Official Records for 4 November 2014

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO

ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO

Tuesday 4 November 2014 Mardi 4 novembre 2014

Orders of the Day

Time allocation / Attribution de temps

Introduction of Visitors

Oral Questions

Ontario economy

Municipalities

Privatization of public assets

Forest industry

Sexual harassment

Forest industry

School breakfast programs

Public sector accountability

Sexual harassment

Assistance to flood victims

Air ambulance service

Child care

Mining industry / Industrie minière

Federal-provincial public infrastructure funding

Visitors

Introduction of Visitors

Members’ Statements

True Patriot Love

Missing persons

Remembrance Day

Annie Underhill

Anniversary of Sikh massacre

Remembrance Day

Violence Against Women Services Elgin County

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Veterans / Anciens combattants

Reports by Committees

Standing Committee on General Government

Introduction of Bills

Respecting Private Property Act, 2014 / Loi de 2014 sur le respect de la propriété privée

658055 Ontario Inc. Act, 2014

469118 Ontario Limited Act, 2014

Statements by the Ministry and Responses

Crime Prevention Week

Winter highway maintenance

Ontario’s After-School Program

Crime Prevention Week

Winter highway maintenance

Ontario’s After-School Program

Crime Prevention Week

Winter highway maintenance

Ontario’s After-School Program

Petitions

Family Responsibility Office

Home care

Environmental protection

Alzheimer’s disease

Hydro rates

Legal aid

Wind turbines

Climate change

Environmental protection

Coast Guard Auxiliary

Workplace safety

Legal aid

Opposition Day

Privatization of public assets / Privatisation des biens publics

Adjournment Debate

Child care

The House met at 0900.

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

Prayers.

Orders of the Day

Time allocation / Attribution de temps

Hon. James J. Bradley: I move that, pursuant to standing order 47 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 10, An Act to enact the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, to repeal the Day Nurseries Act, to amend the Early Childhood Educators Act, 2007, the Education Act and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts, when the bill is next called as a government order, the Speaker shall put every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment and at such time the bill shall be ordered referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy; and

That the Standing Committee on Social Policy be authorized to meet on Monday, November 17, 2014, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Tuesday, November 18, 2014, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., for the purpose of public hearings on the bill; and

That the Clerk of the Committee, in consultation with the committee Chair, be authorized to arrange the following with regard to Bill 10:

—notice of public hearings on the Ontario parliamentary channel, the Legislative Assembly’s website and Canada NewsWire;

—witnesses are scheduled on a first-come first-served basis;

—each witness will receive up to five minutes for their presentation followed by nine minutes for questions from committee members;

—the deadline for written submissions is 8:30 p.m. on the second day of public hearings;

That the deadline for filing amendments to the bill with the Clerk of the Committee shall be 12 p.m. on Thursday, November 20, 2014.

That the committee be authorized to meet on Monday, November 24, 2014, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Tuesday, November 25, 2014, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 12 midnight for the purpose of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill; and

On Monday, November 24, 2014, at 3 p.m., those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any division required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 129(a); and

That the committee shall report the bill to the House no later than Wednesday, November 26, 2014. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House; and

That, upon receiving the report of the Standing Committee on Social Policy, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading, which order may be called that same day; and

That, when the order for third reading of the bill is called, two hours shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill, apportioned equally among the recognized parties. At the end of this time, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and

The votes on second and third reading may be deferred pursuant to standing order 28(h); and

That, in the case of any division relating to any proceedings on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Mr. Bradley moves notice of motion number 7. I recognize the deputy government House leader.

Hon. James J. Bradley: I’m very pleased to contribute to this important debate, and I look forward to hearing from my honourable colleagues across the aisle.

Mr. Todd Smith: But not the people of Ontario.

Hon. James J. Bradley: I’m even looking forward to hearing the candidates for the leadership of what they call the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. I used to call it that, Mr. Speaker; now I call it the Conservative Party of Ontario. You’ll hear from my—

Interjection.

Hon. James J. Bradley: Perhaps we’ll have a chance for all of the people who are leadership candidates, except one who is not going to be able to be here but will be here in spirit, that being, of course, the gentleman who ran for mayor of Toronto, who I understand if not the front runner is at least second in the race at this time. We would be delighted to see him in the race and contributing.

Interjection.

Hon. James J. Bradley: Now I want to get back to the motion, at the suggestion of the opposition House leader. By the way, I’ve had that job of opposition House leader, and I can predict the speech that you will be making on that occasion. In fact, he could probably simply go to Hansard and the speech would be ready for you.

Mr. Speaker, five months ago—yes, fully five months ago—the people of Ontario gave our government a strong mandate. They placed their faith in our government and our priorities. They were clear that they wanted their government to pass bills. They asked the members elected to get their acts together and work together for the interests of Ontarians. The people of Ontario expect their government to take action on (1) helping to strengthen our economy, (2) investing in modern infrastructure and (3) supporting our essential services. Our government appreciates that. That’s why we are committed to making this Parliament functional.

This government is determined to deliver results for the people of Ontario, and a key part of the government’s ambitious legislative agenda is Bill 10, the Child Care Modernization Act. I would like to thank the minister, Liz Sandals, for all of her hard work in bringing this bill forward and the widespread consultation that she has been engaged in previous to bringing it forward. I know that her office and the Ministry of Education have worked closely and held extensive consultation with all of its education partners, including child care providers and relevant stakeholders, to develop this proposed legislation.

Now, in general, I want to say at this point in my remarks that the concern I had with the previous situation, where the opposition had more seats than the government, was that very little legislation was moving through. Minority government does have an opportunity to work. The best experience I think I had with a true minority Parliament was from 1977 to 1981. There had already been a minority Parliament from 1975 to 1977, previous to my coming to this House by virtue of the support of the people of St. Catharines—

Mr. John Yakabuski: You didn’t run in the 1975 election.

Hon. James J. Bradley: I did not.

On that occasion—what I wanted to describe to you is this: The 1975 to 1977 era was not all that productive. People weren’t used to a minority Parliament, so it didn’t work well. The government wasn’t as responsive as it should have been, and the opposition wasn’t as responsible as it should have been, so it was not functioning very well. Premier Davis called an election to get a majority, in fact, and fell short of that majority. There was a recognition that we had already had one minority Parliament; now we were going to have another one.

0910

I think the three parties determined that it was going to work. The government brought forward its legislation. The opposition debated it, but there was reasonableness on all sides. It worked very well for Premier Davis. In fact, as a result of that almost four years—

Mr. John Yakabuski: In 1981.

Hon. James J. Bradley: —in 1981, March 19, 1981, the government was returned with a majority at that point in time.

Interjection.

Hon. James J. Bradley: I can recall for the member for Pembroke—sorry, for Barry’s Bay—I can recall for him, and I will recall this for him, that when talking about how we’re no longer in a minority Parliament, he used terminology which said, “Welcome to the realities of March 19.” I’m not going to use that terminology today because I think that would be inappropriate; it would sound arrogant to say it.

I always look forward to the interventions of the opposition. It’s never enough time for the opposition; I understand that. I spent more time in this Legislature on that side of the House than I have on this side of the House, so I fully understand where the Legislature comes from.

I also understand that while, yes, there may be those who would be speaking and manoeuvring only to delay things, there’s also genuine concern amongst members of the Legislature. I would suggest that on all sides there are concerns about any bill and the ramifications of the bill. So I don’t demean the role of the opposition. You have debated this extensively. The critic has asked some significant questions in the House, as he should, and has done so in an exemplary fashion, in my view. But we have to proceed with this legislation. We have to move this legislation forward. It’s not as though it’s something nobody knew about; it is something that we knew was coming forward.

I want to provide some context on how we got to this point in time. Bill 10 was originally introduced on December 3, 2013, almost a full year ago. It went through several hours of debate on second reading—not one or two hours, several hours of debate on second reading. The government endeavoured to pass this bill in the previous Parliament but had no luck because the opposition, it says here, needlessly tied up the business of the Legislature.

This bill has been debated in the Legislature eight different days since it was introduced last year, including six days within the past two weeks. So once again, there has been some extensive debate. I’ve followed it, if not right in the Legislature itself; I have followed it through both the electronic Hansard and the print Hansard, which I no longer have on my desk, but is available to members of the Legislature.

By stalling this bill, the opposition isn’t just delaying urgent action for our children; they are blocking other important bills from moving forward at the same time. We need to move this bill forward.

If passed, Bill 10 will modernize our child care and early years system. The proposed bill will replace the outdated legislation that currently governs child care in Ontario, and I know that’s something everybody will want to see happen. This legislation will make our system more responsive to the needs of parents and children. It will strengthen the oversight of the child care sector.

As I already mentioned, the ministry has undertaken extensive stakeholder engagement at every stage of its work on child care modernization. I think that’s important to note. When you say you’ve had consultation, it doesn’t mean you’re going to agree and adopt everything everyone says. That was a valuable opportunity to be able to consult with people. That included engagement with private school operators, who are not currently licensed under the DNA, as well as numerous members of the licensed child care sector, including the Home Child Care Association of Ontario.

Speaker, allow me to provide some background on this type of motion we’re debating this morning. As members may know, time allocation was codified in the standing orders in the early 1990s when the NDP was in power, and I well remember that. The NDP is both the mother and father of time allocation motions because very extensive amendments and changes to the orders of the day, the procedures of this Legislature, were made by the NDP. When they get up to speak about the fact that time allocation isn’t an appropriate tool to be implementing—they are both the father and mother, they are the parents, of time allocation motions in this province, because they recognized at the time—they truly believed at the time—that, in fact, the opposition of the day was being obstructionist. It was difficult for them to move the legislation forward, so they decided to provide for this.

This will help speed up things since this change in standing orders allowed governments to put forward a debatable motion that would limit the length of debates on government bills and motions and help speed up passage of key legislation. Time allocation motions allow for committee time, where the real work happens. As always, the public will have an opportunity to participate through public hearings and written submissions.

I should say, at this point in time, I well recall when the official opposition was in power under Mr. Harris as the Premier that often there wasn’t any committee time that took place. There was no allocation of time permitted there. So therefore, our government is permitting committee time, not rejecting committee time as the Conservatives did when they were in power. I know you weren’t here, Mr. Speaker, at that time because you would have spoken in caucus vociferously against the fact that there would be no committee time included. Well, there is committee time in this particular case.

This motion allows for two days of public hearings that go into the evening—now that’s something a little different; go right into the evening—so that all who have an interest in this important piece of legislation can appear before the committee. The opposition parties are welcome to put forward amendments to strengthen the bill, if they believe it needs strengthening, during the clause-by-clause process.

Time allocation is one part of the legislative tool kit available and has been used by all three parties in the Ontario Legislature, some more frequently than others.

Mr. John Yakabuski: As consecutively as this party?

Hon. James J. Bradley: From 1999 to 2003—probably the member for Barry’s Bay wanted to know this fact: From 1999 to 2003, the last Conservative government time-allocated 60% of its bills.

Mr. John Yakabuski: You’re at 100%.

Hon. James J. Bradley: Something else to consider: The PC Party supported time allocation as recently as the last minority government, and I was pleased to see that.

Although it is our government’s preference to allow bills to progress through the normal course, these types of motions are from time to time necessary. Our government has an ambitious legislative agenda, because that is what we believe the people of Ontario deserve. I urge all members of this House to support this motion and help pass this bill as soon as possible.

Mr. Speaker, we find ourselves having had some extensive debate, having consultations taking place by the Minister of Education and by members of the House who have received written representations or perhaps have had meetings with people with a specific interest in this bill. There has been a lot of debate, a lot of discussion. Those who are directly impacted have had a great knowledge of the intricacies of this bill and have made known their comments so that when the bill was being formed, there were changes that took place that reflected some of the consultations that the Minister of Education had at that time.

I know members of the opposition are eager to speak to this piece of legislation. I want to give them that opportunity. My anticipation is that the House leader of the official opposition will be speaking in favour and voting in favour of the legislation, though I may be incorrect in that. The NDP, who are the parents of time allocation motions, of course, will be supporting this with a good deal of enthusiasm.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. May I say, you’re doing a wonderful job in the chair.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I would like to thank the member from St. Catharines, the deputy government House leader.

Further debate?

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to what I consider to be a very sad day in this Parliament when we time-allocate a bill that has not been consulted properly. Obviously, this bill was brought forward because this particular document came out: Careless about Child Care.

I want to thank the member from Hamilton Mountain, who took the time to ask the Ombudsman to do a report on the inefficiencies that have come from this government through the Ministry of Education on child care over the last decade. When this report came out, the government bragged that they’ve already adopted something like 30% or 35% of the recommendations in here. That is just the beginning of a number of problems that we have with Bill 10.

0920

I can tell you that I’ve heard a number of government members mention “after the minister consulted.” The minister did not consult with any of the independent child care providers in Ontario. That is why in the first week back I asked our House leader to go to the House leaders’ meeting and ask if we could have travel with this bill, because, of something like 800,000 children in the province of Ontario, about 75% to 80% of those children are looked after by independent child care providers. I thought maybe those people should have a say in this bill. Is there something wrong with that? Those are people from Thunder Bay, from Kenora, from Ottawa, from Pembroke—all across our province—and now they’re sending in letters by the hundreds. They have rallies coming up. We’ve had a couple already; we’re having more this weekend.

We know the government has made up their mind. They’re running as fast as they can to try to cover up under this bill, under this Ombudsman’s report. The quicker they can sweep it under the carpet, the better it will be, because they do not want those people, those 800,000 children who are under independent child care providers, to have a say. In fact, most of them across this province know nothing about this right now. There are literally thousands and thousands of families.

How many people will this put out of work, if we adopt this bill in its present form? Around 60,000 people; 60,000 people will be put out of work because they’ll have to shut down their small businesses. Now, these are people who take in two or three or four children. It supplements their income and it helps out some of their neighbours down the street. They make, you know, $1,000 a month or something like that. That goes towards paying their mortgage or their car payments or heating, and it helps provide the other families with a place to babysit their children. We’ve been doing that for years. I mean, that’s something that’s common in Ontario, and now what are we going to do? We’re going to have a Ministry of Education police force, the enforcement division, kind of like that bunch of jokes at the College of Trades.

Mr. Speaker, that’s where we’ve come in this province. We no longer care about what the average family thinks; we’re going to be mama or papa to all of them. So what are we going to do? We’re going to send out a police force. There will probably be—I can just imagine it now—little pink and blue minivans running around, and if they see some lady going down the street with a stroller for three, “Let’s nail her. She’s probably a villain. We can charge her $200,000,” or whatever the fee is that they’re going to nail people with. It’s insane.

All I ask for, Mr. Speaker, all I asked for from day one, was for this bill to be travelled. I know my colleagues in the NDP did the same. The whole child care division of the Ministry of Education has been a disaster for the last decade, and we’re going to clean it all up before Christmas? Give me a break. That will never happen. You know what? They won’t put the resources into the enforcement, so what will happen? It will continue on exactly the way it is. Those independent child care providers who are looking after those 800,000 children today will be doing it underground, the same as what happens with the College of Trades or any of these other enforcement divisions.

It’s amazing how we have to enforce everything with a separate division of its own—like the MNR. They’ve got the conservation officers, and the Minister of Natural Resources brags about that. You know what? They haven’t got enough money for the gas for the trucks. They don’t go out. The odd time they’ll take a trip out to enforce hunting and fishing, because they don’t have enough money in their budget. The same at College of Trades. We had to have that. What have they really done so far? They’ve just nailed people for more money, another tax. And what have we got? We’ve got people at the College of Trades who aren’t as effective as homeless people on the street—they’re completely useless to Ontario, as far as I’m concerned. And now we’ve got the enforcement division at the College of Trades.

You know what? Maybe they’ll do some economizing here. They will have the enforcement division of the Ministry of Education to nail these child care providers, and maybe what we’ll do is we can do some cost savings here and have the College of Trades guys help them. Can you imagine that going around: a guy with a hard hat, and it will be a blue-and-white uniform, a blue-and-pink uniform. You know, you can see it happening right now.

This is nothing but a joke, and this government is trying to push this thing through as fast as they can, because they do not want these independent child care providers across Ontario to unite and actually voice their concerns. The sooner we can get this thing done, the better it will be.

The deputy House leader mentioned very briefly that we’re going to have night committee hearings. Well, I wonder if there will actually be teleconferencing allowed, because thousands of people will not be allowed to have their say on this bill because it is not travelling. So surely to God, Mr. Speaker, we’ll allow people to conference call in from different parts of Ontario. Instead of sitting at night, I would have rather maybe taken a trip up to Thunder Bay with the committee and actually met some people, or over to Windsor, even during the House sittings.

As recently as yesterday, we were under the impression that the House leader actually had some strong feelings towards making this more open and transparent. Now, there’s a word: transparency. This government brags about transparency. Can you believe the things that are happening under this transparent government? A hundred per cent of the bills so far are time-allocated. We’ve got a project like this MaRS project over here—another disaster. It falls in line with the transparency around the power plant scandals. Can you believe that? We can’t have those people in anymore to testify; the OPP know better. That’s what we call transparency here, but we’re going to pass a transparency accountability act. Let’s give our heads a shake.

It’s almost embarrassing, Mr. Speaker, to be elected and come here and have to sit in this House and listen to this garbage, because over and over again, they let the people of Ontario down by playing papa and mama to the citizens of Ontario. As far as I’m concerned, the people who know best about how to handle their children in the province of Ontario are the mothers and the fathers of those children, not Kathleen Wynne or any of the people on that side of the House. I think the average family takes a lot of pride in who babysits their children, or what daycare they take them to, and I think it’s a disgrace that we not allow those people to say a few words at a time when there’s an opportunity to really voice their concerns on a bill that will be, in fact, a bill that may last for many, many years. Let’s get this thing right.

So will they really actually listen to amendments? I don’t think so. There might be one or two. But you know what happens in these committee hearings: The opposition proposes an amendment, we do a lot of research into it and then the Ministry of Education bureaucrats give speaking notes to the parliamentary assistant to say why it’s wrong. Now, keep in mind, the Ministry of Education bureaucrats are the same people who caused this Ombudsman report to come out in the first place. They didn’t do their job in enforcement. So whatever we hear coming from the parliamentary assistant when it comes to the amendments we propose on the bill, we know that it is the same people who made this up, that are the result of that happening.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words this morning. I think you probably know where I stand. I’m embarrassed to say I sit in this House and to time-allocate a bill that should have travelled across this province—how many weeks are we really out, Mr. Speaker? Think about it. We’re about in the middle of November—sorry; the first week of November now. With the time allocation, we won’t get this bill passed until sometime maybe around the first or second week of December. All I was asking for was to travel in the winter months. We’re back here anyhow by Family Day, which is the middle of February. They could have done their clause-by-clause and third reading then. We’re out seven or eight weeks at the most. That’s all we’re out. That’s all I asked for, as the critic for education. And what do we get? We get time allocation.

We’re batting 100% on time allocation. That’s obviously the way this government is going, and I guess we’re going to have to put up with this. They have the majority, and I guess in four years the people will decide whether they like time-allocated motions and to be treated, basically, how some people are treated in Ontario, which is in a very poor manner.

I have hundreds of letters and emails coming into my office right now. I wish I could read them all. But those people will try to be present at rallies; they’ll try to be at some of the committee hearings. Maybe there might even be a demonstration or two here at Queen’s Park. But the reality is, this reminds me a lot of the horse racing industry, how they handled that. Remember that? The casino modernization plan—boy, for a few weeks there, the finance minister and Paul Godfrey and these guys were going to change the whole world. There were going to be casinos everywhere. They were fighting about whether it was going to go in Vaughan or Toronto or Niagara or wherever. Whatever happened to that? Nothing. Nothing happened, because they didn’t realize that people were tapped out for the kind of money they were gambling.

0930

What have they done in the meantime? They’ve destroyed the horse racing industry. About 40,000 jobs are now gone out of that industry, impacting everything from the people who grow hay and sell it to the farms, right through to veterinarians etc. That’s the sort of thing we get when we don’t listen to the opposition. You didn’t listen then and we destroyed the horse racing industry; now we’re going to drive the child care industry underground in Ontario because of this bill.

I thank you for the opportunity. I know that other people in my caucus want to speak later on. I appreciate the opportunity. We will continue to fight on behalf of the child care providers in Ontario and on behalf of the children in Ontario who deserve nothing less than a strong opposition to this pathetic bill.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I’d like to thank the member from Simcoe North. Further debate?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: I want to start this debate by saying an old saying that we have in French, which is: Le plus que ça va, le moins que ça change. In other words, in English, the more that things happen, the more they don’t change. That’s what we’ve got here. We have, essentially, the holdover from Dalton McGuinty coming into this new government, which is now led by Kathleen Wynne, when it comes to how we operate this Legislature.

This government is proposing, by way of this motion—and it will pass because they have a majority—that everybody in Ontario who has something to say about this bill or something to say about the issue of daycare services in this province is not going to have an ability to do so if they don’t happen to live in downtown Toronto.

I think that’s a really sad statement because it is the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, who said, on getting elected as the leader of the Liberal Party, as a new Premier in the last Parliament and again through this last election, that she was different, that she would do things in this province and she would run this administration differently than the Liberals had run it before under Dalton McGuinty. She kept on talking about wanting to have a conversation with Ontarians so that Ontarians could be in a conversation with their government so that we could hear them, said Kathleen Wynne, and what their needs were, what their anxieties might be and what their aspirations were, so that the government could properly reflect that in everything they do.

I think there’s a certain amount of people who bought what the Premier had to say at face value. They said, “She looks like a nice enough person,” and I’ve got to say, from a personal perspective, I think Kathleen Wynne is a very good person. As a person, person to person, I think she’s quite outstanding that way. But I think what we’re starting to see in her leadership as Premier—there’s starting to be little difference between her and Dalton McGuinty.

What the government is doing today—never mind that we members are not going to have as much time to debate in this House; nobody back home really cares about that. What people back home care about is that they have an opportunity to have their say on public policy when it comes to what this government does. The fact that this government, by way of this motion, is saying, “Unless you’re able to get to downtown Toronto, to Queen’s Park, on two days in November, you’re not going to have an opportunity to have your say on daycare policy in this province”—there are people across this province who have issues when it comes to daycare, some of whom may agree with some of the items that are in this bill, as far as trying to regulate some of the unregulated daycare sector. But there’s a whole bunch of other people who are saying, “Listen, my issue is real simple: I can’t get daycare. I live in Kenora, I live in Cornwall, I live in Moosonee or I live in Sarnia, and I cannot get daycare.”

What are we doing for them? What is this bill and what is this government doing for those thousands of families who are trying to get daycare services in their communities? That’s really what’s at question in this debate this morning. The crux of this debate and this time allocation motion, I believe—it’s important, yes, for members to have their say in this Legislature and to have proper debate at second reading; I don’t want to undermine that. But the real travesty in all of this is that the public is not going to have their say. If you live in Cornwall or you live in London or you live in Sarnia or you live in Sudbury, you’re not going to have a chance to have your say when it comes to what’s happening or not happening with daycare in this province.

For the opposition to ask, as has been the request for some time, to have some public hearings on this issue—I think it’s a real travesty to the public. I think the public has a right to know and to have a say about what their government is doing.

What is this Legislature all about? Why is it that we have democratic elections every four years? Why are we sent here? We’re sent here to represent the people, but it doesn’t mean to say that once we walk into the door, we slam the doors to the Legislature and we say to the public, “You can only put your nose to the window and dream of having your say and hope that somebody happens to mention in this chamber what’s important to you.”

What you need to do is bust the doors open and allow, as we used to in this Legislature once upon a time, committees to travel, and to be able to go to where people live and to say, “What do you have to say about this?” Sometimes, you’ll be surprised to hear what they have to say. I know that I travelled on committee a number of years under the old rules, where there was no time allocation, where there were no limits when it came to debate. Governments had to send bills out on the road to be able to hear the public. Guess what used to happen? People used to come and give us ideas. People would point out and say, “You’ve got a good idea in your bill, government,”—whoever it might be; and I’ve seen it from all three parties—“but here’s a suggestion of how we can make your bill better.” Or, “Here is something that you may have forgotten about,” or, “Here is the reality that I have to live in my community that you’re not taking into account in this bill.” It allowed the legislators, the members of the committee, to do what it is that we’re sent here to do, and that’s to properly represent the public of Ontario and to take their ideas and to try to work our way through everything we have heard so that we can try to make the bill reflect the wants, needs and aspirations of the people of Ontario.

The moment that you close those Legislature doors and you don’t allow the public to have their say about what happens when it comes to legislation is a bad day for democracy in the province of Ontario. And it’s a bad day and a sad day for the rest of Ontarians.

Oh yes, the government will say, “We’ve given you two days of hearings.” I’m going to tell you what they’re going to do. They’re going to say, “We gave you”—I think it was—“from 3:30 to 6 o’clock”—I’m looking at my whip to help me out here—“and from 6 o’clock to 9:30, two days running, to have public hearings here at Queen’s Park on daycare.” I can almost guarantee we’re not going to fill all the slots because we’re only going to be asking for people who can get into Toronto to have their say. If you happen to live five blocks down the street or maybe you’re somewhere down the subway from Queen’s Park or maybe you’re an hour’s car ride from Toronto, you’ll have an opportunity to come and have your say. But all those people who are living in London, Sarnia, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Cornwall and Ottawa, they’re not going to be able to get down here—most of them don’t have the means to get down here in the first place—to be able to have their say. So we’re going to limit 80% of the geography of Ontario and probably around 40% to 50% of the population of Ontario to have their say about this bill. Why is it not as important to know what the people of London, what the people of Sudbury, what the people of Cornwall and what the people of Oshawa have to say? That’s what this place is all about. And the government says, “Oh, look at us. We’re being generous. We’re going to give you two long days of hearings in Toronto.”

I’m sorry, Ontario is just not Toronto. Toronto is important. Ontario can’t operate without the city of Toronto. This is not an anti-Toronto thing. Toronto is key to the success of Ontario, but so is the rest of Ontario key to the success of Toronto and the success of this province. If we as legislators allow the government to say, “The only people that we want to hear from are those people in close proximity to the city of Toronto,” I think that is a real mistake.

I would propose that what we need to do is give some time for this committee to be able to travel outside of the GTA so that the people in communities outside of the GTA, as selected by the committee—and leave this up to the committee—are able to say, “Yes, I want to have my say,” and have an opportunity to come forward.

With that, and with my brand new rhinestone glasses—because I broke my glasses and these are my cheaters; I don’t want anybody thinking this is a new style—I want to propose an amendment to the motion. Speaker, I will send you a copy of the same. It reads as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the second paragraph and substituting the following: “That the committee shall travel for up to five days outside of Toronto, for the purpose of public hearings, as determined by the committee.”

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Mr. Bisson moves that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the second paragraph and substituting the following: “That the committee shall travel for up to five days outside of Toronto, for the purpose of public hearings, as determined by the committee.”

0940

Back to the member from Timmins–James Bay for further debate.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: To be clear, at this point I’m now speaking to the amendment to the motion, but I’m still allowed to speak to the main motion.

The reason we’re putting this forward is pretty simple. As I laid out in what I was saying in the few minutes I had preceding this particular motion, it is of paramount importance that the public of Ontario has its say. If the government is not going to see it in their own hearts to be able to do what they’re charged to do, and that is to give the public an opportunity to have their say, it’s incumbent upon us as the opposition to push the government in that direction.

I know the government has said no to the proposal of having 10 days of hearings, which was proposed by the official opposition. We felt it was important to come up with some kind of compromise and that the compromise be that, in fact, there be allowed five days of travel outside of the GTA for the public to have their say. It’s not a lot, but it’s something that I think is reasonable as far as being able to give some communities in this province an opportunity to have their say.

The people to determine those communities to have that would be the committee, as we always do. The subcommittee would meet. They would look at where there are areas of interest that want to speak to this geographically and say, “We have five days of hearings outside of the GTA.” They can figure out where they’re going to travel in those five days. They may decide to split morning and afternoon in one community or the whole day in a particular community. I would hope that if this motion passes, and I’m hoping that the government will allow this amendment to pass, there would in fact be some travel in the various regions of this province, that we wouldn’t just do it in one region. We need to make sure the southwest, the southeast, I would argue northern Ontario—that we find some mechanism of making sure that we can get the committee out to those particular communities to be able to do this.

The government could do this, if it chose to, and if they really wanted to, we could probably do it before Christmas. I would argue that it would be better to do it after, but if the government is really bent on trying to get this thing done before Christmas, there’s enough time legislatively to be able to do that. We’re coming up to a constituency break. The committee could travel during the constituency break. We could have a discussion at the House leaders’ meetings in order to allow the committee to travel during the time of the House sitting. It’s not something that we’ve normally done. It’s not something I’ve normally been in favour of but, like everything, you’ve got to find a way to compromise and work across the aisle to say, “What’s the compromise to get this done?”

I say again where I started from, it’s the Premier who sets the tone. It’s the Premier, Kathleen Wynne, who said she wanted to lead a different type of government. She wanted the public to be engaged in debate with their government and this Legislature. She was going to have a conversation with Ontarians about the issues that mattered to them. Well, you cannot just have a conversation with yourself. To have a conversation, it has to be engaged with somebody else and that somebody else, I suggest to the Premier, is the people of this province, to give the people of this province the ability to say what they have to say about daycare.

On the issue of daycare, I will guarantee you, there are people across this province who are struggling to find affordable, accessible, safe daycare for their families and are having difficulty doing so, and I’m sure, to that issue, people will want to speak ad infinitum.

But I also suggest, to the central part of what this bill is all about, and that is regulating the unregulated side of daycare, there are people who are going to have some thoughts about how that should or should not be done according to what the government has put forward.

I would argue the way to go is to increase the not-for-profit side, such as what Thomas Mulcair and the federal NDP are proposing to do. I think that’s where you go. It’s rather unfortunate that this government has done hardly anything on that side in the 10 or 11 years they’ve been the government. Oh, yes, the government likes to speak a good line. They like to invent bills that have wonderful titles to make the public feel as if, “Oh, yes, our government is taking care of you. We’re going to do something about daycare.”

But I propose that this particular bill is not going to do anything for somebody somewhere out in Ontario who’s trying to get a daycare spot for their child. This bill is not going to create new daycare spots. It’s going to deal with how we regulate the unregulated sector and, if anything, it might make access to daycare more difficult depending on how the private sector reacts when it comes to these particular measures in the bill.

Our motion is pretty clear. We’ve put an amendment to the time allocation motion that the government has put forward. This is not about my right as a member to have a debate in the Legislature, although I think that’s important. This is about the people of Ontario, and if the people of Ontario cannot have their say when it comes to what’s in a bill, then I think it is short shrift to democracy. I think it’s the government not recognizing their responsibility and making sure that the public should have the right to have their say.

Again, I say I will be surprised if we fill all of the spots in the two days that the government has given us, because they have said, essentially, “You’ve got two days of hearings in Toronto.” You know what? There’s a lot more people in this province than just downtown Toronto, and there are all kinds of people in other communities who won’t be able to come here, who would easily fill those spots if we could get out to their communities. So I would ask the government and I ask the official opposition to support our amendment and to make sure that this committee is allowed to travel for up to five days outside of the GTA so that we can hear the other people, really important people of this province, when it comes to what they have to say on this particular issue. With that, I’ll leave the rest of the time for our caucus.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I’d like to thank the member from Timmins–James Bay. Further debate?

Mr. Steve Clark: It’s a pleasure to speak to the amendment. I want to thank the member from Timmins–James Bay for making that amendment. Our critic, the member for Simcoe North, Mr. Dunlop, was pretty clear on what our request was: We’ve asked for travel around the province. In fact, at one of the previous House leaders’ meetings, I read a letter to the government House leader; I showed the government House leader a letter from my critic dated October 20, addressed from Garfield Dunlop, MPP, Simcoe North:

“Dear Mr. Clark,

“I have received a significant amount of negative feedback on Bill 10, the Child Care Modernization Act. I hope the House leaders can unanimously agree to allow the committee to travel this winter so that families all over Ontario who are impacted may have a chance to voice their concerns about the bill.”

I was very clear to the government House leader what our intentions were. I gave him very specific suggestions on the cities that we would travel to. In good faith—and I want to stress that: “good faith”—I communicated directly to the government House leader what our caucus asked for, and I want to thank the member from Timmins–James Bay for putting an amendment forward that reflects what our caucus request was.

I want to tell him that I’m going to support the amendment that was presented. I think it’s extremely important. I thought, Speaker, right up to yesterday afternoon that we were still negotiating with the government. Yesterday afternoon, during debate of Bill 10, I walked over to the government House leader and was talking to him. So either he is an expert at bargaining in bad faith or the Premier put the iron fist down on him and negotiations were over.

You know, this government and the deputy House leader—the dean of the Legislature, the member for St. Catharines—Minister Bradley, talked about Mike Harris and used the statistic of 60% time allocation. The difference is that we’ve had three bills that we’ve communicated to the government on; we’ve had three time allocations. This government is batting a thousand. I know Mr. Bradley is a bit of a Blue Jays fan. He’s batting a thousand when it comes to time allocation motions.

I’d have more respect for this government if they would just level with the opposition, if they would just tell us exactly what their plan is. At least with Mike Harris, he would tell you what his plan was. He would look you in the eye and say, “This is what I’m going to do.” This government says one thing and does something completely different.

In the two previous time allocation motions—I talked about our House leaders’ meeting. The government was very clear to Mr. Bisson and me. They gave us four bills that they wanted to get passed very quickly in this session. What they asked was that we have a couple of hours of debate in the Legislature, we go into committee for a couple of days of hearings and come back for two hours or so of debate at third reading and get them passed. So I took it to our caucus. I asked our caucus if they had any concerns. Mr. Dunlop immediately, even though Bill 10 was not on the list, gave me this letter regarding Bill 10, as the critic, and asked for committee hearings. I’ll come back to that.

0950

So we communicated that there were a couple of bills that we wanted to have hearings on. Bill 15, the auto insurance bill: We felt there were a number of tow truck operators and storage companies that wanted to be heard—fair and reasonable, Speaker. We wanted a few days of hearings outside of this building, outside of Queen’s Park, so that we could hear from people who had concerns with the bill.

We also indicated that we wanted committee travel on Bill 21 because of the blood plasma aspect of that bill. In fact, there were stakeholders who were here in the building on Thursday. They sent me a letter regarding having province-wide hearings—very specific, Speaker. I’d have more respect for the government if they just looked me in the face on Bill 21, and all of those stakeholders—there are a number of groups across the province—and just level with them and tell them exactly what they’re going to get in terms of hearings; none of this, say one thing and do something else.

We had a very important debate in this House yesterday afternoon about Bill 10. I put some of my constituents’ comments and concerns on the record. I’ve already had emails this morning from a constituent who is in the child care business in her home and very concerned about the future.

The member for Simcoe North hit the nail on the head when he talked about the number of providers out there who will be affected by this legislation: 70,000—we estimate up to 140,000 spaces.

I don’t know what it is about this government that they have to put up a wall between the two opposition parties. Having five days of hearings is not unreasonable. I was very sympathetic to the government House leader and his concern about the regulations that will need to be put in place after Bill 10. The member for Simcoe North and I had a conversation here yesterday, and we were saying, “If there are some concerns about the regulations, then maybe we should meet in the intersession. Maybe we should try to schedule some hearings while the House is sitting,” which is exactly what Mr. Bisson just said. It’s exactly what I said to the government House leader. I said, “I think we’ve got some movement on these hearings. Can you get back to me?” At no time did he indicate anything about a time allocation motion. In fact, I was shocked to have one of the Clerks at the table hand me, probably less than an hour after I had that last conversation with the government House leader, the fact that we had this hammer put down on us.

I just can’t understand why we can’t work on these committees and meet outside this place. I joked, with my first time allocation motion, about the Premier’s words where she talked about governing from the activist centre—I joked that she has renamed the Legislative Assembly “the activist centre” because everybody has to come to the activist centre if they want to be heard.

I heard the member from Beaches–East York talk about the government whip’s comments on Skype and teleconferencing. This is a government that, by its own admission, is going to govern through teleconferencing. To have a motion—and thank goodness it was amended by the member for Timmins–James Bay—that provides two days of hearings—and this is the government’s trade-off: that we’re not just going to meet on the first day, November 17, from 2 till 6; we’re also going to come back from 6:30 to 8:30. So here’s a daycare provider in Ontario who looks after children all day in her home, and her only opportunity to talk about this bill is to call in between 6:30 and 8:30. Well, I live three and a half hours away. The top end of my riding is more like four and a half or five hours away. There’s no possible way that somebody is going to drive in from Leeds–Grenville to make a deputation before the Standing Committee on Social Policy. There’s no possible way.

So for the government to say, “Well, we’re trying to accommodate people from 6:30 to 8:30 on November 17 and from 6:30 to 8:30 on November 18”—that’s ridiculous. That’s an insult in terms of a government that pledges it’s going to be more open and transparent. There were a lot of empty words in the throne speech about openness and transparency, a lot of empty words, and the government is not putting any of them into practice.

We were fair and reasonable. The amendment, Mr. Speaker, is fair and reasonable: To allow us a few days of committee travel outside of this place, I think, is the only way to deal with this bill. It will signal to other stakeholders a willingness from the government to hear the other side, to listen to opposition concerns, and to listen to concerns from rural providers.

The Premier gets very upset when the urban-rural divide is discussed. But this bill, the way it’s presently written, only adds to that division, because ridings like mine that are rural, that need as many child care options as possible, need to have the flexibility and not be imposed by the government.

I don’t want any child care spaces decreased in Leeds–Grenville. I want the government to find ways to work with these existing providers. So how are we going to hear these existing providers? Again, the government has only provided four hours in the afternoon and two hours in the evening for two days. It doesn’t make sense.

Mr. Bisson’s motion to delete those words and to substitute “That the committee shall travel for up to five days outside of Toronto, for the purpose of public hearings, as determined by the committee,” allows the committee—I’ll use some words that the government likes to use: It will allow the committee to do its work. This motion will allow them to pick some locations that will give people a chance to speak on this bill.

The member for Simcoe North also talked about a number of protests that are going to take place, and I know that, because of the heavy hand of the government House leader, one is going to be scheduled in Ottawa, I understand. I don’t know the date. I am going to allow the member for Simcoe North a few minutes to speak in favour of this and to reiterate his support for the bill.

Speaker, it’s so important, in this majority Parliament, that we have an opportunity for the government to present its case on passing some bills. I want to put on the record again that we were supportive of letting a number of bills go through at a faster pace than normal in return for some minor committee travel. That didn’t happen. This amendment will allow us that opportunity to travel to at least five locations outside of this city to give those rural daycare providers who are going to be most affected by this bill the opportunity to have their words heard.

With that, I know that the critic wants to say a few words. I know the third party wants to speak as well. I’ll just park myself for the moment.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?

Mme France Gélinas: Well, I’m really proud of the member from Timmins–James Bay for having moved this very important amendment to this bill. It is important to make sure that everybody in Ontario has a chance to be heard.

When I found out that this bill was going to be time-allocated, I started to reach out to people who had connected with me, saying, “Listen, we have some issues with this bill. We have some good ideas to change it, to make it better.” They wanted to be engaged. They wanted to be part of the process, which is what all politicians want. We want to make sure that the things we do matter to the people we serve.

So I reached out to Karry Strelezki. She is a daycare provider in Lively in my riding. Well, for Mrs. Strelezki from Lively to come down to Queen’s Park—here’s what she says. I read from her email: “In regard to going to Queen’s Park to present these problems, while it’s something that I would love to do, unfortunately that would leave five families without daycare, they are my priority.”

1000

This woman has been in the business of running a private daycare for over a decade, for over 13 years. She is known in Lively. She provides very good child care. She has some good ideas as to how to move this bill forward, how to change it to make it better, because she knows the business of child care.

If we do like the member from Timmins–James Bay is suggesting, if we travel, I guarantee you that Karry will come and she will present. You will get to hear from her first-hand the good ideas she has to make things better, to make this bill do what we really want it to do, having a strong network of child care that is secure for the children who go there, no matter where you live. But Karry, like everybody else from Nickel Belt, won’t have an opportunity to be heard if the government has its way. If we listen to the amendment from the member from Timmins–James Bay, Karry will have an opportunity to be heard, and I guarantee you that this bill will be better. Her ideas are worth listening to, and she should be given a chance. Let’s bring the committee to the north. Let’s give people like Karry a chance to be heard, and the legislation we will move forward will be better.

I also heard from Sarah Lalonde. Sarah also has a daycare in Hanmer, in another part of my riding. I will put on the record basically the email she sent me: “As per our phone conversation”—I phoned her to let her know, “Listen, there’s not going to be much debate on this bill; your only chance to be heard is to come down to Queen’s Park.”

When you live in Hanmer, coming down to Queen’s Park is not an option. It is almost impossible to do this there and back in the same day. We just had eight inches of snow last Friday. Believe you me, you don’t travel fast when there’s eight inches of snow and not a snowplow to be seen. But here’s what she says: “As per our phone conversation ... I promised a letter that you could read”—because she won’t be able to come down. If we listen to the member from Timmins–James Bay, though, Sarah would have an opportunity to tell her story, to say how make this bill better. She goes on to say:

“I am a 24/7 daycare located here in Hanmer. I am very saddened by the deaths in private daycares. However, I’m upset placing blame on all unlicensed daycares. I am unlicensed, as I and my parents enjoy the freedom to do as the children wish and not required to follow a regimented schedule. I also do not want to pay a company to give me more paperwork and take” up to “30% of my income, because as it stands now, some days I only make $5 an hour, well under minimum wage, while I still have to cover all the running costs. I don’t do this for the money but for the love of the children in my care.

“With putting age restrictions, I will have to give at least one family notice, and it would be very difficult to find care as your licensed centres that they will be forced into” close at 6 p.m. “Who will watch the children after 6?” Remember, she provides 24/7.

“I beg you to please look at all points and not the media. Licensed daycares could just as easily have a death in a centre. I don’t think it is a matter of licensed or unlicensed but a matter of supervision and following through on complaints. As for being licensed, I would be more than happy to have someone come into my house and see how things are done. However, I want my program and flexibility and not garnish 30% of my $5 an hour.”

That came from Sarah Lalonde, who lives in Hanmer. Sarah has much more to say. I have two pages of emails that she has shared with me that I won’t have time to read into the record, but if we were to travel this bill, she would come forward. Not too many child care providers have the experience that she has providing 24/7. I come from a mining community. Everybody who works in the mines works 24/7. The mines don’t shut down for Christmas, for statutory holidays, for nothing. There are not too many child care providers who have the experience that she does, who are open on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day, and look after those kids. Sarah does that. She is there 24/7. She has issues with the bill and she deserves to be heard.

I will put on the record some of what Karry also has to say:

With the Legislature and Bill 10 coming up for second reading, “I wanted to reach out to you again.…

“The proposed ratio of five children under 13 with a restriction of two under two, plus the inclusion of the provider’s children under six (when children begin school at four years of age) is not a viable model. This is clearly an attempt to have independent providers either close their doors or work for an agency. We believe this is the government trying to absolve themselves of any perceived responsibility by the public.

“We believe the government is trying to distance themselves from independent providers because of the media and lobbyists’ wholehearted support of for-profit agencies and centres. It is consistently suggested that independent providers are unqualified, offer substandard care and resist licensing and this bill clearly supports those misrepresentations. The reality is that many independent providers are early childhood educators or have a degree in child development, and the majority adhere to the five-under-10 ratio outlined in the current Day Nurseries Act, as well as apply best practices....

“Up to 80% of Ontario’s children are cared for by independent child care providers (ICPs). Where will they go if so many of us have to close our doors? Rather than making child care in Ontario safe, affordable and accessible this bill will make child care in Ontario less accessible and certainly more expensive.

“However, we would embrace a registry or licensing system for all home daycare providers in Ontario [which] would ensure that the bill’s objective would be accomplished. Wait-lists for subsidized spots could be immediately reduced if independent providers were individually licensed. These registries could also develop health and safety standards that would have to be met in order to qualify for a licence. I would happily obtain a licence or become registered if either of those options were offered. Instead, this bill leaves room for only two choices: either operate my business at a loss” or work for a for-profit agency.

“I am opposed to essentially being forced to give up my business in order to join an agency that will take as much as $12,000” a year “from my gross annual income. I will potentially have available spots and not be able to fill them with children because the child in need of care is not over two, potentially leading to a loss of $20,000 in gross income. No family can survive this drastic reduction of annual income so the cost will be passed to parents at an average increase of 30%. Those providers that shut their doors will be facing an unemployment rate of 7.1%”—which is where it stands in my community.

“What will we do with the 350,000-plus children currently in independent home care who will be displaced when ICPs with young children have to [close] their doors entirely? Why are we being eradicated from this bill instead of recognized as equals to our sister agency providers and ECEs working in centres? I am entirely in favour of new standards that ensure the health and safety of our children, but this approach is extremely flawed, and will lead to a child care crisis in Ontario.”

We held a press conference and they don’t feel that they were heard. I encourage you to do what the member from Timmins–James Bay has said: Travel this bill to at least five communities in Ontario. Come to the north. Talk to those child care providers. Some of them have years of experience. They want to make the bill better and they have ideas on how to do this.

Le député de Timmins–James Bay a proposé que le comité prenne le temps d’aller écouter les gens à l’extérieur de Toronto. En ce moment, le gouvernement veut donner aux gens de Toronto l’opportunité d’être entendus. Mais l’opportunité d’être entendus à Toronto veut dire que des gens comme Karry et Sarah, qui viennent de mon comté et qui ont de bonnes idées, n’auront jamais la chance d’être entendus, parce que pour eux, c’est clair que de faire le voyage de Nickel Belt et se rendre à Toronto pour présenter pour une période maximum de cinq minutes, ce n’est pas quelque chose qu’ils sont capables de faire. Ça voudrait dire laisser les enfants, les familles de Nickel Belt, sans ressources pendant une journée complète.

Comme j’ai dit en anglais un peu plus tôt, Mme Sarah Lalonde offre un service de garderie 24/7. Il y a beaucoup de personnes dans Nickel Belt qui travaillent dans les mines, qui travaillent dans les services policiers, qui travaillent à l’hôpital, etc., qui travaillent 24/7. Ces gens-là ont des enfants. Ces gens-là ont besoin de garderies, pas seulement que du lundi au vendredi, de 7 à 5. Ils ont besoin de garderies 24/7. Cette dame-là offre le système de garderie 24/7. Elle l’offre pour des parents qui ont besoin d’aide. Elle a des idées pour que les choses s’améliorent, mais à moins que la proposition qui a été faite par le député de Timmins–James Bay ne soit adoptée ces femmes-là, parce que ce sont deux femmes, n’auront jamais la chance d’être entendues. Ces femmes-là ne sont pas capables de se rendre ici pour partager leurs idées, ce qui veut dire que, vraiment, ceux qui sont à Toronto auront la chance d’être entendus, mais tous ceux qui demeurent plus loin n’auront pas la chance d’être entendus.

Quand on vit dans une démocratie, quand on sait qu’il y a des gens qui veulent être entendus et quand on entend un gouvernement qui nous parle de transparence, de donner la voix et de respect de la démocratie, il me semble que le plus beau geste qu’on puisse faire pour respecter la démocratie est de donner aux gens la chance d’être entendus.

Tous les députés, j’en suis certaine, ont reçu des courriels et ont reçu des appels de gens de leur comté qui ont quelque chose à dire par rapport à ce projet de loi-là. Des garderies, il y en a partout; des enfants, des familles, il y en a dans tous les comtés; et des gens qui ont des idées pour rendre le système meilleur, il y en a à la grandeur de l’Ontario.

Faisons honneur à la démocratie. Faisons honneur au député de Timmins–James Bay, qui nous a donné la possibilité de faire le tour de la province pour que ces familles-là, les familles qui ont des enfants, et ceux qui offrent des systèmes de garderie, aient la chance d’être entendus. Ça, ce serait vraiment d’aller de la parole à l’acte. C’est facile de dire qu’on respecte la démocratie, mais de le faire, ce serait de respecter ce que le député de Timmins–James Bay a dit et de donner la parole aux gens.

Je me rends compte que c’est l’heure de me taire. Je vous remercie, monsieur le Président. Ça m’a fait plaisir d’ajouter ma voix à ce débat. Merci.

Debate deemed adjourned.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I thank the speaker from Nickel Belt. Since it is almost 10:15, this House is recessed until 10:30.

The House recessed from 1014 to 1030.

Introduction of Visitors

Mr. Victor Fedeli: We have several guests with us in the members’ gallery today: Chief Sara Mainville; Chief Patricia Big George; Mayor Roy Avis; Reeve Mike Hammond; Reeve Peter Van Heyst; Reeve Gary Gamsby; Councillor Dave Bruyere; Dan Kelly from Onigaming First Nation; and former page Mira Donaldson and her father, Guy Donaldson.

Hon. Tracy MacCharles: It’s my pleasure to introduce some folks we were with this morning at the Breakfast Club of Canada. First, Susan Wright—she’s the Ontario director for Breakfast Club of Canada; Trish Starling, the program and projects coordinator; and, last but not least, John O’Leary from Coca-Cola Canada. Thank you for your sponsorship.

Mr. Jeff Yurek: It’s my pleasure to introduce some family here today: my wife’s brother Rob; his wife, Jenn Aylsworth; and my beautiful nieces Izzy and Livy Aylsworth. Welcome to the Legislature.

Mr. Percy Hatfield: I would like to welcome for the first time to Queen’s Park, Michael Smulders, a former constituent of mine from Windsor–Tecumseh who is now living in the riding of Willowdale. Welcome to Queen’s Park, Michael.

Mrs. Laura Albanese: I have two introductions to make. First of all, we have here today three members of Renée Grenaway’s family. Renée is a page from Davenport. I’d like to welcome Renée’s mother, Sandra Grenaway; her great-aunt Joyce Barteck; and her grandfather Wayne Bradey. They are sitting in the members’ gallery and I want to welcome them to Queen’s Park.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t welcome and salute my uncle John Albanese, councillor for the city of Fort Frances, whom I spot here in the members’ gallery.

Mr. Jim McDonell: It’s my pleasure to welcome grandmother to page Callum, Susan Robertson, his aunt Megan Robertson and cousin Leanne Marchand. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Ms. Sarah Campbell: Today is a very special day. We have a number of people from the Rainy River district in my riding. Here we have mayors, chiefs, councillors and other delegates who are with us, including John Albanese; Dennis Allen; Gordon Armstrong; Patrick Giles; town of Fort Frances mayor Roy Avis; Big Island First Nation Chief Patricia Big George; Wendy Brunetta; David Bruyere; Jim Cumming; Guy Donaldson; and Mira Donaldson, a former page here.

We have Tannis Drysdale; Gary Gamsby; Geoff Gillon; Andrew Hallikas; Mike Hammond; Brenda Jodoin; Dan Kelly; Anthony Leek; Couchiching First Nation Chief Sara Mainville; town of Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig; Ken Perry; Paul Ryan; Peter Van Heyst; Rick Weidenhoeft; Mike Willick; and Clayton Windigo. Welcome almost all of the Rainy River district to Queen’s Park today.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Is there anyone left?

Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and Research and Innovation.

Hon. Reza Moridi: It’s a great pleasure to welcome representatives from Contact North, Ontario’s distance education and training network: Paul Taillefer, chair of the board of directors; Maxim Jean-Louis, president and CEO; and also Craig Brockwell, director for business development. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Mrs. Julia Munro: I’m pleased to be able to welcome Jeanene White and Anna Malcolm, who are mother and grandmother of page captain Jamie White, here today to observe their daughter and granddaughter as page captain.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Northumberland–Quinte West.

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Thank you, Speaker. You were looking over there. Is it here? I guess it’s me.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce some folks from the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance: Jim Brandle, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre; Peter Lambrick, farmer, Halton region; Allan Thompson, mayor of the town of Caledon; Michael Wolfson, staff, city of Toronto; Kim Empringham, farmer, York region; Kathy Macpherson, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation; and Vicky McGrath and Melanie Williams.

On behalf of them, I would like to invite everybody to room 228-230 for a taste of the Golden Horseshoe from 12:30 to 1:30. Welcome.

Mr. Ted Arnott: Today, we welcome students from the Holy Cross Catholic school in Georgetown. As the Minister of Education knows, a new Holy Cross Catholic school in Georgetown is the number one capital priority for the Halton Catholic District School Board.

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: It’s my pleasure today to welcome a special guest here at the Legislature, Ron Elliot—he is the regional vice-president of OPSEU—and his guests. I want to say thank you for coming today, and good to see you.

Mr. Arthur Potts: It gives me pleasure to introduce Jamie Reaume of the Holland Marsh Growers’ Association and Mary Fragedakis, who was recently re-elected as my city councillor. They’re also here with the Golden Horseshoe Food and Farming Alliance. Welcome, all.

Miss Monique Taylor: I would like to welcome Ron Elliot’s guest, Eddy Almeida, who lives in my riding. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

Hon. Jeff Leal: I noticed in the Speaker’s gallery today one of our former, very distinguished members, Steve Peters.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): If you’ll bear with me, I have a few introductions to do. With us in the Speaker’s gallery, we have some former colleagues of mine in the field of education—retired principals and guests—Pat Degelman, Frank Degelman, Rosemary Prohaska, Janet Teakle, Ed Horvath, Stephanie Roung, and young Carter Roung, who always beats his grandpa at golf. Please stand.

Applause.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. We also have in the Speaker’s gallery Errol Grundy; Nathan’s grandfather from Brantford, who is my former EA. Thank you.

We also have in the Speaker’s gallery His Excellency Raoul Delcorde, the Ambassador of Belgium to Canada. Please welcome our ambassador.

We also have in the Speaker’s gallery—I’ve gone through a lot of tea today. We also have in the Speaker’s gallery Mr. Chris Collins, recently elected Speaker, on October 24, of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick. Welcome, Chris.

And we have, from the riding of Elgin–Middlesex–London, from the 37th, 38th, 39th—and Speaker of the 39th Parliament—Mr. Steve Peters.

I thank all of our guests.

It’s now time for question period.

Oral Questions

Ontario economy

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Good morning, Speaker. My question is for the Premier. Good morning, Premier. You and I both attended the Ontario Economic Summit in Niagara recently. At that conference, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released an alarming assessment of your government’s performance. Their guide, titled How Bad Is It?, confirms Ontario has an unsustainable structural deficit. They confirm that “Ontario’s fiscal situation is becoming increasingly dire.”

The chamber’s report says interest payments will “further crowd out ... capacity to spend on programs” like health, education and transportation.

Premier, will your fall economic statement continue to show your deficit of ideas, your deficit of action and your deficit of hope, or will it address what the chamber says is “a clear case for urgency”?

1040

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I appreciate the question from the member opposite. Given the tone and tenor of the question, I’m sure he is very, very pleased to know that on my recent trip to China, we have come back with $1-billion worth of investments for Ontario and 1,800 jobs, Mr. Speaker. I’m sure he’s very pleased about that.

We know that there is an urgent situation in Ontario. We know, and we ran on a plan that addresses that urgency. We ran on a plan that makes the investments that we know are necessary; that sets up the partnerships; that allows for the growth that we know is necessary; and, as part of that plan, there is a global trade strategy that allows us to bring investment to Ontario in order to grow, as we know we need to, to deal with the structural issues that we face.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Premier, the chamber’s annual survey shows business confidence in Ontario is eroding. And here’s what else they had to say: The number of businesses who believe Ontario is restoring the fiscal balance is down; investing in innovation and competitiveness, down; in building a modern workforce, down. A perfect example of Liberal mismanagement is one of the chamber’s key priorities, the Ring of Fire. Last week, the CEO of Cliffs resources said there is “zero hope” this massive economic opportunity will happen. He cited your lack of leadership and lack of a plan as the reasons why.

Premier, the chamber says you need to “fundamentally change” what you’re doing. Will you?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: It’s interesting, because as I have had the opportunity to work with Premier Couillard in Quebec—we have been talking about the similarities between the Ring of Fire investment and the potential for that and our commitment to infrastructure in the Ring of Fire—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Member from Kitchener–Waterloo, come to order.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: —and the Plan Nord that is in place in Quebec. As we had the opportunity to speak with investors and with businesses in China, who are looking at both Quebec and Ontario as vitally important places to invest, I actually see that there’s a very different picture that we paint of the future for Ontario, and that’s premised on the reality that right now—

Mr. John Yakabuski: You paint a picture, but it’s not selling well.

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

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: —we are the number one jurisdiction for foreign direct investment. The member opposite may think that it is to the advantage of his constituents to talk Ontario down. I don’t agree, Mr. Speaker. I think we focus on our strengths and we build this province.

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

Mr. Victor Fedeli: You brought Ontario down, Premier. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce isn’t the only group of job creators who are sounding the alarm. The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters released a survey showing 60% of their members do not believe your government is supporting investment and growth. They say high energy costs, the highest in North America—

Interjection.

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

Mr. Victor Fedeli: —and skilled-labour shortages make it difficult to compete and develop new markets. They cite the weak financial situation that you’ve created as a major challenge.

Premier, our job creators want a signal from you that things are going to change for the better. But you continue to ignore them. We are committed here on this side to creating the conditions to make Ontario first. Premier, why aren’t you?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: It is completely understandable that this member, who is a former PC finance critic, would want to distance himself from his policy of cutting 100,000 jobs. It’s completely understandable.

But let’s just look at the facts. Ontario’s tax system is one of the most competitive in the OECD. Ontario is the first destination for direct foreign investment in North America, Mr. Speaker. We are number one in terms of direct foreign investment. Seven out of 10 of the world’s largest technology companies are conducting research and development right here in Ontario. I take no lessons from the member opposite in terms of what we need to do to grow this economy. Cutting 100,000—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order.

Ten-second wrap-up.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Creating a Jobs and Prosperity Fund; building transit and infrastructure—

Interjection.

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

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: —partnering with business: Those are the things that we are doing. They are bearing fruit, they are bearing success. I hope the member opposite will join the party.

Municipalities

Mr. Victor Fedeli: My next question is also for the Premier. As the former mayor of the city of North Bay, I have spoken strongly about the role of local governments. Last week’s municipal elections provide a fresh start to put local governments at the centre of the issues that affect them. The new mayors and councillors need to look beyond their cities and towns, because things you do here affect them at home. When you bring an aviation fuel tax, they lose jobs at home. When you bring a pension tax, their chambers tell us that 53% of their businesses are going to fire people to pay for it. The decisions you make with no consultation with local governments are hurting communities.

Will you continue to say you’ll consult, only to surprise them with a new bill, Premier?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Well, Mr. Speaker, there’s probably—I’m going to make a generalization here, but I think there’s probably not a government that has spent more time consulting with local leadership. On a monthly basis—a monthly basis—the ministry, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and ministers across this government sit down with leadership from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. They talk about the issues that the municipalities are bringing forward; they talk about legislation that is coming forward. In terms of consultation, we work very, very closely with municipalities.

I would just say that many of us are here on this side of the House because the people on that side of the House were part of a government that imposed downloading of costs and imposed amalgamations with nary a word to the leadership in municipalities. We’ve gone quite in the opposite direction.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Premier, I know that the facts hurt. You passed the Far North Act without listening—

Interjections.

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

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is warned.

Finish, please.

Mr. Victor Fedeli: You passed the Far North Act without listening to mayors and First Nation chiefs, and as predicted, 80% of the mills are now closed. You say one thing, but you do the opposite. You formed the Ring of Fire Development Corp. with no First Nations on board. You say one thing; you do the other.

Today, there are mayors, chiefs and citizens from the Rainy River district here. They chartered a plane and had to hold a media conference to get their message out because they know you’re not listening. They’re here with a message: It’s about forestry. But instead of listening to the mayors and chiefs, you hastily scheduled a news conference at the same time as theirs. Premier, is that your idea of leadership?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I’m very glad that the delegation is here and I know that my ministers are going to be meeting with them.

In terms of consultation, specifically, the member opposite raised the issue of the Ring of Fire. In fact, we have worked very, very closely with the Matawa First Nations to make sure that there is a framework agreement in place, to make sure that First Nations are part of the consultation and the discussion all the way along.

The member opposite knows full well that the development corporation that has been set up has been set up as an entity that is now going to bring the partners on board to be part of that development corporation. I would say it is irresponsible for the member opposite to frame or to characterize the development corporation in any other way. It is an entity that is designed to bring in the partners—the private sector, the First Nations, the federal government—to work towards the development of the Ring of Fire, and he knows that.

Interjections.

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

Interjection.

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

Final supplementary?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Premier, you say you will consult, but you don’t. You surprised Ontario with the closure of 10 provincial parks—again, no consultation. Tourists travelled elsewhere; communities took the hit. Realizing the impact, local municipalities offered to operate the sites themselves, and it worked. Had you only talked openly about your plans in advance and consulted them, there would have been no loss of revenue.

1050

Today you have got chiefs and mayors here, because you continue to create problems for them when they have the solutions. By dealing openly with municipal governments and First Nations, we can make Ontario first. They’re right here, Premier. Will you meet with them, or will you continue to say one thing and do the opposite?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, I have already said that my ministers are going to be meeting with this delegation. It’s very important to me that we have this conversation and that we understand exactly what is going on in all of the communities across the province.

That’s why, during the election, I was in the north a lot, compared to the Leader of the Opposition, who didn’t go north of Barrie. I have made it my business, both as a minister and as Premier, to go to the north to make sure that I engage with municipalities.

But I go back to my first point: We deal with and work with, on a regular basis, the leadership in municipalities from across this province. Ministers attend the meetings of the local groups. We have an ongoing and monthly discussion with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. We are engaged fully in finding solutions to the challenges that municipalities are confronting. The member opposite knows that, and he should be taking part in those consultations with us.

Privatization of public assets

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is for the Premier. Page 46 of Hydro One’s management report released this February shows that their distribution network brings in $452 million in before-tax profits.

My question is a simple one, Speaker: Why is the Premier planning to privatize a public asset that serves 1.3 million customers and puts hundreds of millions of dollars in the provincial bank account annually?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, let’s just go back to the premise of the question. The premise of the question that the leader of the third party is asking is that we should never look at the assets that are owned by the people of Ontario and determine whether they are working to the best advantage of the people of Ontario. I just disagree with that premise. I think it’s very important that, on a regular basis, we look at those assets and we make sure that they are working.

I made it clear when Ed Clark, who was the expert who was looking, with his team, at these assets—I made it clear that we wanted to retain those assets in the hands of the public, and we are doing that, and that is their advice to us.

But should we look at how they can work better? Should we look at them as a package and figure out how to optimize their value? Absolutely, we should, Mr. Speaker. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Hydro One’s distribution business puts money in the provincial bank account, every single year, that goes into hospitals, schools, all kinds of front-line services for the people of this province.

Not only will privatizing Hydro One’s local distribution assets cut out a source of revenue, but it will push up the bills. That means everyone from local homeowners to businesses will see their electricity costs go up.

Privatizing electricity generation made hydro bills more expensive. Privatizing distribution will do exactly the same thing. So why does the Premier think that ratepayers should be paying more just to pad the profit margins of private energy companies?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Actually, the leader of the third party once again has got it wrong, because the parameters that we gave to Mr. Clark were that the revenue stream that is already in place either needed to stay in place or needed to be enhanced, because we recognize—as she does, I suppose—that it’s very important that that revenue that comes into the provincial coffers and is used for services to the people of Ontario remain whole.

If the leader of the third party chose to read the whole speech that Mr. Clark gave and look at the whole interim report, which will come out, she will see that the integrity of those revenue streams is whole, that there is an offset for that revenue that she’s proposing, and that in fact the effects on the rate base will not be negative and will actually help people across the province.

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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, the more you look at the Liberal plan, the less it makes sense. The Premier is privatizing an asset that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and they’re ignoring the lessons of history.

Privatizing electricity generation made hydro bills more expensive, not cheaper. Privatizing distribution is going to do exactly the same thing.

Will the Premier admit that her plan to privatize Hydro One’s distribution assets will cost everyone, from homeowners to businesses, in terms of higher bills?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I would ask the leader of the third party if she, then, does not agree with her member for Timiskaming–Cochrane, who has written that the Minister of Energy should encourage the OPA to renew the contract for private power that’s generated in his own riding. I would also ask the member opposite, the leader of the third party, to explain whether she disagrees with her government’s policy, when they were in office, when they signed nine private power generating contracts.

The reality is that we have asked experts to look at the assets that are owned by the people of Ontario. We have said that we prefer—that we believe that those should be kept in the hands of the people of Ontario, but can they be optimized? Can we do better in terms of the value of those assets? We believe we can, Mr. Speaker, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Forest industry

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I asked the Premier to look at history’s lessons, Speaker; that’s what I asked the Premier to look at.

My next question, in fact, is for the Premier. The kraft mill in Fort Frances is at a critical point as we sit in this Legislature right now. If the mill gets purchased, it will create 1,000 jobs in that community. If the mill doesn’t get purchased, the current owner will stop winterizing it and the mill may be lost forever.

By doing nothing, the Premier will kill 1,000 jobs. My question is: Why is this Premier putting the interests of one company ahead of 1,000 people in the northwest?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know that the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry is going to want to speak to the specifics, but I want to just say that our government has maintained open lines of communication with the town of Fort Frances since Resolute announced that they would be idling their Fort Frances operations. There has been a continuous engagement. Obviously, we’re disappointed that this particular arrangement hasn’t worked out, but that doesn’t mean that we are abandoning the process. It doesn’t mean that we are abandoning the community.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Timmins–James Bay, come to order.

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We will continue to work with the community. We will continue to work for solutions. The minister is engaged in that on a regular basis, and I believe the leader of the third party knows that.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, the Crossroute Forest is a crown resource. Communities in the northwest are making a simple request: to ensure that forests in the region are sustainably managed to create jobs in the region. With the stroke of a pen, the minister can convert the sustainable forestry licence to an enhanced sustainable forestry licence so that the community and companies manage that forest together, but the minister has said that nothing is going to happen until 2016.

That is going to be far too late for Fort Frances. Will the Premier make a commitment right here and now to take action today?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Hon. Bill Mauro: I thank the member for the question.

Speaker, the premise of the question is that if an enhanced sustainable forest licence was in place today, if those discussions had started a year ago—and quite frankly, if they had started a year ago, I still think it’s unlikely that one would have been in place today, because the four priority areas that are being worked on still do not have one in place today.

But even if it had been in place, there is no guarantee—and the people from Fort Frances are aware of this—that that in any way would have facilitated a deal, a private sector deal, between two forestry companies.

MNRF staff and MNDM staff were at the table guiding the process, but at the end of the day, this was very clearly a business-to-business relationship. Fundamental to all of this is that the mill is owned privately. The company is not in bankruptcy; they own the mill, they own the asset. Clearly, they’re fundamental to any deal coming together on this file.

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

Ms. Andrea Horwath: The people of Ontario, the crown, own the forest. That’s the point.

Communities across the Rainy River district are asking this Premier and this government to take action. The town of Fort Frances is asking this Premier and this government to take action. Local First Nations are asking this Premier and this government to take action. The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association is asking this Premier and this government to take action. There are people in the galleries here today representing the Rainy River district, and they are asking this Premier and this government to take action. New Democrats are asking this Premier and this government to take action.

1100

Will the Premier finally agree to take immediate action to create 1,000 much-needed jobs in Fort Frances?

Interjections.

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

Minister?

Hon. Bill Mauro: Speaker, thank you. You know, the member is right: We do own the forests, but what she doesn’t acknowledge is that the system of tenure that exists today is the system that was put in place by the NDP in 1994. Forest tenure today is the system that they put in place in 1994 under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. Our tenure modernization in 2011 has begun the process of moving away from that tenure model.

First of all, unfortunately, it’s not my belief or anybody’s belief that 1,000 jobs would be created. There would be significant job creation if the mill were to reopen, but it wouldn’t be 1,000 jobs. I’m not sure where that number is coming from.

Having said that, I understand completely the emotion that is attached to this decision. We have forestry companies in Thunder Bay. We live the recession, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and myself. We know how important it is. We will continue to work and do anything that we can to try and facilitate something positive at the Fort Frances mill and Thunder Bay.

Sexual harassment

Ms. Laurie Scott: My question is for the Premier. Premier, it has been 24 hours since I asked you to strike an all-party select committee to study sexual harassment in the workplace. Yesterday, you talked about being open to conversations and the need to be vigilant, but those are all vacant words with no commitment to action. What better way to demonstrate that this is a serious issue than by agreeing today to strike an all-party select committee to study sexual harassment in the workplace? Premier, when can we expect your decision on this matter?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: In that 24 hours, I have actually taken some action. What I did was I spoke with the head of the OPS to determine exactly what procedures and protocols were in place. I have that information. I’m happy to share that with the member opposite. People need to know that there is a workplace discrimination and harassment policy in place that addresses prevention and reporting, a policy that also deals with violence in the workplace. That is within the framework of the legislation that is in place and the Human Rights Code.

The other thing that I did was I checked within our own Liberal caucus to make sure that the policies were in place, and there is, in fact, a policy for harassment and a violence-free workplace that applies to our Liberal caucus. I’d be very interested in the House leaders actually having a discussion about what’s in place in the other caucuses.

I think this is an issue that affects every single one of us. We need to make sure that the OPS, the private sector, our own caucuses and the Legislative Assembly have protocols in place, because I believe that this goes way beyond one incident—one person in one media outlet. This is a societal issue. This is a culture-of-the-workplace issue. I’d be happy to talk to the member opposite about that.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Laurie Scott: Premier, this is a serious issue. We don’t want you to play politics with it. Today, I did send letters to the House leaders to stress the importance of the issue and to formally request that we move forward with the all-party select committee to study sexual harassment in the workplace.

Now, yesterday, I brought to your government’s attention again, for the second time, the issue involving an assistant crown attorney who was allowed to resign and given a one year’s salary bonus rather than the Attorney General—your own Attorney General in your government—investigating the workplace harassment complaint made against him. You talk about policies. The problem is occurring under your own roof.

Premier, will I be receiving an affirmative response to my request for an all-party select committee today?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I think the member opposite knows perfectly well that I can’t comment on a particular case, and she keeps raising that one case.

But here’s what I believe about this issue, Mr. Speaker. I believe that this issue affects every single member of our society. I believe that no matter where we work, no matter where we live, we have to take action ourselves. We have legislative frameworks; we have regulatory frameworks. We have policies, and I am in the process of making sure that those policies are in place across government.

But the reality is that if every one of us in this House doesn’t look to our own practice and doesn’t look to our own colleagues and take responsibility for our own actions, then we will not make the cultural changes necessary.

I’m saying to the member opposite that I’m going to ask my House leader to raise this issue, to make sure that across this House, we have the correct—

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

Forest industry

Ms. Sarah Campbell: To the Premier: Today, over 30 elected officials from municipalities and First Nation communities across the Rainy River district have travelled 1,800 kilometres and are here at Queen’s Park to tell the Premier what her government should have already done, which is take leadership of the Crossroute Forest so that the Fort Frances kraft mill can reopen and put people back to work. They are literally fighting for the future of the Rainy River district.

Premier, this is a needless problem that has a very simple solution. We have a mill, we have more than enough wood, and we have a potential buyer. All we need to make this deal happen is for your government to reallocate this wood and tell Expera, the potential buyer, that we want their business. Premier, will you do that today?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Hon. Bill Mauro: Once again, the premise of the question is that if there was an enhanced sustainable forest licence in place, a deal could have been consummated between the two parties. Speaker, I personally don’t believe that that would have guaranteed anything. It doesn’t mean we’re not trying to work in that regard.

What I would say to the member is that security of supply was not the issue. There was a supply agreement offered to the—

Mr. Gilles Bisson: You can’t finance yourself without the wood.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Timmins–James Bay will come to order.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): For the second time, the member from Timmins–James Bay will come to order—last time.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bill Mauro: There was a supply agreement offered to the company that was interested in purchasing the facility of 740,000 cubic metres per year. That’s allowed under the terms of the existing sustainable forest licence, so security of tenure was not at issue.

The enhanced sustainable forestry licence piece, once again, would not necessarily have guaranteed anything. The mill is privately owned, and that’s where it sits today. We still continue to look for opportunities on behalf of the community of Fort Frances.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Sarah Campbell: This is not a business-to-business problem as the Minister of Natural Resources states. The only business-to-business dealings that are being made pertain to the physical mill structure. The biggest holdup to this deal is the wood allocation, wood that belongs to the people of this province. This wood doesn’t belong to a company. It is our wood, and it should be used to keep our local people working.

Premier, you can fix this problem with the stroke of a pen. We have three weeks to get this right before the mill assets are damaged by not being heated this winter. Premier, will you fix this injustice for the people of Fort Frances and put our deserving town back to work before it’s too late?

Interjections.

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

Minister?

Hon. Bill Mauro: Once again, I fundamentally disagree. It was a business-to-business deal that was trying to be negotiated between someone who privately owns a mill and someone who was trying to purchase, potentially, the mill and get other assets to reopen the facility.

MNRF staff and MNDM staff were there at the table, guiding the process only. It was not our deal to be made. We were trying to do what we could to help.

I would say to the member, and to the members of the third party who are interested in thinking that the eSFL process would have necessarily guaranteed a deal, that today, currently, in the member’s riding, there are companies that want to see an SFL put in place for their particular operation so that they can reopen and create more jobs in the member’s community.

There is no perfect system when it comes to tenure. We’ve made a commitment through legislation to move forward with modernization. That is occurring. But at the end of the day, it does not guarantee that we can land a deal between a business and a business. That is, unfortunately, the reality.

1110

School breakfast programs

Mr. Arthur Potts: My question is to the Minister of Education. We all know that a nutritious breakfast is critical to the success of every child’s development. Eating a healthy breakfast has lasting physical, mental health and educational benefits.

This morning, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Children and Youth Services joined St. Joseph’s College students for a nutritious start to their day. The minister also helped Breakfast Club of Canada, along with a corporate sponsor, Minute Maid, celebrate the 500th Ontario Breakfast Club opening this year. A healthy morning meal is now guaranteed to 90,000 students in Ontario schools, nearly 30,000 of them in the Toronto region.

Minister, can you let this House know what today’s announcement entailed and how we are ensuring that all children have access to a healthy and nutritious breakfast?

Hon. Liz Sandals: Thank you to the member from Beaches–East York for his interest in this very important issue.

Speaker, it’s a top priority for this government to ensure that students are starting off their day with the support they need to succeed, and that includes breakfast.

The Breakfast Club of Canada was founded on the belief that every child has the right to succeed in life and, most of all, have safe and reliable access to food. A healthy breakfast helps with better student attendance, increased physical activity, increased self-esteem and improved memory and cognition.

Together with the Breakfast Club, across Ontario, we have reached over 90,000 students, and this year, 500 schools, and 13,567,525 breakfasts have been served—and we were very pleased, with our partners Breakfast Club and Minute Maid, to serve more this morning.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Arthur Potts: This is a very exciting milestone and announcement you made today. I can tell you the success of the program is a priority for my constituents in the riding of Beaches–East York.

The club now has over 80 schools in the city of Toronto alone. In my ri500thding of Beaches–East York, two schools take part in this excellent program.

We know that the benefits of the Breakfast Clubs go far beyond the school walls. Evidence shows that schools with programs see improvements in attendance and punctuality, as well as in behaviour and concentration, and they help turn young people into better citizens.

Minister, can you please tell us how our government is helping to support the Breakfast Club with their initiative to provide nutritious breakfasts to students across Ontario?

Hon. Liz Sandals: The Minister of Children and Youth Services.

Hon. Tracy MacCharles: It was great to be at the 500th opening of Breakfast Club of Canada. Minister Sandals was pouring the milk; I was pouring the juice and handing the fruit out. It’s good to know we have other jobs if we need them. It is a really great program, and thanks to our partners for making that happen.

Our government, as you know, Speaker, announced an investment of $32 million over the next three years as part of our five-year plan to expand and enhance our Student Nutrition Program, and an additional $10.3 million will be invested in the program this year and next. So the total funding is $31 million. That’s 340 new breakfast programs. It is to establish programs where there are higher needs, so it’s very focused—56,000 more children. It’s fantastic. We’re committed to making sure that students in Ontario start their day off right.

Public sector accountability

Mr. Monte McNaughton: My question this morning is to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade. Minister, as you know, the role of the Fairness Commissioner is to make sure that everyone who is qualified to practise in a regulated profession can get a licence to practise here in the province of Ontario.

We have learned that in the last 15 months, the Fairness Commissioner, Jean Augustine, has expensed over $3,400 in limousine rides to Ontario’s taxpayers. Nothing is too small for this government’s appointee to expense. On a flight to Halifax, she even billed taxpayers $3.40 for her airplane headphones. Clearly, the eHealth and Pan Am style of entitlement is alive and well in this ministry.

Minister, why are you allowing the Fairness Commissioner these entitlements at taxpayers’ expense—or do you agree with them?

Hon. Michael Chan: Thank you very much for the question. The Ontario fairness commission is an arm’s-length agency of the Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade. We have no involvement in the day-to-day operations of her office.

The government of Ontario has a number of rules and regulations regarding expense accounts put in place to protect the people of Ontario—

Ms. Sylvia Jones: Are you washing your hands of it? Are you suggesting you have no oversight?

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

Hon. Michael Chan: —and promote fairness across all levels of government, including agencies. We expect everyone to adhere to these rules, particularly those in a position of authority, whom we expect to set a positive example for others to follow.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: Back to the minister: Minister, you should also know that while on a $6,300 trip to Finland last September, this appointee made taxpayers cover the cost of a personal sightseeing tour. We all know that the Fairness Commissioner was appointed in exchange for giving up her seat to the failed federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

This government talks about transparency, yet the only way we were able to learn about this shocking abuse of public money was through a freedom of information request. It doesn’t seem like the Fairness Commissioner is being very fair to taxpayers in this province.

Minister, will you order her to post her expenses online, or are you going to continue to allow her to abuse taxpayers’ dollars by expensing limo rides, airplane headphones and sightseeing tours?

Hon. Michael Chan: Again, the Office of the Fairness Commissioner is an arm’s-length agency of the government of Ontario. However, like all agencies, under the agency accountability and establishment directive, it must comply with the guidelines set out in the travel, meal and hospitality expenses directive and other spending guidelines.

These guidelines have been communicated to the Office of the Fairness Commissioner. The Fairness Commissioner has a mandate to ensure that the regulated professions in Ontario have practices that are transparent, objective and fair when determining who is allowed to practise in these professions. The office is accountable for using government funds with effectiveness and economy for the purpose of fulfilling this mandate.

Sexual harassment

Ms. Peggy Sattler: My question is to the Premier. The last few months have shown that sexual violence for women and impunity for powerful men remains a reality in Ontario.

Today, we learned that doctors can sexually assault women during examinations and return to practise medicine without requiring the college of physicians to inform the police. And if you are a crown attorney facing sexual harassment allegations, the government will give you double your annual salary as severance; all you have to do is resign.

Can the government explain what it will do to end this culture of impunity and create an Ontario where sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations are taken seriously and acted upon?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: As I have already indicated in response to a couple of other questions, this is something that I and our government take very, very seriously, as I hope everyone in this Legislature takes it seriously. Whether it’s at work or at home or in the community, whether it’s public service or private sector, we all have to be vigilant in terms of our practice.

There are rules and regulations in place. In fact, in 2009, our government actually brought in changes to strengthen the Occupational Health and Safety Act to address workplace violence and harassment.

We will continue to monitor the legislation and the rules, but I would say to the member opposite that I think it goes beyond that. I think it goes beyond the frameworks that are in place, that have to continually be improved. We have to look to our own practice, to our own communities and to our own workplaces, and make sure that we have the practices and behaviours in place in those places that keep ourselves and our colleagues safe.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Peggy Sattler: Beyond monitoring, there are specific ways this government could address violence and harassment faced by women now.

For example, yesterday we heard that some journalism students were warned against internships at Q with Jian Ghomeshi. We know that interns are vulnerable. They fear reprisals or damage to their careers if they report inappropriate or even illegal conduct by their employers. I’ve tabled a bill that would allow interns to anonymously report inappropriate conduct.

This is one simple measure the government can take now, but much more needs to be done to make violence prevention an all-of-government priority.

1120

Will this government move immediately to update Ontario’s Sexual Violence Action Plan to include real goals, real funding and real progress so that it offers real protection for women today?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister responsible for women’s issues.

Hon. Tracy MacCharles: As the Premier said, sexual violence—and abuse of any kind—is a very serious issue. We all take it seriously. I find it completely unacceptable, and it is something that we all have to think about here in the Legislature, in workplaces and beyond, because sexual violence has a devastating impact.

We have many initiatives and programs. We have a $15-million Sexual Violence Action Plan. We also have additional money to support sexual assault centres.

I want to say here what I said outside the House, Speaker: If people are facing abuse, I encourage them to go to the authorities if they can. I encourage them to go to support groups if they can. I encourage them to go to their unions if they can.

There are many protections. Interns are covered by the Human Rights Code and employer policies. There are many, many progressive policies in workplaces that require employers to respond to formal and informal complaints of abuse. It’s something we all have to take seriously. We’re working on it, and we will continue to invest in this.

Assistance to flood victims

Ms. Eleanor McMahon: My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. On August 4, extreme flooding hit my riding of Burlington as well as areas in the riding of my colleague the member from Halton.

The city of Burlington received nearly 200 millimeters of rain in five hours. That is equal to the total rainfall usually received in the months of July and August. This flash flood caused damage to more than 3,000 homes throughout Burlington.

In August, Burlington city council passed a resolution requesting assistance under the private component of ODRAP for assistance to individuals for essential expenses not otherwise covered by insurance. The city of Burlington has been working together with Halton region to help the people of Burlington affected by this natural disaster.

Mr. Speaker, I am so proud of the community spirit that has flourished throughout Burlington as a result of this extremely successful fundraising on behalf of those who need it most.

Minister, will you please provide an update on the status of Burlington’s application?

Hon. Ted McMeekin: I want to thank the member from Burlington and also the member from Halton for keeping our ministry apprised of what has been going on there, and the tremendous community efforts.

I know how difficult it is for communities to try to deal with disasters. In that context, it’s our government’s first priority to ensure that residents are made safe in the event of a disaster.

ODRAP is provided to communities where damages exceed the financial resources of the affected individuals and municipalities. In the case of Burlington, the most severe damage was felt by individuals. When reimbursing individuals, ODRAP’s role is to ensure that essential needs, like access to housing, food, medical response and heating, are met.

I look forward to being kept apprised and, hopefully, we will have some news soon on the application.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary? The member from Halton.

Ms. Indira Naidoo-Harris: I, too, saw the extensive flood damage and felt the frustration of my constituents living in the Burlington part of my community. I knocked on residents’ doors with officials assessing the devastation, and saw first-hand the widespread destruction in some neighbourhoods: flooded basements, waterlogged furniture and garbage bags full of ruined clothing. Perhaps most memorable, though, were the stories of loss and the looks of despair on people’s faces as they dealt with the flood destruction.

Confusion often surrounds the decisions which designate some communities eligible for ODRAP and denies others this assistance. Eligibility requirements are dependent on the particular characteristics of a given disaster event, and this can lead to assumptions that the program is inconsistently administered. The length of time required for provincial funds to flow is also under scrutiny.

Mr. Speaker, how does the minister plan to respond to the many questions that often surround the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program?

Hon. Ted McMeekin: Speaker, I certainly agree with the member’s observation that our climate is changing. In fact, perhaps, a little-known fact: 28% of all insurance claims settled today are categorized as a response to a catastrophic weather event.

Her thoughtful comments and her hard work have led us to do exactly what my mandate letter calls me to do, and that’s to look at ODRAP and review it, to make sure it meets the needs of local communities who experience disasters. I continue to welcome input from all members of the House in that regard.

We’re going to examine the findings of our formal review, scheduled for completion next spring. Hopefully as a result of that we’ll be in a better position to help communities experiencing climate change disasters.

Air ambulance service

Mr. Bill Walker: My question is to the Premier. Ever since four Ornge crew members regrettably died, the Ontario public has been looking to you to do two specific things: (1) stop denying the facts; and (2) start accepting responsibility.

Yesterday, your Deputy Premier told a CBC reporter that she did not know about the problems at Ornge until October 2011. May I remind you that on May 3, 2011, the Ontario Air Transport Association sent her a five-page letter alerting her to the egregious concerns at Ornge and urging her to act as rapidly as possible. We have now learned that her response to them was, “I’m too busy to discuss Ornge.”

Premier, your deputy hasn’t been truthful. She said she didn’t know before October 2011, but her reply to the air transport association letter proves differently.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I’m going to caution the member and ask him to withdraw that one comment, please.

Mr. Bill Walker: Withdraw.

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

Mr. Bill Walker: Premier, will you do the right thing and ask for her resignation today?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know that the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care is going to want to comment on this, but we’ve got new leadership at Ornge—a new CEO. We have a new board of directors and we have a new senior management team at Ornge. It was our Deputy Premier who put those changes in place. She did that.

When the minister and our government learned of the issues coming out of Ornge, we took action. That is the reality. That is what happened and that’s why there are so many changes at Ornge: because this Deputy Premier, when she was Minister of Health, took those actions.

We now have a piece of legislation in front of this House. We hope that the members opposite will support us in getting that legislation passed because it will make further changes in oversight to Ornge. We really do trust that, given the urgency coming from the other side, they will work with us to get that legislation passed as soon as possible.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Bill Walker: Back to the Premier: What the second Ornge report really boils down to is an issue of ministerial and first ministerial responsibility. That’s what this is about. What the public expects and demands is that you and your minister accept responsibility for the mismanagement and boondoggle of Ornge. They want to know if you think it’s appropriate for a minister in these circumstances to have not just stayed on but to have been also promoted.

Just a few minutes ago in this House, Premier, you asked for responsibility and said that we should all be taking responsibility in this House. As such, I want to know about your standards. How many more people have to die, Premier, before you ask for that minister’s resignation?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.

Hon. Eric Hoskins: It was nearly two years ago, in fact, when we introduced Bill 11, which was the air ambulance amendment act, to further improve oversight at Ornge. The bill was sent to committee more than a year ago. It was the PCs at that time who refused to allow hearings on that important act. The bill, as we all know, was left on the order paper when both the PCs and the NDP refused to support the budget and forced an election.

Mr. Speaker, we want, as the Premier—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Just come to order.

Finish, please; wrap up.

Hon. Eric Hoskins: We’re proud of the changes that our Deputy Premier has made to Ornge. We have more changes still to make; that’s why we’re looking forward to both opposition parties supporting us. We’ve reintroduced elements of that act under the accountability and transparency act. I hope that the opposition will work with us to get those important changes approved as soon as possible.

Child care

Mr. Gilles Bisson: My question is to the Premier. Premier, you will know that your House leader has moved a time allocation motion in order to move the daycare bill in such a way that the public will not have a chance to have their say outside of the city of Toronto. You’re the Premier who says that you want to have a conversation with Ontarians; you’re the Premier who says that you want to include the voices of people across Ontario in whatever this government does.

We moved a motion this morning to allow the committee to travel five days outside of Toronto in order to hear the voices of the people of Ontario. My question to you is this: Will you support our motion and allow the voices of those people outside of this area to be heard on this issue?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Government House leader.

1130

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: I thank the member opposite for the question. This is a very important bill. This bill is about protecting our children. The core essence of this bill is to make sure that our kids are safe when somebody else is looking after our children. I speak as a parent. That’s why we cannot take any more chances in terms of tragedies that could be traumatic or fatal for our children. That is why the Minister of Education had tabled this bill some time ago in the previous Parliament: to ensure that we move ahead with protecting our children and making sure that our children are getting the best possible care, the kind of attention that we have put in our schools. We need to make sure that when it comes to child care, our children are safe at all times. That’s what parents are asking us for, too, and we need to do that by passing this bill.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: You say that you’re a parent, a parent from Ottawa. Any parent in Ottawa will not get a chance to speak to this bill.

The question is simply this: Your government, under the leadership of this Premier, says you want to hear from Ontarians; “We want to engage in conversations with people across this province.” We agree. We believe it’s important to hear the voices of people from Ottawa, people from northern Ontario, people from the southwest and others when it comes to important issues such as daycare.

Our question is simply this: Will this government support a motion that will allow the voices of the people of Ontario outside of Toronto to be able to be heard on this issue so that their thoughts and their reflections can be seen in the final product of this bill?

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Speaker, I ask the opposition to stop playing politics when it comes to the lives and the protection of our children. This bill, at its heart, at its core and at its mandate, is about protecting our children. Partisanship should not be the one that should trump the safety and the security of our children when they are being looked after by somebody else within our community.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Some of you are not even in your own chairs. Don’t insult the kids.

Finish and wrap up, please.

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: I laud the Minister of Education for bringing a very extensive piece of legislation based on very substantive consultations that took place. That’s why this bill was tabled almost a year ago and has had ample debate. We need to make sure that we protect our kids.

Mining industry / Industrie minière

Mrs. Marie-France Lalonde: My question this morning is for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. Just last week, the Ontario Mining Association hosted their annual Meet the Miners Day at Queen’s Park. Plusieurs d’entre nous, moi-même incluse, étions fiers de rencontrer, de participer et d’apprendre le rôle incroyable que les miniers contribuent à travers la province et dans nos activités journalières.

I learned that Ontario has world expertise in mine financing, geology and engineering, stable exploration and mining industries and one of the lowest mining tax rates in Canada. We have the advantage of a strong economy, competitive business costs and world-class research and development environment.

Can the minister inform the House on the status of the mining industry in Ontario and its significance to our provincial economy?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: Merci beaucoup to the member for Ottawa–Orléans for a really important question. May I say that on a day when the official opposition is talking down the positive aspects of the economy, I think it’s important that we get the facts out about the mining industry.

It was a great gathering at Meet the Miners last week. I think it’s important to state that despite, certainly, the challenges within the sector, Ontario continues to be the leading jurisdiction in the country for both the exploration and the production of minerals in Canada, and it’s certainly a major player across the world. It plays an incredibly important part in our provincial economy. The mining sector directly employs some 26,000 workers. In 2013, the value of mineral production in Ontario was $9.8 billion. Ontario’s mining supply and services sector: 50,000 workers employed and $10 billion in output.

I look forward to giving you more details during my supplementary.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mrs. Marie-France Lalonde: It is part of our government’s plan to build Ontario up by creating a dynamic and supportive environment where business can prosper. The minister has made it clear that our government is doing just that when it comes to the mining sector. The global mining economy is evolving, and new competition is always emerging. I know that our government is committed to ensuring that Ontario remains a world leader in mineral exploration and mining investment.

Monsieur le Président, can the minister tell the House what our government is doing to maximize Ontario’s mineral potential and support a modern and innovative industry, ensuring that Ontario’s mining sector continues to thrive for decades to come?

Hon. Michael Gravelle: That’s another great question, Speaker. Being armed with a spectrum of solid data and well-researched information is crucial to an industry that requires innovation. Our understanding of the industry requires us to move forward. That’s why our ministry, certainly, partnered with the Ontario Mining Association and another organization to provide support for research in that sector.

Two reports were released last week, one from the Ontario Mining Association, which actually spoke to the direct economic impact of a gold mine. It’s a remarkable story. The details are worth getting into; I know I don’t have time for that.

There was also a great report by the Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export—CAMESE, as it is known by those of us in the sector—which actually talked about the incredible economic impacts of the mining supply and services sector, which I referenced earlier: up to 50,000 people employed and over $10 million in total value input. It’s a great story in the sector. Lots of challenges, but we’re working and focusing on everything—and, may I say, including the work going forward on the Ring of Fire.

Federal-provincial public infrastructure funding

Mr. Ted Arnott: My question is for the minister responsible for infrastructure. Why is it taking the minister so long to put together the list of infrastructure projects which he needs to submit to the federal government to receive funding under the New Building Canada Plan?

Hon. Brad Duguid: Mr. Speaker, I used to be a hockey player. When I went into the corners and somebody had their elbows up, they always got a little taste of the stick. And I want to put that analogy to use here.

The federal Minister of Finance was being very disingenuous yesterday when he suggested incorrectly that Ontario was in any way holding up the New Building Canada Fund. In fact, Mr. Speaker, since March, we’ve been waiting for documents from the federal government that, ironically, came two hours after I spoke out yesterday.

The Minister of Finance federally may be very embarrassed by this. The fact is, we’re going to continue to invest in infrastructure. He should be embarrassed, when you look at the comparison between the federal investment in infrastructure compared to ours. We’re investing $130 billion over the next 10 years; the federal government is only investing $70 billion, Mr. Speaker—and that includes their own buildings—through the whole country.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Ted Arnott: Even with all the bluster that the minister can muster, he cannot deny that there are nearly $11 billion on the table set aside to support infrastructure projects in the province of Ontario.

This government has insisted time and time again that infrastructure spending is their priority. They’ve made promise after promise: improved public transit in Toronto; all-day, two-way GO service through my riding; high-speed rail between London and Toronto; the Ring of Fire. The list goes on and on. Yet Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba have all submitted their lists. This minister continues to drag his feet.

Will this government get its act together and commit to getting its list of preferred infrastructure projects to the federal government by week’s end?

Hon. Brad Duguid: I know it might be a little embarrassing for the member to have been so misinformed by his federal cousins, but the fact of the matter is, since March, we’ve been waiting for our draft agreement from the federal government. And it’s going to come, Mr. Speaker. We were notified two hours after we spoke out yesterday, refuting the incorrect information that the federal minister had.

The fact of the matter is, we were the first province in this country to provide, for municipal infrastructure projects, an application process for small municipalities—the first in the country. We’re eager to move forward with this program. All we’ve asked for is the draft agreement from the federal government. We’ve been asking since March; we haven’t had it. Within two hours of us speaking out yesterday, miraculously it’s going to come.

We’ll keep working with the federal government, despite the fact that they’re so undercharging infrastructure in this province. Their contributions are—

Interjections.

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

The member from Leeds–Grenville on a point of order.

Mr. Steve Clark: On a point of order: I just feel it’s very important that Hansard reflect that as of June 15, 2010, the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires all employers to have a policy regarding workplace harassment, which includes sexual—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): That is not a point of order, and I should have jumped up a little quicker.

Visitors

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Dufferin–Caledon on a point of order.

Ms. Sylvia Jones: I was remiss during introduction of guests. I see that the mayor-elect for the town of Caledon, Allan Thompson, has joined us. I would like everyone to join me in welcoming him.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Kenora–Rainy River on a point of order.

Ms. Sarah Campbell: I know it’s hard to believe, but I think it’s possible I may have left out one or two of my constituents. I’m pretty sure I missed out on Ken Perry, and there may have been some others. If I did overlook anyone, I do sincerely apologize. I welcome everyone who has made the long journey here today.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound on a point of order.

Mr. Bill Walker: I’d like to add to the roster the family of our colleague Michael Harris. Sarah, Murphy and Lincoln Harris all joined us in the members’ gallery. I think they might have just slipped out, but they were here watching question period.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): There are no deferred votes. This House stands recessed until 3 p.m. this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1141 to 1500.

Introduction of Visitors

Mr. Michael Harris: I don’t see them just quite yet, but I would like to welcome to the Legislature Carmina Falkiner and Natasha Mitchell from the region of Waterloo. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): You can tell them they’re officially in Hansard, anyway.

Members’ Statements

True Patriot Love

Mr. Michael Harris: It is my honour to stand here today to recognize the vital work of the True Patriot Love Foundation in support of our troops, our veterans and their families. While I feel it’s always our responsibility as Canadians to honour those who stand heroically in the face of danger, recent tragic events have only served to reinforce this responsibility. I am heartened by the outpouring of support we’ve seen from every corner of the province.

Since 2009, True Patriot Love has embraced that responsibility, working to bridge the divide between the military and civilian worlds and filling the gaps for our Canadian forces that are inevitably left unfunded by government. True Patriot Love has dedicated themselves to fundraising initiatives, providing $2 million to family health and support, more than $1.5 million to assist our severely injured military members, and $1 million to mental health-related programs for research, treatment, prevention and awareness.

In this time of heightened awareness due to the recent tragic events, True Patriot Love will be working to channel that awareness towards ensuring that our military families and veterans receive the support they deserve.

Tomorrow night, True Patriot Love will be holding their sixth annual Toronto tribute dinner, one of the key events to allow them to continue their good work throughout the year. I want to take this opportunity to thank them and the countless donors who have stood behind our military, our veterans—our heroes.

Missing persons

Ms. Catherine Fife: Three years ago yesterday, Maureen Trask’s son Daniel went missing. He was a frequent backwoods camper, but in Temagami in 2011, Daniel disappeared. His car, coat and backpack have been found, but not Daniel. Maureen doesn’t know what happened to her son.

This is one of 16 active missing persons cases in Waterloo region and 370 cases across Ontario where there is no clear indication of criminal activity, as in Daniel’s case. The Privacy Act prevents investigators from accessing information that may help locate missing persons.

Those who most often go missing are the most vulnerable members of our society—those suffering from mental illness or dementia, for example.

Maureen Trask has turned her grief into action. She is now an advocate for families of missing persons. She’s responsible for new bereavement counselling groups in Waterloo to address ambiguous loss, the particular grief of missing loved ones.

My office has worked with Maureen on a petition advocating for a missing persons act in Ontario, similar to legislation that already exists in Alberta, Manitoba, BC and Saskatchewan. By working with the privacy commissioner, this government could maintain the balance needed between investigative information and personal privacy.

Too many families across Ontario are living in a state of uncertainty. As Maureen said:

“We’re diametrically pulled in two directions. Is he alive or is he dead? Is he here or is he in some other country? You don’t know.… You have to learn to live with that uncertainty and find a way to carry on.”

We can help families like Maureen Trask’s find out what happened to their loved ones, and we should.

Remembrance Day

Mr. Arthur Potts: My uncle, Lieutenant Colonel Ted Shuter with the Royal Canadian Regiment, a Rotarian, died this summer at the age of 99. He wrote this poem 10 years ago for Remembrance Day. I’d like to read it in part:

The Canadian Volunteer.

Let us all at this time of year pause

To remember the fallen Canadian volunteers.

To arms! To arms! our leaders cried, and volunteers

In thousands promptly replied—that they might

Join the fight in a war which was just and right.

Conscription was not then a serious care

Because the volunteers were there.

They volunteered to die.

To die? Oh no, surely not you, dear comrades, nor I, but—

Some other guy?

We would go to do our duty, and to win honour and glory.

Well, honour and glory there may have been.

But the price of misery and death were too often seen.

So many “other guys” did fall, but you as well, dear comrades all....

Then came peace, and you were collected and moved with thousands more,

And laid to rest again in ordered rows, with crosses of stone and flowers galore.

I saw these places, both old and new; an awesome view,

And in the search, found the grave of the kid brother I hardly knew,

He volunteered, fought and died with those other brave men.

We blessed his cross at Adagem.

So there, in your thousands you lie, a sight to bring tears to any eye....

Though in foreign fields you lie

In the hearts of those who remain, you will never die.

But, as our numbers, over the years, must shrink,

We pray that others will continue to think, at times,

Of the Canadian volunteers who lost their lives over there

To preserve the freedoms for which we care.

So give a cheer, shed a tear, but at least this once a year—

Do remember and thank those Canadian volunteers

Who died for you.

Annie Underhill

Mr. Steve Clark: The wonderful thing about courage is that it shatters stereotypes. Courage comes in all shapes and sizes, in men and women, boys and girls, from all walks of life—people like Annie Underhill. Annie is a 16-year-old from Kemptville, whose big, bright smile in the face of some terrifying medical challenges is an inspiration to us all.

Last week, Annie, a grade 11 student at St. Michael Catholic High School, was named the 2014-15 Champion Child for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Foundation and the Children’s Miracle Network. There is no better person for this role than Annie. With her courage and positive outlook, she overcame every challenge thrown at her since being diagnosed with leukemia at age 4.

Now a Champion Child, it’s Annie’s turn to help other kids get through their darkest days at Children’s Miracle Network hospitals like CHEO. Given what she has been through, her message to those brave children in treatment is to “keep your head up and remember that everything’s going to work out.” It can’t help but resonate.

Annie’s first duty, Speaker, will be a memorable one. She leaves Sunday with her mom and dad, Kim and Jeff, for Walt Disney World in Orlando to meet Champions from all across the US.

It’s a great story made even better when the staff at the Kemptville Walmart gave her a surprise $1,000 shopping spree for the trip.

Annie, all of Leeds–Grenville is so proud that you’re showing the world your real courage and what we’ve all got inside of us. Thank you, Annie.

Anniversary of Sikh massacre

Mr. Jagmeet Singh: I rise today to speak on the 30th anniversary of the Sikh genocide, which began on October 31, 1984, and continued into early November, and resulted in the targeted killing of thousands of Sikh men, women and children in the capital city of New Delhi and across India.

Even after 30 years, misinformation regarding the events of November 1984 continues to impede those impacted by the genocide to heal from the trauma. The continued use of the term “anti-Sikh riot” perpetuates the false notion that the massacre was spontaneous and pitted one community against another.

Instead, the Nanavati Commission, headed by a retired Chief Justice of India’s Supreme Court, makes it clear that the killing of Sikhs could not have occurred but for the planning and organization of elected government officials.

In fact, on January 3, 2014, Arun Jaitley, the leader of the opposition party, the BJP, described what happened on the 1st of November 1984 as a date when “the worst ever genocide in the country took place against the Sikh community, for which nobody till date has been held responsible.”

Shri M. V. Naidu, MP and former national president of the BJP, stated on Thursday, December 10, 2009, “The Congress is responsible for assaulting democracy in 1975 and also for the anti-Sikh genocide in 1984. What action has been taken on Nanavati Committee report on the anti-Sikh riots of 1984?”

In the spirit of unity and harmony, the Sikh genocide must receive official recognition and the perpetrators of the Sikh genocide must be brought to justice.

Remembrance Day

Ms. Indira Naidoo-Harris: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to remember and honour those who risked their lives to protect all of us. On November 11, Canadians across the country will pause together and pay tribute to the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. It’s a time to think about the extraordinary courage and dedication of those who have served in our armed forces.

1510

In my family, we will be thinking about Clifford, Richard and Gordon Kimmel—three sons who displayed extraordinary courage and dedication but lost their lives in the Second World War.

We will also pause to think about Great-Grandma Kimmel, the mother of the three boys, who never got to see her sons return home after the war. Grandma Kimmel was eventually named the Silver Cross Mother in 1961 following the deaths of her three sons. Here is their story.

Rifleman Gordon Leroy Kimmel of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles was killed on June 8, 1944, in the Normandy invasion. He was 28.

Corporal Richard Kenneth Kimmel was with the Regina Rifle Regiment. Richard died on June 18, 1944, while taking part in the Normandy invasion. He was also 28.

Finally, Corporal Clifford Howard Kimmel was with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment. He was the youngest of the Kimmel boys and passed away on December 15, 1944, at the age of 26.

All three of the Kimmel boys who lost their lives were decorated with various medals. The loss of our three great-uncles during the Second World War devastated the family. Stories about them are told over and over again every Remembrance Day.

This November 11, my family will take a moment to give silent thanks for all of our courageous men and women, past and present, who have fought and died protecting our country.

Violence Against Women Services Elgin County

Mr. Jeff Yurek: I’m proud to stand today and recognize and congratulate a remarkable organization in my riding of Elgin–Middlesex–London. Violence Against Women Services Elgin County embarked on a campaign in 2013 with their capital project plans for a new women’s shelter in Elgin county. They were told by the minister at the time that if they raised $1 million and showed community support, the province would invest the remaining amount needed to build the shelter—about $1.9 million.

I am very proud to say that they have surpassed the goal. They have reached over $1.1 million. The money was donated by local businesses, service clubs, organizations, individuals and agencies that came together to support a need in our community. It’s truly remarkable to see the generosity and compassion that my community has shown in raising these funds. This will allow more women and children to have a safe place to live, sleep and play.

The women’s shelter in Elgin county sees roughly 2,000 women and children in one year. They hold a number of fundraising activities throughout the year to ensure they are able to provide the services and necessities needed to provide a safe and comfortable home for all those who reside there.

I want to personally thank every individual business, organization, service club and agency that contributed in reaching their goal. It makes me proud to represent a community that comes together time and time again to ensure all community members are safe.

My hope is that the new minister will respect the previous minister’s commitment and help finish this worthwhile campaign.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Mr. Han Dong: Mr. Speaker, last Thursday I had the honour and privilege to attend the official opening of the Gerald Sheff and Shanitha Kachan Emergency Department at CAMH, located in my beautiful riding of Trinity–Spadina.

I want to thank Dr. Catherine Zahn, the president of CAMH, her staff, the volunteers and donors of CAMH for their commitment to improve the way Ontarians receive care when faced with mental health challenges. The work that CAMH does impacts us all as Ontarians.

This summer, the Ontario government pledged to increase our investment to Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. That’s a commitment to increase funding by $220 million over three years. I’m proud of this concrete step that we took as a province to contribute $4.2 million to this project. This investment is crucial to supporting the work that the talented and dedicated staff of CAMH do.

Demand at this department has grown steadily, with 76% more visits in 2014 than in 2006. There has never been a more crucial time to support the important work of CAMH.

Mr. Speaker, I’m proud of Premier Wynne’s commitment to Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, and I thank Minister Hoskins for this much-needed investment. I look forward to working closely with CAMH in the near future.

Veterans / Anciens combattants

Mrs. Marie-France Lalonde: Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the poppy campaign launch in my local Walmart in my riding of Ottawa–Orléans. The campaign launch was hosted by Ken Green, the president of the Royal Canadian Legion Orléans branch. I am pleased to announce it was well attended. I also would like to sincerely thank all the community leaders who came to show their support: MP Royal Galipeau and city councillors Rainer Bloess and Stephen Blais.

The poppy is important, as it stands as a symbol of collective reminiscence and helps us honour the fallen. The poppy campaign, however, is not only symbolic; through donations, it helps the Royal Canadian Legion support veterans and their families day to day. This also includes those who are currently serving.

Le jour du Souvenir et la campagne annuelle du coquelicot portent une importance particulière dans la région d’Ottawa–Orléans, ma circonscription, puisque cette circonscription se dote de la concentration la plus élevée de personnel militaire de service actif de l’Ontario.

As Canadians, it is important to honour our past, respect our present, and foster our future. Wearing a poppy on the days leading up to November 11 marks our visual pledge to never forget the Canadians who have fallen serving their country. I encourage everyone to support our veterans, make a donation and wear their poppies proudly.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I thank all members for their statements.

Reports by Committees

Standing Committee on General Government

Mr. Grant Crack: I beg leave to present a report from the Standing Committee on General Government and move its adoption. I give it to page Ben.

The Clerk-at-the-Table (Mr. Trevor Day): Your committee begs to report the following bill, as amended:

Bill 18, An Act to amend various statutes with respect to employment and labour / Projet de loi 18, Loi modifiant diverses lois en ce qui concerne l’emploi et la main-d’oeuvre.

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

Report adopted.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Pursuant to the order of the House dated October 28, 2014, the bill is ordered for third reading.

Introduction of Bills

Respecting Private Property Act, 2014 / Loi de 2014 sur le respect de la propriété privée

Ms. Jones moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 36, An Act to amend the Trespass to Property Act / Projet de loi 36, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l’entrée sans autorisation.

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

First reading agreed to.

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

Ms. Sylvia Jones: Currently, the Trespass to Property Act has no minimum fine for those who trespass, and has a maximum limit of $1,000 on compensation for damages. Many of the complaints from my community result from people trespassing on farmland and private property, and in the process damaging the property, including crops, livestock and fencing. Unfortunately, it is left to the property owner to repair those damages, and the costs can quickly add up into the thousands of dollars.

I believe my bill will make needed changes to the Trespass to Property Act and allow property owners to be fairly compensated for destruction of their property.

658055 Ontario Inc. Act, 2014

Mr. Colle moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr12, An Act to revive 658055 Ontario Inc.

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

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Pursuant to standing order 86, this bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.

1520

469118 Ontario Limited Act, 2014

Mr. Colle moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr11, An Act to revive 469118 Ontario Limited.

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

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Pursuant to standing order 86, this bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.

Statements by the Ministry and Responses

Crime Prevention Week

Hon. Yasir Naqvi: Our government is committed to investing in its people, strengthening our neighbourhoods, and building safer, stronger communities right across Ontario. So it is a pleasure to rise in this House today to acknowledge Crime Prevention Week in Ontario, which this year runs from November 2 to 8.

For over 40 years, police services, community organizations and the people of Ontario have celebrated this week as a time to acknowledge and thank all of those who work, often away from the spotlight, to make their communities a better place. Ontario now has the lowest crime rate in Canada, and I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those unsung heroes right across this province who have helped make this happen: our police officers, firefighters, paramedics, correctional officers, probation and parole officers, peace officers and many, many community groups.

This week also serves as a reminder that we must continue our efforts to strengthen those partnerships, invest in our people, and create opportunities to prevent crime and promote safe, healthy communities. We all know that preventing crime is more effective than focusing on enforcement and punishment. A dollar invested now in crime prevention and early intervention avoids $7 spent on prosecution, incarceration and other associated costs in the future.

It is on the ground, at the community level, where we can make the biggest difference. That is why this year, our government’s Safer and Vital Communities Grant is providing $1.7 million to support 24 community-run crime prevention initiatives that enhance mental health services in our communities. In fact, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the program, which has helped over 340 programs with over $9 million in funding since 2004 across our province.

I recently had the opportunity to visit one such organization in my hometown of Ottawa, in my community of Ottawa Centre. The Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization is a great organization whose Youth on Track program is providing counselling and mentorship to immigrant and refugee youth ages 12 to 19 who are at a higher risk of becoming involved in criminal activity. These are the types of programs we must continue supporting, investing in and championing, because the only way to truly fight crime is to eliminate it from happening in the first place.

Our government is also moving forward on a made-in-Ontario approach to community safety and well-being that builds on Crime Prevention in Ontario: A Framework for Action, and thanks to the work of all our partners, we are well along on this priority. We have engaged with communities all across the province and have learned that, to be effective, strategies that aim to prevent crime and enhance community safety require that everyone work together and use all available community resources to achieve the same objective. We have also learned that in many communities, diverse sectors are already collaborating to develop innovative and effective local responses to local challenges.

Now, in partnership with other ministries, local police services and their community partners, we have developed a preliminary framework on community safety and well-being that will be tested in eight pilot communities over the next six months.

The government has also invested over $100 million in funding for other grant programs related to crime prevention, including the Toronto and provincial anti-violence intervention strategies and the Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, or RIDE, program.

Ontario businesses, schools, community groups, police and probation and parole officers need to continue to work together to protect our neighbourhoods, prevent at-risk Ontarians from becoming first-time offenders, and stop first-time offenders from becoming repeat offenders.

This week, Speaker, I encourage all members to take part in Crime Prevention Week activities in their communities and continue to do their part to enhance community safety and well-being.

Winter highway maintenance

Hon. Steven Del Duca: Every year, winter weather arrives before we know it and sometimes before we’re ready to even think about it. While often we are busy being inspired by what some might call the beauty of that very first snowfall that Mother Nature has delivered, I think it’s also important—very important, in fact—to remember that driving during the winter takes different skills and requires our complete focus. That is why I want to share with this Legislature what our government is doing right across the province to help keep our roads safe so that people can get where they need to be.

In many places of our province, winter weather has already arrived. That means that our contractors have started winter operations across northern Ontario and are ready to go in southern Ontario. Not that many days ago, Speaker, I was very happy to spend some time in the community of Northumberland–Quinte West with my good friend the member from that particular area, making an important announcement—which I’ll allude to in just a quick second—while one of my parliamentary assistants, the member from Eglinton–Lawrence, was in Woodstock simultaneously making a similar announcement.

Our winter maintenance standards are amongst the highest in North America. But we are always looking to improve our program. While I’m sure that we would all like to forget the cold and bluster of last winter, it’s important for us to remember that winter’s challenges give us the opportunity to reflect on the improvements that our government has made with respect to winter maintenance and with respect also to promoting safe winter driving. We added 50 combination trucks and five tow plows to clear passing and truck-climbing lanes more frequently across the province. And, Speaker, 42 of those vehicles went to northern communities. We introduced our Twitter account, @511ontario, to quickly inform people of road and weather conditions and highway closures.

We’ve also produced several educational videos to remind drivers of the importance of safe winter driving. This winter, as I mentioned a second ago, at the announcement I made recently, the province is once again working with our contractors to deploy 50 additional pieces of winter maintenance equipment in southern Ontario to help clear most freeway ramps and shoulders more quickly.

We are also adding 20 inspectors to provide on-the-ground oversight during winter storms. Our maintenance contractors use state-of-the-art technology to keep our roads safe for winter driving to make sure that snow and ice are removed quickly and efficiently and to use salt in an environmentally responsible way.

Global-positioning and remote-data-collection tools are installed on all road-clearing equipment to provide detailed information to help better manage winter maintenance operations.

To help people understand what it takes to keep our roads clear and safe during the winter, Ministry of Transportation staff, along with our contractors, are currently hosting open houses at several patrol yards and ONroute service centres across the province. These give the media and residents the chance to get up close and personal with a plow and find out more about how to respond when they see one on the road.

Our contractors, Speaker, work very hard to keep Ontario’s 16,900 kilometres of highway maintained during the winter. More than 1,000 snowplows and salt/sand spreaders are used to fight winter storms on provincial highways. These are operated by hard-working Ontarians who care deeply about the work they do. Their families are travelling the same roads as everyone else. Their goal is simple: to see everyone arrive at their destination safely.

Plowing and spreading sand or salt are only part of keeping our roads safe during winter weather. As always, the Ministry of Transportation continues to work together with the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ontario Road Builders’ Association and each of our maintenance contractors to keep Ontario’s highways safe for travellers. This important partnership includes expanded community outreach and communications activities about winter maintenance and safe driving throughout the province.

Drivers also play an important role by preparing for winter weather, planning travel carefully, and driving safely.

1530

Sometimes keeping travellers safe means closing the highway, the safest and best course of action until the weather and highway conditions improve. I know that this is frustrating for drivers, because of course they want to get where they’re going. The police close roads when they know it’s not safe: when blinding snow prevents drivers from seeing clearly in front of them or when snow accumulates so quickly that it’s impossible to keep up. This is not a decision that they make lightly, but it is one that they make to keep everyone safe.

Not only are we spreading salt and sand, we’re also spreading the word with the help of our road safety partners. Drivers need to adjust their driving to changing weather and highway conditions. They need to check the weather and travel conditions before they head out, and not take the chance if the weather is bad.

Everyone believes that their trip is important; I understand that. They want to visit loved ones. They want to get to work or to an important appointment, or to do day-to-day activities that we all want to do. But the Ministry of Transportation has a very simple, and yet important, goal: to help Ontarians get to their destinations safely.

Soon all members of this Legislature will receive an information package from me with information regarding safe driving, winter maintenance and road safety. I encourage all members to make this information available through their respective constituency offices and to contact me or my staff if they have any questions or concerns.

Ontario’s After-School Program

Hon. Tracy MacCharles: Our government believes that sport and recreation can help build character and increase self-esteem and well-being for our children and youth in Ontario. That’s why in 2009 we introduced the after-school program as a way to engage children and youth in priority neighbourhoods in making healthy life choices through positive activities, and it has been a huge success. I was very pleased that Minister Coteau, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, announced just last week that we’re investing $13.5 million for Ontario’s After-School Program in 2014-15.

In 2014-15, more than 21,000 children and youth at over 400 locations across the province will benefit from the after-school program. We are funding over 130 organizations that provide after-school programming at a variety of sites run by non-profit organizations. That includes schools, community centres, First Nations communities and more.

Since we began the program, children and youth from across our province have had a place to gather after school. They’ve had a safe place to be together, to do some homework, learn about good food, take part in physical activities and, more importantly, have some healthy fun.

The after-school program incorporates a variety of physical activities that use a game-based approach to teaching fundamental movement skills through games like dodgeball, soccer-baseball, jumping frogs, roller-tag, handball and much more. It includes fun activities to learn about food, nutrition and wellness, and also provides puzzles and board games to stimulate the mind.

The after-school program is also helping us to create a lot of excitement about the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games through Kids ‘N Play. This is a resource available on the PPA Kids website which enables kids to learn about the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games through a number of activities, including “Who is Pachi?” I hope everyone knows who Pachi is; he’s our great mascot for the games. I had a hug from him the other day out at a community event. It also includes identifying flags of participating countries, a create-your-own-Pan-Am-flag activity, as well as arts and crafts activities such as designing carnival masks, Speaker. Maybe we can do one for the Speaker.

The after-school program has empowered many young people to make healthy and positive changes in their lives. The children we reach today are tomorrow’s champions, our future innovators and our next generation of greats.

I want to thank all of those who support the after-school program and those who have come together to make this program so successful for our youth. Together, we’ll ensure that Ontarians across the province have a future that is filled with positivity, possibility and promise.

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

Crime Prevention Week

Mr. Rick Nicholls: It’s my pleasure to respond to the minister’s statement on Crime Prevention Week. As the PC critic for community safety and correctional services, I do look forward to building on a strong relationship between our caucus and the front-line officers who keep this province safe.

I’d also like to begin by acknowledging leaders in the Ontario policing community, including OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes; Ontario Provincial Police Association President Jim Christie; Police Association of Ontario Acting President Dan Axford, and their CAO, Ms. Terri Hilborn; and Chief Jennifer Evans, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.

In my riding of Chatham–Kent–Essex, I’m grateful for the work of Chief Dennis Poole and his entire staff of officers, as well as that of OPP detachment commander Brad Coulbeck and his counterpart in Essex county, Glenn Miller.

Most people think of police as people whom we can call on to respond to crime, but the reality is that they devote much of their time to crime prevention. They educate citizens on how they can protect themselves against becoming a victim of crime and forge relationships with their communities to promote public trust.

Looking in my own riding at the Chatham-Kent Police Service, they recognize that we cannot arrest our way to safe communities. They will soon be hosting a community safety plan forum to bring local leaders to the table to proactively address issues before they emerge.

I personally believe that crime prevention must be a total community effort. For example, locking your doors, participating in Neighbourhood Watch, educating your children to never accept a ride from a stranger, reporting suspicious behaviour, block parenting, and even a simple thing like removing change from your cup holder in your car are just a few of the actions you can take to prevent crime.

Speaker, working together, we can make Ontario’s communities safe and resilient.

Winter highway maintenance

Mr. Michael Harris: I too would like to thank those for my ministerial statement response on winter maintenance. There are a few things that will never change in Ontario: (1) cold winters, (2) snowfall, (3) government’s responsibility to remove snow from roadways, and, of course, (4) the Wynne government’s overspending and debt problems. The last one is a guarantee. In fact, they’re all guaranteed to happen in our corner of the Great White North. It’s for this reason that many wonder how this government could have so royally botched the winter maintenance of our highways last year.

Yes, it was a harsh winter, but we do have cold winters here in Canada. Yes, a lot of snow came down. Again, it’s Canada; snow will fall. So why was the government unable to do its job? We’ve heard the government’s refrain that contractors are to blame, but this is government’s responsibility. If the job is not getting done, it’s up to government to fix it, not just point and fine others.

There was a $15-million increase for winter maintenance last year. While we know that $8 million went towards new equipment, there are questions about the remaining $7 million. Where was that spent—on more bureaucrats with stopwatches? I question how that spending will improve winter maintenance this year.

In fact, despite the announcements and the statements we have no new spending for winter maintenance in northern Ontario this year, where winter maintenance means the most. Speaker, I remain concerned that the only things as unchanging as the winter and snowfall in Ontario this year will be the government’s poor winter maintenance record, and of course, we can’t forget the spending and debt problem.

Ontario’s After-School Program

Ms. Laurie Scott: To comment on Ontario after-school programs, which are an important asset to the communities across Ontario: They reach children and youth in priority neighbourhoods, offering 21,000 children and youth the opportunity to participate in sport and recreation activities.

Programs that are delivered in my riding are delivered by non-profit organizations like the Kawartha Lakes boys and girls clubs, located in Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock. They have been serving the needs of children and youth in recreation since the 1960s. They have many satellite areas in the city of Kawartha Lakes, like in Lindsay, Kirkfield, Coboconk, Dunsford and Little Britain. These after-school programs themselves provide 250 children per day with an opportunity to access physical activity, healthy eating and nutrition, health and wellness, and community-focused programs that benefit them on a daily basis.

I thank the minister for her statement and the programs that are provided. Those are an example of the ones locally in Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock.

1540

Crime Prevention Week

Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: I’m pleased to respond to the minister on Crime Prevention Week. I want to begin by thanking all of our first responders, professionals and volunteers who work proactively to prevent crime. Undoubtedly, this includes police officers, but must be broadened to include paramedics, firefighters, correctional officers and any other occupation that oversees law enforcement, first response or education.

I would like to remind my colleagues that more work could be done to lower the rate of repeat offences and focus on the rehabilitation of offenders as a form of crime prevention.

Specifically, Ontario communities are grappling with an epidemic of illicit drug abuse, most recently with the explosion of heroine usage across the province. In many areas, this is unprecedented. It destroys the fabric of the community, divides families and limits the potential of our youth. All too often, these offenders end up in correctional facilities, where they are punished rather than rehabilitated.

New Democrats believe in crime prevention models that emphasize treatment rather than incarceration of non-violent drug offenders. Drug treatment courts embody this vision by providing access to counselling, drug screening and secure housing as a form of sentencing. We are encouraged by the community partners that come together to make these alternative sentencing courts possible. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of these specialized bodies in the province, and all suffer from limited resources to achieve such an important mandate. These courts are often put together using existing services and with little or no dedicated provincial funding to pay for the many operating costs of the program.

We believe more can be done to facilitate programs that work to end the revolving door of drug abuse as a way to promote crime prevention in our communities.

Winter highway maintenance

Mr. Joe Cimino: Speaker, through you, I thank the minister for his comments on winter maintenance—very important to my riding in northern Ontario, as well as across Ontario.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that CBC Radio on September 29 posted an article online on Morning North—and it was audio as well—that there were fines that were given to contractors for not fulfilling duties under their contracts. In northeastern Ontario, there are four contractors with total fines of $656,750. So there were fines given out.

What really bothers me, as critic and as a representative of northern Ontario and for those across Ontario who drive the highways in the wintertime, is the fact that they were fined for health and safety issues: for example, not deploying equipment within 30 minutes of the start of a snowfall, not deploying equipment after two centimetres of snow or slush were accumulated. Those are major issues, especially in northern Ontario, and I’m sure in other rural areas where we’re not only dealing with the snow and slush on the roads and slippery hazards; we’re dealing with narrow roadways, roadways with no shoulders, and other hazards like huge slurry trucks, lumber trucks etc.

The minister did state, however, that measures are going forward. I think 110 pieces of equipment have been purchased between last year’s season and this year’s season—as well as 20 new inspectors, a director position and a lot of education.

As a gentleman who believes the glass is half full, I am looking forward to improvement from last year. As an advocate for my area, northern Ontario and the province, I look forward to improvements in winter maintenance this coming year.

Ontario’s After-School Program

Mr. Paul Miller: I’m cautiously pleased at the minister’s initiative to get our kids active after school. To focus on healthy eating, to help gain confidence and hopefully to result in better success at school, sounds very good.

But then, there’s the part about new after-school funding. His announcement suggests that over 400 priority neighbourhoods across our province will offer programs. It seems to me that the centre point for these will be schools. That’s where the kids are and where the programs will begin. So, if funding is going to service providers to deliver these programs, who’s paying the additional costs of extra operating time at schools? If that cost is coming out of the new funding, I don’t think there’ll be much left for the programming.

There are lots of examples of community groups, like daycare providers, library branches, parks and recreation, and even sports teams like the Raptors, forming partnerships for programs similar to this. It would even work well to have a chef and cooking schools partner to provide healthy snacks for these programs.

But I am concerned, when this government decides to implement something new, that they almost immediately fob off to their Liberal-friendly consultants the task of getting the programs organized. Then the money goes down the consultant drain and Ontarians end up with no program or other quantifiable outcomes.

The list of activities like sports, arts, crafts, health and wellness is terrific for young people to develop. But they also need to learn basic street smarts, so a program that would allow age-appropriate independent movement, like from school to the library or recreation centre, should also be included.

And again, no funding for consultants; it needs to go to the non-profits, the community and recreation centres, libraries, schools and the staff who are already aware of what their communities need and how to deliver it.

Petitions

Family Responsibility Office

Mr. Michael Harris: I do, before I get into my petition, want to recognize Carmina Falkiner and Natasha Mitchell. They were not here earlier when I introduced them, and I want to welcome them to the Legislative Assembly. I have a petition that they have been working so diligently on, and it’s to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

“Fix FRO now!!

“Whereas there have been ongoing issues with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO); and

“Whereas these concerns are an issue for many people involved with the program and their needs must be addressed immediately; and

“Whereas many of FRO’s customer service representatives are condescending and have belittled recipients with unacceptable suggestions to withdraw from the program if they don’t like how it’s run; and

“Whereas some employers are slow to forward payments to FRO on behalf of the payor despite court orders directing for monthly payments; and

“Whereas companies who have a history of repeating these actions need to be held accountable. Stricter enforcement needs to be put in place; and

“Whereas payors going on social assistance do not receive any type of penalty for FRO arrears owing; and

“Whereas there are accounts that are years in arrears for no valid reason (a skip tracing program needs to be put into place); and

“Whereas the payor is in arrears after one month of missed or delayed payment according to the courts, while the legislation says the payor must be three months in arrears before any action is taken;

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

“Fix FRO now and set up a review committee to identify inherent and fundamental program problems for immediate remedial action!”

Speaker, I will sign this petition and send it down to the desk with Jamie, and again thank the ladies from the region of Waterloo for their hard work on such an important issue.

Home care

Mme France Gélinas: I have this petition that comes from my constituents from Capreol, Hanmer and Val Caron, and it reads as follows:

“Whereas home care services offer quality-of-life benefits to Ontarians and allow individuals to receive care in the comfort of their own homes; and

“Whereas the Liberal government established a five day ‘target’ for home care services; and

“Whereas as of 2014 the Liberal government’s home care target is only met consistently by half of Ontario’s local health integration networks; and

“Whereas some community care access centres report that up to 10% of community-referred patients wait 33 days or more for home care services; and

“Whereas the Auditor General has raised concerns about home care funding and access inequities across Ontario;”

They petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to “ensure that all Ontarians requiring home care are able to receive services within five days.”

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

Environmental protection

Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I have a petition to present today to the Legislature, and it reads as follows:

“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas Enbridge’s proposed re-engineering of its line 9 poses new risks for the people of Ontario, requiring a more comprehensive review than the federal National Energy Board review process has provided. Ontario residents need to know the risks of allowing the line 9 re-engineering project to proceed, including the threat to property values, personal health, and safety;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to initiate a full and democratic environmental assessment of the project before it is too late.”

I agree with this petition, and I affix my signature to it.

Alzheimer’s disease

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I have a petition here from the Alzheimer Society.

“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are progressive, degenerative diseases of the brain that cause thinking, memory and physical functioning to become seriously impaired;

“Whereas there is no known cause or cure for this devastating illness; and

1550

“Whereas Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias also take their toll on hundreds of thousands of families and care partners; and

“Whereas Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect more than 200,000 Ontarians today, with an annual total economic burden rising to $15.7 billion by 2020; and

“Whereas the cost related to the health care system is in the billions and is only going to increase, at a time when our health care system is already facing enormous financial challenges; and

“Whereas there is work under way to address the need, but no coordinated or comprehensive approach to tackling the issues; and

“Whereas there is an urgent need to plan and raise awareness and understanding about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias for the sake of improving the quality of life of the people it touches;

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

“To approve the development of a comprehensive Ontario dementia plan that would include the development of strategies in primary health care, in health promotion and prevention of illness, in community development, in building community capacity and care partner engagement, in caregiver support and investments in research.”

I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me the time to present this petition. I’ll send it with Alex to the table.

Hydro rates

Mr. Michael Mantha: This petition is on behalf of constituents in Algoma–Manitoulin from the Sault North area, from Goulais River all the way to Batchawana Bay. It reads:

“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas we, the customers of Algoma Power, are being charged astronomical costs referred to as ‘delivery fees’;

“Whereas we, the customers of Algoma Power, would like the ‘delivery fees’ looked into and regulated so as to protect the consumer from big businesses gouging the consumer;

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

“Stop Algoma Power’s influx of fees for delivery and stop the onset of increasing these fees another 40% within four years.”

I agree with this petition, affix my signature and present it to page Gregory to bring down to the Clerk.

Legal aid

Mr. Bob Delaney: I have a petition addressed to the Ontario Legislative Assembly. It was sent to me by a number of clients from Mississauga legal aid. It reads as follows:

“Whereas Mississauga Community Legal Services provides free legal services to legal aid clients within a community of nearly 800,000 population; and

“Whereas legal services in communities like Toronto and Hamilton serve, per capita, fewer people living in poverty, are better staffed and better funded; and

“Whereas Mississauga and Brampton have made progress in having Ontario provide funding for human services on a fair and equitable, population-based model;

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

“That the Ministry of the Attorney General revise the current distribution of allocated funds in the” Ontario “budget, and adopt a population-based model, factoring in population growth rates to ensure Ontario funds are allocated in an efficient, fair and effective manner.”

I agree with this petition and I’m pleased to sign it and send it down with page Faith.

Wind turbines

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: I present a petition from Bluewater, and it reads as follows:

“In light of the many wide-ranging concerns being raised by citizens and 60 action groups across Ontario and the irrefutable international evidence of a flawed technology, health concerns, environmental effects and unprecedented costs;

“We, the undersigned, demand that the government of Ontario declare an Ontario-wide moratorium on the further development of wind farms.”

I totally agree with this petition. I’ll affix my signature and send it to the table with Jamie.

Climate change

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas global climate change is the most serious threat facing humanity and poses significant risks to our environment, economy, society and human health; and

“More than 97% of scientists working in the disciplines contributing to studies of our climate and all national science academies accept that climate change is almost certainly being caused by human activities, mainly due to the use of fossil fuels; and

“The objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change … is ‘stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’; and

“Climate scientists are now warning us that limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 Celsius is essential; and

“Ontario has a clear responsibility to reduce our emissions given that our per capita greenhouse gas emissions are among the highest in the world...; and

“The best research today indicates that energy demands are decreasing and that sufficient potential energy from a diverse supply of renewable sources exists to meet Ontario’s current and projected energy demands;

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

“Immediately prepare a plan that requires that 100% of Ontario’s stationary energy be from zero-carbon sources before the end of 2023, with a timeline to be audited annually by the Auditor General and published reports.”

I’m going to sign this and give it to Jagmeet to be delivered to the table.

Environmental protection

Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I’ve got a petition from residents of Scarborough Southwest. It’s addressed as follows:

“To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas Enbridge’s proposed re-engineering of its line 9 poses new risks for the people of Ontario, requiring a more comprehensive review than the federal National Energy Board review process has provided. Ontario residents need to know the risks of allowing the line 9 re-engineering project to proceed, including the threat to property values, personal health, and safety;

“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to initiate a full and democratic environmental assessment of the project before it is too late.”

I agree with this petition, and I sign my signature to it.

Coast Guard Auxiliary

Mr. Todd Smith: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas Coast Guard Auxiliary units are oftentimes the first responders to any emergency situation that occurs on our waterways;

“Whereas the use of green flashing lights by Coast Guard volunteers in their vehicles would help to cut down on their response time by alerting others on the roadways to their presence;

“Whereas these flashing green lights are currently prohibited from use in Coast Guard volunteers’ vehicles under regulations in the Highway Traffic Act that restrict the use of flashing green lights to only the vehicles of volunteer firefighters and ministry-prescribed medical responders;

“Whereas the flashing green lights cost nothing to the government as they are bought and paid for by the volunteers themselves;

“Whereas, if the Coast Guard Auxiliary units were allowed the use of these flashing green lights in their vehicles, it would cut down the transportation time on the roadways, and this cut in time could very well mean the difference between life and death;

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

“That Coast Guard Auxiliary units either become prescribed medical responders, or a change to the act that adds ministry-prescribed volunteer first responders access to the use of the flashing green emergency light.”

I’ll send this to the table with Alex.

Workplace safety

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: “To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

“Whereas in 2013, 16 construction workers in Ontario were killed in tragic falls, almost 3,400 WSIB fall claims were accepted, and many other falls were never reported;

“Whereas in addition to the human tragedy of workplace falls, the financial cost of each year’s WSIB fall claims is about $100 million;

“Whereas the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador implemented new fall protection training regulations on January 1, 2012, after which fall claims declined by 25%;

“Whereas a similar training requirement and result in Ontario could prevent over 800 fall tragedies each year and avoid $25 million in costs with the WSIB; and

“Whereas in 2010, the Ontario government promised to implement a similar training requirement by December 2011, but still has not done so; and has thereby left workers at risk;

“We, the undersigned, call upon the Minister of Labour to make saving workers’ lives a priority and stop delaying fall protection training regulations.”

I sign this petition and hand it to page Ben to deliver to the table.

Legal aid

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I recognize for further petitions the member for Northumberland–Quinte West.

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Thank you, Speaker. I will get a stool next time, Speaker—guaranteed.

“Whereas Mississauga Community Legal Services provides free legal services to legal aid clients within a community of nearly 800,000 population; and

“Whereas legal services in communities like Toronto and Hamilton serve, per capita, fewer people living in poverty, are better staffed and better funded; and

“Whereas Mississauga and Brampton have made progress in having Ontario provide funding for human services on a fair and equitable, population-based model;

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

1600

“That the Ministry of the Attorney General revise the current distribution of allocated funds in the 2012-13 budget, and adopt a population-based model, factoring in population growth rates to ensure Ontario funds are allocated in an efficient, fair and effective manner.”

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

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The time for petitions has expired.

Opposition Day

Privatization of public assets / Privatisation des biens publics

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I move the following motion:

Whereas the selling off of Highway 407 costs the people of Ontario $1 billion a year; and

Whereas $1.7 billion annually from the LCBO goes directly into paying for the services that families rely on; and

Whereas the OLG put $1.9 billion annually into the provincial treasury; and

Whereas the Harris government privatization of hydro drove up bills for families and businesses; and

Whereas public assets benefit all Ontarians;

Therefore, in the opinion of this House, any deal, arrangement, transaction, government bill or other action of the government that seeks to privatize the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the hydro sector or the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. would be subject to a province-wide referendum.

This is addressed to the Premier.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Ms. Horwath has moved opposition day motion number 2.

Ms. Horwath.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I really appreciate the opportunity to raise with Ontarians and with the members of this Legislature a very important issue that has been in the news media quite a bit recently, and it has to do with the shared public assets that are owned by the people of this province.

Some people may know the history of, particularly, the electricity system in our province. In fact, it was a Conservative member, back at the turn of the last century, back around 1906—this member hailed from, I believe, the London area. His name was Sir Adam Beck. What Sir Adam Beck decided to do, way back then, was to establish the Ontario electricity system. He actually had a slogan or a motto for Ontario Hydro back 100 years ago, and in Latin it was, “Dona naturae pro populo sunt.” Do you know what that means, Speaker? How’s your Latin? Have you been brushing up on your Latin lately? I’ll tell you exactly what it means; I’m sure you’re waiting with bated breath.

That motto, translated from its original Latin, from the founder of Ontario Hydro over a century ago, Sir Adam Beck, who was a Conservative member of this Legislature at the time, means, “The gifts of nature are for the people.” Wow. That was a Conservative’s idea. The gifts of nature are for the people. From the very beginning, our electricity system was meant to serve Ontarians and to be owned by Ontarians so that Ontarians could reap the benefit of that electricity system.

I want to remind this House that, as Adam Beck was a Conservative cabinet minister in Premier James Whitney’s government, Conservatives should, in fact, still be supportive of this kind of idea. I look forward to the support of the Conservative caucus today, over 100 years later, in memory of that great minister, to support this motion this afternoon.

Beck fiercely defended the merits of public power against a Liberal Party of the day that opposed it. So it’s quite interesting where we are now. That was back in 1905, when that debate was happening, when the Conservatives were fiercely supporting and defending the idea of a public electricity system and the Liberals were saying, “No, that’s not the right way to go.” They were against a public electricity system.

That was 1905, and this is 2014. Nowadays, the same old parties happen to be on the same page. My Conservative colleagues, in fact, are willing to turn their back on the wisdom of Adam Beck, I fear. We will see this afternoon. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I suspect that my colleagues here in this chamber from the Conservative Party will turn their backs on the wisdom of that colleague of theirs from so long ago, and my Liberal colleagues across the way are determined to go back to their roots and actually oppose public ownership of our electricity system. Both want to put public power into private hands. New Democrats are consistent on this: We think that’s the wrong idea, we think that has been proven time and time again to be the wrong idea, and that’s why this is part of our motion today.

We believe that our electricity system doesn’t belong to the Liberals and it doesn’t belong to the Conservatives or, in fact, to any political party. The fact of the matter is that the electricity system, Ontario Hydro—Hydro One, as we now call it—the LCBO, the OLG, all of these public assets, all of these public entities belong to the people of Ontario. So it goes without saying, or at least the logical conclusion, then, is: If these things are not owned by the Liberal Party and they’re not owned by the Conservative Party but they are, in fact, owned by the people of Ontario, then it’s not up to the Liberal Party to sell them off or to the Conservative Party to sell them off. In fact, that decision is a decision that should be left to the people of Ontario to make. Not wholesale, not bit by bit: None of these things should be in any way removed from the people’s purview, from their ownership.

Nos institutions publiques n’appartiennent qu’aux Ontariennes et Ontariens. They belong to every Ontarian, not just the well-connected few, not just those who are licking their chops and rubbing their palms, waiting for these things to go onto the auction block.

Today our motion, which I just read out, the motion before the House, calls for a specific thing to happen before any government can sell off any one of these assets that are shared public assets. Before any deal can be made, before any arrangement, any scheme can be cooked up, before any transaction can transpire, before any government bill or any action whatsoever from any government can actually take place that seeks to privatize the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, or the electricity sector or parts thereof, or the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.—before any of that can take place, there needs to be a step that’s built in, and that step is to go back to the people who actually own these assets, and that’s the people of Ontario. That’s what we are calling for in this motion. We are calling for the government of Ontario, whether it be Liberal or Conservative, to respect the people of Ontario, because it’s the people of Ontario who own these assets. So instead of just simply allowing a government to go ahead with one of these schemes after they’ve cooked it up behind closed doors and they lay it on the table in this Legislature or, worse, on the table of a cabinet discussion, they have to go back to the people and, through a referendum, get the permission of the owners of those assets before any scheme can be implemented.

If we had this tool in place more than a decade ago, the billion dollars each and every year that is generated by the 407 would be benefiting the citizens, the people of Ontario, instead of some private consortium. What a shame when we look at the deficit that we have in this province. What a shame to think of the revenue that we could be getting here in this treasury from that 407. In fact, we could actually have a highway in place that’s already paid for itself and no longer have people pay tolls on that highway. That was the initial plan for that highway. Unfortunately, once the Conservatives got hold of it, that plan went—well, it went somewhere where the sun doesn’t shine.

Anyway, the bottom line is that we know very well that those deals do not work for the people of Ontario. Before Kathleen Wynne now can arrange a fire sale of the crown jewels of our public corporations, Ontarians do deserve to have their say. If the Premier wants to go down that same road of privatization, then she should put that decision to a vote.

1610

Hydro One and OPG provide critical utilities that need to stay in public hands. The LCBO and the OLG have a proven track record, Speaker, of protecting young people in particular by helping to enforce our laws around gaming and around alcohol use, and, of course, they’re proven revenue generators for our province. These crown corporations give billions of dollars back to the public purse: $1.7 billion from LCBO alone, and a further $1.9 billion from the OLG. We depend on this revenue, Speaker. The people depend on this revenue, because it helps to fund our schools. It helps to fund our hospitals. It helps to make sure that people get the front-line care that they need. It helps to pay for our roads, bridges and other kinds of infrastructure, and all kinds of services that families rely on across this province.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that New Democrats have had to fight privatization, and, unfortunately, it won’t be the last, in my opinion. During the time of unrest in Ontario back in the mid- to late 1990s, there were these events that occurred in a number of communities across Ontario. They were called the “days of action.” They happened in my community in Hamilton back in February 1996.

During those days of action, there were literally over 100,000 people who took to the streets in my city of Hamilton, fellow citizens of the Hamilton area and of the surrounding area all the way to Toronto and London and other places as well. Those folks came out onto the streets for a specific reason. They came out onto the streets to protest the damage that Mike Harris was doing to Ontario through cuts and through privatization. I had really hoped back then that those days were over. I hoped that those lessons had been learned. But it seems that this Liberal government is determined to make the same mistakes as that Conservative Harris government made back in the 1990s.

This fight, Speaker, is not about ideology. But what it is about is protecting the dollars and cents of the people of Ontario. That’s what this fight is all about. Privatization costs us all a lot more in the long run. I don’t know why the Liberals refuse to learn that lesson. It costs seniors who are living on a fixed income, it costs families who are struggling to make ends meet, and it costs young people who are trying to get their start in the world.

Ontarians would not stand for it—they would not stand for it—when Mike Harris and Ernie Eves schemed to privatize our electricity system, driving up our electricity bills in the process. That plan made no sense under the Conservatives. People suffered an immediate increase in their electricity bills of 25%, and then, of course, we’ve all seen where the electricity bills have continued to go as consecutive Conservative and Liberal governments continued to privatize more and more and more the generation of electricity in this province.

So that plan made no sense when it was started by the Conservatives and as it continued under the Liberals. It makes no sense today for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals to do the exact same thing, having not learned a thing from the mistakes of the past. I say shame on the Liberals for not learning those lessons, because the people of this province simply can’t afford Liberal mistakes any longer.

Back in 1998, the Conservatives brought in the 407 act, and that act actually contained provisions for the sell-off of Highway 407. They amended the Electricity Act in a bid to sell off Hydro One; back then it was Ontario Hydro. It set a dangerous legislative precedent that the Liberals will have no trouble following.

All it takes is one vote in this House and our crown corporations could be put on the auction block.

Interjection.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I think the member from St. Catharines is actually supportive of the Liberals’ actions around privatization of hydro. I think the people of St. Catharines actually would be very, very worried when they see their member up here laughing about it and joking about it, mocking this very serious debate about the privatization of our public assets. Shame on him, Speaker, for ignoring—shame on him. He’s actually very close to Niagara Falls, Speaker. Shame on him for ignoring the needs of the people of his constituency. It is quite, quite sad.

All it would take is a vote in this House and our crown corporations could be put on the auction block—just like that, in the blink of an eye. No one party should be able to make such a decision, not without sign-off from Ontarians. Ontarians want more accountability. Isn’t it this party right here, the party of the member from St. Catharines, the party of Kathleen Wynne, that talks a good, good game around accountability, that likes to talk all the time about being accountable to the people? One of the best ways to be accountable to the people is to give them the respect of making their own decision about whether or not a publicly owned asset is going to be put on the auction block here in Ontario. That’s the best way to do it.

But they’re not seeing that kind of accountability from this government. In so many ways they’re not seeing it. They’re not seeing it in so many ways, but particularly when it comes to these behind-the-doors backroom deals that are being schemed up by the Liberals. Instead, they’re seeing other things as well. They’re seeing oversight being surrendered to the private sector in the name of shifting risk and getting value for money. But time and time again, the results have been the exact opposite of what Liberals and Conservatives claim when they put these fancy words to these schemes. What they do is they leave Ontarians footing the bill, and that is not good enough. The people of this province deserve much, much better.

The Liberal government has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on private IT contractors to do the work that trained Ontario public service workers can and should be doing. It made a mess of northern roads by privatizing winter maintenance—I know there were ministerial statements about that just this afternoon.

It put private interests ahead of people’s interests with the bungled sell-off of the ONTC, particularly Ontera. My northern colleagues can correct me, but when they went to put Ontera onto the auction block, the asset was valued at how much?

Mr. John Vanthof: It was $30 million.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: The asset was valued at $30 million. This is the communication arm of Ontario Northland, am I right? It’s the communications part, the IT part of the communications part of Ontario Northland. We know that the passenger train got shut down, we know that they don’t care over there about the transportation needs of northerners, but they also sold off an asset that had a value of $30 million. And how much did the Liberals get for it? It was eight million bucks. Eight million bucks?

Interjection.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Six million bucks. Worse: six million bucks. So they flushed 24 million bucks down the toilet in the interests of a private company—and I think it was Bell, if I’m not mistaken—not in the interests of northerners; not in the interests of Ontarians. That’s what this Liberal government is all about; that’s what they do: They put the interests of private entities ahead of the interests of Ontarians.

This government also squandered billions and billions.

Interjection.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: It’s interesting. The member for Sault St. Marie seems to be quite agitated about this issue about Ontario Northland. Maybe as a northerner, he’s getting a little bit of feedback from some of his constituents about how wrong-headed it was to sell off the ONTC and to shut down the passenger train in northern Ontario.

But that’s not the end of the squandering of the Liberals, unfortunately; that is not the end of it. They squandered billions on eHealth and Ornge air ambulance, and the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants scandal. These are the kinds of things that this Liberal government is doing over and over and over again—not in the best interest of Ontarians; not at all.

It allowed huge private P3s or AFPs, whatever you want to call them, these nice little deals, these nice little schemes that the Liberals put together to drive up the costs in infrastructure projects over and over again in this province to the point at which the Auditor General has raised flags about the waste of money by these Liberals when it comes to the model they have for financing our infrastructure projects.

They changed the rules. This government, the Liberals, changed the rules so that MaRS could get a government loan, and then they bailed out a US real estate firm without even proving that there was a business case in doing so.

1620

This government loves to talk about how privatization saves money, but we’ve already seen how privatization costs will spiral out of control. We’ve seen it happen time and time again. The public needs to know that our shared resources are being invested in properly.

Nobody, in all of my travels around this province, Speaker, has ever said to me that they want to pay twice as much for electricity—certainly not seniors living in rural Ontario and across the north who depend on electricity for heat. But that’s what will happen if the Liberals have their way and they’re allowed to go ahead with their wrong-headed plans.

Privatizing Hydro One distribution assets and local utilities will create inefficiencies, will lower revenues for the province and will drive up costs for consumers, as did the privatization of power generation under the Harris government.

When Ontarians own an institution, we can—and we will—make sure that that institution is accountable, that it works for the citizens of this province, not for financial speculators, not for private interests.

While the Premier’s advisers are busy meeting behind closed doors with private buyers, who will put Ontarians first, I ask, Speaker? Certainly not the Conservatives. They’ve abandoned Adam Beck’s commitment to public power. That leaves the job to New Democrats. We will protect our shared assets, because Ontarians built those shared assets together. This legacy belongs to our children and our grandchildren, not to political parties and private interests, and certainly not to a Liberal Party that has shown itself to be so incapable of putting the interests of the people of this province first over the interests of their well-connected friends.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?

Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: I’m happy to talk about our responsible plan to unlock the value of assets in order to invest in roads, bridges and public transit in Ontario; and the opportunity to address the leader of the third party, who is being irresponsible when she says the government should never review assets and that we should never look at maximizing the benefit for the people of Ontario.

First, let me address the NDP’s proposal to hold an expensive referendum less than six months after the last province-wide vote, and our responsible commitment to unlock the value of the assets that was laid out in both the budget and the Liberal plan that we put to Ontarians in the last election.

The people of Ontario gave this Liberal government a four-year mandate to pass a progressive budget and implement it. Let me read you the text from the 2014 Ontario Liberal budget on page 20:

“The government will look at maximizing and unlocking value from assets it currently holds, including real estate holdings as well as crown corporations such as Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.”

And let me read you the text from the 2014 Ontario Liberal platform, on page 4, which states: “Our Moving Ontario Forward plan includes a balanced and responsible approach for paying for these investments.

“The funds will be from dedicated sources of revenue ... asset optimization: $3.15 billion or 10.9%.”

The leader of the third party knows that we put this to the people of Ontario in the last election, because she adopted our fiscal plan in her own NDP platform. The NDP knows that the people of Ontario voted for the Liberal plan. And the NDP knows that the government now has a mandate to move forward with unlocking the value of assets.

So we have been clear: We are looking to unlock the value from our assets to invest in schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and create jobs. I know that in my riding of Cambridge, my constituents are elated that the long-awaited hospital expansion, Cambridge Memorial Hospital, is now moving forward and has created jobs for the next five years.

We’ve also got the 401 widening project under way right now between Highway 8 and 24, as well as the replacement of the Speedsville bridge. We are ecstatic that these projects are finally moving forward.

Less than six months ago, we had an election. Now the third party is asking for an expensive rerun. Do they know how much that will cost? Let me tell them. The last election cost $90 million to run, and they’re asking for that again. This is an irresponsible position from the third party. We had an election in Junewhere the Liberal platform and the budget were clear about moving forward on asset modernization. We’ve been elected as MPPs with the responsibility to move forward with that mandate. When I meet with constituents, politicians and stakeholders from Cambridge, as well as Waterloo region, their top priority is funding infrastructure and transit projects right here in our region, including the LRT and the Highway 7 expansion.

Even the NDP member from Toronto–Danforth agrees that MPPs have a job to do. Here’s what he said just last Friday in a press conference about a different topic: “We elect people to make decisions. They have to make a decision.” The quote was from the member across the way, from Peter Tabuns, October 31, 2014. I acknowledge that the topic was not assets, but his point remains the same. We were elected to get to work. That’s what we’re doing.

I can’t help but wonder why the third party had put forward this motion, given that they know all of this already. My only conclusion is that they’re desperate to try and find any rationale why they voted against the most progressive budget in Ontario’s history. The NDP leader was criticized by her own party for doing so; I get that. But it’s wrong, and that’s why we will be voting against today’s irresponsible motion.

Now, our plan: In April, the Premier appointed the Advisory Council on Government Assets to provide balanced and transparent recommendations as our government takes action to maximize the value of key provincial assets. We’ve made the responsible choice by appointing this expert team, led by Ed Clark, which includes Janet Ecker and Frances Lankin.

By unlocking the full value of government assets, such as Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation and the LCBO, our government is ensuring that every public dollar is at work for the people of Ontario. We look forward to council’s full report once their review is complete. Council will broaden their commitment to a collaborative and transparent process and deepen the relationships that they have with all the parties. Council’s findings will inform our decisions to increase revenue and reinvest in priority infrastructures, projects such as the opening of Saint Gabriel Catholic school in Cambridge this past September that the community is very proud of.

Unlocking the value of our assets will happen through careful, thoughtful evaluation, unlike the PCs, who had given away the 407 in a fire sale. I think the third party can agree with me on that. Think about it: How much revenue could the people of Ontario have had to pay for our valuable public services had the PC government been responsible about the 407 asset?

Despite what the NDP says, we asked the council to retain the government’s long-term ownership of these assets’ core components. “We recommend keeping all three companies—OPG, Hydro One and the LCBO,” said Ed Clark in his speech dated October 17, 2014—not a word in that quote about selling off these companies.

By making smart business decisions that maximize the value of assets, we are ensuring that every public dollar is at work for the people of Ontario. Additional revenues from provincial assets will help us with new infrastructure, roads and transit and a $29-billion commitment over the next 10 years to pay for this.

Let me say a quick word about energy rates because the NDP have a lot to say that sounds nice on the surface, but scratch below it: They don’t really have a plan for Ontario’s energy sector. Their tough talk about private power deals is questionable, considering their advocating for selling off, and that they actually had a history of nine private power-generating contracts the last time they were in government.

1630

The Liberal government is being responsible, and I look forward to moving ahead to make sure that we listen to the council’s recommendations about our assets.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I thank the member from Cambridge.

Further debate?

Mr. John Yakabuski: It’s a pleasure to speak on this motion today with all of my friends behind me. Oh, my goodness, look at them. The posse is on its way.

Speaker, I have a problem with this opposition day motion. I find the very premise of it somewhat flawed. We’re going to cover a lot of things here, in the few moments that I have to speak—or we’re going to try, anyway. The NDP start out on the premise that the sale of any public assets is a bad thing. That’s their basic tenet. That’s their default position.

Do you remember Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister who—

Interjection.

Mr. John Yakabuski: That’s right. He talked to the spirits, and he talked to his mother. He was a little bit weird, but—

Interjection: He got us through World War II.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes, he got us through World War II. Maybe I’ve got this wrong, but wasn’t it him who said, “Conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription”?

So, the sale of public assets if necessary, but not necessarily the sale of public assets. You’ve got to kind of pick your spots. There are times when the sale of a public asset is quite simply the right thing to do.

I’ll tell you: Nobody can do a worse job running a business than the government.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Like health care?

Mr. John Yakabuski: Health care is not a business, Gilles.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Oh, my God—

Mr. John Yakabuski: You play on your little computer there while I speak.

You wouldn’t want to hire the government to run your convenience store. I can tell you that right now.

Interjection.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Well, there you go. In certain circumstances, it’s the right thing to do.

The problem with this Ed Clark expert panel, where you’ve got your token Tory and your token NDP—

Hon. Glen R. Murray: And your token Liberal.

Mr. John Yakabuski: —and your token Liberals. They’ve got to make sure that they make it appear to be non-partisan. But believe me, they were given their marching orders: “This is the conclusion that we need you to come up with. This is all the fluff you’re going to throw out there in your little report, but at the end of the day this is where we’re going to be.”

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Before this turns into Saturday Night Live—

Interjections: Too late.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): —and the fact that both sides have been somewhat respectful, I would ask that they continue to be respectful so that I can enjoy, or at least hear, the speaker from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. Thank you very much.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much, Speaker. Hell, they might even learn something. So—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I’d ask the member to withdraw, please.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I withdraw.

Heck, they might even learn something.

Interjection.

Mr. John Yakabuski: No, I’m not going back there.

Any of you people who know anything about the real estate business—if you get an appraisal done on a piece of property, you will get people to kind of tailor that appraisal to your needs. If you’re the buyer, you’re going to want that appraisal to be low. If you’re the seller, you’re going to want that appraisal to be high. So you’re going to try to influence the appraiser. I’m not suggesting that they do anything that could not be justified with proper details, formulae etc., but believe me, there is always a little bit of room in an estimate.

That’s what you get when you have an expert panel: They kind of read the tea leaves—and they understand where the government is coming from. They understand the thinking over there and they’re going to try to make sure that they make their boss, the one who’s paying the bill, happy.

Anyway, they wanted to come back with the conclusion, “Listen, we really can’t sell those things right now. We’re making a little bit of money on some of them”—because what the Liberals want to be able to do is, in next year’s budget, say, “We tried our best, folks. We tried to sell off some of these public assets, but the expert panel advised us not to. By the way, your taxes are going up, the fees are going up, and also we’re going to be forced to cut some services here in the province of Ontario, because—did we tell you? We’ve got a massive deficit that we just can’t seem to control and we’ve got a debt that is greater than the debt of all provinces combined, so we’re going to have to make some changes here.” Taxes, service cuts: That’s what will be coming when they cannot sell some of those public assets.

But then, on the other hand, they’ve got money to buy other public assets. MaRS: $309 million to buy that building that nobody is in. When you walk in the door, they give you earplugs. That’s because when you say something, you get such an echo that it hurts, so they give you something to protect yourself. There’s a sign there, “Beware: This is an empty building”—but then, in the fine print, “—that you’re paying for.”

They’ve got money to buy MaRS. I hear that next week, they’re putting a bid on Halley’s Comet, but they just can’t seem to catch up to it. It keeps moving on them. But you know what? If they can tie that sucker down, they’re going to get a bid on it. Don’t you worry about that.

So you’ve got MaRS. They’ve spent all this money. I’m telling you, there’s going to be some sweet digs over there for some public servants in a couple of years, or maybe a couple of months. What are we paying, $465,000 a month in interest on that? My goodness gracious. A beautiful building; we have no need for it.

By the way, those civil servants who you’re going to move into MaRS, because you’ve got nobody else coming to pay the way: Are they coming from somewhere else or are you just going to hire some new ones to fill the building? Liberal math is hard to understand sometimes. Are they just going to hire a bunch of new ones and say, “What’s your job? Well, we don’t really have a job for you, but you need to occupy MaRS. You’re going to be the new inhabitants of MaRS. You’re going to be way ahead of the space age. Here we are. We’re going to inhabit that building. We’re going to hire a whole bunch of people.”

Seriously, Speaker, when you’re talking about Liberal logic and Liberal management, it does get a little funny sometimes, because you wonder how in the name of Sam Hill, when you folks over there sit in your cabinet meetings—and I know there are lots of cabinet ministers sitting here today—what you are talking about. You must ask yourselves, “How can we go home tonight and not feel that something is wrong when these are the decisions we’re making?”

That MaRS—there’s a new movie coming out; I saw an advert. I think it’s called Interstellar or something. They’re being sent off from the earth because—in the ad it says, “This will be the last generation to inhabit the earth,” and they send this guy: “Go find us a place to live.”

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Don’t put those guys in charge.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Well, I’ll tell you, they’re way ahead of Interstellar. They’re going to find us places to live right here on earth. They’re going to invest $309 million to house a few hundred civil servants.

But let’s get back to the motion itself. One of the things I have a problem with—

Ms. Catherine Fife: You have many problems, Yak.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes, my friend. I’ll be the first to admit that.

The motion today calls for a referendum to sell off the assets. Well, do you realize what it costs to run an election? The same dynamics would exist in a referendum because you would have third parties looking for government funding to run their campaigns against selling the assets, because they’d say, “Well, we’re here to protect public property, but we’ve got no money, so government, you’re going to have to give us money so we can challenge your referendum.” Then you’re going to have people who believe that this is a good business deal, who are going to be out there advertising, promoting and campaigning for the rights to purchase or see that asset sold because they believe it’s in the best interests of the public. So where does it stop? Where does it stop? As much as I disagree with this government on that other side many times, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: No.

1640

Mr. John Yakabuski: Yes, from time to time. Yes, I do, I say to the member from Northumberland–Quinte West. You’ll not find me voting with you all the time.

But one thing I will say is that a government is elected to govern and show some strength and be willing to test yourselves and make the tough decisions. So I’m not a fan of having a referendum to sell a public asset. Referendums for certain reasons—absolutely. But we can’t run a country, a province or any other jurisdiction just on referendums. That’s what we elect people for. People don’t want a referendum on everything. If it is something that is near and dear to their heart, they might think a referendum is a great idea, but generally speaking, they want the people elected here to govern and make the decisions. They just want you to make the decisions that are actually in their best interests and not always in the best interests of the Liberal Party. That’s something you might want to think about.

I’m not going to talk about MaRS a whole lot more today, because there will be other days. But I am going to say that we will not be supporting this motion, because we don’t believe that it is in the best interests of Ontario’s people as well.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: You’re going to trust the Liberals on this?

Mr. John Yakabuski: I’m not saying I trust the Liberals. That’s not what I said. But sometimes you have to make a choice between two evils, and that’s what I’m going to do today. Today I’m going to choose the lesser of the two evils, and that is to vote against this motion.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: First I have to acknowledge that it is always difficult to follow the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. He’s the best. Let’s just face facts in this place. He is the best.

Mr. John Yakabuski: I love that Peter. He said it just like I asked him to.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: His analysis may be terrible, but he’s the best presenter.

I want to speak today about this whole matter of privatizing our electricity system. As you’re well aware, Speaker, under the former Progressive Conservative government, there was a move to privatize our electricity system and set up an open, competitive market in electricity. That move, over a decade ago, simply put, crashed disastrously shortly after launch. It was like a Virgin Galactic rocket; it just blew up. The Conservatives had to jump in, put a cap on prices—because they were going through the roof—and abandon, effectively, this competitive market.

But the idea of privatizing the assets didn’t die. Tories had already put in motion a leasing of the Bruce nuclear facility to a private company. They made sure that a facility that was publicly owned would start to produce private profit and, coincidentally, electricity as well.

The idea of privatizing was not abandoned by the Liberals. In fact, the Liberals were much more sophisticated than the Conservatives. Some say the Conservatives in these matters were crude, some would say direct, but certainly, the Liberals saw that taking on the privatization issue directly was politically costly. So what they did was, on a piecemeal basis, as coal plants were being shut down, they made sure that new generating facilities were built, owned and operated by private companies. So plant by plant, the system was privatized. It’s a very clever strategy. They could always say, “We still own Ontario Power Generation; we still own Hydro One,” but in fact, year after year, more and more power generation was moved into private hands. In fact, Ontario Power Generation was prohibited from putting up these new power plants. They were supposed to be private.

What was the impact of this ongoing privatization of electricity? Well, Speaker, you just have to talk to your constituents. I think anyone in this chamber can go out and talk to their constituents—talk to them about their hydro bill, talk to them about how their bill has gone up 325% since 2002, how we’re looking at a 40% increase in power over the next five years. In the next five years, that peak-power line on your bill will be hitting 20 cents a kilowatt hours—20 cents. My colleague John Vanthof can talk about the concern and the commitment in rural Ontario to get away from Ontario’s electricity system. There’s a price that you need in order to generate interest in conservation and sustainability. We’re way beyond that. What we’ve got now is a price that is driving people away from the electricity system.

There is no comprehensive study on what it has cost us to privatize this system. We do not know entirely the scale of profits. I can tell you, Speaker, having worked with legislative research, having looked at the annual reports for a variety of private companies, that the scale of private profit that is flowing out of people’s pockets is somewhere from $750 million to $1 billion per year. I can’t read all of the reports; some of them are in Japanese. For the ones that were in English that I could get a hold of, I looked at the numbers.

We’re in a situation now where in the 1990s, people in this province, companies in this province, investors interested in this province, looking at the cost of electricity didn’t have to worry about paying that extra lump of cash, because the math is very simple. When you have a publicly owned company, you don’t have to pay extra money in profit to investors. All of the money that’s generated stays with the public. That is why we developed an industrial economy in Ontario in the 20th century. We had a competitive advantage. We had power at cost. It made a huge difference to this province’s ability to develop industry and manufacturing, and that is being dismantled piece by piece by piece by this Liberal government—again, not as crudely as by the Conservatives, some would say not as directly as by the Conservatives, but just as steadily, with just as steadfast a commitment.

We are now in another phase. The ongoing privatization of power generation has been established by the Liberals. They’re in a financial box. They want to get a large influx of cash. They want to start selling off the rest of the system. They have a panel that’s making recommendations. I have to say to you, Speaker, this panel seems to be approaching it as cleverly as the Liberals did a decade ago. They aren’t going to announce, “We’re going to sell off OPG or Hydro One,” or apparently not. What they want to do is set up the conditions for selling off pieces of Hydro One, setting up the conditions for selling off pieces of local distribution companies like London Hydro or Toronto Hydro or Horizon in Hamilton so that this government—and we will have to see precisely what their plans are; we haven’t had it all unveiled yet—can say, “We haven’t sold off Hydro One; we just sold off a chunk of their assets. We have all this wonderful cash that’s coming into our pockets. We’ve changed the tax system so that cities that are going to get less money from us can sell off their hydro utilities if they want to do that. Why not?” That’s where they’re headed.

Speaker, if we’ve learned anything in the last 14 years, it’s that as you privatize the fundamental, critical assets of this society, you undermine our sustainability and you undermine our affordability. You press people to the limit. It’s as simple as that. As we introduce more and more private profit-taking, you have more and more money taken out of people’s pockets.

Lorsqu’on a la privatisation de l’alimentation de l’électricité, il y aura une augmentation du prix de l’électricité. C’est simple. Merci.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?

Hon. Jeff Leal: I only have about five minutes here, but I wanted to have the opportunity.

It’s really interesting to follow the evolution of the NDP in Ontario over the last six months. I know in the spring they adopted the philosophy that they were indeed Tories in a hurry. That was reflected, I think, very, very well in the election campaign. They had all these Mike Harris-like populist elements that were contained in their platform. It’s interesting enough—and God bless them—at least they should put in their appendix to recognize the old Reform Party of Preston Manning when he was in Ottawa. Of course, Mr. Manning was a great advocate of the use of referenda in order to make public policy decisions.

1650

When you review the evolution of parliamentary democracy—that’s why they elect people; they elect people to make decisions. It’s interesting enough, if I check my notes here—I always like to reference very distinguished NDP members. In fact, just last Friday, my good friend the member from Toronto–Danforth had this to say at a press conference—indeed, I’ll make sure I’m accurate—dealing with a different topic: “We let people make decisions. They have to make a decision.” That’s what the member from Toronto–Danforth said last Friday. I acknowledge that the topic was not assets, but the point remains the same. It’s always interesting when I see the “Saul on the road to Damascus” conversion: We had one position last Friday, and we have a new position this Tuesday.

Hon. James J. Bradley: Social Credit.

Hon. Jeff Leal: Yes. My friend from St. Catharines talks about Social Credit. I remember Réal Caouette rather well when he was leading that party in Quebec. Again, he was like Preston Manning. He wanted to use referenda to make public policy decisions that were clearly in the domain of the elected person to make. That’s exactly why we won’t be supporting that.

We were absolutely clear and transparent. If you look at our budget that we introduced in March—my goodness, it was so good we wanted to bring it back again for a second opportunity for people to pass judgment on it. It was very clear that we would take the opportunity, like with assets that are held by the government of Ontario, to make sure that we’re maximizing those kinds of assets. I know that when I’m down in Belleville, Ontario, with my good friend the member from Prince Edward–Hastings that’s the kind of thing they want us to do: to be prudent financial managers and look at our assets to make sure we’re getting value. That is why we’re not supporting this motion.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?

Mr. Todd Smith: It’s a pleasure to join the debate on the opposition day motion by the third party. As our whip indicated earlier, we won’t be supporting this.

I would just like to thank the member from Peterborough: Every time he is in Belleville he is reminded that the people in Belleville want to elect good fiscal managers, and that’s why in Belleville and in Prince Edward–Hastings they continue to elect Tories. But it’s always good to have the member from Peterborough joining me in Belleville, that’s for sure.

My reasons for opposing the motion have little to do with the nature of privatization itself and have more to do with the shallow manner in which this is being presented here this afternoon. First, as has been discussed a couple of different times by our friends from across and also our whip: We are sent here to make the tough decisions. Even the member from the third party apparently made that kind of a comment just last Friday. The public sends us here to make decisions; they put their trust in us to come here and do what’s right for the province of Ontario. The public sends us here to weigh the evidence from the various experts that we have access to and come out with decisions that ultimately are going to put the province in a good place. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a whole lot of that over the last 10 years under this Liberal government. We’ve never seen the size of our debt this big. As a matter of fact, it’s been documented many times here: They’ve doubled the debt in the province of Ontario in the last 10 years.

They don’t send us here—speaking of the public—to punt questions back to them to make decisions on. I know the leader of the third party can be fond, sometimes, of playing Hamlet and dragging out some decisions as long as she possibly can to get as much of the public spotlight as she can—and all we have to do is look back to the budgets of 2012 and 2013 to see the act that played out here in the Legislature. It was a different story this year, and I’ll give her credit for that.

Occasionally we have to be the people making hard decisions here. That’s what real leadership is all about. Referendums, as has been mentioned, are expensive ways to duck decisions that, really, you don’t want to make. It’s a way of spending tens of millions of dollars that this province currently doesn’t have so that a politician can avoid making a decision that the public is already paying him to make. People are paying us to be here to make decisions on their behalf, so why would we send the decisions back to them and pay millions and millions of dollars to have them do that?

Next, the motion is suggesting that the privatization of Ontario Hydro, which occurred more than a decade ago—12, 13 years ago—is to blame for the steep hydro rate increases that we’ve seen in the province of Ontario mostly, almost entirely, over the last four years. If we had continued down the road where people were paying the true cost of producing electricity, that would have been fine. But this government decided to turn the electricity grid into a social project. There was a report that was released last week demonstrating that 20% of the increase that we’ve seen in our hydro bills is created by the cost of putting projects on the grid that are only producing 4% of the power. Amazingly, that fact is absent from the motion, which seems to blame the entirety of the hydro rate increases on a policy that occurred well before the public started to see any increases on their bill over the last four years.

At its root, however, is this motion—it’s in response to the panel examining the government assets that was led by Ed Clark of TD Bank. It was a panel that had a predetermined outcome. We knew what they were going to come back with. From the day it was convened, the results could have been guessed. They could have been predicted by anyone who knew where this government wanted to go on this little journey that we find ourselves on here today. It was okay for them to expand alcohol sales into the LCBO Express stores and farmers’ markets, but that’s as far as they wanted to go. The government was concerned about wasteful practices at OPG but unwilling to actually do anything about it, preferring instead to study the problem.

Part of the reason we end up talking about privatization in the first place here ultimately has nothing to do with the revenue generated by selling the asset. It has more to do with the fact that a significant number of our constituents feel that they’re paying money for services they’re not receiving, or not receiving in a manner that reflects what they’re paying.

We have to ensure that we’re getting value out of our public assets. We have to ensure that we’re delivering the products of these public assets in the proper way so that we’re delivering value for money, we’re delivering customer service. I can tell you in my riding—and it’s an interesting riding, Prince Edward–Hastings, because we have Prince Edward county in the south, the island; we have Belleville in the middle; and we have North Hastings and Centre Hastings to the north of Belleville.

The city of Belleville itself gets its power from Veridian, which is a private power company. To the south and to the north, in Prince Edward county and Centre and North Hastings, the power comes from Hydro One. I can tell you, in my constituency office in Belleville, we get hundreds of complains about service from hydro customers. We don’t get any from Veridian customers; we get hundreds from Hydro One customers. So there’s a real problem in the way that the service is being delivered by Hydro One. We don’t get any complaints about Veridian. They seem to be very accessible to their customers.

They get bills for their electricity every month. You can count on getting a bill from Veridian every month. My constituency office is just north of the 401 in Thurlow township, which receives power from Hydro One. We’re lucky if we get a hydro bill every eight months there. So there’s something wrong with the way that the service is delivered.

1700

I had the opportunity to speak to the chair, the president of Hydro One, last winter, when the influx of complaints was just massive. It was shortly after that that the Ombudsman decided to step in and investigate customer service complaints from hydro, but it’s unbelievable the number of complaints we received from Hydro One customers. Veridian customers seem to be very pleased with the customer service that they’re getting—the fact that they’re getting their bills in a timely manner and they don’t seem out of whack. It’s the Hydro One customers that we’re getting all the complaints from.

One commentator remarked that Ontario Power Generation—we had this recently. He commented that it looked more like a pension fund trying to run a power company. You might remember reading that comment. And just this past summer we were subjected to revelations of outrageous pension costs at Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One. Ratepayers were being put on the hook for up to 75% of the cost of pensions at these agencies, and we’re on the hook to cover all of the shortfalls within this pension program. That’s what prompts this comment from this expert in the energy field.

What we should be doing is always asking if there are ways that we can provide the service better, from the electricity grid to the beverage-alcohol sector—which is a real problem in this province as well. What we need to be looking at is how we can improve what’s happening at the LCBO, and improving the marketplace for our craft brewers, as well.

The privatization debate is being had for the wrong reasons. It’s being had because we’ve got a government in Ontario that has dug itself into a massive hole, with no realistic plan to get out, and will now grab everything or anything it can to attempt to fill that hole.

So let’s look at the LCBO. Is the LCBO actually serving our brewers, our craft brewers, our wineries, our vintners and our distillers who are trying to make products, build businesses here in Ontario and gain access to the most market share that they possibly can, so that they can sell their products and create jobs in the province of Ontario? Is it providing LCBO customers and Ontario taxpayers with the greatest selection of products that it possibly can?

This summer I went looking for one of my favourite craft beers, which is Muskoka’s Twice as Mad Tom; it’s a very good beer, if you’ve never had it. I have seven LCBOs and four Beer Stores in Prince Edward–Hastings, and do you think I could find it anywhere? You can’t find it in Prince Edward–Hastings.

If you walk into an LCBO here in downtown Toronto, you might find four or five different Prince Edward county wineries, and we now have over 40 wineries in Prince Edward county. We need to make some fundamental changes in the way we’re delivering our services in the LCBO, because if we do it properly we will create jobs right here in Ontario.

Let me move ahead, because I want to give some time to my colleague from Elgin–Middlesex–London, who is waiting to speak as well. One of the other—

Interjection.

Mr. Todd Smith: He’s down at the Speaker’s wine tasting?

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Yes.

Mr. Todd Smith: Okay, because that’s going on right now. Those people would love to have access to the marketplace.

Interjection: He’s right here.

Mr. Todd Smith: Oh, there he is, right there. Okay. He’s in the bullpen, warming up.

One more thing that I wanted to mention about privatization: Our former colleague, who was the former deputy mayor of Toronto, would often talk quite glowingly and proudly about what happened in Toronto when it came to garbage pickup. It was Doug Holyday who would tell me about the privatization of garbage collection in the west end of Toronto, in the Etobicoke area. The goal there was to improve service, but they also saved taxpayers a heck of a lot of money by privatizing garbage pickup and improving the service in the west end of Toronto.

I do have a few more comments that I would like to make. Are you okay with me speaking a little bit longer, my friend?

Interjection.

Mr. Todd Smith: Okay. All right.

We do have a responsibility as elected members here to ensure that we are providing value, instead of just presenting bills to ratepayers and taxpayers. We can disagree over the solution, but I don’t think we could disagree that right now at a lot of our government agencies we have a massive customer service problem. Just during petitions, my colleague from Kitchener–Conestoga, who sits beside me, was talking about the customer service issues that we have at our FRO offices, our Family Responsibility Office, in the province of Ontario, and the manner in which clients, people who are going in there to receive the service, are being treated. We have a real problem in a lot of our public institutions—not all of them, but in many of them—where customer service is the last thing on the list of priorities, and I think we need to change that.

So the debate here, as intellectually shallow as it can be, and that’s not because of anything we’re saying on this side—

Interjections.

Mr. Todd Smith: We should be talking about how we can improve accountability, and that’s not what we’re doing. We’re not talking about how to improve accountability. It’s a rather shallow discussion, and it comes from the wording of this motion.

Because this motion in no way speaks to how we intend to improve services that taxpayers receive, Mr. Speaker, I’ll be opposing this, along with my colleagues.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?

Mme Catherine Fife: Monsieur le Président, ce gouvernement libéral ne comprend pas la valeur de nos biens publics et leur importance pour les gens de l’Ontario. Il est temps que les élus se souviennent de la valeur des services publics, qu’ils servent le bien commun, qu’ils soient imputables et responsables, et qu’ils soient guidés par la vérité.

For those of you whose French is not as good as mine, I will say, as a translation, it is time that our elected leaders remembered public service values, serving the common good, being accountable and responsible, and speaking truth to power. That’s what we are doing here today. We are speaking truth to the power of this Liberal government which has lost its way.

The privatization agenda has not only been accelerated under this government; it has been aggressively so. In response to some of the criticism around privatization, the Liberal government says that it is needed because it’s part of innovation.

Privatization has nothing to do with innovation in public service delivery or saving money for citizens, but it has everything to do with making money for a privileged few. It happens when politicians start to lose sight of the public interest and start thinking about their own interests. The distance between elected politicians and wealthy business interests is shrinking to the point where we can hardly see the difference.

Mr. Speaker, the lack of integrity in this debate here today on the part of the Liberal government and of the PC caucus is a slap in the face to the people of this province. We were talking about the public interest when we brought this motion to this floor, and we have the evidence to show and to prove that the recommendations in the early report by the council are not in the best interests of the people of this province.

In question period, it’s becoming more and more apparent to us that the government has no real interest in following through on what they put in their own budget, actually. I would draw the attention of the House to page 173 of this Building Opportunity, Securing Our Future budget. On page 173 of the budget, it says, “Over the medium term, the government will continue to take responsible actions to ensure every dollar spent counts, and manage program expense growth to balance the budget” at some point in the future.

By following through on this direction around privatization, the government is wilfully turning away from those very words. In this House, we have asked the Treasury Board president, the Premier and the finance minister specific questions around privatizing public services. There are so many examples, actually, to draw upon, but I’ll draw upon IT. Over the last five years, this government has accelerated the contracting out of IT services, which is not in the interests of the people of this province, which actually ends up costing the people more money. Quite honestly, it’s quite disturbing, actually, to the point that—

Interjection.

1710

Ms. Catherine Fife: Perhaps the member from Timmins would like to join the debate.

Quite honestly, two to three times the cost of actually offering those services in the public sector—and at the moment, Ed Clark has specifically recommended privatizing Hydro One’s distribution network and the privatization of local hydro utilities. However, if you read the report from the council—and the language is very interesting in this report—Mr. Clark did not offer any reason as to why operating Hydro One transmission separately from distribution would be more efficient. There is no rationale contained in this report thus far. It does not explain how it would be more efficient; it does not explain how it would reduce costs. It does not improve service or reliability for ratepayers or return more revenue for the public. So there is no good reason to do this except that it’s part of the privatization agenda of this government.

When we delve down a little bit further—as I said, the language is really interesting as well, because in the report he goes on to say that we would then dilute the government’s interest in that resulting distribution business by bringing in private capital. What he’s really saying is that he’s going to dilute the interest of the government. What he really means is that he’s going to dilute the interest of the people of this province, because those assets have already been invested by the people of this province.

Quite honestly, it would appear that the Liberals just don’t get it. The member from Cambridge—it was really surprising, because she is still referring to this budget as a progressive budget.

Hon. James J. Bradley: Well, it is.

Ms. Catherine Fife: There is nothing progressive about cutting every ministry by 6%. I would like to remind the member, respectfully, that those cuts that were made by Mike Harris were 5% cuts. In this budget, you’re proposing a 6% cut, except for four ministries. It is really interesting. It’s also very interesting that after the election, the media came out and called this an austerity budget, and it is. It is an austerity budget, pure and simple.

Our job, as the third party—the official opposition is a little bit busy right now with their leadership race, but we have to make sure that the waste that you’ve already continued on, the pattern of wasting dollars in the province of Ontario by serving your own personal needs, stops here. The suggestion of this motion of a referendum might actually instill some more trust. It might actually instill some trust in this House, because the people do not trust this government. They do not trust the business practices. They do not trust this budget. And when they see that 6% reduction year after year after year, I think that they’re going to be very surprised.

It’s our job to protect them, but it’s also our job to follow the money. When the President of the Treasury Board stands up and says, “No, we’re not privatizing”—the public accounts that have been filed since 2009 to 2014 prove that there is an aggressive and accelerated privatization agenda in this province. Selling off the distribution rights is privatization. If you don’t understand that, then there are bigger problems that you have, because that is actually what is happening: 6% cuts in every ministry except four, an accelerated and aggressive privatization agenda which wastes money in IT and lab testing. We have already found $430 million in savings for you. You say that you need revenue. We’ve found it, but you have to stop privatizing public services and selling off the assets of this province. It’s very simple.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate.

Hon. Glen R. Murray: You know, Mr. Speaker, the New Democrats can be so endearing. The member from Kitchener–Waterloo decides to suggest that the other two parties, the Conservatives and ourselves, somehow lack intellectual integrity. I thought that was a little offensive. But I remember in May, when I got up, about a week after the leader of her party decided they weren’t going to support the budget, I turned on my radio. What did I hear? I heard the leader of the third party say to Matt Galloway: “We know that the government we had was on a track to privatize the TTC. We don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”

Matt Galloway replies by saying, “Hold on, where did you hear anything about privatizing the TTC?”

The leader the third party said, “That’s … Kathleen Wynne’s plan.”

Matt Galloway goes on to say, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything from Kathleen Wynne about privatizing the TTC though.”

The leader of the third party then responds, saying, “You do need to look at what their plan is.”

Matt Galloway responds, “We have.”

For some reason, in her desperate need to run against herself for leader of her own party, the NDP seems to lack the very intellectual integrity they accuse everyone else of not having. It’s fascinating that we are on some agenda to privatize.

Let me just quote the chair of a process that’s still going on, that if the third party wanted to influence, they certainly could if they weren’t afraid to take a position on anything. Mr. Clark, along with Ms. Ecker and Ms. Lankin, says, “We recommend keeping all three companies—OPG, Hydro One and the LCBO.” He said that just a couple of days ago.

But you know, as it was said in Hamlet, since it has been quoted, I think thou dost protest too much. Let’s look at the record of privatization of the third party. It’s fascinating and insightful.

The NDP member from Timiskaming–Cochrane is writing, asking us to renew a private power agreement. We don’t have to go back to Adam Beck and attack the Tories a hundred years ago; we only have to go back a few weeks, and they’re already demanding we renew privatizing policies. The NDP signed nine private power agreements—not two, not five, not six, but nine. I guess NDP privatization is somehow morally superior to any other kind of privatization.

But do you know what I really love? When I was in Manitoba, I fought a lot of NDP privatization. I would say: “What’s the record of other NDP governments?”—because you would look for some intellectual consistency. “How is Manitoba getting back to balance?” The member from Kenora–Rainy River could spit across. Let’s just look—I’m sure Ms. Horwath talks to Premier Selinger on a regular basis.

In 2011, from the Brandon Sun—let me read their editorial: The NDP government “partially privatized the provision of emergency medical transportation throughout the province when it entered into an untendered 10-year, $160-million contract with STARS, an Alberta company.” The reality for the NDP: When they’re in power and they have to get back to balance, they’ll privatize emergency medical services. Can you imagine the uproar in this House if we Liberals dared to privatize medical services?

What else is the Manitoba NDP doing to get back to balance? “Last summer, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers issued a public warning that the province was preparing Manitoba Hydro for privatization by outsourcing work to private contractors, cutting jobs and raising electricity rates”—those nasty New Democrats in Manitoba.

“This past February” the government of Manitoba, an NDP majority government “sold the province’s property registry to” an Ontario-based company. Let me just read the kicker—this is my favourite line in the Brandon Sun editorial. Let me read it slowly so we can all absorb this little gem: “The NDP claims to oppose the privatization of crown corporations, but the Balanced Budget, Fiscal Management and Taxpayer Accountability Act”—of that province—“contains a provision that specifically contemplates”—now wait for it, Mr. Speaker—“‘the privatization of Manitoba Hydro, the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, the Liquor Control Commission (and) the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation.’” That is in the legislation.

1720

The integrity question need not be posed to the Conservatives. They are consistent with their principles. The integrity question need not be posed to us; we are totally consistent in our principles. The integrity question needs to be posed to the third party, who lack backbone even when they’re a third party in the comfort of no pressure to actually have to be part of any serious resolution of the recession of 2008—sitting comfortably, not having to make a tough decision, hiding in the weeds, telling their constituents whatever they want about how they vote down here, because they get not a lot of airtime—and can’t even make a tough decision. When we had the most progressive budget in the history of this province, with almost no tough decisions at all, they couldn’t support it. They forced an election.

Interjection.

Hon. Glen R. Murray: My friend from Kitchener–Waterloo maybe has trust issues.

Let me tell you about public trust in Toronto Centre, Mr. Speaker. Cathy Crowe, the two-time NDP candidate, a stalwart of the NDP, wrote a letter to the leader of her own party, the member from Hamilton, saying, “Where the heck are you guys going? You’re starting to sound more like the Conservatives. You’re even starting to sound like the Manitoba NDP. You want to privatize everything.” They had NDP candidates out knocking on doors for Liberals, so if you want to talk to me about integrity, you explain to me—when you get a Liberal candidate out knocking on doors for you in Kitchener–Waterloo, you give me a call.

This is what this is really about. It’s not about the Liberals; it’s not about the Conservatives; it’s about the third party, which has lost its way. Why is there only one NDP government left in this country, and it’s in the middle of a crisis? Because they forgot who they are, and because there is no privatization agenda, because we are protecting public services and because we are not so ideologically hidebound. We actually listen to people and can achieve a consensus that gets politics moving forward in this country.

The hidebound third party, which is increasingly becoming a rump held hostage not even by its ideological base but by so many special interests that it can’t present a coherent position on anything—but they really do. When they’re in a tough spot and they’re in third place, they want to move a motion to have a referendum. We’re in first place, and we’re not so weak in the knees and detached from our values and our principles that we have to run to the washroom or the public polling booths every time a tough decision is being made.

It’s going to be very interesting when all of those New Democrats from Toronto who didn’t vote for you last time show up for your leadership review and they ask you, “What kinds of tough decisions are you making in the House? Where is your principled position?” I’d love to be a fly on the wall of those national NDP meetings, when the Manitoba New Democrats, BC New Democrats and our former friends from Nova Scotia, who made similar decisions—the Nova Scotia NDP did way more privatization than we have ever contemplated.

If you have integrity, my dear friend from Kitchener–Waterloo, hold yourself to the same standard. Hold yourself and your party to the same standard, because there is a word for it when you hold everyone else to some moral standard that you yourself cannot achieve. It’s called hypocrisy and sanctimony, Mr. Speaker. It’s called sanctimony, and when people get turned off by the third party, it’s because you—

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I would ask the member to withdraw.

Hon. Glen R. Murray: I withdraw, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Are you done?

Hon. Glen R. Murray: No, not quite.

Do you know what it is? Governing is tough stuff. It is, and not every decision you make can be so ideologically pure that you are locked into the concrete of ideology. We are protecting public services. I don’t always agree with my friends in the Tories, but they generally are consistent. I don’t agree with my friend from Prince Edward–Hastings; my experience with public servants is awesome.

I have a great community health centre on Sherbourne. The public service staff there run an amazing health centre. They help some of the most vulnerable people and new Canadians. They run that health centre better than anyone runs a business. Maybe the people in Enron could take a few lessons from people in the Ontario public service.

My LCBO is kick-butt. The staff there takes pride in knowing Ontario wines and various vintages. They can tell you the story of biodynamic wine. I think we live in a province with amazing hospitals and public services, and I make no apology. I am proud.

It is not a fire sale. This is $3.15 billion going into important public services; this isn’t a privatization scheme. If you want to understand what that means—because they don’t in the third party, Mr. Speaker—look at regional express rail. The Minister of Transportation right now is going to be electrifying the entire system, putting us on six-car trains, reducing the operating costs and probably doubling the ridership, building the revenue base not by raising fares, but by improving service and improving ridership, which builds our tax base.

This is innovation. This is entrepreneurial liberalism in a public service. That’s why we’ve replaced you as the trusted progressive party in Ontario, because we know what we stand for. We know what our values are, and while we stick to our principles, we are never so intellectually hidebound.

If you want to throw stones, don’t live in glass houses, because the only leadership in crisis right now is yours, and the only party with an integrity problem, my friends, is yours.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?

Mr. Jeff Yurek: After listening to that, I almost want to give my time back to Mr. Yakabuski to rebut that spirited debate.

However, I want to thank everyone who came forward and spoke today, including those running for the leadership of the third party on the upcoming weekend coming forward.

It’s making reference to a previous Conservative government in this motion that does quite stir within me. I thought that maybe we’d bring some context for why Premier Harris had to do what he had to do through his tenure as Premier. We all know that Mr. Harris inherited the mess of an NDP government that ran in Ontario the one and only time, thank goodness. I thought I’d go over some of the statistics that occurred during the time frame during the NDP reign of Ontario.

In 1990, once they were elected, their spending exploded to $45.5 billion, which was an increase of 13%. Mind you, they were only government for six months of that year. The NDP’s first budget the next year increased program spending by another 13%, which was another $51.4 billion. They increased taxes and incurred a deficit of $10.7 billion, which the next year they upped to $12.1 billion, which was 4.2% of the GDP.

Over its five years, the NDP racked up $49.7 billion of new debt, despite heavily increasing the tax burden upon the people of Ontario. As a result, they almost eclipsed the $100-billion mark in debt, to which this Liberal government has added $200 billion more to make it $300 billion.

Interest costs, we should point out, were $5.5 billion in 1990-91. By the time they left office, interest payments alone were $9.6 billion—an increase of almost 75%.

You can imagine, with interest charges of $9.6 billion at that time in the 1990s, what percentage of the total budget that cost. Before you could deliver a nurse, before you could deliver a teacher at the school, you paid $9.6 billion to the bank because of their spending problem. The interest costs on the debt as a percentage of revenues increased from 11% in 1990-91 to 17.5% when they left office.

Let us not forget the effects they had on the public service while they were in power. They love to come back and attack Mike Harris—who, by the way, has been out of office for close to 15 years—but they were the ones who instigated opening up collective bargaining agreements with the social contract. I’ve got to say I’ve talked to quite a few policemen in my riding, and they’re still burned about that, the fact that the government would implement not only a wage freeze, but also unpaid days off in order to balance the budget. That was their response to being an open and fair government in this province: to actually not only to go and open up the collective agreements, but to take away the money that these people earned and were owed and actually say, “Stay at home, but we’re not going to pay you.” It’s unbelievable that that came from an NDP government in this province, but that’s how it occurs.

1730

They put a cap on enrolment in medical schools. Today, in my riding of Elgin–Middlesex–London, we are still feeling the brunt of the caps on medical schools. We have a doctor shortage. We have a doctor shortage because the NDP government, in the 1990s, capped medical school enrolment, which capped the number of graduates that are available, that should be working today in rural Ontario; instead, we have a gap in our system. Unfortunately, their decisions in the 1990s, because they don’t know how to budget properly and they don’t know how to run a government, are now causing effects 20 years later in the fact that rural communities throughout the province—northern Ontario and rural southern Ontario—have a lack of doctors because of their mismanagement of policies while they were in government.

What is also never spoken about is that tuition fees more than doubled during the reign of the NDP in the government of Ontario. It’s unbelievable, the fact that they speak such a great game. Their leadership contenders all come out talking about their integrity and how strong they are. However, for what they condemned the Tories for, they did worse; they did double. They increased the debt total from $35.4 billion—

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The member from Windsor–Tecumseh, come to order.

Mr. Jeff Yurek: Speaker, I’ve got to make mention of the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane. I picked out the member from Don Valley West early, before she became Premier. I think the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane would make a great leader of the NDP, and I think he should go forth next weekend and promote himself for it. I thought he was great.

We also talked about the little bit they’ve brought forward about energy rates in this province, and before I continue on, maybe I do need to talk a bit about Hydro One. Hydro One, in the last few years, has become a mess. In fact, it’s causing so many problems for the people of Ontario that the Ombudsman is now involved in doing an investigation. Our offices have been given an extra MPP liaison to deal with the issues at Hydro One. There are so many people not receiving bills out in rural Ontario and quite a bit of over-billing. Consumers are being gouged with estimates, consumption increases that aren’t accurate. Consumers are facing the reality of billing errors resulting in multiple billings, and then they’re being cancelled, added on and cancelled, and simply not getting the bill.

I have constituents in my riding who are dealing with Hydro One who were told a year ago that they had a $4,000 credit at Hydro One. They talked to the person on the phone, and they said, “Stop with your monthly payment system. You’ve got a credit; use it up.” So they said fine. They’d call up every month asking, “How’s my credit?” and they saw their credit going down. Well, lo and behold, this past September, they got a phone call from Hydro One going, “Oops, we goofed. There was never a credit there to start with. You owe us $3,600. Pay up.” Can you believe that? We’re debating whether or not Mike Harris made a decision 15 years ago when we should be debating how we can fix Hydro One. Instead, they’re wasting their opposition day on theatrics with regard to their upcoming leadership convention. What we do have to deal with, though, is the fact that these people who thought that they didn’t have any bills to pay all of a sudden are whacked with a $3,600 bill.

I also have other constituents in my riding who didn’t receive a bill for months upon months, and when they did receive the bill, it was for $260,000, obviously a billing error, but imagine the shock when you open up that bill and you see the fact that Hydro One has messed up again.

Mr. Speaker, just with that fact alone, the discussion we should have been having today in regard to energy and the fact that Hydro One is broken and it’s not getting any better, perhaps including all three parties in a debate to improve it might have been a step forward. Instead, we want to talk about previous governments, which I have no problem talking about with the NDP, because somehow the NDP feel like they don’t need to speak about their past behaviour or where they came from. However, it’s great to continually speak about what the government has done or what the official opposition has done in previous years. It’s ridiculous.

The other problem with regard to energy—maybe we should have had a discussion about the Green Energy Act, what has occurred with that; smart meters alone that have come forth and don’t work. Smart meters that need to be replaced and then still don’t work continue to be a problem.

The debt retirement charge—where has that money gone? Why isn’t the debt retirement charge paid off yet? However, unfortunately, we don’t know. The people at home definitely have to pay that bill every month, and they’re getting kind of upset about it. The delivery charge: In some instances, the delivery charge is more than the energy cost. Where is the explanation and breakdown of what’s going on with the delivery charge? And how can we work together as legislators to improve the system in order to give some stability to their product?

This NDP motion is talking about bringing forth a referendum on any major decision this government needs to make; unfortunately, we call those elections, Mr. Speaker. The government is elected to run the province on their agenda, and the opposition’s job is, of course, to critique and tell the government different options on where to take policy. That’s where we would stand, going forward.

To take every single issue that comes forward and have to take it to the population to decide yes or no—number one is the cost to the taxpayer, because they have to fund those referendums; number two, the third party involvement, which, again, would increase costs; number three, the other thing: Turnout at the polls is quite dismal in this province. I think it’s best, probably, to use what we have elected—we have 107 members representing the entire province—to actually get a feel, to have a debate between each other as opposed to having a referendum where only 30%, 35% of the population turns out. I think you have a better representation of the people of the province of Ontario where we can sit and debate at the Legislature going forward.

The idea of putting assets for sale to a referendum—I don’t think that is the right way to go. I think at the end of the day you’re going to see that as a wasted proposal. I wish the third party today would have talked more about Hydro One, for instance, or the Green Energy Act, but instead, as I mentioned earlier, they decided to continue on their mixed message they’re sending to the people of Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time to speak today, and again, I appreciate everyone who has spoken.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?

Hon. James J. Bradley: I’m very worried when I see the veering to the right by the New Democratic Party, which used to be a good left-wing party at one time, now embracing what the Social Credit in Alberta used to embrace and what the Reform Party out west used to embrace; that is, the referendum. Somebody else tried to do that as well. The Mike Harris government of years gone by wanted a referendum if you were going to increase taxes at all. They were part of that, and I think the NDP at that time was very much opposed to it.

I’m concerned when I see a party which, over the years, has ensured that we don’t venture into that right-wing kind of politics, now embracing that politics. I’m not entirely surprised because, during the campaign, the queen of austerity was without a doubt the leader of the New Democratic Party, who kept talking about how she was going to save all this money for the taxpayers of this province and was going to cut this and cut that—we recognize that.

Interjection.

Hon. James J. Bradley: The member from Kitchener–Waterloo, who spoke en français—which leadership candidates usually do to widen their popularity—interjects. I didn’t catch what she said, but I’m not supposed to respond to that.

I recall as well—we talk about principle in saving money. The New Democratic Party in power—and particularly my friends from the union movement would know that, with one stroke of the pen, and no hearings, by the way, that I can ever recall in committee—simply tore up every contract in the province of Ontario in the public sector. There are people today who have remembered that. I voted against it, of course. I voted against that on that occasion. I was with the brothers and sisters, but the party in power at the time, the New Democratic Party, did it. Did they do it to be mean? No. Did they do it to be right-wing? No. They were faced with a certain reality that the government of Manitoba, as my friend the Minister of the Environment has explained, faces today, so they’re looking at a number of options.

I heard somebody else saying that they were going to give marching orders to Frances Lankin and Janet Ecker. I know those two individuals: both powerful cabinet ministers in different parties. Nobody is giving any marching orders to Frances Lankin or to Janet Ecker, I can assure you of that, and they come from other political parties.

1740

I looked at, when the NDP was in power, what they privatized. Most of the members here won’t remember this, but the NDP government of the day sold GO Transit rolling stock, the rail cars. The member for Timiskaming–Cochrane was part of that government. They sold the cars and then they leased them back from the private sector. That’s called privatization. They started out, by the way, on the road to the 407 with something that happened there for the NDP.

They also had private health clinics that they allowed. I was surprised when I saw that happen.

They did not discontinue private car insurance. I remember that auto insurance, public auto, was part of the NDP platform, and I admired them for it because I recognized that they were standing up for a principle. They’ve abandoned that as well.

Now my friend the member for Timiskaming has asked that a contract be renewed for a private sector hydro project. I understand that very much. I appreciate the fact that he has encountered this circumstance and has decided that he’s going to be in favour of that.

So I worry when I see—I know what happened. During the campaign, the NDP was the Tories in power—sorry, the Tories in a hurry. They were swinging to the right. They were highly populist. I couldn’t get an environment question out of them if I tried, because they had abandoned that. They were busy with populist causes, not the true causes that the New Democratic Party has stood for in years gone by. I was disappointed because I wanted to see that Ginger Group within the New Democratic Party raising those particular issues.

Now, with the prospect of a leadership review coming up on the weekend, they are veering, or at least the leader is veering, drastically to the left. We don’t know, by the end of the year, if she survives that—and I wish her well, because I always wish political leaders well. If she survives that particular—

Interjections.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I would remind the speaker that you’re not talking to—

Interjection: You’re the Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): You’re absolutely right; I am. Thank you for that.

I would remind the member of the motion at hand—that you would continue to speak to the motion at hand and not debate any leadership. Thank you very much.

Hon. James J. Bradley: In fact, I’m going to relinquish the floor to one of my colleagues who I know will want to elaborate on this issue.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): Further debate?

Mr. Arthur Potts: It does give me great pleasure to stand and talk to this motion. As a new member to this House, I think it’s important that I try to keep an open mind to all the motions and all the opportunities that come in, and on this particular motion from the leader of the third party, I have kept an open mind.

Interjections.

Mr. Arthur Potts: No, I’m a little bit on the fence on this one. I’m not quite sure if I’ll vote with my party, vote with this government. I’ve been thinking about it, and, you know, I wanted to hear the arguments.

Having heard the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, I’ve got to tell you, I was moved. I was moved to really reconsider this notion—no longer on the fence. You put such convincing arguments down to us about why it is that a referendum in such a circumstance would be somewhat irresponsible. I take you up on that. I think it was a very convincing moment for me.

Then the member from Prince Edward–Hastings: To hear you acknowledge the importance of us being down here to make decisions, to not have to go out on every decision for a referendum, that we listen to our constituents, we receive information, they send us letters, we bring their concerns to this august House—

Applause.

Mr. Arthur Potts: Thank you.

I wonder, Mr. Speaker, with this kind of acknowledgement, how precious it seems to me that—this need to go and do a referendum or do committee hearings all across the province on every single bill that we bring forward, how seriously misleading that is when we know that we’re here to make decisions, we can make decisions, and we will make decisions.

I’m particularly concerned about what I would call a somewhat irresponsible direction in this motion. There are two issues here, both the referendum—and I think we’ve pretty much put that aside. One does not do a referendum under any circumstances where you have an absolutely clear mandate from the people that you don’t need a referendum. We have an absolutely clear mandate.

Less than six months ago, I was in the midst of a campaign with the previous member—we were in a debate and he was asked, “Why didn’t you support this progressive budget?” He said, “It’s hidden in the back of your appendixes. You’re going to sell off the LCBO, and I can’t see that happening.” I said, “The back of the appendix? It’s right there in the foreward.” I said, “It says right here”—and I opened up the book and I went to the tabbed section—“It says that the government will look at maximizing and unlocking values.” It’s right in the foreward. There was no secret agenda. Everybody knew that we were going to look at these assets, and having looked at these assets—and Mr. Clark has done a wonderful job in the preliminary report that the Premier spoke so eloquently about this morning again. He came out very clearly. He thinks those core three assets should stay in public hands, but that doesn’t mean there are not opportunities for maximizing the revenue streams that come out of it. We’re looking to maximize those streams.

We also had the issue, at the time during the campaign, of the General Motors shares that we held when this government put money into the auto sector to ensure that it wouldn’t lose those jobs in the auto sector. When the members opposite objected strenuously to this direction, and we took shares back in keeping plants alive—plants in Oshawa, plants in Windsor, plants in Kitchener. We took asset shares, and for us to continue to hold those asset shares would be totally irresponsible. The job was done, the plants were back, the jobs were saved, and now I believe we’ve sold off those assets and recovered the value into the Trillium Trust so we can build much-needed transportation and transit infrastructure in the GTA and the rest of Ontario.

The same thing with the LCBO, let’s be very clear: The LCBO, according to Mr. Clark, should stay in public hands. But that doesn’t mean that the LCBO doesn’t have assets that should be sold. Recently, the head office for the LCBO—a great piece of real estate in the downtown part of Toronto at the foot of Yonge Street at Lakeshore—has been put out on an RFP. We’re going to maximize the value in that asset, estimated somewhere in the order of a quarter of a billion dollars. We’re going to put that money back in the Trillium Trust so we can use that to build subways. That’s so important—

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: And bridges.

Mr. Arthur Potts: And bridges, of course—bridges and roads out into Quinte West.

I remember, as a student of Canadian history, when William Lyon Mackenzie King during the war effort was concerned that we did not have sufficient capacity to build rubber tires in Canada to meet the war effort. I think it’s appropriate that we should be remembering that it wasn’t just soldiers fighting, it was a whole infrastructure behind the efforts that we put into the conflict. So Mackenzie King went and he nationalized the rubber industry so that we could create enough tires to go on the jeeps, the planes and all the military vehicles in order to meet our war commitments and so we could have a positive influence in Europe. When the war was over, they didn’t sit on those assets; they sold the assets off—national rubber—so that the company could continue. In emerging circumstances, government steps in, provides infrastructure as required, but then where the private sector is better placed, they step away.

It concerns me when I hear the member from Toronto–Danforth, who happens to be my member, doing this whole-scale attack on private enterprise. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making a profit. I have a sense that, if he had his way, all industries would be in public hands and there would be no private enterprise. But I believe very strongly in the private enterprise system.

The member came to my door during the election, or actually pre-election as he was campaigning, and I used to refer to him as the member who always says no—no to this, no to that. There are always signs in my neighbourhood: “Stop this.” “Stop that.” And I said to the member for Toronto–Danforth, “You’ve got to be in favour of something.” He turns to a sign on my lawn that says, “I support wind power.” And he says, “I support that.” I think it’s fantastic that the member for Toronto–Danforth supports wind power, but that’s wind power under the current framework in which we are creating renewable energy in this province; that’s wind power which, by his own admission in his statement today, is in private sector hands. So I ask him: Does he really support wind power, or only wind power that’s provided by public agencies? Because the wind power we’re getting now that he purports to support is being built by private enterprise, and I think that’s a great thing.

So we don’t—

Mr. John Yakabuski: How many windmills in Beaches–East York?

Mr. Arthur Potts: I can see one, and there almost was a second.

Let’s also understand the cost of referendums. We just had an election—an unnecessary election, by some people’s—mind you, I think it was necessary or I wouldn’t have the pleasure of speaking to this motion. But a $90-million expense to hold an election which many people, when we were going door to door during the election, said, “Why did they do this? Why did they put this province at risk, and an unnecessary expenditure, when you had such a progressive budget?”

I’m glad they did it, because I have this chance to be here today, but to even contemplate going back out and spending that money when it’s absolutely unnecessary, when we have a mandate, would be irresponsible.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I thank the member. Well, that was certainly interesting—highly spirited.

Ms. Horwath has moved opposition day motion number 2. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”

All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”

I believe the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1751 to 1801.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): All those in favour of the motion will please rise one at a time.

Ayes

  • Armstrong, Teresa J.
  • Bisson, Gilles
  • Campbell, Sarah
  • Cimino, Joe
  • DiNovo, Cheri
  • Fife, Catherine
  • Forster, Cindy
  • French, Jennifer K.
  • Gates, Wayne
  • Gélinas, France
  • Gretzky, Lisa
  • Hatfield, Percy
  • Horwath, Andrea
  • Mantha, Michael
  • Miller, Paul
  • Natyshak, Taras
  • Sattler, Peggy
  • Singh, Jagmeet
  • Tabuns, Peter
  • Taylor, Monique
  • Vanthof, John

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): All those opposed to the motion, please rise.

Nays

  • Albanese, Laura
  • Anderson, Granville
  • Arnott, Ted
  • Bailey, Robert
  • Baker, Yvan
  • Balkissoon, Bas
  • Ballard, Chris
  • Barrett, Toby
  • Berardinetti, Lorenzo
  • Bradley, James J.
  • Chan, Michael
  • Clark, Steve
  • Colle, Mike
  • Crack, Grant
  • Damerla, Dipika
  • Del Duca, Steven
  • Delaney, Bob
  • Dhillon, Vic
  • Dickson, Joe
  • Dong, Han
  • Duguid, Brad
  • Dunlop, Garfield
  • Flynn, Kevin Daniel
  • Fraser, John
  • Gravelle, Michael
  • Harris, Michael
  • Hillier, Randy
  • Hoggarth, Ann
  • Hudak, Tim
  • Hunter, Mitzie
  • Jaczek, Helena
  • Jones, Sylvia
  • Kiwala, Sophie
  • Kwinter, Monte
  • Lalonde, Marie-France
  • MacCharles, Tracy
  • MacLeod, Lisa
  • Malhi, Harinder
  • Mangat, Amrit
  • Martins, Cristina
  • Matthews, Deborah
  • Mauro, Bill
  • McDonell, Jim
  • McGarry, Kathryn
  • McMahon, Eleanor
  • McMeekin, Ted
  • Meilleur, Madeleine
  • Milczyn, Peter Z.
  • Moridi, Reza
  • Murray, Glen R.
  • Naidoo-Harris, Indira
  • Naqvi, Yasir
  • Orazietti, David
  • Pettapiece, Randy
  • Potts, Arthur
  • Qaadri, Shafiq
  • Rinaldi, Lou
  • Sandals, Liz
  • Scott, Laurie
  • Sergio, Mario
  • Smith, Todd
  • Sousa, Charles
  • Takhar, Harinder S.
  • Thompson, Lisa M.
  • Vernile, Daiene
  • Walker, Bill
  • Wong, Soo
  • Wynne, Kathleen O.
  • Yakabuski, John
  • Yurek, Jeff
  • Zimmer, David

The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 21; the nays are 71.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I declare the motion lost.

Motion negatived.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): We do have a late show tonight.

Pursuant to standing order 38, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made.

Adjournment Debate

Child care

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The member for Simcoe North has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given on October 30, 2014, by the Minister of Education. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the minister or parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: I’m pleased to be here. I requested the late show—really, the late show is when you don’t get an answer to a question. That’s what I responded in my application.

Quite frankly, I asked the minister to give me the actual numbers from the Ministry of Education on how many independent daycare spaces would be lost when we have over 800,000 children in the hands of independent child care providers in Ontario. Our calculations are a very conservative 140,000. The minister has disputed that from day one and said, “No, that’s not true at all.” I simply ask her what the number would be. Tell us what your numbers are because, clearly, we’re going to lose tens of thousands of daycare spaces at least.

The second part of the question was even worse. I asked, first of all, if the bill would travel and if in fact we did a rally in front of her office—which is planned for this weekend, by the way, Mr. Speaker—whether she would attend the rally. I got a non-answer to both of those questions. I thought they were fair questions.

As I’ve said before during this consultation, the government, over and over again, has said, “We’ve consulted with the public,” and nothing could be further from the truth. When you don’t consult with the people who provide the services to a little over 800,000 children in Ontario and then you turn around and say that, with the so-called support of the Ombudsman, you’re doing your job and that you’ve actually consulted, something’s wrong with that.

I’ve just been bitter with this government over the way they’ve handled this bill—time-allocating it after only six hours of debate. All of our members wanted to speak to this; many still have to speak as well. I have over 400 letters in my office right now from independent child care providers who are asking us to fight this all the way. They wanted to have committee hearings. We even had the support today of the New Democratic Party, the third party, on how they would like to see more travel time as well.

This isn’t rocket science. We’re delaying this bill by seven weeks. There’s been a disaster made by that government, on behalf of the child care providers of Ontario, on behalf of all daycare in Ontario, for about the last 10 years and now they’re coming out and it absolutely has to be rushed. Why does it have to be rushed so soon? The reason is, people are getting to the members. They’re getting to the minister. They’re phoning her. They’re phoning their offices or sending them emails. They want this bill passed and to go away, and then they’ll deal with the consequences after.

1810

I don’t agree with that. I think if there was ever a bill that should have been travelled in this province, that should be travelled to all parts of the province, it’s this bill. We have babies, infants and families from one end of this province to the next. It is truly a bill that needs attention from all people in the province. The best we can do is that maybe people in Thunder Bay or Timmins or Sudbury or North Bay or Ottawa might get a chance to do a conference call. That’s completely unfair. We’ve travelled so many bills in the past that have not had nearly the significance of this bill, and that travel has actually taken place.

So I’m very disappointed in the government that they would do this to the independent child care providers of the province. Judging by the letters that were read yesterday by members of the New Democratic Party and other members of our caucus, I think we’re united in that. I’m sure the members in the government caucus are getting those letters as well; I know the minister’s office is; I know for sure the Premier’s office is. I think that we should be travelling this bill, and I absolutely detest the fact that we would time-allocate something like this and try to get it swept under the carpet as early as maybe the early part of December.

The question was not answered by the minister. It is called question period. I know that we never get an answer, but the reality is, I thought it was a good question that I asked, both the question and the supplementary. I can understand spinning it a little bit, this sort of thing, but she never made any kind of attempt whatsoever to answer that question. What she came back with was, she said, “I’d like to know how you calculate your numbers.” All she said was, “We’ve added 130,000.” We know those numbers. We have all the data from the Ministry of Education. I have as much information about this bill as the minister has. For that reason, I think I have the right to call this late show, and I still expect a decent answer from the parliamentary assistant.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): The parliamentary assistant has up to five minutes to respond.

Mr. Grant Crack: Speaker, on October 30, the honourable member from Simcoe North made a claim which I believe is unsubstantiated in this House about Bill 10 and unlicensed child care spaces. While I can’t speak to those numbers, I can speak to what I know, and what I know is grounded in facts.

It’s a fact that since 2003 our government has added more than 130,000 licensed spaces to the child care sector. The member opposite obviously just made reference to that as well. Since the introduction of full-day kindergarten, licensed child care has grown by 20%. That’s almost 8% in the last year alone. Since 2003-04, the government has doubled child care funding to more than $1 billion per year.

Speaker, the honourable member from Simcoe North said that unlicensed child care providers care for 78% of Ontario’s children. Statistics Canada recently reported that 43% of Ontario families seek some form of child care, and we know that in 2013 and 2014, 23.5% of Ontario’s children are in licensed care. Therefore, we can assume that it is approximately 20%, not 78% of children, that are cared for by unlicensed child care providers. The honourable member did not account for other important forms of child care, such as parents, relatives, nannies etc.

Additionally, if the proposed Child Care Modernization Act passes, the number of children that licensed home child care providers could care for would increase from five to six. That means that if a current licensed home child care provider took on one additional space, approximately 6,000 new child care spaces would be created. Unlicensed child care providers would be permitted to care for a maximum of five children, and they would have to follow the same rules as licensed providers for relevant age groupings.

Research identifies education and training, provider-child ratios, children’s ages and provider supports as key contributors to the provision of quality child care in the province. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association and the National Resource Centre for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education recommends no more than a maximum of two children under the age of two. In the event of an unforeseen emergency, such as fire, restricting to no more than two children under the age of two and including a provider’s own children in the maximum number of children protects our youngest and most vulnerable who are being cared for by one individual. In addition, research suggests that these ratios support healthy relationships and the brain development of young children.

Speaker, this proposed legislation is built on steps we’ve already taken to improve oversight of the unlicensed child care sector and protect Ontario’s children.

In August, we launched a searchable registry of verified complaints about unlicensed child care providers. It provides people with confirmed information about unlicensed providers who have violated the Day Nurseries Act. This searchable registry has also been paired with a toll-free telephone number. This telephone number allows people to report alleged complaints regarding unlicensed providers and inquire about verified complaints against unlicensed providers. We’ve also established a dedicated enforcement unit to follow up on complaints and information relating to unlicensed child care providers.

These are all ways we’re improving oversight of the child care sector and early years system. We want to keep Ontario’s children safe and hold our violators accountable.

If passed, Bill 10 would enable us to go even further. It’s truly a transformative bill and will put Ontario on the leading edge of groundbreaking change. The driving force behind the proposed bill is ensuring that families have access to safe, modern child care that will give children the best possible start in life.

But our child care services are currently governed by a patchwork of rules and regulations, and this has to change. It needs to change. That’s why, if passed, Bill 10 will replace the outdated legislation that currently governs child care in the province. The Day Nurseries Act hasn’t fundamentally changed since the 1980s. Since that time, we know that our world has certainly changed.

Bill 10, if passed, would also amend the Education Act, the Early Childhood Educators Act and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act.

This proposed legislation also reflects valuable input from our stakeholders. In 2012, we received over 400 submissions during our consultation period from municipalities, licensed and unlicensed child care providers, First Nations, child care advocates, other child care and early years partners and, of course, parents. We listened to them, and we continue to value their input.

I look forward to the support of all members in this House of this very important piece of legislation, and I look forward to continuing the great work that we’ve already done to modernize child care in the early years services in Ontario.

Speaker, the honourable member from Simcoe North asked if Minister Sandals would attend a gathering in Guelph, Ontario, organized by some independent child care providers. I’d be pleased to inform him that she’s always interested in meeting with constituents and stakeholders and any member from the education sector. I would suggest that the individuals get in contact with her office and take it from there.

Thank you very much, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Rick Nicholls): I’d like to thank the member from Glengarry–Prescott–Russell for the response on behalf of the Minister of Education.

This House stands adjourned until tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

The House adjourned at 1818.

House Documents
Video