Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Last week a resident in my community brought to my attention a flyer she had received from the Ministry of Education. What concerned her was not the document itself, but the way in which it was delivered. Apparently the Education ministry had mailed her a single sheet of paper in a full-sized envelope when a regular envelope would clearly have been more than enough. The difference is 42 cents postage and a lot of wasted paper.
My staff advises me that this appears to be normal procedure for many ministries, if not all ministries. I have here two further examples, from the Environment and Natural Resources ministries of all places. This 10 by 12 envelope had one single piece of paper in it. Why does this government insist on spending 84 cents when it could easily spend 42 cents and do the job?
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): I wish to extend my sincere and hearty congratulations to both the management and workers of the Ford Motor Co in my riding of Oakville South. Management has worked hard to secure this investment to build a new mini-van and light truck assembly in Oakville. They have done so because they are obviously confident they have a flexible and high-quality workforce.
In Oakville, their investment will total more than $1 billion. Already they have spent money on a high-tech paint facility and to retool and re-equip the Oakville assembly plant. The Oakville assembly plant will be Ford's single source of these vehicles, which will compete in the fast-growing segment of the US-Canadian market.
Both of these programs will require the largest and most intensive training programs ever undertaken by the company and will mean that Ford employees will receive the new skills required for the advanced technologies to be used in this operation.
I am personally acquainted with both management and workers at the Ford plant and I want to wish them all well as they embark on a new cooperative era in the impressive history of the Ford Motor Co of Canada. It's a fine example of an excellent corporate citizen and we are very proud of everyone.
Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Walkerville): Last Friday night my wife and I attended the Windsor Women of the Year Awards hosted by the Women's Incentive Centre and Trillium Cable Communications. More than 100 different groups had been invited to nominate women who should be recognized for their outstanding work in areas of support, education and advocacy of issues affecting women. Three persons were so honoured.
Emily Carasco is a professor of law at the University of Windsor and has been a dynamic force in pushing the issues of educational and employment equity on campus. She has been involved in Big Sisters of Windsor, past president of the Roman Catholic Children's Aid Society and has served two terms as president of the university faculty association. Last Sunday, she was nominated as the NDP candidate for the federal riding of Windsor West.
Jo-Anne Johnson is president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 1948 at Chrysler Canada. She first became involved in union politics in 1975 and became the first female president of a Big Three local union. She is a delegate to the Windsor and District Labour Council, has been president of the Windsor-Riverside NDP Riding Association, is a board member of the Windsor Symphony Society and is now involved with a coalition of poverty activists.
Laura Moore is president of CUPE Local 543 at the city of Windsor. She was instrumental in the hiring of a full-time affirmative action officer for the city and has been a representative of the city's employment equity committee since its inception. She is a member of the Ontario CUPE executive board and the mother of two young children.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): A good-news story from the riding of Kenora. Members of this House will know that the communities in the Kenora riding depend heavily on air transportation into, out of and around the northwest. As you will remember, during the last session, the community of Kenora was pushing to find a way to improve the level of air service to the community in order to make travel comfortable for its residents and to attract visitors to our region.
A small private airline which operates out of Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay saw the need for an improved air service, which I must add the government saw but did not know how to provide, and I can tell you that the people living in the northwest have had their service upgraded.
Bearskin Airlines has recently purchased two Metro III aircraft to fly its routes. These aircraft represent a significant upgrading of air service for Kenora. I am optimistic that the increased cabin comfort, the washroom facilities, the added passenger and luggage capacity and the reduced flying time between communities which these aircraft offer will help meet the needs of those travelling throughout the region.
At this time when there is so much economic bad news throughout the province, I would like to congratulate a company that has shown faith in the travelling public of the northwest. Bearskin Airlines should be commended for its investment in upgraded air service and recognized as a good corporate citizen.
With that said, I would like to also say to my constituents that I will continue to work with government and the private sector to ensure that air service for the Kenora area continues to develop and improve.
Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): There are 27,000 high school students in the Ottawa-Carleton area whose education has been critically interrupted by secondary school teachers' strikes. For the young people in the final year, this has seriously affected their chances of being accepted in colleges and universities this fall, and all students are at grave risk of losing their school year.
The Minister of Education said last Wednesday that he supports the collective bargaining process and the situation can be resolved locally. It should be obvious to him that the collective bargaining process is not working and the situation is not being resolved locally. A week later the students are still in the streets and negotiations have broken down. The mediator said he did not expect a resolution to what is now a 23-day strike at the Ottawa Board of Education in the near future.
I introduced two private members' bills last week which would legislate an end to the strikes and limit wage increases to 1%, 2% and 2% for the next three years. Due to a misunderstanding on my part as to the time periods covered by the Treasurer's 1%, 2% and 2% transfers, I will be withdrawing those bills and introducing two new bills which deal more fairly with the two sides in these disputes. In addition to legislating the teachers back to work and limiting wage settlements, the replacement bills will deal with the time period not under agreement before January 1, 1992, and will call for the outstanding disputes to be resolved by final-choice arbitration.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Mr Speaker, I don't have a whole lot of time, but there are a few things I want to say. You know I am not particularly crazy about the $1,000-a-day consultants and the spin doctors and the pollsters who tend to have invaded all levels of government, quite frankly. One of the reasons why, and perhaps the foremost reason why, is because I have learned from just being out there in the province that a whole lot of people out there are real smart, in small towns and communities across this great province of ours, and are more than capable of providing good advice and good solutions to the real problems we face.
I suppose what I want to do as well this afternoon is thank those people who take the time to write to their MPPs: people like Anna Elders, from Woodlawn Road in Welland, who writes with real concern about the impact of Bill 108, and her point is well made; people like Wendy Hertwig, from Harper Crescent down in Thorold, who writes about the real problems she has and a whole lot of other mothers who are receiving child support have because of the impact of really negative and regressive federal income tax laws on those child support payments; but also people like Rob Scricca. Now Rob is a working guy -- he works real hard down in Thorold -- and knows a whole lot, because Rob writes about cross-border shopping. What Rob Scricca has to say is worth 10 times what any of the high-priced pollsters have told this government or other governments before.
Mr Remo Mancini (Essex South): Before the last election, the former Liberal government passed legislation to allow individual municipalities to pass bylaws in favour of Sunday shopping. The NDP came into office and overturned that law, disregarding the wishes of local municipalities and merchants and individuals who wish to work on Sunday. This was payback time to certain union bosses who had supported the NDP in its quest to become the government. They have put the interests of certain union bosses ahead of the interests of local municipalities and the merchants of Ontario and many thousands of individual workers.
Sunday shopping is needed to fight against cross-border shopping, which is devastating our economy. Cross-border shopping in Canada has cost us an estimated $3.5 billion and 50,000 jobs, most of them here in Ontario, I want to tell the NDP government.
Mr Speaker, 62% of Ontarians polled this recent February said they were in favour of Sunday shopping to help stem the tide of cross-border shopping and to have greater convenience and offer the opportunity of part-time and permanent work to our economy, which is being devastated for a number of reasons. We want the NDP to wake up and to listen to the people, who have said, to the tune of 62%, that they wish Sunday shopping.
Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the people of the town of Rosemère, Quebec, and its mayor, Yvan Deschênes, who voted overwhelmingly this past weekend to keep their town bilingual. The result of their important referendum sends a message to the Office de la langue française that the people of Rosemère wish to continue to communicate with anglophone citizens in English, even though the population of the town has changed from once being as high as 80% anglophone to now being about 65% francophone. Under Quebec's 1977 French-language charter, known as Bill 101, only towns with 50% or more anglophone residents are eligible for bilingual status.
This small, brave town of some 12,000 people is telling the province of Quebec and the people of Canada that English and French residents can continue to live in harmony. Their exemplary display of tolerance and common sense is admirable at a time when many Canadians are confused and torn between opposing allegiances. I have sent a personal message of support to the mayor and hope other Canadians, especially my colleagues in this assembly, will do the same.
Mr Pat Hayes (Essex-Kent): I stand in the House today to congratulate Ford Motor Co and the thousands of CAW workers in Essex and Windsor. Through their pride in the product and dedication to their work, they secured the confidence of Ford Motor Co. Yesterday Ford announced it will invest more than $2 billion in Canadian plants in Windsor and Oakville. Of that, Windsor will benefit from more than $1 billion of investment to equip engine plant 2, which was closed in December 1990. This plant will reopen in 1995 when it begins producing a new family of truck engines. This, combined with the opening of the Windsor aluminum plant in 1993, will stabilize employment at the current level of 3,200.
Hon Howard Hampton (Attorney General): The minister responsible for women's issues and I are very pleased to announce today details of the supervised access pilot project. Last fall I told this Legislature about the government's intentions to examine supervised access services as a means of providing safe, neutral and child-focused settings in which children can visit their non-custodial parents or other family members such as grandparents.
Earlier today, I, along with the minister responsible for women's issues and the minister responsible for the greater Toronto area, announced the location of the first supervised access project site in Etobicoke under the sponsorship of LAMP, the Lakeshore Area Multi-Service Project.
In the coming weeks we will be announcing 12 other sites across the province that have been selected to participate in the supervised access pilot project. Some of the project sites are in large urban areas like Toronto, while others are in smaller cities and broad rural areas in eastern and northern Ontario.
One of the criteria used to assess applications for funding was the extent to which the community group or agency applying for funding demonstrated the ability to access, maintain and build on existing community programs, funding and facilities.
We will use existing facilities such as day care centres, churches and children's mental health centres as the actual sites for the projects. Existing community programs will share any available resources with the supervised access pilot projects.
The total cost of the pilot project is $2 million over two years, but the majority of the supervised access centres will operate on significantly less than $100,000 annually. We will be serving a great number of children and their separated families in more communities across Ontario at a relatively low cost to the taxpayer.
Supervised access centres will make a big difference for families. The centres will help in a number of difficult family situations, for example, in cases where there are concerns about the safety of the mother of a child, where the non-custodial parent has a drug or alcohol problem or a psychiatric disorder, where there has been a lengthy separation between the parent and the child or where there is risk of abduction. In families where there is a great deal of unresolved conflict between separated parents, a neutral place to drop off or pick up the child will make access visits easier to arrange and will reduce the tension for children.
The availability of supervised access services will reduce the conflict experienced by separated families; ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children; ensure the safety of the mother, particularly in situations involving wife assault; provide trained staff and volunteers who will be sensitive to the needs of the child, and provide the court and lawyers with factual observations about the participants' use of the service.
When we announced our intentions to pursue this project last fall, we generated a great deal of interest in all parts of the province. Many excellent proposals were submitted. All proposals were reviewed by the Supervised Access Funding Advisory Committee, and I relied heavily on its recommendations regarding the funding of particular sites. For the purposes of the pilot project, we chose sites which could provide us with fair geographic distribution and information about different ways of delivering supervised access services.
I want to commend the members of the committee. The time, energy and hard work the members have devoted to reviewing applications and developing their recommendations have been instrumental in getting the project under way very quickly. The members of this committee are volunteers from different parts of the province representing groups such as children's services organizations, women's organizations, the judiciary, aboriginal communities, immigrant and visible minority organizations, the legal profession, non-custodial parents and the francophone community.
I know the House will join me in wishing the new centres all the best and in thanking the Supervised Access Funding Advisory Committee for a job exceedingly well done. With us today in the members' gallery are some of the committee members. I wish to introduce Alfred Aquilina, Michael Goodmurphy, Janet MacDonald, Brad Salmond and Leighann Campagna. I wish to thank them for all of their work. Well done.
It is particularly important during difficult economic times that we deliver important public services as efficiently and as effectively as possible. Ontario is one of the first jurisdictions in North America to study the issue of supervised access in a systematic way. The supervised access pilot project will enable us to make informed decisions regarding the long-term future of supervised access services in Ontario.
Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): In Ontario, as well as across the country, justice issues are developing in geometric progression, but unfortunately here in Ontario the ability of this government and this Attorney General to deal with these issues is moving in arithmetic progression. We are falling farther and farther behind. One cannot disagree with the principles and the intent of the actions of the Attorney General in this announcement today; however, we have to look at how effective it is and how timely it is and how complete it is.
The previous Attorney General, the member for St George-St David, had introduced pilot projects for this very same purpose. He introduced comprehensive legislation to deal with access under these circumstances; that is, an amendment to the Children's Law Reform Act, Bill 124. Rather than taking legislation which would have province-wide application, we now have another series of pilot projects.
Justice delayed is justice denied. By the very fact that we are starting out with one pilot project and we are going to politicize the issue and go across the province making individual announcements in different locations, what we are saying is that every single community where one of these pilot projects and this access legislation do not exist is justice denied to the people who want access to fair treatment for children and parents across this province.
What this minister is doing today is saying that he can't make up his mind. There was a bill, Bill 124, that was passed by the Legislature and had only to be proclaimed. This minister could have amended it to make it apply across the province. He chose not to do it. Again I say he's politicizing a very substantive issue and he's denying access and he's denying justice to significant parts of this province.
When I say "politicizing," I mean the fact that as a normal courtesy this announcement would be made to the members of this Legislature, yet it was made outside the Legislature, and as a normal courtesy this announcement would be given to the opposition, which it was not. This government continues to play games with the justice system in Ontario.
As I mentioned at the outset, issues are developing geometrically and this minister is applying an ad hoc process. He's doing nothing significant or substantive. He's playing with it. He's a goalie and the puck's in the net before he even sees it. There are so many significant issues out there in this province that he is not dealing with in any significant way. I think the minister is going to have to reassess how he's conducting the whole area of his portfolio, significant issues. I continue to say he's politicizing all kinds of issues.
We look at a system of justice that is supposed to have the respect of the community. The Attorney General is the chief law officer of the land and, Mr Speaker, he's losing that respect, if you look at the way he's running his ministry, the whole situation with respect to his deputy, Mary Hogan, and the fact that the legal profession is now rife with rumours that he will be passing legislation to create a cute little sinecure for this person he had to bump out. The actual fact that the Attorney General, the minister of justice for Ontario, for months on end was not even able to speak to his deputy really brings the administration of justice into disrepute.
As I mentioned, there are other issues where this minister is politicizing the administration of justice. I will raise one of those tomorrow in a significant way, because time doesn't permit it at present. However, I want to say to the minister that the legal profession and the people of Ontario want action now and they want it in a significant way on issues like legal aid, where there are serious problems. The advocacy legislation has serious problems and needs to be amended. We will oppose that legislation. When will the whole system of control of the courts, Small Claims Court issues, the whole issue of paralegals and the whole issue of contingency fees be dealt with? The puck's in the net and the minister hasn't seen it yet.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd like you to look into another breach of the traditions of this House. A cornerpiece of the speech from the throne last week was the Ontario investment fund, and today, rather than an announcement in the House by the Treasurer, we had a media conference about 15 minutes ago. I frankly expected more of the Treasurer, for whom I have a great deal of respect --
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): The member will know that the ministers of the crown have the opportunity to make statements in the House. There is nothing in the rules to compel ministers to make statements in the House.
Rather than getting on with economic revival, the NDP government has chosen to put roadblocks in the way of local communities and local business people who wish nothing more than to do their very best in the face of what we now see as the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. The Liberal government had enough faith in local people and local municipalities to rely on their ability to decide what was best for their communities. The NDP obviously thinks only the NDP can decide what is best. This government says it wants to build a strong economy. We say cut the sham.
Will the Solicitor General agree to delete the vague "tourism" definition and the appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board from the Sunday shopping legislation so the local communities that believe Sunday shopping is best for them do not have to jump through those hoops?
Hon Allan Pilkey (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): Quite frankly, I think the new legislation is quite clear and is an improvement over that which existed previously. The tourism exemption particularly was developed by a large group of stakeholders who came from a wide variety of walks of life and did in my belief a very commendable job. It leaves the municipalities in a circumstance where they have a rather clear guideline as to which applications should receive exemptions and which should not.
Also, I took with interest comments from a member of the Toronto clerk's department, who indicated they have not been overburdened with applications. They had received somewhere around 80 applications. Her quote was that they were by no means going nuts and they were not being overrun, so I imagine the process as envisaged is in fact moving on to a reasonable conclusion.
Mr Curling: What is quite clear is that the Solicitor General is not listening. In the throne speech last week, this government went out of its way to show it wants to facilitate the economic revival of this province. It went out of its way to put out that nothing is more important to the people of Ontario than getting the economy back to health. The Liberal government allowed local people, as you are quite aware, to decide how to run their own communities. We know that local people and communities across this province want Sunday shopping. They say their local economies need it to survive, especially in cross-border communities, yet the NDP government refuses to listen to the very people it has promised to respond to.
This government has made it impossible for people and communities to exercise their right to choose Sunday shopping when that is what they clearly want. Responding to communities is what government is all about, Mr Solicitor General. When is this government going to listen to the wishes of the people of Ontario?
Hon Mr Pilkey: This government always has listened and will continue to listen to the wishes and respect the general public who have concerns. More particularly, the latest amendments paid concern to those hundreds of thousands of workers in the retail trade who ought not to be forced to work on Sundays if they do not so wish.
In addition, as the Premier commented the other day and as the honourable member has indicated, there continues to be growing numbers of people expressing a concern with respect to this topic, and this government is in fact listening. If the government decides at some future time to make any other arrangements or amendments, we will have listened to the public. We will bring them forward to this House at that time.
Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): The Solicitor General suggests the new guidelines are quite clear. The throne speech suggested this government was interested in clearing away the morass of bureaucratic red tape to help realize the wishes of the people, whether in the area of business activity or commercial activity.
Let's look at the situation of the city of Toronto. In order to realize the wishes of the people, the city of Toronto yesterday voted nine to five in favour of identifying some 750 historic sites in Toronto so as to allow any store within the boundaries of Toronto to be designated as a tourist facility. Beyond that, it then has to take that little fiction to Metropolitan Toronto's council to get permission for Metropolitan Toronto to pass a bylaw to recognize this fiction. Then, when it's all done, a couple of theologians from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union can appeal the matter, or Gerald Vandezande, who is the last crusader left against Sunday shopping, can take the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board and have the whole thing amount to naught.
Mr Sorbara: Is it the case that the Solicitor General supports this kind of process, this kind of fiction, this kind of fantasy that says that if a shopkeeper decides in his or her wisdom to open up the store, he or she has to be near one of these 750 fictional historic sites in the city of Toronto? Is that really what you intended by this bill? Do you support that kind of approach --
Hon Mr Pilkey: In response to the honourable member, it is the municipality that sets the terms of the application process. I assume Metro has done a very adequate job in that respect. If the honourable member feels that the Metropolitan council and its chairman have not done an adequate job in that respect, perhaps he might invite those who are commenting otherwise to call Alan Tonks and suggest that to him.
I would like to say as well that the criteria this government established were very clear and quite frankly should be a set of circumstances easily understood by both business and municipalities, which I might add stood in stark contrast to some of the earlier legislation that was brought forward on this particular topic.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): The Treasurer has now received the working group report of the Fair Tax Commission on the corporate minimum tax. We're all aware, after having read that report, that the working group members have said that they don't have enough information and that this issue needs to be studied more.
It appears that the Treasurer knows better. The day after the report was released, the Treasurer said that for sure he would introduce some form of corporate minimum tax in his next budget, or at least that's the quote that was attributed to the Treasurer. We certainly know that the Treasurer seems to have said that, and that despite the concerns of his own working group he seems to feel this is a good idea. I ask the Treasurer why he appears ready to ignore the advice of his own working group and impose a minimum working tax.
Hon Floyd Laughren (Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister of Economics): First of all, I don't know where you saw that I said we were going to introduce a corporate minimum tax in this budget since the Fair Tax Commission working group brought down its report. What I did say was that we would be sending a signal in this budget as to what our intentions would be. I think that either one of two things has happened, and I didn't see this: Either I was misquoted in one of the tabloids or you read it incorrectly.
Mrs McLeod: I do have the quotes but it is entirely possible that they could have been misattributed and that the Treasurer's full intent was not correctly appreciated. Nevertheless we do have some indications that the Treasurer feels some commitment to this idea, at least in its concept. When the Treasurer set up the Fair Tax Commission, he said the goal of this commission was to provide him with advice on how to design and implement a fairer tax system. It seems to us that the working group has spoken very loudly and clearly on this issue, saying there is not enough information about whether a new tax on business is a good idea. I would ask the Treasurer whether he has information that seemed to lead him to continue to hold to the belief that this is at least a good idea, and if he has that kind of information, why has he not shared it with his own working group?
Hon Mr Laughren: No, I don't have information that the Fair Tax Commission does not have. As a matter of fact, I think one of the extremely valuable aspects of what the Fair Tax Commission has done on this matter and on many others is that it has become an expert in these various aspects of taxation. There's probably no one in Ontario who knows more about the corporate minimum tax, in this example, than the working group that spent so much time on it. I think they served Ontario well by canvassing the literature and providing us with an analysis we did not previously have. But to be fair, while there's no consensus as to which direction we should move in, certainly the working group's report doesn't rule out the validity of whether we should proceed with a corporate minimum tax.
Mrs McLeod: That gives us some concern about what kind of signal the Treasurer intends to send with his budget, since in that last answer he does seem to be rejecting the advice of his own working group and to at least give the matter more study.
One of the pieces of information the working group provided to the Treasurer was that a minimum corporate tax would not raise the kind of revenue the Treasurer hoped it would, at least which the government indicated in the Agenda for People it was looking for. It would be considerably less than the $1 billion that was originally anticipated. In fact, I think the Treasurer is well aware that during a recession a minimum corporate tax would actually raise far less than might even be expected now. In the meantime corporations, companies, are telling the Treasurer that a new corporate tax would drive them to the United States, so it's entirely possible that the imposition of a new tax of this nature, even the signal that the government is considering this kind of new tax, could actually reduce the $3.2 billion in corporate revenues that the Treasurer is expecting in his 1992-93 budget.
Can I conclude then from the Treasurer's comments today that the signal his budget will send to this province is that he will not be imposing a corporate tax that would not make the tax system fairer, that would not raise revenues and that would go against the advice of his own working group?
Hon Mr Laughren: I'll try to be as clear as I can. First of all, what I said was that I would send a signal because I think there has to be uncertainty removed from the corporate tax agenda, and the private sector has a right to know what direction we intend to move in vis-à-vis a corporate minimum tax.
I remind the leader of the official opposition, however, that sounding warnings about corporate minimum tax driving firms to the United States doesn't make a lot of sense when there is already a corporate minimum tax in the United States of America, so I don't think that's the right argument to use. I assure the leader of the official opposition that any tax measures that are taken will be done keeping in mind that we are indeed in the middle of a recession. But at the same time I think the member opposite would agree that there needs to be a sense of tax fairness out there across the province as well.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): My question is to the Solicitor General. I would like to follow up on a question of the only Liberal member of caucus who thinks we should have wide-open Sunday shopping: the member for York Centre.
The Solicitor General will know, following up on that question, that last night Toronto city council voted in favour of declaring the entire city a tourist attraction. Given Toronto's many charms, I wouldn't argue with that description, but it is ludicrous that you have forced council into this position. The city is jumping through the hoops that you set, businesses are closing their doors and workers are losing their jobs every single week.
Mr Solicitor General, most objective observers would agree that your legislation on Sunday shopping is almost as draconian and unworkable as the Liberal legislation before it. Will you give Toronto, indeed all Ontario municipalities, a break by tearing up your legislation on Sunday shopping?
Hon Allan Pilkey (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): Not to be partisan, but I would respond to the honourable member by saying that his suggestion that businesses are closing their doors has a lot more to do with federal economic policies and the introduction of the GST than with Sunday shopping legislation in Ontario.
Beyond that, we provided in our amendments the situation where we would provide protection for workers. We have done that and it seems to be working exceedingly well since we have passed those amendments.
As I had indicated, if there are other expressions of interest, whether from the general public or as a community, the government continues to be willing to listen and consider those concerns as they are raised.
Mr Harris: There is no question that the policies the Premier and his buddy the Prime Minister have brought in are causing us problems, but I am interested in those you have exclusive jurisdiction over.
Last year over 800 retail businesses went bankrupt, throwing thousands of workers out of jobs. Others closed their doors before it was too late: Bargain Harold's, Grafton-Fraser, Pascal Furniture, J. Michaels, Town and Country, to name a few.
Mr Minister, we cannot afford to wait for you and the Premier to get the okay from Bob White. What more proof do you need that your legislation is unfair, unworkable, and is costing us jobs before you allow Ontario to open for business seven days a week?
Hon Mr Pilkey: The leader of the third party, I think, seeks to find a scapegoat for a lot of major structural problems that have occurred in the retail industry in this province and indeed across this country. I think it is quite unfair of him to try to hitch his star to the Sunday shopping amendments we brought in just a few months ago. I think he might rather turn his attention to the fact that the shopping centre developers of this province perhaps overbuilt their stock. They have perhaps required retailers to take space not only in their A category shopping centres but in their B category shopping centres that they did not wish to take space in. I am afraid if they misread the market with respect to capacity, that is a problem of those businesses themselves, and not one of this government.
Mr Harris: I agree with the minister that a number of businesses did not anticipate Liberal and NDP governments that would throw them out of business and maybe too many of them anticipated a favourable climate in 1992. I agree we don't have one, but what I am interested in is restoring the dream to Ontario, restoring that climate, that hope, that opportunity, and you are going to have to move in a different direction.
Our border communities are in crisis yet your government refuses to open the door to their concerns. They are asking you, they are begging you; the city of Toronto is begging you and yet you and the Premier continue to muse. You titillate them with some speculation that maybe you might be reconsidering.
Hon Mr Pilkey: Mr Speaker, you'll pardon me for the brief smile on my countenance. Quite frankly, I think that to blame the New Democratic Party and the opposition Liberals for the many economic ills of this country and what the retail sector is suffering when we simply need to look at the free trade agreement, the GST and the onerous interest rates brought forward by that particular party or the supporters of that party is somewhat of a reach.
I simply say to the leader of the third party that if he would pick up the phone and talk to his counterparts in Ottawa one of the most constructive things he could do to help restore business confidence and strengthen the retail industry of Ontario would be to tell his colleagues in Ottawa to forget the trilateral trade agreement they now wish to enter into with the United States and Mexico that follows on the disastrous heels of the free trade agreement that has seen manufacturing and retail alike suffer in this province.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): While the Solicitor General and the Premier dither on this issue, I would like to go to another ditherer, the Minister of Labour, regarding the Workers' Compensation Board or, in the words of Elie Martel, "the swamp."
Mr Minister, I have documentation on a claim which was awarded to a Niagara Falls labourer in 1990. This individual claimed that the rubber boots he wore on the job had marked his ankles. These marks, he said, restricted potential job opportunities as an exotic dancer. The WCB agreed and awarded him $1,125. Do you think that an agency that would make this kind of award is an agency that's under control?
Hon Bob Mackenzie (Minister of Labour): I'm glad the leader of the third party, at least this time, is not labelling the whole 5,000 employees of the Workers' Compensation Board as being part of a cesspool. I wonder if he really wants me to interfere with the judicial process. Obviously the details he's talking about are not something that's on my desk. I wouldn't begin to respond to it until I did a little checking.
Mr Harris: No question that it was Elie Martel who said it was a swamp. I called it a cesspool. I don't blame the 5,000 employees; I blame the lack of control, the lack of leadership. I blame you, Mr Minister, for allowing it to continue. You in fact are the one who is knee-deep in this swamp. The water is sloshing over the top of your boots and you don't even seem to know it.
Listen. Now, instead of the WCB looking at correcting the reasons why it is $10 billion in debt, it is looking at retroactively broadening the definitions to give more awards; for example, broadening the definition of stress. Ontario employers, already with the highest premiums in all of Canada, already with the highest deficit and debt in all of Canada, cannot afford this. Seriously injured workers cannot afford this. Will you stop this nonsense, the studies that are going on to further broaden the base with money we don't have, and look at how we can possibly afford what we are awarding already before we add to this heavily burdened system?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: I really don't understand the question of the leader of the third party. I don't understand the member's complaint. Is he saying, for example, that victims of workplace sexual or racial harassment just go away and can't go to the compensation board if they're legitimately unable to work because of the stress? Is he saying that the initiative taken by the Workers' Compensation Board itself to look into the issue of stress should not be done and these workers should never have any avenue to go to if they have a serious situation that prevents them from working? I just can't believe that's the position of the leader of the third party.
Mr Harris: I'm saying there are other jurisdictions in this country looking to eliminate the silly, ridiculous abuses and reward those people who legitimately should be getting assistance and some of them who are not today. Last week in this House and again today you have shown a total lack of concern over allegations of fraud, breaches of confidential information, out-of-control claims and a $10.3-billion liability. Minister, would you not agree, since you're not responsible for the whole mess, that it's time to clean up the swamp? Would you not agree that we should immediately launch a full, public review of the WCB before you sink Ontario further into debt?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: Obviously the leader of the third party has difficulty understanding, but the fact is that the actions being taken now to deal with the fraud are actions that were taken by the new board we put into place to take over and correct some of the situations left, in many cases, by his own government. Certainly the unfunded liability started way back in 1972 in their reign in Ontario and it's something we are now trying to deal with.
I might also say, the initiatives in terms of the problems at the board and in terms of the allegations made are ones that have been taken by the board and the new governance of the board that we put in place.
Mr Steven Offer (Mississauga North): I have a question to the Minister of Labour. The Treasurer has been telling us since last November that the NDP would save the taxpayers $150 million by cutting back government expenses. However, it has come to our attention that the Ministry of Labour's Workers' Health and Safety Centre has just sent almost its entire staff on a two-and-a-half-day retreat at the posh Queen's Landing Inn at Niagara-on-the-Lake.
I know, Mr Speaker, you will be aware that the Workers' Health and Safety Centre was under investigation in terms of its nepotism in its hiring practices. It has been suggested to us that this adventure or misadventure probably has cost something in excess of $30,000. Given the Treasurer's call for fiscal restraint and given the current economic situation, can the minister explain why this meeting was not held in Toronto and can the minister explain his reasons why this expenditure of taxpayers' dollars was justified?
Hon Bob Mackenzie (Minister of Labour): Surely the member is not suggesting that the workers' health and safety agency, which is a joint management-labour body in Ontario, should not be dealing with the problems we have in health and safety and should not be up to date on the problems we have to deal with in the area of health and safety in the province.
Mr Offer: The response by the minister is incredible in its content, and I'm certain those who have watched this will know that. Certainly the Minister of Labour is not suggesting that it is justifiable for all of the staff of this centre to retreat for two and a half days to a posh resort at Niagara-on-the-Lake.
We have heard in this session reports of $200,000 being spent on budget security -- maybe that's why they didn't have it in Toronto; there probably wasn't a room available at the Sutton Place -- and $170,000 being spent on ads for a throne speech that was fully reprinted in the same paper.
This is supposed to be a time of restraint, a time when government should lead by example. Can the Minister of Labour explain what type of example his ministry is displaying by justifying such expenditures? Why do you believe this type of retreat is justified, given the financial crisis being faced by Ontario taxpayers?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: To the member, I can tell him that I will get back to him in terms of why the decision was made to hold the session down in Niagara Falls, but I can also tell him very clearly that we are very close to the point of having the certification programs ready for almost 100,000 workers in Ontario, which is a key part of their responsibilities, and I suspect the finalizing of that is exactly why they're down there.
Mr Ernie L. Eves (Parry Sound): I have a question of the Minister of Northern Development. Tomorrow the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly will be reporting and tabling its report in the Legislature of Ontario. On March 31, Minister, you were quoted in the Toronto Star, or a statement was attributed to you, is a better way of putting it, as having said on the previous day -- I am quoting from the Star article now, not yourself -- "She declared she won't quit now no matter what the panel's report concludes." If indeed you made such a statement, I find that attitude to be unbelievably arrogant and having total disregard for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Is that statement attributed to you accurate or not?
Hon Shelley Martel (Minister of Northern Development and Mines): Yes, that is quite correct. The decision to resign or not to resign was made some months ago in this House, in December when all of this broke. My understanding of the inquiry and the purpose behind it was to determine whether or not I had at any point received confidential information from the Ministry of Health, from OHIP or from any other source which would have led in part to the comments I made in Thunder Bay. I made it very clear during the course of those hearings when I participated in them, as did many others who came forward to speak, that in no way, shape or form had I had access to that information. In my mind that was the point of the inquiry, and in my mind that was responded to during the inquiry.
Mr Eves: What we have here is a minister of the crown saying she doesn't care if a committee of the Legislature unanimously finds that she should step aside. She is saying: "I'm not stepping aside. I don't care what the committee said. I don't care what the public thinks. I don't care if I breached the Premier's guidelines."
You have admitted that you have breached the Premier's guidelines twice within a six-month period. You made the unbelievable statement before the committee on March 11, "If you were to say, 'Will you make a mistake again?' I could not promise you that." We not only have a minister who has admitted that she breached the guidelines twice in six months but says, "If I were put in the same situation tomorrow, I'd probably do the same thing and breach them again."
Do you find that conduct befitting a minister of the crown? You can breach the Premier's guidelines whenever you want, whenever it suits your purpose and you don't care what anybody thinks. You don't care what a committee of this House thinks. You don't care if you breach the Premier's guidelines, and if you're put in that situation again tomorrow, you'll do the same thing. Is that correct?
Hon Miss Martel: First, I went to that committee and over a period of about eight hours answered all the questions that were put to me and outlined very clearly what had happened and why and what decisions I had made in December with respect to whether or not I would resign.
Second, I don't have any indication that the report of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly is going to be unanimous. I have not seen the report. As far as I am concerned, other members of this House don't know what those details are either. I don't think the point the member made trying to say that this is unanimous is going to be correct.
Third, in terms of what the committee will say, I made it very clear that it was my understanding that the point of the inquiry and the reason it was demanded by the members of this House was to determine whether or not I had received any confidential information. I think it became very clear during the course of the hearings, both in testimony by others who came forward from the Ministry of Health and other places and in my own testimony that in fact I did not see or have access to any confidential information which led to the remarks in Thunder Bay.
Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Minister, since you announced the commodity loan program on March 25, 1992, many farmers and producers who are constituents in my riding of Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings have requested more details about this program. Can you update the House on this program?
Hon Elmer Buchanan (Minister of Agriculture and Food): I'm very pleased that the member takes an interest in agriculture. The commodity loan program is a program we have worked out cooperatively with farm leaders and farm groups which will allow farmers access to operating credit in the spring at rates below what they normally get. It will be administered through the Agricultural Commodity Corp, which is a non-profit corporation made up primarily of farm leaders and farm representatives across the province.
We are very pleased to be able to announce this program prior to the budget with the permission of the Treasurer. It allows us to continue our partnership of working with farmers and farm leaders to bring some long-term finance initiatives for agriculture into the province.
Mr Johnson: I'm pleased indeed to see the steps you've already taken towards addressing the farm finance problems facing Ontario producers. Are you planning to take any additional steps in this area, and could you elaborate on this for us?
Hon Mr Buchanan: In terms of other initiatives, a number are coming out of the study my colleague the member for Essex-Kent did a year ago. We looked at long-term finance and the needs of the agricultural community. There are a number of recommendations in that report which we are also pursuing in cooperation with the farm community.
There are four or five other ideas and options we're exploring. We had meetings with the farm leaders back in November and in March to try and explore some of these other options, and we have requests sent to my good friend the Treasurer to see if we can find the necessary funds in order to provide some additional assistance and long-term farm financing to the farmers of Ontario.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): My question is also to the Minister for Agriculture and Food. The minister is well aware that we have been working very hard on ways to preserve the family farm. One exciting proposal has been an ethanol pilot project. I believe this project will assist the province's ailing agricultural industry while promoting an environmentally friendly, renewable energy source, with an estimated 5,000 jobs being created across this province. The spinoff of employment would be incredible for the overall economy.
Keeping in mind that the 1992 throne speech called for an investment in Ontario, I implore the minister to make a valuable investment in the entire province by supporting the proposal for an ethanol demonstration plant and a cogeneration facility in eastern Ontario. Can I, the Seaway Valley Farmers Energy Cooperative and indeed all Ontarians count on the minister's support of this project?
Hon Elmer Buchanan (Minister of Agriculture and Food): I appreciate the member's support of agriculture and the ethanol industry in eastern Ontario. I too support that concept. I want to reassure the member that the Ministry of Agriculture and Food is chairing an interministerial committee that's looking into ethanol.
We are exploring a number of proposals that have come to us for support by the government. As soon as we can do an evaluation of the various projects that have been submitted to us, we hope to be able to make announcements. I will continue to provide my ongoing support for the development of the ethanol industry on a regional basis across the province.
Mr Cleary: You must admit this proposal has it all. In fact, almost everything is now in place: the technology, the consultants, potential distributors and, perhaps most of all, very eager farmers who already have put forth their own hard-earned dollars. All this project now requires is a commitment from the province.
I insist to the minister that this project is gaining considerable momentum every day. However, the unique technology has been developed and a most economical ethanol will be available exclusively to the Seaway Valley co-op until July 1, 1992. After July 1, the exclusive agreement between Parteq Research of Queen's University and the eastern Ontario farmers becomes void. Mr Minister, I fear that failing to act in the very near future might cause the entire project to relocate, perhaps even outside this province.
Hon Mr Buchanan: I appreciate the member's concern about the deadline he has raised of July 1. I want to reassure the member that, from my perspective, we will work as hard as we can to make sure the technology and the benefits that would flow from using the technology that has been developed at Queen's will not be lost. I will do everything in my power to make sure we can move this forward and decide whether we can assist that project in getting under way.
I would remind the member, though, that there are a number of other projects in eastern Ontario that have approached us and asked for support. We will have to evaluate all of those projects and decide which one we would give the nod to. I certainly would like to be able to do that by July 1, if possible.
Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): I have a question for the Minister of Education. Mr Minister, you stated last week, in response to my question regarding the teachers' strikes at both the Ottawa board and the Carleton board, that you support the collective bargaining process and that the situation can be resolved locally.
A week later, another lost week for the 27,000 students, they are still in the streets and are now at serious risk of losing their school year. The mediator said he didn't expect a resolution. In fact, as I understand it, at least as of yesterday neither side was talking to the other in either of those disputes.
We have a 23-day strike at the Ottawa Board of Education and about a 10-day strike at the Carleton Board of Education. Do you, Mr Minister, still believe the collective bargaining process is going to be resolved locally in the Ottawa area?
Hon Tony Silipo (Chairman of the Management Board of Cabinet and Minister of Education): I appreciate the question and say to the member that I share his concern about what is happening in the Ottawa area. As I have indicated, I continue to stay very closely in touch with the Education Relations Commission, which is monitoring the situation. I met with them this morning. They advised me that the mediator in the Ottawa board situation is talking to both parties and, further, that the parties are talking to each other. Although formal negotiations have indeed broken off, those discussions are taking place. I'm satisfied as a result of my conversation with the ERC that the process should be allowed to continue, because I believe the negotiations are continuing and can lead to a solution.
Mr Sterling: Both Jane Dobell, who represents the trustees, and the union representative on the Ottawa board say they hope the province will not intervene. The attitude: Keep the schools closed a few more weeks. Let the kids get closer to losing their year entirely. In other words, see if the other side plays chicken.
"I have two teenaged daughters. One is graduating this year at the Ottawa Board of Education; the other is in grade 9 at the Carleton Board of Education. As you know, they are both sitting at home because their teachers are on strike.
"In a recessionary period when most people are grateful to hold on to their jobs, let alone receive a pay increase this year, I fail to understand why the government is not stepping in to stop this deplorable situation."
Mr Sterling: My supplementary is: Put in the words of my constituent: "Our children have been listening to you tell them that you're concerned about their education. Give them back their education." Put them back in school, Mr Minister, now.
Hon Mr Silipo: I continue to say to the member it is my view that as long as there is an opportunity for the issue to be resolved locally, that is the appropriate thing that should happen. I am satisfied that the discussions going on now through the mediator can lead to a solution if the parties are willing to do that. I will also reiterate for the member that I will ensure, as a result of this process, that the school year for the students is not jeopardized. We will look at that situation as the thing is resolved. I think we just have to allow the process to unfold as it is unfolding.
Mr David Winninger (London South): My question is directed to the Minister of Labour. In my riding of London South there is a good deal of uneasiness about a particular advertising campaign. This advertising campaign is telling the people of London that proposed amendments to the Ontario Labour Relations Act are driving jobs and investment away from Ontario. Would you tell us what evidence there is from reliable sources about the effect of proposed amendments to the Ontario Labour Relations Act on jobs and investment in Ontario?
Hon Bob Mackenzie (Minister of Labour): I want to thank the member for the question. I think it's a legitimate one. I want to tell him that I have not seen one study that is based on any economic impact analysis by an objective third party. When you have millions of dollars, I guess you can buy whatever study you want. I want to say further that we have to protect women and immigrant groups. We have to remove obstacles to their ability to look after themselves and to organize. It is a false assumption that labour law reform and a healthy economy cannot go hand in hand.
Hon Mr Mackenzie: The honourable member will know we've carried out a very extensive consultation process in 11 communities across Ontario over a period of two months. We met with 334 groups, 209 of which were business groups; we met three times with all the coalition groups, the umbrella groups, and we have listened to the arguments they've made. I suggest to the members of this House that maybe they should wait and take a look at the legislation that is presented.
Mr Remo Mancini (Essex South): My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the minister responsible for gambling in Ontario. Recent press reports indicate that the NDP government is considering a plan to set in operation up to six gambling casinos across Ontario, including one in Windsor. The Premier himself has said the decision will be made some time this spring. We in Windsor and Essex county were led to believe that some definitive statement would be made in the throne speech on this substantial change in policy for the NDP. Can the minister be open and forthcoming and inform the Legislature and the people of the province just what the plans are for casino gambling?
Hon Marilyn Churley (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Any decision concerning casinos has not been made, as I said before. I want to be very clear that any information in the papers and press about locations, numbers etc is purely speculation. There have been no decisions made on whether we're going to move ahead in that direction, and furthermore no decisions on location or, let me repeat, numbers. Having said that, as I said before when asked this question, the issue has been, and will continue to be, considered. No final decision has been made.
Mr Mancini: We find ourselves in a difficult position. We find ourselves, with one community that I know of, Windsor and Essex county, lobbying the government. Maybe there are others. We see statements being made by different members of the NDP government. We have statements made by the Premier. I wish to quote a recent statement made by the Premier. His words were, "I don't want to see us placed at a disadvantage in that regard," meaning gambling dollars going to the United States and not staying in Ontario. We find that interesting in that the NDP government is not concerned about cross-border shopping, where Canadian dollars are going to the US and not staying in Ontario, but that's another matter.
We want to know, because communities across this province, and especially Windsor, are waiting, from the minister whether or not there will be one casino, six casinos, three; whether they will be run by the private sector, by the government, by the NDP. We want to know whether your decisions --
Mr Mancini: I want to know from the minister when we can expect some clarity, openness and information on this important subject. I further want to know from the minister, if in fact she does approve casino gambling for Windsor, what steps she is going to take to protect the horse racing industry also located in that town.
However, I do recognize the validity of the question. I've said before, and I think the member opposite has pointed out, that this is indeed a very complex issue. There are many factors to look at. He raised the issue of horse racing, which is a great concern of mine and of other members of the government. There are issues around gambling addiction. There are issues around crime. There is a variety of complex issues that have to be looked at. We're doing that. I will certainly, when any decision is made, let the member opposite know as soon as we possibly can. But I want to reassure him that we are looking very closely at the horse racing industry -- in fact I am consulting with various facets of that industry -- and will make sure that is taken into consideration as we make the decision.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): My question is to the Minister of Skills Development. Mr Minister, I've spoken to you before in the House with regard to the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board consultations. We are all aware that the composition will give eight seats to labour. Seven of the eight labour representatives are nominated by the Ontario Federation of Labour and one by the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario. We're increasingly having concerns presented to us, definitely throughout the city of London as a result of the hearings, with regard to the fact that all these representatives are from the unionized workforce. Non-unionized workers in this province will not be represented even though two thirds of the workers do not belong to unions.
Hon Richard Allen (Minister of Colleges and Universities and Minister of Skills Development): The balance of representation on the Ontario training board plan that has been put out for consultation has resulted from a lot of consultation that has taken place -- over a period of two and a half years, as a matter of fact -- and resembles very much the representation on the Canadian Labour Force Development Board created by the Tory government in Ottawa and came out of very similar kinds of long-term consultations.
It's quite clear that in the context of the sectoral training organizations that will be part and parcel of the OTAB structure and its operations, there will be many unorganized plants that will be part and parcel of those structures and that will have people named to councils that will regulate them and so on. They will have a place. The central issue of course is, if you are in an unorganized situation, how can you accountably be recognized and organized and respond? There is no way to do that I am aware of.
Mrs Cunningham: I think most of us have heard the expression in life, "Where there is a will, there is a way." In fact, if two thirds of Ontario's labour force are not unionized or organized and we want to hear from them and value their opinions and are going to depend on them in the future in this tremendous responsibility, we will find a way to make certain they are represented.
My second question is this: The central body in this big picture of training in Canada is an advisory body. I think everyone in this House should understand that. It's just an advisory board. The federal body is an advisory body. The board that we've set up here in Ontario, that is being proposed, will have direct financial and administrative control over Ontario's training programs. It's an extremely important body.
The minister said he doesn't know how to do it. Why doesn't he now ask the representatives who come before the committee who do not represent unionized workers how they could advise this government as to how it could choose representation from the majority of the workforce in this province who are not members of labour unions? Why don't you ask them?
Hon Mr Allen: In the first instance there are at least three bodies in the existing OTAB structure that will be able to speak on behalf of them in various ways. The employers who will be represented there will be employers representing companies that are both organized and unorganized. Organized labour always has a certain interest in the unorganized and will be trying to speak for them. Those who are --
Hon Mr Allen: As I was saying, there are also equity groups which represent the population at large. There will be women on the board who also have an interest in women and their employment. I will just simply say if those who are unorganized out there want to have an organized voice to speak with, they know how to do it.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The Premier's guidelines are very clear about ministers' conduct at all times being able to bear the closest scrutiny. The other day in the House we had a minister of the crown, and it is recorded in Hansard, refer to members of the opposition as fascist bully boys. Today in the Legislature a minister of the crown referred to members of the opposition as hypocrites. I heard it very clearly, and it came from the Minister of Transportation. I would ask the Speaker to review this and to refer this to the Premier so that he can discipline his ministers in accordance with his guidelines.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Order. The member raised a point of order with me, and I was about to address the point she raised. The member should know that the Speaker is to enforce the rules of the House, not anyone else's rules. The minister to whom she referred the other day withdrew the remark he had made. The remark which allegedly was made by someone else today, if such a remark was made, unfortunately I did not hear it nor was it raised at the time. Of course at all times I ask every member to try to restrain intemperate language. Indeed if any member of the House has during this past question period said language which he or she would wish to withdraw at this time, that member does have an opportunity.
Hon Gilles Pouliot (Minister of Transportation and minister responsible for francophone affairs): With the highest respect to the member opposite, it seems to me she doesn't know which minister said what. I would like to find out more about it. There is a problem, some confusion, and if we can help, we would only be delighted to help the member.
Mrs Caplan: During question period today the Minister of Transportation clearly -- I know within hearing of the Minister of Health because she acknowledged it -- called members of the opposition hypocrites. I'm calling on him to withdraw that, and further to draw to the Premier's attention the breach of his own guidelines by ministers in his government.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): With respect to language, the member will know that it's the practice in this House that when the Speaker hears remarks that are unparliamentary, the Speaker will ask the member to withdraw. If the Speaker does not hear the alleged remarks, then obviously it is up to the members to voluntarily withdraw those remarks if indeed they were made. Does the minister have anything to respond to at this point?
Mr Hans Daigeler (Nepean): I have a petition here signed by some 32 constituents. Excuse me if I mispronounce some of the proper names, since they are not that familiar to me. The petition reads as follows:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to forbid this construction on the basis of their past failures to keep promises and because we have grave reservations concerning the intent and purpose of this entertainment facility.
"The need for separation between the state and religious organizations, however that term 'religious organization' may be defined, would be severely compromised by the government of Ontario granting permission to this gentleman to construct this proposed facility, for we, the undersigned, are of the opinion that the primary purpose would be not for entertainment but rather for proselytization of persons. The giving of financial support, tax incentives or other government concessions would violate that principle of state non-involvement in religious organizations.
Mr Sterling moved first reading of Bill 6, An Act respecting the Carleton Board of Education and Teachers Dispute / Loi concernant le conflit de travail entre le Conseil de l'éducation de Carleton et ses enseignants.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey): This bill, the Representation Amendment Act, 1992, will change the name of my riding from Grey to Grey-Owen Sound. This would be a much more accurate description, as the present name implies I represent only Grey county which is not the case. I am also proud to represent the beautiful city of Owen Sound, which is independent of the county with 20,000 people, several small industries, active arts and athletic communities and is a four-season tourist destination. I feel it certainly deserves this recognition.
Mr Sterling moved first reading of Bill 10, An Act respecting the Ottawa Board of Education and Teachers Dispute / Loi concernant le conflit de travail entre le Conseil de l'éducation d'Ottawa et ses enseignants.
Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): Both this bill and the bill I introduced previously dealing with the Carleton Board of Education order or legislate the teachers back to work in both the Carleton Board of Education and the Ottawa Board of Education. These bills differ slightly from the bills I introduced last week in that they provide for a final selection by the arbitrator of one offer or the other for both of those boards to settle the period of time between September 1, 1991, and December 31, 1991, in terms of the contract period and their pay. It does institute a 1%, 2% and 2% wage settlement for the years following, in alliance with what the Treasurer has chosen to transfer to those boards of education.
The standing committee on administration of justice may meet on Monday and Tuesday afternoons following routine proceedings; the standing committee on estimates may meet on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons following routine proceedings; the standing committee on finance and economic affairs may meet on Thursday mornings and Thursday afternoons following routine proceedings; the standing committee on general government may meet on Thursday mornings and Thursday afternoons following routine proceedings; the standing committee on government agencies may meet on Wednesday mornings; the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly may meet on Wednesday afternoons following routine proceedings; the standing committee on the Ombudsman may meet on Wednesday mornings; the standing committee on public accounts may meet on Thursday mornings; the standing committee on regulations and private bills may meet on Wednesday mornings; the standing committee on resources development may meet on Monday and Wednesday afternoons following routine proceedings; and the standing committee on social development may meet on Monday and Tuesday afternoons following proceedings; and that no standing or select committee may meet except in accordance with this schedule or as ordered by the House.
Standing committee on administration of justice: Ms Akande, Ms Carter, Mr Chiarelli, Mr Cooper, Mr Curling, Mr Harnick, Mr Mahoney, Mr Malkowski, Mr Morrow, Mr Runciman, Mr Wessenger and Mr Winninger;
Standing committee on finance and economic affairs: Mrs Caplan, Mr Carr, Mr Christopherson, Mr Hansen, Mr Jamison, Mr Kwinter, Mr Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt), Mr Sterling, Mr Sutherland, Mr Ward (Brantford), Ms Ward (Don Mills) and Mr Wiseman;
Standing committee on regulations and private bills: Mr Dadamo, Mr Eddy, Mr Farnan, Mr Fletcher, Mr Hansen, Mr Jordan, Mr Mills, Mr Ruprecht, Mr Sola, Mr Sutherland, Mr White and Mr Wilson (Simcoe West);
Standing committee on social development: Mr Beer, Mr Daigeler, Mr Drainville, Mrs Fawcett, Mr Martin, Mrs Mathyssen, Mrs O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau), Mr Owens, Mr White, Mr Wilson (Kingston and The Islands), Mr Wilson (Simcoe West) and Mrs Witmer.
As I said, with the throne speech as our evidence we see that the Premier reuses the NDP philosophy and ideology to try and reduce Ontario's confidence -- I think he's doing that very nicely -- and competitiveness. Then he has to recycle, or try to recycle, those fledgling initiatives of the last session.
I can tell you that the people of the province have witnessed the demise of our economy, the abandonment of our health care system and the total collapse of consultation and cooperation between the government and the people it was elected to serve. In my riding of Northumberland we are witnessing much unemployment, increasing welfare rolls, farms in distress, retail and small business collapsing daily, manufacturing gone for ever and individual municipalities and county councils that have to turn down road and equipment subsidies because they just don't want to have to increase their operating budgets to match their required funds to access the provincial money.
This government came to power largely due to the growing stridency and effectiveness of special interest groups pursuing their own narrow advantage. In fact, one look across the floor and we see a patchwork of advocates who stood on their soapboxes with the same singlemindedness. But now you are the government. Now you must govern for all the people, not just the vocal. When we hear a throne speech or see a budget, it must reflect the realities of all the people of this province.
The people across the province are saying no more crazy spending, no more record deficits, no more regulations which hamper their ability to live and work. They want to see initiatives that will help create and maintain investment in Ontario. They want a government to take initiative to meet the legitimate need of all the citizens it was created to serve.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Considering that this is a very important debate, I think we should have a quorum at least, and if not, more than seven members of the government.
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I'm very pleased to respond to the speech from the throne today. This is a very critical time for our province -- indeed, for our country. Ontario is facing its worst financial crisis in a generation and, frankly, people are frightened for the future. We know the country is in turmoil and indeed our very nation's future is in question. There's a feeling of instability and uncertainty.
In a recent survey, Ontarians ranked the economy as the number one concern on their list. The recession, as we all know, is lasting much longer and is more severe than was ever expected, and all too often we read that businesses and top professionals are leaving Ontario. Many in York Mills are very worried about the economic realities of today and the ability of this government to restore prosperity. Indeed, many are suffering severe hardship from unemployment and business failures. Others are struggling to survive in this economic climate. Once, our economic and social excellence was the envy of the world, and now our economy is in shambles and our social programs are in danger.
Undoubtedly the Premier and his government alone are not to blame, but he is part of the problem. While I disagree with the NDP on a host of issues, the fact is that they inherited a ticking time bomb. Five years of Liberal government started us on a road of overspending, excessive taxation and obsessive regulation by trying to be all things to all people and catering to special interests.
They thwarted economic excellence. That was economically and socially irresponsible, because prosperity and social programs depend on the ability of our economy to sustain them. The escalating costs of our social programs must be brought under control or we'll not be able to support those who need a helping hand.
Our health care system was once widely acknowledged as being one of the finest in the world, but we know it is being rapidly eroded because expenditures are increasing faster than we can afford. Indeed this is a phenomenon that is happening throughout the world; it is not just in Canada, it is not just in Ontario, but nevertheless we must address it.
Our education system should certainly have taught us that throwing money at the system does not necessarily cure the problems, because when we consider that in Canada we spend the second-highest amount on education in the world per capita, the quality of the product is demonstrably not there.
If we fail to get government spending under control and if we fail to demand accountability from our education system and if we fail to demand excellence from our workers, then Ontario will never become competitive and our economy will never be fully revitalized. The challenge is there.
If we are willing to accept it, the goal of increased investment in Ontario is one I share with the government, although I do have some serious concerns about pension money being used as a substitute for private investment. I would suggest that if a project or a business cannot get funding from banks and from conventional sources, then it's probably not secure enough for pension money. This is a very dangerous precedent and I believe we put the future of many Ontario seniors at risk. We know the Canada pension plan is seriously underfunded and will probably never pay out to anybody but the very poorest people who are under 40 today, so let us not put their savings further at risk.
We know and we read every day about the fact that Ontario's economy is stagnant. At least 260,000 jobs were lost last year alone. The throne speech states, and I would like to agree, that a strong economy depends on a flourishing business sector. But while the throne speech makes wonderful statements about cooperation and partnership with business, this government is being judged on its actions, not its words. Its attack on the private sector, as demonstrated in the housing and day care fields, ambulance companies and driver- and vehicle-licensing offices proves the intent much more than the words.
Let's have a look at a bit of recent history. In November, we had a minister of the crown stand in this House and commit that there would be no changes to the way licensing offices do business -- I notice the minister is perking up now when he hears this -- yet two months later, he went to Management Board and got acceptance. Minister, you can nod your head all your like, but the fact is that in this House you said you would not change the way licence offices do business, and two months later you got funds from Management Board to buy several machines, automated tellers, which are going to dispense licences on a test basis. You are going to buy those machines, you are going to service them and you are going to put people out of business.
Last year, licence-issuing offices had significantly less income than in any previous year. In this particular case, we have in the private sector the licence-issuing offices, offices which cost 3% of the gross to administer; 3% covers the rent, the utilities, the pay, all the benefits and the profit to these people. There is not one single arm of government which is delivering services as efficiently as this sector, yet, because these are non-unionized jobs -- 1,500 non-unionized jobs -- the government would like to replace them with automats.
It's very curious, because this is the very government that we heard in question period is absolutely excluding the 60% of workers who are non-unionized from any contribution to the input process with respect to OTAB.
We were told, and it was quite interesting, that the public sector was not going to intrude on this part of the business of private industry. Those are fine words, but it doesn't change the reality. This government is out to destroy the private sector in many areas. This government has earned the reputation of being anti-business. While it purports to hear, it doesn't really listen. Perceptions cannot be changed by words alone. Indeed, if this government is serious about restoring confidence, it must stop actions as hostile to business and rescind policies which threaten the private sector.
Ontario businesses face the most burdensome tax climate in Canada; indeed, in the whole of North America. Businesses are getting taxed to death right now by all three and, in many cases, four levels of government. But what is particularly harmful is the payroll tax levied on provincial businesses at the provincial level. There is no longer a profit margin to accommodate an increase in health tax or the Worker's Compensation Board. Businesses have quite simply had enough.
Once, industry had the advantage of cheaper electricity, but this was lost when Ontario Hydro too became large and costly as a bureaucracy and the province forced it into a new role as a social agent. This has meant reneging on their mandate to provide energy at cost. I find it very curious when ministers across sit in stitches. They know that what I'm saying is correct: We're forcing Ontario Hydro to become an agent of social change in this province instead of fulfilling its mandate of energy at cost, which served Ontario very well and brought a lot of industry to the province.
This government must announce that there will be no new tax increases in the spring budget, and that is action business will respect. That is the action needed if Ontario is ever to recover. The old saying, "Businesses don't vote, they walk," is indeed true and we cannot afford any more of these businesses walking. We need to stop them and persuade them that Ontario will become a more friendly administration towards their needs.
This government seems to believe that labour-management relations can be improved through greater unionization and greater union bargaining powers. It fails to appreciate that good relations involves goodwill on two sides, not an unbalanced power on one side. The proposed labour law reforms will polarize labour and management relations just when we need greater cooperation. A recent study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that these reforms could cost Ontario $10 billion to $20 billion.
Mr Turnbull: It's very curious. Once again I see the same minister saying, "Come on," but this is a government which has not produced one single study as to the impact. There have been many independent studies, but the government has failed to bring forward a study. They are going to kill 200,000 to 500,000 jobs. Who knows how many investors or companies, both foreign and domestic, have already written us off? Indeed I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that I have spoken to a lot of European companies which are saying they will not invest in Ontario with this administration.
Now that may make us very smug and we may say, "Okay, the investment goes until they go," but in the meantime the people of Ontario and the people of York Mills suffer because of this government, which does not have a mandate for sweeping change and which got less of the popular vote than Frank Miller. Indeed, this is a government which has shown its very colours in such a short time and needs to be woken up to the fact that there are more people in Ontario than just big, unionized labour.
The Premier proudly points to Ford of Canada as an example that business is investing in Ontario. Today the Globe and Mail quotes the vice-president of Ford as saying it is still withholding judgement on Ontario as a place to do business. "What we're taking into account here" -- and he is referring to the investment decision of $2 billion announced yesterday -- "are the recent pronouncements by the Premier in which he indicates that he has listened to and reflected on the opposition from the business community to the labour law and that he will not place Ontario at a competitive disadvantage." I hope those pronouncements by the Premier are not like other announcements which, like all of his election promises, he will dismiss by saying, "That was then and this is now."
The Ontario government has yet to produce a single study of its own, as I mentioned before. It arrogantly dismisses all the concerns. I suggest that is not the way to forge the partnership with business talked about in the throne speech. Instead of pitting business against labour and workers against management and creating further divisions, we need to find solutions by bringing people together. It's a radical NDP proposal that's already costing us investment and jobs. Mr Premier, scrap it and declare Ontario open for business.
My constituents know the high borrowing of this government means higher taxes for years to come, yet there was no mention about the heavy tax burden that residents and businesses must bear. When I speak to my constituents the message is consistent: Our generation must learn to live within its means. It's morally wrong for us to push our problems off on to our children, with massive debt, and it's disappointing to note there are no specific plans on reducing government operating costs and the number of civil servants. We know the Liberals added 9,000 civil servants during their five years in office, along with many other things they vested upon us.
Last year we saw a 13.4% increase in spending of $6.3 billion, yet only $1 billion can be blamed on social assistance increases. The remainder was due to an increase in departmental budgets, this despite all the pleadings of our party to have some restraint at a time when people were losing jobs. This year, despite holding hospitals and schools to 1% and claims of frugality, based on figures revealed by the Treasurer on January 21 of this year the government is looking at spending actually going up by 10% when inflation is running at 2%. That's five times the inflation rate this year, and that is also after massive shifts of spending from the last fiscal year into this year. We will see a 26% increase on a public sector pension plan, spending on non-profit housing will be going up by 44% and legal aid costs will increase by 70%.
There will never be an opportunity for tax relief under the Premier, and we know there will be limited opportunities for tax relief under future governments because of what this government is doing now to the position of Ontario. This government must stop spending money that promotes its socialist agenda but does not produce any jobs or services for the people of Ontario. I call on this government to get its spending under control, to stop the nationalization of day care, to get the private sector back into the housing field so it can build low-cost housing more cheaply and more efficiently than government ever did it, and to cancel the labour law proposals.
My riding of York Mills is a wonderful, good place to live, but each year more and more of my constituents are expressing concern about the livability, the quality of life and the healthiness of Metropolitan Toronto as a community. They read press reports showing an increase in crime, morale problems in the police corps, in no small degree by this government's appointment to chair the police board of a perceived anti-police advocate, and they worry about their personal safety. Job loss is high and the cost of living is increasing. The property tax burden is such that many are in danger of losing their homes. Mine is an affluent riding, but nevertheless there are many people who are hurting who cannot take the burden of the government mandating programs but pushing all the cost over to the municipal governments.
Metro residents support four levels of very expensive government. The number of trustees in Metro, 112, totals more than the Senate and every provincial government in Canada with the exception of Ontario and Quebec. Residents very rightly complain they cannot afford the bill. The Premier continues to whine about Ontario not getting its fair share from the federal government. Well, Premier, Metro Toronto is not getting its fair share from your government either. We're not getting any funding for education, and Metro Toronto and Ottawa are the only places in the province that get no funding for education.
We have the lowest level of support for transit systems in the whole of North America here in Metro and unfair taxes like the commercial concentration tax. Do you remember the commercial concentration tax? That is the commercial concentration tax that the Premier, when he was on the campaign stump, said he would get rid of. I guess that was then and this is now. Do you sense a degree of outrage at the unfairness?
Mr Turnbull: It's very curious that a minister heckles, "Spend, spend, spend." No, quite the reverse. What I'm saying is that we should not be spending in the foolish ways this government is spending. They are wasting money on subsidized housing instead of getting the private sector to build it without taxpayers' dollars. Let's get money into the hands of the people who need it, the needy. This is a concept this government cannot understand because it is dedicated to delivering money to its union friends and nothing else.
As its last gift to Metro Toronto, the Liberals gave us the commercial concentration tax. This final discriminating tax grab by the Liberals is an invasion of the historic right of municipalities to tax property, the major source of revenue for cities. This odious tax harmed businesses and communities throughout Metro and we're suffering from it now. I'd remind the Premier that he always promised to remove it. Premier, you've had two years. Maybe you forgot your promises. You seem to have forgotten a lot of promises.
My constituents looked to the throne speech for leadership on the constitutional crisis. What vision does this government have for the country? What does the throne speech say on the constitutional crisis? Not one word. His government has nothing to say on the direction Ontario will take in seeing that the country stays together despite internal bickering. Ontarians have always shown goodwill to the rest of the country. My constituents in York Mills and I share a belief in the importance of a strong and united Canada. The constitutional challenge before us is both formidable and daunting, but a challenge I believe we are capable of meeting. It must begin with the willingness to reach out and say: "Let's stay together. We are all stronger by being together. Divided, we are weak."
We need a more affordable, responsive, effective and less intrusive government. It's necessary to control the size and the cost of government and its various agencies. Only then will Ontario's economy be able to grow and expand. Spending controls and cutbacks will send a message to the business community that this government is serious about getting its own house in order.
Mr Turnbull: Once again the Minister of Transportation heckles, "Give us some examples." We have consistently given examples. We are the only party in opposition that has ever come forward with a document midterm suggesting alternatives that this government can take up, and it is welcome to take them up. You're not just stealing our thunder. We want the economy of Ontario stronger so that the workers and the taxpayers of Ontario have a future. It's called A Blueprint for the Future. It is a vision of how we see our party or your party addressing the needs of this province.
Government cannot be captive to special interest groups. That philosophy should have been finished when the Liberals were turfed out of office. Unfortunately the only thing that has changed is the interest groups.
There's a critical need to maintain, stimulate and attract investment in Ontario. This government can begin that process by cancelling the labour reforms and starting an honest and open dialogue between labour and management.
The throne speech is disappointing because it does not respond to Ontario's desperate need for economic stimulation. I call on the government to bring in policies based on common sense, not ideology, that will restore a sense of confidence to our business community and economic renewal to our province.
Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): I would like to comment. The member who just spoke talked about special interest groups, and the member for Northumberland, when she was talking, talked about special interest groups. It is interesting what people define as special interest groups. People seem to think those groups that advocate for people who are homeless, for the poor or for the disadvantaged are somehow special interest groups but that groups such as the chamber of commerce or another important group in my riding, the federation of agriculture, or whatever, aren't special interest groups. The reality is, whether you're a business group or whether you're an advocate for the poor or the homeless, they're all special interest groups. It's important to remember that and that all governments take into account what all the groups are saying in trying to come up with the appropriate balance.
The member also talked about Ontario Hydro and its rates going up and paying for use, that Ontario Hydro's policy used to be paying hydro at cost. It's interesting to note what his definition of "at cost" is. Is at cost just paying the operating bills but you let your debt keep accumulating more and more, as Ontario Hydro did? The fact is, we've never had it where we've paid hydro at cost. If we had paid hydro at cost, Ontario Hydro wouldn't have the large accumulated debt it now has. That's the simple reality of the situation.
The member also talked about sending a strong message. I'm not sure if everyone has read the same throne speech I heard, but clearly there was a message of investment in people, in the province, in the infrastructure. That is a very strong message to everyone that we are concerned about true economic renewal in this province.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): I want to congratulate the member for York Mills for giving a well-thought-out, for the most part, speech in response to the throne speech. I find it interesting how the Conservative caucus -- I don't know if it's out of guilt from past governments or whatever -- finds it necessary to throw barbs in wild directions without any real clarity, without any substance.
I want to point out to the member who just spoke that he referred to the chamber of commerce and the federation of agriculture, and there is the CFIB, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. There is no question that these are interest groups, just the same as groups representing people concerned about poverty. What you don't understand and what most people on the government side don't understand is that those groups are equally concerned about poverty. What you people believe in is redistribution of wealth. What you don't understand is that you must create the wealth before you can possibly redistribute it.
Mr Mahoney: That's the simple reality: You must create the wealth, Madam Minister of Housing, as if you would know the first thing about it. The reality is that what you are doing is driving business underground. You are driving them into the United States, you are driving them bankrupt, and you refuse to understand that there are some simple changes you could make. You could back off some of your policies that are driven purely by ideology and put in some things that are common sense. We understand that you've got some things you want to deliver in your agenda, but without the business community, without the chambers and the boards of trade and the federations, you're simply not going to be able to do it and you're going to bankrupt this province as you bankrupt the business community.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): The member who referred to the speech of my colleague the member for York Mills as being one which threw wild barbs towards the Liberals fails to understand that the slide into our economic recession in this province did in fact start under the former Liberal government. It was the former Liberal government, as the member for York Mills said, that introduced the commercial concentration tax, the employer health tax and 33 other taxes, and took the bureaucracy of this province from 80,000 to 88,000 in a mere five years. That's why they are no longer the government.
However, we heard worse things today. In fact, in the House this afternoon we heard the worst statement we have yet heard in 18 months of this Bob Rae socialist government in Ontario. This afternoon we heard the Minister of Colleges and Universities and Minister of Skills Development, in answer to a very pertinent, well-expressed question by the member for London North, say that if people want access to the government, "There are ways." I wish I had the Instant Hansard in front of me because there was no question that the way the government was saying they can be organized, they were saying unions.
Hon Gilles Pouliot (Minister of Transportation and minister responsible for francophone affairs): I too very much enjoyed the contribution from the member for York Mills. I know him to be hardworking on behalf of his constituents. I know him to be honest. I know him to be sincere. Some of those qualities, when taken to extremes, bring forth the opinions of what I would have hoped this amiable representative would see as balance. He is so entrenched in his ways. He wishes to be responsible, yet, repeatedly, the Ministry of Transportation, through me, has offered, and it was not something said matter-of-factly but with all the sincerity at our command -- we have made some headway to brief the honourable member so that when he conveys to the people here and, more important, the viewers in Ontario, he would at least have the right information.
I invite him to start from the premise that the cup is always half full, never half empty. When you say the transit system is not doing very well, with respect to you, we are the envy of North America, indeed the envy of the world. This is a system at work and a system that works.
I know the member would not wish to impute motives, but I just wish to set the record straight. In terms of partnership and reciprocity, our door is always open, so it will make two of us well informed on transportation.
Mr Turnbull: I would have done it in the original rotation, but I have to go to the Minister of Transportation after his last statement. I would remind him that the Conservative government built the excellent transit system in Ontario, particularly in Toronto. The minister talks about briefing; I would direct him to his briefing papers, and he would very quickly find that funding for transit under the Liberals dropped like a stone. That's a matter of record.
Surprisingly, immediately before the last election, suddenly there was a grandiose scheme announced where they were going to pump in all kinds of money, money that we really haven't seen, money that wasn't coming out of the traditional sources of funds. It was being raised by a commercial concentration tax, which this government was committed to getting rid of if elected. But like all their election platform, it was a myth. It was completely illusionary. That was then; this is now.
We have a government that is intellectually devoid of any ability to govern. I am amazed they do not recognize the fact that throughout the province not just Tory MPPs but Liberals too are being asked, "Can't we impeach this government? Can't we impeach Bob Rae?" I am amazed at the political naïveté of people, but seriously, people are asking that question, because they are so disgusted with the direction in which this government is taking the province. Unless they address it quickly, our province has a very bleak future.
Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): It is my pleasure to rise today in support of the speech from the throne. I was impressed with the intertwining of compassion and productivity in that speech. I would like to discuss those two essential thrusts and how they are supported within our government's directions.
I come from a riding that is exemplified by impressive social institutions and by the industry that motivates Canada. In fact, the Buick was an Oshawa product; before there was a General Motors, there was a McLaughlin Buick, originally a Canadian car. Like the rest of Ontario, my region is typified by both compassion and productivity. In my riding there are also three fine hospitals, the Whitby General Hospital, the Oshawa General Hospital and the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital. There are excellent services for the elderly, including two homes for the aged and two nursing homes. The region of Durham offers excellent quality family services.
All of these local services are dependent upon our government. Intrinsically, however, they are all dependent upon the strength and productivity of our industrial community. These institutions serve and are served by our local industries. We can depend upon each other. The people and industries of Oshawa and Whitby look after themselves.
Ontario has been blessed with a richness of natural resources and a diversity of talented peoples. We've also met the challenges of our great province and become the industrial heartland of our nation. We've accomplished a great deal as a people and as a province by combining our hard work and our genuine caring for all of our community. We have created a richness virtually unrivalled elsewhere in the world. Our traditions as a province and as a people have created a bountiful fabric in our community through both industry and compassion.
We have huge challenges in front of us. We can see the threats to the benefits and bounty our community has grown accustomed to. These challenges are a continual threat to the preservation of the fine community institutions and programs we have created and rely upon.
The throne speech emphasizes the necessity of combining productivity and caring in a decent and healthy society. This is a very basic combination, essential to progressive, modern communities and implicit in our province's development to the present. The very fact that these basic values need to be restated says something about the challenges we are presently facing.
The connection of caring and productivity defines the health of our community. Were we to focus upon community values to the exclusion of profitability and productivity, our community's resources would stagnate and wither. Similarly, a profit-driven economy with a total indifference to social and community values is a failed economy. There will always be debate in our community and tension in our community between these two values. Regardless, they are essential to each other.
At the turn of the century, Freud defined a healthy individual as one who could both work and love. Freud saw those values both as necessary and as opposite. A healthy individual must be able to be productive and engage in a caring way with others. Similarly, I would suggest that those who are unable to see the community or social contexts of their actions are living shallow and meaningless lives.
There was a bumper sticker a few years ago that proclaimed, "He who dies with the most toys wins." The most toys. How sick, how spiritually and socially barren the adherent to that simplistic slogan must be. Its emphasis is upon death and upon barren accumulation. His self-worth is measured by the possessions he can surround himself with and by accumulating more than others. He might as well say, "He wins who can bear the most cow chips."
Similarly, I've heard of a man who has accumulated 70 pairs of Gucci loafers. Can you imagine this chap spending hours standing in his clothes closet basking in the reflected glory of Italian footwear? Just imagine what kind of a social and personal value he must bring to bear upon his work.
But this absurd collection of luxurious leather is not a mere quirk or anomaly in this man's character. It is in fact emblematic and symptomatic of his person. This man has a very high position in our federal government and directs the very cutbacks that have hobbled our province's ability to fiscally respond to the challenges that his economic policies have brought upon us.
Mr White: Yes, it is indeed sick. As a province we have been the victim of this man and his policies of selfishness and shortsightedness. They have systematically introduced policies that have flown in the face of our nation's history and in fact of the very party he leads. They are based upon an ideology that is foreign to us as Canadians and inimical to us as Ontarians. They profoundly lack the context of caring and productivity that is the cornerstone of our nation's development.
The intent of his group is to gut the programs of the caring and compassion that have always complemented and given meaning to our nation's productivity. They define economic enterprise to the exclusion of social connection. For them, competition is the single and bloody-minded pursuit of wealth. Like the accumulation of toys or shoes, it is the pursuit of wealth without meaning and one which will depend upon a community of disparity.
Over the course of the last few years we have seen the middle class of our nation and our province diminished by the assaults that the federal government has offered us. We have borne the brunt of the federal deficit and the Tory shift from progressive taxation to such regressive burdens as the GST. In social programs there have been gradual, incremental diminutions punctuated by crude blows.
A good example was the national day care program. In good faith the previous provincial government matched the promised moneys, but for half a decade, funding was delayed. Now, finally the federal government has acknowledged that the national day care program is as bankrupt as its social vision. Similarly, they have ended the universality of the family allowance program that we have taken as an integral part of our social fabric for so many years. After chipping away at it for years with clawbacks and no indexation, they now have sliced it away from half of Canadians who have come to rely upon it.
The free trade deal was neither free nor in our interests. The results of that pact have greatly exceeded the very worst predictions of the Pro-Canada Network, which was opposed to that deal. Perhaps we could forgive Mr Mulroney and his partisans thinking that he had gambled and lost. Perhaps we could generously think he believed the deal was in the best interests of Canada. But his subsequent actions show that such forgiveness and generosity would be tragically misplaced.
Mr Mulroney promised there would be help for the workers who were dislocated by free trade. There has been nothing forthcoming; indeed, the federal government has cut back on its participation in training programs. That training and adjustment is essential if our province is to remain a major industrial force. Your government has had to assume responsibility for the damages created by their actions.
We also see their selfishness and shortsightedness in their cutbacks to essential social programs. The cost of health care, education, universities and social supports have been increasingly delegated to the provinces, particularly to the province of Ontario. As we know, this will cost our government up to $10 billion by the end of the coming fiscal year.
Despite the fervency and currency of this ideology of greed, it is as profoundly foreign to our business community as it is to our entire community. It's been my pleasure throughout my life and throughout my experience as an MPP to know a whole range of people in my community. Most of the business people I know are genuinely civic-minded. Many participate on health care boards and in social and community agencies. They share profound concerns about threats to our environmental safety. Like all of us, they grumble about taxes and government inefficiencies. On the other hand, I have run into very few who engage in simplistic billboard capitalism. Like other community members, business people know that we are all in this together and together we must find solutions.
Last weekend I participated in a forum in Oshawa that was driven primarily by local business groups and was designed to find solutions to the dilemma our community is faced with. These were people who were profoundly committed to working together with labour and government in wresting hope from the jaws of difficulty. These were people who could see our common context and the need to ensure a caring and productive community.
The throne speech emphasizes our willingness to work together with such groups towards an economic recovery and a prosperity that will benefit all our province. I am thankful that our province is typified by such community-minded leadership and not by jingoistic or simplistic solutions to our problems. Indeed, such problems invite those simplistic solutions, but they have only come forth from a very small number.
I feel sure that, group by group and region by region, we'll be able to move forward. When our economy falters, those with the least suffer the most. They are the ones who will most likely suffer unemployment and the tremendous blow that offers to our sense of who we are.
In our civilization we are measured by what we do and what we can accomplish. To be unemployed casts women and men in a predicament where they no longer can feel they're participating in the mainstream of our community life. They feel that they are no longer full citizens. They start to see themselves as outsiders, as an underclass in their own homes and their own neighbourhoods.
Family life suffers as depression and avoidance and denial of the central fact of their lives take over. Many families break up as teenagers prematurely move away from an increasingly difficult home life or as couples collapse under the strain of not being able to carry the extra burden this loss has meant for them. Some families manage and even adaptively respond, but few are spared the damage that impoverishment and meaninglessness convey.
As a marriage and family therapist I well remember the differences between well-resourced families and those families who were disadvantaged. After a few sessions I was usually able to see the well-off overcome their difficulties and get past the stuck point in their lives. The disadvantaged were so burdened with the constant stresses of just managing that they couldn't focus for more than a few minutes on the problems within their marriages. They usually needed much more than I could provide. The situations required more than counselling alone. Together we did some things and recognized how much was left, how much was the wound that their disadvantages had left them.
My constituency office has organized several meetings with unemployed workers in my community. The plight of those people is incredible. Job-searching is now a high-tech skill. Where earlier one sent applications or made contact with only a few selected employers, now an entry-level position is the target of hundreds of applications. These workers are now skilled at getting through numerous hoops and barriers just to get to personnel managers. Older workers are now facing the uncertainties that earlier only those in their teens and early twenties had to face.
The unemployed do not want social assistance and welfare. It is not the answer to their problems. The long-term answer is secure and meaningful employment. On the other hand, while they're making the transition back to full employment they do need our support. In the best of times many of these families can struggle through and manage. In times like these, I am proud we have a government that will not abandon those among us who have been most cruelly hurt.
The throne speech emphasizes the primacy of getting our province back to work and back on track. The Ontario Training and Adjustment Board initiative should be a real boost both to displaced workers and to those who need to update their current job skills. This coordinated thrust should be a major step in regaining our industrial leadership. We'll be securing new sources of investment capital and enabling new ventures by cutting the red tape of government.
At the same time we'll continue to move forward with several thrusts toward fairness. The Ontario Labour Relations Act will be transformed for the first time in 15 years to bring it into line with the realities of the 1990s. There are now more women and part-time workers than ever in the workforce, and more service jobs. We've heard from billboard capitalists that Ontario cannot afford to extend labour rights to women and part-time workers. We've heard that these workers can wait and that their time and their right to choose should be delayed until better times.
My community has had a history of organizing in bad times. In 1934, in the midst of the Depression, the auto workers of Oshawa established their right to dignity and their union. The government of the day, a Liberal government, bitterly opposed them. They dispatched a gang of vigilantes, Hepburn's Hussars, against those workers. Funnily enough, General Motors didn't suffer and didn't crack under the weight of this union in the midst of the Depression, nor do I think that fairness and dignity will so severely affect industries now.
The inherent fairness of pay equity will be extended to a further 400,000 women who were left out of the original legislation. Employment equity legislation will ensure that the talents and abilities of all our people are being utilized. We will not abandon our commitments to fairness or to maintaining our essential public services. Yes, we have taken on challenges of managing them better, but that doesn't mean they will be any less effective or any less important to the students, the ill and the elderly in our province.
In my community these services are important. They are what gives our industry and our productivity context and meaning. I believe the people of Ontario count upon us to succeed in this endeavour to surmount the huge economic challenges the present recession has thrust upon us without abandoning a context of decency and fairness. I believe that in doing so we'll be meeting the historic combination of industry and compassion that has typified our great province.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the throne debate. I was under the impression that I would be doing so some time earlier in the year. I was just talking to a man by the name of Bruce Williamson and a man by the name of Vince Dougall the other day, and both said to me how surprised they were that the government of Ontario had not had the House reconvene in February or March of this year. Normally under the parliamentary calendar the House would have come back on March 8 or 9 of this year. That was postponed, because of the government House leader insisting upon it, to March 23, and then of course postponed one more time to April 6.
I think there are many people in Ontario who believe their members of the Legislature should be hard at work here in the Legislative Assembly, dealing with the problems that confront the province. I thought I would have had this opportunity a month and a half or two months ago, to be able to deal with a speech from the throne, which is an outline of government policies.
I want to dwell on a number of items, members will be pleased to know. One of the items you won't be surprised to know I want to deal with is the automotive industry. Members of the Legislature will recall that during the fall session and the previous spring session of the Ontario Legislature I asked a number of questions about the automotive industry and I expressed several concerns through those questions and through speeches in this House.
I directed the questions to the Premier, for instance, and to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, the Treasurer and the Minister of Labour. I expressed, although I was hoping I would not be a prophet at the time, grave concern about the General Motors operation in St Catharines. Specifically I can recall, and Hansard will have recorded this, that I raised the issue of the future of the foundry and the engine plant in St Catharines during my questions to the Premier, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology and the Treasurer.
There was a lot of concern magnified in December 1991 when Mr Stempel, who is the president of General Motors, announced that some 74,000 jobs would be eliminated from the North American operation of General Motors. We heard an announcement made on a fateful day in late February in St Catharines and in other places around North America that about 14,000 of those jobs were going to be eliminated at specific places.
I think what concerns many of us who represent the Niagara Peninsula and other areas which are noted for the production of automobiles, particularly those which are General Motors operations, is that there are 60,000 more jobs to be eliminated worldwide if one is to take the word of the president of General Motors into consideration and say that is an accurate estimate of the reduction of the workforce.
The concern I have rests of course with the general state of the economy that exists in North America and around the world at this time. We essentially have three levels of government that can be of assistance or can be a detriment, and the decision-making process of General Motors as it relates to its future operations. Because of laws we have in Ontario, the municipalities really have a minor effect on this, although keeping their tax rate at what industry considers to be a reasonable rate is one of the tools they can use. They cannot grant special concessions as they can in many places in the United States.
The municipal level of government, whether it approves the direct purchase of hydro-electric power or of electric power from Ontario Hydro, or whether it keeps its taxes down or whether it's just a community that opens its doors to industry and to business, can have at least some effect.
The two other levels of government, however, have a more substantial effect on the decision-making process of General Motors and other companies. The federal government, for instance, is responsible overall for the economy of Canada.
I noticed a rather interesting presentation which was made. It was a guest column written in the Financial Post on Thursday, March 19, 1992, by Jim Peterson, the MP for Willowdale who is the federal Liberal Industry critic. I thought it contained some rather interesting information that I wish everybody in Ontario, and indeed everyone in Canada, would be aware of.
"Our automotive sector flourished under the 1965 auto pact provisions for 'managed trade' by assuring Canada a fair share of North American auto jobs. Its 'safeguard' provisions required US automakers to meet Canadian production and value added targets. To sell a car duty-free into Canada, a car or its equivalent had to be produced in Canada, thus guaranteeing Canadian jobs.
"Unfortunately, our Canada-US free trade agreement negotiators wiped out the auto pact safeguards by eliminating the tariffs that enforced them. When our 9.2% tariff on autos is fully eliminated in 1998, the Big Three can shift all their assembly to the US, buy no parts from Canada and, as long as the cars have 50% North American content, can sell them duty-free into Canada."
Mr Peterson goes on to say: "Under the free trade agreement, Canada gave up the duty remission programs it used to attract Japanese and other foreign auto assemblers to Canada in the first place. Now it is clear that our secure access to the US market promised under the agreement is just one more broken commitment.
"In the three years under the agreement, 27,213 or 21% of Canada's auto jobs have been lost, while the US has lost only 9%. With our auto job losses at 2 1/8 times" -- or 2 1/3 times -- "the US rate, the recession cannot be the sole culprit, nor is it simply a case of US 'harassment.' Much of the blame must fall on the free trade agreement, which eliminated the auto pact safeguards, has inadequate content rules and has no binding arbitration for content disputes.
"One answer to the agreement's shortcomings is renegotiation, failing which Canada could give six months' notice of termination. Another is trilateral renegotiation through a future North American free trade agreement.
"It is difficult to predict the US reaction to our need for changes when 80% of our exports go to the US. But it is critical these contingencies be worked out in advance to ensure that divorce wouldn't be worse than our marriage.
"Whichever course is chosen, it is clear that changes to the Canada-US free trade agreement are critical to Canada. Amendments should follow the recommendations of the Liberal Party task force on de-industrialization and economic renewal, which called for changes to ensure Canadian jobs, content and value added in our automotive sector:
"1. North American content: The 50% North American content rule under the agreement should be increased to 75% to ensure that duty-free status is accorded to only those manufacturers who create jobs and significant value added in North America.
"Goods imported into Canada to be incorporated or transformed into other products should be considered North American only to the extent of true domestic content: A 'substantial transformation' of imported goods should not, as at present, result in a 'rollup' of value to 100% domestic content.
"Detroit and the Japanese propose no national content rules, leaving them free to re-establish anywhere in North America. The CAW seeks 65% Canadian content and our auto parts manufacturers' association wants 50%.
"Canada's 9.2% tariff has proven inadequate to date. Thirty-seven per cent of our market has been taken over by non-American producers such as the Japanese and Germans, but they account for only 3% of our auto jobs.
"Consumers and foreign manufacturers will naturally complain if car imports are restricted, arguing that protectionism is wrong. It may be wrong, but it is what our competitors do. The European Community is now debating whether it will allow 15% or 17% of foreign car penetration by the year 2000. Foreign cars account for only 3% of the Japanese market.
"Foreigners should either produce their fair share in Canada or have their share of our market restricted to at least the European Community's limit of 15% to 17%. In conclusion, renegotiation is critical to undo the harm of the free trade agreement and ensure Canada a fair share of auto jobs. Canada must not sign any new deal that does not meet these minimal standards."
This was written in the Financial Post under the "Comment and Opinion" headline in the Thursday, March 19, 1992, edition. As I said, it was written by Jim Peterson, who is the federal MP for Willowdale and the federal Liberal Industry.
That represents some good suggestions, I think, within the realm of the federal government, but we in this Legislature must deal with matters which are under provincial jurisdiction and I want to offer a few suggestions about what we might do in Ontario.
Members would know, particularly those who have experienced this in their own constituencies, that the loss of a substantial number of jobs is a major shock to a community. In fact, the announcement that really meant 3,000 jobs disappearing from General Motors in St Catharines was somewhat devastating to our community. We have a lot of resiliency and we have people who are prepared to work hard to bring in new industry or to encourage the present industry to stay there, but nevertheless on that fateful day in February when the announcement was made there was a good deal of shock and dismay, and surprise, frankly, for many in the city of St Catharines.
The announcement that was made was first of all -- and this was a previous announcement -- that some 750 employees would be laid off indefinitely. That's often translated into permanently when one looks at the statistics of indefinite layoffs in many of the industries. So as of March 1, those 750 people are out of a job and they're facing that critical situation at the present time, not at some time in the future.
The announcement that was made by Mr Stempel in Detroit indicated that the foundry would be closing by 1995 in St Catharines. This is a foundry which is considered to be among the best in North America. Certainly, if you were to ask those who were employed in the foundry and those who are knowledgeable about it, they would tell you that, first of all, the plant operation itself is extremely efficient, and second, the workforce is extremely efficient. So there were many in the operation in St Catharines who were very surprised that General Motors would make a decision to close this particular operation and thereby put in excess of 2,000 people out of work.
Those three pieces of bad news add up to over 3,000 jobs being lost to the city of St Catharines. You can imagine the effect on our community, but this represents not simply statistics. All of us know that who have to deal with people on a daily basis. We're not talking about numbers here; we're talking about our friends, our neighbours, our relatives, people we know in the community. In my case, having been a teacher and a coach in various sports, some of those people are directly affected, people I saw go through the education system and those I saw on the playing field or on the ice. Those are people who are now growing up and having their own families and building their own lives and have had their hopes dashed by this particular announcement that there would be these permanent layoffs and this loss of jobs in St Catharines.
The spinoff in the community is also something to be considered, because there are those directly affected by this job loss, by this discontinuation of the engine plant line and by the closing of the foundry in St Catharines and by the indefinite 750 layoffs, but there are also others who supply the industry, who supply both products to the industry itself and supplies to those who work in that industry, and those people are going to be directly affected by this particular announcement.
In addition to that, the plant becomes almost naturally less competitive in terms of the price it can produce its products for, because with the foundry in St Catharines producing products for St Catharines' operation, we had, first of all, a very efficient plant there and, second, a good price. If those products that were produced in the foundry, those moulds, have to be brought in from elsewhere, first of all, we cannot guarantee they will be as high a quality and, second, we cannot guarantee that the price will be as high. So we recognize the full ramifications of this when we examine the statements that are made by various people.
I had an opportunity to have Ron Davis, who is the president of Local 199 of the CAW in St Catharines, on my cable television show. Christel Haeck, who represents the riding of St Catharines-Brock, had the vice-president, Gabe MacNally, on her program. Both of these individuals had a chance to explain to the people who watch cable television in the St Catharines area and the area that immediately surrounds it the ramifications for the plant.
One of the things that will be difficult and a challenge for everybody is to maintain the interest and maintain the quality of product when people know their jobs are being lost. There's a bumping system, of course, that relates to seniority in our area, and it means that people will be taken from one job and placed in another job. So we have a major problem existing in the automotive industry.
I have, upon the announcement being made and previous to that, indicated what I think may be helpful from the point of view of the Ontario government in terms of its possibility in dealing with this issue. I think the Ontario government has a chance to be a positive factor rather than a negative factor in the decision-making process of General Motors. I wrote several letters to various ministers to request their assistance -- the Premier himself, the Treasurer, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology, the ministers of Labour, Community and Social Services, Colleges and Universities and Skills Development, the Chairman of Management Board, the Minister of the Environment even and the Minister of Energy -- and suggesting what they could do to help the Niagara Peninsula in terms of job creation in that area with this particular news.
I think what has to be done in terms of provincial responsibility is that we must remove those impediments to investment in Ontario or those impediments to car purchases in Ontario. The first thing that has to be removed is what I refer to as the tax on auto workers or the so-called gas guzzler tax, a tax which has caused great anxiety among those in the business. We've had letters from General Motors and others who have expressed concern about this tax. It has been portrayed, I think wrongly, as an environmental tax, because essentially it's a tax grab. It's an opportunity for the provincial government to get revenues. I wish they would not disguise it as something other than that.
Certainly over the years there have been other governments, at both the provincial and the federal level, that have followed the same tack, but I think the concern about this particular tax is magnified by the circumstances facing Ontario. Here we are in the midst of the deepest recession since the 1930s, here we are at a time when the automotive industry is facing unprecedented competition, and the provincial government is expanding and increasing the tax on automobiles sold in this province.
Auto parts manufacturers are every bit as concerned as assemblers, because in the St Catharines operation, for instance, and in other operations, we produce parts for plants other than those in Ontario. All of us are affected by vehicles which are sold in by General Motors and by others, so it is understandable there are those concerns.
I have in the past quoted statements in the House from representatives of Local 199 of the Canadian Auto Workers in St Catharines. They have been united in their stand against this particular tax, which they feel is detrimental to the automotive industry. So we have industry complaining about it, we have those who represent the workers in that industry complaining about it, and I think there is a better way the government can deal with it.
There is an ominous cloud on the horizon, and that is the NDP Fair Tax Commission. There has been a report from the NDP tax commission that this tax should be expanded and increased even more than was contemplated in the last budget by the provincial Treasurer.
I believe the most effective and immediate way to improve air quality in this province and fuel efficiency in the automotive business is to encourage Ontario residents to replace their older, fuel-inefficient vehicles with new vehicles that are much more fuel-efficient and have better pollution control equipment on them. If you wanted to make a dramatic step in favour of the environment, that's what you would do. Second, you would also have the effect of stimulating the automotive industry in Ontario and helping us economically.
I notice that a foreign producer of a vehicle in Canada put out an advertisement in the St Catharines Standard that said: "If I buy this vehicle, Elvis will pop by for lunch," or, second, "If I buy this vehicle, the sun will rise in the west," or, third, "If I buy this vehicle, the government will give me money." It does in fact say the Ontario government will give you a $100 credit for buying this foreign vehicle. That is just one of the ramifications of this tax, and that is why I hope the Treasurer will remove the tax on auto workers and replace it with financial incentives which will encourage people in Ontario to purchase new cars.
The second thing I think can be done is that they can remove the 8% provincial sales tax from automobiles in Ontario for at least a temporary period of time to stimulate the economy. The Treasurer will say he can't remove it for ever because it would cost the Treasury too much, but he can remove it for six months, nine months or a year to really stimulate auto sales and get things moving in the province once again.
A third thing we can do in this province is try to keep our electric power rates competitive with other jurisdictions'. There are those in the industry who have suggested that we will have no foundries, no electroplating operations and no forge shops left in the province by the end of this century -- and that is only eight years -- if our rates continue to increase the way they are.
Some of those rate increases are unavoidable. If it's a reflection of the costs of producing electrical power, that's the way it is, but when the government places new social costs on the electric power rate, then we see it rising more than it should and it makes us uncompetitive. So that's a third way which I believe the government of Ontario can be helpful in terms of the future of General Motors in Ontario.
I think we can undertake a program to encourage people to buy Canadian-made products. I have all my life, since I was a young person, purchased General Motors cars. I'm not saying everybody else has to do so; that's their own business. But I remember the slogan that was on bumper stickers on many cars and said something along the lines of, "Buy the car your neighbours helped to build." I've always felt as a member of my community that I had an obligation to do that, but I don't impose that on anyone else. I think it's useful. Just as with food products we encourage people to give fair consideration to the products we produce, we could do the same in terms of automobile sales.
There are many items I could talk about that affect my city of St Catharines and affect the province of Ontario. We are limited in this Legislature because many have to have the opportunity to speak on the number of items that we can raise.
I can say that the automotive industry is exceedingly important to my community and exceedingly important to the Niagara region and very important to the province and to the country. If we look at the ramifications of the dismantling of the automotive industry or a diminishing of the automotive industry, we will see that it affects members from virtually all of Ontario, whether it's in northern Ontario where there are extraction industries and metal-processing industries or whether it is Hamilton or Sault Ste Marie where there are steel industries or plastics industries or any of the products that go into a car.
So I urge this government to do everything within its field of responsibility to make Ontario a good place to invest, to make General Motors and other companies feel welcome and indeed to encourage General Motors to reverse its decision to close its foundry in St Catharines and discontinue the one line of the engine plant to which I have made reference.
If we do not do that, there will be many disappointed people and many dismayed people in this province. It's going to take a team effort in our community, and we have it. The members of the Legislature and the federal Parliament are united in their commitment, the members of the local level of government are concerned and wanting to do something about the situation, and representatives of labour and business are determined to fight back to retain the automotive industry in our community and our province.
I welcome the opportunity to talk about this issue. I wish I could go on to a number of other issues I have dealt with over the period in this House, but in fairness to others, I want to be able to give them an opportunity to contribute their ideas and suggestions as well.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): Very briefly, I want to congratulate the member, because I think that's one of the more thoughtful speeches we've heard in this House dealing with issues of direct concern. If you think back, earlier in the speech he talked about some of the people he's coached and taught and worked with in the community and how they're attempting to start their own families and enjoy their own lives and the real difficulty they're experiencing.
I thought the member had really struck a chord, because perhaps too often we simply get up and talk in partisan tones in this place, I guess at times understandably, without recognizing that we should be talking more in people tones. I thought he was very thoughtful in talking about the hardship the people in his community have been facing as a result of the cutbacks and the job losses.
I also thought he gave some very good, clear-cut examples. In fact, earlier in the House, the Minister of Transportation, in referring to one of the other speakers, shouted out, "Give examples." Well, I think you have now heard some examples from the member for St Catharines, examples that this government should study and could study in a non-partisan way. If they really did feel they had some merit, they could perhaps look at them.
I think he highlighted the real concern we all have as legislators, and perhaps it's because at times we see a less than adequate response from the government side or we see a throne speech that talks in platitudes and wonderful generalities without getting down to the kind of detail this member has put forward, without talking in terms of the impact on people. Perhaps that anger that rises up in all of us leads to the partisan debate we hear in this House, but I think this member has risen above that and I congratulate him.
Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): I listened very carefully to the deliberations of the member for St Catharines, and I've got to say it was interesting for him to speak about the costs of hydro and how that will impact on industry in his community. I've got to say too that in my community there is a plant, a Goodyear tire plant, that has brought this concern to my attention. It is certainly something of an issue that will cause considerable concern, knowing that in order to be competitive, inexpensive energy is certainly important.
I would like to ask the member for St Catharines what he proposes the Ontario government do to reduce the cost of hydro to industry in Ontario. I ask him very directly: Does the government subsidize it? I think it's a difficult decision this government has to grapple with. For years we've declared that Ontario hydro was at cost, when in fact that was not at all true. What happened was that it had been subsidized in many ways over the years. I think that as a result of this, we now find it's no longer viable to subsidize Ontario Hydro, yet we find ourselves facing markedly increased costs for Ontario Hydro as we remove those subsidies and bring the real cost for Ontario Hydro forward to the public. I think that is something that has to be recognized.
Mr Bradley: First of all, I appreciate the remarks of a complimentary nature from the member for Mississauga West. Certainly he and I have agreed on many occasions on the need to stimulate the economy in the province by making Ontario a good place to invest.
The last intervention, by my friend from the New Democratic Party, was one which I think is a significant question, and that is the issue of the pricing of electric power in Ontario. One of the initiatives taking place with the present government and the previous government is the initiative to deal with conservation in the province. That is an enviable goal and I think that is something that should be pursued. I have said quite publicly on a number of occasions that I am pleased to see that the present government has carried on the last government's initiative and has built upon and expanded the last government's initiative in terms of energy conservation.
The point I would make in terms of limiting electrical power costs is to not place social costs on them. If a government wishes to bail out a community -- and there are quite obviously a lot of people who would want to see that happen, particularly when their community is directly affected, communities such as Kapuskasing and Elliot Lake -- a government does have the opportunity through its fiscal policies to do so, up front and aboveboard. I think that's how government should deal with that issue, and not have that reflected in an electric power rate. My concern is that in terms of attracting industry and keeping industry, they're looking at two things in that field. One is an assured supply well into the future when the economy rebounds -- I hope it does and I'm confident it will in the future -- and second, a price which reflects the costs of producing the power and not some social costs that are placed on top.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I'm very pleased to rise this afternoon and speak to the issue of the government's throne speech which was delivered in this chamber on April 6. I think the throne speech is an opportunity every time the session resumes for the government --
The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): Order, please. I am just told by the Clerk that it appears you have already participated in the throne speech debate. Could we check the record, please? You're only allowed once.
Looking through this throne speech I think may be a good way to start. I want to make some brief general comments at the start and talk about how the throne speech affects my riding and the response I have received from my constituents with respect to it, and then get into some of the areas I'm responsible for on behalf of my caucus, the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, and talk about where this throne speech affects that responsibility.
The throne speech continued very much what the government has been doing since day one, I think. It wasn't really a departure in any way from the path that was started on in October 1990 with the first throne speech. I think that's quite obvious.
But I sense out in my community and abroad, across the country, I think, a real cynicism about the political process, about politicians, about parties, about the political institutions. I think the government has to be cognizant of that problem every single day and hopefully make efforts to try and work against that to show that there is no reason to be sceptical and cynical, that we are in fact here trying to do our best on behalf of our constituents and so forth. I think that's essential. It's a prerequisite for us solving any of the problems that exist outside this building. We've got to have credibility. We've got to have the respect of the people.
This throne speech would've been a good opportunity for the government to work towards showing the people the government is here to help them and look after them and do the very best job it can. I know in the past the leader of the government, the Premier, while he was opposition leader, many, many times criticized throne speeches for being too vague, too vacuous, and of course we have had a tradition of rather vague throne speeches. He could've made a more specific throne speech and I think he should've, but if we go through some of the highlights of the throne speech as I see them, I think in some ways it was a good presentation of the government's views.
Certainly I disagree with many of the views they hold, but if you get into the throne speech, we've heard many times from the government that it's not going to point fingers any more. You only have to go to page 3 to find that all the problems in Canada and in Ontario are as a result of the federal government. Here you see finger-pointing, right off the bat essentially. There is very little capacity on behalf of the government to recognize that it has responsibility, that it is in government, that there are certain things it can do, that it has the power to do, within its own level of jurisdiction. We see complaints and blame being assessed at the federal government once again. That is not a productive approach, as far as I'm concerned, and it concerns me greatly.
Later on there is talk about investment in business. It talks about government investing in business, and there are a few examples of, I think, a dozen companies that are actually being successful in this difficult economy. I wonder, if they could only find 12. I don't know who they put in and who they left out, but it concerns me, and it is very unusual, that 12 companies would be pointed out as being success stories, because the obvious conclusion a person might draw is, are there only 12 companies that are being successful in this current economic climate and under this government? I think that's a conclusion I certainly drew.
We get on later in the throne speech to something I thought was quite positive. I'm pleased that the government mentioned Ontario's agricultural community, because I think it's been an issue many in this House have continued to advocate to try and get agriculture on the government's agenda. We've been continuing to press for that and I'm pleased to see that there is mention in the throne speech of agricultural issues.
Unfortunately there wasn't a new program. There was a restatement of a program that the Minister of Agriculture and Food announced, I think, two or three weeks ago, the commodity loan guarantee program, which you, Mr Speaker, in your capacity as our party's Agriculture and Food critic, have had some involvement in.
Later on we get into investing in infrastructure. We see a restatement of the government's suggestion that there should be a national infrastructure program, if only the feds would cough up half the money. We still haven't seen a knowledge on behalf of the government that the federal government has been running successive deficits in excess of $30 billion for about the last seven or eight years and that the federal government is broke. Really, they don't have that much more capacity to borrow. Obviously the government hasn't learned that lesson because it's taking us down that very road.
They talk about the Ontario investment fund. I think that when you look at their ideas with respect to the Ontario investment fund, where they're saying is, "We'll take money, on a voluntary basis, from public sector pension funds and we'll invest that into sinkholes, into businesses and so forth that can't get money anywhere else because they're bad risks, because they're bankrupt, not a good investment, or a bad risk, because the banks won't touch them and venture capitalists won't touch them." No one will touch them, but the government, through voluntary pension funds, will.
Most of the people I know who count on their pensions for their retirement years hope very much that those moneys will be there. They hope those moneys will be invested very conservatively so that they have assurance that money will be there when they need it. If the government is going to voluntarily take that money -- I say "voluntarily" with a bit of facetiousness because, once the government gets set up with this system, I fear very much that the voluntary aspect of the program will be gone very quickly, because of the desire of this government to get its hands on whatever money it can.
Later on we hear that municipalities will be given increased flexibility to borrow and invest. There we see, once again, a government that's essentially fiscally bankrupt and now wants the municipal level of government to join it. I have very serious concerns about that. For many years the municipal level of government has been the most fiscally sound administrator of the public purse. If we're encouraging municipalities and school boards to go into debt to pay for what we, in our voracious appetite for programs, want today by bankrupting tomorrow, then I have very serious concerns about that.
We get on to streamlining regulations. I commend the government in its efforts to try and streamline the regulations we presently have, which projects have to undergo. Frankly I don't see that their idea of increasing the resources of the Ontario Municipal Board is likely the best way to do it, though. I think they should look at all the regulations and streamline whatever they can, but I don't think increasing the bureaucracy is the best way to go about it.
There's one other point I want to make with respect to this. I was pleased that the city of Guelph and its hospital were mentioned, very pleased that the government has indicated it approves of the health care model that has been developed in Guelph. Unfortunately, once again there was no commitment that the money will be forthcoming, but I certainly urge the government to make an announcement with respect to solid money going to that hospital as soon as possible. I was pleased with that.
When we talk about the most important thing this government could have done with this throne speech, as I said earlier, it could have addressed the problem of public cynicism. I don't think this does that. But the second thing they should have done with this throne speech was make an effort to restore confidence in our economy, consumer confidence as well as workers' confidence that they are going to have a job tomorrow. Right now many people, consumers and workers, are very concerned that their jobs may not be there next week, so they don't spend on anything but absolute essentials for their household. Our economy is suffering greatly as a result of that.
This government could've come forward with a throne speech that would signal confidence, but it hasn't done that. They've continued along the road they set for us in the throne speech of October 1990. In many ways they've admitted that the private sector is not going to be assisted in any way by this government. That signal is going to be very damaging for the economy over time.
When I look at this throne speech and how it affects my constituents, and I listen to the response I have received from my constituents with respect to this throne speech, I believe my constituents by and large -- the ones I have spoken to certainly -- are very disappointed.
Job creation is the most important issue today in Ontario. This government should be putting forward policies that will create jobs. Most of us in this House agree on that. Where we diverge in our opinion is how that can best be brought about. The government talks about its infrastructure program and sees that as a good way of creating jobs. I think they'd like to expand the civil service. I am sure they would, and they could hire more people in that way, but those policies will not lead to long-term job creation.
We need to recognize that certain policies, such as the ones advocated by our PC caucus, would in fact create private sector jobs over the long term. The people in my riding have a very serious concern about the lack in this throne speech of job creation initiatives that will work.
Health care is a very important issue in my riding, as I talked about the Guelph General Hospital issue. Many people in my riding, especially the seniors, are very concerned that the health care they're accustomed to and that has been available to them in the past when they needed it may not be there. They are very seriously worried about the lack of resources this government is putting towards the health care system.
During question period and so forth in the House, we've talked about the random service cuts, and it appears the government has taken quite a hard line with respect to its transfers to hospitals. It has left the difficult job of trying to ascertain which programs are going to be cut -- making the hospitals actually prioritize their services. What's happening is that some important services are being cut, so I think we have to recognize that fact. I think we've got to be very seriously worried about the people out there who rely on the health care system and who genuinely fear it may not be there when they need it.
Policing is a very important issue in my riding. Unfortunately, this government doesn't appear to sense the importance of that issue. We have a difficult economy. Crime is up, but resources going to the police and the OPP are down. They're not keeping pace. We have excellent OPP officers in my riding, but unfortunately the government doesn't see fit to give us enough of them. The OPP officers are overworked, they feel under considerable stress and the government is going to have to address that issue very soon or we're going to have even worse problems, as far as I am concerned.
The education issue is very important in my riding. I am pleased the Minister of Education is here this afternoon, because the whole issue of mandating enforced programs on school boards is very important in my riding. We have a minister insisting that we have junior kindergarten by 1994, and there's a very serious concern about junior kindergarten. There is a concern that we can't afford it and we don't need it.
I would call upon the minister to be as flexible as he possibly can with respect to the alternatives the school board in my area is bringing forward in a sincere effort to work with him, but we can't afford junior kindergarten and I hope the minister's aware of that. As well, I still think it's a very questionable basis upon which the government thinks it would be an improvement in our system.
The minister announced in a cursory way his industrial strategy and I gather there's more to come. I certainly hope there's more to come, because in the announcement by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology on the industrial strategy -- rather vague, just like the throne speech in many ways -- he goes through six or seven key points he believes deserve encouragement and special attention.
He talks about innovation. I certainly agree that we need to encourage our industry to undergo constant innovation so that we strive for excellence and are able to compete in global markets. There seems to be an understanding, which I think the government's come a considerable distance in understanding, that we have to compete in the global marketplace. I think they understand that, but they haven't made the next step, which is how we solve some of the structural problems in our economy so we can compete in the global marketplace. When they talk about encouraging innovation, I see that as a positive point.
They talk about encouraging skills, but they don't talk about it in this strategy but the OTAB, the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board issue. We see how they intend to encourage skills: Our party has a great number of concerns about that particular issue, because what they want to do is give more power to the trade unions once again. Labour forces people who don't want to be members of unions, or workplaces that aren't unionized, for whatever reason -- I fear they're going to be left out in the cold, and I think that's the opinion they're bringing forward.
Technological capability is certainly very important, as the minister has indicated. We have to expand our technological capability. He talks about the centres of excellence program, but doesn't mention that it was actually the Liberal government that brought that forward.
He talks about the home-based advantage and home-based companies. A lot of this is platitudes and it's difficult to speak against it. But I get to point 5 in the minister's industrial strategy: encouraging clusters. "Clusters are groups of companies that are linked through shared customers, suppliers, workforce, skills or common technology. They are often located in the same geographic area." So what he's saying is, "Industry that's located in a geographical cluster or immediately adjacent to each other is the sort of thing we're going to encourage."
I have great reservations about that because I'm a firm advocate of rural industrial growth, and I fear this means -- I hope I'm wrong -- the government is taking the view that most of the new industrial growth should be encouraged and should take place in the greater Toronto area. We're looking at a policy that encourages growth in only one area of the province, an area that is already taxed to the hilt with respect to the municipal services that are available. We've got a terrible traffic congestion problem in the city. We can't service what we've got. I'm a firm believer in encouraging growth outside the city, so as I say, I have very serious concerns about that announcement by the government.
In the industrial strategy, the government has come some way. It recognizes some of the problems we have with respect to being able to compete, but it has not yet offered any solutions, and I would encourage it to look to our party for those solutions.
Many people wonder what we do as members when the House is not sitting. One of the things I tried to undertake in my riding over the holiday was a survey of small businesses. I went around on the main streets of towns like Fergus, Erin, Arthur and Mount Forest and talked to small business people face to face. In many ways, I learned a lot. I learned their concerns. We have to be careful that we don't just look at our mail and assume that's the only thing that's happening out there.
For that reason I undertook this survey. I received probably about 250 responses and I'd like to share with the House some of the responses from these small business people in my riding, the entrepreneurs who create jobs, who are our only hope if we're going to get out of this recession. I would like to share with the House what they think of this government.
One comment: "The government cannot keep raising taxes and the minimum wage to pay for their mistakes. As a small business, like many others I cut back on the hours of employees to compensate." That's their response.
"We are overgoverned and overtaxed. As owners, we deeply resent being forced to work 16-hour days, six to seven days a week, to pay for a raised minimum wage and other labour laws. We resent not benefiting from those programs which we are forced to pay for. We are mad as hell and won't take it much longer."
I could go on and on. I've got hundreds of these and I hope to continue to share these views of the small business people, the people who are creating jobs in my riding, or would like to if they could see an expression of confidence from this government. As I say, I would like to share these with the House on a more or less ongoing basis from time to time.
I've made a number of suggestions to the government to try to encourage job creation in my riding and in rural Ontario generally. I put them forward from time to time, whenever I can think of something that the government is not doing. What I've called for many times over the past little while -- and I will restate this, because I think the government has taken a couple of steps on some of them and there's more it could do on others -- is greater assistance to farmers, because in a rural riding a prosperous farmer will spend his or her money in town. I'm sure the parliamentary assistant over there would agree with me that trying to encourage the farmers to be more prosperous has considerable economic benefits and spinoffs in the small towns in our province.
I've called upon the government to form an all-party committee on small business to review all the regulations and legislation which affect small business. I did this some time ago. The Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology responded by forming a small-business committee exclusively composed of NDP members. I had hoped for an all-party committee, because the NDP members they have selected perhaps have a different view and perhaps do not have the experience. If members from all sides of the House were included, I think that would be a much better approach to the problem. I hope the government will indeed take me up on that.
I called upon the Premier to expand his Premier's Council on Economic Renewal by assigning within it a task force on rural industrial development. In rural Ontario we can offer a great deal to prospective industries wishing to locate somewhere. We have a very reliable labour force. We have land that's generally available at a less expensive rate than what might be found in the city and we have infrastructure and services in many instances that are just waiting to go. I've actually received a response from the Premier that he is considering it, and I hope he will follow through on that.
I've called for improvements to Highway 6. I hope the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Transportation is listening and that he will indeed use his influence to get this government to put improvements to Highway 6, which bisects my riding north-south and is our most important corridor to the 401. It is an important issue with respect to economic development. I hope the government will respond to putting in those passing lanes that we need so badly.
Fifth, and many members of the opposition have called upon the government to do this and I have been pleased to be one of them, I call upon the government to shelve its labour law reform proposal. This is easily the most damaging issue that has been raised by this government and it is hurting our economy today. The government members come back with all sorts of arguments. They say a number of different things to try to refute what the opposition has been saying and what the business community and many workers say who are concerned about their jobs.
The reality is, and I think we all know this, that there is a perception that this government is anti-business. You can deny that you're anti-business and that's fine, but the reality is that the perception is the opposite. If you want to be perceived as not being anti-business, you have to take steps to show that you're not. You haven't done that as of yet. We're still waiting for it and I hope we will see it.
When we get into the issue of tourism and recreation, which I am pleased to look after on behalf of my party, we've seen very difficult times for our tourism industry. We've seen a government that hasn't really acknowledged or addressed any of the problems that have been faced by the industry. Many of them are a direct result of government action, high taxes, and we see this really having a negative impact on our tourism sector.
Many small businesses are experiencing very difficult times economically, but I think our tourism sector is probably getting the worst of it. They're a very important sector of our economy and we often forget that. There's a Minister of Tourism and Recreation, but I don't sense that he's getting through to his cabinet colleagues. I don't sense that his cabinet colleagues are listening to him, and that concerns me.
We must keep in mind the urgent importance the tourism sector looks after for our economy. If we look at the fact that the tourism sector is one of the largest generators of personal income in Canada, which puts forward $2.1 billion of revenues in the form of taxes to the provincial government, $4.1 billion to the federal government and $600 million to municipal governments in 1990, those facts and figures indicate that this sector of our economy is very important. We'd better not overlook it.
Another interesting fact I wasn't aware of until recently is that tourism is the largest industry in the service sector, now accounting for about 72% of all new jobs in Ontario. Of course many times the government members, the cabinet and the Premier want to encourage a certain type of job. They talk about the service jobs not being as good. That concerns me because service jobs are very important. I think we don't want to degrade those jobs; we want the very best people possible in those jobs.
I think the government's rhetoric at times, when it talks about how certain jobs are good and certain jobs are bad, basically is saying that certain jobs are not as important. They're degrading those jobs. If the government is doing that, we're guaranteeing mediocrity in those jobs because people won't want to go into them. I think that's something the government has to be very cautious about doing. I'd like to see that happening very soon.
There have been a number of suggestions put forward to the government with respect to the tourism industry. For well over a year the Tourism Ontario group, which is probably the most important interest group dealing with tourism, has been working with the Ministry of Treasury and Economics to try to find solutions to some of the taxes it feels are particularly onerous upon it.
They have called for the elimination of the commercial concentration tax on hotels and restaurants located in large commercial establishments. They have talked about eliminating the gallonage tax on beverage alcohol, which they see as a severe impediment to a prosperous and flourishing tourism sector. They've requested the reduction of the liquor tax in licensed establishments from 10% to 8% and the maintenance of the accommodation tax at 5% for 1992. They've asked you not to increase it in the coming budget. They've asked for a couple of other things.
In return they've offered a few concessions. They've offered a revenue-neutral package to the government for its consideration in the hope that the government will consider it and will respond in changing some of these particularly unfair taxes that are hurting the tourism industry.
I've spoken with the Minister of Tourism and Recreation on this. I hope the Treasurer is listening to him because I know he's putting forward that view. I hope that in the government's desire and voracious appetite to consume every last dollar in this economy it will look at this as a revenue-neutral proposal that has been sincerely put forward for consideration and it will adopt many of the measures included in it.
When we talk about the budget coming up and the pre-budget consultations that have been ongoing for some time, something the government has to know and be cognizant of is the general concern that we must control government spending. I don't see a signal from the government at this time, and haven't yet, that it understands that problem of government spending and what it is doing to our economy, but I hope we see something in the budget that does recognize that fact.
I hope taxes are kept as low as possible in the budget. I hope there are no tax increases. I hope there are tax reductions. I ask the government to keep that in mind. We don't need to see an increase in the retail sales tax, for example. It's high enough and it's difficult enough for people to pay it.
The employer health tax is a particularly thorny issue for business. They feel, and I agree with them, that it's unfair for small business to have to be footing this big share of the bill. They have to shoulder a very disproportionate share of the employer health tax. Businesses under a $400,000 or $500,000 payroll are the businesses we've got to have. If we've got a tax on jobs, which is what the employer health tax is, which is what the government of David Peterson brought in as a means of kicking our small business people, I would say, we've got to take a look at giving an exemption for many of our small businesses with respect to the employer health tax.
Harmonization of the GST and the PST: I know this government doesn't like to talk about it, but right now we've got two civil services, one at the federal level and one at the provincial level, essentially doing the same thing. It's a clear case of a duplication of government service looked after by two levels of government, and we're paying for it twice. That doesn't concern the government, obviously. They want to continue doing that. I feel that's a clear case of duplication of service that the government should look at. From our perspective, we're trying to encourage the government to look at harmonizing the two taxes. I think that would be an important step for the government to take.
It would simplify it for many small business people and for tourists who come in. Tourists are able to apply for a rebate of provincial sales tax and GST, which is important and should be maintained, and I hope the government doesn't take that away. But it's difficult for a tourist to understand, especially an American tourist. They have state consumption taxes, but they certainly don't have a federal consumption tax. If we could simplify it for tourists and encourage them to come, if they could leave after their stay here in Ontario in a positive way, not having to fill out two bloody forms to send back to get a rebate, if we could keep it as simple as possible, I think we would encourage tourism in this province.
There are a number of reasons why the government should consider harmonizing the GST and the PST, and I would encourage it to do that. I know it's difficult for them politically because they want to put out the impression that the federal government is the whole problem and that the GST is the big evil. But the reality is that if they won't recognize it, they're not looking at the problem in a sensible way. The reality is that the GST is here, and if Audrey McLaughlin is elected Prime Minister in a couple of years, she will not remove the GST. I know you people know that.
We can also talk about the better roads issue. We need good roads in Ontario. I know from my former work as the critic for Transportation for our caucus that our roads are in a serious state of disrepair. Hopefully the government will look at that problem, and hopefully it will start devoting more and more resources to our roads, because that's an important economic development issue. We've got to have good roads and a good infrastructure. I hope they'll certainly also look at it in terms of the attraction for tourism that a good road system will give us.
I've gone on long enough, longer than I intended, and I intend to sit down now. I thank you for your indulgence, and I am pleased I was able to speak this afternoon in spite of the fact that apparently there was some feeling I had already spoken before on this issue.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): Before we get to questions and/or comments, I was advised by the table officer that the honourable member for Wellington was very much in order, that he had not participated previously in the debate. We appreciate his participation and the table graciously apologizes.
Mr Hayes: I want to just refer to page 3, which the member for Wellington has spoken about. I will read the section he is talking about here: "Ontario lost more than an argument in the free trade deal. Implemented without adjustment measures, free trade has devastated Ontario's manufacturing base, costing tens of thousands of jobs in Ontario communities. Combined with the goods and services tax, persistently high real interest rates and an overvalued dollar, the new trading arrangements between Canada and the United States have not worked for Ontario."
This is what's in there. The member for Wellington and many members over there keep saying we should not be pointing the finger. I don't call setting the facts out to the people in this province pointing the finger. If people think high interest rates, free trade, the inflated Canadian dollar and the GST have helped Ontario, they better wake up.
I was really pleased to hear the member for Wellington telling this government that it should actually restore confidence in this economy and encourage the people and encourage businesses. I just have something very brief to say there. I hope he can convince some of his own members on that side of the House to quit their scaremongering and start doing the same thing they are asking us to do, and that is to help encourage development in Ontario.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): To the member who just spoke, what he should realize is that whether the dollar is inflated or not, not enough of the people in this province are able to have the dollar they need to put food on the table and to take care of their families, and that is the real problem.
With regard to the member's speech, I thought it was very well done and well delivered and had some very good points in it. However, of course you are going to appreciate I differ with some of the comments. He made reference to the employer health tax. Let me tell you as the small business critic and indeed the former small business advocate, I understand the impact the employer health tax has had on small business. I don't disagree with the sentiment that it has created a certain burden. But what we should talk about is the other side of that coin; that is, the fact that OHIP premiums were abolished for all Ontarians.
I believe we need to go a step further. I would refer all members to the recent newspaper coverage of the invoice that was sent out by Sunnybrook Medical Centre wherein it detailed to the patient the exact amount of the care he had consumed. I thought it was an extremely responsible act on the part of that hospital to do that and to try to educate the people that along with abolishing OHIP premiums comes a responsibility we all have to recognize, that we have to pay the bill. The employer health tax indeed pays that bill and what we need to do is further all of our education as to how much health care we're consuming.
The same comment could be made for those, particularly the Tories, who criticize the commercial concentration tax. I wonder if they would like us to reduce the GO train service, to reduce the amount of money announced in the program by our government, which this government has carried on with, to improve transportation. You have to pay the bills.
Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): It's a pleasure for me to congratulate the member for Wellington on his very well prepared and delivered speech relative to the throne speech. I must say that I didn't find that his comments --
I found the member for Wellington not particularly critical of the throne speech, but he did a very good job in pointing out the areas of that speech he was disappointed in relative to his own riding. I think he showed a good knowledge of his own riding. His riding has many parallels with my riding, being partly rural, small-town and urban. During the break our member took time to go and visit small business and talk to them on a one-to-one basis and he came back and was able to report to the Legislature not only his own personal disappointment in the throne speech but the disappointment of the people in his riding because of the fact that farm, small business and tourism were not mentioned.
New labour laws were stressed in the throne speech. Mr Speaker, those are the laws that are going to kill tourism not only in the member's riding but in my riding of Lanark-Renfrew. I can assure you that if the legislation goes ahead as I perceive it to be planned, then tourism in Lanark-Renfrew, and I'm sure in the member's riding, will be bankrupt. It's as simple as that. And so will many small businesses.
Ms Margaret H. Harrington (Niagara Falls): Certainly the member for Wellington brought forward a lot of very interesting comments. I'd like to touch on a couple of them. First of all, he mentioned the federal government and the position it is in with its debt load of 30 cents on each dollar and therefore not being able to help the country out when it needs it most. Certainly our government does not want to be in that kind of position and therefore we have to control the deficit.
He also mentioned the problem with the retail sales tax. That, I want to point out, is because the federal level has moved in and cornered that market by imposing the GST and there is the problem with consumers not having confidence to go out and buy because of these two taxes.
The most important thing I believe you touched on was restoring confidence. That is so important. You mentioned that the private sector was not helped by the throne speech. This is where I would differ from you. I'd like to draw your attention to a speech that was made at the Empire Club by a person named Bill L'Heureux, who is certainly a representative of a very large business. He said a couple of things, that the NDP is trying hard to work with business -- it goes on from there, several other things.
I'd like to conclude by saying that I believe this government is well placed in this very difficult climate to work with all sectors in the community to turn this difficult corner. It's not going to be done overnight. It's going to take years to bring together business and labour to look to the future.
I'm on that small business committee of the government. We've been listening to concerns of business, especially small business. Yes, I meet with unions in my riding, like last weekend, with the United Food and Commercial Workers, but I also meet with the economic development agency. We have to bring everyone together.
Mr Arnott: I hope I don't have to take the full two minutes, but I would like to respond to the suggestions that have been made. I thank all members for their suggestions. The member for Essex-Kent basically talked about the issue of fearmongering. It's as if he believes the work the collective opposition is trying to do to call this government to account is in fact fearmongering. I dispute that. I find more concern and more fear outside this building than I've ever heard of in here. There's fear out there.
Mr Arnott: Yes, there is, and there is a belief that this government is anti-business. You're going to have to come a long way. You have one business person on your side, as you've indicated, but the preponderance of opinion in the business community is that this government is anti-business. The best way you could today dispel that impression -- it's nothing the opposition can do -- is say today that the labour law reform is going to get further discussion through a tripartite commission. That's what's been asked; that's been requested. It's a very positive suggestion. Put it off for more discussion at the very least until the economy recovers a little. Let's give this some more time. If you'd do that, you would find that the business community would receive that as a positive expression of confidence.
I would like to thank briefly the member for Mississauga West for his comments, but I ask him if he believes the small business sector in Ontario is more competitive as a result of the employer health tax and the commercial concentration tax, or if it's less competitive as a result of those taxes. I think that's the litmus test we have to apply to the new legislation coming forward from this government. I'll speak to him afterwards about it.
Ms Jenny Carter (Peterborough): I appreciate this opportunity to contribute to the debate on the throne speech. Economies are in trouble all over the world. Unemployment is increasingly the result of greater productivity. Modern technology means we can produce more with fewer workers, but we haven't found a way to distribute the wealth fairly or make sure our collective way of life is sustainable, given ever-increasing stresses on the environment.
This is indeed a time of painful restructuring, but one thing is sure: If all sections of society work together, we're much more likely to achieve a prosperous and fair economy. I'm trying to work with all groups in my riding, including large and small business. I'm sure most MPPs of whatever stripe are trying to do the same.
This government has been accused of being unfriendly to business. The 1992 throne speech, however, is geared to renewing Ontario's economy by helping business to function more efficiently and thus become more competitive in the global setting. The orchestrated campaign against suggested changes to the Ontario Labour Relations Act could itself do more to bring about the dismal outcome it is predicting than anything that may be in the act. If some business people keep telling each other they'll have to move away, they might end up doing just that. But where in the world is the business paradise they're looking for? If they think positively and look at the situation as it really is, they will surely decide that Ontario is a good place to do business and that the changes taking place will make sure it stays that way.
"For nearly 14 years, Quebec has been the only Canadian jurisdiction where replacement workers are outlawed -- partly the result of a particularly violent strike at a sugar refinery. The improvement in labour relations has been notable -- so much so, in fact, that it can probably be considered an inducement to investors.
"Labour Canada figures show that, in seven of the past 10 years, Quebec has lost far fewer working days to strikes than Ontario -- half as many in an average year. Those years when the Quebec figures were higher, and they were much higher, coincided with big public service negotiations, not with problems in the private sector.
"Of course, Quebec business leaders did not embrace the no-scab rule; they fought it tooth and claw, and lost, but eventually came out of mourning. Their Ontario counterparts and the opposition should learn a valuable lesson from this. They should stop their irresponsible campaign of vilification."
David Crane in the Toronto Star cites Bill L'Heureux, whom the member for Niagara Falls just mentioned, president and managing partner of Hees International Bancorp, who told a meeting of the Empire Club that he rejects the idea that the Bob Rae government is anti-business. On the contrary, he asserted, "The NDP is trying hard to work with business." According to L'Heureux: "The government is working with business to develop new export markets. It helped gain a major contract in Iran" -- a power contract -- "and insisted on a cash deal, showing what good business people they are. The government is supporting Ontario's centres of excellence and helping Ontario companies get back on their feet after the recession. Efforts like the industry adjustment program for troubled companies appear to have saved 12,000 jobs and created another 6,000," said L'Heureux.
In my riding, my office and myself have worked with several businesses and helped them overcome difficulties. One businessman phoned me and said that government sponsorship of affordable housing had allowed him to survive as a maker of kitchen cabinets. Workers and business have the same overriding interest: to compete successfully so that there will be both jobs and profit in the future.
On a related issue, the comments from the leader of the third party about increased Ontario Hydro rates -- and this has been taken up since in the debate -- are particularly illogical. Rates must not go up, he says, but we must build more generating capacity to ensure our supplies. Business must have power at cost, he says, not realizing that that is precisely the point. If we build more generating stations, particularly nuclear ones, the cost of power goes up to pay for them. That is why we are trying to avoid building them. The nuclear power stations are turning out to be lemons anyhow, and we still haven't solved the problem of what to do with nuclear waste. Energy saving is much cheaper, as well as better for the environment, and if we did need more power, gas turbine generation could be brought on stream far more cheaply and quickly than could nuclear stations.
When he says, "Power at cost," does the leader of the third party mean power at less than cost with the taxpayer subsidizing big industry? I'm afraid he might mean that. That seems to be a real possibility in the States, and in the past of course Ontario Hydro has quietly subsidized the uranium industry to a vast degree. Rates are going up to pay for Darlington, child of Conservative and Liberal governments, and for the maintenance that wasn't done and can now be put off no longer.
Industries that learn to use energy more wisely are more efficient, more up to date, cleaner and more profitable than those that want to go on in the old way of subsidized profligacy. They are the ones that will survive in the face of competition.
I also welcome the introduction of an environmental bill of rights. This is overdue. The idea that private individuals can only protest pollution or damaging development if it impinges directly on them and their personal property is narrow and outdated. We all have a very personal interest in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the purity of our food and the pleasantness or otherwise of our surroundings. These are shared goods. We can't buy one little patch of clean outdoor air no matter how wealthy we are. People who don't understand the importance of these shared gifts of nature should maybe go and live on the moon.
The decrease in the ozone layer, global warming, acid raid and threats to the quality of our water are all at crisis point and need to be reversed immediately within this decade. The Brundtland report has told us this and leading scientists have reiterated it. These problems are not vague and generalized, but hit us all where we live.
The thinning of the ozone layer could lead to increased skin cancer, cataracts, which of course can lead to blindness, damage to the immune system so that we could almost have the symptoms of AIDS without having to have the virus, and environmental damage of all kinds, including decreased yield of crops.
Recent research on maple trees in my area has shown that they are not dying, as had been thought, as a result of acid rain -- because the limestone area is naturally buffered against acid rain, which has also declined a little due to the recession; they are dying due to increased climatic insult. In other words, our climate has already become more erratic because of changes brought about by the continued spewing of greenhouse gases into the air. Our "shining waters" have also become unfit for swimming due to a host of insufficiently regulated activities resulting from increased population and use.
Of course every citizen must have a say in protecting the environment. Such a bill has been under consideration for 10 years, and whistle-blowing legislation, part of the proposed bill, is particularly desirable. There is a sad history of workers who reported bad environmental practices and lost their jobs as a result of their public-spiritedness. We urgently need to do something about that.
I would like now to draw attention to the proposal to encourage basement and other accessory apartments, including granny flats. We want to change the Planning Act so that municipalities cannot zone against extra apartments in family homes. This refers to self-contained units including all necessary services and not to people sharing a house in a more integrated way.
We need many new units, and many are being built, but there is a lot of empty space in existing homes. Some people oppose the opening up of this space because they feel it will lower the tone of their neighbourhood. This ignores all the illegal subletting that goes on at present. I believe there can be thousands of illegal apartments in one municipality.
Illegal apartments cannot be inspected and required to conform to standards. By legalizing them we open them to inspection and ensure that standards are maintained. The increased income will also help owner-occupiers maintain their property in a way which will be a credit to their neighbourhoods. Jobs will be created because of renovations and makeovers, and neighbourhoods will have more eyes on the street, which has been proven to contribute to public safety.
This initiative is in tune with planning and environmental objectives. Accommodation is provided with minimal environmental damage, existing services are used, urban density is increased and surrounding businesses benefit. Greater urban density also lends itself to mass transit systems, which we urgently need to encourage for environmental reasons.
As has already been mentioned in this debate, Toronto is high on the pollution list for North American cities. Ozone levels in particular are high, leading to excess respiratory problems. The automobile is the prime cause of this problem. If we can live a little closer together, people may not have to travel such long distances to work. They may even be able to walk or cycle, or if not, they'll be more likely to have access to frequent bus, train or subway services.
I also welcome the inclusion in this throne speech of pay equity and job equity. Pay equity means giving the same pay to women as a man would get for the same or similar work. I believe that's only fair. I wonder who doesn't believe that.
Job equity means hiring the best-qualified people for the job, whatever their sex and regardless of whether they're aboriginal, members of a visible minority or disabled. It does not mean a quota system that would unfairly disadvantage white males.
Some suggest that employers will get a second-rate workforce. This is emphatically not so. The highest possible standards will be achieved by drawing on the talents of the whole population. The designated groups will soon provide over 80% of new entrants to the workforce. We cannot restrict this proportion of our working population to job ghettos or limit their upward mobility without damaging our society as a whole. We need their talents.
Similarly, the proposed Ontario Training and Adjustment Board and its associated local boards will assist our economy by making sure that the supply of skills matches the need. All concerned stakeholders will be actively involved: business, labour, educators and trainers, and community and special-interest groups.
This is another example of the cooperation between business, workers and the rest of the community I mentioned before, which is what we need to get Ontario back on its feet. We have a bad habit of importing workers trained elsewhere. Now we're getting down to the nuts and bolts of satisfying our own training needs.
The throne speech is full of good things. It is particularly tragic that it is being slammed by some business people, because its main thrusts are very practical measures to get the economy moving again, in spite of everything the federal government has done to destroy our economy and our jobs. We have had too much negative criticism from business and from the opposition just because they don't like the label this government carries.
If they don't like our plans, they should come up with concrete, positive suggestions for ways of doing the job better. The opposition has a bad habit of decrying spending cuts while at the same time slamming the government for the size of the provincial deficit. They should, in all honesty, try to be more positive. What would they spend? Where would they cut? They can't have it all ways. If they try to do that, they are simply not credible.
Old style patriarchal labour relations, abuse of the environment, ongoing prejudices and an inadequate and fragmented training system will not put Ontario back on its feet. Are some business people willing to jeopardize all our futures so they can continue to be negative and critical in the face of common sense? I think better of them than that.
I find it difficult to understand why the residents of my riding differ so much from the residents of her riding, in that in a recent endeavour to become acquainted with every resident of my riding, we knocked on doors. When we knocked on the doors of homes, the most evident criticism of the government was on the proposed amendments to the Ontario Labour Relations Act. When we knocked on the doors of businesses, it was the same criticism we heard. When we knocked on the doors of industries, we heard the same criticism, with great intensity. People were upset, they were grieved and they were very much opposed.
During the recent campaign, I had the opportunity to attend nine all-candidates meetings. The item that came up early in each meeting and was debated was the matter of the proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act. People were upset and very concerned and very much against it. My solution was that if indeed negotiation is the best solution and the best process for good labour relations in this province, why doesn't the government negotiate the changes?
Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): I want to congratulate the member for Peterborough for her remarks on the throne speech and for outlining some of the very positive things that are in it. I think that's one of the key messages that have come out in this document. It's a very positive-oriented document. We've heard some members talk about how people have a lack of confidence, and there's no doubt that there's a lack of confidence out there or a degree of pessimism out there. It's an uncertainty about their future. I think if we're to be fair about it, it's not just directed at this government. I think it's a general feeling out there: uncertainty about the future of the country and uncertainty as a result of seeing their neighbours lose their jobs as a result of free trade or other actions that have been occurring.
As to the sense that labour relations is going to be the end of the province and kill off all industry, I have been talking in the last couple of weeks to some people who have been actual union organizers. The interesting thing about what most of them said is that I asked them, "Do you as unions go out there and go knocking on doors of business trying to organize them?" No. If you talk to most union organizers, they tell you that people call them. Of all organizing drives, 80% to 85% are the result of people in shops calling them, not unions going out and knocking on doors and recruiting people.
I think that's very important to keep in mind in our discussions about proposed labour relations changes that will be coming up. The reality of the situation is that there are many unhappy people out there who feel insecure about their jobs or feel unhappy about the type of management processes that are going on that are not fair to them, so I think we should keep that in mind.
Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I listened with some interest to the member's speech. Actually I was hoping that this time she would have a different understanding of the energy field, because as to this understanding or thought process that the fewer units of electricity we market the cheaper it will be, there isn't a marketplace on the continent that can work that way on any product.
To think this government is going to march on on that basis, that if we reduce the number of units sold we can sell them for less; there's only one way to sell them for less and that's increase the number of units sold. You have a market there that's controllable. The technology is there to control the market and I would ask the member to please think about that as far as a free market society is concerned.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I was interested in the statements of the member for Peterborough. I was kind of concerned from an environmental point of view. She has raised some very important issues in her speech. The strange thing, as our leader has said, is that the words don't match the music.
I didn't note in the speech from the throne that I read, or had the privilege of hearing His Honour deliver, that there was much mention of what she was talking about. I did not see in the speech from the throne -- and members can correct me if it was there -- a commitment to reducing fossil fuel emissions in this province. I didn't see a commitment to lowering CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. I didn't see any of those kinds of commitments.
We know, as members of this Legislature, that these are real problems and that many governments are taking positive steps towards doing those things. Western Europe has a remarkable program in many countries to do the very thing that I think this member was suggesting. What I find passing strange was that the speech from the throne itself did not discuss those at all.
I am also a little concerned with the energy policy she has discussed. I am concerned that the policy the government has adopted for Ontario Hydro will lead to more emissions in our atmosphere and will lead to higher, not lower, costs. I think the policy they have adopted is a lose-lose policy and I would be interested if the member at some point could clarify that for me. I am having great difficulty and we on this side just can't really understand why we should pay more for less and why the environment should have to suffer.
Ms Carter: There is really too much to cover in the time. To answer the member for Brant-Haldimand, I am well aware that there are a lot of people out there who are worried about the proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act, but I think the point is that they have been well and truly brainwashed, at the cost of a great deal of money. There has been inaccurate information spread around as to what is intended. If, instead of panicking, people would look around at other jurisdictions -- I mentioned Quebec but there are European countries, in particular Germany, which have a very good record of industrial relations, where this kind of thing is already in force.
To answer the member for Lanark-Renfrew, if he doesn't know that it costs us more to sell electricity that was just generated than it does to sell the hydro-electricity we have from the past, then I suggest he go back and do his homework. A nuclear power station would be about the most expensive way to go if we need more power. It would be cheaper to get non-utility generation on stream, which is one thing we're looking to increase over time, but the cheapest thing of all is conservation, which does lead to increased efficiency in other directions as well.
To the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, when I was talking about the environment, I had in mind the projected environmental bill of rights. Apparently the task force on that has agreed on the public's right to a healthy environment. People will have more participation, more power to act through the courts and so on, so that it would be easier for the public to have input in environmental matters.