LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 7 April 2011 Jeudi 7 avril 2011
Resuming the debate adjourned on April 6, 2011, on the motion for second reading of Bill 173, An Act respecting 2011 Budget measures, interim appropriations and other matters / Projet de loi 173, Loi concernant les mesures budgétaires de 2011, l’affectation anticipée de crédits et d’autres questions.
Mr. Khalil Ramal: I listened to the member from Durham yesterday speaking about many different issues, especially about the budget matter. I know he’s not happy about many different things, but as a matter of fact, this budget was an incredible budget. It tackled many different issues in our lives: education, health care, infrastructure, farming.
It’s very important for all of us in the province of Ontario to strengthen our ability as a community for education, for health care and for infrastructure, to build the future for the people of Ontario, to build the communities, to build schools, to invest in our education system, to increase the capacity in colleges in order to host many different, talented students in the province of Ontario, and also to expand our health care, to open more hospitals and provide services for nurses, and through screening for many, many people facing cancer, breast cancer—potential cancer patients.
All these elements were in the budget, and I hope the member opposite, when he decides to vote, votes in support. This budget is important to all of us to maintain our ability, to maintain our prosperity and to build a good future for the province of Ontario, to build a solid future by supporting all the elements, not just the cities but also the farming communities.
I know that the member from Oxford was happy for the component of support for the farmers. Hopefully, he’ll stand up and support this budget, because it will mean a lot to his people in his riding. I had the chance to work in his riding for many years. I know how happy the people of Oxford would be if the member from Oxford stood up and supported the budget, because it supports this community; it supports the farming community. I know he’s in touch with the farming community a lot.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: Despite what the government says is there, I would say to you that the feedback I’ve had from the people in my riding of Kitchener–Waterloo is that this budget did not address the issues that were important to them. And I would say for them, at the current time, that they’re simply trying to catch up.
This government has hit them hard. Since 2003, they have introduced a health tax, even though the Premier indicated he wasn’t going to raise taxes. And so again, there wasn’t honesty on the part of the government. Since that time, we’ve seen the introduction of the HST, which, again, has created tremendous hardship for people in the province of Ontario. They’re now being forced to pay the HST, particularly on the energy costs and on gas and on many, many other aspects of their life, and it’s causing extreme hardship. In fact, I know they’re looking for relief, and this budget just pretended people were not suffering.
Also, you didn’t really deal up front about what you tried to do, and that was the introduction of the eco tax. So when people take a look at your budget, they see that you’re not able to address the deficit. In fact, we know now that missing from your numbers was any money that was going to be required for capital for the rollout of full-day kindergarten. In fact, that’s in the newspaper today.
How much else is not in your budget? How much additional spending is there going to be? How much is that deficit going to increase? How much is the debt going to increase, and who’s going to pay for it? You have no plan. You only have a reckless spending plan and to tax—
To set the record straight and to let the people of Ontario know how the people of Waterloo region are feeling, I have a quote, a comment here from the Waterloo Region Record. As reported in the Record, John Colangeli is the CEO and the director of Lutherwood. Lutherwood does great things for children in the community, certainly children’s mental health. He is a community activist. He works very hard to stand up and support the people of Waterloo region. This is a not-for-profit health and social service organization.
John Colangeli had this to say in the Waterloo Record: “It’s pretty rare that you see children’s mental health in a provincial budget. It’s wonderful news.” So the people of Waterloo region are, in fact, saying this is wonderful news.
This budget not only addresses mental health for children and youth; it also looks at health care. Supporting more than 90,000 breast screening exams for women is actually monumental. It means so much for women aged 30 to 49 who are at high risk. We know that one in nine women in Canada will face breast cancer in their lifetime, so this is something that speaks directly to them and supports them in their lives.
In terms of education, over 60,000 additional post-secondary spaces are going to be made available, and of course in my riding, Kitchener–Conestoga—the three townships of Wilmot, Woolwich and Wellesley—the farmers are happy. The risk management program, extended for grain and oilseed and now for sheep, hog and cattle, is a very good thing and the farmers are happy in Waterloo region.
What is in the budget is bad news for the majority of citizens. What is not in the budget is what we have to worry about even more, which is that the budget is written in such a way that it’s a recipe for taxation. That will be done after the money has been spent.
I want to speak quickly to the comments from the member from London–Fanshawe. He talked about the risk management program and that the farmers in Oxford county and the rest of Ontario are pleased with that. I would agree with him that farmers are pleased with that, but I would point out to the member that that’s not in this budget bill. There is nothing in this budget bill about risk management at all.
One of the things that is in schedule 1 is that subsection 25 of the agricultural and horticultural act is being changed. The act “currently deems a local organization committee that hosts the annual International Plowing Match to be an agricultural society for the purposes of a tax exemption under the Retail Sales Tax Act. The tax is no longer applicable and, consequently, subsection 25(4) of the act is repealed.” That sounds kind of benign, except that up until now, admittance to the International Plowing Match was tax exempt. They’re taking the tax exemption away and applying 13% tax to the admission into International Plowing Match. I’m not sure why the members opposite didn’t mention that they have tax increases in this budget that, in fact, are going to hurt agriculture.
They don’t speak about the business risk management program in this bill at all. The reason that they don’t speak to business risk management is because the minister could have implemented that any time in the past four years without the budget and without the fanfare that they made out of it. They just decided that this was a great time to announce it, and then hopefully she will proceed to implement it, but we’re not so sure that’s going to happen.
Mr. John O’Toole: I first want to pay some respect to the member from Parry Sound–Muskoka and, of course, the member from York–Simcoe, who spoke yesterday and, I believe, outlined some of the gaping holes in the promises and the expectations in this budget. In fact, if I could be more specific, they clearly said, first, that there’s no respect for the taxpayer in this bill or our youth in the future. There’s growing debt, growing liabilities.
The second thing: They saw through this clearly, and the people viewing today or yesterday would know that this is an election budget. They’re not telling the whole story, and the member from Kitchener–Waterloo just said it. She met with the education community yesterday. The money simply isn’t there for the programming.
Mr. John O’Toole: I just know him as the Minister of Agriculture because that’s what he always was, and that’s what he should be. You don’t call ministers “the member from Oxford”—and most of southwestern Ontario.
The point I want to make is, there are several troubling schedules. I think one of them is schedule 15. It’s something that you should be very, very concerned about. Schedule 15: Take a close look at it. It’s an exemption for disclosures in health care. I looked at Ron Sapsford’s salary that was discussed here—$765,000. What’s the minister saying? Nothing. That’s almost a million dollars. Imagine how many children with autism could be helped with that, how many emergency procedures in hospitals could be done with that, how many long-term-care beds that would provide.
The fact is, they’re spending the money so recklessly and so carelessly, with so little respect for the taxpayer, it’s no wonder that our leader, Tim Hudak, has urged us to speak loud and long and vote against this budget: because it’s a disguise.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: It’s my privilege today to address this budget bill. As you’re well aware, Speaker, the budget that is brought down by a Minister of Finance, by a government, expresses its priorities, says what’s important to it and tells us what its strategy is for the province, whether that is a strategy to build the economy, a strategy to address social services or both together. The budget is a fairly critical document.
I’m going to talk about three fairly large pieces in this document that I think reflect the strategy of the government, and then there are a number of items that I want to address in somewhat more detail.
But before I do any of that, I want to note that in this budget, in an election year, there is no mention of climate change or action on climate change. At this point in 2007, the Premier was coming out and saying that action on climate change was the moral challenge for our generation. The moral challenge for our generation seems to have disappeared from the government’s priorities and books. Not in this budget, even though the last report that we got from this government on climate change made it very clear that the government was not going to be able to meet its targets, even implementing every program that they brought forward. We’ve heard virtually not a word from them since then.
Today we have a budget from Minister Dwight Duncan, whose strategy for dealing with Ontario’s economic problems can be summarized as tax cuts, the building up of public-private partnerships and the cutting of public services. That is not a strategy for this century. That strategy is one that we’ve seen implemented in other jurisdictions. We’ve seen it implemented in part in Canada before.
The reality is that that is not a strategy that will build up your economic base. That is not a strategy that will deal with your social problems. That is not a strategy that will rebuild the infrastructure and the well-being of the people of Ontario. That is a strategy that, more and more, Americanizes our society. When I say “Americanize,” because there are many aspects to American culture and society, I mean one that will increase inequality, have the market further dominate the relations between people in society, and a society in which there will be more conflict and more tension.
I want to go first to the whole question of corporate tax cuts. As I had an opportunity to say earlier this week, I was able to see the Minister of Finance make his presentation to the Economic Club of Canada last week—a well-done presentation; can’t argue with that. But over and over and over again, the point that was made by the minister was the centrality of corporate tax cuts to his economic development strategy, without a doubt, saying that without corporate tax cuts there would not be investment, there wouldn’t be jobs and we wouldn’t have the kind of development and manufacturing economic infrastructure that we need here in Ontario.
So it was with some real interest that I saw the article in the Globe and Mail yesterday, front page, byline Karen Howlett. The headline was, “Corporate Tax Cuts Don’t Spur Growth; Designed as Economic Stimulators and Job Creators, They’re Going to Cash Reserves Instead, Analysis Shows. That’s an analysis that in fact we’ve seem from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. We’ve seen it from trade unions. We’ve seen it from a variety of academics.
But it is not common for that to show up on the front page of the Globe and Mail—quite an analysis to put forward. Frankly, when you look at what they had to say, in many ways, they had gone to the data that had been presented by the academics, verified it for themselves and presented that case to the Canadian people. The case they’ve made to the Canadian people is one that can be made to the people of Ontario specifically as well.
I’m going to quote some of what they had to say. They write, “Canadian companies have added tens of billions of dollars to their stockpiles of cash at a time when tax cuts are supposed to be encouraging them to plow more money into their businesses.”
So as we ignore the child care sector, as we see more and more child care centres facing rising fees and disruption because they don’t have the money to make capital investments, as those child carers struggle with the introduction of all-day kindergarten—a good thing but one which is being implemented in a way that undermines the child care sector outside of schools—we are engaged in giving away billions of dollars to major corporations that are not creating jobs with that money. They’re socking the money away.
You have to ask yourself, why is it that the people of Ontario are making these sacrifices? Why are they going without in their daily lives? Why are they sitting for hours in traffic because the transit that’s needed to move people along isn’t being built? Why are they dealing with long periods in emergency rooms? Why can’t they get child care? Why can’t they get daycare for their elderly parents, many of whom are struggling with dementia? Why are those pressing social needs being set aside just so some of the richest corporations in Canada can sock away more money and pay bigger bonuses to their CEOs? You really have to ask yourself that, because this government, this McGuinty government, has decided that it is good public policy to make wealthy corporations even wealthier and to starve the public sector, starve the people of this province of the services they need to get on with their lives.
The Globe mentions that corporate tax cuts are becoming a major issue in the federal election, and they’re quite right. It’s entirely reasonable that they should become a major issue because, in fact, it isn’t just Ontario that has engaged in this policy that leads nowhere; the Harper government is deeply committed to a policy that leads nowhere with corporate tax cuts, just as the federal Liberals, who, under Paul Martin, introduced the biggest corporate tax cuts in Canadian history—so they claim—are currently, for entirely opportunistic reasons, saying, “That’s where we get the money for the social programs that we promised when we were in government and we never delivered on. Now, okay, we can see a source of cash.” You can assign the credibility to those comments that you want to.
But I want to say that if you look at the reality in Canada, those corporate tax cuts have not led to investments in machinery and equipment that would make Ontario workers more productive. They have not led to investment in factories, in workplaces that would give them more work. They have not led to an increase in wages. They have led to enrichment—enrichment not of the population as a whole, but enrichment of those at the very top.
The Globe and Mail writes here: “Successive federal governments have chosen the latter path”—that’s the path of additional corporate tax cuts—“in recent years in a bid to make Canada more competitive and attractive to international investors. In 2000, the combined federal-provincial tax rate was just over 42%, ranking Canada near the top among industrialized nations. The combined rate has since fallen to 28%, placing the country in the middle of the pack, and Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s goal is to reduce it to 25% by fiscal 2013.”
They go on to write: “Businesses were widely expected to use the extra money from successive rounds of tax cuts to build factories and offices and buy new machinery and equipment. At one time, they did just that. From 1960 until the early 1990s, corporations invested almost every penny of their after-tax cash flow back into the business.”
But that was then and this is a very different now. The Globe and Mail goes on: “But the tax cuts appear to have reversed decades of tradition. Investment in equipment and machinery has fallen to 5.5% in 2010 as a share of Canada’s total economic output from 6.8% in 2005 and 7.7% in 2000, the Globe analysis shows.”
From the time that Paul Martin gave the biggest corporate tax cut in Canadian history, investment in Canada by corporations getting those tax cuts has dropped dramatically. This government, following Paul Martin, following Stephen Harper, has decided that even more tax cuts is the answer, is the way forward, when in fact even the recent history of the last decade makes it very clear that that is not going to give us jobs; it’s not going to give us investment; it is going to give us eye-popping bonuses for CEOs and extraordinary amounts of cash in those corporations.
The Globe says, “The McGuinty government doled out $4 billion in tax breaks over three years to businesses in its 2009 budget as part of a package of reforms to help kick-start an economy hit hard by the global economic recession.
She rejects those corporate tax cuts. The NDP rejects those corporate tax cuts. This is a pathway that leads to a society with unrepaired bridges and health care that is not sustained by public funds, a place where schools crumble and students—young people—are paying tuition that is a huge burden on their lives. That is the effect of this decision. It does not give us the kind of life that we expect or that we deserve. The McGuinty decision to follow Stephen Harper’s options is one that everyone in this province should reject.
Now, I want to note as well that Erin Weir, a prominent economist, has written about this whole issue of corporate tax cuts in Ontario. He notes on April 6: “The latest Statistics Canada figures indicate that private non-financial corporations have stockpiled $456 billion of straight cash (Canadian dollars plus foreign currency). That total does not include cash stockpiled by banks and crown corporations or near-cash items like short-time paper.”
Corporate tax cuts that lead to half-trillion-dollar cash balances in the hands of corporate Canada are not building our economy. They are leading to increasing division in this society: extraordinary wealth at one end, growing poverty at the other and stagnation for the middle class at the centre. Middle-income people ask, “Why is it that we can’t get ahead? Why is it that we are hard-pressed? Why is it that we can’t afford to send our kids to university or to college?”
They wonder why, with two people working, they can’t cover their bills. Well, when huge volumes of cash are taken out of society, when social services are reduced, when social supports are undermined, it’s no surprise that middle-income families find they are struggling just to stay in place and low-income families find that they’re falling behind. That’s the reality.
There have been arguments made that perhaps corporate tax cuts do a good thing. We’ve seen, in some areas, purchases of equipment. The reality is that if you have a higher Canadian dollar and you can buy some things more cheaply, you will. The corporate tax cuts lead to cash in hand, not jobs for people in this province.
I want to note that Mr. Weir also gives his incoherence award to Dwight Duncan. He says, “In an interview on Tuesday, [Ontario] Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he supports Mr. Ignatieff’s policy” of opposing corporate tax cuts “even though he himself is under siege by opposition members for presiding over corporate tax cuts.”
This is pretzel contortion time. It is an impressive feat to put forward a policy wholeheartedly at the centre of your budget at this level and to say at the federal level, “No, no, the policy doesn’t work.”
This is fascinating to me and to Erin Weir. He says, “So, the purpose of provincial corporate tax cuts is to reduce the need for federal corporate tax cuts?” There is no logic in that. There is no logic. In fact, there is a huge lack of principle.
This budget is a mimic of the neoconservative agenda that we have seen in so many places, and this budget is one that is not going to deliver the jobs or the services or the economic future that the people of Ontario deserve and hope for. This budget is continuing to pave the foundation for the decline of Ontario as a major economic power.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives just recently released a study, authored by David Macdonald, actually looking at the impact of tax cuts on companies: What happened when they got that cash? He was looking at the argument that corporate tax cuts create jobs—a big argument made by the Conservatives in this election. That whole assertion has come under increasing scrutiny, taken from various angles.
CCPA focused specifically on job creation. They looked at “Canada’s biggest public companies, those on the S&P/TSX composite and tracked them over the past decade to see how their taxes and profits changed.” He writes, “At the same time, I also tracked how many employees they had and therefore the number of jobs they created. These are the companies that benefit the most from corporate tax cuts because they declare the largest profits.
“There were 198 companies that had data from 2000 through 2009.” He writes further, “What readers should find shocking is just how dramatic the transformation in corporate taxation has been in the past decade. The effective tax rate that these successful companies have paid has been cut in half. Imagine if, as an individual, your personal income taxes had been cut in half over the past decade; well, that’s what happened in corporate Canada.
“With such a dramatic change, it should be no surprise that compared to 2000, profits are up 50% while taxes paid are down 20%. The tab for corporate tax cuts for just these 200 companies is $12 billion a year in lost provincial and federal revenues. To give readers a sense of scale,” he writes, “that much money could buy us a national $10/day child care program and wipe out poverty among seniors, with money left over.”
We are talking about a vast transfer of wealth that the McGuinty government is not simply abetting; it is putting forward that transfer of wealth; it is undermining the basis for existing social programs; it is undermining the basis for those services that the people of this province need. Child care, health care, education, the ability to get to work on transit that you can afford—all of those things are undermined by this strategy.
Mr. Macdonald goes on to say, “The bargain that Canada made with its most profitable corporations was that if we give them dramatic tax cuts, they’ll use that money to create jobs. We’ve cut the cheque, worth $12 billion a year in 2009, so did we get the jobs?” Apparently not. He writes, “The Canadian economy as a whole has increased the number of jobs by 6% since 2005. However, the 200 companies that are receiving the $12-billion-a-year tax break have only increased their job numbers by 5%; in effect they are pulling down the average.”
You would think, with $12 billion a year, as the most outstanding recipient, the recipient who gets the most from these policies, that you’d be able to pull ahead of the average, that you would be creating more jobs—at least, that’s the mythology that’s promoted in this chamber by the McGuinty government. But in fact, that’s not what the numbers show. That is not the reality in this province. That is not the reality in this country. Why this government is following a discredited policy is a question only they can answer. All I can say is that if you look at the numbers and the real historic experience, this is an investment that undermines our economy, undermines our society and undermines our families and leaves some people, some companies, extraordinarily rich.
I’ve heard the argument that we need to have lower tax rates so that we’re competitive with other jurisdictions. I just want to note that in Canada, without these changes that have been coming forward, Ontario is already equal to or lower than almost all provinces except for BC, Alberta and New Brunswick. These are not our major competitors for new manufacturing. There are competitors that are around the Great Lakes: Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania. On average, the combined tax rates for those jurisdictions is about 36%; Ontario’s down at 28.5%.
It’s one thing to be competitive. It’s one thing to be within the range of those who are near you. It’s another thing to undermine your financial base, your ability to educate and to provide health care and child care, your ability to provide a safe and secure society that comes from social spending. That’s one thing. It’s another to make our society one that will be far more uncertain in the future because, increasingly, wealth is concentrated in a small number of hands. The majority of people are finding themselves stressed, carrying a huge economic burden, all for an ideology of lower corporate tax rates that doesn’t deliver the goods.
There are a number of people who had comments on this budget. I’ll give you a few comments from stakeholders. In the labour sector, “three years of corporate tax cuts have bled the public coffers dry and manufactured a recession in the public service. The government’s plans to cut another 1,500 public sector jobs, on top of the 3,400 that were axed in the last budget, will deprive many—including the unemployed—of the services they rely on.” That’s OFL secretary-treasurer Marie Kelly.
Or, “How can the government identify children’s aid as a source of savings at a time when programs for abused and neglected children need a major infusion of cash just to keep afloat?”—Smokey Thomas, president of OPSEU.
I have a few other stakeholders’ comments as I go through, but I have to say, the reality is that this government has decided whose bank account they are going to magnify and whose they are going to pillage. For most of Ontario, most families and most working people aren’t the people whose bank accounts are going to grow. They’re the ones who will get pillaged.
The next piece I want to address is the proposed merger of Infrastructure Ontario, the Ontario Realty Corp. and the Stadium Corp. This Bill 173 provides the enabling legislation for the merger of Infrastructure Ontario, the Ontario Realty Corp. and the Stadium Corp. I’ll read out precisely what the budget says. “Building on Infrastructure Ontario’s success: Building on IO’s track record and success at delivering infrastructure projects on time and within budget, the province intends to expand the role and mandate of IO into new sectors and a broader range of projects. These changes will result in greater efficiencies and more savings for the province.”
We in the NDP are very worried that a form of infrastructure financing that is considerably more expensive than the traditional public model will be expanded into energy and municipal projects and used at a far greater scale than in the past.
Up until now, the government has been implementing a $2.5-billion, five-year capital budget of projects structured as public-private partnerships, P3s. The majority of P3s have been large hospital projects, as well as justice projects, such as courthouses—one of which was cancelled in this budget, leading to further delays in adjudication of cases.
Under the Liberals, P3 deals are done under the direction of Infrastructure Ontario. This agency supports ministries, municipalities and the broader public sector in their transactions with private sector consortiums that finance, provide project management during the construction phase and almost always assume at least some ongoing property management and maintenance functions once the project is completed.
In some hospital P3s, these private consortiums assume responsibility for food preparation, cleaning, laundry and even payroll-related services, although, frankly, this varies with each project. A typical consortium consists of at least one major financial institution—a bank or a pension fund—construction companies and property management concerns. Traditional non-profit hospital boards run the core health functions of the P3 hospitals, but exactly where these core health functions end and functions such as cleaning and maintenance begin is open for negotiation.
The money for P3s is borrowed from the private sector financial institutions that are part of consortiums and is paid back over a 25- to 30-year period. The principal-plus-interest payments are funded out of the operating budgets of relevant ministries, for instance, hospitals or the Ministry of Health. The government admits that financing costs will be greater under the P3 approach because the projects will have to borrow at higher rates than the government. The actual interest rate spread between P3 rates and the government borrowing rate may not be great, but the extra interest and principal costs add up substantially over a 30-year period. That means that the public, the people of this province, pay more for those projects. More money comes out of their pockets when, in fact, as you well know, Speaker, there’s not a lot left in there now. That approach is one that makes this province poorer.
The biggest extra costs associated with P3s are the risk premiums paid to the consortia in return for the consortia assuming various sorts of cost overrun risks. These risk premiums actually add more to the cost than the higher private sector borrowing cost.
I have to say that we had the opportunity recently to hear from a fellow named John Loxley. He came and made a presentation at the Legislature in one of the committee rooms. A number of MPPs were there. His book is entitled Public Service, Private Profits: The Political Economy of Public/Private Partnerships in Canada.
I’ve had the opportunity in estimates to question previous Ministers of Infrastructure about these public-private partnerships, and I have looked at the cost difference between the public-private partnership projects and a publicly financed project. There’s always a big cost difference that’s called “risk,” because if you do 50 or 100 projects, after a while you get a sense of what kinds of overruns are common.
I’ve pointed out to previous Ministers of Infrastructure that that risk number is awfully big. It’s very useful for saying that, in fact, a public-private partnership is a better deal, but where does that number come from? Who actually does that analysis? What Mr. Loxley had to say to us, and he’s well respected for the work he’s done in this sector, is that it was Andersen accounting that did that number that all these public-private partnerships are justified by.
For those who don’t remember Andersen accounting, now no longer with us, they were the auditors for Enron. And if people remember Enron, with its extraordinary funny-money approach to financing energy deals, one knows there’s all kinds of fun that can be had with numbers. Andersen accounting doing the estimates upon which hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds are allocated, Andersen accounting providing the backdrop to a policy that results in higher costs to the people of Ontario, gives me no comfort, should give you no comfort, Speaker, and should not give the government of Ontario any comfort. But, in fact, their analysis is used to justify public-private partnerships. That analysis should be thrown out the window.
Set aside risk for a moment. Let’s look at the cost just coming from interest, an analysis of the Brampton P3, public-private partnership, hospital deal based on a spread of 6.73%, the actual Brampton project borrowing rate, versus 5.56%, the Ontario government bond rate at the time, over a 27-year period. For those who are watching at home who don’t like hearing speeches with lots of numbers in them, my apologies, but it’s important to get on the record exactly what the numbers are.
Based on borrowing $536 million and a repayment period of 27 years, interest and principal payments would total $175 million more under the P3 model than under a traditional public sector model—175 million bucks. That’s of consequence: $175 million gives you a fair amount. Just in comparison, the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, in its pre-budget submission, said that in order to stabilize the daycare system, what was needed in this year’s budget was $100 million and in next year’s budget, $200 million. The amount of money that we have overpaid in one hospital is equivalent to one year of making sure that the daycare system in this province functions properly.
That’s the scale of public money that is wasted. That is the scale of public money that is put into the pockets of very profitable companies when the people of Ontario go without in health care, education, child care and environmental protection.
Experts in the field of infrastructure finance have suggested that the interest rate spread between the actual public-private partnership borrowing rate and an Ontario government bond will be in the 0.5% to 1.25% range. On a $500-million project paid off over close to 30 years, this is likely to mean anywhere between $60 million and $165 million in extra repayment costs by going the public-private partnership route, the P3 route. That’s a 15% to 30% premium. That’s a lot. These are substantial numbers.
You may ask, and sometimes, Speaker, I know you do ask, “Where is the money going? Why can’t we provide these services? I have constituents who have problems that are not addressed by this government. Why can’t they afford it? What kind of waste and inefficiency do we see coming from the McGuinty government?” Well, I can tell you right now: Look at how they deal with these projects, and be well aware that they’re making sure that we are spending more than we need to spend.
Payments under the P3 schemes start on the completion of the project and, as indicated above, the cost of the project will hit the province’s books over a 25- or 30-year period. Taking that approach of P3s that has been used in hospitals, that are costing Ontario dearly, and expanding that into the energy field, expanding that into the municipal field, dealing with a broader range of infrastructure projects, will undermine public finance and reduce the services that the people of this province can receive. This is one of the more disturbing pieces of the budget. Corporate tax cuts: wrong idea. Expansion of P3s: an expensive idea. It’s not good for us, not good for Ontario.
This government has also decided to look at not just having P3s for large infrastructure projects but also to look at a variety of alternative delivery mechanisms for public services. If you read the budget, you’ll see that there are a variety of nice phrases about non-profits, government to government. But I’ve watched these processes before, and my expectation, and the expectation of people in this province, should be this: that, more than anything, this will be the basis for privatizing the delivery of public services—delivery that people in this province will pay for through both reduced services and increased costs. This government is continuing to add to the growth of inequality and the undermining of public services in Ontario.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union wrote a letter to Premier McGuinty and Minister Duncan about the commission on broader public sector reform, the vague title that this whole effort is covered under. Smokey Thomas, the head of OPSEU, wrote that he was very, very concerned about this commission, as was I. He’s put together some good arguments here that I want you and the public to be aware of. There’s no doubt in his mind that the commission is what he calls “a search-and-destroy mission” when it comes to public services. He writes:
“Your plan in the budget to wipe out 1,500 jobs in the Ontario public service in addition to the 3,400 job cuts previously announced means that entire programs will be eliminated. The Ontario public service is already” struggling. “It cannot deliver the programs it does now with fewer staff. Your government has been given that message by deputy ministers and other senior staff.
“The commission”—the Don Drummond commission—“will finish the job—not only for the Ontario public service but for the rest of the broader public sector. We will undoubtedly see recommendations calling for cuts to public programs and services, privatization on a large scale and new schemes to reduce wages and benefits for a downsized public sector workforce.”
I want to say this to you: Most people don’t see public services as distinct entities. As long as they’re functioning—as long as the roads work, the hospitals are running, the schools are open, the universities are open; as long as someone is out there dealing with any oil spills or environmental problems—they’re largely invisible to them. But underneath all of that, when you cut those services or when you privatize those services, failures start to become visible.
During the SARS epidemic, I had an opportunity to talk to a number of friends who, involved in the public health departments in this province, were struggling to deal with what was before them. They were stretched to the limit. If another crisis had occurred, they could not have dealt with that.
The reduction in services—one part—and the privatization of services, which I think will assist with the first, is not going to help people here in this province. Families want those services to be invisible. They don’t want a public health crisis. They don’t want headlines in those areas. What they want is their families protected and their health safeguarded. They want things to function in a way that doesn’t cause drama in their everyday lives. But a program of privatization and cuts in the public sector, in the services that people depend on in their daily lives, is one that, unfortunately, really has the opportunity to introduce drama into their lives. They don’t want that. We shouldn’t want that. This government shouldn’t want that, but in fact, their approach is going to deliver that.
OPSEU asks, “Why do we say that we’ll see more privatization and a reduction of wages and benefits for a downsized public sector workforce?” He writes, “Because this is exactly the vision laid out in one of the business-funded reports quoted in the Ontario budget, Shifting Gears: Paths to Fiscal Sustainability in Canada.
“This report, written by University of Toronto faculty and ‘supported’ by accounting firm KPMG, envisions a provincial government that solely sets policies and standards. The report advocates that other ‘actors’ deliver services and, alarmingly, ensure compliance with government standards.”
The authors of that report cited in the government’s budget, in the McGuinty budget, talk about it as an equity issue. They think that we should be underpaying public workers, just as private workers are underpaid.
That is not the goal. We in this Legislature should be fighting to make sure that people who work in the broader economy—farmers, small business people, people working in factories, people who work for the broader public service—have a higher standard of living in common. That’s what we should be looking for. Attacking, undermining, downsizing, cutting public workers who deliver the health care, education and child care that families in this province depend on is not going to help the people of this province, not going to help our economy and not going to build for the future.
Don Drummond, TD Bank economist, was appointed chair of this commission—not a good sign. For the last year, Mr. Drummond has been putting out misinformation, trying to get public acceptance for increased privatization of our health care system.
“His predictions that health care would take up 80 cents of every program dollar gained widespread coverage”—I’m quoting Smokey Thomas here—“despite the fact that the trend line was actually going in the opposite direction. Health care has declined from 46 cents of the program dollar to 42 cents within the last three years.
This budget approach of privatization, of shrinking public services, of shrinking services families need, is one that we will regret as the years go on, one that will undermine our ability to build a 21st-century economy in Ontario. This budget did not put families first and did not make life more affordable for them. In fact, it put corporate taxes first and leaves families paying more.
Liberals have said that they’re turning a corner, but in fact, they’re on a road that is not going to take us anywhere. It leaves families behind in the dust. It’s a budget that defends a status quo that isn’t working. It’s a budget that this government cannot be proud of, a budget that, in fact, this government should be ashamed of.
What’s missing from this budget? Nothing to make life more affordable: Instead of taking the HST off hydro and home heating, the government ignored household budgets. Nothing to create jobs: Instead of tax breaks for companies that create jobs, the government is sticking with their strategy of no-strings-attached corporate tax giveaways. Nothing to protect front-line patient care: The budget has a vague plan to cut $800 million from health budgets, and hospitals are getting a cut in real terms, but the government still won’t cap health care CEO salaries.
What kind of budget is this, given the state of this province, given the state of our economy, given the social problems that we’re facing? Not a budget that will be remembered fondly, not a budget that will be seen as solving the problems of the people of Ontario, but simply adding to them.
There are a number of things that concern us, and I’ve addressed a few of them. This is a budget that simply preserves the status quo. While life gets more expensive for families and other provinces create more jobs, the Premier and his finance minister insist that their plan is working. Well, talk to people out there who are trying to make a go of it. I think you’ll find out they don’t believe that their plan is working.
Health cuts: The Liberals are proposing 60,000 new post-secondary spaces—proposing; they haven’t delivered. But they don’t mention that Ontario has the highest tuition fees in Canada, and there’s nothing in the budget that addresses the cost of post-secondary education. Talk to young people anywhere in this province. Talk to them after they’ve graduated from university or college. Talk to them about the burden that they are carrying from those high tuition fees. It is not a pretty picture. It is a picture of people whose early work years are burdened with huge debt payments, debt payments they’re trying to make to avoid even more interest costs in the future. This government has not addressed that issue.
The Liberals are proposing a “deficit review committee” that will report after the next election. That’s the kind of thing you do when you know you’re going into an election and, when asked about something, say, “I have appointed a committee. They will look into it and they will report”—conveniently, after election day. What will the plan be? Who knows. Will it protect the people of this province? Will it be one that actually engages in totally irrational and destructive deep cuts to the services people depend on? Who knows. What we have got with that is a commitment to fill a campaign flyer with a little piece that keeps whatever speaker from the Liberal Party is on the spot with some material they can use.
Liberals are proposing a new risk management program for farmers, but farmers have been waiting for help for nearly a decade. Thank goodness that occasionally elections come along so that this government feels some vulnerability and feels they have to in some way address the concerns of the farming community. The Liberals are promising more breast cancer screening, but they don’t mention the clinics in London that were closed or how they forced breast cancer patients to fight for treatment. That’s the reality.
This government, as we skate towards an election, is looking for all the pieces that it’s got to put into its campaign flyers and putting those little bits forward: little promises, little dodges, little bits of wording that will help them, they hope, slip forward, slip through.
Liberals tout statistics to say their jobs plan is working. They commit $175 million in funding to a value-added job program led by the Ministry of Economic Development. In accordance with the federal-provincial arrangement, stimulus money will be extended into the fall. The government revised their 2011 job creation numbers downward from 139,000 to 116,000, and from 155,000 to 118,000 in 2012. That’s 60,000 fewer jobs than previously projected.
The government has confirmed its corporate tax schedule. Between this year and the next, the government is wasting another $400 million on corporate tax giveaways, part of the overall $4 billion. Our response to that is that the plan they put forward is not working for families. Ontario lags behind most provinces in recovering the jobs lost in the recession. Three years later, 16,000 jobs still haven’t come back. Ontario lags behind provinces like Manitoba—which, by the way, rejected the HST—and is holding the line on corporate tax giveaways.
The government’s own estimates show they’re projecting 60,000 fewer jobs than previously expected. Narrowly targeted tax credits for training, innovation and investment will create jobs; broad-based corporate tax giveaways won’t. At the beginning of my remarks, I went through those numbers, and I want to re-emphasize this: A strategy centred on corporate tax cuts only undermines the government’s ability to provide the services that businesses and families need to live well and to prosper. They don’t build an economy.
This government did not take the opportunity with regard to infrastructure to provide a comprehensive program that would ensure that whenever it’s economically feasible, provincial and municipal procurement projects give preference to Ontario- and Canadian-made projects, Canadian-made goods and services, like streetcars or subway cars from Bombardier in Thunder Bay. If we’re going to build our economy, we need to have that kind of focus on Ontario investment and purchase. We need to use the purchasing power of the government of Ontario—of the governments in Ontario—to build our manufacturing, to build our own economy.
The government has said that the HST leaves most people better off. The reality—and I had the opportunity to go through this in estimates with successive Ministers of Revenue—is that the HST is a $7-billion tax shift from businesses to people, $7 billion that used to be paid by businesses, now paid by the people of this province. The new tax on everything from gas to home heating is hurting already-struggling families. The government’s estimates are based on unbelievable claims about businesses passing along savings to customers. Speaker, have you seen your gas bill reflect a passing-on of savings by those gas companies? Has your home heating bill gone down because of the generosity of those gas companies? I don’t think so. There are a lot better ways of creating jobs than providing large-scale corporate tax cuts or putting in place an HST.
It’s interesting, in terms of expenditure management. The budget states that expenses are lower than previously estimated and thus says, “We’re great managers.” Just the other day I was reading about Paul Martin and how he had the very conscious strategy during the 1990s to consistently underestimate his revenue and overestimate his expenses, so that—
Mr. Peter Tabuns: I hear some howling from the other side—so that they could look as though they were performing so well. Paul Martin shifted the deficit down to the provinces. Paul Martin did an extraordinary job of impoverishing the province of Ontario and the province of Quebec by making them assume more of the costs that the federal government had covered in the past. We had a massive shell game, and at the end of it all, when the federal books looked better—not the provincial books but the federal books—then he gave what he called the biggest tax cut in Canadian history.
That was not good management. It may have been useful political management, because the heat was taken off him. Many major corporations became extraordinarily happy that they got all this cash, and as you are well aware, Speaker, over this last decade that cash was not used to actually put in place the equipment and machinery to make this country more prosperous; it wasn’t put in place to make Canadian workers more productive; it was put in place so that Canadian corporations could accumulate almost half a trillion dollars in cash. That doesn’t sound like a successful policy to me; it sounds like a bad policy to me.
I was around for the Canadian health and social transfer that Mr. Martin brought in, which led to an ongoing decline in funding for social programs and health care. This province complains that Ontario is paying too much of the health tax bill and the federal government not enough. Well, you know, that reflects the strategy of Mr. Martin to shift the cost of the deficit down onto the back of the province. That’s the reality.
This is a budget that does not deserve support. This is a budget that will mean harder times for most people in Ontario. This is a budget that sets the stage for privatization of public services, far wealthier corporations and more expensive hospitals. It does not set the stage for a province that needs to prosper in the decades to come so that young people have a future and families have decent lives.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d ask all members to join me in welcoming to the Speaker’s gallery and the public galleries today Mr. Don McCumber, president of the Army Cadet League of Canada (Ontario); Marian MacDonald, executive director of the Army Cadet League of Canada (Ontario); Mr. Ed Pigeau, president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Provincial Command; Lieutenant Colonel James Shields, deputy commander office, Regional Cadet Support Unit (Central); and cadets, officers and members of the Army Cadet League of Canada (Ontario) and parents, representing 106 army cadet corps in the province of Ontario who are here today to mark Vimy Ridge Day. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Queen’s Park.
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce some folks from the riding of Northumberland–Quinte West. First of all, as you mentioned, Mr. Don McCumber—he is also the chair of the Vimy kickoff committee; a job well done, Don and your group—and also the cadets, with special mention to the newest cadet corps in the province of Ontario, from my hometown of Brighton.
Mr. Tim Hudak: My question is to the Minister of Government Services. Minister, it has been seven days now since questions have been raised about the three quarter of a million dollars paid out to Ron Sapsford, the deputy minister who left under the shadow of your eHealth scandal.
Yesterday, the health minister told the media that questions about the sweetheart deal for the former deputy “should go to the Minister of Government Services because that’s where the arrangements are made.”
Hon. Dwight Duncan: We need to have a little review of salaries and severance packages over the years, and I’d like to remind the members opposite of some of them. Let’s talk for a moment about a fellow named Gord Haugh, who billed, with the approval of the government and without a tendered contract, $25,000 a month to the Ministry of Health—$300,000 a year—to serve as a press secretary. And let’s not forget Eleanor Clitheroe, who was paid $2 million a year and $6 million in severance. Here is another old, familiar face to this House: Paul Rhodes, who billed Ontario Hydro—
Mr. Tim Hudak: Back to the Minister of Government Services: What an embarrassing merry-go-round of denying any kind of responsibility. The Premier points to the health minister; the health minister points to the Minister of Government Services; now you fob it off to the finance minister, and Ontario families get saddled with the bill at the end of the day. Who’s in charge over there?
Minister, yesterday you were thrown under the bus by the health minister. The health minister said that you sign off on deals like the one with the deputy minister, Ron Sapsford. Mr. Sapsford was paid three quarters of a million dollars. We don’t know if he worked for a single day, if he quit or what the reason is. Minister, if you weren’t accountable for the deal to Mr. Sapsford, exactly who was?
Hon. Dwight Duncan: In the government that the now-Leader of the Opposition served in—and listen to this number—they paid out $360 million in severance payments in three years. And who did they pay that to? They paid it to a whole variety of people, including civil servants whom they fired, then hired back as consultants at higher rates.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Minister, what about Ron Sapsford and the deal you cut with Mr. Sapsford? We’re seeing the same pattern of denial, of stonewalling, of dodging, of not talking about the questions that have been asked for seven straight days.
The minister seems to forget what this is all about—that money that was supposed to go to hospital services at Hamilton Health Sciences was used to pay off some kind of backroom deal to Mr. Sapsford for three quarters of a million dollars.
All we’re asking, Minister, is a very simple, straightforward question. The Minister of Health says that you signed off on these deals. The Minister of Government Services: You’re saying no, you didn’t sign off on these deals. You’re shaking your head “no.” Let me get you on the public record: Did you sign off on the deal? Was it the Minister of Health? Was it the Premier? Exactly who signed off on this deal with Mr. Sapsford?
But let’s talk again about transparency and accountability. What we did with Mr. Sapsford was in full public view. It was not hidden; it was in full public view. Each one of those hydro executives was expressly kept out of freedom of information and privacy by that leader and his party. They were a party of secrecy, of big expensive deals that went right to the bottom line of people’s hydro bills.
Mr. Tim Hudak: I will ask again of the minister who is supposed to be the integrity czar in this Legislature, the Minister of Government Services. Sir, this is your responsibility. You can answer the questions here during question period or you can answer them in the hallway. I will give you a chance to answer a very basic question. Was Deputy Minister Ron Sapsford, who resigned in the wake of your eHealth scandal, fired, did he quit or did he remain on the provincial payroll? Minister, kindly answer that simple question.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Your leader asks questions, and I trust that you do want to hear from the government. It’s extremely difficult for me, in my position, to hear from where I am, and I’m sure it must be for you.
Hon. Dwight Duncan: A gentleman by the name of Michael Gourley—people will remember him—was an adviser to former Premier Eves. He received $3.7 million in untendered contracts. What makes this story even more interesting is, they paid him before the contract was signed. So a little perspective on these matters is always important, because a number of the members opposite signed off on all of those deals; a number of the members sitting opposite, who are now critical of our transparency and accountability, are just not being completely candid about their own record.
Mr. Tim Hudak: We’re seeing the exact same dodge, delay, dither and deny tactics that this government used during the eHealth scandal two years ago—a scandal, by the way, that saw the mother of all untendered contracts, that saw an absolute feeding frenzy of Liberal-friendly consultants for money that should have been going to health care. Two years later, Ontario families continue to pay the price for the eHealth boondoggle, and they haven’t learned their lesson; they’re using the same tactics. That’s why it’s time for a change in the province of Ontario.
I remind the member opposite that when we brought in the Public Sector Expenses Review Act in 2009, which requires expenses to be posted by ministers and their staff, they voted against it. There are a whole range of these; I’m looking forward to discussing more of them.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Minister, we understand your game here. You’ve dodged questions for seven straight days. You’ve had the Premier, the health minister, Minister Takhar, and now yourself refusing to answer basic questions. You can answer them here in the assembly; you can answer them in the hallway from the media; you can answer them from families, but you are trying to run from the eHealth scandal. But, sir, that is an albatross around your neck, and rightly so, because of the egregious waste of health care dollars to go to Liberal friends.
Let me ask you one last question. Ron Sapsford got a sweetheart three quarters of a million dollars. You tried to confuse the issue by saying it was severance, but obviously it was not. Is he still on the payroll? Did he quit? Why did he get expenses? Won’t you say one thing about what happened with Ron Sapsford and put the truth before the people who pay the bills?
Hon. Dwight Duncan: It’s all in the public record; it’s in two spots in the public record. But what wasn’t in the public record and what constituted, to use the leader of the opposition’s language, “a dodge,” was when that previous government refused to put the hydro agencies under freedom of information and accountability. We did that. When we did it, we discovered a range of things. I remember the Air Canada Centre box that that member and his party purchased. A number of now-members of the opposition attended that box. We got rid of it after about two weeks in office.
What’s really important to the people of Ontario is, they know the investments we’ve made in health and education. What they want to know is: Why do they want to cut $3 billion from education and health care? How are they going to do it? How many hospitals will they close? How many nurses will they lay off?
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Here’s how things look in the McGuinty Liberals’ Ontario: Former Deputy Minister of Health Ron Sapsford pocketed more that three quarters of a million dollars in wages and benefits last year, even though he didn’t work a day as the deputy. At a time when Ontarians are struggling to pay the bills, how does this government justify paying someone three quarters of a million dollars for not working a single day?
Hon. Dwight Duncan: The contractual obligations that we honoured were published in the public record. We have worked hard to make the investments that we need to make in health care, and those investments are yielding real benefits to all Ontarians. I had a chance to tour the new angioplasty unit at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital a number of weeks ago, and a range of other opportunities over the course of time. So I think we need to keep these things in the context of the enormous achievements we’ve made in health care over the years, achievements that I know the Minister of Health will speak more about later in question period. We’re proud of our record in health care. We have worked hard to deliver the best health care and education system this province has ever had. We’re going to continue to build on that record of achievement.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Ron Sapsford’s golden handshake might just be the tip of the iceberg here. Today we’re learning that the former CEO of Ottawa’s Montfort Hospital got an even sweeter exit package. He left in 2009 but got paid more than $550,000 in 2010, and he will get the same in 2011. With emergency rooms closing, nurses being laid off and seniors being threatened with $1,800 a day just to stay in the hospital, how on earth can this Premier sit idly by while millions of dollars are shovelled out the door to executives?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Let me begin by saying that we welcome transparency and accountability. We have taken significant steps to improve the transparency so that we can have exactly this kind of conversation. The member opposite knows that arrangements regarding hospital CEOs are arrangements made between the board and the hospital CEO. I do want to say, though, that I think it’s very, very important that we remind hospital boards that they have a responsibility to the taxpayer. It is the taxpayer who is paying for these salaries and for these severance packages.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: What we would welcome is some action on these fiascos; that’s what we would welcome. This Premier and his minister can’t continue to defend the indefensible. So instead, what does he do? He rewards it. How else can we explain the appointment of Rosemarie Leclair as the new head of the Ontario Energy Board? This is the same Rosemarie Leclair who, as head of Hydro Ottawa, spent almost $30,000 of ratepayers’ money on corporate box seats at Ottawa Senators games.
Hon. Brad Duguid: I’m delighted to stand in this place and talk about the credentials of Rosemarie Leclair. She served as deputy city manager of the city of Ottawa for a number of years. St. Joseph’s Women’s Centre gave her the quality of life award. She’s an honoured champion of the United Nations Association in Canada. She sits on the board of directors for the United Way and the board of governors of the University of Ottawa. She’s one of Canada’s most powerful women, as recognized by the Women’s Executive Network in 2010.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is to the Premier. The Premier’s poor decision-making extends beyond the outrageous salaries and questionable appointments. He’s also stubbornly clinging to the notion that massive corporate tax giveaways will help Ontario’s economy, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.
My honourable colleague has raised this issue a number of times over and that is the merit of, as she describes them, corporate tax cuts. I’d ask my colleague to bring some fresh perspective to our government’s plan when it comes to reducing the tax burden: not just on our businesses, but also on our families.
We also have in place a measure, the clean energy benefit, to reduce the burden on our families as we, together, restore vitality to our electricity system. We’re renewing 80% of it over the course of the next 20 years.
What we have is a comprehensive, thoughtful plan that is reducing the tax burden on families and our businesses in order to ensure we have a strong economy that supports our health care and our schools.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: The Globe and Mail’s analysis of Statistics Canada data proves what New Democrats have been saying all along: Corporate tax giveaways don’t create jobs. In fact, yesterday the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives issued its own study looking into 198 of Canada’s top corporations. They found the same thing.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I’m sure my honourable colleague will recognize that we’ve entered into an era of hypercompetitiveness; an era of globalization. We’re no longer just competing with the folks across town or the people in Quebec or Manitoba or BC or the US; we’re now competing with the Chinese and the Indians and other parts of the world. So it’s very important that we do everything to ensure that our businesses are competitive.
I think results speak volumes. We have recovered 91% of the jobs lost during the recession. In the United States of America they recovered 17%, and in the United Kingdom they recovered 40%. So that speaks to, I would argue, the merit of the plan that we have put in place. Of those 91% of jobs that we’ve recovered, 84% of those jobs are in fact full-time jobs.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Clearly the Premier just doesn’t get it. Here are some of the results he should be paying some attention to: According to the CCPA, these large companies reported a 50% increase in profits and paid 20% less in taxes while growing their employment by only 5%. That’s less than the 6% employment growth for the entire economy.
Private sector investment in building, machinery and equipment rose 10% in the third quarter of 2010. That’s our strongest gain since 1998. Manufacturing sales are up 24% year over year. If we look at the auto sector, where hundreds of thousands of families earn their living, GM sales are up 26% year over year, Chrysler has recorded a 16th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth, and Ford has had its best March in a decade.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: My question is to the Minister of Government Services. All week, the Premier and the health minister have let the media and the public believe that the three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar payout to Ron Sapsford was severance. The health minister and, apparently, the finance minister say that you are really the one to ask. We know, from the guide to preparing the sunshine list, as well as from Ministry of Finance spokespeople, that this can’t be severance.
Minister, this is really about ministerial accountability. You can either answer my question or you won’t. Do you want to be accountable to this Legislature or not? Ron Sapsford was paid three quarters of a million dollars for what? People in Ontario would like to know.
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: Let me say this: I’ve had the privilege of working both in the private sector and in the public sector. I want to tell you that, based on my experience in the public sector and the private sector, we have very outstanding individuals working in our Ontario public sector, and I’m very proud of the work that they perform.
We are a large and complicated organization with a $120-billion-plus budget, so we want to attract the best talent that we can find in Ontario, and the Ontario people deserve nothing less than that. When you do that, you go and look for people outside. If, for any reason, the employees are terminated, I can say that the employees have the option to remain on the payroll utilizing entitlements such as accumulated vacation and severance instead of receiving a lump sum payment.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Minister, you didn’t tell us what Mr. Sapsford is getting paid for. You’re trying to justify a three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar payout and you’re trying to conceal that from this Legislature.
The McGuinty Liberals act as though the money they handed out to Ron Sapsford was theirs to use as a personal slush fund, but it’s Ontario families who are footing the bills for your sweetheart deal and they’re getting cheated out of front-line health care, particularly in the city of Ottawa.
The Ontario PC Party will undertake a sunshine review that roots out the McGuinty Liberals’ mysterious sweetheart deals. We think that three quarters of a million dollars is better spent on front-line health care. Why do you think it is better spent on the sweetheart deal to Ron Sapsford?
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: As I was saying, we are a large, complicated organization and we need to attract the best talent. When you attract the best talent, you need to then pay the people based on whatever the market rates are. Let me tell you that the average salary of the broader public sector has decreased, and average OPS salaries on the list dropped by 1%; the use of secondment has decreased from 8% in 2008 to 2% today in the health sector. The 400 top-earning OPS employees on the list saw their salaries decrease this year. We have done everything to contain salaries based on our economic circumstances, but we still need to attract the best-qualified people we can find to the Ontario public service.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question is to the Minister of Energy. Hearings on plans to build a new nuclear plant at Darlington conclude tomorrow. Last week, Greenpeace stated that the McGuinty government decided not to participate in the review panel in order to ensure that the hearings would not consider alternatives to nuclear power.
Hon. Brad Duguid: We’re leading the world when it comes to building cleaner, cheaper renewable energy in this province. We’re a global leader when it comes to that, and your party has not supported the investments we’ve made to get out of dirty coal and to invest in clean, renewable power in this province. You can’t have it both ways.
We’re making these investments because they’re very important investments. We’re building a clean, reliable and modern energy system, and they have blocked us every step of the way. They have not supported those investments in any way, shape or form. And now they get up and tell us we should be doing more of something that they didn’t support in the first place.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Perhaps a nice speech, but not an answer. The McGuinty government’s long-term energy plan says nuclear power has to continue to provide 50% of Ontario’s electricity for decades to come, without giving any rationale.
A recent poll by Abacus found that more than half of Ontarians now oppose building more nuclear power plants. When will the McGuinty government finally listen to Ontarians and at least allow a discussion of alternatives to nuclear power?
Hon. Brad Duguid: When the NDP are in opposition, they oppose nuclear power, but when they’re in government, what do they do? They build it. Prior to the NDP’s term in government, they opposed investments in nuclear power, just like—
Hon. Brad Duguid: I think this is really important. In the NDP’s first three years in office, they brought online over 3,500 megawatts of nuclear power. No other party in the history of this province, in such a short period of time, has ever brought on that amount of nuclear power. Yet when they’re in opposition, they continue to oppose it. What is it? Does the NDP support nuclear power? Do they oppose it? Or does it depend on whether they’re in opposition or government—
Ms. Helena Jaczek: My question is for Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Minister, it is clear that the McGuinty government is delivering on high-quality health care. The 2011 budget committed additional funding to a number of important health care services, including mental health and addictions and breast cancer.
The opposition parties voted against these very investments yesterday when they voted on the budget motion. As a member of the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions, I was shocked that they could vote against such an important part of our health care system that will help improve the lives of so many Ontarians.
One initiative I am enormously proud of is the investment in mental health. The budget commits to strengthening services for children’s mental health with immediate funding and funding that will grow over the next three years. By 2013-14, the funding to support the mental health and addictions strategy will grow to $93 million per year. These services will help improve the lives of children and help improve the lives of their families in Ontario. It’s something we’re very proud of, especially in these very challenging fiscal times.
Minister, another area of concern for many women and men is breast cancer screening. I understand that there will be further funding in this area as well. Unfortunately, during debate on the budget bill yesterday afternoon, the member for Durham didn’t seem clear on these investments; in fact, he said, “There’s nothing in Bill 173 on breast screening.”
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I’m delighted to outline additional investment in Ontario’s health system. The Ontario breast screening program will receive an additional $15 million. That is an expansion that means 90,000 more breast cancer screenings. I am delighted with this initiative.
For the last 20 years, the Ontario breast screening program has been providing high-quality scans for women aged 50 to 74. This investment means that we will be expanding breast screening for high-risk women between the ages of 30 and 49. So this truly is an advancement when it comes to protecting people from breast cancer. Early detection, as we all know, is a very important contributor to getting our survival rates as high as they are, and we can—
It is very common in this chamber to criticize government policy, and I think it’s certainly the opposition’s role to do that, but I just remind all members that when we start to bring it down to a level of making a comment directly at another member—and I’m hearing it from both sides; it’s coming from this side too—it’s not healthy for anything and any of the business within this chamber. I just remind all members: Let’s not make comments of a personal nature—
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: The reality is that you sit on the Management Board of Cabinet that approved the sweetheart deal. So does the finance minister, the Attorney General, the Minister of Transportation, the Minister of Infrastructure, the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Community and Social Services and the members from Kitchener–Conestoga and from Guelph. Why didn’t you blow the whistle, any of you, on the three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar payout to Ron Sapsford after the eHealth boondoggle?
Hon. Dwight Duncan: Management Board and treasury board of cabinet exercise due responsibility in honouring legal agreements and respecting contractual obligations that were entered into. Then Management Board, treasury board, ensured that this was published in the sunshine list so that it could be seen by all Ontarians.
We will continue to build on our success in health care, to build the best-quality health care we can, by making investments in the services that people across this province want: better access to health care, shorter wait times, more nurses, more doctors and more options for a better future for Ontario.
Ontario families are shocked to learn that you buried the sweetheart deal with Ron Sapsford in the budget of a hospital. When they look at hospital budgets, they expect to see that every dollar is being spent on front-line care, not payouts to bureaucrats to run the billion-dollar eHealth boondoggle. The Ontario PC caucus believes that three quarters of a million dollars is better spent on 10 weeks of surgery at the Queensway Carleton Hospital, which is being threatened this year with rolling shutdowns and closures in their surgical unit.
I understand your outrage about $700,000, but you were part of a government that gave $917,000 in severance to one Mr. Michael Gourley. You know what? You ought to look at your own track record. Why did you do it? Do you know what the total payment to him in untendered contracts and severance was? It was made by the Leader of the Opposition and by a number of members of that caucus—$4.6 million. You should be outraged about that. You should stand up for your constituents. Tell them what your colleagues did.
Perhaps with our great guests here from the cadets today, it might be a wonderful opportunity for members to go and visit some of our local cadet corps around the province and get a better understanding of discipline and respect.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: My question is to the Minister of Housing. The government’s affordable housing bill, Bill 140, will gut what little provincial oversight currently exists to prevent the sale of public housing to private for-profit interests. This is exactly what’s happening in Toronto with the sale of much-needed TCHC public housing properties.
Hon. Rick Bartolucci: The fact is that nothing could be farther from the truth. We’re very, very proud of our long-term affordable housing strategy, should it pass into law. At this point in time, it has received first and second reading. Then, because we want to make sure we’re getting it right, we send it off to committee. We had public deputations. Now we’re at the amendment stage.
What’s happening here is, we’ve listened to the official opposition and the third party; we’ve listened to public providers; we’ve listened to the public at large. We’ve gone clause-by-clause. We’re making amendments. Those amendments are being debated now. I would suggest to you that, at the end of the day, we will have the strongest long-term affordable housing strategy in place across Canada.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Ontario now has 152,000 families on waiting lists for an average of 10 to 12 years. Each and every Ontarian should have a right to affordable and quality housing. That’s what the United Nations says, by the way, which finds Ontario in breach of international law. What’s happening in Toronto with the sale of TCHC properties could just be the tip of the iceberg.
This morning, I put forward a motion that would prohibit selling social housing to the private sector. The government committee members voted against this motion. When will this government take action to stop the privatization of the few remaining affordable housing units we have?
We will continue to debate those amendments that are being made by this side of the House, the official opposition and the third party. At the end of the day, we’re going to make sure that when we bring back a bill for third reading it is the strongest possible legislation. Why do we do that? Because we understand that there has to be a provincial affordable long-term plan in place.
Mr. Dave Levac: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Minister, you know this: Along with the Premier, myself and many caucus colleagues attended the seventh annual Premier’s summit on agri-food. The summit provides an excellent opportunity for partners in the agri-food industry to come together, to sit down with the Premier and yourself and to discuss the many challenges and opportunities that exist within that sector. By working together, we build on the partnerships, innovation and economic opportunities that already make this industry very successful. This sector is an extremely powerful economic engine that helps and needs our attention. Can I ask the minister: Can she please share some of the highlights that have happened at the summit this year?
Hon. Carol Mitchell: Thank you very much for the question. I can tell you that it’s my pleasure to share that the winner of the 2010 Premier’s Award is Willowgrove Hill from Perth county. The Hill family are the first pork producers in North America to enrich their pork with DHA omega-3 fatty acids. I tell you, it’s innovation on the family farm.
The 2010 Minister’s Award was presented to Duzier Farms from Brant county. They were recognized for their innovative robotic dairy barn design. The design enables a single producer to manage a milking herd of up to 120 cows. For the smaller dairy producers, it means less time in the barn and more time spent with family.
Mr. Dave Levac: Ontario farmers continue to show outstanding leadership when it comes to innovation, and we all know that. I’m very proud to say that the Duzier family farm in my riding’s recognition by the minister was very deeply appreciated by the family.
Minister, I’ve met with the farmers in my riding on an ongoing basis. I believe our government is on the right track, and so do they: investments in programs such as the establishment of the Premier’s award for innovation and excellence and, recently, the risk management program announced in last week’s budget. This risk management program is the number one ask for the farmers in my riding, and they did so together. Knowing that you can count on stable financial support means an awful lot. Sandra Vos, the president of the Brant County Federation of Agriculture, said, “This will go a long way in increasing the sustainability of Brant’s largest industry.” Could the minister—
Hon. Carol Mitchell: We count on our farmers, and we believe that our farmers should be able to count on us. We’re supporting the family farm. This budget supports the hard work of our Ontario farmers. With the leadership of the Ontario Agricultural Sustainability Coalition, commodity programs and organizations, they developed their programs: programs by farmers, for farmers.
But I really do believe that we need to look at how the previous government treated our farmers. I tell you, they sat idly by while they let the land—they cut the ag budget; they shut down 42 offices. But what they really want to have an answer to, for our farmers, is why they voted against risk management in the budget. That program is designed—
Mr. Frank Klees: To the Minister of Education. Two weeks ago, I asked the minister to clarify whether the York Region District School Board’s direction to trustees to not meet with parents in private was a direction from her office. She confirmed that it was not, and she rightly reaffirmed in the House the appropriate role of trustees as representatives of the parents who elected them and that in fact the administration is accountable to elected trustees.
Today, I want to ask if it’s a policy of the Ministry of Education to censor the websites and Facebook and Twitter accounts of elected trustees. Is that in fact a policy? Because at the York region school board, that is exactly what has happened.
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: First of all, I would say to the honourable member that I had an opportunity to speak with the chair and trustees from the York region school board just this week. I was at a wonderful school opening at Bond Lake. We talked about the role of trustees and their responsibilities; to the people who voted for them in the municipal election in October. I have to say that, in my view, they were very clear about their responsibilities, they were very clear about the importance of working with administration to ensure that the wishes and the needs of students and parents in their communities were looked after.
Mr. Frank Klees: Yes, the elected trustees want to be available; it is the administration that directed trustees not to be available in private with parents, and I thank the minister for clarifying that.
With regard to the issue I’m bringing to her today, the reality is that trustees have been directed by the administration to remove information from their personal websites. This is information that was on those websites while they were seeking office and informing the very parents who voted for them about their positions on various issues.
I’d like to ask the minister: Will she agree to clarify for the director of education and his administration what their role is and put an end to this gag order that the director of education and the administration are putting on elected trustees?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: I think it’s very unfortunate when people in this assembly use this place to cast aspersions on the work of people who’ve been hired by locally elected trustees. When there are statements in this assembly that someone is not fulfilling their role appropriately, that is in fact the case.
I have had the opportunity just this week to speak with the elected leadership of the board as well as the director of education. They’ve certainly indicated to me that they work well together, with the best interests of their students and parents in mind. They are focused on ensuring that their policies enable them to go forward in their operation, in their duties, in an open and transparent—
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Premier. This government stood by while northern communities like Wawa and Dubreuilville lost their wood supply, putting at risk not only the jobs of those employees directly affected but the viability of entire communities.
Dubreuilville is a community of less than 1,000 people who directly depend on the forestry industry. The community has suffered enough during the recent economic downturn while their sawmill was temporarily closed, but now they are denied by this government the ability to resume work.
Hon. Monique M. Smith: The goal is to modernize the Ontario forest tenure and pricing system, and I think the member opposite knows that. We will make the licensing of crown forests more efficient by opening them up to new businesses to generate new and diversified investments. We are improving and increasing the market mechanisms and the pricing and allocation of crown timber. We are increasing the involvement of aboriginal and local communities in the forest industry, which will contribute to their economic development.
Bill 151, as the member opposite knows, is open for public hearings. We will be holding public hearings next week, and we look forward to hearing from a wide variety of stakeholders and individuals across the province.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: The people of Dubreuilville are shocked that the government would take away their wood allocation. They didn’t even have the decency to go and consult with the community. Then they sit on their hands while the forestry industry and those who depend on it suffer. The northeastern Superior region has been one of the hardest hit during the recession, losing 1,000 direct forestry jobs.
Hon. Monique M. Smith: To the member opposite: We care passionately about northern Ontario. We have many advocates on this side of the House who speak of northern Ontario incessantly, as many of my colleagues will attest to.
With respect to this legislation and our changes to the forest tenure act, we began our review in 2009. Since then, the ministry has held consultation sessions throughout northern Ontario, including in Beardmore, Bower, Cochrane, Dryden, Fort Frances, Hearst, Hornepayne, Kapuskasing, Marathon, North Bay, Pembroke—although we wouldn’t all consider Pembroke in the north—Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Timmins and White River. We have conducted over 116 consultations in total, and we have offered Web-based engagement tools as well. We are continuing to offer that openness. People can participate—
Mr. Jeff Leal: My question is to the Minister of Education. I’m hearing from parents in Peterborough who have their children enrolled in full-day kindergarten. They are pleased with the program and the progress that their children are making while learning in a positive environment for the entire day.
Part of the reason I’m hearing that parents think this program is so successful is because of the extended day portion of the program. Parents can drop off and pick up their children from the same location and their children are provided with programming that reinforces the play-based learning that they take part in during the day.
I’ve had parents who have heard that there may be changes coming to the extended day portion of the program. Could you please inform me what I can tell the parents about these changes and how they will affect the lives of hard-working families in the wonderful riding of Peterborough?
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: I’m delighted to, because it gives me the opportunity to talk about the fact that I’ve been to schools in Peterborough and I’ve seen first-hand the wonderful results of full-day kindergarten.
With respect to the changes that we have proposed, families have said that it’s very important to them that they have access to extended day programs, both before and after school. There are many examples in the province of Ontario where those programs are being delivered by independent third parties like YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs. So we have introduced amendments to the act that will enable boards to engage those independent third parties.
Mr. Jeff Leal: Minister, I will provide that clarification about the proposed changes to the extended day portion of full-day kindergarten to the parents in Peterborough. I think the parents will be pleased to know that the government is moving forward in a practical manner which will allow parents to continue to have their children at the same location for full-day kindergarten and the extended day program.
Minister, you stated that the opposition voted against full-day kindergarten, though just yesterday, the member from Kitchener–Waterloo said they would implement the program. Minister, parents in the wonderful riding of Peterborough are concerned about the future of full-day kindergarten and the contradictory comments that have been provided by the opposition from one day to the next.
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: Families have made it very clear that full-day kindergarten is a priority for them. That’s why it is a priority for this government and that is why we are committed to fully implementing it by 2014. That is also why we are providing school boards every year with the capital dollars that are needed to create the spaces. We have done that this year, and we will do it next year and for the third phase. We are taking a responsible, measured approach to this.
And we are providing capital dollars. I was very surprised that, again, the opposition voted against that investment to provide those capital dollars. In my view, it just reflects that they are in disarray, they have no plan and they are very, very uncertain about a lot of things. Certainly in—
Mr. Toby Barrett: To the Minister of the Environment: Your continued inaction on waste diversion and waste management has left Ontario on the brink of a garbage crisis. Edwards landfill, in Haldimand county, is a prime example of your government’s oblivious lack of action. After years of questions, petitions and local protests, landfill operators have been handed provincial orders requiring 37 items to be complied with by May 20. Haldimand Against Landfill Transfers, also known as HALT, has written you requesting that the site be closed until these 37 items are dealt with. Will you be closing the site, Minister?
Hon. John Wilkinson: I want to assure the member opposite—and I thank him for bringing the issue to my attention, of course—that we expect companies and municipalities to comply with provincial orders. It is not a question of whether they decide or not to comply with orders; they must comply with provincial orders. We’ll continue to work closely with companies and municipalities that are dealing with municipal waste and requiring them to make sure that they always come in compliance with the law.
I find the question odd, on this side of the House. There are seven million litres of used paint that is not in our landfills because we’re taking action when it comes to household hazardous waste. There are 33,000 tonnes of waste electronics that are not in our landfills because we have taken action. There are almost a million tonnes a year through the blue box because we believe the blue box is a way for people to—
Mr. Toby Barrett: Look: You’ve been asked to close the site. These are significant issues—issues of asbestos, leachate levels and spill contingencies. There have been questions and concerns at this site since it began to receive garbage again, back in 2009.
While people see the issuing of orders as a step forward, they’re naturally sceptical given the history and given the ineptitude of your government when it comes to waste diversion and waste management.
Recognizing the seriousness of these questions, could you please provide people in my riding, at minimum, an update as to the work at Edwards to meet these compliance orders? What will your ministry do if those orders are not fulfilled by the May 20 deadline?
Hon. John Wilkinson: We’ll do what we always do, which is ensure that people are actually respecting and complying with the laws of the province of Ontario. That’s why we have environmental protections.
I can, though, assure the member and his constituents that there have been no environmental impacts from the leachate breach. We ordered the landfill to submit an odour management plan and a proper application of cover to stop the dust. It also requires that the old hazardous waste site is to be cleaned up. We are routinely inspecting the Edwards landfill.
They also conduct periodic sampling and monitoring, ensuring that surface water controls remain effective and the site is secure. I assure the member that we have placed orders and we expect them to be complied with, and if they are not—
Mr. Michael Prue: To the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: For the past two days, we have heard about people whose housing is at great risk. TCHC’s new mandate seems to be to sell off housing stock and privatize.
Mrs. Janice Hatfield and her son, a student—my constituents—live at 2 Wineva Avenue, and they’ve been given notice that she will be losing her home of nearly 20 years. Her housing is threatened because the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, who has the final authority, has, to this time, taken no action to stop the city of Toronto from selling its housing stock and privatizing public housing.
Hon. Rick Bartolucci: There are two parts to the question. The first one I’m going to deal with is with regard to the Toronto Community Housing Corp. First of all, the member knows full well that that is an entity run by the city of Toronto.
Secondly, he would know that some of the units that are up for sale do not need ministerial approval; others will need ministerial approval. I think that this government has a record, before making decisions, to ensure that there is a very thorough review of each of those units before a determination is made.
Mr. Michael Prue: Mrs. Hatfield and her son have lived in their home for nearly 20 years. She has many elderly neighbours who find their homes at risk as well. She worries for them and for herself; she broke down in tears yesterday.
Hon. Rick Bartolucci: The second part of the question that I want to deal with now is our long-term affordable housing strategy as it ties into ensuring that those protections are built into a new long-term affordable housing strategy.
We’re very confident that this strategy is a very powerful document, but do you know what? We want to make sure that we’ve covered all the concerns that may be presented in the future, so we opened it up to committee hearings. We heard deputations from the providers, the different people involved in affordable housing. We’re going through those amendments right now. At the end of the day, the legislation we bring forth for third reading will be very strong legislation.
On two occasions today, both in lob-ball questions to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and then, subsequently, a lob-ball question to the Minister of Education, they referred to the vote in the House yesterday on the budget motion. They specifically indicated in their answers about specific items relating to their ministries. The vote taken in the House yesterday simply stated “that the House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.” There were no details in that motion whatsoever.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): As the honourable member in the House is aware, this is an issue that was raised last week. I took it under advisement at the time and want to take the opportunity to assure the members that it is under currently under review, the points that had been raised, and I will be reporting to the House with a ruling.
Mr. Peter Kormos: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: With reference to standing order 37(e), I advised the government House leader that I would be rising on this point of order a few minutes ago when the incident occurred.
The leader of the New Democratic Party, in her question number five, put the question to the Premier about wood allocations in northern Ontario, especially Wawa and Dubreuilville. The Premier referred the question to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, also government House leader.
Unless something has happened overnight with respect to the status of the government House leader and her status as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, I can’t for the life of me understand how her ministerial responsibilities relate to the subject matter of the question put by Ms. Horwath. I seek your guidance and ruling on that matter, please.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I thank my colleague from the third party for raising this point of order and share his concern that it is not the area of the minister’s responsibility to be answering questions of the nature that were asked today. If the Premier does not—he has the choice, I suppose, of directing them to the minister who is directly responsible for that area, as is provided for in the standing orders. But I don’t know that he’s allowed to pass them on to any minister that he wants to, because that minister has no responsibility for that ministerial level at all. So I do share my concerns with the House leader of the third party.
Hon. Gerry Phillips: A little-known fact, probably, is that I’m the deputy House leader, so I’m responding on behalf of the House leader just to say, Mr. Speaker, that we’ll be providing you with a written response to the point of order raised by my colleague here.
Mr. Peter Kormos: And that’s fair enough. Perhaps, if there are written submissions made, the opposition parties could have an opportunity to respond to those written submissions before the Speaker makes a ruling.
I was prepared to rule on this, but having heard from the deputy House leader of a written response coming forward and now hearing from the member from Welland that they would welcome the opportunity to comment on that response, I will reserve my decision and await the submission from the government and the comments back from the two parties.
Hon. Margarett R. Best: I would like to take this opportunity to introduce two guests from the Momiji Health Care Society in Scarborough: the executive director, Ms. Birgitte Robertson, and the director of residence, Yoneko Westergaard. Momiji residents and staff have raised over $31,000 for Japanese victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami, and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate them on their generosity. I also want to express my sincere sadness and to say to the Japanese people that my prayers and thoughts are with them.
Mr. Reza Moridi: It is my distinct pleasure to introduce the following guests: from York Central Hospital, Dr. Larry Grossman, Ms. Elizabeth Barnett, Ms. Melina Cormier, Ms. Arlene Webster; from the Ontario Medical Association, Dr. Mark MacLeod, Ms. Emily Bullock, Ms. Emily Jephcott; from the Hospital for Sick Children, Dr. Nana Bit-Avragim; and Dr. Saeid Hatami. Please join me in welcoming our guests.
Mrs. Laura Albanese: I would like to welcome to Queen’s Park and introduce, in the gallery, an old friend of mine and an ex-colleague, Diana Dai. She’s a TV and film producer, winner of a 2009 Gemini Award, and a 2010 Yorkton film award for best history documentary for China’s Earthquake, the People in the Pictures. Welcome, Diana.
“I rise again to draw attention to the ongoing soil disposal operations on Morgans Road in the riding of Durham. Every day that passes without action from this government brings more truckloads of fill on to this site. With every truckload comes more anxiety and worry to those families who live in the area. They worry about what is being dumped at the site. They worry if what is being dumped could impact their drinking water. But most of all, they worry about the safety of their families and children.
“A full month before any permits were issued in June by the conservation authority, filling was taking place on Morgans Road. To date, this illegal fill has not been removed. To make matters worse, this fill was dumped in a protected source water area on the site.
“Our party wants to thank the Clarington Citizens for Clean Water and Soil for their advocacy on this issue. We also want to thank a number of residents, including: Gerry Black, Michael Clay, Sherry Ibbotson, Ted and Beth Meszaros, Lou Speziale, Donna Middleton, Kerry Meydam and Debbie Gordon from the STORM Coalition, and Councillor Wendy Partner. All have taken action on this issue. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for this government.
Mr. Kuldip Kular: On Friday of last week, I was joined by the Minister of Economic Development and Trade to announce that our government is making strategic investments in the renowned aerospace company Pratt and Whitney Canada.
The benefits of this partnership include creating 80 high-value jobs and preserving 49 others; reducing the impact of air travel on our natural environment; and raising Ontario’s profile as an economic and technology leader, not to mention an outstanding place to do business.
Our grant of $13.9 million and Pratt and Whitney’s own investment of $139.2 million will create jobs in Bramalea–Gore–Malton and help keep Ontario’s economic recovery on track. It also brings our government closer to fulfilling the commitment we made by way of the 2011 budget: to find new private sector partnerships, to create 2,100 jobs and preserve a further 7,800.
I would like to thank our partners at Pratt and Whitney Canada for the company’s role as a major employer in my riding of Bramalea–Gore–Malton and, through their reinvestments in Ontario, for helping to make our great province even stronger.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I rise today to speak to the issue of wasteful spending on the part of the McGuinty government. Since taking office, the McGuinty Liberals have increased government spending by 70% while the economy grew by just 9%.
After eight years, Ontario families know better than to expect that Dalton McGuinty is capable of getting his tax-and-spend habit under control. Whether it’s $18 million for ad campaigns and legal fees for the botched delivery of the eco tax program or the billion-dollar boondoggle at eHealth, Ontario families end up paying the price for this government’s mismanagement.
Ontario families simply cannot afford to pay for waste and government they don’t need. That’s why PC leader Tim Hudak put forward a plan for dealing with waste on March 23 called the Agencies, Boards and Commissions Sunset Review Act. This legislation will require those government boards, agencies and commissions to make a business case before a legislative committee of elected MPPs to establish how it serves the public’s interest and how it provides value for Ontario families. By contrast, the McGuinty government chose to do nothing until a couple of days before the budget, when they slapped together a commission at the last minute.
With next year’s deficit estimated at $16.3 billion and faced with $10.3 billion in annual interest payments on this record debt, the Ontario government owes it to families to get waste under control. Tim Hudak and the Ontario PCs have a plan to get the waste under control. Ontario families deserve nothing less.
Mr. Paul Miller: In January, the people of Ontario, but particularly those from Hamilton East, lost a long-serving, strong advocate for workers and all citizens for whom he made working life better as the Minister of Labour from 1990 to 1994. Former Hamilton East MPP Bob Mackenzie served in the 31st to 35th Parliaments, from 1975 to 1995—a long and distinguished service.
During his time as Minister of Labour, Ontario workers made great strides on pay equity, on labour rights, on workplace standards, and significantly today, as Minister of Labour, he brought in the legislation to ban replacement workers during strikes. Mackenzie was 82 when he passed away, and remained an NDP and Hamilton icon, a man of great integrity and passion.
Through the hustle and bustle of life in the Legislature, when sometimes dignity, decorum and basic courtesy are pushed aside, Bob Mackenzie remained committed to his work, his constituents and his ideals, and he never lost the core man and decent, honest, sincere, hard-working representative of his constituents and all Ontarians.
On behalf of our shared constituents and all Ontarians, I extend to Bob Mackenzie’s family our sincere condolences on his passing, but more importantly, our thanks for his years of devoted service to public life.
Mr. Hebburn, a veteran of World War II, first enlisted on September 4, 1939, with the Royal Canadian Artillery, 4th Field. As a private, he fought in the battle of Dieppe and landed on Juno Beach as a sergeant with the Royal Regiment of Canada just after the June 6 D-Day landings. On October 30, 1945, he received an honourable discharge, returning home to start a family and build a new life.
In 1960, Mr. Hebburn became a member of the Mount Dennis Legion, Branch 31, in York South–Weston. He later joined the executive, and in 1970 became branch president, serving four terms. Becoming a life member of the Legion, Mr. Hebburn was also presented with a Meritorious Service Medal to honour his tremendous contribution.
On behalf of the community and those who had the pleasure of knowing, working with and learning from Mr. Hebburn, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to him and so many other veterans for their courage and the sacrifices made to protect our values and our country. I ask members of this House to join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to his family, friends, and so many others who were fortunate to know him.
One of the core principles of our democracy is that elected members of Parliament are responsible for overseeing public finances. Continuing that long tradition, Bill 168 would establish a committee of this Legislature and entrust it with a mandate to review all agency spending. This committee would be free to recommend that we keep what works, fix what needs fixing, and scrap what is no longer working in the interests of Ontario families.
We in this chamber have a solemn responsibility to ensure Ontario taxpayers receive good value for their tax dollars. To hand off this task to someone who is unelected and unaccountable would be an abdication of our responsibility. The people of Ontario have put their trust in us, and we in the PC caucus are here every day, fighting to give Ontario families the respect they deserve.
It is only right that Bill 168 become law and we get this committee up and running so we can find the best value for taxpayers. I commend our leader, Tim Hudak, for introducing this initiative, and I will be supporting it this afternoon. I hope that the members opposite will act on their responsibility to their constituents and do the same.
Mr. Rick Johnson: Back in October, I spent a day in my riding with the Honourable Minister of Children and Youth Services. One of our visits was to the Point in Time Centre for Children, Youth and Parents.
Point in Time is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the well-being of children, youth and parents in Haliburton county. They are passionate about identifying and supporting children and youth with mental health needs. They know there comes a point in time where any parent may have trouble managing their child’s behaviours, any child may feel overwhelmingly sad, angry or anxious, or any teen may feel that they are near the end of their rope. They also know that together we can do more. We can—and we are.
Last week’s budget announced $257 million over three years aimed at child and youth mental health. In response, Marg Cox, the executive director of Point in Time, said this: “We are thrilled that the government is putting significant resources behind their commitment to addressing child and youth mental health needs across the province and in Haliburton county.”
With one in five children and youth experiencing mental health challenges and 70% to 80% of mental illness appearing before the age of 18, there is a huge need for increased mental health supports. In our community, we are hoping that additional resources in this sector will help reduce wait times and allow more children, youth and families to receive the help they need.
Mr. Mike Colle: The city of Toronto, the province of Ontario and Canada have lost a true humanitarian and business icon, John Arnold Tory, who passed away last week and left an amazing legacy of philanthropy, achievement and mentorship.
This quiet, unassuming family man will be very much missed by his wife of 58 years, Liz, his four children, including his son John, who sat with us here in the Legislature as the Leader of the Opposition, and his 15 grandchildren.
On behalf of all of us in the Legislature, the Premier of Ontario, the Honourable Dalton McGuinty, and all Ontarians, we extend our deepest sympathy to the family. We will truly miss his incredible, tireless generosity.
John A. Tory was an incredible, powerful force. He helped guide two remarkable Canadian success stories that are second to none: the late Ted Rogers, pioneer of Rogers Communications, and the legendary Ken Thomson, another incredible Canadian. Many of their outstanding accomplishments of international prominence were because of the behind-the-scenes wise and astute mentorship of John A. Tory.
Mr. Tory’s life was dedicated to building and improving his country and community. There is no better evidence of this dedication than at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital. His and his family’s generosity established the Tory Regional Trauma Centre at Sunnybrook and the John and Liz Tory Eye Centre at Sunnybrook, which, by the way, was built because of a donation of $7 million from his long-time friend and associate, Ted Rogers.
John A. Tory led by example with his quiet, forceful and wise determination to make life better for his fellow Canadians. May his relentless philanthropy and focus on family and community be an example for all of us to follow. No one can deny that all of us are in a better place because of the lasting contribution this great Canadian has made to his fellow man.
I’m proud to see representatives from around the province, and particularly welcome the visitors from my riding of Northumberland–Quinte West and my hometown of Brighton, which now hosts the newest branch of the Army Cadet League of Ontario, which became operational in September 2010.
I’d like to thank Don McCumber, chair of the Vimy kickoff committee, and the rest of the team for their hard work to set up this memorable event. I look forward to joining them at future ceremonies for years to come.
The army cadets from across Ontario are here today to hold the first-ever army cadet commemoration of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, April 9, 1917, one of the most significant events of World War I. The Honourable David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, is joining the Royal Canadian Army Cadets and Army Cadet League of Canada, Ontario division, in a wreath-laying ceremony as we speak, outside at the Ontario veterans’ memorial wall.
This formal declaration and proclamation at Queen’s Park today marks the first of such events and is expected to be an annual event replicated by army cadet corps throughout Ontario from this year onward.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Your Excellency, as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Legislature today on behalf of all the members of provincial Parliament, legislative staff, and invited and distinguished guests.
Today marks the first time in 25 years that an international dignitary has addressed our provincial Legislature at pleasure, although this historic event comes as a result of a time of great sadness for your people.
The earthquake and tsunami of Friday, March 11, 2011, were disasters that brought about unprecedented catastrophe to your great nation. The world watched in shock and horror as we witnessed the aftermath of these terrible events. It is unthinkable to consider that once again today, there is news of yet another significant earthquake off the shores of Honshu, and yet again we hold our breath.
Your Excellency, I know that the hearts of all of us here and, indeed, those of all Ontarians are with the people of Japan at this time of crisis. The bonds between your country and our province are strong. We are good friends, and we value our relationships.
In 2005, as a symbol of the friendship and goodwill between us, three Japanese flowering cherry trees were planted on the grounds of the Ontario Legislature, and I can see them from just outside my office window. Soon, these trees will offer us their beautiful blossoms as the warmer weather arrives. Symbolically, Your Excellency, know that all of us at the Ontario Legislature will be thinking of these flowers as a sign of hope for Japan in the face of the difficult weeks and months that lie ahead.
There truly is no place like Ontario, with its beautiful parks and bustling cities. It comes as no surprise that Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan were enchanted by the warmth and hospitality of Ontarians and Canadians during their visit in the summer of 2009.
Ontario also has a very special place in my heart as I think back to the wonderful summer holiday of 1968 when I visited this very city, Toronto. During that time—and forgive me for breaking the rules to speak about something personal—my father had the privilege of serving as the consul general of Japan. I took my first driving licence here in Toronto. My family always had very fond memories of this beautiful province.
Today, I am tremendously fortunate to return as ambassador of Japan, and I would like to share with you the latest developments occurring in my country, as well as my hope for the future of Japan-Canada and Japan-Ontario relations.
Before I address the details of this disaster, allow me to offer my deep gratitude to all Canadians and Ontarians who have given us heartwarming messages of sympathy and condolence. From His Excellency the Right Honourable Governor General David Johnston, the Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper, His Honour the Honourable Lieutenant Governor David Onley, the Honourable Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Honourable Speaker Mr. Steve Peters to the countless number of residents from across Canada and Ontario, I want to take this moment to say thank you. I also would like to mention that I had the privilege of meeting with the honourable Premier after the disaster took place, and his words were very moving.
Indeed, the words, thoughts and prayers of all Canadians have not gone unnoticed. They have created hope and strength for the people of Japan as they rebuild and move forward. For the second time since the end of the Second World War—and actually for the second time in our 2,000 years of history—His Majesty the Emperor of Japan addressed his people in a televised speech, offering encouragement and hope, as well as expressing his deep gratitude for the assistance provided by friends and allies, including Canada.
On March 11, Japan was struck by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the highest ever observed in my country. A tectonic plate shift 500 kilometres long and 200 kilometres wide led to powerful and violent tsunamis which created waves as high as 40 metres, their effects further amplified by a sawtooth coastline adjacent to steep mountains with countless villages and municipal offices. We swallow with difficulty the fact that these villages and offices no longer exist. This has made it extremely challenging to assess the damage and to receive and host rescue and assistance teams from our friends and allies.
With many of the roads, bridges, railroads and seaports no longer functioning, a US navy aircraft carrier was deployed almost immediately after the disaster. This carrier has served as a base for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and emergency response helicopters as they continue to search and rescue residents in the affected areas.
In addition to the countless lives lost and the many more who have no shelter, the disaster has also had an impact on the Fukushima nuclear power plants. While the reactors automatically shut down after the earthquake—and that is the difference between Chernobyl and Fukushima—the more-than-14-metre-high waves of the tsunami virtually destroyed the reactors’ cooling systems, a critical aspect of nuclear safety.
Today, we are still struggling to cool down the reactors. It seems as though every time we make progress and take two steps forward, we face yet another unpredictable challenge and take one step back. Nevertheless, the government—with the assistance of nuclear energy experts both within and outside Japan—is continuing to make utmost efforts to resolve this situation. With this challenge, we have seen the incredible bravery and resolve of the so-called “Fukushima 50,” an initial group of 50 that has now grown to more than 450 engineers and technicians who have courageously stayed behind to stabilize the reactors and assess the damage and radiation levels at the plant.
The situation concerning the Fukushima reactors has led to many discussions with regard to nuclear energy. Although our priority at this time is to address the situation, undoubtedly our government—and presumably the global community at large—will need to examine the lessons learned from this situation and advance toward more robust nuclear safety. During his visit to Japan on March 31, His Excellency Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France and the chair of this year’s G8 and G20, acknowledged a need for further discussions on this matter during a bilateral meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister, His Excellency Mr. Naoto Kan.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and appreciate the offers of assistance by the government of Canada. In fact, 25,000 Canadian thermal blankets have been sent to Japan and are now being delivered to evacuees. These blankets will prove to be invaluable to the displaced victims of the affected region, where the winter is as cold as yours. Furthermore, we have just received radiation survey meters and dosimeters from Canada to assist with our nuclear emergency response efforts in Fukushima. Dosimeters are radioactivity-detecting devices that each technician can put on when they go down to the nuclear power station.
Canadians—among them many Ontarians—have also given generously through the Canadian Red Cross. Many cities are hosting fundraisers and awareness events. Corporations and organizations have also donated significantly to the relief efforts. Members of the media have worked tremendously hard to relay the latest news of the disaster, and this has been invaluable to the many Japanese residents in Canada and to Canadians who have family and friends residing in Japan.
The small and large acts of all Canadians, spanning all generations, are extraordinary. One notable example is of an eight-year-old boy from Halifax whose father drove him all the way to Ottawa so that he could personally deliver 1,400 paper cranes, birds, which he folded with his classmates. Each paper crane had a special message to the people of Japan, and the boy’s own message contained his wish for “the people of Japan to not lose hope and that they know that we care.” Traditionally, groupings of 1,000 paper cranes serve as a symbol of prayer and encouragement to the Japanese people, but in this particular case, they had indeed a much deeper and profound meaning. I was very, very touched.
The reaction of Canada and Ontario to the situation in Japan may come as no surprise to some, as our two countries have shared a rich history of partnership and co-operation, just as His Honour mentioned. I would like to touch briefly on this relationship, first from an economic perspective.
Many of you may have heard the term “lost decade” used to describe the economic downturn that Japan faced during the 1990s. While there are still many economic and social issues that need to be addressed domestically, I want to shed some light on the positive aspects of this decade.
While, indeed, heavy and bulk industries lost their competitive edge during this time, many new industries were born in Japan and grew very rapidly during this period. Most notably, mobile telecommunications grew 60% per year; the development of liquid crystal displays, 35% per year; fibre optics, 20%; personal computers, 18%; and the list goes on.
When we look even closer at individual companies, we are able to see innovation in action during this lost decade. For example, we observed the resurrection of light industry companies such as textile makers, who transformed themselves to become high-tech companies.
All of this to say that the term “lost decade” is irrelevant when it comes to the economic relationship between Japan and Ontario. Most notably, Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Honda have made investments in Ontario. They produce over 740,000 cars yearly, which, in turn, has created 65,000 jobs in this province. In fact, the total export value of these vehicles manufactured in Canada amounts to more than $12 billion annually. Furthermore, over 240 Japanese companies have chosen to invest in Ontario, thanks to the long-standing support of the government of Ontario for this type of investment.
This province is also home to many technological breakthroughs and innovative products. I, myself, use a BlackBerry, one of the best products in the world, created right here in Ontario. It is interesting to note that, within the BlackBerry, we can see our economic partnership at work, with Japanese companies such as Sanyo and Anritsu supplying critical components to the production of this device.
While there are worries that the supply of some Japanese-made components will be affected by the recent disaster, I am pleased to share with you that many factories have restarted their production lines, according to the Japan Auto Parts Industries Association.
Indeed, we—120 million Japanese citizens—firmly believe that the only way to overcome this challenge is to conduct the task at hand with the best of our abilities, with no sensation or panic, but with steady and firm determination, conviction and hope.
Speaking of hope, we know that science and technology are the only ways for our country to move forward, and there are many examples of scientific and technological co-operation between Japan and Ontario.
If I can cite a few examples: The University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering and Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application have worked together to make progress on stem cell research, and the National Institute for Materials Science of Japan and Waterloo University have been promoting their collaboration on nanotechnology since the signing of a partnership agreement in February 2010.
I’m also very proud to note that eight Japanese scientists have had the honour of being awarded the Gairdner Award. Recently, on March 23, it was announced that Dr. Shizuo Akira of Osaka University would be one of seven recipients for this year, 2011.
On a broader scale, allow me to touch briefly on the partnership between Japan and Canada. One such example of this partnership took place very recently on January 27, 2011, when a Japanese-built and launched unmanned cargo spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station with the assistance of the Canadian-built Canadarm2 in space. Many of you may have seen this spectacular occurrence broadcast on CBC TV news.
This event is simply one of many which symbolize the potential of our economic and technological partnership. In February of this year, both Japan and Canada agreed to launch a joint study on an economic partnership agreement. Both parties held their first meeting for this study in March, and a second meeting is scheduled to take place next week.
Japan and Canada will also launch its first sub-cabinet level dialogue on political, peace, and security co-operation in August. Both initiatives will be invaluable pillars in mobilizing our bilateral relations to the next phase of collaboration.
As ambassador, I am very proud to see our country advance with Canada on these fronts, promoting free trade in accordance with the World Trade Organization and establishing a prime example of two free market and open economies and societies working hand in hand. My humble belief is that this is made possible by the fact that both countries have a long history of participatory democracy, freedom of speech and expression, and legal predictability; the latter which I believe is a crucial element for the success of our multi-faceted relationship.
Mr. Speaker, allow me to reassure all members of this Legislative Assembly that I will spare no efforts to ensure the success of this collaboration between Japan and Canada, and needless to mention, Japan and Ontario.
Most notably, there has been an increase in the number of Japanese students who come to Canada. In fact, 220 academic co-operation agreements between Japanese and Canadian universities are actively engaged.
Over 7,000 Canadians have also participated in the JET Programme—the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme—a Japanese government initiative aimed at creating grassroots exchanges and relationships between Japan and Canada—mainly inviting them as English teachers and dispatching them to various towns and villages throughout Japan.
Toronto is home to the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. Led by President Mr. Gary Kawaguchi and Executive Director Mr. James Heron, the centre is an incredible symbol of multiculturalism and highlights the role of Japanese Canadians in this country. It serves as a gathering place for not only Japanese Canadians, but also many other ethnic communities as they seek to explore the roots of their cultures.
On April 9, the centre will host the third annual Sakura Ball, a highlight of which is the Sakura Award, recognizing exceptional contributions made by individuals to the promotion and exchange of Japanese culture and enhancing awareness of Japanese heritage within Canada and abroad. The recipient of this year’s Sakura Award is Dr. David Suzuki.
Mr. Speaker and elected representatives of the people of Ontario, the recent earthquake and tsunami have shown all of us the incredible power of Mother Nature. More importantly, it has taught us the need to seek a balance between nature and mankind.
As ambassador, I am confident that the people of my country will move forward, recover from this hardship and rebuild once again to become the vibrant economic and cultural centre of Asia. However, as we rebuild, we must never forget the most vulnerable generation affected by this tragic disaster. For the children who have lost their homes—and in many cases, those who have lost their parents—it is my personal appeal for our government and all of our friends and neighbours to offer them support and, like the message written by the boy from Halifax, let them know that they are not alone.
Please allow me to say once again, thank you. The support, generosity and solidarity of the members of this Legislative Assembly, all Ontarians and all Canadians will never be forgotten. Thank you very much, indeed.
On behalf of the people of Ontario, welcome to our Legislature. We are honoured by your presence here today. This, as you have heard, is a very special event for us. The last time a foreign dignitary addressed this House was 25 years ago. Japan has paid us a similar honour in the past. A couple of years ago, I had the honour to meet with Emperor Akihito, and he told me his very first official overseas visit as crown prince was to Canada in 1953. That visit and your presence here today speak to the special relationship that we have with Japan.
Je veux que vous sachiez qu’au moment même où vous vivez le deuil de tous ceux et de toutes celles qui ont perdu la vie lors de ce tremblement de terre et de ce tsunami, les Ontariens et Ontariennes sont de tout coeur avec vous. Your Excellency, I want you to know that as you mourn and remember all those who lost their lives in the earthquake and tsunami, Ontarians stand with you. We stand with you in your sorrow, and we stand with you as you continue to rebuild. In countless Ontario homes, our families have you in their prayers, and we think of your families and all that they have endured. We see you overcoming tragedy, as you have for centuries, and it inspires us. It also enlightens us. It gives us a glimpse into the soul and character of the Japanese people, a people who have endured and overcome tremendous hardship countless times over your long and rich history.
Japan is a country of great natural beauty: The snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji, the clear water of Lake Mashu and the grandeur of the Nachi Falls have all inspired centuries of reverence and awe. Your country has also known great natural catastrophes: earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis. While western culture sees beauty and destruction as forces to be reconciled, Japanese culture sees them as a paradox to be embraced. Each gives the other a deeper, richer meaning. And when you meet the people of Japan, as I have been fortunate to do both as host and as a guest in your country, one begins to appreciate the way you see beauty and purpose and paradox.
The revered Japanese poet Basho wrote: “The moon and sun are travellers through eternity. Even the years wander on. Whether drifting through life on a boat or climbing toward old age leading a horse, each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”
You embrace the journey; you draw strength from it, which is why today from desperate suffering we see a steely resolve rising. Nous avons confiance que vous vous en sortirez encore plus fort même si vous êtes en deuil et que vous faites votre devoir de mémoire. We know you will endure this tragedy. We have faith you will emerge stronger even as you mourn and remember.
Today, Your Excellency, we want you to know that Ontarians stand with the people of Japan. We also want you to know that we stand in awe of you. We stand in awe of your remarkable courage. We stand in awe of your enduring spirit. We are proud and honoured to be your friends.
As you heard a moment ago, outside in front of this building stand three cherry trees donated to the people of Ontario by the people of Japan. After a long, cold winter, they will soon come into bloom and they will be beautiful. I can think of no more fitting symbol because, after a time of great sorrow, Japan’s spirit will emerge again as it always has: beautiful, strong, full of new life and always with hope. Thank you.
On behalf of my colleagues in the Ontario PC caucus, I would like to offer our deepest sympathy and condolences to the people of Japan and their families. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the courageous Japanese people and their families and friends here in Ontario and elsewhere throughout the world.
All of us who shared in watching the horrific images of the devastation on March 11 of the earthquake and tsunami have no doubt shared in that great sense of loss with the people of Japan. We’ll never forget the images of homes destroyed, communities vanished, lives lost, families ripped apart—an entire nation left to grapple with utter devastation. It will leave an indelible image in all of our minds forever.
I would be remiss if we did not mention the tremendous efforts undertaken by Japanese officials, the Fukushima 50, showing limitless courage and dedication to the people of Japan by staying behind and coping with nuclear facilities damaged by the catastrophe. I cannot imagine what those folks and their families are going through and the sacrifice they are prepared to make to help their families and their country.
But out of such loss we have also seen incredible courage, the remarkable strength to battle against the odds, to pull together, to recover and to rebuild. Personally, I was struck by the words of Japanese Emperor Akihito, speaking to his people with a message that was heard throughout the world. The emperor said, “I hope from the bottom of my heart that the people will, hand in hand, treat each other with compassion and overcome these difficult times.” He then called on his people not to abandon hope. His message was heard not only throughout Japan, but here in Ontario.
That message is certainly being taken to heart here in our Legislature, where we welcome the ambassador to speak before us—as mentioned, the first address by a foreign dignitary in 25 years. That reflects the level of respect we have for the ambassador and the people of Japan, who are still grappling with the devastating impact of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and that respect has been strengthened, forged by the deep roots and connections between Japan and the people of Ontario.
A dozen cities and towns in our province have sister cities in Japan. Our economic connections are vast and growing stronger: a trading partner in our manufacturing and automotive industries, significant. I know my colleagues Mr. Wilson and Mr. Hardeman welcome Honda and Toyota, and their communities know the impact that has on families in those parts of the province.
Throughout Ontario and Canada, communities have come together to, as the emperor said, work hand in hand with aid organizations to donate money and offer help as Japan recovers and rebuilds. Through the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Ontario has already raised significant funds to assist in the recovery efforts.
As we all know, it will take more than money for Japan to come back. Families will need time to deal with the sense of loss, to grieve loved ones. And that’s the reason I was very impressed by another special initiative by the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. The origami crane project for Toronto schoolchildren has had kids make paper cranes and send them to the children of Japan. The crane represents good fortune and longevity in Japanese culture, and with origami versions, Toronto schoolchildren are sending notes of best wishes to children whose lives have been torn apart by the tsunami. This community-building project allows for our two countries to build even more lasting bonds, to let the children of Japan know that despite the devastation in their country and, sadly, the loss of family, they are not alone in the world—in fact, far from it. Their friends in Ontario are there for them.
I am confident that Japan, as they have done before, will rebuild once again, grow stronger still and will recover from these devastating events. I’d like to say to the ambassador that he can take heart, as can the Japanese people, that your friends in Ontario will be with you every step of the way.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: On behalf of my NDP caucus colleagues and all Ontario New Democrats, I want to welcome Your Excellency Ambassador Ishikawa here to the Legislature today and acknowledge your powerful and evocative message on what’s happening in your country even as we speak, as well as acknowledging your detailing of the many areas of collaboration that Ontario, Canada and Japan enjoy.
I want to offer our condolences and deepest sense of regret for what your country and its people have endured. Like all Ontarians, I’m certain, I was overwhelmed by the images coming out of Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. They were images of unimaginable destruction and immense human suffering. This really is a tragedy of monumental proportions.
I want to tell you, Your Excellency, that all Ontarians are here for our Japanese friends. As the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition have stated, Ontario treasures its relationship with Japan and the Japanese people. It’s a friendship that stretches across the globe. Toronto may be almost 9,000 kilometres away from Tokyo, but the ties we’ve forged—cultural, economic and, yes, political—are as strong as ever, and the contribution Ontarians of Japanese ancestry have made to our province in all facets of life is enormous. That is why we will do whatever we can to help Japan rebuild.
We are comforted in knowing that Japan is a proud and resilient nation. The Japanese people have overcome tremendous tragedies in the past and they will do so again. That resiliency is woven into the Japanese DNA and it will serve you, Your Excellency, and your people well during the rebuilding and rebirth that is under way.
The days, weeks, months and years ahead will no doubt present great challenges and equally great opportunities. I want you to know that Ontarians will be with you every step of the way. That, sir, you can definitely count on us for.
I want to close with a Japanese proverb that captures this moment in human history: Keizoku wa chikara nari—perseverance is strength. The Japanese people shall persevere and they shall be immeasurably stronger for it.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Your Excellency, on behalf of all members of this Legislature and the people of Ontario, we want to thank you for honouring us today with your presence and your words. I want to thank the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party for their words as well.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I would like to extend an invitation to all members and all of our guests to join us for a reception in honour of His Excellency’s visit to the Legislative Assembly today. The reception will be taking place in the Speaker’s apartment, located on the third floor in the northwest corner of the building, and I would ask that you all please join us.
His Excellency Kaoru Ishikawa: Thank you very much again for this great honour and the kind words that Mr. Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the third party and all of the members of this Legislature have kindly sent to my people through me. I thank you very much again.
Bill 178, An Act to amend the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act to name Highway 403 the Alexander Graham Bell Parkway / Projet de loi 178, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l’aménagement des voies publiques et des transports en commun afin de nommer l’autoroute 403 promenade Alexander Graham Bell.
Mr. Dave Levac: From the explanatory note: The bill amends the Public Transportation and Highway Improvement Act to name a portion of Highway 403 between Brant and Burlington the Alexander Graham Bell Parkway.
Hon. Monique M. Smith: I move that the Standing Committee on General Government be authorized to meet at the call of the Chair on Wednesday, April 13, 2011, for the purpose of consideration of Bill 151, An Act to enact the Ontario Forest Tenure Modernization Act, 2011 and to amend the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994.
“Whereas Dalton McGuinty promised during the 2007 election that he would keep rural schools open when he declared that, ‘Rural schools help keep communities strong, which is why we’re not only committed to keeping them open—but strengthening them’; and
“That Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Minister of Education support the citizens of Clearview township and suspend the Simcoe County District School Board ARC 2010:01 until the province develops a rural school policy that recognizes the value of schools in the rural communities of Ontario.”
“We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that the Ontario government request the establishment of an OSPCA chapter in Haldimand–Norfolk to provide the two counties with support in cases of animal abuse and neglect.”
“Whereas, over the last year alone, the McGuinty Liberal government has added” another “$150 per household in hydro generation premiums, $50 in smart meter fees and then placed” another “$98 in harmonized sales taxes on the average Ontario household’s hydro bill;
“Whereas Dalton McGuinty’s smart meters are forcing hard-working and busy Ontarians to pay exorbitant premiums to do regular chores, such as laundry, outside of the Premier’s ‘preferred’ time-of-use energy schedule;
“We, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to demand that the McGuinty Liberal government immediately reduce hydro rates for all Ontarians, cease with the time-of-use pricing and remove the HST tax placed upon electricity, as it is an essential service to hard-working Ontario families.”
“Whereas, over the last year alone, the McGuinty Liberal government has added $150 per household in hydro generation premiums, $50 in smart meter fees and then placed $98 in harmonized sales taxes on the average Ontario household’s hydro bill;
“Whereas Dalton McGuinty’s smart meters are forcing hard-working and busy Ontarians to pay exorbitant premiums to do regular chores, such as laundry, outside of the Premier’s ‘preferred’ time-of-use energy schedule;
“We, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to demand that the McGuinty Liberal government immediately reduce hydro rates for all Ontarians, cease with the time-of-use pricing and remove the HST tax placed upon electricity, as it is an essential service to hard-working Ontario families.”
“Whereas over 25 million pounds of fresh produce is disposed of or plowed back into Ontario’s fields each year while local food banks across Ontario face an uphill battle as they struggle to assist those most in need; and
“We, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call MPP Bob Bailey’s private member’s bill, Bill 78, the Taxation Amendment Act (Food Bank Donation Tax Credit for Farmers), 2010, to committee immediately for consideration and then on to third reading and implementation without delay.”
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I have a petition here, and it’s obvious that a great number of constituents from Oxford county also agree with the member from Sarnia–Lambton, because they have signed this petition. On their behalf, I would like to present it.
“Whereas over 25 million pounds of fresh produce is disposed of or plowed back into Ontario’s fields each year while local food banks across Ontario face an uphill battle as they struggle to assist those most in need; and
“We, the undersigned, call upon the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to call MPP Bob Bailey’s private member’s bill, Bill 78, the Taxation Amendment Act (Food Bank Donation Tax Credit for Farmers), 2010, to committee immediately for consideration and then on to third reading and implementation without delay.”
Mr. Reza Moridi: I move that, in the opinion of this House, to recognize and applaud the many contributions that doctors make to the health and well-being of all Ontarians, who, in addition to providing front-line health care, also promote and encourage a healthy and active lifestyle, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario shall proclaim the 1st day of May as Doctors’ Day in Ontario.
Mr. Reza Moridi: I move that, in the opinion of this House, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario shall proclaim the 1st day of May as Doctors’ Day in Ontario to recognize and applaud the many contributions that doctors make to the health and well-being of all Ontarians.
Mr. Reza Moridi: Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to present you and my honourable colleagues with an initiative that is very close to my heart: the recognition and celebration of our doctors across our great province of Ontario by declaring May 1 as Doctor’s Day. The recognition of this day was first brought to my attention by a good friend of mine, Dr. Larry Grossman, chief of staff of York Central Hospital, who is here today with us in the east public gallery.
York Central Hospital plays an integral part in increasing the quality of life in my riding of Richmond Hill. The physicians, nurses, technologists, technicians, management and staff have not only provided my constituents and residents of York region with good quality front-line health care, but they have also fought brave battles such as the H1N1 outbreak and the SARS pandemic.
Dr. Mark MacLeod and his team at the Ontario Medical Association, who are also here with us today, have also been very instrumental in assisting me and my staff in preparing this motion, and I would like to sincerely thank them at this time.
The definition of a doctor or physician has changed enormously throughout time. At various times through history, doctors have been viewed as gods, priests or even individuals with a profound link to magic. Doctors have evolved and adapted alongside the evolutionary timeline of human society.
The first instance of a doctor or healer was chronicled in cave paintings in what is now France. The paintings were radio-carbon dated as far back as 27,000 years ago and depicted people using plants for medical purposes. This is the first recorded instance of what eventually developed into the first medical knowledge base passed down through tribes.
The practice of medicine as a skill evolved with the ancient Egyptians. A standard work called the Book of Thoth was developed and used by Egyptian doctors. It was a collection of rituals and natural treatments, including such religious practices as mummification, which helped these ancient doctors understand human anatomy. The Egyptians were one of the first peoples to develop a system of medical training in the temples and using written language, hieroglyphics.
This combination of religious and practical ideas was further developed by the ancient Greek medical doctors. The most influential was Hippocrates. It was his belief and teaching that took the idea of illness being caused by gods to the more modern understanding of illness being the result of the body’s elements becoming out of balance. Hippocratic doctors were one of the first examples of people being trained in schools of medicine versus temples.
There are various historical figures with tremendous contributions to the world of medicine from all across the world: from Avicenna, whose book, The Canon of Medicine, which was used as a textbook in universities as late as 1650, was an unprecedented book for the discovery of contagious diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, the introduction of quarantine to limit the spread of disease, the introduction of experimental medicine, clinical trials, neuropsychiatry, among many other discoveries, to the books of Ontario doctors Dr. Frederick Banting and Dr. Charles Best and their discovery of insulin right next door at the University of Toronto.
After the development of sodium citrate in World War I, doctors were able to carry out blood transfusions without the need for the donor to be present. Harold Gillies and Archibald McIndoe developed plastic surgery during World Wars I and II. The 20th century also saw the first organ transplant. The first heart transplant was carried out by the South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard in 1967. Doctors were able to treat infertility in humans using IVF, the egg and the sperm being joined in the laboratory and then transplanted to the uterus, and in 1978, the first test-tube baby was born in the United Kingdom. The advances made by doctors in the 20th century enabled the treatment of almost any disease or medical problem.
I’d like to now share with you an inspirational story, the story of one of my constituents, Ms. Wendy Kumeta. In October 2009, alongside some other Ontarians, Wendy contracted H1N1 and was sent to York Central Hospital. The virus quickly took a turn for the worse and caused acute respiratory distress syndrome. She was transferred to the intensive care unit, where she was in a medically induced coma. Her life was saved due to the quick thinking of her doctor, Dr. Eric Chu, and his staff at York Central Hospital. Dr. Chu placed her on a high-frequency oscillator, which in turn saved her life.
Wendy has now made a full recovery after her traumatic ordeal, and she owes this new lease on life to the physicians and the staff at York Central Hospital. Wendy says, “I had some of the best and most compassionate doctors, nurses and therapists. They were masking up, gowning up and coming into my room to save me when no one had a clue what (H1N1) would do.”
Physicians are an integral component of Ontario’s health care system. Every day, Ontario’s doctors treat over 400,000 patients. Formally declaring May 1 as Doctors’ Day is a chance for those patients to show their appreciation and gratitude to the 26,000 practising doctors across the province.
Thanks to the McGuinty government’s strategic investments, Ontario doctors have helped more than 1.2 million people who previously did not have access to a family doctor. There are over 2,900 more physicians practising in the province of Ontario since 2003. There are more medical school spaces, and more physicians are choosing to become family doctors. By 2013, we will have doubled the number of doctors graduating from Ontario universities every year, from 533 to 1,064.
Ontario’s doctors have also been working hard by performing more surgeries and helping reduce wait times for important procedures. In addition to providing front-line care, Ontario’s doctors promote and encourage healthy and active lifestyles. Ontario’s doctors continue to be leaders in the war against tobacco and fighting childhood obesity. Also, Ontario doctors successfully advocated for banning smoking in cars with children and eliminating texting while driving.
Since 2004, Ontario doctors have treated over 30 million patients in emergency rooms, performed more than 775,000 cataract surgeries—close to a million—performed nearly 108,000 knee replacement surgeries, performed more than 70,000 hip replacement surgeries. Over 5,900 physicians have embraced electronic medical records, which covers nearly six million Ontarians.
May 1 was chosen as Doctors’ Day in Ontario because it is the birthday of Dr. Emily Stowe. Dr. Emily Jennings Stowe was the first female physician in Canada. Like many other physicians of her time, it was a personal matter that drove her to medicine. Her husband contracted tuberculosis and, with several children to support, she decided to pursue medicine.
Dr. Stowe’s inspirational story is a beautiful example of the undying resilience of a person who entered the field of medicine, not for personal gain, but to be an instrument for healing and the well-being of her community.
Currently, there are numerous physician appreciation events across the province at the municipal level. However, there is not one overarching event which celebrates all Ontario doctors. It may interest my colleagues to note that no Canadian provincial jurisdictions have legislation or have proclaimed any type of doctors’ appreciation day.
The successful passing of this motion would once again put Ontario on the map as being the first province in this great country to recognize the tremendous contributions that doctors have made in our lives, by declaring May 1 as Doctors’ Day.
I look forward to my honourable colleagues’ support of this motion so that we may formally recognize and give thanks for the incredible work our doctors do every day in this great province of Ontario.
Mr. John O’Toole: I stand and pay respect to the member from Richmond Hill’s sentiments, and I commend him on his remarks. They were quite a tribute to the medical profession. Dr. Moridi is also a doctor. He’s a Ph.D. doctor—in physics, I believe—and a very highly respected member of this Legislature. I’m surprised they aren’t making better use of his talents in the innovation ministry or something like that.
Even in this Legislature today, there are members who have distinguished themselves outside of here as medical doctors. There is Dr. Qaadri here, of course. I hope he’s going to be speaking later. There is Helena Jaczek, who is also a former medical officer of health. Kuldip Kular is a doctor, and there are more as well. Some of them are being well used as ministers, and Eric Hoskins is a good example. My point would be that they do serve the public and the public interest, in the sense of policy with knowledge.
The Minister of Health, with all due respect, has a Ph.D., as well, from Western university. I’m not sure—it’s probably political science; it certainly isn’t health science. It’s political science to the extent that she certainly knows how to handle the questions.
I really don’t think there’s a lot more to be added. I would say that I had the privilege, in a personal way, to be close to a family—my wife’s sister and brother are both doctors. They went to McGill and McMaster. One is Dr. Norman Woods. He went to McGill, and he now practises in California and is very successful. If finance is the measure of success in medicine, he’s made it. Otherwise I’m not sure. I don’t say that disparagingly, because he did practise here in Ontario for a while and was called to practise in California. I think he owns a Kellogg clinic, and he does provide some volunteer medical services in that area, because in the US, they have a different kind of system.
The point I’m trying to make is, Georgia was quite different. She had a master of social work and worked with persons in need in the city of Toronto, and that was her calling. It was quite a different calling. She ended up practising in geriatrics—aging and the frail elderly. She’s a very, very caring person and now practises, mostly in a locum situation, in Vancouver. She’s a very artistic person but very skilled.
There’s a certain thread that runs through it all: They really are both naturally caring people, and there must be some predisposed inclination, skills. I don’t know what it is. When I think of our doctors in my own community, I’m always impressed with the people I meet with, because there are lots of issues with health care, plenty of them; in fact, if you want to think of it, all of us as members probably hear about issues in health care.
Right now, there are quite large changes in health care, and as I said earlier, I had the privilege at one time to be the Minister of Health’s parliamentary assistant for a little bit of time with Elizabeth Witmer when she was the Minister of Health, and for the most part with Tony Clement when he was Minister of Health. I would also say that Tony Clement became the Minister of Health federally.
He was a lawyer; he wasn’t a doctor. I’ve often wondered, when we have qualified medical people here, why don’t they make them Minister of Health? Would it be a conflict? I’m not sure. Perhaps you could say in your response, but that would be the ultimate respect of the profession serving the profession as opposed to politicians serving the profession, because, as we know, we could rant on about this topic.
I’m sure that many of their patients are sometimes seen in a hurried fashion because of the lack of resources in health care. That’s not one of my spin questions. It’s a case that the doctors only have so much time to spend with each patient. In fact, the model, which has changed in some respects, is a good model, and that’s the family health teams—collaborative health; the primary care option is very important. I think there’s an expanding role, and I think it’s being led by the Ontario Medical Association, dealing with the collaborative health model, dealing with nutritionists and pharmacists and all the other health care providers, and the emerging doctor-assist role for nurses. I don’t know the formal name, but I think they’re nurse practitioners.
The Speaker as well was a former Minister of Health. Mr. Wilson, you were very important. Right off the bat, you were the Minister of Health under some challenging circumstances as well. I believe we’re kind of pioneers in some of the attempts to reform medical delivery-of-service models so that they could be more efficient and more accessible to patients, as I recall some of the work you did in your time there.
I also say that it all comes back to your own personal experience. I have no personal dislike of doctors, but I sort of have the white-coat syndrome. If I go in, my blood pressure is up for sure. I would say that it’s always important to pay attention to what you’re doing.
I would say that my own physician—I can put that on the record. I saw him just recently because I’m at that age where you should start watching out for yourself. Dr. Tony Stone is, I believe, the chief of medical staff at the Lakeridge Health regional health organization at the Bowmanville site—a very young, progressive, team-working doctor. I’ve met with him many times. During the time when our emergency was going to be shut down, he was actually the leader—and I don’t mean this to be political. He made me fully understand the importance of having an internist as well as a family physician to actually facilitate keeping the emergency open, how important it was to have some of the specialists there to be available to make sure that the emergency could operate effectively and safely.
They are important to us because half of the budget of Ontario is basically health care, and with that, the responsibility is to spend the money wisely. It’s important that collaborative health, in the future, is certainly one of the important methods to respect the medical team. Reflecting on this bill and the intent of it, I would put the doctors in charge of what the best solutions are to reorganizing the health system and the delivery of health care.
When I was looking through the clippings this morning, there were a couple of very important things. I think I’ll just enter these as conversation pieces in the debate. I would say the first one was, “Time for an RHSP,” a registered health savings plan. It made quite good sense, actually, when I listened to it, and I’d be interested in the views of doctors on this. It says here, “Individuals would deposit funds in a registered account that could be withdrawn tax-free for health care expenses approved and listed as deductions in the Income Tax Act.”
I believe the real issue here is not queue-jumping or anything else, but providing services. Here’s the key part to understand, because I see that the NDP are very quick to jump up and criticize this: “The deductible expenses would be those not covered by provincial insurance—among them”—this is very important—“dental care, prescription drugs, physiotherapy, prostate tests.” The reason I say that is that these have been delisted as savings measures in health care. Physiotherapy was de-listed. Do you understand? Somebody is being discharged from the hospital. There’s a discharge plan by the doctor that would say that they must have therapy. If it’s done in a hospital, it’s my understanding that it is covered. If it’s done in the community, it’s not covered. Here they are with a broken hip—it’s just not being delivered properly. I would listen to the doctors, not the politicians.
Also, prostate tests: They’re not covered. Screen testing for women was in the budget, $15 million; nothing for prostate. The highest cause of death? Prostate. What does the physician community say? What does CIHI say? The Canadian Institute for Health Information collects that data. We need to have respect for the profession we’re going to honour on May 1—I’m sure this will pass—and listen to what they have to say on some of this important stuff.
There was some stuff here under the Regulated Health Professions Act this morning. I would say this one here is quite interesting. This one here had to do with the change in scope of practice for some of our health care professions. I thought it was quite interesting, as we look at them working together. This actually went through the Regulated Health Professions Act. There are opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. They decided to give the opticians some of the stuff that only the medical doctor could do: prescribing medications for the eye. That is going to save an extra visit, save the system and actually improve access to care. I think this was led by Ms. Sullivan, I believe.
Again, doing what the professions in their own professional decisions decide is good for health care: We should be listening to them. That’s the best way I can think of of respecting and recognizing the important contribution of Doctors’ Day in our province of Ontario. They know that scarce resources need to be spent and used wisely.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Speaker, I’ve got to tell you, this is the kind of motion that comes up every now and then where you want to say, without debate, “All in favour? Opposed, if any?” and you move on, because that’s the kind of motion we’ve got.
Doctors, as far as I know, are well liked and well respected—as far as I know. There could be some complaints, and I suspect there are, like any profession, but on the whole, it’s a respected profession. But if the member from Richmond Hill feels that somehow they need to be recognized, God bless, let’s recognize them.
I was thinking, if the motion read that “in the opinion of this House, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario shall proclaim the first day of May as Politicians’ Day in Ontario, to recognize and applaud the many contributions that politicians make to the well-being of Ontarians,” that would have been a good debate. Why? Because on the scale of who’s loved and who’s not, we are not up there. And if we did that and had that debate, it would make sense. Why? Because given that we are here by way of popular support, it would make sense that we would stand up and talk about the great things we do for Ontarians.
So I thought, what else do you say? My regular doctor, Claudio Borgono, is a good doctor. I like him a lot. He’s a friend of the family. I even often consult some of my colleagues in this place—my good friend from Etobicoke North, my friend from the Oak Ridges moraine, from time to time, if needed.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I know. My Conservative colleague says the reason why we have a shortage of doctors out there is because they’re in here, and he made a good point. It was a hell of a good point.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: There are so many people who need your services out there. Now, I’m not saying you should reconsider your position. I’m not saying that, because if you like to be here, you should stay, for God’s sake.
The only thing I wanted to add quickly, because I know my colleague from Beaches–East York has got a few things to say as well—I thought, what could one talk about that is relevant to the profession? What’s relevant to the medical students who want to be doctors is tuition fees. Now, there’s an issue that one could move a motion around, where we commit ourselves to freezing the tuition fees for medical students, reducing them by 20% as quickly as we can, because we want a whole lot of young men and women to get into the profession. Given the kind of tuition fees that they have to face, more and more young men and women are saying, “I can’t afford to do that.”
Now, if that was the motion, I’d be saying I’m right there with you, right? Because we know that tuition fees are close to 20,000 bucks. We’re just talking about tuition fees. Good God, ever since the Conservatives deregulated that field, a whole lot of people are just wondering where they’re going to find the money to become doctors. Tories and Liberals say, “That’s not so bad. It’s a good profession. Once they become doctors, they’ll be able to pay it off. Not a problemo.”
In my humble view, there are a whole lot of people who don’t come from rich families. If you come from a rich family, paying 20,000 bucks is not so bad, but if you come from a modest home like me, where my father was a construction worker and my mamma worked at home, taking care of six kids—there isn’t a whole lot of money there. But if mom and pop have some nice companies from which they make a whole lot of money, 20,000 bucks is nothing. But for a whole lot of regular folks out there, 20,000 bucks just for tuition fees, excluding books and excluding paying for rent—if you come from another city, that’s a whole lot of money.
If your family income is about 65,000 bucks or over, you get nothing. You get nothing from the government. In fact, because there is no OSAP, where do you go? You’ve got to go to the bank and right away start paying interest rates, as soon as you get that money.
So a lot of young men and women who decide they would like to get into that profession think, “Hmm. A $100,000 debt at the end of my arduous journey to become a doctor: Can I afford to do that?” So there are some people who are deciding that’s not the profession they want to get into. We are automatically excluding a whole lot of young men and women who would be capable of becoming doctors. If we had a motion to talk about that, I would be right there ready to get into that debate, as I’m trying to do. But I’ve got to leave time for my friend from Beaches–East York.
Mr. Kuldip Kular: I would like to thank my honourable colleague the MPP from Richmond Hill for asking me to speak on behalf of his resolution to proclaim May 1 of each year as Doctors’ Day in Ontario.
As a family physician and a legislator, I feel that I have been given the honour and privilege of serving Ontarians in two special ways. While there are many differences in these professions, both are essential to our way of life. In both cases, I am able to perform the role of an advocate for the public.
Each of us in this chamber wants an Ontario where our constituents benefit from a vibrant health care system. That system is, in the end, made up of human beings, many of them doctors who are dedicated to promoting the health of others in our society. Human beings are infinitely resourceful but also physically fragile. We become injured and sick. We grow old and frail. Sometimes even the strongest of us are struck down by illness.
It could be said that the thing we as Canadians enjoy most in life is not success or fame but our physical health. Our health is the thing that makes it possible for us to remain productive and to enjoy life. When we are healthy, we feel we can do anything.
I remember when I was working as an emergency physician at Peel Memorial hospital. One of the evening shifts when I was doing that, one young man walked into emerg. When he was insisting to see the physician, he slumped into his chair. He was brought in, and I was the emergency physician to examine him. He had a tiny stab wound in his chest. He was attending a birthday party where they had an argument, and he was stabbed in the chest. As I examined him, his blood pressure was low; his pulse was tiny and thready. I made the working diagnosis of cardiac tamponade. Within 12 minutes, he was taken to the operating room, where he had a rupture of his ventricle. It was stitched, he was hospitalized for some days, and he was sent home. Two years later, he walks into my medical office, bringing me a letter of appreciation thanking me, that if I hadn’t been there and I didn’t help him, he would not have been there anymore. A lot of my physician colleagues share similar incidents.
Certainly, the life of a doctor is not a vocation that should be pursued with a light heart. As doctors, we are often challenged to transform a patient’s grim prognosis into something hopeful, and it cannot always be done. I believe that’s why we need greater awareness of the role of doctors in our society. We need to recall their experiences and stories, both the virtues of the profession and its challenges, if people are to truly appreciate the importance of their health and of those who are entrusted to protect it.
Simply put, Ontario’s strength will always be based upon the health of its people. It is people who make Ontario prosperous. People are the agents of change in our society, who transform ideas and resources into things that benefit others; into things that can be shared and traded to enrich our quality of life. People create great works of art and inspire us.
So physicians, as the ones who keep others healthy, are a special breed of person. It can be very humbling, especially for a young and inexperienced doctor, when a patient comes to you at their most vulnerable moment for help, or even with a relatively small but very personal health matter. There is often very little glory in confronting a patient’s urgent medical needs. To each of us, at some point in our lives, these men and women will be heroes.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the chamber to support this resolution in order to remind Ontarians of the importance of their health and to encourage Ontarians from all walks of life to recognize Ontario’s doctors for their essential role in our society. That’s why I would request that members of both sides of the aisle should support the resolution brought forward by my honourable colleague the MPP for Richmond Hill.
Mr. Michael Prue: Of course we’re going to support the motion. My colleague from Trinity–Spadina already talked about the NDP’s support for this, and we want to state at the outset that we applaud the many contributions made by doctors. We have no problem whatsoever with the concept of setting aside a special date for doctors.
I listened intently to the member from Richmond Hill as he talked about the Egyptians and the Hippocratic oath and the development of medicine in ancient Greece. I know he is a scholar, and I know he would have wanted to say something about the huge advances that were made and continue to be made today in the Chinese culture and in the new world: All of the work that was done in the new world, much of which was lost at the time of colonization from the west.
But he left out, I think, one of the most important aspects, and that was what the Islamic world did in terms of medicine. Because when the great Greek texts of Hippocrates and Aristotle were lost to the western world, they were preserved in Islam, and it was there that all of this came back. People seem to forget that all of the strides that were made in medicine from the time of the Middle Ages on were as a result of what had taken place in Islam.
I think perhaps if he has two minutes, and I know he’s a scholar on this, he might want to talk to everything from the invention of eyeglasses, everything from the first—I’ll let him talk to it. He can talk to it, because there are some other things I want to say here today.
Of course we support the doctors and we understand where they fit in in the whole medical scheme. We also think that we need to, at the same time that we recognize the important role that doctors play, recognize that they don’t do that in a vacuum. They do it with nurses, with dietitians, with technologists and myriad others who work in the medical field who are integral to making sure we have healthy lives.
The problem I have is not with recognizing the doctors, but I am curious as to why May 1 was chosen. In history—at least in Western history—this is not a day that one ought to say is for recognizing doctors. Today we know that May 1, throughout most of the world, is Labour Day. It’s the day when you celebrate the people who work on the farms and the factories for the contribution they’ve made.
In fact, throughout most of the world, with the exception of the United States and Canada, that’s precisely when that is. We do it on the first Monday in September; the rest of the world does it on May Day. But it has even older historical roots. Perhaps that’s why Marx, when he talked about having a day to celebrate workers back in the 19th century, when he wrote about this, picked May Day. It was a celebration that was very old and very ancient in tradition and, I think, has nothing whatsoever to do with doctors.
May Day was in Celtic times called Beltane. It was a time of horrendous destruction. If you see the old pictures, that’s when they burned people alive, and I don’t think doctors want to be associated with that. It also, in time, became the day of fertility, and you have the maypole and the dance around the maypole with all of the symbolism that invokes, and I’m not sure that doctors want to be equated with that. Perhaps the member can tell us why May 1 was chosen, because it seems somewhat bizarre to me that you would choose this day with what some people would say is barbaric and/or pagan influence.
When you look at it in terms of workers’ rights around the world, it’s certainly not because the doctors belong to some giant union, although I do admit they belong to a very successful one in terms of how they protect themselves. Is that why this was chosen? Or is it because doctors want to be seen as workers? Is it because doctors want to be seen in the older pre-Christian tradition of the Celtic and Druidic festival of Beltane? I’m not sure why this was chosen.
I do know that every May 1 in Britain, even to this day, they still light fires, they still go out into the woods, they still collect leaves and branches and bring them home in some places to celebrate this festival of fertility. It was, of course, banished in most of Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries—they thought it was pagan; they thought it was a throwback—and those things really don’t happen anymore, because of, I guess they thought, the anti-moral influence of the day.
I support the doctors. I support you all. I support what they do. I support everything, but I’m hoping my friend can explain to us why May 1. Perhaps—just perhaps—there is a better day than this to celebrate people who are universally respected in our culture, people who contribute so much to health and well-being, and not look upon a day to classify them either as mere workers or as some kind of influence or pagan festival that we’re trying to renew. I’ll leave it at that.
I’d like to offer a few points, probably about half a dozen or so, some of which are polite and celebratory, some of which may be somewhat more aggressive. I hope, in toto, they will be received in the spirit they are given.
To begin, I would like to quote from the father of western medicine, Hippocrates, who wrote in the 4th century BC in Greece, “Life is short, the art so long, experience deceptive, judgment difficult, opportunity fugitive.”
With that, I would like to also acknowledge the presence and the direction and guidance of the Ontario Medical Association, which is not only ably represented today by Dr. MacLeod and entourage, but also for their representation of the 26,000 physicians who deal and deliver and are really the stewards of health care in this province. As a proud member of the Ontario Medical Association myself, I will use that momentarily to speak a little bit of my own family background.
I would, with your indulgence and permission, Speaker, like to cite Dr. Qaadri, Sr., or Dr. M.K. Qaadri, my mother, who’s a practising gynaecologist who was honoured by the Ontario Medical Association in 2008 as a life member, a founding member. Of course, we’re quite busy now with the next generation, Dr. Shamsa and Dr. Shafiq Jr., who, by the way, both know how to actually give injections and have done so. They are now well on their way as pre-medical students, though they are, by the way, in grade 4 and grade 6, respectively.
Now, to move from my family, I would like to move for the moment to the Ontario family, once again acknowledging the extraordinary work of our colleagues who are dispersed throughout every village, every city, every hospital, every health care delivery facility across the province. We have treated, since 2004, more than 30 million patients in emergency rooms, and done almost 800,000 cataract surgeries, 110,000 knee replacements and 70,000 hip replacements. Those, of course, are statistics, are numbers which we need to be familiar with, but we as physicians on the ground, as part of our lived experience, are there actually managing not only the knees and the cataracts, but the people, and not only their humanity, but also their day-to-day concerns.
As Chair of the social policy committee, I would respectfully suggest to all who are listening to me, whether it’s the government offices, our bureaucrats or others who may be listening, that it’s probably important to have medical doctors, MDs, who actually know what they’re doing in the health care field involved at all levels of decision-making. I can remember, for example, when we had to educate individuals in this chamber and throughout our government that when you’re authorizing things like the H1N1 vaccine, that is a protection, a prophylaxis, to be given before the disease hits, not after. I remember that was a 15-minute debate that we had.
The other thing I would also say is that while we certainly welcome many, many Ph.D.s within the health care decision-making framework, including my colleague Dr. Moridi from Richmond Hill, I would simply say that Ph.D.s are nice but MDs keep it human.
I would also like to say that as we enlarge the health care team, of course physicians are very happy and encouraged to work with many members of the health care team, whether it’s pharmacists or respiratory technicians or technologists, laboratory employees and so on, but I think there is an underlying ethos or philosophy, perhaps I would say, that somehow you can actually deliver health care without doctors. I can simply reassure you, or perhaps warn you, that that has been tried in many different jurisdictions and pilot programs across the world, and ultimately it doesn’t hold.
I think there’s another perhaps underlying philosophy that you can health-promote your way away from medical care. Physicians are the very first people to talk about lifestyle management, whether it’s risk factor management, cholesterol, blood pressure, high salt, all the elements of what we would call the cardiometabolic syndrome, but I would just simply add again a warning, an admonition that you are not going to be able to health-promote yourself away from medical care. That aspect needs to be fully funded and frontally managed, and not as a kind of afterthought.
I would simply conclude, Speaker, with your permission, by saying that the government has done its part. Something on the order of about 3,000 more physicians are now practising in the province of Ontario since we took our mandate in 2003.
I would conclude with my alma mater motto, and that is from the University of Toronto medical school, from which I had the honour and privilege and responsibility—and, by the way, burden—of graduating in 1988. The motto of that school is—and I think it injects a level of humility, either heartfelt or possibly simulated—medicus servit, servat Deus. That is, loosely translated, “The physician applies the dressing, but God heals the wound.”
Mr. Reza Moridi: I would like to thank the members from Durham, Trinity–Spadina, Bramalea–Gore–Malton, Etobicoke North and Beaches–East York for their contribution and for their eloquent speeches in support of my motion to proclaim the first day of May as Doctors’ Day in Ontario.
As the speakers before me have indicated, we are blessed in this Legislature to have four of our honourable members be medical doctors: Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, Dr. Kuldip Kular, Dr. Helena Jaczek and Dr. Eric Hoskins, who have been practising medicine for many, many years before joining this Legislature to represent their respective constituencies.
On a personal note, two of my brothers, Dr. Muhsin Moridi and Dr. Farhad Moridi, and one of my sisters-in-law, Dr. Sharareh Moridi, are also medical doctors: practising in gynaecology, one being a coroner and the other being an ophthalmologist.
The member from Beaches–East York eloquently indicated the contributions of Chinese traditional medicine and Chinese traditional doctors in ancient years to the development of medicine, which was omitted from my presentation. I’m so grateful to the member for bringing this to the House’s attention.
With regard to Islamic scientists and doctors, I indicated Avicenna, but there are many others who I couldn’t mention. Within 10 to 12 minutes, it would have been very difficult to bring the whole history of this area of science and medicine.
Bill 168, An Act to provide for performance reviews of agencies, boards and commissions by the Assembly / Projet de loi 168, Loi prévoyant l’examen par l’Assemblée du rendement des organismes, conseils et commissions.
Mr. Tim Hudak: It is my pleasure to provide opening remarks on Bill 168, the Agencies, Boards and Commissions Sunset Review Act, 2011. One of the great opportunities of being leader of the PC Party in opposition is I get to travel across the province, talking to everyday Ontario families, small business owners, moms and dads and students about what is important to them. What they tell me is that when it comes to balancing their household budget, Ontario families must constantly re-evaluate their wants versus needs and how they’re spending the family budget. Whether it’s cutting back on dinners out, bundling services like cable and Internet or shopping around for a better deal on car insurance, families are always looking for better ways to save money. I believe we need to apply these same principles to government.
Instead of trying to be all things to all people, we need to focus on the basics, on services that people care about and need, like front-line health care. But under the McGuinty government, the provincial government has become too big, too expensive and too clumsy at delivering front-line services. Premier McGuinty’s runaway spending and bureaucratic bloat is actually putting front-line services at risk as Ontario pays more and more to deal with the doubling of the provincial debt.
Members of the assembly know this all too well, what I hear from families and small business owners. You could probably take any three letters of the alphabet, put them in any order that you want to and you’ll get some government agency, board or commission that you’ve never heard of but you’re paying millions of dollars a year to sustain. You put an E in front of it and you’re up into the billions.
The challenge is that we’re digging ourselves into such a hole that if we continue at this pace, we may never be able to climb back out again. That’s why it is crucial to get the size and cost of government under control and focus on the basics.
One week ago, the McGuinty Liberals revealed their sunshine list for 2010. It’s a list of those throughout government who are paid more than $100,000 a year. During Premier McGuinty’s time in office, the sunshine list has more than tripled. Government program spending has increased by 77%, but our economy has grown only by 9%.
What does this mean? Right now, there are 71,478 men and women on the sunshine list. That is like giving every man, woman and child in Sarnia a $100,000-a-year government job. It’s simply not affordable.
One of those individuals we’ve talked about in question period these last number of days—Ron Sapsford, a former Deputy Minister of Health who resigned after the billion-dollar eHealth boondoggle—last year, despite allegedly having quit government the year before, was paid three quarters of a million dollars. In fact, he was given a raise after he quit. That is the legacy of a government agency that was allowed to spend with impunity, to waste taxpayers’ dollars, and it’s another perfect example of why we need the Agencies, Boards and Commissions Sunset Review Act.
This legislation would be ground breaking. It would create a committee of the Legislature, a committee made up of elected MPPs from all three parties, to represent their constituents in reviewing the more than 600 agencies, boards and commissions and government bodies created through legislation.
Here’s what we would do. Basically, each body would need to come before the committee of MPPs to justify its ongoing existence, to demonstrate how it provides a value to the Ontario families who actually pay the bills and to show that their services are not duplicated elsewhere in government. The committee would then make recommendations to be voted on by this House, and those recommendations would follow three very simple criteria: If it works, then we’ll keep it; if it needs to be fixed, then we fix it; but if it’s no longer necessary or can’t be fixed, then it goes, and the money is used for services like health care and to balance the books in the province of Ontario.
If we had had this legislation in place when the billion-dollar eHealth boondoggle was spinning out of control, we could have stopped it in place. We could have forced eHealth officials to explain why they signed untendered contracts, why so many connected consultants were hired. Afterwards, the committee could have made recommendations to fix the problems. If we had caught this early enough, we could have saved Ontario families the $1 billion that went down the drain and actually put it towards health care services instead. That’s what this legislation is designed to do: to root out waste, to root out rot in government and to invest those savings in front-line services like health care, that Ontario families want to see.
If we pass the Agencies, Boards and Commissions Sunset Review Act, 2011, I’d also like to see them call for a review of Waste Diversion Ontario, to call upon them to explain the eco tax fiasco and to justify why it will cost Ontario families $18 million more for the eco tax mess. The committee could also call upon the Municipal Property Assessment Corp., also known as MPAC, and ask it why it handed out $1,700 in tailor-made golf clubs, Nintendo Wiis and iPods, and why it has gotten one out of eight assessments wrong by 20% or more—it’s outrageous. The WSIB would have to explain why it has more than 300 staffers on the sunshine list being paid a combined $39 million a year. That’s actually up from 139 staffers being paid less than half of that—$18 million a year—when Premier McGuinty took office. You see that kind of waste and bloat, and all the time, small businesses are seeing their rates increase and injured workers are not getting the treatment and attention they deserve to get back in the workforce again.
This review could have also called on the Ontario Power Authority, this so-called transitional agency, to justify its very existence. The OPA would need to explain why, in 2005, it had six employees on the sunshine list and, today, the number has ballooned to 91, an increase of 1,400%—all the way, driving up our hydro bills, and by how we can move the OPA’s mandate to more appropriate areas of government. We’d be able to save $80 million each and every year and, very importantly, help Ontario families get relief on the hydro bills that are going through the roof in our province today.
Very importantly, I want to point out once again, hoping to attract members of the party opposite, that the people actually conducting these reviews aren’t going to be high-priced, fancy consultants. They’re not going to be ministry staff. They’ll be actual members of the Legislature, those who are elected by Ontario families to show respect for each and every tax dollar that they send here to Queen’s Park.
Satinder Chera, vice-president, Ontario, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says, “The proposed Agencies, Boards and Commissions Sunset Review Act would prevent these agencies from thumbing their nose at law-abiding small businesses.”
Peter Coleman, president and CEO of the National Citizens Coalition, says, “It is about time that the provincial government did a complete review of organizations that they fund, and those organizations should, in turn, have to go through a review process to justify their existence. This is the only way the taxpayers will have faith in the transparency of government, to justify the taxpayer money that is used to fund government agencies, boards and commissions. A breath of fresh air would roll throughout Ontario if this bill were to become the law.”
So I call on members of this House to stand with the small and medium-sized businesses that the CFIB represents, to stand with the families that the National Citizens Coalition represent, to stand with families who are tired of paying more and more in taxes and getting less in return, and to join the Ontario PC caucus to pass the Agencies, Boards and Commissions Sunset Review Act into law in the province of Ontario.
As part of that, I call on members of this House to commit to rooting out waste and rot and doing away with expensive, bureaucratic government that Ontario families don’t need and cannot afford, to put in what they care about, like front-line health care and balancing the books of our province so we don’t mortgage the future of our children and our grandchildren.
I ask my colleagues to give those families the respect they deserve and the relief they need by reinvesting that money where it belongs: in front-line services. I ask my colleagues: Won’t you join me in passing the Agencies, Boards and Commissions Sunset Review Act today?
I have to state at the outset and preface my remarks by stating that I believe that the overwhelming majority of public employees, the overwhelming majority of people who serve on boards and commissions in this province, are honourable, that they do a good job, that they work for the people and the province of Ontario, and that we need to listen very carefully to the expertise and advice that they have.
I’m looking at the solution that is being put forward by my friend the leader of the official opposition. I wonder, and perhaps he can deal with this in his two minutes at the end: A committee already exists that can do almost everything he says.
I quote from the standing orders. The Standing Committee on Government Agencies has as its mandate to select and review agencies, boards and commissions “with a view to reducing possible redundancy and overlapping, improving the accountability of agencies, rationalizing the functions of the agencies, identifying those agencies or parts of agencies which could be subject to sunset provisions, and revising the mandates and roles of agencies.” That’s what it does. That is what it has been capable of doing. That’s what it can do.
Now I do understand that there are a lot of agencies out there. I was shocked, in doing research for this, to find that there are 723 government agencies in the province of Ontario, and I will have to state that maybe—maybe—we don’t need 723.
But I am also mindful of what happened in 1995. I am mindful of when a government came in and said they were going to review. It wasn’t a review; it was an axe. I am very, very cognizant that should I or my colleagues support this motion, and I guess members opposite support this too, and should the Conservatives find themselves on that side of the hall after the next election, they will turn and say “Well, you know, parties of all stripes supported our motion last time.” I do not want to see that kind of axe taken to Ontario. I do not want to see the kinds of excess that took place then take place again. Because we all know what happened.
There are but 76 agencies that cannot currently be reviewed by the standing committee. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to fold those 76 into the standing committee. They include some biggies like the Ontario Power Authority, the Independent Electricity System Operator and Waste Diversion Ontario. I would like to see those folded in, and I think if we are to do the job, and the job right, that is where we should head.
Having said that, I understand that many people in this province are upset. I think the honourable member recognizes what people are saying out there. He’s listening to what the concerns are, but I am not convinced that the solution he is putting forward is the correct one. Of course, we must all look to find out what is going wrong, and we need to have the courage to replace it.
But I have been on this side of the House only; I am the dean of those who have never served in government. I’ve been here longer than anyone else who has never been in government. I will tell you that I am being treated the same way by this government as I was by the last one.
When you go to committee, your ideas are very seldom listened to. The proposals you put forward are very seldom listened to. The motions you make are very seldom listened to. I am equally mindful of the fact that these committees, or the new ABC committee that’s being set up here, will have a majority of government members, whoever they are, and that whatever suggestions are being made will be carried on those votes and those votes alone.
I remember only too well—this was from the Conservatives before—when I first got into this House. I thought I knew a few things about municipalities, having been a councillor, a mayor and a megacity councillor. I will never forget going into my first committee meeting and having all my recommendations shot down.
Morley Kells was then the parliamentary assistant, and I will never forget his words when it came to my fifth motion to try to change the Municipal Act to make it better. He said words to the effect: “This is a really good motion. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this motion. I wish we had thought of this motion. It’s not ours, so we’re going to vote against it.” I never, ever forgot that day. I never forgot it, because it has happened to me—never so eloquently again—each and every time I go to committee, whether it’s this government or that government.
What I think we all need to do is study this. We have to have good, rational reasons for what we do, and in the end, we have to do what is right, not just what a majority of committee members might do, not what they might do if they were in government, not what the Liberals might do if they were in government, and perhaps not even what we might do if we found ourselves again in government. It has to be an all-party decision.
Until I am convinced that there is a way around the way committees operate in this place—and perhaps they can only operate fairly in a minority government—then we cannot give this kind of authority. Because I know what he is saying—we have to do something—but I am not convinced that the solution lies here, I reluctantly will not be able to support this motion.
Mr. Dave Levac: I’d like to take the opportunity to explain, as I normally do when I stand to speak in private members’ time—it’s private members’ time. I appreciate the fact that the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook has presented a bill that we want to debate here during private members’ time.
There are three things I want to talk about. First of all, I want to talk about history before 2003, which tends to get forgotten, and history between 2003 and 2009, with regard to the private member’s bill that we’re talking about right now. I’m going to stay specific about what he’s talking about.
Let’s give you a backgrounder on things that we’ve done from 2003 to now. We’ve taken several steps already to try to find those efficiencies that they’re talking about. We froze compensation structures for all non-bargaining public sector employees: doesn’t get mentioned. Travel costs and other expenses have been reined in: not spoken about.
We requested Hydro One and OPG to revise down their 2010 rate applications and savings: This was done. Our energy agencies were asked to significantly reduce their operational costs, which is right to the heart of what this member is asking us to do. For 2011, the OPA has reduced its operating budget by 4.1%. The Independent Electricity System Operator, IESO, has reduced costs by $23 million since we came into office. Hydro One has reduced its operational costs by $170 million this year alone. OPG will reduce operations by more than $600 million over the next four years.
We’ve paid down over $20 billion of the stranded debt. The previous Tory government did not pay down anything, and they actually added $1 billion to that. They also slapped the debt retirement charge on every consumer’s bill. They don’t want to tell you those things. That’s what I’m trying to say: There are things that you have heard, that you won’t hear from the opposition, and things that we need to hear. We’ve paid down that $20 billion.
Compensation for the top 20 executives—this is the political fodder that’s being passed around very easily. The top 20 executives of Ontario Power Generation are, on average, 35% lower than they were in 2002. That’s not even with inflation. When you add inflation to that, it’s about 50% lower than the compensation was under Tory rule in 2002. That’s a sizable reduction in those kinds of compensation that they’re talking about.
Compensation for the CEO of Hydro One, Laura Formusa, today is 55% lower than it was for Eleanor Clitheroe under the Tories in 2002. Wow, you didn’t hear that. You didn’t hear that, and why not? Because it doesn’t fit into the picture that’s being attempted to be painted by this particular bill and the way in which the opposition has been talking.
We brought forward legislation requiring expenses to be posted online for ministers, their staff, and executives of public agencies like hospitals and hydro companies. And who voted against that? The Tories. The Tories wasted $250 million of public money for partisan ads, and they voted against the legislation that brought sunshine to that practice. I find that rather interesting.
The PCs have very little credibility when it comes to standing up. It’s like the rooster taking credit for the sun shining. I’ve said that before, and I know they don’t like hearing it. They tend to heckle when I say it, because, “I’m going to take credit for something that I didn’t do, but, by the way, don’t pay attention to the history before 2003.”
The salaries of the top 20 executives of OPG are now, on average, as I said, 35% lower, but on their watch they didn’t do anything to rein that in. Now they’re in the opposition, and now it’s the popular concept of saying, “We’d better say something bad about what the government’s not doing.”
Mr. Dave Levac: If the member wants to use this time to say whether this is true or not—the PC Party removed Hydro One and OPG from being subject to freedom of information. I would like to know why. Why did they do that? Why did they take that information away from the public in an act that basically said, “You must tell us what that is”? Why did you do that?
Wait a minute; let me find out. Mr. Harris’s director of communication, Paul Rhodes, was paid $225,000 to produce a 10-page work for Hydro One. The campaign chair, Tom Long, was given $1.4 million in hydro consulting contracts—while they were in office. The director of policy, John Toogood, was paid $30,000 a week trying to convince Ontarians that privatization of the electric grid was a good idea. The campaign manager made over $340,000 off the Tory hydro system, including $250,000 to build support for the investment in Hydro One—a.k.a. privatization. Mike Harris himself was on Hydro One. I don’t know why we didn’t have a freedom-of-information capacity to find that information out. When we did, we found it out. The kettle itself is having a little problem here.
What have we done? Let’s make sure that this private member’s bill is explained in a way that I think the member from Beaches–East York was trying to explain, and I tend to agree with his concern and his observation. Here’s what is going on: We’ve created a commission of broader public sector reform, to be led by Don Drummond, which will advise on the changes that will help protect services that are important to families.
I’ve got very little time. If I could get another hour, I could get into this. The commission’s recommendations cannot increase taxes or privatize the health care system. So here’s what they’re going to do: They reduce the size of the OPS by an additional 1,500 positions, over and above the 3,400 already committed in 2012; major agencies must deliver $200 million in efficiencies by 2013. I’ve got a list that’s an arm long; I could go over some of the reforms that are taking place.
One of the things I do talk about in private members’ time is the fluid nature of this place. We will be getting better in each and every government that comes in and makes an attempt to try to improve things, but I am saying this very sincerely about what the member opposite is trying to accomplish. Right now, we’re talking about an opportunity that says we’ve got a couple of “gotchas” here. I still want to bring us back to that comment: The rooster does not get credit for the sun rising, and you ain’t getting credit for this one.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: It’s a real pleasure to stand by and behind my leader, Tim Hudak, as he brings forward this very important piece of legislation that puts Ontario families first. We are going to bring back respect and bring back relief to the taxpayers of this province through this piece of legislation, which will obviously be a cornerstone of our plan as we move forward in government in 2011 and 2012.
I want to congratulate the member for Niagara West–Glanbrook, who is also the leader of the Ontario PC Party, for taking the concerns of Ontario families and putting them together in this private member’s bill that every member of this Legislature should get behind and support. We believe a sunset review of the many government agencies, boards and commissions across this province is needed so that we can justify each one of their expenditures for the people who are paying their bills—and that’s the folks at home, whether in Nepean or in Niagara. Certainly the folks who are paying our bills here today appreciate that, particularly during these tough economic times.
Of course, earlier last week we saw a provincial budget that has done a few things. One is, it still has a $17-billion deficit. We have a quarter-of-a-trillion-dollar debt in this province. Remember the time when you thought a trillion was not really a number at all because it was something that the Americans had as a debt? Dalton McGuinty single-handedly was able to double the debt in Ontario and bring our debt into the quarter-of-a-trillion-dollar area. At the same time, this is a Premier who has brought our province into have-not status. It’s shameful. He has grown our dependence on the federal government’s handouts by, I believe, well over 100%.
Not only that; last week—last Thursday—we were present when the sunshine list was released, and we saw that grow in a time of supposed austerity by 11%. When people in this province were told that they were supposed to cut back, when public servants were told that they weren’t going to see a raise, Mr. McGuinty found a way to give an 11% increase on that sunshine list.
Of course, all week in the Legislature our leader, our deputy leader and many of my colleagues have been raising the fact that certain people have not done a day’s worth of work in 2010 but received a quarter of a million dollars from the taxpayers of this province. I speak to Ron Sapsford. I speak about Sarah Kramer. I speak about the Montfort’s Savoie.
All at the same time, we’re learning that precious health care dollars are going to people who aren’t even working for the province anymore, almost to the tune of $2 million, while the Queensway Carleton Hospital that services my constituents is looking at a $2-million cut at the surgical unit. Ten weeks of rolling closures because they don’t have the money, because—guess why? People like Ron Sapsford and others have taken that golden handshake.
Let me tell you why this fits into the bill that my colleague and my leader has put forward. He believes that every government, board, agency and commission must justify their existence to the taxpayer of this province. That includes the local health integration networks. We’ve seen a dramatic increase of the people making over $100,000 a year in those agencies, and at the same time, not one of those employees plugs in an MRI or treats a cancer patient; none of them are in the ER when a mother is waiting 10 hours with her child. I happen to know these things because I have a small child and I have spent some time at the Queensway Carleton Hospital—a long period of time.
We need to ensure that these government boards, agencies and commissions, and even our ministries, are doing what they should be doing. That’s why our leader, Tim Hudak, wants members of this assembly, regardless of political party, to play a key role in protecting vital health care dollars and public service dollars so that they are spent the way they are intended to be spent.
The people of this province sent us here for a reason, and they want us to stand up for them. So, ladies and gentlemen, you have an opportunity to do that today. You have an opportunity to stand up and defend your taxpayer dollars and you have an opportunity to stand up with the member from Niagara West–Glanbrook. I urge you to vote yes on this piece of legislation.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I was struggling as I was sitting here, because I said to myself, “How am I going to be nice to my Conservative brothers and sisters here?” When you’re in opposition, you come close, every now and then, on many things, and it’s hard. So I’ve got a couple of nice things to say, and then it’s over.
Here are the two things I agree with, with the leader of the Conservative Party. People are struggling today more than ever. That’s a fact. They say that; we say that. They see that in their ridings; we see that in our ridings.
People can’t make ends meet. Many of them are working part-time jobs—now, more than ever, I see it everywhere—and many of them have to work at two jobs or three, sometimes, to survive. It’s not pretty out there.
The Conservative Party often talks about making efficiencies and the need to do that. We agree with that as well, and I think all governments have to make a concerted effort to deal with the issue of efficiencies.
The way the Conservative Party talks about this is that what we need to do is create yet another standing committee to find efficiencies. What I want to say to my good pals here is that you are contradicting the spirit of your bill. You will create another committee to deal with waste that, in and of itself, will create waste. It’s a little problemo.
What we have is a board, agency or commission at the momento. All we have to do is empower them to make sure that they go out and make sure that they do the work that they do with so many other committees; with the 76 boards, agencies and commissions over which they have no power.
By the way, once you become government, you could easily do that tomorrow. You don’t have to worry about that. If that’s what your wish is, if you become government on October 6, you can do that right away. My point is, let’s force whoever’s in government now to make sure that the agencies that are not subject to our power now would be, and that that committee that currently exists would have the job of doing that.
The problem is this: No government ever wants to give that committee the kind of power that the Conservative caucus, at the moment, is saying they should have. We’ll wait and see who becomes the government on October 6 and see what kind of power we give to that committee, because I haven’t seen it. In my life here, when I was in government, when I witnessed the Conservative Party and when I witnessed the Liberals, no one empowers the members to have the power they should have in committee. No one. Would it change in the future? I don’t know. I haven’t been convinced, because I haven’t seen it.
The Conservative Party says the problem is bloated government, a bloated civil service. We heard that language from Mike Harris. When he was in power I was there, and what I saw was a Conservative Party that eliminated positions and created more consultants than we ever saw in the system, in the provincial government, ever. We fired civil servants, created more consultants than ever and then we rehired the people we fired as consultants. That did not create efficiencies. If what the Conservatives mean by “efficiencies” is that we need to fire people, that’s not the way to do it. It’s just not the way to do it.
We have a choice. The Tories want to continue with the cuts to corporations, as do the Liberals. The Liberals are giving away $6 billion in corporate tax cuts. Boy, could we use that money to help those struggling men and women who can’t make ends meet.
Mrs. Julia Munro: I’m pleased to join the debate today on Bill 168, An Act to provide for performance reviews of agencies, boards and commissions by the Assembly, introduced by my colleague the leader of the PC caucus. The bill before us will give the Legislature strong powers to review, reform or dissolve any agency, board or commission that is not meeting a public need.
You might ask, why do we need a greater ability to review? Well, I think there are two or three reasons that make it important. One of them is the question of relevance: Quite simply, some things that used to be useful simply no longer are. The question of good intentions: Sometimes it appears, after a period of time, that someone’s good idea turns out not to be practical, not to work, because times change and circumstances change; because sometimes necessary changes are pushed aside by government because there are more important things to do.
The McGuinty government has a real problem with accountability. I can name two occasions since 2003 when I attempted to amend government bills to ensure accountability and had my amendments voted down. In 2006, during legislation reforming children’s aid societies, I suggested that after three years, the government appoint a person to review whether the new act increased the number of crown wards, children in the care of the state, being permanently adopted by families—which, by the way, was the purpose of the bill. The Liberals voted it down.
In 2009, when the Liberals passed the Poverty Reduction Act, a bill requiring little more than writing an annual report, I proposed that this annual report at least be presented to a committee of the Legislature for review. The Liberals voted this down as well. They wouldn’t even put more accountability in the bill that they claimed would reduce poverty. Two very concrete examples of proposals for accountability introduced by the Progressive Conservative Party, yet the government refused to join our drive.
That is why I so strongly support our leader’s bill to make agencies accountable. We must remember that this Legislature and all of its members work for everyone in Ontario, and every agency must as well, or it should be abolished. This must be a part of a change in the culture of how government operates. Changing the culture was the impetus for my small business bill of rights, requiring the government to consider the effects of putting too many unnecessary rules on business and making the government accountable to each small business person.
The government should be accountable to the Legislature and, most importantly, to the people. I am proud that our leader is proposing a bill to make agencies work for families, citizens and businesses.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Stop the clock for a minute. I’d just remind people to not have their BlackBerrys near the microphones. It really hurts the ears of our translators who wear the headphones. So, just as a courtesy to them.
Mr. John O’Toole: It is a distinct pleasure this afternoon to respond to our leader’s private members’ bill, Bill 168, An Act to provide for performance reviews—at this time, very importantly—of agencies, boards and commissions by the Assembly. I think this really has an interesting history. It’s really all about accountability and respect for taxpayers—that’s really all it’s about—and it seems to be sorely missing in the last several question periods; that’s pretty much what we’ve heard from the opposition and third party. We haven’t had one clear answer from the Premier, the Minister of Finance—the whole front bench, basically, I think is in lockdown mode. The reason they are is because they just had the budget and they’re still hemorrhaging money on things that we saw in the sunshine list.
It’s kind of a coincidence that the sunshine list came out—to see the egregious waste in these agencies, many of whom, as our leader said, if you had any three letters there would be hundreds of them. It turns out there are over 700 of these agencies. I’ve taken the time, besides reading and looking at the purpose of the bill, to look at some of the background of why our leader decided to get to the root cause of the waste and lack of resources in the province of Ontario.
We were all asked to look carefully at our own critic files as well as the major expenditure areas of the government, wondering why we’re going downhill so quickly, and yet we’re spending so much money and there are so few results. That’s ultimately what we want, the accountability, which ties back to his initial content or response: to have some respect for the taxpayer.
This is not new. Standing order 108(f) provides for a standing committee of the Legislature to review agencies, boards and commissions. What’s happened to that? I don’t know whether it is instructions from the centre office, right from the Premier or not; I wouldn’t want to presume that, but after all, he is in charge. If I look at the history here, in 2008, the committee met and reviewed several government agencies. WSIB—the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board—is in deficit by about $10 billion or $12 billion. This doesn’t show on the debt part of it. The OLG, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.—the auditor has looked at those. He’s raised flags. We know all of those agencies that we’re looking at. So that got shut down, and in 2009, we looked at another couple of commissions. These recommendations were brought forward by our committee members, mostly led by Lisa MacLeod.
In 2009, the committee reviewed eight government agencies, including the human rights commission and the OPA. The Ontario Power Authority is a story in itself. There’s an agency that has grown, in a time of absolute escalating costs of electricity—supposedly, the power authority—you’ve got to blame somebody—has grown from about 13 employees to over 70 employees, many of whom make over $500,000. It’s unbelievable, the lack of accountability.
The member for Niagara West–Glanbrook says we need a review of Ontario’s agencies, boards and commissions. Interesting idea, except that Ontario has already been doing that, and for some time. The bill before us proposes that the select or standing committee it aims to create conduct performance reviews of agencies, boards and commissions, except that Ontario has already been doing that, and for some time.
And one reason I’m not going to vote for this bill is because the review committee that this bill proposes to create will cease to exist in 2016. I and the government in which I serve think that we ought to review our agencies, boards and commissions on an ongoing basis. In fact, this escape clause, section 6 of the bill, forbids the proposed toothless committee from recommending that an agency, board or commission be dissolved—and here’s the key part—unless the minister responsible has made a submission to the committee. In other words, the whole scheme is run out of the corner office, where the party leader decides what stays and what goes.
Now, let’s look at how to do that job properly. Ontario will move forward with plans to close or amalgamate 14 agencies in the very near term. For example, the Stadium Corp. of Ontario will move under the merged Infrastructure Ontario and Ontario Realty Corp.: three agencies into one, in a proposal that really saves money and actually makes sense—common sense. In fact, Ontario proposes merging two entities dealing with mortgage matters into one and completely dissolving 11 other agencies, most of which the majority of people will never recognize. Now, that’s real change, and these are real results.
And let’s look at another branch of the Ontario government being gradually wound down: tax collection. Ontario will gradually transition some 1,250 people who once collected the old, antiquated, expensive provincial sales tax. Those people will receive their severance from Ontario and be offered a two-year minimum term of employment with the government of Canada, although they’ll lose all their seniority in the transition.
An agency that the member proposes to eliminate with no discussion at all is the Ontario Power Authority. This is curious, as under the member’s own act, his own select committee would need to pass judgement on the merits of it. But he seems to have little use for his own proposed committee, as he has already made up his mind on the outcome and all the member needs now from his committee is the justification. Now, we know that the Ontario PC Party has no energy plan, and if you have no plan, then why do you need an agency full of planners? If you start from an ideologically driven outcome and work backwards to pick and choose your justification, you get the idea of this particular bill.
The one I love is the PC Party’s commitment to eliminate local health integration networks, or LHINs. On their watch, they had a commission that closed down 28 hospitals, with all decisions made in Toronto, with no community input, and those decisions were final. Ontario’s adoption of LHINs eliminated two layers of bureaucracy and replaced them with one, saving more money than it costs as it axed ministry regional offices and district health councils and reduced the number of community care access centres to 14.
But even though the member rails against LHINs daily, he did not even mention them once in his presentation. I wonder why. Perhaps somebody told him that LHINs spend 99.7% of their budget on patient care. Maybe it’s because we can make decisions right in our communities, such as when we needed about two dozen beds recently at the Credit Valley Hospital and were able to act quickly and get them in days, not months. Maybe it’s because Dr. Wilbert Keon, a former Conservative senator and now chair of the Champlain LHIN, disagrees, saying, “The big mistake in health care in Canada is there is too much centralization.”
I’d also like to remind the member that his colleague from Beaches–East York chaired the Standing Committee on Government Agencies, and by his own admission already did, then and now, what the member proposes to do in this bill. That, to me, is ample justification for voting against this proposed measure.
To correct a few things from my colleagues opposite, the member from Mississauga–Streetsville is incorrect in his view of the act. All it says is that ministers must be given the opportunity to provide input. That’s not the way it was characterized by the member. I think that makes sense, obviously, as ministers could provide input.
To the point from the third party with respect to the committee, the bill actually compels ABCs to be put before a review. As it stands today, they’re not currently compelled to do so, nor to justify their existence. This would be a committee that would be specialized in doing a total review. Most importantly, consistent with the legislation itself, once the agencies, boards and commissions committee had done their sunset review and saved money for taxpayers, the committee itself would be sunsetted as well. I think that makes a lot of sense.
I encourage my colleagues to do the right thing: to support this legislation. It would actually engage MPPs of all three parties, elected members of this House, to pare through the waste, to root out the rot in government of the more than 600 agencies, boards, commissions and government bodies created through legislation; to pull each body before this committee and ask them to justify their existence and prove their ongoing value to the Ontario families who pay their bills.
Again, if it works, you keep it; if it needs to be fixed, then you fix it; but if it is no longer necessary, you close the doors and use the money for front-line services and balancing the books. I ask my colleagues to support this sensible idea.
Before we vote, a short announcement: I beg to inform the House that, pursuant to standing order 98(c), a change has been made to the order of precedence on the ballot list for private members’ public business such that Ms. Horwath assumes ballot item number 5 and Mr. Hampton assumes ballot item number 28.
Mr. Hudak has moved second reading of Bill 168, An Act to provide for performance reviews of agencies, boards and commissions by the Assembly. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard some noes.