Mr Laughren: I normally do not raise matters that an individual constituent has with the Workers’ Compensation Board, but I simply must today. Andy Petitclerc of Gogama was awarded, by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal, a permanent disability pension for chronic pain in October 1988. The board, under what is known as section 86n, stayed or postponed the retroactive portion of that award. The decision still has not been made and his permanent disability award is really not permanent since it is renewed every 12 months.
He was told his award would be renewed in February, but it was not done until May. In the meantime, he has to call every month to get his cheques. His April cheque was two weeks late; his May cheque was over a week late. Just last week or so, he asked for his June cheque to be delivered to him three weeks early so he could visit his family in New Brunswick. Despite all those unconscionable delays on the part of the board, its response was to hit him over the head with its policy manual and say that it was not a matter of an emergency, nor a pressing need. That was their response.
The same board that will withhold money from Mr Petitclerc at will at the same time will not let him take his June cheque three weeks early so he can visit his family. The compensation board is as mean-spirited and arrogant as it ever was, and in the words of the member for Dovercourt, if I could quote him, one time in a committee he said, “The board treats injured workers like dogs.”
Mr Wiseman: Last week the Minister of the Environment announced the eventual banning of rigid foam insulation and flexible foam insulation used in furniture as evidence of his government’s commitment to reducing ozone-destroying substances. Unfortunately, the commitment does not extend to emission control in used vehicles.
I have copies of the letters from the present Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Transportation to the member for Peterborough on this subject. Both ministers admit that, as things stand, the mechanic does not have to ensure that a pollution control system is present and functioning when a vehicle safety check is done. The Minister of the Environment even spoke of the “problems” caused by the lack of regulations and called it a “deficiency.”
You might think that once this situation was pointed out to them, they would have done something to correct it. But no, these letters were written over a year ago and so far nothing has happened. It seems to me that a government that pretends to be so committed to a healthy environment that it concerns itself with the innards of furniture should devote itself to something far more basic, like the air we breathe all day every day on the streets and the highways of this province.
Mr Faubert: As a member of a parliamentary observer team, along with the member for Mississauga East, the member for Mississauga West, the member for Halton North and the member for Durham East, I was privileged to witness the viability of the recent voting process in Croatia’s first multiparty elections in 45 years, and so became a witness to history. We were joined by federal members as well as a team of US congressmen and lawyers.
My assignment was in Vukovar and its villages, east of Osijek, to report back to the Croatian Democratic Union, the HDZ, at whose invitation we were there, and to document observed polling irregularities, abuses and pressures.
One appalling aspect of the election was the reaction of the international media, including Toronto’s press, which appeared simply to echo the Communist-dominated national press line that the HDZ victory was that of the “rightists” with “ties to the Ustashe fascist movement of the Second World War.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Dr Franjo Tudjman, president of the HDZ, now President-elect of Croatia, fought against the Ustashes and was jailed for his national ideals. Having met and spoken with him, I know that he and his party want only to achieve national and human rights, peaceful democratization and a free economy to support the objectives of a viable Croatian state.
Mrs Grier: Today, on behalf of the New Democrat caucus, the member for Hamilton West will introduce a private member’s bill that has amendments to the Environmental Protection Act to authorize the making of regulations to reduce waste. Garbage is piling up all across this province, and the only way to really get at the problem is to reduce the production of garbage in the first place rather than find more landfill sites to put it in.
The bill’s purpose is to implement a resolution that I put before this House last December and that was supported by members on all sides. The resolution listed policies and laws to reduce garbage through less packaging, more refillable containers and more durable consumer products. It called on the government to introduce the needed legislation at the opening of this sitting of the Legislature. We know that the government has completely failed to act to reduce garbage and so we have stepped in. We are providing the House today with a piece of legislation that does what all members of the House said they wanted to do when they supported my private member’s resolution last December.
I ask the government members, since they have failed to act themselves, to delay no longer, to allow my bill to pass and to try to solve the garbage problem, which they have no answers to and to which we have some solutions.
Mr Villeneuve: This weekend an important date will be celebrated at the Denison Armoury in Downsview, as members of the Governor General’s Horse Guards Association will meet to mark the 50th anniversary of the regiment’s mobilization for war service in the Second World War.
The Governor General’s Horse Guards of today are directly descended from one of Canada’s oldest cavalry units, Button’s Troop. In 1936, following a general reorganization of the militia, the Governor General’s Horse Guards were formed. In October 1940 the regiment was mobilized, proceeding overseas a year later as part of the 5th Armoured Division. It saw action in Italy, Belgium and Holland, collecting numerous battle honours with the First Canadian Army before returning to Toronto in January 1946.
Today the Governor General’s Horse Guards is a militia regiment, parading regularly at the Denison Armoury. It maintains its early traditions with cavalry through its riding club, in addition to militia training.
On behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus here in the Legislature of Ontario, I would like to congratulate the members of the horse guards on the occasion of their 50th anniversary reunion to be held at the Denison Armoury this weekend, 11, 12 and 13 May. Good luck to them.
Mr Sola: Imagine an election where thousands of people line up for hours to register for the right to vote. Envision an election where border crossings are jammed with columns, 10 to 15 kilometres long, of cars and buses loaded with citizens anxious to cast their ballot. Would you believe planeloads of voters landing at 15-minute intervals to exercise their franchise? How about a chartered private plane and a wild taxi ride in order to get to the polls on time? And all at the individual’s expense?
Imagine an election where the opposition has little or no access to the media, yet draws crowds of up to 500,000 strong to its rallies. Unbelievable, yet true. This was Croatia on 22 April 1990, its first free, democratic, multiparty election in 45 years.
The people voted overwhelmingly against totalitarianism and dictatorship, of the proletariat or any other kind. Their clear choice was a party of moderate reformers, the Croatian Democratic Union led by Dr Franjo Tudjman, and its platform of democracy, self-determination, state sovereignty, religious, racial and ethnic tolerance, protection of human rights and a free market economy. It was a clear message that Croatians want to shed their status as second-class citizens and become equal in their own country.
Mr Charlton: Over the last number of years we all have begun to pay lipservice to the very important social problem that we have seen evolve around substance abuse. Unfortunately, we are not doing very much more in an effective, ongoing way than just paying lipservice, and the priority we express in our words is certainly not there in our actions.
Mary Ellis Home in Hamilton is a women’s detox centre and a recovery centre for recovering alcoholics. Mary Ellis Home is about to close because of lack of government support, both at the regional and provincial levels. The home may survive because of regional intervention, but this government has totally failed to respond.
Mary Ellis Home provides a service to recovering alcoholic women, most of whom are also sufferers of abuse, both physical and sexual. There are five men’s centres in the city of Hamilton and two co-ed centres. If Mary Ellis Home closes, there will be two beds available for the treatment of women in Hamilton.
That is the reflection of this government’s commitment to women, to substance abuse and to try to deal with a very serious social problem which has a much greater impact on women than it ever had or ever could have on men. The home should stay open.
Mr Eves: The second week in May has been declared Nurses’ Week in order to increase the profile of the nursing profession and provide the public with an opportunity to show its appreciation to this dedicated group of professionals.
Today in Ontario there are over 80,000 nurses employed in hospitals, schools, retirement homes and other public and private institutions. These nurses provide care, both medical and emotional, to their patients. Their contribution to public health in Ontario is immense and their commitment is worthy of much praise.
During this week we should also reflect on the present crisis in our health care system, which is partly related to a nursing shortage in some areas of Ontario. A new commitment must be made to recognize the importance of the nursing profession in providing health care and adequate support must be given to those nursing organizations which provide home care in Ontario.
This week we salute nurses everywhere throughout the province. We recognize that a strong core of nurses is important for Ontario and we join with Ontarians from all walks of life in calling for action designed to strengthen the nursing profession throughout the province.
“Twenty-five years ago, when social programs were extended into native communities, Kathleen Taylor agreed to serve as the first relief officer for the Curve Lake Band. In her mid-40s, having raised eight children, she assumed responsibility for food rations and welfare cheques. This was an opportunity to fulfil her youthful desire to become a nurse, to care for and nurture her people. This purpose became the driving force in her life.
“During her first five years in the field, Kaye recognized the agenda of social programs as being irrelevant to the needs of native communities. Under her leadership, 15 bands met at Curve Lake to found the Ontario Native Welfare Administrators Association. Seventeen years later, it represents 101 of 106 bands in the province and Mrs Taylor, its first president, still serves voluntarily in that capacity.
“One of her greatest contributions has been to develop awareness of the importance of education among native people. The Ontario Native Welfare Administrators Association is only one example of Kathleen Taylor’s work for which she received the Order of Ontario.”
Ms Poole: Mr Speaker, I would like to raise a matter of privilege. Last week, a Conservative tabloid called the Eglinton Sun was distributed, without postage or labels, by legislative mail service to every member’s box. I understand it even went further than this. I have a letter from legislative mail services which confirms that the request for this distribution came from the Progressive Conservative caucus office.
The rules of the Legislative Assembly are clear. The distribution of partisan material at taxpayers’ expense is firmly prohibited. There is no question that this newsletter is partisan in nature. It not only features my Conservative opponent from the last election, but it also includes a Conservative membership form.
As I say, it abuses the privileges of this House and my privileges as a member. I would ask you, Mr Speaker, to review this matter and to determine how widespread the mailing at taxpayers’ expense was and whether indeed this material was printed at taxpayers’ expense.
I noted, by the submission she made to me previously and the comments made today, that she was asking for a ruling on whether the mailing of the tabloid was at taxpayers’ expense and, if so, how widespread. I have to say that I really feel I have no authority to research how widely it was circulated but, for the information of the members, I am concerned about the mailing of the tabloid by a caucus staff member.
The guideline we have used is that any member may mail any items to all members in our post office without individual addresses but they must be requested by a member. Other individuals or organizations have been allowed to send items to all members, but they must be addressed individually.
Now I noted you have asked another question: Was this printed at taxpayers’ expense? I have difficulty in taking it upon myself to research the printing costs so it really appears to me that it is an administrative problem and not a matter of privilege. I will, however, discuss this matter with the people in the post office.
Mr McCague: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I have here a press release which says that the provincial government will continue to fund an after-hours hotline for tenants in Metropolitan Toronto. The announcement was made by the member for Eglinton. Would this be in order?
Hon Mrs Caplan: Mr Speaker, as I am sure you know, cancer is one of the specialty care areas which is given priority by the Ministry of Health. Today, I am pleased to announce that my ministry has committed $278 million for the largest expansion of cancer services ever undertaken in Ontario.
This funding will be directed towards the extension of cancer services in the Toronto area. This multi-year plan involves commitments of $43 million to double the capacity to treat patients at the Toronto-Bayview Regional Cancer Centre, $73 million for a new clinical services support wing at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and $162 million for three new regional cancer centres north, east and west of Toronto and for expansions at affiliated local hospitals to accommodate the centres.
These expansions, along with the rebuilding of Princess Margaret Hospital, represent a significant component of our government’s $300-million commitment to cancer services over the next four years, as the Treasurer announced in his budget.
As well, I am announcing a major change in the funding policy for regional cancer centres. Under the new policy the ministry will provide 100% of the cost of capital developments in the centres. Previously, two thirds of the cost had been provided by the ministry with the remainder coming through fund-raising.
The centre will be adding seven radiotherapy machines, expanding chemotherapy facilities and enhancing diagnostic services and three-dimensional treatment planning. The additional radiotherapy machines will be in place by 1993, bringing to 13 the number at Toronto-Bayview.
My ministry will be contributing $73 million towards the overall cost of surgical suites, intensive care units, laboratories and outpatient care clinics. The new wing will also serve cardiac and trauma patients.
The three new regional cancer centres will provide comprehensive cancer care services. These will include a total of 12 radiotherapy machines, multidisciplinary consultation and assessment programs, chemotherapy and day procedure capabilities.
My ministry will provide the total $102 million for the planning and construction of these centres. We will also contribute $60 million towards capital projects at affiliated local hospitals to accommodate these centres. The local hospitals will provide inpatient and diagnostic services.
The change in funding policy means fund-raising for the regional cancer centres may now be directed towards Princess Margaret Hospital. The new Princess Margaret Hospital on University Avenue will be a state-of-the-art cancer research and treatment facility for the entire province.
Hon Mrs Wilson: I am pleased to announce today $2.2 million in additional funding for the establishment of new emergency shelters and transition houses for assaulted women in Ontario. This funding will allow access to capital funding for new shelters available from the federal government’s Project Haven. There are currently 81 shelters for assaulted women in Ontario. With these new funds we will be able to increase this number to at least 90.
Both I and my colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services want to ensure that Ontario will stay a leader among provinces and territories in addressing the issue of wife assault. The new funding brings the province’s 1990-91 financial commitment for wife assault initiatives to a total of $43.2 million.
This new funding means there will be more safe havens for women who are in abusive relationships. Wife assault is a crime. There is never an excuse for it and it is never a private matter. Furthermore, the $2.2 million in new funds is additional proof that this government means what it says, that we are committed to achieving safety and security for women.
Hon Mr Mancini: It gives me pleasure to advise the honourable members that approximately 694,000 senior citizen households across Ontario will receive the spring portion of the 1990 property tax grant cheques over the next few days. The Ministry of Revenue started mailing the cheques, valued at a total of more than $200 million, on 30 April.
The property tax grant is made available to offset municipal and school taxes paid by senior citizens who own or rent their homes and apartments. Tax benefits such as these reflect the Ontario government’s concern for the wellbeing of our seniors. We help make it possible for them to remain in their own homes and continue to live very productive and fulfilling lives.
The maximum property tax grant interim payment per household is $300, while the average amount per cheque is $288. The grant is available in two instalments. The spring instalment is an automatic payment and the second instalment is made in the fall after the applications submitted by the seniors are processed. Because there are so many cheques, the mailing is staggered to allow for a continuous flow through Canada Post and to avoid delays in delivery.
I would like to thank the honourable members and their constituency office staff for their support of this program. It is very definitely a positive response by this government to a vital community need.
Mr Laughren: I wish to respond to the statement by the Minister of Revenue. He says that it gives him pleasure to announce that this miserable level of property tax grants is being mailed out. If giving out this level of grants gives him pleasure, I shudder to think of what other kinds of activities might give him pleasure as well.
Despite the fact that since 1974 the revenues from property and sales taxes have increased substantially, the revenues have increased three times as fast as the level of grants and they are sadly behind the level they were back in 1974.
On top of that, this government has done many things to make things more difficult for the property taxpayer: It has reneged on its promise to pick up 60% of the cost of education at the local level; it has frozen unconditional grants at the municipal level; it has imposed court security costs on local municipalities that were not there before; it has imposed pay equity costs on local municipalities, and it has also imposed the employer health tax levy on municipalities.
Mr Reville: New Democrats welcome the expansion of cancer services, but we continue to be concerned that the government has not come to grips with either the causes of cancer or the quality of life experienced by those who receive cancer treatment.
Carcinogens in our workplaces, our air, our water and our soil can indeed be reduced. Smoking can be reduced. Lifestyles can be improved. We can develop empowering processes so that people make wise lifestyle choices, but much more remains to be done about poverty before such choices can indeed be real.
It is a paradox that our health care system and the technological advances that go with it can preserve life without reference to its quality. The government’s failure to deal with issues of home care, palliative care and income that the people suffering from cancer experience and enjoy are serious problems.
Experts in oncology tell us that a strong local support system is very valuable to people who are receiving cancer treatment and, of course, the government’s approach to regional care undercuts the local support that would be very positive for people.
Mr R. F. Johnston: Is it not wonderful what an election will do? For five years this government has refused to add any new centres for assaulted women in this province. It has added a few beds here or there, but the promise now of having at least 90 in place -- God knows when; it does not say -- is the first new initiative by a government which has refused to add any new spaces in the last number of years.
Is it not ironic that the only reason the Liberals are doing it, besides the election, is that the Mulroney government is actually bringing forward some money they can piggyback on so that they can spread their money a little bit further? God knows, these are nine new centres over a six-year period, when we know how large that problem is out there. We know just how positive the Mulroney government has been towards women’s issues. We have seen some evidence of that again lately.
It is a real shame, it seems to me, and a major statement of where this government stands on women’s issues, that the only time it could add new centres for assaulted women is in the wake of the federal government, which has been so niggardly in its response to women’s issues, whether it is to do with day care centres or assistance for assaulted women and organizations for women in this country. Only now is it able to come forward with nine centres in this province, when we know just how extraordinary the need is.
They should all be ashamed of themselves for coming forward with this at this very late date, given that the Premier in 1985 made commitments to new centres and he is only now fulfilling that promise six years later.
Mr Brandt: Under normal circumstances, the announcement by the Minister of Revenue would be welcomed by the members of the Legislative Assembly, because it does in fact assist the seniors in our province by reducing the amount of taxes they pay through the property tax relief program that is part of the responsibility of the Minister of Revenue.
What concerns me is the very point that was raised by my colleague from the New Democratic Party, and that is that this grant becomes less meaningful and has less impact as property taxes increase at the local level. While the government and this Treasurer continue to shift both educational taxes and property taxes on to the local taxpayer, it makes the burden of seniors living in their own homes much more difficult, because this is a flat-rate relief program: $300 is the maximum and $288 is approximately the average that our 700,000 seniors across the province receive for this particular assistance.
But I want to tell members that with each passing year as the government offloads, shifts, passes on responsibilities and takes the easy way out by way of asking someone else to pay the bills, it hurts the very seniors that this program was supposed to help, and it is wrong.
Mr Jackson: I would like to respond to the announcement by the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues, partially because it is a very brief announcement today. It certainly does not have many of the details. If we were being completely open and honest about this announcement today, we would have to indicate the amount of money that is coming from the federal government in order to make this a reality and we would have to admit how much is missing from the 1990 Ontario budget with respect to women’s issues, in particular this important issue of family violence.
If the minister herself would look into the facts, she would know that in the last two years this province lost federal grant money because the province refused to take up the moneys that other provinces --
Mr Jackson: The province of Manitoba under NDP and Conservative governments used Ontario dollars to build shelters for abused women. The Conservative government in Saskatchewan used additional moneys that were earmarked for Ontario because this government said, “We’re only going to expand one or two shelters over a five-year period.”
Eight thousand to 10,000 women and children a year are turned away at shelters for lack of space, for lack of programs. One third of the 60 homicides in the city of Toronto in the past year were directly linked to domestic violence. That is what is going on out there, I tell the minister.
This announcement is six years late and those beds are required. We are going to have to use federal government funding; it certainly is not major dollars from this government’s budget. But it is sad that it takes an election call to get this government to make a meaningful commitment to battered women in this province.
Over a year ago, several people in this Legislature told the minister that these radiotherapy machines would be coming on stream and that we needed radiotherapy technologists in the province in the worst way. The minister’s response is, over a year later, to say that recruitment efforts are well under way. They should have been well under way for the last three, four or five years.
Did people have to suffer for the last year until the minister waited until she thought it might be convenient, during an election year? Is that why people have to travel to Thunder Bay and other jurisdictions, like Mrs Brander from my constituency, until the minister thinks it is politically opportunistic for her to stand up in the House and respond?
Where was the minister a year ago when we asked these questions in the House? What has she been doing for the past year? What about the cancer treatment centre in Sudbury? The minister commits dollars to bricks and mortar; she will not do anything about getting Dr Ho and other qualified people in to act as oncologists in those centres.
I would remind the people of Ontario that when the budget was announced on 24 April, Treasury officials in the lockup indicated that only $30 million of this money will be spent during this fiscal year. I also want to remind the people of Ontario this is the same government that said it had increased the number of beds in the province by 4,400 in 1987 and since then has reduced the number of beds by 2,000.
Mr B. Rae: I have some questions today for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Back in 1988, a researcher from the New Democratic Party asked the government when the policy statement on food land preservation, which was issued in 1986 under the signature of the Minister of Agriculture and Food and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, would be before cabinet. The answer was that it would be early fall in 1988 or, optimistically, late spring.
We are now in the year 1990 and we still have no clear statement from this government with respect to its policy on the preservation of agricultural land and the limitation on urban growth and the impact that that growth and development is having on prime agricultural land in the province. I want to ask the minister, what has happened to these guidelines and when are we going to have them clearly stated in the Planning Act?
Hon Mr Sweeney: The Ministry of Agriculture and Food brought forward a draft set of guidelines. At the same time, it was the decision of cabinet to look at a whole series of planning changes involving the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Agriculture and Food and the Minister of Municipal Affairs. One of the reasons the Premier set up the new cabinet committee on housing and community development was to bring those four ministries together to find a range of consistency with four different sets of guidelines. That process is taking place at the present time.
Mr B. Rae: We all thought Project X was dead, but it is obvious that it has raised its head again. We went through the period of the 1970s when this issue was very much a live one. The Conservatives brought forward a food land guideline in 1978 that set out certain policies with regard to the protection of agricultural land. Since that time the amount of agricultural land in the province has declined dramatically and the rate of conversion from agricultural land to development has expanded considerably. Indeed, there has been an epidemic since 1976.
I want to ask the minister this question: Can he tell us why, for example, changes that would require designations that allow strip development into agricultural areas to be avoided, that urban growth take place as a logical extension of existing development, that development of existing vacant lands within urban areas occur before outward expansion on to prime agricultural land, and on and on and on -- basic principles of planning -- have not been put in place well before the epidemic of development took place?
Hon Mr Sweeney: My honourable colleague will be well aware of the fact that the announcements we have made recently with respect to new development, both within our housing policy and within the use of provincial land, have referred to those very issues. As a matter of fact, the most recent announcement I made with respect to Seaton talked about those very initiatives as well; we want much denser development on a smaller amount of land, so that in fact more green space and more agricultural land can be protected for the future. There is no quarrel with respect to those particular initiatives. We are working on them at the present time. As I indicated to him, the current Minister of Agriculture and Food concurs with all of these and his new land use plans will certainly reflect those.
Mr B. Rae: I am very familiar with how strongly the Minister of Agriculture and Food feels about a number of issues, but my question of the Minister of Municipal Affairs is simply this: He well knows that the Planning Act is in place and that under the Planning Act and the designations that are contained under official plans, decisions are being made every day in the regions of this province, in York region, in Niagara region, in Peel region, in Halton region, all throughout southern Ontario These decisions are being made by planners under the current law. When is the law going to be changed so that agricultural land is protected? When is it going to happen?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I have had numerous discussions, as I am sure the honourable member would appreciate, with my colleague in Agriculture and Food. We share a concern with the use of agricultural land. We have made a joint determination that we want more compact use of existing urban land. The housing policy on land use that has been distributed across the province since last August clearly identifies that as one of the goals and clearly indicates that the provincial policy statements and the umbrella provincial policy statement, which are in the works right now and which I would clearly hope to have available in the fall of this year, are going to reflect all those initiatives and all those policy positions.
Mrs Grier: My question is for the Minister of Housing. Earlier today Trans-Action, which is a coalition of organizations of disabled persons, released a proposal that there is to be a revision to the Ontario Building Code, which falls within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Housing. That revision would be to exempt rapid transit stations from the provision of the building code that requires elevators to be installed in multistorey structures. If in fact such an exemption is given, that would set back the cause of accessibility to transit systems for the disabled by decades and would be a reneging on promises that this government has made on countless occasions. Can the Minister of Housing assure the House that no such exemption is contemplated?
Hon Mr Sweeney: On a periodic basis the regulations with respect to the building code are reviewed. That is a process that is under way right at the present time. The review process was divided up into five sections. The honourable member will be aware of the fact, I am sure, that under the existing building code and its regulations there is no reference at all to rapid transit stations. I am not quite sure why that is the case, but that in fact happens to be the case. When this review was contemplated it was obvious, given the amount of activity that is going to be taking place over the next decade, that in fact we ought to have a section within the building code dealing with rapid transit stations.
She will be aware of the fact that the Minister of Transportation has made it very clear that the policy intent of the government is to make these accessible to the physically disabled. The only difficulty we have at the moment is that we do not have the technical knowledge and the technical expertise to have people, in exiting from a rapid transit station, exit from the car if it has to stop anywhere between stations. Until we have that technical knowledge, we had suggested as part of the process that exemptions would be made. That does not prohibit them from --
Mrs Grier: At the press conference this morning, representatives of the disabled eloquently spoke of their right to take risks. They pointed out that all of us take risks when we move around at all in society. They acknowledged that perhaps there was a risk in using rapid transit, but that they felt they ought to be the ones to decide whether or not they took that risk.
The minister says the Minister of Transportation has given a commitment that there will be accessibility in rapid transit. I point out to him that when I raised this with the minister, what I was told was that there would be provision for accessibility. Provision for accessibility means creating the shaft but not putting the elevator into it. Is that the kind of provision this minister is prepared to contemplate? There is no requirement to amend the building code to make the new rapid transit systems accessible. Why is the minister even discussing --
Hon Mr Sweeney: The honourable member is correct that the Minister of Transportation has indicated that at the present time, given the current technical knowledge and expertise we have, he certainly wants any subway station that is being retrofitted or any subway station that is being built for the first time to have all the necessary provisions built in at that stage. As soon as we have the ability to deal with the other risk factors -- I accept the honourable member’s statement that we all take risks, but I believe she would also accept the fact that we have an obligation, particularly for a disabled person, to reduce the risk as much as possible.
I would also point out that at this point in time the regulatory proposals are at the consultation stage. During the months of April and May we are consulting with a large number of groups and getting the kinds of feedback she is mentioning to us. We will be making a decision somewhat later on as to how much farther we proceed. We want to be sure that we can, not eliminate the risk but at least reduce it as much as possible and still provide accessibility in the way the disabled community wants us to do it.
Mr Allen: Our information is that there has not been consultation. It is a rather strange procedure for the minister to be so paternalistic with respect to people who are prepared at least to accept an element of risk and who have pleaded with this government for years to move on the question of accessibility for public transit systems on the part of the disabled. They have pressed for memorandums of agreement and they have had no response whatsoever. They have asked for public transit accessibility before parallel systems in their document The Freedom to Move is Life Itself. Consistently, they have asked for the acceptance on their part of the recognition of an element of risk.
Why is the minister moving in what would appear to be a regressive way at this point in time with regard to the whole movement towards accessibility by entrenching in the building code a provision that reduces rather than expands accessibility?
Hon Mr Sweeney: I would repeat for my honourable colleague that in fact we are putting into the building code, for the first time, the whole question of accessibility to subway and rapid transit stations. That is a very clear indication that we too share the desire of the disabled community to have that kind of accessibility.
I would disagree with him. The fact is that we recognize some potential risks and we want, to the extent possible, to reduce those risks. I do not think we can completely eliminate them -- as the member’s colleague indicated, we all take those risks -- but want to reduce them as far as possible so that when the infrastructure is in place, the disabled community will be as safe as the rest of us will.
I think they have a right to know that while they have access to it the same as the rest of us, they also ought to have a right to expect the same kind of safety features that the rest of us would expect to find. We are quite prepared to do that. The pre-fit to be sure that all of that can happen in renovated stations and in newly built stations is something that we agree with and the consultation process will determine how --
Mr Brandt: The Treasurer in his budget projections indicated that he anticipated there would be some 81,000 housing starts. At the time I looked at that figure I had the queasy feeling deep within myself that perhaps he was being just a modest degree overoptimistic about his projections. We now have the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp report that has come out indicating a projection fully 35% lower than that estimated by the Treasurer. In fact, they estimate that there will only be some 52,000 housing starts, which is considerably fewer than what the Treasurer has suggested. Could the Treasurer indicate to this House whether he is prepared to revise his budget to a more realistic figure?
Hon R. F. Nixon: The Treasury has given the House its recommendations for economic projections. Going back into -- December, the honourable member will recall that the grey book was published at that time. Those were moderated to some extent for the preparation of the budget and we feel our recommendations are reasonable. The count of the houses and the level of activity are taken on a somewhat different basis. We still think there will be about 80,000 starts in Ontario this year. Most of the reduction in the activity is in the Toronto area, which of course has been the centre of the fastest housing boom in the history of the nation. This has levelled off substantially, as the honourable member has indicated.
Mr Brandt: The Treasurer is aware that not only are his projections on the high side compared to others who are bringing in their suggestions as to the numbers that will in fact be constructed, but that the number of starts is declining more rapidly in Ontario, based on the latest statistical reports, than anywhere else in the entire country.
As a result of this slowdown in economic activity -- the layoffs in the housing industry, in the auto industry and the very critical layoffs that we have in northern Ontario related to the mining and the lumber industries -- is the Treasurer prepared, at some reasonable period of time in the future, to bring in a revised document that will more truly reflect conditions in Ontario, rather than just trying to put forward a balanced budget document that is not realistic in light of these economic facts?
Hon R. F. Nixon: We think the fiscal projections are realistic. We were very careful not to base them on the projections of Mr Wilson, the Minister of Finance for Canada, in his budget, which is less than two months old, when he indicated that interest rates would go down to an average of 11.1%. Since he made that projection, the interest rates have done nothing but go up. We are hoping he does not have to make a different projection because certainly those have a tremendous impact on the economy in general.
Let me assure the honourable member that I have no proprietary or vested interest in the projections that come from the economists of the Treasury. They do the best they can, and when they give me new projections I will be very glad to table them in the House and make them available to the honourable members and the people of the province. They are, like all economists, looking into the future and doing the best they can. They are among the best trained and the best experienced, and I have great confidence in their intellectual veracity.
Mr Brandt: Those intellectuals in the Treasury were in great part trained by a previous government, I believe. I therefore would not want to question the accuracy of some of their reports, but I believe the Treasurer is being somewhat too modest about his input into this particular document.
When the Treasurer recognizes that housing starts relate to jobs, the viability of the auto industry relates to jobs and the activity in the north relates to jobs, and when he looks in his budget as to the actual projections he has brought forward, in virtually every instance -- job creation, housing starts and the overall growth in the economy -- it appears this Treasurer stands alone with respect to his rather singular optimism regarding the economy. When is he prepared to face up to the facts that there is a slowdown taking place and that his projections are all on the high side?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I sense the honourable leader of the third party is the only person in the province who might take some pleasure in the unlikely event that my projections are optimistic, but they are based on the best information available.
Actually, I was not aware that these economists had been trained by himself and his collection of former ministers. If I had known that, perhaps I would have asked for other advice. My own experience, frankly, is that they are independent of me in that respect, just as they were independent of the honourable member. Maybe he thought he was directing them, but in fact it is their responsibility to base their recommendations on things other than political influence. That is probably why they are better now than they were then.
Mr Brandt: To the Minister of Community and Social Services, with whom I have had dialogue on this question for some time. I want to highlight, as one of my last questions in this capacity, what is in my opinion one of the most important issues that is not being dealt with by this House, and that is the whole question of children’s mental health services. I have pointed out in the past that some 10,000 children in Ontario are waiting for treatment. The minister knows that even today press reports have indicated that in his own area, the York region abuse program is running out of money to treat all the children who need care in that particular part of our province.
Hon Mr Beer: I want to say to the honourable member that I share completely his concern about this area, and indeed I believe it is a high priority. We are demonstrating that by a number of the things we are and have been doing. Let me just remind the honourable member of a couple of them. With respect to the waiting list and with respect to a number of the funding issues facing the children’s mental health centres, as I have said before, I met with the executive of the association and from that meeting we made a commitment to do a number of things.
For example, we have brought on an individual who is working full-time with the children’s mental health centres on the waiting list and on the various services that are available within the community that can help the children’s mental health centres in dealing with a number of the children on the list. We have moved to provide more funding this year for the staff of the children’s mental health centres and we have increased the base budgets.
In addition, the Colin Maloney report, which will be out next month, looking at the whole field of children’s services, is going to guide us in working with the children’s mental health centres to make sure that not only are they properly funded but that the whole area is properly organized and funded and that is a priority.
Mr Brandt: I want to point out to the minister that it is not only children’s mental health centres that have a crisis at the moment, but in fact children’s aid societies, which are the first line of defence for abused children; they are also in crisis.
The executive director of the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa-Carleton claims “children remain too long in abusive homes because of a lack of provincial funding for children’s aid societies.” Yet the member for Ottawa-Rideau, who is the minister’s parliamentary assistant, stated in the debate on my resolution dealing with this crisis in children’s services that the children’s aid society has the resources to provide counselling to children and has the ability to apprehend them.
Can the minister explain why some nine out of 87 cases in the Ottawa-Carleton area under the jurisdiction of the children’s aid society were classified as instances where the children were being abused? Fully 10% of all of the cases they checked out had home situations that were simply not tolerable. How can that be allowed to happen in Ontario?
Hon Mr Beer: I have said to the honourable member, we are aware of a number of complex problems that are facing the children’s services sector. Again, therefore, I want to underline the importance of the Colin Maloney report.
With respect to the children’s aid societies specifically, there are a number of things that we are doing with them, looking at the whole question of their budgets, looking at the case load problems that they have, looking at how the whole area in terms of the family counselling associations, children’s aid societies, children’s mental health centres can work better together to maximize the funding that is available.
Finally, and specifically related to the question of child abuse and how we are able to handle that question, as the members know, I have asked Ms Joanne Campbell to review all of our procedures with respect to that area and she will be coming in with recommendations. I am sure that in the course of her review she is going to be looking specifically at some of the problems that are facing children’s aid societies across the province. It is a priority issue and we are moving on it, but we are --
Mr Brandt: If 10,000 children somewhere in the world who were being physically and mentally abused were gathered in one spot, the world community would find some way to respond to their needs. The situation that we have here is 10,000 children scattered in fives, in tens, in dozens and in hundreds throughout various communities across this province, some 10,000 of them, and that figure is quite accurate, as the minister knows, having been developed by those professionals who are working in the field.
Will the minister undertake one commitment that I would ask him to do? Will he take some of the case examples which I know he has in his possession, which have been passed on to him, some specific examples, and will he discuss these with his cabinet colleagues and attempt to get some response from his cabinet colleagues to the effect that they are prepared to accelerate the assistance programs so that we can start to reduce those numbers on this critical waiting list? Is the minister prepared to do that?
Hon Mr Beer: I think that not only have we made that commitment in terms of improving the services, but we have shown that in real terms already this year with the steps we have taken to improve the funding of the children’s mental health centres and to improve the salaries of those working in that area.
Again, I would remind the honourable member that my budget has gone up some $800 million over last year in terms of dealing with a wide range of issues, of which those facing the children’s sector are among the most important and the ones on which we place a very high priority. All of this, again, we are doing at a time when the funding from the federal level is not what it was and indeed is going to be less. So I believe that commitment is there. I can say to the honourable member this is an issue in which not a week goes by when we are not trying to find some way of sending more funding into this area and dealing with the specific kinds of cases he has mentioned. I believe we are making progress, and once we have the Maloney report we will have a set of guidelines, a blueprint, for working with those in the field to make sure that we get rid of that waiting list.
Mr Laughren: I have a question for the Treasurer concerning Ontario’s truly awful tax system. The Treasurer should know that in 1988 the fifth largest profitable developer in Canada, Hammerson Canada Inc. had an operating income of $35.2 million, distributed dividends of $14 million to shareholders and paid no income tax whatsoever, and E-L Financial Corp, the fifth most profitable property and casualty insurer in Canada, had an operating income of $27.9 million, distributed dividends of $6.4 million and actually got a $1.3-million tax credit from the long-suffering taxpayers.
I think the Treasurer understands that what is happening with his wealthy friends is that, first of all, the corporations are paying no taxes because of writing down their operating income; then the wealthy shareholders are getting a tax credit on the dividends they receive because the corporations, it was assumed, would be paying taxes and there was not supposed to be double taxation.
Hon R. F. Nixon: The honourable member knows that our capital tax serves that purpose to some degree in this province. Other provinces have followed our lead in that connection, although the province of Quebec, for example, has a larger capital tax than we have.
Mr Laughren: Not only has the Treasurer turned a blind eye to that, but this year he put new money into the current cost allowance of $140 million to these same companies, which is exactly the same kind of tax credit we are talking about.
Could the Treasurer tell us how he justifies those kinds of tax expenditures to the wealthiest corporations in Canada? At the same time, he is saying to the people at the minimum wage of $5 an hour that they have to pay $360 to him in the way of provincial income taxes at the end of the year. How does he justify that?
Hon R. F. Nixon: I have been able to glance at my book here and the capital tax return is about $650 million this year. The honourable member would also be aware that the announcement of the doubling of the current cost allowance is designed to make this jurisdiction attractive for the investment of funds in production machinery and other capital which is designed to make our economy strong, continue strong and provide jobs. This of course is the answer to why some corporations do not pay taxes. It is because they respond to the requirements of the governments of Canada and Ontario to commit their resources to the expansion of their ability to manufacture and create jobs.
We feel that is the kind of leadership we need. I have a feeling that the knee-jerk socialist responses of the honourable member would simply destroy the economy here and we can thank our lucky stars that they have nothing to do with it.
Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women’s issues. Last Friday, women’s groups all across Ontario received a very interesting piece of literature from the government; in fact, from the Ontario women's directorate. It was sent by courier. When they got these envelopes and opened them, they found they were empty. I would like to ask the minister responsible for the directorate and women’s issues just when she was advised of this incident and if she can advise the members of the House just at what cost this incident came to her ministry.
Mr Jackson: We have established that it did take place. I am surprised that the minister has not received any phone calls. She prides herself on her ability to get out and meet women’s groups. But in fact when these groups called the Ontario women’s directorate and said, “What was supposed to be in this envelope?” they were informed that the entire mailing went out empty. Since this was on a computerized mailing list, one can only assume that it was a rather extensive mailing.
I would like the minister, if she will, to report to the members of this House just exactly what the cost of this empty mailing was, and then to be advised, on behalf of all members of this House, that if she is going to be in such a rush to mail out election material from her ministry, does she not think she should wait a little bit until she has something to put into it?
Hon Mrs Wilson: I have committed to the member that I will look into this incident to determine in fact that it took place and to determine why. I am sorry that he may have been inconvenienced in opening an extra envelope and I will certainly determine what the facts behind that are.
Ms Oddie Munro: My question is to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. In his remarks to shareholders at Stelco’s 80th annual meeting, John Allan, chairman of Stelco Inc, expressed his concerns regarding the tendency of governments to look to the service sector rather than the manufacturing sector as the main engine of economic growth. Mr Allan believes that Stelco, and presumably the manufacturing community in general, needs government policies which are geared to giving manufacturers a solid foundation for international competition.
Can the minister describe what the Ontario government and his ministry in particular are doing to encourage continuing investment in our manufacturing sector and in particular in our steel and steel-related industries?
Hon Mr Kwinter: I agree with Mr Allan and I think it is important to know -- as I am sure all members realize -- that Ontario is the manufacturing centre of the country, but I think that the linkage between the service sector and the manufacturing sector is very strong and very important.
The Premier’s Council recognizes the importance of the manufacturing sector and in many of its policies it has actually recommended -- and they have been carried out -- things that will help: the industrial research fund and the centres of excellence, which are really geared to manufacturing co-operation with the research community.
The Treasurer just spoke recently, in the last question, about his particular initiatives where he has doubled the capital cost allowance and that is a tax incentive of about $140 million. All of these things encourage the manufacturing sector.
As for the steel industry in particular, we have been helpful in assisting in some of its problems with the United States as far as the free trade agreement is concerned, and we have been encouraging manufacturers in Ontario who are large steel users. I had the honour on Friday of officiating at the opening of the CAMI operation and they are going to be producing 200,000 cars next year --
Ms Oddie Munro: Given the current pressures, however, on the steel industry from both high interest rates and the high value of the Canadian dollar, can the minister tell this House whether he believes that the Canadian steel industry can maintain and improve its strong international competitive position in the 1990s?
Hon Mr Kwinter: We are really blessed in Ontario in that the steel industry we have here has a reputation of being one of the most efficient, one of the most high-tech, one of the best workforces and one of the best quality steel industries in the world. I think it will continue to maintain that position. However, it is under severe pressure.
The federal government, with its high interest rates and the high value of the Canadian dollar, is putting the industry at a severe disadvantage in world competition. But given the fact that analysts predict the automotive industry should pick up again in 1991, and given the fact that they are positioned to be competitive, I think the future will be good for them.
Last week the minister said to us that as long as the New Democratic Party is providing effective opposition to the government’s bad legislation on auto insurance, the minister is going to refuse to bring in good legislation on pension reform.
This government has sat on this issue for three years now. Back in March 1989, they issued a number of releases. A major document says, “Ontario unveils proposals for indexing private pensions.” There was to be a 60-day consultation period ending May of last year. We are 12 months later. Can the minister give us a specific date when his pension legislation is coming forward?
Hon Mr Elston: I am pleased that the honourable gentleman has asked and commented in his question about the holdup of our legislation on auto insurance because nothing is clearer than the fact that the NDP official opposition, with its ragtag buddies from the Progressive Conservative Party, is preventing us from processing the legislation to bring into place effective insurance coverage in the province. There are balanced provisions with respect to cost and benefits in store for the people of the province under Bill 68 but those people are preventing our Legislature from functioning.
With respect to pension legislation, how can I promise anybody any progress in this House while the people in the New Democratic Party continue to barrack and prevent us from processing any legislation that is balanced and reasonable? We are, in fact, dealing with all of the material that has come forward with respect to pensions. We are working as hard as we can in processing the legislative agenda that is in front of us and, when we have an opportunity to implement the insurance bill, we will be able to deal more specifically with pension legislation that I am sure those people will help to deal with with dispatch in this House.
This government has had a majority government for three years now and has done nothing. Basically he is telling us today that the only time we are going to see new pension legislation is when we get a minority government back and we have some say in terms of what he is going to bring forward.
The minister knows that he has been sitting now for five years and the only initiative that has come forward is a result of the accord with the NDP in the last minority government. In the three years of majority government, it has done absolutely zip. Meanwhile, there are thousands of seniors and workers who are nearing pension age who have no protection whatsoever from inflation.
Mr Morin-Strom: This minister knows that, month by month, there are more people going on to retirement pensions and they have not got the protection of the legislation that the minister promised over a year ago. Can the minister give us a specific date today as to when this legislation is coming forward?
We have been dealing with the material that has come forward, as a result of our document, for consultation. We have looked at what the unions said, and of course the unions will tell the NDP what to say. We have looked at what business has had to say, and of course the PCs will be told by business what they ought to say in opposition.
We will come forward with a balanced presentation of our pension legislation when we, in fact, are able to bring it into the House. It makes no sense for us to bring into this House a piece of legislation that is newly to come forward for consideration, when there are individual people like the member for Welland-Thorold, who spoke for almost a month, took up our business and prevented anybody else from having the floor on the auto insurance material.
It is almost impossible when one member of the Progressive Conservative Party stands up in his place and goes on for days and barracks about other members of this Legislature in a way which is unbecoming not only to that member but to the process in this House. We will bring --
Hon Mr Conway: I thank my learned friend from Manotick for his ongoing interest in the educational situation in Ottawa. I can tell him today what I have told him on a number of previous occasions, and that is, thanks to William Grenville Davis, we have legislation in this province; it is known as Bill 100. I think in an ecumenical way I should say that was one initiative that by and large was well established. It served the province well. It has resolved many more of these situations than it has left unresolved. I can assure my friend from Manotick that I expect both parties in Ottawa are going to accept their responsibilities under that statute and are going to resolve this difficulty at the earliest opportunity in the best interests of the students involved.
Mr Sterling: I would like to say to the Minister of Education from Eganville, in 1985 the Ontario government supported the Ottawa Board of Education to the tune of 19% of its budget. This year the minister is supporting it to the tune of 7% of its budget. Will he consider increasing the percentage of provincial support so the Ottawa Board of Education can sit down and negotiate with the teachers and perhaps give them a little bit more and settle this whole matter?
Hon Mr Conway: My friend from Manotick used to represent Grenville county, a wonderful part of eastern Ontario, and I cannot imagine that he would expect any good Liberal who has got a commitment to the principle of fairness and equalization to divert provincial grants from areas like Grenville or Glengarry, two parts of eastern Ontario represented by my friends in the third party, areas that have nothing like the enormous industrial and commercial wealth that is to be found in Ottawa, a city, interestingly, of declining enrolment over these past years. As a Liberal, I want to be fair to everyone, and that means higher provincial grants in Grenville and Glengarry, and yes, Renfrew, and a formula that takes into account the enormous wealth in Ottawa, where we of course expect that local wealth will be applied to the support of schools.
Mr McGuigan: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. Last week, while watching TV from Detroit, I saw them broadcast the hearings of the Michigan Air Pollution Control Commission. These hearings were on the prospect of cleaning up that garbage incinerator that is spewing effluent down on the people of Essex and Kent counties and, in fact, all of southwestern Ontario. I would like to ask the minister whether the changes that they made are environmentally safe for the people of southwestern Ontario.
I want to allay the concerns of the leader of the third party, who felt that perhaps this would take up the entire question period, by saying that I am suffering from laryngitis and as a result I may not be able to elaborate as much as I usually do.
The answer to the member’s question is certainly no. We sent the director of the air resources branch of the Ministry of the Environment to testify at this hearing. The problem with the deal for that specific incinerator is that it calls for years of delay before there is an installation of the kind of pollution abatement equipment that we feel is necessary.
The stand we have taken from the beginning is that there is a need for what is called the scrubber baghouse technology. Here they were building a brand-new incinerator where the opportunity was there to install that. The deal they have come up with in fact does not call for that; it calls for too long a delay before there is an installation of the kind of equipment we believe is necessary to protect the people of Essex county, the people of Windsor and indeed the people of Detroit.
Mr McGuigan: This decree was approved by the Michigan commission following a long meeting and, as the minister mentioned, it was over Ontario’s objections. What, if any, further steps can we take to protect the people of southwestern Ontario?
Hon Mr Bradley: The member would recall that the province of Ontario initiated a court case in the state of Michigan in opposition to the incinerator being allowed to start up. In fact, early on in the court proceedings, the operating agency working for the city of Detroit tried to use procedural methods to prevent our case from going forward. We were in fact successful in pushing those aside. We were successful in terms of the court, because the court indicated clearly that the province of Ontario was right in the procedure that it was following. Therefore, it is our intention to continue that court case.
I mentioned at the time when they were talking about a special deal before the commission that it was the intention of the province of Ontario to continue to pursue our court case until such time as they install --
Mr Allen: My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. One of the major problems affecting the social assistance reforms has been the slow takeup of STEP, the supports to employment program. Various groups coming before the food bank hearings pointed out that, for example, in Toronto the access of the STEP was 0.6%. A survey by the Daily Bread Food Bank indicated that two thirds of the recipients were not aware of the reforms. Another group reported that municipalities in Ontario do not understand the details of the document.
It is becoming clear why that is the case. There is a full-scale revolt, as some would have it, among field workers in the regional offices. Their case loads are so heavy, and the minister has not implemented that particularly important item in the first-stage reforms which asks him to reduce case loads so that the other reforms might go ahead successfully. When is he going to reduce case loads in the family benefits sector in the regional offices?
Hon Mr Beer: We are concerned about the increases in case loads that we have had and we have been trying to do a number of things to lessen that increase, particularly so that people can work on STEP, which in terms of the takeup has proven to be a very positive program.
The honourable member would want to know that we have added resources to the ministry to assist in this area. There are still problems that we have not completely overcome, but it is my belief that the approach of the field workers has been a very positive one, and what we are trying to do is to assist them in lowering the case load. I would hope that, barring a series of major shifts and more people having to go on to family benefits, we would be able to see some progress there. We recognize that for STEP to work properly, our staff must have the time to be able to deal with the clients. That is one of the reasons, as the honourable member knows, that we put out this pamphlet to advertise STEP and to try to get more people to take it up.
Mr Allen: The pamphlet will not help if the workers will not pass it on, and that is basically what is happening. The information is not being passed on, deliberately, because of the additional case load that will be entailed.
The minister may want to go hack to the document and realize that between 1980-81 and 1986-87, the case load of those workers went up 33% and the workload per case went up 41%. They stood at 332 persons on the average that was the responsibility of a single worker. Our survey around the province indicates those numbers are still in effect, still over 300, and in the city of Toronto at this stage it is 339-plus persons per worker. You cannot get blood out of a stone and you cannot push workers beyond a certain point. When is the minister going to reduce the case load in order to make the whole Social Assistance Review Committee reform effective out there in the field?
Hon Mr Beer: I think there are two points I would want to make to the honourable member. None the less, with the heavy case loads, in fact the number of people who are joining and taking advantage of STEP is going up, and we can show that through the statistics. We recognize that to the extent we can deal more effectively with the issue of case load, in fact that will be able to go up at an even greater rate. I can assure the honourable member that that is an issue of some concern, not only to me but to all of us who want this program to work, and we are trying to bring forward a number of initiatives that will see that case load drop.
Last December I raised the problem of admission of certain northern Ontario students to the school of pharmacy at the University of Toronto. Dean Perrier of the University of Toronto saw fit to reply to the minister, and I will just quote one paragraph from that letter very briefly:
“It is ironic that Mr Pope and the Lauzons have criticized the policy of regional admission quotas, which is designed to assure students in areas outside Metropolitan Toronto, in particular northern and eastern Ontario, have access to the faculty. Without the quota system, Metro Toronto students would dominate our faculty student body. For example, while Metro Toronto and Mississauga have approximately 30% of Ontario’s population, 45% of the most qualified students would have come from this area.”
Does the Minister of Colleges and Universities share Dean Perrier’s attitude and opinion that students from eastern and northern Ontario are less academically qualified and less intelligent than students from Toronto?
Hon Mr Conway: Setting aside the peculiar fact that he is not supporting his northern colleague in the leadership campaign. I can tell him that is not the way I would read Dean Perrier’s letter, and I am certain that is not the way the honourable member for Cochrane South reads the letter.
Mr Pope: I certainly do. According to him, academic qualifications will be the cornerstone of admissions to his faculty and he thinks that northern Ontario students, given the academic qualification test, would be less qualified and would have less of a per capita admission.
I want to ask the Minister of Colleges and Universities, since the regional quotas are not being relied upon by this faculty -- in fact, 43% of the students are coming from the greater Toronto area, and in fact it is not 30%, which it would be if the regional quota system were put in place -- when are we going to get some fairness and equality for eastern and northern Ontario students in admissions to professional schools in this province?
Hon Mr Conway: Well, I have to say to my fairminded friends in the Tory caucus that for the member for Cochrane South, the former Attorney General of this province, to get up and characterize Dean Perrier’s letter in the way he has is, quite frankly, not to the credit of our friend from Timmins. He is just better than that.
I have pursued the member’s interest in this case. I have spoken to the family, I have talked to the faculty of pharmacy at the University of Toronto, and the dean has assured me that the Lauzon case was one where the individual applicant was not admitted because the academic standing and the score on the standardized test, the so-called PCAT, were not as high as they had to be to meet the minimum for the year in which she had applied.
It is my view, on the basis of all things taken into account, that the system that is in place is quite fair and that in fact the admissions of students from northern and eastern Ontario in the last three or four years have been above what the quota would have called for. So I think, all things taken into account, the system is fair and it is not at all as described by my friend from Timmins.
Mr M. C. Ray: I have a question for the Treasurer, and it concerns again the question of the government policy of relocation of government jobs to areas outside the Metropolitan Toronto area and in particular to the city of Windsor.
The Treasurer will know that last week I asked the Minister of Government Services whether or not the budget the Treasurer has prepared included funds for the relocation of government jobs to the city of Windsor. The minister neither confirmed nor denied that the budget did provide such money, but he did indicate the matter was under review.
I would like now to direct the same question to the Treasurer, and I ask: When can the city of Windsor and the residents of the city of Windsor expect some positive action on this very important matter to our community?
The honourable member would recall there was a reference, somewhat vague if not veiled, in the budget speech that indicated the policy of the government to move full-time government jobs out of the greater Toronto area was going to continue. We had substantial success in the 1,600 to 1,700 jobs located in northern Ontario, with the ancillary commitment of $300 million in capital.
Hon R. F. Nixon: This is well received by the thoughtful people in the north, although it has never been reflected by any of the NDP members representing the north, mostly because they are not thoughtful.
“Whereas the Peterson Liberal government has decided to charge drivers in greater Metropolitan Toronto $90 per year for a car licence plate while at the same time only charging residents in other parts of Ontario $33 per year for identical licence plates;
“Whereas the same Peterson Liberal government has in this year’s budget imposed other taxes and levies on the people in businesses in greater Metropolitan Toronto which are not imposed on those in other parts of Ontario;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to express to the Liberal government our great disapproval of its policies of tax discrimination against the people of greater Metropolitan Toronto.”
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to have a drug plan legislated such that individuals who are receiving CPP disability pensions be permitted equal recognition as conventional CPP recipients.”
M. Poirier : J’ai deux pétitions : la première de l’Association des parents et enseignants de l’école Sainte-Félicité de Clarence Creek, 198 signatures ; et la deuxième de 1’Association des parents et enseignants de l’école Sainte-Trinité de Rockland, 237 signatures, demandant la mise sur pied d’un conseil scolaire de langue française dans la région des comtés unis de Prescott et Russell.
Mr Ballinger: I am in receipt of three petitions, one on behalf of the Honourable Charles Beer, to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The first reads as follows:
Mr Adams: I have a petition concerning the employer health tax on behalf of almost 300 people who live in the vicinity of Peterborough. These include virtually everyone who is actively involved in the real estate market at the present time. It reads:
“We, the undersigned, wish to draw your attention again to the inequity of the newly imposed employer health tax. This tax should be fair. Everyone should contribute and pay a health tax. Everyone should pay the same percentage. Everyone’s tax should be based on the same level of remuneration, not some before expenses and some after expenses.”
Mr Allen: No, I will give the statement of purpose here. The bill is designed to address the garbage crisis in Ontario by amending the Environmental Protection Act to provide regulations that would, for example, establish provincial programs to help municipalities achieve a 50% reduction of garbage going to landfills by the year 2000, establish timetables for prohibiting the disposal of certain wastes in landfills, lay down a plan for the phasing out of used containers and packaging for which there are alternatives, designate disposable products for which there are non-disposable substitutes available and prohibit the use of such products, prescribe durability standards for consumer products, require municipalities to establish blue box recycling programs and require all residents to separate their recyclables.
It was interesting to note the comments of the Minister of Financial Institutions in respect to me during a response to a question earlier, when he was expressing concern about some comments I was making about some of his Liberal colleagues and suggesting these were some sort of personal attacks. I want to say that they are not personal attacks at all. If anyone wants to look at the record, I think it clearly indicates a failing on the part of the members in respect to properly representing the constituents, the people who put them in office. All I have been attempting to do is draw those shortcomings, those failings of the Liberal members of this Legislature to the attention of their constituents and again reinforce, if you will, the fact that these people are simply not doing the job that you put them in office to do. They are simply facts.
I am not launching any personal attacks on the character of any individual member of this Legislature; I am simply saying, reiterating time and time again, that the Liberal members have failed to do their jobs on this particular piece of no-fault legislation, as mean and nasty a piece of legislation as this House has seen. It is going to hurt innocent accident victims right across this province. It is a harmful piece of business, a nasty piece of business, and I think the Liberal members have a great deal to answer for in respect to the way they have failed to stand up on behalf of their constituents. They have simply failed all those people in this province, the head-injured, people who are going to suffer psychological injuries and damage as a result of auto accidents, who will no longer, as a result of this legislation, have the opportunity to take the at-fault driver to court, to gain access to the courts. That is a reality.
Again, it may bother some of the Liberal backbenchers and some of the Liberal members of the executive council because they simply have not been doing their jobs. I know that hurts. They do not like me to say that; they do not like me mentioning their names and telling their constituents, urging their constituents to give these people a call and tell them to start doing their jobs, start representing their constituents in a way in which they should be representing them. They are not doing it, they have not been doing it and they show no inclination whatsoever up to this point to do anything about this very dangerous piece of legislation. Certainly they do not seem to express any concern about the motion we are dealing with today, which shuts off meaningful debate, restricts debate to the point where only the critic for the NDP and the critic for the Progressive Conservative Party have an opportunity to speak at length in respect to this legislation.
We have heard some criticism -- this is my fourth day on my feet speaking to this bill -- and criticism of the NDP member who went on for a considerably longer period. The reality is that the government, in an arrogant overreaction, cut off debate on this bill and brought in time allocation which would restrict debate to two days in committee of the whole and one day on third reading -- three days on this piece of legislation which is going to affect six million drivers in this province and many others in respect to families and friends who could be negatively impacted upon as a result of an auto accident in this province.
Mr Runciman: It is ironic having these comments come across the floor about the Conservatives being in bed with the socialists. Let’s face the facts: we are talking about a government and some of its key players who certainly do not have any difficulty with socialism at all. We had the most massive intervention in the private sector in the form of Bill 2, the establishment of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, back in the fall of 1987, the most massive intervention in the private sector in the history of this province. You did not mind that. Your key players did not mind that. I call that socialism, folks, so do not throw those sorts of things across the floor at me. We are standing up here because --
Mr Runciman: Mr Speaker, I simply want to point out to you that one of the key players in this legislation is the Attorney General of Ontario. The Attorney General happens to be, for the edification of the viewers, perhaps, when we are talking about socialism, a former fund-raiser for the New Democratic Party of Ontario. Are people aware of that? One of the key players in formulating this legislation was a former fund-raiser for the New Democrats.
Mr Runciman: We look at the Attorney General, a staunch supporter of the NDP a few years ago. Now he is sitting in the front benches of the Liberal Party of Ontario. Why is he there? He is there because he is an opportunist. I believe he went there because he had an opportunity to have access to power and influence on legislation such as this and Bill 2, this massive intervention in the private sector.
I spent some time yesterday talking about the member for Hamilton Centre and the difficulty she has faced as a result of her failure, if you will, to speak out on behalf of the head-injured and others who are going to be negatively impacted upon by this legislation. I have a letter which I think is of some interest and related to what I said yesterday about that member. It is addressed to the Hamilton Centre Provincial Liberal Association, dated 26 March, and reads:
“Liberalism, the Liberal Party and my family go back many years, as some of you may be aware. As a matter of fact, my father ran for the Liberal Party provincially in the September 1963 election. I remember working on that election as well as many others, both federally and provincially. As well, I recall my unquestioned commitment and financial support to the Liberal Party during the time it was in the desert, so to speak, and out of power.
“During those years the Liberal Party espoused those principles and ideals that made one proud to be a Liberal. The Liberal Party’s introduction of the Ontario motorist protection plan and Lily Oddie Munro’s recent position on this legislation, as observed in committee, has forced me to re-evaluate my support for the Liberal Party. All of us can argue the merits of this issue until doomsday. That is not the purpose of this letter.
“In short, I oppose this legislation because it takes away fundamental rights of justice from innocent motor vehicle accident victims. This situation is totally unacceptable to me as a citizen of this province. Please accept this correspondence as notice of my desire to cancel my membership in the provincial Liberal Party.”
“Please also take note that I have joined the provincial Conservative Party as a personal sign of protest and will contribute time and money to their candidates in an attempt to rid Ontario of this outrageous legislation. Moreover, I will actively encourage all of my friends, family and associates to turn their support away from the provincial Liberal Party. What the provincial Liberal Party is doing to this province by implementing the Ontario motorist protection plan is scandalous.”
Mr Runciman: I want to very briefly run through the amendments, or at least some of them, that the Progressive Conservative Party is going to be introducing during the very brief committee-of-the-whole process available.
Mr Runciman: We will not have time to discuss these at length, because of the Liberal government’s time allocation motion which is cutting off meaningful debate. We have a number, which I am going to put on the record now, and I want to again express concern about the fact that members of my party and members of the NDP are not going to have an opportunity to deal with these amendments in a meaningful way, and a host of other concerns which they are simply not going to have an opportunity to talk about because of the limitation the Liberals have placed upon debate on this bill.
They do not want the people of Ontario to understand what the implications of this legislation are, how negatively it is going to impact on all of us in this province. They simply do not want the people to know. They get up and talk about the no-fault side of this thing. Obviously that is in their best interest, but they do not talk about the significant downsides to this legislation, and that of course is the reason behind this effort to restrict and cut off debate and limit the opportunity for opposition members, limited in number as we are, to have any significant impact on this legislation in respect to perhaps having it amended in a way which will benefit Ontarians generally.
The first amendment will be to section 57 of the bill, subsection 32la(1) of the act. As currently written, this section of Bill 68 eliminates an accident victim’s right to sue for economic loss unless his or her injuries meet the threshold. The Progressive Conservative amendment would change the threshold so that it applies only to non-economic loss or non-economic damage. Every accident victim in Ontario would still be entitled to sue for economic loss or damage.
In no jurisdiction in North America in which a system of threshold automobile insurance is in place has the right to sue for economic loss been tied into meeting the threshold test. In all other jurisdictions the right to sue for economic loss is maintained, irrespective of whether or not one can sue for pain and suffering. Although there may be some argument that there is some moral justification for giving up the right to claim for pain and suffering in return for increased no-fault benefits, there can be no similar moral or social justification that an individual should be forced to give up the right to sue for loss of earnings that are not covered by the no-fault benefits schedule in return for reducing premiums at large of the motoring public of Ontario.
Without full compensation for economic loss, innocent accident victims could lose their homes or their businesses, or both. The Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, on page 47 of its report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council, dated 14 July 1989, stated the following: “Threshold no-fault systems permit recovery of economic losses, but preclude recovery of non-pecuniary losses where the level of injury sustained fails to satisfy a defined threshold, which may be verbal or monetary.”
Clearly, the Kruger commission had indicated that any threshold system considered under its mandate would permit recovery for economic loss. In fact, the Kruger commission only considered threshold plans which provide full compensation for economic loss to innocent accident victims.
I might say that our party struggled with the question of whether or not we should be introducing amendments, because we do not think this legislation, the no-fault thrust, is at all in the best interest of Ontarians. We certainly would like to see a retention of tort and changes recommended by Justice Osborne and others.
But we realize that we are dealing with a huge majority of the Liberal government, that this legislation is before us and that perhaps what we have to do, as an opposition party, is present amendments which can improve the legislation, make it better for Ontarians, even though we have some strong disagreements with the principle of no-fault.
We do not think it is the way to go, but the legislation is before us and we feel, as an opposition party, that it is our responsibility to introduce these amendments on behalf of the many interest groups that appeared before us in an effort to try and make this legislation somewhat more palatable.
The next amendment we will be introducing during committee of the whole is again to section 57, subsection 231a(l) of the act. As currently written, this section of the bill states that disfigurement must be permanent and serious in order for an accident victim to be allowed to proceed with litigation.
The Progressive Conservative amendment places the word “or” between the words “permanent” and “serious.” It lessens the burden of proof for innocent accident victims. An injury need not be permanent to be serious or likewise be serious to be permanent. Placement of the word “or” between the words “permanent” and “serious” does not detract from the government’s stated purpose, to compensate those who are most affected by an automobile accident.
Requirement of permanency together with seriousness introduces value judgements in the threshold test. What if an injury is permanent and serious presently, but may not be considered serious permanently or seriously permanent? Would injury still be considered permanent if it is anticipated that with medical advances there could be remedies in the future? As written, this section of Bill 68 has too much subjective terminology.
The member for Mississauga South, who has been very active in support of the disabled community, reminds me that this amendment which I have just read into the record has been requested by the disabled community. I want to applaud the efforts of the member for Mississauga South, who is constantly speaking out in support of the disabled in the province.
The next amendment we will be introducing in the very brief time allocated to us by the Liberal government is again to section 57, clause 231a(l)(b) of the act. As currently written, this section of the bill presents a very restrictive threshold which must be met in order for accident victims to be allowed to proceed with litigation.
The Progressive Conservative amendment recognizes psychological injuries and removes subjective terminology such as “important bodily function,” “continuing injury” and “physical in nature.” The threshold definition specifically excludes emotional and mental injuries and it is difficult to predict with precision how the courts will interpret these stringent requirements.
It has been suggested that Bill 68 is most closely related to the Michigan threshold. However, in Michigan the injured person need not prove that the injury is permanent nor must the injury be objectively manifested. Rather, a Michigan claimant will meet his state’s threshold if the injury is both serious and medically identifiable. There is no requirement in Michigan that the injury be continuing or physical in nature or affect an important bodily function.
The requirement that the injury be physical in nature is discriminatory. Psychological injuries, including depression, anxiety and pain disorders, are real and legitimately disabling. Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
I will be talking about that element of this legislation at greater length a little later. There is a good chance that Bill 68 is inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and I will, as I said, be discussing an opinion given by Gordon Henderson, a noted constitutional expert and former colleague of the Attorney General, with respect to that matter.
Our next amendment is again to section 57 of the bill, subsection 231 a(4) of the act. As it is currently written, this section allows insurance companies two occasions to challenge accident victims with respect to the threshold. Even if the victim is successful on a pre-trial motion to determine whether he or she meets the threshold, the defence can still raise the issue at trial.
The Progressive Conservative amendment removes this section from the bill. There is absolutely no incentive for a victim to have his or her case determined at any time other than the trial. A plaintiff may incur considerable expense in pursuing a claim, only to find out at the time of trial that his or her injuries do not pass the threshold. Such uncertainty will discourage a number of injured accident victims whose injuries would pass the threshold, if they would only incur the expense to test the threshold.
The inherent uncertainty will mean it is only the rich who will test the threshold. Lower-income individuals will be discouraged by the high costs of attempting to test the threshold, and such a result of justice only for the rich is clearly undesirable.
I doubt if any of the Liberal members were paying any attention to that when I talked about the Premier, the member for London Centre, yesterday with respect to not having any empathy or understanding for those less fortunate in society. I clearly pointed out that this legislation is going to impact negatively very much upon those in society who are unemployed, individuals earning minimum wage and those who have significant difficulties in society. Those are the kinds of people who are going to suffer most harshly as a result of this legislation.
I suggested that perhaps the reasons the Premier does not have any real appreciation of the plight of individuals and families who are living in such economic circumstances is the fact that he has never had to face those kinds of difficulties in his own life. He has never had to worry about meeting a mortgage payment or putting groceries on the table to feed his children. He was born into a very comfortable existence.
We talked about one of his main occupations on the weekend being jogging around his Rosedale mansion, checking out blue boxes of his neighbours to see what kind of wine they are consuming. That is the priority of the Premier of this province, when we are talking about legislation before this House which he has instigated as a result of his 1987 promise, an irresponsible promise which could not be kept. We have brought in legislation which is going to hurt the people in our society who can least afford to be hurt. I think if we look back on the Premier’s own lifestyle and upbringing, perhaps that will provide us with some understanding and some explanation of where we are today.
The next amendment is again to section 57 of the bill, clause 231b(l)(c) of the act. As currently written, this section of the bill states that insurance companies will be required to pay benefits only after the accident victim has exhausted all benefits available under any income continuation plan he or she has.
The Progressive Conservative amendment removes this section of the bill. Insurance companies must pay the applicable no-fault benefits regardless of any income continuation plans held by the accident victim. Income continuation plans are implemented for the benefit of employees in order to protect the interruption of their income due to some other sickness.
It is always understood that the risk of income loss due to an injury in an automobile accident would ultimately be covered by automobile insurance. If these losses are no longer to be covered under the proposed auto insurance plan, it clearly has to be more costly to employers and employees to provide these income continuation benefits.
Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I do not like to interrupt my friend the member for Leeds-Grenville, but I do not see a quorum. If that is the case, it certainly indicates the arrogance of the Liberal Party, not willing to even listen to this debate.
Mr Runciman: I think it is indicative of the interest of the Liberal members when they have the largest majority government in the history of this province and they cannot even maintain a quorum in this House. They are trying to cut off debate by the opposition. They are not giving us an opportunity to discuss this.
Mr Runciman: We are talking about time allocation. I think it is relevant to mention that we had to have a quorum call because of a 94-seat majority government that could not maintain a quorum in this House.
I think it clearly indicates the arrogance of this government, the way it has treated this issue from the beginning, the way it has treated witnesses who have appeared before us, the way it has treated Her Majesty’s loyal opposition with respect to the opportunity to have meaningful debate on this issue, and the way it has treated, with contempt I believe -- I said this yesterday in regard to the interjections of those members of the Liberal Party who were here yesterday when I was expressing concerns that have been presented to us by thousands of people across this province.
We had these inane interjections coming from Liberal backbenchers. To me that shows contempt for those people who appeared before us as witnesses, people like Barbara Turnbull, people like Jeremy Rempel, who appeared before us in a wheelchair, talking about his accident and his concern for future innocent accident victims in this province. The Liberal backbenchers and their cabinet colleagues are just showing contempt for all of those very caring, concerned people, who have no vested interest, nothing to gain, by the passage or failure of this legislation. They were there because they genuinely, sincerely care about future innocent accident victims in this province.
I think it has to go on the record that, with 94 Liberal members, they cannot even maintain a quorum on a consistent basis in this Legislature. The reality is that most of them have nothing to do anyway. What they are all here for is hoping to get a chauffeur-driven limousine, be a parliamentary assistant, get access to one of these unlimited expense accounts, plush offices, perhaps a chairmanship of a crown corporation or an agency, board or commission of the government. They are obviously not here to stand up on behalf of the innocent accident victims of this province.
Another amendment which will be introduced by the Progressive Conservative Party is again to section 57 of the bill, clause 23lb(1)(d). As currently written, this section of the bill forces an accident victim to exhaust all company benefits before an insurance company is required to pay any no-fault benefits.
The Progressive Conservative amendment eliminates this section of the bill and rightly forces insurance companies to pay no-fault benefits regardless of whether or not the accident victim has a sick leave plan at the place of employment. Under Bill 68, the employee may have to use up sick leave credits and thus lose protection against income loss due to a future sickness or disability. Since the automobile insurer may pay very little where sick leave benefits exist, workers will be paying for automobile insurance for which they have very little chance of collecting compensation. In addition, the cost of sick leave plans will increase.
Sick leave is an earned benefit to protect the employee from interruption of income. It was never intended to protect against loss of income due to automobile accidents. Employees should not have to absorb this loss. This section provides an incentive for insurance companies to seek out those insureds who have sick leave plans at their places of employment. The bill cannot stop insurance companies from cherry-picking.
We talked about access to the courts in the earlier amendment and the fact that the justice system under this bill in respect to taking the insurance company to court is only going to apply to the rich in society, in respect to their ability to challenge the threshold, to see whether their injuries can pierce the threshold. This is another element that impacts in a dramatic way upon the less fortunate in society.
We are talking about people who for many reasons cannot have income replacement plans, do not have sick leave benefits at their place of employment, or perhaps are unemployed or earning minimum wage or something in that neighbourhood, and are living in Metropolitan Toronto. I am not sure what the survival wage would be in Metropolitan Toronto, but individuals who are living below the poverty line certainly would suffer as a result of this legislation with respect to their ability to get auto insurance, what we are talking about in respect to cherry-picking.
For the benefit of viewers and for the benefit of the one or two Liberal members who may be paying attention to this debate, we are talking about insurance companies that are going to look at the risk any consumer coming to them poses. If a consumer has an income replacement plan, has sick leave benefits, that consumer poses much less of a risk to an insurance company than the individual in society who does not have those kinds of benefits.
What we are going to see is a referral of those individuals to the high-priced Facility Association, because as I said, they pose a higher risk to the insurance company. What we have seen up to this point is a significant increase already in the Facility Association, something up to the neighbourhood of a 300% increase in the past year and a half. Under this legislation, I think we are going to see a much more dramatic increase.
We were talking a couple of days ago about the state of Massachusetts, which instituted a process similar to Bill 2, brought in in 1987. On the last day of public hearings on Bill 2, the establishment of the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, the establishment of a rate-setting authority by the provincial government, it was indicated that Massachusetts, with a similar system, had close to 60% of drivers in the high-priced Facility and a good chunk of the insurance companies had been chased out of the state.
Despite those warnings and despite that information available to the government, it continued along its course of self-destruction and cost all of us, as taxpayers, millions and millions of dollars We are still paying the bill. There seems to be no end in sight to this government’s ability to mismanage the insurance issue.
The next amendment we will be introducing in committee of the whole, whenever it arrives, is again to section 57 of the bill, subsection 231b(6) of the act. This section of the bill states that the collateral source rule of Bill 68 comes into effect on 23 October 1989. That was seven months ago. It should come into effect with the rest of Bill 68. The Progressive Conservative amendment removes this arbitrary inception date. As it is, Bill 68 will not be operational until well into 1990. How far into 1990 depends on how astute certain members of the government may be. But in any event, Bill 68 will not be operational until well into 1990. It is ludicrous to have retroactive sections of this bill, especially when they favour insurance companies.
The legislation calls for the deduction of sick bank benefits, disability benefits, and all other forms of benefits received by any injured individuals from the value of their claims, assuming their claims meet the threshold. The legislation, as written, requires that this deduction occur in respect of any claim of action that arises following 23 October 1989.
Thus, persons injured after 23 October 1989 will be negatively affected. These individuals will lose their sick bank benefits, but receive none of the enhanced benefits which the new legislation proposes by way of the amended no-fault benefits schedule. Persons caught in this grey area are being hit with a double whammy -- lost sick benefits, etc, and none of the promised enhanced benefits. The government should not, ex post facto, alter terms of automobile insurance contracts resulting in a reduction in benefits for drivers, unless at the same time it forces insurance companies to make a partial, pro rata refund of premium. The government is changing the contract terms without a necessary reflection in price.
Mr Runciman: I will not get into that. I will save my voice for what is more important here. We are talking about the amendments the Progressive Conservative Party is going to introduce during committee of the whole, which we will not have an opportunity to discuss at length because of the restriction placed upon us by the government, so I am taking this opportunity to put those amendments on the record and perhaps explain some of the rationale behind the submission of these amendments.
I was talking about Bill 68 and the collateral source rule. The government’s own actuarial report 24 -- Report on the Hybrid Threshold No-fault Insurance System of 19 June 1989 done by Eckler Partners Ltd -- confirms that a refund is in order. The author of that report, Joe Cheng, writes on page 6 of the report, “Therefore, on the effective (proclamation) date of the hybrid threshold no-fault law, some motorists may get a pro rata refund on their unearned premiums if their current premiums are much higher than the hybrid threshold premiums and if there is a mandatory rollback.”
The next amendment is again to section 57 of the bill. I want to say that during committee hearings, when we were doing clause-by-clause on this legislation, the committee never got to section 57. The debate was cut off before committee had the opportunity to talk about amendments such as this in committee during clause-by-clause. Those are the kinds of time restrictions we have been operating under from the outset and that the government has continued to apply to members of the opposition once the debate moved into the Legislature itself, into the assembly.
The government complains about the outdated benefits currently available in the system today. However, it has not indexed the new schedule of no-fault benefits. The Progressive Conservative amendment provides an indexing formula for the new schedule of no-fault benefits. The government has said time and again that the new scheme will enhance the archaic levels of compensation. However, by not indexing these new benefits, it is falling into the same trap. No-fault benefits were last altered in 1978. The government sat on a recommendation made by Mr Justice Coulter Osborne that the schedule of accident benefits be increased immediately.
Why should innocent accident victims suffer a real decrease in benefits when inflation takes place? Given the government’s track record to date, what assurances do we have that the level of benefits will be reviewed periodically, as promised by the minister? Those are the amendments I wish to put on the record today.
I want to talk about a number of other things, and one of them is the constitutionality question I have discussed previously. Hopefully I have the letter from Mr Henderson, which I can read into the record.
It has been suggested that anywhere between $12 million and $15 million was wasted on the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, on its efforts to produce two reports which were ignored by the government and the costs associated with that. There is the $142-million or $143-million tax break that is going to the insurance industry, which represents something in the neighbourhood of $16 for every man, woman and child in this province with respect to increased taxes. That is a $143-million tax break -- the 3% tax on premiums and the OHIP subrogation agreement -- a $143-million windfall to the industry representing in the neighbourhood of $16 per person in increased taxes across this province.
We talked about other moneys being wasted, about the fact that on the dispute resolution system the government has no handle whatsoever on what it is going to cost us, what kind of bureaucracy is going to be required, what kind of workload there will be and what kind of backlog these people are going to be faced with. I have cited in the past the analogy between this new dispute resolution mechanism for auto insurance and the rent review system in this province, which is now costing taxpayers somewhere in the neighbourhood of $40 million to $50 million a year, with backlogs of one to two years of people trying to get their applications to rent review heard.
That is the kind of horrific nightmare we could be facing with respect to this dispute resolution process being instituted under this legislation. No one knows what it is going to cost us. When I asked the Deputy Minister of Financial Institutions in early December 1989 --
Mr Kormos: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I am sorely disappointed that once again the Liberals are being paid for a full day’s work but they will not show up to listen. There is physically not a quorum here. Shame on the Liberals.
Mr Runciman: It is a sad testimony to the interest of Liberal members and Liberal backbenchers with respect to this legislation when they cannot stay around this House. There are 94 Liberal members and they cannot stay around this House. You wonder what they are doing over in the whips’ lounge. Perhaps enjoying the refreshments provided? Are those refreshments provided at the taxpayers’ expense? Perhaps we should put a question on the Orders and Notices paper. In any event, they are not in this House.
I have talked about a significant waste of taxpayers’ dollars and no real concern on the part of Liberal members of this Legislature. I am talking about modest amounts. We talked about $100 a day, which I guess in terms of this budget and the moneys the government spends is pretty modest. We looked at the $100 per day tax-free that the Liberal members of the standing committee on general government were receiving for their appearance on that committee, and they did nothing. They made no contribution whatsoever.
They were simply there to act as rubber-stampers, as sheeplike followers of the member for London Centre, and that was their only role, their sole role. They were not there to listen. They were not there to act upon what they heard. They were not there to really empathize or care or be concerned about the kind of moving testimony we heard over those weeks of public hearings; not at all.
It is not uncommon, when they waste the taxpayers’ dollars in a futile exercise like that, to see them not bothering to show up here in the House when they are also receiving a good sum of money from the taxpayers of this province. They are all assigned a certain amount of House duty. Where are they, Mr Speaker? I ask you. Where is the government whip? We are talking about government legislation here. They have a responsibility to be here, especially when we are talking about such an important piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that is going to impact on virtually all Ontarians. They cannot even muster a quorum. They cannot even have enough people in this House to maintain a quorum.
Mr Runciman: I was starting to talk about the constitutionality, and again I was tying this into the irresponsibility of this government with respect to the of the taxpayers’ moneys. We have heard questions in this House from myself and from the member for Welland-Thorold to the Minister of Financial Institutions, to the Premier and to the Attorney General as well about the constitutionality of this legislation, the fact that some very prominent individuals have expressed concern about the constitutionality and the financial implications for this province.
We have even had certain members of the insurance industry writing to the Minister of Financial Institutions asking for a referral of this legislation to the Court of Appeal for a quick judgement on its constitutionality to see if indeed it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the minister has refused to do that and he really has not offered any explanation that stands up to scrutiny. He said, “Look, we have our own legal opinions and we are comfortable with them.”
I think it is incumbent upon the minister, when we are dealing with an issue of such significance, dealing with an issue that is going to place such financial liability upon the shoulders of the taxpayers of this province, to make those opinions available to the public. Up to this point, he has refused to do so. For the information of members of the House and for the public, we have been attempting over a period of many months now to secure those legal opinions, because what we are talking about is a potential liability falling upon the shoulders of the taxpayers of the province of hundreds of millions of dollars.
This minister is not prepared to refer this legislation to the Court of Appeal for a rather speedy judgement with respect to its constitutionality. He wants to get through the next election. When he has those legal opinions in his hot, little hands and is not prepared to make them available to us, one has to wonder what they say.
Today I am filing a freedom-of-information request, a request for access to records, to the Ministry of Financial Institutions for any and all legal opinions relating to the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of Bill 68, An Act to amend certain Acts respecting Insurance, that have been prepared for or sought by the Ministry of Financial Institutions; any and all correspondence regarding any and all legal opinions relating to the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of Bill 68; the names of any and all legal firms contacted by the Ministry of Financial Institutions relating to the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of Bill 68.
I am forced by this government to file a freedom-of-information request to try to gain access to legal opinions on the constitutionality of the no-fault auto insurance legislation brought in by this government because the minister and his cronies along the front bench are not prepared to make that public on their own. We have to make an effort to force their hand to make sure that the public of Ontario is very much aware of what the real implications of this legislation are.
The fact is that this government wants to get through an election, wants to get over the hump of the next provincial election. That is all it really cares about. If indeed this is found unconstitutional at some point down the road, who is going to suffer? They are hoping in any event that they are going to be ensconced in another majority government with another four or five years ahead of them and can ride the waves of any discontent that may arise as a result of their failure with respect to this legislation.
I want to read into the record a letter from Gordon F. Henderson. Mr Henderson, as we have mentioned before, is a former partner of the current Attorney General of this province, the member for St George-St David. This was prepared at the request of the organization, Fair Action in Insurance Reform. The letter was addressed to Lawrence Mandel.
“As an experienced constitutional litigator, it is not my practice to give unqualified opinions as to the constitutionality of any legislative proposal. However, I am able to say that I do see a good arguable case to support the view that the threshold proposed in section 231a(1) is unconstitutional. The threshold, both in purpose and effect, treats those with mental disability in a manner less favourable than those with physical disability. Furthermore, the threshold can be construed as making an arbitrary distinction between mental disability that results from physical injury and that which does not. Finally, the threshold is set so high that it excludes recovery in tort for all but death and permanent serious injury, thereby discriminating against those with less serious injuries.
“In my view, there is a sufficient basis for constitutional objection under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to require the government to justify the proposed amendments under section 1 of the charter. The ability of the government to do so may well be impeded by the findings and conclusions of reports earlier commissioned by the government into this subject.
“I have developed these observations more fully in a formal opinion to be forwarded to you shortly. In that opinion, I address other possible arguments under section 7 of the charter, although the proposed amendments are in my view less assailable under that section than under section 15.
I think the implications of this are very serious indeed. The fact is that, as I have said, there have been a number of executives of various insurance companies in this province who have written to the minister asking him to refer this to the Court of Appeal; Bill Star is one who -- the minister is shaking his head -- went public with his request. We have had the Committee for Fair Action in Insurance Reform and a number of other individuals and organizations in the province who are clearly on record as questioning the constitutionality of this legislation.
The implications, Mr Speaker -- I want to run this by you once more -- are significant. If we get through an election and the minister is not forced to make his legal opinions public, if we do not have a referral to the Court of Appeal and we have a challenge -- and we know we are going to have a challenge and it may take a year or two to get a final judgement -- but if we find out, following that process, that this legislation is unconstitutional, the result is going to be chaos.
There is going to be a significant liability, and where is that liability going to lie? We are talking about perhaps $100 million to $200 million -- maybe more. That kind of a liability is going to lie on the shoulders of the taxpayers of this province because we have had the insurance industry already indicate some concern about the constitutionality. They want to cover their tails. We have had many others already make their submissions to the government clearly indicating before passage of this legislation that it should be referred to the Court of Appeal, and the government is refusing to do so.
So the insurance industry, counsellors, the FAIR organization and a number of others have clearly gone on record as expressing concern. I think the ultimate outcome of this, if indeed it is found unconstitutional after a year or two, could be very dramatic indeed for the taxpayers of Ontario.
Mr Runciman: One of my colleagues asked why they will not do anything about it. That is a very good question. It is one that is difficult to understand and fathom the reasoning of the minister and of the government as to why they will not make those opinions public. One can only speculate that those opinions are not as positive as one might hope in respect to the government’s position. I suspect there is some doubt raised in the government’s own opinions in respect to the constitutionality of this legislation.
We are continuing to get calls to my office. This one is from Matt Napier of Windsor. We are getting calls from around the province, as the member for Welland-Thorold did as well, calling to say, “Keep up the good work against Bill 68.”
We have Eva Landry from Essex county. Who is the member for Essex county? That is Essex South, I gather -- the Minister of Revenue. To Eva Landry in Essex county, I wonder if you have approached your own member, the member for Essex South, and had a chat with him in respect to this legislation. She has just returned from British Columbia and she says: “We don’t want Bill 68 passed. Please keep up the blockade.” Her husband has a few choice words for Bill 68 which are best left to the imagination.
Mr Kormos: Go ahead, Bob, tell us. We want to know. What did the man say? Please, Bob, tell us. We want you to tell the Premier at the very least. Can you give us a clue? Give us the first letter of each word.
Mr Runciman: I cannot. Despite the pleas of the member for Welland-Thorold, I do not think it would be appropriate. I have already apologized on at least one occasion for using unparliamentary language.
I want to talk about a few other things. I have lots of time here today. It is only 4:15. Boy oh boy, who knows how much time I have? I want to put a few extra things on the record. Here are some more messages which I probably should put on the record as well. Tracy Martin from Barrie, who gives us her phone number, says, “Keep fighting.” Tom David: “We’re behind you all the way.” Beverley Medland from Pickering -- who would her member be? Durham West, yes. I wonder, Bev Medland from Pickering, do you know who your member is? Do you know what her position is on this legislation? Do you know if she has even said one word on this legislation?
Mr Runciman: Mrs Stoner is indeed the member. I would suggest to Bev Medland in Pickering that you get on the phone and call your member and ask her what she is doing about this legislation. Is she concerned that there is going to be a net loss in benefits of 47.7%? Does your member care about that, Bev? Give her a call and ask her if she cares about that loss of benefits of close to 50%. Does she care about the fact that close to 95% or 97% of innocent accident victims in this province are not going to any longer, if this legislation passes, have the right to take an at-fault driver to court? Beverley, phone your member, the member for Durham West, and ask her what she is doing about it. Ask her if she is speaking up on this legislation. Ask her if she has said one word on this. Ask her if she has any concern for the future innocent accident victims in this province. Get on the phone, Beverley. Give her a call right now. She needs to hear from you.
Now we have Michael Kasaba of Toronto. There is no indication of Michael’s riding here, but obviously the odds are, given the tendencies of Torontonians in the last provincial election, that it is a Liberal member, because certainly it is not a Conservative member. We do not hold a seat in Metropolitan Toronto and I think only a couple of New Democrats hold seats in the Metro Toronto area. But that is going to change in respect, probably, to both parties. It has to change if people are concerned about this kind of legislation. If they want to see it pulled back, if they want to see it changed, they have to do something in the next provincial election.
So Michael Kasaba of Toronto, if you are watching and listening, find out who your member is. The odds are that it is a Liberal and the odds are that he or she has not said a word on this legislation, does not really give a whit. All they care about is keeping their seats warm, drawing their salaries and hopefully getting a promotion at some point in the future, with the prospect of a limousine with a driver and an expense account with no limitation, all paid for by the taxpayers of this province.
Mr Matrundola: Correct. Thank you. On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe very much that when someone is speaking, we should listen to what the member is saying without interference. With all due respect, I like the member for Welland-Thorold very much, but I do not think he has any business interrupting the honourable speaker, the member for Leeds-Grenville. Therefore, if we all try to listen when one of our colleagues is speaking, we can all gain and not lose.
Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I like the member for Willowdale as much as he likes me, but I will tell you this, if we could have unanimous consent to return the floor to me, I would be pleased to have unanimous consent to regain the floor so that I could carry on where I left off.
Mr Wildman: Mr Speaker, I am sure you are going to rule that the point of order that was raised by the member for Willowdale really does not have a lot to do with who likes whom but has more to do with the question of interjections. I am sure you are going to say that interjections, according to the rules, are out of order, but we all realize in this House that they are quite traditional.
I want to comment. The member for Willowdale got up, and when he gets up I guess it gives me an opportunity to comment about some of the calls I have received from the Willowdale riding. I would like the member to get up perhaps on a point of order or a question of privilege, whatever he wants to do, because certainly his government House leader is not going to give him an opportunity to speak on this legislation even if he wanted one, and that is highly unlikely, I suspect.
I think it would be of interest to the residents of Willowdale, certainly those who have called my office and expressed concern about no-fault legislation being brought in by this government, the fact that they are going to see a significant loss in benefits, the fact that they are going to lose the right to take an at-fault driver to court, the fact that anyone under 16 is not going to have any access to no-fault benefits, a whole host of concerns that people in his own riding have.
We have not seen this member make any public statements that I am aware of. We have not heard him speak out in respect to this legislation. But he is here today and I will compliment him for at least being here and apparently paying some attention to the debate. But at some point, if he has concerns -- and he should have concerns if he has looked at this legislation and its implications -- I would love to see him get up and say so in this House. I encourage him to do so, even if he has to do it on a point of order or a question of privilege.
I think there is enough latitude in here, thanks to the office of the Speaker, that we can certainly have a minute or so to hear a point of order or a question of privilege. It will give him an opportunity to put his views on the record so that his constituents know that yes, indeed, he is concerned and that he is fighting on their behalf in respect to the very serious shortcomings of this legislation. I encourage the member for Willowdale to stand up and be counted on this legislation. Let’s hear from him before the afternoon is over. The member should stand up and take a stand.
Mr Matrundola: Mr Speaker, if you would ask the member for Leeds-Grenville to stop arguing uselessly I will ask for permission to make comments on this legislation. If you will grant me that opportunity I will be glad to, but I will only do so after he is finished.
Mr Runciman: I want to put on the record a few items here. This was the document provided me by -- I am not sure who, but it certainly has a lot of relevant quotes and points that should be put on the record. I am quoting people and, again, I can make this available to Hansard, if it so desires.
This was from the Attorney General, the member for St George-St David, and it was reported in the Lawyers Weekly of 1 December 1989. Mr Scott explained that he perfectly understands lawyers’ objections to the bill. He even acknowledged that “the new policy will provide worse coverage than the standard auto policy under the present tort no-fault system.”
Mr Runciman: The Attorney General is on the record saying that this policy, this program brought in by the Liberal government, will provide worse coverage than the standard policy now available. The Attorney General is publicly admitting that.
Mr Kormos: But I heard the voice of the member for Willowdale as I was leaving the chamber and I felt compelled to return. I did not want to miss anything. If the Liberals would just withdraw this crummy time allocation motion, we could carry on with the real debate about Bill 68.
Mr Runciman: This is another quote and this one is from Ralph Nader, perhaps the foremost consumer advocate in North America, if not the world, and someone who was dumped upon by the Minister of Financial Institutions, who accused him of having some nerve coming up from the United States to talk about no-fault auto insurance. That was the minister’s response. I want to say all of us on this side of the House, with perhaps the exception of the Liberal rump, have a great deal of respect for the record of Mr Nader and the views he offered to the committee. This is Mr Nader’s quote: “Ontario’s no-fault insurance plan is the most draconian system in North America.” That was in the Financial Post, 6 December 1989.
Here is one from the Toronto Sun, in an editorial 3 December 1989: “The Peterson government wants to force threshold no-fault insurance on us when three costly studies recommended against it. What’s going on? Are the Liberals so desperate to honour a foolish promise they’ll stuff anything down our throats?” That is from the Toronto Sun.
This one is from Jack Carr, professor of economics at the University of Toronto. This is taken from the Globe and Mail, 8 January 1990: “The government also contends the plan will reduce legal fees and cost less to administer, but if it feels legal fees are the problem it should regulate the fees, rather than reduce benefits. Of course, the fees are not the problem. An Ontario Automobile Insurance Board commission appointed by the government to investigate no-fault systems concluded, ‘It is extremely important that the government be aware that any cost-saving forecasts arise almost entirely from a reduction in benefits payable to injured claimants, rather than as a result of any increase in efficiency.’ The essence of the proposed plan is to provide much less insurance coverage for a little more money. Selling half a loaf of bread at the same price is, in effect, a doubling in price and the province is hoping that consumers don’t realize they are about to receive half a loaf of insurance coverage.
Is that not true, Mr Speaker? The government has developed its propaganda line. They are simply talking about the increased no-fault benefits and they are not talking about the significant loss of rights and benefits on the other side of the equation. The net loss in benefits is 47.7%, brought home clearly by the government’s own actuaries -- 47.7% net loss in benefits, but the government does not want to talk about that. Obviously they do not want to talk about that, they want to talk about the modest improvement to the no-fault side and just simply ignore it as if it is not there, and the sheep in the back benches are following the government line, with no objections whatsoever, apparently.
That is good, no one opposes that, but it is not surprising, since they have not been adjusted since 1978. The benefits should obviously be raised, but this can be done under the old system, as recommended by Mr Justice Coulter Osborne.
The government talks of keeping down car insurance premiums but has not told us anything about what it will cost us in extra premiums for separate accident insurance to replace what the law is taking away. It is one thing for a negligent driver to have to rely on private insurance to replace lost income, but why should an innocent person, Mr Speaker, I ask you, have to take out an extra policy to recover her lost income? What if they cannot afford the extra insurance? That is something the government does not want to discuss. What if they simply cannot afford that extra insurance? Again, as I said on numerous occasions, again it impacts on those less fortunate in society, those who can ill afford this sort of thing. That is what is going to occur with this Liberal no-fault legislation.
The Liberal government says the payments will be paid more quickly under this new scheme. That is one of the things the minister is always harping on about. Mr Justice Coulter Osborne, in his study, commented on this very subject and the judge questioned the sense of unreality or lack of reality surrounding this legislation. The impression left by the government publicity machine is that everybody is going to get a stream of money flowing into his or her pockets if he is injured in an automobile accident. Mr Justice Osborne says it just will not happen, because auto insurers are second payers, and accordingly people will first have to rely on their collateral source benefits, such as long-term and short-term disability, before they collect no-fault benefits.
I have just had another message passed in to me. Pete and Janice Heisey of Toronto sent me a message: “Keep up the good work. My family resides in Ron Kanter’s riding” -- that is St Andrew-St Patrick. “I have written to Mr Kanter and called his riding office to express my disgust over this legislation. I have received a totally inadequate form letter in reply.”
A form letter from the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, a Liberal member, and we have Peter and Janice Heisey, and many others, I suspect, in that member’s riding, expressing concern, and he has prepared a form letter, probably prepared by the Ministry of Financial Institutions. “If anybody writes us, if anybody calls us, this is the pat answer; this is the government line. Just dish that out to them, like pap to the public. They don’t understand this and we’ll just try and get through this thing, we’ll just try and sneak past the next election, and hopefully a lot of people out there will not notice what is happening.” They will not notice how harmful this legislation is going to be to the people of this province, how negatively it impacts upon innocent accident victims, how severely it restricts access to the courts and their ability to take at-fault drivers to court.
The member for St Andrew-St Patrick and all of his other cronies in the Liberal party are trying to pull a quick one, trying to pull the wool over the voters’ eyes, as their leader did in 1987, when he said he had a very specific plan to lower automobile insurance rates in this province and he had no such plan. He had no such plan, and indeed his promise, his irresponsible promise, has cost us all millions and millions and millions of dollars.
I do not think that particular gentleman could even tell the truth in his own diary. That is a reality, Mr Speaker, when you look at what he said and what has transpired over the past two and a half years. There are certain words I cannot use in this assembly. I have said them outside the House, but I respect this institution, I am not going to say them in this assembly. But there are very accurate words to describe the way in which the leader of the Liberal Party acted in 1987 when he made that very specific promise, which he has failed miserably to keep, and at the expense of taxpayers, the expense of millions and millions and millions of dollars, and ultimately at the expense and the future of innocent accident victims in this province. That is a reality, and this baggage has to be dumped at the feet of the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, the member for London Centre.
I think that is indicative, I suspect, of the kinds of responses that people living and residing in the 94 ridings held by Liberal members are getting from their members: form letters, refusals to answer or return phone calls and refusals to deal in any meaningful way with this legislation and its very real imperfections. I can only express my sympathy to Peter and Janice Heisey, who are supposedly being represented by a Liberal member, but he certainly is not doing the job on this issue, perhaps the most important issue facing this Legislature in the past couple of years.
The government recognizes that by its placement of this on the agenda day after day after day. They recognize the importance of it, but they simply want to shove this away as quickly as they can, quickly as they can, without giving their own people, the people who put them in office, an opportunity to understand the implications, or if indeed they do have some concerns, simply not to explain, not to get back to them, not to try to appreciate those concerns, and certainly not to speak about them in this Legislature, not to speak about them in committee, not to express any concern, none whatsoever.
We have not heard one peep in committee or in this House. All of these Liberal members, whenever we can have a quorum in this place with Liberal members, whenever they do speak up, it is either on a point of order with some foolish point of order or some rather inane interjection, some criticism of the members of the opposition who are trying to put on the record the concerns of the hundreds of people who appeared before us in committee and the thousands who have written to all of us as members.
They are certainly not being heard because of those members over there. With the few members in opposition, the responsibility for getting the message out has fallen completely on the shoulders of the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party, 19 members and 17 members respectively.
Mr Sterling: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I just want the member for Leeds-Grenville to be accurate in his criticism of the Liberals. I think he should know that the former MPP for Ottawa East, Albert Roy, has definitely stated his opposition to this legislation. Now he is not a Liberal who is in power, but he is a Liberal who is against --
I talked about this at length in days past, about the fact that the government House leader is experiencing some difficulty in his own riding as a result of his refusal to take a tough stand on this legislation, as is the member for Hamilton Centre. The member for Sudbury has his own riding executive expressing concern about this, which he scoffed at and said, “Who are those folks to tell me what to do?” We have a whole host of members of the Liberal Party who are upset about this grassroots level, and it is going to come home to roost with a number of the incumbents across the floor.
In terms of this Legislature, we have 94 of them in this House, the largest majority in the history of Ontario, and not one of those 94 Liberal members has spoken out in criticism of this legislation or has suggested any meaningful changes which will improve the lot of innocent accident victims in this province for the future. That is the reality. It is a sad reality indeed, but it is there for all of us to reflect upon, and certainly for the voters of this province to reflect upon when we next go to the polls.
Another government contention is that it says good drivers will not be subsidizing bad drivers because fault will continue to be a key factor in setting premiums. That is what is called a half-truth. Good drivers will subsidize bad drivers by being forced to pay extra for private disability insurance to replace what the bad driver must pay under the present law if sued. Also, all innocent accident victims, including pedestrians, will subsidize bad drivers by giving up existing rights to compensation.
As Justice Osborne put it in his report to the government, “Cost premium decreases would be modest were we to proceed to threshold no-fault and those modest cost savings would be imported on the backs of over 90 per cent of injured Ontario motorists, who now have the right to seek non-economic compensation.”
We have a comment from the MPP for Scarborough-Agincourt, who said publicly, “The bill will benefit the majority of motorists and accident victims in the future.” As a general statement, that is totally inaccurate. No-fault benefits will be higher, but most victims will be worse off than under the present system because they will lose court damages which are greater.
The truth is that no one will receive more total compensation under the new plan except those who could not prove fault in court. We are talking about mainly negligent drivers, and 90% to 95%, perhaps 97% of all innocent victims will receive less and 3% to 5% of innocent victims will receive the same. Them’s the facts, if the parliamentary assistant wants to acknowledge them.
We are talking about rate changes. The Minister of Financial Institutions has said that maintaining the status quo would result in an average premium increase of 30% to 35% and improvements to the no-fault benefits, which we all agree are desirable, will boost rates a further 5 to 10 points. He was quoted as saying that in the Globe and Mail in January 1990.
If the right to sue were retained, there would be a jump in premiums, because the government has kept them from rising with costs for three years. However, the estimate of a 30% jump must be reduced by the $143 million the government has decided to give insurance companies as a subsidy, and the cost jump will also be smaller because of significant tort reform, reforms to damage law, enacted just before Christmas. Against the immediate rise must be compared the extra cost of private insurance to replace the protection lost when the right to sue is taken away.
The most significant factor is the long term. Both justice Osborne and the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board concluded that, after the initial rise, the future cost increase of the old and new systems would be the same.
I want to talk briefly about a number of areas, but I want to get on to more detail about the leader of the Liberal Party, because ultimately he is the one who is responsible for this legislation because of the promise he made in 1987. I think all of us in opposition have to make an effort, as best we can, to ensure that the public is aware of just who is responsible for this, so I am going to discuss the role of the future Leader of the Opposition and the current Premier of this province in detail. I appreciate your patience, Mr Speaker.
Okay. We are talking about the member for London Centre and the fact that he made his promise in 1987. I have talked about his lack of empathy with the less fortunate in society, and I am not going to go into that at length again today -- his Rosedale mansion and the plush life that that gentleman lives and has lived all of his life. He has never really had to worry about having any calluses on his hands. As we all know, he spent the early part of his adult life, up until his late twenties, going to a variety of schools in this country and in Europe and then went into his father’s firm as president of the company -- a real tough struggle up the ladder -- and then, a year later, he became a member of this Legislature.
I guess I have always had some trouble with the myth that has been built up by the Liberal propaganda machine in respect to the Premier’s business credentials. I have always had some difficulty with that, and I think that if you take a look at the comments of the leader of the business organization, and I am trying to think of his name, the most prominent business organizer --
Mr Runciman: -- John Bulloch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who said that Mr Peterson’s government, the Liberal government of Ontario, is the most antibusiness government in Canada, I think that speaks volumes about the business experience of the leader of the Liberal Party and his understanding of business. Of course, we have seen all sorts of initiatives undertaken by this Liberal government which are damaging to industry and business in this province and ultimately damaging to the economy and, again, to all of us as residents and taxpayers of this province.
I am going to talk a bit about abandoning Liberal principles. The Globe and Mail, on 27 June 1985 -- this was the leader of the Liberal Party addressing people on the swearing-in of his government -- said: “You will have the most important role to play. You are helping to symbolize the kind of government to which Ontario is entitled, a government without walls or barriers.
Let us talk about the facts in that one. He has created insurmountable walls for the injured victims who can only go to court if they meet the toughest threshold anywhere. He withheld information from the Legislature, the actuarial studies, and endeavoured to close down debate on this issue. We can talk about that, the fact that we had 39 actuarial studies dumped on our lap the last day of public hearings, and when I attempted to have an expert witness testify for 15 minutes, we had another effort to cut off that input and that debate. That is the reality.
Mr Runciman: The minister can interject, but that is the reality. We had those reports dumped on our lap the last day of public hearings, an effort to have Professor Jack Carr critically comment for 15 minutes and an effort made by the member for York Mills to cut off that debate.
The minister can shake his head, but he was not there. He was not there during those hearings. I can only recall him being there for the opening day, so if he wants to talk about what occurred in that committee, I think he is poorly qualified to do so.
Mr Runciman: I hope the members of that gentleman’s riding will remember, when he asks them to vote for him and for good government, he is asking them to vote twice. That is the reality. I want to talk about what this gentleman tried to do here today. It is indicative of the way the government has treated this issue from day one, wanting to cut off meaningful debate, wanting to limit the opportunities of Ontarians to be heard on this issue.
Mr Runciman: What the Liberal government is really doing here is sapping the foundations of democracy. That is the reality. You know, Mr Speaker, if we take a look at what has happened, take a look at what has transpired in the course of this debate, the fact that we had to force them to have public hearings -- and they were very limited indeed, to four municipalities across the province. And then what happened? We had witness after witness appear before us and they were totally ignored or insulted by the Liberal members who served on that committee.
Then we had important reports, relevant reports, reports that told us what this process was going to cost us, how many people were going to be hurt by it, excluded by it. And what did they do with those? They hid them from the committee until the very last day of public hearings and then they restricted opportunity for critical scrutiny of those 39 very detailed and involved actuarial studies which the government restricted us from having access to until the very last day of public hearings.
Then, when we had rate filings on no-fault auto insurance in December 1989, full rate filings in January 1990, during the committee hearings process, they failed again to make that information available to the committee, very relevant information. I had to file freedom-of-information applications for both those actuarial studies before they would make them available to the committee on the last day of the committee. I had to file freedom-of-information applications for the rate filings.
I think the words I used to describe the actions of the minister here today were very accurate indeed, and they describe the way the government has dealt with this issue from day one -- not only sleazy, but the height of incompetence -- and we are all going to pay for it.
I will just keep forging ahead. During the break we did have some messages come into my office, another bundle of messages. They are coming fast and furiously, support out there urging us to carry on.
Mr Runciman: I think it is relevant, given the actions of the Minister of Financial Institutions here this afternoon, his effort to further curtail debate, to cut us off here today, to pull the rug out from under us. I am into my fourth or fifth hour of this debate. I want to say that what they have done. There are 39 members of the opposition and the government has limited input into this debate to two members essentially, the member for Welland-Thorold and the member for Leeds-Grenville. They have done that, they have cut it off, they brought in time allocation.
Mr Runciman: This is a letter from the provincial riding of Eglinton, from a gentleman by the name of Mark Elkin. A Ms Poole represents that riding. Have we seen her around? Does anyone know where she is? Is she here today? Will someone answer that question? Is the member for Eglinton participating in this debate? I want to say that we know she is a Liberal.
Mark Elkin, who lives in that riding, met with the member three or four years ago and she said at that time that she was against no-fault. Mark Elkin should be on the phone today, phoning the member for Eglinton and asking her to explain why this flip-flop, why this turnaround, why four years ago was she opposed to no-fault and now she thinks it is hunky-dory, this is great news for Ontario.
Obviously ambition is colouring that lady’s judgement as well. I want to urge Mark Elkin and any other resident of that riding to call the member, call her and talk to her about this legislation, talk to her about the imperfections, the failings of this legislation, the fact that you cannot agree with legislation that is going to result in the net loss of benefits of 47.7%, is going to result in a $1-billion windfall to the insurance industry, is going to result in 95% to 97% of innocent accident victims in this province being restricted from having the ability to take an at-fault driver to court. Give her a call and tell her. Get on that phone right now and give her a call. Let her know how you feel, let her know you want her to stand up and speak out on your behalf. Let her know.
I have another one here, from a Doug Welland who “wants Bob to delay the legislation.” He is an economist and he is saying the threshold is far too low. I do not know what Doug’s riding is -- it is not indicated here -- but I will encourage Doug to find out who his member is. Given the odds, with a massive majority Liberal government, 94 Liberal members of this Legislature, and only 39 opposition members -- and the 94 Liberals do not want to give us our day in court. They do not want us, Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, to have an opportunity to express the concerns of thousands and thousands of people across this province. They want to cut off debate. They want to shortchange these people, especially, and most important, innocent accident victims in this province in the future if this legislation goes through.
Mr Runciman: Here is one from a Conservative riding, a gentleman by the name of Richard Newman. He is from the riding of Durham East. He is very proud of the stand his member is taking, very proud of the member for Durham East. Unfortunately, the member is not in the chair. This gentleman quit driving a cab because of loss of benefits and he thinks that Bill 68 is going to be the most serious disaster to drivers in this province in the history of the province. I cannot get this message too clearly, but in any event, Richard Newman from the riding of Durham East is indicating his support for the stand that the Conservatives and the NDP are taking on this issue.
There are some Liberal members representing other Durham ridings and I would encourage Richard to call the other members representing Durham ridings and talk to his friends, neighbours and relatives, who may contact those Liberal representatives and urge them to take a look at this legislation, this law, and indicate their strong objection to it.
We have Michael Babcock who is in the riding of St George-St David. He totally supports the objections of the opposition, and this is most relevant. He is a former resident of Michigan, which has a system somewhat comparable but significantly much less onerous --
Mr Runciman: -- a much more generous no-fault program. But their system was a failure, a waste of taxpayers’ money. He simply does not want us to proceed with this no-fault plan: “Ontario residents better wake up and phone their members to stop this.”
Mr Runciman: Thank you, Michael, and I hope you are contacting the Attorney General, your provincial member, who has himself said that this is going to provide worse benefits to drivers in this province than they currently have. I encourage that gentleman to phone his Liberal member.
Mr Runciman: York Centre? Thanks very much for the assistance. Patricia Frank, from the riding of York Centre: “Fully supporting the stand of the opposition. Appalled by no-fault and the lack of Liberal concern for the welfare of the citizens of this province.”
How right you are, Patricia Frank. There is certainly no concern in the back benches of this government, no concern whatsoever. We understand, to some degree, the principle of cabinet solidarity. We can recognize that. We can appreciate it. This was dealt with by cabinet and passed by cabinet. But when we look at the question of the 80-some Liberal backbenchers who are remaining quiet on this, who are simply pumping out the Liberal propaganda line, not answering their phone calls, not dealing in a meaningful way with the real and legitimate concerns of many, many people across this province, they are the people whom we have to get after, whom their various ridings have to get after to change their attitude, change their approach, take a fresh look at this and realize what damage this legislation is going to do to many, many innocent people right across this province.
Mr Runciman: I am going to get back to these messages. I want to briefly mention a petition which my colleague the member for Markham has not had an opportunity to table in the House. But, as members of the Legislature and viewers can see, this petition has a significant number of names on it, all in opposition to what the government calls the Ontario motorist protection plan, Bill 68, no-fault auto insurance, all of these people in the Markham riding so well represented by my colleague the member for Markham.
During the brief time we had a committee of the whole House in this Legislature, the member for Markham intervened in a most significant way because he cares about the people in his riding who are going to suffer under this legislation. Taking a look at the broader picture, the member for Markham is very much concerned about how this is going to impact on innocent accident victims in the province in the future, the people who are going to suffer because of this Liberal bill, which is going to benefit whom? Whom is this bill going to benefit? I ask you that, Mr Speaker.
Take a look at the testimony before the committee. The only people who supported this legislation were from the insurance industry or affiliated with the insurance industry. That is the reality. We had consumers, we had advocates for the head-injured, we had advocates for individuals suffering from psychological trauma as a result of auto accidents, we had all kinds of private individuals who appeared before us in Sudbury, in Thunder Bay, in Windsor and in Toronto. They were ignored.
But the minority who appeared before us, the people who have a vested interest in this, who stand to gain, the 10% or even perhaps only 5% of the witnesses supportive of this legislation -- one has to stop and wonder what this is all about. Why is the government doing this? Who stands to gain? The message is there. It is very clear for anyone who wants to take a look at what has transpired over the past year and a half.
Again, I want to commend the member for Markham and I hope he will continue his efforts on behalf of not only the residents of his riding but all the people of Ontario who are going to suffer as a result of this legislation. I thank him very much.
Getting back briefly to some of the messages I have been receiving, this is Linda Thomas from Pickering -- I do not know who represents the Pickering area -- very strongly in support of the Conservative stand. Bob Cash called and he is a long-time supporter of our party and wants to delay the legislation as long as possible. We are getting a lot of letters.
Mr Runciman: The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere is again making his usual contribution. I want to say we are getting a lot of interventions here from grass-roots Liberals who are very concerned. Perhaps those people should take a look at the nomination meeting in that gentleman’s riding and take a look at the meaningful contribution he has made during this debate.
I want to say that people who come into this Legislature when we are talking about such a serious issue as this -- we are talking about an issue that is going to impact on thousands and thousands, indeed millions, of people in this province in a negative way: innocent accident victims, the head-injured, people suffering from psychological traumas as a result of auto accidents, the poor, the less fortunate in society, the multitudes of people who are going to be negatively impacted upon by this legislation -- we have members like the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere coming in here and what they are doing in reality is insulting all of those people --
Mr Runciman: -- insulting all these people who are going to be hurt by this legislation, people who have expressed concern about this legislation, who have appeared before committee wanting to be heard, wanting the Liberal government to pay heed to their concerns.
It has not happened. All we get is this kind of continual garbage from Liberal backbenchers, interjections which are meaningless, useless and make no meaningful impact. They do not want to stand up and be counted on this issue. All they want to do is interfere, obstruct, cut off debate, not give the opposition a meaningful opportunity. That is their total commitment in this House.
Mr Runciman: We in Her Majesty’s loyal opposition have respect for this assembly. We have respect for this place and the institutions of this place, unlike the Liberal government. In their efforts to undermine the opposition, to cut us off in respect to meaningful debate, to limit this debate essentially to two members of the opposition, when they made this arrogant move to cut off committee of the whole and restrict it to two days, Mr Speaker, as I have said -- and you may think it is an assault and perhaps extreme language -- but when I said earlier, “sapping the foundations of democracy,” I think if you take a look at precedents in respect to time allocation or closure you will find indeed that this is a first and a very sad first indeed with respect to the initiatives of this government and how quickly it moved to introduce time allocation and cut off debate.
If we want to talk about it, we can look at what has happened from day one. We can look at the waste of money with Mr Justice Osborne and the fact that that report, the most comprehensive in North American history on the auto insurance question, was totally ignored. The government forged ahead with significant intervention in the private sector and wasted those millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars.
That has been an indicator. That was the early indicator of where this government was heading in respect to its ability to spend taxpayers’ dollars with no meaningful or positive results for the taxpayers of the province.
I know my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold has talked about the significant contributions made by the insurance industry to Liberal members. I am not going to dwell on it at length but I think it is something I should raise.
When we take a look at the history of this, the Minister of Financial Institutions and his group of cronies cooked up this bad, bad deal for Ontarians behind closed doors at the same time that parallel hearings were going on by the Ontario Automobile Insurance Board, an assigned task by that minister which was in essence an effort at smoke and mirrors, an effort to confuse the public that indeed there was a full public airing of the question of threshold no-fault.
At the same time, the minister and his friends and colleagues, and we would like to know who they were, who came up with this plan behind closed doors, were designing this most onerous, nasty piece of business that is now Bill 68 before this House.
I do not think they could have come up with this bill without the full co-operation of the Insurance Bureau of Canada and their friends in the industry. We are a private, free enterprise party. We believe in the free enterprise system and we have had a great deal of difficulty, to say the least, with the stand of the insurance industry with respect to no-fault.
What we have even more difficulty with is the significant contributions made to Liberal members of the Legislature by various insurance companies. If we want to take a look at even the members who served on the committee, there were indications of contributions from the insurance industry. I am not going to say they were not in some cases modest, and hopefully they did not have any influence on what transpired. I do not know what total commitment was made to the Liberal Party right across the province by insurance companies, but I certainly hope that those kinds of contributions did not have an impact on the decision that led to Bill 68.
But you have to wonder, when you look again at who benefits from this legislation and who loses. Who are the winners and who are the losers? Clearly, the winners are the insurance industry in Ontario. Clearly, they are the winners, and the losers are the rest of us, the victims, auto accident victims in this province.
So when you try to fathom the rationale behind this legislation, you cannot help but come to the conclusion that a deal was done. A deal was done with the industry, and as much as that hurts me as a free-enterpriser, and it hurts me to think that that sort of thing might have happened, certainly one can come to no other conclusion.
Mr Runciman: That is for sure. Going back to 1987, the member for London Centre, the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, made a promise which he failed to keep: a promise, a promise, a promise. In our party, a promise is a promise; a commitment is a commitment. We keep them, unlike the leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, who has wasted millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars in this insurance fiasco from 1987.
But now he has brought in legislation which is harmful, harmful, harmful. It is going to hurt thousands upon thousands of innocent accident victims in this province, impact negatively upon the less fortunate in our society and exclude up to 97% of accident victims from taking the at-fault driver to court.
Those are the facts and we have not heard any arguments to the contrary. When the minister finally gets his opportunity to stand up on his feet here and try to explain it, what will we hear? The same old baloney. They are not going to deal with the fact that there is a 47.7% loss of benefits; he is not going to talk about that. He is going to talk about, “Well, we have increased the no-fault to $600 a week.” Big deal. When you look at the fact that you are losing almost 50% of your benefits, he will have the gall to stand up here and talk about, “Well, we are increasing the no-fault benefits.”
Let’s hear some justification, let’s hear some rationale for cutting benefits to the people of this province by close to 50% with no reduction whatsoever in their rates. Let’s hear him justify that. He will not deal with it. He will not talk to it. He will talk around it. He will try to muddy the waters. He will talk about the very modest improvements in the no-fault section. It is a game of smoke and mirrors. It is an insult to the taxpayers of this province.
It is not only an insult to the taxpayers. It is a dangerous piece of legislation which may take a couple of years to come back to haunt us, but it is indeed going to haunt us. When people start to get into accidents in this province and they find their no-fault coverage does not provide the kinds of benefits that they have grown accustomed to, boy oh boy, is the you-know-what going to hit the fan.
But then the Liberals do not care. They are hoping that they are going to be ensconced with another majority government. They can put their heels up and say: “We can weather the storm for another two or three years. We can perhaps even nationalize the industry. Get us through another election. We will nationalize the industry.” They do not give a damn about the private sector. They do not care about the private sector. They do not have principles. That is the reality. Their only principle is getting re-elected, doing whatever is necessary to soothe the electorate to get them through the next election. That is the reality.
At this juncture, I want to introduce an amendment to the legislation. I am moving this amendment, that government motion 30 be amended by deleting the number “2” in the third line before the word “sessional” and substituting the number “8” thereto. I also move that government motion 30 be amended by deleting the word “second” in the seventh line after the words “at 5:45 pm on the” and the word “eighth” be substituted thereto. I have a number of copies of that which I will provide the Chair with.
Mr Runciman moves that government motion 30 be amended by deleting the number “2” in the third line before the word “sessional” and substituting the number “8” thereto -- it looks like two motions here -- and that it also be amended by deleting the word “second” in the seventh line after the words “at 5:45 pm on the” and the word “eighth” be substituted there-for.
Mr Runciman: Speaking on the amendment, the rationale behind this of course is what we have been talking about since the outset with respect to the government’s efforts to curtail debate and to not provide the 39 members of the opposition with an opportunity to deal in a meaningful way with the important elements of this legislation.
Mr Runciman: Thirty-six? There are only 36; even worse. I guess that was wishful thinking on my part. There are going to be a couple of by-elections coming up. The fact is there are only 36 members of the opposition and 94 Liberals and they want to shut off debate. They do not want the 36 opposition members to have an opportunity to talk about the very real concerns we have heard from thousands and thousands of people right across this province. They do not want to hear it. They do not want to listen.
When they have been forced to in this Legislature, because of the member for Welland-Thorold and the member for Leeds-Grenville, they do not pay any attention. We have trouble getting a quorum in here because Liberal members do not want to be here. They do not want to listen. They do not want to listen to their constituents when they are calling them day after day or writing them, saying, “Look, we are concerned about the way this going to hurt us, hurt our friends and neighbours and families.” They do not want to listen. They do not want to hear. They do not want to react. They do not want to stand up in this House and speak out on behalf of their own constituents. They do not have the intestinal fortitude to do it. They are not representing the people who put them in office in the first place, the people who elected them. They should be ashamed of themselves. They should be embarrassed.
We need this extra time. We are asking for eight days. We think that is a very modest request indeed. If you take a look at the history of time allocation being brought in -- we can have the two House leaders perhaps talk about this at some point in the future; they have talked about it in the past -- this is unprecedented legislation in its impact on curtailing input from Her Majesty’s loyal opposition. It is unbelievable, when we have such an arrogant 94-member government --
Mr Runciman: Ninety-three, I am told, a 93-member Liberal government, an unbelievably arrogant group, 93 members who do not want the 36 opposition members to stand up. The 80-some Liberal backbenchers do not have the guts themselves to stand up and they do not want us to stand up. That is the reality. That is why I have moved this amendment, and it is going to be interesting to see the government’s reaction. What is wrong with eight days in committee of the whole House? Tell me what is wrong with that. Nothing at all, Mr Speaker. You know that is quite common with legislation dealt with by this Legislature. it is quite common to have at least eight days.
But on this most important piece of legislation, this legislation that is going to hurt thousands and thousands of innocent accident victims in this province, the government says: “No, we’re going to cut you off at two days. We’re going to let two members of the opposition speak at length and the other 30-some are not going to have an opportunity. Give them a minute. Give them two minutes. Maybe we’ll be really generous and give them three minutes.” That is what the Liberal government is saying to the opposition, but more important, that is what the Liberal government is saying to innocent accident victims right across this province: “We’ll give you three minutes to get your case, and we’re not going to listen for that three minutes. We’ll give you three, but we’re not going to listen. We’re not going to pay attention. Nuts on you, brother. We’re the Liberal majority government of this province and we know what’s best for you.”
That is exemplified by the member for Sudbury. When his own Liberal riding association executive said, “This is bad,” he said: “Who the hell are they to tell me that? Get out of my face. You don’t have a right to tell me what to do. I’m an elected Liberal member. I’m holier than thou.” That is the approach.
The arrogance starts on the front bench and it ripples right to the back, an arrogant bunch like this Legislature has never seen in its history. They should be ashamed, they should be embarrassed, but they are not. All they care about are the perks that go with the job, keeping their seats warm, collecting their paycheques on a regular basis and keeping in good favour with the member for London Centre. When they stand up and vote on this, they are all going to be bowing and licking the floor towards the member for London Centre, hoping upon hope that he is going to look at them and say, “Yes, you’re a good fellow, you’re a good gal, you supported me.” It may mean at some point in the future a limousine with a driver, a limousine with a chauffeur, an unlimited expense account and plush offices, all at the taxpayers’ expense.
At the same time, they are wasting millions and millions of dollars in this province. People are lining up at food banks across this province. They are wasting millions and hurting the people in this province who can least afford it, the unemployed, the poor, the people who cannot afford to buy extra insurance coverage, which they are going to have to have if they want to be adequately covered, because of this government’s initiatives.
It is shameful indeed that we have been brought to this position by this Liberal government, this arrogant bunch of Liberals who do not really care. If they care, they are not showing it. If they care, they are hiding their feelings. Obviously some of them must understand the implications of this legislation, a few basic facts that I have been trying to talk about for the last four days.
Their own Liberal -- we will use a polite word -- adviser, Mr Kruger, says again that if they bring in threshold no-fault and realizes any stability in rates, it is going to be done at the cost of benefits. You are going to lose benefits, but that does not seem to be getting through to the Liberal members.
What about this one? Ninety-five per cent to 97% of accident victims are going to lose the right to take an at-fault driver to court. They are going to lose that right. Does that get through to any Liberal members over there? Do any of them understand that? It is very basic. It is very simple. They are hurting people with this legislation and they are benefiting an already privileged sector in society. That is all they are doing. They are hurting people, and on the other side, benefiting a very privileged sector.