LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 19 May 2010 Mercredi 19 mai 2010
Hon. Monique M. Smith: I move that, pursuant to standing order 47 and notwithstanding any other standing order or special order of the House relating to Bill 21, An Act to regulate retirement homes, the Standing Committee on Social Policy be authorized to meet from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, 2010, for the purpose of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill; and
That at 5 p.m. on that day, those filed amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved, and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any division required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 129(a); and
That the committee shall report the bill to the House no later than Monday, May 31, 2010. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House; and
That, upon receiving the report of the Standing Committee on Social Policy, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading; and
That, on the day the order for third reading of the bill is called, one hour shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill, apportioned equally among the recognized parties. At the end of this time, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and
I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with the motion that has just been put forward. Bill 21 is the worst bill I have ever seen since I’ve been an MPP. I don’t know who drafted this. I don’t know who advised you of this, but this is terrible and horrible. We, the NDP, have submitted 92 amendments, 92 amendments that would give us the opportunity to go from this terrible bill, where all the cards are stacked for an industry dominated to make money hand over fist, and nothing is there to protect the patient, the resident, the tenants—those who will live in the retirement homes in Ontario.
We have brought forward amendments. We are stating our case and, to their credit, the majority government has adopted some of the amendments that we are working through. But in order for the dozens and dozens of amendments that we haven’t gone through yet to be understood and voted upon in a democratic fashion, you have to give us time to stake our claim. To say that, no matter where we’re at, it doesn’t matter if there are 60 amendments left, they will all be considered rejected without even having listened to them—how is that democracy? Then, when we go to third reading—third reading of a bill that is so important, and yet, right now, so terrible—we will have all of 20 minutes. That’s it; that’s all.
I have been waiting for a law to govern and legislate retirement homes for a long time. At the beginning of 2000-01, we in the field of health care were seeing what was happening in the retirement home business, and we wanted legislation. We saw the terrible stories unfold where people died of starvation, where people burned to death in their beds because there was no regulation, and we wanted that to change.
Finally, the government listened, and in 2007, they did a consultation. Alleluia: They had seen the light of day; they realized that this industry had to be regulated. So they did the consultation. I was happy at the time. So, 2007 finished; 2008 went by; 2009 went by. I brought this question forward: When are you going to bring about legislation for retirement homes? I asked this question in the House multiple times. Every time I was told: “It’s coming, and you will be happy when it comes.”
Finally, in the spring of 2010, it came. Bill 21 came. I guess I should be happy legislation had been put forward, but by the time I had read through this legislation, I was appalled. I cannot believe that in this day and age in Ontario we would put a piece of legislation forward like this that is deliberately set out to have two parallel systems of long-term care.
One is the system of long-term-care homes, with nursing homes and homes for the aged that we know, where the government takes the responsibility and provides the care to vulnerable residents of long-term-care homes, with a series of 300 pieces of legislation specifically targeted to quality of care, because we realize that the people who live in our long-term-care homes are vulnerable and they need protection.
We now have, with Bill 21, the set-up of a parallel system of for-profit long-term-care homes where the residents, the tenants of those homes, will have no protection whatsoever. Things as simple as saying a health care professional should sign your plan of care—this amendment was turned down. Things as simple as informed consent, that you should require informed consent, and people should know when to require it and what this means—this amendment was also turned down. Things as simple as, if you have to provide your resident with some information, you cannot charge the resident a fee for that information—that was also turned down.
I cannot tell you the disaster that is waiting for us in the retirement home industry in Ontario. I thought it was bad before, but that is nothing compared to what this piece of legislation will do. This is why we are bringing forward amendments. This is why we need the time to explain those amendments to the people in government: so that they wake up to the reality of what they’re about to do.
They are about to set a parallel fee-for-service—if you have the money to pay, there is no cap on the amount of care you can buy in a retirement home. If they have the money to pay, they can purchase unregulated, uncensored, unlegislated care for a fee. We all know where that will lead.
When we went through the Long-Term Care Act, all of the impetus, the energy, the effort that was poured into that act was specifically to recognize that those people are fragile; they’re frail; they deserve our protection. Now, we will have the exact same level-of-care recipient in a for-profit retirement home that can offer any level of care they want with no regulation whatsoever. If you’re willing to pay, they will provide it, no questions asked.
With this piece of legislation, I can foresee many long-term-care homes that would say they are burdened by the quality legislation that we have put on long-term-care homes switch their licence: “To heck with being a long-term-care home. I can do the exact same thing to the exact same resident in the exact same premises and not have to account for my actions and care to anybody but my shareholders”—whose primary motive is going to be money, not quality of care. This is one of the things that will happen.
The second thing that will happen is what is already happening here: People who depend on the retirement home operator for their care will be taken advantage of in every way you can fathom. They will be taken advantage of monetarily, physically, emotionally—you name it. The Liberal government has set up the perfect storm.
When the government brings a piece of legislation in health care that is good, I have no problem supporting it. I have done it in the past. When they do good things, I’m on record, I support what they do, I vote for it, and I speak openly of it. Sometimes my caucus doesn’t like it, because I give kudos to the Liberals, but when they do a good job I have no problem saying that they’re doing a good job. But when they bring forward a terrible piece of legislation, it is my duty to speak out against it.
Not only are they bringing forward a horrible and terrible piece of legislation that will put thousands of vulnerable seniors at risk in Ontario, they are pushing it through with the privilege of a majority to have 20 minutes for third reading. To me, this is an affront to democracy—to not even allow us to present the amendments we want because it will be time-allocated.
Just so that people understand, what this motion is for—the NDP caucus has brought forward many, many amendments to Bill 21 because we think that it is a terrible bill. What the Liberals are doing right now is saying, “You’ve talked enough. We don’t want to hear from you anymore. Just present your amendments. We will take it for granted that we will turn them all down, no matter what’s in them. You won’t have a chance to present them. You won’t have a chance to read them for the record. You won’t have a chance to defend them or bring your arguments as to why you want them. We will vote them down.” How could that be? Ontario has a democracy, don’t we? How can it be that they do things like this?
A lot of people within the health care system have asked for those amendments to be brought forward, and nobody will ever hear about them. Nobody will ever know them. They will never be on the record anywhere because the Liberals have decided that they will be deemed rejected. Their amendments will be deemed approved, but the amendments from the opposition, the people who are there to hold the government to account, all of our amendments will be deemed rejected, without being heard, without being on the record, without being explained, without being debated—this, in Ontario, in 2010, in a democracy. That doesn’t seem like a democracy to me.
But the motion goes even further. Not only will you not have a chance to hear those amendments—they are going to be voted down as if they had never existed—when it comes time for third reading, we will have all of 20 minutes for third reading. Twenty minutes is not a whole lot of time.
We are dealing, in the retirement home business, with a potentially very vulnerable group. I agree that not everybody who lives in a retirement home is vulnerable. There are a lot of vibrant seniors out there who can defend their rights, who can make informed choices and who don’t need our protection. For those people, things will be good, but things are already good for those people. They don’t need the law. The people who do need the law are the critical mass of vulnerable people—people who are losing their autonomy, people who are becoming frailer, people who will be the ones purchasing care from retirement homes. Those are the vulnerable people.
I’ve asked the government many times, “Tell me where in the continuum of care do you see the retirement home business fitting?” In my mind, I see that you should at first try to support people in their own homes, so we would have a strong and robust home care system that would give people the support they need to live in their own homes with respect, dignity and security. As they age, they may have to move into supportive housing, where there’s a little bit more of a formal set-up for care, there’s supervision 24/7, and there is on-site access to care. Then, in my mind, people would move into retirement homes. Here again, the retirement home is a home where care would be a part, and the bill says that. You would need at least two elements of care to be designated as a retirement home, and then, as people’s needs increase, you would go into a long-term-care home. If that continues, you would go into complex continuing care. In my mind, that is the continuum of care. As people age and become frail, their needs increase. Not everybody who gets older gets frail and has needs, but a lot of them do, so we should have a good continuum of care for those people. There is none of this in the bill—none of it.
The retirement home is not a piece of the continuum of care for long-term care—not at all. The retirement home bill, Bill 21, sets up a parallel, for-profit long-term-care system. There are no caps on the type of care that you do. You will have people in retirement homes in Ontario who are frailer than what you find in complex continuing care in our hospitals. The way this bill is set up, there will be people with equal needs who will be in our retirement home system. This is completely absurd. We’ve waited a long time for this piece of legislation. I have never been that disappointed in the actions of our government. They really, really are doing something terrible and awful. I can’t believe this is happening. It is happening under my watch, and now my watch is being cut short thanks to the motion of Ms. Smith. I can’t stand this.
I stand here before you and say all this when I know that their minds are made up. Their minds are made up on all kinds of levels. They have their minds made up that they want to push this bill through no matter what the opposition has to say, no matter what the people of Ontario have to say and no matter what the needs of the residents in residential care are.
We have this potentially vulnerable group that will live in the retirement homes of Ontario. They will be out of sight. They will be sheltered from public scrutiny. Unless you walk into one of those homes, you won’t know what’s going on in there. We’ve never said that all tenants are vulnerable, but a critical mass of them are going to be. There is nothing in this bill that guarantees the quality of the care that the retirement homes will have to provide. There is very little oversight of those retirement homes, and it is now written in law that you don’t have to provide any oversight of those retirement homes.
I cannot support Bill 21. People who care for the elderly, the frail and the vulnerable of this province cannot support Bill 21. It is a danger to anybody who cares about people in need of protection.
What Bill 21 will do is create a third party regulatory model, what we call self-regulation. Well, self-regulation, the way it is written in this bill, is set up to be dominated by the industry. You have mainly for-profit—there are a few not-for-profit retirement homes out there, I must say, but the majority of the industry in Ontario is made up of for-profit retirement homes. Those will be the people who will self-regulate themselves. And whenever we ask to put elements of quality of care into those regulations, the government says, “We are hands-off. It’s going to be this third party authority that will self-regulate.” How incredible is this? An industry that, by its definition, has shareholders there to make a profit will self-regulate, and the government says, “We don’t want to impose any quality-of-care requirements because we want this to be arm’s-length. We want a for-profit industry to regulate itself, to decide what they will do in retirement homes in Ontario.”
Can anybody else but me see that this is a parallel to the fox guarding the henhouse? Would that be a good model of care? I see somebody who knows quite a bit about raising chickens. She and her husband have been chicken farmers for many years. Has she ever hired a fox to look after her chickens? I don’t think so. Nobody would do that. Well, we are setting up a bill, Bill 21, where we will have people motivated by making a profit looking after the quality of care the residents should receive. This is incomprehensible. This is unacceptable. This bill has to change.
In normal practice, how do you change? You hold hearings, which we did. We voted in favour of second reading because we wanted this bill to go to committee, we wanted the government to hear the outrage out there, and they did. The health care providers came out in droves and told the government that this bill was completely insane, that it had to be changed, that it would put people at risk, and the list goes on and on. Ask any health care providers association in Ontario. They have all weighed in on this bill and told the government to change it. That’s the regular process in Ontario.
When a bill goes to second reading, it goes to committee, people listen, we learn from the knowledge that exists out there in the field, and then we make changes. Well, we are in the process of making those changes. We are in the process of what we call clause-by-clause, where we take this bill, which is quite thick, and we go through it clause by clause and say, “Do you realize that the way this is written right now, it will mean this out in the field? Why don’t we change this and put in that language instead?” So, in going through clause-by-clause, we have brought forward close to 100 amendments to make this bill stronger.
We were going through this at, I would say, a normal speed. Nobody has been really holding up the process, except the Liberals had a request at the very beginning—they were not quite ready, and they requested a half-hour recess. Everybody was okay with that: “If they need a little bit more time, we will give them a little bit more time. We’re all in this together. We want to make the best laws we can for the people of Ontario.” Then we started our work and were going through.
Now, about halfway through, we are told that this democratic process is not going to take place anymore. Ms. Smith stands up, puts out a motion and says, “We don’t care what you have in your amendments. We’ve already decided that we’re going to vote ‘no’ for all of them and we’re going to vote ‘yes’ for all of our amendments”—the Liberals’ amendments being very few, by the way.
They don’t care about the democratic process. When they wanted half an hour to get ready, the opposition said yes. We wanted to work collaboratively, we wanted to be positive in this process which we know is very important. But then, halfway through, the government decided, “We’re not going to listen to you anymore. We don’t care about your amendments. Bring forward whatever you want, but you won’t have a chance to put it into the record. You won’t have a chance to state your arguments. You won’t have a chance for debate. Take it for granted that we’re voting no to all of them.” I don’t like that. I have something to say. The people of Ontario want to be heard. Lots of people put in lots of work to try to make this a better bill. Lots of people in Ontario waited a very long time for this piece of legislation to be brought forward, and now that it has finally been brought forward and the democratic process is in action and we want some changes, we are being told, “You can’t. Starting at 5 o’clock on Thursday, who cares what you have to say? We will vote on those amendments, and take it for granted that yours will all be voted ‘no.’” This is not democracy. The people of Ontario deserve better than this. Don’t we deserve better than that on this piece of legislation? We’ve been asking for this for 10 years. What would a couple of more hours do?
They’ve had lots of chances. The consultation was finished in 2007. It took three years. It took them three years from the end of consultations to bring forward the bill. It’s not like we didn’t push them, not like we didn’t ask for this bill to be brought forward. I asked the question repeatedly in the House, “When are you going to regulate retirement homes?”
Now that we are finally in this process that the people of Ontario have asked for, have watched and want to be heard in, we get this motion this morning that says, “Nobody wants to hear from you. We don’t care what you have to say. We will take all of your motions, whatever they are, and vote no.”
I’m very disappointed. I have waited a long time. I’m worried about what this bill will do. To me, some of the most important amendments that we’re making to the bill—amendments that, with the proper arguments, I hope I will be able to convince the people on the Liberal side to support—are yet to come, amendments regarding the detention of tenants in their own units, something that is illegal in Ontario. I want to explain to them why I don’t want this in the bill. They are yet to come. But nobody will ever hear those arguments. They will never be read into the record. Nobody will know. It’s as if they don’t care. They don’t care about a critical mass of vulnerable people for whom the people of Ontario have asked that the government step in and bring regulation.
I wanted to give a couple of examples of what happens when an industry like this is left unregulated. Why do we need good, strong legislation regarding retirement homes? Let me give you an example. The example involves the case of Janet Longford, who was a private operator of a home. She had a 16-bed home, located in Orillia. In 2006, she pleaded guilty to failing to provide the necessities of life because she severely neglected Sarah Eisemann, one of her residents. A Superior Court judge sentenced her to six months of house arrest and three years’ probation after hearing—if there are people who are squeamish out there, turn your TV off; you’re not going to like what’s coming—that she starved them; malnutrition. Mrs. Eisemann was covered with bedsores—anybody in health care? Stage four bedsores are not a pretty sight—and was restrained.
What happens when the industry is not regulated? The owners of the homes do whatever they want. If one of their tenants is a little bit hard to handle, they restrain them. If they still won’t listen, they starve them. And if they still won’t listen, they won’t provide them basic care, like wound care when somebody has bedsores.
Am I making this up? I’m not making this up. Go to the Superior Court of Justice of Orillia and read the whole transcript of what went on. This went on here in Ontario, and this is why we need legislation that protects vulnerable people.
But the Liberal government has completely refused to put any quality-of-care element into Bill 21. What we have is a self-regulated industry where the authority to make bylaws and to decide on quality-of-care issues will be made by the fox in the henhouse. It will be made by the profit-driven industry operator. I can’t understand why we are doing this. I can’t understand why; I can’t understand what good will come of it. To me, we are failing the people of Ontario.
This self-regulation regime, to me, is like a fear of government regulation. There is a role for government in a democracy to protect the most vulnerable within our midst. That’s why we’ve asked for the regulation of retirement homes, so there are no more Janet Longfords who restrain, who starve, who deny basic care to their residents. But there is nothing in this bill that would keep many, many other Janet Longfords from starving, from restraining and from failing to provide basic care to their residents. There is absolutely nothing in this bill that will do this. How come we don’t learn from our mistakes? How come we don’t learn from what has motivated the people of Ontario to ask for legislation?
I wanted to go more into the details of the bill, but my colleague from Hamilton East–Stoney Creek is our critic for seniors, and he too wants to talk about some of the horrific issues happening in retirement homes as we speak, and that this bill, the way it is constructed, will completely ignore. We will give the people of Ontario the false pretense that since we now have legislation, the retirement home system is now regulated. Doesn’t that sound good? If I know nothing about long-term care and my grandmother needs a place to stay, I go and see a retirement home that is legislated by the government of Ontario. Now, doesn’t that give it—you know, it must be good. The government says it’s good; it has given it a licence. Yes, except that the licence is not based on quality-of-care issues; it’s based on making sure those industries make a profit.
The retirement industry in Ontario has been waiting a very long time to be regulated. They’ve invited regulation, and Bill 21 is the result of that. Right now, we have two organizations, a non-profit organization and a for-profit organization—both voluntary—and their members are not regulated, but by moral suasion have to meet certain standards in Ontario. Unfortunately, there are a fair number of retirement homes that choose not to join the voluntary groups, and they are in no way regulated by either the government or their peers.
As I say, this bill is supposed to bring all retirement homes into the fold for the first time and regulate them for the betterment of seniors. That’s what we’re talking about. This will be a growth industry in the future. Demographics say we’re basically going to double the number of seniors within a decade, and many of them will have needs that cannot be met in the home. There’s no doubt about it: The preferable place for a senior is in their own home, and God bless them, many live as a couple or alone and, with a lot of assistance, are able to stay in their home. That is a wonderful thing.
Unfortunately, there are some that have higher needs and can no longer be cared for in their own home. Traditionally, they have first gone to the hospital if they were ill, and then they would be placed in a long-term-care facility. There are approximately 73,000 long-term-care facilities in Ontario. There are only 40,000 retirement homes. This government, unfortunately, in my opinion, has failed to realize that our seniors are going to double in the next decade, and they have basically put a freeze on new retirement homes. They have made an attempt to refurbish older units and bring them up to date, and that’s an admirable cause. However, as far as new retirement and long-term-care beds, there seems to be some doubt; if you look at one website of the government, it says so many beds, and if you look at another, it has a different number. But basically, in my investigation of that field I feel that there are few or no new retirement homes either being built or planned by this government.
They cannot ignore the problem of the doubling of seniors during the next 10 years, so what is their plan? I believe that their plan is to emphasize retirement homes rather than long-term-care facilities. They say no. What they say is, “Retirement homes are going to be low-care facilities and long-term-care facilities are going to be higher-need facilities; that’s the distinction.” They say that, but they do nothing about it. There is nothing in Bill 21 that puts a limit on the needs of individuals going into retirement homes, individuals who, in my opinion, should be in long-term-care facilities, but they’re not going into long-term-care facilities.
Long-term-care facilities—again, the figures are in some doubt—are subsidized by the government per bed to the tune of not less than $40,000 per annum to as high as $55,000 per annum. Retirement homes, on the other hand, are not subsidized in any way directly. However, there are some non-profit retirement homes in the group of retirement homes. For each retirement home which is occupied by a person who should be in long-term care, there’s a great saving to the taxpayer and to this government.
Why don’t they just go into long-term-care facilities if they have that higher need? Well, if you’re not building any new ones and the population is increasing, there are no beds. In my city of Cambridge, we have over 35 individuals, seniors, who were ill; everything that could be done for them has been done, and they’re ready to be moved into long-term-care facilities because they have higher needs. There are no beds available in Cambridge, or anywhere else in our region, as I understand it. So these individuals now have their home—forget about cost for a minute. We’ve taken these seniors and forced them to have their hospital as their home. A person goes to a hospital because they are ill or in the case of the joyous event of the birth of a child. They don’t go to a hospital to live there as their home. That’s probably the worst thing we can do to an individual, especially an individual who is fully aware of the situation and has all their faculties. Yet, day after day, month after month, these individuals call Cambridge Memorial Hospital their home.
What this government hopes is that the needs of individuals who can no longer remain in their homes and are seniors will be fulfilled by retirement homes. That’s why there’s no cap on the needs. In other words, they can take any patient in a retirement home, which is privately run or run by municipalities—they can take any patient, no matter how high their needs are; there’s no restriction. If there was, then they would need to move into a long-term-care facility or a hospital.
Does that mean that this bill does not recognize high needs? No. It not only does not put a limit on it, it does not recognize the fact that there are individuals who will come into a retirement home only because there’s no other place to go in this province—absolutely no other place because there are no extra beds.
We have approximately 73,000 long-term-care beds in this province, and they are all full. We have only 40,000 retirement homes in this province, and they are not all full at this moment because one is subsidized by the government and one you have to pay the full shot, and the fees are, obviously, therefore high. You have to pay for each additional personal service you might require.
I predict that, over the next 10 years, the retirement industry is going to grow enormously. Retirement homes as a segment of our community are going to easily double from 40,000 to 80,000 beds over the next 10 years, and probably greater, because one thing we discovered in questioning as we were going through clause-by-clause—that’s why clause-by-clause of a bill is really important.
This bill has over 100 sections. Each section has a meaning, and it’s either good, it’s bad or it’s indifferent, but it’s an opportunity to study each section, to ask questions about it, though I must admit for the first time since I have been in the Legislature, 14 years, I didn’t get answers to all the questions I had—it was ignored; it was just take it or leave it, and you didn’t get your questions answered, because the questions are really important at times.
For instance, there’s no limit on this retirement home. There’s no limit on the needs of the individual. So it simply means that—well, let me just go back. Retirement homes are now going to be governed by self-regulation. Self-regulation has been used by a former government and this government in professions all the time. For instance, the law society is self-regulation. It governs lawyers. The college of physicians is self-regulation, and that has spread to nurses now and teachers. It’s a good way of governing. It saves the government money and, therefore, your taxes can be lower because we’re asking these professions to regulate themselves at their own cost.
This is not a profession—retirement homes. These are businesses. It’s a little different. We don’t say to General Motors, “You regulate yourself when it comes to safety.” We say to General Motors, Chrysler and the auto industry, which are businesses, “We’re not asking you to regulate yourself. We’re going to tell you what the minimum standards are that we want for the protection of the consumer.”
Not in this case. Here we have a group of businesses who are going to regulate themselves, and when we proposed an amendment that said, “Look, these are not professions. These are businesses. Let’s ensure that a majority of the directors on the board who govern this authority are in fact representatives of the public and not the industry,” this government said no. They didn’t really give a reason; they just said no. There is no reason. This is not a profession. This is a group of businesses, God bless them. They are totally in control of carrying on their businesses and regulating their own industry.
That leads to a couple of problems. Because we have no limit on the level of care and they’re regulating their own business, one of the first things they’re going to do is introduce “restraint.” That’s a simple word. It’s innocuous; it doesn’t mean a lot. But retirement homes are now going to have the right to restrain a senior. Oh, yes, there are a whole bunch of words in there that are supposed to protect seniors, but the fact is that these residents—because they’re no longer tenants. This bill takes all of these retirement people who are living there, who have been tenants with certain tenant rights, and all of a sudden changes the name. We said, “Why are you changing the name?” “Oh, they’re going to stay the same. They’re still tenants.” “Well, why don’t we call them tenants? That’s what they are.” “No, we’re going to call them residents from now on.” We couldn’t figure it out until later on, and you say “Wow.” All of a sudden, tenants—some of us live in condos in Toronto. I’m a tenant—and my landlord can come into my premises and restrain me by mechanical means or by drugs? We’ve introduced a new concept into the bill of rights in Ontario and Canada, that tenants can now be, physically or by drugs, restrained—for their own good, of course. Who determines this “for their own good”? The industry. We’re right back where we started. It’s like a Catch-22.
How about confinement? Can we confine tenants? Can my landlord come into my room and say, “You’re not going to live here anymore. We’re going to find a place,” or, “We’re putting big locks on your doors and you won’t be able to come out until we tell you to come out”? That’s actually happening in Ontario right now, because it’s contained in this bill: that individuals who are tenants and are paying for their upkeep and their services are subject to being restrained, to being confined. I never thought I would see that in Ontario without a judge’s order or an independent third person such as a minister, who could protect the public and is subject to public review. But no, this is going to happen somewhere by self-governing, and that’s not the place. When you’re coming to restriction of freedom, whether it’s for their good or not, the place to regulate that is in the public purview, not in a private self-regulation scheme. Those are restrictions on one’s freedom, and they have no place in this bill, in my opinion.
As I say, if you are looking to make money in the next few years, I can only suggest that you look closely at the retirement home industry, because it is about to explode. That assumes that I am correct that this government will continue to restrict or freeze the number of new beds given to long-term-care facilities. The last time long-term-care beds were frozen was also a Liberal government, if I recall. I think it was Premier Peterson who decided to freeze long-term-care beds in order to save money and—
Mr. Gerry Martiniuk: The parliamentary assistant tried to cut off debate in committee in the same manner: by arguing relevance. He should know that he’s not in a courtroom, that we are here to exercise our constitutional right to speak the truth, our constitutional right to represent our constituents, and we are not going to be subject to censorship. It’s one of the few times that censorship has raised its ugly head in committee in my 14 years, but it happened in this bill, and I’m really disappointed that it did happen.
This bill puts us on the slippery slope to privatized health care. The regulating of retirement homes tells me that this government has no plan to invest in new long-term-care facilities and is abandoning the needs of our seniors.
To quote a press release posted to this government’s website two months ago, “Ontario is rebuilding 4,183 existing beds and updating facilities at 37 long-term-care homes.” These are not new beds; these are existing beds. You are insulting the seniors of this province by implying that you are looking out for their future needs.
Many seniors in Ontario cannot afford to live in privately owned retirement homes. Rooms at retirement homes cost between $1,500 and $5,000 a month, and are not subsidized by government funding. According to the report “Boomer Tsunami” by Judy Steed, it costs $43,000 per year per person for a place in a long-term-care facility. The regulation of retirement homes creates a new class of lesser personal care. Seniors in this province will be forced from hospital to retirement homes because there are no long-term-care beds available. This government has frozen the construction of long-term-care facilities, and my fear is that seniors will be moved from hospitals to retirement homes, where the level of care they require may not be available. That is already happening in my jurisdiction. I recently visited a retirement home that just opened, and there were three new residents and all of them were coming directly from the hospital.
While I agree that retirement homes require some regulation, this is not what today’s seniors need. They need new long-term-care facilities, not more government red tape. Regulating retirement homes might be a good idea, but it totally ignores the real problem, and it’s a cheap way of getting patients out of hospitals. This creates a dangerous situation and puts the safety and well-being of seniors at risk.
As a senior, your dream of a safe and comfortable home when you need extra personal care is gone under this government. This government is saving money at the expense of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
“The proposed legislation would have considerable impact on both our lifestyles and finances, yet it seems almost impossible to obtain knowledge of even its basic content, scope and intent. Do your officials not realize that there are many hundreds of residents of retirement residences throughout the province of Ontario who have enjoyed a fine lifestyle of their own choosing for many years, satisfied that their residences are well managed and self-regulated by the membership in the Ontario Retirement Communities Association, their own residents’ council and excellent management teams employed by their administrations? Also, that if dissatisfied, they are free to leave on appropriate notice and seek residence in a wide variety of well-appointed and managed for-profit residences. It would also seem that by ignoring the vast area of knowledge and expertise, your officials are missing a great resource in formulating any required legislation.”
The reason that particular quotation is important is because it assumes something, and the writer assumes something: that people can afford to go into retirement homes. They’re not subsidized, like long-term-care facilities. Where are we going to put our seniors who have no large pension, for instance? Some 70% of the residents of this province, as I understand it, have no private pension plan. They are totally reliant on Canada pension and old age security and, of course, what savings they may have accumulated. How are they going to afford to pay $43,000, $45,000 a year? After paying income tax, that means they would have to have an income of $60,000, give or take—possibly higher. How are they going to afford to go to a retirement home? I don’t see how they can. There will be so many who cannot. They can’t stay at home, because their needs are too great, and they can’t go to a long-term-care facility. About the only place they’re going to end up is in the hospital again, and we’re right back where we started, where we’re condemning our seniors to live in a hospital as their home.
My colleague Elizabeth Witmer called on this government to develop a plan for long-term care after many of us were approached by nursing homes desperate for increased funding for front-line care. You recall that a little while ago it was determined that the allowances for meals at our prisons in Ontario were higher than the money provided for long-term-care facilities. As a matter of fact, the government did listen in this case—and provided a pittance. But they had to recognize that there was something wrong with the logic of paying more for meals in prisons than there was for our seniors in long-term-care facilities. It was a strange situation, to say the least.
Allow me to share some facts. Long-term-care residents receive far less personal care than long-term-care residents in Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick. These points are similarly applicable to retirement homes, of course, simply because we’re talking about the care, with government help, at a certain level in long-term-care facilities that is surely higher than that in many retirement homes.
Ontario’s nursing home residents receive 2.6 worked hours of personal care per day. This number is much lower than the three-plus worked hours provided by the three other provinces, and those are Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick. This gap in care is steadily increasing due to a shortage of staff.
Long-term-care homes are short-staffed since they do not have the resources to hire enough front-line staff to provide the level of personal care that residents require. As a result, Ontario’s dedicated long-term-care staff is overworked. The lack of staff means that Ontario will continue to lag behind other provinces in the amount of personal care they provide to nursing home residents.
Mr. Gerry Martiniuk: Yes. Thank you, Speaker. As you point out, when we’re talking about our long-term-care facilities, the level of care, one would assume, would be the same and no greater in retirement homes. That’s my analogy. I’m trying to work on it, Speaker, but if I stray, please bring me back to the point of this bill.
Some 35,000 seniors live in nursing homes which do not meet home-like design standards. To be fair, that’s only 35,000 seniors out of approximately 73,000 who actually reside, so it’s less than half. Unless Dalton McGuinty initiates a promised capital renewal plan for these below-standard spaces, seniors will continue to live in three- and four-bed wards without the dignity of an ensuite bathroom or wheelchair accessibility.
As I did mention, there were some small steps taken to attempt to remedy the matter, but all the resources are going into renovations and none into new beds, and it doesn’t help those individuals who usually in this province, I guess, are seniors. We equate them with over 65, I hope, though I must admit that the movies define seniors as over 55. I think the seniors’ level should be higher. I think that 65 is the old standard for seniors, and I would think that 75—in so many cases, I’ve met so many individuals who are still playing golf at 85. That did not happen too many years ago.
There are more than 400 regulations which govern nursing homes. There are going to be a lot more that govern retirement homes, it looks like, because the bill itself has over 100 sections, and that’s even before we start with the regulations. Those regulations, I fear, are going to be massive; it’s the only way to describe it. I don’t know how anybody is going to make true sense of them.
Dedicated front-line health workers are preoccupied with measuring the amount of coffee in long-term-care residents’ cups or labelling toothbrushes instead of delivering quality personal care to residents.
As I said at the beginning, retirement homes are going to be the growth industry. As a matter of fact, one of the interesting points that came out: My theory, which remains to be proven—and we will find out over the next few years, a very few short years, whether my theory is correct—is that this whole regulation scheme is merely an attempt to save money and privatize health care by moving people from long-term-care beds over to retirement beds which the government does not subsidize. But it could even be worse. Right now, we have 73,000 long-term-care beds. One of the questions—I forget who asked it—the other day in committee: We were talking about a mixed building—let’s take a high-rise of 10 storeys, and one whole floor was a retirement home, that whole floor, and the rest were long-term-care beds. The question was, what is it? I mean, is it a long-term-care facility building or is it a retirement home facility? The ministry staff stated quite forthrightly that yes, you could have a mixed use of this kind. You could have one floor which would be retirement homes and nine floors which would be long-term-care facilities. Then the follow-up question was really interesting: Could a person who had a mixed building of this kind change a floor which now had long-term-care beds and wasn’t making much money for the company, and make it into a retirement home, which would bring a bigger profit? Yes. They said that could be done. In other words, it’s conceivable that the 73,000 nursing home beds we have now—we have 40,000 retirement home beds—would actually decrease. Never mind increase, because they’ve been frozen and they’re not going to increase. But they could actually start decreasing if the people in the industry, the seniors industry if you want to call it that, decided, “Hey, we can make a lot more money with a retirement home than we can with this long-term-care bed level that we presently have. Let’s close that up”—as far as I know, they said they could do it—“and make it a retirement home.”
So we could actually have—I had always, in my own mind, calculated that we’re going to be stuck at 73,000 beds for long-term-care facilities, and the retirement beds would start to increase drastically over the next 10 years. I guess it’s going to have to—if people can afford it. But those 73,000 beds could decline because of the possibility of reconverting floors in a mixed building to be a retirement home because there’s more money in it. That’s a logical—some people frown, but the profit motive is an efficient motive; it’s what makes our economy efficient. Unfortunately, some of the side effects are not particularly favourable, especially if it’s going to harm seniors down the road—and there is a possibility of that happening.
The need for community and home care services was recognized by the Progressive Conservative government when an unprecedented $1.2 billion was invested to improve access to high-quality long-term-care and home care services across the province of Ontario. In 1998, to foster a more home-like atmosphere for residents, the PC government launched an extensive capital renewal plan which built 20,000 new long-term-care beds and upgraded 16,000 beds to comply with the new design standards. Can you imagine what would have happened if that had not taken place and those beds had not been built? Our hospitals would have collapsed some time ago with the expense of keeping low-need patients in hospital at hospital costs. This landmark investment was necessary since neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats had built any new beds since 1988.
To help ensure that Ontarians were provided with appropriate levels of care in all settings, the PC government’s historic investment added thousands of front-line health jobs to the system, including 7,900 positions for registered nurses and registered practical nurses, as well as another 19,600 jobs for health care aides, homemakers and other front-line care workers.
These investments directly benefited families, the elderly, the disabled and their caregivers by providing additional beds, more community services, more health care providers and new or renovated facilities.
Let us turn our attention to alternate-level-of-care patients. These are patients waiting in hospital beds who could be better cared for in long-term-care facilities or retirement homes, if there were beds available. In February 2009, Tom Closson, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association said that “the single biggest challenge facing Ontario hospitals is the number of alternative-level-of-care patients waiting in hospitals for alternative levels of care.”
According to the Ontario Hospital Association, approximately 20% of acute care beds are occupied by alternative-level-of-care patients—20%. That is costing this province a great deal of money. No wonder we’re cutting back on nurses and everything else to pay for that.
Getting back to the need for more retirement home beds and long-term-care beds in our province, in 2005, eligible wait-list demands for long-term-care facilities were 12,708. By 2008, that number skyrocketed to an estimated 25,000, a 50% increase since this government took office. Our debt has gone up by a larger percentage, so maybe that 50% is not so bad, except that this directly affects—
Mr. Norm Miller: I would like to introduce Steve Low and his parents, Fran and Larry Low, who are in the members’ west gallery, down from Parry Sound–Muskoka to have lunch with their MPP today. Please welcome them.
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: I’d like to introduce the grade 5 class from Oscar Peterson Public School in my riding of Mississauga–Erindale. I want to welcome them here. There are 100 students here, along with their teachers. I want to extend them a very warm welcome.
Mr. Robert Bailey: I’d like to welcome today the parents and family of our page Michelle Hendrikx—they’re in the public gallery: her mother, Joanne; her grandma Anne; and her aunt Margaret. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to take this opportunity on behalf of the member from Algoma–Manitoulin and page Lars Moffatt to welcome a couple offriends of his today: Adam Laskaris and Kathryn Laskaris. I’d also take this opportunity to wish Lars a happy birthday.
I would like to welcome the group from the Oxford Reformed Christian School who are seated in the Speaker’s gallery. The member from Oxford and myself will be joining them later for a photograph. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: To the Premier of Ontario: Health and fitness clubs like Curves have joined us here at the park today. I’d like to welcome Andy Soumbos and Becky Frusher of Curves, as well as the executive director of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, Brian Gilbank, to the House today. I appreciate them coming.
Like many Ontarians, though, Premier, they wonder why Dalton McGuinty is so afraid of a motion calling for the HST to be put to Ontario voters before the next election, and why you would backtrack on a deal made with your House leader so that it could be debated today.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: First of all, I want to welcome our guests to the Legislature today. I want to thank them for the work that they do. I think we all recognize that as we grapple with growing, ever-escalating health care costs, one of the things we need to do is to find more ways to encourage more Ontarians to participate in physical activity. So I thank them for the work that they’re doing.
I think by way of so-called deals—I’m not familiar with the deal, as my colleague calls it, with respect to the House leaders, but I can say that we have a strong working partnership with the federal government. If it were not for them, if they would not act as our partners in this important initiative, we would not be able to move ahead for the HST. Again, I thank them for their co-operation in this regard.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: The Premier isn’t so bold or confident enough to put his record sales tax grab back to a vote in this chamber with his backbenchers so that the people of Ontario will have an opportunity to vote on this tax. Your House leader came looking for a deal to manage Liberal bills and agreed to debate our motion—until you saw it. It reminded you of your vow not to implement new taxes without the explicit consent of Ontario voters. Our motion would have held you accountable to your promise by delaying the HST until after the next election. Are you running away from our motion because you’re afraid how members, particularly in the Liberal caucus, would vote?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: This is an important new public policy initiative. It’s not new in four other provinces, it’s not new in 140 countries, but it is new for Ontarians. We’ve had a budget motion. There’s the bill itself; there may have been as many as three votes on that. So we may have voted four times on this. It’s also been the subject of a vote in Ottawa at the House of Commons. We are in compliance with the Taxpayer Protection Act. I think my honourable colleague understands that. We’ve debated—I’m not sure any public policy initiative in recent times has received more attention inside and outside this chamber, and that’s only appropriate. We feel that we’ve had the necessary debate and we think now it’s time to move on to strengthen this economy and create 600,000 more jobs.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Dalton McGuinty used to think that the right thing to do was get the explicit consent of Ontario voters before raising their taxes. He was so certain it was right, he signed his name to an oath that said he would “not raise taxes or implement any new taxes without the explicit consent of Ontario voters.” But Dalton McGuinty now admits that “the HST will be an increase in taxation” for families and is driving ahead with his tax agenda as if his oath to Ontario voters didn’t matter at all. Will you put to a vote our motion in this House and only implement the HST once there is a mandate from the voters to do so?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, it’s been the subject of three and possibly four separate votes in this chamber. My honourable colleague and her party maintain that they are adamantly opposed to this budgetary measure, but should they ever earn the privilege of serving Ontarians in government, they are also absolutely committed to maintaining the HST in its place. I find that a little unusual.
Again, if it had not been for the support of Jim Flaherty, Janet Ecker, John Baird, Tony Clement, John Tory, Mike Harris, Senator Runciman and Prime Minister Harper, we would not be able to move ahead with this initiative. I want to thank them once again for their support. This is something that actually transcends partisanship. Thoughtful people know this is in the interest of our economy. It’s all about 600,000 more jobs.
Mr. Toby Barrett: My question is for the Premier. Dalton McGuinty clearly has no difficulty raising taxes after looking Ontario voters in the eye and telling them that that he wouldn’t raise them without their explicit consent. He had no inner bell go off when he said that the HST will be revenue-neutral, knowing that it would “be an increase in taxation.” He hasn’t even implemented his HST tax grab before planning a water tax grab.
Like our Green Energy Act, it’s the first of its kind in North America. It’s designed to accelerate the development of a still stronger industry in Ontario when it comes to developing and exporting clean water technologies and services. There is at present in the world today, globally speaking, a $400-billion clean water industry. It should double during the course of the next five or six years. We think we can lead North America in that grand opportunity, and our Water Opportunities Act is about getting things going here to an even stronger extent.
According to the member for Don Valley East, the water tax will cost families $50 a month; that’s almost double the $350 increase to power bills that Dalton McGuinty brought in since taking office. It rivals the health tax that you introduced after taking office.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: My honourable colleague’s assertion is without foundation in fact. What we are working to do is to find ways, certainly here in Ontario, to conserve water, to use less water, to lower our water bills.
It turns out that about 25% of the water that we ship, after treating it inside our municipal water delivery system, leaks outside the pipes. We’re paying to ship water which doesn’t even end up at its ultimate destination, which is in our homes. We think we can do more to save water. Ultimately, what that will help us do is save money.
It doesn’t stop there. Ontario families, as we know, are already hit with tax increases on televisions, iPods, electronics, electricity, gas, HST and plastic bags, all since the 2007 election. They can now look forward to Dalton McGuinty implementing a carbon tax. His member for downtown Toronto, the former mayor of Winnipeg, is already tweeting to rally support for the Premier’s job-killing carbon tax.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Ontario families are very concerned about a number of things: not only about household costs, and we recognize that, but they’re also concerned about the quality of the air that their kids are breathing. They’re worried about the quality of water that comes out of the tap when they turn that on. They’re worried about their employment opportunities. They’re worried about the quality of their health care. They’re worried about the quality of their schools. My friends opposite may bring this myopic perspective of a family’s concerns, but they are certainly short-sighted.
We understand that families are concerned about their levels of taxation—that’s why we’re reducing their taxes, effective January 1 of this year—but they’re also concerned about their future. They want to make sure that we have a strong economy, good jobs, good schools, good health care, air that we can breathe and water that we can drink. We understand the big picture. We’ll keep fighting for the big picture for our families.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Premier. Over the past week, government operatives have engaged in an unprecedented smear campaign against an officer of this Legislative Assembly. Ombudsman André Marin has had his good name and his stellar reputation dragged through the mud. Why is the McGuinty government going to such lengths to slander Mr. Marin?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I appreciate the question. I thought it would be an important opportunity to revisit some of the things that our government has done when it comes to putting in place greater measures of accountability, transparency and oversight.
We asked the Auditor General to take on greater responsibilities when it comes to auditing our hospitals, our universities and our schools. Again, that was not supported by the opposition. When it came to expenses, we also tightened the rules for travel and meals. The Integrity Commissioner now reviews the expenses of our 22 largest agencies. Again, when it comes to oversight, accountability and transparency, we’ve been trying to move forward; they keep trying to hold the line.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: I wasn’t asking about the sunshine list; I was asking this Premier to shine the light on what his government’s agenda is in regard to Mr. Marin. Ontarians are repulsed by the hatchet job that Mr. Marin’s reputation has had under this government’s watch. They are submitting letters and emails and even issuing press releases showing their disgust.
Here is what Cynthia Glinka, a parent of an autistic child, said in her press release: “I continue to applaud the extraordinary efforts of Marin and his team of investigators. What the ministry dragged its feet on for years in our case, the Ombudsman investigated and made recommendations about in less than three short weeks.”
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: We’re following a process which was strongly, and I thought eloquently and compellingly, supported by a member of the NDP caucus who said that it’s important, notwithstanding the talents of any one particular officer of the Legislature, that we engage in a process and that we open it up to Ontarians to apply. That’s exactly what we’re doing, and I think we should respect that process, notwithstanding the considerable talents of the Ombudsman at present.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: What this Premier and this government should respect is someone who has done his job very, very well for this Legislative Assembly. The attacks against Mr. Marin have gone beyond the pale. Even the Premier himself acknowledged that yesterday, but his words, unfortunately, rang rather hollow.
Today the Premier can actually demonstrate real sincerity in this very House. He can stand up and apologize to Mr. Marin. It’s the right thing and the honourable thing to do. Will he do it right here and now?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, I think it’s important that we follow a process. To quote a member of the NDP caucus, “New Democrats are adamant that even upon the occasion of a reappointment ... notwithstanding the stellar capacity of a person who has served that role, there should be the same process.” The process is pretty clear: You advertise for the position, you see who’s interested in the job and you vet them. That process is under way. I think we should all respect that.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is also to the Premier. Today fitness groups are rallying outside of the Legislature to protest the McGuinty government’s unfair harmonized sales tax. The new 8% tax on gym memberships is going to make healthy living much more expensive in the province.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I had an opportunity to speak to this very issue a moment ago, and I’m pleased to revisit it. I do know that one of the benefits that our fitness industry will gain as a result of our tax reforms is to be able to take advantage of these new input tax credits in purchasing new equipment, for example. That should help reduce their costs, and hopefully that will stand them in good stead.
But I think if you take a look—I haven’t personally had the opportunity to take a look at what has happened to these kinds of businesses in those 140 other countries and four other provinces when the value-added tax of this nature was brought into place, but something tells me that they remain very strong businesses. That there remains a very strong industry.
I think it’s in the interest of every single business that we have a healthy level of employment in our province. If people have jobs, then they have sufficient disposable income so they can take advantage of these kinds of businesses.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, it’s not just gym memberships that are going to bear the brunt of the Premier’s unfair 8% tax. After-school lessons like soccer, karate and ballet will cost 8% more. Bicycles will cost 8% more. Even that staple of Canadian winter, renting ice time for hockey, will cost 8% more.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Our tax reforms will affect 17% of consumer purchases, meaning that 83% will remain unaffected. I’ve never once said to our families that this is an easy thing to do, but I continue to say that this is a very important thing for us to do.
We’re going to have to do a few things to make our economy stronger. The old economy is not coming back; the one that we had prior to the recession, in its exact form, is not coming back. We have a higher dollar. We have higher energy costs. We have government deficits. We have retiring baby boomers. I’m convinced that Ontarians want us to do the kinds of things that will ensure that we grow stronger, that we have a stronger economy so that we maintain our capacity to support our schools and our health care and create more jobs, and the HST is an indispensable part of our plan to grow stronger.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: A new tax on an active lifestyle—gym memberships, kids’ after-school programs, bicycles and ice rentals—makes no sense at all. We should be making healthy living choices more affordable for people, not more expensive. Policy decisions should be about improving the quality of life for families and lowering our health care costs. Why is the Premier going in exactly the opposite direction?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I want to assure my honourable colleague that we will not follow the NDP government example in Nova Scotia, which is taking their tax from 13% to 15%. I don’t think that would be sensible or reasonable in the circumstances.
We’re convinced that we have struck the right balance in terms of finding opportunities for families to save money. I want to remind Ontario families that in June of this year, because of the co-operative agreement we have with the federal government, if you’re earning $80,000 or less you’ll be getting a $100 cheque. If you’re earning $160,000 or less in terms of family income, you’ll be getting a $335 cheque, just in time to help families, at the beginning of the summer, transition through this transition period when it comes to our new HST.
Mrs. Christine Elliott: My question is for the Premier. You said of André Marin, “As a result of the work that he has done, we’ve been able to reshape some of our policies and ended up with something that better serves the public interest.” Premier, that sounds like a perfect endorsement. Were you just saying what you think the public wants to hear or will you stop blocking the Legislature from reappointing Mr. Marin?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I thank my colleague for the question. I know that if she takes the time to check the record and takes a look at all the statements that I’ve made about Mr. Marin before this latest conversation began, she will recognize that I’ve long been a supporter of Mr. Marin’s and have welcomed his criticisms because I’ve found that they always help us improve the quality of our public policy. That is certainly the fundamental function of the Ombudsman.
Mrs. Christine Elliott: The Premier’s track record makes it a little difficult to believe what he says. He has backtracked on his vow not to raise taxes so many times that Ontario families have lost count.
Your praise for Mr. Marin rings hollow when your decision to get him to reapply for his job is just a smokescreen to get rid of him. You’re standing in the way of reappointment and exercising no control over the Liberal insiders who are defaming Marin.
Premier, you can’t have it both ways: Will you come out of the corner you’ve painted yourself into, acknowledge that what has been done to Mr. Marin is wrong and let his name be brought back to this House for reappointment?
I would say that it does beg some interesting questions. If the party opposite, the official opposition, is so interested in accountability and oversight, why did they stand against our moves to expand the coverage of the sunshine list? Why did they oppose our move to ensure that the Auditor General could cover hospitals, universities and schools? Why did they oppose our public posting of expenses that are mandatory for ministers, political staff and senior managers at our 22 largest agencies? Why did they stand against our move to expand the freedom-of-information coverage to cover OPG, Hydro One, universities and Cancer Care Ontario? Again, they tend to say one thing and, when push comes to shove, they stand against these kinds of measures.
Mme France Gélinas: Ma question est pour la ministre de la Promotion de la santé. Since August 2007, nicotine replacement therapy products have been exempt from the PST at point of sale. The former Minister of Health Promotion said, “These savings will assist a mother, father or one of your loved ones when they make the decision to quit smoking.” Now, thanks to the HST, the cost of nicotine replacement therapy is set to rise by 8%.
Hon. Margarett R. Best: Our government is committed to helping Ontarians break the cycle of tobacco addiction. Over the last four years, the Ministry of Health Promotion has invested $29 million in smoking cessation programs and training and research initiatives. Through the STOP program, the ministry has provided counselling and free nicotine replacement therapy to over 60,000 smokers. Twenty-nine hospitals are participating in the Smoke-Free-Ontario-funded hospital-based smoking cessation program. The Ottawa model identifies and treats smokers admitted to hospitals.
Mme France Gélinas: We’re talking about taxing nicotine replacement therapy here, and I want to quote again from the former Minister of Health Promotion: “If an Ontarian wants to quit smoking and uses the patch, the cost is” about “$300 a month.... With this announcement ... an Ontarian can ... save $24 while attempting to kick this habit.”
We all know that smoking-related illnesses cost us $1.6 billion each and every year. How can the minister explain the rationale for adding 8% to the cost of nicotine replacement therapy when people are trying to kick this habit?
Hon. Margarett R. Best: Under the plan, 93% of taxpayers will pay less for personal income tax, putting more money in people’s pockets. Lower- to middle-income families will also receive a credit of up to $260 a year for each adult and child.
We continue, as I said, to fund programs to help people to stop smoking. The Ministry of Health Promotion is in the process of developing a new five-year plan for new directions in tobacco control. This plan will focus on ways that we can help more people to stop smoking.
I want to take this opportunity to say to the public that smoking is bad for you and people who are smoking already should quit smoking, and to the ones who have not started smoking, this is an opportunity for me to say—
Mr. David Zimmer: My question is for the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and it’s about the government’s drug reform package. My constituents up in Willowdale like the idea of cheaper generic drugs and they can’t believe the amount that they now pay when compared to what people pay in other jurisdictions. Many people in my riding pay for their prescription drugs out of their own pockets. Not all Ontarians have private insurance plans. They are forced to pay out cash for important and frequently used antibiotics, contraceptives and other kinds of drugs. And when cold season comes to Ontario every year, they often really need antibiotic drugs, and often parents and their children have to pay for these antibiotics out of their own pockets.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: The member is absolutely right. Our reforms are very good news for families, including families whose kids go to Oscar Peterson school. Our reforms will allow us to lower the price of generic drugs by—
These reforms are good for the families whose kids go to Oscar Peterson school. Our reforms will allow us to lower the price of generic drugs by at least 50%. Today, a patient would pay about $10.25 out of pocket for amoxicillin, a very common antibiotic. After our reforms, the price will be cut in half. Azithromycin is another common antibiotic. Today it’s $32.80; it will be $12.33. That’s $20 a family could use for groceries or other family bills.
Mr. David Zimmer: I understand that generic drugs are going to be a lot cheaper for Ontario families. What I don’t understand is why the members opposite don’t understand that. They don’t understand the meaning and concept of cheaper generic drugs. They criticize our plan to bring the cost of generics down. They’re really against the needs of ordinary Ontarians. You members opposite need to understand that cheaper generic drugs are good for seniors, cancer patients and taxpayers.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Stop the clock. I just said to the questioner, and I remind the individual providing the answer, that I would very much like to hear about government policy and not opposition policy.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Our policy is very clear. We’re on the side of families, we’re on the side of lowering the cost of drugs for people with cancer, for people with high blood pressure, for people who need birth control pills, antibiotics—you name it. We’re on the side of lower drug prices.
The members opposite have chosen to be on the side of the pharmacy owners instead of on the side of people who need drugs. This is consistent with the record of the party opposite. When they were in office, they cut almost $100 million from the Ontario drug program in 1996 and 1997, they instituted deductibles and they instituted co-payments for seniors and for Ontarians with disabilities. When the third party was in government, their plan to control drug costs was to cut $50 million from the Ontario drug benefit plan in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996. Our plan is to lower the price of drugs and expand the formula.
Mr. Norm Miller: My question is to the Premier. In September 2003, Dalton McGuinty signed an oath not to raise or implement new taxes without the explicit consent of Ontario voters. But he has admitted that the HST “will be an increase in taxation” for families. Does the Premier’s written promise mean nothing to him?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, this is a big undertaking; it takes a lot of work and a lot of partners. I want once again to thank the former Minister of Finance from my colleague’s party, Jim Flaherty, for his support. I want to thank another former Minister of Finance from their party, Janet Ecker, for her support. I want to thank their former colleague John Baird; their former colleague Tony Clement; their former leader John Tory; another former leader, Mike Harris; Senator Bob Runciman as well; and, of course, Prime Minister Harper.
Mr. Norm Miller: The HST in Ontario is the Premier’s choice. The Premier backtracked on his written pledge not to implement new taxes when he created the health tax, the HST and the backdoor energy tax. He backtracked on his vow not to raise taxes without the explicit consent of Ontario voters when he hiked up taxes for electricity, vehicles, and property transfers. He will backtrack on his oath to taxpayers once again when he brings in a water tax and a job-killing carbon tax.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Again, this matter has been the subject of three and maybe even four votes in this very Legislature. It has been the subject of extensive conversation and debate both inside and outside the Legislature. If my colleague is still in doubt as to why it is that the Conservatives around the province are supporting this, I would encourage him to sit down and speak with his federal counterpart, Tony Clement, and have a one-on-one with him in his constituency office in his riding. If you just give Mr. Clement a little bit of time, I’m sure he’s going to turn my colleague around, help him understand the error of his ways and help him understand why it is that we’ve transcended partisan differences and, working hand in hand with federal Conservatives, we’re moving ahead with an initiative that will create 600,000 more jobs.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. Yesterday, three leading environmental organizations voiced their opposition to the proposed Open for Business Act. Ecojustice, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy all say that the act will undermine public participation and the public right to appeal polluting activities in communities.
The McGuinty government talks a lot about increasing transparency. Why is it proposing legislation that would remove citizen rights and reduce accountability on environmentally damaging industrial activities? Why?
Hon. John Gerretsen: I think that those organizations are wrong. This current system has been in place for over 30 years. It is a paper-based system. We think it’s about time to bring those proposals into the 21st century. We think that modernizing our approval system is the right way to go. Over 6,000 applications are made on an annual basis. It’s all in a paper-based system.
We believe that our ministry should be involved with the higher-risk situations, rather than taking a look at all of the situations that are out there. That’s what the modernization of approvals is all about. It’s all about bringing our systems that we have been using for over the last 30 years into the 21st century.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Minister, you’re well aware that this has nothing to do with your moving from paper to Commodore 64. This is a question of whether or not people have rights to comment on environmental regulation. The press release from the environmental groups is very clear: The proposed act weakens accountability. The government will no longer be required to take the public’s views into account before environmental decisions are finalized. Maybe your staff didn’t brief you on this part of the act, but you need to be aware of it.
While reducing public rights to comment on industrial activities, the McGuinty government is increasing business rights through a new registry that allows companies to comment on new regulations impacting them. Is this what “open for business” means: more power for businesses to veto regulations and less rights for the public to protect their communities? Is that what’s on the table—
I would just like to put it to the member this way: There are sometimes applications that take about a year and a half to get the required certificates of approval, yet these organizations, these businesses, are operating during that period of time. That is wrong. What we should be concerned about within the Ministry of the Environment or within society are the environmental outcomes. We believe that the environmental outcomes that we’re dealing with are better served under a modernized system in which the ministry and in which we as a society look at the most important high-risk activities. That’s what this is all about. We want to bring the system into the 21st century. Most of the people out there agree with us, and I’m sure that in time, the environmental community will see it—
Mrs. Liz Sandals: My question is for the minister responsible for seniors. We know there are about 700 retirement homes in the province with approximately 40,000 people living in them and the sector has not been regulated to date. The home my parents live in is great, but we know that some retirement homes are not so great.
For the first time in provincial history, the government has moved to regulate retirement homes by introducing Bill 21 to make retirement home living safer for residents. Bill 21 has gone through second reading and is now at public hearings. There’s widespread support for regulation at the hearings, but there have been some concerns raised about the regulatory authority that will be established. Minister, what assurances can you give the House that the retirement home regulatory authority—
Hon. Gerry Phillips: Thank you for the question from the thoughtful member from Guelph. I would say that this is historic legislation. The province has never regulated retirement homes. There are 700 of them. All of us have them in our areas. The authority will have the ability to license, inspect and take licences away. It will have care and safety standards that it will be required to enforce. It gives strong rights to residents. We’ve been at this for three years now. It follows the advice of roughly 800 people who consulted in 2007.
To the question on the independence of the board: I want to provide the member and the public with the assurance that, firstly, the government will appoint the chair and three additional members. The other five will be appointed on the basis of criteria established by the government. I can assure the public that this board will represent the interests of the residents.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: Thank you, Minister, for the information about the regulatory authority. Our seniors will appreciate your assurance that the regulatory board will be well-balanced and represent the interests of seniors, licensees and government.
One of the key roles of the regulatory authority will be licensing but also inspecting and enforcing care and safety standards. One of the things we’ve heard at committee are concerns about whether or not there—
Mrs. Liz Sandals: We’ve heard concerns about whether or not the public will have an opportunity for input into the care and safety standards. We’ve also heard some concerns about whether there will be an appropriate complaint process for residents in retirement homes if they’re not meeting the standards. Can the minister address these two concerns that have been raised at committee?
Hon. Gerry Phillips: Thank you, and this is for the answer. On the first part of the question on setting the care and safety standards: If the bill is passed, we will begin work immediately on the determination of safety and care standards.
I want to provide the public with some reassurance that there will be ample opportunity for input into those regulations, including some round tables where we will get broad advice, and we will post the regulations for at least 30 days so people can comment on them.
On the standards, I think we are allowing good public input into it. In terms of residents’ rights—this is very important—the resident will have the right to appeal any particular complaint they have. There are very strong residents’ rights in it: three avenues of complaint procedure and good rights for the residents.
Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette: My question is for the Minister of National Resources. CWD, or chronic wasting disease, affects white-tailed deer, elk and moose—cervids, basically. It’s a fatal disease that affects these animals’ brains.
The reason I mention this is because of the escape of the game-farmed animal red deer in the Sudbury French River area over the past two years. These escaped deer have the potential to infect wildlife with CWD. Not only that, but red-tailed deer also have the ability and do mate in the wild with elk. This alone threatens the elk gene pool in the Sudbury area.
Hon. Linda Jeffrey: I appreciate the question. Certainly, chronic wasting disease is a progressive and fatal disease of the nervous system of deer, moose and elk, and our government continues to take measures to minimize the potential spread. The good news is that it hasn’t been detected in Ontario. It has been detected in two other Canadian provinces and several US states, so we continue to take measures to ensure that it doesn’t come to Ontario.
We’re developing a CWD surveillance and response plan. We’ve tested over 7,000 wild deer, moose and elk since 2002, and so far, all the results have been negative. We’ve implemented a regulation prohibiting the possession of high-risk deer and elk carcass parts that are harvested in other jurisdictions.
Here is a quote from Dr. Terry Quinney, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters’ provincial manager of fish and wildlife: “It is inexcusable that the government has failed to heed all the warnings and learn from the experience in other jurisdictions where the spread of the disease has resulted in the death of tens of thousands of deer.... The abundant, healthy white-tailed deer population in Ontario, and the much smaller elk population, are being put at risk by inaction on the part of the MNR. Once CWD strikes in Ontario there will be virtually no means of eradicating it.”
Minister, there is evidence that these red deer are also reproducing in the wild and becoming a self-sustaining population. Why has the ministry not bothered to recapture, contain or manage the escaped deer, which have the potential to infect wildlife with CWD?
Hon. Linda Jeffrey: The ministry is monitoring a small population of red deer. Certainly, the numbers have been fluctuating, based on people telling us stories, so we’re monitoring it. We’ve been making sure that the escaped deer from the farms in the North Bay area have been monitored.
We take this issue very seriously. Immediate action was taken by staff and a cull was initiated. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency test results showed that red deer that were culled by MNR do not have chronic wasting disease.
Escaped or released farm deer pose a risk to public safety, farmers’ crops and domestic livestock. Due to the risk these escaped red deer pose to our native wildlife, a plan to dispatch the animals was put in place. I want to take this opportunity to thank local farmers and hunters for their assistance in removing the red deer.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Premier. The Premier phoned the mayor of Toronto this week and asked him to trust him on transit. Given that the Premier has already broken his word to Toronto families who most need new public transit, why does he think that the mayor should trust him to keep his promise this time?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: There’s some really good news here. Notwithstanding our financial challenges, we have found a way to move forward with $9.5 billion in investment in public transit. This is the single largest one-time investment in public transit in the history of this country. That’s how big this is.
I would encourage my honourable colleague to join in the celebration and to find ways for us to work together—the three parties, the city of Toronto and Metrolinx—to get this new capital invested, to get the jobs under way, so that the people of Toronto can benefit from this new transit at the earliest possible opportunity.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: It’s now very clear that Toronto’s Finch LRT and the Scarborough RT lines are in danger of being completely axed. A Metrolinx report being released today says that not one penny has been allocated for construction of these crucial lines over the next five years.
Why should anyone believe the Premier’s commitment to Transit City, Toronto and Torontonians when over the next five years he couldn’t free up even one single penny for the construction of transit lines serving families that need them the very most in this city?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: My honourable colleague just can’t take yes for an answer. We’re moving ahead with the $9.5 billion. It’s a five-in-10 plan. It’s the largest transit investment in Canadian history.
Let’s take a look at our record thus far, even before we went ahead with this $9.5-billion plan. We’ve invested $3.7 billion since 2003 in public transit in Toronto. The gas tax alone has provided $849 million over the first six years of the program.
We’re spending $870 million right now to extend the TTC subway to York region. Work has already started on the Sheppard LRT. We’ve already spent over $700 million for new TTC hybrid buses, subway cars, track repairs and improvements.
Mr. Rick Johnson: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, you understand more than most that our biodiversity sustains us. That’s why I was pleased to learn this week that you helped fulfill a recommendation of Ontario’s biodiversity strategy with the release of two reports updating Ontarians on the state of biodiversity in this province.
As a member of the Ontario Biodiversity Council, can you please share with the members of the Legislature and those watching at home today what the work of the council has accomplished? In my riding of Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock, many of my constituents work in industries that rise or fall in lockstep with our biodiversity. We know the pressures on biodiversity and are keenly interested in the findings of the reports.
The member is correct: On Monday, I was joined by my fellow members of the Ontario Biodiversity Council at Hart House to release the two landmark reports you spoke of. I’d like to first thank the 22 partners on the Ontario Biodiversity Council for the time—the considerable time—that they took to volunteer to guide the implementation of Ontario’s biodiversity strategy. In the five years since the launch of the biodiversity strategy, the council has been invaluable to my ministry, helping us to fulfill our commitment to report to the public on progress in 2010, which also happens to be the International Year of Biodiversity.
The State of Ontario’s Biodiversity report assesses the pressures placed on Ontario’s biodiversity. In the reports released this week, we can see that our biodiversity is under pressure from human activity, which includes habitat loss, urban development, invasive species and climate change.
Mr. Rick Johnson: My thanks to the minister. Minister, in the reports released this week, it appears that over 200 years of development has had its toll on Ontario’s biodiversity. Native species are at risk, habitat has been lost and our climate is changing. The reports that the biodiversity council released on Monday paint the picture of a province in flux, where our biodiversity is threatened.
Hon. Linda Jeffrey: The honourable member is correct: Our biodiversity is under threat, and the reports released share with Ontarians very important information: They provide a baseline against which all future challenges and successes will be measured.
By quantifying our biodiversity, the McGuinty government and all Ontarians will have the information required to make good conservation decisions. However, the McGuinty government and our ministry have already acted. Back in 2007, we passed the Endangered Species Act, the gold standard in species-at-risk protection, which includes $18 million in stewardship funding over four years.
Mr. Garfield Dunlop: My question is for the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Since Ian Scott’s appointment as SIU director, the relationship between police and his office has deteriorated to the point where former Ontario Chief Justice Patrick LeSage was called in to mediate.
It now appears that Mr. LeSage’s efforts have failed, as the AG won’t get involved. Strained relations between the SIU and the policing community will continue now that Mr. Scott has intervened in the Schaeffer-Minty court case. His intervention in this case could lead to police chiefs across Ontario facing charges under the Police Services Act when the matter shouldn’t have been allowed to proceed in the first place.
Minister, your silence has been deafening while relations between police and the SIU keep sinking. Why did you say nothing before the SIU director intervened in a case, turning it into a circus that is eroding the image of policing in the province of Ontario?
Hon. Rick Bartolucci: I’ll probably give the supplementary to the Attorney General, but I do want to first of all say that because he is an independent person, we do not interfere with the decision-making. However, let me just say that we do have a wonderful working relationship with our policing partners. We will continue to have that wonderful working relationship with our policing partners, and that extends to a multi-ministerial approach. Why do we do that? Because we understand that the people of Ontario want to have confidence in their government so that we can pass laws and implement programs and policies that enhance community safety. That is what has been happening in the province of Ontario since 2003, since we took over as the government.
Mr. Garfield Dunlop: Minister, I’m asking you why you are doing nothing while the integrity of policing throughout this province is at stake. It’s shameful that the Police Association of Ontario and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police have had to hire lawyers to seek intervener status in this case, when police are supposed to be working in our communities, not arguing in our courtrooms. It’s shameful that police are now being forced to fight their own justice partners in the courts instead of fighting crimes on the street.
We’ve heard the Attorney General defend the SIU in the House and in the media, but no one is standing up for the police. So I’ll ask you this: As the minister responsible for policing in this province, why are you not defending police on a matter of urgent public importance, which is maintaining the integrity of policing, the basic foundation of a lawful society?
Hon. Christopher Bentley: My colleague just spoke very eloquently about the respect that we have for the hard work that the police do, and we have respect as well for the work that our other institutions of justice do. You can have respect for that work on a day-to-day basis, but also have respect for a judicial process which requires that arguments and decisions be made within the courtroom and not either in Legislatures or hallways or through the press.
It is the foundation of our society. It is not contrary to the respect that we have for all the participants of justice to say that when matters are before the court, we will not intervene, interfere or get in the way of that decision-making process.
Mr. Paul Miller: My question is to the Premier. There are currently up to 16 War of 1812 soldiers improperly buried across the street from Battlefield Park in Stoney Creek. While these individuals sacrificed their lives for what would become Canada, their remains lie in disarray, some even visible above ground.
It’s the first that it has been brought to our attention. I’m eager to learn a little bit more about it through the supplementary, but I think there’s a legitimate issue here, and we undertake to look into it.
Mr. Paul Miller: The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is fast approaching us, and the time has come for our government to take the right action for these fallen soldiers. These individuals paid the ultimate price for our fledgling country, and their final resting place should reflect this.
In a moment, I will present the Premier with my written request for provincial funding to support the efforts of the Battlefield House Museum in bringing these soldiers to their proper final resting place.
One of the things that I’ve always thought of as our responsibility here in elected office is to give expression to Ontarians at their best and, indeed, their very best. They are very supportive of our veterans and all the sacrifices that they made that contribute to the extraordinary quality of life in this vital democracy here that we enjoy each and every day.
Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn: I’ve got a question today for the Minister of Revenue. I’ve got a great company in my riding, a very innovative company, called Entripy Custom Clothing. They’re a leading provider of custom apparel in Canada. This Oakville company currently employs 25 people. They provide excellent jobs, and they’re growing. They’ve told us that they expect to save $15,000 to $20,000 in the first year with the tax reform we’re introducing.
Hon. John Wilkinson: I want to thank my friend for inviting me to visit Entripy just the other day. It is a true Ontario success story. Mr. Brar, who started the company 11 years ago when he was a student at the University of Toronto, has turned it into a local success, a company that is actually supplying goods and services to all the Canadian provinces and also to our territories.
But he has a vision of expanding his business even more, and what he was able to tell us and share with us is what it would mean, in his own particular business, if he was going to have his cost of business go down. When asked by the media, “What are you going to do with that money,” he said, “I’m going to hire more people, because I have a great product and I want to be able to expand into the US market.”
Job creation is obviously important to everybody in this province. When I’m talking with other people in my riding, however, some appear to have been misled by others into believing that all items in the province are increasing by 13%. I think everyone wants to see a more competitive province, but no one wants to see this on the backs of those who can afford to pay the least. There are those who are currently unemployed and seniors who live on fixed incomes, and they don’t have much flexibility in their budgets. How is the tax reform going to affect low-income Ontarians and other Ontarians who are currently on fixed incomes?
Hon. John Wilkinson: I want to thank the member for the question. First of all, I’d say to the people who have been prophesying economic doom and gloom that I think reality will teach them all a lesson starting July 1.
What we’ve done under our tax reform package, which includes the harmonization—having one sales tax in Ontario instead of two—is that we are substantially reducing income taxes for people and business right across the board. But we’ve taken special care to increase credits for those people who have the least—I’m thinking of seniors on fixed incomes, middle-class families with a lot of children and people on social assistance. We are increasing credits that are available to people, and they will start rolling out as early as this August.
I can tell people that there are also the tax-free transitional payments that we’ve been able to secure with funding from the federal government. The federal Conservative government and all those Ontario Conservative members have voted for this to allow us to provide that important relief to people in the first year as we transition.
Mrs. Christine Elliott: My question is for the Minister of Health. The minister has been talking about how her government is expanding access to drugs through her pharmacy reforms. She has even called a moratorium on implementation of the changes so that she could take more time to review the submissions. The minister claims that she wants to take more time to get things right, but all the while her colleague the member from Windsor West is engaging in her own anti-pharmacist campaign.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I want to be very clear about this: We are going to be eliminating professional allowances, and we are going to be bringing down the price of drugs for the people of this province. What we have done is allocated almost $300 million to put back into pharmacies to support access in rural areas and to support pharmacies through this period of transition. Our vision is a pharmacy system where pharmacists are, of course, paid to dispense drugs, but increasingly paid to provide services for people in this province.
Mrs. Christine Elliott: Well, if the minister truly believes she was expanding access to pharmaceuticals, she wouldn’t be putting these changes on hold in order to get things right. I also bet that her colleague from Windsor West wouldn’t be spending thousands of dollars on a smear campaign regarding pharmacy.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome the staff, teachers, parents and students from Dunsford District Elementary School in the riding of Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock. Welcome to Queen’s Park today.
The member for Willowdale asked a question of the Minister of Health earlier, and you, in the process of the non-question and also any part of it which applies to standing order 21(h) and (i), admonished the member for directing criticism as opposed to a question.
What I would like a clarification on is that he never actually did ask a question. I’m wondering why the minister then would have had the opportunity to respond to something that wasn’t a question at all. Any part of it that would have been a question should have been ruled out of order in the first place.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I thank the honourable member for the question. That happens quite regularly from both sides of the House because, as the honourable member knows, I am very conscious of watching the clock and allowing adequate time for a question and answer. As I may have cut off the member from Willowdale today, I have certainly cut off members of his own party and members of the third party in the asking of questions, and ministers have still answered.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: In the answer to the member from Whitby–Oshawa, the Minister of Health mentioned a website called Pupatello.com. It actually goes to a dating service’s chat room, homes-for-sale and apartments-for-rent website. So perhaps the minister—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I beg to inform the House that, pursuant to standing order 71(c), the opposition House leader, the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, has filed notice of a reasoned amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill 68, An Act to promote Ontario as open for business by amending or repealing certain Acts. The order for second reading of Bill 68 may therefore not be called today.
I beg to inform the House that, pursuant to standing order 71(b), the House leader of the official opposition, the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke, has notified the Clerk of his intention to file notice of a reasoned amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill 72, An Act to enact the Water Opportunities Act, 2010 and to amend other Acts in respect of water conservation and other matters. The order for second reading of Bill 72 may therefore not be called today.
Mr. Tony Ruprecht: I have the real, distinct pleasure to introduce to the Legislature and to each member the newly appointed ambassador of Vietnam, His Excellency Le Sy Vuong Ha, and the president of the Canada-Vietnam Friendship Association, Mr. Chuck Do, who is inviting you at 5 today to enjoy the new appointment from Vietnam. Thank you very much, and welcome to all of you.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I just want to introduce some friends who have helped me raise money for the fund for the earthquake that happened in Chile, and they’re here today to listen to that statement. Kevin Lee from Scadding Court and Magdalena Diaz from Chile Can Rise are here. A few other members are likely to come soon, and I’ll mention them as they come. Thank you for coming.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to make sure we welcome our guests from TOGA here today to Queen’s Park. We appreciate the good work and the fine food and flowers that the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance puts on our table. We won’t get into any togas today.
I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome guests from the St. Mary School Choir and Orchestra, seated in both the east and the west galleries. They’re visiting Queen’s Park today from London, Ontario. Staff, students and parents: Welcome to Queen’s Park.
I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome to the Speaker’s gallery Mr. Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Gord, welcome. Accompanying Gord, from my riding, is Suzanne van Bommel. Welcome.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I’m pleased to rise today to recognize the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance, who are here at Queen’s Park. Once again, they have brought many of the great things that are grown in Ontario’s greenhouses, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and flowers.
Not only do they provide great local food year-round, Ontario’s greenhouses are an important part of our economy. They have invested over $2 billion directly into our province and are targeting an additional $20 million in investment each year. Directly and indirectly, they support 35,000 Ontario jobs and contribute to the success of many other sectors, such as packaging and trucking.
But like all business, they need the proper climate to be able to grow and flourish. Our greenhouse operators are struggling with government red tape and overregulation. They are frustrated with a government that feels it is fair to hike hydro rates while refusing to support cogeneration projects within greenhouses that make fiscal and economic sense.
They’re working hard to build their businesses and be competitive. We need to make sure that the government isn’t holding them back. We need to work together to support Ontario’s greenhouses and our agriculture industry to ensure that good things continue to grow in Ontario.
I want to thank all the members of TOGA who are here today to share the successes and challenges they are facing. I look forward to hearing from them about what we can do to help them be competitive and successful. I encourage all members to take the time to meet with the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance this afternoon in the dining room to taste some of the good things that grow in Ontario.
Mr. Bob Chiarelli: Ontario seniors have been subjected to a multi-million dollar, US-style negative political ad campaign at the hands of the big chain pharmacies working in partnership with the Conservatives, all to protect their super-profits. However, not only will our government continue on its path to cut generic drug prices in half, we will continue to invest and build capacity in our health care system.
We are investing over $120 million in my riding of Ottawa West–Nepean for redevelopment of the Queensway Carleton Hospital. The groundbreaking this summer will include expansion of operating rooms, more diagnostic imagining equipment, ambulatory program expansion, outpatient rehabilitation and a 15-station dialysis unit to serve 100 patients.
This addition comes on the heels of the hospital’s recent opening of the Irving Greenberg Family Cancer Centre, with provincial government and Greenberg family investments being $82 million and $11 million respectively. Residents in Ottawa West–Nepean are receiving the health care investments and services they need, and they also look forward to lower drug costs.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Since the Liberal government passed the Green Energy Act, Ontario Hydro’s global adjustment keeps going up and up. For many manufacturers and businesses, the global adjustment now actually dwarfs the cost of energy itself. We’ve lost 62 mills in northern Ontario, numerous investment projects and untold small businesses because of it, yet Dalton McGuinty still insists that he supports manufacturing. He even has the gall to call the global adjustment a “provincial benefit” on hydro bills. “McGuinty benefit” would be far more accurate. Dalton McGuinty benefits, and our province suffers.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: As all of you know, Chile was hit by a major earthquake and tsunami in late February and early March. The destruction was immense. Along a 1,000-kilometre coastal area the tsunami destroyed port cities, villages, homes and boats in areas where fishing is the main income.
What we have done in response to this in order to be helpful, in collaboration with the Chilean consulate, the Chile Can Rise Coalition—two of them were able to make it here today, Magdalena Diaz and Yuri Navarro—and Scadding Court Community Centre, is to raise over $50,000 to help with earthquake relief.
I want to thank many of the MPPs who contributed and some MPPs who were able to make it on April 29, because that helped to make it a successful event. I want in particular to thank Scadding Court, which organized the funding without taking any administrative fee, which allows all the money to go directly to Chile. The group that is organizing the building of the housing is Un Techo para Chile, and with our $50,000 we’re going to be able to build 50 temporary homes for people there.
Mrs. Maria Van Bommel: Today is May 19, and that is also World IBD Day. On behalf of my constituents in Lambton–Kent–Middlesex and the one in 160 Canadians living with inflammatory bowel disease, IBD for short, I would like to draw your attention to this increasingly common, serious and incurable digestive disease.
Inflammatory bowel disease is the blanket term for both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD affects over 200,000 Canadians, generally in the prime of their life, and it’s on the rise among children. A study released at Sick Kids Hospital last August showed that pediatric IBD rates in Ontario are high and growing. IBD presents added complications for children because the diseased intestine is not able to do its job, which is to absorb nutrients for growth.
Whether young or not so young, Crohn’s and colitis exact a devastating toll on Canadian society. A Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada report in 2008 puts the true cost of IBD to the Canadian economy at $1.8 billion per year. That’s just the direct costs. The indirect costs to Canadian society and to people living with IBD are even greater: lower participation in the workforce, social stigma, and difficulty getting diagnosed and treated.
On Sunday, June 6, I will be attending the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada’s Heel ‘n’ Wheel-A-Thon in my riding of Lambton–Kent–Middlesex. I want to thank Kevin Eagleson who, year after year, organizes this event in Strathroy.
Today, I encourage members to learn more about IBD. A greater openness about Crohn’s and colitis will lead to better quality of life for people living with IBD. They are your friends, your neighbours, your family, constituents and colleagues.
On Monday, more than 50 individuals attended a Stop the Human Trafficking Awareness seminar in my riding of Sarnia–Lambton, hoping to establish a local response plan and to address this insidious problem.
Each year, millions of men, women and children are victimized and exploited for labour and sexual purposes. Hoping for a better future for themselves and their families, they are lured by false promises into a life of slavery and deprivation.
This event, which was organized by Michelle Batty, executive director of the Sexual Assault Survivors of Sarnia–Lambton and the Committee Against the Trafficking of Women and Children, to help service providers understand human trafficking in their community and to provide tools to identify victims and generate a community response.
Mr. Charles Sousa: I rise today to recognize the contributions of personal support workers to our health care system and to proclaim today as the first annual Personal Support Worker Day here at Queen’s Park.
Personal support workers assist the elderly and those with disabilities with hands-on care so that they can live independently in their own homes. Personal support workers also attend to the daily needs of our seniors in nursing and retirement homes and long-term-care facilities. Personal support workers are on the front line of care and provide tremendous support to patients and their families all over Ontario.
With us today are more than 40 SEIU personal support workers who are joining us from communities around the province for Personal Support Worker Day here at Queen’s Park. They are here today to meet with members to share ideas about how we can ensure quality and continuity of care for patients receiving home care. Our government is committed to quality health care and to putting the patient first.
Mr. Pat Hoy: I ask you to please join me in welcoming members of the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance, who are visiting with us here today. The alliance represents the largest cluster of greenhouse production in North America, most of which continues to be in Essex county, with the second-largest found in the Niagara region.
Products grown in Ontario greenhouses include cut flowers—over 236 million stems per year; potted plants—over 208 million per year; bedding plants—over one billion per year; peppers—over 110 million pounds per year; cucumbers—over 240 million pounds per year, enough to circle the earth twice; and tomatoes—over 390 million pounds per year, enough to fill 65 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The greenhouse industry has a present investment of over $2 billion in structures, not including warehouses, packaging houses and associated businesses. Greenhouse growers make a significant contribution to our economy and our rural communities.
On behalf of myself and my colleague Bruce Crozier, I encourage all members to attend the reception in the legislative dining room from 3 to 5:30 this afternoon. This is a great opportunity to meet our friends from the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance and to pick up a sample of their beautiful plants and delicious vegetables, grown right here in our backyard: right here in Ontario.
Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn: It’s with great sadness that I stand before members of the Ontario Legislature today. Early Tuesday morning, Colonel Geoff Parker, a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment, was killed when a suicide bomb exploded in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Colonel Parker was born and raised in Oakville, Ontario, and he’s the highest-ranking Canadian to pay the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. He leaves behind his wife, M.J., and two young children, Charlie and Alexandria.
Colonel Parker was described as a rising star in the Canadian military. Colonel Simon Hetherington, the deputy commander of Task Force Kandahar, said that Colonel Parker “was well known, highly respected and considered a best friend by countless army officers and soldiers across Canada.” He said “his potential was undeniable.”
Bill 78, An Act to amend the Taxation Act, 2007 to provide a tax credit to farmers for donating to Ontario food banks certain agricultural products they produced / Projet de loi 78, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2007 sur les impôts pour prévoir un crédit d’impôt pour les agriculteurs qui font don de certains produits agricoles qu’ils produisent à des banques alimentaires de l’Ontario.
Over the past year, the demand placed upon our communities’ food banks has increased by over 20%, according to the Ontario Association of Food Banks who are here with us today. In fact, last year, over 375,000 Ontarians were forced to turn to their local food bank each month.
This increased demand is only compounded by the fact that donations have been declining from large-scale food manufacturers and corporate donors. Today in Ontario, roughly 25 million pounds of fresh nutritious food are disposed of or plowed back into farmers’ fields across the province due to a lack of incentives and the cost placed on farmers to collect and donate that excess produce.
I rise today to introduce this bill, which will provide a tax credit to farmers for donating to Ontario food banks certain agricultural products they produce. This bill aims to both neutralize those costs placed on farmers and to collect and donate that excess produce.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d just take this opportunity to remind everyone that, when they hand me the bill, I read the first page. On the second page is an explanatory note, and you need to read the explanatory note. If there are long explanatory notes, you can actually shorten the explanatory note. Just to remind all members.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I’ll read fast. The Condominium Act, 1998, is amended to require that every declaration contain the standard provisions set out in the regulations. A duty of fair dealing is imposed on all the declarants and condominium corporations in their dealings with owners and purchasers of condominium units. The misuse of proxy instruments is made an offence liable to a fine.
The bill amends the act to permit a corporation to access its reserve fund for the purposes of installing renewable energy and other energy-efficient technologies and replacing common elements following reasonable wear and tear.
A review board is established under part VIII.1. The review board’s objects include advising the public on matters relating to condominiums, providing information to condominium corporations and owners of condominium units on matters of concern to them and assisting in the resolution of disputes, including disputes involving the validity of proxy instruments.
The bill amends the objects of the corporation designated under the act to include the object of serving as a consumer protection agency. Requirements are included as to the composition of the board of the corporation so that at least half of the directors must have experience in consumer protection and advocacy, and at least two directors must have experience representing homeowners.
Mr. Bruce Crozier: The purpose of this bill is to make the month of November in each year Bone Marrow Awareness Month, and I would add that the short title is the Katelyn Bedard Bone Marrow Awareness Month Act.
I’d just like to take this opportunity to welcome a number of family members here today: Lenore Deaville, Mr. Reilly’s daughter; Giselle Bursee, his former secretary; Bob and Frances Reilly, Bob being a great-nephew of Leonard’s; Don and Peg Eiler, long-time bridge partners and a fellow pilot; Gail Darling, a family friend and a ghostwriter; and Carol Sorjonen, a family friend. Welcome today. I will ensure, at the conclusion of the debate, that copies of the Hansard and a DVD of today’s proceedings are sent to you.
First of all, on behalf of New Democrats, I want to say to the family of Mr. Leonard Reilly that’s here today that none of us in this assembly had the opportunity to serve with him because he was gone in 1975, before any of us got elected to this place.
In researching and talking to somebody you might remember—a guy by the name of Bill Ferrier, who was here back at that time and served with Mr. Reilly—I had a bit of a chat in regard to his time here. It was kind of interesting, because he got elected in a by-election, and I’ve got to tell you, it was no sweep. He came in here with, I think, 30-some-odd votes. He barely got through the Legislature’s front doors, by some 30 votes.
When he got elected here, there was great expectation as far as the role that he would play in the Robarts government. He was a bit of a star himself before he got elected and got here. He was known as a person who was hard-working, just generally; who was well thought of; and who had the gift of the gab, as we say in politics. He was able to speak in a way that most people would envy in this Legislature, and in a way that a lot of people would aspire to in politics or any kind of work where you have to do public speaking. In fact, he was so good that at one point in his life, when he left politics, he decided he was going to start up a school, and the school he was going to start up was one for public speaking. He was so successful that Dale Carnegie tried to scoop him up and get him to work for him and start up schools here in Toronto for the Dale Carnegie course. But he was a person of his own convictions and said, “No, this is something I’m going to do myself.”
Back to the time when he got elected: He comes to this place as a very well-known person within the business community, especially the small business community, and he made a mark for himself fairly quickly. What I heard from Bill is that he really got to be known as the person who sort of—how would you say?—sold Mike Harris’s line before he ever thought of it, and that was one of common sense when it came to the small business community. He was someone who said that we need to ensure that those people who work hard every day in the small business community have their voice in government, and that government always remember that it can’t run over small business in helping larger businesses to run over them, because that’s eventually what happens. He became a very effective advocate here in the Legislature for the small business community across Ontario.
There was many a time in this Legislature when he may not have been exactly onside with his own party on some of those issues—never terribly vocal in the sense of trying to embarrass his government, but making sure that he kept them to task and remembering what he was here for, and that was to represent the people that he was elected by, and to do the work that he needed to do as a legislator in order to represent the small business community. So he was known as a person of conviction.
You’ve got to remember: Back in the time when Leonard was elected, there was no such thing as constituency offices. We’re lucky. We get constituency offices that are paid for by the assembly. We get staff who are paid to work for us in our constituency offices. The staff, unfortunately, was the family, who worked in the constituency, who answered the phone every time somebody called and said, “I’ve got a problem.” It wasn’t, “Hi, this is the office of the MPP.” This was, “Hi, this is Beulah. What can I do for you?” Beulah, from what I am told by Mr. Ferrier, was a person of great—how would you say?—skills. She was not only his best campaign organizer, not only his best—how would you say?—adviser, but she knew how to give him heck when he needed to get heck to keep him straight.
From what I understand, there was great respect between Beulah and Leonard in the time they were together. But he was a constituency person. He understood that if you are going to come to this place with a big margin of 30-some-odd votes and you want to come back to this place, you don’t lose yourself within the assembly, and in that important job of being the MPP, you remember that you’re a constituency person and you need to do the work that has to be done.
He was the son of people who came here from Ireland and understood what it was to start from humble beginnings, what it was to work as a tradesperson—he was a locksmith prior to coming here—but was somebody who understood that when you get to politics, never forget the people who brought you. That’s something that I think is endearing in what I’ve heard in regard to the conversations about him.
The biggest thing is you guys, the family, and that’s what Bill wanted me to pass on. Apparently, from what my understanding was, they had a bit of a kinship in that sense, but the family was important to your father, to your uncle, to your friend, whoever he might be. They understood that everything that happens in this place doesn’t matter if, at the end of the day, you don’t go home and have your family there with you. If he has any success, it was because of the family.
Mr. Mike Colle: It’s certainly my honour to stand here as the present member from Eglinton–Lawrence who had the honour of having Mr. Leonard Mackenzie Reilly elected to the riding of Eglinton, as it was called then. He seems to be quite an amazingly talented individual who really cared a great deal about ordinary people and was a man of great integrity, too. Mr. Reilly published a book called Living the Life of Reilly, so he also had a great sense of humour.
He came from very humble beginnings. He was the 13th of 16 children of Protestant Irish immigrants who ran a grocery store after settling in Toronto. He also, as I said, took a pretty strong stand early on in life when, growing up as a Protestant, he saw bigotry that existed between Catholics and Protestants in Toronto, and he decided to move away from that. He said, “I always prefer to do things to bring people together rather than to separate them.” He was a real pioneer in terms of getting people to come together, no matter what their religious faith was. That was pretty hard to do at that time in the city of Toronto.
He was also a man who was of great religious principle. He came from a very strong Anglican background. His favourite saying was, “We never know for what God is preparing us—for what work on Earth—for what work in the hereafter. Our business is to do our work well.”
He was also a great supporter of small business, as mentioned. He also undertook an interesting private member’s bill in this Legislature, which shows his connection with regular people. There was a big controversy in those days. If you recall, when you bought margarine, there used to be this dumb bubble that you had to squeeze to conform to the rules of the day. So he introduced a private member’s bill that got rid of the bubble—it was eventually adopted by the government—and allowed for coloured margarine to be sold in Ontario. What a progressive breakthrough. After this bill was passed—as the member from Timmins–James Bay said, he was elected by 33 votes. The next election I think he won by 6,000 votes, because he demonstrated to people that he understood some of their everyday frustrations with some of the crazy rules that governments have. That’s one of his, I think, trademarks: that he really cared about ordinary people.
As mentioned, he fought for small business people. He was a small business person himself, helped found the Reilly Lock Co. I know that in Toronto there is a Reilly Lock Co., but I’m not sure whether it’s the same family. But it exists in my riding on, I think, Caledonia. But he was also, again, a entrepreneurial person who built this company with his brothers during the Great Depression. Through that era he survived and the company grew, moved to Yonge Street and became well known; in fact, it’s synonymous with locks in Toronto to this day—Reilly Lock. This is another one of his achievements before he got into government.
If you look at the committees he served on when he was in the Legislature, it just goes on for pages and pages. Not only was he a good constituency person, he served on municipal law committees, a committee on education, on health and welfare. He was a very active parliamentarian who did a great deal of work to make Ontario a better place. He obviously represented his constituency well, as has been noted, and was a great supporter of his family—and I’m glad to see that there are members of his family and extended family here today. Really, you have a lot to be proud of.
Sometimes we take unsung heroes like Leonard Reilly for granted. He helped build this great province through his hard work, connection with ordinary people and his sense of a better place. He was a very religious man. He was a dedicated civil servant for the people of Ontario and his constituency and he really loved what he was doing. Again, he was a pioneer in the whole area of public speaking. He founded his own institute of public speaking here in Ontario, in Toronto.
He accomplished a great deal, and I think we’re all better for Mr. Reilly, MPP, and the contributions he made to this Legislature and to the city of Toronto, where he served as a councillor, an alderman and an MPP. We thank his family for sharing this wonderful person with us. Again, he has helped make this a better place. Thank you so much.
Mr. John Yakabuski: It’s a pleasure and an honour for me to speak on behalf of Tim Hudak and the PC caucus on the occasion of the tribute to Leonard Reilly, who was first elected here in 1962 in a by-election and served until 1975. It’s great to see members of the family here today.
Before politics, as has been mentioned, he was a locksmith, taking on a career after high school and learning from an older brother who had opened Reilly Lock on Yonge Street. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a locksmith in here today to open the book on some of those government secrets that we keep asking about? If we only had Leonard here today.
As they said, the company eventually grew to over 40 employees and he used his earnings to advance his interest in debating. As has been mentioned, he opened the Reilly Institute of Public Speaking and Personal Development, which gives you an idea of his love for debate and, as has been mentioned, his ability in engaging in that debate.
He first entered political life in 1947, running as an aldermanic candidate, and he won six consecutive elections until he was drawn into provincial politics in a by-election in 1962. As has been said, he won by the slim margin of 35 votes, but in 1963 he won by over 6,000. He won by a bigger margin again in 1967 and in his last election, in 1971, he won by over 10,000 votes, which speaks to, as Gilles talked about, the quality of Leonard Reilly as a constituency man and a servant of the people. He was clearly making his mark in the riding of Eglinton, as he was making his mark in this chamber as well.
He was elected the year before my father, and I remember my father talking about this margarine bill: as you’ve all talked about, the little button and the little dye in the button that would colour the margarine. I remember my dad talking about Leonard Reilly and the margarine bill. Look, not many people who serve in this chamber actually ever get a private member’s bill passed, so kudos to Leonard Reilly for doing that. He was also made a deputy Speaker by Premier John Robarts in 1966 and became parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Industry and Tourism in October 1972.
In 1975, he left provincial politics. He had this tremendous independent streak in him, which was not uncommon. I know that my father had that streak in him as well. That probably, as Gilles talked about, put him on the wrong side of the issue sometimes with his own Premiers and his own party, but Leonard Reilly did his thinking for himself, made sure that his points were made and his constituents were represented.
After he left politics, he was made chair of the board of trustees of the Ontario Science Centre, where he served two three-year terms until 1983. He is credited with raising the international profile of the Ontario Science Centre, and oversaw the exhibition China: 7,000 Years of Discovery, that broke all previous attendance records, attracting more than 1.5 million visitors in 1982. So not only was he serving well in this Legislature, but he served well as chair of the Ontario Science Centre.
He was a pilot. I don’t know if Gilles mentioned that or not. Gilles is a pilot himself, as are my colleagues Norm Miller and Peter Shurman. There may be other pilots; I’m not sure. He loved flight and had his own plane.
I was talking to Lenore earlier—and this is an interesting story. We believe it was back in 1958 when he took off from the airport at Fort Lauderdale and, just after taking off, had engine failure. He radioed the tower. He didn’t know exactly what he was going to do. He was looking at the beach and seeing these people, looking at the water—that’s not too inviting. He was talking with the control tower. At the end of the day, he was able to manoeuvre his plane. It was March 17, so they must have thought that St. Patrick himself was coming to visit them in Fort Lauderdale. He found a spot on the beach where there was a separation between the crowds, and was able to land his plane on the beach safely. He tried to keep it hidden from his wife and his kids at the time because he didn’t want them to worry, but it made the papers anyway.
He continued with that independent streak even at the age of 95, when he went and passed his driver’s licence test. He was always looking to ensure that, “If I need to do it by myself, I’m going to find a way to do it.”
Hon. Monique M. Smith: I believe we have unanimous consent to deal with a government motion without notice or amendment dealing with the reappointment of the Environmental Commissioner for the province of Ontario, and that up to five minutes be allotted to each party to speak to the motion.
“We, Her Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario, now assembled, request the reappointment of Gord Miller as the Environmental Commissioner for the province of Ontario as provided in section 49 of the Environmental Bill of Rights, to hold office under the terms and conditions of the said act,
“We, Her Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario, now assembled, request the reappointment of Gord Miller as the Environmental Commissioner for the province of Ontario as provided in section 49 of the Environmental Bill of Rights, to hold office under the terms and conditions of the said act,
Let me just say that the selection process and the unanimous consent is quite a stark departure from those of us that were here 10 years ago when he was first appointed. You may recall there was quite a controversy about that at that time. It seems to me it was immediately before Christmas. But whatever the controversy was at that time, let me just say that I think this is an excellent reappointment and that the selection committee should be commended for coming up with the unanimous decision that they did in reappointing Gord Miller. There’s no doubt in my mind that the committee has made the right decision.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with Gord, in opposition and in my capacity as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing some time ago, and even more closely since 2007 when I was appointed Minister of the Environment. At Municipal Affairs and Housing, as a matter of fact, he gave us some very good, sound advice with respect to the establishment of the greenbelt, a greenbelt that I believe will be there for generations of Ontarians to enjoy for many, many decades in the future. His sound advice on that was greatly appreciated and respected.
At the Ministry of the Environment, we have valued his advice on climate change, on Lake Simcoe, the quality of the air that we breathe and the water that we drink, and many other issues as well. I’ve had many formal meetings with him and also some informal meetings with him at various locations, including my office.
Yes, at times he has been tough on us in government, there’s no question about it, but he’s always been fair in every respect. I think it is good to have an officer of this assembly to look over the various activities of what government’s involved with, particularly in this case the whole question of the environment that we all need and want to be the best possible. He holds our feet to the fire and he never lets us forget for one moment our obligations, not only to this generation but to future generations, and that is to protect our environment, the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the land that we walk upon.
Gord has a very strong science background that has helped him fulfill his role extremely well. Previous to his appointment as Environment Commissioner, he had done some research around the use of constructed wetlands for sewage treatment and aquatic effects of acid precipitation.
He also knows the workings of government very well, having served for 14 years at the Ministry of the Environment, so he certainly knows the Ministry of the Environment inside and out. He served there as scientist, as a manager of training and development, and as a district manager of both the Timmins and North Bay offices of the ministry. I always think that we don’t pay tribute enough to all of the people that work at our various district and regional offices. They actually carry out the policies, programs, laws and regulations that we pass in this House, and they actually see it happening on the ground on a continual basis. Gord served in that capacity in both Timmins and North Bay.
We as a government, and I as the Minister of the Environment, look forward each year to his reports, knowing there will be criticisms but also strong advice. They sometimes take a bit of time, but often if you look back at Gord’s report you see how he has made a definite impact on the environmental policy in Ontario.
In his 2004-05 report, Planning our Landscape, a key recommendation was for the government to get serious about renewable energy and conservation, and we have done that. I’m proud to say that we’ve taken significant steps forward through the implementation of the Green Energy Act.
He has also been a champion of biodiversity and protecting species at risk; again, the Endangered Species Act makes Ontario the North American leader in species protection, both at-risk species protection and recovery. Our current state of biodiversity is a result of planning decisions made in the past, and the future will be determined by the decisions we make now.
One of the key responsibilities of the Environmental Commissioner is ensuring that government decisions are made in consultation with the public. His strong belief in the importance of public participation in the environmental decisions is something that I share with Gord.
A key role of the Environmental Commissioner, and one that he has championed as well, is ensuring adherence with the Environmental Bill of Rights, legislation that ensures our communities are consulted about environmental decisions and that the decisions are made in an open and transparent manner.
We need people like Gord Miller looking out for our environment, and I look forward to Gord continuing to hold our government’s feet to the fire as we work together to ensure that our environment is protected, not only for this generation, but for generations to come. We applaud his reappointment.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I too applaud that reappointment of Gord Miller as Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. After going through the interview process—indeed, after watching the comprehensive, accurate and forward-thinking work through the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario office over the last seven years—I think all parties would agree that Gord Miller has long demonstrated a proven ability to balance competing interests and input while looking out for what’s best for the future environmental stability of this province. He has maintained that balance with respect to more than just our air, our land and our water, all the while providing a unique environmental perspective, acknowledging the socio-economic challenges we face on a daily basis here in Ontario.
This perspective is constant and unyielding through his annual reports, public speaking, media interviews and a series of other modes of communication and persuasion that, if you will, the ECO employs to ensure government remains aware and vigilant in addressing current and future environmental hurdles. Mr. Miller has proven himself a true advocate for our natural world, our environment, ever bearing in mind the socio-economic as well as political composition of our province.
Gord Miller is also a manager who has succeeded in ensuring that the office of the ECO more than fulfils its role as the province’s independent environmental watchdog, both monitoring and reporting on compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights and the government’s success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in achieving greater energy conservation in Ontario.
Given the last few words coming out of his office, I would think that the last line would more accurately be read, “and the government’s failure in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in achieving greater energy conservation in Ontario.”
I say that because, as we know, the commissioner has pulled no punches in his criticism of government’s failures in areas it boasts progress. I will remind members of this little gem on climate change: “The fact that greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise between 2014 and 2020 points to a serious deficiency in the government’s planning.” Serious deficiencies in the government’s planning—which brings me to another issue in this Legislature, and it has nothing do with the correct decision—I repeat, the correct decision—and unanimous decision to support reappointing Gordon Miller.
It was just recently that the Premier went on the record not sure about government reappointments, and yet here we are making the, again, correct decision to reappoint Gord Miller. But it begs the question of whether the Premier’s problem is not in fact with government reappointments, but reappointments of those he’s just simply tired of running from. Government attacks on André Marin, the Ombudsman, are little more than an obvious effort to trade what has been an effective watchdog for a lapdog that will cause less embarrassment to the government.
Let’s be clear here: Mr. Marin, Environmental Commissioner Miller and Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison were all asked to compete for their jobs when the government decided not to renew their contracts. Only one is left hanging in the wind, only one is watching, and his reputation has been sullied.
While Liberals were partying over the weekend, their insiders were hard at work spinning messages to the media that reported Liberals questioning Marin’s expenses. The Liberal leaks also seemed to be aimed at sabotaging the hiring process by disclosing information about the all-party panel tasked with selecting the Ombudsman.
The questionable tactics that seem to be at play here highlight an arrogance of a government that feels it can do whatever it wants. If it doesn’t like the results, it changes the rules of the game. The message is simple to government-appointed watchdogs: Do your job, but do it too well and we’ll pull your ticket. It’s not right, and the people of Ontario deserve better.
In the person of Gord Miller, we’ve done the right thing. I congratulate you, sir, and I look forward to you continuing to serve Ontario for the next five years in the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario in the great way that you have served it in the past 10. Thank you very much.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: I’m very pleased to support the reappointment of Mr. Miller. I’m pleased that you’re back. I should commend my colleagues Leeanna Pendergast and Toby Barrett, you, Speaker, and Nancy Marling, who was the staff support. I thought the process was professional, thorough and gave the applicants the respect that they deserved. For that, I was very grateful to be part of the process.
Mr. Miller, you’re here. You know very well what’s coming at this society in terms of climate change, in terms of energy volatility, in terms of all of the challenges that we’ll have with respect to water, to our society, to our way of life. You too, sir, have been thorough; you’ve been professional; you have brought forward analyses and reports that I think have had a tremendous impact in this province—hopefully more impact in the future, but tremendous impact. You’ve set a standard that I hope all future environmental commissioners will achieve.
I welcome you back. I look forward to your reports. Sometimes your language is a bit too diplomatic for me, as I have said to you. But you always have the facts there, and I can always go back to the facts. Thank you, sir. Welcome back.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I want to echo all the comments to my good friend Gord Miller, and I just want to remind him of a story that dates back many years—I think it was 1995. He was actually a candidate against me, if you believe it or not, in Cochrane South. I want to say that he was one of the toughest candidates I’ve had to run against, and I applaud the reappointment, knowing that you’re not coming back and running against me in the next election.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I just want to take this opportunity, Gord, on behalf of the table and the legislative officers, to congratulate you on your reappointment. I look forward to working with you as well and I, like the Minister of the Environment, am conscious of what I said on the record many years ago when you were appointed, and you have certainly proved me wrong as well.
“That the Ministry of Transportation accelerate reconstructions of the Mallorytown service centres based on the local council’s wishes and commit to enhanced tourist service improvements at these sites.”
“We ... petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to make PET scans available through the Sudbury Regional Hospital, thereby serving and providing equitable access to the citizens of northeastern Ontario.”
“Whereas some members of the opposition have sided with large corporations to preserve the status quo rather than make prescription medications more affordable for Ontario patients by supporting the proposed drug reforms;
“Whereas Dalton McGuinty’s plan to blend the PST with the GST into one 13% harmonized sales tax (HST) represents one of the largest tax hikes in Ontario history, at a time when families and businesses can least afford it; and
“This new tax, which we are calling the DST (Dalton sales tax), will raise the cost of a long list of goods and services not previously subject to provincial sales tax, including electricity; home heating oil and gas at the pump; haircuts; magazines; Internet; home renovations; heating; air-conditioning repairs; accounting, legal and real estate fees; condo fees; new home sales; rents will also go up; minor hockey registration fees will increase; and green fees and gym fees will also be taxed;
“Whereas Ontarians pay significantly more money than comparable US states for precisely the same generic drugs purchased at pharmacies for diabetes, cancer treatment, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart conditions and many other types of treatment; and
“Whereas Ontario taxpayers spend more than half a billion dollars each and every year on so-called professional allowances, which are money paid by generic drug manufacturers to big pharmacy chains to stock their product. This money does not assist patients, and instead pays for shareholder dividends, salaries, benefits, bonuses and overhead expenses; and
“Whereas drug costs are among the fastest-growing parts of Ontario’s health care system. Taxpayers’ funds should better be invested in improving access to new drugs to consumers and seniors and lowering prices on existing products; and
“Whereas the government of Ontario has proposed a more equitable means of compensating community pharmacists for serving clients and will eliminate abuse by big pharmacy chains of rebates provided by manufacturers of drug products;
“That the government of Ontario and all members of the Ontario Legislative Assembly support Ontario’s proposed changes to the regulations governing and assist patients and Ontario seniors with lower drug prices and better access to more new drugs for all Ontarians.”
“Whereas multiple industrial wind farm projects are being considered by the government of Ontario in the absence of independent, scientific studies on the long-term effects on the health of residents living near industrial wind farms;
“Therefore, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition the government of Ontario to put a moratorium on any renewable energy approvals for the construction of industrial wind farms in the province of Ontario until such time as it can be demonstrated that all reasonable concerns regarding the long-term effects on the health of residents living near industrial wind farms have been fully studied and addressed.”
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to support the creation of a psychiatric emergency service in emergency at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario.”
“Ontario families have already given Dalton McGuinty $15 billion in health taxes, which was wasted on the $1-billion eHealth scandal. Now the McGuinty Liberals are cutting front-line public health care and putting independent pharmacies at risk;
“Ontario families have already given Dalton McGuinty $15 billion in health taxes, which was wasted on the $1-billion eHealth scandal. Now the McGuinty Liberals are cutting front-line public health care and putting independent pharmacies at risk;
“Whereas Dalton McGuinty’s plan to blend the PST with the GST into one 13% harmonized sales tax represents one of the largest tax hikes in Ontario’s history, at a time when families and businesses can least afford it; and
“This new tax, which we are calling the DST, will raise the cost of a long list of goods and services not previously subject to provincial sales tax, including, but not excepting: electricity; home heating oil and gas at the pump; haircuts; magazines; home renovations; heating and air-conditioning repairs; accounting, legal and real estate fees; condo fees; new home sales; rents will also increase; minor hockey registration fees will increase; with green fees and gym fees also taxed;
“Whereas the illegal trade of cigarettes already accounts for almost 50% of all cigarettes purchased in the province and illegal products are available at a price that is already much lower than that for legal cigarettes (average $70 for a carton of 200 legal cigarettes versus $10 for 200 cigarettes in a plastic bag); and
“Whereas the HST, effective July 1, 2010, will raise legal tobacco prices by 8%, or another $4 to $7 per carton of 200 cigarettes, making illegal cigarettes even cheaper, and will likely only make the problem of illegal cigarettes worse in the province; and
“To prevent the growth of illicit trade by temporarily reducing the provincial tobacco tax to offset the impact of the HST and keep the price of legal tobacco products static until the contraband problem in Ontario is under control.”
Resuming the debate adjourned on May 18, 2010, on the motion for second reading of Bill 191, An Act with respect to land use planning and protection in the Far North / Projet de loi 191, Loi relative à l’aménagement et à la protection du Grand Nord.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I appreciate the ability yet again to get a few words on the record in regard to Bill 191, the Far North planning act. I want to say at the outset, because it needs to be said, that there is not a First Nations community that believes that we shouldn’t have a planning system when it comes to development in the Far North. I have not run across any of the communities in my riding, Mr. Gravelle’s riding or Mr. Hampton’s riding that are saying, “Oh, no, no. We don’t want to have any kind of land use planning.” In fact, they do.
The second point I want to make is that there is hardly a community that doesn’t want some form of development in their community or in their traditional territories so that they’re able to benefit from those jobs that could be created by those economic activities, as we see with the Musselwhite project, the former Dome Mines and the De Beers project at the Victor mining project. They understand that development, properly done, with an eye to the environment to make sure that we protect the land, with an eye to the interests of the community so that we protect their interests as a community when it comes to benefits that come back—they are prepared to allow development to go forward, and a planning act is something that is needed.
But here is the rub: If you force a planning regime on First Nations who are not, at this point, ready to be able to—I shouldn’t say “ready.” They’re ready, but they’re still struggling in order to try to determine what that planning process should look like. If you impose a provincially designed system by the McGuinty government onto the First Nations, you will have done nothing to, quite frankly, deal with making sure that we have a good planning system in the Far North.
I’ll tell you what will happen: If you foist a system onto them that they don’t want, it is not going to stop First Nations from saying, “No, our interests are not protected by this act. We get no benefit as far as what this project will bring,” or “We don’t know what the benefits are because the company won’t negotiate with us,” or whatever might be the issue. What you will end up with after the planning act is the potential of First Nations saying no to development because the process may not allow them to have the say that they so much want and desire.
We’ve had the two extremes when it comes to examples in northern Ontario and in the Far North when it comes to development. We see, on the one side, De Beers, who said, in developing the Victor diamond mine, “We will not go forward unless there is a community agreement on an impact benefit agreement that the community is made aware of and that they sanction by way of a vote.” When they went through that process—and it took some seven or eight years to go there—there was a vote in the community of Attawapiskat, and 85% of the community accepted the impact benefit agreement that was negotiated by their members and the staff at De Beers.
Is everybody exhilarated and happy about what has happened as far as the De Beers project, the Victor diamond mine? Of course there are people in the community who may not be happy with what the final product was, but the majority were satisfied enough to vote by 85% to allow it to happen.
The point that I want to make—and the other extreme, before I go there, is what has happened with Platinex and KI, where an exploration company went into a community, into their territory, and started doing work without their permission. Therefore, we saw the blockade. We saw them trying to prevent aircraft from landing in the area, on lakes, to be able to do exploration. We saw the court challenge. We saw the provincial government having to—unfortunately, they ended up jailing half of the council, including grandmothers, in regard to those people trying to exercise their rights in protecting the interests of the community.
I want to say right up front that if you think that you can pass an act in this House and do so without the consent of First Nations and think that you’ve resolved the problem when it comes to planning and development in the Far North, you are very mistaken, because there will be some communities who might buy in, but there are going to be a number of communities, and I would say the majority, who will say, “No, unless there’s a planning regime where we have some say about how it’s designed and how it protects our interests as First Nations.” They may not buy in.
In fact, I’ve had discussions with people at Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which is the Treaty 9, along with other First Nations across the north, and they are saying to this government, “Do not pass this bill as it stands at second reading. We, as a community of First Nations from across the north and the NAN and Treaty 5 and Treaty 3 areas, want to have the ability to be able to work together amongst our communities to determine what the principles should be and how a planning process should work that meets with our needs as First Nations communities and also meets with the needs of developers in a way that’s sustainable to both the economic development, as far as what it means to the community, and to the environment.”
I want to say categorically that the government making this arbitrary decision to go forward with the planning act, as it stands—the Far North planning act—is in my estimation an affront to the First Nations and runs against what the Premier has said from the beginning, which is that you want to have a new relationship with our First Nations.
From where they stand in their communities at Muskrat Dam, Marten Falls, Fort Severn, Peawanuck, Attawapiskat or wherever it might be, when they look at a provincial government that’s imposing a Far North planning act without the consent of the First Nations, they see this as the same old same old relationship that federal and provincial governments have had with them and that have led to the absolute poverty we see in those communities.
To the government: Can we end up with a process of planning in the Far North? Absolutely. Will First Nations want to have it? Absolutely. But you need to give them the opportunity to work with each other and with their provincial government to design a process and a planning act that works for them.
You need to understand, there are very basic issues that have to be resolved; for example, who has jurisdiction over territories within NAN. The boundaries between communities such as Fort Severn, Weenusk, Attawapiskat and others are not as clear as people would think they are. They embarked on a process in Fort Severn, in my colleague Howard Hampton’s riding, about a year ago, where they met and said, “We will develop a protocol and an understanding that we will resolve those issues of who has which territory so that we can actually deal with a planning act.” So the government coming in and imposing a planning act before the First Nations had a chance to resolve those territorial issues is like doing it backwards. At the end of the day, what you’re doing is cutting them off at the pass, in the sense of not allowing them to do what needs to be done.
This really has to be said, and you need to understand this, as a government and as members of this Legislature: When you talk about the land to a non-aboriginal person, the sense of that land is very different than it is for an aboriginal person. When you talk to somebody in Toronto or Timmins or wherever it might be about the environment they live in, yes, they’re concerned. But First Nations don’t identify themselves through institutions as much as we do here and outside of First Nations communities. We identify ourselves through our universities, our schools, our workplace, our family, whatever. First Nations identify themselves through the land. It’s all about the land. It’s about how they, as individuals, as a family, as a community, as a clan, are able to survive and prosper and grow by the proper utilization of the land they live on—knowing that you will always, every spring, be able to do the goose hunt; that you will always be able to do the fishing; that you will always be able to do the hunting in the fall; that you will always be able to get the firewood you need to keep your home warm. They live off the land in every traditional aspect that we can recognize. When you live in Fort Severn or Attawapiskat, you can’t go down to the Eaton Centre to buy a new fur coat or even a parka. You’ve got to go to the Northern Store, and it’s pretty darned expensive—and in a lot of communities, there isn’t even a Northern Store. So they utilize the land for everything having to do with subsistence: the ability to feed themselves; the ability to find useful things to do so that, as a people, they can find some pride, some dignity, and they can see themselves as being people who are engaged in their communities. The land is everything.
So when we, as a colonial power—as they see us—all of a sudden come to this Legislature and call a bill for second reading that they’ve already told you they’re opposed to, it’s a huge affront. They’re saying, “Hang on a second. What’s McGuinty up to? You’re trying to change the way that we’re going to be able to use our traditional rights under treaty when it comes to the utilization of the land, around trapping, around fishing, around hunting, around gathering.” They’re doing all the things that they’ve always done when it comes to their traditional land. They’re saying, “Listen, we’re not opposed to a planning act, but it has to be one in which we are having a major say about what happens.”
So, what to do? Just before I go there—I’ve got a couple of minutes—I want to say one other thing. Be aware: When this bill went into first reading and we sent it out to committee, it was very clear that all who presented to committee—First Nations, the mining industry, forestry, environmentalists—were unanimous in not wanting to pass the act as is, for very different reasons. In the end, what the government has introduced will not provide the assurance the developers want when it comes to process, to allow them to move forward with development. They understand, as mining and forestry companies and others, that they’re not going to have the buy-in of the local communities in a flawed process such as is designed in this bill. And First Nations are obviously opposed because they want to be able to benefit. So, understand right from the beginning: You don’t have buy-in, and Chief Stan Beardy and other leader across the Far North, from east to west to the very northern parts of Ontario have said to you, “Do not pass this bill at second reading.”
So what to do? The first thing we need to do is give First Nations sufficient time to organize themselves to deal with the issues that have to be dealt with in developing a planning act. Second, we have to resource them. We’ve got to give them the bucks so that they’re able to develop the capacity in their communities to develop what the planning act should look like. You have to allow them to build the capacity necessary to do that very important work.
I’ve listened to some of my Liberal friends here in the assembly say, “At least if we pass this bill, there will be something there that they can use.” I’ve got to say, my God—listen, I’ve been around this place long enough to know that’s not a solution because they will not buy into it. It means to say that you start right off at the get-go that the First Nations will not co-operate, for the most part, if they don’t like the product at the end.
My point is this: For time immemorial the Mushkegowuk Cree and others have lived in the territories that we are now trying to pass this planning act for. For millennia, they have been able to live and subsist off that land without a negative impact on the environment. So why are we in such a rush to pass this bill by the spring so that we can have committee hearings in June, so we can pass by the fall a bill that the First Nations, developers and others aren’t going to buy into?
Allow them the time they need to develop an act in co-operation with the provincial government, in co-operation with those who are interested, the environmental movement and others. At the end, you will have a product that will be one that they can buy into and one that they will go forward with and utilize as a tool to do the economic development that so much needs to happen in those communities.
You also have to deal within the planning act—and maybe not in a planning act but in a separate act—with revenue-sharing. You can’t allow development to happen in First Nations communities without an ability for them to benefit by some legislative means from the benefits of particular economic development.
We have with us today my good friend Yvan Brousseau, who is the CEO for the town of Kap. Can you imagine in Kapuskasing somebody coming into your municipality and saying, “I’m starting up a big business, it’s going to have 600 people working, and we’re not going to pay you municipal taxes”? Tembec tried that, but that’s a whole other story. They were paying some taxes.
But the point is, we don’t allow that in our municipalities now. Why would we allow people to develop without having some ability for First Nations to benefit from the revenue? I don’t advocate creating a new tax. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m saying is, at the very least the province should share the revenue that we receive as a provincial government from those activities through royalties and taxation that we already collect when it comes to those particular economic activities and have a mechanism by law that gives that benefit to the communities so that they can build the infrastructure they need and also deal with the issue of being able to create employment for First Nations members to work in those jobs.
Mr. Bill Mauro: I’m pleased to have a couple of minutes to respond to the member’s comments. I want to begin by making a comment on his remarks about either imposing and/or forcing a planning process on First Nations. We’ve heard that concern. The bill before the House today includes an amendment that would emphasize the fact that First Nations must initiate the planning process. Ontario cannot impose a community-based land use plan. It is a joint process. I’m not sure we can be much clearer than that.
On the consultation piece, we heard a little bit I think from this member, some last night as well when we were sitting here till midnight debating this particular bill—it’s important to remind people that this piece of legislation travelled after first reading. I’m not sure how often that’s happened in this Legislature in its history, how often a bill went out for consultation after first reading. We did that with Bill 191, and I’m quite certain that it’s likely that that will occur again after second reading.
In terms of capacity for land use planning, the minister has included a $30-million fund set aside to help First Nations with this process to build the capacity that’s required from their side to arrive at a process that they’re fine with, that they think they can work with us on.
I do want to stray a little bit away from the member’s comments and address something that was said last night, though, if I can. A member was speaking as if this was somehow something that would potentially get in the way of the Ring of Fire. The Premier has spoken very publicly about his interest in that project. He talked about it at the heritage dinner. We talked about it in the throne speech. He’s talked about it in the budget. The suggestion that somehow anything in here is going to get in the way of a large-scale project like that, I must say, is just absolutely absurd. I’m not sure why the member would even imply it.
Some of the aspects that need to be pointed out: As recent as May 5, Grand Chief Stan Beardy sent out a document to the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs strictly stating that they in no way, shape or form support the bill the way it is.
While we were in Sioux Lookout at the committee hearings, we had communities from the First Nations where, for the first time ever, I heard them specifically state—and I’ll be more than happy later on this evening to quote from Hansard—they were willing to go to war over this issue. We’re talking about actions here that I’ve never heard of a precedent before. When I met with Grand Chief Stan Beardy and talked with him, he had no idea that this bill was coming forward, nor any idea of a part of what’s taking place.
Two communities came forward and did a presentation where the planning act overlapped lands, and they didn’t include First Nations that were not Treaty 9 or Treaty 5 individuals. This clearly showed that planning act needs a lot more work than what’s being put forward in this bill.
Mr. Howard Hampton: I listened to my colleague from Timmins–James Bay, and I think members of the Legislature would be wise to heed his advice because he spends a great deal of time working with and working in First Nation communities.
He knows, as I know, that the First Nation leadership regard this bill as another exercise in neo-colonialism, where someone sitting in an office in Toronto attempts to tell First Nations what is good for them, what is not good for them, how they should run their lives, how they should run their community, what is allowed on their land and what is not allowed. First Nations are decidedly of the view that they alone are competent and capable and authorized to make these decisions.
Like the member from Timmins–James Bay, I’ve had it pointed out to me by a number of chiefs and councils who say, “How many non-native people live within 100 kilometres or 200 kilometres of our First Nation?” They point to maybe two nurses at the nursing station and perhaps a teacher or two, and that’s it. Otherwise, the population is 99.999% First Nations who have lived in the area for thousands and thousands and thousands of years.
As the member for Timmins–James Bay points out, First Nations want to make these decisions themselves. They are not opposed to working with the province, but at the end of the day, they feel, and I feel, that they should have the final decision on these matters.
Hon. Linda Jeffrey: I’m pleased to join the conversation, although I don’t have a lot of time to set the record straight. I listened to some of the debate last night and I’ve listened to some this afternoon and I get very small opportunities to respond to some of what I heard either last night or today—certainly, this afternoon.
The member from Oshawa may have had a conversation with Chief Beardy, that he didn’t know anything about this bill coming forward. Well, I personally told him at an airport about three weeks ago, in person. I’ve called at least 25 chiefs and told them personally that this bill was coming forward. So if they were left with the impression that people didn’t know this was coming—they’ve absolutely known this bill was coming forward.
I’ve got a few minutes just to address something that the Ontario Chamber of Commerce did recently. They decided to support the Thunder Bay chamber’s resolution, which meant that they didn’t want to come forward with Bill 191 and they wanted us to get rid of it. I want to correct the record. I think that was a really bad decision. Our government is dedicated to business development and conservation in the Far North. That’s why we’re moving forward with second reading. It is unusual to have gone out previously, to come back, and to still be asking for input and consultation. We have respect for the north, we have respect for our First Nations, and that’s why we’re doing it. We’re committed to mineral exploration, investments in the Far North and co-operation with our members who live in the Far North, as well as residents.
Far North land use planning will ultimately provide resource industries with needed clarity about how they’re going to be able to develop and where. Economic development such as forestry, mining and renewable energy needs to take place in the Far North. They need that sustainability. Their youth are looking for it, their children, their grandchildren. They need those kinds of investments. We want to be part of assisting in that development in a careful, thoughtful way. It’s important we protect the past, the present and the future. The Far North Act is going to do that. We want to work with our Far North partners to make that happen.
I just want to say to the minister: Finally, the cat is out of the bag. This is all about accelerating development in the Far North. The point that First Nations are trying to make is, yes, they want to have development, but they want a say in how that development is going to happen. If they don’t have a say, I can tell you that there will be no development. We’re seeing it in Kapuskasing with the development of the Mattagami River project. First Nations there have been protesting on a regular basis in regard to a development that others have agreed on.
So don’t think that passing this act is going to accelerate development. What will accelerate development is having an act that the First Nations can buy into and say, “This is our act. We’re proud of it and we’re going to work with what’s there.”
To the other point—I want to echo what my friend Mr. Ouellette said—that Grand Chief Stan Beardy and others didn’t know anything about it: He’s right. I’ve had the same conversations with Stan Beardy, Stan Louttit and with various chiefs I’ve run across. I’ve talked to Elijah Moonias. I’ve talked to literally dozens of leaders who asked where this came from.
Now we’re finding out that the government notification process is meeting somebody on boarding an airplane and saying, “By the way, we’re passing legislation.” Where is the respect for First Nations, a government-to-government relationship that is supposed to exist, where the crown says, “Let our leadership”—in this case, the Minister of Natural Resources—“sit down with the leadership of First Nations,” and do it at a table where there could be meaningful discussion about what is going to take place, so that the minister can properly hear the arguments made by First Nations as to why it’s not going forward? To cross somebody at an airport and have a two-minute discussion as you’re boarding an aircraft in different directions is not in any way, shape or form consultation that would be accepted under the Supreme Court of Canada, I can guarantee you.
Mr. Glen R. Murray: If there is one national tragedy in this country, it is the treatment of First Nations people. There is no greater embarrassment in Canadian history than the way we have treated First Nations.
It’s interesting that everyone who was yapping in here a moment ago, who said, “Listen”—there’s hardly a member listening. This is the typical kind of attitude. People get up and make speeches about how important this is, but when another perspective they don’t like is raised, they turn their backs to the speaker. I’ve been watching that consistently through this entire debate, and I have sat here and listened to every single person. This was important enough to me; I watched most of it on television last night when I went home.
Here’s the great dilemma: There were two signatories to these treaties. The crown, representing most of us in here, since we do not have a First Nations or Métis person that I am aware of, save Mr. Levac—there may be others who have never self-identified. We’ve exercised all of our treaty rights. We built dams, we farmed land, we built cities and we mined resources. We have exercised our treaty rights. We never speak about the Europeans’ tradition of exercising those treaty rights, but we have. This Legislature, our laws, our zoning, our banking are all our exercises, as a colonial power, in doing that.
First Nations people have hardly been able to exercise any of the treaty rights they’ve won. I have heard the politically correct discussions from people who describe themselves as being to my left, over and over again, that until things are totally politically correct and perfect, we’re not allowed to move ahead. We have created such a fear and we have so abnormalized First Nations people that we don’t even know how to sit down and have a conversation to move things forward. My mother said to me when I was growing up, “Glen, the enemy of good is perfect.” If we’re waiting for the perfect solution and we’re going to wait for 20 years to consult, it will be too late.
When I left the mayor’s office in Winnipeg—which has been the butt of some jokes around here—I took one thing with me when I walked out the door: It was an eagle feather. If any of you understand what it means to receive an eagle feather as a white person, it’s highly unusual. I got that because of a very similar situation to this. Land treaty rights were about to be settled and people were looking for a formula in which those land treaty rights could have been exercised within cities and within towns. After what was a very difficult and very divisive issue, in which some First Nations leaders were on one side and others were on the other side, we finally moved it forward.
I want to point out that there are 20 First Nations communities that are already involved in this process, with eight of them well involved in it. Is it unanimous? No. The amendments in the legislation—I went through it in seven different places—commit the Ontario government to not act alone. The Ontario government can only act when it has a First Nation partner. Neither the Ontario government nor anyone else can initiate a plan. Only a First Nation community can initiate a plan. That’s more power than local municipalities have over land use; we can force them. We make no such commitment to even the city of Toronto or the city of St. Catharines or Cornwall. So it’s really about trust.
It was interesting, because I came here in a by-election and I ran on four things, one of which was to start to deal with the issue of First Nations people and Métis people in the city of Toronto, which is home to the largest numbers. None of the other parties’ candidates in a single debate raised the issue of First Nations. None of the other parties’ candidates even acknowledged they existed. Even when the debate occurred, they did not participate.
It’s easy to run on First Nations in the north, where people are powerful, but it’s long overdue that we have it here, because you cannot disconnect one from the other. The reason Toronto is a financial capital is because of mining. Toronto would not be here; all those folks who go home from work to Rosedale every day would not have jobs if we did not have the strongest mining finance centre, really, in North America.
The movement of First Nations and Métis people into the city has happened without the movement of capital. I hear from my friends in the NDP that simply because this planning regime doesn’t anticipate economic benefit, we shouldn’t go forward with it. I would invite them to go to Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which have the exact same legal framework, and look at the 22 urban reserves, at the development partnerships that have occurred. They all occurred on the power of First Nations people to have a system in which they can define and determine land use, because that’s the foundation of wealth and that gives them the leverage. It doesn’t take more than a couple of functioning brain cells and a little imagination to figure out how to put that together, and most of the First Nations people I know in northwestern Ontario, because I’ve dealt with some of them and I’ve signed agreements with some of them, understand that.
Is this perfect? No. Is this third reading? No. Is this going to committee? No. My friend from Thunder Bay–Atikokan made a point. He’s disturbed, and I heard comments from other northern members who are in opposition, not because of First Nations but because of the lack of empathy and understanding that some people in chambers of commerce have for the importance of this.
North of the undertaking, the kinds of development that would be allowed are conditional on First Nations’ ability. In addition to the rights that First Nations already have, this puts in place some powerful additional tools. It creates a balance between protecting the boreal forest on a very significant scale, and we’ve got to be concerned about that. An environmental cataclysm is facing us.
We’re having silly conversations about people misrepresenting other people’s positions on the carbon tax. People should go and read the National Round Table, a report which I co-authored with Jim Flaherty’s chief of staff. Not one member, I bet, has read that. It speaks to a long-term carbon pricing policy and it measures the GDP impacts of the different types of choices we should make. All of us in this country should be literate about that, because inaction on free carbon has a devastating impact five, 10, 15 years out on the Ontario economy. We need to have a measured and intelligent conversation, and it involves First Nations, because the vastness of the lungs of this continent, the trees and the boreal forest that preserve the biodiversity, of which we will be losing one third of those species within the next 40 years in this province—we’ve already lost half the population of our 20 most common bird species. We lose 40% of our bee population every year. These are the pollinating species important to our wine industry, important to every farmer in this province, and they are tied as much into the north as they are into the rural. If we don’t understand this—my friend David Crombie says, “Everything is connected to everything else.” A member from Toronto Centre or St. Catharines or Cornwall should be as concerned about this bill because it affects our banking system; it affects our mining system; it affects the sustainability of the species on which our farmers depend.
I’m very proud to be a Liberal, and I’m very proud to stand with my friends in the north here because this party does not talk about a Toronto mentality. You will never hear a Liberal talking about a Toronto mentality. I care about the people in Owen Sound. I care about the people in Thunder Bay. I have worked for years with Anne Krassilowsky, the mayor of Dryden. We try to stretch ourselves, which means that it’s harder to get elected in Chatham–Kent if you have to stand up and defend gender reassignment surgery. It is harder to get elected in downtown Toronto when you talk about tax breaks for northerners that people in low-income parts of Regent Park don’t get. But it’s a harder road when you stand up for the whole province.
I’ve had enough jokes in my life about where I’ve come from. I’ve lived in five Canadian cities. I am proud to be a Canadian. It makes me no less a Torontonian. It makes me no less someone from Ottawa. If I am not as much a person from Dryden as I am from Cornwall, then I don’t belong in this House; I don’t. We just take it for granted that we do.
What does this do? This legislation is modest. It creates a partnership between First Nations that most people I’ve talked to—and I’ve met with Stan Beardy. He has my phone number. Before I was elected, he was one of the first people I met with. Twice I sat in a restaurant with him and spent two hours listening to his concerns. I don’t need lectures from anybody. The minister has spent a lot more time than simply running into Stan Beardy in an airport, and to demean people’s relationships in that way is just not fair. I have met with every First Nations organization three or four times. We need an urban First Nations strategy and we need a northern and remote First Nations strategy and all that this does.
I have heard every argument against moving forward. Very few of them make sense. There’s nothing that’s being shoved down anyone’s throat. No one’s power is being taken away. None of this can move forward without the consent of the First Nations. Yes, I’m sure there are frontier issues and border issues to be resolved. But my name in Cree means “one who gathers people.” That was given to me by the Cree elders of northwestern Ontario and Manitoba, and I’ve always cherished that. If you’ve ever got a spirit name it means you’re on a different path. You accept to walk the red path.
Since that happened, I’ve never felt alone in my life. I have consulted an elder on a regular basis. I have an elder in Toronto and I still, because he’s a dear friend, have an elder in Manitoba. And I talk to these people all the time. There’s very few decisions I make in my life without thinking about that. It hasn’t diminished my faith as a Christian or my identity as an Irish Canadian, or anything like that. In fact, it has strengthened and given me perspective.
I agree with my friend from Timmins–James Bay, because when he talks about there being a very different view that First Nations have—that the land is more than just an address, that it’s part of the fabric and the identity—and that zoning almost, in this kind of land use planning, seems absurd in some ways to people, he’s quite right. Where I disagree with him is that somehow people in Toronto don’t understand that. I represent more First Nations people than almost anyone else except maybe the member from Kenora–Rainy River, and I bet we give each other a run for our money on that one. And it is as important for each of us to be mindful of those constituents.
It would be harder to—in the streets of Toronto 25% of homeless people are aboriginal. The dropout rate for aboriginal people is 44%. This government is spending $26 million in colleges in Toronto and in urban southern Ontario specifically to improve the conditions and environment for First Nations and Métis people. And we’re spending $45 million in northern Ontario right now to support and increase the skill levels and competencies of First Nations people so they can better participate in these more North American, commercial, Eurocentric processes, which is the nature of the global economy, and the struggle to maintain identity and culture and interface with an idea of an economy based on private property, which is the exact opposite of how they have lived for 8,000 years.
It takes courage to stand up and do those things, and that’s why I am proud to stand beside my Premier and behind my Premier on these issues. Because he isn’t waiting for “perfect” to act. He is not a coward. He is a decent, gentle, kind man who would give anyone the time of day. I don’t know anyone who’s met the Premier who has ever found him inaccessible, not down to earth or out of touch with the reality of the diversity of this province. We do a disservice to that.
I was talking about my friend Ms. Munro—I apologize; I can’t remember your constituency—who gave a speech the other day that I was really impressed with because it was thoughtful and intelligent. We deserve to respect each other’s brains a little bit more around here. So why don’t we take this as a challenge? It’s going back to committee. There’s a commitment in the notes I’ve got that we’d like to go to the north with it, and take this as not holding it up to have to be perfection to achieve, but try to look at this as a great opportunity to enable new relationships, to enable new opportunities. The risks here are so low. The consequences of not acting—half of the First Nations people in Ontario are under the age of 25.
Our commitment to education, to day-long learning and to child care is that there is nothing this government values more than children. There is no group of children that has been so forgotten as First Nations children. We may have five or 10 years to get this right, because as that young group of First Nations and Métis kids grows up in our largest cities and our most remote communities, if we are not able to start to offer them something better than they were offered five, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years ago, then we have fundamentally failed. Because you cannot separate the future of any community from the conditions that young aboriginal people are growing up with. All of us have been in power, and I don’t think you can look back at a government in Ontario or in Canada in 50 years that should be able to hold its head up high. Maybe if we all had a little more humility, maybe if we put those children first a little bit more, they won’t have to grow up with the racism, the bigotry, the collapsed economies and the chemical dependency that did that.
You know, we always think that government should do it. I was a foster parent. I worked with street kids, most of them aboriginal kids unfortunately, because they were disproportionately represented on our streets and in our prisons. And in complete frustration, I started taking kids into my home and adopting them and fostering them. I learned more from those young children with broken hearts and fragile senses of trust than I’ve learned in my life. It makes sitting in a political Legislature sometimes painfully hard, that we use our words in such a cavalier manner, that we get so involved in such small points of procedure—and we’re all guilty of it. It would be nice that on something like this, which really has less to do about land use and about power, but more simply about the leaders in the north, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, starting to have some ability, some machinery and some local power that people in large cities in the south have had for so long, to determine the future of their community and to set conditions for investment. If they use the kinds of things that are available through federal legislation that Ontario governments past have signed and that allow them to enter into development agreements and partnerships and settle treaty rights, we have a huge opportunity.
Is this solving all problems? I know there will be speakers who will get up after me and point out the shortcomings of the bill. But are we going to be worse off if we pass this or better off? I think we’re going to be substantially better off. I’ve worked in environment locally and local government, with First Nations, with band councils, with a lot less machinery and a lot less ability than is offered in this bill, with much more compromise legislation than this and done a lot. I have a great amount of faith in Lynn Peterson, in Anne Krassilowsky, in Stan Beardy, in the brilliant leadership that we have in northern Ontario.
It’s not just this. We have the northern growth plan, which we’ve been consulting about for 10 years. I’ve been up to Thunder Bay. I’ve given seven keynote addresses. I have probably spent 18 weeks just in communities like Sioux Lookout over the last 10 years, when I was mayor of Winnipeg and with the Canadian Urban Institute, listening and helping folks on community economic development plans. From Sioux Lookout to Thunder Bay I have seen some pretty exciting, brilliant people come forward with some brilliant ideas who are just looking for a mechanism. I phoned a lot of those folks over the last week as this bill came forward because it was new to me. I wasn’t here when it was brought in. It’s an older piece of legislation. When I went through it and asked questions I got a good sense of the concerns—which I think I would like to bring forward at some time because there were some concerns—but the overwhelming feeling was, “This is something we can work with.” You don’t, in the city, ask people to wait for perfect to get anything done. This is good: “Let’s go forward.” That, to me, is important.
I also have to say I know Mike Gravelle. I know Bill Mauro. I have a lot of regard for Gilles Bisson. I know Howard Hampton, and he and I sat and worked on phone banks together in our youth. I don’t think these people have anything other than honourable intentions. I heard Mr. Ouellette. I think his concerns are heartfelt, sincere and thoughtful. But I haven’t heard a case today that tells me this isn’t a positive step forward.
I’ve met too many children who don’t have the luxury of two or three years for this government to act so that young people in that community can grow up with some hope. Being lifted out of poverty isn’t just about having resources and power; it’s about having choices. I think one of the other problems with First Nations folks is that they’ve been robbed of choices. Even if you have money, if you do not have choices, you are still poor. There’s probably no group of people in our society that have fewer choices right now than young aboriginal folks.
I have seen and been on so many reserves where there is no economy, where almost no one gets through high school, where chemical dependency rates are through the roof, where levels of HIV and AIDS are at levels that are absolutely staggering, and I’ve never, as a Canadian, ever walked away from those experiences feeling proud.
It was one of the reasons I wanted to come to this Legislature: because I live in a downtown neighbourhood. I’ve stepped across, around, and handed money out to too many First Nations people who I know are there not just because of poverty but because of a lack of choice. While our banks are well connected to our mines in the north, our hope and our hearts are not well enough connected to the First Nations children in these communities, whether they’re remote or whether they’re down the street. Until we start to see past what makes us different and see these experiences through common human eyes, we will never move forward.
Mr. Ted Arnott: I’m pleased to respond to the member for Toronto Centre who gave an impassioned speech about Bill 191. He initially talked about the fact that he didn’t think anybody in the Legislature was listening to him. As a matter of fact, I think many members of the Legislature were listening to him from all sides of House—certainly on our side.
He followed up on the comment that was made earlier in debate by the Minister of Natural Resources that she had informed the grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Stan Beardy, at the airport that Bill 191 was coming. I guess she would call that consultation.
The member for Toronto Centre talked about how he sat down on a number of occasions with Chief Stan Beardy and talked to him at some length about the issues that they face in the north. I’m not sure if the member is aware, but Chief Stan Beardy wrote the Premier on May 5 and outlined why he’s opposed to Bill 191. He says:
“As Bill 191 continues to be considered for second reading in session 2, Parliament 39 in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, the First Nations in NAN would like to remind you and other members of Parliament that they oppose the bill as it is currently written.”
“The NAN First Nations continue to oppose the bill as it is written since a number of First Nations proposed and put forward amendments that have gone unheeded. In particular, proposals with respect to ensuring the bill contains language and mechanisms to support First Nations jurisdiction and title, and final say in land use decisions, along with the ability of the bill to provide multi-year and multi-million-dollar funding for land use planning work at the local level, with funds to go through First Nations and/or an arm’s-length board, depending on the wish of the communities. NAN First Nations will not provide their free, prior and informed consent prior until these concerns have been addressed.”
He continues on and on. I would commend the member and recommend to him that he read this letter, because he indicated he hasn’t heard any reason to oppose the bill. Certainly, Stan Beardy has given him some. If the members pay tribute to Stan Beardy, they should listen to him.
Mr. Howard Hampton: The member for Toronto Centre may have thought I wasn’t listening to his speech but I, in fact, was listening. I only want to say to him—he said he found no reason why this bill should not move forward. I can think of a very good reason. If the government truly has a relationship of respect with First Nations, then it would seem to me that a first principle of that relationship of respect is that you listen to what First Nations are saying.
“NAN First Nations have been consistent in their opposition to the bill since it was first read and carried in June 2, 2009. NAN First Nations continue to oppose the bill even though the Standing Committee on General Government reviewed it and made amendments in October 22, 2009.
Now, either the McGuinty government has a relationship of respect with First Nations or it doesn’t. If it, indeed, has this relationship of respect with First Nations that it claims—I do not show respect to someone by ignoring their very explicit communication to me. NAN First Nations see fundamental problems with the process this government has followed and see fundamental problems with what is enshrined in this bill. I wish the government would listen.
Mr. David Orazietti: I’m pleased to comment on the remarks by the member from Toronto Centre. I appreciate hearing his comments on this bill, his support for the bill and his very eloquent presentation, as well as his perspective. I think his experience with First Nations and as a community leader in a number of different capacities speak well to this bill.
I want to say to members opposite, are we going to continue to ignore development in the Far North, or are we going to work with our First Nations and develop sustainable land use plans in the Far North, so that the people of the Far North can participate more fully in the benefits of Ontario’s economy? The members opposite would like to ignore this, brush it under the carpet, so to speak, and not deal with this issue. This is a challenging issue. The reality is that there is development taking place in the north today.
There are 24,000 people spread across a huge part of this province, about 42% of the entire land mass of Ontario. We are committing $30 million over three years toward land use planning. We’re also committing $45 million toward training for our First Nations people.
I had the opportunity to go to the De Beers diamond mine site and talk first-hand to some of those First Nations individuals who are benefiting from funding through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and from the development that is taking place in that community so they can succeed as individuals and have a better quality of life.
The members opposite want to ignore this issue. We are dealing with this issue, and we are working with First Nations in northern Ontario to ensure that we get this right. That’s why this bill is going out for consultation again. It’s almost unheard of that it goes out for consultation twice, but that’s what we’re doing because we want to make sure we get this bill right.
Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette: I very much appreciate the comments made by the member from Toronto Centre. In his closing remarks, he referred to “common human eyes.” Some of the difficulty is that many of the members here don’t necessarily have a full understanding of what First Nations represent.
Our family came across in 1604. My family has Métis status. My spirit animal is the great horned owl. I can tell you all sorts of things. But the difficulty is the individuals in this room don’t have a good sense of what takes place in a First Nations community.
There is a substantial difference between the individuals of the First Nations here in southern Ontario and those in the north. Certainly the members from the north gain a much broader perspective of what takes place here, but the mindset is that Toronto is deciding what’s going to take place in the north once again.
The member said, “How are we going to move forward?” because of the dependency and abuse and all the other aspects. I don’t know necessarily how moving forward with this legislation will actually change many of those perspectives for the First Nations community. Yes, there’s a belief in southern Ontario that if we create jobs and move forward with development, it’s going to happen. That’s not necessarily so.
The First Nations communities in the north believe that the land has held these aspects, whether it’s mining or forestry, for generations and will continue to be there for generations to come, but they want to move forward in a way that brings them to the table with a full perspective. The concern as brought forward by Grand Chief Stan Beardy when I spoke with him—and the minister mentioned meeting with Grand Chief Stan Beardy three weeks ago, yet the statement was only two weeks ago from Grand Chief Stan Beardy—that those aspects that are in the land will be there for generations. We just need to make sure we get it right for future generations as well.
Mr. Glen R. Murray: I do take the comments of my friends from Kenora–Rainy River and Oshawa very seriously. However, I generally agree with my friend from Sault Ste. Marie, because our responsibility as a government isn’t primarily to the chiefs, no more than it’s primarily to the mayors or even to heads of state, because what we’re talking about are separate nations. We’re talking about a relationship between the crown and that. We have a relationship and a contract that goes beyond that, and it goes beyond that to children, because even First Nation leaders fail their children.
I have had two experiences. A young man named David Walker, who I was working with on the streets, was from a reserve in northwestern Ontario. One day when I saw him, he was smiling, but I got a phone call two hours later that he was found hanging from a banister in his apartment building. Another young man named Charlie, who went home to his First Nations reserve, was beaten to death with baseball bats at age 14 by a bunch of people who had had too much to drink, so much so that the life of this young man was considered worthless.
I am to a point where our first contract is not with the older generation or the people who hold elected office here or anywhere else. My most important responsibility is to the children of this province, who seem to get forgotten in land rights and treaties. That’s where my contract is. That’s where my respect is first placed. Secondly, it’s placed with Grand Chief Beardy.
I want to begin by looking at some of the background to this bill. I think it’s important for people to recognize that it was introduced in June of last year by the former minister. During the summer, there were consultations organized on this bill. A number of the government members have referred to the fact that the bill went out for consultation after first reading. Certainly, it is a departure. I think that it’s a very important departure, actually, to take bills out after first reading. As a member of the previous government, we did that as well. It certainly allows for a greater consultation process. It seems to me that with a bill of this importance, it was the right thing for the government to take it out after first reading.
Quite frankly, I have to say as well that the fact that there was nothing done on this bill—it wasn’t called for second reading, to be more accurate, until now. Many people thought that there were many lessons learned from the consultation process that took place and that this bill would require more work than what had been done last summer.
I want to talk for a minute about the enormity of the task. All of us need to think about the amount of land we’re talking about, the area we’re talking about. We’re talking about nearly half the size of Ontario. I know that there are many who have not spent much time north of Highway 7 or think that if they’ve gone to Muskoka, they’ve gone north. It’s quite a demonstration of the magnitude of this undertaking when you’re looking at an area under discussion that represents almost half the province.
Not only is there the geographic size, but also the fact that there are many, many varied interests. The one that has taken the focus, I think appropriately, is that of the First Nations. Clearly, if we want to talk about the interests, this would be the group that would have the greatest interest in any kind of discussion and ultimate legislation. But there are many others. We know that the government consulted with environmentalists, who also were very active and vigorous in the presentations of their point of view.
I think we also need to look at the various groups, which I want to call the communities of interest, that are positioned around the area under discussion: the small businesses, the people who have provided hunting, fishing, trapping and tourism, who have lived there for generations, who are very important in terms of looking at this bill, which is planning and protection. Then there are the more significant, in economic terms, in terms of the 21st century, if you like: the mining and forestry interests. So you have a huge range of very complex and, on the one hand, intertwined interests, and at the same time very disparate interests. That’s something, in the government’s mind, in terms of this undertaking, that is clearly at the base of the problem of this bill reappearing for discussion here for second reading.
I think for a moment of my own situation in the communities that I represent, where a great deal of growth is taking place. When this government passed the Greenbelt Act, it created a band through part of the GTA. One of the outcomes of that was that, of course, by freezing that land, it simply meant that the development leapfrogged into the area of south Simcoe county that I now represent. When I think of the complexities in my communities on the issues of planning, it serves to show how difficult it is for people who are far more a community, in terms of not-disparate interests, in looking at planning and protection, where there are concerns raised all the time about official plans and things like that.
Then I try to take that principle of planning and impose it onto an area such as this bill contemplates. Truly, I think it is really quite mind-boggling to think that in the course of a few opportunities for public hearings, you’re going to have all the answers, you’re going to be able to say, “We’ve consulted. Everybody is happy. Everybody is fine with this.” As I say, when I look at the complexities in my own riding, they’re of a relatively small proportion, an infinitesimal proportion, in comparison to the contemplation of this act.
We know that, for instance, there isn’t even accurate mapping; that there aren’t set-up boundaries that people can agree on or have been of interest to them. We know that there are competing interests—there are fundamental competing interests. We know that there is an economic vision that the government has. I’m not quite sure exactly to what degree that is shared by the people in the area.
I look at the other aspect that gives a bit of indication of the enormous proportion of the issue that this bill contemplates. In the act, it provides for the minister, with the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, to issue policy statements relating to the following matters in the Far North, and there is a significant list of things here. I think it’s important to lay them out because it gives you a sense of the enormity of this bill. Cultural and heritage values is one; ecological systems, processes and functions, including the storage and sequestration of carbon—again, we can go from one area to a very different area; the interconnectedness of protected areas; biological diversity; areas of natural resource value for potential economic development; electricity transmission, roads and other infrastructure; tourism; and other matters the minister considers are matters of provincial interest to land use planning.
When I think of the policy statements that the province has and the degree to which consultation took place on them—the amount of time that was spent wordsmithing things like those provincial policy statements—and then we’re allowing, in this bill, that the minister is going to issue these policy statements without any regard for what might be the importance of consultation, it seems to me that there’s no recognition of the complexity of this undertaking.
We’ve heard from several speakers on the position taken by Grand Chief Beardy. I think it’s important, regardless of what the minister has said—since this letter is dated May 5—that they oppose the bill as it is currently written.
I know that the parliamentary assistant has talked about the money that they’re going to spend on consultation and training and setting up their $3 million in funding for community engagement, but I still feel that this doesn’t accept the fundamental issues of the opposition to the bill. It’s really interesting, because there are others, of course—although I have spoken about the First Nations—who are very unhappy with the lack of consultation: principal stakeholder groups, such as the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the Ontario Fur Managers Federation and other outdoor organizations.
It’s interesting, too, because some months ago, when this bill was first being given public hearings, Terence Corcoran from the Financial Post said that Ontario—this government—was “Canada’s worst government.” This was in reference to Bill 173, the Mining Amendment Act, and Bill 191, the Far North Act. His quote here is very significant, and if there was ever an argument for slowing down the process and going back to the drawing board, I think he has identified it. He says, “What these two bills actually do, however, is trample on everybody’s property rights, from First Nation rights to the rights of cottage owners caught in the murky legislation that sets out mineral rights across the province.”
I think that when you take together the opposition to this bill in its present form by numerous stakeholders, representing a huge variety of people that have a stake in how this turns out, then I would say that there is a strong case for going back to the drawing board and, certainly, deferring decisions made on the bill at this point.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): The member for Nepean–Carleton has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given yesterday by the Premier. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the parliamentary assistant may have up to five minutes to reply.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: At the outset, I’d like to acknowledge the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane, who was kind enough to change his travel plans today to accommodate this. I do appreciate it. I hold him in the highest respect and I thank him very much.
This late show is arising from a question yesterday that I put to the Premier about a very serious concern the Progressive Conservative caucus has. It has been very clear that we have concerns with the Working Families Coalition and its closeness with the McGuinty Liberals.
It would appear that the sole purpose of Working Families is to help the Liberals ensure that the Ontario PCs do not form government. In both the 2003 and 2007 provincial elections, Working Families ran attack ads targeting Ontario Progressive Conservative candidates. Several people working with the Working Families Coalition have close ties to the McGuinty Liberal government. Don Guy was the Premier’s chief of staff, his favourite pollster and director of the Liberals’ last two election campaigns; Marcel Wieder owns Arrow Communications and Policomm, two ad firms that worked for both the Liberals and Working Families, sometimes at the exact same time; and Patrick Dillon is the chief spokesman for Working Families and has been appointed by the Premier to not one, not two, but three taxpayer-funded boards at exactly the same time.
Yesterday in question period, I asked the Premier to explain this alliance with Dillon, Wieder, Guy and Working Families. I did so because no one explained a secret meeting in the ministerial boardroom of then-Liberal campaign chair and then-Liberal Finance Minister Greg Sorbara with the brain trust of Working Families, including Patrick Dillon. Mr. Dillon would not speak to us about that yesterday, and he had an opportunity to at the government agencies committee, which met yesterday to review this latest plum appointment. He refused to take an oath, he was evasive, he was combative and he said nothing about the $7 million he and Working Families spent on anti-PC attack ads. He said that he did not recall the June 2007 meeting in the ministerial boardroom, and I provided a copy of Mr. Sorbara’s calendar for that day.
I asked the Premier why no minutes were taken of a meeting in a government boardroom during government time. The Premier did not deny the meeting occurred, he did not say that the meeting was for government business and he did not explain why notepads were put away for the meeting between Working Families and the Liberal campaign chair. It was not his first opportunity to deny that the Liberals worked out a deal with the Working Families Coalition to break election advertising limits in the boardroom on that day. The Premier hasn’t denied it, he won’t deny it and it leads to the question, why? But instead of answering, the Premier spoke about the fight he has picked with small independent pharmacies.
I asked a supplementary question about Don Guy and Marcel Wieder, Liberal insiders who simultaneously worked on ads for the Liberal campaign and the Working Families Coalition in the 2007 election. I asked Mr. Dillon and then the Premier to explain what should have been a conflict of interest. I pointed to $29 million of public money Working Families, Wieder and Don Guy received after helping Working Families put $7 million of ads together that helped the Liberal Party.
Since Mr. Dillon refused to answer for his part, I asked the Premier to come before a legislative committee and, under oath, give us a straight answer about the deal struck between Working Families and his senior Liberal campaign team.
There are urgent questions about how the McGuinty Liberals and the Working Families Coalition have a deal to double their advertising budgets. These are urgent questions about $29 million in public funds going to a group from the party whose election fortunes benefited from it. But the Premier didn’t answer any of those questions. He offered unrelated policy matters.
The people of Ontario deserve better. They deserve to know why the McGuinty Liberals are working hand in glove with Working Families, and they deserve to know why their money is going toward Working Families.
Mr. David Ramsay: I’m pleased to get up today and to talk about the overriding issues here that relate to the issues that the member is talking about. What we’re talking about are areas of the College of Trades, apprenticeships and the importance of skilled labour in Ontario and the—I would say—looming skills shortage that we have here in the province.
We have more than 500,000 Ontarians who work in trades, which is a vital part of our economy in this province. We are facing a shortage of skilled workers. That’s why we’ve taken action to get more people involved in the skilled trades apprenticeship programs. As a result, we now have 60,000 more apprentices since 2003; 120,000 apprentices are learning a trade today.
We established the College of Trades to modernize the apprenticeship and trades system to encourage more people to join trades. We all have to do that, as parents and grandparents, encourage our children to look at entering a trade.
The college will regulate the trades, just as the teachers, doctors and nurses have their own regulatory colleges. The budget for 2009 is $50 million annually to enhance the co-operative education and apprenticeship training tax credit. We have an apprenticeship training tax credit that is the most generous in Canada to encourage business to hire apprentices—up to $10,000 per apprentice per year. In the 2008 budget was $75 million for further expansion of the apprenticeship program.
Ratios is a big issue when it comes to apprenticeship, so we’ve worked with industry partners to set the ratios. We have adjusted eight times, based on advice since 2003; the previous government, zero times did they adjust that.
At the end, I would like to talk about Pat Dillon because I know that’s an issue that is important to the member. What’s interesting about Pat Dillon is that all three previous governments have appointed Pat Dillon, because of his expertise, to various advisory bodies: the Ontario Construction Secretariat, created by the NDP in 1993—he was appointed by the Bob Rae government of the day; the WSIB, appointed by former PC labour minister Elizabeth Witmer in 1996, again because of expertise; Corrections Canada advisory board, a federal board under the Harper government, again because of his expertise.
As we all know, Pat began his career in the industry almost 50 years ago as an apprentice electrician. He’s the director of the Construction Safety Association of Ontario, a member of the Construction Sector Council of Canada and business manager and secretary-treasurer of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario. That council represents 150,000 apprentices and tradespeople. He is without doubt an absolutely qualified person, and governments under all three different parties have appreciated that and appointed him to very important positions.