweets and gifts.

In the Sikh community, this day is celebrated as Bandi Choor Diwas. The Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib-Ji, was freed on this day in 1619 from imprisonment in the famous fort of Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir. Guru Sahib negotiated his release, and that of 52 kings and princes, to coincide with Diwali.

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In the past two weeks in western Mississauga, my office hosted our first community Diwali reception. I attended the Hindu Heritage Centre’s Diwali Milan, and Ram Mandir’s Diwali fundraiser and gala. The Gujarati community celebrates the day of Diwali as New Year, and I joined my many Gujarati friends at BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir. And I attended the Diwali party hosted by my many friends at the Mississauga Seniors Club.

Shubh Diwali, or happy Diwali to all.

Tenant protection

Mr. Jim Wilson: I rise today to talk about the need for protections for people living in what are known as land-lease communities. These communities are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act; however, they are exempt from the protection of rent controls under that act.

In my riding of Simcoe–Grey, many residents in Wasaga Beach are worried that the affordable lifestyle homes they purchased in land-lease communities won’t be affordable over the long term.

In the Parkbridge Lifestyles Communities where they live, they report annual rental increases in the last few years of 3.3% to 4%. As well, they report monthly rental fee increases of $50 every time a property is sold to a new owner. And they say that they’ve seen maintenance fees increase as much as 15% or more a year.

These increases aren’t sustainable. Residents are worried they will no longer be able to afford their homes. They also worry that the increases will make the properties less attractive to potential buyers. On top of it all, the residents say the rationale for the increases is not transparent. They don’t get a good explanation from the owners of the property.

My constituents purchased their homes thinking they would be a great place to live. They thought they would enjoy a certain quality of life, a high quality of life, and a lifestyle that they’ve worked hard for many years to achieve.

The government needs to ensure that people living in land-lease communities are treated in a transparent and responsible manner.

Linda Smith

Mr. John Fraser: This past weekend in Ottawa, a friend to many, Linda Smith, passed away. She touched our lives as a volunteer for politicians of all stripes. Linda had a developmental exceptionality. That exceptionality filled her with unconditional love and acceptance in abundance. She would call our office daily, sometimes several times, just to check in. I know this happened in offices across our city.

More than one person has said that you could be having a terrible day and Linda would call and you’d forget your troubles. Linda could lift up all those around her. At regular council meetings, she often sat in the front row, waiting for the mayor to acknowledge her. She also loved to have her picture taken with just about anyone.

Linda would help out with any task in the office, especially if it came with lunch. Two slices of pizza, one to take home, and a Pepsi. She loved strawberry milkshakes and ice cream. She was great company.

Her exceptionality also left her vulnerable, and she struggled with how people could be cruel, mean and thoughtless. Thankfully, she was resilient and quick to forgive.

Linda, you were our friend and we’re the better for it. You truly brought out the best in all of us. We will all miss you. God bless.

Attacks in Paris / Attentats à Paris

Ms. Indira Naidoo-Harris: It is with a heavy heart that I rise today to speak about the recent tragic events in Paris, France. The attacks on Paris are devastating, and our thoughts are with the innocent victims and their families.

Les scènes de mort, de destruction et de terreur étaient horribles et inoubliables. C’est un rappel tragique que la vie est très précieuse.

The scenes of death, destruction and terror were horrific and unforgettable. It is a tragic reminder that life is so precious. In the wake of these violent events, it is important to remember that these acts of terror were carried out by a small group of people who promote violence and hatred.

That is why I find the attacks on a local mosque in Peterborough unsettling. This is a time to demonstrate compassion and solidarity for everyone in our communities. This is a time to be proud of our diversity and the strength of our shared values. This is a time to be proud of our religious harmony in Ontario and Canada.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, across Ontario and Canada, vigils were held this weekend to show support for the French people and their government. Among them were an emotional gathering at Celebration Square in Mississauga and a sombre vigil in the heart of Toronto in Dundas Square.

These acts of terror are an attack not only on the innocent victims in Paris, but on the values we all share worldwide. They are an attack on democracy, freedom and multiculturalism. The loss of life experienced around the world last week in Paris and many other countries was a blow to humanity.

Finally, it is a time to remember those who face such terrible losses in France and to stand in solidarity with the French people and the pillars that that community was built on: liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Introduction of Bills

Smoke-Free Schools Act, 2015 / Loi de 2015 favorisant des écoles sans fumée

Mr. Smith moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 139, An Act to amend the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and the Tobacco Tax Act / Projet de loi 139, Loi modifiant la Loi favorisant un Ontario sans fumée et la Loi de la taxe sur le tabac.

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

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member for a short statement.

Mr. Todd Smith: The explanatory note is quite long. I’ve been working on this for several months.

I’ll just summarize it by saying that the bill increases the fines for the import, manufacture and transportation of illegal cigarettes. It includes an education piece as well to inform our young people about the dangers of smoking illegal smokes. The Smoke-Free Schools Act is a serious crackdown on contraband cigarettes in Ontario.

Statements by the Ministry and Responses

Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week

Hon. Liz Sandals: I’m very proud to stand in the House today on behalf of Ontario’s two million students to acknowledge Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week.

We know that a safe, inclusive and accepting school environment is essential for student achievement and well-being. We are proud that school communities across the province are working hard to promote respectful and caring relationships and interactions during Bullying Awareness and Prevention week and all year long.

As you may know, promoting well-being is one of the goals of our government’s renewed vision for education, Achieving Excellence. Ontario is leading the country with strong legislation and evidence-informed resources to address bullying and victimization through prevention and intervention. For example, the Accepting Schools Act, which was passed in 2012, requires school boards to take measures to prevent and address inappropriate student behaviour. This important legislation is helping to make every school in Ontario a safe, inclusive and accepting place to learn, while at the same time ensuring that every student has the support to reach their full potential.

Another way we are promoting well-being is through the updated health and physical education curriculum. From a very early age, students will learn to demonstrate respect for all and understand the root causes of gender inequality, while also building skills for developing healthy relationships.

Our safe and accepting schools teams, which are required in all Ontario schools, are helping to create a safe, inclusive and accepting school climate for our students all across the province. Speaker, you will recall that the 2014-15 Premier’s Awards for Accepting Schools recognized Ontario’s safe and accepting school teams for the exceptional and innovative work they have done. For the 2014-15 school year, 10 school teams were selected as recipients for these initiatives.

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One such school is St. Alfred Catholic Elementary School in St. Catharines, which launched its Caught You Caring bullying prevention campaign. This recognized individual students throughout the school for their positive choices and impact on their school.

Another school, École élémentaire catholique Lamoureux in Ottawa, responded to the challenge of creating a positive student climate with its Stop, Walk, and Talk campaign. In fact, a school climate survey at école Lamoureux revealed that more than 97% of students felt strongly that they were helped, supported, respected and felt safe at school, and the school has experienced a marked drop in bullying incidents over the past two years.

I encourage every member in the House today and in our school communities to take this opportunity, not just during Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week but throughout the school year, to promote respectful and healthy relationships, to take a stand against bullying, and to come together to make a difference in the lives of Ontario’s children, students, families, and educators.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): It is now time for responses.

Ms. Sylvia Jones: It’s a pleasure to rise today on behalf of my leader, Patrick Brown, to recognize this week as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week.

I would like to start by thanking my former colleague, the member from Kitchener–Waterloo, Elizabeth Witmer, who has been a champion in the fight against bullying. In 2010, she introduced a resolution calling on the government to recognize the third week of November each year as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week. In addition to her resolution, she introduced a private member’s bill in 2011 to strengthen anti-bullying laws in schools.

I also want to thank Lisa MacLeod, the member for Nepean–Carleton, who has also been a champion in our caucus against bullying. In 2012, she brought forward legislation to recognize the third Sunday in November as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in schools, including establishing a plan to prevent bullying in school boards.

I want to thank them both for their efforts to highlight how bullying is impacting our communities. There is no doubt that bullying is a serious issue that continues in our society, and especially in our schools, having serious implications in the lives of our students.

There are many forms of bullying, whether it is about a person’s race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, intellect and/or physical disabilities, and no longer is bullying confined to classrooms and schoolyards. Even in workplaces, bullying exists, and with social media, bullying has easy access to individuals no matter where they are. Now bullying can take place right in a person’s home, digitally.

Cyber-bullying is the new modern-day plague, quickly spreading. For example, at least one in three adolescents in Canada has reported being bullied recently, and nearly half of all parents across Canada report having a child who is a victim of bullying. To highlight this even more, a child or teen is bullied every seven minutes on playgrounds throughout Canada. Bullying has serious effects on the lives of our province’s children.

Victims of harassment report a loss of interest in school activities, more absenteeism, lower-quality school work, lower grades, more skipping and dropping classes, tardiness and truancy.

To make matters worse, more than half of bullied children do not report being bullied to a teacher. When the majority of victims of bullying do not want to talk about their experience, they will resort to other means to cope with it, and in some cases it can lead to suicide. Suicide should never become an option for coping.

That is why we need to do a better job of teaching children, if they are being bullied, to please reach out and talk to someone. Programs like the Kids Help Phone are there for you. We need to ensure that victims of bullying know that there is always someone out there to talk to. We need to teach family members, teachers and employers how to spot the signs that someone is being bullied.

I want to commend the Police Association of Ontario for teaming up with Kids Now Canada in the “Pink is the New Blue” campaign to help raise awareness for the use of social media, in which parents, caregivers, officers and teachers can take an online quiz on how to identify potential situations and on how to listen to a child if they are being bullied. When we are able to teach individuals to spot the warning signs of someone being bullied, then we are better preparing them to deal with the situation appropriately.

Here at Queen’s Park, we must show leadership by working together to put an end to all forms of bullying.

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: On behalf of all Ontario New Democrats, I am proud to rise today to speak to Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week.

Forms of repeated, persistent and aggressive behaviour with the intention to cause physical or emotional harm, known as bullying, are sadly all too common in Ontario. Bullying impacts all aspects of life in this province. Seniors, students, special needs citizens, transgender youth and visible minorities—sadly, anyone, Speaker—may experience bullying directly or indirectly. This aggressive and damaging behaviour can take place in the workplace, home, school or in the general public.

Each generation of Ontarians is faced with new forms of bullying. In 2015, bullying has taken to cyberspace and occurs on varying public forums such as our social media platforms. As bullying increasingly involves new technology, so too must the individual seeking to stop this behaviour and to assist those living in fear or distress.

Bringing individuals together to form community-based approaches to end bullying is a proven tactic to make real change. It is this community response that is the key to our success in reducing all forms of bullying, new and old.

For instance, the Windsor police took part in the Yellowcard campaign that seeks to end intellectual discrimination. This campaign was launched by Special Olympics athletes working in conjunction with local police forces across Canada.

Each year, Windsor’s Hiatus House takes part in the Shine the Light campaign in partnership with organizations and businesses across our community to raise awareness on the lack of domestic violence reporting. On my way back to Queen’s Park this week, I had the opportunity to stop in London, and I noticed many of the private businesses and public institutions were taking part in the Shine the Light campaign: Their buildings were lit up in purple. Speaker, this campaign actually takes place across our province to bring awareness to the lack of reporting on domestic violence.

Another local initiative is the Essex County Diversion Program. Through its youth outreach initiative, the diversion program seeks to raise awareness of activities that can be attributed to bullying and accepts referrals from parents and schools. I hope this program can continue to partner with the community and offer its services.

Across Ontario, the parents, education workers, and students who make up our education communities are leaders in bullying awareness and prevention. In the past, school-based initiatives in Windsor, like H.J. Lassaline Catholic Elementary School’s Bully Busters program or Catholic Central’s Delete Day, have increased awareness and reduced forms of bullying in schools.

It is the hard work of our education community that delivers the ministry and school board directives aimed at bullying prevention that the minister spoke of today. Whether the anti-bullying initiative is a directive of the ministry, the board, or a grassroots campaign at a local school, our education workers and principals are foundational to bullying prevention inside and outside the classroom. These education workers go above and beyond what is required of them each and every day to deliver on these directives and so much more. Their input is vital to measuring the impact and success of these programs.

We need to recognize the value that education workers voluntarily bring each and every day to Ontario students through anti-bullying initiatives. This is why Ontario families are so troubled by the divisive tactics this government has used over the past several months to divide our education community. Most recently, we see this by the government granting boards the ability to reduce the pay of our education professionals in an attempt to force education support staff into submission in an ongoing labour dispute.

While the government issued an ultimatum, they have yet to give support staff the courtesy of setting more dates to bargain, have their concerns heard, and reach a tentative agreement. It is shameful that this government is pitting school boards against education workers and against parents, all in an attempt to get its way.

Speaker, we need a cohesive and united community of parents, students and education workers if our efforts to curb behaviour and assist the victims of bullying are to be effective. The government should work to unite this community rather than pit members against one another. Only through a united education community will we be successful in ending new forms of bullying in this province. We need this government to recognize this and start working to unite this community rather than create divides.

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Petitions

Tenant protection

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Not to assume anything, but I think the member from Simcoe–Grey is going to lead us in petitions.

The member from Simcoe–Grey.

Mr. Jim Wilson: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. That’s very attentive of you. Residents of Country Meadows, Wasaga Beach, Ontario, sent us this petition:

“Whereas our present land leases with Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities Inc. are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (RTA); however, they are exempted from the protection of rent controls under the act. Being part 1, section 6, subsection 2, and,

“Whereas the landlord has the option to increase the monthly land rental by $50 above the existing rent, to a new purchaser, when a home is sold.

“Whereas ‘Country Meadows’ is a community of permanent homes located on leased lands whose residents are retired and living on fixed incomes. Continued rental increases beyond the guidelines of the RTA, is unsustainable to retired residents on fixed incomes.

“Therefore, we the undersigned residents of ‘Country Meadows,’ petition the Legislature to change the RTA to include rent controls for retirement type communities located on leased lands and, to delete the option given to landlords to increase land rental rates upon sale of a home in such communities. The foregoing would enable retirees to remain in their homes and enjoy their hard-earned retirement years.”

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the over 1,000 residents of these communities in Wasaga Beach for the petition. I agree with the petition and I will sign it.

Privatization of public assets

Mme France Gélinas: I have this petition from Mrs. Sadie Paquette, who lives in Chelmsford in my riding, and it reads as follows:

“Whereas the provincial government is creating a privatization scheme that will lead to higher hydro rates, lower reliability, and hundreds of millions less for our schools, roads, and hospitals; and

“Whereas the privatization scheme will be particularly harmful to northern and First Nations communities; and

“Whereas the provincial government is creating this privatization scheme under a veil of secrecy that means Ontarians don’t have a say on a change that will affect their lives dramatically; and

“Whereas it is not too late to cancel” this;

They “petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the province of Ontario immediately cancel its scheme to privatize Ontario’s Hydro One.”

I fully support this petition, will affix my name to it and ask page Hannah to take it to the Clerk.

Water fluoridation

Mr. John Fraser: A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Fluoridate All Ontario Drinking Water.

“Whereas fluoride is a mineral that exists naturally in virtually all water supplies, even the ocean; and

“Whereas scientific studies conducted during the past 70 years have consistently shown that the fluoridation of community water supplies is a safe and effective means of preventing dental decay, and is a public health measure endorsed by more than 90 national and international health organizations; and

“Whereas dental decay is the second-most frequent condition suffered by children, and is one of the leading causes of absences from school; and

“Whereas Health Canada has determined that the optimal concentration of fluoride in municipal drinking water for dental health is 0.7 mg/L, providing optimal dental health benefits, and well below the maximum acceptable concentrations; and

“Whereas the decision to add fluoride to municipal drinking water is a patchwork of individual choices across Ontario, with municipal councils often vulnerable to the influence of misinformation, and studies of questionable or no scientific merit;

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

“That the ministries of the government of Ontario adopt the number one recommendation made by the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health in a 2012 report on oral health in Ontario, and amend all applicable legislation and regulations to make the fluoridation of municipal drinking water mandatory in all municipal water systems across the province of Ontario.”

I agree with this petition and am giving it to page Jack.

Lyme disease

Mr. Todd Smith: I’ve been inundated with calls and messages from hunters who have dealt with a lot of ticks in eastern Ontario, so this is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas the tick-borne illness known as chronic Lyme disease, which mimics many catastrophic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s, arthritic diabetes, depression, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, is increasingly endemic in Canada, but the scientifically validated diagnostic tests and treatment choices are currently not available in Ontario, forcing patients to seek these in the USA and Europe;

“Whereas the Canadian Medical Association informed the public, governments and the medical profession in the May 30, 2000, edition of their professional journal that Lyme disease is endemic throughout Canada, particularly in southern Ontario;

“Whereas the public health system and the Ontario Health Insurance Plan currently do not fund those specific tests that accurately serve the process of establishing a clinical diagnosis, but only recognize testing procedures known in the medical literature to provide false negatives at 45% to 95% of the time;

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

“To request that the Minister of Health direct that the Ontario public health system and OHIP include all currently available and scientifically verified tests for acute and chronic Lyme diagnosis and to have everything necessary to create public awareness of Lyme disease in Ontario, and to have internationally developed diagnostic and successful treatment protocols available to patients and physicians.”

I agree with this petition and will sign it and send it to the table.

Physiotherapy services

Ms. Jennifer K. French: I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for improved post-stroke physiotherapy and eligibility.

“Whereas current OHIP legislation and policies prevent Ontario post-stroke patients between the ages of 20 and 64 from receiving additional one-on-one OHIP-funded physiotherapy; and

“Whereas these post-stroke patients deserve to be rehabilitated to their greatest ability possible to maybe return to work and become provincial income taxpayers again and productive citizens;

“Whereas current OHIP policies prevent Ontarians under age 65 and over the age of 20 from receiving additional OHIP-funded physiotherapy and rehabilitation after their initial stroke treatment; and

“Whereas these OHIP policies are discriminatory in nature, forcing university/college students and other Ontarians to wait until age 65 to receive more OHIP-funded physiotherapy;

“Whereas the lack of post-stroke physiotherapy offered to Ontarians between the ages of 20 and 64 is forcing these people to prematurely cash in their RRSPs and/or sell their houses to raise funds;

“Now therefore we, the undersigned, hereby respectfully petition the Ontario Legislature to introduce and pass amending legislation and new regulations to provide OHIP-funded post-stroke physiotherapy and treatment for all qualified post-stroke patients, thereby eliminating the discriminatory nature of current treatment practices.”

I support this petition, affix my name to it and send it with page Aislin.

Health care funding

Mr. Jim McDonell: I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

“Whereas repeated cuts to health care funding under the present government are having a negative impact on the residents of Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry, including seniors, diabetics and those suffering from eye or cardiovascular conditions; and

“Whereas the heart rehabilitation program at the Seaway Valley Health Centre provided a valuable service for many residents; and

“Whereas it is in everyone’s interest to help all Ontarians stay healthy and prevent the occurrence of acute and dangerous conditions, such as heart failure; and

“Whereas this interest is best served through adequate funding to programs that have proven their value;

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

“To take all necessary actions to restore the heart rehab program at the Seaway Valley Health Centre.”

I agree with this and will be passing it off to page Rachael.

Gasoline prices

Mme France Gélinas: I have this petition that was collected by Kevin Conley, who lives in Sudbury. It goes as follows:

“Whereas northern Ontario motorists continue to be subject to wild fluctuations in the price of gasoline; and

“Whereas the province could eliminate opportunistic price gouging and deliver fair, stable and predictable fuel prices; and

“Whereas five provinces and many US states already have some sort of gas price regulation; and

“Whereas jurisdictions with gas price regulation have seen an end to wild price fluctuations, a shrinking of price discrepancies between urban and rural communities and lower annualized gas prices;”

They “petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“Mandate the Ontario Energy Board to monitor the price of gasoline across Ontario in order to reduce price volatility and unfair regional price differences while encouraging competition.”

I fully support this petition. I will affix my name to it and ask page Aislin to bring it to the Clerk.

Privatization of public assets

Mr. Todd Smith: This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

“Whereas the provincial government is creating a privatization scheme that will lead to higher hydro rates, lower reliability, and hundreds of millions less for our schools, roads, and hospitals; and

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“Whereas the privatization scheme will be particularly harmful to northern and First Nations communities; and

“Whereas the provincial government is creating this privatization scheme under a veil of secrecy that means Ontarians don’t have a say on a change that will affect their lives dramatically; and

“Whereas it is not too late to cancel the scheme;

“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the province of Ontario immediately cancel its scheme to privatize Ontario’s Hydro One.”

I’ll sign this and send it to the table.

Privatization of public assets

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Durham.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: Oshawa.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Oshawa; I apologize.

Mr. John Fraser: Which is in Durham.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: Which is in Durham, yes.

I am pleased to read this petition to the Legislative Assembly from constituents across the Durham region, specifically Pamela Downward from Pickering.

“Privatizing Hydro One: Another Wrong Choice.

“Whereas once you privatize hydro, there’s no return; and

“We’ll lose billions in reliable annual revenues for schools and hospitals; and

“We’ll lose our biggest economic asset and control over our energy future; and

“We’ll pay higher and higher hydro bills just like what’s happened elsewhere;

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

“To stop the sale of Hydro One and make sure Ontario families benefit from owning Hydro One now and for generations to come.”

Of course, I support this petition, I affix my name to it and send it with Megan Faith.

Hospice funding

Mr. Jim Wilson: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas there is a discrepancy between how hospices are funded in Ontario; and

“Whereas Matthews House Hospice is the lowest-funded hospice in the Central Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) and among the lowest-funded in the province, even though it serves as many clients or more than other hospices that receive greater provincial support; and

“Whereas Matthews House has been told by the Central LHIN that LHINs do not fund residential hospice operational costs and yet hospices in other LHINs, including Barrie, Huntsville, Richmond Hill, Owen Sound and now Collingwood, all receive operational funding from the province; and

“Whereas in February 2010 Matthews House Hospice was promised a solution to its underfunding by the Central LHIN which has never materialized;

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

“That the Wynne government immediately develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with hospice funding to ensure that people in south Simcoe and all Ontarians receive equal access to end-of-life care.”

I agree with this petition and I will sign it.

Diagnostic services

Mme France Gélinas: I have this petition that comes from all over the northeast and it is signed by Mr. Glen Rahn, who is from Capreol in my riding. It reads as follows:

“Whereas the Ontario government has made ... PET scanning a publicly insured health service available to cancer and cardiac patients...; and

“Whereas, since October 2009, insured PET scans are performed in Ottawa, London, Toronto, Hamilton and Thunder Bay; and

“Whereas the city of Greater Sudbury is a hub for health care in northeastern Ontario, with Health Sciences North, its regional cancer program and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine;”

They “petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to make PET scans available through Health Sciences North, thereby serving and providing equitable access to the citizens of northeastern Ontario.”

I fully support this petition, will affix my name to it and ask page Ajay to bring it to the Clerk.

Long-term care

Mr. Jim McDonell: I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

“Whereas the Auditor General confirmed in his December 2012 report that the Champlain CCAC had the longest wait time in Ontario in which 90% of their clients were placed; and

“Whereas the region requires a comprehensive plan assessing the future long-term-care bed needs of the region, as well as the provision of community care for independent and semi-independent seniors; and

“Whereas the number of Ontarians over 75 years of age is projected to increase by 30% by 2021, the year the baby boomers start to turn 75 years old, putting even more demand on the number of available LTC beds;

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

“That the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care immediately conduct a study to identify the current and future requirements for long-term-care beds and community care for independent and semi-independent seniors in our region of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, including the city of Cornwall.”

I agree with this and will be passing it off to page Ross.

Ontario Disability Support Program

Mme France Gélinas: I have this petition that comes from all over Ontario, and it reads as follows:

“Whereas the $100 ODSP Work-Related Benefit provides a critically important source of funds to people with disabilities...; and

“Whereas the Ministry of Community and Social Services plans to eliminate the Work-Related Benefit as part of a restructuring of” Ontario Works and ODSP; and

“Whereas eliminating the Work-Related Benefit will take approximately $36 million annually out of the pockets of people with disabilities ... who work; and

“Whereas a survey conducted by the ODSP Action Coalition between December 2014 and February 2015 shows that 18% of respondents who currently receive the Work-Related Benefit fear having to quit their jobs as a result of the loss of this important source of funds...; and

“Whereas people receiving ODSP already struggle to get by...; and

“Whereas undermining employment among ODSP recipients would run directly counter to the ministry’s goal ...;”

They “petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to stop the provincial government’s plan to eliminate the ODSP Work-Related Benefit.”

I fully support this petition, will affix my name to it and ask my good page Hannah to bring it to the Clerk.

Orders of the Day

Energy Statute Law Amendment Act, 2015 / Loi de 2015 modifiant des lois sur l’énergie

Resuming the debate adjourned on November 3, 2015, on the motion for second reading of the following bill:

Bill 135, An Act to amend several statutes and revoke several regulations in relation to energy conservation and long-term energy planning / Projet de loi 135, Loi modifiant plusieurs lois et abrogeant plusieurs règlements en ce qui concerne la conservation de l’énergie et la planification énergétique à long terme.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Simcoe–Grey.

Mr. Jim Wilson: Mr. Speaker, I believe you’ll find that we have unanimous consent to defer the remainder of our leadoff debate till a further date.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Simcoe–Grey is seeking unanimous consent of the House to defer the remainder of the leadoff speech for the official opposition to a later date. Agreed? Agreed.

Further debate? The member for Timmins–James Bay.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Speaker, as you know, our critics for energy are currently in committee, so I too would request that our lead for this particular bill be deferred to another date.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Timmins–James Bay is seeking the unanimous consent of the House to defer the leadoff speech for the New Democratic Party on this particular bill. Agreed? Agreed.

Further debate?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: I’ll start. Nobody else wants to go; I’ll be the first one.

Man, this is a really bad way of dealing with legislation, I must say. Like the House leader for the Conservatives, I’ve been here for some years now. Normally, there’s a little bit of a chance for members to be able to get a bill in order to be able to read it, in order to understand it, in order to, hopefully, consult with people who may be affected by it, so that we can have a meaningful debate in this Legislature.

Instead, the government introduced this bill just a short time ago and then told us at the last minute that they’re going to call it for debate this afternoon. Fair enough. They have the right to do that. They are the government. They did win a majority in the last election, and the government House leader controls the agenda of the House. I get it. But, God, it’s not a good way of doing things.

As you look at this particular bill—I’ve only had a chance to read the explanatory notes and I’ve read about half of the bill, and I’ve got more questions about this bill than I have had about a whole bunch of others. If I understand what the government is doing here, it simply is that they’re taking away—we created, under the Conservatives, a number of agencies in the electricity sector: the OEB, the Ontario Energy Board, which was there before, but they were given a new mandate, and the IESO, the people who essentially approve projects in the energy sector, and others. These people who had the responsibility to manage the growth and the changes in the electricity system had a process that they had to go through that was somewhat transparent. It probably wasn’t as good as people would like. I know that on a number of projects, people showed up at community meetings in my riding in order to deal with some of the projects that were brought forward. But people did have a right, because those agencies had a responsibility under law to consult and to go out and to do hearings on a particular project.

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So let’s say, for example, there would be an application to build a new transmission line between Sudbury and Timmins. Something like that would be subject to an environmental assessment, and there would also have to be hearings by the Ontario Energy Board in order to say, “Here’s what we plan on doing. Here’s what we think it’s going to look like.” Then people would come and have their say, and say, “Hey, what a great idea,” or, “What a bad idea,” and, if it’s great or bad, give the reasons why. It’s a process within a democracy that allows people to have a say about how their public utility system is being designed and being managed and being operated in a way that makes some sense.

If I understand this legislation correctly—correct me if I’m wrong—essentially what they’re doing is giving the minister all of the power to do the planning, all of the power to tell the OEB, the IESO and others what he or she wants in his or her plan, when it has to be done, and all of the details of whatever it is. There’s no accountability, because from what I can see in here, the right to an environmental assessment on projects like that is taken away in this legislation. I hope that, in the time that we have this bill at second reading, people will get a chance to read this bill and have that discussion a little bit greater. But that is troubling. We went through it on the Green Energy Act when it came to the windmills or the solar farms that were built across Ontario.

The idea of going green is a great idea. Who’s going to argue with greening your electricity system? I don’t think anybody opposes the concept in itself. But there has to be a public process by which the public buys in.

If there was one criticism, especially in rural Ontario and somewhat in northern Ontario—but in rural Ontario mostly—about the process, it’s that it took away the ability of the public to really have their say. Municipalities couldn’t, within their own boundaries, do anything about those projects as they were being planned, and the environmental assessment process was really null and void, if I’m correct.

Now what they’re doing is saying, under this new private hydro that they’re creating—because they’re essentially privatizing hydro. They’re taking a public utility that we used to own 100%, and over a period of time the government is selling 60%. The government says that they’re going to still control electricity and they’re going to still control Hydro One with that particular setup. But you know as well as I do that if you sell 60% of your business, you don’t call the shots anymore. Everybody in the business world knows that. Everybody who works for a business knows that. The public knows that. If you don’t have 50% plus 1% of the business, you’re not in control.

What this bill does, under this new hydro system—it says that if the new Hydro One or whatever they call themselves decide that they’re going to build a transmission project wherever or they’re going to change a substation wherever or they’re going to build God knows what on the generation side, it’s not subject to an environmental assessment. Wow. What happened to the progressive Liberals who ran in the last election? I remember that those Liberals, Kathleen Wynne and others, were out there campaigning, “Oh, we’re the progressive ones. We believe in doing the right thing. We want to have conversations with Ontarians. We’re transparent.” Transparent? You’re putting the blinders on Ontarians with legislation like this. I can’t believe it.

I hope I’m wrong. I’m sure there’s going to be a government member, learned scholars that they are on this legislation—because God knows they must have read it before I got it, because we just got this bill—who is going to maybe point this wrong. But I don’t think I’m wrong. If you take a look at what the bill says and the explanatory notes and you read what it says inside the bill itself, it’s pretty darn clear. It makes changes to section 25 of the bill, and it says it “is re-enacted to provide the power for the minister, subject to the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council”—that’s cabinet—“to issue directives to the IESO and to the boards that set out requirements respecting the implementation of the long-term energy plan.” Well, essentially, the minister draws up the energy plan.

Mr. John Vanthof: A Liberal energy plan. What could go wrong?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: What could go wrong with a Liberal energy plan? What a good point. What could go wrong with a Liberal energy plan in this province? God. Do you remember the gas plant scandal and everything else that these guys have done?

Interjection.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Smart meters.

It further goes on to say—and I was just reading this particular part before I got the chance to get up—that, essentially, the environment assessment process is sort of made null and void. It says, “Section 25.32.1 is enacted to specify that no plan, directive, direction or other document issued or provided under sections 25.29 to 25.32 is an undertaking to which the Environmental Assessment Act applies.”

So you’ve got to go and read what those sections from 25.29 to 25.32 mean, and that’s a pretty wide swath that you’re giving yourself when it comes to exempting projects that essentially go under the Environmental Assessment Act. If the government makes a plan—for example, the minister makes a plan for his friends, like that banker friend he has, Mr. Clark, the new unelected Liberal member of cabinet—if he decides he wants to—

Interjections.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Well, he’s an unelected member of your cabinet. He has more sway than most ministers. I see things that he says in the paper, and the government goes out and does them. So he’s an unelected cabinet minister with a lot of power. It’s obvious what’s going on there.

But if he says, “Hey, Liberal cabinet or Premier Wynne, I would like you to do X, Y and Z,” who knows? This could be subject to abuse. For example, “If you guys do this, we’ll give you money for your fundraisers.” I don’t know: That may happen; that may not happen. Let’s hope not, but it could. The potential is there. You could end up in a situation where the government essentially designs the rules of the proponent. So if you’re friends with the proponent and the government decides that it’s got the ability to draft the rules, I think that’s a pretty dangerous spot to be in.

That’s why it is always better to shed light on whatever we do when it comes to things like this, because light is the best disinfectant when it comes to making sure you don’t do something that’s dirty and wrong. I think, as a result of everything we’ve seen with this government when it comes to the energy file, if you look at everything when it came to those gas plants: the cancellation of gas plants not for the need of making sure we’re doing the right thing when it comes to the energy system in Ontario, but the need of the Liberal government to protect a couple of seats—five in total, if I remember correctly—and get people re-elected, it worked. They got their people re-elected.

Mr. Arthur Potts: You guys made the same promise.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Listen: It worked. It worked. Member from Beaches East–York, I don’t say that it didn’t work. You got your members re-elected, but it cost us—the Ontarians—over $1.2 billion for what you guys have done.

I’m saying, my God, what kind of system is that? We’re going to give the government the ability to essentially take the Environmental Assess Act process away from certain activities in the energy sector such as developing the plan for what your energy system is going to look like? Oh my God, can you imagine?

We just went through this with the Energy East pipeline, right? There are people on both sides of that issue—people in favour and people opposed—and the OEB held hearings in Ontario so that people could have a discussion about, “Should that project go forward: yes? Should it go forward: no? And if yes or if no, give your reasons.” The OEB came back and gave its report, and now people have to go back and deal with some of the concerns that were raised on that particular project.

Well, what I’m seeing here is that something like that would be pretty hard to happen unless the government wanted to have a public process. Certainly the government retains the right, as I read the legislation, to be able to have a public process hearing of some type, in order to give the public their say, because there is a section in this bill that refers to the minister having the ability to create a public consultation process on development of his or her energy plan—clearly. But it’s not an independent process driven by some outside body that is a third party and is not tied to the decision. That’s what a review process is supposed to be all about. That would be like saying, “Well, you know, you just charged somebody, and let me tell you: I, the prosecution, or I, the defence, am going to pick all the jurors.” I can tell you what’s going to happen with the decision: If you get to pick the jurors, the jurors are going to do what you want.

You have to have a system where there are some checks and balances, and the checks and balances in the system are to make sure that it’s transparent. What the government seems to be doing with this bill—and I’ve got to say, it’s going to take a little bit of time to go through and read this bill, and certainly we need people to come and speak to this in committee who are knowledgeable on the energy sector—is that this bill seems to essentially give the minister the power to determine what an energy plan is going to look like when it comes to distribution, transmission and generation. They develop the energy plan, and the minister can—because the minister has the ability in this legislation to have a public process, as far as consultation, and having people come before and say what they have to say, but only if the minister chooses, and only on those items that the minister chooses to put into the review process. There’s no independent environmental assessment process where there is an independent body who is looking at the project and reporting back on what that is.

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The IESO and the Ontario Energy Board were set up so that they have some independent processes they have to go through as well. If Hydro One or OPG wanted to do a particular project somewhere in Ontario, the IESO—depending on the part of the project—or the OEB, the Ontario Energy Board, would have the ability and the responsibility to do third-party verification of what’s going on and to conduct hearings.

What we’re essentially doing in this bill is taking that responsibility away from the OEB and the IESO. They are, essentially, now extensions of the minister’s office. The minister will say to the OEB or the IESO, “Jump,” and the IESO and the OEB are going to say, “How high, Minister? And when do you want me to come down?” The way this bill is written, it takes away the independence of those agencies.

I was opposed to Mike Harris when he originally broke up hydro and put them into five or six different organizations and did what he did, because we always thought at the time that creating five or six organizations costs more money to run than when you have one. It only stands to reason.

At least the Conservatives left in place a certain process within these new agencies that gave the system some transparency. In this case, the minister is in the driver’s seat. The minister, first of all, decides if there’s going to be any kind of review or type of hearing on whatever the project or the energy plan might be be—if and when it’s going to happen, how long it’s going to happen, and what the terms of reference are going to be when it comes to the actual hearing. At the end, the minister is in total control of what he or she does with the information when it comes back from the consultation process. There’s no requirement that the minister has to do anything. It only says that the minister has to take into account what they’ve consulted on when it comes to the energy plan, if they decide to do the consultation in the first place. So they can decide to have a consultation or not. If they do it, they choose the terms of reference, and that means everything about how those hearings will take place. And when it comes back, the minister doesn’t even have to take it into account. It says the minister may take it into account.

So we move from a system where the OEB and the IESO had some requirements that were given by this Legislature in order to make sure that there was at least some amount of transparency and some kind of accountability for the decisions they made, to assist them, to now, where they’re going to, basically, jump to the minister’s bark. When the minister barks, they’re going to have to jump. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think the OEB or the IESO would like to have that. I think at the end of the day, they probably would rather have a system that is a bit more independent. I think it’s just dangerous to go down this path.

I want to repeat what the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane said—he said it in jest, but he’s darn well serious: These are the guys who designed the energy system that we have now that’s in so much trouble, and we’re going to trust them with this type of legislation, where they’re going to be able to design what the energy plan is based on their own feelings and whatever it is that they want? I think that’s a pretty dangerous thing.

Je peux vous dire que le monde d’où je viens—ou Mme Gélinas ou autres—se trouve dans la même situation. Ils travaillent fort chaque jour. Ils s’en vont à l’ouvrage; ils reviennent à la fin de la journée; ils essayent de s’assurer qu’un peu reste de leur paye quand ils finissent de payer leurs « bills ». Mais ça devient de plus en plus difficile parce que le prix de l’énergie continue à augmenter. Et quand tu vois quelque chose comme ça, ça veut dire que c’est une possibilité que les décisions prises par le ministre pourraient pousser le prix de l’électricité même plus haut qu’il était avant.

A-t-on vraiment besoin de ça, monsieur le Président, dans un système d’électricité où on paye déjà trop, où les prix sont de deux fois et demie à trois fois plus chers que n’importe où d’autre au Canada où il y a des systèmes publics? Ça coûte même plus cher qu’aux États-Unis où il y a des systèmes privés.

It seems that we’re caught in the worst of all worlds when it comes to this government’s energy policy. We went from—if not the—one of the lowest energy costs for electricity in North America. I know; I used to have a refinery and a smelter in my riding. It uses a lot of electricity. Xstrata was the largest single utility customer in the province of Ontario with this refinery and smelter. Why did they close down? Electricity prices, pure and simple.

I sat at the meeting we had with Mayor Laughren; the heads of Xstrata; the head of Unifor; Charlie Angus; myself; the Premier then, Mr. McGuinty; and the minister—I can’t remember who the minister was. We went through this whole discussion about what to do in order to save Xstrata from closing. Xstrata essentially said, “You’ve got to give us a break on electricity prices. Without that, we can’t stay and operate in Ontario.”

What the government has now done with Hydro One privatization is put at risk, again, rates to go up, because rates will go up. Nobody is going to pay a CEO $4 million a year and expect that it’s not going to push the rate up. Nobody is going to privatize 60% of the system and say of the shareholders, “They’re just buying this because they want to be good to Ontarians and they want you to have a better deal.” I don’t think so. They are there because they want to return investment to the shareholders.

Mr. John Vanthof: As they should.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: As they should; that’s what a business does. A public utility runs at the cost that it costs you to produce and transfers that saving onto the economy—to the employers and to the individuals who need electricity in their homes. That’s how hydro and the public system were set up. That’s how it is in Quebec, in Manitoba and most of the other provinces in Canada.

But what the government has now done is that they’ve privatized much on the generation side with a lot of these private power projects. By the way, they’re cancelling the feed-in tariff, which I think is really interesting, as the other part of this. What are they going to replace it with? The feed-in tariff was a huge success; it only drove up rates in this province by two and a half times, and now you’re going to cancel it and the minister has the right to reinvent whatever he or she wants? Wow, that’s a heck of a thing. That’s a heck of a power to give to a minister.

Mr. John Vanthof: Like I said, what could go wrong?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: What can go wrong? It’s only the Liberals. God knows they don’t have a track record when it comes to driving energy prices up in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I only had 45 minutes to sit in this House and read about three pages of this bill. I’ve confirmed they’re cancelling the feed-in tariff program; they’re eliminating the ability to have the environmental assessment board review an electricity management plan, a new transmission system or whatever it might be. It raises the question: Who is going to benefit in all of this? I don’t think it will be the ratepayers.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Arthur Potts: It’s always a pleasure to rise and give response to the member from Timmins–James Bay on his quick reading of the bill. I know if he reads it in more detail he’ll come up with much grander or better conclusions in the direction it’s taking.

Early in his remarks, he sort of baited our side for the learned scholar to stand up and give remarks. I’m just not going to take that bait. I’ll leave it to others to think about whether my remarks are learned or not, but I’m delighted to take a chance on the basis of my preliminary reading of the bill and the direction that we’re going.

We’ve spoken at length about Hydro One, and the question of trust keeps coming up. I have got to tell you, if this bill takes us down the direction anywhere near as good as the Hydro One privatization has gone so far, you should all be bowing with respect. The reality is that we set up a process with an IPO which predicted a certain value for the corporation. The Financial Accountability Officer made his assessment and, looking at the full range of the financing options, he had some concern if the values came in at the low end of the range. But as it turned out, the values of the IPO came out at the high end of the range, we realized immediate sales of all the shares that were put up for option, and, in a glorious way, the very same day they’re up 6%.

The people who actually made that investment recognized that there is tremendous value here to move forward with. Now, when we go out for the next 15%, let’s see where those share prices are then. Because, as we suggested might happen, if it shows an even greater value, because we didn’t sell it all off at once, we’re going to go forward with an even higher share value and get even more money to pay down debt and invest in infrastructure in the province. That’s very important.

But what the member will know, if he reads in more detail, is that we are setting in place a long-term energy planning process which probably, had this been done earlier, might have caught some of the problems associated with having gas plants zoned inappropriately for the communities that had grown up around them over the years that they had that opportunity.

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Speaker, I look forward to more debate on this in the House. This is an excellent piece of legislation, and by the time debate is finished, I know they will be on board.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments.

Mr. Jack MacLaren: It’s my pleasure to speak to this bill. It’s a noble idea to pursue energy conservation with long-term planning.

I would have thought that long-term planning should have started a long time ago, before they did something like the Green Energy Act, before we got to a point where we had so many scandals and so much wasteful spending that we had to sell 60% of a utility that belongs to the people of Ontario for less than the debt that it was holding. The debt we get to keep, we get 60% of what it’s worth, and the other 40% is in that nowhere-land of “Who owns it?”

When we did things like come up with smart meters, smart people tell me their smart bills went up, so those smart meters didn’t save us very much money. I think we spent $2 billion in taxpayers’ dollars so we could extract more money out of their pocket, and nothing was conserved.

What we should have done instead of solar and wind power is to go to our neighbours across the river in Quebec—because when I look out my window, I see my good neighbours in the province of Quebec. They have a huge amount of hydroelectricity which they like to sell, because that’s good business, selling their natural-resource-driven, water-driven power. They run a power line through the province of Ontario to the New England states to power our American neighbours—our good neighbours who don’t happen to want our pipeline, by the way, but maybe we’ll have a new president next year and we’ll fix that problem. That would be energy conservation as well.

But what we could have done was to buy hydroelectricity from our Quebec neighbours, instead of hundreds of billions of dollars that we’re going to spend on green and solar energy over the next 20 years—and sending it to Korea, or France, or offshore. We could have left our money in Quebec and helped our neighbours—left it in Canada—and that would have been conservation of taxpayers’ dollars, which is our job.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments.

Ms. Jennifer K. French: I’m pleased to be able to add my two cents and two minutes’ worth to this conversation. I’d like to repeat and echo some of the things that my esteemed colleague from Timmins–James Bay said. We’re here today talking about Bill 135, An Act to amend several statutes and revoke several regulations in relation to energy conservation and long-term energy planning.

I can’t say that I have finished reading this bill. This is the beginning of the debate. I look forward to when our critic is able to give their lead on this, and to really having more understanding, because there are some pieces to this that are questionable. As the member from Timmins–James Bay said, this piece of legislation appears to put blinders on Ontario and on Ontarians.

This is giving a power to the Minister of Energy to draw up a Liberal energy plan. As the question was asked, several times, “What could go wrong?” Speaker, I don’t want to know all that could go wrong. I would like to know all that could go right, so I’m interested to hear how the government will defend parts of this bill, and how they will explain it.

To put the minister in the driver’s seat entirely, taking into account what comes out of consultation, if and when he or she decides to indeed have consultations, if they want to—you know, I’ve watched the government, so far in my time here, disregard the consultation process to a large extent, and minimize it at every opportunity, whether at committee or on a bill. We don’t travel and we don’t consult, so this is just one more way to limit that consultation process, and I think that that’s worrying.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments.

Hon. David Orazietti: It’s a pleasure to rise and comment on Bill 135 with respect to what has been said on this bill to date. In particular, the member from Timmins–James Bay has raised some issues that I think are worth pointing out with respect to the long-term energy planning process.

While the minister and cabinet and the government of the day will have responsibility for moving long-term energy plans forward, they’re not doing this in isolation. They’re doing this with the consultation process. They’re doing this with the views that are taking place and being shared all over Ontario, by Ontarians. This is not some arbitrary planning process without any type of consultation. It is a process that allows greater certainty in Ontario moving forward and is mindful of the changes that we need to make in the sector to help support conservation and to help improve transmission and long-term energy planning. That long-term energy planning will ultimately lead to greater stability in the province of Ontario.

I think that is worthy to be noted and a very important point with respect to this particular piece of legislation. There are a couple of other elements with respect to the legislation that amend the Green Energy Act and that do help to improve conservation and the reduction of energy costs to consumers as well as to businesses. In particular, large-building energy and water reporting and benchmarking: We know that this is an important process to monitor the use of energy across the province. They’re doing this in many other jurisdictions, Speaker.

I look forward to the opportunity to spend a few more minutes highlighting this when we have our party’s time to speak about the bill in more detail.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes our time for questions and comments. We return to the member for Timmins–James Bay.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Again, Mr. Speaker, I just have to say that we worry—not just myself but I think a lot of Ontarians—about where this is going to lead us, because the record when it comes to the government and energy policy has been, quite frankly, pretty harmful to most Ontarians. We’re paying two and a half times more for electricity now than we did when they came to power. We have all kinds of companies that have closed their doors, in some cases directly because of electricity prices and in other cases partly because of that.

The government says, “Trust us. We’re going to give cabinet and we’re going to give the minister the responsibility to design, figure out, detail what an energy management plan is going to look like; and essentially take out the public process that we have now in the OEB, the IESO and out of the Environmental Assessment Act. We’re going to design our own system. We’re going to design how those are going to take place, where they’re going to be and what the terms of reference for that will be.”

I think there are a lot of people that just—I don’t care who the government is but especially this government—don’t trust the Liberals to manage our energy sector. I think if it was anybody on the other side—I don’t care who the government is—do we really want government having that kind of power where they can determine for themselves what that process is going to be like, as far as the transparency side?

Listen, nobody is arguing that a government has got to develop an energy management plan. God, no; we’ve been doing that for years. But I think the argument is that there has to be transparency and accountability when it comes to how the process works and what the decisions are going to be and what the terms of reference will be.

What this legislation does is, it takes it away. I’m just saying: Listen, we’ve seen too much of it. The gas plant debacle, what’s happened with the smart meters, what’s happened with a whole bunch of other stuff—the feed-in tariff program has been really a problem when it comes to energy prices in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Yvan Baker: It’s an honour to speak to this bill and participate in this debate on what is a really, really important issue. When I think about a bill like this, and I think about its scope and how it impacts the lives of people in my community and in communities across Ontario, I think a lot about the broader energy sector and I think about how it touches people. There are a few things that I think about.

First of all I think about how important it is that we manage our sector effectively to make sure we support our economy. I was at an event on Saturday in the community and was talking to a gentleman who runs a business and employs many people. He talked about how important it is that we have affordable, reliable energy supply in our communities to support our businesses in Ontario.

Speaker, by the way, I’d like to mention that I’d like to share my time with the member from Halton and the Minister of Government and Consumer Services. I neglected to mention that; my apologies.

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Again, this business person was talking about the importance of our energy sector. He was talking about how some of his colleagues had done work in other parts of the world, and how the higher costs they face there and the lack of reliability caused problems for them, an expanding industry in those jurisdictions. As an example, this gentleman highlighted—and we’ve heard it from our constituents; we’ve all heard it—how important it is to our economy.

It’s also important to our quality of life. I was in a civics class last week, during constituency week, and was talking with young people in a grade 5 class about the three levels of government: what the provincial government does, what the federal government is responsible for and what the municipal government is responsible for. One of the things we inevitably started talking about at the provincial level was energy and how important it is.

It was interesting talking with the students about that, because it wasn’t one of the issues they had initially raised. Initially, they talked about things like education, the police and health care. These are, of course, also important priorities for the provincial government. But it was interesting, when we got into energy, that they started to realize how it touched their lives every day: how their iPads were powered by hydro, how so much of what they do every day is dependent on the energy sector. It was interesting to see them develop that appreciation. All that said, obviously a strong, reliable energy sector—affordable energy but also reliable energy—is fundamental to our economy and fundamental to our quality of life.

Speaker, as you may have heard me say before in this House, I come from a business background. One of the things that well-run businesses and well-run organizations do well is that they plan for the future. They look ahead and determine what they, as an organization, want to achieve three, five, 10 years from now. What are their ambitions? I’m not talking about ambitions like being profitable; I’m talking about what markets they want to compete in, where they want to be successful, what sort of risks they face and how they insulate themselves against those kinds of risks. Then, what are the steps they need to take to make sure they’re prepared to seize opportunities and also protect themselves or mitigate those risks?

To me, one of the things my experience in business has taught me is the importance of long-term planning and thoughtful planning, and doing it in a way that is not only rigorous but transparent to the executives in the organization who initially developed the plan, but also transparent to the board and ultimately to the broader shareholders who need to be able to buy into what the executive team has developed as far as their long-term strategic plan.

That brings me to what is in the bill—one of the components in the bill, anyway, that I think is positive, which is the reforms that would be made to long-term energy planning if this bill were passed. Now, long-term energy planning is something this government is already doing very significantly. If I can just check, in 2010 and 2013, the government developed long-term energy plans to guide energy planning and advance energy policy initiatives.

These long-term energy plans are really important. Not unlike the example I gave of the business that plans for the future, long-term energy plans for our province really help ensure that we are appropriately making investments in the right places, whether that is in generation or transmission, which then further reinforces or supports the fact that we’ve made investments in a cost-effective way, and therefore that rates are kept as low as possible for consumers, but also that we provide stable, reliable energy for people into the future and support the economy and quality of life that I was referring to earlier.

When I think about some these things, it requires that we think about where our economy is going. What are the demands going to be? What does residential electricity use look like, and what will it be into the future? These are the kinds of things an effective plan would consider, I would think, and this government has been doing that, like I said, in 2010 and 2013.

What this legislation does is really enshrine an effective and transparent process into legislation. Doing this would ensure, like I said, a consistent, transparent, long-term planning process is followed, and it would require that this planning process be done in consultation with stakeholders. Just like the example I gave with the business that consults with its board, its shareholders, its customers or its clients, similarly here, this would require broad consultation on that long-term energy plan to make sure that it is done properly. The members opposite were talking about how important consultation is, and that’s exactly what has been baked into this bill and would be baked into the long-term energy planning process.

Speaker, what I’d like to do is just talk a little bit about that in more detail. As I said, in 2010 and 2013, our government developed long-term energy plans, and what these do is set out a comprehensive direction for the energy sector. They were developed through an extensive consultation process, I understand, with consumers, with stakeholders and with aboriginal groups throughout Ontario. So this bill would enshrine this long-term energy planning process to ensure that it is done transparently and pragmatically and that future long-term energy plans are developed consistently with principles of cost-effectiveness, reliability and clean energy. These are the kinds of things that I think we can all get our heads around and support, because these are strong principles as far as strong financial management of how we support our energy sector, but also ensure, again, like I said from the beginning, that we support our economy, our industry and the quality of life that the people of Ontario rely on.

As a first step in the planning process, the Minister of Energy would request that the IESO develop and submit a technical report setting out the current status of the electricity system, including the adequacy and reliability of current resources. “What’s the inventory of what we have today, and is it adequate?” is basically what that means. The report would create a starting point for the development of the long-term energy plan in order to guide the consultation process which would follow. This would be, of course, made available to the public ahead of those consultations.

The Minister of Energy would be authorized to develop long-term energy plans that would set out the government’s goals and objectives with respect to specified matters. Again, consistent with our Open Government Initiative, Mr. Speaker, which I’m sure you have heard a lot about and which cuts across ministries in government, when developing a long-term energy plan, a significant amount of consultation would be required with stakeholders, consumers, First Nations communities and Métis communities. The minister would be required to consider that input that he received during the consultation during the long-term energy planning process.

To ensure that the public and stakeholders are able to participate in the consultation process, the proposed legislation would require that consultation include in-person meetings and the opportunity to provide input electronically. So if people want to do it in person, they can, but obviously we live in an electronic age, and that opportunity would be there as well.

I want to leave some time for my fellow caucus members to speak to this bill, because I know they’re eager to do that. I think, in summary, what I want to say is that effective management and planning of our electricity system is fundamental to our economy. It’s fundamental to our quality of life. We all know that. The business person that I spoke to over the weekend told me that. The children in the grade 5 class that I spoke to talked to me about that. When you have something that’s important like that, it’s important that you plan. Just like any good business plans, just like the government plans for the future, it’s important that we have a plan for our energy sector to make sure the people of Ontario can rely on sustainable energy, reliable energy, clean energy and affordable energy for years to come. That’s how we will support a strong economy and that’s how we’ll continue to support a strong quality of life here in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The member for Halton.

Ms. Indira Naidoo-Harris: I’m pleased to rise today to speak to Bill 135, the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act, 2015.

Mr. Speaker, I support this bill because it does several things. One of the most important things that it does is to enable our government to plan in the long term. Long-term energy planning is key, and we’ve heard that so many times from Ontarians out there. What this does is it puts a process in place that is transparent and efficient and enables us to respond to the changing policy and system needs.

This key change is vital, because we need long-term energy planning and we need a process in place to do this. It’s key for Ontarians. It simplifies and makes the system predictable and efficient, and increases responses. It allows us to plan for the future, to plan when it comes to things like generation, transmission lines or nuclear energy. We need to be able to know what we’re doing in the next few years and to plan for that future.

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In addition, we are coming up with two new initiatives to help Ontario families, businesses and the province conserve energy and water. I can’t tell you how important that is. I have young children, and my children are very concerned about the environment. It’s important that our government lead the way, not just for our province, but for our country and, actually, worldwide, because this is something that we know we are going to have to be prepared for. We know that our resources are valuable and we know that Canada has some very valuable resources when it comes to water and energy. What this will allow us to do is manage costs and protect our valuable resources.

So, how are we going to do this? Well, what we are going to do is amend the Electricity Act, 1988 and the Ontario Energy Board Act by making sure that we’re replacing the current electricity planning process, known as the Integrated Power System Plan process and the long-term energy plan process, to empower the IESO to undertake competitive selection of procurement processes for electricity transmission projects when appropriate.

This is important. Why? Well, when it comes to energy system planning, this will ensure that we are using plans and principles that are consistent with cost-effectiveness, that are reliable, clean energy, engaging the community and engaging our aboriginal community.

When it comes to transmission, we are going to ensure that we are authorizing our plan to undertake competitive processes for transmitter selection and procurement to ensure that ratepayers get the greatest value from new infrastructure investments. It is important that we get plans in place to ensure we are getting the best deals when it comes to procuring the transmission projects and transmission lines that we need.

We are also, as I mentioned earlier, bringing in some green energy assistance. One of our government’s key goals is energy conservation. Conservation helps families and businesses save money on their energy bills, reduces the need to build expensive energy infrastructure and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. This, of course, creates a cleaner future for our children and a cleaner environment.

This legislation, if passed, would introduce two initiatives that are going to help Ontario families, businesses and the province as a whole to conserve energy. The energy and water reporting and benchmarking initiative for large buildings would require property owners to track buildings’ energy and water use and greenhouse gas emissions over time to allow owners and renters to determine how a building’s energy performance is changing and how it compares to similar buildings.

In addition, the water efficiency standards for energy-consuming products and appliances would set water efficiency standards for products that consume both energy and water, like dishwashers and washing machines, allowing Ontarians to make the best choices for themselves when shopping for appliances.

This basically gets down to planning. Our residents in Ontario have told us that they want us to ensure that the prices are kept down. We can do this by making sure that we are planning for the future. We want to make sure that we actually know what we are going to be doing in the next couple of years to get the best prices, to plan in the long term and to ensure that we are doing things in the proper way.

When we came into government, that wasn’t quite how things were being done. Transmission lines were not being kept up with. Generators were not being looked after; our generating stations were not being looked after. We had to pour a lot of money into this system. That’s what drove our costs up. Now we’re making sure that we’re not in that situation again by planning for the future.

Thank you so much for having me speak, Mr. Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Government and Consumer Services.

Hon. David Orazietti: I’m pleased to participate in the debate on Bill 135 with my colleagues the member from Etobicoke Centre and the member from Halton. This is an important piece of legislation, and I think it reinforces the importance of great planning and solid planning, moving forward, in the energy system.

We all know that this is a system that has significant challenges. We all know that all governments have faced significant challenges in the energy sector and in dealing with all elements of energy, whether it’s generation, transmission, distribution or conservation. All of the issues related to the sector have had huge challenges over the years, and our government is committed to getting this right, to working to ensure that we have a long-term energy plan that makes sense for Ontarians.

We talk about energy generation and the importance of that. Certainly in my own riding and the area around Sault Ste. Marie, we have seen very significant projects come to life to help support energy capacity in Ontario. I think of the Brookfield energy wind farm, a 189-megawatt project, and the Starwood Energy solar farm, with 60 megawatts.

I think of some of the other initiatives that we’ve moved forward to support industry with cogeneration and helping our major employer in our community reduce their energy need by about half. The steel mill in my riding uses about 140 megs of power, and they now have a cogeneration facility that is nearly 70 megawatts, reducing their emissions, reducing their costs significantly and making them more competitive globally. That’s a huge benefit to both the environment and to reducing generation capacity.

We also have in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie the only solar panel manufacturer in northern Ontario, Heliene solar. There are about 70 jobs at this plant. They export this type of equipment all over the world. It’s about getting to these technological resources that we can help support other countries with, passing on our technology and helping to strengthen the economy here in Ontario.

Importantly, other elements that have been mentioned during this afternoon’s discussion—things like smart meters have come up. We can talk about continuing to spend billions of dollars to build new generation in Ontario, or we can have people shift their usage of their energy to reduce peak periods where we’re using that energy. We’re either going to shift energy use and consumption from peak, so that we can reduce our costs, or we’re not going to do that and we’re going to say to Ontarians, “Look, it’s going to cost you billions of dollars to build more generation and more capacity.”

On this side of the House, we believe—and I think most of our colleagues across the way would say—that saving and conserving energy, and shifting some of that use to keep it off peak periods, would help in our long-term energy plan, and would help to reduce the cost to Ontarians of having to continue to build more very, very expensive generation capacity.

I think it’s certainly worthy of note that in the proposed legislation, the commitment around—I’ve heard members from the opposition talk about the arbitrary nature of the minister, the cabinet and the government potentially determining the long-term energy plan, but that’s not the case. The fact of the matter is that this legislation would ensure consistent, transparent long-term energy planning that would enshrine in law extensive consultation with stakeholders and aboriginal groups in the development of long-term energy planning.

This is an important element in terms of how these plans will be put together. They shouldn’t be put together in isolation, or in a vacuum, so to speak. They should be plans that are well thought out, where we work with all Ontarians to ensure they reflect the views and values of all Ontarians. That way we will get the best possible plan to be able to move forward.

I think it’s also important that there are a number of other initiatives that are key parts of this legislation: the energy and water reporting and benchmarking, which we know will help to reduce costs, save consumers money and be more effective; as well as the water efficiency standards for energy-consuming products and appliances, another important element to this piece of legislation.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: I’m happy to get up and rise for a couple of minutes to talk about government Bill 135.

Again, we continue to see a government with no economic plan for jobs here in Ontario. In fact, I don’t think there’s any significant legislation currently on the books in Ontario to encourage private sector job creation in Ontario.

We’re talking today about Ontario’s electricity system. I heard the MPP for Halton talking about her children and how she fears for their future. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I fear for the future generations in this province when it comes to jobs. Will there be jobs in Ontario, well-paying jobs, with the government’s current long-term energy plan? We know, according to their own documents, that over the next three years, energy bills are going to go up by almost 50%. By 2018, businesses, homeowners—those bills are going up, I think, about 42%. We already have the highest energy rates in all of North America, and their plan is to increase the cost.

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Life is already unaffordable in the province of Ontario, Mr. Speaker. I don’t have to remind any government members about the loss of manufacturing jobs that we’ve seen under their watch. Over 300,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs have vanished from the province. This government’s plan is to drive more jobs out of Ontario. I think what we need in Ontario is an economic plan to create jobs. They’re bringing forward all these bills that continue to drive jobs out of Ontario, and I think that’s bad for the future generations who are being raised in this province.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. John Vanthof: It’s always an honour to stand in this House. My first comments on Bill 135—I’m hoping to expand on them later in the afternoon, but we haven’t had much time to ingest this bill.

I would like to respond specifically to the member from Etobicoke Centre and his remarks on this bill. He was talking about his experience in business, and I appreciate that. In my experience in business, hydro has basically doubled—

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Two and a half.

Mr. John Vanthof: Two-and-a-half times. It’s projected to go up another 50% in the next little while, and those are costs that business can’t control. So for the government to say, “Well, we’re looking at long-term planning so that we know where we’re going in the future,” obviously they haven’t really taken that part into account. With hydro rates skyrocketing, the people who actually create jobs in the province can’t budget for that, and they’re taking a couple of courses of action: (a) they’re leaving the province, as Xstrata Copper did; or (b) they’re just plain ceasing operations. That’s a huge, huge issue in this province.

This bill, quite frankly—in the short time we’ve had to look at it—doesn’t address those issues. They’re talking about the planning process, but we’ve got planning processes. We’ve got the Ontario Energy Board and the IESO that are actually involved in the planning process. What this bill does, in the fine print, is it takes the power away from them. It takes the power away from the people so the minister can actually direct the OEB on how it’s supposed to work.

The Premier has said several times that we’re going to be protected from higher hydro rates because of the OEB, yet this bill strips the power from the OEB. You can’t have it both ways.

Hon. David Orazietti: Who’s accountable to whom?

Mr. John Vanthof: In this bill, the OEB is accountable to the minister.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Bill Mauro: Just a couple of minutes: I’ll be speaking later at more length on Bill 135, but I’m happy to have a couple of minutes now in response to the comments from our members who have explained that the bill, primarily, as well as other things, will deal with a new planning process, a long-term energy planning process in the province of Ontario. I think we’re all aware of the importance of that.

In my local context—I only have, as I said, a couple of minutes—I can talk about how long-term planning is important to northwestern Ontario and my community of Thunder Bay–Atikokan.

People will remember that back in 2003, all three political parties committed to closing coal-fired generation in the province of Ontario. There were five coal-fired generating facilities in the province that generated about 5,000 megawatts or 6,000 megawatts of energy. About 20% of the total provincial output was generated from coal. Out of the five plants, two of them were in my riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan. What I want to underline here is that in terms of long-term energy planning, I don’t believe anybody was talking about how we were going to replace those 5,000 megawatts or 6,000 megawatts of energy, even though all three parties had committed to removing coal from the generation mix.

When it came to security of energy supply, given the constrictions on the east-west tie line, the loss of those two coal-fired plants in Thunder Bay and in Atikokan and for all of northwestern Ontario potentially could have had significant consequences. Our government stepped up to the plate. We spent somewhere in the order of magnitude of $200 million to convert the plant in Thunder Bay and the plant in Atikokan, to not only keep those jobs in those communities and that tax base in the community, but as part of a long-term energy planning mix ensuring that the long-term energy security needs of northwestern Ontario can be met.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Norm Miller: I’m pleased to have the opportunity to add some comments on Bill 135, an energy bill, and respond to the comments from the members from Etobicoke Centre and Halton and the Minister of Government Services.

The member for Etobicoke Centre was talking about the need for affordable, reliable electricity. Well, under this Liberal government, all we’ve seen in their long-term planning is planning for further and further and further increases in the cost of electricity. Just recently, on November 1, we had another 8% increase in peak rates in the price of electricity.

I can say that in Parry Sound–Muskoka, affordability of electricity is the number one issue affecting people across the riding. In Parry Sound–Muskoka, the provincial incomes are below average. Generally speaking, those on the lower end of the income scale tend to have electric baseboard heat. I’m getting calls, on a daily basis, from people who are being threatened with their hydro being cut off, who just can’t afford to pay for the electricity costs in the province of Ontario.

They’ve talked about the smart meter program. Well, the Auditor General did the report last year showing that it was supposed to cost $1 billion but it actually cost $2 billion. Also, in that report, she goes on to talk about how the policies of this government resulted in huge amounts of global adjustment: some $7 billion a year that we’re paying, through electricity rates, to cover above-market prices for all the policies—the green energy policies being a big part of it, wind and solar—that this government has come up with, driving up the cost of electricity.

That is the number one issue in my riding: People can’t afford to pay their electricity—not to mention the effect it has on jobs in the area and the ability of businesses to compete.

If I get a chance later, I’ll highlight some of the experiences that entrepreneurs in Parry Sound–Muskoka have had with high electricity costs.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes the opportunity we have for questions and comments on this round. One of the government members has a chance to respond.

I look to the Minister of Government Services to respond on behalf of the government.

Hon. David Orazietti: I want to thank the members from Lambton–Kent–Middlesex, Timiskaming–Cochrane, Thunder Bay–Atikokan and Parry Sound–Muskoka for their comments on the debate on Bill 135.

I think there are a number of important priorities in this legislation that will help to strengthen the way in which we deliver energy in the province of Ontario. I think that’s one of the most important, fundamental changes of the legislation.

The other aspect is that we need to continue to embrace alternatives; to move to alternative sources of energy and ensure that we are moving toward programs and policies that help to support conservation. Conservation is fundamental. Of course, there will continue to be growing demand for energy, but things like shifting from peak through the use of smart meters—although there are concerns around them to some extent, the reality is, those concerns pale in comparison to the costs that Ontarians would bear to build new, very, very expensive generation capacity in the province of Ontario.

The other aspect that I think is very important to note is with respect to the accountability and the oversight in regard to energy planning. When we talk about the OEB and the IESO, who are they accountable to? We’re talking about making the long-term energy plan part of the minister’s responsibilities—cabinet and the government—and enshrining in legislation the requirement for extensive consultation with the public, with stakeholders, with aboriginal groups in the development of these plans. That, to me, is responsible. Allowing individual energy organizations to develop plans and to not necessarily be accountable to anyone is not the way we believe the long-term energy plans should be structured and not the way we should be going.

Speaker, I encourage all members of the Legislature to support Bill 135.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

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Mr. Bill Walker: It’s a pleasure to speak to Bill 135, the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act, 2015.

The Liberal government, on the opposite side, says that it wants to legislate more efficiencies and more conservation measures, but the details in Bill 135 point to a different trend. Mainly, they point to two new trends: One is that they’re setting up Ontarians for forced home energy audits and new consumption taxes; the second is to centralize all transmission and electricity sector planning with the energy minister’s political staff, which means overruling industry experts at the IESO and OEB. In other words, Bill 135 will allow government to drive energy policy in a direction that’s best for their party, not for the people of Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, I think you’ll recall that we used to have here in Ontario the lowest rates in North America, and under this 12-year reign of terror with these Liberals, we now have the highest rates across North America. Just recently, one of my colleagues—I believe from Parry Sound–Muskoka—advised that an 8% increase was on your bill as of November 1. That is not the direction we want to be going.

It’s the same attitude we saw back in 2009 when the Liberal Party ushered in wind turbine policies that saddled us with billions and billions of dollars in contracts. The point is, no one can object to any project rolled out by the Liberal government, even if it’s unaffordable, even if it’s unnecessary, meaning this government is giving itself the legal ability to saddle all of us with the full cost of any future energy contracts without any repercussions. Just think of the recent fire sale of Hydro One.

Another example: They quietly ushered in wind turbines without any cost-benefit analysis, without any consultations and without any consideration of the impact on ratepayers. I have to share in this House again that I continually hear that from my people back in the great riding of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, particularly the municipal representatives, who have had no ability to have any say in this legislation. They are the people closest to it, they’re the people who hear the most about it, and yet they have virtually not even the ability to comment on it. They can comment, but there’s really no impact that they can change anything.

The Green Energy Act is the epitome of this government’s wishful thinking and dashed hopes, and, most importantly, proof that sensible energy policies cannot be developed by the energy minister’s office alone. I’m going to talk a little bit more about the Green Energy Act, because it certainly, in my four years, has been one of the key things that we’ve all talked about, one of the things that I hear the most about continually. And it’s not just the Green Energy Act; it’s the impact of that Green Energy Act decision on the needs and realities of everyday Ontarians.

After the Liberals rolled out their Green Energy Act in 2009, they quickly came to learn that their plan was holding Ontarians hostage to the most unaffordable plan ever implemented in this province. The unaffordable subsidies to the wind and solar companies and the so-called global adjustment were zapping ratepayers with unprecedentedly high rates.

Chapman’s Ice Cream in Markdale was getting zapped with a global adjustment of $1 million. That’s hard to even fathom. I remember our then energy critic, Vic Fedeli, came up and we had a round table not only with the Chapmans but in their facility with a number of business people from the Markdale community and Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound proper. It was very interesting to have that frank discussion, particularly with a big company like Chapman’s. They have a 160,000-square-foot warehouse on Highway 10, which many people, if they’ve been up the highway, will know, and that’s totally on the energy grid. You could just see the wheels turning, of: “How is this going to impact me? Where is this going to go down the road? How are we going to sustain and stay profitable and viable?” They provide 600-plus jobs in a relatively small, rural community.

The one thing that really came out of there is that this global adjustment is something that the government has used to basically just pull money from the taxpayer to pay these subsidies, and to pay, by the way—it’s a misnomer that I continually hear out in our communities about giving money, giving power to the States and to Quebec. We don’t actually give it away; we pay for it. I’m going to talk a little bit here shortly about just how much. We don’t give it away; we actually pay other areas, other states and other provinces to take our surplus power, and yet this Liberal government wants to add more and more to the grid. It makes no sense, no matter which way you want to spin it.

That’s just one example of the damaging impact the global adjustment charge is having on the energy bills of small and medium-sized businesses in my riding of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound. I hear it from M&M Meat Shops. I hear it from the grocery stores. I hear it from the manufacturing community. I hear it from just about any business out there that has a significant role that’s needed for their industry to be driven forward in energy. How can they continually hear that there’s going to be another almost 50% increase over the next four years and accept that that is just going to be status quo and we’re going to have to absorb it? Most of those products and services that they’re making and manufacturing cannot sustain that type of an increase and stay viable going forward.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk determined in her report that the global adjustment will have cost Ontarians $50 billion by the end of this year. That’s with a B, Mr. Speaker. That’s not million; that’s $50 billion.

Mr. Todd Smith: That’s a B for Bonnie and a B for billion.

Mr. Bill Walker: That’s B for billion; you are correct. That’s the cost to you, the taxpayers of Ontario, by the end of 2015. That’s largely as a result of the changes made by the passing of the Green Energy Act in 2009. As I say, that wasn’t just passed; they steamrolled that. There was no consultation. There was no input by any of our communities. There was no input by any of our leaders other than this government saying, “We’re going down this road and you’re going to like it.” Only the Liberal Party believes its Green Energy Act has lowered the cost of electricity.

I’m going to talk a little bit about rate increases. As I said earlier, we’ve just faced another hydro rate increase on November 1 of 8%. I’m not certain anyone’s wages out there went up by 8% on November 1, but they certainly know that their hydro rates went up again. This is a continued effect. As I’ve already said earlier, it’s going to go up another 50% over the next four years.

This is a government, this Liberal government that we sit opposed to every day, that has brought in the largest hydro increases in Ontario’s history. Similarly, another record they set is doubling the debt—the most debt of our province in our Confederation’s history by this Liberal government—and they continue to add deficit each budget that I’ve been here—

Mr. Todd Smith: First government ever.

Mr. Bill Walker: First government ever. Every budget I’ve had, they’ve increased the deficit, the debt on our children—those new pages that just joined us today. It’s partly why I’m here, standing: for the next generation and the generation to follow them, and to make it so that it can actually be affordable, so that they can actually enjoy the quality of life that those who came before me enjoyed and that I’m enjoying. But it’s very, very daunting, when I see the debt that this government is running us into and continuing to add policy that’s driving the cost up and driving our debt up.

We spend $11 billion a year on interest payments, our third-largest expenditure in government—health care, education and $11 billion just to service our debt. Just think, Mr. Speaker, what we could do in your riding and in my riding if we had $11 billion sitting here that we could actually utilize for programs to help those less fortunate, to help our hospitals, to help our schools, affordable housing, community and social services and mental health—all of the myriad of challenges that people come through every one of our 107 doors every day of the week asking for help with. And we’re spending $11 billion on interest payments, and that’s only going up. It’s increasing.

I often receive copies of bills from constituents in my riding of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, as I’m sure my colleague my seatmate here from Prince Edward county—

Mr. Todd Smith: A good seatmate.

Mr. Bill Walker: A great seatmate. I must confess he’s not a bad guy, and he’s doing a heck of a job on Hydro One. He’s trying to, again, stop the government from making this wrong-headed decision that we’re going to pay for forever and ever.

I think, again, the Financial Accountability Officer came out a couple of weeks ago, just before we took our constituency week break, and he said, “Basically, you’re going to get a couple of years. It’s going to look like a good result because you’re going to get some quick profit, quick revenues, but then it’s going to decrease and decrease and decrease forever and ever and a day.”

How do we replace that $700-million revenue source?

Interjections.

Mr. Bill Walker: Some of the Liberals over there can heckle and comment all they want, but they are the ones that have to look in the eyes of the people and tell them, “I made that decision, and I was proud to make it.” They’re going to take an asset that’s producing $700 million a year and they’re going to get rid of that. Where do you think that $700 million is coming from? I’m guessing, with a Liberal government that has never found a tax they don’t like, that somewhere we’re going to have more taxes coming at us.

My constituents are telling me they’re shocked and appalled by the charges they see on their monthly bills. They come in and can’t believe how high their bills are and how much they’ve increased over the last number of years.

I have a young lady—she has actually gone to Manitoba for a couple of years to do part of her doctorate studies. She actually sent her dad a note with what her hydro bill was in Manitoba as opposed to what it is here. Again, you want to hear outrage and you want to hear shock. This is a young family that are starting out.

Now, what are the chances of her coming back here if that continues? If she keeps looking at those—these are not items that they can just wilfully say, “I don’t want to pay these.” Energy is one of those consumer-driven needs that we all face. She’s looking at that and going, “Here it is.”

Now the government is forcing many of our doctors, through the approach they’re taking with negotiations now—many of our doctors are saying, “If I’d have known this was coming, I would have gone to another province already.” It just compounds the challenges, particularly when we talk about things like hydro and where we’re going and where the picture is not painted very well that it’s getting better; it’s going to get worse.

Constituents have no qualms telling me that the Liberal government is forcing them to choose between heating their home and feeding their family. That may sound like it’s just a rhetorical comment, but I truly do—most of us have people coming through our doors every day, saying, “Do I pay my rent or do I pay my hydro bill?”

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Particularly in our climate—it’s a beautiful day out there today, Mr. Speaker, and I’m glad of it. I hope it continues for a while. But we know that in December, in January, in February—I might say that the 60th anniversary of the Wiarton Willie Festival is this year on February 2. I hope that everyone tunes into that. Without a shadow of a doubt, it will be a great festival. But we’ll also, without a shadow of a doubt, have some cold weather around that time, and we definitely will need those hydro meters going at that time.

It is truly something a lot of people are grappling with. That’s who we’re here to represent. We’re here to represent everyone, but particularly those who are less fortunate and don’t have the ability to really take in these 40% and 50% increases—an 8% increase just in the last couple of days.

Shame on this government for purporting statements like, “We are lowering the cost of electricity and making it affordable for families.” Well, I can tell you, I have not had one person come through my constituency door or at all of the functions that I attend—and I attend over 300 functions in a year, just in my riding—say to me, “This government is doing a great job of lowering my hydro bill. Can you give them a high-five when you get back to Parliament on Monday morning?” I trust, if they’re honest, that none of them over there can say that they’ve had anybody come in and give them a high-five for the lower hydro bills that they have. Even some of the bar owners, I think, in town would struggle with where their energy rates are going.

It’s a word that comes to mind: Liberal hypocrisy. This is why I was so disappointed in the opening remarks on Bill 135 by the energy minister and by his parliamentary assistant. In his opening remarks, the energy minister said that this bill—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I think I have to ask the member to withdraw that unparliamentary remark.

Mr. Bill Walker: Withdraw.

Interjection: You shouldn’t have said “bar.” Don’t say “bar.”

Mr. Bill Walker: No bars; I take the bars back. Sorry, Mr. Speaker. That must have inadvertently happened. I apologize.

In his opening remarks, the energy minister said that this bill would “enshrine in legislation Ontario’s Open Government Initiative by making consultation with the public ... a requirement in the development of our future long-term energy plans.” How many times have we heard the promise to “consult and listen” and then watch this Liberal government shrug it off and basically say, “Thanks very much. We have the majority. That’s where we’re going.” It’s not what Ontarians want, it’s not what they expect and it’s certainly not what they deserve.

The minister certainly does not have a monopoly on this insincerity. His parliamentary assistant and MPP for Mississauga–Streetsville said in his opening remarks on Bill 135, “The Green Energy Act... has helped Ontario contain costs and more efficiently manage energy supply and demand.”

Interjection.

Mr. Bill Walker: I heard a little chuckle, and that is indicative of what I hear across this province, no matter where I go. In fact, when I’m out at a lot of events—I don’t just go, of course, to Conservative or Conservative-minded events; I go where the public is. People of all political stripes come up and they would chuckle, just like my esteemed colleague and seatmate from Prince Edward county just did. You cannot say, in true conscience, that they have actually contained costs and more efficiently managed energy supply and demand, if you are a Liberal on that side of the House.

To put this all into context: This is the same member who was part of the gas plant problem, a gas plant his government needed to run as backup when the wind couldn’t turn all those turbines; a scandal that cost Ontario ratepayers over $1.1 billion—again with a B, Mr. Speaker—and it didn’t produce one kilowatt of power. What did Ontarians get for that? Zero.

Mr. Todd Smith: A bill.

Mr. Bill Walker: A bill, and not a good bill.

He also said in his remarks that we’re generating power economically. The truth of the matter is that this government actually calls down to Niagara Falls and says, “Don’t capture all the water today. We have too much other energy on the grid, so don’t capture.” That is the cleanest, greenest, freest form of power we have. Even the environmental community should be totally abhorrent with this government, because we’re firing up things like gas plants when we don’t have the wind and sunshine to do the back up. It absolutely baffles me when I have this discussion with people across this great province—we actually get down to telling them the facts and letting them know truly what’s happening out there, how much it is costing and why their power rates are going through the roof.

I want the minister and parliamentary assistant to open to page 94 of the Auditor General’s report and read the numbers chart. If they still think it’s economical to keep paying others billions of dollars to take our surplus energy off our system, then I give up, Mr. Speaker. Well, I won’t give up. I’ll continue to push; I’ll continue to fight. But, you know, a figure of speech is that it’s very challenging when someone knows the facts. They realize. They have to know this. I trust that many of their Liberal constituents who vote for them know the same facts, and I can’t fathom why they’re not pushing them, saying, “You’ve got to give this a second thought.”

I’m going to close, in my last four or five minutes, by talking a little bit about something that, sadly, we have talked about in my whole four years here. Every time I think we are past the last one—it can’t get worse—there is yet another scandal from this government. I’m not alone when I say that I get nervous every time the government starts to talk energy policy and legislation. Just in my four years here, I’ve seen what decimation has been done.

When you look over the last 12 years of, as I say, their reign of terror, it has truly demoralized our business community. Certainly our energy sector is in a terrible mess. After all this, this is the same government that cancelled two gas plants, to the tune of—get it again—another $1 billion, in order to win an election, and said it will cost taxpayers—I’m quoting the energy minister of the day—“a cup of coffee” to recoup the losses.

This is the same government that wasted $2 billion on what everyone has come to know as dumb meters—they weren’t smart. Most of the people I have talked to who had them installed—the word “smart” does not come to mind in most conversations when I’m having that discussion. It’s the same government that created major issues with billing and metering in rural areas. My constituency office alone took hundreds of calls and received hundreds of emails and letters from people who were being chased for thousands of dollars for energy they never owed to Hydro One.

The minister will know this, as I went to him for answers and he did not know what to do. But he was quick to sell Hydro One without any consultation. It was a sale opposed by 185 municipalities, chambers of commerce, and small, medium and large business; yet another energy deal that will put us further in debt in the long run, as I alluded to earlier.

The Hydro One sale, Mr. Speaker: We’ve spent a lot of time, but I’m going to recap very quickly. Hydro One is a valuable asset that they have put up for fire sale, an asset that members of that party and their former leader and Premier said was the wrong thing to do. The Financial Accountability Officer, releasing his report on the financial impact of the partial sale of Hydro One, said it’s a bad deal in the long term for the people of Ontario.

The Wynne Liberals have recklessly proceeded with the fire sale of Hydro One despite opposition, as I said, from 185 municipalities and nearly 80% of Ontarians. Don’t we think, in a democracy, that 80% against something would be a majority, and you would actually stop and say, “You know what? We are actually going to at least give this sober second thought. We’re going to slow down the process. We’re going to go out, do some consultation and truly listen to the people we are all given the privilege to serve”?

They have done so despite the Financial Accountability Officer’s recent report confirming what he’s been saying all along—again, as I said earlier—that it’s a bad deal for Ontarians. The Financial Accountability Officer projects that as a result of the fire sale, the province’s fiscal situation would be worse than if they didn’t sell Hydro One, mostly because of the revenue that Hydro One currently brings into the provincial coffers.

The fire sale could cost the province approximately $700 million in revenue every year, and the net profit from the sale could be as low as $1.4 billion for infrastructure funding. I think someone else in the House has even said we could probably borrow that money at today’s interest rates and be ahead without giving up that asset that is a perpetual source of revenue for us, Mr. Speaker.

The report also predicts that the Hydro One fire sale will impact ratepayers. Coupled with the OEB’s recent announcement that hydro rates increased on November 1 by 8%, average Ontario families will continue to struggle to pay their hydro bills.

Now that there’s no turning back from a bad deal, will the Liberals tell the truth about why they are selling Hydro One? Will they at least hold off and not sell the remaining shares? The public does not support this fire sale. We all know that. We are asking them to do it. They are trying to cover this thing up and come out with a budget and say, “Look how well we have done with our revenue.” Short-term gain for long-term pain is the message I have heard from many of my elders who are trying to implant with us the wisdom of how to govern for the long term and what is best in the long term of Ontarians.

For that side of the House to talk about Bill 135 as a bill to legislate consultation on future energy policy is truly disingenuous. I guess my only question left to them is: What is section 7 all about? Are you seriously going to force home energy audits on people now? It certainly reads like Ontarians are about to be forced into home energy audits and new taxes on conservation and consumption. It sounds like another scandal brewing. Mr. Speaker, we need baseload power. I’m one who always stands, as our caucus nuclear committee chair, saying, “There is baseload power.” We need to be doing that. We need to be making sure that that is an essential part of our mix going forward, and that we make the commitment, not doing some of the ideas of selling off some of our other power sources now just to make their financial situation look good.

Mr. Speaker, we certainly have some challenges here with Bill 135, and we want to make sure that it’s open and transparent to all Ontarians.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments.

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Mr. John Vanthof: It’s always a pleasure and an honour to stand in this House, and today to comment on the member from—

Mr. Bill Walker: Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound.

Mr. John Vanthof: Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound. I won’t say what I usually call the member, but I did follow closely his remarks, and I can concur with a lot of them. Specifically, I’d like to give a shout-out to Chapman’s ice cream, some of the best product in the province—

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Kapuskasing cheese; it’s very good.

Mr. John Vanthof: No, no. Thornloe Cheese.

I’m sure they face huge problems with hydro, as does Thornloe Cheese, as do a lot of further processing facilities in this province. The government says, “We want to increase agricultural jobs in the agri-sector by 120,000.” That’s pretty tough in further processing, when you’re paying—in our case, we have Thornloe Cheese, 20 minutes from the Quebec border; compared to an equivalent cheese plant on the other side, their costs are double. Their hydro costs are double.

This government has been in power for 12 years, and now with this bill they’re talking about long-term planning. They’ve done some long-term planning previously, but obviously that didn’t work that well.

The member talked about smart meters, and I’ve heard a few others here talk about smart meters and how they’re helping control the amount of electricity we use. In rural Ontario they’ve been a huge disaster, because it doesn’t matter what time you use electricity; the delivery charges are always way more than what the actual price of the power is.

Like the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, our office has handled hundreds of cases where the smart meters didn’t work, where the bills didn’t make sense. Together with the Ombudsman, who can no longer look at these issues, we helped solve them and keep a lot of people in their houses.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments.

Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: Speaker, as you can appreciate, there are a great deal of moving parts to Bill 135, the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act, with regard to system planning, transmission, large building energy, water efficiency etc.

I would just perhaps say, though, as I’m reminded by one of our energy staff members, Katrina, who is strategically located over there, that the ice storm that plagued this city and this country in, I believe it was, December 2013 was the type of once-in-a-century event which I think truly calls upon the government of Ontario as stewards of the energy system of this province to do its very best—weather, of course, is a federal responsibility—but at least, here on the ground, to mitigate as best we can eventualities like that.

We seem to have, for example, excessively hot summers, and perhaps now—not to tempt fate or anything—excessively aggressive winters. We talked, for example, about the gas plant cancellations. One wonders, of course: Had those gas plants been around, perhaps the city of Toronto might have recovered from that ice storm a little bit quicker than it did.

I remember, for example, right in Etobicoke North, being one of the older communities and situated close to some of the branch lines of transmission, the 401 etc., that there were many, many residents who first of all had no power for days on end. I myself, by the way, had to leave my own home at about 3.5 days into the ice storm, with a newborn baby.

Today’s weather—which I’m not reading from a digital device, Speaker—is 10 degrees Celsius with 0% precipitation, but as has been rightly cited, we live in a cold, aggressive climate, and this kind of system-wide integration is absolutely necessary.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments.

Mr. Todd Smith: I’d like to first of all thank my seatmate, the honourable member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, for his comments on a very destructive bill, Bill 135. It’s going to do more damage, if you can believe it, to the province’s energy sector, which is already the mess of North America. There’s no question about it.

As I toured last week in my constituency, I went to places like Chapman’s ice cream. I didn’t go to Chapman’s ice cream, but I went to Ivanhoe Cheese in my riding. I actually went to a public meeting up in Bancroft. I went to the Red Steer butcher shop. I had another public meeting in Brockville. I had a meeting with the chamber of commerce in Belleville. What we talked about the entire meeting, every time we stopped to talk, was the rising cost of electricity and the damage it was doing, not just to our residential customers like Grandma and Grandpa Smith up in Bancroft, but to the businesses that are here employing people in province of Ontario. They simply can’t compete in Ontario any longer, as the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound indicated. It’s all because of the mess that this Liberal government has made with its energy policy, and now with this bill, Bill 135, they’re actually forcing more of the same on us. They are doubling down in this bill on the mistakes they have made.

Good God, the Minister of Energy has done enough to make us uncompetitive in Ontario. Now they want to remove the Ontario Energy Board and they want to remove the IESO from the process and centralize power in the minister’s office. When are these guys going to realize that they have made a mess of Ontario? We had the lowest electricity prices in all of North America just a few short years ago, and because of the decisions that they’ve made in the Minister of Energy’s office—or the Premier’s office, or whoever is making the decisions over there—we are an uncompetitive place to do business. We need a wake-up call with our Liberal government.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Jennifer K. French: I’m pleased to be able to add my voice to this conversation and make comments to the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound on his thoughts on Bill 135, An Act to amend several statutes and revoke several regulations in relation to energy conservation and long-term energy planning. I’ve already had one opportunity today to weigh in on this conversation, but I’m going to bring up some of the points that the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound made.

I started really paying attention there at the end when he was bringing up sober second thought. This should be a room where we focus on that sober second thought and debating, hearing from all sides, weighing an issue appropriately. Time and time again, Mr. Speaker, that isn’t what we see, especially when it’s around electricity, especially when it is surrounding Hydro One.

As the member mentioned, there are 185 municipalities, my own included, that have come out and said, “Stop the sell-off of Hydro One.” This is a government that says, “Nope, we’re not listening.” Those municipalities and Ontarians across the province are not part of this conversation. “Why are they really selling Hydro One?” was a question that he asked. That’s a great question. Who really is going to benefit?

We talked about smart meters. In fact, I think the member called them “dumb meters.” It would be interesting, if they actually were dumb meters, what they would measure. Then they might work, if they were actually measuring poor choices.

I’m almost out of time.

Another comment that the member made was that we want this to be an open and transparent process for all Ontarians. I would also say that we don’t just want open and transparent; we want “warm” and we want “well lit.”

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes our questions-and-comments time. I return to the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound for his reply.

Mr. Bill Walker: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and to my colleague from Timiskaming–Cochrane for bringing up my Chapman’s. I’m going to return the favour: His Thornloe Cheese, I am sure, is in a very similar situation where the costs are really becoming prohibitive for them to continue to move forward, to make decisions on where they want to expand their business and do even more, because right across the border they can get their power, which we pay them, by the way, again, to take—we don’t give it; we pay them to take it—making them doubly competitive.

He makes a good point as well about the Ombudsman. I just ran out of time and couldn’t get into that. This government took the ability away from the Ombudsman to actually scrutinize and make sure that they were accountable. It’s hard to believe.

The member from Etobicoke North made the comment and used the slogan “moving parts.” I dare say, Mr. Speaker, if this government keeps going, in our manufacturing sector there won’t be any parts left to move, because most of the businesses are, sadly, leaving Ontario. Certainly people aren’t banging on the door to come here like they used to when we had the lowest rates in North America.

He talked about the ice storm. What I want to just suggest there is that baseload power from our nuclear certainly made sure that we had that power when we needed it. So I want to make sure this government is equally putting time and energy into the nuclear file as they are in some of these other challenges that they’re doing.

My colleague from Prince Edward–Hastings and my seatmate, who is a great guy, talked about the damage to this sector. He travelled his riding, as he does every week, making sure he’s out listening and hearing. I can almost guarantee that he got no high-fives from any of the constituents out there for this government lowering the cost of electricity, efficiently managing the energy supply and demand. I can almost guarantee that he did not get any of those.

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The member from Oshawa: Thank you very much. You raise some good points there as well, and I’m going to reiterate them: Who is really going to benefit from the selling of Hydro One, Mr. Speaker? And why are the Liberals really selling this? It’s not for the long-term benefit of Ontarians. They can say that all they want. We can read through—80% of Ontarians are opposed. We really wish they would have a sober second thought before they go on any further than the 15% of this great asset they’ve already sold.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mme France Gélinas: Thank you for this opportunity to add a few thoughts to Bill 135, An Act to amend several statutes and revoke several regulations in relation to energy conservation and long-term energy planning. Basically, the bill does a number of things to a number of different acts. The first one, and the one that has been talked about the most, but I think it’s because it is that important, has to do with long-term energy planning. We all know that energy is not something where you get up one morning and decide, “Oh, we need a new transmission line here or we need more generation capacity here or we need a new nuclear refurbishment at billions of dollars.” This is something that needs to be planned, and you need a long-term plan.

Ontario has a long-term energy plan, as we speak, but this plan was done in a way completely different from the way it will be done in the future, if this bill goes through. The bill would amend the Electricity Act to give the Minister of Energy—the minister himself or herself—rather than the Independent Electricity System Operator, better known as IESO—the Independent Electricity System Operator, right now, has the responsibility for the long-term planning of our electricity system. No more; it would be given to the minister, this person, whoever he or she is. The responsibility for developing a long-term energy plan would still have to be done at specific intervals and within regulations, but not by IESO anymore. The role of IESO would be to develop technical reports to inform the plan, but only when requested by the minister.

This is important because if you don’t want to know something, all you have to do is not ask. But sometimes even the information you don’t want to know about should be taken into account, to make sure we do a good job for the people we represent, for the people of Ontario.

There would be an obligation for the minister to consult with First Nations, consult with consumers, distributors, generators and transmitters, but there is no requirement that the long-term energy plan be reviewed by the OEB. This is reviewed now by the Ontario Energy Board; that is a safeguard that we have now. Right now, an independent third-party agency looks at the plan to see how we best meet the people of Ontario who—all of us need electricity, but how do we do this in a way that serves Ontarians? They’re going to be out of the picture. The minister will have this responsibility now to make sure we get this right, because we’re all talking—billions of dollars hang in the balance here. We have the OEB, who gets to oversee that plan—no more. Before, the long-term energy plan needed to be reviewed by the OEB, making sure that we did integration in the power system plan and all of this. All those requirements are done. We are now focusing on something that is very important, that is very costly, that has huge implications for each and every one of us because we all use electricity—we are now concentrating all that power on the shoulders of one individual, the minister. I don’t know why we would that.

As it is, the way we have, the system to put our long-term energy plan right now—there are, I would say, shortcomings with that plan as it is, although they had all of this opportunity. Now all of this will be in the hands of one person, on the shoulders of the minister, and I think this is wrong. I think this is going in the wrong direction.

I think that when information will only be given when asked for, this is the wrong way to go. If you know something that could have an impact on the energy plan and the energy system in this province, you shouldn’t be limited to giving your advice when the ministry asks you; you should be free to give advice to the minister because you know something that’s going on. There are hundreds of very knowledgeable people who work at the IESO who can give that feedback, and one person could not possibly, feasibly be able to know it all. This is going backwards.

The second part of the bill—I already told you there are many parts to the bill—is the role of the IESO and the OEB in relation to the long-term energy plan. Here again, we’re looking at an amendment to the Electricity Act to give the minister—not only is he going to be in charge of the plan, but he or she will have the power to issue directives to the IESO and the OEB respecting the implementation of the long-term energy plan and requiring the IESO and the OEB to submit implementation plans for approval.

We’re turning this completely on its head. Where we had seen that it serves the people of Ontario well to distance ourselves from the political process and put it in the hands of technical experts to put together a long-term energy plan for the people of Ontario, we have now decided that the system that will serve us better will be to have it all in the hands of a politician—on the shoulders of a politician—who not only will only give the experts the way to express themselves when he or she asks, but will also direct them.

All of this concentration of power on the shoulders of one individual for a file that big makes no sense. There have already been really significant planning mistakes that have been done in this province that have cost us dearly. In this House, everybody will remember the gas plants that were supposed to go into Oakville and Mississauga. Well, you can drive by those and see the millions of dollars that were spent so that we did not get any electricity out of those plants. The Auditor General’s report told us that it was actually a $1-billion mistake that was made there. That is significant when, right now, the stability of our system is not always what it wants to be.

We have generation capacity and transportation capacity in areas where we don’t need it anymore. I’m really happy that my colleague from Timmins–James Bay just walked in, because Xstrata used to be a big user of electricity, and that worked out pretty good, because we have, I would say, fairly large generation capacity right next to the Xstrata plant. So Ontario was generating electricity, and you had a consumer right beside that was gobbling it all up. It was a marriage made in heaven. Now we have all this generation capacity but nobody to buy the electricity because Xstrata, the biggest user, has gone to Quebec where they pay one third in electricity prices that they were paying a couple of kilometres further west when they were in Ontario. So now, the people using the system are left to pay a whole lot more for electricity that is not really needed anymore. It is needed in other parts of our province, but it is being generated right there in Timmins, and Timmins can only use so much electricity, when their industries close up shop one after another and cross over to Quebec because they are able to set up shop over there at a third of the price of what we pay here in Ontario. I’m just giving those as examples of how important it is to have a robust long-term plan for electricity and energy and how we have decided that the best way to do that in the future is to leave this on the shoulders of a politician who will only listen to the expert that we have put in place when he or she feels like it—not really good.

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Not far away from Timmins, in my riding, is Gogama. There are many, many areas of this province that have less than adequate reliability when it comes to energy. I have Mike Cooper from Gogama—

Mr. Gilles Bisson: I know Mike.

Mme France Gélinas: Yes, he is a well-known man in the area. He sent me the power outages for the last year. I’m going to read them into the record because I want people to realize that not every part of the province is served the same way. As we are privatizing our electricity system with the sale of Hydro One, I don’t know how interested those shareholders are in making sure that the electricity system is reliable in Gogama.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Is it a cost centre or a revenue centre?

Mme France Gélinas: It is a cost centre.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Okay.

Mme France Gélinas: I don’t know how interested those new shareholders of Hydro One are in making sure that the electricity system is reliable in Mattagami, but I am interested. I want everyone, no matter where you live in Ontario, to have reliable electricity because our standard of living depends on it.

Last year, on April 13, 2014—and I’m going to go through from April of last year to April of this year—the power went out from 17:08 till 22:15 that day. The next day, on April 14, the power went out from 7:55 in the morning till 8 o’clock, a short period of time. Two weeks later, on April 30, the power went out from 12:40, shortly after noon, till 12:55.

On June 4, the power went out at 10:50 in the morning, and it came back a few minutes later. On June 22, the power went out at 1 o’clock. It came back 10 minutes later. The next day, on June 23, the power went out at 6:08 p.m., at night, and it didn’t come back till the next day, at 1:12.

On July 13, the power went off at 7 o’clock in the morning. It didn’t come back till 4:20 that afternoon—the whole day without power. On July 17, the power went off at 8 o’clock in the morning. It didn’t come back till 9:30.

On August 28, the power went out at 11:30 in the morning. It didn’t come back till 1:30 that afternoon.

On October 3, the power went out at 12:20. It didn’t come back till 3:55 that afternoon.

On November 27, the power went off at 12:30. It didn’t come back till 4:24 that afternoon.

On December 27, the power went off at 7:14 at night. It didn’t come back till 9:10 that night. On December 28, the power went off at 11:50 that night. It didn’t come back till the next morning at 8:45.

I want you to realize—I will keep on reading—that this is Gogama. It is December 28, 2014. It is minus 43 degrees outside, through a blizzard, through really windy conditions, and you don’t have power.

Ms. Catherine Fife: No hydro and a polluted river.

Mme France Gélinas: No hydro and a polluted river. Yes.

On January 13, the power went off at 7:30 that night. It didn’t come back till 6 o’clock the next morning. Everybody’s putting that together? It was over 12 hours in the middle of the winter where those people didn’t have electricity.

On March 3, the power went off at 6 a.m.; it came back at 7 a.m.

On April 22, the power went off for 10 minutes—they didn’t give me the hours.

On May 23, the power went off at 6:35 at night, and it didn’t come back till the next day at 6:30 in the morning. On May 29, the power went off shortly past midnight, 35 minutes past midnight, and it didn’t come back till 7:20.

I wanted to read this into the record, Speaker, because you know what that means? That means that in the middle of the winter—and lots of people in Gogama draw their water from the lake—your water line has frozen. That means that it will take you days and weeks to thaw it out. That means that not only did you spend the night freezing in the dark in your home, but then, for the next two or three weeks, you’re not going to have water. Because, like a lot of people—

Interjection.

Mme France Gélinas: —your heat trace doesn’t work when there is no power. This has happened to me the same; it has happened to Gilles the same. No electricity? The heat trace doesn’t work, your line freezes, and you’re done for the winter.

I’m telling you this, Speaker, because when you can’t rely—we ended up buying a generator at our house, and most of my neighbours also bought generators. If you’re going to Gogama, most households in Gogama that can afford it will have bought their own power generator. That means that, in the middle of the winter, with your slippers on and your parka over top, you go into the garage and you crank this thing, hoping that it will start. And then, every now and again, you get up in the middle of the night to put more gas in it so that your water line doesn’t freeze and so that your furnace can continue to go. We have no natural gas where I live and where those people live, but lots of people heat with oil. But it doesn’t matter if you heat with oil or propane; your furnace won’t work if there is no electricity.

So it’s a real, real hardship that I don’t wish upon anyone, but this can only be fixed when the good of the people of Ontario is put at the top, when our long-term energy plan is put in place so that, when we identify areas of weakness, when we identify areas that need correcting, those people have an opportunity to be heard, their needs are taken into account and actions are put into the plan to make sure that they don’t have to go through this winter after winter after winter.

But what are we doing to address their worries? We are putting all of the responsibility on the shoulders of a politician. All the structures that we had put in place to have an independent third party using best evidence to move things forward are going out the window with this bill, Speaker. It will now be on the shoulders of the minister.

I am worried. I am worried when I see that Hydro One is being sold and when I see that shareholders are there to make money. There’s nothing wrong with making money; this is how the economy rolls. But it is wrong to make money on a utility that has such an impact on the quality of life of the people of this province. To compare selling Hydro One to the 407—I have never used the 407, but I use electricity every single day. Most people in my riding don’t use the 407, and we’re just as good with or without it. I have no problem with people using it, but it’s a choice. Electricity is not a choice. It doesn’t matter where you live in Ontario; you need it. So I’m worried about the sell-off. I’m worried that we now have a private ownership that will demand return on equity for the money that they invest, when we already know that they are a part of our system that needs correction and that those people’s voices have a hard time being heard. I don’t want everybody outside of the big urban centre to go through what we are going through in northern and rural Ontario with a power system that we cannot depend on, where each and every one of us has to have our own backup plan. It’s not right. It’s expensive. It’s polluting. There is nothing good that comes of that.

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Those are only the first two parts of the bill, but I just looked at the clock, Speaker. There were some very interesting things I wanted to add with the feed-in tariff program and the energy conservation that I won’t have time for, but they’re no better than the first two I talked about.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. David Zimmer: I want to respond, just in a couple of minutes, to the member from Nickel Belt. I listened very carefully to her remarks.

In the body of her remarks, which lasted some 20 minutes, she stressed, on any number of occasions, the need for long-term planning. She used the expression “a robust plan.” Then she again spoke about the need for long-term planning in the electricity and energy field.

That’s exactly what Bill 135 is designed to do. What we are doing is we are enshrining a long-term energy planning process—and it’s a planning process. The planning process is going to be transparent and efficient. It’s going to be able to respond to changing policy and system needs. In other words, the plan has to be nimble to be able to respond to needs as they develop.

We have adopted a number of initiatives that are going to help Ontario families, businesses and the province as a whole conserve in managing energy. The heart and soul of Bill 135 will do the following: It is going to ensure a consistent, transparent long-term planning process; there are going to be amendments to the Green Energy Act to introduce some new initiatives there; and it’s going to support increased competition and enhanced ratepayer value by a consultation process.

What is really important in Bill 135 is that it is going to enshrine, in law, a requirement for extensive consultation with the public, stakeholder groups and aboriginal groups in the development of these energy plans. That’s what’s important: that this consultation requirement is enshrined in law.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Randy Pettapiece: It is a pleasure to add my comments to the speech that the member from Nickel Belt gave. It is interesting: When we talk about long-term planning, we know that this government has never had a long-term plan in anything. So it’s rather interesting that they would use that term.

It’s been said here many times that municipalities across Ontario oppose what this government wants to do with the hydro sale. Also, the Green Energy Act certainly is a big issue in my riding that has been opposed by the people of my riding and, certainly, of rural Ontario.

I introduced a resolution not too long ago. I remember that I had some 250 municipalities back that resolution. It had to do with joint and several liability. And what does this government do? They ignored them. So it doesn’t surprise me that this government would ignore the people of Ontario. They’ve been doing it for so many years now.

It worries me that one person, the Minister of Energy, will have complete control over what’s going on with the energy file, because that’s when it can get too political. He doesn’t have to listen to anyone who knows something of the energy file. He or she can just do as they please, the way this legislation is written. So I agree with the member from Nickel Belt that this is going to be an issue going forward. When the minister has complete control of such an important file, such as the energy file, I think the people of Ontario will have a real worry on their hands if this legislation is passed.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government is saying, “Trust me. Don’t you trust me when it comes to energy policy? Trust me, the minister; you know that I’ll do everything right.”

What you’re doing with this bill is taking away requirements under the Ontario Energy Board, under the IESO and under the Environmental Assessment Act, where there were requirements for certain things to happen. When it comes to drafting an energy plan, when it comes to siting a transmission line, when it comes to siting a new power project, there are processes where the public has a right to be able to be involved in the consultation and the decision-making around those particular projects. What the government’s doing here is they’re saying, “Well, you know what? Trust us. We have a really good, stellar record when it comes to energy policy in this province, and we are going to take away those requirements under the OEB, the Environmental Assessment Act and the IESO, and we’re going to give them to the minister. Trust us. Everything will be okay.”

Do you guys remember what happened with the gas plants? That was only because they were trying to save five seats—and the plan worked. We spent $1.3 billion and we saved five Liberal seats. That was a really huge success for the Liberal Party. Then we had this thing called smart meters, which are so darned smart, they’re driving our hydro bills through the roof, and the government is saying, “Trust us.”

The minister got up a little while ago and said, “Oh, this is really good because now we’re going to have this process where the minister is going to go out and consult”—only if the minister chooses. It says in the legislation that the minister may go out on consultation. He or she will decide what the consultation will be about, he or she will decide the scope of the consultation, and—here’s the best one—when it all comes back, he or she will decide what to do with it.

Mr. Paul Miller: That’s a deal.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: This is a deal for the Liberals to write a blank cheque on energy, something we can’t afford to do.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Steven Del Duca: It’s unfortunate that I only have a couple of minutes, especially in response to what’s being discussed here this afternoon—plus I’m losing my voice a little bit, coming down with a cold. I know it’s really a particularly sensitive topic for members from the NDP, particularly the member from Timmins–James Bay, from what I recall of our time together on the justice committee, and certainly for members from the Conservative opposition.

I will only say this, though I know it’s not about this bill, even though they keep trying to dredge this up as it relates to the gas plants. I know both caucuses, Conservative and NDP, have a bit of selective amnesia given that they made commitments in that 2011 campaign that exactly mirror the action we took on behalf of the people of Oakville and Mississauga.

Interjection.

Hon. Steven Del Duca: You can hear by that reaction exactly how sensitive that member is to hearing the truth on this particular matter.

The only other thing I would say, in listening to members from both caucuses speak about this bill, Bill 135, is that by and large, with a couple of exceptions, they tend to neglect the actual bill itself and want to spend their whole time reciting their selective version of history over the last 12 or so years since we came back to power. Our focus when it comes to the energy system has been to rebuild, restructure, improve and enhance what was a disaster of a system left over by years in office by the Conservative Party and, prior to that, five years in office by the NDP.

I know that neither the Conservatives nor the NDP like to believe that they have any culpability for anything that occurred in Ontario prior to 2003. Fortunately, the people of this province feel differently. That’s why time and time and time again, when they’ve been presented with options, they have chosen the Ontario Liberal way forward.

I only have a few seconds left, but I can remember what it was like in this province when we were powered by coal. I can remember when our system was on its knees and we had brownouts and we had the blackout. We have none of those anymore. We are moving the province forward. I urge that all parties support Bill 135.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes our questions and comments. I return to the member for Nickel Belt for her response.

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Mme France Gélinas: My feelings are a little bit hurt right now because he said that I didn’t talk to the bill. That’s all I did. I talked to the first two parts of the bill. Some of the other speakers talked to other things, but all of my remarks had to do with basically weaknesses that I had identified in the bill with ideas as to how we can change things to make this better and to put the responsibility for a long-term plan—yes, we do need a long-term plan for energy planning. We need it in every sector of the government, whether it be in health and education or energy. Long-term planning is something good and something we support, but how do you make a robust long-term plan? It is not by putting all that responsibility on the shoulders of a minister. It is by making sure that you have third parties who are knowledgeable, who bring evidence-based decision-making forward for the best of all of the ratepayers and for the best of the people who live here, and we are going in the exact opposite direction of that. We are taking agencies that are third-party, evidence-based agencies and telling them, “You will only give us information when we ask you, and you will only give us the information that we have asked you. If you know of something, an impending disaster coming, if we don’t ask you for it, don’t tell us.”

That’s not the way I want energy planning to be done, and this is what my remarks were about. To say there will be extensive consultations when 83% of Ontarians tell you they don’t want you to sell Hydro One and you go and sell it anyway—it’s hard to feel warm and fuzzy about being told they will consult, because consulting is one thing, but listening and acting upon what you heard is a completely different thing.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Hon. Bill Mauro: I’m pleased to have about 20 minutes this afternoon here to speak on Bill 135, the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act.

I had an opportunity a little earlier this afternoon to offer a couple of minutes’ worth of comments on the new proposal being brought forward by the minister. I talked about the coal conversion policy, the positive impact that that had in my riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan, and the cost driver that was connected to that decision that would have been a cost driver associated with any of the parties in the Legislature, because, of course, all three parties made the same commitment on coal replacement—unless, of course, the other parties had no intention of replacing the coal plants in my riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan. Perhaps we’ll have a chance to find out a bit more about that.

But on the bill, I talked earlier about the minister going forward with a different long-term planning process. That’s the central theme of the bill. Of course, it’s no surprise for any of us here in the Legislature this afternoon that the opposition parties would use this bill as an opportunity to speak less about the bill itself and more about energy costs and energy pricing in the province of Ontario. That’s not a surprise. We would have expected that, and that’s exactly what has transpired here. It’s understandable to some degree because we all understand the sensitivity around energy pricing in the province of Ontario and, I would say, the energy file, period.

This has been part of the discussion, I would say, since I was first elected in 2003. Energy transmission, generation, pricing, the OEB and the like have been a chronic, constant theme of discussion since I have been here for 12, going on 13, years. I would say that, for me—and I’m going to get to the energy costing piece of this soon. I remember very clearly that the argument that was being made in relation to forestry and the reason at least being put forward by opposition parties for the decline of forestry in Ontario was energy pricing. Speaker, this was a very spurious argument, I think it’s fair for me to say. In fact, when I’ve spoken about this publicly over the last 12 years, I have often given credit to the Conservatives, because they rarely would put forward energy pricing as a cause for the forestry decline in Ontario. They knew it wasn’t the case. It was primarily the third party, the NDP, that would continue to make the spurious argument that energy pricing was somehow responsible for the decline of forestry in Ontario.

People following this argument, especially those in my riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan and northern Ontario, will know very well that forestry first started to get hammered before the global recession hit in 2008. In 2005, 2006, forestry, you could say, was the canary in the coal mine. For a variety of reasons, forestry was affected before any of the other industries that came to be affected by the global recession. There was a variety of factors that caused forestry to decline in the province of Ontario, just like it declined in BC and just like it declined in Quebec. I reference those two provinces because they are the other two major forestry jurisdictions in Canada, along with Ontario.

So when the spurious argument around electricity pricing was being made, primarily by the NDP, trying to say that this is why forestry was declining, they would have ignored the examples like recessionary times that were coming, like the collapse of the housing market in the US, which most of our product in Ontario—about 90% or 95% of it is exported into the United States. So as goes the United States, pretty much so goes the forestry industry in Ontario. Then the housing market had declined. They would have ignored that point.

They would have ignored the part that, when we were elected in 2003, the Canadian dollar was at around 73 cents and appreciated to $1.10 while we were in government. A 1% appreciation—a one-cent, rather, appreciation in the value of the Canadian dollar, representing about a $3-million hit to one company in Ontario, times 37 cents. But the opposition parties would have ignored that and, of course, they would have ignored other factors like global competition.

Speaker, think about it. We listened to the opposition parties, and, again, primarily the NDP, say that forestry declined because of an increased cost in energy. They would have led people to believe that if only energy costs were lower, then nothing that had happened in forestry with the carnage and the loss of thousands of jobs would have occurred. Of course, that argument is absolutely ridiculous because if you think—even the most cursory investigation or attention to the matter would show people that this industry began to decline in 2005-06. We had only been in government for about two years by the time the industry had started to decline. It’s obvious to anyone who paid attention to the issue that electricity pricing had nothing to do with what was going on in forestry.

Yes, it was one of those input factors for forestry that we could help to address and help the industry to get on its feet, stay on its feet and survive this downturn, which we did. We brought in several programs that helped to address that. But I listened to that argument for a very long time and I’ll tell you, Speaker, it was tough to listen to because there were actually people who were making life choices, who lived in those forestry-based communities, who thought, “Yes, come on, government. Just lower the price a little bit. Just take the cents per kilowatt hour down a little bit and my mill is going to start back up, or my sawmill will reopen.”

Of course, Speaker, given all of the other factors that I listed here, anybody would have known that wasn’t the case. But people were making life decisions on that, and it was a spurious argument. You just had to look to BC and Quebec, which have always had lower energy costs than Ontario, because most of their energy is old and it’s hydraulic; they’re very fortunate that way. Well, those jurisdictions ended up with as many job losses in the forestry sector as did Ontario. So I just offer that as some background in terms of my broader discussion on this bill.

I started off by saying that while the bill is primarily about a new long-term energy planning process in the province of Ontario, the opposition members have taken some time to focus their comments primarily on costs. I want to talk a little bit about that today, if I can, as well. I have heard others say that since we came to government, the cost of energy has increased by two and a half times. All right. Let’s talk a little bit about what went into those costs. I heard one of the Conservative members—I forget who was speaking a little bit earlier—who talked about that and was quoting numbers. Here is what I remember, and I stand to be corrected, but I think my memory is pretty good on this: When we came into government, the price of a kilowatt of energy in the province of Ontario was somewhere in the neighbourhood of about 4.3 cents a kilowatt hour. That will be used as the baseline—

Interjection: It was 4.3.

Hon. Bill Mauro: —through which—4.3; I think that’s what I said. So that will be used as the baseline through which they will get their calculations to say it is now two and a half times as high. But there are some things that are being left out of the argument, because here’s something else that I remember. When the Conservatives were in government, before we formed government in 2003—and, again, there will be two-minuters from the opposition benches, and perhaps they can correct me if I’m wrong. But the way I remember it as well, Speaker, was that that 4.3 cents really wasn’t the true cost of power. They used that low-water mark to show how much the price has gone up to make the gap look bigger.

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But what I remember, Speaker—and again, I stand to be corrected, and I’m open to hearing the comments from the opposition members—was that the price was actually capped. They had actually capped it at 4.3 cents. It wasn’t the true price of power. As I recall, the true price of power was actually about 20% higher. I think the true price of power when we came into government was actually about 5.3 or 5.5 cents—

Interjection.

Hon. Bill Mauro: —or even more—at least about 20% more than was being charged on your electricity bill.

Let’s just think about that one driver for a second. We’re talking about from 4.3 cents to 8-point-something now, off-peak. This is the two-and-a-half-times number that they’re using. But If we think about it and think for a second that it really wasn’t 4.3 cents but was 5.3 or 5.5 or perhaps a little higher, we realize then that the increase really wasn’t as great as the opposition members would want it to sound like.

But also, where was the money being made up from? If we don’t argue that the Conservatives had artificially capped the price of energy, how were we paying for it? Well, we were paying for it not from the rate base, but we were paying for it from the property tax base.

Here is what the official opposition had done before we came into power in 2003: They had artificially capped the price of energy—unless somebody wants to tell me I’m wrong—because they knew it was politically unpalatable to charge people, on their energy bills, the true cost of that energy, and they had transferred that extra cost, that extra approximately 20%, off your rate base and onto your tax base.

Okay, let’s discuss that. If that’s your policy position, that’s fine, but let’s just make sure we’re clear on it. As I understand it, that’s what they did. I’m making my point only insofar as to suggest that when we talk about that gap, the two and a half times, I would ask the opposition members to maybe tell me what it is, if I’m correct that you had actually capped it and it was really 20% higher when we came in. What’s the number then? That’s point one.

What else is a cost driver when it comes to the price of electricity in the province of Ontario, Speaker? Coal replacement policy, right? In 2003, all three political parties committed in their platforms to closing coal. Coal was 20% of total generated capacity in the province—5,000 or 6,000 megawatts of energy. I ask the opposition parties—and perhaps in their comments back, they can tell me—what their plan was to replace that 5,000 or 6,000 megawatts of energy. How were you going to do it? Maybe they weren’t going to do it. But, Speaker, you had to do it. Clearly, that 6,000 megawatts of energy had to be replaced.

One example that I gave earlier, in my two-minuter—one small example—was that of the five coal-generating facilities in the province of Ontario, two were in my riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan. Our government made the decision to keep both of those plants open. We converted both of those plants to burn biomass, and we converted them at a cost of about $200 million. There are great benefits for the community of Atikokan, and there are great benefits for the community of Thunder Bay, and we’ve created a new industry in Ontario, the pellet manufacturing industry, that is creating more jobs. We’ve also created a long-term energy security situation for northwestern Ontario by keeping those two plants available—$200 million.

They were two of the smallest plants. Nanticoke down here, in Lambton; and the other one, whose name I forget right now, were the largest ones—

Mr. Bas Balkissoon: Lakeview.

Hon. Bill Mauro: The Lakeview plant. Out of the 6,000 or 5,000 megawatts that were produced by coal, those plants down here in southern Ontario were much bigger. So this is billions of dollars of cost that was associated with having to replace that policy commitment, that both parties made, that represented 5,000 or 6,000 megawatts of energy.

I ask the members opposite: When you want to talk about cost, a 20% artificial cap on the price of energy when we formed government in 2003, and a policy commitment, that they had made when they ran in 2003, to close coal, and they never quantified the cost of building 5,000 megawatts of new energy generation in the province of Ontario. I would like to know what that number is.

Then, when we talk about the baseline price in 2003 and where we are today, perhaps they can tell me, really, how they would have mitigated that cost and how much of that cost they would not have had to assume if they had the honour and the privilege of being in government.

Of course, they would have had to do it. We needed the energy. A lot of that cost drive, the cap, had to be there if you want it on your rate base, and the replacement of the coal policy had to be there as well. Those are two points.

You heard my colleague, the member from Vaughan speak a little bit earlier when he had his two-minuter. We were talking about the state of the energy system when we formed government in 2003. We remember it very, very well. It is not an exaggeration or hyperbolic to say that the system was not in good shape; that the system needed significant investment; and that when we were elected in 2003, we talked very clearly of having an infrastructure deficit and part of that infrastructure deficit was the transmission infrastructure in the province of Ontario. We knew that. I think all three parties represented in the Legislature today will acknowledge that.

The costs that we invested in the transmission infrastructure in the province of Ontario are significant. I can’t quantify how many billions it was, but the question, again, back to the opposition benches, who are spending a lot of time talking about costs today—I think it’s fair of me to ask them about the artificial cap, coal replacement and what you would have done about the state of the transmission infrastructure in the province of Ontario should you have formed government. Would you have just left it? Would you have attended to it? If you had attended to it, how much would you have attended to?

One of the commitments that we’ve made is the east-west tie line. The east-west tie line is a line that exists somewhere between Wawa, Ontario, which is about six hours east of Thunder Bay, and Thunder Bay—about 300-odd kilometres of transmission line. We’ve committed to upgrading that line and basically doubling its capacity so that electricity will be able to be both imported from east to west and exported ,if necessary, from west to east. The cost with just that one transmission project is estimated to be somewhere in the $500-million to $600-million range. I’m not even sure how much it is, but that is part of the massive investments that we made in the transmission infrastructure.

I give it back to the opposition members, again, to ask me: When you want to talk about two and a half times the price from when we came in, I would ask you to tell me how you would have managed to carry on and take in some of those costs. Perhaps it would have been the same policy they had when it came to coal conversion or the artificial cap. Maybe it would have just been transferred to the tax base. I’m not sure, Speaker. I don’t know what their approach would be.

The opposition members will also have you believe that green energy has been or is a significant cost component about the increase in the price structure of Ontario hydro. That’s simply not the case. It is simply not the case. In terms of the total percentage increase on your hydro bill, whatever that may be, a very small portion of that is related to green energy.

And Speaker, they will only talk to you, when they talk about green energy, about wind and solar. They won’t talk about hydraulic. Up near Kapuskasing, in northern Ontario, we constructed a 450-megawatt hydraulic generating facility. I’m very familiar with it because a lot of the tradespeople out of the locals in Thunder Bay have spent two, three or four years working on that particular project: 450 megawatts of clean, green—that’s also green—green energy. Beck III here in Niagara Falls—how many megs is Beck? I think it was somewhere near 600 or 800 or 1,000 more megs.

When we talk about green energy, they only want to talk about wind and solar. I’ve just rhymed off about 1,500 megawatts of new energy generation that is green, that is hydraulic, that is part of that total energy mix, but they won’t talk about that. That goes back into the PC speaker who asked about how you were going to replace the 5,000 megawatts of energy that used to be produced by coal, that no longer is produced by coal, that you committed to do as well. I would expect that at some point they will have an answer for that.

We’ve been in government now for 12, going on 13, years. You could throw into this mix about where the costs came from—inflation. What else is lower—in the city of Thunder Bay, I know that their energy and water rates have gone up by about 80% in the same amount of time—about 80% over the same period of time since we came into government in 2003. They’re paying more for water; they’re paying more for sewer. All energy infrastructure, of course, was going to have gone up in that period of time.

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Speaker, the point is that there are some very significant pieces here that were unavoidable, and I think the opposition parties are aware of that. Hopefully, they’ll have an opportunity to make some comments on it.

I have just about a minute and a half remaining here. I want to close by saying that there are several significant programs out there on energy relief for people: the Northern Ontario Energy Credit, there’s the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit, there’s a seniors’ property tax grant, and I think the Minister of Energy has very recently just brought in a new program that is going to provide significant relief for low-income folks in the province of Ontario.

Finally, I think it’s important to underline—and the Minister of Government Services spoke about this a little bit earlier when he was talking about peak rates and off-peak rates. We responded, I think, fairly and quickly to recommendations from the Auditor General, who in fact didn’t think that the gap was wide enough and thought that the on-peak rates should be higher if we could be then more successful in encouraging people to shift their use to off-peak. Eight-point-something cents, I believe, is the off-peak rate. It’s available 24 hours a day Saturday and Sunday and from 7 p.m. on weekdays until 7 a.m. in the morning.

We know not everybody can shift their load; we completely understand that. That’s why there are a variety of other programs in place to assist. But, Speaker, it’s important to know that if you shift your use, not only are you benefitting yourself, not only are you benefitting your bill as it arrives at your home, but you’re also making it unnecessary for us to fire up peaking plants that are necessary when we reach those peak demand times for energy in the province of Ontario.

Speaker, thank you for your time.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Bill Walker: It’s my pleasure to respond to the Minister of Natural Resources. Oftentimes, the minister and I have lots of good chats. We’re actually normally on a pretty even keel and see things from a similar point of view, but on this one, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things that he said—I’ll going to have to really jam it to get two minutes in to refute a lot of them.

He talked a lot about closing coal. They promised to do it in 2006-07, but they just kept bumping it. If it was that important, I ask him, why did it not get done by 2006-07? Why did you not take the action to actually live up to your own promise to do that? It was 2013 when finally done.

I want to ask him some questions. He was asking us, as opposition, a lot of questions. What was the cost of power in 2003 when they took government, what’s the cost of a kilowatt of power today, and what’s it going to be in three more years? They’re already predicting that it’s going to be 40% more than today, and that’s without the fire sale of Hydro One that I bet you they’ve put in. I don’t think you probably want to talk to me a whole lot about—

Interjections.

Mr. Bill Walker: Let’s talk about debt, then. Mr. Speaker, let’s talk about—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I’m going to give you some extra time.

Mr. Bill Walker: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure to talk about debt. This is a government that when they came into power in 2003, the debt of our province was $129 billion. It is projected to be $330 billion. The deficit is $11 billion a year that they waste—$7 billion a year just on a global adjustment charge. I don’t know how they can in good conscience even want to talk to us about debt that they’ve inherited. You ask them to look at those pages in front of you, Mr. Speaker, and ask them what the debt is going to be when they leave office; hopefully sooner than later or we’ll never get out of the hole of debt that they continue to dig.

It scares me that they actually want to stand over there and pretend that everything is rosy and they’ve saved the world in the way they manage, when they’ve doubled the debt of our province in a short 12 years. It’s unconscionable that they would continue to talk as if everything in our province is wonderful. They’re doing some things that I’ll give them credit for, but at the end of the day, hydro is a mess. It needs to be cleaned up, and we need to continue to push them to do that.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Paul Miller: The minister wants to know how we’re going to do it. Well, let me give him some history here. I remember working in a large steel plant in Hamilton, and there was a thing called cogeneration that we were looking at. That would have taken coke oven batteries, taken the power and put it into our central boiler shop, which would have created lots of megawatts of power to actually power the city of Hamilton. Dofasco’s coke ovens, Stelco’s ovens, Algoma’s coke ovens—up where he lives, near Algoma, that would have done that, but nobody looked at cogeneration. That’s how we would have done it in the NDP. But you didn’t look at that.

Secondly—and Speaker, I really get amazed. Let’s talk about the Samsung deal that they signed with Korea. Guess what? I asked for the details on that and I got a document with all the financial details blacked out. I couldn’t see what kind of deal—so I don’t know what they did. I don’t know where they’re at. Last time it was $7 billion; now it’s down to $4 billion. It’s still on their Green Energy Act, which I still don’t have access to, I might add. I don’t know what they did, I don’t know how they signed it, because they have the arrogance to think that we couldn’t figure it out or we can’t do numbers. We can.

I don’t want to talk about the 60 million scandals they’ve had, where they’ve blown billions of dollars that we could have put in for refitting or retrofitting present systems that would have helped over the years. Over the last 12 years we could have fixed some of the transmission lines. We could have done a lot of maintenance with that kind of money that they’ve blown.

They don’t talk about it. They don’t talk about Samsung. I’ve never even heard them mention cogeneration. There are all kinds of other ways to generate power that they haven’t even discussed because they don’t think we have any value to have input into their wonderful world of liberalism. Well, we do, and the sooner they start listening to some people who have been around here a long time and know a lot about industry, they might be better off.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Bob Delaney: Speaker, I hope anybody watching at home paid very close attention to what the minister was saying earlier in his 20 minutes, because he was telling them good, solid, common sense. He told it like it was.

Twelve years ago, when I was first elected along with the minister, the two of us were just aghast at the debt that the old Ontario Hydro had bequeathed to the system. It had been run up to some $20.8 billion. That was the stranded debt. If you want to see where it’s documented, you could find out in the 2010 Auditor General’s report. I think it’s on page 26 or 28 of that particular document. The Auditor General notes that, initially—referring to the last few years of the Conservative reign of error—not much effort had been made to pay it down, but that once our government was elected, the stranded debt began to gradually move down. As Liberals, we believe in dealing with debt the old-fashioned way: We pay it. Now that stranded debt line is about to go off of people’s electricity bills. That just represents an old-fashioned way—paying it down—of dealing with debt.

There’s lot in this bill. In fact, there’s so much in this bill that you can only deal with a tiny segment of it at one particular time.

To reinforce a point made by the minister: Instead of buying power at about $1 to $2 a kilowatt hour, generated by coal out of the Ohio Valley, and selling it for 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour in Ontario, incurring a loss of more than a dollar, now Ontario earns an export surplus of at least a third of a billion dollars a year selling electricity.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Randy Pettapiece: This has been quite interesting. I think I want to comment on one of the files that was brought up by the government: the Green Energy Act. This has been one of the biggest blunders in Ontario’s history. It is just incredible how much money is going into subsidizing Samsung and their companies for the Green Energy Act. They have created chaos. They have created hard feelings in rural Ontario. They have caused churches to break up over it. They’ve caused problems at schools because kids get fighting about it. Yet they persist in pursuing this terrible energy plan.

The thing about it is that these things are not efficient. They only run 30% of the time—and 30%, certainly, is a very high mark. I don’t think they go up that high. They’re spending all this money on the Green Energy Act and getting nothing from it, other than a lot of rich companies that are enjoying these subsidies.

Now we’re finding out that some of these companies are offering millions of dollars to municipalities to get them to change their minds and allow these green energy plans to go on in the municipalities. That money is not the companies’ money; it’s taxpayers’ money. That’s how rich this is.

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This government persists in pursuing the Green Energy Act and allowing these turbines up in our communities.

Sir, I am very fortunate to have a riding that stopped a green energy project in my riding. It took a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of tears to get this thing stopped. Fortunately, we got it stopped. It was going to happen just below the town I live in. You can go right across the riding—we got it stopped because nobody wanted this thing. This government wouldn’t listen to the people who live in that community, but they persisted, they got it stopped, and I’m so proud of them.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): The Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry has two minutes to reply.

Hon. Bill Mauro: Speaker, I want to thank the members from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, Hamilton East–Stoney Creek, Mississauga–Streetsville and Perth-Wellington for their comments.

I noticed, Speaker, that out of the three opposition speakers, no one decided to address the issue of the 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour—when we were elected, that actually was 20% higher than that—so I will assume from the lack of comment on my assertion that that in fact was the case; that when we did come into government in 2003, the cost that people were being charged on their energy bill was actually 20% higher. People will understand that and they’ll build that into, really, how much it has increased since then.

Nobody took any time to address the fact that I said it would have cost them billions to meet their commitment to close all of the coal plants in the province of Ontario—5,000 megawatts of energy that had to be replaced. We committed to do it. We did it. They committed to do it, but they don’t accommodate for that or talk about that when they talk about the costs that now exist in the province of Ontario.

Speaker, the member from Hamilton East–Stoney Creek made some comments on energy related to energy pricing and making things affordable for the people in the province of Ontario. Here’s what I remember. In 2003, I took over from a wonderful lady who held the riding before me for 16 years: Lyn McLeod, who was the Minister of Energy. She was working in the David Peterson government. She had negotiated a contract with the province of Manitoba, as the Minister of Energy, to bring a thousand megawatts of clean, green energy from the Conawapa project in Manitoba into Ontario, through northwestern Ontario. It probably would have been the largest infrastructure build in the history of northwestern Ontario, and it would have provided a thousand megawatts at about four-point-something cents for 20 years. We had the deal. The NDP won the election in 1990. Do you know what they did? They cancelled that 20-year deal at four-point-something cents—clean, green energy—and then they paid the Manitoba government $130 million in 1991 or 1992 to get out of the deal. So that’s a great record they’ve got when it comes to—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I would ask the members to please come to order so we can continue this debate in an orderly fashion.

Further debate?

Mr. Toby Barrett: I appreciate the opportunity to join this discussion on Bill 135, which has a rather unimaginative title: the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act, 2015. It’s not a particularly gripping title. It really doesn’t tell us what’s in this legislation. In fact, the Minister of the Environment made a very brief speech about this and really didn’t tell us about anything that’s in it. I don’t know whether the parliamentary assistant explained what’s in this legislation either. So here we have a title that’s kind of repetitive: It’s a statute; it’s an act; it’s a bill; it’s a law. I’m not sure, if you pull out a dictionary, if a lot of people understand the difference in meaning between a statute and a law and a bill and an act. It is unfortunate that it has been written this way. This probably isn’t the reason, but I haven’t had any phone calls about this bill; I haven’t had any emails.

I knew I was going to be speaking to this today, so I googled the legislation on the weekend—there’s nothing there. The bill is there. Hansard is there. There’s a list of the various acts that it amends, but there are no comments from the public; there has been nothing in the media. I’m not sure if this government sent out any news releases about this legislation. Again, I just really ask the question: Where is the citizen participation? Where’s the involvement of people in this province with respect to what we’re told could be enshrining in law some very significant changes, changes that maybe have been going on for years under the table—and finally decided to make them legal?

So, Speaker, we have a bill before us: It’s an act to amend several statutes, to change some regulations and to deal with long-term energy planning. In a very brief statement in the House—I mean the minister had an hour to talk about this—he talked about increasing competition, it’s still a little unclear how that’s going to occur, and to enhance ratepayer value; that’s very important, given the tremendous increases in the price of electricity to ratepayers.

Now, he talked about empowering the Independent Electricity System Operator, the IESO. Just a bit of a fact check on that, my research—the research of my party—indicates that this will not further empower the Independent Electricity System Operator. In contrast, it will do exactly the opposite. It will remove much of the independence of the IESO—far from empowering this particular body. I guess we take the minister at his word—empower IESO to competitively procure transmission projects.

Speaker, I have a transmission project in my riding down in Haldimand–Norfolk. Electric power towers march across Haldimand county, coming out of Niagara. They run from the Allanburg transformer station, continue west across the county; then they stop. The lines go down into the ground; they’re anchored in the ground at the south end of Caledonia.

This project was sabotaged nine years ago. I vividly recall seeing the Mohawk warrior’s flag flying on top of the tower. This would be 300 feet up in the air, right where that tower meets the main street of Caledonia, Argyle Street, just a few hundred yards from the intersection with the main provincial highway, Highway 6, coming down south from Hamilton. Very clearly, Hydro One workers were not on those towers. Very clearly, Mohawk warriors were on the towers. That was nine and a half years ago. There are no wires. The towers march across. Regrettably, a number of them have been destroyed. They have been used as lookout towers by militants over the years of chaos and mayhem in the Caledonia area.

So what you see when you enter the main entrance of Caledonia, when you drive into town, there’s a nice green sign, I think it has a picture of the bridge, saying: “Welcome to Caledonia.” You see these gigantic pulleys up on the towers that were meant to pull the wires up to continue the link, essentially, not only to Allanburg transformer station in Niagara, that link with Niagara Falls in New York state through Allanburg, to the Caledonia transfer station which, regrettably, was torched—that was a $1-million damage done by militants—and to continue on to the gigantic Middleport transfer station, just north of Six Nations, just north of the Grand River.

It’s a 76-kilometre line, again, to ensure the transfer of electrons back and forth between the United States and Canada. Hydro One has been unable or unwilling for well over nine years now to complete the last five kilometres or so of this power line. You can see it when you’re on Highway 6. I think I count about 14 or 20 different power towers partly disassembled with no wires. They were famously used to blockade the main street of Caledonia. They were famously used to be thrown off an overpass onto the provincial highway down below, obviously not the original intent of this transmission corridor. No electricity goes through here to the Middleport transformer station.

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There has been some media on this. Very recently, Paul Bliss, with CTV, reported something we’ve known locally, and I have certainly raised this a number of times in the Ontario Legislature. Again, the recent news from CTV: “Since 2007, Hydro One has had permission from the provincial government to bill taxpayers for its interest payments” on this $100-million project.

I think the original cost was projected at $116 million; I know that Hydro One did their due diligence. Years ago, I attended meetings where they mapped out where the new towers would be going on an existing corridor. That corridor has been there for many, many years. It was simply replacing antiquated towers. For $100 million in capital cost to build this power line, taxpayers have payed nearly $50 million to date in interest alone for a power line that has never transmitted any electricity, certainly in the last nine and a half years.

Much of this legislation is directed toward issues of transmission: “The powerline was designed to bring 800 megawatts worth of electricity into southern Ontario. This is equivalent to the amount of power that Ontario gets from one of the nuclear reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Station.” Again, this is according to Paul Bliss with CTV.

The provincial government indicated that it’s okay because Ontario doesn’t need the electricity right now. We do know that 300,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in recent years. The province made reference to the recession slowing down manufacturing, obviously reducing the demand for power.

I have a quotation from Hydro One. They were obviously asked, “How come you built this gigantic transmission corridor out of New York state and there has been no electricity?” I quote: We “respected the request by the community to stop work”—I represent that community, Speaker. “However, they remain hopeful that when outstanding issues are resolved”—they’ve been outstanding for nine and a half years—“we can proceed and complete construction of the line.”

Construction of that line was shut down in Caledonia, in Haldimand county, and in spite of what Hydro One says, the community did not request that Hydro One stop work; far from it. The community has had to put up for nine years now with a wireless, incomplete power transmission corridor scarring the south entrance of town. It’s adjacent to the still-occupied subdivision of Douglas Creek Estates.

Certainly, there are so many Liberal scandals locally that we talk about over the last 13 years. I consider this the mother of all scandals. One measure: There have now been four books written about the Six Nations/Caledonia scandal. I would suggest, if members here haven’t read any of those four books, that they please do so to get a better picture in your minds with respect to the chaos that has continued down there, south of Hamilton.

I just wanted to comment briefly on the sale of Hydro One. There’s obviously short-term gain—we see the money coming in from the IPO—but it’s coupled, regrettably, with long-term pain. There is some hope locally. Perhaps the new ownership of Hydro One would have the wherewithal to get an injunction to complete this Caledonia transmission corridor.

This month, as you would know, Speaker, brought another unaffordable electricity increase as a result of failed policy, in my view. On average, we’re now paying an additional $53 a year. That’s on top of an additional $68 a year last spring.

This month saw the provincial government’s IPO as well, the initial public offering of 15% of Hydro One. The shares were put on the market at $20.50. Also this month, Ontario’s FAO, the Financial Accountability Officer, released a report confirming something Ontario’s opposition has been saying all along: The Hydro One fire sale is a bad deal. It’s a bad deal certainly for electricity users.

Patrick Brown, the opposition leader, explained during question period: “It makes no sense to sell an asset that will only net $1.4 billion while you lose an asset that brings in $700 million each and every year.” There was a poll conducted by the Ontario Energy Association, and 80% of residents in Ontario believe the fire sale will raise their hydro bills. You combine increasing hydro bills with so many tax increases, tax increases oftentimes related to what’s going on with electricity in the province of Ontario, and we get the calls in our offices.

I feel we’ve been doing just about everything we can to try to stop this sell-off. It’s brought up almost on a daily basis. Perhaps the government can reconsider. The 15% is already out the door, but I remain hopeful.

In the 2015 budget, Ontario announced that intention to sell 60%. In 2015-16, the 15%, as I’ve indicated, would be put on the market, and the balance in subsequent years. By selling 15% of Hydro One, Ontario’s net debt would initially be reduced between $2.4 billion and $3.9 billion. However, in his report, our Financial Accountability Officer warns that net debt would eventually increase as a result of this partial sale, as the costs of forgone revenues from Hydro One begin to exceed the initial benefit.

As we know, Hydro One is wholly owned at present by the province of Ontario. It’s an electricity transmission and distribution company. They’re not looking after the nuclear generation. In 2014, the company operated 97% of Ontario’s transmission capacity, with the largest distribution system in Ontario, again, covering something like 75% of the province.

As sole owner up to the present time, the province currently has claim to all of the net income of Hydro One: approximately $750 million last year. Following this 15% sale, the province would have claim, obviously, to only 85% of this net income. The FAO estimates that the sale of 15% of Hydro One would result in a reduction of approximately $50 million a year, and each additional sale would increase this amount of forgone income.

The FAO—this is the Financial Accountability Officer—does recognize that there could be potential for improvement with respect to Hydro One’s net income as a result of changes and as a result of the influence of new owners. The fact remains that Hydro One is one of the worst-performing electricity distributors in North America, and they spend an awful lot of money to try to maintain that dubious track record. Even among electricity distributors in Ontario, Hydro One, according to the National Post, “performed so poorly that it was considered an outlier,” along with Toronto Hydro.

This morning in question period it was raised again. The new CEO makes something like $4 million a year. On average, when you look at other employees of Hydro One, they come in at about 10% above comparable wage rates elsewhere.

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So, again, locally, there is hope that new owners may see the way clear. They may have the wherewithal to complete this Niagara transmission corridor through Caledonia, shut down by protesters for now well over nine years, and perhaps it’s contained within Bill 135, where more power will be transferred to the minister to help complete this Caledonia transmission project.

I’ve got a bridge in the area—two bridges, actually. I’ve raised this before, as with our transmission corridor. It’s been well over a year now that the Cayuga bridge has been shut down. The bridge was originally built in 1927. We clearly needed a new bridge. It’s on a provincial highway. It was a provincial project—a provincial bridge, not something that can be blamed on the local county or blamed on the federal government. But, again, a victim, as with the transmission corridor, of being shut down by intimidation by militants.

We’ve got another provincial project, 13 years overdue: the Caledonia bridge. Again, it was built in the 1920s. I use it all the time. Haldimand county has now realized that because of the dysfunction that they have observed in the McGuinty-Wynne government—they have asked this government—it’s not very often that you will see a municipality ask a province to not put money into infrastructure. They have cautioned this government: “Don’t start construction on the Caledonia bridge. You’re not going to get anywhere,” having seen what has happened to the Cayuga bridge, having seen what has happened to this Niagara-Caledonia electrical transmission corridor. Again, is Bill 135 here to help? We shall see.

Just to wrap up, I will remind people that on May 1 of this year, the on-peak price of electricity climbed from 14 cents a kilowatt hour to 16 cents. That’s a 14% increase. And it will be double the new off-peak price of eight cents a kilowatt hour. We’ve already got some of the highest electricity rates in North America. We saw the increase last spring—no, I mentioned last spring, on May 1. We saw a recent increase on November 1. Again, just this month, another electricity price hike: 8.7% for on-peak rates. November 1 saw another $53 added to the average bill. Couple that with the May increase I just mentioned, which, at that time, came in as a $68 price hike. There’s no way people in my area can afford to heat their homes with electricity, given what is going on in the province of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Catherine Fife: I listened closely to the member from Haldimand–Norfolk comment on Bill 135. I think one of the key points that he did make is that there hasn’t been a lot of outreach on this bill whatsoever. In fact, the minister has done his lead, but the critics have not had an opportunity to respond, so it’s a very unusual circumstance for us to be in this House debating a piece of legislation which, ironically, lessens the transparency and the accountability of the Minister of Energy.

There are some people, though, who are paying close attention. Like the member from Haldimand–Norfolk, I went out and did some research. There is this paper in the Canadian Energy Perspectives and it’s on Bill 135—the governance model. It’s written by George Vegh. This is what he says about Bill 135: “The net result of Bill 135 is therefore to ensure that the main energy institutions—the IESO and the OEB—are focused almost exclusively on implementing government plans and directives. The government has always been steering the direction of energy policy. It is now rowing as well: It is in direct control of every policy instrument available. From a governance perspective, it could lead one to wonder whether there are any checks and balances left in the system at all.”

I think that the member from Haldimand–Norfolk was sort of leaning in the direction that the language of a piece of legislation is also very important.

There’s a lot of talk of what the minister shall do. Well, we know that this government is very good at conversations. This government is very good at talking about consultation, but it isn’t always so good at listening to the feedback that they get, especially from informed voices—in this instance, from the energy sector.

I share the concerns of the member from Haldimand–Norfolk. I look forward to delving into this piece of legislation a little bit more, later on.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Bob Delaney: It’s a pleasure to join in the debate and comment on some of the remarks made by my colleague from Haldimand–Norfolk.

I do have to pick up on one that I thought was very interesting. He made the assertion that Hydro One was among “the worst-performing electricity distributors” in Ontario. Yet the same member says, “Oh, we shouldn’t sell it. But if we do sell it, perhaps it’s a fire sale.” Somehow or other, I can’t square that circle.

The fact of the matter is that Hydro One does need some private sector discipline infused in it, and that’s exactly what the province has done while being able to take some value from it, maintain complete control over the corporation, and devote that money towards something that we very desperately need, which is expanded infrastructure.

I come from Peel region. In the morning, when we get on those trains, from the very first one that leaves around 6:30 in the morning until the very last one that leaves at 8:30, those trains are full. There is no question that we need that infrastructure money to be able to expand public transportation in Peel region. We need that infrastructure money to be able to expand public infrastructure all through the 905 belt and everywhere in Ontario. Those are some of the things that the member made an assertion around that I think really need to be explored.

If the member says Hydro One is among the worst-performing electricity distributors, then how can he be against bringing some private sector discipline into that company and also rewarding its decision-makers with performance-based incentives? If they don’t hit the target, they don’t make the money. That’s a very easy concept to grasp.

Frankly, Speaker, I think this act—although we didn’t talk a great deal about it—is going to change that landscape and enable Ontario to do the things it desperately needs to do.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: I’m pleased to stand and reflect upon the comments that my colleague from Haldimand–Norfolk shared, because he raised many concerns, the first one being that it’s unbelievable, how this government chooses to waste money time and time again. In fact, I should correct my record: It’s not just “waste money;” it’s “waste taxpayers’ money.” It’s money that is becoming less and less in their pockets—because they are continuing to choose to mismanage almost everything they touch.

I think the member from Haldimand–Norfolk has every right to express his frustration and his absolute disbelief, in some cases, over this power line that has been left to rust as a monument to poor decisions by this Liberal government over the last 10 years.

It’s interesting that he also said the government, in response, said, “Well, we respected the community and we stopped work.” Those words really stuck with me, because throughout Ontario, since 2009, community after community has asked this government—they’ve taken the government to environmental review tribunals. They’ve pleaded with a variety of ministers—the energy minister has changed in recent years; the Minister of the Environment has changed in recent years. They’ve all sent letters saying, “Please stop the unnecessary development of industrial wind turbines,” which are wreaking havoc across this province, primarily from an economic perspective, but we also have concerns with regard to the environment, and health as well. Just recently, Senator Bob Runciman again expressed his concern over migratory routes of birds and bats and how they’re being interrupted.

I really applaud this member from Haldimand–Norfolk.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Paul Miller: I did listen to the member from Haldimand–Norfolk and I certainly agree with some of his presentation, but some of it was self-imposed, I must say. I do recall, back when hydro was deregulated by a certain party, that at the time, the Liberals were criticizing the official opposition for doing that as government. I remember being on Stoney Creek council at the time, and we were devastated with what happened to Stoney Creek Hydro when it was amalgamated and became Horizon. Our numbers went up.

But the worst part about deregulation was the middlemen they created. Why the prices in Ontario are so high is because we have all of these middlemen, whether it’s Reliance—all these guys that come to the door and try to sell you programs, and now they’ve put a bit of a stickler into that, too.

So here we have the Liberal government, who criticized the official opposition, the Conservative government at the time, about deregulating, and now they’re doing the same thing: They’re going to private sector. It sounds like history repeats itself. Here we go again in the cycle. Who makes all the money? The lawyers, the bankers, Bay Street and all the middlemen. Who loses? The taxpayers of Ontario. Once again, we’re going down that road and they’re disguising it with only 15% now, but that will go up, and certain people are going to make a lot of money out of this.

One other deal that they’re not talking about and don’t want to talk about is the Samsung deal. That is a nightmare. It started off with $7 billion; I think they got it down to $4 billon now. I haven’t seen anything about it. I haven’t seen a word. In fact, they blacked out all the financial aspects. I couldn’t see anything. I can’t even have a judgment call on it. I’m telling you, when that deal comes through, our kilowatt hours are going to go up even more. When you guys deregulate, when you guys privatize, the losers are the taxpayers of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That, I believe, concludes the time we have available for questions and comments. I return to the member for Haldimand–Norfolk for his reply.

Mr. Toby Barrett: I appreciate the feedback. The member for Kitchener–Waterloo made mention of the report by George Vegh, where he explains that this effectively removes independent electricity planning and procurement from IESO and removes transmission approval from the OEB. Both of these types of authority will be transferred to Minister of Energy. As I said, we have our hopes up. Maybe the Minister of Energy will have the wherewithal to do something about that particular transmission corridor.

I appreciate the comments from the member from Huron–Bruce, talking about the waste of money of this government on behalf of not only ratepayers but taxpayers. The one thing that people hate is government waste.

Comments from the member from Mississauga–Streetsville—maybe the member from Hamilton East–Stoney Creek might appreciate this, given his comments on Samsung and the private sector. The member for Mississauga–Streetsville—again, the to and fro and the twisting around. If I can quote you correctly, you were singing the praises of private sector discipline. That’s interesting.

Hon. Ted McMeekin: That’s what you guys say all the time.

Mr. Toby Barrett: Private sector discipline: We say that and you say that.

I might leave this question for you—it’s an old saw, Speaker, if I may: How many Liberals does it take to screw in a light bulb? The answer? “None. We’ll let the private sector do it.”

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Ms. Catherine Fife: I appreciate the opportunity to stand up and bring the concerns of the citizens and residents of Kitchener–Waterloo to this place, as it relates to Bill 135, the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of revisionism this afternoon, a lot of creative writing has been going on, so you can say that there’s a heightened sense of imagination in this place. But it’s really interesting to hear that the government does a lot of retrospective talk, because they don’t really want to focus on the current situation that exists in this province right now as it relates to the energy sector. Whenever this government does talk about energy, it raises enormous levels of concern. I know that my colleagues here share my concerns as well.

Right now, in the province of Ontario, this is a government that has brought in the largest single hydro increase in Ontario’s history, Mr. Speaker. That’s why they’re so focused on the pasts of former governments.

As it stands right now, 185 municipalities—duly elected—have passed resolutions and have raised their concerns about the sell-off of Hydro One in the province of Ontario. This government has not listened to that.

This government’s very own Minister of Energy actually stood in this House and absolutely spoke out against the sell-off of Hydro One and the privatization of Hydro One—when he was mayor of Ottawa, and then when he came back as well.

This is a long-standing issue of who operates the energy system, who runs the energy system, and who’s benefiting now from the sell-off of Hydro One as well. Despite this and despite our continuing chance every single day to ask questions about the sell-off of Hydro One and around any future plans to sell off our province’s publicly owned assets, this government refuses to be transparent.

This piece of legislation is very important, Mr. Speaker. It does not improve transparency; it does not improve accountability. In fact, I will argue that it does exactly the opposite.

You can’t blame the people of this province for having some serious trust issues with this government. There is a long, outstanding and growing list of trust issues around any number of issues, from eHealth to Ornge to gas plants.

I keep all of the Auditor General’s reports in my desk because they are good resources to have. They highlight the incompetencies around contractual agreements, around delivering public services. Quite honestly, she has done a great job. I depend heavily on the Auditor General in this province.

The interesting piece, though, as I highlighted earlier from George Vegh’s piece—people just need to be very clear about what’s happening with this piece of legislation. It was introduced on October 28 and it was tabled. Bill 135, if enacted, effectively removes the independent electricity planning and procurement authority from the IESO and transmission approval from the OEB. Both of these types of authority will be transferred to the Minister of Energy. The minister will produce long-term energy plans that would be binding on the Ontario Energy Board and the IESO, both of whom must issue implementation plans designed to achieve the objectives of the government’s plan. This is really a centralization, if you will, of power in the Minister of Energy’s office. This runs counter, Mr. Speaker, to the language that we heard from the Premier and from members of the government, who promised openness. They promised transparency. Quite honestly, we’re not going to see any of that. This does not strengthen those concepts at all.

We also heard a lot about the activist centre, around inclusion; whereas with this piece of legislation, there’s the possibility of consultation but everything still rests solely in the centre of power, which is in the Minister of Energy’s office. When all of that power is there and there are all these long-standing issues as they relate to the policies around energy and the implementation of those energy plans, and the politicization of the energy portfolio, you can’t blame the people in this province for having some very legitimate concerns about this piece of legislation.

The mantra of this government should be: “We will consult. We may consult. But we probably won’t listen.” That has been the record of this government.

I have this picture of the Minister of Energy sort of like a Mike Myers character, like Dr. Evil: “We may pay attention, but we probably won’t.”

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I think that when you have the centralization of power on such an important and key ministry—energy policy holds everything together. There are some significant conservation concerns going forward. Energy ties the economy together, and there’s obviously a significant economic impact. When energy policy is done right, it draws investment to those jurisdictions. I think I can highlight Quebec and Manitoba, which are doing a much, much better job on their energy portfolios than the province of Ontario.

So when I do hear the government talk about the long-term energy plan, I get concerned—as Ontarians get concerned—because this is a tangible issue that they see every single day. They might not understand the $1 billion in the eHealth scandal. They might not understand the $1 billion in Ornge or the gas plants, but they do get that bill every single month. They see those costs going up, and they have good questions.

Even the Financial Accountability Officer asked some good questions for the province. I was so pleased to see this independent officer of the Legislature come out with his report, An Assessment of the Financial Impact of the Partial Sale of Hydro One. Of course, there were some bumps along the road, you might say, because there was apparently a leak from one of the ministries—we’re not quite sure where.

The Financial Accountability Officer on the sale of Hydro One is very clear in his essential points. On page 1, it says, “In years following the sale of 60% of Hydro One, the province’s budget balance would be worse than it would have been without the sale.” The second most important point: He says, “The province’s net debt would initially be reduced, but will eventually be higher than it would have been without the sale.”

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the balance point is pretty much around the next election, and then the debt starts to accrue again. This is a perfect example of an energy policy decision that is essentially burning the furniture to heat the house. At the end of it, if you heard the member from Nickel Belt talk about the energy concerns in Algoma, where there are great inconsistencies in the level of energy and the level of costs and the consistency of actually getting energy—these are long-standing issues for northern Ontarians. After she finished her debate, the northern members had a conversation about, “What size is your generator?” Because this is the reality for the people in northern Ontario: The energy system is so inconsistent—it’s as broken as it can be, and it’s frayed and fractured—and now with the sell-off of Hydro One, it’s like a double-down on bad energy policy.

With this act, you have all that power now centralized in the Minister of Energy’s office. I hope I planted that Mike Myers picture for you and I hope that it stays with you, because that’s sort of how I envision decisions being made. The politicization of the energy portfolio—this is a government doubling down on that.

To return to the Financial Accountability Officer, who raised some good questions on the sale of Hydro One—this is on page 12. He says, “There is much uncertainty around how the debt retirement charge (DRC) would be affected by the partial sale. The DRC is significant revenue for the province and a cost for consumers of electricity.” So the question: “Does the province expect the partial sale of Hydro One to affect the date that the debt retirement charge would be eliminated?” There is no answer on this. With the passing of this piece of legislation, when it does happen, we’ll just have to keep asking the minister. We have seen a lack of clarity around the answers, and we’ve seen a resistance—even when you FOI information, you get a lot of information that’s been completely redacted. Those black, redacted pieces are essentially becoming very significant for us as opposition members, who I feel genuinely have a responsibility to come to this House and to ask the questions so that we can take that information back to our constituents.

I know from the back benches of both sides that people have serious concerns around the rising cost of hydro. When you have seniors literally coming into your office—it’s been very fortunate because it’s been so mild, and I’ll sort of tie that back into climate change in a minute. But last November, we had seniors in our office asking for assistance because they already couldn’t afford their electricity rates.

The other question the Financial Accountability Officer raised as it relates to the sell-off of Hydro One: “The single most important unknown in the proposed transaction is the timing of sales after the initial 15% sale in 2015-16. Timing would affect the province’s budget balance....” He does an economic model of how this might look. He does a high and a low. Neither situation is particularly good for the people of this province. From a purely business sense—from a transactional sense—there’s no clear win for the people of this province.

He goes on to ask: “When does the province plan future sales of Hydro One shares beyond the initial 15% committed in 2015-16?” We’ve made very strong points that it’s not too late to stop this sale. With 15% already out there and Bay Street just totally so excited because they see the money, they see the dollar signs, what we don’t see, of course, is the value for the consumer, for the citizens. I think it’s incredible that this is a government that will oversee the greatest transfer of wealth from the public sector to the private sector in the history of this province.

You can’t blame us, Mr. Speaker, when we review Bill 135 and how decisions are being made, and ironically, how quickly the sale of Hydro One actually happened. Perhaps that is because there is a banker working right in the Premier’s office. When you look at the infrastructure promises that all of this is predicated upon—in Kitchener-Waterloo, for instance, the Premier and the Minister of Transportation stood on that platform in the last election and said, “All-day, two-way GO in five years.”

Interjection.

Ms. Catherine Fife: They did promise us a bullet train, but even then we knew that was pretty out there, and even high-speed, actually. We would just like faster, perhaps a train that doesn’t take two hours and 10 minutes to get from Kitchener-Waterloo to Toronto—a faster train.

But certainly, now that Metrolinx has released their report and we’re out to a decade, they’re sort of repositioning themselves that, you know, this is a priority project for a decade. That’s how slow they can work. The selling off of Hydro One is how fast they can move when they’re motivated, obviously, for their own purposes. I just wanted to introduce that concept into this debate on Bill 135.

The questions around effectively removing independent electricity planning and procurement authority from the IESO and the OEB: Where is the motivation? There are some outstanding questions as to why the government moved forward with this. These questions centre around the residual independent authority of the agencies. Why do we have the OEB and the IESO, which ironically were established to use their independent processes and statutory objectives to implement the broad objectives of energy policy as reflected in legislation? Why is this government essentially saying, “Well, you know what? We’re going to change your mandate”?

As it relates to the act and the language in the act, at least once during the period prescribed by the regulations—and there’s a regulation that changes the environmental assessment piece as well—“the minister shall, subject to the approval of the” LG, “issue a long-term energy plan setting out and balancing the government....

“The minister shall, before issuing a long-term energy plan under subsection (1), require the IESO to submit a technical report on the adequacy and reliability....”

So there’s a lot of “shall.” The language should be a red flag for us. We see red flags on this side of the House all the time because the government has given us so much to work with in that regard.

Effectively, at the end of the day, the Minister of Energy will be writing our long-term energy plan. It’s going to be the minister. That’s where the power is going to be. If this is the case, as I do think it is, what will be the role of the IESO or the OEB? Part of the IESO’s mandate is to take the politics out of it and allow experts to design energy plans for our province. Instead, this government is further politicizing this independent operator and will start issuing directives to them.

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So this is not the openness and the accountability that we were promised. This is actually the exact opposite that the people expected under the headline of “progressive.” It isn’t progressive to just add the political lens, if you will, to the energy file. We’ve seen, actually, how poorly that works out for the people of this province. When the gas plants were still on the radar, the decision, first of all, to move those gas plants and the political implications that moving those gas plants would have on the political fortunes of the Liberals—that did not work out for the people of this province. Furthermore, making that company whole when there was no legal duty to do so should be something that we learn from. Yet, now we have a piece of legislation before us that actually further politicizes this important portfolio.

So where do we go from here? Our critic has not had a chance to do the hour lead, nor has the PC energy critic. We hope to reach out to our constituents and to reach out to stakeholders to make sure that they fully understand the impact of this piece of legislation.

But just one last quote by George Vegh: “The net result of Bill 135 is therefore to ensure that the main energy institutions—the IESO and the OEB—are focused almost exclusively on implementing government plans and directives. The government has always been steering the direction of energy policy. It is now rowing as well: it is in direct control of every policy instrument available. From a governance perspective, it could lead one to wonder whether there are any checks and balances left in the system at all.”

This is a system that needs checks and balances, because we have a track record in this province, under this government, of really doubling down on bad policy. So perhaps this government is tired of listening, because they’ve made the point of enshrining some consultative process, but they’ve made no commitment to listen to the people. We know that they’re very good at conversations. We know that they’re very good at promising the round tables, the stakeholder groups and the focus groups. We’ve seen this over and over again. But, more to the point, what the Hydro One story tells us is that this government will move fast if it suits them, and they create and craft legislation, which usually has a purpose that does not necessarily meet the needs of the people of this province.

With the highest energy rates in Canada—those energy rates affect the entire economy—and the environment that we are currently in, it’s definitely concerning for us as New Democrats, and I’ve heard similar concerns from the PC Party. But it is more critical than ever that governments have the levers of public ownership to curb global warming and institute real conservation programs. There’s no indication that this piece of legislation will add to that conversation, and, certainly, we have some serious concerns with it going forward.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Bob Delaney: Speaker, I listened attentively to what the member for Kitchener–Waterloo was talking about, and one of the things that she asked was, “Where do we go from here?” She talked about a commitment to listen, she talked about consultation and she talked about checks and balances, or what she incorrectly asserted was the lack thereof.

I draw her attention to section 25.29 of the bill, and I’ll just read some sections of it.

“(4) The minister shall, before issuing a long-term energy plan under subsection (1), consult with any consumers, distributors, generators, transmitters, aboriginal peoples or other persons or groups that the minister considers appropriate given the matters being addressed by the long-term energy plan, and the minister shall consider the results of such consultation in developing the long-term energy plan.”

Just to read more:

“(5) The minister shall publish notice of consultations....

“(6) The minister shall take steps to promote the participation of the persons or groups....

“(a) scheduling one or more consultation meetings....

“(b) providing for the participation of persons or groups....

“(7) On issuing a long-term energy plan under,” blah, blah, blah.

It goes on and on. In fact, the truth in the bill is exactly opposite to the assertions made by the member. Part of the point and purpose of the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act is to provide a means by which people affected by or interested in energy issues could, in fact, meaningfully consult; to provide a means by which the government can effectively listen to some of the ideas that people bring up; and, as happens in the long-term energy plan, to incorporate some of those ideas into the province’s planning.

We’re coming up on the third of the incarnations of the long-term energy plan. The long-term energy plan scheduled for late 2016 or early 2017 is in fact going to build on the successes of the first two long-term energy plans. Part of the way it does that is by expanding consultation.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Monte McNaughton: I listened to the member from Kitchener–Waterloo. I thought she did a great job raising a lot of concerns that we’re hearing from people across the province. Obviously, the government isn’t listening to their constituents, because the facts speak for themselves.

We know that by 2018, energy bills are set to go up by an additional 42%. We all have to keep in mind that when this government was elected in 2003, rates were four cents a kilowatt hour. Now, with the increase in November, they’re up to 17 cents a kilowatt hour. That doesn’t include the increases to the global adjustment and other lines on the bill.

We have half a million people unemployed and looking for work in Ontario today. We’ve got a government that is increasing hydro bills by 42% over the next three years. The only plan they have is to increase hydro bills and increase taxes in Ontario. It’s going to continue driving jobs out of this province.

I can rhyme off a bunch of taxes they are talking about: the land transfer tax; toll roads. We know that in 2016 there are going to be the new property assessments that come out. I fear for farmers, for commercial business owners and for individual residential owners when these assessments come out, because I’m hearing, and I’m sure the government is hearing, that there will be quite an increase in those assessments, which means more and higher property taxes. As well, there’s a new income tax rate in the province. It’s going to hit 54% between Kathleen Wynne’s or the Premier’s increase and the new Prime Minister’s increase.

When you look at hydro and all these other taxes, they’re making Ontario uncompetitive. We need a government that has an economic plan for jobs in this province.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Paul Miller: You know, Speaker, it was my understanding, when we got elected, that we were here to represent the people of this province—all the members. We were supposed to follow their wishes or at least lean towards consultation and having an open policy that they would get their say.

Well, in a way, they did get their say, because 180-odd municipalities and rising have said they didn’t want hydro sold. We had five independent officers, who are supposed to be non-biased and non-partisan, send a letter to the Premier saying, “Don’t sell hydro.” We’ve had experts from all fields say, “Don’t sell hydro.”

I’m beginning to think that some people in this province are okay with scandals. I’m beginning to think some people in this province are okay with not being told what’s really happening. I’m beginning to believe that people will elect governments continually, after all these mess-ups, if you want to call them that, and they’ll get back into power. I’m beginning to wonder: Are people really paying attention to what’s going on? If they are, are they being tolerant of these bad decisions, bad investments and bad leadership? They are. It’s scary, Speaker, because it appears, if you’re the Liberals, that you can do anything you want and you’re still going to get elected in the GTA. I know why they call the city the Big Smoke now.

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I have a problem with this. I don’t get it. What is going on in this province? People are not listening; they’re not paying attention. They’re being led down the path with blinders on. Hopefully they remember this in two and a half years, all the scandals—but I’m sure a basket wagon will come out with all kinds of promises and gifts and they’ll forget again.

Hopefully, they don’t put them in again. My goodness.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Bill Mauro: I’m pleased to have a couple of minutes to respond. I thank the member for her comments.

I’ll first begin, though, Speaker—there was a comment made by a member of the official opposition in terms of his perception of the uncompetitive position or nature of Ontario when it comes to a business environment. I would suggest, just briefly, in the little time that I have, that Ontario has been first or second for quite some time when it comes to foreign direct investment in North America. We have recovered—I forget exactly what the metric is—how many hundred thousand jobs, incrementally beyond where we bottomed out after the 2008 recession, with a very, very high percentage of those jobs being full-time jobs. So quite the opposite: Ontario, I would say, has done a very good job of positioning itself to be attractive when it comes to investment for the business community. I think we could even point to the fact that just this week, the Premier returned from her trip to China with some very good news indeed to build upon that.

More to the member’s comments, speaking a bit about openness and accountability, or a lack thereof, you heard the member from Mississauga–Streetsville a little bit ago speak about how it says, right in the bill, “shall” consult, shall do this, shall do that—quite the opposite of what has been said. I would say that there is a very clear commitment on behalf of the minister that, under this legislation, should it pass, there will indeed be consultation.

As well, the perception that this is about centralizing decision-making ability and power: I would say, when it came to discussions around Hydro One and the broadening of ownership of Hydro One, we were talking about how the OEB still had control over those particular situations. Now it’s trying to be made to look like somehow we’re taking authority away—because they would argue that it really didn’t do a good job in the first place and, in fact, they were unaccountable to the public.

Speaker, we think there’s a fair balance to be found here, and hopefully this legislation will move forward.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): We return to the member for Kitchener–Waterloo for her reply.

Ms. Catherine Fife: Thanks to the members from Mississauga–Streetsville, Lambton–Kent–Middlesex, Hamilton East–Stoney Creek and the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry for their comments.

It’s interesting: The member from Mississauga–Streetsville had gone through the legislation and quoted, as did the Minister of Natural Resources, around the language of “shall.” Right now, what actually speaks to the record is action. The member from Mississauga–Streetsville said, “Well, there’s guaranteed consultation with First Nations.” First Nations have this government in court. There was an agreement on Hydro One, but the Chiefs of Ontario—I remember at AMO, he stood up and he said, “You know what? We’re going to have to take this government to court, because even though there was an agreement, there was no consultation.”

This just goes back to the trust issue. The sale of Hydro One is a breach of trust because it is the largest transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector. That is indisputable. The fact that this government had “broadening ownership”—you talk to anybody in any of our ridings. When you say “broadening ownership,” there was clearly no reference to Hydro One, because that is something that people would have understood. They get those hydro bills, and their electricity costs go up every single month. In fact, the largest one just happened this past November.

The one concern—and I’m going to get this on the record—is that under section 7 of this act, it says, “For the purposes of clause ... the regulations may require reporting through the use of a prescribed reporting system, including an electronic reporting system administered by a third party....” I see the next scandal right here in a piece of legislation. I think that the concerns I raise today are valid, and I think that this government should do their due diligence and pay attention to some of the commentary, so that the people of this province don’t end up paying the price for a poorly crafted piece of legislation.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Further debate?

Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I appreciate this opportunity to speak on this bill in front of us for a little bit of time. In case we’ve lost ourselves here, we’re dealing with Bill 135. There are two parts to the bill. We’re looking at system planning and we’re looking at conservation. I’m going to speak a bit about both of those issues.

The previous speaker, from Kitchener–Waterloo, mentioned Mike Myers, and I have to get this off my chest, because I think she was painting a picture that in a movie, Mike Myers looked kind of evil or something. But I actually met Mike Myers. I will be short about this: I was on Toronto city council, and my office had contacted him because Scarborough was getting a bad reputation. We contacted him; we wanted to name a street after him. He agreed, so he came to our city council and I was able to give him a street name, Mike Myers Drive.

It was nice to do that and everything, but there was a bad part to the story. I’ll be very quick about this, Mr. Speaker. The sign was put up, and that night it was stolen. It was taken away. Someone took it away and probably put it in their recreation room downstairs. What happened was that we had to have the works department put a second one up, higher up so it couldn’t be stolen again, and it’s still there right now.

So I got that off my chest. I just wanted to say that. He’s a very nice man, actually. And this bill is a very nice bill, so that’s how I’m tying it into this bill.

There are two parts to this bill. Conservation is one part, and the second part is the energy system and long-term energy planning. Let me start with the conservation part and speak for a few minutes about that.

The conservation part here is quite simple. I’m going to read from some notes here: Large-building energy and water reporting and benchmarking would require large buildings’—50,000 square feet and above—owners to annually report their monthly whole-building energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and other building characteristics.

The second part of the conservation is water efficiency standards for energy-consuming products and appliances. We would set standards for such appliances as residential and commercial clothes washers, integrated washers and dryers, residential and commercial dishwashers, and commercial icemakers. I’m not going to touch on icemakers, but I’m going to touch on clothes washers and dishwashers.

I’ve had a couple of homes in my life. The first one that I bought already came with—no dishwasher, but a clothes washer and a clothes dryer. They consume a tremendous amount of energy. Around that time period, in the early 1990s, they started coming out with new appliances that would say “energy efficient,” whether it be a residential clothes washer or a dryer. So eventually I changed out my dryer and my washer, and replaced them with more efficient ones.

What we’re doing here is we’re putting into place something very positive, to increase and make those things better—and also the icemakers, but as I said earlier, I’m going to speak mostly about dishwashers and drying machines, and clothes washers, as well.

I moved to another house in 2003, and actually had to buy, for the first time ever, a dishwasher. I never had one before. My wife saw it one day, before she moved in to live with me in the house, and she said, “Lorenzo, you’ve never used your dishwasher.” I said, “I just do it by hand.” It was a brand new dishwasher. She opened it up, and there were the instructions inside the dishwasher. She said, “You should start using the dishwasher.” I said, “Yes, I like doing it by hand, though.” But now we do use the dishwasher, and it doesn’t consume too much energy, because it’s a high-efficiency dishwasher.

And we do our clothes. We wash them and we dry them and we use energy-efficient products. We had a flood in our basement in 2012, so we had to take out the old ones, and we bought even better ones that are more energy efficient, and we saw our energy bill go further down.

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Again, what we’re doing here is we’re trying to make sure that appliances, whether they be commercial or residential—but I’m speaking mostly about residential ones—are efficient and take less and less electricity off the system, which is a good thing to do.

I just want to talk about conservation from another point of view, Mr. Speaker. I remember, when I was on Scarborough city council, my colleague—oh, she just stepped out. Another Scarborough member and I were on city council at the same time. The recycling program started to become fashionable in the 1990s. I thought that no one was going to use the blue bins. We distributed them to all the homes in Scarborough, and I was convinced at that time, as I was the chair of the works committee, that people would not use these blue bins. Lo and behold, when they were first put out, people threw all their bottles, all their glass in there. I was surprised. The operators of the recycling machines had to come back on a second and a third day because they had so much stuff to recycle.

From those bins, we’ve evolved to the point, at least in Toronto, where you can actually get a larger bin, and the larger bin is getting larger and larger. They’ve introduced a very large bin to throw all the glass and other products in. You can throw cardboard in there and other items, as well, but the majority of it is glass, cardboard products and some other plastic products. It’s a big step, because instead of ending up in a garbage dump, this is being diverted. Diversion is very important in saving on landfill sites and on improving our system. When you get the glass and you get the cardboard—I’ve seen how it works in the larger recycling plants—it’s separated and then put into piles and recycled and reused. More and more, you can get all sorts of products that are recycled or made from recycled material, whether it be paper, cardboard—a lot of it is recycled—and even some glass products come from recycled glass.

Again, when you start something, at first it seems awkward because nobody likes change, but after a while they adjust to it and people actually like it more and more.

We’re at the point now where one week we put out our recycling bin and the next week we put out our garbage bin.

Recently, my wife switched out the larger garbage bin to a smaller one. I asked her, “Why did you do that?” She said, “We don’t have much garbage.”

Everything is diverted, either through the recycling bin—in Toronto, they have what is called a green bin, where you can put all sorts of things: your banana peels, all sorts of vegetables and fruits and other things that can be reused again or turned into compost or turned into fertilizer or something of that nature.

I think conservation is crucial, and part of it is energy savings. The conservation part requires the large-building owners to report annually their building’s energy and water consumption, their greenhouse gas emissions and other building characteristics. I talked about the clothes washers and the dishwashers and the icemakers, but there’s another part to conservation, and that’s the large-building energy and water reporting and benchmarking. Larger buildings of 50,000 square feet or more—the owners have to report annually on their monthly whole-building energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and other building characteristics. Some would ask, why would the government do that? We’re trying to improve the system. If they start reporting and we find out that they’re using a lot of energy, we can work with them to try to reduce the amount of energy being consumed.

The term “greenhouse gas” is becoming more and more popular in the news. We hear about it all the time. There’s a climate conference taking place at the end of this month in Paris.

Again, I express my condolences about what happened over the weekend in Paris. Let’s hope that this becomes less and less frequent.

There’s going to be a climate change conference. I know that some of the world leaders really want to go there. The President of the United States is big on climate change and wants to go there to discuss greenhouse gas emissions and other issues as well. I know our Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, wants to go there as well and talk about ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other ways to combat climate change.

We know it’s true. The Republicans in the United States might not think so, but we can see it on the planet. There are islands in various parts of the world that 20 years from now will be under water, in the Pacific Ocean or in the Indian Ocean. We’re doing our part to try to conserve and preserve what we have right now.

Another thing I want to mention before I forget, with the conservation part and to conserve energy, is that I remember when those energy-efficient light bulbs came out. A lot of people were kind of, “I don’t know if I want to buy an energy-efficient light bulb,” especially in the Christmas lights. They thought, “No, no, I want the old kind of Christmas lights.” But lo and behold, people are buying them now. I go to Rona or Home Depot or other big-box warehouse stores that sell these products, as well as smaller hardware stores, and you can get nice Christmas lights—coloured lights—that are energy-efficient and they look just as good as the old ones that our parents used to put up outside the house when we were kids.

I can see them. They’re going up now, already, even though Christmas is more than a month away. People are already lighting up their houses, and it’s very, very low—you’re saving a lot of money because you’re not spending a lot on electricity, because we created these light bulbs that are extremely efficient. I think we even have them here in the Legislature. It’s become normal. At first, people don’t feel great about change, but later on, they get used to it and they’re actually conserving more and more energy. Some of these light bulbs last seven years. That’s a long time compared to the old light bulbs that you have to change every two years or every three years. Seven years is a long time.

They have become the norm. You go into the lighting section of a store like Rona and you want to get light bulbs. Any type you want to get, for the most part, are energy efficient, and, again, the bill goes down and less and less money is spent towards energy. It’s good for the environment and it’s good for the consumers because they save money as well.

These things take time to change. People are uncomfortable with change, for the most part, but then, eventually, they get used to it. Like I said, with the recycling program: People are recycling and we’re diverting more and more stuff away from the landfill. It’s being used or recycled, and it’s a good thing for the consumer and it’s a good thing for the government, and it’s a good thing for the planet on a larger scale.

I also wanted to speak for a few minutes about system planning. Again, I’m going to have to read straight from here. The legislation that is in front of us today would enshrine the long-term energy planning process that developed the 2010 and 2013 long-term energy plans to ensure that future long-term energy plans are developed consistent with the principles of cost-effectiveness, reliability, clean energy, community and aboriginal engagement. So we’re looking at this on a long-term basis for planning in the future. We want to make sure that energy plans in the future are consistent and are cost-effective, reliable and are clean energy, and involve communities and even aboriginal engagement, so we’re not going to do it on our own. We want to be able to consult with other groups, other companies that are out there, even the aboriginal community, to make sure that we have system planning in place that helps to create better and more efficient clean energy.

Again, I think in the future more and more groups will want to work with the government. I think the city of Toronto wanted this to happen as well, so it becomes Ontario-wide. We’ll have cost-effective, reliable clean energy, and it will be done with engagement of the community.

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You look at the idea of planning for the future. I think about—in the future, for example—the thermostats in people’s homes that have evolved over time. We’ve got new ones coming out now that are basically smart thermostats. When you’re at home, it will heat or cool the house in the wintertime or the summertime, but when you’re not there, the furnace doesn’t have to run all day long. For example, for air conditioners: The air conditioner can actually shut off during the day and turn on just to keep the temperature a certain way so that when you get home, it’s still cool enough. You don’t waste energy on thermostats that run all day; they’re just based on the information they get from the thermostat. It’s the same with better furnaces. I’ve gone through a series of furnaces in my lifetime, and they’re getting more and more efficient. These kinds of things—the thermostats, better furnaces and better air conditioners—all help to save on the electricity bill.

We, as a government, have done a lot of things regarding energy in general, to try to improve energy over the years. We’ve put smart meters into homes. I don’t wake up at 3 in the morning to do my laundry, but I’ll do my laundry on the weekend or after 7 or 8 p.m. at night. It saves on the bill.

It’s the same with light bulbs. We don’t need to keep them all on all the time. There are ways that light bulbs could be shut off, whether it be by a sensor that goes in the front—if someone is walking in front of it, the sensor comes on. It turns on and then shuts off again.

I’ve recently been looking into getting a better thermostat. The person who checks the furnace every year said to me, “You’ve got to put one of these into the house because they actually save so much money.”

This summer we didn’t have the hottest summer in the world, but still it was hot enough that we had to have our air conditioners on once in a while. They would shut off. It doesn’t have to be cold all day long in the house. It would shut off at certain times and it would come back on when it would get hot. We should have a system by now—we’re into the 21st century—where the house should have already equipped inside of it a thermostat that’s able to recognize the temperature in the house and be able to function accordingly.

It’s the same with better furnaces. My parents’ furnaces would consume a lot of energy. In fact, I remember that in my riding there were some houses that had very old furnaces. You could still see on the side of the house a chute where the truck would come by to put coal into the house where the furnace was located. The house would operate on coal. We all know coal is dirty. We’ve shut down the coal plants in Ontario—all the coal plants. I don’t think there was a single smog day in Toronto, whereas in the past there used to be smog days. Seniors were told to stay inside. People who had asthma or other breathing conditions were told to stay inside because the smog was so bad. I remember seeing photographs on television of this yellow haze in the summertime above Toronto, and other parts of Ontario as well, which was caused by the coal plants that were burning.

We’ve gone from that to much more cleaner energy just in my lifetime. From the coal furnaces, we’ve gone now to very smart furnaces. Most of them run on natural gas and they shut off when they’re not needed to be used.

I wish I had more time to speak; it’s coming down really fast. But I wanted to say one thing: I actually got to see ovens that burned wood. So there would be slots that you’d pull out, you would put wood in there, and, when they would turn on, they would heat up the oven, and you’d be able to use the oven that way.

We’ve come a long way. I think this bill is just improving on that and trying to get us to have better and better programs in place.

My time is up. I wish I could speak some more. Thank you for giving me this opportunity, Mr. Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Toby Barrett: Listening to the presentation by the member from Scarborough Southwest about the various measures of conservation and energy efficiency—again, it’s important, because so many people are desperately trying to save some money on electricity.

He made mention of wood. I built my home, I guess, in the early 1980s. When you build your own house, you continue to build. I set up everything for solar, actually—the right angles. My houses faces southeast. However, as everybody knows, the technology is not there yet for solar. I’ve been waiting for well over 30 years. Some time it will come. But the member made mention of using wood. I don’t have access to natural gas. We have gas wells on our farm. It’s wet gas. We don’t run it up to the house. I was encouraged, when I was building my house, by the Ontario government to “Live Better Electrically.” I had no choice: I put in a forced-air electric system.

We’ve had two very cold winters. I don’t use that electric system. I have to heat with wood. My wife and I go through 20 cords of wood a winter. I’m desperately trying to get wood in right now. There’s no frost on the ground. It’s a little difficult. I really find it passing strange that the way I’m heating my house now on our farm, I’ve had to go back 100 years. I’m fine with heating with wood. It’s not complex like our electrical system. There’s no delivery charge other than me walking down the hill or driving my pickup truck down and firing up the chainsaw. It’s real simple. How did we make our heating system so complex?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: I just want to say to the previous speaker, I resemble that. It’s the same story out at Kamiskotia. There’s no way, out there, where you don’t have natural gas, that you can afford to run electricity to heat my cottage, which is not so much a cottage any more; it’s more like a house. But that’s a whole other thing.

Listen, I just want to get to this bill and, yet again, remind people what we’re debating here. We’ve got a bill where the government is saying, “Here, trust us. We’re Liberals. We’re good on energy policy. You know that we’ll always do the right thing when it comes to the people and electricity and the hydro file. What we would like to do is take away any responsibilities that the Ontario Energy Board has, or the IESO has, when it comes to developing an energy plan, when it comes to planning how your electricity system is going to work. Don’t worry; we’re going to give that responsibility to the minister.” Then the minister is going to be able to decide what the plan is going to look like, what the scope is going to be of any hearings that happen, who the people are who are going to be the ones who will be consulted, where they are going to go. And once the report comes back, “Should I or should I not take, as the minister”—says the Liberal member—“the recommendations that came out of this particular hearing?”, it will be entirely up to the minister’s office.

I think we should be wary of Liberals who are trying to sell us anything when it comes to energy planning. We know what happened the last time these guys got involved in the plan. They mucked around with—what did they call it again on the OPG side—the feed-in tariff program, which they’re getting rid of, which worries me. What are they going to replace it with? The feed-in tariff program helped us raise electricity prices in this province through the roof, because we’re paying more for private power than we are for public power. Now these guys are saying, “Put us in charge of planning so we can site transmission lines, we can site various infrastructure and electricity, and we, the government, are going to decide where that is, and you, the public, are not going to have the opportunity to really have your say.” I don’t trust them.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Hon. Helena Jaczek: I’m certainly pleased to rise in support of the comments that our colleague from Scarborough Southwest made this afternoon. He talked a great deal about conservation, and this whole area is extremely important to the residents in my riding of Oak Ridges–Markham. With the location of my riding on the Oak Ridges moraine, people are very concerned about climate change. They know that they’re doing their bit when it comes to conservation, whether it is using those new light bulbs that last much, much longer than the old incandescent lighting systems—they know that they’re doing what they can as individuals, using off-peak for their laundry, for dishwashers and so on.

I think what they also want to see is that business comes to the table on making some considerable efforts. A couple of the initiatives that are in this Energy Statute Law Amendment Act are going to be very important to my constituents. We know that in the energy and water reporting and benchmarking initiative for large buildings, property owners will be required to track buildings’ energy and water use and their greenhouse gas emissions over time.

This will allow individuals to track how they’re doing. It only makes sense, in terms of cost, to conserve, to reduce the use of energy. This measure will help families and businesses save money on their energy bills, and it will also mean that we won’t have to build extremely expensive energy infrastructure to the same extent were we not to pass this bill.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): Questions and comments?

Mr. Jack MacLaren: This bill is called “long-term energy planning”—and I would suggest to you that it’s short-term, necessary, problem-solving emergency planning. They should have started this a long time ago and avoided all the scandals like eHealth, Ornge air ambulance, the Presto card, gas plant closures, and that big mistake of signing on to the Green Energy Act, which is solar and wind power, which is hugely expensive. Those were all huge spendings; a wasteful use of taxpayers’ money, and here we are today trying to conserve because we have a shortage of energy. This is a huge intrusion into people’s freedoms and their privacy—Big Brother coming into their homes.

What we should have done was gone to Quebec and bought hydro from them. They have copious amounts of hydroelectricity. They sell it to the United States already. We have power lines literally coming to the Ottawa River, out of Ottawa, hanging out over the water, ready to be connected to Ontario. We have another set of lines that goes across the province into the state of New York. The lines are there. The power would have been cheap. The solar and the wind power are very, very expensive. We are now in a situation where people literally can’t afford their hydro bills and we have the most expensive power in North America. We’re driving industry and jobs out of the province. We made some big mistakes there.

What we should have done was carry on with the energy we’re producing. We could have put all the scrubbers and technologies on the plants that we had and perhaps converted them to gas if we needed to. There is even carbon capture technology being used in Saskatchewan, which we could have used here in Ontario. We didn’t need to do all the things that we did that wasted our money and put us in this terrible predicament where we’ve had to sell Hydro One and come up with legislation like this, which is a knee-jerk reaction to bad management.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): That concludes our time for questions and comments. We return to the member for Scarborough Southwest.

Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I appreciate the comments from the members from Haldimand–Norfolk, Timmins–James Bay, the Minister of Community and Social Services and the member from Carleton–Mississippi Mills. They touched on various parts of the bill, and they also talked about other issues involving energy.

What I want to highlight again is that there are two parts to this bill: conservation and long-term energy planning. What we’re trying to do is improve and make better our energy system. When I spoke earlier, I tried to mention the fact that it’s an evolutionary process. We’ve gotten better at saving, whether it be in the recycling program or buying light bulbs that are highly efficient.

I remember a little argument; I just want to mention it. Maybe I’m too Toronto-based, and I apologize for that, but when the megacity was formed, I remember an argument that I had with the late Jack Layton, who was a councillor. He wanted to take money from Scarborough that we had reserved—Scarborough had a lot of leftover money—and use it to spend in downtown Toronto, because they didn’t have the money. So he basically wanted to take the money.

We were upset, myself and—he’s not here right now—the member from Scarborough–Rouge River. What we did was we said, “Okay, if you want to take our money”—I think it was $90 million—“then the old city of Toronto has to put water meters on their homes.” Mr. Layton was very upset about that, but they’ve done it now. We’ve had an improvement there. Downtown Toronto homes, the majority of them, have got water meters, so they have to be careful when they consume their water.

We’re trying to improve that, and we’re working on two fundamental areas: the conservation of energy and long-term energy planning. This again is an important bill, and I urge members to support it.

Second reading debate deemed adjourned.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): It being close enough to 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 9 a.m.

The House adjourned at 1756.

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