Mr. Speaker: I would like to remind the members of the House that yesterday the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman) asked me to rule as to whether the Premier (Mr. Peterson) was in breach of standing order 26(a) in making a statement to the media after having declined to make a statement to the House on the same subject.
Standing order 26(a) says, "Statements may be made by ministers relating to government policy, ministry action and other similar matters of which the House should be informed." It says nothing about the minister informing the House first, and an examination of the precedents indicates that previous Speakers have ruled on several occasions that, while it is a courtesy for a minister to inform the House before making a statement outside the House, it is not a breach of privilege or of the rules of the assembly if he does not do so.
I refer especially to the last paragraph of a ruling by Mr. Speaker Turner on May 9, 1983, on page 39 of the Journals of the House of that year: "Finally, the member for Renfrew North, joined by the member for Riverdale and the member for Essex South, claimed that it was a breach of parliamentary privilege for the minister to have spoken to the press about the alleged disclosure of information relating to the budget before first making a statement to the House. As I stated in my ruling of February 1, 1983,...although it is a courtesy to the assembly for a minister to release information in the assembly before releasing it to the press or the public, it is not a breach of the privilege or rules of the assembly if this does not happen."
Mr. Timbrell: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Last Thursday, when the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) tabled Bill 30, all members of the House, this critic included, were provided with a red folder containing the minister's statement, a press release and certain other pieces of information, including the bill.
If that was intended to be the compendium, and I understand as of yesterday that is all we are going to get, the minister failed to provide us with copies of all of the drafts he had considered and all briefs that had been submitted to the Ministry of Education, as was promised by his predecessor in the previous government.
Hon. Mr. Conway: If I might respond very happily to the request of the member for Don Mills, it is the intention of this government to release such information as was made available to it on its accession to office some 10 or 12 days ago. We have been reviewing that information. It is my expectation and hope to release that information to the standing committee on social development that will be reviewing Bill 30 in the next few days.
Let me reiterate that the drafts to which the member for Don Mills makes reference, the drafts over which the previous administration toiled for so long, will be happily transmitted to the standing committee on social development at some point in the very near future.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: In the short time that I have been Minister of Community and Social Services, I have had an opportunity to take a close look at a problem which has long troubled me. The tragic abuse and neglect of children strikes at the very heart of our society. Mistreatment of defenceless youngsters causes untold pain and suffering, and undermines the future of us all. I would like to bring members up to date on this sad problem and on the measures my ministry is taking to assist those children whose misery demands our attention.
New figures just made available for the first five months of this year underline the urgency of the problem. Between January 1 and May 31 there were 826 cases of suspected 3child abuse reported to the provincial child abuse register. This is a one year increase of more than 19 per cent.
Even more alarming are the figures on deaths as the result of child abuse and neglect. In the first five months of 1984, two children died by these means. In the same period this year, five lives were lost.
These numbers tell us three things: that more people are reporting their suspicions of abuse; that the public in general is becoming more perceptive about the problem; and that professionals are more aware and are looking for it daily in their practices.
Frankly, I want to emphasize that we do not know if these figures mean that child abuse is increasing; however, as part of our overall approach to the problem, we are designing a new computer system to help us find out. It will allow for a more thorough analysis of the information being reported to the register.
My ministry takes its role in this area seriously. Last February, a number of children's aid societies across the province were given additional allocations amounting to $3.5 million a year. These funds were allocated as a direct result of the increasing numbers of children requiring care. In the intervening months, that allocation has been increased to an additional $5.5 million annually.
In addition, my ministry responded to the trend of greater reported incidences of child abuse by allocating an additional $1.3 million for 42 special child abuse workers across the province. I might add that these workers will deal exclusively with child abuse.
I am happy to say today that a majority of these special child abuse workers have been hired by children's aid societies; others are in the process of being selected. The challenge facing them is to identify instances of child abuse and work to eradicate it.
Today I also want to share with my colleagues in this House some new information on another kind of abuse and the small successes we are beginning to have in dealing with it. I speak now of the degrading and destructive lives being endured by teenage prostitutes.
Earlier this year, the ministry undertook a co-operative effort in Toronto with children's aid societies, the police and a number of medical social services and youth agencies. Our objective was to help young prostitutes escape their dismal street lives and cope with the emotional and physical problems that landed them there in the first place.
The ministry allocated more than $1.3 million to a series of projects aimed at prostitutes under the age of 16. I am pleased to say that in just a short time the lives of dozens of teenagers have been changed for the better. Let me bring members up to date on these initiatives.
On May 15 of this year a five-bed, short-term reception centre was opened. It is designed to provide emergency shelter and crisis counselling to young prostitutes for a period of up to 72 hours. From the opening to just last week, 36 different teenagers passed through this centre. From there, they are returned to their parents or referred to foster homes, group homes, an assessment and placement centre or other treatment programs.
Longer-term care has been offered young prostitutes since April 22 on the ministry's Warrendale campus. This program provides an assessment, placement and referral service, in addition to shelter, care and supervision for these troubled youngsters. Stays are usually between 15 and 30 days but can be as long as 90 days. To July 2, 18 juveniles have spent time in this 10-bed unit.
The third prong of my ministry's approach is a long-term residential treatment facility in Edgar. This 12-bed unit opened in the late spring, and provides expert services to juveniles with psychological, psychiatric and social problems. It is expected that young prostitutes will stay in this facility for up to nine months, but treatment courses could last as long as two years. So far, six juveniles have been admitted.
These programs are aimed primarily at prostitutes 16 years of age and younger. In just a few short months we have been able to help about 50 troubled youngsters, an ambitious start to a program for which we have great hopes. The programs I have outlined have been also received very well by the Metropolitan Toronto Police force.
My ministry does not take all the credit for these initiatives. I wish to acknowledge publicly the key roles being played by the Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, Covenant House-Under 21, Cassetta Youth Services and the Hincks Treatment Centre. The future success of our efforts to help youngsters in the cruel grip of teenage prostitution depends heavily on them.
Older teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 who are captives of street life will be addressed by the new street outreach program in the inner city. This new program will have an annual budget of between $400,000 and $500,000.
Beginning early next month, four street workers will begin establishing contact with young prostitutes and referring them to the appropriate places for help. These workers, who must possess a special set of skills, are at present being hired and trained by Anglican Houses in Toronto in conjunction with the Downtown Coalition of Youth Work Professionals.
Neither of these initiatives -- for prostitutes under and over the age of 16 -- would be possible without the participation of the Metropolitan Toronto Police force. The sensitivity of police officers on the street, and the experience and advice of their superiors, is one of the big reasons this is working.
As a father myself, it is difficult for me to understand why anyone would seek to take out his or her anger and frustration on young innocents. I find it hard to appreciate the tremendous pressures that force juveniles to the streets. Those adults who take advantage of these misguided youngsters are surely beyond our comprehension. But the evidence is clear: the abuse and neglect of children continues, perhaps even increasing in frequency. My ministry regards this as a matter of highest priority.
I am sure I enjoy the endorsement of all members of this House in my determination to push ahead with a campaign to give all our youngsters a childhood of innocence, free of pain and in an atmosphere of affection and support.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: I have just returned from a meeting in Ottawa with the federal Minister of Employment and Immigration to discuss her government's recently announced Canadian jobs strategy. I would like to share with the Legislature the issues and concerns I have raised with my federal counterpart, which I will be pursuing in negotiations over the next few months. First let me take this opportunity to articulate our own government's philosophy with respect to training.
We are committed to skills development as a passport to opportunity, employment and personal fulfilment in our fast-changing economy. The employer-based training option complements the paths opened by colleges and universities to meaningful, productive careers. My officials will proceed vigorously with the task of reducing the confusion and overlap in work experience and training programs in Ontario. We are bringing together under one roof the programs previously run by a dozen ministries. We are working to make the programs understandable and accessible to both workers and employers.
Our society has not done enough to equip people for the world of work. This must change, and it will change. Marketable skills are the key to full participation in contemporary society; they unlock the door to social equality and individual self-reliance. But we all recognize that training is an economic imperative. Investment in people is just as critical, perhaps more critical, than investment in machines and technology. As economist Lester Thurow has pointed out, an effective industrial strategy requires excellence in all the building blocks of the industrial base. In particular, it requires a work force trained second to none.
This must be our goal. If our industries are to meet global competition, if our jobs are to survive and multiply, if the take-home pay of our workers is to increase, the development of human skills is vital. It would be a great mistake to regard training as a soft service which can be dispensed with in hard times. Training is much more than a social overhead; it is an essential part of our economic infrastructure, as necessary as highways, power grids and telecommunications. Without the right skills in the right place at the right time, economic growth will not happen.
I fear that the federal government, in its concern to reduce its deficit, has lost sight of this reality. Ottawa is cutting its deficit at the expense of general training in industry. The Canadian jobs strategy may represent a new approach, but it does not provide new money and reduces the federal commitment to industrial training.
The federal training and job creation allocation of $2.1 billion nation wide for the current fiscal year is less than the $2.2 billion budgeted by Ottawa last year. The federal government apparently intends a further reduction to $1.9 billion next year. The real impact of this erosion is even greater when the effect of inflation is taken into account.
Our industries today are locked in a competitive struggle with industries in Japan, the United States and the rest of the world. This is not the time to undercut the federal commitment to building the skilled work force needed to fashion world-class products in Canada. This is the time to reinforce the federal-provincial partnership which has prevailed in skills training for nearly two decades. Rooted in the Pearson-Robarts years, this working relationship between the two levels of government has exemplified co-operative federalism at its best.
As the first ministers affirmed in Regina, training and upgrading represents a crucial investment in a strong, adaptable and vibrant economy. The Canadian job strategy of the federal government does not effectively serve this principle. Others have criticized the new federal thrusts as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction, but Ontario is less concerned with abstract constitutional issues than with the practicalities of effective program delivery. We are worried about such questions as: Will young people have access to the training they deserve? Will employers find and develop the skilled work force they need? Will the training be of the best quality? Will the money be available on time?
Ontario regrets both the unilateral cancellation by the federal government of the critical trade skills training program and the general industrial training program, and their cancellation before effective new initiatives are in place to support training in both small and medium-sized industries. Last year, more than 15,000 Ontarians gained worthwhile job skills under these two programs.
Since the new federal initiatives do not take effect until September and no new training applications have been accepted recently, a significant gap in services has been created this summer. Both workers and employers are losing precious opportunities for skills training as a result of this regrettable hiatus in federal funding.
Enhanced training allowances are proposed for the new federal programs. Persons on part-time courses will be eligible for support, a feature which will especially benefit women re-entering the labour force, and dependent care allowances will be open to all trainees who have to pay for the care of children or disabled dependants.
Clearly, there is much to commend in the new federal strategy, but our grave concern is that these priorities and initiatives are being financed at the expense of industrial training in general. If the pie of federal spending on training is shrinking, larger slices for specific groups inevitably mean a smaller portion for wider objectives. In this context, Skill Investment has been defined to deal only with the threat of unemployment rather than also with the promise of competitive growth and prosperity.
In Ontario, community colleges and the Canada Employment Centres have recently completed their annual needs assessment process. Ontario firms have indicated a demand for more than 60,000 trained workers in a host of occupations, from technologists and technicians to systems analysts and computer programmers. In addition, tens of thousands of individuals require training to upgrade their skills in their current occupations so they can keep their jobs.
In this province, job training must not become a zero-sum game in which opportunities for some workers are won at the expense of others. Moreover, the allocation to Skill Shortages illustrates how the training effort is being eroded. Skill Shortages have a $50-million national budget for this year, compared with $82 million for last year's critical trade skills training program.
In addition, we question the effectiveness of the incentives for employer participation. The rate of wage subsidy for on-the-job training, which was 50 per cent under the old programs, is to be reduced to 25 per cent under Skill Shortages and Skill Investment. This could be offset at least in part by an increase in the number of training hours covered, but Ottawa has not yet revealed its plans here.
The federal government advocates greater privatization of training, placing more reliance on business, both small and large, to undertake skills development; but it is surely a dangerous contradiction to give the private sector more responsibility with fewer resources and weaker incentives.
Ontario agrees that employer involvement in training is overdue; however, we must ensure that public funds not only encourage employers to meet their own training needs but also provide for quality training that enhances the mobility of individual workers.
Employers often require assistance in designing training programs and tend to focus on their own specific short-term needs, but Ontario believes training should be broader so that skills learned in training will be portable. Training should represent a solid base for the individual's career growth. The end result should be a flexible labour force for industry as a whole.
In the past, the federal government has respected the province's role in the design and monitoring of training programs. We believe this function must continue in order to protect the quality of training.
The federal strategy announced a new role for Canada Employment Centres. The centres in the future will limit their counselling activities to special needs groups. Ontario concurs that the monopoly the Canada Employment Centres have had on the marketing of training programs has not worked. Ontario's community colleges, in co-operation with my ministry, are prepared to take up the challenge of promoting and communicating these initiatives to employers and workers.
Ontario is eager to negotiate such operational questions with the federal government in a constructive spirit. Our aim is to ensure a smoothly functioning, co-ordinated system that meets the needs of workers, employers and the economy as a whole.
Under the current arrangements, which are due to expire at the end of this fiscal year, the federal government purchases training places in Ontario's colleges of applied arts and technology. We were concerned that the federal government might intend to dispense with formal institutional training agreements. Apparently, Ottawa intends to roll its institutional funding activities into the Canadian jobs strategy.
Ontario has a massive capital investment in top-notch community colleges. To employ that investment productively, we require reasonable certainty and stability. We cannot build on the shifting sands of changing federal priorities. I have been assured by the federal minister, however, that a new training agreement will be put in place, and I can confirm that in this process Ontario will be seeking firm, written agreements from the federal government to ensure the colleges' future role in occupational training.
To provide a framework for designing programs and evaluating results, our government will prepare the first comprehensive training strategy for Ontario. We will define a set of targets for skill levels in various occupations, shaping our objectives through reference to trends in competing jurisdictions.
Our strategic plan will vigorously position training as a cornerstone of industrial growth in Ontario. Training and skills upgrading are necessary and fundamental if we are to ensure individual self-reliance and broaden personal horizons. Our investment in the talent of our people will secure a new era of economic growth.
We intend to continue to work constructively for revisions to the Canadian jobs strategy necessary for a strong, up-to-date federal commitment to industrial training. I look forward to a renewal of the spirit of co-operative federalism which has shaped our industrial training system for a generation and which must be even more effective for our future prosperity.
I have a question for the Chairman of Management Board. In the first few days after the new government took office, the Premier (Mr. Peterson) commented that he would be reviewing the $180 million of expenditures and commitments made by our government between May 2 and June 28.
I am looking for a commitment from the minister today that the review of government expenditures between those two dates will not put in jeopardy some of the very critical programs. Let me mention the specific ones I am worried about: the $43 million for the operation of hospitals; the $13 million --
There is the $13 million for child care initiatives; the $6 million for the Thunder Bay St. Joseph's health care centre; the $6 million for conversion of residential beds to extended care; the $3.5 million grant to the Red Cross; and the $3.5 million for the integrated home care program. Those are just on the social side.
Hon. Ms. Caplan: Let me assure the Leader of the Opposition that this government is reviewing carefully and with a sense of sensitivity the commitments made to ensure that the review will be undertaken in a co-ordinated and efficient manner and that we will be proceeding clearly in the immediate future to determine which, if any, of the commitments we will be undertaking.
Mr. F. S. Miller: When one reads that in Hansard, it will show that in one week the minister has managed to master the entire bureaucratic lexicon of words. She did not answer my question. She did not tell me that she is protecting the $43 million for hospitals. She did not talk about the other side, the $30 million to protect jobs at Petrosar and the $3.5 million for the Barrie disaster relief. What is her commitment?
Mr. F. S. Miller: Since the minister likes to take cheap shots of that order, does she not know that is a Canada-Ontario tourism agreement for major attractions, creating 1,050 man-years of work in construction and 370 jobs on a permanent basis for a lower cost per job than any other assistance program for job creation in Ontario?
Hon. Ms. Caplan: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the additional information and assure him that we believe there is nothing cheap about a $5-million promise and that we will be reviewing expeditiously.
Mr. F. S. Miller: Members opposite should applaud. Tomorrow they are going to have their chance, believe me; there were 22 points, but only one and a half made the cut. The half was that the Liberal Minister of Agriculture and Food would have a strong agricultural background; the other was one we have lost in the process; I can only tell members that.
During the Premier's (Mr. Peterson) lengthy statement last week, the government had only one of those 22 points in the program and there was silence on the rest. The Premier has always said, and I have heard him say it many times, that he did not think our Minister of Agriculture and Food had any clout in cabinet. What has happened to his minister?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: In the fullness of time the Leader of the Opposition will be pleasantly surprised. I can assure him that he will be hearing programs being announced very soon. We will be living up to our commitment for an eight per cent subsidy on long-term credit.
We met the first point the member mentioned. The Minister of Agriculture and Food does have a strong agricultural background, and I can assure him the Minister of Agriculture and Food does and will have clout in cabinet.
Mr. Stevenson: Since the minister has mentioned the eight per cent program, the emergency interest reduction program, which was written up in the new spiel for Ontario agriculture, can he tell us whether every farmer in Ontario is going to qualify for that program as the outline suggests?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: As I indicated yesterday, we are looking at the various options, one of which is whether we will consider those farmers in greatest need or paint with a broad brush. I can assure the member that most farmers will qualify under the program, which we will make a decision on very soon.
Mr. Rae: We are all aware of programs that have been proposed to deal with the problem of credit and long-term credit and we look forward to those announcements as soon as possible. Does the minister intend to make an announcement with respect to what I am sure he will agree is another important aspect of the problem, which is the problem of price support in general?
If farmers are not able to get a price that reflects in some way their cost of production, the problem of credit is not going to deal with the problem of the long term, which we need to deal with. Does the minister plan to address the problem of price support right across the board?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: Yes. I intend to meet with the provincial ministers of agriculture, the federal Minister of Agriculture and senior staff the week after next. We are going to discuss the tripartite stabilization program.
As the member well knows, the legislation has been proclaimed allowing the provinces to enter into an agreement for a tripartite stabilization program. As he also knows, all the provinces do not go along with the proposal made by the three western provinces and Ontario that there should be no top loading.
This is one of the items we have to discuss at this ministers' conference, but I can assure the member I am most anxious to get a tripartite stabilization program going as soon as possible. Failing that, we are also committed to a bipartite format, which has been mentioned for the last two or three years in this House.
Mr. Stevenson: If I could get back to the original question, will the announcements that are to be forthcoming in the fullness of time -- and I assume that means in the next week or so by the way the minister is speaking -- include an expansion of the beginning farmer assistance program he has promised for so long? Will it also include an announcement of the capital loans program?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: The beginning farmer assistance program will remain in place. The member is well aware that program subsidizes interest rates to eight per cent. As far as the capital loans program is concerned, it is something we are still considering.
However, the member has to realize our plate has been extremely full with tripartite, bipartite, tornado and hail disaster relief -- you name it. We have had it all at once. I have been the minister for only a short time. Rome was not built in a day.
Mr. Rae: I have a question for the Premier. It concerns the report today at the federal level involving the privatization and commercialization of the health care system. No doubt the Premier will be aware that Ontario has become the capital of private-profit medicine in Canada and it is the base of operations for many such operators across the country.
What position does the government intend to take with respect to the expansion of the nursing home sector in the province under private-profit care and the privatization of hospital and nursing care? What is the position of the government of Ontario with respect to the Americanization, commercialization and privatization of our health care system in the province?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I have not seen a copy of that final report and I understand the minister has not received it. On the other hand, I am aware of press reports on the matter and the suggestion there should be increases in privatization at the federal level. I gather this is a report that came from Mr. Sherman, a former minister in Manitoba.
The honourable member will be aware that there have been some initiatives in that regard in our own province in the last little while; for example AMI (Canada) Ltd., particularly in the Hawkesbury area. Although this government does not endorse the private ownership of so-called institutions that have been traditionally in the public sphere; however, there is sufficient cause for consideration and concern for a number of people.
I know there are a number of initiatives going on in various different institutions to look at some of the so-called privatization options. It is one thing I know the member feels strongly about, and I think perhaps other members of this Legislature as well feel we should tread very lightly in this regard. That is why we hope in the very near future a committee of this Legislature will be struck to examine in detail the policy options as we proceed.
This so-called privatization takes many forms, whether by contracting out or through a variety of other management contracts, going to direct, outright ownership; so it has to be examined in all of its forms.
To come back to the member's specific question with respect to the nursing home situation, we have said before and we will say again that our emphasis will be in the creation of nursing home beds, and on the nonprofit sector. That is not exclusive. When I say that, I am not ruling out the use of so-called private hospital care or private nursing homes in that regard, but the emphasis with respect to licensing from this government will be on the nonprofit sector. They will get the breaks.
Mr. Rae: I attended a meeting some time ago with the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney), who at that time was the critic for the health care system. The meeting was sponsored by the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto with regard to this issue of privatization and the growth of private-profit medicine in Toronto. The member at that time announced he had just come from a caucus meeting of the Liberal Party where it had decided on a moratorium on further expansion of private-profit medicine in the province.
Is that still the position of the Liberal Party or has there been a change since that meeting, which was held before the election, particularly with regard to the 4,500 extended care beds which had been announced by the Conservative Party and were announced again on June 11?
Can the Premier tell us precisely what the bidding policies of the government will be with regard to that? Is he prepared to live up to the previous commitment that there would be a moratorium on the expansion of private-profit medicine in Ontario?
We are not planning any initiatives. There have been no initiatives in the last eight or nine days with respect to privatization that I am aware of. The leader of the New Democratic Party will know that sometimes things go on that the government is not aware of. At this point I am not aware of any nor would I permit any, had I been aware of them.
I do believe this matter does require a thorough, open, full public debate. It is not my intention to expand in that area without a great deal of thought being put into it. I invite all members to apply their minds to the question because it is an issue we will increasingly face in the future -- analysing North American trends. It is fundamental to the kind of quality and care we will have.
Mr. Andrewes: I think I heard the Premier say yes to the question of whether or not there would be a moratorium on the allocation of nursing home beds. Is it the government's intention to allocate the 4,500 beds that were announced by the previous government and to receive advice from the district health councils on the regional distribution of those beds?
I am sure the Premier understands that if 4,500 beds are to be allocated in the current system, then as the system now stands, in all likelihood, given the domination of the private-profit sector in the nursing home field, that is going to result in an expansion of the private-profit provision of care in the province.
What specific steps does the Premier intend to take to ensure that nonprofit, community-based services can apply for these beds and for these applications at the district level? Second, with respect to the extended care program at home, which was announced by the previous government and which we presume is going to be put into effect by the member for London North (Mr. Van Horne), the minister responsible for senior citizen services, what is the Premier going to do to ensure those services are going to be provided on a not-for-profit, community basis, rather than on the private-for-profit basis which has been the practice of the Tory party in Ontario in the past?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: With respect to the member's first question, maybe we need a select committee of this House to sort out the problems in that party over there. We would be very happy to help them. The member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick does not get to me; he just gets to bother his poor leader.
The emphasis will be on the nonprofit area. There are some areas in this province that are less capable of developing those kinds of community responses. As I have travelled this province and visited many of these institutions, I am persuaded that, on balance, they work extremely well, and that is the emphasis we will have. We have stated our emphasis in this area, on home-care programs, on noninstitutional programs and in being responsive to our seniors.
One of the things that constantly comes up in the briefings we have from the ministry and in all the information we get is that the services have to be rationalized in a very thoughtful way. They must be rationalized in a way that has not been done heretofore. There is duplication and there are problems with respect to administration and regulation. That is why we have something unique -- a minister who is looking at that responsibility exclusively to make sure we deliver those services in the most sensitive and effective way.
Mrs. Grier: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. The minister has been made aware by my constituents, as I have, of their concern about a spill in Etobicoke. It involves a substance that smells terrible, which we think is diesel oil, and which is floating on the surface of Lake Ontario on the Etobicoke shoreline.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I am aware, as the member is, from reports by the news media and from my ministry of a spill that has taken place there. The Ministry of the Environment, central region, was informed at 8:45 last night by the Metro Toronto works department that an oil slick was reported at the Etobicoke shoreline. It is about 250 feet offshore and about half a mile long and drifting westward. It appeared to be diesel oil or kerosene.
At this time it appears the source was probably from the GO Transit refueling depot north of the lakeshore in Etobicoke. GO Transit locomotives draw diesel fuel from underground tanks at that depot. My ministry is investigating ways of controlling the spill. The member will realize that the oil goes down into the water and the slick has just about disappeared at this time.
I suppose it would be easy to say there is no long-term environmental damage. This has been the general consensus over a period of time. It is not my view, however, that this is the case. I look at it in terms of the cumulative effect of this spill and perhaps other spills from time to time of which we have not been made aware. Some of them may have been small, yes, but the cumulative effect, along with the discharges from the water pollution plants in this area, makes me concerned about the raw water supply. Of course, the raw water is appropriately filtered and treated, but ultimately it is used for drinking water in Metropolitan Toronto.
Mrs. Grier: My question concerned the cleanup. Do I take it from what the minister has said that it is not the intention of the ministry to initiate a cleanup of this spill? Contrary to the information the minister has received, it was certainly clearly visible to me at the end of the street in Mimico at 10 o'clock this morning.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: We will be looking into those matters. I understand they have a machine called a slick-licker or something -- I cannot recall the exact title -- which picks up an oil slick. We will be using that if it is feasible. We will take whatever action is necessary to attempt to clean that up. I understand some birds have landed there and have been adversely affected, and also the fish. The oil gets into the mud or the sediment, the fish eat worms or whatever it is they eat down there, the oil gets into the fish system and they are adversely affected.
Mr. Brandt: I found the minister's tour around the environmental world of the Great Lakes most enjoyable. There was one comment in particular which I find rather interesting, and I would like to ask a supplementary question concerning it. I believe the minister said -- I just want to give him an opportunity to clarify this -- the oil went into the water. By that I assume he meant it went down into the water.
As I understand it, oil sits on the surface of the water; so this oil slick could be picked up by the technology developed by the ministry to perform this type of cleanup. Could he perhaps clarify how deeply the oil penetrated the water and whether his equipment --
Mr. Brandt: If those members want to join the government they should move across to the other side. It is terribly crowded here on the opposition side. I would find no difficulty whatever if that whole group went over with the government instead of being apologists for it during the entire question period.
Hon. Mr. Bradley: I appreciate the kind assistance of the former Minister of the Environment. I know of his genuine concern about matters of this kind. I will certainly investigate the possibility of that technological equipment being used to clean up this spill.
I understand some of it has dissipated. My impression as well is that oil hangs around for quite a while on the surface, but I understand some of the spill has somehow made its way down into the sediment. I will investigate all aspects of this, even the possibility of laying charges, pinpoint the source and do everything possible to rectify the problem in as short a time as possible.
Mrs. Grier: The minister indicated to this House last week that the spills bill he intended to proclaim would not really be proclaimed until next November 29. In view of this incident, would the minister not agree that the cleanup would have been facilitated had the spills bill actually been proclaimed last Friday, and would the minister consider a different date on which the act could take effect?
As to the specific date on which it comes into operation, the problem is that a period of time is required for hearings on the regulations. There are a number of groups, both environmental groups and those opposed to the bill, that want an opportunity to make representations to the specific panel of experts we will be setting up to hear representations. In addition, once the final regulation is before us, it will take time for the insurance companies to draw up the specific insurance for it.
I would have preferred to have had it many years ago, but that is the reason we chose that particular date. As the member has brought to the attention of the House, it points out the value of having the spills bill proclaimed.
Mr. Timbrell: I have a question for the Premier. During the recent election campaign, in response to questions on a matter of deep concern to women in Ontario, he indicated that if elected he would seek an immediate injunction to close the Morgentaler clinic pending the outcome of the current appeal. He also promised all the women of Ontario more equal access to the services of therapeutic abortion committees. I would like to ask the Premier whether that injunction has been sought; and if not when it will be filed.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The former minister will be aware that the appeal is now in the courts. We have sought legal advice on the matter. To the best of my knowledge at the present time, it has to take its course through the courts as instituted by the former Attorney General. That is my understanding. We are not in favour of the so-called free-standing abortion clinics. That is our position now, as it was then. I assume that answers the question.
I did say, and I do believe in it, that the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston) will be discussing with the various district health councils methods of having fair and even access across the province for regularly constituted abortion through therapeutic abortion committees.
Mr. Timbrell: With respect, the Premier did not answer the question because his commitment was to seek a civil injunction as soon as he assumed power. He has been the Premier for 13 days. What he is saying is he is not now going to keep that commitment.
On a related question, is it the Premier's intention to continue, through the discussions of Minister of Health with the district health councils, to promote the idea of satellite freestanding abortion clinics, to which he also made a commitment during the election campaign?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: We have reviewed the legal matter. The legal opinion coming back is that the appeal having been launched and in process at the present time, that injunctive relief would not be granted now. That is the situation of this government.
Ms. Gigantes: Would the Premier ask his Minister of Health to now release the report done for the Ministry of Health in 1981, which was a review of the Badgley commission report and which was never released by the previous government?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I have no problem with that. One of the things we hope to do very quickly is bring in freedom of information legislation that would make all those things available. I do not know the status of that specific report. I know of no reason it could not be released, and we would be happy to share that with the member.
Mr. Hayes: I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Is he aware that many of the family farms in Ontario have gone bankrupt not only because of the high interest rates but also due to the low prices they receive for their labour and commodities? Is he aware that approximately 80 per cent of the farmers in Essex county have to work at off-farm jobs in order to keep their farms? If he is aware of these issues, will he ask this Legislature to support the federal Bill C-215, which would help to ensure that farmers in Ontario and Canada receive a fair price for their labour and goods? This bill is in committee now and it is supported by the farmers in my riding --
Hon. Mr. Riddell: I hope this will be another item on the agenda when we have our meeting in two weeks. I think the member realizes there is very little government can do about the prices farmers receive for their products. There is enabling legislation if producers want to enter into their own type of controlled production, but that is entirely the producers' decision. We are hoping that tripartite stabilization, if we can ever get it on the road, will go a long way to help producers with the low commodity prices they are facing now. I can assure the member we are going to work extremely hard to try to bring the tripartite stabilization program to fruition. In two weeks, we will be spending a good deal of time talking about this very thing.
Mr. Ramsay: Will the Minister of Agriculture and Food petition the other ministers at this meeting and also the federal government to support this bill? It not only addresses tripartite stabilization but all commodity prices, and we need that sort of support for the stabilization of all commodities. As the minister knows, this is the number one issue in agriculture. Like it or not, food in this country is too cheap and farmers are not getting enough return for what it costs to produce. I would ask if the minister would look into that.
Hon. Mr. Riddell: The member realizes tripartite stabilization will not apply just to the red meat sector, although it was that sector that had been working for some time to get that program in place. There is nothing to stop other commodities from coming under the tripartite stabilization program. If the producers of nonsupply commodities wish to enter into the program, they will certainly have the opportunity to do so.
Mr. Stevenson: I am a little surprised by the minister's strong support of tripartite stabilization today, because about a year ago he was saying that tripartite stabilization only stabilized poverty in the agricultural community.
Hon. Mr. Riddell: I will stand by my statement that I do not think, and I hope the farmers do not get the idea, that tripartite stabilization is the panacea a lot of them see it to be. It is kind of a stop-loss measure for farmers, but it is certainly not, nor should it be, a program to give farmers the incentive to overproduce. Overproduction is the one thing we have to be very concerned about. That is part of our problem today.
It is a stop-loss measure. It is the first step in trying to assist farmers with low prices in trying to stabilize prices. As a government, we are always willing to work along with the farmers if they want to enter into another type of marketing program whereby they can have controlled production and some say over the price they receive. It has to be a decision made by the farmers. If they do that, then they will certainly have our support.
The minister will recall that in his statement of last Tuesday, the Premier (Mr. Peterson) announced the government would undertake consultation with interested groups on the sale of beer and wine in retail stores.
I want to ask the minister, who comes to this House as the former Ministry of Agriculture and Food critic and certainly has a long-standing interest in this issue on behalf of the agricultural community, what input did he make to his leader on behalf of the agricultural producers, more particularly the grape growers of Ontario, prior to his leader's announcement during the election campaign of the Liberal Party's policy on the sale of beer and wine?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: I would have to say in all honesty that I met with one of the wineries prior to becoming the Minister of Agriculture and Food. We had a very lengthy meeting. Their representative certainly made me aware of the problems. The member can be assured there will be very extensive consultation with the grape producers and wineries before we come to any final decisions on beer and wine in the independent stores.
Mr. Andrewes: Did the minister determine, prior to his leader's undertaking this rather major policy commitment on behalf of the Liberal Party, whether the policy of selling domestic wine and beer that was made by his party was in keeping with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and whether such a policy could invite retaliation by our trading partners; which might impact on other trade and more particularly other agricultural goods produced in Ontario and traded outside this province?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: Certainly the way things are going today I would be surprised if it did not invite retaliation, in the light of the so-called free trade movement of Mr. Reagan and Mr. Mulroney and the resulting duties that are being placed on our products. I have a feeling we are going to see far more of this. It is something we have to look into and I believe the Premier has already said there will be a committee established to look into free trade and the impact it will have on us in Ontario.
Mr. Swart: In addition to any benefit that may be provided if wine is sold through grocery stores, what consideration is the minister giving at the present time to deal with the tremendous grape surplus that appears likely when the harvest comes off this fall?
The member is quite right that we are looking at a surplus situation again this year. It remains to be seen what the federal government is going to do. We will have to enter into agreements or discuss with our federal counterparts whether once again this will necessitate a joint program to remove the surplus product from the market.
I think the member also understands that the former government made a commitment to the extent of $3.5 million to try to get the surplus to market, probably by having to sell it at fire sale prices. We are consulting with the Treasury to see if that $3.5 million will still be available to get rid of some of the surplus we have at the present time.
I have a copy of a memo from Essex Nursing Home that went out to all the residents and their families. I would like to read two sentences from that memo: "Effective immediately, a nominal charge of $2 monthly shall be charged for each electrical appliance brought into the health care facility by residents, their families and friends. We would request that you reassess your needs or those of the residents to determine the necessity of any electrical appliance within the resident's room."
Would the Premier talk to the Minister of Health immediately and stop this charge in this nursing home? Would he not agree this is another example of the private sector in private nursing homes putting revenue ahead of residents? Does he not agree that, in view of this and other things that have happened in the nursing home sector, the 4,500 extended care beds should go to the homes for the aged sector and not the nursing home sector?
If the member will give me all the particulars, I will share them with the minister and get the information back as quickly as possible with a full report to the member and the other members of the Legislature.
Mr. Hayes: These places are supposed to be homes where people can enjoy their personal belongings such as radios, television sets, fans or whatever the case may be. This policy, and it is a written policy, is very unjust treatment of the elderly in this home. After the minister gets all the details, will he take immediate steps to stop this unfair and unjust treatment of the elderly?
Mr. Grossman: Is this House to understand that the Premier's position is he will have a moratorium at some stage? There are 4,500 nursing home beds that have been announced but not allocated and no decisions have been made. Is the Premier going to let those 4,500 go ahead and thus break the commitment he gave during the election campaign to have a moratorium, or is he going to have the moratorium he promised and break commitments given by the previous government of 4,500 nursing home beds throughout this province? Is it the first or is it the second?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I have a response to the designated hitter for the Conservative Party on his supplementary that is not a supplementary. The previous government made many deathbed repentances and promises about things to which it could not or was not prepared to commit itself, then committed itself in a virtual orgy.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The reality is that the previous government made many promises it knew it never had to fulfil. We are going to be progressive in that regard. We are going to have adequate nursing home service. The member knows that is the kind of government we have.
Hon. Mr. Sweeney: During my response to a question asked by the member for Hamilton West (Mr. Allen) yesterday, as the member may remember there was a rather spirited dialogue going on in this House and I did not hear all of his question. He made reference to two points, one of which dealt with payments made through workshops. I believe I responded to that.
After checking Hansard, I realized that the member also made reference to the reduction of income of people working in sheltered workshops with respect to their family benefits. I had indicated that the program was under review. I want to make sure the member understands that my reference to review refers only to the sheltered workshop allowances, not to the reduction in wages.
Finally, I point out that on May 25 of this year the Ontario Association for the Mentally Retarded indicated that if a combination of all the benefits available to the kinds of recipients we were talking about were to equal the $4 minimum wage, then it would feel that was fair.
I would draw to the member's attention that a combination of the guaranteed annual income system for the disabled allowances, earnings exemptions and benefits, such as drug benefits and dental benefits, do equal the $4 minimum wage over a 37.5 hour week if one takes into consideration the kinds of exemptions to which that would be attached. I am not suggesting that is more or less than enough, but simply clarifying for the member the direction and the intent of my answer.
I understood this was a reply to a question previously asked, which is quite in order under these circumstances. However, this was a clarification or a correction of what was said previously. In future, if such an occasion should arise, I suggest the minister should make it during ministerial statements. I would appreciate it very much.
Mr. Wiseman: I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. We all know how important it is in this province to have good tile drainage. During the last election, all parties were asked to comment on this very important program. The Liberal Party said if it was elected and became the government it would move from the 60 per cent funding to 75 per cent funding at eight per cent interest.
Hon. Mr. Riddell: As a matter of interest, it has been a topic of discussion between myself and my senior staff, and in all fairness we are looking at some options in that program. Knowing that eastern and northern Ontario have not had the same advantages we have had in, say southwestern Ontario, one thing we are looking at is perhaps extending the program to 75 per cent for those areas of the province that still need the drainage and leaving it at 60 per cent for those areas that already have their land fairly well tiled but are now bringing it in between what they already have. It is a consideration we are giving to eastern and northern Ontario farmers.
Mr. Villeneuve: I have a supplementary for the Minister of Agriculture and Food on the subject of drains, and in particular the eastern Ontario subsidiary agreement and municipal drains. In our speech from the throne we had $40 million scheduled for EOSA. Can the minister tell us, please, how many dollars his government has scheduled?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: I cannot tell the member today, but I will. There is such a thing as having to discuss some of these things with cabinet and Treasury, and I have been in the position for only a short time. If members opposite give me some time, I think they will be pleasantly surprised.
Mr. Wildman: I have a question for the Minister of Northern Affairs related to the northern air ambulance service. Is the minister aware that on June 16, a 68-year-old woman from Hornepayne was transferred from McKellar General Hospital in Thunder Bay to Hornepayne Community Hospital by norOntair commercial flight, alone, unaccompanied, and in her bedclothes?
Will the minister investigate and determine why McKellar General Hospital did not take care to ensure this transfer was handled in a more sensitive and appropriate manner; and will he have the air ambulance authorities publish guidelines and communicate them to the hospital administrators across Ontario to ensure this type of traumatic experience is not repeated for hospital patients and their families?
Hon. Mr. Fontaine: What the member for Algoma is telling me happened in my area too, last year, to a woman who was transferred from Toronto to Hearst. I will discuss this with the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston) and report back to the member tomorrow.
Mr. Wildman: While the minister is consulting with his colleague, will he check to determine why the air ambulance dispatch apparently was not contacted by McKellar General Hospital until last week, after my office and the community had expressed concern about this kind of transfer? Why was this not done the day the transfer was planned, as it should have been, to ensure this lady was treated as she should have been and had a proper transfer?
Mr. Sterling: I have a question for the Premier. His Attorney General (Mr. Scott) has asked the Court of Appeal whether Bill 30, to be debated this afternoon, is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of Canada.
As there is an interest on the part of everyone to have this issue decided as soon as possible, and his Attorney General has admitted the issue will eventually be decided by the highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada, will the Premier reconsider his government's referral to the Court of Appeal and refer the matter directly to the Supreme Court of Canada, as I understand he is empowered to do?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I just received the highest legal advice in this land, and I am told it is not possible to send that immediately to the Supreme Court of Canada. I know the member is a highly esteemed lawyer in his own regard and he may have a different view, but I have chosen to take the counsel of the learned Attorney General on this matter and that is what he tells me.
Mr. Sterling: As we are debating Bill 30 in the next three days and voting on this bill, will the Premier state clearly to this Legislature that he will not use section 33 of our Constitution to opt out of the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada if he loses that decision? Will the Premier accept the decision of our highest court?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I am sure my learned friend, in spite of his first question, understands the legal questions involved here. It may not be an absolute ruling one way or the other; there could be provisos built into the judgement. It could take a whole range of possibilities, of which we are aware, and we have sensibly canvassed the potential outcome.
It would be very unwise of me or the member, or anyone else for that matter, to prejudge these questions. We have set in course action that is responsible and sensible in the circumstances, and I am not prepared to sit here and prejudge what may come out of the courts after a thoughtful, independent reference.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I have a question for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. Yesterday the minister made a statement on the level of imports of Japanese vehicles. Today it was reported that the South Korean automobile company Hyundai Auto Canada Inc. sold nearly 10,000 vehicles in Canada in the month of June, which at an annual rate would result in the sale of 115,000 vehicles in Canada with no requirement for investment in Canada or for Canadian content in those vehicles.
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: I thank the member for Sault Ste. Marie for asking the question, because it is one of grave concern not only to our party but also to all other members of this Legislature. In this regard, I will be meeting with Sinclair Stevens on Friday at noon and with James Kelleher in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday evening.
As the member mentioned, Hyundai sold 9,561 cars in Canada during June; that is of concern to us. I will be bringing up this matter, as I mentioned, with the federal ministers. However, I must say Hyundai has taken a different approach from that of some of the other companies that are importing cars into Canada. They have announced they will be building a $25-million facility somewhere in Ontario. I am also informed, having talked to Mr. Lavelle this morning, that Hyundai is buying quite a few parts from Ontario. For those reasons, the company possibly does not fit into the same category as some of the Japanese companies.
Mr. Morin-Strom: I point out that Hyundai's level of imports is costing tens of thousands jobs that could be generated by auto production in Ontario. I do not think the $25-million investment is going to produce those kinds of jobs.
Mr. Morin-Strom: Will the minister push the federal government to ensure the general preferential tariff, which currently provides duty-free access into Canada for vehicles and parts from less-developed countries, will be taken away from countries such as South Korea so they will have to start paying some kind of duties on their imports?
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: I appreciate the concerns of the member. On Friday at noon and on Friday evening we will be expressing very strongly not only the concerns expressed by the member but also those that have been expressed by our Premier (Mr. Peterson) and by many members of this Legislature. I thank the member for those comments.
Mr. Bennett: With respect to the automobiles built in South Korea, I understand the duty-free arrangement was by special permission of the Canadian government because South Korea is a Third World country.
Is it the minister's intention to go to Mr. Stevens and make his position abundantly clear that he is looking for immediate action in relation to South Korean cars coming into this country? Does he intend to ask that between now and the time they have their investment in place in Ontario -- whenever that happens -- they increase the amount of Canadian content in the automobiles being imported?
Hon. Mr. O'Neil: It has always been our intention to have a tie-in between the number of cars being brought into this province and Canada and the investment that is here. It is up to the member's federal counterparts, who have not been fighting hard enough to put quotas on importations to keep jobs in Ontario.
Mr. Morin: I have a petition signed by 170 members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, District 43, Carleton, concerning the extension of funding to Roman Catholic secondary schools in Ontario.
Mr. Rowe: I have a petition addressed to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor petitioning the Legislature "to call on the government to seek a constitutional referral prior to any implementation and to debate fully the issue of extension prior to any implementation regarding funding of Catholic secondary schools in Ontario." It is signed by 337 constituents of the riding of Simcoe Centre.
Mr. D. R. Cooke: I have a petition concerning the acquittal of Michael Waite on a charge of criminal negligence in Guelph; it is signed by 508 constituents. The letter accompanying the petition indicates the signatories are expressing their concern and horror at the recent decision of the jury in the Michael Waite trial in Guelph.
Four teenagers involved in an innocent evening of fun were murdered by a drinking driver who said he was just out to have some fun. The jury has seen fit to convict him of a simple dangerous driving charge. The outcome of this trial is a farce -- absolute lunacy. The signatories are stunned that something like this is allowed to happen within the judicial system of a province as progressive as Ontario.
The signatories are very sad when they think of the parents of the victims. They certainly must feel that the rest of the world feels their children's lives were meaningless, that no one cares. There is no logic to the fact that a conviction of armed robbery brings a much longer penalty than does the act of manslaughter.
The 508 people feel it is their obligation to demand that legislators take a good hard look at a system that allows a drinking driver to murder and walk away, possible after only one third of his two-year sentence. Something must be done now. One of our loved ones could be the next victim.
Hon. Mr. Nixon moved that the requirement for notice provided for in standing order 64(h) be waived with respect to the ballot item scheduled for debate during the first and second Thursdays of the fall sitting.
Mr. Swart: This bill provides a means to ensure priority in preserving Ontario's best agricultural lands for food-growing purposes. It will ensure that classes 1, 2 and 3 and specialty crop lands will be used for other than food land purposes only in extreme circumstances and thus will halt the ongoing erosion of our food land base, which has been the pattern in recent decades.
Mr. Speaker: Before the orders of the day, I would like to inform the members that, pursuant to standing order 28, the member for Ottawa Centre (Ms. Gigantes) has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given by the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) and that this matter will be debated at 10:30 p.m. tonight.
Also pursuant to standing order 28, the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner) has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations (Mr. Kwinter), and that will be debated following the previous matter.
That, due to the interruption of the consideration of private bill legislation as a result of the dissolution of the 32nd Parliament, an application for private legislation relating to Bill Pr47, An Act respecting the City of Etobicoke, be considered during the present session without the payment of a further application fee, without publishing further notices of application and without lodging further declarations proving publication.
Hon. Mr. Conway: I do not intend to make a lengthy opening statement. My remarks of last Thursday will stand in that connection. I very much look forward to hearing from all honourable members of the assembly on this important matter of public policy and will make a series of remarks at the conclusion of the debate, presumably later this week.
Mr. Timbrell: I want to congratulate the minister on his re-election to the assembly -- I believe this will be the fourth term we have served together in this House -- and on his appointment two weeks ago as minister responsible for education.
Over the 10 years we have served together we have come to know one another reasonably well. During most of the time I was Minister of Health in the Davis administration, the minister was my critic. I always found him to be a very constructive, generally positive, open-minded individual, and I hope as we proceed through second reading debate and consideration of this legislation in committee over the course of the next two or three months, that open-mindedness, that sense of fair play, that great commitment to equity in Ontario society will continue to be applied to the issues at hand. They are very difficult issues.
The principle of the bill has been supported by all three parties. I will not take the time of the House. It would be redundant to take us back over the history of the last year or 13 months or, for that matter, the last 143 years --
Mr. Timbrell: No, it is all right. I am a former history teacher. Nothing would please me more than to trace the history of the development of this issue, but I think that history is well known. I indicated last week, as had my leader previously, that we would not be obstructionist. We will not throw impediments in the way of the consideration of this bill for second reading. As a party we will be supporting the bill on second reading.
I want the minister to know, however, there are many aspects of the bill and of the issue which trouble me and my fellow Conservative members on the committee, the member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Davis), the member for Burlington South (Mr. Jackson) and the member for Cochrane South (Mr. Pope), and, equally and in some cases even more so, members of the Conservative caucus.
Those concerns will be expressed during this debate and they most certainly will have to be expressed and addressed during the review of Bill 30 by the standing committee on social development, whose hearings will begin next Tuesday. At that time I understand the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) and a number of his senior staff will be in attendance to walk us through the bill clause by clause. I hope it is no omen that the light just went out over the minister.
Let me repeat the point I was making in my point of order earlier today. Before we start consideration in committee of Bill 30, I am pleased the minister committed himself today to providing us with all the drafts of the bill that have been considered in the 13 days since he became Minister of Education; all the briefs and, generally speaking, all the related materials which will be necessary for the committee and other interested parties to be aware of as we proceed.
Any concerns I will express today, and any concerns I will express and pursue during the course of the deliberations of the social development committee, will always be based on my firm conviction that whatever we do here must be seen to be fair and equitable as between the soon-to-be two publicly funded school systems, those operated by public school boards and those operated by Roman Catholic school boards. In every case the issue at hand will have to be judged against the standards of fairness and equity.
The first has to do with the question of the viability and the quality of the public school system as we know it. The minister went out of his way in his remarks last Thursday on introduction of the bill to repeat commitments that had been made previously by his leader and others that the public school system's integrity, quality and viability will be protected.
A problem is that there is nothing in the legislation to give that protection. We had a quotation from an official of the Ministry of Education last Friday or Saturday in which he stated that a sum of $6 million is being set aside to ensure the continued quality and viability of the public education system.
I would like to hear from the minister at some point, preferably before this bill comes to a second reading vote, that should that figure of $6 million prove to be insufficient, he will ensure that the financial regulations are passed in time to give all public school boards the necessary assurance that the money will be there to maintain the programs, facilities and, therefore, the viability and quality of the existing public school system in each of the school board jurisdictions across the province.
We are concerned about whether the minister and the Ministry of Education will give us their assurances that rather than simply using the planning and implementation commission as, potentially, a fall guy, they will accept their political responsibility to assure us there will not be duplication of programs or physical facilities in any of the school board jurisdictions.
I notice in the minister's statement and in the legislation that a great deal of emphasis is given to the planning and implementation commission, which originally was to be a temporary body when we set it up, becoming a permanent structure, almost a duplication of the bureaucracy of the ministry. We want the minister's assurance that he, the ministry and the cabinet will accept their responsibility to assure us and the public there will not be a duplication of programs or facilities, thereby weakening the two systems and becoming an unnecessary expense and burden on the taxpayers.
There is no provision in this legislation -- I have looked through it very carefully, and this is why I want to see the minister's drafts -- for coterminous public and Roman Catholic boards in any part of Ontario establishing consolidated school boards on local requests and by local option. This subject has been discussed for a number of years by several ministers of education with the school community. The minister is undoubtedly very nervous about broaching the subject, but it has found favour in some parts of the province, especially because they understand it would be by local option only, that it would not be imposed by the provincial government.
There are parts of the province where there may be only one high school serving an area and where they may very well find the best interests of all concerned would be served by establishing such a consolidated board. That is not in the bill. There is nothing in the bill that indicates how the minister intends to ensure the maximum possible amount of co-operation and co-ordination among the various school authorities in their areas.
Then there is the question of accessibility. When I had a chance last Thursday after question period to sit down and quietly go through the bill from page 1 to 20, or whatever, I was amazed to find that for the first time in our history the government is proposing to impose a legislated limit on access to the public secondary school system. In all of our history, the public school system has been open to whoever came to the door.
The minister has chosen potentially to limit access to both secondary school systems. He is saying that if a non-Catholic child wants to enrol in a Roman Catholic secondary school after this bill comes into force, he or she may be prohibited from enrolling if space does not allow. In order to justify that, the minister has introduced a similar provision for the public secondary school system. That is not acceptable.
This is a subject which we will discuss at great length in committee, and I am sure many organizations representing teachers, parents, school boards and others will want to offer their views. I expect in the committee we will probably, ultimately, strike down those provisions. I expect we will ensure that the secondary school systems in this province will be equally accessible to the students of Ontario and that we will not put in place the barriers the minister has proposed.
I want to give an example. Members know I used to teach -- it seems like 100 years ago -- at Don Mills Junior High School. In Don Mills we have a very good Roman Catholic elementary school, St. Bonaventure. In fact, a very good friend of mine, Denzil Minnan-Wong, is now the principal of that school.
When I taught at Don Mills Junior High School, as up to the present date, the funding of the separate school system ended at grade 10. For that reason it was very common for parents of Roman Catholic students in Don Mills to transfer their children to Don Mills Junior High School in grades 7, 8 or 9. In fact, when I went to teach at Don Mills Junior High School 18 years ago, we had so many children enrolled, including a great many from St. Bonaventure, that we had portables. If I understand the draft correctly, the North York board in that situation today would be able to say: "Sorry, we do not have any room. We do not want to add any more portables. You will have to go elsewhere."
I want the minister to consider the possibility that by putting this barrier in place for both secondary school systems, there will arise a situation somewhere, some day, probably very soon, where a student or students will have nowhere to go, a student or students will be denied access to both systems. Using the minister's criteria, they will not be acceptable. That provision of the bill is one I personally will speak to in greater detail when we get to committee.
I have already referred to the role of the planning and implementation commission. Let me deal with another aspect of it. In his bill the minister has outlined various roles for the commission. I believe one in particular potentially will put the public and its elected trustees to unnecessary expense and unnecessary delay. I am referring specifically to the section of the bill that provides in the case of disputes between boards that the commission is to get involved in the process, acting as a quasi-judicial body and opening up the likelihood of judicial review; but it is a process, as is outlined in the bill, that concludes with the right of appeal to the executive council.
I invite the minister to reconsider that section and to accept his and the government's political responsibility and use the commission in this kind of situation as a fact-finder only, which will report to the minister; then the minister will recommend a resolution of the dispute between boards of education to the executive council, whose decision will be final. That will put more onus on the minister and on the cabinet; however, it will also save a great many boards of education and a great many communities a lot of time and expense, because if the process as it is outlined is approved, I submit there will be cases that will go on for years once the lawyers get into the act.
I am sure the minister recognizes it is part of his responsibility to ensure that where differences between boards of education do occur, they should be cleared up as quickly and as equitably as possible. Again, is it fair and equitable? I submit that the way it is drafted is neither fair nor equitable.
On the question of teachers, I support and applaud the initiative of the minister with respect to the protection of various teachers' rights, such as seniority, pension benefits and sick days, but I am concerned about two aspects of this question. Again, I suspect the various federations will have a great deal to say about these matters when they appear before the committee.
One aspect has to do with the fact that once a secondary school teacher is designated and subsequently hired by the coterminous separate board, that teacher is protected against discriminatory practices with respect to promotion and all other matters. As I understand subclauses 19 and 20 of the bill, that protection will go on in perpetuity. There is a 10-year period during which teachers must be designated and therefore taken up by the local separate school board and afforded these protections, which will go on in perpetuity.
The bill says nothing about providing those same levels of protection against discriminatory hiring, promotion or firing practices for the other teachers who are employees of those boards, whether they be Catholic or non-Catholic. It says nothing about affording them to other teachers who will be hired, again be they Catholic or not.
This is an issue I invite the minister to consider and perhaps speak to when he appears before the committee next Tuesday. I am sure it is an issue that will raised by a variety of special interest groups that will appear before that committee.
My second concern has to do with elementary teachers. I have not seen this matter addressed to date by any of the various groups that have written to me. I want to suggest to the minister there will likely be an instance or instances in which elementary school teachers will also be made redundant in their present places of employment because of a larger-than-anticipated shift of enrolment within a particular school board jurisdiction.
The bill does not speak to that. I believe we should consider that, or at least extract from the minister some assurance that, in the event this sort of thing did occur, he would personally intervene to ensure the teachers affected would be protected.
One last minor issue: the bill indicates that, where a Roman Catholic school board elects to participate under this program, the separate school representatives on the coterminous public school boards will cease to be members of those boards as of January 1 in the year following the election by the separate school board. That is a complicated way of saying if the Frontenac-Addington board elects to involve itself in the program today, the separate school representatives on the Frontenac-Addington public school board would cease to be members on January 1.
We now have 38 or 39 plans approved. The way the bill is currently drafted -- and I have discussed this with several people -- my understanding is certain people who are going to have to stand for election on November 12 as separate school representatives on the various public school boards will then be out of a job on January 1. It does not make any sense. It is not fair or equitable to those people. When we get into committee, I invite the minister to consider rolling that back to perhaps November 1, which would be a date prior to the election in any year in which municipal elections are held.
There is no subject about which the members of this House, of whatever party, have heard more from the public over the course of the last 13 months. We are going to hear a great deal more. The member for Scarborough West (Mr. R. F. Johnston), who is the chairman of the standing committee on social development, will be going before the Board of Internal Economy -- or the board of infernal economy as we used to call it when I was in government -- within the next five or six days with a fairly hefty budget, based on 12 weeks of hearings, three of them on the road. This is the new triparty road gang. Even the 12-week estimate may be conservative; it may take longer. The government has assured us we have whatever length of time we require inasmuch as it has referred the matter to the Supreme Court. That is something to which perhaps some of my colleagues will speak later.
I go back to my opening remarks. Recognizing there are so many concerns on this issue, not just from my colleagues or the minister's colleagues in his own or the New Democratic Party but from many people in the public such as private citizens, representatives of various professional and special interest organizations, I hope the minister will bring to this task the kind of approach that has typified my association with him over the years, which is very fair, honest and open-minded.
I hope he will be prepared to accept amendments to his legislation from the committee, which will ultimately ensure the new system of education in Ontario, in which we will have two publicly funded secondary school systems -- two publicly funded education systems -- will be completely fair and equitable in every community to every student, teacher and parent.
Mr. Allen: It is with a sense of the importance of the occasion -- a very historic bill is before us -- that I rise to speak in this second reading debate and state this party stands committed to the principle it enshrines.
I was surprised to see the minister did not make a more extensive initial statement. I would have thought that beginning the debate on this of all bills would have called for that kind of statement. I am sure he will have a very substantial conclusion for us, which will make entirely clear to this House and the public of this province why his government has chosen to propose this legislation for consideration and adoption.
I must say I am equally astonished at the remarks that were made by the critic for the official opposition. To my mind, that was not a second reading speech on the principles of this bill. After 13 months, I think the time has come when it is important for our parties, all of us, to say to the public how it is we have arrived at this position; not only why we as parties have done so, but also how we view the public circumstances surrounding education in Ontario, given the long history of that subject, as requiring this now.
I did not hear anything from the Conservative critic in this House as to why 13 months ago, the former Premier, William Grenville Davis, chose to finally lay this issue before this province as a matter for realistic debate and legislative possibility. We all know where that past Premier stood on this subject some years ago. None of us had the benefit of the Conservative Party exercising its mind in the interval and coming gradually to a conclusion with respect to the importance of extending funding. Thirteen months ago, none of us, not even the caucus, the ministry nor the cabinet, was aware of what was about to happen. Of all the parties in this House, it is surely the Conservative Party that needs to do some explaining about how it got where it is, and the job was surely that of the critic.
Essentially, I was surprised to hear a committee kind of discussion, looking at a number of the particulars in the bill, raising some concerns about this and that, which obviously will preoccupy us. They are important issues, I am not denying that, but they were questions which really were proper at a subsequent stage of consideration. I still look forward at some point to hearing the member affirm the principle of this bill in clear terms and to hearing him give us some explanation as to why it is important from his party's point of view to take this step at this time. I think he and his party owe that to all of us.
I must say it is with a certain relief that I finally find myself speaking on this subject in this Legislature. We have all had it thrown up to us time and again, almost week in and week out, month in and month out over the past 13 months that we were not engaging in debate, that we were not explaining ourselves and that we were not discussing what we were proposing to do.
While I do not for a moment agree that in actual fact there was no discussion, no debate and no consultation during those months, none the less those charges were important ones and a real disturbance was raised in the public by the difficulty that was posed for a political system in arousing that kind of debate and in enabling that kind of consultation and that form of discussion to take place when three parties had come to a single agreement.
It is very important for us to recognize that it was sensed as real and was felt as real by the Ontario public and by the people most immediately concerned; namely the teachers, parents, students and school trustees. We must never forget that.
None the less, it is not true that there was no discussion, no debate and no consultation taking place. There was the activity of the Commission for Planning and Implementing Change in the Governance and Administration of Secondary Education in Ontario that held hearings around the province. There was the work of the press which would not let the subject die. That is to its credit; that is its job. There were the responses of many of us to the press, although the media did not always seem to think our answers were substantial justification for what we were doing. Again, that is their privilege. None the less, that process was there.
There was the election campaign. While it has been charged that this was not a subject of central focus of the campaign, none the less it remains true that every member to whom I have talked went through a considerable process of debate and discussion in the midst of that campaign, not only at the doorstep but also in formal meetings at which it was raised as a central feature of debate. The issues were laid out, the contest was there and the answers had to be given. All of us tried to give them as best we could.
In the weeks subsequent to that, there has been constant, unending discussion, until we now find ourselves rising formally at last to explain ourselves. I think it is extremely important that we do so. It is important to ask how it is we find ourselves, at this time in Ontario, in the middle of the 1980s, extending a confessional system in Ontario and completing it as part of a public system of public education.
One could rehearse the dates. One could go back to the first public funding of separate schools in 1841, to the elaborating of that principle in 1863, to the constitutional entrenching of it in 1867. One could go to the somewhat equal legislation of 1871 setting up a public high school system in this province without being entirely clear as to whether separate school extensions were a legitimate part of that. One could go to 1899 and to the legislation that legally entrenched the offering of grades 9 and 10 by separate schools. One could go to 1908 and the further extension and legitimization of that.
On the other hand, one could go to events such as the Tiny township case of 1928 in which the attempt to settle the separate system by extending it to the final years of secondary schooling, grades 11, 12 and 13, was rebuffed. However, one would have to observe at that moment in history that the judgements were rather curious.
On the one hand, the Ontario panel of judges was split 10 to 3 -- 10 Protestant and three Catholic. Then there was a Supreme Court reference in which the judges were equally divided. After a reference to the judicial committee of the Privy Council, Viscount Haldane decided against the extension. However, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada was one of the members of the panel who was in favour of the extension and the constitutional right of completion of the Catholic system.
In 1978 the new weighting was given to separate school funding for grades 9 and 10. Now grades 9 and 10 were being offered in the same way as elementary levels, and also in terms of funds that increasingly approached those of the secondary school system.
There is a strange story here. On one hand there is a pattern of progressive and constant elaboration and extension with few real setbacks, finally culminating in our own exercise today. On the other hand, there is also in that history in Ontario a process of impediment, of opposition. There has been a refusal to face the necessary and logical conclusion of the compact in 1841 and, in particular, in 1867. I refer to the time when Ontario and Quebec, or Upper Canada and Lower Canada -- name them as you will -- Canada West and Canada East, came to an understanding that if there were to be Protestant schools in Lower Canada there would be Catholic public schools in Upper Canada.
The Constitution of 1867 makes it plain that the privileges that are accorded to the Protestant system in Quebec were to be those of the Catholic system in Upper Canada or now in Ontario. However, one must recognize that those privileges were not offered in the same measure in this province as they were in Lower Canada.
Another province, namely New Brunswick, moved quickly to end those educational practices established by law which the Constitution of 1867 was supposed to guarantee. The Catholics of New Brunswick looked to the Catholics of Quebec and their power within Confederation to impede a Protestant majority from overriding their school system. In New Brunswick, the Catholic majority was unable to act because it felt itself encumbered by the Anglo-Protestant majority of the nation as a whole. It did not move in to defend itself as the Fathers of Confederation had understood the balancing act would effect.
The result of being a double minority within a confederal system has afflicted the Catholics of various provinces, not just our own. But it certainly has afflicted our own and it has impeded the completion of a system which should have been completed long since, in my opinion and in this party's opinion. We could now be moving on to other levels of debate in education which would be much more helpful and useful for all of us to be engaging in.
When this party began in 1969 to reconsider its position on this matter, there were a number of very prominent issues we had to address and which ultimately convinced us of the need to change our party's policy. We noticed, for one thing, that through those 144 years I have sketched so briefly, the legislators and the public in Ontario have accepted and legitimized the steady expansion of the Roman Catholic separate school system.
We concluded that if that kind of legitimacy existed over time, what ground really was there for us to say any more that there was some reason to refuse to complete the system. We could not find it in ourselves to discover the logic that could confront that history.
There were other matters which impressed us, perhaps because of not having looked as closely as we should have at the system. We discovered the range of public accountability that existed in that other public system. We knew there were elected Catholic school boards; we knew there was a public taxation assessment base; we knew there was a requirement of public teacher certification; that the school system followed all the guidelines of the ministry and accepted its supervision.
As a result of looking at all that history and the fact of public accountability in the structure, we could not conclude that this was a public system that was going to go away. If this system of education was not going to go away, inasmuch as it was a system that tutored some 500,000 Ontario children and was the choice of about one third of our population, the only choice we had, in order to do justice to it as a system attempting to accomplish its educational task and to do justice to the children it served, was to engage in full and complete funding.
We had some other concerns. We noticed when we looked at that system that throughout its history to an unusual degree it had served large numbers of the less advantaged of the Ontario community. Whether going back to its beginnings and its struggling attempts to serve the immigrant Irish poor of the 19th century, or looking at the numbers of post-Second World War immigrants enrolled in the system or looking at its broad service to the working classes of most cities and to the people of the north and the east, one has to conclude that here was a system that was serving those who needed education most and was often doing it with limited resources.
How could we, as representatives of the Ontario public, not conclude that it should have full and complete resources to do that task properly? We also concluded that a system that had the support of a third of the Ontario public and that educated nearly 500,000 of its children could hardly be ignored. The reasons that persuaded us were also apparently the reasons that persuaded an ecumenical body in 1970, which at that time included Archbishop Garnsworthy and other Protestant leaders who are now speaking on this subject, to write some very interesting words about this proposal. I would like to read them.
"One point on which we are particularly ready to support separate school authorities is in their plea to be treated as equals in educational planning. They are as assiduous for the welfare of the future citizens of Ontario committed to their charge as are the authorities of the public system and ask to be recognized as such.
"Our support of the Roman Catholic brief will be misinterpreted if it is taken to mean endorsement of the fragmentation of education. Unity in diversity is a viable possibility. Both church and society are not necessarily weakened by plurality. By constitution we do have two public education systems. We, therefore, are not urging separation but simply recognizing the dual system we thought we already had.
"In the end, we can only say that we feel clearly that both justice and prudence require us to support the basic stance of Equality in Education" -- the document they were referring to -- "and that we regard the relatively added cost as something of a debt of honour."
One of the points they make as the final point of consideration that led this party to adopt the policy it did in the period 1969-71 was the question of unity in diversity. One thing that struck us as we tried to wrestle with the existing separate system was that we confronted in Ontario an immense minority that insisted on grounding its approach to education on a certain matter of principle.
The more we looked at the Ontario community, the more we discovered that there were growing within it principled bodies of a variety of character and that somehow it was necessary -- although I think we still have not worked our way through that and I do not think this province has worked its way through it -- to respond in new ways to the communities of principle that exist in our society. It was necessary to recognize their activities and their presence as principled communities, as a healthy and proper contribution to the making and development of Ontario and its future.
Unless we were prepared and could find some real ground to say that in the case of the Catholic community and its interest in having its own school system that was illegitimate, we found ourselves on very difficult ground in saying that it was wrong to extend funding to the system on an equal basis and to complete the system as it stood through the remaining years of the school system.
For a number of reasons, which I must say it took our party some time to digest, we therefore made a historic move in our policy posture in this respect. We concluded, and have stated ever since and continue to state, that the only part of justice that is important to us in this respect and overrides everything else must be the completion of that system.
When we say that, we realize we are speaking in the context of 1985, which is somewhat changed from that of 1971. From our point of view, we recognize it would have been better to have moved in 1971 when it looked as though we had a potential accord on this subject. At that time, the school systems were expanding; we could have absorbed this change much more readily.
None the less, it is better that justice be done some time, even if it is inconvenient, than that it not be done at all. Having taken the conclusion that we have, we have been consistent in arguing that when that became possible in our own time, in 1984-85, we should proceed. However, we recognized the public system -- the public public system, if you like -- was in some trouble with declining enrolments and problems such as teacher security, which have been created by the immediate past government in its reduced commitment to spending on public educational matters.
It is perhaps in that respect that I should respond to one of the comments of the Conservative critic on the whole question of space. Of course space must not be a reason for denying educational right, and in so far as this bill makes it possible to deny that right on the grounds of space, that will have to be altered.
None the less, it is important for us to recognize why space is even offered as an argument for refusing access. Last fall, when the Roman Catholic system in Metropolitan Toronto said there was no more space, it was for a very good reason: there was no more space. Not only was there no more space, but also there was no more money for portables and for other new space that would be necessary, because it could not get the capital money from the government to expand to new facilities.
The physical needs of the system have to be recognized. If we are going to meet the needs of the cost of special education programs in the system this fall and if we are going to meet the needs of the public system in so many other ways in which it is needful, so it must be with respect to the question of space. If we are going to insist that space should not be a criterion for access, we are going to have to say the money will have to be there to provide the facilities, to provide the space, so the argument cannot even legitimately be used.
It is going to be important for the present minister to address that problem, among the many problems of underfunding of the public system that currently exist, to assure all our friends in every rank of the public school system that they are not going to be ignored or hurt by this process of completion of the Catholic system.
There have been a number of objections that one could rehearse at some length. I do not want to dwell on them. There have been objections to the style of implementation, and we have certainly had our own objections to that. There have been concerns about the impact on the public system as I have just alluded to them. Not only was it not the best time to move in that respect, but also there were some very particular questions that had to do with teachers' security, the security of workers in the system and our own instant reaction in this party.
Within two weeks of the announcement by the then Premier, we passed a resolution at our convention in Hamilton last June in which we made it very clear that any legislation on this subject would have to guarantee the security of tenure of teachers in the public system. It appears to me that by the work of the implementation commission and by this bill, that problem has been resolved for the most part.
I am happy to hear reports that no teacher has so far been laid off in the public secondary system this year. One hopes the use of the designated list and the tenure of security that is offered in perpetuity to secondary public school teachers will be effective in maintaining that kind of record.
I have not heard quite so much by way of attention, nor of report, as to the impact upon other workers in the public system. I want to have a close look at that, as I am sure will the committee, before we conclude that we are in agreement with the passages in the bill with respect to teacher and worker security.
There remain some problems in this bill on the whole question of discrimination. This is a very ticklish and delicate subject. In facing this issue itself, the Ontario Human Rights Commission had to reach a certain compromise. On the one hand, there was the historic and constitutional right of an existing school system to exist. It was obvious and logical that there must be some means to maintain them and that they would be constitutionally guaranteed. One of those means was the hiring principally of Catholic teachers.
On the other hand, one has to confess a good deal of restiveness and unhappiness at the way in which that is used, from place to place and from time to time, to intrude upon what one must consider to be the private decisions of teachers, whether Catholic or not, within the system. We will want to look at that in a general way.
In more particular terms, where the legislation refers to nondiscrimination by virtue of creed for teachers coming into the system from the designated list, we will want to see some more ample expression there that also includes questions of lifestyle and that creed does extend through to lifestyle in those matters. For example, we will want to be sure that where the hiring provisions of this legislation apply, they apply with some degree of conformity and rigour with the existing contract protection that teachers have in either system. That is a matter of wording in some cases, but we will have to pay some attention to that.
We are concerned that where schools transfer en bloc, due care is taken that students and parents of students who find themselves in another system are protected by those nondiscrimination clauses that appear in the legislation for teachers and for other students.
We will also want to see some amendment with respect to what is meant by "religious education." Exemption from religious education must clearly be extended into religious observance and the practice of the sacraments. I am very mindful that it is a standing position of the Catholic church itself that sacraments will not be administered to those who are not confessing members of that church. I would not think that to be a problem normally, but it should be in the legislation to remove all doubt.
There have been other objections with regard to student access, to which I have already referred. I am glad to see that the bill, for the most part, has done that on a nondiscriminatory basis. There may still be some question as to whether it is possible for a student to find himself legitimately in that system but somehow being required against his or her parents' will to take religious education. All doubt must be removed with regard to that.
There have been objections about the stimulus this will give to private schools demanding public funding. I do not think they have needed this occasion to get them on that track. They have been there for some time. We have been aware of that. We have all had to respond to it. It is not new. At the same time, if we have been opposed to that in the past, we all have to recognize that the charter itself may put us into some difficulty as we turn to wrestle with any charter decision that might give legitimacy to the claims for public funding on the part of private schools.
The charter notwithstanding, our party insists that, by definition, systems of education that lack structures of public accountability cannot be given public moneys. In that sense, we insist that private schools are not candidates.
None of these objections is insurmountable. As the legislation makes clear, a good many of them are already well on the way to being well and truly surmounted. The consultation is taking place. The concerns of teachers and students are being substantially addressed. The viability in single-school communities is being addressed; on that point, the legislation is notably weak, and we will want to see something more specific.
One of the major debates has hung on the question of constitutionality. While we are not going to resolve that in this debate on second reading or in the committee hearings that will follow, it is a matter of supreme importance. It is not uncommon for legal challenges and constitutional references to accompany legislation, for those processes to proceed at one time. For a Legislature to concede it should cease action while a legal challenge or constitutional reference takes place is to hamstring itself beyond all reason. There could be few surer ways to neuter this assembly.
The judgement to proceed in a case in which there is a constitutional question must be based upon reasonable assurance that the matter is within the powers of this Legislature and is not in conflict with the British North America Act or the charter. Those of us who have proceeded have taken some trouble to assure ourselves that is reasonably the case. That will not be settled until there is a court reference and the judgement is completed, perhaps finally in the Supreme Court of Canada.
None the less, to me and to us in this party, it is inconceivable that one third of the population of Ontario should be denied the right to public support of a complete educational system of its choice, a system already grounded in the constitution and law and accompanied by public accountability structures such as I have described, simply because of its religious persuasion. I think the judgement Mr. Robinette has offered the public on this can be turned quite legitimately on its head, and this has been done by other constitutional lawyers. The case is certainly as persuasive on one side as the other, and we will await the decision of the court.
This party certainly concedes the wisdom and importance of a court reference so as to remove all doubts about constitutionality, but we consider the implementation process has proceeded so far that it would be risking more in the way of chaos and harm in this procedure to fail to continue at this point than would happen if the whole matter were drawn to a halt.
We support the minister in his proposal for proceeding in September. The word "decree" has been used with respect to it. I think the course he has chosen is a proceeding that has accompanied the expansion of funding to the separate system and its expansion in recent years. I refer in particular to the 1978 improvements in the weighting factors, which were done under the legislation that governs the regulations concerning legislative grants in education. Nobody protested then that those grants were being improved by that device, and that is what is being proceeded with at this point. None the less, one has to admit it is an expedient one would rather not have had to resort to. But one has to judge, and we certainly did, that it was necessary in the circumstances and that it is consistent with past practice.
With regard to the legislation itself, I do not want to engage in clause-by-clause consideration of the legislation now. I have pointed to some of the points in which we think there are remaining weaknesses in the legislation. It is not surprising to us that this should be so, given the space of time the minister and the new ministry have had to bring it before us.
All of us would have preferred to have been reviewing this legislation six months ago. Then we would have had the time to engage in those lengthy hearings which would have made it possible for us to have completed the legislative process before September had come upon us. Finding ourselves where we are and committing ourselves to hearings throughout the province over the next eight to 12 weeks, or however long it is necessary to hear everybody who wants to be heard, I think it is possible for us to proceed on this agenda in an orderly way. We can attempt to meet as many of the objections as we possibly can as we proceed on a course that we feel finally does justice to a community in Ontario which has fought so hard over the years for its educational rights, which has had them frustrated in so many respects and which now stands at the point of a completion of its system.
I am happy to be supporting this legislation which will accomplish that. I look forward to the minister and the ministry bringing to us, in very short order, those funding recommendations and those programs which will move in on the remaining problems that exist in the major sector of public education in this province. Then the educational system of this Ontario may be, as so many of the past ministers on the other side, Conservative in persuasion, told us so often, the very best that exists anywhere in any jurisdiction, not only in North America but also in the world.
To begin with, during the election campaign, I attended a number of meetings that were held in connection with this issue. One of them, an excellent meeting, was run by the United Church of Canada. It had experts from every area of concern who I thought addressed the issues quite logically. The only concern I heard during that entire panel discussion was the question of teachers' jobs. It struck me, as a reasonable person, that this was a reasonable concern. I suggest that has been addressed in the bill.
From then on, there were various other suggestions made, such as the constitutionality of the bill. If one looks at section 29 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there clearly is preserved therein the rights that were guaranteed by section 93 of the British North America Act. The section reads: "Nothing in this charter abrogates or derogates from any rights or privileges guaranteed by or under the Constitution of Canada in respect of denominational, separate or dissentient schools." It seems to me that section clearly preserves the rights that were enshrined in the British North America Act in favour of separate schools.
I suppose it boils down to the question of what was protected at that time and what is now. I would suggest that was one of the issues put forward as the reason the introduction of this legislation should be delayed, to the detriment of more than 6,000 children. It was not going to be implemented as of September 1.
I would submit this government, with the very significant hard work of the Minister of Education, brought forward a bill that addressed all the issues. In addition, there was added to that the guarantee the matter would be referred to the Court of Appeal as quickly as possible and that we would look for a result from them some time in December.
I would submit the matters were addressed. Without leaving it at that, we were fair enough to leave it open for hearings as long as necessary to allow the public to continue to have input into the legislation and the procedure.
I wonder whether the Alberta Legislature was required to go through the terrific debate we are going through with regard to the funding of separate schools in that jurisdiction. I wonder whether the Saskatchewan Legislature was required to do that. We know Quebec was guaranteed the same rights as Ontario under the British North America Act.
I would suggest there are some other interesting features in the provinces I have just mentioned, in that the provincial compared to municipal funding of those schools is very much higher than it was in Ontario as of the defeat of the previous government. Alberta is 65 per cent provincial, 30 per cent municipal. Saskatchewan is in excess of 52 per cent provincial and 44 per cent municipal. It is 95 per cent provincial in Quebec and five per cent municipal. Certainly there the funding was not being eroded, as was the situation under the previous government here.
That was perhaps one of the reasons the separate school system became so attractive. It was because of things such as uniforms that children were required to wear during the nonfunded years. I really do not understand what this tremendous rush to the separate school system envisaged by everyone is going to be, except perhaps in areas where there is not accessibility.
However, I would suggest the issue itself is being placed at a higher degree of significance than it may prove to be after all is said and done. The issues that had to and will be addressed or will be looked at in the public hearings should adequately cover the particular situation.
Having said all that, I would suggest it is quite obvious, at least from the statements made by the various speakers in this House, and also those made on earlier occasions, during the election and even prior to it, that there is general consensus that this legislation is just and approved. One would think we would not have to debate too fully on the question of whether second reading should be passed. I find it difficult to believe there is anyone in this House who would consider it should not be, considering we are all on public record as favouring the particular legislation.
It concerned me a bit during the failing days of the Conservative government that although it made seven drafts of the legislation available to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, the legislation was not available to the House to allow the House the opportunity to review it.
When I reflected on this and first heard about the former Premier's comments back in June, my immediate concern was that this matter would not reduce itself to the level of getting into something other than the mechanics and equities. I hope we will continue to approach it on that level and that the major concern will be that of quality education for the children. I think that is the nub of the entire issue.
In commenting on the particulars of the legislation itself, in my reading of the bill, contrary perhaps to the member for Don Mills (Mr. Timbrell), I consider it approaches all those issues and deals with them in a fair fashion. I am going to be voting in favour of the bill and I appreciate the opportunity to speak in favour of it.
Mr. Davis: Many members of this Legislature have articulated the sentiment that there are few issues in today's society which have the potential of creating misunderstanding and fanning the flames of prejudice as does the issue before this House on the extension of funding to the separate schools of this province.
One recognizes that the issue cannot be resolved by avoiding it. Thus, I welcome the opportunity for debate and of a forum for the citizens of this province and other interest groups to share with us their concerns so that, if required, we can make the necessary changes in the legislation to address their concerns.
I indicated previously that the extension of the funding legislation must enshrine criteria I believe are the essence of public education in this province and must continue the historical spirit of Ontario's educational philosophy of equal educational opportunity for every child in this province.
To that end, legislation must, in my humble opinion, first and foremost, as articulated by William Davis in his statement of June 12, then later by the Liberal Minister of Education and by our new Premier (Mr. Peterson), protect the viability of the public secondary school system and the public educational system of this province.
Secondly, teachers must be assured in legislation of job protection with all the rights and privileges they now enjoy in the public system. I would maintain that there must be free accessibility for all students to both systems, public and separate. Finally, the additional costs connected with this extension will not be derived at the expense of the taxpayers of this province.
In the 1800s, Ryerson's stand on the issue of universal access was radical, but I would suggest to this House it was no more radical than the present suggestion that a school system supported by public tax dollars explicitly implies that children, regardless of creed, should have an absolute right to attend. I was taken aback and appalled when the present Minister of Education and his government recommended in the new legislation that a parallel, restrictive clause of accessibility based on the availability of space be implemented by the public schools.
This government, by the stroke of a pen, has removed the hallmark of public education in this province, which has been a policy of open accessibility to all students. This restrictive clause for accessibility could unjustly and unfairly, if carried to the ultimate end, place a student in the no-man's land of education, since conceivably neither educational system could accommodate the student. I strongly suggest this is totally unacceptable.
The enunciation of the government in its third principle of the proposed new legislation, that the interest of students in all our schools must be first and foremost is, in light of clauses 136(2)(a) and 136(2)(b), not only hollow and shallow, but misleading and destructive to some students in this province.
It is a truism that major changes in public policy are never achieved without discussion and accommodation, and rarely without controversy. I would suggest that an attitude of compromise and accommodation will be necessary to implement this legislation with the least amount of hurt and mistrust.
To that end, I would strongly suggest, through the process of dialogue and consultation, we re-examine the issue of total accessibility for any student who applies to either system. I would suggest, as Cardinal Carter has indicated his feelings in the case of a non-Catholic student being exempt from religious studies, accessibility will not destroy the ethos of the separate school system.
Even under the proposed legislation, public school teachers and nonteaching staff still have grave concerns regarding employment opportunities and job protection in the separate school system. I have examined the legislation and I find the process of declaring a teacher surplus and steps for obtaining employment in separate schools are, to say the least, fuzzy. It suggests a list of all surplus teachers is presented to the planning and implementation committee, which in turn gives it to the separate school boards, from which to fill new teaching positions.
The legislation fails to indicate how the separate school boards will make selections of the required staff. Must a teacher in Toronto transfer to Sudbury if that is the only vacancy for which he or she qualifies? Furthermore, the confusion of the legislation is noted when a public school board cannot terminate the employment of a person designated surplus until he or she is employed by a Roman Catholic board.
Questions such as the following arise: Does the public board continue to pay a salary even though the position no longer exists? Does the teacher go into the classroom, thus negating collective agreements? Does the teacher remain at home? How long must a public board assume responsibility for this dislocated person?
I believe this area must be refined to ensure the protection of teachers. Will this government amend the legislation to ensure that public school teachers will have an ironclad guarantee they will be hired, promoted and evaluated on a nondiscriminatory basis? Will this government protect the rights and privileges that public education teachers now have when they transfer over to the separate schools?
The cost of the extension of the separate schools is also foggy and confused. The figures range from $40 million to $80 million in the first year, to $260 million to $340 million over the first three years, with an ongoing cost of $150 million. To the government that is priding itself on an open and accessible philosophy, I would respectfully request they inform this House and the residents of Ontario as to their proposals for acquiring the additional funding without inflicting more hardships by increasing education taxes.
Will the present government follow the lead of the Hepburn government, which made amendments to the Assessment Act to adjust the division of corporate taxes between public and separate schools; or will it implement the Martin proposal of pooling the industrial-commercial assessment of this province, thus effectively controlling 80 per cent of education funding? Will this government indicate how it proposes to fund the costs associated with the extension of separate schools?
The former Premier, William Davis, stated in his address of June 12, "We must not undertake a course of action that by its nature or its execution would cripple or limit the viability of our nondenominational public school system."
A report in the Globe and Mail stated: "The commission on implementation came back to two central problems, one of which is how to reconcile the expansion of the Catholic school system in areas where the public system will clearly be put in jeopardy by the expansion."
The Ontario high school principals have noted that financing separate schools in certain areas will inevitably restrict programs in the public school system. Programs that could be axed would be music, art, industrial shops and new technology. However, it is the position of the Progressive Conservative Party that we must protect the public education system as announced by the Honourable William Davis, a public education system that is accessible to all and universally supported and that will always remain the cornerstone of our educational system.
He further stated in his address of June 12 that to protect our public educational system, while assuming some costs which are now carried privately by Roman Catholic families, will require additional public funding. Will the government incorporate into its proposed legislation a guarantee to the public taxpayers that the present level of services and programs delivered to students of secondary schools will be maintained and not eroded to some common denominator? Will this government enact legislation to provide the necessary funding to ensure this level of support for all public educational jurisdictions in this province regardless of pupil enrolment?
"The fundamental concern for every citizen in Ontario is the preservation of the quality of the educational system. I have made a commitment to Ontario that education will be my government's number one priority. I have given assurance that my government will pay the greatest attention to the needs of teachers, students, concerned parents and school boards."
I now ask the Premier if he will ensure this commitment by placing in the new legislation a guarantee of programs and services at present afforded students in the public system and provide for the adequate funding of these programs, services and new educational initiatives.
I will conclude with these words expressed by Cardinal Carter and some 650 Catholic school trustees and their spouses: "We will work for unity. We will work for healing. We will work for the total community." In that spirit, I believe we have an opportunity now to resolve this difficult issue and move onward in the harmonious and progressive development of our province.
Mr. Warner: Before starting, I would like to pass along a couple of notes of appreciation to the member for Scarborough Centre, who has just concluded his remarks. Members may know that the member for Scarborough Centre has had a distinguished career on the school board in Scarborough. He was the chairman of that board for many years and is extremely knowledgeable about the issues of modern education.
I think the contribution by that member today indicates in general the tone of this debate. I do not think it is any secret that the member had a lot of reservations about the principle of the extension of funding. Yet he could rise in his place and offer constructive criticism aimed at improvement and at the same time support the principle of the bill. I applaud him for that.
This is an historic debate. Because it is, it requires from the members of this assembly a different kind of effort to what we normally see here. If I could step back for a moment, yesterday I engaged in verbal battle with the minister over the question of the sale of South African wines in the stores and I will continue that debate this evening. This afternoon is the time for a different approach, a constructive approach, one where we can air our opinions, our beliefs and our suggestions without rancour and without looking out for our own political, partisan hides. I think that is important.
The last historic debate in which I had the privilege to participate in this assembly was on the Confederation question. That was an occasion when the members rose above their individual concerns and found it possible to enter into a highly intelligent debate where views were exchanged and something very positive came out of it. When the debate was over, the members were pleased with their contribution and with the final results.
This Legislature has determined to do a couple of very significant things. It is going to hold public hearings throughout the province. It is going to listen to the people of Ontario on an issue that is one of the most sensitive it has had to deal with for some time. The moment one begins to mix religion with anything, one evokes an emotional response; there is no question about that. The moment one suggests change in any major way, one evokes an emotional response. As politicians, we are aware that generally people do not like change. The more suddenly it comes and the more surprised they are by it, the more disconcerted they are and the more likely they are to respond in a defensive way.
It is our job to assure the people of Ontario that we still have a deep and strong commitment to public education. If anything, the end result of this process will be a much strengthened public education system. I do not want the members to misconstrue and think I am casting aspersions on the previous regime. It did the job the way it saw fit. History will judge whether that was good or bad.
We now have an opportunity to move forward and strengthen our system. I am sure we will, but only if we are prepared to co-operate and listen to some imaginative ideas. The member who spoke previously mentioned pooling industrial-commercial assessment. That is one suggestion; there will be many more. The reason is obvious. In a modern society such as ours we probably treasure two major areas above all else, our health care system and our educational system. They are measures of how progressive our society is.
Are we able to structure an educational system that is universal in nature and meets the individual needs, not just of the students, those who are of school age, but also of all people? Are we able to provide a universal health care system? Those are the major expenditures of every government in the land.
When we look at a major change in our educational system, we are also looking at a major commitment of dollars. Everyone understands that. That should not frighten us. It probably says in a very strong way that we have a deeper commitment to provide quality education for all our citizens because we are prepared to spend the dollars required. That may mean the government has to take a look at its spending priorities, I understand that; or it may in its wisdom decide it has to raise more money. That is the government's choice.
We have decided to have legislation and we have decided on a referral to the court. I want to touch on that matter for a few moments because I have some concerns about court referrals. I am not opposed to referring this matter or any other matter to the court. What I am concerned about was the suggestion that the matter be referred to the court first. Quite frankly, this suggestion was made by many citizens, even by some of my constituents and I am sure some of the minister's.
That troubles me because in a sense, if we think about it, we would be allowing the courts to second-guess our business and, in my understanding, that is not the way the British parliamentary system works. We debate a matter, whether it is the separate school issue or seat-belt legislation or you name it. We debate it here; we make a decision; we conclude the legislation. Then if an individual or a group wishes to question that decision in the courts, they have the right to do so. That is the system.
If you tamper with that, I think you create inertia in the Legislature whereby the Legislature is reluctant to pass anything without prejudging how the courts will view it. I suggest that would be regressive. That is not our parliamentary system, it is not the way in which it was meant to perform and, if I understand the government's position on this, I think it will have second reading and hearings and then delay third reading until a court decision, which is a very sensible way to proceed.
We will have decided at that point, at the end of the hearings and reporting back to the House, on the final format we wish this legislation to take and at that point we will await the decision of the court.
I am pleased the government has decided to take that process instead of reversing it, because the reversal, I suggest, would go beyond this issue of funding the separate schools and might be an albatross that we would have to live with for many years to come.
As far as I am concerned, this legislation should be placed in the context of funding levels for public education, in equality of funding level for both the Catholic school system and the non-Catholic school system, and there should and must be a shift away from the property tax as a way to pay for education and back to general revenues.
I think the people of Ontario do not deserve to have continued tax pressure put upon them. Quite frankly, they are reaching the point of breaking. By way of absurd example, we know that now, on paper, the city of Toronto owes money to Ontario. They do not receive a penny from the province for education, not a penny, and, on paper, the city owes money back. That is ridiculous. The city of Toronto is collecting 100 per cent of the cost of education from property tax and I suggest that is wrong.
We have to set a goal. I can say my goal is for 60 per cent of the total funding to come from general revenues, but at some point the government has to indicate its goal and how it wishes to achieve that goal.
The first choice is that we could turn the clock back 140 years and say there should not be a publicly funded Roman Catholic school system. We can decide to erase the provisions in the British North America Act and the provisions in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We can simply say a mistake was made in the 1840s and we are going to erase that mistake.
The second choice would be to pretend that education in a modern world is complete at the end of grade 8. That is certainly a choice in legislative terms. We could say the funding is guaranteed only to the end of grade 8 and that is where we stay -- at the status quo. It is a bit silly, in my view, to pretend that in 1985 a grade 8 education is the optimum and that is what people aim at. It is a rather foolish point of view, but none the less that is the second choice.
Those are the three choices in principle. We roll the clock back 140 years, pretend that grade 8 is a sufficient education or have an equal system. Without pounding the proposal any further, it is fairly obvious the reasonable and rational choice is the third.
From discussions with constituents who phone with concerns about the funding, I have found that when I explain the three choices they change their minds. The constituents who at the outset were opposed to funding of Roman Catholic schools agree with the logic.
People in Ontario are reasonable. They are not stupid people; they are not illogical; they are not unreasonable. The people here have built Ontario into the strong and good province it is because they are reasonable and intelligent. I have faith that as we go through the debates both here in the House and in committee the people of Ontario will support the principle of this legislation.
There will be some disagreement over individual clauses; that is to be expected. The government fully expects that some people will disagree with particular clauses of its legislation; that is the nature of being the government. There will be some among the general public who will be concerned about this clause or that; that is fine. That is the nature of our democratic system. That is why we have public meetings. That is why we have committee members who will listen to the public and, based on what they hear, will offer suggestions as to how to change certain clauses in the legislation.
I suggest in closing that the legislation is only a beginning. If we are serious about making this work, there has to be a very high degree of co-operation among school boards and among teacher groups. There must be a high degree of co-operation in each and every community throughout this province. There will have to be some sharing of facilities, some sharing of program, of expertise. It is a type of co-operation which probably has never existed before, but it will have to be done.
The end result will be that a decade from now we can say proudly that because of our efforts today we have provided for the people of Ontario, regardless of their religion, the very finest school system anywhere in the world. That is why our efforts are important today, and that is why I appreciate having had the opportunity to participate in this debate.
Mr. Offer: It is a pleasure and an honour to rise in this debate on second reading of Bill 30. Before getting into the debate, I would be remiss not to take this opportunity to congratulate and commend the Minister of Education for immediately recognizing the necessity for prompt and thoughtful action. Let there be no misunderstanding, the proposed bill is a thoughtful and exemplary piece of legislation.
The introduction of this bill has waited a long time. Historically, the first Catholic schools in Upper Canada were started by Bishop A. Macdonell, Upper Canada's first Roman Catholic bishop. By virtue of the Education Act of 1841, Catholic schools were allowed a share of legislative funds. The Education Act of 1843 continued to include separate schools as part of the school system and the Scott bill of 1863 formed the basis of separate school legislation as provided for in section 93 of the British North America Act. Enrolment in the separate schools in Ontario has steadily increased and Bill 30 recognizes this fact and that right.
I most heartily support this bill's passage, because it demonstrates that the educational needs and opportunities for students must continue to be of paramount importance. It understands that both publicly supported systems of education must have the same obligations to provide appropriate educational opportunities and to meet provincial expectations in the area of programming. It understands that the level of funding for public educational systems cannot be eroded by increased funding to Roman Catholic secondary schools.
It understands that safeguards must be established to deal with staff declared redundant as a result of enrolment shifts from one school to another in the same jurisdiction. It understands that hiring or employment practices of both publicly supported systems in education must be nondiscriminatory and it understands that students have access to the entire range of secondary school programs.
This is a piece of legislation of the most monumental importance, not only because it addresses an issue of paramount importance to our society, education, but also because the fact that this legislation was not tabled left the people with concerns. The people of Ontario have been concerned for many long months. All of us have heard their concerns on two major fronts. First, they were not so much concerned with the fact of legislation but more with the fact that the legislation had not been tabled and public debate had not taken place. Second, the people of Ontario were not so much concerned about the implementation process of full funding but more because the process of implementation had not been made known to them. The people were concerned about what they did not know.
Those concerns have now been relaxed in the short time available to this new government because a legislative proposal has been made public that permits the logical completion of high school education for Roman Catholic students. This government and this Minister of Education have raised the veil of the unknown. We have tabled the bill and the public debate, the input from the people of this province, is ready to begin.
This government has professed sensitivity for the concerns of the individual. I suggest the minister's actions are evidence of this government's sensitivity to the basic concerns of all the people of Ontario on this most basic of issues. This sensitivity is shown by the minister's understanding that we cannot permit the parliamentary procedure to be eroded in any way, shape or form. An appropriate time for public debate must be afforded our citizens; and the approximately 6,300 students and their families, people who have planned their paths of education based on a prescribed implementation date of September 1, 1985, must be allowed that.
This minister and this government understand it would be impertinent to allow more than 6,000 of our youth to be left out in the cold without any recourse because they believed in the words of the Honourable William G. Davis when he stated in part on June 12, 1984:
"It is, therefore, the government's intention to permit the Roman Catholic school boards to establish a full range of elementary and secondary education and, as part of the public system, to be funded accordingly. This new program will be introduced at the rate of one year of secondary education for each school year, beginning September 1, 1985."
Those children can now rest assured that this new government is ready to safeguard their educational plans. Sensitivity to and understanding of the needs of the people of Ontario have been demonstrated by the Minister of Education and this government, not only through the special necessary action for funding of approximately 6,000, but also through the action to have the question of constitutionality referred through the Attorney General (Mr. Scott) to the Court of Appeal.
This government understands a constitutional reference will be taken by certain interested groups. This government understands it governs by action and by responsibility to the people directly affected, to the people of the province at large, to the varied interest groups and to the law itself. This reference is a manifestation of that understanding. It is an action this government requested when sitting in opposition, and when it became the government it became an action it was ready to take.
The current government has been deeply committed to full funding of the separate school system for many years. Since 1971, this party has fought long and hard for completion of the separate system. Our position has been strong and consistent and has not wavered in the face of criticism and challenge. We have stood by our policy and our commitment to the principle of full funding extension.
This bill ensures that the rights of both school systems are preserved. This bill ensures that employment security be upheld. This bill ensures that hiring procedures shall be nondiscriminatory. This bill ensures the preservation of the quality of our educational system.
Mr. Gordon: It is indeed a privilege to speak on a bill that is a watershed in the history of Ontario. I would like to consider a few basic points this afternoon. I must say first of all I not only welcome the bill but also support the basic principle contained therein and the many parts that make eminent good sense.
I must say quite clearly, though, that I am not impressed with the new government's approach to this bill, particularly from the point of view of sending it to the courts. I think it is for the public or special interest groups to decide whether they wish to challenge its constitutionality. I hardly think it puts us in a very good light as lawmakers or legislators to defer to the courts. I think the government is trying to sit on both sides of the fence; but that is the world of politics, and I can understand that. However, I must point out that I do not think the government is fooling too many people; it is trying to touch all the bases, and I recognize that.
With regard to the question of funding to separate schools in 1985, I think we are righting a basic injustice that has been perpetrated on the Catholic community in this province for many years. When we consider basic education in 1867, we had the nondenominational public school system and the Catholic school system. The system we have today grew out of that. However, over the years the Catholic system was allowed to languish, particularly when it came to the question of funding. In 1867, the Catholic population believed it would receive the same treatment as the other denominations, the Protestants. As the years unfolded, much to their chagrin, anger, very deep disappointment and pain, they found the money was not there and they were being discriminated against.
What kind of wrong has it been? I know there will be some who will speak quite eloquently in this House and among the public for their point of view. They will talk about why they do not believe in this funding. I want to point out that, because they have not had adequate funding, parents who have sent their children to Catholic high schools in this province have had to make very real sacrifices. They sent their children to the Catholic system because they believed it was important that a system of values be inculcated not only in the home but also in the school system, and it cost some of them dearly. Many mothers and fathers have not gone on vacations, have not bought new cars, have done without evenings out so they could see their sons or daughters attend a Catholic secondary school. Those were sacrifices.
There have been many teachers in that system who are now on pension. Their pensions are less than those of their confrères in the public system, because they made less; there was not parity with the public school system. So they too made a sacrifice. They believed in a certain value system and they were willing to do so. However, that does not make it right. What happened in 1867 was not something that happened equally over the years for the Catholic population of this province. That was an injustice.
If we talk about the kinds of buildings these people have been accommodated in, most of them are very bare, basic buildings. We in Ontario pride ourselves in not being spendthrifts when it comes to building secondary schools, but I have gone through various Catholic secondary schools and looked at them, and I can say they are very basic, bareboned, cinderblock buildings. One will not find any frills there. One will find the same desks that were put there the day the schools were built. That also was an injustice. They did not have comparable facilities.
What about this change we are looking at that some people are getting so incensed about? From a monetary point of view, we are looking at the funding of two more grades, not a whole system. The system is already there. Not only that, what kind of a change is it? It is a change in the funding of the remaining one seventh of that Catholic school system.
I will put it on this basis. If, instead of announcing the principle of this bill -- and unfortunately our party did not have the opportunity to introduce it -- the former Premier had introduced funding for grade 11 and waited until after the election to introduce grade 12 funding, there would have been ripples; there would not have been an explosion. At the same time, all we are looking at is one seventh. I ask members to keep that in mind when criticizing this bill or becoming incensed about it.
I want members to think about the injustice since 1867 and that it involves only one seventh of the system. I also ask members to keep in mind there is going to be a cost for extending funding to the Catholic school system, but there is a cost any time one rights a wrong. There was a cost in the United States when they decided they were not going to treat blacks as slaves. There is going to be a cost as well in Ontario when we see women receive equal pay for work of equal value. That is going to have a cost, but it is to redress a wrong.
As taxpayers, we all have a part to play in seeing that these wrongs are righted. If there is a cost, so be it. When there is a cost where righteousness, good sense, truth, freedom and respect for our fellow man are involved, then I believe it is a positive endeavour in our society.
I also think the bill recognizes the reality of educational financing today. Public and separate school ratepayers provide only one quarter of the more than $6 billion it takes to run our school system in Ontario. That is correct: the public and separate school ratepayers are paying only one quarter of the shot. As for the rest, one quarter comes from commercial assessment and one half comes from commercial tax revenues. Both the Protestant and Catholic ratepayers in this province were supporting both systems, but one was left with second-class funding. This bill removes that stigma and rights a serious wrong.
We live in a province that has what I call cultural pluralism. That is a state of affairs in which each ethnic and religious group maintains a separate integrity and identity with its own customs and schools. Rather than having one group be the dominant group and having all the others submit, we live in a province that has not been a melting pot but, instead, has been a very rich province because of the diversity we see; and not only in this Legislature, if we were all asked to get up and say our names at this point, we would see the diversity that is here. We are a diversity of ethnic and religious groups, each contributing to and enriching the whole. Having assembled what I call this very vivid mosaic, we must continue to have a tolerant pluralistic society, and we must work to maintain and enrich it.
Mr. Grande: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to involve myself in the debate of the bill before us today. It is one of those bills that comes once every 200 years, as I understand it. I hope that once this is over and the Roman Catholic or separate school system is completed, there no longer will be a need to have another bill of this nature. This bill will make history in Ontario, and rightly and proudly it should make history.
I thoroughly enjoyed the tone of the speech of the member for Sudbury (Mr. Gordon). The tone he put forward, like the tone in which all the members of this House are speaking and projecting, is a positive tone. As far as I am concerned, it continues the mood of June 12, 1984, when then Premier William Davis stood in his place and made the announcement, at the end of which every member of this Legislature got up and applauded the move. That mood should continue, because as others have said, this bill addresses justice and fairness. I do not think there is any member in this Legislature who is not interested in addressing, in a very direct way, the two principles of justice and fairness.
I want to address the concerns that perhaps are held by some of the members of the Conservative Party. Please do not misunderstand me; I am not attempting at all to change in any way the tone of this debate. I just want to understand, I just want some clarity on the positions they are taking -- basically the position on access. Frankly, I do not understand what they are talking about. Somebody -- maybe the former minister and present Education critic for the Conservative Party -- should specify what he means by "access" and "denial of access." Supposedly, he is claiming that if a Roman Catholic school board does not have space to have a student in a school, that is a denial of access.
I must say to the PC's Education critic that if he wants unlimited access, then two things will occur. The Roman Catholic board, as the definition of the bill states, will just say, "We will provide the access and the capital funding, and we will build the facilities." There is no problem there. I have seen that system, in my years as Education critic in this Legislature, putting pressure -- I do not know if "pressure" is the right word -- simply indicating to the former minister the need for facilities and for capital funds to build schools.
For example, a study made two or three years ago by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association showed that thousands of students in the secondary school system of the separate school board were in portables. The association was coming to the minister -- I can cite the examples of Etobicoke and Rexdale -- and basically saying: "Give us some money so that we can build these facilities. We do not want our students in portables. We cannot deliver quality education in a portable. We do not think the students should receive all their education in portables and never see a school building in their entire educational career."
The government was saying, "No, you must share the facilities we have between the public and separate school systems." We were basically in agreement. Frankly, we did not see the reason schools should be built when down the road another school was empty or half-empty.
If the members of the Conservative Party would like to clarify what that issue of access is all about, it could very easily be solved from the Roman Catholic separate school perspective. If capital funding is provided, they will build schools and there will be unlimited access to the Roman Catholic school.
However, the Conservative Party seems to be making a big point about access and about unlimited access. Please be clear. I want to understand what that concern is all about so that we can deal with it. There is no reason to disagree fundamentally on a principle if we can find a way to solve that dilemma in which some members are finding themselves.
The other effect of that limited access they are talking about -- and they want unlimited access -- is to say a Roman Catholic school ought to have 40 or 50 or 70 students in a classroom. If a space is not available, it cannot be produced by magic for a student. I am not criticizing, but I am attempting to be clear on this point.
Fairness and justice were mentioned. The principles of the bill are fairness and justice. I remember doing Education estimates and the present Minister of Education will also remember. We tried our best to get the former Minister of Education to understand some of the concerns of the educational community, be they teachers or students or school boards. At one time the then Minister of Education was quoted in Hansard as saying that as long as she had breath, she would uphold the principle of educational equality. This bill is about equality of education.
I still have difficulty looking at the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson) and not calling her a minister, unfortunately or fortunately. Since she stated with such strength and conviction the principle that she will fight as long as she has breath for equality of educational opportunity, I have no doubt that member will be very supportive of this bill we have before us.
Other members talked about the provincial election and the fact that everyone was debating this issue, but everyone was saying that no one wants to talk about the issue. In the riding of Oakwood the issue was also debated. One of the things that came clearly from some people was that they did not want divisiveness. They said they did not want an Ireland in Ontario. I said to them in a very direct way that divisiveness occurs when there is injustice.
If one deals with justice and has solutions that are just, people are not divided, they are unified. Things are not broken apart; they are put together in harmony. In effect, this bill does exactly that. It says we have two public education systems in the province and students are free to attend the one of their choice.
I want to say a word to the Minister of Education about what my leader asked the other day about the funding. I raised with the former minister and I will raise with this minister the concerns of the educational community. I hope this minister will be more responsive, not just in the fullness of time but as soon as possible, to the commitment his party and this party have made over and over again in the past, namely, that we want to see education financing go to 60 per cent support from the provincial level of government.
I want the members to remember that, and I am sure they will, and it will be of tremendous help to everyone concerned -- I was going to say in the public education system, although they are both that; let me say in the public education system as we view it today -- that they move and show good intentions at the present time, today or tomorrow or before this Legislature rises, which will indicate the legislative grants are going to be improved, starting immediately. I am talking about increasing them on a yearly basis to the point where we get to the 60 per cent level of support, not just putting them up 20 per cent as a result of the transfers, etc.
The government has that commitment. I know it has because I will pull out all the Hansards from the Education estimates and quote from them here day after day. Let them not forget that, and I am sure they will not.
Basically, I am pleased with the process that is to be followed, that there will be a committee struck and that we did not have to fight for it as in the past. People who have legitimate concerns will be coming before the committee. I am sure every member of this Legislature will have an open mind on the changes that could be made to improve this legislation, to make it better, provided the principle is not tampered with.
This bill is a courageous step by my colleague the Minister of Education. It is truly cornerstone legislation, not just as a foundation for new fairness for separate school students and supporters, but the cornerstone to the substance and style of our new government. This bill shows the determination of this side of the House for decisive, firm, fair and timely action.
As a former academic, I also see this bill as being a cornerstone to a principle of education I have long espoused, the provision of a fair and equitable jumping-off point for those heading into continuing, recurrent learning, formally at university or college or through various informal learning opportunities, including self-directing and experiential learning.
This bill provides every student in Ontario with two very precious commodities, the choice of education systems and the security of knowing they can complete their elementary and secondary education within it.
We cannot overestimate the impact of this bill on the socioeconomic direction of Ontario. There will be shifts in the numbers and accompanying shifts in the dollars to the various school boards. With a commitment to tolerance and understanding, this can be accomplished without unnecessary cost. In Hamilton we have an excellent example of co-operation and understanding. I will speak of this in detail in a few moments.
However, I am delighted to see the provision for substantial public participation in the timetable for this issue. I look forward to this because I see it as a time for self-awareness, that self-analysis so necessary to empathy. This process, this exposure and examination of the issues, will allay the fears of those members of the public who are at the moment opposed or neutral.
I have talked to many groups about the issue. Not all have favoured the principles of this bill, although I am pleased to say the vast majority have. Many people have expressed concerns about information, procedures, process, costs and quality of education, understandable concerns that can and will be responded to.
I have been visited by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, by strong supporters of the public system and equally strong supporters of the separate school system. I have talked and listened to teachers, educators, parents and students. I firmly believe that when all sides of the issue are fairly examined and when people look at the moral issue, we will allay those fears. We may not change the minds of all, but we will provide enough information for people to take a stand after hearing all sides of the argument.
The fear and trembling we hear and feel from some needs to be replaced by a critical examination of our commitment to the child, to the adolescent, to the student and to his lifestyle. Let us put in as many safeguards as possible for the actors in the existing scenario, but surely the real issue is the child.
My own training requires me to look at the total issue before making a decision, and I must. I want to look at the whole child, the whole delivery system for education for that child, the impact of that education on the world of work and the world of culture. I am not alone. That is why open participation appeals to me and why it is so important. As Minister of Citizenship and Culture, as a member from a multicultural riding and from a city with a deep cultural commitment, as an Ontarian and a Canadian firmly committed to the maintenance and enhancement of our people and of our society, I have no choice but to support this bill.
I have a number of reasons for obligation to the bill. I campaigned on this issue; those who voted for me have voted for the principles in the bill. My own background, the environment that spawned and developed me, demands support for the bill. The very real implications for the future of education demand that I support the bill. Education is integral to and cannot be separated from the cultural identity of the individual and the sense of community so essential to the life of this province.
The bill and this debate are essentially a continuation of the pattern of legislative remediation that has been going on in the province. Let me take the members through a bit of the history, as I understand it.