LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Tuesday 10 June 2003 Mardi 10 juin 2003
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE PRACTITIONERS, TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE HERBALISTS AND ACUPUNCTURISTS ACT, 2003 /
LOI DE 2003 SUR LES PRATICIENS DE MÉDECINE CHINOISE TRADITIONNELLE, LES HERBORISTES DE MÉDECINE CHINOISE TRADITIONNELLE ET LES ACUPUNCTEURS
Tuesday 10 June 2003 Mardi 10 juin 2003
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): The fact that the Tories don't give two hoots about northern health care has reared its ugly ahead once again, this time in a survey complied by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Of the 57 communities surveyed across Canada, northern Ontario communities ranked almost at the very last. Thunder Bay ranked 48th out of 57, Sudbury and the Soo ranked 52nd and the ex-Premier's own riding of North Bay-Huntsville ranked 55th. When you think about this, the one area that ranks the worst in health care across Canada is northern Ontario.
The reason for this lies across the way. Like anything, if you neglect, if you fail to nurture and support, if you don't care, things go by the wayside and everyone suffers the consequences. Since 1995, the northern Liberal caucus has urged the Harris-Eves government to put more money into health care in northern Ontario. Our protestations manifest themselves today in this poor ranking of northern Ontario health care across Canada.
Mr AL McDonald (Nipissing): I'd like to personally invite everyone to Mattawa Voyageur Days, July 24 through 27. The town of Mattawa is located about 45 minutes east of North Bay on the beautiful Mattawa River. This festival has so much to offer everyone -- all family members -- including the Voyageur's Marketplace, the Haunted House at Champlain Park, the new Royal Ontario Museum Dinomobile, Survivor Kidz, dam tours, golf tournaments, Fun in the Sun, Eau Claire Gorge guided hiking tours, an antique vehicle show, a kids' fishing derby, treasure hunting, a reptile show, a North Bay to Mattawa canoe race and a 100-kilometre "Lost in the Rocks and Trees" mountain bike enduro race.
You can see there's lots here to do, and awesome entertainment, including the Ennis Sisters; Trooper; Charlie Major; La Franco, with Chuck Labelle and Robert Paquette; children's entertainer Fred Penner; and many, many more for the entire family. You can have all this. For the low price of $20, you can buy your wristbands.
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): On April 14, 2003, a major power failure impacted the petrochemical industry in Sarnia-Lambton. Four major refineries had to go on a code 8, all of Sarnia-Lambton was under a "take shelter" call, and the whole area was blanketed with a toxic cloud due to the power failure.
Yesterday, June 9, 2003, there was yet another power failure that forced the shutdown of Imperial Oil, Dow, Bayer, and Nova. Again, code 8s were sounded, and although the power outage was restored within 20 minutes, it took hours for the plants to be up and running again. Millions of dollars are lost and, more importantly, the dangerous consequence of an environmental disaster can become a reality.
What is concerning about these power failures is that they haven't been seen before in the area, according to officials and long-time residents, and are rare occurrences, according to a Hydro One spokesperson. In just two months we have had two major incidents of power failure. The minister should be well aware of the importance of the power supply to the petrochemical industry. This industry is the largest user of electricity in the province. Because of this government's track record on electricity, my biggest concern is reliability. I have requested a detailed report on this matter from the minister and will be watching carefully as to what steps will be taken to ensure that the power supply is reliable to the petrochemical industry in Sarnia-Lambton
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): Three weeks ago, Canadian farmers and the Canadian public were shocked to hear that a case of mad cow disease had been found in Alberta. Almost instantly, the United States closed its borders to Canadian beef and cattle, with many of our other trading partners following suit.
Since then, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been tracing the history of the infected cow and quarantining any herds with which it may have had contact. Cattle from many of these herds have been tested and, so far, all the tests have come back negative. So far, the initial case is the only diseased animal. This investigation began immediately after the case of mad cow disease was discovered and appears to have been very thorough. I want to thank all the employees of the CFIA, who have been working overtime to demonstrate that Canadian beef is safe for our consumption and for export to the United States and elsewhere.
I particularly want to make mention of Stratford veterinarian Dr Tom Cox, who has travelled to Alberta to assist in this investigation. Dr Cox works for the CFIA in Woodstock and he, along with 13 other Ontario employees of the CFIA, has been working on this investigation in western Canada. I'm sure that all members here join me in lending our support and encouragement to Dr Cox and his colleagues at the CFIA.
Mr George Smitherman (Toronto Centre-Rosedale): It was in New Brunswick last night that exciting things happened. In one fell swoop, the people of New Brunswick took the Tory wonder kid from hero to zero. Just months ago, we heard that Bernard Lord was the next Prime Minister of Canada and last night, and maybe in recounts yet to come, he will be a former Premier, because only 109 votes, at the last count, separated his party from defeat and the Liberal Party from majority government in the province of New Brunswick.
Why? Because the government of New Brunswick has been carrying on in the same way as the government of Ontario with respect to the issue of automobile insurance. While the Minister of Finance, talks and talks and talks, regulations long overdue fail to be brought forward. Seven years and a few days to the anniversary of that government's rate stabilization for auto insurance legislation, the residents of Ontario are suffering through massive increases in their insurance -- 19.2% was the average rate of insurance increase in the last quarter alone. When we ask the government for action what do we hear? That they are out doing focus groups around their proposed regulations in the hope that they can find some way to hang the responsibility on some party other than themselves.
We know this won't work, because we know the Minister of Finance, who is here with us today, has no attention span for the matter of auto insurance and no interest in protecting consumers against what they've been experiencing. We call again on the government to act in this most highly regulated sector to protect consumers.
Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): This past week, literally hundreds of people attended the Toronto City Summit Alliance: hundreds of people from business, from academia, from social work, from politics, from labour; hundreds of people committed to reversing the downward spiral that has become Toronto today. As a result of the twin demons of amalgamation and downloading, the city of Toronto is not one of the world's great cities any more. But those hundreds of people gathered, trying to find a way out, a way that the city of Toronto can properly finance itself.
They discussed a gas tax, a hotel tax, land transfer taxes, GST rebates and toll roads. They discussed many things that would be necessary for the city of Toronto to right itself in this period of downturn, and all they got from this government was non-commitment -- some would even say hostility -- from Minister Flaherty.
There were some bright spots, of course. Former Tories Mr Crombie and Mr Davis -- and I say "former" because they appear to have moved quite a way from this particular party -- had some very exciting things to say. Overall, though, everyone came to the same conclusion; that is, this government's time is up, and Torontonians who love this city, including David Pecaut, know that the first change for the better for the people of Toronto will be a change of government.
Mrs Marland: Thank you. This prestigious honour is a fitting tribute to André's remarkable volunteer efforts. His many accomplishments have also been recognized with the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship and the Mississauga Civic Award of Recognition.
Since immigrating to Canada in 1969, André Mak has devoted a great deal of his personal time and talent to the Chinese business community and to the broader communities of Mississauga and Toronto. A co-founder, with Dr Joseph Wong, of the Mississauga Board of Chinese Professionals and Businesses, André Mak has been at the head of many successful fundraising campaigns. Many institutions and local community groups have benefited immeasurably from André's incredible work ethic and his gentle, compassionate personality.
André is also very successful in the world of business. He has a printing company where he works with his wife, Teresa. They are the loving and proud parents of three wonderful and talented adult children -- Patricia, Lawrence, and Benjamin -- who are following in the steps of their successful and generous parents.
André, on behalf of all the residents of the city of Mississauga and the members of this Legislature, thank you for your dedication and hard work. You are an example to all of us of the power of voluntarism to make our community a better place, and we are very proud of you.
The celebration of the national day of Portugal is special and unique in the pages of history. Unlike some of the dates that commemorate an important political event, such as a declaration of independence, on this historic occasion we ask the people of Ontario to join our Canadians of Portuguese heritage in the remembrance of a great, world-renowned poet and writer, Luis de Camões. Although he passed away more than 400 years ago, Camões left a living legacy of meaningful poetry of immortal beauty that has not withered with age.
Especially those of you who participated in this great Portuguese national day and its parade just a few days ago were mostly impressed with the energy and the vitality of this great community, which has made a tremendous contribution to the lives of every Ontarian and of every Canadian.
I had the pleasure to sit next to our leader, Dalton McGuinty, and he said to me, "Look at these people. Look at the contribution. Look at the wonderful floats. Look at the energy that pulses throughout this parade." We're delighted to stand here today and recognize their event.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): I rise in the House today to let everyone know about an upcoming event in my riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. On June 19 to June 22, Tobermory will be celebrating its 29th annual Chi-Cheemaun Festival. It is organized by the Tobermory Chi-Cheemaun Festival Committee in conjunction with the Tobermory Firefighters Association. It includes the efforts and hard work of a group of people in the area who dedicate countless hours of their time to help make this event memorable.
I encourage all members in this House to gather their family and friends and partake in this annual occasion. It promises to be a fun-filled weekend for everyone. Enjoy the many events scheduled, such as fireworks displays, the silent auction, and the antique and classic car show. Also included are the Olde Tyme Jamboree, various kids' events, the dunk tank and the firefighters' pancake breakfast.
Mr Murdoch: Along with numerous volunteers who make this possible, a big "thank you" also goes to the Owen Sound Transportation Co, the Rotary Club of Tobermory, and the many local businesses who donate financially and the various items to the silent auction. They truly make this a community-based event. The money raised over the weekend is used for community projects such as school trips, Chi-Cheemaun Cub Scouts, Tobermory Place Daycare, and a new soccer program after school.
Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to welcome Adam Daifallah, who is a rising young star with the New York Sun and former president of the Ontario PC Campus Association, right here in the gallery.
Mr George Smitherman (Toronto Centre-Rosedale): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would be remiss if I didn't draw the members' attention to the presence of my uncle, Doug Wood, in the members' gallery.
Just before the member for Mississauga South, joining us in the Speaker's gallery is Mr Frank Bonello, who is in charge of central scouting for the National Hockey League. I have warned Frank, who has seen many, many hockey games, that question period may be a little bit worse than even some of the worst hockey games that he has seen in his career.
Mrs Marland: No, it's very hard on him. You have no idea. I think all those interjections -- I could hardly hear what he was saying. We don't usually do it during members' statements, I ask with respect.
The bill establishes standards for government advertising, including that it be in the public interest and be non-partisan. A member of cabinet may ask the Provincial Auditor of Ontario to decide if specified government advertising meets the standards before the advertising is made public.
A member of the assembly may make a complaint to the auditor that specified government advertising does not meet the standards. If the auditor decides after a complaint that specified government advertising does not meet the specified standards, the governing party may be ordered to reimburse the crown for the cost of advertising.
Mrs Marie Bountrogianni (Hamilton Mountain): The Hellenes, the Greeks of today, are the proud descendants of a culture that originated in the glorious civilization of ancient Hellas. Many of the ideas, ideals and institutions upon which modern civilization is based, such as freedom and democracy, were first developed by the ancient Greeks.
The month of March and the day of March 25, in particular, have traditionally been a great time of celebration by the Greek community. March 25 commemorates the anniversary of the commencement of the Greek War of Independence that resulted in the birth of the modern Greek state.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE PRACTITIONERS, TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE HERBALISTS AND ACUPUNCTURISTS ACT, 2003 /
LOI DE 2003 SUR LES PRATICIENS DE MÉDECINE CHINOISE TRADITIONNELLE, LES HERBORISTES DE MÉDECINE CHINOISE TRADITIONNELLE ET LES ACUPUNCTEURS
Bill 93, An Act to regulate practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, herbalists in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncturists / Projet de loi 93, Loi réglementant les praticiens de médecine chinoise traditionnelle, les herboristes praticiens de médecine chinoise traditionnelle et les acupuncteurs.
Mr Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence): This bill, if passed, would help ensure that only well-trained and qualified practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncturists can practise in Ontario. At present, anybody can claim to be an acupuncturist, without any regulation. This would enhance the safety of the public and, at the same time, establish high standards of care and training for practitioners of this 5,000-year-old successful alternative medical practice.
Hon Carl DeFaria (Minister of Citizenship, minister responsible for seniors): I am delighted to declare that today, June 10, is Portugal Day. It is my great pleasure to join all Ontarians in celebrating the second official Portuguese History and Heritage Month in Ontario. This is our opportunity to acknowledge the contributions that Canadians of Portuguese background have made to this province.
In June 2002, our government took the initiative to recognize the first official Portuguese History and Heritage Month in Ontario. This month, and particularly Portugal Day, allows us the opportunity to give special recognition to the rich heritage, history and accomplishments of the Portuguese people.
I am proud to call Ontario my home. I have raised my family here, established my career, and have been honoured to serve the residents of Mississauga East as their member of provincial Parliament since 1995.
As Ontario's Minister of Citizenship and as an immigrant to this great province, I know how important it is to value one's heritage and one's cultural roots. I also know how important it is that we all reach out and share that heritage and culture to build understanding and acceptance among all Ontarians.
This year, Portuguese History and Heritage Month is a particularly special one because this is the 50th anniversary of the start of Portuguese immigration in large numbers to Canada. In the 1950s, the Portuguese arrived in Canada in large numbers, mainly from the Azores and in particular from the island of San Miguel. The initial settlement of the Portuguese in Toronto began in Kensington Market and Alexandra Park, neighbourhoods immediately west of the downtown core.
By 1991, most Portuguese in central Toronto lived in a tightly defined cluster comprising social, cultural and religious institutions, as well as the two most important Portuguese commercial strips along Dundas and College Streets. The Portuguese community has expanded from its original location. The Portuguese community in Mississauga has grown considerably in recent years. In northern Ontario, Portuguese newcomers can be found in Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay. West of Toronto, the communities of Kitchener, Cambridge, London, Leamington, Chatham and Sarnia are home to significant Portuguese populations.
The history, culture and traditions of the Portuguese people, however, have enriched Canada for more than 500 years. It was Gaspar Corte Real who arrived at the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1500s. With all deference to my colleagues here, there is a saying from a Portuguese writer, "An ocean with an end will be Greek or Roman, but an ocean without an end is Portuguese."
Portuguese Canadians have played a pioneering role in many facets of today's society. When mail service was first established in Canada in 1693, it was a Portuguese man, Pedro da Silva, who transported and delivered mail by canoe between Montreal and Quebec City. The government of Canada has acknowledged that this year by issuing a stamp that shows that Pedro da Silva was the first mail service in Canada. It was Portuguese fishermen who began cod fishing off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1504.
The Portuguese community is an integral piece of the cultural mosaic that makes our Canada so vital and wonderful. It is important to celebrate the significant cultural and historical heritage of this vibrant community. Their rich heritage underlines the wealth of ethnic diversity that lends to Ontario's economic and cultural strength. Our government supports Portuguese History and Heritage Month as a way to highlight and commemorate these accomplishments.
Today I was joined by members of the Portuguese community to raise a flag outside this Legislature officially recognizing Portugal Day, and I had the opportunity to have a lot of my colleagues with us. We had a reception here, and I'd like to acknowledge Angela Murdoch, the daughter of Bill Murdoch, our colleague here, who performed the capoeira dance at our event. I wish to indicate my appreciation for her performance.
I ask all members of this Legislature to continue celebrating the Portuguese History and Heritage Month in Ontario in their communities. To all of them, and I want them all to join me in saying, "Viva Portugal, viva Canada."
Today we had over 1,000 persons of Portuguese-Canadian background helping us to raise the flag. I only want to say at the beginning that, unfortunately, none of them are here. They were here half an hour ago. A thousand people were here. I would have expected that this minister would have asked them to be here to listen to the statement he made. He's saying that he's proud of his background, he's proud of their contribution, he's proud of all Portuguese-Canadians, but yet, we don't see them in the Legislature sharing this pride. I would hope that next time he will invite them here to listen to him.
When we raise this flag, we are also conscious of the contributions Portuguese-Canadians have made. They came, indeed, from all over Ontario. They came from important cities, such as Kingston and Ottawa --
There are literally thousands of Canadians of Portuguese background who have made a tremendous contribution in all of our cities across Ontario. When we saw the flag go up today and we saw their faces, especially when their national anthem was sung right here in this Legislature, I observed one person as tears came streaming down their cheeks because of their condition that they thought they were here in Canada being grateful Canadians and having contributed so much.
Today, while we celebrate this national day, we're also very mindful of Portuguese children. What are they celebrating today? They are celebrating not only an important day in the history of Canada and Portugal but they're also celebrating a great, renowned poet. This man, Camões, has left a living legacy and, from ocean to ocean, left wonderful poetry that these children are commemorating today.
As we celebrate this day, we're also reminded of Canada's own artistic communities, of our own poets and our own writers. I hope that his living legacy will also leave a remnant to Canadians, because Canadians too will be inspired by Luis de Camões as he left his living legacy for Canadians of Portuguese background as well.
The clubs that we saw participating in the great parade that was over a mile and a half long, that lasted over two hours, made a tremendous contribution as well, and here they are -- I'm just going to read some of them: Amor de Pátria Community Centre; Arco-iris, the association from Toronto; Arsenal do Minho, Asas do Altlântico, Association 25 de Abril, Association Cultural do Minho, Migrante de Barcelos, Comões Soccer Club, Casa Cultural Vila do Conde, Casa da Madeira, Casa das Beiras, Casa do Alentejo, Casa do Benfica. All these clubs and their floats and their contributions to this parade goes beyond the parade. Indeed, it goes beyond not only this parade but beyond access to trades and professions because it is these very people who deserve to have access to trades and professions if they are going to make a contribution in the future.
Let me continue: Casa dos Poveiros, Portuguese Club of Mississauga, Santa Clara Cultural de Toronto, Connections Soccer Club, the First Portuguese Club of Canada, Futebol Clube do Porto, Escola Portuguesa do Clube Transmontano, the Kitchener Portuguese Club, Liga da Amizade, the Northern Portugal Club, Operário Sports Club, the Oshawa Portuguese Club, the Peniche Community Club, the Portugal 2004 Soccer Club, the Portuguese-Canadian democratic association, the Portuguese United Soccer Club, Tricanas, Ethnográfico de Portugal, Rancho Folclórico, Províncias e Ilhas de Portugal, Sociedade dos Deficientes Portugal, Sport Clube Angrense, Sport Clube Lusitânia, and on and on it goes. We are proud in this Legislature that we have so many Portuguese Canadians making such a tremendous contribution.
Therefore, let me simply say that as the Canadian national anthem was played today, we know that Canadians of Portuguese background were not only proud of their own country and heritage, but also proud to be great Canadians, and we want to thank them for their contribution to Canada.
I say as well that the community celebrating the 50th anniversary of the start of Portuguese immigration are celebrating and honouring the pioneers. I want to say to the pioneers that New Democrats appreciate the hard work and the long hours many of our pioneers put in, the overwork and underpayment of so many of our early immigrants, who worked hard trying to find work all over Ontario.
In those early years it was very difficult finding work. My father had a similar kind of experience. It didn't matter to him what he had to do. He knew he had to find work and needed to work to be able to make some money to call his family. My father was here in 1956 and we came in 1962. So some of us are very familiar with the sacrifices they made for us, to be strong for themselves and to become strong Canadians. It wasn't very easy. Many of their children and our children forget the sacrifices our early pioneers made, so these are opportunities for everyone, in every community, to remember what immigrants did and the sacrifices they made for themselves and their families to become active and very strong Canadians.
Carl, with you, I celebrate and honour those pioneers, as you have done over so many years. I celebrate as well the role that ACAPO has made. ACAPO is the central coordinating organization of all the clubs and associations, and they have put in a great deal of time to create the parade we've seen. It was lively and showed tremendous vitality and colour. I enjoyed, we enjoyed and Howard Hampton enjoyed taking part in and being able to witness those celebrations, along with many others -- our friend Jordan Berger, who was there -- and the diversity, colour and strength of multiculturalism.
I wanted to take the time to congratulate ACAPO because they put in, at their own expense, time and money to share the pride of their history, their roots, and their strength as Canadians with all of us.
I congratulate as well Consul General Perestrello, who is leaving us. I want to take the opportunity on behalf of New Democrats to congratulate him on his elegance and intelligence, his ability to coordinate with everyone so that whatever he does in representing Portuguese Canadians is passed on to us in ways that are honourable, and that he and I can be proud of. I thank him, and his charming and intelligent wife, Jane, for the sacrifices she makes as well.
We take pride in the fact that many of our early Portuguese Canadians went to the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1504, where they started cod fishing. I just want to add, incidentally, that Marilyn Churley, our friend and colleague from Toronto-Danforth -- that was her home and she has a great affinity with the history that Portuguese Canadians brought to Newfoundland and Labrador. I wanted to share that with everyone, in case they don't know, Marilyn.
Mr Marchese: As well, I want to congratulate Carl DeFaria for sensitizing his caucus to the strength, the vitality, the richness and the contribution of Portuguese Canadians in Ontario. I'm sure you did a good job of that, Carl, with all the activities we have done and everything you've done in your own caucus to share that history.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): On a point of order while we're waiting, Mr Speaker: I move unanimous consent for second and third reading of Bill 44, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to require the appointment of a workplace carcinoma committee.
Mr Bartolucci: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I move unanimous consent for second and third reading of Bill 51, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act with respect to acts of workplace violence.
Mr Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I seek unanimous consent for second and third reading of Bill 42, An Act to bring health and safety programs to Ontario students -- a very good bill.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Minister of the Environment. On April 28, 1992, Ernie Eves stood in this House and called for Shelley Martel's resignation, saying, "Most people I talk to understand that lying is a very serious offence. They understand that there are serious consequences to be paid if they lie.... They don't understand how a cabinet minister ... doesn't seem to have to live by the same rules ... they do in their day-to-day lives."
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. I would ask the leader of the official opposition to be careful. As you know, we're treading very finely here. We're going to ask the table as well. I would ask him to be very careful. As you know, implying that somebody lied is also unparliamentary, and I would ask the member to continue and keep that in mind, please.
Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I think this is a bizarre situation. You're suggesting to me that what I said outside with respect to an interview I had, which I didn't agree with, is somehow grounds for a resignation of a minister.
I still say that the story was torqued; I still say it was unfairly written. If he has a dispute with me with respect to whether or not the story was fair, which I don't think it was, then he should take it up with me. I stand by what I said.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, you were interviewed by Mr Mittelstaedt. He kept very, very careful records. You said that he "totally torqued and fabricated that story -- absolutely torqued and fabricated." Could you tell us today, then, which words, audible in your voice, recorded on a tape recorder, you are now claiming you never said.
Hon Mr Stockwell: I don't have the original story here. I wish someone could grab it for me. The tone and tenor of the story was torqued, in my opinion. Torqued. The tone and tenor of the story was worked up over some six months that he suggested. He wrote the story with an idea of putting the situation in the worst possible light he could possibly put it in. I believe it was torqued. He attributed to me comments, which I don't have with me at this time, such as -- and I'm working from memory -- that the work regime or whatever was so light -- here we go: for instance, "But later ... he conceded that the stay in Paris had so little official business that he decided to pick up" the six nights of the hotel cost on his own. I never said that. I never said that that stay in Paris had so little official business I decided to pick up the costs on my own. I never said that. That's what he wrote. That's what he said I said. "But later in the interview, he conceded" -- it was like I was conceding this. I didn't say that.
Mr McGuinty: Let's understand what happened here. You went to Europe. You spent a lot of money there: $27,000 that was expensed to the ministry. You then hid $5,000 to $10,000 in additional expenses through OPG.
I think, Minister, it was wrong for you to put expenses through OPG. I think it was wrong for you to claim that you never said things we later learned were in fact accurate, based on a tape recording. I think it was wrong for you to attack a whistle-blower's integrity. I think the right thing for you to do today is to resign. Will you now stand up and resign?
Hon Mr Stockwell: This line of questioning is totally, unbelievably bizarre. To suggest that I hid anything is so untrue. To suggest that I didn't answer the questions directly and up front is not the case. I answered all these questions, and I think even the most reasonable person would say that this article was torqued. He wanted me to look bad. He spent six months trying to get me to look bad and all he came up with was some ground transportation in Paris. I paid those bills -- or the government didn't pay any of those bills; didn't charge OPG. Yes, I think it's torqued. That's what I believe. I still stand by that.
Listen, you have Mr Mittelstaedt and you put him up here and you hold him in such high esteem. Maybe I don't hold him in as high esteem as you do. That's a difference of opinion; it's not a resigning offence.
Mr McGuinty: I have a question to the same minister. Ultimately it's not about Mr Mittelstaedt; it's about you and your integrity and information that you conveyed to the Ontario public. That's what this is all about.
You were interviewed by Mr Mittelstaedt. He kept very careful records. You said that he "totally torqued and fabricated that story." That's your quotation. You went on to say it was "absolutely torqued and fabricated." Again, that is your quotation.
The Speaker: I'm sorry to interrupt the minister. This is the last warning for the Minister of Colleges and Universities. If she says any more, I'm going to throw her out. I'm not going to put up with it. You've been yelling since the first question. I will not put up with it. This is your last warning. If you want to be thrown out, keep it up, and the Sergeant at Arms will remove you. Sorry, Minister.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, you know that in the matter of Shelley Martel it wasn't just Ernie Eves who stood in his place and demanded a higher standard of integrity. Do you forget what you used to say on this side of the House? Is that what you're telling us, Minister? I will remind you of some of the things. Apparently the ethical standards which you so embraced on this side of the House you have chosen to abandon over there. Let me remind you of what you said.
After the Martel incident, you said, and I quote, "I would have dusted her so fast, it would have made your head spin." That's what you said. Since Ernie Eves has failed to live up to the ethical standards he once held in opposition, I'm now asking you, Minister, what about the ethical standards you embraced on this side of the House? Why don't you stand up, tell us you still embrace those same standards and that you will now resign?
I know we're in a partisan place. I know it's up to everybody in here to be political, and I know it's up to everybody in here to reach down to levels that I've never seen before in order to score political points. I'm going to tell you right now, Mr Leader of the Opposition, I didn't say that. I don't know what more I can tell you. He didn't put it in quotes. Why? Because I didn't say it. He said it, not me. I know this story was designed and built in that fashion. I'm going to tell you, Mr Leader of the Opposition, when I got asked questions from Mr Mittelstaedt, I responded. I know what I said. I didn't say that.
Mr McGuinty: Again, Minister, it's about more than this story. I think you should resign. The right and honourable thing for you to do is to resign, and I'll give you four reasons why you should do that: first of all, because you put expenses through OPG, and I think that is wrong. You claimed you never said things which you in fact did say. I think that was wrong. You attacked a whistle-blower's integrity because he blew the whistle on you. I think that was wrong. Finally, you should resign, Mr Stockwell, because on this side of the House you would have insisted, you would have demanded that that individual over there who did these kinds of things resign. You should stand up now and do the right thing and resign.
Hon Mr Stockwell: I'm not going to. I don't think I should. I don't think I did anything wrong. I think I was pilloried. I think the story did pillory me. If you listen to my answers -- I gave them as clearly as I could. I didn't say that. If you have some evidence to prove I did say that, then bring it forward. Otherwise, I stand by my comments, Mr Leader of the Opposition. I didn't say that. I think the story was torqued, and I live with those comments.
I have not had a single person in my caucus come to me and say, "You should resign." I've not had a single person in the Premier's office tell me, "This is a resigning offence." All they've said to me has supported the position I put forward.
Do I believe we're at a stage now where I think stories get written like this because we're closing in on an election and there are two leaders' questions coming to me about this thing, when there are issues in the province that we could be talking about? Sure I do. I know what this is all about. This is what they taught you in Chicago, wasn't it? This is what they taught you in Washington. This is what they taught you for $27,000 of taxpayers' money. It won't work here.
Mr Hampton: Minister, today your press release says, "Eves Government Launches Independent SARS Commission." I know you're doing your best to spin your announcement as a public inquiry. But when we look at the details of it, we find that significant aspects of the Public Inquiries Act are omitted. For example, under part III of the act, a commissioner would have the power of search and seizure. He would be able to go into a hospital's records or, say, the Ministry of Health's records and would be able to obtain documents or directives. But you have omitted that power. This will be an investigation without the power to, in effect, search for documents, directives or evidence. Maybe you can tell us what kind of investigation doesn't have the power to search for documents or take those documents that they find are relevant to the inquiry. What kind of investigation is that?
Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I'd be happy to educate the leader of the third party on what I think is an announcement that is important to the people of Ontario, who frankly have a right to know what goes on in the Ontario health care system and what we can do to ensure that the health and safety of Ontarians is first and foremost.
I can tell you that Justice Campbell has the powers of a commission under the Public Inquiries Act, part II. He can issue summonses, he can compel production of documents, he can receive evidence and he can administer oaths. There is whistle-blower protection for those who need that kind of protection so that they are not subject to adverse employment action for providing information to Justice Campbell and the commission. Those are the protections in place.
Mr Hampton: The commissioner will not have the power of search and seizure. Yes, he may summon a witness under your restricted terms, but if the witness refuses to turn up, then the commissioner has to go off to court for a very lengthy court process. You have effectively hamstrung the commissioner in that respect. Further, part I of the Public Inquiries Act states very clearly that all hearings of an inquiry are open to the public except where the commissioner conducting the inquiry is of the opinion that they involve, for example, public security.
These will not be public hearings. You will not provide for public hearings. You will not provide for the examination of a witness in public. What you've designed by omitting part I and part III of the Public Inquires Act is exactly what we said it was going to be: something that will take place in a backroom. Nurses who are sick, nurses who are dying, nurses who are going above and beyond the call of duty in our hospitals are asking for a public inquiry. Why won't you give it to them?
Hon Mr Clement: Let me read part 4 of the terms of reference for the SARS commission: "Mr Justice Campbell shall hold such public or private meetings as he deems advisable in the course of his investigation" -- public or private, leader of the third party. He has the discretion, he has the power, he has the right to make the determination. Why are you trying to do the job of an independent commissioner? Why don't you let him do his job instead of trying to second-guess the independent commissioner? Why don't you do your job rather than trying to do his job?
Mr Hampton: You would know there's a difference between a public meeting and a public hearing. But here you are trying to confuse a public meeting with public hearing. They are not the same at all. What you've designed here would not give standing to the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, for example. It would not give standing to the Ontario Nurses' Association to bring a lawyer to examine witnesses and cross-examine witnesses. Everything we expect to see in an independent inquiry, where people get to test the truth of the other side, you have very carefully omitted. What you've designed here is a backroom process that will not result in public hearings, will not result in the cross-examination of witnesses, will not result in the kind of public process that we saw in Walkerton.
Minister, nurses out there are risking their lives. You should at least be decent enough to grant them the public inquiry they've called for. Will you finally do that, or are you going to try to hide behind this smokescreen?
Hon Mr Clement: This is a commission under the Health Protection and Promotion Act and part II of the Public Inquiries Act -- issue summonses, independent judge, independent review, compel production of documents. He can give standing to each and every person he so chooses. I ask the honourable member again, why will you not let the independent Mr Justice Campbell do his job and find the answers that we all in this chamber want to hear and want to find out? Why don't you let him do his job? Why don't you let him be the independent commissioner that we want him to be? Why don't you stop being the judge and jury of the people of Ontario? Quite frankly, you're not very good at it.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Attorney General. Today the Ontario Court of Appeal, headed by your predecessor, Roy McMurtry, reached an important decision in terms of equality. The court ruled that same-sex marriages must be registered in Ontario. This is a good day for equality in Ontario. Yet the Premier seems reluctant to agree with the court's decision. He says he has no plans to register same-sex marriages at any time soon. Attorney General, will you confirm that the government of Ontario will obey the court ruling and will register same-sex marriages immediately, as the court ordered?
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Attorney General, Minister Responsible for Native Affairs): I've only received the decision, and I haven't got all the way through this particular decision. Marriage is defined by our federal government, and it is their decision whether they want to appeal this particular decision, whether they want to deal with it in a legislative manner or whether they want to do something else within the law to deal with it. As a government, we will follow whatever the court has directed us with regard to this issue, because this issue, as I said before, is within the realm of our federal Parliament.
Mr Hampton: My question was, what will your government do? It struck me as a bit odd that the Premier would say he had no intention of following the law as set down by the Court of Appeal of Ontario. We'll get to that in due time, but I want to ask you this: the Liberals in Ottawa may in fact, unfortunately, appeal this to the Supreme Court of Canada, so I'm asking you, in following the court's order, will you join with me today and write to the federal Attorney General and ask the Liberals in Ottawa to obey the law as well?
Hon Mr Sterling: I believe the Premier said that he wanted to review the decision of the Court of Appeal, which I have in front of me. It would be, of course, within the realm of the federal Minister of Justice, who I believe is going to indicate later today whether he is going to appeal this decision or not. It will be up to the federal government to decide, as they were the main litigant in this matter, as to whether or not they are going to appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada. As I said in my previous answer, we will of course follow what the court says in the decision and follow the letter of the law.
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): My question is to the government House leader. There is going to be no ruling, no adjudication, no review from the Integrity Commissioner, as you and the Premier have suggested, and you know it. The Integrity Commissioner is going to provide you with a confidential advisory letter, and you can do with that letter whatever you wish. That's what the statute says, and you know that. You should also know that you're supposed to get that confidential advisory letter before you go on the trip, not afterwards to exonerate yourself after the expense has been made.
There are not going to be any hearings, there are not going to be any affidavits, there is not going to be any submission from one side or the other. There is going to be a letter from you to the Integrity Commissioner, and he will provide his advice based upon the facts as you present them to him. I say to you that you are abusing this particular process. I say to you, Minister, that you are the one who is torquing and prevaricating as to what the Integrity Commissioner --
Hon Mr Stockwell: Oh, yes. Do you know what? I've said it in the past and I'll say it again: whatever decision comes out of the Integrity Commissioner's office I will abide by. If the Integrity Commissioner says I made a mistake, then I made a mistake -- I admit it. If the Integrity Commissioner says we need a policy change but there's no mistake here, I'll abide by that too.
Mr Bryant: I say to you, nice try. Stop using the Integrity Commissioner's office for your political purposes to shield you from accountability. I say to you, Minister, stop pretending that we need an inquiry when we've already got a taped and signed confession. He did it. We know what the facts are. We don't need an opinion from the Integrity Commissioner into what happened, just like we don't need an opinion letter from him as to who won the Stanley Cup.
We need accountability. We need to have disclosed to the public the ministerial expenses from the ministers here who have put them through government corporations. We need to have the loopholes filled. If there needs to be any inquiry by anybody here, it ought to be into your judgment, into this government's standards and into this Premier's lack of leadership.
The Integrity Commissioner is there to do just this. He's there to take requests referred to him by members of this House. I'm trying to tell you that I did what I thought any other honourable member would do.
Hon Mr Stockwell: Let me just finish. Not once, not one time between referring that and to its happening did I say a word, not a heckle -- I didn't. I have great faith in the Integrity Commissioner. Justice Coulter Osborne is the second-highest jurist in the province of Ontario. I've spoken to his office. I will tell you flat out: I don't think he feels the least bit abused.
Ms Marilyn Mushinski (Scarborough Centre): My question is for the Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing responsible for urban affairs. We all know that the effects of the current SARS outbreak are being felt in many sectors of Ontario's economy, and Scarborough, being the centre of the storm, certainly has borne the brunt of many of these effects.
Many people's incomes are being affected, either directly or indirectly, by a downturn in economic activity. I know our government is effectively dealing with this challenge on many different levels, but when it comes to tenants, of whom there are many in my riding affected by this outbreak, paying rent is an immediate concern. What is our government doing to stop tenants from being evicted because they have lost income due to quarantine from SARS?
Hon Tina R. Molinari (Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I want to thank the member for Scarborough Centre, who works very hard for her constituents, for this very important question.
Our government believes that tenants should not be unfairly evicted. That's why the Tenant Protection Act gives the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal the power to refuse evictions if they are deemed unfair. I am pleased to report that the chair of the tribunal has shown initiative on this very issue. The tribunal has issued an emergency policy to reschedule cases until quarantine periods have passed. The TPA ensures that tenants are protected. Any landlord who illegally evicts tenants is subject to a fine of up to $10,000 individually or $50,000 corporately.
Although this penalty is in place, I would still appeal to all landlords to consider the effects that SARS is having on their tenants. They should give tenants who have lost income because of quarantine or SARS-related layoffs time to pay their rent.
Ms Mushinski: Thank you for that response, Minister. I know that's important information for tenants in my great riding of Scarborough Centre. It's appropriate guidance, hopefully, for landlords as well.
While we're on the subject of the Tenant Protection Act, I wonder if you can clarify for renters in my riding, because they want to know what safeguards are in place to protect them against unreasonable rent increases as a result of spikes in utility costs that landlords realize from time to time.
Ms Mushinski: Can you tell me, and I hope the Liberal opposition will listen to this, because clearly they don't have any answers, what mechanisms are in place to make sure tenants aren't unfairly burdened with this type of case?
Hon Mrs Molinari: This government is committed to ensuring that rent increases are fair to both tenants and landlords. The Tenant Protection Act is strong legislation that protects tenants against unfair rent increases and allows landlords to recoup extraordinary increases in their operating costs when necessary.
Through an amendment to the regulation in the act, which was announced on December 31 last year, tenants are protected. Our government recognizes that when a landlord applies for an above-guideline rent increase, they may receive a refund or a rebate. That's why we've amended the regulations under the TPA to ensure that any utility refund or rebate will be deducted from the landlord's costs if they apply for an above-guideline rent increase. This regulation change is fair to all tenants.
Mr George Smitherman (Toronto Centre-Rosedale): My question is to the Minister of the Environment. Minister, yesterday you used the word "fabrication" to describe quotes that were attributed to you by Martin Mittelstaedt. Earlier today in questioning from my leader, you attempted to read a paragraph into the record that was in fact not a quote. Yesterday, very clearly, you said that quotes attributed to you -- quotes; that's where things like that are around them -- were a fabrication.
In questioning from my leader today, you defended yourself by reading a paragraph into the record that was, I believe, not a quote at all. Mr Minister, proof has been offered by Martin Mittelstaedt today that the quotes that were attributed to you were said by you.
I would ask you, in light of your past record on this matter, dealing with the member from Sudbury in 1992 and the strength of your position then, why would you not do the honourable thing and resign?
Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I guess because I consider that to be attributed to me. I think when people read a story and it says, "But later in the interview, he conceded that his stay in Paris had so little official business that he decided to pick up the six-night hotel [cost]" -- to me, an average person reading that would say, "He said that. The reporter says that he conceded that." I think anyone who would read that, any third party, impartial person, would say, "Boy, he said that?" I didn't say that.
Mr Smitherman: All that we need to go with that dance is a little song, because this member, who has spent almost his entire adult life in public service, very well knows the difference between something that may be attributed in an editorial way and something that is a quote. Today he seeks to convince this House, because it suits his story today, that he was talking about a paragraph that was in fact not a quote.
So I say to the minister one more time: since yesterday you said that quotes that were attributed to you were a fabrication, and since it has been proven by the reporter that that is not the case, will you stand in your place and do the honourable thing and resign?
Hon Mr Stockwell: Listen, I just think there's a quantum leap in your logic. I think you're arguing about how many angels or fairies can dance on the head of a pin. I think your position is bizarre. You're asking me to resign because you think that he said this, and it isn't in quotations. I disagree with it because I suggest it was a quotation, and what he said was, "But later in the interview, he conceded." If this is it -- this is it, folks. We've now been reduced to this: I said it was a quotation, when in fact he said, "But later in the interview, he conceded," and they're asking for a minister's resignation. This is not believable.
Did you hear about Tony's and the Premier's announcement with respect to the SARS issue? Did you hear about that? They've appointed someone to look into the SARS issue. I don't know if you heard about that, but that's a really important announcement today. The public is very interested, and they would like to know what you think. You know what I think the public thinks about whether it's a quotation or this or that? I think this is so infinitesimal, so minor that I'm not even answering the question.
Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): My question is for the Minister of Public Safety and Security. Approximately three weeks ago, federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser revealed that the federal government has lost track of about 36,000 failed refugee claimants, individuals who had been ordered removed from this country. The Auditor General also said that these cases may pose a safety concern.
Hon Robert W. Runciman (Minister of Public Safety and Security): I thank the member for the question. We are very concerned about the risk that these individuals might pose to the people of our province, and we're not alone. The Toronto Police Association has also echoed those concerns. Federal Minister Coderre has dismissed the Auditor General's concerns, but a check of CPIC indicates that, as of today, there are almost 37,000 prime warrants for these individuals, with an additional 50,000-plus alias entries attached to them. This is clearly a legitimate public safety and security matter.
Several months ago, we all read about the "yo-yo bandits," convicted criminals deported from this country on three separate occasions, only to return and be engaged, or allegedly engaged, in criminal activity once again.
Last week, the Liberal member for Hamilton Mountain said that any political party supportive of a made-in-Ontario immigration policy, similar to the program currently in place in the province of Quebec, is "scapegoating immigrants and insulting all Ontarians."
Let me be clear: this government believes that Ontario's prosperity has been, and continues to be, strengthened by immigration and the diversity of our people. Let no member opposite be confused. The Ernie Eves government is battling illegal immigrants, such as these nearly 37,000 prime warrants being hunted. Allegations like the one from the member opposite are indicative of the Liberal Party's propensity to slander and throw mud at anyone who attempts to deal with this issue.
The truth of the matter is that not nearly enough is being done from the moment these illegal immigrants land on Canadian soil. In recent weeks, the people of Ontario have been alerted to improper medical screening procedures at points of entry into Canada, potentially exposing Canadians to infectious disease. Last week, there were allegations brought forward that federal immigration officers --
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): My question is to the Minister of Education. Parents are really concerned about the safety of their children. When we asked this question yesterday, your Premier made no commitment to address the issue of safety. Instead of dealing with this issue, you made an announcement to bring in so-called outside experts, ie non-certified teaching staff. You were willing to find dollars for this, but there is no funding to bring back caretakers, lunchroom supervisors, educational assistants, principals and vice-principals -- the people who keep our kids safe. Minister, explain this to me and to many of the parents across Ontario.
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Deputy Premier, Minister of Education): I find the remarks and allegations of the member opposite unfortunate, because when our government introduced, first, the Safe Schools Act in 2000, both the NDP and the Liberals voted against the Safe Schools Act.
Hon Mrs Witmer: I'd also like the member to know that the Toronto District School Board has today sent out, to principals, streetproofing tips for parents. I'd also like you to know that the Toronto District School Board -- all across Toronto, local communities -- they are jointly meeting with the police. They have been advised that security staff and safe school coordinators are working with the police on heightened alert and are ready to assist. I would say to you that the Toronto District School Board is taking all the action it possibly can in order to ensure --
Mr Marchese: Minister, it seems you have money for all the wrong things and no funding to do the right thing. Ontario parents like Cathy Dandy, who is here today with her child, want you to look out for the safety of their children. Your board supervisor is looking at replacing 300 caretakers and cutting kindergarten education assistants by half. What kind of government are you, I ask, when you care more about finding money for non-qualified teachers than for caretakers, education assistants, lunchroom supervisors, vice-principals and principals, who are the eyes and ears of school safety?
Hon Mrs Witmer: Unfortunately, the statements the member opposite is making are not founded on fact. We've made no announcements regarding teachers who are not qualified to teach in the classroom. We made an announcement yesterday about the fact that volunteers could participate in after-school activities. They were unpaid volunteers, so you are wrong.
I would say to you today that you probably owe the principals in the city of Toronto an apology. They are working diligently in co-operation with the police to ensure the safety of children. Letters have gone home. They're taking every precaution necessary. They're having daily consultations with the safe schools office. An adviser from the safe schools office is visiting schools. I would just say to the member opposite that when we introduced the Safe Schools Act in 2000 to protect the safety of our children, you and the Liberals first voted against it.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, you continue to maintain that the reporter got it wrong, that he fabricated his story. You take issue with a particular sentence, the one where Mr Mittelstaedt wrote: "... he conceded" -- talking about you -- "that the stay in Paris had so little official business that he decided to pick up his six-night hotel...." What you in fact said was, "Because we had a prolonged stay in Paris, we arranged meetings that were a little sparse, so I decided it was better I paid them." Minister, can you tell me what is the difference? Mittelstaedt says, "...he conceded that the stay in Paris had so little official business that he decided to pick up his six-night hotel," and you said, "Because we had a prolonged stay in Paris, we arranged meetings that were a little sparse, so I decided it was better I paid them." What's the difference?
Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I guess we have a difference of opinion, leader of the official opposition. He also said during that same interview that he thought the meeting schedule was a little sparse, as they said. I said, no, it was a very heavy meeting schedule. We had 12 meetings in 14 days. That was also part of the context of the column. So why on the one hand would I have said, "Yes, it was a busy schedule. We were meeting quite a bit," and on the other hand say, that I conceded so little official business that "he decided to pick up his own tab"? It doesn't make any sense. Why would I say, yes, we were very busy, and then on the other hand, when I was talking about the tail end of the trip and why we picked up the tab, because on the tail end of the trip we couldn't get a connecting flight -- that's what I said.
Mr McGuinty: You talk about trying to figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The issue here is you can't justify sending $5,000 to $10,000 worth of expenses over to OPG. That's what this is all about. You've got trouble admitting that, you've got trouble facing up to that, and you've got trouble recognizing that that is wrong. So a reporter blew the whistle on you. "Big deal. Those things happen from time to time." I think the way you should have reacted was to say, "I got it wrong. I did something that was wrong. I should not have sent $5,000 to $10,000 worth of expenses through OPG. It was wrong for me to claim that I never said those things. It was wrong for me to attack the personal and professional integrity of a reporter." That's what you should have done. I think the right thing for you to do is to stand up today, given all those wrongs, and resign.
Hon Mr Stockwell: Maybe you're right. I say to the member, Mr Parsons, that may be right. You have an opinion that I did; I have an opinion that I didn't. So what did I do? I went to the adjudicator, Justice Coulter Osborne, and said, "Please, Mr Osborne, as the Integrity Commissioner for Ontario" -- that we've all appointed --
Hon Mr Stockwell: Unanimously -- "Please, could you settle this dispute, because the opposition thinks I'm wrong and I don't. What do you think?" You know what I'd like to know before we start going into this much further? I'd like to know what he thinks?
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): My question today is for the Minister of Consumer and Business Services. Constituents in my riding of Simcoe North and other Simcoe county ridings and across Ontario want government to deliver services more conveniently and closer to home. I know that this government has been a leader in making government work for working families. I know that the LCBO, which reports to your ministry, has been working hard to improve the service it provides to Ontarians. In fact, one of the most successful programs currently underway is the expansion of the agency store program in Ontario. Could you please let the House know how this program has been progressing here in our province?
Hon Tim Hudak (Minister of Consumer and Business Services): The agency store program is an important and exciting program that helps out consumers and small businesses in rural Ontario, a partnership between the LCBO and The Beer Store and existing private enterprise, to allow people who live in small-town Ontario who have a longer drive into the city to go to an LCBO or Beer Store to have access within their own communities. It's been a very successful program. The ball started rolling under my predecessor, the Honourable Norm Sterling. I know it's a very popular program that has seen money being kept in small-town Ontario, and I can tell you some good stories about stores that have seen an increase in their businesses as grocery stores, variety stores etc, as a result.
I know the member for Simcoe North has been a very strong advocate for this program on behalf of rural Ontario. I know he's advocated for communities in his riding. He's probably very excited about Friday's announcement that Joyland Beach and Warminster are new agency store communities. I congratulate the member on his efforts.
Mr Dunlop: These agency stores are great news for communities in my riding and across the province. For example, in Simcoe-Grey, Minister Wilson's riding, Minesing, Feversham, Singhampton, Thornton and Beeton all have new agency stores, and they're working out very well.
Communities like Craighurst are already enjoying the benefits of an agency store. Last summer, I was very pleased when the minister joined me to officially open the agency store in Craighurst. The owner of that particular facility actually spent $1.5 million and included the agency store as part of that.
I understand that the other new stores opened by this government have also been very successful. With these new LCBO outlets opening up in existing stores, I'm certain that there will be questions about young people accessing their products. For these new stores to be truly successful, they will have to provide the same high standards of service and social responsibility as a regular LCBO store.
This is an important question from the member in terms of how we check to make sure minors don't have access to alcohol: the exact same standards that exist in the LCBO or the Beer Store -- for example, the Check 25 program -- are enforced at the agency stores. The retailers themselves must go through this intensive training. I'm pleased to report, as well, that while no instances were brought to my attention, there are strong penalties in case they are: fines up to $500,000 or a potential loss of a licence. I am pleased to say we have not heard of these incidences in my office, but those penalties are in place. Whether you're in Stevensville or the Summerhill flagship of the LCBO, there are very high standards to ensure that there is no access to alcohol for minors in these programs.
Mr Michael Bryant (St Paul's): My question is for the government House leader. You said that the inquiry process under the Members' Integrity Act was a similar process as you are currently invoking from the Integrity Commissioner. You will know that under the Members' Integrity Act, there is the possibility of an inquiry with submissions and affidavits submitted and an opportunity for meetings. It's a fairly elaborate process. It takes many, many weeks, if not months. It involves a tremendous amount of evidence.
That's one process, but that's not the process that you're invoking. The process that you're invoking is the same process that a number of us invoke all the time. We ask the Integrity Commissioner for some advice, confidential advice, and we can do with it what we will. You are wrong to say that he can release it or not release it, and you are wrong to say that the process that you are invoking, the confidential advice, is the same as a full-blown inquiry, and you know it.
Hon Chris Stockwell (Minister of the Environment, Government House Leader): I simply phoned the Integrity Commissioner and suggested, "I saw this story, and this is the query. Would you please investigate it and report back to me? If I can be of any service or help or provide you with any information, I will do so readily and quickly."
I then noticed that you had a press conference on Friday last and you said you wanted to broaden the scope of it. People asked for my comments, and I said, "Great; jim-dandy. Broaden the scope of it; I've got no problem with it." I simply called the Integrity Commissioner when I saw it, and asked him to review it and look into it.
I don't know what else you'd expect. I have great faith in the Integrity Commissioner, Coulter Osborne. I don't think he's going to be abused. I don't think he feels abused. I don't think he's feeling that it's a whitewash. From any conversations I've had with his office, they seemed perfectly happy with what I did, and they said that to me: "You've done the exact right thing. The minute this was brought to your attention, you brought it to our attention. That's exactly what you're supposed to do, and we will investigate."
I want you to be totally accurate. You said you asked him to investigate, and you're leaving everybody in this House and everybody out there with the impression that he is investigating this matter. He's not investigating anything. He's looking at a letter you wrote, he's taking your words at face value and he's providing an opinion to you.
You are trying to lead people in this province into believing that there's an adjudication, that there's a process and an investigation and an inquiry. There's none of that. None of that is taking place.
The Integrity Commissioner can't rule on this dispute. There's only one place that we can get to the bottom of this: it's in this Legislature, it's by you being held to account and by this government raising its standards to the standards that Ontarians expect from their ministers.
I'm trying to be as cooperative and forthright with you as possible. The first thing I did was phone the Integrity Commissioner. They said that's the right thing to do. They asked me then to write them a letter; I wrote them a letter. They said to me that they will investigate. They've asked for information. I've supplied them with some information already.
Don't mouth that you know it's not true; don't mouth that to me. I take great offence at that. That's exactly what the office said. They've asked me for further information that I'm supposed to provide them with. I said yes. You asked me, if it isn't made public, could you have it? I said, "Yes, I'll give it to you." I don't know what more I could do. When the report comes out, I will give you what he tells me to do. I won't be able to hide behind anything.
Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): My question today is for the Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. I recently met with the board of directors of Anson House, a 42-bed long-term-care facility in Peterborough. Anson House is in the process of relocating to a new facility in Peterborough, St Joseph's at Fleming. The board told me they're looking forward to moving to the new site, where they'll able to provide even better care for residents. The board of directors also thank their government for its support and funding and for overcoming the challenges they face during the transition.
Hon Dan Newman (Associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): I thank the member for Peterborough for his question. I'm very pleased to hear that the board of directors of Anson House is looking forward to moving into their new home. I know that the member for Peterborough has worked very hard on their behalf.
The new St Joseph's at Fleming long-term-care facility will be home to some 200 redeveloped beds that will be eligible to receive up to $15 million in provincial funding over 20 years to help with the cost of construction. These upgraded beds at St Joseph's will meet our government's new design standards for long-term-care facilities. These standards will provide more than quality care; they will provide a real home for these residents.
Mr Stewart: Minister, I would have leaned over and asked you, but I want all of Ontario to hear what a unique facility we are creating in Peterborough. I'm very pleased to hear that the new St. Joseph's facility will mean even better care for residents. Quality long-term care is important to my constituents, and it is important that our government make the investments to meet the needs of our growing and aging population. Ontario's seniors spend their lives building a prosperous province that we enjoy today. I'm proud to be part of a government that's working hard to improve the quality of life for all seniors in Ontario.
Hon Mr Newman: I once again thank the very hard-working member for Peterborough for his question. It's my pleasure to say that a total of some 514 new and redeveloped long-term-care beds have been awarded in the member's riding of Peterborough. This is all part of our government's unprecedented $1.2-billion commitment to build 20,000 new and redevelop 16,000 older long-term-care beds across our great province.
So far, 314 new and redeveloped beds have been built or are in operation within Peterborough. In fact, since 1998, more than 18,500 new long-term-care beds have been build or are being developed across our province, and more than 8,000 existing beds have been, or soon will be, redeveloped. I'm proud to say that these investments will mean that seniors in Peterborough, and indeed throughout Ontario, will have access to the care they need when they need it.
Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. People should be confident in their new homes or in a renovation that is done in their home. Your privatization of building inspection means that the same person who builds has his own agent inspect.
John Wright of the Large Municipalities Chief Building Officials says that your position is reckless. He also says, "It is absurd to expect these agents to be able to counteract the commercial pressure that will be put upon them."
Hon David Young (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The member knows well or should know well, given that he has been in the Legislative Assembly for a considerable period of time, that it is most inappropriate to ask a question of or expect an answer from a minister about a case which is pending in front of a court. So I will presume that he is not expecting an answer to that question, although his words would suggest otherwise.
What I will tell you is that Bill 124, which has not come into effect yet but will shortly, is a bill which will add additional guarantees to consumers to ensure they have protections. It will ensure that whoever is doing the inspection passes the highest possible tests and will ensure that those individuals fulfill all criteria. It will ensure that those individuals, whether they work independently or for a municipality, have insurance in place so that if something goes wrong, if all of those additional tests and standards don't prevent something from going wrong, there will be insurance in place for the consumer.
Mr Prue: Municipalities across Ontario have been put in a straitjacket. They are forced to contract out because this government has chosen to download many costs upon them which they cannot bear. People are losing out and families are suffering because of shoddy work, particularly the people who purchased these homes from Dominion Cement or in which Dominion Cement was a contractor. These homes are structurally unsafe.
Hon Mr Young: Clearly the member doesn't want to let the facts get in the way of a good rant. Talk about mixing apples and oranges, he's talking about an unfortunate occurrence that happened well in advance of a bill that hasn't come into effect yet.
What we are saying to you, sir, and to the people of this province is that we are bringing in tighter standards. We are bringing in the toughest standards in the world. We are ensuring that all parties will have sufficient insurance so that in the future, should anything go wrong, there will be a remedy for consumers. They will be able to get their money back. They will be able to get their house repaired.
Ms Sandra Pupatello (Windsor West): I'm very happy to introduce a petition on behalf of Mark Morin from my riding, who has gone to enormous trouble to collect some five pages of petitioners. I'm happy to table that today.
"Whereas prior to the introduction of this tax credit, Ontario parents whose children attended independent schools faced a financial burden of paying taxes to an education system they did not use, plus tuition for the school of their choice; and
"Therefore we, the undersigned, respectfully request that the government of Ontario reintroduce the second phase of the tax credit forthwith and continue -- without delay -- the previously announced timetable for the introduction of the tax credit over five years."
"Therefore we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows: that the Parliament of Ontario take the necessary steps to strengthen the Canadian bid for the ITER research facility, including the commitment of more funds and other resources to support a successful Canadian bid; and that the province of Ontario ask the federal government to show the leadership and commitment necessary for Canada to win the ITER bid."
"Whereas the citizens and municipalities of Durham region have faced uncertainty over the final alignment of the proposed 407 highway for many years and are entitled to a timely resolution to this matter;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows: that the Parliament of Ontario take" all necessary "steps to fast-track the extension of Highway 407 eastward, into the regional municipality of Durham, while ensuring that all the necessary environmental assessment and public consultation processes are followed" according to the law.
"Whereas disabled Ontarians are recognized under the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997, and as such have the right to have their basic needs met, including adequate housing, a proper and healthy diet, a bed that does not make them sicker and clothing that fits and is free of stains and holes; and
"Whereas their basic needs are no longer being met because the Ministry of Social Services has not increased the shelter and basic needs allowances of disabled Ontarians eligible to receive benefits under the Ontario disability support program to reflect the increased costs of shelter and basic needs (and in fact have reduced these benefits for those recipients who receive a disability benefit under the Canada pension plan); and
"Whereas the Ontarians with Disabilities Act does not protect the thousands of vulnerable people in Ontario who are dependent on others for their basic needs and care and who are eligible for benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997;
"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, request the Ontario Legislature to urge the government to respect their own definition of basic needs and provide a cost-of-living increase to recipients of benefits through the Ontario Disability Support Program Act that is sufficient to cover the increased costs of their basic needs as of 2001 prices, and that this benefit not be reduced as a result of increases in the Canada pension plan benefit."
"Whereas the province of Ontario has recognized the importance of the moraine with the passage of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, 2001, to protect natural and water resources, preserve agricultural lands and provide clarity on where development can and cannot occur; and
"That the province of Ontario work together with municipalities and landowners to ensure the interpretation and enforcement of the act continues to fully protect the moraine while also giving residents the right to fair and reasonable enjoyment of their property."
"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Ontario Legislature to demand the Harris-Eves government move immediately to permanently fund audiologists directly for the provision of audiology services."
"Whereas government needs to increase long-term-care operating funding by $750 million over the next three years to raise the level of service for Ontario's long-term-care residents to those in Saskatchewan" back "in 1999; and
"Demand that Premier Eves reduce his 15% fee increase on seniors and the most vulnerable living in long-term-care facilities and increase provincial government support for nursing and personal care to adequate levels."
"Whereas the provincial government made no mention of opening up wilderness parks to hunting when it came up with the Ontario Living Legacy policy ... for a vast area of publicly owned land across northern Ontario;
"Whereas the province's wilderness parks were originally established to be sanctuaries where the forces of nature would be permitted to function freely and where visitors could travel by non-mechanized means and experience solitude, challenge and personal enjoyment of that protected area; and
"Therefore we, the undersigned citizens of Ontario, petition the Ontario Legislature to demand that the Ministry of Natural Resources renew and reconfirm its ban on hunting in all of Ontario's wilderness parks."
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario directs the government to address public concerns of cronyism and patronage by releasing full details of all dealings between the Cortellucci-Montemarano group of companies and the government of Ontario, its agencies, boards and/or commissions, for public scrutiny.
To give the public a summary of what this issue is about, we in this House addressed the Premier of Ontario and asked him very pointed questions about a relationship between the Conservative government's largest party donor, Mario Cortellucci and his companies, and the Ontario Pension Board, which is chaired by Don Weiss, a government appointment to that chairship, an individual who before being appointed chair was executive director of the Progressive Conservative fund, the fundraising arm of the party.
We've discovered since then, and introduced in this House, that when he came to committee -- which he had to appear before in order to be sanctioned for this appointment and which is a majority Conservative MPP committee, so of course it was going to pass -- Liberals at that committee raised concerns about that link being far too close, for an individual to be chair of the Ontario Pension Board, which is responsible for investing the pension funds of employees of the Ontario public service, having just stepped from the PC Party fundraising arm, only to discover at that committee that he in fact was going to, for some period of time, have both positions, be both initially a board member of the pension board and continue on at the PC fund. For a period of nine months, he continued both roles. He eventually moved from being on the board of the pension board to being the chair of the pension board. In that time, some very interesting changes took place at the Ontario Pension Board where their investments were concerned.
It's interesting to note as well for the record that not only was he chair of the pension board, but he also sat on a number of committees at that pension board. He was the CEO overseeing the day-to-day operations of the fund; he was a member of the audit committee of that board, which ensures the financial probity of those decisions; a member of the investment committee of the board that scrutinized individual investments; a member of the pension policy committee, which sets the general investment policies; and a member of the human resources committee, which weighs in on the hiring of fund employees. So you see, Don Weiss is in a key, critical position and is a significant decision-maker. He's not only a decision-maker, but then sits on an audit committee to determine if those decisions were appropriate and sits on the policy-deciding committee as to how policies might change.
In fact, the policies did change. When Don Weiss arrived at the Ontario Pension Board, the policy of investment changed. It changed in the kinds of dealings and investments in property, which were typically income-generating properties they might invest in. Other pension boards do that as well: apartment buildings, land that generates income. It was stated in the annual report of the Ontario Pension Board that they've made a change to that policy. They've decided recently that they would invest in high-risk investments -- very unusual. Here is a pension board that oversees a fund of some $11 billion -- certainly small compared to, say, the teachers' pension board, maybe six times as small. The teachers' pension board does not invest in these kinds of high-risk investments. But Don Weiss made this change, and the policies did change.
When those policies changed, what we realize is that they have made high-risk property investments. They didn't do it before Don Weiss got there; they have done it since. But they've only done it with one individual, and they have told us now that they've had seven property dealings of this nature with Mario Cortellucci, who is also the PC Party's largest donor. So you see, what is at question here is, is there a conflict of interest in an individual who chairs a pension board that makes decisions on how an investment fund will be invested making an arrangement with the individual who is the PCs' largest donor? Moreover, they changed the policy to allow for this kind of deal, and they've only used that kind of deal once, with one individual, and that one individual happens to be the PC Party's largest donor.
We introduced in this House the conflict-of-interest guidelines that drive the behaviour of these top civil service positions, which is what it is. Don Weiss is guided by that public service guideline, which states that an individual will not have special privilege for his friends or for his family.
I ask this House to consider: what is considered a special privilege? Well, it's something that is not available to everyone. It's not available to me. It's not available to any other land developer in Ontario. I marvel every time the television comes on and I watch Ernie Eves talk about the economic plan for Ontario, if you want to invest in Ontario. Why does his TV ad not say, "Call the Ontario Pension Board, because have we got a deal for you. We can finance you up to 90% of the value of that land cost," 90% on the cost of land?
Well, this is what the land looks like. It's farmland, and, according to the Brampton plan, this farmland is outside the urban area for Brampton. In the plan for development of Brampton, it is not considered to be up for development until well into the year 2020; in fact, they said 2023. It could be developed 25 years from now, if it's going to be developed.
When we introduced this information in the House, Mario Cortellucci was quoted as saying that he might be able to do this in five to 10 years. If he did that, it would be against what the Brampton plan is. Is there some information that all of us in this House and perhaps the Brampton city council might want to know, in terms of the speed with which this particular land might be developed? We asked this House to consider how one land developer could access the kind of financing that he did, that makes most land developers green with envy; that they could have at 90% of the cost of that land.
We have the deals that they struck. Four were introduced in this House. Just for these four that we introduced, the land cost totalled over $11 million. Of that $11 million, the cash down by Cortellucci was $1.2 million. The balance of the loan from the pension board was $9.7 million. There was a second loan on those properties totalling $140 million.
We asked these questions in the House. The minister stood up on his feet and tried to talk about the details of those arrangements, which are not public. The agreement that makes these loans happen is not a public document, so we can't see that what the minister is telling us is true. We asked him to table those agreements in this House. In fact, in our motion today, we asked him to table all agreements with Mario Cortellucci and the Montemarano companies in this House; dealings with the government, with its agencies, boards and commissions. The links here are clear. Don Weiss was appointed by the government. Ernie Eves was the finance minister at the time. The finance minister would be very interested in who is appointed chair of the Ontario Pension Board. Why? Because Ontario taxpayers are on the hook for those pension funds. If the pension board funds fail, the Ontario taxpayers have to cover them. They have to guarantee them for the employees. So we have a vested interest in knowing that they're making good and valuable decisions.
Are they good and valuable decisions? Well, the Ontario Pension Board has an audit process to see that they're making smart investments. But Don Weiss sits on that committee as well, and he suggested in interviews, after we raised this issue, that they had an ad hoc committee that made this decision. Now, is that a discussion over a water cooler in the morning? Who participated in those discussions, to see this is where they should go?
Why is it that before Don Weiss was at the pension board, they did not invest in high-risk land speculation deals? Don Weiss arrives at the board; they are now investing in high-risk land speculative deals -- but only with one developer. That one developer happens to be the largest donor to the PC party.
We have a right to ask these questions and demand answers from this government. That is just too cozy. The minister suggested in this House that they will investigate to see that no laws were broken. Do you know what the conflict of interest guidelines say? The conflict of interest guidelines say you can't just follow the law; you have to be seen not to have a conflict.
There's the rub. We can't just put people in positions and hope that they do what's right, in an integrity-minded way, in the functioning of the government and in the overseeing of that pension board. It has to be seen to be at arm's length and on the basis of good decision-making and investments. What we have instead is an opportunity for only one land developer to access financing, the likes of which land developers don't see anywhere else in Ontario. Only one land developer got this kind of a deal.
How can the government actually defend this? We want to know: was Don Weiss acting in the best interests of the pension board, and therefore of the taxpayers, or was he acting in the best interests of where he was also working at the very same time as he was on the board, as a board member of the pension board, with his hand out to Mario Cortellucci?
We then found that in that time period, Cortellucci had donated more than $20,000 during a by-election that occurred there, when the law allows you to double up on your various donations to the party. While Don Weiss was out asking for money of Mario Cortellucci, he was in a position within the pension board to be making arrangements to change the policy that allows investment in high-risk speculative land deals. The first order of business, the one development that he's prepared to engage in, has to do with Mario Cortellucci, the single largest donor to the PC Party, who has donated over $1 million to leadership candidates, to the PC Party by-election candidates, you name it. It is just too cozy.
It's a terrible saying around here to say, "It's who you know," because it's supposed to be about fair government. Government's role for all of us is that it's supposed to be fair. If that is the kind of investment that the pension board is going to be getting into, then it has to be fair and accessible to everyone. Everyone has to have that same opportunity. Was there an ad that went out? Was there a mailing that went out to all developers that said, "Look at how much money can be available to you"? The seven land deals that they made with Mario Cortellucci, totalling under or just over $40 million for the purchase of land -- do you not think every land developer wants to have that kind of opportunity? But they didn't. Before Don Weiss arrived at the board, they didn't do that kind of deal. Don Weiss arrives and they do that kind of a deal. The only land developer to benefit from that kind of deal is Mario Cortellucci. In that same time frame, a conflict of interest was there because Don Weiss was the head of the PC fundraising arm, hand out to Mario Cortellucci for money to put in the PC coffers, at the same time his policy was changing to allow for this kind of high-risk investment.
We have an obligation to the public here. The government has an obligation when they put names forward. They can't just follow the rules; they have to be seen to follow the rules. Conflict of interest exists every day, and it should be the government's priority to be seen to have integrity, to act on these matters so that you will have integrity, so that an individual like Don Weiss cannot be appointed to such a board, because it is so sensitive in terms of what kinds of dealings happen at that board.
We have asked these questions repeatedly in this House. First, the Premier suggested there was going to be some kind of an investigation. The minister responsible for the investigation, by the time the end of the day is through, says he called his deputy minister and was assured it was fine. There you go; the deal's over. It's a drive-by review that he apparently is satisfied with. At the same time as he suggests the drive-by review is fine, the Premier is up in Barrie somewhere making some kind of an announcement and suggests I haven't seen a report yet to understand that we've unearthed all there is to unearth, and that we're satisfied with this.
We say today in this House with this motion that we insist that these deals be tabled so we can all look at them. We are, after all, responsible for all of the 11 million or 12 million people in this province who are responsible for that pension board, for those employees who are expecting a pension, and that the decisions that are being made are being made because they're good business decisions, not because you're doing something for someone who has just far too cozy a relationship with the individual that this same government appointed to head that Ontario Pension Board. That is not on. We expect a government to act with integrity. Maybe you didn't realize the kind of conflict that could exist, but when we ask these questions in this House, we expect some kind of action. I call on this government to stop this kind of conflict and act with integrity.
Mrs Julia Munro (York North): It is always a pleasure for me to rise in the House to speak to the people of Ontario about the important issues of the day that should be debated in this House. We do that every day. But I should also say that it is unfortunate that I and my colleagues must repeatedly stand to dispel what can only be characterized as baseless rumour and innuendo.
I can respect a member who stands to debate the merits of policy. That's really why we are here. We're supposed to be debating the merit of a policy and then ultimately letting the people decide. I regret that I have not yet seen that from the members across the way in this debate. So far, I have only heard what I can call irresponsible rumours. There's no interest in the truth. There is no interest in really getting at the issues.
I need to clear the air on this and set some context for what we are really talking about here, and that is the Liberal Party's complete lack of respect for this House and what I believe is an abuse of their parliamentary privilege and immunity from libel for things said in this House.
Let's look at some of the examples from just last week. On Monday, the member for Windsor West stood in her place and said that the Ontario Pension Board loaned $150 million to a friend of the party. She said she had legal documents that showed the Ontario public service pension plan, an arm's-length agency that makes independent investment decisions in the best interests of its members and pensioners, gave $150 million to a friend of the party, putting taxpayers and pensioners at risk.
Let's take a closer look at that. I recall very clearly that the member for Windsor West said this was a $150-million loan. I think most members of the House remember this quite well. This is, of course, completely wrong. First of all, this was not $150 million; it was much less. It was $36.3 million, to be precise. That makes a difference of more than $113 million. That's more than four times the amount. I find that absolutely outrageous. As if this were not bad enough -- and I think it's pretty bad to make an accusation that's so wildly exaggerated -- the member for Windsor West did not even have enough courage to stand in her place and apologize for this. That would be bad enough. To put forward inaccurate information such as this inside or outside the House would in itself be unbecoming of an honourable member, but to do it and then fail to recognize her own mistake is inexcusable.
Of course, this is not the only area where the member across the way is wrong. When she called this a loan, I think the member knew very well that she was painting a picture which did not accurately portray what really happened here, so let me talk about this in a little more detail.
The most important thing to know is that this is not just a loan. These were mortgages against properties that independent experts hired by the pension board thought were good investments. They were investments made by an entire committee: professionals with experience in the management of pension funds and concerned only with the financial state of the fund and its ability to meet the needs of its members. I am shocked that the members opposite would even hint that these people would make decisions which they knew were unnecessarily risky or ill-conceived.
Of course, the Liberals would have us believe that the pension board was just giving money away. This is not at all the case. I recall very clearly the Chair of Management Board standing outside the Legislature talking about how these investments were structured. First in this regard is the fact that the $36.3-million investment was spread across seven individual properties, not four, as the member would have us believe. Again, this is a fact that she has mentioned.
So what else is there about these deals that the Liberals just don't know or, worse, are deliberately ignoring? It would seem that the members opposite would like to have people believe wrongly that this was like the pension board giving away free money. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I heard the Chair of Management Board tell reporters outside the House about how these investments were structured, and it makes a great deal of sense to me. The pension board makes decisions in a purely businesslike manner with whatever is in the best interests of its shareholders, the members and pensioners of the plan. Like responsible businesses, the pension board wants to make sure that its investments are protected. In order to do that, in this case they have come to agreements with the company in which they're investing to arrange for security or collateral, to make sure that if something goes wrong and the business is not able to pay the original principal, the plan's members or taxpayers do not get stuck paying for it. Part of this collateral is the land itself, which is a very common investment for pension plans. In fact, in the year before, the public service pension plan invested more than $1 billion in real estate. This is a sound investment.
I know that many people are saying, "What if there's something wrong with the land and you can't sell it?" That's a good question, and the Chair of Management Board explained that very well too. Because the properties were -- I apologize to the House for using such technical terms -- cross-collateralized, the pension board would be able to use other properties to make up the difference if the value of one property should go down. In addition, the total value of the security is many times higher than the actual value of the mortgage itself, to make sure the investment is protected.
I know that the members opposite may not acknowledge that they were wrong. After all, that comes hard for any politician. I think in this case, the member for Windsor West owes pensioners of the public service pension plan, the people of Ontario, and this House an apology for so wildly exaggerating not only the actual value of the investment in question but also the risk associated with it.
I think it is truly deplorable that the members opposite would use their position to scare members of the plan into believing that the board was risking their retirement funds in high-risk ventures. I am confident that the board acted in good faith and think that it is time for the opposition to really own up to the facts of the case and stop the smear campaign of highly respected professionals.
We all know that when investing there is no sure thing, and there are clearly some investments that involve more risk than others. It seems to me that what we should hope for is that the pension board should not preclude doing business with anyone who donated to the Progressive Conservative Party but should be concerned that members' and pensioners' money is invested in a prudent manner that obtains the greatest value for the least risk possible. It certainly seems to me that this is the case with these investments.
I appreciate the opportunity to address this motion and can only say that I find it very unfortunate to have to address such a blatantly flawed set of arguments. I know that my colleagues have a number of examples where the Liberal position so badly represents the truth of this matter, and I look forward to hearing exactly what they have to say.
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane): I believe the member who has just spoken has really missed the whole point of what this issue is about. The member tries to stand in her place to justify the legality of this particular transaction when we in politics understand that perception can be as damaging as reality.
In this case, the perception is extremely damaging because it doesn't, as we would say in our parlance, pass the smell test. In more direct context, this deal stinks. It stinks because it is only a part of a pattern of behaviour in dealing with Mario Cortellucci, a very successful Toronto developer, and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. It stinks because there's a relationship there of donations and political contributions that number over $1 million over the last eight years. I think that if you give someone, and especially in this case a political party, $1 million, it's really a transaction when it comes to that large an amount of money, and with that transaction, you expect something in return. And boy, has Mr Cortellucci received a lot in return. I think he has done very well, quite frankly, for his investment of $1 million in the PCs.
His name really first came to light with regard to the Oak Ridges moraine controversy of at least two years ago, when environmental organizations in the moraine area were very concerned about the rapid development north of Toronto, east and west along that line, of a very sensitive environmental part of this province, basically, the beginning of the watershed for the GTA. They rightfully brought forward the idea that much of that area should be preserved in order to protect the valuable water resource so that the moraine, which is basically gravel, can receive all the rainfall and fill up the aquifers in our rivers and streams. When you pave all that land over, you've therefore sealed off the aquifers and they no longer can be fed by rainfall.
Through all that debate, finally the government, under extreme pressure -- and some great work from many of our colleagues like Michael Colle, who walked the whole moraine to bring the point home -- decided that they would do a land swap, because many of the developers in that area had invested over the years, speculating that as Toronto grew, it would primarily grow north and that this land that was primarily purchased as raw agricultural land would eventually be developed into subdivisions and therefore become of great, great value, as has been the history for this area. When that swap happened, it became apparent that Mario Cortellucci, just a few months before, had purchased a great amount of land in that area that really had been frozen for development by the Ontario Municipal Board. Many of us were scratching our heads and wondering, "Why would a very successful and very canny developer purchase land that appeared to be frozen from development in that area?" But lo and behold, that frozen land was picked up by the government as land that would be included in the land swap. So the land Mr Cortellucci owned, which really was of relatively little value because it was frozen at this time by the Ontario Municipal Board, all of a sudden became swapped with land north of Pickering and the Seaton area that would be ready to go in a high-value area for subdivision development. Again, we all wondered, "How would Mr Cortellucci have known that this deal was going to be happening?"
As it turns out, he had developed a very close relationship with many of the members of this government. In that case, it was with Chris Hodgson, who was the author for the government of this land swap deal. Because of the land dealings in that part of the area and fundraising activities that people like Chris and Mario Cortellucci had in common, there obviously was an understanding there that this was the way the deal was to unfold and therefore, if you could obtain this land, you'd be part of this swap and you would gain tremendous value. That's what happened for Mario Cortellucci right there. So it is basically a pattern of knowledge. Somehow Mr Cortellucci had an understanding that that land deemed to be not of great value would very shortly become of extremely great value.
That brings us to the next project Mr Cortellucci was into that came to our attention, a bit of a pet project of mine because it involves a piece of land in my riding and a proposal that has been bandied about since about 1988, when the Adams and the Sherman mines, owned by Dofasco, were closed, leaving us with two large pits in the ground. A North Bay promoter and developer decided that putting garbage in the Adams mine pit near Kirkland Lake would be a great idea. There's a long history to that, and there's not time in this debate today to get into that, only to say that last September the original promoter and owner of that site encouraged and convinced a brand new partner to become a partner in the Adams mine for the sum of $1.8 million, and that turned out to be Mario Cortellucci. In the land transaction office in Haileybury, Ontario, all we had was a numbered company. It wasn't until there was a legal dispute between Canadian Waste Services and Notre Development and Cortellucci that we understood who was actually the new owner of the Adams mine.
Again, I get back to this trail of inside knowledge. As we knew from headlines, when three years ago a band of very dedicated activists in my area really defeated the Adams mine project, Mel Lastman, the mayor of Toronto, declared in big headlines in all the papers that the Adams mine was dead, "d-e-d, ded," as he spelled it at the time, that there was no interest for this project. But Mario Cortellucci understood that he had a fan here in the government.
I wish I had more time to talk about all of this, and I think I will have time some other day, but we need to get on with another speaker. I would hope my colleagues will continue this tale of insider knowledge and how Mr Cortellucci has had really exclusive treatment by this government.
Hon Doug Galt (Minister without Portfolio): I appreciate the opportunity -- well, I'm not so sure I do appreciate the opportunity, because this is rather a sad state of affairs when we're debating a topic such as this. I've been listening to members before me speak about this issue and cannot help but wonder how we've managed to stoop so low indeed here in this House. It seems terrible to me that the business of the official opposition has come to a point where they have to sling mud hoping that some of it will stick.
I was listening to question period today and thinking about what really should be asked in question period, about policy, questioning the government on its policy. There was literally nothing on policy. It was all on dirt and seeing what they could stir up, hoping they could cause some problems.
It's a real shame that we've deteriorated in this House to that point that the opposition is not using their time to put forward some good ideas. I would have thought they'd be interested in talking a little bit about their platform. Obviously, from question period and opposition day, I think they're actually embarrassed with their platform and they really don't want to be talking about it because there's not much to talk about. They keep their leader well hidden. They bring him out occasionally for question period, but otherwise Mr Dalton McGuinty is nowhere to be seen. They find the polls go up when that occurs, and I can understand why they would do that. Also part of me wonders if this is because they are lacking in real alternatives in terms of policy that they want to put forward to this House.
I know there are some very intelligent and bright people on the opposition benches. That is really why I'm so disappointed that they've chosen to pursue a topic so beneath them. Maybe I can understand part of what's going on. They're noticing their platform is being eroded away. They're noticing their polling numbers are eroding away. And certainly it's very obvious that the morale on the other side of the House is deteriorating and eroding. There's no support for their leader. I'd have thought they'd stand up and have a little bit of support on rare occasions for the leader, especially during question period, but I don't see that.
Hon Mr Galt: I'm not sure if it's Mr Sorbara or Mr McGuinty, but there are others over there vying for the leadership with the knives out behind their leader. For that, I feel sorry for their leader, because having that kind of dissension in their ranks heading into an election, they're all looking forward to who will be the leader next time after they lose in the upcoming election.
A few weeks ago, I heard a lot coming from the other side of the House about the polls. They don't seem to be talking much about the polls just lately. Now, I haven't seen any. I am not sure exactly where they're at, but the fact that they're so quiet on the opposition benches about the polls would suggest to me that maybe they're not holding up quite as well as they'd like. That's what happened in 1999. It's what happened in 1995 and 1990. They were way up in the polls, and then as it came to election time, they plummeted. Now they're pretty cocky; they're feeling pretty good when they're up there.
But sometimes you should have a look at the track record and see what happened. Just maybe it relates to the fact that they're looking at Mr McGuinty's tax increases that he's promised: a $4.8-billion tax increase. Can you imagine what that's going to do to the economy of this country? It's one thing to up the taxes, and to collect them. Probably they'll get most of that in the first year, but with the number of industries that will be heading south of the border, with the number of jobs that will disappear, I can assure you that when it comes to the second year, that $4.8 billion won't be there. It'll be long gone because the jobs won't be here. Families won't be supported by the income from their parents and they'll be looking to welfare for support from the state. The welfare numbers will go up, to something like we had in 1995 where we had the highest welfare rate on a per capita basis of any jurisdiction here in Canada. With that kind of tax increase, I can assure you that's where we're headed.
With the tax cuts we've made, the average family will be saving, as of January 2004, $2,575. That's after tax -- dollars in their pockets they can do a tremendous amount with. That has been the turnaround.
Their leader and the whole party are also committed that, if they get into power, they're going to eliminate the education equity tax credit. People have worked very hard to send their children to Jewish schools, to Christian schools, have really scraped to be able to send them so that they're taught values in those schools. They are going to take that tax credit away. You know what happens with that tax credit? It's immediately put right back into investing in the country, investing in clothes for their children. It cycles some seven times, I'm told. I don't see that ever being lost, but they do. I think it's a shame.
They're also committed on this tax credit we're recognizing for seniors' education tax. I'm so disappointed that on the opposition benches they would take that away from seniors. That's their feeling about seniors in this province. They would not allow seniors to have, on average, $450 or $475 in their pocket so they can go out and spend and be able to stay in their homes just a little bit longer. That's what's going on on the opposition benches. That's mean-spirited to our seniors, that they wouldn't allow them to have the extra $475 in their pockets. They know that the seniors in this province have been talking about the cost of education tax on their residences. Now we're going to do something about it, and they're so mean-spirited that they would take it away.
They would increase corporate taxes. They're committed to that. Imagine what's going to happen when they increase corporate taxes: they're going to head south of the border. They're certainly not going to be staying here in Ontario. They're going to go some place if corporate taxes go up. What happens when corporations go away? Jobs go with them. What happens when jobs go? They go on welfare and on unemployment insurance. That's what the Liberals of Ontario stand for. I'm so pleased they've come out clearly with a platform of standing for tax increases so that we know where they stand. I'm sure there'll be several flip-flops on that between now and election day, but currently we kind of have them nailed down. It's like nailing Jell-O to a wall, but they're nailed down in their platform that they are going to increase taxes. I can't believe they're running on that platform, but that's reality.
We're sidetracking just a little on the topic, but I couldn't help but get into some of the things -- I know they're concerned about their platform because they never speak about it in the Legislature. If they would talk about it, I could understand they're committed to their platform. You go out and do polling and you ask, "Have you discussed a platform with your colleagues at work?" Eighty-six percent have discussed The Road Ahead with their colleagues. How many have discussed the Liberal platform? Zero; not a single person polled had talked about the Liberal platform. That's proof and it's pudding. Not a single soul in that poll had paid any attention to or even talked about the Liberal platform. That indicates the lack of originality and the lack of ideas to the people here in Ontario. Yet 86% of the people are prepared to talk about what's in our platform --
Hon Mr Galt: The Road Ahead, absolutely, and it's going someplace. The road ahead for the Liberals is going nowhere. I think they understand that, and that has been their concern in their ranks and why they're into the kind of questioning that we're hearing today on this opposition day. I just can't believe what we're debating.
It's really a shame that they're so bereft of policy alternatives that they want to take an entire day to debate rumour and innuendo. That's really all this is. They have a whole bunch of yelling but there's very little that's substantial in this issue. It's such a shame that they have to try and drag other people through the mud to make themselves look good.
That brings to mind that if you wrestle with a pig, both you and the pig get dirty, but only the pig enjoys it. That's sort of what's going on in this case and they seem to be enjoying this whole exercise of wrestling in the mud. I don't think too many in our ranks are enjoying that. In many ways it seems to be very similar to the schoolyard bully, whose only way of making himself feel strong is to make others look weak. It's such a shame that they don't have any more real policy alternatives to put forward to make their party look strong than to try and make others look bad. I just think that is such a shame.
This is especially true when they start talking about areas like pensions. When the members opposite come in here and start throwing around these wild accusations, all they're really doing is scaring people, and our seniors don't need to be scared. They're probably frightened enough to think that a Liberal government might happen here in Ontario. They look at what's going on in Ottawa, and that is indeed extremely frightening. I can understand why they wouldn't want the same kind of thing here in Ontario.
The member for Windsor-West came in here last week and tried to string along a set of circumstances, trying to make it look like a conflict of interest. Let's take a look at some of the facts. Don Weiss appeared before the standing committee on government agencies, not once, but twice. He said very openly that he had worked for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, and he was proud of it. He was even commended for his openness by the opposition members of the committee. Prior to going to work for the Ontario Pension Board, he had a 30-year career in the financial services field and was told by the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, the critic for finance, and he doesn't do too bad a job at it, "I have no doubt about your professional credentials." These are truly the facts.
The other facts are that there are six other members on the pension board who are also responsibly taking these decisions. I hope the members opposite do not think that they would abandon their responsibility to look out for the best interests of the members and pensioners of the plan.
These board members are all well-qualified people, with diverse backgrounds and a solid understanding of the financial services field, and able to oversee the recommendations made by the funds management.
For example, William Fisher, who has recently retired, was a member of the board for the time that three of the seven investments were made. Mr Fisher served as vice-president of human resources for Chrysler Canada. During his time there, he was manager of pension saving and unemployment benefits plans. Mr Fisher was appointed by the David Peterson Liberal government.
Fact: another member of the board, Mr Hugh Mackenzie, was a member of the investment committee for the Canada Post pension plan. This plan has some 57,000 active and retired members. Mr Mackenzie is also the research director of the United Steelworkers of America and was a former research director for the New Democratic Party and principal secretary to NDP Premier Bob Rae.
These are talented professional people upon whom we rely to make decisions and look out for the best interests of the pension plan members. I think it's preposterous to say they would abandon this obligation.
The Ontario public service pension plan, which was created in the late 1980s, has a solid track record of success. With $11.5 billion in assets, it is the seventh-largest plan in the country. It has more than 66,000 members, both active and retired. We all know how important these funds are to people, and the fact that they are guaranteed by the government makes their proper management doubly important. This has always been the case. This was most definitely the case in 1991, when the pension plan was getting started as an arm's-length agency. For those first 11 years, William Somerville was the chair of the board and provided years of excellent leadership. For many of those years, the fund saw double-digit annual increases, with good management and strong stock markets. Bill Somerville was eminently qualified to chair the pension board, just like Don Weiss is qualified to chair the pension board.
The difference, of course, is that Bill Somerville was not a Tory, nor was he appointed by a Tory. He was a Liberal and was appointed by a Liberal government. There's really no doubt about Bill Somerville's party affiliation, and there's no doubt about the fund's success. He was a member of the Liberal party, stood for election under the Liberal banner and was the chairman of the Liberal Party of Canada's fundraising in Ontario. At the same time, he oversaw a board that showed double-digit increases in the value of the plan and put it on a solid footing. From that, there's no reason to think that Bill Somerville's party affiliation coloured his judgment of investing members' funds wisely, and there should be no reason to believe that just because Don Weiss worked for the Progressive Conservative Party, his judgment would be coloured.
Again, just look at the fact that the Ontario public service pension plan was the only major public pension plan to make money in 2002, despite the fact that other plans lost an average 5.1% of their value. This was the lowest rate of return in the past 25 years. It should come as no surprise to anyone in this House that pension plans across the country had poor returns. With the stock market down, this had an obvious and immediate effect on the value of pension plans that invest heavily in equities.
As any investment adviser will probably tell you, one of the best ways to avoid market volatility is to diversify one's portfolio. It seems to make sense that this investment would be the Ontario pension board's diversifying its real estate assets in order to reduce its risk in an uncertain market. This has all the markings of a board taking prudent measures to minimize the risk of an uncertain market, and it's unbelievable that the Liberals don't support that.
It should be painfully obvious that the circumstances put together by the Liberals only amount to innuendo. There is no evidence of wrongdoing here. In fact, the Chair of the Management Board has said repeatedly that he asked his deputy minister to look into these allegations and that she reported the processes and policies were indeed followed. I'm not even sure I can count the number of times he's said that.
But last week, immediately after he said it to the leader of the opposition, I believe the leader called it a "fly-by by a deputy minister." I was shocked to see the contempt and disregard for the professionalism and integrity of a senior civil servant that was shown by the sweeping dismissal of the Leader of the Opposition. I for one -- and I would hope the rest of this House -- would place greater trust in the word of a deputy minister, who says she has reviewed the case, than in speculation by the members opposite.
Quite frankly, I'm disgusted by the cavalier way in which the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Windsor West toss around these serious accusations. They are spurious and, as far as I'm concerned, without basis. If the Leader of the Opposition does not trust the civil service and does not trust their integrity, he and his seatmate should stand in their place and say so. Otherwise, he should move on to issues of substance and stop this disgraceful display of partisan mudslinging.
Just in winding up and relating back to some of the comments I made earlier about the position the Ontario Liberals must be finding themselves in, with a platform that has very little substance -- they're seeing the Road Ahead, which they're envious of, and now they're trying to figure out what they're going to do with their platform to bolster it so they might have a chance of making a decent showing in the upcoming election in the province of Ontario.
I appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak, although the topic we're on really doesn't measure up to what I think the Liberals of Ontario probably could have put forward and should have put forward.
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): That was a very interesting speech by the member for Northumberland. I've had a note come to me from my office, though, that several librarians have called and asked whether Hansard for today should be filed under fiction or with the regular filing. I've said it has to go with the regular one; the rules require that.
There's a very interesting movie from some years ago, called Mr Smith Goes to Washington. I find it interesting, and I think not just politicians but everyone would, because of the process and what Mr Smith discovered and how he went, rather naively, and learned how politics really work or how some people think politics should work.
Unfortunately, the public is very cynical about politicians, and all of us have experienced comments about crooked politicians. But that's an expression; it's not reality. I feel very privileged to be here with members on both sides of the House who did not come here to be crooked. But over the years, the public has identified two or three instances where that has happened. That puts a lot of pressure on us to demonstrate openly that everything is above-board. The public not only wants to see and believe that politicians are honest; they want to get rid of the perception that it may be otherwise, and we need to deal with that perception.
For a politician, there can be the temptation at times to think, "Boy, I have a position of power. People elected me, and I can go off to Toronto. I have power now." The reality is that we're the servants of the people. It is the exact opposite of power. I have 92,000 employers; I have 92,000 bosses in my riding. All of us have that situation. We have to make certain that we don't fall victim to the arrogance that comes with power.
I have seen a brand new, vacant OPP station in my community bypassed to have another one go into an abandoned warehouse in a minister's riding -- in a riding doesn't have the telephone service and is on a county road rather than on Highway 401. I have to wonder what was going through someone's mind to say, "Here's the station the OPP wants, but this empty old warehouse is in a cabinet minister's riding, and it's going to go there." It's still not up and running. That was four years ago.
In my role as the critic for persons with disabilities, I am fascinated by a particular property arrangement -- E.C. Drury School for the Deaf in Milton -- a lovely play area, a lovely little bush. The neighbours enjoyed it, but the school got tremendous use out of it. After going through the proper process, the province decided that this land was surplus and they were going to put it up for sale. The school wasn't asked; the school community wasn't consulted -- neither the staff nor the parents nor the students. But this property was declared surplus. The intriguing thing on this is that the cheque for the down payment to purchase that property arrived at the ministry before the property was in fact declared surplus. I find that a fascinating arrangement that begs some questions.
We are now seeing an example of some property that is eligible for a mortgage of substantial numbers of dollars. But I think if any of us were asked to advance a loan, before we loaned someone some money we would want to know about their ability to repay. This is a piece of property that is raw, unserviced land in an area that's not slated to be developed; a risky investment at best. The question any of us would ask would be: where is the income stream going to come from that property to repay the mortgage? It's as simple as that.
If they were to invest in a shopping centre, we know there are going to be rents paid every month that will help to generate the repayments. This land will generate virtually no income for the owner over the next 20 or 25 years -- no income whatsoever. So why in the world would that be a good investment? Well, if there wasn't other information known to us, we would say that is absolutely illogical for a pension board to do.
It starts to develop a bit of a picture that raises questions when we realize that the person who guided the loan was the chief fundraiser for the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario, and the recipient of this mortgage has been the largest donor to the party. Now we say there is a strong question mark here, because on a purely financial basis, this one simply doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense at all.
We have a number of issues here that beg an answer. If I were Mr Weiss or Mr Cortellucci, I would say, "I want the air cleared on this one. I want this laid to rest." Because if neither of them has done wrong, then surely they want that evidence to come out, surely they want everything unfolded.
This government has put things in place to make it very difficult to find the information. This is a question that must be answered, because if it does not work out, the taxpayers of Ontario are hung out to dry on this and will have to make up the pension fund.
This is a debate ostensibly about Mario Cortellucci. That was the motion that was put forward. There is a great deal of information about Mr Cortellucci that has been gleaned from a variety of sources over the last couple of weeks. I think we can clearly see Mr Cortellucci's influence on this Legislature and perhaps, to a lesser extent, on the Conservative Party. We know from records that Mario Cortellucci has donated some $923,043.36 to the Conservative Party since 1995. That is a given; that is a fact. That is an awful lot of money for one individual, either alone or through his corporations or through the corporations that he runs, to give to a political party. Over a period of some eight years, that averages out around $125,000 per year.
We also can see that he donated $206,648.13 to the Conservative Party leadership when that took place not quite two years ago -- a year and a half ago. He donated what one would consider an extraordinary amount of money.
He has also donated, if one cares to look beyond the Conservative Party, some $7,752.04 to the Liberals in that same time frame. Although he is not equal-opportunity, he certainly was and is prepared to hedge his bets.
We know from information sources and what has been said in this Legislature in the last two weeks that he is now the recipient of a $36.3-million loan from a government agency. We know that loan has been given. Whether or not that loan is proper or improper will come out in investigations as time goes on. It is trite to say that many people who see a loan of some $36.3 million in what can by some people be considered extraordinary circumstances -- does give people cause for concern to draw back and wonder whether or not the nearly $1 million donated to the party or the more than $206,000 donated to a leadership has any bearing on that decision.
We also know that Mr Cortellucci is intimately involved and is one of the fundraisers and stockholders in a group that is attempting to develop the Adams mine. We know that they are attempting to purchase some 840 hectares -- for those who went to school in my time of life, that's about 2,100 acres -- and that they're purporting to pay some $48,000, or $22 an acre, for buying land around the Adams mine site. That is being discussed by members of the government through various agencies. Twenty-two dollars an acre is probably amongst the smallest payments per acre for any land in the province of Ontario that has been sold in recent years. This is going back to the value of land at the turn of the century, when people often in those days paid $20 an acre for farmland. This is land surrounding what potentially could be a very valuable site, given the right circumstances, that is being sold at $22 an acre. One has to draw back and ask oneself the same question: does this have anything to do with the $1 million donated since 1995 or the $206,000 given in the leadership?
We also know that there are some other problems related to Mario Cortellucci. We know that money may have been given through various sources to individual riding associations. The Toronto Star, which I'm sure is the favourite organ and paper of the Conservative members opposite, ran quite a story on May 24 about donation-laundering. They talked about $1 million, both in 1999 and 2000, being laundered through riding associations of the Conservative Party, from the main party to the riding associations and back to the main party, in order to get around the strict interpretation of the Elections Finances Act.
We know that Mr Cortellucci was involved with the Northumberland Progressive Conservative Riding Association through Barrick Corp, in which he also plays a part. I'm not sure what was exactly involved there. This was just one of the examples cited in the Toronto Star of money-laundering.
We then come into what I think has been a little bit naïve on the part of the Liberal Party, talking about the scandals of Mario Cortellucci. For those who have been around government, or around the newspaper business, or who have long memories, this is much the same thing that happened unfortunately to the Liberal Party in the late 1980s. One need only to go back to see almost the same kind of scenario unfolding with names like Patti Starr, who spent some time in jail, wrote a very entertaining book about her involvement and how she got caught up in all of this -- I commend it to anybody who hasn't read it; Marco Muzzo, who is still around; the DelZotto family; and the ruined careers of Chaviva Ho_ek, Lily Munro and Gordon Ashworth, who now seems to have been resurrected and is back on the Liberal campaign team.
This is what people get a little bit upset about in politics: when aspersions are cast, as aspersions have been cast in this Legislature in the last couple of weeks, fingers start to point in many directions. The problem is not that these donations are being made; the problem is that the law allows them to be made. When those donations are made, unfettered and unchecked, then it is bound from time to time to cause governments a great deal of difficulty.
The public is constantly annoyed by these scandals, be they in Ontario, in the federal government or in other provinces. The public is annoyed because they believe that politicians can be bought. I want to tell you I do not believe, in my heart of hearts, that most politicians can be bought. I don't believe that most of them are for sale. What I do believe is that when one can run a direct line between contributions, as we have in the case of Mr Cortellucci, as we had in the case of the DelZotto family, or Marco Muzzo, or in Patti Starr, when one can take those and see direct government actions or indirect government actions that benefit people, it taints this legislative process.
The public is annoyed. They expect and demand integrity from their politicians. They expect and demand that politicians are above the taking of monies, above the giving of favours. They expect that politicians will do that which is right for all the people in their jurisdictions.
The difficulty we have here in the province is meted out 480 times, I would suggest, in all of our municipalities around Ontario. I looked at the election expenses of some of my former colleagues in Toronto the last time around. It was kind of interesting to see where my colleagues got their money, where the money came from to run city of Toronto campaigns, which are now the most expensive municipal campaigns of any city of any county of any region in all of Canada.
They are expensive because municipal politicians in Toronto now represent, on average, 55,000 people, and the amount of money that can be spent, by statute of this province, is in the $30,000 or $35,000 range for each and every one of them. The amount of money that can be collected is set at $750 for municipal politicians seeking councillor seats and $2,000 for someone seeking a mayoral seat. We will see that they have collected inordinate and huge amounts of money. You can go down the 44 elected councillors in the city of Toronto, and you will note that of those 44, 12 of them got more than 75% of their money from corporations -- that is, corporations that ponied up $750 usually to give to a municipal politician so that they could run a race. You will see that that is a huge amount. The champion in the last election, who is not seeking re-election this time, is Betty Desiro, who quite clearly got 91% of all her money from corporations.
We can also see, though, that Toronto is not alone. I would invite members of all sides of this House to look at other cities. In the city of Vaughan, which the former and now deceased mayor used to like to call the city above Toronto, municipal politicians get almost all of their money from corporations: 91% of all the money raised to run municipal campaigns in the city of Vaughan was taken from corporations. The most serious part of that: 68% of the money raised by municipal politicians in the city of Vaughan came from real estate developers.
What we have here today that we're describing -- $36.3 million on real estate deals -- is meted out every day across this province in municipalities large and small, in this House and perhaps, I would suggest, in other provinces, save and except Quebec and Manitoba.
We now have a circumstance where Ontario has an opportunity to act, to change, where we don't have to be pointing fingers at each other: "You're in the hands of this developer," and, "No, you're in the hands of that developer." It goes by, I suppose, every change of government as to who is doing what.
It is quite clear we have an opportunity to change. I would suggest we look no further than what is happening in the federal government. I know, and I would suggest to all of you, that Jean Chrétien is not everybody's favourite Prime Minister, that he has done some good things and some bad things, just like most other politicians, but I would commend him, quite frankly, for doing one thing right in his last few months in office, and that is his attempt to reform political donations so that politicians will no longer have the problem we have here today, will no longer have fingers pointed at them.
He is attempting to limit donations to a couple of thousand dollars per corporation and he is attempting to make sure that individuals give the overwhelming bulk of the money to any registered political party. Money is going to have to be made up, there is no doubt, and we have seen in the last couple of days some movement around how much the taxpayer will end up subsidizing political parties. There are some who do not like this idea, but I would suggest to all of you that it is preferable to have an open, clean and honest system that the citizens themselves, that individuals finance, rather than the spectacle we are seeing here in this House of fingers pointing, of, "How much money did Mr Cortellucci give to the party and what is he getting in return?" and the retorts opposite of, "How much happened when you were in government? Does the name Patti Starr mean anything to you?" That is what we have been reduced to because we are reliant and continue to be reliant on corporate or union donations.
Two provinces have taken a lead on this. The first was Quebec. Since 1976 they have made it impossible for corporate and union donations at all, I think. You just can't do it. The money must be taken directly from individuals. I see what happened in the election Quebec just finished. In the year 2000, the Liberal Party of Quebec went around the province on a rubber-chicken circuit, having people donate to the party, paying $100 or $200 to have dinner with the candidates, with the leader, doing whatever. They had 200 fundraisers to raise the money.
Mr Prue: I'm trying to commend the Liberals of Quebec. It was a great thing they did. They held 200 of those in the same year the Conservative Party of Ontario held 22 to raise funds, and, by the way, raised more in 22 fundraising dinners because they charged a whole lot more than the Liberal Party in Quebec did in 200.
What they did in Quebec was the right thing. They limited the amount one could give and, at the same time, reached out to all of those people who may have wished to donate and invited them to participate in the political process. It was a good thing to have done. It excluded corporations; it excluded unions.
Manitoba has followed suit. We just witnessed in Manitoba last week a rather unusual election, not an election with all the TV commercials blasting both sides, but an election where people went out with pamphlets and knocked on doors and explained party policy, and they voted for a government and an opposition and a member they wanted, based on real politics, not based on who could raise the most money, not based on who could be beholden, and I am sure not based on what kind of land deal could be arranged after, or what one might surmise as a land deal being arranged after the fact.
We have a circumstance here in Ontario where the corporations may not run candidates, where they may not participate in any part of the political process, save and except donations. When they do that, they quite literally hold the attention of the political parties. People in this province are not, I would suggest, conspiracists; they do not see conspiracy around every corner. But I will tell you that when they start to see these facts come out day after day, then you start to see editorial opinion that once scoffed at the whole idea of Cortellucci -- even in newspapers like the Toronto Sun, are starting to suggest that maybe some investigation needs to be done. Corporations should not be involved. They do not go to their shareholders. I would ask you to name a single corporation that has made a political contribution to any party that ever went to their shareholders to ask permission. It does not happen. They simply make an executive or corporate decision and the money flows. That money may be as small as several thousand dollars or, in the case of Mr Cortellucci, $1 million over some eight years, but it simply flows.
I looked at the Conservative agenda, the Road Ahead, and I noticed that they want to put restrictions on unions. Well, you need not do it if we ban everything except individual contributions. I'm suggesting that's the way to go. They want to put a ban on unions without putting a ban on corporations. To begin with, I would suggest that you've got it backwards, first of all, because the unions must go to their members in order to have the monies released. They do not have the same powers as a corporation to make it with a board of directors; it must be made at a union meeting. I would suggest it is done with the concurrence of the members who choose to be present. But be that as it may, if members opposite are going to insist on doing that to unions, you should also insist, at a very minimum, on doing that to corporations, so that no money can be given by corporations save and except if at the annual general membership meeting of the corporation the members present vote to do so. That would be a pretty brave thing to do and a wise thing to do.
Corporations are also able to hide behind numbered companies. It is very difficult to find out who is making donations to political parties or what they are expecting in return with all of the numbered companies that are out there and with the costs associated with running them and the individuals involved in them down to see who is in fact making the donations. It is quite difficult, not only in this province but in municipalities, and a real eye-opener to go down and see some of my former colleagues at the city of Toronto receiving $750 from company XYZ1123573 -- just to use a number, a euphemism out of the air. But you will see all those numbered companies and $750 beside them. That causes ordinary people to question the integrity of our democratic structure, and it's something that must change.
We also have the whole problem of donation downloading. I've described briefly before what happens, but to say it again, it's where money is given by corporations which is in turn laundered through the local riding association and given back to the main party. The Conservative Party has done that to the tune of about $1 million a year in 1999 and 2000. The Liberal Party has done it to a much lesser extent, some $72,000 a year, according to party president Mr Wong, who says he's only following the rules.
It comes down to the final bet. It comes down to: what confidence do the people of this province have in their political representation, their political structures, when they believe that politicians can be, if not bought, at least influenced in matters of key public policy? Do people out there reading newspapers believe that Mr Cortellucci got an unfair advantage in $36.3 million because of his $1 million in donations? Do they believe that politicians, in accepting money at times of elections, are actually influenced? I would suggest they are starting to do so. One need only look at the declining levels of interest in all of our political structures in this country. We will see today that elections in Canada that used to have 80% and 85% voter turnouts are now down in the high 60s. We will see today in Ontario that elections that used to be at 70% and 75% of the vote are now in the low 50s. We will see today in municipalities that elections that used to garner turnouts of 50% or 60% are now in the low 30s. People are turned off the system. They no longer believe that their vote counts. They no longer believe that the small amounts of money that they might be prepared to donate have any influence on the election of the people of their choice. They believe that big money, corporate money, speaks with advertising. It is time to change all of that.
It is time for us to get a different mindset so that we are not asking questions about Cortellucci. It is time to get a different mindset so that we are asking the real questions of how this province is to be run, who is going to speak for the people, and to put integrity back into the political process. I believe with all my heart that it can be done, that people of goodwill who simply have to cut themselves off from those big corporate bucks can make a real difference. I commend the federal government for taking that initiative. I wish that's what we were debating here in this House today instead of whether Mr Cortellucci gave the money or didn't, or whether there was influence. We should be debating ways to make sure that kind of process cannot happen. It would restore the integrity of this office.
I'm not trying to attack the Conservatives alone or the Liberals or even my own party, although we get very few corporate donations. The reality is that the NDP gets about 4% of its total monies from corporate donations, 81% from individuals and the balance from unions -- about 15%. That's where we get our money. We know that the Conservatives get a good deal of their money from individuals. We know, for example, that they get about 45% of their money from individuals, 55% from corporations and less than 1% from unions. We know the Liberals get 55% of their money from individuals, 38% from corporations and 7% from unions. We all draw from the same pot, and that is the people, the corporations and the unions of this province. But it does not help the political process in which we are elected.
Really, the only way to do it is as Quebec and Manitoba have done it and as the federal government is now suggesting it be done in Canada. We have a need for reform, and I would suggest that the first reform should be financial reform. We need to ensure that ordinary people have control over the political process, that donations are cut down to manageable levels. We do not need to adopt a system like that in the United States, where, I might add, fewer than 50% of the people voted for the most powerful political force on the face of this planet, the President of the United States. Less than 50% of the people exercised their franchise, and the President of the United States was elected by a tiny margin of chads in Florida. We do not need a system where hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on attack advertising, one party against the other, about how someone had voted 15 years ago on some arcane issue. Unfortunately, the kinds of things we are starting --
Mr Prue: Well, we don't need that. That's what I'm telling you. That's what is going back and forth here. We don't need that. You don't need it; I don't need it; the Conservatives don't need it. No one needs that.
We need to get a system where there is integrity in the process, and that integrity must start with financing. Never again should someone be allowed to ask whether or not a Mr Cortellucci is getting some kind of freebie from the government because of his donations. That does not happen in Manitoba or Quebec. The scandals, if there are any scandals, are not of that nature. That's what we need to do. I would suggest we also need to look at our elections and spending practices and get back to a kinder and simpler time, when people went out and knocked on doors and put up signs. We need to get away from the kind of advertising that keeps going around our media, the kind of advertising that I unfortunately saw in the last couple of elections which was very negative. I think that kind of advertising cost Kim Campbell dearly in the federal election, when it attacked Jean Chrétien because he once had Bell's palsy. That's the kind of thing we don't want to see. We look at the United States and we say, "That can't happen here," but we see it creep in. We need to make sure that election spending is on ideas and people and not on attack ads.
We need a whole system of proportional representation so that when somebody goes out to vote, they know their vote counts. They don't stay home because they think the incumbent in their riding is a shoo-in, that there's no chance of defeating him or her. They need to know that, wherever they live in this province, their vote counts for something.
In Beaches-East York even the Conservatives need to come out and vote if they want Conservatives, knowing full well there's probably not a chance of electing one; let's be real. The same holds true for New Democrats probably in Northumberland and the same thing probably holds true for Liberals in many ridings where they just don't win. But people need to know that their vote counts for something. A system of proportional representation or of some system akin to it that is used in New Zealand or Australia -- that is used literally everywhere in the world other than Canada, the United States and Great Britain -- needs to be adopted to allow ordinary people an opportunity to feel that the political process belongs to them.
We need a change in legislative committees. We need people to feel that they are welcome to come here, to address the legislative committees and to actually have input to changes in legislation. So many pieces of legislation come before this House without any committee hearings. Even if there are committee hearings that are held only in Toronto, the time frame makes it impossible for ordinary people to participate. We have to get back to the people. If we do that, I suggest to everyone here that we can get away from the name-calling, from the finger-pointing, from the Cortelluccis, from the Patti Starrs, from whoever is supposedly getting some kind of government largesse for their donations.
That is what the issue is about today. That is what we need to do today. I don't know where this motion is going. I have a pretty good idea, given the government majority, that it's not going to pass. Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn't; I don't know. But what I do know is that we demean all of us when we argue in this way. What we should be doing is working for a solution and not pointing fingers.
Mr Chudleigh: I'm very pleased to join this debate about what I believe is one of the most overblown and exaggerated issues that the Liberals have raised in quite some time. Of course, this is the silly season; we're getting ready for an election. In the political area, we think coming in --
Mr Chudleigh: You could probably figure out which day it might be. I think your next election, member, is probably far more definable than our next election. I think you know when that might be. Congratulations and very good luck in that. I wish you all the very best.
It's a true testament to a party that is so desperate to win the next election that they'll stop at almost nothing, including a deliberate smear campaign of very honourable people, people like Don Weiss, in order to achieve their electoral victory, which disappoints me.
First conclusion: the Liberals don't quite have their facts straight. My colleague began the debate for our party by noting how the member for Windsor West -- the member for Purolator, as we call her -- overestimated, and continued to do so in a press release last Friday, the amount of the pension board money invested in mortgages. She overestimated it about fourfold. I'm not sure if they're doing this deliberately or if they just don't quite understand yet that the amount of money invested by the pension board is $36.3 million, not the $150 million-plus that they've been talking about. I have no idea where they came up with this number, but this certainly is Liberal fuzzy math at its best. Either that, or it's one heck of a rounding error. Liberals tend to do that.
However, in our history of tax cuts in this party, we don't make those rounding errors. We understand how taxpayer dollars flow into the coffers of government and how to spend those dollars appropriately and accurately, using the best interests of taxpayers at every turn.
Our tax cuts have created new jobs, over a million new jobs in Ontario since we've been elected, and every single one of them has created a new taxpayer. Those new taxpayers have created new revenue for government. That new revenue for government has allowed us to reinvest in things like health care, education, environment, highways and things that Ontarians expect that their government would invest in.
The second thing I've noted is that the Liberals pay no attention to what has happened in the past. They seem to think that unless you are a complete stranger, there should be no investment in any form of government, arm's length or not, since that would be a conflict of interest.
The third conclusion: the Liberals have absolutely no clue what it means for there to be a precedent, nor can they calculate greater than or less than with decimal places. I want to talk about this point for a moment and then I'll tell you about my other conclusions. Both Dalton McGuinty and Sandra Pupatello have called the pension board's investment in real estate mortgages "unprecedented." To support this argument, they've both said that this is a very unusual practice for pension funds and that there was a drastic change in policy to allow this since the time Mr Weiss began there. Both are absolutely and completely wrong, and I believe they know it.
When the Ontario Pension Board invested $36.3 million in real estate mortgages, this was indeed the first time they had done so, but that's anything but a change in policy. You see, policies are the rules that are written down on paper. Those are the things that are designed to guide behaviour. For the Ontario Pension Board, the policy that has allowed them to invest in real estate mortgages has been in place since 1991. It came into place under the NDP government of that day. The fact that they invested in mortgages is no more a change in policy now than it was in 1994, when the board actually decided to invest in real estate for the first time, and that was also under an NDP government. In 2002, the Ontario public service pension plan held more than $1 billion in real estate assets.
Other pension plans also hold real estate directly or in mortgages, including the Canada pension plan. After all, real estate is, has been and continues to be, I believe, a great investment in Ontario, along with investments in bonds, stocks, GICs or T-bills, investment vehicles that all Ontarians can take advantage of.
The opposition certainly will not let the truth get in the way of a good argument. They have told this House that it is very unusual for a pension fund to invest in mortgages. Let's talk about that for a moment. The $36.3 million that the pension board invested in these mortgages comes to about one third of 1% of its total assets. Again, that's $36.3 million, not the grossly exaggerated $150 million or so that the Liberals would have you believe. At the same time, the pension fund holds about $11.5 billion in assets, so in terms of mortgages as a percentage of the fund's total portfolio, this works out to be a third of 1%.
What does this work out to in comparison to the rest of the country? According to Benefits Canada's review of the top 100 pension funds in Canada, about 1.7% of pension fund assets are invested in mortgages -- 1.7% as an average across Canada. If that's not a good enough comparison, that works out to a whopping $8 billion in pension funds invested in mortgages. I know that's not something the members opposite want to hear, but that also is the truth.
I say to the members opposite that this is not an unusual practice. My colleagues have talked about this already but I think it's worth repeating: the Liberals just don't have their facts straight. They were wrong about the total amount of money invested, they were wrong about the amount of money invested in mortgages, and most of all they were wrong to be putting out such unfounded allegations about people's pensions. This is purely fearmongering and it is below the good conduct we have come to expect from all honourable members in this House.
There is something else that bothers me about how the Liberals are trying to spin this issue. Both in this and other issues, their implication is that neither the government nor any of its agencies, boards or commissions can have a pre-established connection with any other suppliers, vendors, friends, associates, customers, clients, casual acquaintances or confidantes, or it would be a conflict of interest, and that is simply ridiculous.
I agree there should be a high standard for the use of public funds -- the very highest of standards. This government's record is solid and unquestionable in that regard. The Balanced Budget Act, the Taxpayer Protection Act, the Accountability for Expenses Act are all real examples of the measures this government has taken to bring more transparency to government and the use of hard-earned taxpayers' dollars. In addition to that, published business plans, salary disclosure and movement to a new accounting system are all tangible ways we have acted on our promise to give taxpayers more insight into how their government is run.
However, I think the Liberals have taken this to a new extreme. No longer is there a sense of reasonableness or balance to this need. Instead, it is a plain, old-fashioned witch hunt. In the end, I think this sets a bar so high that no one could possibly get over it because there is no one, let alone any large organization, that could possibly get past the Liberal conspiracy theorists.
At some point, this will be to the real detriment of taxpayers because few people or vendors will be willing to undertake the burdensome and grossly inefficient system of declaring conflicts, no matter how minor or real. I really believe this will then have a negative effect on ministries and their agencies, boards or commissions being able to find an acceptable candidate who cannot only do the job, but profess complete and utter dissociation to any government party.
Let's take this pension board issue as an example. The fact Don Weiss was a Tory supporter is clear. He said so when he appeared before the standing committee on government agencies. The Liberals acknowledged his excellent credentials, and they still voted against him. They said he was very forthright, and still voted against him. Not once did the opposition question his experience, and yet they still voted against him. The only thing they were concerned about was his party affiliation, and that was enough to vote against him.
This is simply unreasonable. It is no more justifiable to exclude someone based on their affiliation with a political party than it is to appoint someone because of it. This is a real weakness in the Liberal approach. They're only concerned about whether or not you belong to the wrong party.
Take Mr Crozier, the member for Essex, for example. When Mr Weiss appeared before the committee in order to qualify for this appointment, Mr Crozier did his Joe McCarthy imitation and said, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Progressive Conservative Party?" I know he was partly trying to be funny, and that's fair enough. Lord knows, spending time in committee, you need some humour in those places. But it really makes the point that this is their fundamental focus. It would have been one thing if Mr Weiss was unqualified, but after a 30-year career in financial services he is extremely qualified. Even Mr Phillips from Scarborough-Agincourt over there recognized that.
We are a little different about it, though. We appoint the best people for the job. We reappointed a known Liberal, Bill Somerville, as the chair of the pension board. He's an unabashed Liberal and we reappointed him because he was the best person for the job, just as Don Weiss is the best person for the job now. Mr Somerville clearly did a good job when he was chair of that pension board. Witness the growth in the plan's value. By the same token, Mr Weiss is doing a good job, witnessed by the fact it was the only major public pension plan to report a gain last year. Thank you, Mr Weiss.
I regret that we have to take the valuable time of this House to debate such spurious accusations, but I guess this is, after all, an opposition day. I just wish there more substantial issues we could debate at this time instead of debating over rumour, innuendo and very questionable facts in the matter. There are really important issues that this House should be debating, and I think it's time we got on with it. The people of Ontario want it, they demand it, they deserve it and I think they should get it. We should be moving on with much more meaningful debate in this House.
Ms Di Cocco: It's a pleasure for me to rise and speak to the motion of my colleague from Windsor West, Sandra Pupatello. I'm pleased to rise to speak to the motion because this motion is about my profound belief that there is no greater privilege than to serve the public interest as an elected member of this provincial Legislature.
But with that privilege comes a great depth of responsibility, and the depth of responsibility becomes greater with the degree of power that one wields as government. It saddens me profoundly when in our democratic responsibility to hold this government to account and scrutiny, we uncover that power has been abused over and over.
The government, more importantly, is entrusted with the people's money. It spends and is responsible for billions of taxpayers' dollars. So why is it so difficult in this House to raise the bar of integrity and ethical conduct? There has been a litany of Tory mismanagement and arrogance of power, as witnessed by a budget that was read outside the Legislature and the spending of $36 billion that was approved by special warrant, the largest amount of money, we believe, approved by special warrant in a parliamentary democracy.
It is this litany of actions that characterizes arrogance and abuse of power, and it continues in this saga of a primary fundraiser of the Conservatives, Donald Weiss, becoming a director of the Ontario Pension Board and then this board giving the developer Mario Cortellucci millions of dollars in loans for speculative land. This has been the only loan of this type by this board. There has been no loan of this nature before or since. Again, Mr Cortellucci is the largest donor to the Progressive Conservative Party in Ontario, and Mr Weiss happens to be the head of a pension fund. This type of conduct is wrong, and as members of this Legislature, it is our responsibility to expose it and to stop this abuse.
Unfortunately, we have in this House a Premier and a head of Management Board whose job, it appears, is to justify this kind of action. Where is the backbone and the courage to do the right thing for a change? Unfortunately, this type of behaviour seems to have become a characteristic of this government. By the way, it saddens me because it's this type of behaviour and these types of actions that really debase all of us as members of this House, because actions speak louder than words. You cannot tell the public that there has been a process in place and that everything is fine, when in fact I believe that this type of cronyism, if you want to call it that, this conflict of interest, is justified as if there is an entitlement to this type of activity. It is just plain wrong, and the members of the House know that. But again, we have a Premier who believes that this is OK. It's OK to be part of this old boys' club, if you want to call it that. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. It's a given, and it's wrong and it has to stop. I'm hoping the public will understand that the standards have been lowered in this House, unfortunately, and that has to change.
I feel very strongly about this issue. The reason I am an MPP today is because there was a very similar land deal that took place in my riding whereby people in positions of power spent millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to line their own pockets or to give favours because of their positions of power, and it's wrong.
Mr Christopherson: I do appreciate the opportunity to join in the discussion, building on the comments of my colleague from Beaches-East York. You can expect that the NDP caucus will be supporting this.
I want to pick up where Michael Prue left off in terms of raising the fact that in his opinion we'd be a lot better off here if we were actually debating similar legislation that now finds itself in the federal House of Commons, and that is to say, from here on in, there's a ban on political contributions by corporations and unions.
If you take a look at existing legislation, public boards and agencies are already forbidden from participating. There are a lot of things in the past that were accepted as just a matter of routine business in terms of money and politics, and the last bit left -- albeit probably the largest bit -- is to say that if we're truly going to keep democracy about issues, about governance, about people having the franchise to choose, and not being about who can collect the most amount of money so they can run the most amount of ads, then we need to get corporate contributions and union contributions out of the equation.
As someone looking at running in the next municipal election in Hamilton, I wish that was the rule there, because one of the things it does is it equalizes everybody. It says that as many individuals as you can get to contribute will determine the amount of money you've got to run a campaign. That would be a reflection of the support you have if the measurement is votes; votes equating obviously to individual people.
But the person who becomes the de facto or unofficial candidate of the chamber of commerce in my community and every other community has a huge advantage because it's nothing for most corporations -- I won't say all because there are a lot of small operations where $750 would matter -- in the main, to cut a cheque for $750. If you've got a nice long list of enough corporations and word goes through the system -- albeit unofficially, because the chamber of commerce in Hamilton does not endorse candidates and I suspect that might be the case right across the province, but I don't know. Nonetheless, there's an unofficial network. All you have to do, at least in Hamilton, is take a look at past elections, take a look at what the public assumptions were based on in terms of who has this unofficial endorsement of the chamber of commerce and who doesn't, and then quickly take a look at two things: who has won those elections and who has paid for them.
You can argue that someone like me, coming from the labour movement, could turn to their friends in labour to offset that, but that's so polarizing. You know what? There are a lot unions that may want to contribute to other candidates. I guess there are some corporations that would want to contribute -- wouldn't it be a whole lot easier if none of that counted, none of it: the union money doesn't count; the corporate money doesn't count; the only things that matter are individuals? Even then, if you've got a lot of wealthy friends, if you come from a wealthy family or you travel in wealthy circles, it's still a whole lot easier but at least it's a levelling. There's already a max of $750,000. It would be a lot easier for me if I'd been raised in a wealthy family and had a lot of wealthy friends. Then they could cut $750,000 cheques that don't mean much to them because they have enough money that that's not a big deal.
But I don't expect that in one piece of legislation, any jurisdiction, whether it's a province or the feds, can suddenly make everything perfect. It's an imperfect system -- step by step we do the best we can as parliamentarians, based on experience and the needs of the public and our own personal value system -- that we will eventually get to, as good and as pure a system as is humanly possible. A huge step in that regard would be what the feds are proposing.
I know as well as anybody in this place the immediate reaction to the idea that there would be more public money involved, because the average person sits back and says, "Why should my taxes pay for somebody else's campaign?" Again the imperfection of all systems comes to light. But it's a whole lot better and a whole lot more above-board and transparent if we expand a fundamental principle that we already have, which is that there are public funds available.
I want to say very clearly that Prime Minister Chrétien, in many quarters in the nation not exactly the most popular figure, is doing the right thing and I respect him for taking on, in many cases, his own party. They're not very happy. I think the president of the federal Liberal Party executive said something to the extent that this was as dumb as a bag of hammers.
Money and politics: the closer the two come together, the more the public needs to worry. That's a reality. If we remove the element of corporate contributions and union contributions -- let me just say too that it really is a bit much for this government, the Ernie Eves government, to be proposing changes in one part. Come on. I'm not in the next race, so this affects me not a whit. But I have to tell you that nobody in this province is going to think for one moment that it's fair that you want to propose -- you're not banning, outright, unions from contributing, but what you're going to do is build in enough hurdles that it becomes a much bigger deal and a lot more difficult, if you will, and do nothing on the corporate side. I mean, come along; people are not stupid. You insult them by suggesting that somehow your changing one aspect of the formula is suddenly going to give us democracy. That really is insulting. What we need is a recognition that the less corporate money, and by extension union money, institutional money, plays a role, the better, the healthier our democracy.
Again I use Hamilton because it's the example, naturally, that I know best: my hometown. With the new formula -- and this won't sound like a lot to our members from Toronto, but I suspect that a whole lot of other members will recognize this is a whack of money -- the limit to run for the mayor of Hamilton is now over $300,000. Again, in the context of this place and billions of dollars -- in Toronto I think their limit is a couple of million dollars. Mind you, they can make -- what is it? Do you know?
My point is that for most of us in this place, the idea of raising over $300,000 is daunting. There is that whole argument that the more we price campaigns out of the reach of ordinary people, the less the ordinary people who are franchised would have an opportunity to participate in an election.
I can remember the first time I ran back in 1984. I ran federally in Hamilton East. We had someone visiting from the United States drop by the campaign headquarters. He was involved as a local political activist at the state level in the US. We got to chatting and we had a quick coffee between events, and he asked me what my background was. I told him, and he said, "Well, where's your connection to the elites of society?"
Mr Christopherson: And then I told him, as my House leader points out. I said, "I don't really have one. The only connection here is that I'm a citizen, I'm active in politics, I belong to my political party, I'm going to carry the flag and run in this election, and I'm going to do everything I can to try to win."
I didn't win; I came in second. But that really is beside the point. What he was interested in was how someone like me could possibly get even remotely close to a federal seat. You see, down in the United States they've allowed this to get away from them.
So when I told this visitor from the United States that an ordinary person like me can get elected, certainly as a candidate, and stands a chance of being elected as an MP -- obviously, I ultimately became an MPP -- he was amazed, and he thought it was great. His culture was such that unless you have those family connections and unless you have wealthy friends -- and by this I'm talking big money -- you can't even afford the price of entry. You can't even sit down in that political poker game, because you can't afford the ante, let alone the betting.
So we have something we should cherish, and that is a democracy that so far, by and large, still allows most people within society the opportunity to put their name forward and have a reasonable chance of being elected based on the issues they're running on, the ideas they have and how they're perceived as individuals, not on whether they have the multi-millions of dollars that it costs to get in the game. This is why I, as one member, was so upset when this government changed the rules about our provincial elections. You shortened the time, and the reason for that was that you want campaigns that happen in the advertising world. The more advertising you do -- the more TV advertising -- the better your chances. You want to deny other parties who have to do things more door-to-door and need a lot more time to get their message out -- you want to shorten or limit their ability to do that, and you shortened the campaign time.
By the way, those were the first changes ever to the rules for elections and the financing of said elections where there wasn't all-three-party agreement. Never before in the history of this province -- and for 42 years, that was Tories -- did any government bring in a piece of legislation that would change the rules and the financing of elections without the agreement of all three parties in the House. This government did that, and they did that because they know they can raise more money -- and I'm not saying improperly or anything like that, but I am pointing out that you have the ability, because of the worlds that you travel in, the friends that you have, and the people you represent, you have the ability and you've proven it, to raise more multiple millions of dollars -- certainly more than both the other two parties. So the rules that are geared to benefiting those who have big bags of money make sense. It makes sense that you brought those changes in.
To bring us back to the case in front of us, there are enough questions around this that the only thing for the government to do is provide for an open, transparent, clear process for having this looked at. But more importantly, I hope all three parties in the upcoming election will commit themselves to the kind of reform that the leader of the NDP, Howard Hampton, has come forward with. I'm not sure about the Liberals. I'm looking over now and seeing "yes" for some reform. I don't know to what degree. Are you banning corporate and union?
Mr Christopherson: Now I'm getting -- they were looking at the whole thing. OK. Fair enough. I didn't mean to turn this into a debate between us. I'm just trying to point out that we would all be well-served, those of us who are going to be citizens in the next election casting a ballot in what we hope is as fair and transparent election as possible -- you would do us all a favour if you would take your cue from Manitoba, Quebec and now Prime Minister Chrétien, in terms of the federal rules, and take the necessary steps.
I don't know if it's going to happen. I've said all along and I'm going to say it again because I've said it outside this place: I hope and pray that there is a minority government next time, because it will provide an opportunity for a lot of rebalancing in terms of the rights of the opposition, the rights of the public, and returning the importance, prestige and pre-eminence of this place, the people's House. Any chance for true electoral reform, I think, would come best and more likely if we had a minority situation where one party was being forced by the others to do that and everybody's scrambling to take credit, and who cares about that at the end of the day, outside of this place? For those of us who are citizens in the Ontario, we would be well-served by getting out of all of this money flowing in from corporations and the union side of things. Again, it won't make it perfect, but it will make it a lot better than it is now. I think it would give the public a greater sense that the fix isn't in and that money isn't buying these elections. Maybe then, referring to the numbers that Mr Prue talked about in terms of the participation rate going down among the public in elections, perhaps we can turn that trend so that people have enough confidence that their participation matters, and that the big bags of money that are flowing around are no longer part of the political process. It would be a win for all of us. I urge all three parties to make a commitment to make that kind of change as an improvement to democracy in Ontario.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm pleased to join the debate and add my support to the resolution calling for full details of the dealings between companies and the government of Ontario.
I just want to refresh the public's mind on what we're dealing with here. An individual was appointed by the government to the Ontario Pension Board. At the time the individual was appointed, he was the chair of the fundraising organization for the Progressive Conservative Party. He was appointed for a period of eight months, I believe. He was on the pension board as he continued to serve as the chair of the fundraising organization for the Progressive Conservative Party.
He then became chair of the pension board. The pension board has made a loan to a company to purchase unserviced land, which is, for a pension fund, a very unusual investment because it's land that will not be developed, I gather, for many years. I believe the public has a right to see the details of those arrangements.
I just want to refresh the public's memory that I and my colleague Mr Crozier were on the committee that interviewed Mr Weiss when he came before us to be appointed to the pension board. I and Mr Crozier were quite surprised at the time when he said, "I plan to finish performing my current duties at the PC Ontario fund ... and while I'm performing those duties I will waive the standard per diem." I was surprised, frankly, that he said he would stay on, raising money for the Progressive Conservative Party, and go on the pension board. My colleague Mr Crozier said, "Do you see then your position, being in charge of corporate fundraising for the Progressive Conservative Party, as being any kind of a conflict while at the same time you're managing investments for the Ontario pension fund?" Mr Weiss said no, but we subsequently found out that the major contributor to the Progressive Conservative Party continued to make major contributions to the Conservative Party and then subsequently the pension board lent a substantial amount of money to allow that individual and his companies to purchase the land.
I also raised questions about Mr Weiss's appointment and said to him, "How do we respond to pensioners who say, `What is the government doing putting an obvious partisan on the board?' As I say, it has nothing to do with you, Mr Weiss; it's more that you are totally tied to the party.... Why wouldn't you have sought another position that isn't as sensitive to this and let the Premier appoint to some sensitive board like this someone who is less clearly tied?"
You put yourself and the Legislature in a very difficult position. You are going on the pension board, managing public service pensions -- and I would say there's nothing more sensitive to people than their pensions -- and at the same time you are out raising money for the Progressive Conservative Party. You're in a conflict. I said, "It has nothing to do with your professional qualifications, Mr Weiss. As far as I can determine, you're a competent individual." But we raised at the time this obvious potential for conflict, both Mr Crozier and myself.
This gets to the heart of standards. If the government is prepared to put the individual who is spearheading political fundraising on a pension board -- and he continues, by the way, for many months to be in charge of fundraising, and sits on the pension board and then becomes chair and, for the first time in the history of this pension board, it makes an investment in raw, unserviced land, and the loan happens to be to the largest contributor to the Progressive Conservative Party -- I have no hesitation in raising this issue. I raised it on March 27, 2000, when I thought it was inappropriate then. We raised this potential for conflict. Frankly, based on the evidence, I think we were, in many respects, visionary in identifying this as a potential significant issue. We find out he becomes chair of the board, an unusual -- I say "unusual" because it wasn't done before and it hasn't been done since. It's an unusual move by the pension board to invest in raw, unserviced land that happens to be owned by the major contributor to the party.
Mr Smitherman: I'm pleased to join this debate. I'm not surprised, but would like to pay a moment or two of comment to the irony of the fact that the government, which has this afternoon been presenting such a partisan response to this, is apparently out of speakers who are willing to stand in their place and try to defend what is indefensible. I think that speaks for a change in the environment of this place, because usually there's no shortage of those fellows over there who will stand up and mouth back the government's line to us. But today we see they are in short order.
Mr Smitherman: -- but I think any fair-minded Ontarian who looked into the affairs of this organization -- I see the minister from Brockville won't let us down. He'll be here to heckle, but we won't see him standing in his place and taking his government's time to put on record the extent to which he has comfort with this, I think, rather unsavoury set of circumstances. But that should come as no surprise; that's his standard operating procedure.
What have we got here? A political party so long in office that they think pension funds in the province of Ontario are their own private playpen, that there is no responsibility whatsoever to conduct themselves in an appropriate fashion with the billions of dollars of pension funds that are not theirs but that they are the custodians of.
They operate as if these are their very funds to do with what they wish. And what do they wish to do with them? Reward their best friends by embarking on new relationships, investing pension funds in the highest-risk real estate development known to this industry. They have attempted to create the impression that they did deals like this all the time, but this is not the case. It seems that until these two folks, Mr Cortellucci and Mr Weiss, bellied up to the bar together at a political fundraiser, the very idea that Ontario pension funds would be made available for raw land speculation had never crossed the desk or the boardroom table at the Ontario Pension Board. It took this magic alignment of the largest single contributor to the PC Party and the long-time staff fundraiser of the PC Party to come together and decide that Ontario's pension funds, the funds belonging to the employees of the province of Ontario, should be put at risk in a move to this highly speculative and high-risk type of deal.
Don't take my word for the characterization that real estate development dealing with speculation and land long into the future is high-risk. Ask anybody who works in the business of land development and they will tell you that's exactly what has gone on here.
One of the things I found most interesting in response to these concerns we've raised is that Mr Cortellucci, an extraordinarily powerful figure in that government and one whose affairs are so deeply intertwined with almost every member of the cabinet, was seen on TV to say, "Oh, you said these lands are not going to be developed for 20 or 25 years? Nah. Ignore those official plans. Ignore what it says on the public record about Brampton's plans" around the development of these lands that he owns. Instead, he says, "With my power and my connections and all of the inside knowledge I have, these lands will be developed in five or maybe 10 years at the outside." That's what I saw him saying on TV, and that helps to highlight the extent to which the rot is so deep over there.
Mr Weiss, the staff political fundraiser of the PC Party, is plucked from that perch and dropped in to head an organization, and in the time he's been there, what have we seen? We've seen this move to highly speculative land deals, putting pension funds into the highest-risk kind of development. We've seen him participate early on as a double-dipper, on that board and at the same time playing his role as a PC fundraiser. And we've seen the extraordinary excesses with his salary going up, up, up.
I would say that the government members who have not beckoned their courage are the wise ones. The ones who have not decided to put on record their support for what their government is up to are the wise ones, because we now have evidence from some members opposite that they're willing to go to any cost to try to defend the indefensible.
I ask you, Mr Speaker, and I ask all members and the people at home who are looking in: when you look at the facts, when you see the connections that have been made and you see the move into high-risk land development associated with speculation on raw land so far from a waste and sewer pipe that one can only imagine when development will be possible, is that the kind of thing you want your government involved in, where the relationships that are established at a political fundraiser are the most important thing that occurs?
Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): It's a pleasure to rise and speak to this issue. I want to reveal to the people at home what this issue is really about and what the Liberal strategy is right now, as we are maybe in an election year or headed into one in 2004, and that is to attack people. They cannot win an election on policy, and they know that. They've been advised of that. Their strategy now is to attack people.
In this situation at the Ontario Pension Board, the NDP have a representative on that board and the Liberals have a representative on the board, appointed by the David Peterson Liberal government. The former principal secretary to Bob Rae is on the pension board. These gentlemen approved the loans in question. The members opposite make it sound like only one person, a Tory, approved these loans. The fact of the matter is that the Liberals have someone on that board and he approved them, and the NDP have someone on the board, the former principal secretary to Bob Rae, and he approved them.
What's really behind all this? It's like I said at the outset: the Liberals are switching strategy now. It's a strategy they've been going down the road of for six or maybe 12 months. It's a strategy that has some of their veterans, like Sean Conway, very uncomfortable and leaving politics. It's a dirty strategy, a personal attack strategy.
It was evident today during question period. We have issues in the province of Ontario like SARS, like West Nile, like a difficult time in the tourism industry right now because of Mr Chrétien's positions and crazy comments in the last little while. But the members opposite don't want to talk about those very real issues that affect the people of Ontario. They want to attack Minister Stockwell's integrity. They want to attack people's integrity over this loan.
They went down this road because -- and we know this, because when we looked at the expenses of leader Dalton McGuinty, we found he was paying taxpayers' money for political advice from an American consultant. That American consultant said to the Liberals, "You guys can't win an election on policy because you have no policy. The NDP has policy, the Conservatives have policy and the public knows that. You guys have no policy. You can't take a stand on issues. The public knows it. They're aware of it. You can't win an election on it." So what did the American consultant, paid for with taxpayers' dollars, say to Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals? He said, "Get dirty. Go after any kind of thing you can get and try to hang these people. Attack people."
They spent thousands and thousands of dollars FOIing every cabinet minister's expenses -- and their staff. Anything at all they found over the past eight years, of the thousands of dollars of expenses that have been filed, they tried to discredit those people. That's what they're doing, and that's what this debate is all about.
They don't want to be in debates about mortgage interest deductibility, which is part of our platform. They don't want to talk about protection of taxpayers from municipal tax increases. They don't want to talk about that. They don't want to talk about our four balanced budgets. They don't want to talk about the over one million jobs that have been created in the province of Ontario in the past eight years. They don't want to talk about tax relief for seniors; in fact, they want to increase taxes for seniors. They want to increase taxes on corporations. They want to kill business. They want to kill jobs.
In fact, they're campaigning, because of our Taxpayer Protection Act, on about a $4.5-billion tax increase, but they don't want that to be the issue. They don't want the public to talk about issues. That was clearly evident today in this debate. It was clearly evident today during question period. The Liberals will continue, I predict, to attack people and not talk to the public about policy. Why? Because their American consultant, paid for with taxpayers' dollars, told them, "Go dirty. You can't win an election on policy. Go dirty." That is why several of their most experienced members will not run in the upcoming election.