Mr Morin-Strom: Today I would like to reaffirm my support for the French Language Services Act, which passed this Legislature in 1986. I am greatly disturbed by the falsehoods and misconceptions being repeated by many in comments about this act. I trust that by again stating the facts most people will realize that this issue is one of basic fairness for Ontario’s 500,000 French-speaking Canadians.
While strongly disagreeing with those opposing the French Language Services Act, yesterday I delivered a petition signed by more than 1,000 residents of my community to the Legislature. The preamble to that petition was highly inaccurate about the content and intent of this act. As an elected member, it was my duty to deliver the petition; but, as I stated in the House, I cannot support that petition in any way. I sincerely hope that the people who signed the petition will look at the true facts. If they do, they will realize that the French Language Services Act is reasonable and proper legislation that addresses real needs of more than 500,000 residents in Ontario.
Currently, the standing committee on social development is studying Bill 124, An Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act. This bill was supposed to provide a new framework for resolving access disputes between divorced parents, yet government members of this committee have refused to address a number of the areas that are crucial for an effective and compassionate system.
I have put forward, on behalf of my party, several amendments dealing with the need for mediation and supervised access centres. Mediation provides an excellent way in which parties to a dispute can sit down together or separately with a trained person to resolve their differences. Supervised access centres would effectively allay fears that a custodial parent may have during a child’s visit with the other parent.
However, this government fails to see the merit of these proposals even after repeated calls by groups and individuals to adopt these pro visions. The Advisory Committee on Mediation in Family Law of the Attorney General (Mr Scott) has called for an expansion of mediation services. Its report, which was two years in the making, will not be incorporated into this bill where it should be.
This bill is a sham and an insult to the thousands of people who could benefit from these proposals. The government is undermining the methods of resolving access disputes in a way that I fear is not in the best interests of all parties concerned --
Miss Roberts: I am very pleased to rise today and inform the members that the spirit of National Access Awareness Week is alive and growing in Elgin. Only five months ago a new community group, known as the St Thomas Access and Awareness Association, was formed in my riding to promote the interests of the disabled community in St Thomas and Elgin.
During access awareness week, many events have been scheduled. Different community groups have been included and through the schools in Elgin a campaign has been launched to heighten the awareness of the obstacles faced by the disabled each day. Posters designed by local students, displays throughout Elgin Mall, representatives from local service agencies and the members of the St Thomas Access and Awareness Association talking to interested citizens are some of the highlights planned during this week.
I look forward to joining Marlene Eveland, president of the association, this weekend in St Thomas to help celebrate its success. Congratulations to the St Thomas Access and Awareness Association for a job well done. I look forward to many more positive projects in the years to come.
Mr Kormos: The people of Welland-Thorold are very proud of the annual Rose Festival which takes place in the city of Welland. Now in its 28th year, the Rose Festival began with only three days of activities. Because of the continued support from the community and the hard work of hundreds of volunteers, the Rose Festival now consists of over 50 events and carries on for over two weeks.
It is a celebration of our area’s unique multicultural quality. Its activities and events cater to all in the community from the youngest to the oldest. The festival focuses on, among other things, the unique criss-crossing of man-made and natural waterways which grace the city. The Rose Festival also uses the many fine parks located throughout Welland.
The Welland Rose Festival is indeed a mega-event which started this year on 2 June and will be highlighted with the Rose Festival parade on Sunday, 18 June at I pm. This great parade, second to none, along with other activities, attracts visitors from across the province, from Quebec and from the northern United States.
Rose Festival visitors are not only able to enjoy the spectacular events of the Rose Festival itself; they also have the opportunity to view the many murals now located throughout Welland, a unique and exciting project of Welland’s Festival of Arts.
Mrs Marland: As national Environment Week, this week gives us an opportunity to reflect on the critical environmental problems facing Ontario. The Liberals came into office with grand promises of cleaning up the environment. They have had four years and where are we now?
Today in Ontario we are experiencing crisis situations in waste management, in water quality and in air quality. We have hundreds of municipalities running out of landfill space that will soon have nowhere to put their garbage. We have air pollution levels in the greater Toronto area that are choking our citizens. We still have industry after industry spewing toxic contaminants into our waterways.
Municipalities looking for new landfills will have a long wait for environmental assessment approvals. The minister’s Environmental Assessment Act review is also behind schedule. If they want to solve their garbage problems by building incinerators, municipalities will have no air emission guidelines to follow. The minister’s changes to regulation 308 will not be effective for five years, 10 years in some cases.
The Minister of the Environment (Mr Bradley) would not disclose essential information on the toxic fuel fiasco, and that could have had disastrous effects on the health and safety of the citizens of Ontario. The people of Ontario deserve to see results. If this minister cannot provide results, the Premier (Mr Peterson) should appoint someone else.
Mr D. R. Cooke: It is with great pride that I rise during national Environment Week and congratulate the city of Kitchener on being the recipient of the first annual Environmental Achievement Award in the category of environmental leadership by a municipality, awarded by Environment Canada.
Kitchener received its award in recognition of the fact that it was the first city in the world to establish a blue box program. I would like to pay tribute to the father of the blue box, Nyle Ludolph, for his invaluable assistance in establishing the program and making it work. That breakthrough program was started in 1983 and now has a 75 per cent to 80 per cent participation rate and has resulted in a 10 per cent reduction in landfill waste.
The program was instituted at a time when there was no assistance from the province. Other cities tarried until provincial financial support was forthcoming. Now this program has been copied in cities across Canada and around the world. In Ontario alone there are over a million blue boxes. I well remember accompanying then opposition leader and now Premier (Mr Peterson), the present member for Essex-Kent (Mr McGuigan), who was the opposition Environment critic, the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Sweeney) and the member for Waterloo North (Mr Epp) in 1984 on a tour through the Total Recycling project.
The Environmental Achievement Award recognizes the effort and commitment of the city of Kitchener to protect and restore our environment, and proves how we as individuals and groups can make a significant difference in our environment.
Mr Hampton: Earlier this year, the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr Kerrio) announced that the Ministry of Natural Resources would be cutting fire crews back from five persons to three persons. The minister said that with all the new firefighting technology, three-person crews would be more efficient. The new efficient three-person crews have been in place now for a few months, and so the real reason for the fire crew cutback is becoming apparent. There is no magical new technology out there. The cutback from five-person crews to three-person crews is just that: a financial cutback that has created a lot of problems.
The dedicated people who make up the firefighting crews state quite bluntly that the three-person crew creates an unsafe working situation. With only three persons in a crew, they do not have enough manpower to man the pumps, to put out hose and to keep a safe eye on the fire at the same time.
The Speaker: Just before I call the next order of business, I ask all members of the assembly to recognize two visitors in the Speaker’s Gallery: the ambassador of Portugal to Canada, His Excellency Dr Juao Uva DeMatos Proenca, and the consul general of Portugal in Toronto, Dr Carlos Manuel Durant Pais.
Hon Mr Wong: This is Portuguese Week, and I have the great honour of paying homage to the Portuguese people and to the special contribution they have made to Ontario. This is a week to celebrate the values that are important to Portuguese Canadians: family, home, religion and a unique culture that has added colour and vibrancy to our multicultural society.
This celebration began as a tribute to Portugal’s greatest national poet, Luiz de Camões, who chronicled Portugal’s history and who, through his verse and prose, has helped keep the rich tradition and culture of Portugal alive for the Portuguese people.
In the immortal words of Camões, a man whose life and works symbolize the spirit of the Portuguese people: “In Africa, they already hold coastal bases. In Asia, none can dispute their sovereignty. In the new world, they are plowing the fields. Were there more lands still to discover, they would be there too.”
We are pleased that many of the people of Portugal, a country renowned for its adventurers and explorers, chose to come here to Ontario to make their homes. Over the years, Portuguese Week and National Day celebrations have grown, just as the Portuguese-Canadian community has grown here in Ontario.
The majority of Portuguese-Canadians have immigrated here to Ontario since 1953 and today, Portuguese-Canadians make contributions in every area of life in Ontario. This community of hard-working and diligent people has played an important role in building our country and our province.
Just as important is the community’s efforts to pass their cultural traditions on to their children. This has created a generation of people who are proud to be Canadian and proud to be Portuguese. I am proud to represent a large number of Portuguese-Canadians in my riding of Fort York and, on behalf of the people of Ontario, I want to thank the Portuguese people for sharing their unique culture with all Ontarians.
The character of the Portuguese people is reflected in the special and unique manner in which they have chosen to celebrate their National Day. To symbolize the spirit and soul of their nation, they chose not a warrior, a battle or a political event, but an individual who is widely recognized as the greatest figure of Portuguese literature.
This celebrated figure is Luiz Vaz de Camões, a 15th century poet and writer, who is widely recognized as the pre-eminent poet of Portugal. Hence the national day of Portugal is also referred to as Camões Day.
One cannot reflect on the achievements of the Portuguese people without recognizing the extraordinary feats recorded by Portuguese explorers during the Age of Discovery. Indeed, Luiz Vaz de Camões wrote an epic poem, Os Lusiadas, in which he says, “The Portuguese gave new worlds to the world.”
Ontario is fortunate to number among its citizens some 300,000 Portuguese-Canadians. Cambridge, like so many other communities across our province and indeed across Canada, is proud of our multicultural makeup and grateful for the presence and contribution to our community life of the many Canadians of Portuguese origin.
As the member for Cambridge, I represent some 14,000 Portuguese-Canadians and I can inform this assembly that they, like Portuguese-Canadians across the province, have made a very significant contribution to the economic prosperity and the social and cultural fabric of our community.
As a former schoolteacher, I have taught many children of Portuguese-Canadian families. I have also had the honour to be part of the writing team that compiled a booklet commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Portuguese community in Cambridge. This booklet chronicled the arrival in Cambridge of the first Portuguese emigrants from the Azores and how, through their hard work, they became a key element of our local workforce in the shoe, textile and construction industries.
It also celebrates the achievements of the Portuguese-Canadian community, through their strong family commitment, to strive to create opportunities for advancement for their children, through our educational system, into the worlds of business, the professions and academia.
It reflects their strong religious beliefs and their pride in preserving their unique heritage of language, music, dance and celebration and encouraging the continuance of centuries of customs and traditions by passing them along from generation to generation.
In Cambridge today, Canadians of Portuguese origin have made their mark in every walk of life. This group of industrious and enterprising citizens will continue to play a key role in our future growth and development. As in Cambridge, the story of achievement is reflected in communities across Ontario and across Canada.
If there is one fact I would want to stress in recognizing the national day of Portugal, it is the warmth of the Portuguese and Portuguese-Canadian peoples. I am not just referring to the wonderful and colourful religious festivals, processions and fêtes. I am talking about their everyday kindness, generosity and friendliness. They are our valued co-workers, our neighbours and, especially, our friends.
On this occasion, I wish to recognize the presence in the assembly of Dr Juao Uva DeMatos Proenca, the ambassador, and Dr Carlos Pais, the consul general. On behalf of the New Democratic Party of Ontario, may I say:
Mrs Marland: I would like to rise to join with my colleagues in the Legislature today on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus in commemorating Portuguese National Day. For all members of the Portuguese communities around Ontario, this is indeed a very special day, a day of celebration and a day of remembrance.
Portuguese National Day is unique. While many nations choose to celebrate a decisive battle or revolution, the Portuguese have chosen to pay tribute to the life and works of a great poet, Luiz de Camões. It was on 10 June 1580 that Camões passed away. Still today, his poetry touches and inspires all the people of the world.
The love of literature, long a characteristic of the Portuguese people, has been mirrored throughout the last 400 years by a deep love of country. This sense of nationalism allowed the Portuguese to break the chains of Spanish domination in 1640 and, 300 years later, ushered in a new era of freedom and democracy for the people of Portugal.
Today, the pride and self-confidence of the Portuguese people have allowed for the development of a peace-loving and vital society prepared to meet the challenges of the future. The nation’s involvement in both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Community is a strong indicator of Portugal’s commitment to building a stronger society. In this sense, Portugal and Canada share much in common.
At this time, I would like to take the opportunity to point out that well over 100,000 Ontarians are of Portuguese descent. Several large Portuguese communities have been established in cities such as Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Brampton and Cambridge. In my own riding of Mississauga South, there is a vital Portuguese community which has contributed immensely to Ontario society.
Our ties with Portugal do not end there, however. In the past three years, over 220,000 Canadian tourists have ventured to Portugal. Some have gone to visit family members. Others have gone to enjoy the warmth of endless beaches. Still others just wish to explore this beautiful nation.
To recognize the national day in this province, the Alliance of Portuguese Clubs has been organizing Portuguese Week, a week-long cultural festival. The final day of this commemorative week is called the Day of the Communities. As each Portuguese community joins together to celebrate, I would like to commend the organizers of Portuguese Week for the splendid job they have done. I extend the best wishes of the Progressive Conservative caucus to the participants in the Portuguese National Day festivities and all those Portuguese people whom we are blessed to have as residents and citizens of Ontario.
He was a member of the Legislative Assembly representing Fort William from 1967 to 1975 and served his riding faithfully and well. He leaves an impressive legacy of community service and monuments to his dedication, which include the historical restoration of Old Fort William and Big Thunder National Ski Training Centre. He was chairman of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission from 1972 to 1975. Jim served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1939 to 1945 and after the war established a successful auto dealership in Fort William.
Before his entry into provincial politics, he was active at the municipal level. He was a member of the Fort William parks and recreation department from 1954 to 1964. He was chairman for eight of those years. He was a city alderman between 1965 and 1967. Jim is remembered for his initiative and foresight in setting aside land for the Chapples recreation area, as well as implementing a tree-planting policy for the city’s boulevards. Among Jim’s many interests was a passion for fishing and he returned from a fishing trip only a week ago.
I did not know Jim Jessiman personally; rather, as is usual in the kind of work that we do, I knew him through his work both in politics and in the community. I remember when I was quite young and in high school reading about him as a member of the Legislature from Fort William. He was a member of the Legislature who not only represented his own constituency of Fort William, but I think it is fair to say he was somebody whose voice was heard throughout the northwest.
I also remember that Mr Jessiman was someone who, while he was a member of the Legislature, continued to be very much involved in his home community. Almost every week you could see something in the Thunder Bay papers recording his activities in the community and certainly his devotion to sports and recreation.
I did know him here as a colleague in the Legislature, although I was in opposition and he was a member supporting the government party and had a variety of special responsibilities. He was always available on a friendly and frank basis to talk politics or any other subject of interest in the day with members on all sides. This is one way of saying, I suppose, that he had friends in all parties. I always feel that is a valuable contribution when policies are discussed or the attitudes expressed by members in all parties in emerging issues come for debate and consultation.
We became good friends. On a number of occasions, in my capacity as Leader of the Opposition in those days and leader of the third party, as I recall, I travelled to Thunder Bay, and we often appeared on the same occasions. His friendship and hospitality is well remembered and still appreciated.
Mr D. S. Cooke: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: If I might have the time to make a couple of comments on a point of order about the process that has been used for major changes that are being proposed by the government for the rules in this Legislature.
I would like to point out, and I say this in a very sad way, that this morning at the House leaders’ meeting -- which was held at a special time at 9:30 this morning so that members of our caucus could attend the funeral of my leader’s brother -- we were given major rule changes, obviously in response to the government’s feeling that the opposition parties have too much freedom in the Legislature even though our number is 37 or 38 members.
At 9:30 this morning we were given these rule changes. At 10 o’clock the House leaders’ meeting adjourned. The press indicated to us that they already had copies of this. Then the government House leader went and held his little scrum at exactly the time that our members, and myself as House leader for my party and the House leader for the Progressive Conservative Party, attended the funeral of my leader’s brother.
Hon Mr Conway: I listened very carefully to what my friend the House leader for the official opposition has indicated. I want to assure him and colleagues in the House that I have, over a number of weeks, indicated our concern about certain antics in this chamber.
We have seen, over the past number of weeks, obstruction. We have seen a pattern of obstruction about which this government and the people of Ontario are increasingly concerned. I indicated throughout the last number of days that our patience was running out, that I was very anxious to effect some rule changes.
I want to say that, having indicated that I was very concerned about what was happening and our desire to see some rules changed, I acted, I believe, responsibly. I regret that this week’s timetable turned out to be as it was. That was clearly outside of my control, given what we saw earlier in this week with the ringing of bells and such like. I felt it was my responsibility to place on the Orders and Notices paper at an early opportunity this government’s intention.
I was guided entirely by my desire to see some changes to our rules and in no way was I animated by an outside calendar. I deeply regret that any honourable member, particularly anyone who has worked with me over the years, would feel that somehow I took advantage of the very, very unfortunate circumstances involving the family of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr B. Rae). That was not ever my intention.
I have indicated to the House leaders that I will be calling this government notice of motion at some point in the future with the intention of having this motion passed before the summer recess. I believe the people of Ontario expect that this obstruction end, that we have a very vigorous opposition. That is what we want to get on with.
Mr Harris: I think the House leader for the New Democratic Party raised a very legitimate point of privilege on timing and the way this was done. I would like to raise what I believe is a very legitimate point of order when the point of privilege is finished.
The Speaker: I have listened very carefully to the point made. As I understand, there is a resolution placed on the order paper by the government House leader and it is the usual procedure of this House that at an appropriate time that matter will be dealt with within this House; that is the appropriate time to deal with it.
As you know, sir, the traditions of Parliament extend back many hundreds of years. The rules of Parliament have evolved over centuries in the British House and over many decades here in this chamber. The rules of the House are to govern the conduct of all members in the exercising of their responsibilities as representatives of their constituents. The rules are here to protect our rights as legislators and to protect our privileges as democratically elected representatives of the people.
You, sir, are chosen by all members to uphold these rules and to protect our rights and privileges. Incidentally, you will recall that this government forgot this important fact in the appointment of the member for Windsor-Walkerville (Mr M. C. Ray) to assist you in upholding the rules of this House. The Liberals decided to appoint the member for Windsor-Walkerville to the position of Deputy Chairman of the Committees of the Whole House without any consultation with the other two parties.
I note from the government House leader’s motion today that the government still does not wish to ensure that the Speaker will be elected by all members of the House. However, I digress. The point I would like to make is that the rules of this chamber are for the conduct of all members and as such should be developed by all members.
I notice the government has placed a series of proposed changes to the rules of this House in the order paper. We in the two opposition parties have been trying to get the government to move on certain rule changes for over a year. My colleague the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling) has spent dozens of hours in discussions with representatives of the Liberal Party and the NDP to bring about some reform and improvements to the rules of the House.
The government House leader does not seem to understand that by placing this motion on the order paper, he is inviting us to debate it for an unlimited period. We want to work with the government to improve the House, but by thinking that it can use its 94-member majority to ram this motion through, he clearly has shown that he does not understand how to work with all members of the House to make this place work.
We have been asking this government to adhere to the standing orders with respect to its responses to order paper questions, with no success. We have been asking this government to give us fair time and consideration to deal with the estimates,
Mr Harris: The Provincial Auditor and the standing committee on public accounts have also expressed concern over the government’s handling of the estimates process. We have asked about this in countless House leaders’ meeting. We have wanted to change the rules for almost two years.
I am saddened that the government House leader chose to put notice of motion 5 on the order paper. I think it is inappropriate that the government should even consider using its majority to ram changes through the House.
I would respectfully suggest that the government House leader withdraw government notice of motion 5 and return to some meaningful negotiations which traditionally in this place and this House have dealt with rule changes by negotiation and agreement, not by majority hammering. According to my initial checking, extensive rule changes governing us all have never been brought forward unilaterally.
Hon Mr Conway: I would like to address my friend’s point of order. I want to be very brief and to the point. I want him to know that I checked very carefully the context for such rule changes as I want to make on behalf of the government. I appreciate what my friend has said and what my colleague the member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston) has suggested through the earlier debate this afternoon. It is certainly true that in almost all cases one seeks consensus to make change.
Hon Mr Conway: I have to say, on behalf of 94 members, that we have seen over the past number of weeks and months a pattern of obstruction that has nothing to do with opposition. It has to do with paralysing the business of this Parliament. This government believes it has a responsibility to ensure that Parliament works, that it is not hijacked, that it is not paralysed.
Hon Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, I find it strange that people who talk about opposition none the less engage in frivolous, sometimes outrageous challenges of your rulings, ring the bells on first reading, walk away and refuse to come to this place and engage in the public business, and read petitions endlessly so that we cannot get on with the business of this House, a House that it costs $130,000 a day to operate.
We are here to do important business. We expect a vigorous opposition. These rule changes will provide the opposition with a range of new opportunities, but we will not tolerate endless bell-ringing --
The Speaker: Order. Really. I would remind all members that the Speaker has the right to recess the House for disorder. I ask that you would all really consider what you are doing. I have tried to be fair, to listen to a representative from each party on the point of order --
Mr D. S. Cooke: Very briefly, because I think the memory of the government House leader is failing today, we went through a process between 1985 and 1987. Remember the time? No walls, no barriers, a new age in Ontario? We negotiated. We had the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly look at the rules of this place and make recommendations.
After the 1987 provincial election, when these guys got their majority and took on the arrogant attitude they are displaying here today, we sat down with the government House leader -- the Conservative Party did; my party did -- and we said, “We’ll accept the entire package from the Legislative Assembly committee,” which included reforms for all the rules. The government House leader’s representative, the chief government whip, negotiated that with my whip, the member for Oshawa (Mr Breaugh), our representative, and the member for Carleton. We had a package.
Mr Speaker, I can tell you that I think you as Speaker should be looking specifically at one aspect of these rule changes because it is going to deal very clearly with the confidence this place will have in the chief officer of this assembly, who is the Speaker, and how the Speaker is chosen.
If this place is going to work, these rules are not going to pass. If the government is insistent on passing these rules, then I can tell the government House leader now that we are not going to put up with this kind of arrogance. There will be a fight in this Legislature and we will not let this go through. This kind of arrogance and antidemocratic behaviour from this government is unacceptable to us and the people of this province.
The Speaker: Order. I have listened very carefully to representatives from each party on the point of order the member for Nipissing raised. I listened very carefully, and as I understand it, it was called a point of order. It appeared to me to be a point of view, but then he did finish by asking the Speaker to look at the precedents.
I believe we are getting into a debate now on a matter that is before the House in Orders and Notices and I am sure that will be dealt with in due course. I will certainly look at the precedents and discuss it with the member if he so desires.
Mr Breaugh: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Regarding standing order 18(a), I would like to draw to your attention the privileges of the House. It is true the government House leader placed a notice of motion on the order paper today. It is also true that the content and the government House leader’s comments thereon were widely quoted in the Toronto Star this morning.
I would contend under standing order 18(a) that the privileges of the House have been abused by virtue of the fact that the contents of the notice of motion were printed in a daily Toronto newspaper before they were printed on the order paper today, and that the contents of the government’s position on the matter were made public in a public newspaper before the members of this House had an opportunity even to see the notice of motion. I believe that to be contrary to standing order 18(a) and I would appreciate it if you would take that matter under consideration and give us a ruling on it.
The Speaker: Order. Just before I call the next order of business, I would ask all members of the assembly to recognize in the Speaker’s gallery the Minister of Justice from the People’s Republic of Angola, Dr Fernando Franca Dias Van-Dunem. Please join me in welcoming him.
Hon Mr Fulton: I would like to announce improvements today in the Ministry of Transportation’s program for disabled persons. Ontario will broaden eligibility guidelines for persons using specialized public transit.
The new guidelines will now include persons who are unable to walk 175 metres, the average distance people usually walk to get to a bus stop. Service is now limited to people who are unable to board conventional transit.
In co-operation with the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr Mancini) and the Minister without Portfolio responsible for senior citizens’ affairs (Mrs Wilson), the new guideline was developed after close consultation with affected consumer groups, municipalities, transit operators and other branches of the government.
To subsidize increased operating costs from the new guidelines, Ontario will add $20 million to its special public transit fund. An additional $30 million will be allocated over the same period, assisting municipalities with expansion and improvement of existing systems. These funds will also allow for services in areas that do not already have a system in place.
Municipalities across Ontario will be encouraged to apply the new guidelines as soon as possible, with a goal of full implementation by January 1991. The ministry, of course, will continually review the guidelines to ensure they reflect and meet the needs of persons with disabilities.
I would like to provide the House with a brief update of Ontario’s accessible taxi demonstration program. Under the program, incentive grants assist taxi operators with incorporating wheelchair-accessible taxis into their fleets. Currently, these vehicles are operating in 10 municipalities, including limousine service at Pearson International Airport. Four municipalities have taxis on order and we are negotiating with a further 21 municipalities across the province.
The recent budget of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) included a new allocation of $5.2 million to further improve transportation services for the elderly and for disabled persons These new funds will assist us in meeting the goals set forward two years ago. Accessible taxis, improved accessibility to conventional transit, fare reciprocity for seniors among municipalities and service to small and rural communities are among those goals.
Mr Morin-Strom: I would like to congratulate the minister on the initiative he has taken with respect to the new guidelines governing persons who will be eligible for using specialized public transit.
I think it is about time this government acted on this particular issue. It has been a concern of many persons with mobility disabilities that they have been restricted from using buses and transit services in various communities because of the tight definitions being put on restrictions having to do with ability to get on the vehicles as opposed to the ability of persons being able to walk or get to bus stops, and this has been a serious concern in communities, particularly in the north.
I hope the minister’s guidelines will include special consideration, particularly in the winter months, for the difficulties many elderly and others with disabilities have in getting to bus stops because of snowy conditions on our roads and streets, which make it very difficult, particularly at those times of the year, to get to those stops.
The minister also makes reference to updating the government’s initiatives with respect to the accessible taxi demonstration program. This is a program that has been successful in those communities that have it and certainly is a program that should be expanded right across the province.
The minister states the vehicles are now operating in 10 municipalities. However, he should be aware that one municipality, the community of Sault Ste Marie, has recently lost this service because of the financial failure of the company, which did receive assistance in obtaining three of these vehicles.
As a result, this service has been withdrawn from the community and I hope the minister will be able to work together with the local community in ensuring the service continues. There has been serious concern that the ministry did not receive any assurances that continued operation of the vehicles funded by the ministry would in fact be guaranteed in that community.
It would appear that the vehicles in this case may well be auctioned off and sold to another operator, perhaps in the city of Toronto. I hope the minister will intervene in this particular case to ensure that this service does come in and continues to assist the disabled in Sault Ste Marie.
The government has been in power almost four years and it has made a great deal about its assistance to these two groups. We still have a long way to go. The $5.2 million in the budget for further improvement of transportation services for the elderly and for disabled persons is a peanut when you spread it over the whole province. We would like to have some sort of schedule of which groups it will go to, how it will be allocated and over what period. We hope the funds will be available very soon.
I would also like to say that the rules about access to special transportation services must be broadened. I hope the new guidelines will include persons who have other barriers than the ones the minister is mentioning.
Wheel-Trans in the city of Toronto is inhibiting a good many seniors and disabled people from using it because of the scheduling rules, which are very onerous. Apparently, for somebody to get on the schedule, he must have two signatures on an application form, one from a doctor and one from some other kind of care giver in the community, which means probably two trips for the disabled person to get that signature. This seems to me rather unnecessary and very onerous on people. I had an 80-year-old woman who only got the doctor’s signature on her first trip and had to make another one to a public health nurse to get her second signature.
Mr Cureatz: I would like to respond to the announcement of the Minister of Transportation (Mr Fulton). Of course, it is all applaudable and laudable and we appreciate it very much, but I would like to point out to the minister an interesting aspect about these kinds of announcements. He has not done a thing yet about accessibility at the GO train station out in Whitby.
I remember when the GO rail system opened up, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, there was the minister with all his entourage coming out on the GO train, bringing along a very lovely baby, a grandchild I think, all dressed in blue, and everyone was so happy that day and all the municipal politicians were there. I was even there and it is not even my riding, but I was very appreciative of the GO train coming out. But do members know what we found out the next day? Through my office in Durham East, through the member for Durham Centre (Mr Furlong), a Liberal member, and through the member for Durham West (Mrs Stoner), we had all kinds of complaints about the inaccessibility of the rail station for handicapped persons.
The minister should pay another visit. You have to be a mountain goat to go through the contortions to get to that train station. You have to be a hardrock miner. Somebody from Sudbury maybe would have better accessibility to that place. I have not yet seen, from the minister or the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr Mancini), any kind of action to try to alleviate the difficulties encountered at the new GO rail station.
I have heard the minister berating my colleague the member for Markham (Mr Cousens) about how those nasty Tories never did any kind of highway construction back in the old days. Well, these are the new days under the Liberal administration and this minister blew it. He has spent millions of dollars on that extension to the GO rail system, which we appreciate. He did not even have enough brains to figure out how the people are going to get to it.
Mr Cousens: It is just too bad the Minister of Transportation really does not have the kind of problem that many other people are having, because with his limousine he can streamline his way in and out of places in coming and going. In that way, he probably never gets to understand what it is really like to use public transit.
I would have to say that there are still so many things missing. If you live outside of the greater Toronto area and are coming in from Durham, Peel or York, you come to a border -- talk about the Berlin Wall -- that separates those from within the greater Toronto area and those from without. Those who live outside greater Toronto have a very difficult time in gaining access to Wheel-Trans; so they get on their mobility bus in Markham, Mississauga or any other place, go the border and are picked up.
The Minister of Transportation should not be blowing his horn with praise and glory for all the things he is doing. He is still falling short of meeting the needs of those people who are looking for this kind of service. Not only do they have trouble getting across the border, they have trouble getting through on the phone line; as the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms Bryden) points out very rightly, the waiting lists are just horrible. Another thing is that there are lots of them who have never even heard about it because they do not even realize these services are being presented. So come on, I say to the minister, get your act together.
Mrs Marland: I would have been really excited this afternoon if the Minister of Transportation had stood in this House and made a joint announcement with the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons to decide finally, once and for all, that the disabled transit services in this province would be deemed an essential service for the people of Ontario.
The sad thing that has happened over the last two or three years is that the disabled community in Ontario has been held to ransom because of strikes during the disabled transit negotiations around the province. Since disabled transit services are a matter of life for a lot of disabled people, this being National Access Awareness Week, it would have been significant if this government had shown some compassion and leadership and finally met the request of the disabled community in Ontario and deemed disabled transit services an essential service once and for all.
I wonder if he recalls that the first statement by the Premier (Mr Peterson) was as follows: “We will move quickly to bolster the role of members in committees of the Legislature. A legislative committee will be empowered to conduct a review of parliamentary procedures.”
Will the government House leader tell us why he is now negating the very first statement made by the Premier on how we would go about changing the standing orders or the rules under which this House operates?
Hon Mr Conway: Two things: First of all, I think it is important for us to recognize that we have accepted and have been working with provisional standing orders in this Legislature over the last number of months -- actually I think it is now a couple of years -- in which the honourable member for Oshawa (Mr Breaugh) played a leading role. Certainly I continue to value his advice in this connection.
I want to add as well that what I have indicated by way of government notice of motion 5 in no way precludes other important discussions about other very important changes that I believe we all want to make. I want to be clear on that to my friend from Oshawa.
Hon Mr Conway: I do not in any way rule out other discussions about other rule changes, because I think we have got to focus on a number of other issues. But l want to be clear that the government, on behalf of the people of Ontario, is increasingly concerned about this pattern of obstruction, particularly bell-ringing, petition-reading and challenges of the Speaker’s rulings, which I want to remind my friend from Oshawa were not dealt with in the earlier package.
Can he explain to us why he ignored this report, which was prepared by an all-party committee and signed by members from all parties, containing changes to the standing orders, to the way the government’s business and file House’s business is arranged and carried out? Why did the House leader choose to ignore this report, tabled in the assembly and signed by members from all three parties, which accomplished the proposals that he has and others?
Why did he choose to ignore this report, which was tabled by a subsequent committee in the House, which further refined those changes and brought forward changes to the standing orders that were acceptable to members on all sides? Why has he ignored those two major reports for four years, and all the work that has been done by members on all sides of this House, and this morning brought forward a package which was initiated solely within the cabinet?
Hon Mr Conway: I want to say to my friend from Oshawa that we did not ignore the reports that he has referred to. In a number of situations -- I think specifically of the new provision for opposition days and the new standing committee on estimates -- we have drawn very substantially from the reports the honourable member mentions.
I want to say I was correctly quoted when I indicated that we will not retreat from the position about our determination to end these endless bell-ringings and the endless reading of petitions. That, members opposite must understand, is our position, but I am quite prepared, in fact quite anxious, to add to this a variety of other issues that I think we must act upon.
Mr Breaugh: I would just like to make it as clear as I can that I am not asking the government House leader to retreat from anything. I am asking the government House leader and the government to adopt a report which was prepared and adopted by members of all parties -- his party, mine and the Conservative Party. The second report deals with other matters that are there.
I am quite prepared to accept all that, but I cannot for the life of me understand why he let all those reports gather dust for now close to five years. He refused to adopt those and he brought forward this package.
Is it the government’s intention to move unilaterally to adopt only those matters out of those reports that it wants and to totally ignore matters that are contained in this report that make it acceptable to the opposition parties? Is it the government’s purpose to be the first government in the history of this province to unilaterally move to change the way in which this House governs its business, whether the opposition parties have any say in this or not?
Hon Mr Conway: They ask why. I will tell them why. Because this is the first opposition in the history of Ontario that denied a Treasurer the right to present a budget; because this is the first opposition that has read petitions for days; because this is the first opposition that has rung bells for days and weeks at a time --
Hon Mr Conway: -- because this is the first opposition that has so consistently and so frivolously challenged Speaker’s rulings; because this is the first opposition that has so consistently rung bells on the introduction, on first reading, and because this is the first opposition that seems to think the tyranny of minority is somehow synonymous with an effective opposition. They are wrong, and the government is not going to allow this kind of obstructionism to continue.
Can the government House leader finally explain to us why he chose to ignore consensus reports prepared on two different occasions by members of all three parties, which reflect a reasonable way to change the standing orders and, in their place, brought forward changes to the way the business of the House is organized which have been approved, we take it, only by members of the cabinet?
Hon Mr Conway: I repeat, we have not ignored the advice of those reports. In two or three cases we have drawn from the advice. We have accepted the advice of the Provincial Auditor, for example, on the whole estimates process. We have accepted the advice of the reports that the honourable member makes reference to in connection with opposition days. We have accepted advice about the appeals to the Speaker’s rulings.
I repeat, having accepted that advice, we are moving to deal with a number of tactics that are not at all dealt with in the reports. In the report of the ad hoc committee, for example, I do not recall there being much, if any, discussion about the petition-reading or bell-ringing day after day after day.
One of the interesting things is they did not occur in minority parliaments, because in minority, our friends in the opposition must accept some measure of responsibility for what occurs in this place. In this majority Parliament we have seen an absolute unwillingness of the opposition to accept any responsibility for some of these tactics.
Mr Breaugh: Perhaps among the other people whom the government House leader has ignored, we should not forget that the people of Ontario, like the people who are represented in a Parliament anywhere, have always had a traditional right to have their say during the course of the day’s proceedings. That is, traditionally in all Parliaments they have a sacred right to petition that Parliament and the Parliament has a sacred obligation to listen to them.
Can the government House leader explain to the people of Ontario why he is now proposing to limit the amount of time per day to roughly three minutes for each caucus, so that members can present petitions from their constituents?
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like to go back to a comment that the government House leader made a couple of minutes ago, and he is quite correct. The opposition would not have had to use those tactics during minority government, because if he behaved as arrogantly as he does now in minority government he would be out on his ears.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like to ask the government House leader specifically, why would he make a proposal to this Legislature that the Speaker be appointed by the Premier (Mr Peterson), which is the case now, and not give the right to Parliament to challenge the rulings from the Speaker?
If, in fact, he is serious about making that change of not having the right to challenge the Speaker, why did he not include in his proposal the right to democratically elect the Speaker of this House, who is an officer of all the House, not just the Liberal majority?
Hon Mr Conway: I have said, and I repeat to my friends opposite, that what they have here is, in the government’s view, a minimum of change that we must have. I repeat that I am quite prepared to entertain constructive suggestions from my friends in the opposition as to how we can build upon this base of change, because I want my friends in the opposition to know that change we are going to have. It is going to be constructive change. It is going to be a change that is going to make this Legislature a more effective place. I am quite prepared to have submissions from my friends in the opposition as to how we can build upon this base, but there must be no confusion, we are going to have at least these changes before we recess this summer.
Mr Sterling: My question is also to the government House leader. I think the people who have been involved in changing the standing orders and the procedure would like to see significant reform take place in this Legislature and that is why the standing committee on procedural affairs and agencies, boards and commissions -- now the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly -- produced this report wherein we dealt with bells. That is why three members of this Legislature got together and produced this report on 12 April 1988. The New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party have been waiting for a response from the government of Ontario to adopt in some form the bargain that was struck over a year ago by a committee on which representation was by the government whip at that time.
Mr Sterling: We believe that there can be constructive reform in this House. Why does the government House leader not adopt both sides of the bargain that was struck in these two documents so, in fact, we can have a progressive House and we can have reform and progress in a fair and proper manner?
Hon Mr Conway: I simply say to my friend the member for Carleton that, as I remember those two reports, they did not deal in any specific detail with the concern that has been identified by a lot of people in this chamber and outside as to the application of the petition-reading and the bell-ringing. It is with the specific application of those two tactics, namely, the endlessness of their application to the point where this Legislature is paralysed, taken hostage, that we feel in the interest of a better legislative operation, we must now deal. That is the specific intention of a significant part of the government notice of motion 5.
It is quite true that the reports dealt in general with some aspects of petitions and we have, I think, adopted a significant amount of the advice to clean up petitions to make them better. But what I am concerned about is the fact that in recent times opposition parties have felt the need to take petitions and bells and to use those as a means by which this Legislature can be ground to an absolute halt, taken hostage with no business done and $130,000 a day wasted while the bells ring and nothing happens here in a place that the --
Mr Sterling: The government House leader, the government itself, controls the agenda of this Legislature. He has the right to order the business every day in this Legislature. He has the right to call what items of business he wants passed by this Legislature. He has the majority on every committee of this Legislature; through them, he can order the business of each and every committee in this Legislature.
We are protected by the standing orders and the minority opposition is protected in some manner through this document. The only real tactic that the opposition has is a matter of delay, and we must decide in some responsible way how to invoke that particular tactic.
The member is wrong when he says that the government controls the agenda. That is the informing logic of our parliamentary system, but I remind the honourable member for Carleton that when members decide to ring bells, walk out, not return and petition all day so that a Treasurer cannot present a budget, it is quite clear that the government cannot get to orders of the day and present an agenda.
Finally, I want to say to my friend the member for Carleton that I agree, for example, with the editorial position of the Ottawa Citizen yesterday, where it was said, “There is something wrong with the rules if they allow minority parties to impose their viewpoints on the democratically elected government by holding the Legislature hostage.”
Mr Sterling: In every other Legislature and in the Parliament of Canada, when rules were changed to take away the rights of the opposition to delay, there was a balance and a deal struck with the opposition as to how those rights that were taken away would be counterbalanced by other methods and other standing orders within the orders of those particular parliamentary institutions.
Hon Mr Conway: What a sight the member for Carleton is. He stands there like Cicero in the accusative case. If my memory serves me correctly, Grant Devine is a Tory; he is the Tory Premier of Saskatchewan. He has served notice of his intentions with respect to bell-ringing, and I do not remember much balance in the honourable Premier of Saskatchewan’s motion.
I want to say as well to my friends in the New Democratic Party, if the member for Hamilton West (Mr Allen), for example, were in the Parliament of Canada, he would be living with much tougher rules than government notice of motion number 5.
And I repeat to the members opposite that this is a minimum, but l am quite prepared to build on this foundation for other constructive change. If they want to participate responsibly in making this a more effective place, I am quite prepared to have their advice.
Mr Runciman: A change of direction: My question is for the Minister of Tourism and Recreation and it concerns the resignation of Patti Starr as chairman of Ontario Place. Yesterday, the minister was asked by my colleague the member for Simcoe East (Mr McLean) why he did not ask for the resignation of the chairman, given allegations concerning her fund-raising efforts for various Liberal Party members. The minister replied that the chairman had his full support and it was premature to ask for her resignation given that, “We are waiting for the report to come in.”
“Ontario Place and its future success must not be diminished. The board and staff need to get on with the operation of the park, free of any negative connotations. I must therefore step aside to ensure that Ontario Place has every chance to succeed, no matter how much I will miss sharing in it.
Mr Runciman: The resignation of Ms Starr does not answer any of the questions concerning her activities as a Liberal fund-raiser, including selling tickets for the minister’s own fund-raising event. More important, it does not answer any questions about her activities as chairman of Ontario Place. For instance, after being appointed chairman, Ms Starr held a number of closed-door meetings about the future of Ontario Place with “some of Metro’s biggest names in development, architecture and tourism.”
Can the minister tell us if any of his staff were at these meetings that apparently resulted in a blueprint to run Ontario Place? Can he tell us if one Dino Chiesa was present and can he tell us if the companies who have since been awarded the restaurant contracts at Ontario Place were also present at those meetings?
Hon Mr O’Neil: Actually those meetings were called by the board of Ontario Place. I am not aware of who attended the particular meetings the member talks about. I can only tell him that I have to look at Ontario Place and what has taken place there over the last couple of years, especially the last year where the operating deficit has been reduced by more than $2 million. There are a lot of very exciting things happening there and there have been a lot of improvements that have been made by the board and the staff of that operation. I look at that as seeing some very positive things that have been accomplished.
Mr Runciman: The minister is responsible for operations at Ontario Place whether he likes it or not. There are some legitimate questions about the running of Ontario Place under Ms Starr, a well-known Liberal supporter. If the minister does not believe that, all he has to do is read Ontario Place’s last annual report, which begins by praising the very government that appointed her.
My question to the minister is this: Will he undertake a public investigation in conjunction with the Provincial Auditor’s office to determine the nature of decisions made under Ms Starr’s administration including the awarding of restaurant contracts in October 1988 without any public tendering whatsoever?
Hon Mr O’Neil: Again, I would say to the member that he has to remember that the board of Ontario Place was not just run by Patti Starr. We have very competent members, including Clare Copeland who has taken over as vice-chairman, very competent people who are on that board who were directing how the board was to be run. I can tell the member that I feel they have done an excellent job. There are a lot of things that show some of the things I just mentioned. As I say, instead of being totally negative on this thing -- I realize the approach the member is coming from, but a lot of good things have happened there too.
Mr Reville: My question is to the Minister of Culture and Communications. According to the Globe and Mail of 31 May, the member’s mother, Mrs Pleasant Oddie, was paid $5,000 by Patti Starr on behalf of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Toronto section, for mailing out a survey. The newspaper report says that Mrs Oddie “was retained to mail the survey because of a conversation between her daughter and Mrs Starr in which Mrs Starr asked her daughter if she knew anyone who might be interested in doing the work.”
My question to the minister is similar to the question I asked the Premier (Mr Peterson) yesterday, specifically, whether he had spoken to the member for Hamilton Centre (Ms Oddie Munro) about avoiding the appearance of sweetheart deals being directed to members of their families. Would the minister answer that question? Did the Premier speak to her about that matter?
Mr Revile: Perhaps that suggests a supplementary. The member for Hamilton Centre and Minister of Culture and Communications has had an opportunity to reflect on the appropriateness of her referring this kind of business to a member of her family, and I wonder if she would want to share those reflections with us in some more detail.
Hon Ms Oddie Munro: I take any allegation of ill conduct very seriously. I also understand what inappropriate behaviour and wrongdoing is. I am not aware of any conflict of interest in this situation, but I understand there are avenues one could pursue, whether or not such a conflict of interest exists.
Mr Harris: I have a question for the Minister of Housing about the hiring of one of her campaign workers as a consultant for her ministry. The minister and the Premier have both indicated that Management Board of Cabinet directives were followed with respect to this $250,000 award. I have in front of me the Management Board guidelines. The minister in particular persists in blaming the deputy minister when everyone knows it is the minister who must accept responsibility.
Management Board directive -- not guideline directive 2-3, under the competitive acquisition procedures section of the mandatory requirements for hiring consultants, states that “every competitive process using the proposal method” -- which the ministry tells us was the method used -- “must include at least a written request for proposals....” It also states that the lowest bid must be selected.
Hon Ms Hošek: My deputy minister has advised me that in this case all appropriate Management Board procedures were followed. There were written selection criteria. Those are available to the member. In fact, they have been made available to the office of the member for Nipissing (Mr Harris). There were written selection criteria. Then there were five people interviewed for this job.
At the end of the interview process, the deputy minister made his decision about who he thought was best qualified and best able to do the work. At that point, a contract was offered to that person and there is a written version of that contract, which is also available to anyone who wishes to see it. I believe that means the proposals and the way in which this was done were according to Management Board guidelines.
My deputy minister assures me that was the case. It was his responsibility to find the appropriate person to do the work for this ministry, to make sure we use our government lands well and that we build housing on them to meet the affordable housing needs of the people of this province.
Mr Harris: I suggest to the minister that it is her responsibility to make sure, when dealing with a campaign worker and a contributor to her campaign, a profile Liberal and a friend of hers, that the guidelines are followed and indeed the directives are followed.
We are dealing with directives and I think we should understand that. The same Management Board directive states, “If the estimated...ceiling price is $25,000 or more, every competitive process using the proposal must include at least a...written evaluation of proposals....”
There was no request for proposals, as there had to be. There was no proposal submitted. There was no way the bids were evaluated. There was no way we know that the lowest bid was taken. So the minister has violated this mandatory directive as well.
According to my reading of the directives that must be followed, at least three, according to the information given to me from her ministry, were not followed. How can the minister stand here today and say the directives were followed when the directives I am quoting from today obviously were not followed?
Hon Ms Hošek: Let me clear up a few things here. The person who was hired to do this work played a minor role in my campaign and did not raise funds for me. I have said that and I am glad to say it again just to make it clear. The other thing is that the member opposite knows very well that all consulting contracts awarded by all ministries in this government are subject to the Provincial Auditor’s review. They will be reviewed by the Provincial Auditor in the normal course of business. What I have shown to the member today and explained to him today is the process that was followed. Let me tell him about it again.
There were written selection criteria which I am happy to read into the record if he would like me to read them into the record. Five people were interviewed for this job. The deputy minister looked at those five people, talked with them and made his decision about who was the most appropriate person to do this work.
After that decision was made, a contract was offered to the person who was found most able to do the work. That contract has also been made available to anyone who wishes to see it. If the member would like, I will read some parts of the contract into the record. That information is available. It is public. It is shared and he is welcome to it. I will be happy to repeat this answer again the next time he asks for it.
Mr Owen: I have a question for the Treasurer. Recently, I received some concern and complaints from both management people and also employees in the brewery industry. They are telling us that at present there is an unfair price advantage for United States beer that is coming into this province. They are saying that American beer is making serious inroads into Ontario and that brewery jobs are seriously threatened.
For example, at present domestic beer in this province sells for $6.60 a six-pack, but US beer is selling for as low as $4.30 a six-pack. I ask if the Treasurer could today provide us with some information on what appears to be a very unfair price advantage for the US.
Hon R. F. Nixon: I thank the honourable member for notice of the question. I think most members would realize that because of the interprovincial trade restrictions on beer, each province has to have brewery facilities to produce the product for consumption in that province, and therefore the economies of scale are not available. This means American breweries can lay down the product at a much cheaper rate per bottle or per can that can be met by the brewers here.
I think the honourable members, and there has been considerable interest in this matter, are also aware that all imported beer is marked up by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario at 82 per cent and that the markup rate for domestic beer is 23.2 per cent. There is roughly a factor of four, which is designed to restore the balance that is associated with the interprovincial requirements. It is apparent that even at that rate, the very cheap wholesale price of the beer means our local brewers are experiencing difficulty in competing.
Mr Owen: I appreciate that explanation by the Treasurer, but I point out to the Treasurer that US beer does not seem to be subject to the same service charges as ours. It does not seem to be subject to the same warehousing costs, deposit fees and government markups as Ontario beer. I am just wondering, for the involvement where the provincial government is related to this particular industry, is there anything that can be of assistance to them in the meantime, before we can do something with the interprovincial problems?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member is right. They are not subject to the same markup. They are subject to a markup that is four times larger than that put on domestic beer. Also, the honourable member refers to the fact that the deposit required for domestic beer is not required for imported beer. That was corrected in the budget. There is an additional nickel put on the container for any alcoholic beverage that does not have a return program, as there is for our domestic beer. This, of course, covers all the imported beer, and wine as well.
It is interesting to note also that most of the beer that comes in from the United States comes in cans, which once again is a cheaper way to put up the product. The additional nickel per container reduces the differential between the two products, imported and Canadian, by 30 cents, but still there is that spread that the local brewers feel makes it impossible for them to undertake a reasonable competition.
Hon R. F. Nixon: Well, we added 30 cents to the cost of imported beer, if the honourable member would examine the budget, and we would contemplate giving further assistance. I think it should also be noted that while we in this province have floor prices but not ceiling prices for beer, the brewers in Ontario are not at the floor prices for a six-pack, or even near it.
Mr D. S. Cooke: I have a question to the government House leader about his unilateral changes to the rules of this Legislature. I would like to ask the government House leader, does he not understand that on the two issues he is so concerned about -- the Sunday shopping issue where this party and this opposition used the rules of this Legislature to hold the government accountable because the Liberals said one thing during the election and then deliberately did the opposite after they got their arrogant majority, and on the Smith issue where they would not have accepted the responsibility for her inappropriate interference with the process of justice in this province if we had not used the tactics we did -- by removing the ability of the opposition to hold the government accountable, he is making this place less accountable to the public and less democratic?
Mr D. S. Cooke: I would like to use a quote from the 8 December 1982 Hansard, when the now government House leader was speaking on Bill 179 and the closure that the then majority Conservative government brought in. I quote:
“Quite frankly, as my colleague and leader has indicated, it is an experience and rule among lawyers that difficult cases make for bad law. I am deeply concerned that, in the course of this difficult passage, we are going to write very bad new rules into our practice here in this assembly.”
Hon Mr Conway: A couple of things to my friend the member for Windsor-Riverside. These so-called bad rules are the rules of just about every other Parliament including Ottawa, including just about every other province in the Dominion of Canada.
I want to say that I am proud of the role I played as a vigorous member of the opposition. I tell members that over 10 years I debated as vigorously, I fought as passionately as I think anybody here in the last 15 years, but I like to believe that when I was in opposition, I understood the difference between lengthy debates, vigorous demands, on the one hand, and what we have seen here over the last number of weeks and months.
I want members to recall that we have seen an honourable member stand up and call another member a liar just so he could trigger a bell-ringing. We have seen the opposition deny the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) the right to read a budget. We have seen an opposition ring bells for not hours, but for days and weeks. We have seen an opposition debate a committee report through to the end of the day with no ability to adjourn that debate. We have seen a pattern of obstruction that we have never seen before, and after these rules are changed, the taxpayers of Ontario and the Legislature of Ontario will never see again.
Mr R. F. Johnston: You would have done exactly what we did and you know it. That is the reality. We take our electoral consequences, not the government’s consequences, not your punishment. We will let the people punish us if they wish to, not you.
Mr Cureatz: I have a question for the Minister of Energy. As the minister is aware -- if he is not aware, I will bring it to his attention -- the municipality of the town of Newcastle and Ontario Hydro have come to a disagreement on the amount of moneys that are owing the town of Newcastle for building permits during the construction of the Darlington generating station. The municipality is so concerned that it has passed a unanimous resolution where it is seeking legal advice so that it will put itself in a position to stop the startup of units I and 2 at the Darlington generating station.
Does the minister not think he should have intervened long ago as a mediator between Ontario Hydro and the town of Newcastle to resolve this problem, because as he is well aware, there is going to be some difficulty for people in Ontario and there is going to be a lack of electricity. He should have been trying to resolve it to ensure that units I and 2 will come on stream so that the needed electricity will be produced. When is he going to intervene to ensure the two units will start up on time?
Hon Mr Wong: Let me say that I do agree with the honourable member that the whole issue revolves around the cost of the building permits. However, this is the kind of issue that should be resolved between the town of Newcastle and Ontario Hydro. In that connection, may I assure the honourable member that both the Premier (Mr Peterson) and myself, as Minister of Energy, have communicated to the mayor of Newcastle that this dispute between the town and Ontario Hydro should be a matter that is determined and decided between them.
Mr Cureatz: As reported today in the Globe and Mail, Ontario is facing the possibility of a great shortage of electricity in the not-too-distant future, and Darlington is going to be one of the major sources to pull up the slack for the next three or four years. I want to ask the minister specifically, does he not think that in the interest of ensuring that we are going to have an adequate supply of electricity he should intervene so that we can resolve the problem?
Further, when are the minister and his government colleagues going to make a decision about where a new major electrical supply plant is going to be built and the date of the construction, to ensure residents across the province that by the end of the 1990s we are going to have enough electricity, with the consumption increases that have been reported and the demand by the people of Ontario?
Hon Mr Wong: The honourable member has raised two issues, actually. The second issue deals with the demand and supply picture for electricity in Ontario. As the honourable member knows, we have a multi-year process that has been ongoing. We are more than halfway through it, and in a very open way, the province will make those decisions.
Mr Neumann: My question is for the Minister of Transportation. The recent federal budget included drastic cuts to Via Rail. Recent media reports suggest that the federal Minister of Transport is considering further cuts to rail service up to and including the shutting down of Via Rail. On behalf of many Ontarians who rely on passenger rail service, I would like to ask the minister what actions he has undertaken to convince his federal counterpart to maintain this vital transportation service.
Hon Mr Fulton: I thank my colleague the member for Brantford for his question and his ongoing interest in the sustenance of Via Rail. Clearly, it is a federal responsibility to provide the intercity passenger service across the province and indeed across the country, and we view with some very real concern the reports in the paper and certainly the announcement made in the last federal budget. We feel very strongly that the people of Ontario require and deserve a very balanced system of transportation, which includes the busing industry, air and, very important, rail.
We have communicated on a number of occasions with my federal colleague and others, as recently as this past Saturday. Only yesterday, I wrote the Honourable Mr Bouchard to once again reiterate Ontario’s position with respect to the retention of Via Rail services within Ontario.
Mr Neumann: I am pleased the minister recognizes the importance of this service. In spite of the efforts undertaken, however, it is conceivable that the federal government could proceed with the scrapping of Via Rail. This could cause serious problems for the many daily commuters from our community, Brantford, who rely on this service to get to work.
Is the minister prepared to consider extending GO service to our area in the event of a federal decision to scrap Via Rail? Recently commuters from our area have approached me about this. What answer would the minister propose that we give to people who are turning to this option?
Hon Mr Fulton: It is very unclear, as we read the daily papers, just precisely in what direction the federal government is going to go. It would appear the federal minister will be reviewing a financial plan some time, I think, by the end of this month or in early July and will make some final decisions with respect to service. I know that eastern Canada has had strong indication of a complete withdrawal of service, and it may be that Ontario will benefit for some time to come yet.
It is not in our plan to extend GO service into Brantford. It is beyond our legislated jurisdiction with respect to the areas of service for GO service, but I do offer my colleague and his constituents the facts that we are improving dramatically and almost weekly the services of GO trains, GO buses, the parking lots, access to the Lakeshore line in Burlington, in particular, as it affects Brantford. We also have ongoing and future highway connections and highway improvements, and certainly will help promote the intercity bus services between the two points.
Mr R. F. Johnston: My question is for the government House leader. This unilateral act by the executive council deciding what the rules of this House of elected people should be is, in my view, reminiscent of a Family Compact-style act. Members on the other side of the government should always remember that government should act in Parliament as if it will be in opposition some day and should always remember that.
If this is not a punitive act because of successes we have had using the rules that exist, why did the government House leader not bring in the countervailing proposals that have been suggested by committees of this House, agreed to by all parties, which he has down in writing? Why did he not bring in any of those but only a list of punitive acts against this opposition?
I do not share the analysis, because I believe a number of the specific items, like the new standing committee on estimates, like the new mechanism for opposition days, are an important recognition of the very vital role an opposition must play in our Parliament.
I want to agree with my friend the member for Scarborough West (Mr R. F. Johnston). I want to make it very plain that I understand what it was like to be in opposition and I always operate on the basis that some day I might very well return.
Finally, it is surely no success to speak of to waste $130,000 a day while the taxpayers pay for this place to operate and nobody shows up for work. I cannot believe that any honourable members imagine that kind of achievement is any success to credit or to crow about.
Mr R. F. Johnston: I do not think there is a price that can be put on accountability and the democratic process. We are accountable to our electorate if it feels we have misused that. We are not accountable to the executive council of the government.
I would like to ask the government House leader why, in punishing us, has he abrogated so severely a right of petitioning Parliament which goes back to the 13th century, which is the one recourse the public has to get its views across to this House? The Liberals have to bring in their petitions even if they do not agree with them. They reduce that to three minutes a side on a day when there may be many petitions from 130 ridings which are demanding to be heard. Why is he doing that without any change to the standing orders, as has been suggested, around petitions? It is here in fine writing by one of the committees of this House.
Hon Mr Conway: I think it is important for me to note again that there is nothing in these proposed changes that will limit debate, that will deny any opportunity to vigorously oppose the government. I repeat that there are new opportunities for the opposition to have at the government.
What this proposal does, and I want to be very clear about that, is that it removes the right to use petitions and bells as a means to hijack Parliament and to hold the whole place hostage. That kind of obstruction is going to be removed from this place, as it has been removed from virtually every other Parliament in the land. We should be very clear about that. The government has a responsibility to the people of Ontario to take action in this respect to make this a more effective place.
I repeat. Surely my friend the member for Scarborough West does not like the idea of ringing bells in a way, for example, that the time is wasted and $130,000 a day that is paid out produces nothing in the way of debate, amendment or division. That is what we are going to stop.
Mrs Marland: My question is to the Minister of Citizenship. It is now six weeks since I asked the minister if he would refer the matter of the Ontario Human Rights Commission to an all-party legislative committee. He said six weeks ago he had no difficulty with that.
It is now one week since the report on the Ontario Human Rights Commission came out: a report done by the minister’s government. In this report, we have learned that there are “instances of irregular hiring practices.” We have learned that there is “no employment equity plan in place at time of recruitment.” We have --
Mrs Marland: We have learned that the commission “has exaggerated participation of employment equity target groups in senior management and may have overstated the improvement in the processing of complaints.”
My question to the minister is, does he, as the Minister of Citizenship, care enough about the people of this province to get the matter of the Ontario Human Rights Commission once and for all out in the open so that the allegations and problems can be dealt with by the all-party legislative committee? The House leaders have agreed --
Hon Mr Phillips: First, the chief commissioner is an individual who cares deeply about human rights. The report says: “From these contacts with the chief commissioner, it is our opinion that he is a person of honesty and integrity who is deeply committed to human rights, to the Ontario Human Rights Commission and to its new directions. Nothing we discovered in our review has given us cause to question this perception.”
Second, as I have said in this House before, I would be happy for the matter to go to an all-party legislative committee. I have asked the House leader to review it with other House leaders, and at the appropriate moment for it to go to the appropriate committee. I have absolutely nothing that would be inappropriate to discuss with that committee.
It has been through the most thorough review imaginable and made public, as I said it would be. And I have said we would take it to an all-party legislative committee. Nothing could be more open, more fully discussed, more honest, in dealing with a very important matter.
“To amend the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, 1983, in order that all teachers who retired prior to May 31, 1982, have their pensions recalculated on the best five years rather than at the present seven or 10 years.
I have a second petition. It is from the Tillson Avenue Public School in Tillsonburg and is signed by 14 signatures, to which I attach my name. It is also addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“Whereas Bill 162(a) does nothing to improve lifetime pensions (especially for disease and soft-tissue injuries); (b) denies injured workers the right to rehabilitation; (c) offers re-employment rights that are less than afforded by the human rights act; (d) gives too much discretionary power to the WCB to deny injured workers benefits; (e) restricts injured workers the right to appeal;
“We care about injured workers. We protest the Minister of Labour’s proposal to change the law that would take away injured workers’ rights to permanent disability pensions when they are permanently disabled; that would do almost nothing about the miserable compensation of existing injured workers and their widows, and that would leave the injured workers of the future worse off. Workers who are killed or injured in their work deserve much better treatment than this.”
“Whereas the government of Ontario in its discussions with the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on amendments to the Teachers’ Superannuation Act has refused to allow an equal partnership between teachers and government in management of the pension fund, establishment of an acceptable contribution increase, benefit adjustments, equitable treatment of future surpluses and a satisfactory dispute resolution process,
“While we respect the rights of minorities and youth, whom Bill 149 alleges to protect, we oppose the way in which the proposed legislation will erode the ability of owners and occupiers to provide a safe and hospitable environment for their patrons or customers. We are further concerned about the legislation’s potential for increasing confrontation in the already difficult process of removing individuals who create disturbances on publicly used premises.”
Ms Bryden: I am proud to exercise my right to present petitions submitted by my constituents and other residents of Ontario. I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on the subject of naturopathy. It reads as follows.
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
Mr Morin-Strom: I appreciate the opportunity to address the issue of auto insurance again, an issue which this government has had so much difficulty in coming to grips with over the last three years. This government moves from one attempted solution to another, all the while avoiding what is really and truly the only solution for Ontario, the solution that worked so well for western provinces in our country, a solution which we know is the only one that will bring lower and reasonably priced auto insurance to the consumers of our province. That is a public auto insurance system.
This bill, again, is a stopgap measure intended to stem the tide briefly while the government considers another round of solutions, all the while continuing to avoid what has to be the final solution. I take this opportunity to bring the people of Ontario up to date on the issue of auto insurance.
It has been almost two years now since the Premier (Mr Peterson), in the midst of the last provincial election campaign, announced that he had “a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums.” It was a promise made in desperation late in the election campaign, in fact just three days before voting day, when he attempted to undermine the popular NDP policy of implementing a driver-owned, nonprofit, public auto insurance program.
As we are all aware, the people of Ontario took him at his word and a huge Liberal majority was returned to Queen’s Park. Fortunately, the people of Sault Ste Marie saw through the Premier’s empty rhetoric and empty promise in this particular case, and the events of the past two years have now stripped the Liberals of any credibility on this issue.
I would like to address some of the issues regarding auto insurance and how it has developed by this Liberal government over the last couple of years. Naturally, it is vitally important that I, and all New Democrats, restate our commitment to a driver-owned nonprofit public auto insurance system. It is not pure accident, rural economy or government subsidies that give people with driver-owned plans a fair and affordable auto insurance system. It is not greed by Ontario drivers that causes the problem here.
Driver-owned plans provide massive savings. These plans are more efficient, putting the interest earned on investment back into the system to reduce premiums significantly. The nonprofit nature of the driver-owned system saves motorists millions of dollars. That is what consumer protection is: giving the drivers of Ontario a better deal.
The drivers of Ontario understand that. If New Democrats say that we will provide auto insurance at a cheaper rate by plowing back the profits of insurance to reduce premiums, that makes good consumer protection legislation and it certainly is a very important difference between our proposal and the Liberal proposal in this particular bill.
Ontario drivers deserve much better than they have been offered by the Liberals over the last several years. The drivers of this province deserve an auto insurance system with fair, affordable rates; one which rewards good drivers by making sure they pay less, treats drivers fairly and provides insurance at affordable rates.
We remain committed to public auto insurance in Ontario. The driving public cannot afford any more broken promises. Certainly, this bill, which is going to enshrine further a third round of auto insurance increases by this Liberal government since the commitment was made during the last election campaign, when the Premier stated that he had “a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums.” This bill enshrines the third round of auto insurance increases that have been approved by this government since the time of that promise.
We have warned the Liberals what would happen if they allied themselves with the insurance companies by setting up the auto insurance review board. The fact that bill was passed last year was not the end of the battle. It was just the beginning of the battle. The battleground has changed because up to now, when the drivers of Ontario were getting upset, when the drivers of Ontario were getting those extra premium increases and when the drivers of Ontario were angry, they were angry with the insurance industry.
But now, with the commitments that this government has made to the insurance industry and the work that they have done with that industry through the auto insurance review board, the drivers of Ontario know that it is not just the insurance industry that is at fault, but in fact that it is at least as much the Liberal government of Ontario.
It has not been as though the government was really proposing something new. Its course of action has already been attempted in other jurisdictions with disastrous results for the consumer. In the United States, rate-setting boards have been established in a number of states, and the result and the history of these is very clear. It does not take long before they become the captives of the enterprises they are supposed to be regulating, and it does not take long before consumer interests are lost and shuffled along in the bureaucratic melees.
What we predicted would happen did in fact become a reality. Auto insurance premiums have continued to escalate. Add up the increases in the 18 months after the Premier made his commitment to lower rates and we are talking about 16.6 per cent increases. That represents increases far above the rate of inflation, at a time when the Premier had said, “We are going to reduce the cost of auto insurance.” The people of Ontario clearly heard what the Premier said, and the reality of the matter is that premiums did not go down, they went up far above the rate of inflation.
With the Liberal government’s proposed solution in the last bill we addressed, the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board Act, we were confronted with the possibility of 30 per cent increases on a million drivers in Ontario, with some increases of 80 to 90 per cent. Even the Liberals finally had to say to their big business friends, “Hey, we can’t stand this kind of heat.”
The Liberals have indeed begun to feel the heat of public opinion on this issue There have been concerned constituents calling all of our offices and asking us to put pressure on the Liberals. I want to reassure the Minister of Financial Institutions (Mr Elston) that we know what has changed his mind. We hear from the public in our constituency offices.. We have had senior citizens coming into our offices who have received that letter from the insurance company saying. “Should you wish to renew, we anticipate your premium for the year will be 30 to 40 per cent more than it was.”
I have had other people coming into my constituency office with questionnaires from the insurance company asking them every question from how old they are, how far they drive, when they drive, where they drive etc. Some of their questionnaires are incredibly detailed and people unmistakably have been upset about it. What could have happened in an insurance industry for it to want to know all this information all of a sudden?
It has been very clear on this issue that the Liberals have been completely out to sea. They cannot tell me that all this has been planned, because if it has been planned the people of Ontario truly have been misguided by this government. This government has gone from one interim solution to another without a concerted plan of action. That plan, which the Premier had stated would result in lower auto insurance premiums, was in fact a figment of his imagination and has never existed in this Liberal government. There was no plan; there never was a plan; there still is no plan; and indeed the government continues to fly by the seat of its pants.
In this bill the Liberals will not solve the problem of auto insurance in Ontario. Back on 1 March 1989 the minister said it has been his position that he would not interfere in the hearing process. Similarly, in January, just two months earlier, he had said he would not interfere with the tribunal. He set up what was supposed to be an independent tribunal. Then when the heat comes on and the consumer groups say, “We are being gouged; we cannot take the kind of insurance rates we are getting from the review board,” the minister, the cabinet and the Premier or whatever little group in the Office of the Premier seems to dictate to all Liberals what they have to do, bring the axe down and the minister is cut off at the knees and told:
“You can’t do that. Sure we said we would set up an independent tribunal; sure it cost the taxpayers $7 million but my goodness, it is not working out the way we want it and we are losing votes on this, so we had better do something.”
What they do is propose a new piece of legislation which will be in effect only for a period of less than two years. Then where do we go? To another interim solution from this government, another way of stalling on an issue that some day they are going to have to address.
In fact, I suspect that we are going to see a new solution from this government before the next election. Certainly this bill cannot be their final attempt on this particular issue. The government is going to feel the heat from this bill and from the insurance rate increases that consumers are going to face in Ontario. I would suggest that at some point the government may well have, deep down in its agenda, the recognition that what it is going to have to do ultimately is look at our solution, the solution it has been steadfastly avoiding all these years.
I would say, by way of conclusion, as well that there is something called accountability, something that even people in the private sector have to stand by in terms of meeting the bottom line. What if a company that any of the members of the Liberal Party worked with carried on with such a degree of incompetence and then proceeded to accuse everybody who disagreed with it of being stupid, ignorant, malicious and of deliberately misleading people? That is what the minister has said about us in the past, and has turned around and said, “The Liberals are here to protect the consumer.” He has not had the grace to admit that he was wrong. He has never had the grace to admit that he made a mistake. He has never admitted that they blew it with the rate review board They blew it badly and should pay the price.
The minister should be accountable, and surely the Premier should be accountable for the commitment he made during the last election campaign. They are responsible for this mess and they will ultimately have to pay the price with their jobs. The people of Ontario will not stand for the inaction and ineptitude of this government on the auto insurance issue.
The tragedy for the Liberals is that the auto insurance issue will not go away, nor can it be solved by their traditional problem-solving strategies. The reality of the matter is that auto insurance poses a problem for the Liberals because it basically does not fit into their pattern of solving problems. It is very difficult for the Liberal government to pass on this responsibility to municipalities, for example. It does not fit easily into that package. It is very difficult to have a concept of a lottery for auto insurance. The kinds of solutions the Liberals look at just will not work to solve this particular problem.
Sooner or later, the Liberal government is going to have to face reality. What will happen in 1990 when this bill runs out, when the cap on auto insurance rates comes to an end? That is what they are going to have to face before the next election. Like other consumers, drivers are beginning to take to task the Minister of Financial Institutions. Drivers know that they can get a better deal from other provinces than they are getting from their current Ontario government.
In evaluating the auto insurance system offered by New Democrats, drivers will find that it is neither a plan conceived in desperation nor a ploy to satisfy the insurance companies. Instead, they will find a proven product.
It is remarkable, in view of the fact that public auto insurance was introduced in Saskatchewan as far back as 1946, that political parties which at the time were the opposition and opposed those plans, as they did in Manitoba and British Columbia, since the introduction of those plans, formed the government and yet those same political parties which had opposed it did not dare to tinker with or dismantle the public, driver-owned, nonprofit insurance plans in those provinces.
Why? Because those plans have worked. They are more efficient and provide insurance that is affordable, that is provided fairly, that encourages good drivers to keep on being good drivers and similarly discourages bad drivers by imposing higher rates.
The drivers of Ontario can see the difference between our solution and the Liberal solution. We mean what we say and we say what we mean. We stand for a system that has been proved and that, in the long run, is the only solution this government is going to have to turn to if it is ever going to solve the morass it is currently in.
The bill that we are debating today is only an interim solution for this government. It will not solve the auto insurance problem facing the drivers of our province. It will not provide fair, just, equitable rates that are affordable for drivers everywhere in Ontario. A solution does exist and this government should get on with implementing it.
Mr Cureatz: I feel so much more gratified to think that I now have the attention of all those nasty demagogues over there who are going to come forward with the changing of the rules. But the minister should not think for one minute that he is going to miss the wrath of one or two of my concerns or comments. It is very interesting to see that the first thing the large, arrogant --
Mr Cureatz: I chuckle at the comments from the member for York Mills because we all know who sits on his executive, do we not? The infamous Ms Starr. Of course, with that kind of input we would not accept --
Mr J. B. Nixon: On a point of privilege, Mr Deputy Speaker: I understand that the member is required to speak the truth in this House. If he wants to say things about the executive of my riding association, then they had better be true. In this case, they are not, and I ask for a retraction.
Mr Cureatz: I am always easy to get along with. If the member has indicated that such is the case, that she is not a member of the executive, that is fine with me. We do not want to cause a great dislocation, as has already taken place in the assembly.
Not only will this Bill 10 be of some concern to all of us, but indeed the proposed rule changes that the House leader has brought forward, the people on the back bench ain’t seen nothing yet. Mark my words, the official opposition, and I have a feeling my own party, will be going to the wall on this one. Indeed, my colleague the member for Carleton (Mr Sterling) indicated a serious concern of the possibility of an election over that issue.
Of course, this introduction of the change of rules is very typical of what we are seeing on Bill 10 -- total lack of precedent. It is like the pendulum of the clock swinging like it is, up here in the chamber, back and forth, back and forth, and this coming from one of the ministers of whom actually I am very appreciative. In the old days, when he was in opposition and I was in government, we actually got along.
I can remember, on a particular occasion when I was parliamentary assistant to then Solicitor General, the infamous George Taylor, he indicated to me: “You know what? When you are parliamentary assistant, you should not take any members out for dinner.” I could never understand that. I thought that was the whole point, so members could take some of their colleagues out and find out what is going on around this place.
Of course, we saw that in Sunday shopping and we are seeing that now in Bill 10. I saw the minister -- I had the opportunity of seeing this earlier, when we started up again -- come out of his press conference with his entourage of two, staggering forth, head down, forlorn, knowing that he was a beaten person, knowing that the $7 million that he had spent on the infamous insurance board was all for nought.
I will say that he puts on a pretty good front and that solemn face, as I remember when he was Minister of Health in the minority government -- boy, do I get a chuckle out of listening to the official opposition reminding this Liberal government about the famous accord -- holy smokes -- with all due respect to the official opposition, for whom I have nothing but the highest respect. They put those guys in power and then they come back with this arrogant majority. In my front bench, there was yelling and screaming, but that front bench was yelling and screaming more, to such a degree that the Speaker had to adjourn the House for 10 minutes so that he could call order.
I am mildly amused to see now that the official opposition that had put in this government is now ranting and raving about the process the government is following with rule changes. I thought the House leader for the official opposition spoke very well against what the House leader for the government is doing in the introduction of these House rules. The manner in which those people are changing the rules is unprecedented.
As a matter of fact, that goes for Bill 10. I see my colleague over here on the rump -- and he might as well enjoy it, because as I give him my backbench speech -- members know what my colleague the member for London North (Mrs Cunningham) says, “Kissing you all goodbye.” Do not worry; Bill 10 is just the start of it.
Of course, it reminds me of the Treasurer (Mr R. F. Nixon) trying to explain the discrepancy in beer prices. The Minister of Financial Institutions hopes to be the next Treasurer, because we all know the Treasurer is going off to his great reward over at Ontario Hydro, the glass pyramid over there, and he is going to become chairman. Lo and behold, the Minister of Financial Institutions is going to wander over and sit there and try to run the province. He has his test cut out for him on Bill 10, because, as I indicated, this issue that was so well addressed by the Premier during the last election has now fallen into chaos.
The government managed to survive Sunday shopping. We have not seen the repercussions yet, but they are going to unfold. I have a sneaky suspicion that Bill 10 -- I am reminding the minister, because he has forgotten the number of his bill -- is going to be hanging around just as the election is about to be called, because the official opposition members are quite concerned about some views and ideas that they have about automobile insurance.
Between that and the unprecedented avenue that the government House leader has taken for rule changes, we are going to have some big and fun times in this House and we are going to be lucky to get out before Thanksgiving, if we do not sit all the way through to Christmas. I do remember a time in here when we sat through Christmas and I had the opportunity of speaking once or twice at that time.
There might be the odd person across Ontario with the children just coming home and turning on the cartoons, who might say, “Hey, what is going down in the Ontario Legislature outside of this unprecedented procedure of changing the rules?” We are discussing Bill 10 and they are all interested about what this legislation does.
Here is what it does. The bill will effectively rescind orders issued by the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board on 1 February 1989, 13 February 1989 and 16 March 1989. That all stems from a previous piece of legislation which was going to be the be-all and end-all of automobile insurance: the infamous Bill 2.
What happened with the various discussions at the committee level with regard to that bill which led into this bill? We had a number of deputations from the insurance companies across the province expressing their concerns about the manner in which the government was intervening in the automobile insurance industry across Ontario. I have to refer to John McArthur of Safeco, because I had the good opportunity of sitting in on that committee. Here is what Mr McArthur had to say, because I know the minister will be deeply interested in the concerns that he had about Bill 2.
Of course, I know the member for Wentworth East (Ms Collins) wants to know why it ties into Bill 10, because now Bill 10 sort of does away with Bill 2 and we have to start all over again, after spending $7 million. The House leader stood up with crocodile tears, saying that $130,000 a day were wasted as the bells were ringing. I would like to hear the minister stand up and explain about the $7 million on the insurance board. He should write that down; I know he will have an answer there: that it is all going to be worthwhile, it is all going to work out, sure as shooting. And after he pulled the rug from underneath Mr Kruger, who was the great Liberal guru from downtown Toronto, and he was going to resolve all these problems and issues, and the minister winds up stabbing him in the old back -- well, welcome to Liberal politics here in Ontario.
Mr McArthur said: “While we appreciate the government’s motivation for implementing a basic classification system, Safeco does not feel that a uniform classification system is in the best interests of Ontario consumers, as it will stifle competition and prevent the development of innovative marketing by individual underwriters. Under the proposed gender list rating approach, for males under 25 to pay less, mature drivers and females under 25 will have to pay more. In many instances, this will expose mature drivers and females under 25 to significant rate increases in order to subsidize underage male drivers.”
This is very interesting because here they were centring in on major rate increases that would take place and, lo and behold, why does the minister come in with Bill 10 to put a cap on rate increases? I will tell members why.
Let’s look into the crystal ball, into a particular Liberal caucus on a particular Tuesday morning. Let’s listen in to all the Liberal backbenchers starting to get phone calls from their various constituents in their riding offices who were beginning to get the feedback from the insurance companies as to what their premiums were going to be. The Liberal backbenchers thought, “Well, we were able to get through Sunday shopping.” But this one was starting to hurt right in the old pocketbook.
This is interesting. This is a really good one. There are 30 people in cabinet. The government has 94 seats. We have a minister who has resigned, the Solicitor General. The Premier could not find one backbencher who was good enough to take over the job of Solicitor General. Not one of them was good enough. Unbelievable. Incredible. Not one of the members could take over. As if there are not enough members, 30 from 94 is 64, you would think he could have found one backbencher to fill the shoes of the Solicitor General.
The Premier had to call on the Attorney General (Mr Scott) to take over. He looked to the back. He looked to the north and the south and way over here to the rump, and he could not find one. Goodness knows, it makes you wonder why in the world they ever tinkered with the insurance industry under Bill 10.
No wonder he was concerned that the whole thing was getting out of hand. Just look at the list. Members can look at the list for question period today, all the way down through the issues that are starting to hound this government, including Ontario Place, the Minister of Housing (Ms Hošek), automobile insurance and Bill 10. The government has a one-way ticket to defeat.
What else did some of the insurance companies have to say about that old Bill 2? John Lyndon, president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, stated, “Another major concern with Bill 2 or at least with plans for implementing some of its provisions is that there is a significant potential for massive dislocations for individual consumers.”
Mr Cureatz: Listen, at least I am not saying that the government was bought off by the insurance companies because I know this minister and I respect him very much. I can remember a particular little cheap dinner I bought him upon Bloor Street, and I can tell members, they cannot find a more -- placid is not the word -- agreeable person.
It just so happens he is on a particular tangent that he has not quite recovered from. He managed with the doctors under minority government because he had the support of the New Democratic Party. But on this one, he is on his own, and he heard from the Liberal backbench that those insurance rates were skyrocketing. Actually, the insurance companies were not even too sure. One individual said it was going to be a 33 per cent increase; other people said 25 per cent. The minister was on the hot seat and he had chaos in the insurance industry and so what did he do? Bill 10.
Continuing with John Lyndon, “I cannot emphasize too strongly that the real problems facing auto insurers and consumers today is the cost of settling claims. Until those costs are reduced, there can be no significant control of the cost of auto insurance in this province. The provisions of Bill 2 alone will neither contain nor reduce costs. With the introduction of a new classification system, many drivers could be seriously disadvantaged and it could result in some widespread anger by those segments of the insurance public that are adversely affected.”
Let me just refresh the members’ memories: “It could result in some widespread anger by those segments of the insurance public that are adversely affected.” That is exactly what happened, and that is why we are here today discussing Bill 10. The minister turned a deaf ear to all those indications about what was taking place out there in the real world on what would happen with Bill 2 -- he is shaking his head and he is pleading --
Mr Cureatz: I know, and he thinks he is going to have, in his best humble way, a satisfactory answer about why he had to bring in Bill 10. The interesting aspect of all of this, and I am going to wait with great curiosity, is the process --
Here are the minister’s announcements. Let’s just follow step by step the chaos that the Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet has found himself in. I bet that on the weekends he is so happy to get into that limo and go out to Lake Huron and that lovely countryside and put all these problems behind him. Here he is; he is going to have to suffer through another few minutes of myself in terms of this bill, Bill 10.
The minister’s announcements: “Financial Institutions Minister Murray Elston stood in the Legislature” -- I like reading these parts; these are good -- “on March 1, 1989, to say, ‘It has been my position right along’ “ -- oh, this is really good; I like this -- “ ‘that I would not interfere with the hearing process.’” I just love that.
“Then the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board was established and it is arm’s length from government. It was charged with establishing ranges of rates which are just and reasonable and not excessive or inadequate. The OAIB announced its benchmark rate decisions February 13, 1989,” as we are progressing along into the new year.
“On April 17, 1989, Financial Institutions Minister Elston broke his vow to let the OAIB go about its business without political interference. The minister announced a rate hike. How can the government backbenchers just sit back and take this? Here he is standing, time and time again, saying he will not interfere. Then, “The minister announced a rate-hike cap of 7.6 per cent in order to prevent unacceptable increases which the province’s insurance companies had demanded.”
Mr Cureatz: Somebody said, “Right” -- the old honourable member for Scarborough-Ellesmere. But the thing was, the minister was told about what would happen back through the hearings of Bill 2. Now the minister is going to tell me that it was through the $7-million expenditure of the board that he found out there were going to be excessive increases. I do not know how the minister looks in the mirror in the morning and shaves. Does he not blush a little bit? None whatsoever. To think that he said he would not interfere --
Mr Cureatz: That is it. I have problems with seeing too. I wear contact lenses and glasses. My colleague has indicated that he takes his glasses off so that he cannot tell whether he is blushing or not. Maybe that is the answer. Why does he not just get a little closer to the mirror one morning and see whether he is blushing? I do not know how he lives with himself when he comes out with statements like this. Then what does he do? He interferes.
Here is the good part; this is really good. “The decision of the OAIB, which cost taxpayers well over $7 million to produce, is all for nought.” I want to hear with great interest what the minister has to say about --
Mr Cureatz: Oh, he would consider it. “Said Kruger, ‘My concern isn’t this time, but if it happens again -- and again, and again.” I will tell members he had better be ready because the way this minister is reeling on this issue there is going to be all kinds of intervention yet.
Mr Cureatz: Do not worry, I am going to conclude here about what we all anticipated. This is not the end of it. As members well know we are going to get on with other aspects of the extension of Bill 10. The minister’s actions have proved costly for insurance companies which were in the process of preparing to adjust to a new risk classification system come 1 June.
That is true. I read all kinds of articles in the papers. As a matter of fact, I think it was Mr McArthur again indicating the costs that Safeco had laid out for the new adjustment and the proposal under the recommendation of Bill 2, and now the minister has interfered again. I would like to hear his answer to that and to the insurance companies. I mean, what does the minister tell him and then what takes place? The insurance companies pass on the increase in the premiums to all the policyholders, and then whom do the policyholders blame? Well, maybe they should be blaming our esteemed minister here, because he was the one who intervened and cost the insurance companies the extra money.
Could I just hear a little word about whether the minister thinks the insurance companies did extend more moneys in anticipation of the new program but then had to set the program aside? Write that down. I have a sneaky feeling that he does not have an answer to that one, not to substantiate in terms of the moneys that have been lost by the insurance companies. Of course, he is thinking like a lawyer. He is going to say, “Oh no, the insurance companies can just set those programs aside, and finally some time in the future, when we set up the whole new system that is going to come forward from the investigation -- maybe no-fault -- then they are going to be able to take that process and try to plug it in.”
I do not think it is going to work that easily, because I bet that with those computers they had to set up a whole new system. The minister is shaking his head. He is such an expert. What, he is a computer expert? He graduated from the University of Toronto in maths, physics and sciences or something. Or, all his entourage, have they been able to give him input about the expenditures made by insurance companies? All this is because of the policy the minister brought forward on Bill 2, and then he had to intervene -- and he said he would not intervene -- so he could cap the insurance rates and keep his backbenchers here happy because they were starting to feel the heat.
I have it on good authority that there was a Liberal member from the region of Durham who indicated he was happy as all get out that the government was intervening to put a cap on insurance premiums because he was starting to get the heat from constituents about the increases in automobile insurance under the new system.
Safeco spent more than $1.5 million on the computer changes alone. Co-operators General Insurance Co spent close to $2 million in order to accommodate the new class plan and was within two weeks of mailing out the first premium notices containing rate increases calculated on the new plan.
I mean, they are running the government, I can understand that they have to justify blowing their own $7 million on the board, but I do not understand how they can feel comfortable in letting insurance companies spend these kinds of funds -- not that I am a big fan of the insurance companies particularly --
Mr Cureatz: If the member wants to get apologists for the insurance companies he should speak to the honourable member for Leeds-Grenville (Mr Runciman); I am sure he will come up with a statement or two in thoughts and concerns that he has.
Confusion exists as to whether insurance companies should follow the directives of -- the minister should make a note of this and never mind speaking with the member for Elgin (Miss Roberts). Is the minister ready for this?
Confusion exists as to whether insurance companies should follow the directives of the OAIB or those of the Minister of Financial Institutions. The minister told insurance companies to ignore OAIB decisions. I guess that is why Mr Kruger was angry. He was trying to justify his job. However, there is no legislation in effect -- that is Bill 10 -- covering insurance rates in Ontario other than Bill 2 which created the OAIB in the first place, if the minister told the insurance companies to ignore OAIB decisions.
As we saw fit in terms of the proposal they brought forward on amending the rules, I am going to say to the backbench Liberals again, they ain’t seen nothing yet. They thought the bells rang a long time over the member for London South (Mrs E. J. Smith) and Sunday shopping. Wait until this one comes down the tubes. We are going to have a long, hot summer here in the Legislature of Ontario.
Let me just conclude by pointing out to the minister that we are awaiting with great anticipation the investigative process that he, his ministry and the board are taking part in about the manner in which he is going to resolve the difficulty he has got himself into. He has partially brought Bill 10 to fruition, so that he puts a cap on, but now we have got to look down the line to 1990-91, election time. Does the minister think he will get this all straightened out by then? What are the alternatives?
It would appear it is going to have to be some type of no-fault with an option for greater coverage under the tort system. I do not know how that is going to work. I have to tell members that there are solicitors in the Durham Region Law Association whom my colleague the member for Durham Centre (Mr Furlong) is familiar with. On a particular winter’s night I had the misfortune of not attending a particular meeting where at that time the member tried, I heard in vain, to defend the government policy on tort or no tort or no-fault in the judicial process.
I will tell members, he is going to have another difficult time with them again, although his only saving grace would be -- and I say this to the minister, because being a lawyer, he would appreciate this -- the lawyers might be a little happy because they will still get a little piece of the action if the government has the possibility of allowing to go into the added tort system. But how in the world is it going to do that?
Think about it practically. When you go in for insurance, the person selling the insurance policy is going to say: “You see, we have here the standard policy set by the government of Ontario, straight no-fault. Here is what your awards are according to the damage to your vehicle or the harm suffered to you personally.” So they look at that. That seems reasonable, but then the insurance salesperson is going to say, “But now you can buy the cream-of-the-crop policy.”
For I do not know how many dollars more -- and how do you determine what that extra money is going to be? -- you can buy into the tort system. So if you get automatic coverage under the no-fault system, you can also have the possibility of suing if you think you are that incapacitated from an automobile accident or if your car is special or unique so that you want extra coverage.
I just cannot foresee how the minister is going to put that in law. I am looking with great interest to him. I guess he has hired a whole raft of lawyers over at his ministry and they are staying up late at night and on weekends with a bill about this thick. I am sure all 17 of us over here and 19 over there are going to be going through all the sections trying to figure out what it means.
Of course, this all goes back to the new open government without walls or barriers. We are going to wind up with a piece of legislation that I am sure is going to be so incomprehensible that the policyholder is going to have to hire a lawyer so that the lawyer, maybe, can explain the policy to him.
Mr Cureatz: The Durham Region Law Association would no doubt be appreciative of that, I am sure. We can all suggest to them that maybe they should send a letter to the minister to encourage that process. I just do not know how else the government is going to get out of it. That is the only thing I have been able to determine. I cannot see our having total no-fault and I cannot see doing away totally with tort, so we are going to look with great anticipation.
This is the second volley. The first volley was Bill 2 and the spending of the $7 million. Here is round two. There is going to be a round three yet and the round three is where are we going from here. I will tell the minister, if he has any hope of becoming Treasurer, he is going to have to salvage this one pretty quickly, because the clock is running out, not only on me this afternoon but on this government.
Within another two years we will be facing the fine people of Ontario and I have every suspicion to believe that the Liberals will not be getting 94 or 95 seats again. I say that with great delight because I look around these chambers and wonder who on the list here will not come back.
Mr Cureatz: The member says “Durham East.” The fine people of Durham East, thank goodness, have had the opportunity of re-electing me once, twice, thrice or four times and I suspect that I will have the opportunity of coming back again. With these kinds of policies that are taking place right here --
Mr Cureatz: The minister is from 1981? He is still wet behind the ears. No wonder he does not know what is going on in the automobile insurance business. I had the idea he came on in 1975 or 1977. Holy smokes. And he is trying to solve this one? Jeepers creepers. Unbelievable. I cannot understand it.
We are going to look with great anticipation because of course Bill 10 will finally pass. We have some other issues; nicer and bigger issues like the rule changes in this assembly. I am looking down the road because I am going to have great fun with the next piece of legislation that is taking place.
Mr Cureatz: I want to say to the member for Wentworth East that I find it passing strange that the Premier had the opportunity of putting in the second woman cabinet minister serving in the Solicitor General’s office who is not a solicitor, but he did not pick the member, did he? He just happened to pick the Attorney General so that he could fill that vacancy.
I will tell members that all the backbenchers should be shaking their heads in terms of the neglect that the Premier has shown all of them. I mean, what kind of encouragement is that to any of them, to be working hard in their ridings trying to support legislation like Bill 10 and then he does not pick one of them to fill the cabinet post.
I am sure they are very disappointed and were looking forward with great anticipation to the next round of debate on the future bill and resolving the final, all-encompassing aspects of automobile insurance in Ontario. I do not think it is going to happen before the election and we are going to have an election issue that the poor Minister of Financial Institutions will have to face and try to tell the people why he set up the OAIB, why they spent $7 million and why the minister, who said he would not interfere, has interfered again with this wonderful piece of legislation. We are looking forward to the next round.
Mr Velshi: The member for Durham East mentioned several times the question of $7 million and that seems to be upsetting him. While I agree that $7 million is a lot of money, I wonder what he thought of when his government spent $500 million on Suncor.
That is not too bad, because they were talking about getting a window to the world of oil. All we got was a collective oil slick on the face of every Ontarian at that time. I wonder what he said to his own government when this Minaki Lodge fiasco took place. He will remember that. I think everyone remembers that. Fifty million dollars was spent to save a loan the government had given to Minaki Lodge of about $25,000, and after spending $50 million, there was no road to get to Minaki Lodge. We remember all that.
The Acting Speaker: Before we continue I would like to remind honourable members of standing order 20, that comments and questions should be briefly on matters relevant to the matters before the House and that presumes the speech of the principal speaker who has just concluded.
Mr Pollock: I think I should have a chance to rebut the comments of the member for Don Mills (Mr Velshi), because after all he mentioned Minaki Lodge. I just want to point out to him that everything should not be spent in downtown Toronto. That is what I am going to point out; that is where a lot of the money is spent, around here, right in downtown Toronto. It is, “Forget the boondocks and spend it all right down here.”
The Acting Speaker: Order, please. I have just tried to quietly remind honourable members of the standing order, so could you please keep your comments and questions relevant to the speech by the member for Durham East. Has the member for Hastings-Peterborough concluded?
Mr Cureatz: Two minutes. Will I ever be able to -- I am very appreciative of the Speaker reminding us all about the standing orders. Of course, I can only say that it does not matter a hill of beans now, because according to this government it is going to be changing the standing orders from day to day. None of us are going to know what the standing orders are going to say. Just the government House leader is going to decide how he wants the rules according to the playing of the game here in the parliamentary process. He should know better. He knows the parliamentary process has the precedent of negotiations among all parties.
Mr Cureatz: I know the member is worried about one or two thoughts I have about Bill 10 in rebuttal. But I just want to say to my former seatmate, the member for Don Mills, with whom I had nothing but the most copacetic relationship. that I find it passing strange -- the least I can do is use my own phrase; everybody else in my party seems to want to steal it -- that he seems to know so much about northern Ontario and Minaki Lodge. I would venture to say he should have those kinds of discussions with one or two of his colleagues who are elected from northern Ontario and see what they have to say about Minaki Lodge.
Maybe he should just go up to Minaki and call a little public meeting and make the announcement that none of the money should have been spent in northern Ontario whatsoever and that we are going to close Minaki Lodge and we are going to take the money all the way down, back to Downsview or Don Mills where the money really belongs, not to mention the fact, and I have not had the chance of asking questions here yet about it, the greater Toronto area and where the government gets the legislative authority to tax a particular area that is not even, in the Municipal Act, a jurisdiction. What nonsense.
Mr Charlton: I do not rise with any degree of pleasure to discuss Bill 10, but I feel compelled to address a number of the issues that I think this bill misses, both in terms of the present situation and of what we know about the past that led up to the creation and introduction of this bill by the Minister of Financial Institutions.
The member for Don Mills got up and raised his comments about some excessive expenditures by the former government. Perhaps it is fair to say in relation to Bill 10 and what led up to Bill 10 that just because the former government made mistakes and spent some money foolishly, in his view, it does not mean his government should do the same. We like to try to learn from our lessons.
Bill 10 is the second attempt on the part of this government to deal with what is a very real problem out there in Ontario: excessive auto insurance rates, auto insurance rates that discriminate against a number of categories of drivers in this province.
To quote the former minister who introduced the original legislation, or at least the original cap that led up to the 1987 election and subsequently to Bill 2: “An immediate cap on all rates for motor vehicle insurance categories in Ontario was ordered today by Financial Institutions Minister Monte Kwinter as part of a comprehensive package of auto insurance legislation. Mr Kwinter said at a press conference, ‘It is clear to the general public and it is clear to me the automobile insurance industry structure is arbitrary. While overall profitability increases the profitability of insurance companies, some consumers continue to pay unjustifiably higher premium rates with no recourse for their shabby treatment in the marketplace.’”
The minister went on to say that the government had deliberately given the insurance industry both the time and the opportunity to voluntarily improve market fairness, but the response has been inadequate and it continues to be inadequate.
When I said that I felt it was perhaps time we learned from the mistakes of the past instead of always continuing to smear someone else with those mistakes and pretending we are not making the same mistakes yet again, I have a couple of examples in mind that I think make perfect analogies of why the approach we are taking with Bill 10 is a mistake.
It was 20 years ago last year, and 20 years ago this year that we started a process to deal with another crisis in this province, a process that has not yet been completed, a process that has not solved the problem it set out to solve and a process that has failed to serve those whom it was meant to serve: the taxpayers of Ontario. I am referring of course to the crisis in property taxation in Ontario, a crisis that was identified by the Smith commission in its report in 1968.
The former government proceeded in 1969 to implement legislation where the government took over the property taxation function for the entire province and put in place market value legislation, which as members are well aware has never been fully implemented. We have been through a continuing, ad nauseam series of amendments to that legislation for the last 20 years and we still have not come to terms with the problem. We have not resolved the crisis in terms of property taxation, both in terms of its fairness and in terms of its incidence, the high level of property taxes in Ontario. We still do not know how to come to a resolution of that problem.
I am very much afraid that what we are setting out on here, initially with Bill 2 and now with Bill 10, is a series of bad judgements, perhaps in an honest effort to deal with a real problem. But if it is an honest effort, it is also a misguided one. I know the minister is in a bad position, because we know what the opinions and positions of a number of his colleagues in the cabinet are -- for that matter I would assume a number of his colleagues on the back benches as well -- when it comes to the private sector and allowing the marketplace to operate.
We have heard those speeches here in this House. We understand them. We understand the problem the minister has and we also understand that the minister and the Premier have not totally ruled out an eventual move to public auto insurance or that possibility. What they have made clear, though, is that that move is the last choice on their list, that they will not make that move until they have exhausted all other potential possibilities in this debate.
That is an approach and an attitude that does not serve the people of this province, It will be wonderful if three years from now this government finds itself in the position of having to implement public auto insurance, as a result of an election campaign and promises that will inevitably have to be made because we will not have resolved the current problem.
What will the interim do in terms of the moneys people had to pay last year and will have to pay this year, next year and the year after while we await the final solution. Last June, we had an announcement of a 4.5 per cent cap increase for the auto insurance industry and everybody assumed that 4.5 per cent was for a whole year, because that is the way it was portrayed at the time.
It was comparable to the annual inflation rate and everybody thought: “Okay, they’re not ready to move legislatively yet. They have put in place a cap for increases for this year that is consistent with what is going on with the rest of the economy. We will accept that for the moment. That is not bad.”
But we only got halfway through that year and we more than doubled the ante because we put on another 4.5 per cent, but it was compounded so it more than doubled the ante in that year in which people expected that this government had acted in their best interests, a government that was not yet ready to proceed legislatively. It put a cap in place that was consistent with what was happening in the rest of the economy that without the benefit of extensive analysis seemed to be the fairest thing it could do at the time.
The auto insurance consumers in Ontario deserve better. More pointedly, they deserve a very clear understanding of where we are going on this issue and what it is they are going to get. Bill 10, the piece of legislation we have before us here, unfortunately does not give the auto insurance consumers in this province a clear understanding, either of where we are going or what they are going to get right now up front.
I always shudder when I see pieces of legislation that are set out like this one is set out, where we have on the one hand section I of the bill, which seems fairly precise, which seems to set out what the next year is about very clearly, where it says in subsection 1(1) that “‘capped rate’, means, in respect of a coverage under a contract of automobile insurance, the lesser of, (a) the premium that would have been charged for the coverage for comparable risks for a term commencing on the 17th day of April, 1989 had the premium been calculated using the rules, procedures and factors used by the insurer on that date, plus an amount equal to 7.6 per cent of that premium....”
The press reports what seems to be clear, a 7.6 per cent cap. That is a little bit higher than the inflation rate, but it is certainly better than the frightening numbers we heard as a result of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board’s increases. So everybody goes: “Whew. Thank God, they decided to intervene.”
It is interesting when you have a member like the member for Durham East -- I do not always agree with the member for Durham East, but I certainly have come to respect his honesty in criticizing government, the official opposition and from time to time members of his own party.
You get to the point where you start to believe that in fact the game is just a game, when you see a clear section like the one I just referred to altered two pages further on by section 8. We get into section 8 and what the press reported to the people of Ontario is no longer the case perhaps, and in some instances it will not be the case. Section 8 says:
“(b) exempting insurers and the Facility Association from the requirements of this act in respect of such categories of automobile insurance, such coverages or such classes of risk exposure as may be set out in the regulations;
What we have here is a piece of legislation that starts out to look like it is providing a clear, precise, defensible cap on insurance rates in Ontario that the consumers in this province can either accept or reject with at least an appearance of understanding what the government is offering them, but we get a clause like section 8 of this bill and it negates, or at least it potentially negates, everything set out in section 1 of the bill.
This government gives itself the authority -- by regulation, not by consultation with this chamber, not even by consultation with the government back benches -- this bill gives this government the authority to change every single insurance rate in Ontario over and above the 7.6 per cent that the people have been led to believe will be the cap for the next year.
As I said, I shudder every time I see a piece of legislation like this. We had an awkward period earlier this afternoon around the rule changes and members will recall the member for Durham East kept trying to refer to those rule changes in the early part of his debate. I think it is time this government understood what is happening here.
One of the complaints, in terms of the rule changes, was about excessive petitions. The government of this province, because of its vague, almost directionless approach to the real problems like auto insurance that are confronting the people of this province, has turned Ontario into a petition mill. We have groups all across this province petitioning on any number of issues, some of which the government is dealing with, and dealing with badly in their view, and others of which the government is failing to deal with at all.
Because this government has turned Ontario into a petition mill, the House leader of the government party says it is the opposition’s fault. I find that just a little bit hard to accept. I find it a little bit hard to accept that we have to be here debating Bill 10 this afternoon when in fact the need for Bill 10 was clearly set out for the Minister of Financial Institutions before the board ever made its final report.
I cannot even recall now whether he was the minister yet or not, but that information should have been available to his staff, who advised him on the actual hearings themselves last fall and into January. His staff has not changed significantly since the hearings on Bill 2, but the evidence that was presented at the hearings on Bill 2 set out for us very clearly what would happen.
Whether or not the minister was the minister at the time Bill 2 was dealt with, he certainly was the minister in February, when members of this party and the third party stood in this House and told him precisely what the insurance companies were going to do with the board’s report and the board’s new rate structure.
We told him that the insurance companies were all going to go for the high end, and he stood here and said: “No, there is a competitive instinct out there. Some will go up, you are right. Others will go down, and people will have choices.” But he finally had to bring in Bill 10 because that was not the reality out there in the marketplace.
Those of us who have been concerned about auto insurance for far too many years to even think about knew that and told him that. I guess, in that respect, I am trying to say to the minister that it is time to start listening to the consumers of this province. The consumers are the ones who need insurance protection, not the insurance companies. The consumers are the ones who have no choice; they have to have insurance when they drive an automobile in Ontario because of legislation that we passed here in this House. Again, I think that legislation predates the minister as well, since he has reminded us he was elected only in 1981 and I think we passed that legislation in about 1978. But we have a mandatory situation, and if the minister has not figured out what is going on in the insurance industry, then I think it is high time he took the time to figure it out.
If he would take the time to talk privately, not ask a question at an insurance industry conference, to some of those people fairly high up in the insurance industry about why the administrative costs in auto insurance are so high, he would find out that the insurance companies shift administrative costs from other forms of insurance on to the back of auto insurance.
If I do not like the rate I am asked to pay for my life insurance, I have the option to cancel it. If I do not like insuring my contents in my house for $20,000 or $50,000 because the rates are too high, I can reduce the amount I insure those contents for, or I can decide to take on the risk myself, because contents insurance on my house or, for that matter, fire insurance on my house is not mandatory.
But if I want to drive a vehicle or if I want to operate a business where I need a vehicle or vehicles, there are no choices. The vehicle drivers of Ontario are the captives of the insurance industry because it is mandatory, and they have plumped up the administrative costs on the automobile insurance side in order to keep rates in the nonmandatory insurance lower, that insurance that people might not buy if the rates were higher.
Mr Charlton: The member for York Mills is not in his own seat, but he is choosing to interject anyway. I think perhaps he should understand that interjections are inappropriate at the best of times but certainty not appropriate in any way, shape or form when he is not in his own seat.
Mr Charlton: The minister does not necessarily have to listen to this party and I can understand why he has had some difficulty listening to the members of this party on an ideological basis. Perhaps, though, it would behoove this minister to listen to some of the auto insurance consumers in the western provinces as part of this plan under Bill 10 to look at the alternatives. There are Liberals, Conservatives, Social Credit members and even a few communists, I would assume, in the western provinces. They are not all New Democrats.
A consumer survey out in those provinces, in terms of the operation of the public auto insurance systems, might give the minister a different view of that solution that he is ultimately going to have to look at at some point down the road. From my perspective, the sooner he takes the time to look at that alternative, the better off we will all be in Ontario. The longer he delays looking at that alternative the more Ontario consumers will have to pay out of their own pockets in the interim.
I suggested that it was time we started to learn from some of our mistakes in the past. It is clear with Bill 10 that the Minister of Financial Institutions does not know exactly where we are going in the next stage. The preamble to the bill says:
“Review of alternative insurance products” is about as clearly defined as the contents of some of the contaminated fuels we were having a ruckus about here in this House several weeks ago. It is time that this minister and this government took a firm hold on this issue, talked straight to the insurance consumers of this province about where it is they are taking them and what it is they are providing them with, instead of a piece of legislation which says a cap of 7.6 per cent, except that we can change the cap for any insured person out there, in any category, if for any reason we find a need to change it. What kind of legislative approach to assuring the public of anything is that? What does it really tell people?
Again, I go back to the point I raised earlier: the indecisive, unclear approach of this government on a whole range of issues has turned the province into what I like to refer to as a petition mill. The people of this province are upset on the one hand about any number of initiatives this government is proceeding with, and on the other hand, about a number of areas of concern where the government is taking no action at all. Bill 10 is a perfect example of that.
Two months ago the people of this province thought they had a 7.6 per cent cap when the minister made his announcement. Bill 10 makes it absolutely clear that that is not what they have at all. What they have is maybe a 7.6 per cent cap, but from what we have seen of this government and the way it has bent like a willow to the pressures that are exerted behind the scenes, the regulations will be passed to start to alter rates almost immediately upon the passage of this bill. The people who thought their next billing was going to contain a 7.6 per cent increase are going to get 11.5 per cent, 14 per cent and God knows what else, because we do not know how much pressure is going to be applied.
As I suggested, in the preamble to Bill 10, “Whereas, pending the completion of a review of alternative insurance products...,” I am suggesting to the minister that one of the alternatives that he should be seriously considering now, instead of after he has exhausted all the other alternatives, is the alternative of public auto insurance. In that vein there are a number of principles that I think the minister has to keep in mind as he goes through that process.
A driver-owned insurance plan will not discriminate according to age, sex, marital status or length of driving experience. Drivers will pay on the basis of individual driving record, type of vehicle and the use to which it is put. That is the first and most basic principle we have to deal with in a public auto insurance plan.
Insurance is a service that is required by all who drive. Driver-owned insurance will be provided on a nonprofit basis, unlike in a private corporation. All funds in excess of the amount required to pay the claims and run the business will be retained as reserves against future claims or used to reduce premium charges to clients. That is the second basic principle that has to be kept in mind in this review that will be occurring under Bill 10.
Third, driver-owned insurance will be administered publicly on a modified no-fault basis. That means two positive things for drivers: There will be a reduction in the amount of bureaucratic red tape involved in settling claims and therefore will reduce administrative costs to insured drivers, and because deciding who was at fault and to what degree will not be the central activity of the insurer, claims will be settled more quickly and more easily. With better no-fault benefits than the current $140-per-week maximum, there will be less reason to sue for financial loss; but for those who feel they can do better through the courts there will be no limitation on accident victims’ rights to sue. This maintains existing legal rights and protects people who have special cases: for example, the athlete who bangs up a knee or a professional musician with permanent damage to his hand.
Principle 4: Driver-owned insurance will run without taxpayer subsidy on a break-even basis. Like all shared-risk situations, there will be good years and bad years. That is what the reserves and the contingency accounts are for. But just as extra funds will be set aside for those rainy days or used to reduce drivers’ premium rates, if rates are too low to break even they will go up. No fancy footwork, no soft sell; driver-owned insurance will have to pay its way. As I suggest to the minister, that is a principle from which he should review the alternative. If he finds that not to be the case he can tell us; but he will not find that, unfortunately.
Mr Charlton: Yes. Principle 6: The head office and the investment funds will be right here in Ontario, working in local communities and providing benefits for working people across the province, both through direct investment and by reductions in premiums charged to Ontario drivers. One’s investment will be put to work here at home, rather than being shipped out of the country as profits to foreign-based head offices currently are.
Principle 7: Driver-owned insurance will be tied to the vehicle registration in order to ensure that all drivers on the road have insurance coverage. The minister knows full well that that is one of the major issues in Ontario that he has yet to address. He has not yet taken the time to deal with the 100,000-plus drivers in Ontario who are out there driving without insurance, admittedly illegally, but driving without insurance none the less, leaving any number of people at serious risk.
We have not asked the minister to take our word on the public auto insurance alternative. We have had a lot to say about public auto insurance in this Legislature and we will continue to have a lot to say about it, but what we have asked the minister to do is to make that one of the alternatives that gets looked at under the suggestion in the preamble of Bill 10. The minister has told us what one of the alternatives he wants to look at is, but if we do not look at all of the potential alternatives, then we will not know whether we have picked the right answer at the end of the process.
That is the start of the process that I suggested earlier in my comments, a process that in the case of property tax reform has carried us through 20 years without any solution. The problem is still there. The problem gets worse with each year that passes, as councils and school boards are forced to raise mill rates. The unfairness gets exaggerated as mill rates go up, but in 20 years of piddling around with legislation because we are looking at the wrong solutions, we have not solved the problem.
We do not want to go down the same road with auto insurance in Ontario. We do not want to spend the next 20 years tinkering around with solutions that do not deal with the crisis of excessively high rates; that do not deal, as I suggested earlier, with the very dire circumstances that were expressed by the former minister. This is what the former minister said when he was announcing the program that we are now at stage 2 of:
“It is clear to the general public and it is clear to me the automobile insurance rate structure is arbitrary. While overall profitability increases, some consumers continue to pay unjustifiably higher premium rates with no recourse for their shabby treatment in the marketplace.”
We have a real crisis in auto insurance rates. It is an arbitrary, unfair system that in many cases penalizes the wrong people. Bill 2 did not resolve that crisis. Bill 10 will not resolve that crisis either, unless the Minister of Financial Institutions is prepared to look seriously at the full range of alternatives that exist and do that in an honest and straightforward way.
Mrs Cunningham: I suppose the whole issue of auto insurance and changes in the auto insurance plans for Ontario came to light during the election in September 1987, when the Premier advised the citizens of Ontario that he had a specific plan for improvement in or introduction of a new plan for auto insurance rates in Ontario.
Many citizens across this province eagerly awaited that new plan. Come the fall of 1988, and certainly just before Christmas of this past year, the press was speaking very negatively towards the lack of plans by the Premier with regard to auto insurance. I would just like to put on the record a few of these statements.
The Toronto Sun, in an editorial on 13 December, as people were eagerly trying to strike their own personal household budgets for a new year, said, “Too bad we can’t get insurance against damage caused by the Peterson government. It is all an accident looking for a place to happen.”
With regard to the Globe and Mail, looking again just after Christmas, in January, as families were really becoming very disturbed, it stated that the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board finished its hearings, and this is from the Globe: “It may be impolite to describe the process by which it proposes to set private car insurance premiums as a sham, but it is correct.”
Going far north, just so we make certain it is not just Toronto we are listening to, the Sudbury Star, in an editorial of 7 December 1988, stated: “Having barged into the insurance business with a whole new set of controls, the government has substituted bureaucracy for the market forces of a free economy and severely disturbed the actuarial principles upon which rates were formerly based.”
I should say that with the introduction of Bill 10, the insurance companies in Ontario are incensed by the government’s introduction of this bill. They had invested large amounts of time and money in preparation for a new risk-classification system. They were encouraged in this work by the government and, from time to time, by members of the government, only to have the government change its mind at the last moment. Insurance companies are eagerly awaiting results of the studies into alternative forms of car insurance.
We have just come from another committee where we are looking at a bill, Bill 124. I have not had a lot of experience in the House sitting on committees looking at the bills of this government, thank goodness, but I should say that we are looking there at a bill which is supposed to take care of a certain group of people in this province but which will have no effect whatsoever. It is a bill that is not necessary and it is not wanted. The replacement for that particular piece of legislation ought to be services, in that instance, to help families who are in very dire straits, very concerned parents who are going through a terrible process that affects family life, of separation, divorce, access and custody arrangements.
Mrs Cunningham: The reference to that bill, Bill 124, has a lot to do with Bill 10, because once again we are looking at a bill that should have been unnecessary had the government kept its promise and created in fact for this province a specific plan through a proper process with proper public hearings.
I would like to say that in the latest decision relating to automobile insurance, premium in-creases with this bill will be capped at 7.6 per cent for all policies written between 1 June and the end of 1989. Incidentally, this number -- and I am sure the minister will know this -- was the benchmark rate hike approved by the automobile insurance board in a decision rendered on 13 February 1989.
Mrs Cunningham: The member is quite right. They are independent and they were independent. I think the chairman, John Kruger, made a very important statement when he conceded that the government’s decision with regard to Bill 10 -- and I will quote this so that no one is confused. Mr Kruger stated, “Some of our work goes by the board, so to speak.” He hinted that he may consider resigning from the position of chairman of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board if the government interferes with the work of the board again. Mr Kruger noted that the action “buys us time to bring in the kind of classification plan we would have liked to have done” in the first place.
Mrs Cunningham: I do not think this is anyone else’s script, but if it is, it is because Mr Kruger has stated it many times and there are some people who listen. Maybe the government needs to be told it more than once. I am sure that the intentions of Mr Kruger were honest and sincere, and he probably thought he could have had something done if it had not been for the interference of this government.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada, I think, made a rather significant reaction to the minister’s announcement. Jack Lyndon, president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, argued that the cap was grossly inadequate for urban areas such as Toronto. He said, “You can only beat up an industry so long before they reconsider whether it’s worth doing business.” I would say he is particularly distressed by this action and this interference.
The insurance industry is not the only industry that is distressed and in fact somewhat depressed by the actions of this government. With many of the actions more recently, so are the municipalities and ultimately the taxpayers. With interference in their policies and passing the buck like one did in the budget, now not only are municipalities not able to plan because they are not certain what this government will do from one day to the next with regard to taxes, responsibilities, Sunday shopping and Bill 113 being a perfect example, the more recent budget with lot levies, with lack of support for school boards financially being another example; quite frankly now even the public cannot plan the taxes that it is going to have to pay at the municipal level.
They cannot plan another very big payment that they have to plan into their accounting systems within their own homes, taxes being a very big one -- personal income tax and municipal taxes -- and now they have no idea of what is going to happen with insurance rates.
Safeco Insurance Companies’ John McArthur, resident vice-president and manager Canada says, “We cannot continue business as normal on a 7.6 per cent increase and I do not think anybody else can either.” He argued that “Mr Elston’s political interference makes a mockery of the entire process.”
I am not quite certain where this government is with regard to winning friends and influencing or even setting a good tone for management. Nobody likes them these days, obviously, except themselves. I would think this is a perfect example of mismanagement. To have to go to the polls, having spent this kind of money on the insurance board and trying to come to some kind of conclusion, what a total waste of the taxpayers’ dollar. They should be ashamed of themselves.
As recently as 18 April 1989, the Toronto Sun stated, “So much for the autonomy of the government’s autonomous insurance board.” Really, when you think of it, to ask a board to do a job and then interfere the way the government has takes away the responsibility from any citizen who wants to make a contribution to this government, when they are treated in this manner.
I would really be ashamed of myself. The government has asked a group to do some work, then it jumps in like this. Of course, if it had allowed it to do its work and if it had looked at the important studies in advance of any decision, we may have waited longer initially but we may have had better recommendations from the committee, or at least recommendations the public can live with.
“Yesterday’s decision by Ontario’s Liberal government to decapitate its independent insurance board and decide 1989 rate increases in a political back room should not surprise anyone.” Is that not too bad? “The government, seeking to avoid the wrath of 6,000,000 drivers faced with soaring premiums, has said one thing and done another on the issue for two whole years. They have spent $7 million on the auto insurance board to date. They have one of the greatest political embarrassments of the party’s four-year reign to show for it. With two years left in the government’s mandate” -- I am not sure whether I would agree with that -- “Premier David Peterson has to seriously consider a way to make people forget this dark day.
Well, the government certainly has its challenges. It is going to have to help the public forget Sunday shopping; it is going to have to help the people forget the auto insurance rates; certainly when it comes to the courts, the work I am responsible for, it is going to have to help the people forget it even had public hearings around the bill going on right now, Bill 124. It asks people to come before committees and it never listens to them. It writes down everything they say and it never listens to them.
I am beginning to wonder whether this is a democracy at all this government is heading. We just had a report on mediation that took three years to write, an absolutely wonderful report, and the Liberals on the committee which is meeting right now in the Amethyst Room stated that we will have to have two more years of public input on a report that took three years to write. This government has studied itself to death, absolutely. It cannot make a decision.
Mrs Cunningham: I did not say there was not enough, I said it was not appropriate, and there is a difference. Serious consultation is what is needed by this government and the public needs to know it has been listened to. I really would expect that this issue, along with Sunday shopping, will be the main reasons most of you can just kiss your seats goodbye in the next election. Most of us are wondering what the third one will be.
At the centre of this current controversy with auto insurance in Ontario is the risk classification system. I thought the government was really interested in looking at those kinds of alternatives. I would have expected that it would have looked at those alternatives in a very serious way before it came forth with its recommendations.
I am hoping right now that the two committees that are having a look at the alternatives are having a look with the support of the government. I hope they have been given some kind of direction; that they will be listened to; that they are asking for public input; that they are not looking for public input in ads that will be put in the paper the day before the hearings, and that it is a very serious effort made by this government to look at that classification system.
It may be an alternative we should be buying into. What we really need to do is have serious, open debate around any recommendations that will be put before this House or a committee of this House, with serious public input.
I do not think anybody who is a member of this government or a member of this Legislative Assembly should be seriously buying into anything without all of us having an opportunity to look at those alternatives that I hope will be put forth in quick time by the committees.
During the debates on Bill 2, the committee heard from one industry witness after another, who advised the government not to tamper with the existing system of risk classification. Robert McCormick was one of them. He stated this: “We feel the proposed classification system is going to create serious premium dislocation problems and suggest more study is needed before it is introduced.” I hope the government speaks to Mr McCormick and asks him for some very specific advice on the risk classification system that he would support.
Mrs Cunningham: That is fine. They are still talking about a risk classification system, correct? As a result of Bill 10, I am expecting the government is looking at some alternatives. I would hope that the risk classification system is one of them. Insurance companies are eagerly awaiting results of the studies into alternative forms of car insurance as a result of Bill 10. So I am not speaking to Bill 2; I am speaking to Bill 10. I am speaking to what is happening right now out there, and I would hope there are going to be some public hearings around this.
With regard to the cost to the insurance industry to date, remember that since we have already wasted $7 million on hearings, the public are the people who have to pick this up. These are real costs to the public. Most of us are concerned with insurance because of court costs and legal fees; those are reasons for increased rates in insurance. But we can be sure that during the next election the public will be reminding us of the real costs of their increased premiums for car insurance. A very large part of that will be the money that has been wasted already on looking for a new plan for automobile insurance. I think it is terrible that the government is not somewhat more humble about spending that $7 million.
Mrs Cunningham: The statement that was just made by one of the members is indicative of the attitude of this government. None of us is perfect, and I would expect that as we look for alternatives we very seriously talk openly and honestly with each other about them. They probably should be in some committee.
The Co-operators General Insurance Co, as we talk about costs to the insurance industry and ultimately to us, the taxpayers, has already spent more than $2 million making changes necessary to accommodate the new plan that was recommended. The company was two weeks away from mailing out the first premium notices containing rate increases calculated on the new plan.
Safeco Insurance Companies have spent more than $1.5 million on similar computer changes. The automobile insurance industry in Ontario lost $423 million in after-investment income on premium income of $3.5 billion in 1988, according to its figures. The rate cap puts pressure on those companies which had failed to align themselves properly in the marketplace before the government instituted a freeze on rates in April 1987.
This is a business that is important to the economy of this province. It is a service that the public relies on, and there are people today wondering what could possibly happen next. A 7.6 per cent rate hike translates into roughly $55 million of additional 1989 premium income for the industry, and it is telling us it cannot survive.
I would like to close my remarks by reminding the government about the principle that really is at stake right here, and that is government interference. It has been going on since 1987 in almost all aspects. On 14 December 1988, to be specific, Premium Peterson -- that sounds good, does it not? -- the Premier asked the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board to extend public hearings into the new year in response to criticism that the hearings were not in-depth enough. That particular piece of interference was probably well received by the public, for a change.
On the other hand, would you not think that if you were going to have hearings, you would hold them at times the public could be there, over a period of time, so that people could think about the impact of their statements and take time to prepare? The changes would not be made on a day-to-day basis, so if you are making a presentation on a Monday, you do not have to make a totally different one a week later because of this kind of interference.
On 9 February, just two months later, just days before Ontario drivers were to learn what premium increases they would be made to pay for the remainder of 1989, the minister instructed the insurance board to study possible no-fault car insurance options.
Mrs Cunningham: Interventionist, possibly, because the whole process had not been well thought out in the beginning. One has to have a time frame so that the public can respond and have input. Second, if that was an option, then anybody, laymen in the communities, knew that was an option. Right across Canada and into the United States it has been an option, certainly, that should have been looked at very seriously. The timing on that one was simply irresponsible, because it should have been thought out in the beginning.
On 15 February, a week later, the Premier stepped in and said his government was considering stepping in to help seniors hit hard by rising insurance rates. As a person who has not been too experienced in this House, and I admit that, I have to say that one wonders if the whole House and the policies of this government are driven by common sense and caring, with the responsibility that is incurred, or whether the government is responding more to the political ramifications of decisions that affect the public. I think that is exactly what they are talking about.
If I were in this government, I would think very seriously about the ramifications of inappropriate input and not thinking through what it really wants and the total lack of leadership around this issue.
What is to come? The government is finally attempting to get the horse in front of the cart and every sign points to a move to no-fault auto insurance. I am absolutely certain that is what it is probably going to come up with.
Mrs Cunningham: Well, that is the next bill, as my colleague says. I would suggest that for now, for the public who even have any confidence or even care any more about what is going to happen -- let’s face it: the government is losing the respect and confidence of the public. Sometimes that is a very dangerous thing, especially for young people, because they do not care enough to be here to give us their input and concerns any more. That is extremely dangerous.
Right now, the first study that began on 17 April will last until 25 May, as was the time frame. I am not certain where the results of that study are. The next one, the second study, is to be carried out in the fall of this year. After that, the insurance board will meet yet again to set rates that should be in effect as of 1 January 1990. We will be watching that process very carefully, hoping that it is a democratic and responsible one, where the government will be thoughtfully thinking out any alternatives and plans for any new automobile insurance plan for the province.
Its actions so far since 1987 have been a tremendous source of embarrassment, I am sure, to themselves, and I wish them the very best of luck. Do you know why I say that, Mr Speaker? I think if they do not do a good job on this one, only the taxpayers and the public will suffer and that is too bad for this province. Even the Liberals should try very hard to come up with a good plan for automobile insurance and keep their election promise of 1987. I am not sure they will be forgiven for their record so far, but I am a person who cares too much about families and children to wish them anything but the best in their deliberations.
Hon Mr Elston: I would like to make a couple of comments, and I think that is about all the time I have. But I would like to indicate my surprise with the member for Durham East who was so eloquently putting forth his position and indicating quite clearly that the member for Leeds-Grenville was doing nothing but being an apologist for the insurance industry. That was in fact a very interesting piece of information.
I was also interested, of course, in several other of the presentations, but I can tell the members who spoke that a good number of the issues they raised in this debate were set out by me as belonging to another discussion, which really surrounds the whole issue of product reform, about which the government has put forth its position in a very thorough and clear way.
We have indicated that the report of the board would be made to us in due course after it terminated its hearings 25 May. It is on schedule in that regard. I can see people are a little bit uneasy with the fact that this minister and this government have put their plan in place and are moving with dispatch to implement it in a very thorough and consistent manner.
We are after one thing. We are after the protection of the consumer. We have decided that with this rate-capping bill at 7.6 per cent, the consumers will be best served so that they can have affordable insurance, so that they can have time when they can reflect on product reform in a way that will provide for them a confidence in the comfort level of a thoroughness of consideration by the government that will allow us to move forward with some degree of certainty, and for them, an understanding that the consumers are being protected, which of course is our primary concern.
Hon Mr Elston: These people like to interject and they do not like to hear what the real world is. We have had to listen for a long time about all of their information but I can tell you, Mr Speaker, we are going to move forward with a plan to deal with the issues of insurance rates and affordability. That is what has been laid out in front of them. This bill is but one aspect of that plan and we are moving forward with dispatch and certainty.
I suggest the public is happy with the implementation of the 7.6 percent cap. We wish to proceed with it in a way that is certain and I elicit the support of all the people here in the House so they can show that they support the consumers’ needs for affordable insurance. Let them vote against the fact of a 7.6 per cent increase and explain why they want something much different than that.
Bill 211, the Rental Housing Protection Act; Bill 204, the Power Corporation Amendment Act; as well as a variety of justice bills: Bill 93, the Justices of the Peace Act; Bill 189, the Provincial Offences and Highway Traffic Amendment Act; Bill 200, An Act to confirm a certain agreement between the Governments of Canada and Ontario, and further, as time permits, Bill 2 and Bill 3, having to do with the court reform legislation.