Some months ago, Greg Joy, the fellow who is executive director of our food bank in Ottawa, approached me and told me that we had a problem, and the problem was in essence this: On the one hand, the food bank in Ottawa has some 30,000 people a month who are users there, including 13,000 children, and he doesn't have enough food to meet the demand. On the other hand, he told me that there are several large corporate food retailers, manufacturers, processors, distributors, whatever, who are throwing good food into the garbage on a daily basis, food that couldn't be sold in stores or in restaurants but was still good food, healthy food, nutritious food.
Examples of that are, for instance, food which has a "best before" date which is shortly due. For instance, today is June 23. If I've got some cooked ham on my shelves in my store that says the "best before" date is June 26, then it's unlikely I'm going to be able to sell that to your average consumer. On the other hand, a food bank, if it had access to that ham, would be able to distribute it within 48 hours and it would be consumed by someone who obviously would be in need of it.
The other problem they had, for instance, was with dented cans. You simply can't sell dented cans to a consumer in your store. That's another example of a product that, even though the food is good, he could not get his hands on and make use of it at the food bank.
The other example is frozen turkeys which have fingernail-size holes in the wrapping and which have been subject to some amount of freezer burn. That is another example of food that is good and is something that the food banks would like to get their hands on, but which in too many cases they are not.
The reason they're not getting those kinds of foods is because lawyers who represent these potential large corporate donors are telling them it's not in their best interests to make that donation because of the possibility of liability being attached to that donation. If someone were to get sick on that food, there's the danger of a lawsuit being advanced. As a result, the name of the company would be subjected to the usual, I guess, bad publicity associated with such a lawsuit. It's for those reasons that lawyers are simply telling them, "Look, just throw the darned stuff in the garbage and we won't have to risk a lawsuit." On the other hand, they were and are saying, "Listen, we will donate if you pass the kind of law they have in many other jurisdictions, including the United States, called the good Samaritan law."
I subsequently got in touch with the Ontario Association of Food Banks and they told me that indeed this problem is widespread. It's not just an Ottawa problem, it's an Ontario problem, and the need for food throughout the province in our food banks is indeed desperate. In 1988 there were 60,000 people a month who were frequenting our food banks. Today there are 210,000 people a month, including 85,000 children. On the other hand again, we have tons and tons of good food going into our landfill sites, into our garbage, at the same time.
The Ontario food bank association told me we needed good Samaritan legislation for a couple of reasons. The traditional one is that it will increase the supply of donations to our food banks. Secondly, it's going to protect the existing supply of donations. There have been no lawsuits in Ontario associated with someone getting bad food from a food bank, but all it would take is one. According to the Ontario food bank association, it would only take one to dry up a considerable supply from corporate sponsors or donors.
My bill is based on good Samaritan legislation which is found in all 50 of the American states, and they passed similar legislation in Nova Scotia in 1992, in New Brunswick in 1992 and in Quebec in 1994. My bill does two relatively simple things.
First of all, it says that if you donate food to your food bank, you will not be held responsible if someone accidentally gets sick, but if you show a reckless disregard for the safety of others or if you intentionally cause harm, then you still remain liable.
I think we all understand the meaning of "intentional," but there are some questions from time to time as to what it means to show "reckless disregard" for the safety of others. The example I'd like to use is this: If, for instance, the food bank was to phone me and say, "Listen, have you got any frozen ground hamburger meat available?" and I say, "Yes, I do. When can you come and pick it up?" and they tell me, "Well, I can come and pick it up tomorrow at noon," if I leave it out of the freezer overnight and it's not picked up until the following day at noon, then I've shown a reckless disregard for the safety of others. In that case and in those circumstances, I would be found liable, and I would expect that to happen.
The second thing my bill does is that it provides protection to our food bank workers, to the people who work there and, I guess even more importantly, to the people who volunteer their services there. It provides them with the same kind of protection.
My bill is supported by the Ontario Association of Food Banks and a number of the stakeholder groups on the other side, people who are now contributing or who could be contributing to our food banks. These include: the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, the Grocery Products Manufacturers of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers and the Ontario Restaurant Association.
In addition to those people, I also have had dealings with the Quaker Oats Co of Canada, Cara Operations Ltd and Scott's Hospitality Inc. In fact, during the course of the invention of my bill, I have consulted all of those people or groups that I've named, and in fact the bill that appears before this House today is the third draft. I sent around first and second drafts to all of those stakeholder groups, including the Ontario Association of Food Banks, to get their feedback on my bill. It was amended twice, the end result being, I think, that it strikes a reasonable balance between my desire to encourage further donations to our food banks, to encourage people to work at our food banks, and on the other hand my desire to ensure that food bank users have the protection of the law. I think it strikes a reasonable balance.
This law, as I said earlier, was passed in Nova Scotia in 1992. A couple of days ago I got hold of Dianne Swinemar, who works as the executive director for Metro Food Bank Society, which covers the district of Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford in Nova Scotia, and I asked her what kind of experience they had there with respect to their good Samaritan legislation. She told me that it has had a significant positive impact. Hospitals and hotels did not contribute before and they now are as a result of this bill. Other companies are now willing to give near-dated products, and in the past they did not make that kind of contribution out of fear of liability. She told me that there were no negative aspects at all.
Another question that arises from time to time is, will our food banks become dumping grounds for companies which are now trying to unload bad products? I think it only takes a small acquaintance with people who work at our food banks to understand that there is no danger of that whatsoever. There had been no lawsuits, not a single one, filed against anybody working at a food bank as a result of having distributed food that's unfit for consumption. I have every confidence in those people that they will continue to act in the best interests of food bank users and use their good discrimination in terms of deciding whether or not food is good and ought to be passed along to consumers.
What I'm trying to do through Bill 170 is to allow us to send a message to people who donate or who work at our food banks, and that message is simply: "We value your work. What you are doing is a good thing. We are going to support you. We're going to encourage you." It's not a big deal. It doesn't cost the government a cent, but I think it's the least we can do.
In closing I want to say that I look forward to hearing from my colleagues in the House. I have had some considerable correspondence in connection with my bill, all positive I must say -- in fact I'm surprised at how positive it's been -- and most of it has been unsolicited. It is my hope that we'll be able to move this along as quickly as possible, but I'll have a few more comments about that shortly.
Mrs Elizabeth Witmer (Waterloo North): I'm very pleased to participate in the debate today concerning the act regarding the donation of food that has been introduced by the member. I am certainly very supportive, as is our party, and we would hope that this legislation could move through the House as quickly as possible.
As you know, our party has long been concerned about the impact on people in the community during the recent economic recession. In particular, our leader, Mike Harris, has indicated a concern about establishing breakfast programs in schools and certainly this legislation before us today would help to alleviate the problems that people face concerning a shortage of food.
We know that approximately 40% of food bank users are children, and the act that we have before us today would encourage those individuals, those manufacturers who are presently not contributing donations of food to do so. Unfortunately, up until now, many of them have not made donations for fear of a lawsuit. However, this would protect the donors of food who are making the contributions against a lawsuit brought by anyone who gets sick on food bank food; however, it will not protect donors who cause harm intentionally or through gross negligence.
Certainly, this bill will help to protect the supply of food that is presently available and it will encourage more donations from individuals and manufacturers that are currently not contributing for fear of a lawsuit.
I'm very pleased that Sean Strickland, the co-chair of the Ontario Association of Food Banks, was able to work in cooperation with Greg Joy from the Ottawa Food Bank and Mr Dalton McGuinty from Ottawa South in bringing forth this legislation, and I've received communication from him. Mr Strickland, of course, works with the Food Bank of Waterloo Region and is most supportive of the legislation before us today.
In communicating with the individuals and groups in my community, there is widespread support for this legislation. I have a letter here from the Working Centre and St John's Kitchen, again encouraging the bill's passage, indicating that this would help the more than 200,000 Ontario citizens who receive emergency food every month. They are encouraging us to pass the bill as quickly as possible in order that they can continue to help to feed those individuals who need the contribution of food.
Also, I have a letter here from the House of Friendship in Kitchener, signed by Martin Buhr, the executive director, indicating that the bill be passed as quickly as possible, and indicating that the legislation is in place in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec, and in 50 American states. He indicates that the House of Friendship in Kitchener expects to distribute 30,000 emergency food hampers this year in Waterloo region and he indicates: "Our ability to provide emergency hampers is largely dependent upon the success of the food bank. The success of the food bank would be enhanced through provincial good Samaritan legislation."
I say to the individuals, the groups in my community, the people throughout the province of Ontario, that our party is certainly very supportive of the legislation. We congratulate the member for Ottawa South for bringing it forward and we hope it will be supported and move very quickly through the House in order that we can help those people who depend on the food banks.
We understand the predicament that the companies are in about being sued for their food, and I know that in previous conversations I've had with some local fast-food outlets in my own riding, they are terrified of being sued or someone coming back to them for people being sick. We are, sadly, a wasteful society and statistics indicate that one quarter of all the food that's produced in North America we throw away.
I want to speak for a moment about the waste of food at the military bases across Ontario. I know that they seem to cook such an awful lot of food for so few people, and particularly on the weekend when people go away. I thought about, why don't the military bases give away some of that food? But that's another avenue. Mr Speaker, I know that you share that concern with me about overcooking of food for the number of troops that remain on base on the weekend, but that's just an offshoot of this bill.
It's good to note that good Samaritan legislation exists to protect the donors of food to the food banks in the United States, in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec. So this is not precedent-setting. It's there, and we should move along and be part of that.
In my own riding, we have a small food bank in Courtice and it's called the Helping Hand. They have awful difficulties just getting enough food to supply the people who live in that area, and I know that the local churches donate regularly to that food bank each week just to try to keep the basic commodities flowing into the homes of the needy.
I'm also pleased to see the corporate sponsors and backers of my colleague's bill. It's quite impressive. I received a letter from the Quaker Oats Co of Canada asking me to encourage my colleagues to support the bill put forward by my colleague from Ottawa South. Quaker Oats says it has long been a proponent of the principles embodied in this bill to provide a degree of protection to companies who in good faith donate food products. I think that's the essence.
We have so many corporate food producers that would've long been willing to give their oversupply or some of their less fresh items to food banks, but they were always caught up in this fear of a massive lawsuit and people saying they got sick through eating their food. It's no wonder that they were very apprehensive of this.
The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors are behind it; the Grocery Products Manufacturers of Canada; I've already mentioned Quaker Oats. The Ontario Restaurant Association is behind it, and I think that is significant; Cara Operations Ltd -- and we know those folks to be massive suppliers of food on contract to hospitals and institutions all across the province of Ontario -- they're behind it. And last, Scott's Hospitality supports this, and we all know what Scott's produce. I think it's wonderful to see these corporate entities supporting this very worthwhile bill. It's great to see that.
I think the food banks will be enhanced. I think those people depending on food banks for their wellbeing and their nutritional standards will be enhanced by this legislation. We can look to some distribution, quickly, of this food that hitherto is ending up in the waste boxes, in the garbage bins, and I think everyone benefits from this.
I'd also like to say that I have had a letter from the Ontario Restaurant Association. Those folks are certainly behind it, and they encourage food donations from the foodservice industry to the food banks.
All in all, this is a great piece of legislation. I support it and I know my colleagues support it on this side of the House. Hopefully, this will move through the process very quickly and become law to protect and help perhaps the most vulnerable people in our society today, those people who haven't got a steady job and are up against it, and really need good nutritional meals.
Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): I'm absolutely delighted to rise today in support of the private member's bill from the member for Ottawa South. This is a very rare occasion in this Legislature. It's an occasion where we have all agreed to put aside partisan differences, which all too often dominate our lives, and to cooperate together to try to make something worthwhile happen.
I think it reflects well on every member of this Legislature that when we look at the issue of food banks, the protection of the food supply that is delivered to these banks and the encouragement of the private sector to donate food to the food banks, it's really a tribute to many people that they have put aside their differences in many ways and said, "This is not only something we support, but it is something that we feel so strongly about that we will endeavour to get it quickly through this Legislature."
As several members have indicated, the purpose of this bill is both to protect the supply of food which is currently being donated to Ontario food banks and to free up contributions from companies that are not now contributing because of fear of a lawsuit. Of course it's always wise to stress that this bill will not protect owners who cause harm intentionally or by acting recklessly. I think you can tell from the years that have gone by that it would be a very, very rare occasion when that latter circumstance would happen, but it's an important consideration when we're looking at protection of our food supply.
If we look at some of the statistics related to food banks in Ontario, I think it draws to our attention why we must do everything we can to encourage the supply of food and to ensure that those in need have an opportunity to use this food. In 1988 there were 60,000 people using Ontario food banks every month. Today over 210,000 people use them monthly, and this includes 85,000 children. That is the saddest statistic that can ever be used about food banks, the fact that it is the children who are the ones who will suffer most from our recession, from lack of economic opportunity. Those are the ones we must ensure are protected.
At the same time as we have this terrific need, we also have an estimate that one quarter of all food produced in North America goes to waste. So it seems that we have the resources but we're not matching them up to the need.
There has been much discussion in the previous decade about government's role in assisting food banks, does it perpetuate food banks if government takes a lead role, but I think one thing everybody agrees on is that government should be taking the lead in encouraging creative solutions, and this is one such solution.
Continuing to look at some of the statistics, just over a year ago I had the honour of attending the people's throne speech out at the Daily Bread Food Bank annual drive. It was a very, very moving ceremony where they gave their throne speech, what they would do if they were the government of the day. They talked about a lot of things that they needed. They talked about some very basic things such as food, such as child care, such as bus transfers, but they also talked about some of the intangibles, the need for self-esteem, the need for respect from other people, the need to be seen not as the deadbeats of society but as those who are temporarily in a position where they need help.
Looking at the statistics we have before us, and they're on my desk somewhere among all these papers, the statistics themselves are very startling. This was a hunger profile done just over a year ago in the Toronto area: There are 163,000 people using food banks in our Metro area of whom 58% were adults and 42% were children; 58% of those using the food bank said they went without food at least once a month; 30% had university or college education; 66% lost work in the current recession; then we go down to the disabled -- 27% of those using the food bank are disabled; 29% can't even afford a telephone; 15% were homeless in the past year; 50% have moved in the last year.
This is an indictment of our society today and the dire straits people are in. These statistics refute the myths that are out there. They refute the myths that those who are using food banks are ones who are not contributing to our society.
We have a duty to help. Some of the members have read out some of the lists of supporters of this bill, and the interesting thing is that they reach over a broad sector of those supporting. There is the Ottawa-Carleton chapter of the Child Poverty Action Group, and I'd just like to read a paragraph from their letter to Mr McGuinty:
"We know at first hand how important it is for children to get enough nutritious food. Malnutrition results in enormous deficits in health, intellectual and emotional development; these deficits, in turn, result in significant costs to society in increased health and social services costs, as well as in decreased productivity, resulting from school dropout. We, therefore, believe that, until more effective long-term measures to relieve child hunger can be instituted, every effort has to be made to remove bureaucratic restrictions to donating food, within the limits of safety and health. We believe that your bill will allow the food banks to retrieve greater quantities of food, and this will in turn help to relieve child hunger."
Those are some of the reasons for which I am very proud to support this bill. I would just like to say to the member for Ottawa South that many of us in this House knew your dad, and he would be very proud of you today.
Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): It's also a pleasure for me to rise this morning and congratulate the honourable member for Ottawa South for bringing forth a private member's bill. It's rather sad that it had to wait for this. However, it is a step very much in the right direction.
I speak for the rural community, the producers of food. When we consider the value at the farm gate of, for instance, the wheat in a loaf of bread we're talking of pennies only, and the value on the supermarket shelf is many times the value at the farm gate, except that if a producer doesn't produce that food, there's nothing to sell and there's nothing in at the supermarket.
We have, through the Ontario Milk Marketing Board, in Ottawa again certain producers who have organized surplus milk for the processing through some of our major processors. The trucking industry is very much on side in providing its services.
When we speak of dairy products, we're speaking of nature's most nearly perfect food, yet for whatever reason we find our school programs very much lacking, when indeed there is a school program, in dairy products. We do know that for our growing young people at those ages when they're in primary and secondary school, dairy products are very, very important to their becoming young adults with all of the potential and the strength that are indeed always notable to young people.
Certainly, I agree with the honourable member for Eglinton that Dalton McGuinty, Sr, was very much a true gentleman in this chamber, and certainly his son is following in those family footsteps. I congratulate him for it.
Back in 1990, during a famous election campaign that proved to be a rather expensive one for the Liberals in terms of members, it said in the Toronto Star of Tuesday, August 21: "David Peterson," someone who's remembered to some degree in this chamber, "vows $18.5 million for a breakfast program for students." That was in 1990, during an election campaign, and it never did quite happen. Again, it's ironic that it's being brought forth as a private member's bill by one of our colleagues from the Liberal Party.
Mike Harris, the leader of the Ontario Tory party in Ontario, has on numerous occasions brought forth the school breakfast program. Mr Harris's proposal is to involve the corporate sector in this program in the form of school sponsorship, which would cost very little. The donors of the food, not people who have a profit motive but the donors of this food, whether they're at the production or processing or retail end of the food chain, want to make sure that they're not liable.
Food is a very perishable product, and heaven forbid, if you do an act of good faith, you provide food at no cost to people in need, yet somewhere down the line you could be faced with legal litigation and responsibility. That is certainly, I think, what primarily this motion would remove. Provided that everyone acts according to Mr McGuinty's bill, then that would not be possible. Certainly when one visits the food terminal here in Toronto, you see how much actual good food goes to waste simply because people are very nervous about the possible litigation of a product that is perishable.
So I say to the honourable member for Ottawa South, thank you for bringing forth what I feel is going to be supported unanimously. It's supported unanimously, I believe, out in the food production area and the food processing area, and certainly the winners here are the young people in our school program, many of whom go to school hungry in the morning and do not have a diet that is conducive to their wellbeing, to their studying to the best of their ability.
I think for a number of reasons, environmental and social reasons, this is a timely bill. From an environmental point of view, obviously a lot of the food that is produced is wasted for the most part, and from a social point of view, Ms Poole and others have talked about the need for food for people in need, women and children and men in need. I think, therefore, from an environmental and social view, this is important to do.
This issue came to my attention about a year and a half ago when the executive director of Second Harvest and another board member came to my office to talk about this, and we talked about the problem. I couldn't understand why it is that we couldn't be changing whatever we needed to do by way of regulation or introducing a bill in particular to deal with it, because it seemed to me reasonable that we should be proceeding.
We worked with the Ministry of Energy and Environment for quite for some time to try to get them to sort it out, and I must admit that we weren't as successful in moving it along as quickly as I would have liked. But that's, I think, irrelevant, because now we have a bill introduced by Mr McGuinty that allows us the opportunity to debate it and to work it in such a way that we can accomplish what we want to accomplish.
Obviously, we're trying to achieve a balance here between two things: one, to protect donors of food for liability for damage caused by bad food; and the other is protection to the victim of food poisoning who may be deprived of a remedy against a person who was at fault in giving or distributing the food. This is the balance that we're trying to achieve, and at times it's not a very easy one.
What Mr McGuinty also here adds is giving protection to the agency as well. So we have a triple concern here about protecting the consumer, protecting the donor and protecting the agency, a very difficult, I would suspect, legal task.
The present law that we have doesn't apply to donors specifically, and that's part of the problem. At present the law does not impose liability without fault. A donor of food or a food bank would be liable for damage caused by bad food only if they knew or ought to have known that the food was bad or were negligent in passing it on for consumption. Now, that obviously is the standard we're operating on, and that standard has frightened many of the donors, clearly. What your bill does is to give the protection to all, it seems to me.
The only question I had in terms of the present general applicability of the law versus the specific applicability of this particular bill that deals with donors is, where 1(b) speaks of "reckless disregard," is that standard now that we're applying -- (a) and (b) in fact -- protecting the consumer and is it at the same time protecting the donor? My suspicion is that it probably does that, but I would want to speak further and ask for some other legal opinion on this before we proceeded with it.
But I think that on second reading this is sufficient for me to support and to send it to committee to deal with so we can sort out any other legal question that might still remain. I am fully supportive of the initiative, it needs to go to committee for discussion, and I congratulate Mr McGuinty for bringing it forth.
Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): I'm pleased to rise this morning to address Bill 170, An Act respecting the Donation of Food, brought to this Legislature by my colleague the member for Ottawa South.
As you will know, Mr Speaker, I've risen in my place several times to discuss the very serious issue of food banks with this government and to remind it of its 1990 election promise to eliminate food banks. I regret to say I have not had much success. For this reason, I'm happy to see that my colleague has brought forward this piece of positive legislation, which will assist the food industry to donate food to people who desperately need it, without fear of personal or corporate liability.
I would like to remind the members of this House, and especially those on the government benches who were not members before 1990, that a standing committee of this Legislature studied the question of food banks extensively in early 1990. In April of that year we produced this report, which is gathering dust, which had several good recommendations.
The hearings on food banks were called for by an NDP member, the member for Hamilton West, who is now, I remind the House, a member of the executive council of the NDP government. He called them because, as he said, "of the general desperation among emergency food providers that they were doing a job which was not properly theirs, but belonged to government income support programs.... To expect them to continue in that role is, in our view, an improper exploitation of community goodwill and voluntary resources."
"It is at once an injustice and an insult to scores of thousands of Ontarians who are able to manage their own affairs, that they should be driven through simple income inadequacy to resort to the private charity of food banks to put food on the table.... The government's continued reliance on food banks is an abdication of provincial responsibility and an improper exploitation of community goodwill and voluntary resources."
These are but a few excerpts from the food bank report which demonstrate the very strongly held views of the NDP caucus in 1990, and in particular the member for Hamilton West at that time. I'm left to ask myself how this moral high ground has so eroded, has fallen off completely, in the short space of four years.
More recently, during their Easter food drive this spring, the Daily Bread Food Bank in Metropolitan Toronto surveyed those requesting food assistance: 75% of adults who use food banks have lost their jobs since 1990, and only 9% are working at this time.
In light of these disturbing statistics, I believe that we, as legislators, should do all we can to encourage those corporate donors who are willing and able to donate food to food banks by providing them with protective legislation as outlined in Bill 170.
"Approximately half of the food that food banks and food assistance programs provide to the less fortunate come from corporate donations. Despite this, there remains a great deal of food that still goes to waste because of fear of the cost of defending an ill-founded lawsuit that may arise, as well as the negative effect of the publicity that would arise."
"This type of bill is commonly referred to as good Samaritan legislation and is currently in place in Nova Scotia," as we heard from the presenter this morning, "New Brunswick, Quebec and all 50 states."
"The bill will protect donors of food to food banks against unwarranted lawsuits. The bill will not protect donors who cause harm intentionally or recklessly.... The passage of this bill would encourage those who are not presently contributing to do so."
I agree with these people, recipient and donor alike. I believe these provisions will fill a real need and will make a positive contribution in both the variety and quantity of donation to food assistance programs right across this province. It's a practical measure, designed to be truly helpful to those families, and especially those families with children, who find themselves in need of the services of food banks. I encourage all members in the House to join me in supporting this positive piece of legislation presented by the member for Ottawa South.
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): At the outset, let me commend my colleague from Ottawa South for bringing forward this legislation. I've listened with interest to the veteran Liberal members talk about the moral high ground lost by the NDP. Frankly, I'm here to say that the only member of the Liberal caucus who has any moral high ground on this issue is the member for Ottawa South, since he's the only brand-new member elected from the last election. But the collective history of the Liberal Party with respect to its support --
Mr Jackson: Listen, they get a lot of accolades for raising the welfare payments in this province and opening them wide open. They get a lot of credit for having done that in this province. But we've seen food banks grow at an enormous rate.
Mr Jackson: Mr Curling has indicated, pat myself on the back. I will tell you that I chair three food banks in my community. I've developed breakfast programs. If you think that's accepting a pat on the back, that's fine. I don't. I think it's tragic that a member of provincial Parliament has to roll up his sleeves and raise some $85,000, which I have over the last three years in my community to conduct food drives.
Since you've asked, I wouldn't expect a compliment from Mr Curling, but quite frankly this is work that should not be going on in the communities. It's an admission of the failure of our system as we've organized it in this province that we have so many poor. I'm not proud of the fact that in my community of Burlington, in the three food banks which I chair as the chair of Burlington Food Share, we're servicing between 1,200 and 1,600 children every single month in our community. I'm not proud of that, and I certainly am not looking for a pat on the back.
However, I have researched this bill and I've shared some of that information with my colleague from Ottawa South and I'd like to share some of that with the members of the House, because when this bill gets passed, it will go to a committee.
The bill is a very short bill and we should be careful to understand that we have one current example in New Brunswick where this legislation has been implemented and there have been some differing views as to how successful it has been. In Nova Scotia, rather, the Nova Scotia legislation goes further to the notion of good Samaritan legislation, because it deals with emergency medical assistance.
That's one of the reasons why a bill I had been examining wasn't ready, because this is a very complex area. We're talking about volunteer firefighters. We're talking about giving emergency assistance when one is driving down the road and they see an accident. Good Samaritan legislation in the United States deals with this additional notion of providing assistance and not being exposed to potential litigation. I think within the framework of our public hearings, possibly, or within a committee review, we'll have an opportunity to look at that.
We should be looking, as I talked to Gerard Kennedy at Daily Bread Food Bank some months ago about, at good Samaritan legislation. He had expressed concern that it should be targeted more towards the manufacturers, who we need to encourage to participate, and less towards the suppliers. For any member of the House who's had any exposure to or experience with food banks and the distribution of food, I have to tell you that we've experienced a considerable amount of problems in the process of accessing a very large supply of food that exists in our communities that is earmarked for the waste stream.
I'll give you a couple of examples. We have one grocery store in Burlington that we're afraid to call because they just give us stuff that is moulding and turning. My Ukrainian grandmother couldn't make a decent stew out of it. I tell you, that's how bad these vegetables were.
We go directly to manufacturers. We have one store at which they don't even unload the bread off the truck to the store. We pick up between 12 and 25 dozen loaves of bread a week from one store in Burlington and then, because we don't want to handle this food extensively -- as my colleague our agricultural critic has indicated, the handling and the stale-dating of food is a serious consideration -- we move these loaves of bread directly into the schools where we've developed breakfast programs in our community, and that creates a problem because you've got to put these loaves of bread into freezers.
The whole issue of how food moves and is transported and handled extensively is a serious issue here, and when we sit down as a food bank coalition, as we do in our community, when we talk to manufacturers, they will unload the groceries, but you have to have a truck, you have to have transportation, you have to have a place to store it. There are a lot of times we have to say, "No, we can't accept it."
Not to get into the controversy of breakfast programs, but we feel that the government's approach to the breakfast programs may be backwards. We've indicated that you have to develop your resource networking so that it doesn't become a huge cost to taxpayers.
This legislation will help with those companies that are currently donating that want to be reassured that there'll be no litigation, and to that extent this bill will achieve it. But I firmly believe that there are a lot of other issues which can be raised in committee that we can deal with -- about the coding of food, the stale-dating, the transportation of food, good Samaritan legislation -- which will go beyond the limited capacity of this bill and look at issues about those citizens in society who help.
As you know, if you stop to help a victim in society, you could be sued by the very person you are trying to help, and good Samaritan legislation for Ontario should address that additional issue. For that reason, I will support the bill and encourage my colleague from Ottawa South.
Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): I only have a few short comments which I wish to make. To the member for Ottawa South, it is a good Samaritan bill which is being introduced today, and I fully support that.
As I listened to my colleague from the Conservative Party saying, "I don't want to pat myself on the back, but let me tell you about all the great things I've done for my community" -- talk about a pat on the back.
I must say to the member opposite, who has done an excellent job of bringing this good Samaritan legislation forward, I hope what can be achieved through this day, and we always look for wild and crazy experiences in this House, is that this legislation moves very quickly forward: forward from second reading, forward from third reading and forward into royal assent so that this legislation can be enacted.
I see a lot of positive things that can come out of this legislation. Yes, it is unfortunate that we've had a recession, through policies, whatever it may be -- I don't want to be like the member opposite, but there are policies out there that have hurt our economy, have put people out of work, people who never expected to be on social assistance in their lives because they figured they had 15 or 20 years in a workplace. They thought their job was secure and they'd be able to retire from that workplace. Unfortunately, times have changed for them and they're victims of a system right now. They're trying to get out and they need assistance.
This legislation will also provide opportunities to our food banks. Like my colleague from Essex-Kent and also myself from Chatham-Kent, and even the rural members, we have manufacturers of food products. There are opportunities now for those corporate citizens. I know when I participate in a bowl-a-thon for the food bank in my community, there are corporations in my community that donate food. This will now lever that fear that's out there, take it away and allow them to continue to be a partner on a daily basis versus the annual five-pin, bowl-a-thon to make sure we can raise food for the food bank.
To the member opposite, I want you to know that you have my full support with this legislation. I hope we can expedite the process. But as I listened to the member opposite who didn't want to pat himself on the back, but he did a great job of telling all the great things he did and does in his community, I must say it sounds like the Conservatives might have a little problem expediting it. But you have our support on this side of the House to move this legislation quickly, to put it in place.
I hope that one day this legislation will no longer be needed and that food banks will not be a part of our society, but that's going to take accomplishments of all political parties, of all levels of government to achieve, and to reintegrate jobs back into our community, and economic prosperity.
The Deputy Speaker: The member for Burlington South, the member for Yorkview, I would ask you, please, to refrain from talking to each other across the House. The member for Scarborough North has the floor.
Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I too would like to congratulate my colleague for Ottawa South. Thursday mornings are very important mornings for private members' bills. It gives every member the opportunity to work on a special project. I call this Bill 170 a very special project. I know a lot of research has gone into this private member's bill.
The fact remains that we have 200,000 Ontarians visiting our food banks every day in the province of Ontario. This bill will permit very special donors, manufacturers, to feed the needy in Ontario. We all agree in this House that this is needed, and I don't care if it's an NDP private member's bill, or even a Conservative bill. We have a responsibility in the province of Ontario to feed the needy in Ontario. I'm very pleased that my colleague for Ottawa South has recognized this and I hope every member will support this bill.
Mr Paul Klopp (Huron): I rise today too to give my support and also the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. This issue was brought up a number of years ago. When Elmer and I first arrived over at the ministry, there were a number of food companies that came forward and said, "We all agree that food banks are something we all want to try to work to get rid of, but at the same time, having food that goes to waste is an issue that is wrong." Coming from rural Ontario, I think it's an issue that we see a lot more clearly, but it's indeed an issue, as with the member for Ottawa South and his private member's bill, that touches us all.
I support this motion, the Minister of Agriculture supports this motion, and there are people in the ministry who have been working on this for a number of years now who are quite satisfied that they're finally seeing that the work they gave to other ministries is now going to go through and go through the private member's bill. I congratulate him.
Let's get on with working with this issue because, really, when you see food going to waste, it is not a very good thing. This will allow a lot of people to give, and the charity that we all have in our hearts will be allowed to be pushed forward here. If it needs this type of legislation, then so be it. This is good legislation, and I congratulate the member. All of us, let's show support.
To recap, we have a problem in this province of Ontario today in 1994. We have people who are going hungry. On the other hand, we have good, healthy, nutritious food going into our garbage. Not only is that, in a simple sense, a logistical problem; it is, if I am to be perfectly frank, a moral problem. I think we have every obligation to do whatever we can to remedy that problem.
My private member's bill goes, I think, a little way along that road. I have heard comments from some of my colleagues who would like to see this matter referred to committee, and I have serious reservations about doing that. This matter has been under consideration for a couple of years within various government ministries and I have capitalized on that work and sought some of the advice from some of the people who were able to sit in on those meetings and I would be very concerned about sending this off to committee.
I have, I think, in a rather extensive sense, had consultation with the stakeholder groups involved in this matter. I have the full support of the Ontario Association of Food Banks, the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, the Grocery Products Manufacturers of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, the Ontario Restaurant Association and then some individual corporations like the Quaker Oats Co of Canada, Coca Cola Food Products of Canada, CARA Operations Ltd, Scott's Hospitality Inc., Child Poverty Action Group, the Stirling Community Cupboard, the Trinity Community Table of Cambridge, the Food Bank in Ottawa and many others.
I think we have it within our means here in this House today to do something concrete and positive for those people who, through no fault of their own, are attending at food banks to feed their families, and I would hope that the members of this House will assist in moving this through as quickly as possible.
Mr Hayes: Bill 176, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to Slow Moving Vehicle Signs, is essentially a measure to increase safety on our rural and other roads. Slow moving vehicles, usually tractors and other self-propelled implements of husbandry, are required by law to prominently display the slow moving vehicle or, simply, the SMV warning sign to alert motorists. The SMV looks like this. I think it's very important for the public, and I hope all those who are watching will see this sign and know what it really means.
When people display these signs on their mailboxes, driveways, close to the road or even near utility poles, it causes confusion and can lead to accidents. Bill 176 will restrict the use of the SMV sign to bona fide slow moving vehicles and make it an offence to display it where it might lead to mistaken identity.
This bill enlarges the definition of slow moving vehicles to include not only tractors and farm machinery but also certain types of construction equipment and horse-drawn vehicles. In the case of the horse-drawn vehicles, exemption is provided for those who may object to the use of the SMV sign on religious grounds.
Over two years ago, I was approached by Margaret Eberle, who was then president of the Women's Institute of Ontario. She brought to my attention the ambiguity surrounding the current law with respect to the SMV sign and the need to rewrite this section of the Highway Traffic Act. As a member representing a rural riding, and also having been a health and safety coordinator for the auto industry for many years, I was naturally keen that this problem should be addressed. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Margaret Eberle for providing the inspiration for Bill 176. I might add that Margaret lives in my riding too.
In the course of preparing this bill I have received strong support from the Farm Safety Association of Ontario. As a matter of fact, representatives of the association were kind enough to come to Queen's Park yesterday to brief the opposition critics on the need for rewriting the legislation with respect to slow moving vehicles. I am very pleased that two representatives of the Farm Safety Association are present in the gallery today and I'd like to introduce them. Mr George Underwood is a past president and chair of the Highway Traffic Act committee of the Farm Safety Association. Mr Joseph Andrews has been a safety consultant with the association for many years and doubles as its resource person to the Highway Traffic Act committee. Gentlemen, welcome and thank you for coming and supporting this bill.
We have also received the wholehearted support of the Minister of Transportation for this bill. George Dadamo, who is the parliamentary assistant to the minister, will be speaking today in support of this. I would also like to express my thanks to the staff of the Ministry of Transportation for their assistance in preparing this bill. Paul Klopp, who is parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, will also be supporting and speaking on this bill.
We have received many letters of support for this legislation and I would like to share some excerpts with members of this House. A letter written in 1992 by Joan Law, the resolutions convenor of the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario, to the Farm Safety Association reads as follows:
"We are concerned that slow-moving vehicle signs are being misused. Some can be found on gateposts, as part of Christmas decorations,...along the sides of roads and many other places. We believe fines should be levied for misusing [slow-]moving vehicle signs just as fines are levied when a slow-moving vehicle does not have an SMV sign."
"The OFA welcomes introduction of your private member's bill.... This legislation is long overdue. The Farm Safety Association has been seeking this for 18 years!... The OFA fully supports your bill.... We look forward to the speedy passage of Bill 176."
"The Ontario Retail Farm Equipment Dealers' Association welcomes introduction of your private member's bill.... This legislation is long overdue. ORFEDA has been seeking this for 18 years and cooperated with other farm groups in bringing this to the government's attention.... We look forward to the speedy passage of Bill 176."
As I said in my opening sentence, this bill is essentially a safety measure. It can prevent accidents and save lives. I believe Bill 176 has the support of all three parties in this Legislature. I would like to thank the opposition critics for their support. The rural community has waited 18 years. Let us not keep them waiting any longer and proceed with this bill.
Mr Hans Daigeler (Nepean): As Transportation critic for my party, I'm pleased to say a few words for the record. I know some of my more rural members want to speak as well to this issue, because coming from an urban area, as I do, we don't have too many slow moving vehicles in my area; most of them are perhaps going too fast. So we have a little bit of a reverse problem.
But I do think the member, as he has said, is addressing a serious safety concern, and who can be against this? I think it's a very moderate proposal that is being put forward. The original intention, I'm sure, of the provision that's in the Highway Traffic Act was meant for all slow moving vehicles and not just for farm vehicles, but apparently unless that's specifically provided for in the bill, you can't charge someone for not having attached that sign that warns people about a slow moving vehicle ahead.
Frankly, I had no idea, coming as I do from the suburban Ottawa-Carleton area, that people were attaching these signs to stationary objects -- as the member said, to mailboxes and other things like that. I'm wondering why they're doing that. I think really that is kind of irresponsible when signs that are used to protect the safety of traffic are used and diverted for other purposes. So again, I certainly support the member in that objective as well.
I should say, however, and perhaps the parliamentary assistant for the Minister of Transportation could address this a little bit in his remarks, I do have some problems with the way the Ministry of Transportation seems to be forced to deal in a piecemeal fashion with various aspects of the Highway Traffic Act. This has nothing to do with the member's bill but it has very much to do with the Highway Traffic Act, because this bill that the member's putting forward makes an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act.
We have another private member's bill before the House. In fact the member, Ron Hansen, is here and is moving another provision that will affect the Highway Traffic Act and it is another provision that we support in this House. I was going to move an amendment and I know the third party was going to do the same thing. But it all amounts to a piecemeal fashion of addressing some serious concerns with regard to a number of aspects of the Highway Traffic Act.
I know there is an omnibus bill, Bill 175, before the House, and I don't think we're going to get to it until we adjourn tonight. There too are sections of the Highway Traffic Act and of the Truck Transportation Act being amended that, really, people are looking for. I certainly had hoped that we would pass it still because transit authorities are waiting for provisions that will be allowed under this bill. But because the Ministry of Transportation hasn't taken the initiative to bring in one bill to deal with reforms and amendments to the Highway Traffic Act and the Truck Transportation Act, I think we are being forced either to give special approval, just unanimous consent, as we hopefully will be doing with Mr Hansen's bill; or we'll have to go through the private member's route as we're doing today with Bill 176; or, as we're seeing with Bill 175, we may never get to it at all in this session. I think that's unfortunate.
I would like to say to the parliamentary assistant, and I said it yesterday to the Minister of Transportation as we were discussing his estimates, that I do hope in the next session he will bring in a global reform of the Truck Transportation Act and of the Highway Traffic Act that will address all of these things in a global fashion rather than taking one step at a time, and do it all together, do it in a proper fashion. I certainly hope that the Minister of Transportation will listen to that. I know there are all kinds of other provisions that have been waiting on the books for a long time and I know officials in his ministry have been pushing the minister for these amendments and changes for quite some time.
I certainly support Bill 176, as it is being put forward by the member, and I appreciate him putting this to the attention of the House. However, I would like to hope that the Minister of Transportation will take a global look at the Highway Traffic Act and bring in, in the next session, a bill that will address the many, many other concerns that are there with regard to the Highway Traffic Act.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I'm certainly privileged and honoured to speak on this bill and congratulate the member for Essex-Kent for bringing this bill in. It's long overdue, and I certainly am going to support the bill.
I think it's time that something like this was brought in. I agree with you when you say that the sign is used for other purposes. You see them on a lot of mailboxes through the country and gates and things like that. I know that at night, if you're driving down a back road and you see the slow moving sign ahead of you and it ends up on a mailbox, you're sort of slowing down and going again. I've seen that happen, and it's happened to me lots of times.
I am glad also you have the exemption in there for horse-drawn vehicles, on religious grounds, because in my riding I do have a considerable number of Mennonites who don't feel this is necessary for them. I understand that we need some sort of reflection on horse-drawn vehicles, though, because we have to see them at night also and we have had some terrible accidents in my area because of that.
Some time ago, though, I had the Ministry of Transportation come to my area. They were going to force my Mennonite population to put the sign on. We did have a meeting with them, and I want to tell you, maybe it's the air in Grey county, I don't know, but my Mennonites told the man from MTO that if that was the case, they'd go to jail first before they'd put the signs on. So I told them, "You're in Grey county now and we do not like interference from Queen's Park." Not only people like myself but also the Mennonite community told them quite clearly.
Also that night we went to one of the farms and drove in the laneway, and I want to tell you, it just looked like Queen Street. When we drove in, our lights hit the back of their buggies, and what they do in my area is have a metallic strip that comes down the back and across, and they will use those and it works quite well. I want to tell you, the gentleman from the MTO never came back, so I guess he was quite satisfied that that would work. But I don't think there was any exception for that, and now there will be with this bill if it's passed. As I say, I certainly appreciate that.
But I also farm, as you know, and I try to keep the slow moving signs on my wagons and things like that. The other problem we do have is that some vehicles have them and they certainly aren't slow moving vehicles, and this can cause a lot of problems also.
Mr George Dadamo (Windsor-Sandwich): I'm pleased to rise today to support the private member's bill introduced by the member for Essex-Kent. As I'm sure all members know, our government is committed to making Ontario's roads the safest in North America. This bill, along with a number of other initiatives planned and currently under way, which include graduated licensing, demerit points for non-use of seatbelts, photo-radar to deter speeding, and aggressive driving education and public awareness campaigns, help us to meet this road safety goal in Ontario.
By making our roads safer, we will reduce the unacceptably high human and monetary cost of collisions. That cost, sadly enough, is three lives every day and 240 injuries. The price is also $9 billion annually in health care costs, lost wages and property damage. When you consider these staggering figures, it becomes very clear just how important it is to take advantage of every possible opportunity to improve road safety on every possible front.
I am pleased to say this bill does just that by restricting the use of slow moving vehicle signs solely to vehicles that are moving well below the posted highway speed limit. Other Ontario road users are alerted to this safety hazard and can react appropriately. As a recognized symbol which is known across North America, the sign serves as a safety warning to alert drivers from other jurisdictions as well that they are approaching a slow moving vehicle.
The bill improves on the legislation in section 76 of the Highway Traffic Act by providing controls on the use of the sign while allowing some exemptions. While current legislation and regulations describe the appropriate use of the sign, they do not identify restrictions on its use. As a result, the sign is sometimes misused on mailboxes and as driveway markers along the highways. The intended benefits of this high-visibility sign have been eroded by this misuse. Like the boy who cried "Wolf" soon realized, misuse means the sign is no longer eliciting the intended response. As a result, signs may be ignored, causing a safety hazard for the operators of farm and other vehicles who are using them correctly, as well as other motorists.
Restricting the use of these signs is an issue the ministry has been looking at for some time. We have worked cooperatively with the Farm Safety Association, as one of the biggest users of the sign, to address their concerns. A committee, convened in 1989, has made a number of recommendations respecting the use and also the misuse of the sign, and I'm happy to say the bill incorporates a number of those recommendations.
By introducing this bill, the honourable member for Essex-Kent is bringing to the House an issue that the government had hoped to include in an HTA amendment bill in the fall of 1993. Unfortunately, other legislative priorities caused deferral of this bill. I am glad it is before us now and I commend my colleague for his efforts to bring this forward.
As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Transportation, I would like to reiterate the ministry's support of this bill. The ministry advocates prohibition of the use of the signs anywhere on or near a highway except on vehicles for which they were intended to be used.
In closing, we support exemptions on a limited basis, for example, for groups for whom the use of the sign is against their religious beliefs. I believe old order Mennonites and Amish would fall under these groups. Road safety is a goal that we all share. This bill is intended to save lives by making our roads safer. We believe the provisions of the bill will accomplish those objectives.
Mr Ron Eddy (Brant-Haldimand): I too rise in support of the bill. I realize it's a safety initiative and a very good program. I think it's a happy day in the Legislature when all three parties support such important initiatives as ballot item number 65, being Bill 170, An Act respecting the Donation of Food and the supply of food to food banks, and I'm awfully pleased to see that, and now, secondly, with Bill 176, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to Slow Moving Vehicle Signs, a very important safety initiative.
Certainly, the development of the SMV sign was an excellent measure to start with and its requirement on slow moving farm vehicles has, I know, prevented accidents in many cases and saved many lives. The extension of the use to other slow moving vehicles will be an additional plus, both for the motoring public and the operators of slow moving vehicles. So I think it's an excellent initiative.
I do have a concern about the exemption for those persons whose religious convictions or beliefs prohibit the display of devices such as the slow moving vehicle sign, simply from a safety point of view, because I know, as has been mentioned with the Mennonite communities -- and I'm well aware of them in Waterloo region and Perth and east Elgin. The concern is there both from a safety standpoint for the motoring public and the operators, the drivers of the buggies. It's awfully important that they also have safety features. I know some do use the sign. I know that some do have batteries with lights at the back of the vehicle.
I was pleased to hear from the member for Grey-Owen Sound that many use a reflective material of some kind on the back of the buggy because it is so very important in a world where traffic is moving so fast -- faster, on occasion, than the signed limit of speed would be on many highways. So that's a very important thing.
I also want to throw in a pitch for reflective licence plates, because I think that's something that should be an initiative of the government as well, because those have proven to be another important safety feature, especially with vehicles parked along roads, because it does happen in certain types of weather where dark vehicles especially are very hard to see and accidents occur that would be prevented, in my opinion, with a reflective material of some kind.
The other great concern, of course, I have is with bicycles, where you see, especially in the city here, I've noticed since I've been down here, many bicyclists after dark without reflective material, dark clothing and bicycles without lights. It's a grave concern because there must be accidents because of that.
Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I just want to take a couple of minutes here to thank the member for Essex-Kent for bringing Bill 176 forward. I would like at the same time to draw attention to the use of the sign -- the abuse of the use of the sign -- and refer to section 2 of the bill.
As the member from Grey pointed out, the use of the sign is being abused in different ways. In speaking with the member for Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry and East Grenville, he tells me that he has had questions in his rural riding as to why these slow moving signs are on the top of the rural hydro poles. Well, there is some confusion there because the sign that's on the hydro pole is what they call a "phase marking." The distribution line is three-phase, so you mark the red phase and you know the other two are the white and the blue. I must check into that to see how close the formation and the painting is to this actual slow moving vehicle sign.
I don't want to cut into my colleagues' time here. I have three from my riding of Lanark-Renfrew, from Renfrew county, and they're here with the green, showing the colours of the county and also advertising the International Plowing Match that takes place this year in Renfrew county.
Mr Paul Klopp (Huron): I stand today to show my support and the support of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for this bill. It was mentioned a little earlier about George Underwood, and I also want to take the time to thank George. George and Helen Underwood farm in Huron county, and if anyone knows about the Underwood farms, they know there's a lot of work there to be done. They don't have to leave the farm gate.
George, like so many people, has been one who believes that you put back into your community and you get involved. One of the groups he got involved with was the Farm Safety Association, and he informed me that this has been on his plate for some 16 years. I can relate to that. There have been a lot of things that we deal with that have been around a long time.
As for myself, on the Huron County Federation of Agriculture, this issue would come up nearly every year before we'd go to the convention, and of course we'd support it. A delegate to the OFA convention -- for many years there would be at least one county or at least the Farm Safety Association that would bring up in their annual report that we still hadn't got this issue dealt with.
I must say that in the beginning, as a young 21-year-old who already figures he knows everything, I kind of wondered, how could this be? I've come to realize that sometimes things take time. But I guess people like George have shown me that you just keep pushing on, you keep the faith, you deal with an issue and some day it will get resolved one step at a time.
I mentioned something about a letter to an Honourable Mr Snow some 18 years ago, who was the minister at the time. If I can say so, in this heat wave we've had, the snow is gone; it's time to move on and get this issue resolved. I really want to thank the George Underwoods of the world who have kept the faith on behalf of the rural community. Farm safety is number one for children, and I must say he just informed me that he's a grandfather again. Congratulations to you, sir, because it is really that you're working for the children.
Mrs Joan M. Fawcett (Northumberland): I too want to congratulate the member for Essex-Kent for bringing forward Bill 176, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to Slow Moving Vehicle Signs, and bringing it here today. I know that it does have the support of the agricultural and rural community, and certainly I will be supporting this bill as well.
Farming in Ontario today requires that farmers must travel on public highways. Farming operations as well as construction operations and others generally are becoming larger today, with multiple locations and larger equipment being used, and certainly there is increased road travel. The difference, we know, in the speed of a tractor or any other slow moving vehicle travelling 25 kilometres an hour and a car travelling 80 kilometres an hour can create an extremely dangerous situation for the farmer as well as the motorist. In rural Ontario where the terrain can be very hilly, this certainly is true.
So maximum warning time is vital in preventing collisions between slow moving vehicles and motor vehicles, and I'm also wondering, where possible, if we should even make sure that flashing lights are on the vehicles as well, but possibly all vehicles don't have the flashing lights.
Studies have proven that a slow moving vehicle sign attached to the rear of the vehicle is the most effective way to warn motorists, allowing them the greatest reaction time possible. Red flags just don't seem to do the same thing, and even road signs warning of the possibility of slow moving vehicles are not nearly as effective.
But in conjunction with this bill, an ongoing public education program must be implemented. The general public really does not appreciate the slow speed of farm, construction and other kinds of slow moving equipment. In fact, I know there are many who believe that they don't even have a right to be on the road, and certainly I do not agree with that.
The slow moving vehicle sign must become part of a motorist's vocabulary and be introduced at the early learning stages for young drivers. I know when the Minister of Transportation introduced a graduated licensing bill, the farm community was concerned with the restriction now being placed on its teenaged children who are a vital part of its workforce. I'm glad to see that with the ministry's support of this bill there is at least a small beginning of perception of the realities of rural Ontario.
As others have said, there is another advantage of this bill which would seem to be more properly directed at the individuals who do place these signs on their mailboxes and driveways, and I know that wasn't the intent of the slow moving vehicle sign. Really, it only adds to the general motorist's confusion and lack of knowledge of the purpose of the signs.
Further, instead of preventing accidents, sometimes signs misplaced can be the cause of accidents, but farmers, construction companies and others, and possibly the manufacturers of equipment must somehow be -- there must be an assurance that the installation of that slow moving vehicle sign is put on the equipment.
As the report of the Ontario Task Force on Health and Safety in Agriculture recommended, the Ministry of Transportation in conjunction with the agency prepare and issue explicit guidelines that will ensure consistent understanding and enforcement of the Highway Traffic Act and its regulations on the use of all slow moving vehicles on public roads in Ontario.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I'm pleased to comment briefly this morning and have the opportunity to talk about Bill 176, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act with respect to Slow Moving Vehicle Signs.
I want to compliment the member for Essex-Kent for bringing this legislation forward and wanting to rewrite section 76 of the Highway Traffic Act, which deals with slow moving vehicle signs. The sign requirement, which currently applies only to farm machines, would be extended to all slow moving vehicles, other than bicycles, motor-assisted bicycles and cars that are being towed.
This bill provides authority to make a regulation exempting horse-drawn vehicles driven by only those whose religious beliefs or convictions prohibit the display of such devices, such as the slow moving vehicle sign.
Under this bill, placing the sign on or near a fixed object where it is readily visible from the highway is prohibited, but an exception is made for facsimiles that are displayed for the information of highway users. It is likewise prohibited to operate a vehicle on a highway if it not a slow moving vehicle, but has a slow moving vehicle sign attached.
The issue surrounding the proper use of the slow moving vehicle sign has been discussed and debated since their use on farm vehicles was legislated in the mid-1970s. Since that time, repeated representations have been made to the Ministry of Transportation about the hazards involved in the misuse of slow moving vehicle signs.
It should be noted that last fall provisions to address the slow moving vehicle sign abuse problem were included in a comprehensive package of regulatory changes submitted for cabinet approval. But it was felt the package became too large when the graduated licence provisions were included, and the SMV component was sacrificed to make room for the graduated licence initiative.
Sadly, the slow moving vehicle sign abuse continues unabated. The Highway Traffic Act requires every farm tractor, self-propelled farm implement or vehicle towed by them to display the distinctive triangular yellow-orange and dark red sign when driven on a highway. But there are no corresponding penalties for its misuse.
The intention of the slow moving vehicle sign is to alert motorists that they are overtaking farm machinery travelling at a rate of speed far below the posted limit. The rapid closing time in these situations can lead to serious accidents, injuries and loss of life.
Public awareness of the proper meaning and purpose of this sign is eroded through such misuse as marking lanes or mail boxes or hydro towers or other stationary objects. In some instances, it has even been used by commercial trucks.
"The OFA recommends that the Highway Traffic Act and its regulations be amended to restrict the use of the SMV sign solely to unlicensed farm vehicles travelling at a speed of less than 40 kilometres per hour and that these amendments include a prohibition against misuse of the slow moving vehicle sign plus penalties sufficient to deter misuse."
As a long-time farmer in the township of Oro-Medonte in the county of Simcoe, I have no problem in joining with the Simcoe County Federation of Agriculture, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Farm Safety Association in supporting this commonsense approach resolving the issue surrounding the proper use of slow moving vehicle signs.
I want to thank the member once again for bringing this resolution forward. In the interest of preventing the serious accidents and the injuries that happen in rural Ontario, I will be supporting this bill. I want to say this morning that the slogan he has on his tie -- it looks like a slow moving sign, but I understand it is probably from the Safety Council of Ontario and worthy of every consideration that it represents.
Mr Ron Hansen (Lincoln): I'm happy to rise today in support of the private member's bill introduced by the member for Essex-Kent. It has been a long time coming and will certainly help make our roads the safest in the world.
David Wiley, who lives in my riding -- and I just want to make a comment. I imagine he'll be using one of these signs here. I read in the paper that they've just got an addition to their family, a young daughter who was born on June 13, so I imagine he'll need one for the buggy that he goes out walking his daughter with. So it will come into use.
David was on his way home during a blinding snowstorm in February 1991. He was travelling on Highway 6 south of Highway 401. Road conditions were terrible. Visibility was down to a couple of car lengths. Mr Wiley could see only one vehicle ahead of him. Suddenly the brake lights came on and the car went out of control. It slid sideways down the road for some distance. Luckily there was no collision and the driver was able to continue on her way.
When Mr Wiley later talked to the driver in a nearby doughnut shop, she said she had braked because she had seen a slow moving vehicle sign in front of her. She thought it was a farm vehicle. Like all other traffic, she had drifted to the side of the road because of poor visibility. The slow moving sign she had braked to avoid was not used on a vehicle at all; it had been used on a driveway marker at the edge of the highway. In Mr Wiley's opinion, if a car had been passing in the opposite direction, there could have been a serious collision, maybe even a fatality.
I'm sure there have been many other near accidents and accidents because of the misuse of slow moving vehicle signs. That's just not acceptable. I can't wait to call Mr Wiley this afternoon and tell him that the Legislature of Ontario has acted on his concerns and that there will be fewer close calls and accidents on the highways of Ontario -- more lives saved.
Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I'm also pleased to participate in this debate and congratulate the member for bringing forth Bill 176. I know this has been a concern to rural Ontario for many years, by Ontario farmers and others.
I was pleased to have had the opportunity yesterday to meet with some gentlemen who have been working very hard on this issue for many years. We had a good discussion on the issue of the abuse of signs and a number of others. I was pleased about that. I understand that a religious exemption will be in place and I do support that. I'm very pleased today to congratulate the member for Essex-Kent on 176. I'm sure it will have the support of all parties and do something good for Ontario. That's what legislators should do.
I also want to congratulate my colleague the member for Ottawa South for bringing forth this very important bill. This is probably one of the most productive Thursday mornings we've had in a long time. I thank both members for that.
Mr Villeneuve: I too rise with pleasure this morning to fully support the honourable member for Essex-Kent. As a former member of the Stormont Farm Safety Association -- and this is many years ago, about the time when the triangular slow moving signs first came out -- I was very supportive of it. But the misuse must be addressed, and Bill 176 does address it.
I also was a member of the Ontario Farm Machinery Board, and ORFEDA, the Ontario Retail Farm Equipment Dealers' Association, was very concerned about the slow moving sign and its use and misuse. We must make sure that when a slow moving sign appears before you as the driver of an automobile, you're going to come up on this slow moving vehicle very much more quickly than you would on anything else. That's the important part: Any time you see the triangular sign, you're going to come up on this vehicle much more quickly.
This government from time to time has had private members' bills accepted and then, for some reason, go to committee of the whole, which effectively kills the bill. I hope this bill will go to a committee that will indeed amend whatever it has to. I appreciated having the two gentlemen from the Farm Safety Association, Joe and George, brief us yesterday. Several areas do concern me, as one who from time to time would hitch a grain box on to the back of my four-wheel-drive farm pickup and deliver grain to the elevator or to town or whatever. That pickup may not get over 40 unless going downhill, but it certainly has the capacity of being over 40 kilometres per hour. I would not want to see a farmer charged because of that. I think that has to be addressed in a committee, not like Bill 91, where it's not going out to committee at all: "Let the farmers stew in their own brew. We don't want to hear their problems." This must be addressed. I certainly think it has to go to a committee. Bill 91 should have gone to a committee as well. You may have changed your mind overnight. I hope you were able to sleep on it.
This bill does need input. A farm grain box that's set on a flatbed of a farm truck with a slow moving vehicle sign -- I would certainly not want to see the farmer being charged because that farm pickup can indeed go more than 40 kilometres an hour or 25 miles an hour. These are areas that I think we must address.
This government brought in photo-radar. Interesting: Kojak with a Kodak. They'll take your picture and send you a bill. It's an amazing situation, yet they won't charge you demerit points because it doesn't matter: "Just send the cash."
At least this makes sense, and that's why it has to go to a committee that will study all the possibilities. Our farmers know what that triangle sign means. At times they overdo it, put it on vehicles it really shouldn't be on. Heaven forbid, many of our city folks don't know what this triangular sign means. To them it may mean anything from "Road Closed" to "Slow Down" to whatever. They don't know, and the knowledge of the slow moving vehicle sign must be made more public. If that sign, as the member for Grey-Owen Sound mentioned, is on a mailbox -- and we've certainly seen them. As a matter of fact, yesterday they showed us signs that were directed with Christmas lights, for goodness' sake, and that was never the intent of the slow moving vehicle signs. It was intended for exactly that, a slow moving vehicle, in most cases a farm vehicle.
We have to address the concerns of all possibilities. If a grain box is behind a farm pickup that can indeed and certainly at times will probably go more than 40 kilometres an hour, what's the situation? Can a farmer be charged in those particular instances?
Mr Villeneuve: It is that long. At times things do happen, but they happen so much slower than we would like to see occur. Many of the government people were new here -- they came in 1990 -- and I'm quite sure they were going to make things happen with the snap of a finger. Well, finally, after four years, the slow moving vehicle sign, which is not an earth-shattering phenomenon -- no, Randy Hope, the sign doesn't fit on you at all. You're way too fast for that.
Mr Mike Cooper (Kitchener-Wilmot): It's my pleasure to rise today in support of my colleague from Essex-Kent and give him my support on Bill 176. In response to the member for S-D-G & East Grenville, this is one of the city folk, and I'm really surprised that there aren't more city people responding to this.
The Farm Safety Association has done a wonderful job, and I'm sure all members of this Legislature do use its material during Farm Safety Week in the month of July to send out to their constituents and let them know about Farm Safety Week to make sure we have fewer accidents out on the farm.
This is a real education process, because I think the people in the rural communities understand what slow moving vehicle signs are and understand about farm safety, but it's the city people who have to be educated. This is why I'm especially proud to be rising on this, because it's people like us, who get out into the rural community -- I have a trailer at Grand Bend so I travel through Perth county, Oxford county, Huron county and Lambton county, and I'm not used to being out in the rural communities. Especially in the spring, when we first start going up there, we have a lot of farm implement traffic on the roads and we have to be aware that these signs mean they are slow moving, and if we do come up on them a little quickly we have to know that we have to slow down. Especially in poor driving conditions, if we're going up late in the evening, we don't want to be pulling over to the side expecting a slow moving vehicle and find a post there with the sign on it.
We're the ones who have to be educated on this, and I would hope that the Ministry of Transportation would pick up on this and put out an education program so the people in the larger urban areas will understand exactly what this sign is about.
In my area, as with the member for Grey-Owen Sound, in Waterloo region we have a large Mennonite community, and the Old Order Mennonites do have certain religious objections to some things like this. In our area we've had a lot of buggy accidents, and it's usually because the people from the city are going out for a cruise in the country or going to the cottage or whatever and they aren't used to coming up to this. In a lot of cases we have had a number of accidents and some fatalities.
One of the problems right now is that a lot of these Old Order Mennonites are now moving out of Waterloo region, and they are one of our drawing attractions. We have a large tourist population come into the region for things like the Mennonite relief sale or the farmers' markets that are dispersed throughout the counties, especially up in places like St Jacobs or north of Waterloo in Elmira. So we have to have some education for the people coming in that they're going to be coming in contact with these things. The economic vitality of our region, and to make the area safer so we don't drive some of our founding fathers out of the area, are really important.
One of the other things -- and I know I'm on this a lot -- is that when I took the motorcycle safety awareness course it was important that you be highly visible because motorcycles aren't very visible, and there the recommendation is that you wear a reflective vest. More and more now you see people with their bicycles with the little cabooses on them that they have their children in, and you see these triangle things on the back to try and slow you down. If we were doing some proper education, we'd have these people at least putting headlights on their bicycles for late-evening riding. But the important thing here is, they should have reflective vests on so they're more visible. This would make our streets much safer. A lot of people say that if you put the slow moving vehicle sign on it, everybody will understand it and slow down, but these cabooses do sit quite low and it's hard to be visible. I suggest to the parents, if you're riding the bicycle, to wear the reflective vests. This would be more visible in the urban areas.
Once again I would like to thank the member for bringing this forward. I fully support him and I would again hope that the Ministry of Transportation will do an education thing to make sure that city folk are more aware of what's going on out in the rural areas.
Mrs Ellen MacKinnon (Lambton): I would like to commend the member as well. It's a bit ironic that I found out about the slow moving vehicle problem almost the same way as my colleague did: I was riding home in a bus from a demonstration in Ottawa, and I found myself sitting beside Mrs Eberle, whom I had never met. We had a long discussion about the pros and cons of slow moving vehicle signs and the abuse thereof, and ever since, I've wanted to have something done about it. Thank goodness there's somebody around here who doesn't wear a slow moving vehicle sign on his back like I do, because he got in and he got it done. Congratulations. I know Lambton county will be only too happy to see this.
The day I was so appalled about this was when I saw a slow moving vehicle sign cut in half and used around a flower garden. I ask you why. They're not all that expensive, but I couldn't understand quite why, because where was the education there? The education was on how you don't use it.
Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): I want to compliment my colleague. Not only was he promoting this sign and its being properly used, but like myself, he knows how important these signs are going to be for the future of Chatham-Kent. As soon as the federal Liberals quit playing their games around the ethanol issue, a lot of these signs will be on the tractors in my community that will be bringing their corn to the ethanol facility and making sure that the product they're producing from corn will have a major spinoff to the farm community.
I know my colleague, when he brought this bill forward, was very concerned about making sure these signs were in the appropriate place, but he also made sure that people would understand that as soon as the Liberals quit playing their politics around the ethanol taxation exemption, these signs will be more frequently used in our community. Our farmers will be able to bring their product to a new marketplace, which will help the family farms generate prosperity and, hopefully, cash flow.
To the members opposite who support this initiative, I hope they will also get hold of their federal colleagues and make sure they support the ethanol so these signs can be put on the trailers of these tractors.
Mr Hayes: I want to thank all the members on both sides of this House. As the member from Brant mentioned earlier, we have two private members' bills in this House today, and I think it does show, and I hope the public is watching, that we can work together and solve a lot of the problems. With a little more cooperation from the other side, I'm sure we'll be able to do a lot more.
From the points everyone has made here, I know everyone has accepted the fact that this is certainly a safety issue. I can tell you, from the years I've spent working in health and safety in the auto industry, one of the biggest problems I had as a health and safety representative and a coordinator is that when you had signs that were put up, even signs where it said, "Flammables are here" or "Don't smoke in this area," these kind of things, but that hazard was no longer there, then the workers would get it in their minds, "There isn't much sense of paying any attention to this sign because the sign really doesn't mean anything." If it's used improperly, that's what will happen, and that's the message we're getting out to the public.
One of the other issues is the exemption -- one member brought it up -- for religious purposes and the Mennonites. I am pleased to hear from some of my colleagues and others that they are also seeing the need to have a marker. I understand some are even using this sign. I think it's very, very important that we continue to do that.
I certainly appreciate the support of the member for S-D-G and East Grenville, like all of the others. I just want him to know that we are pushing for this to go to resources development, and I know we'll have your support. Thank you, everybody.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): Mr Speaker, if I may, I indicated today during the course of debates that my bill will act to provide more food to our food banks, and I would like to see unanimous consent of the House that this be referred or ordered for third reading right now.
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Before this bill is left to committee of the whole, on behalf of the member and the bill, let's refer it to the social development committee so it can proceed beyond that point. Perhaps the member for Ottawa South would like to move that.
The Deputy Speaker: If a majority in the House is in favour that we send it to a committee besides the committee of the whole, we will send it to that committee. Is there a majority of those who are in favour that it be sent to a committee, not the committee of the whole?
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item number 66, standing in the name of Mr Hayes. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.
M. Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa-Est) : Cette semaine, un peu partout en Ontario, les francophones fêtent des siècles de détermination tranquille à survivre et à prospérer. Demain, ce sera la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, une fête qui occupe une place importante dans le coeur de tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes d'expression française.
Je veux d'abord souhaiter de très heureuses festivités à tous les Franco-Ontariens et à toutes les Franco-Ontariennes, quelle que soit leur origine, qui célèbrent cette semaine leur appartenance à cette grande et diverse communauté francophone de l'Ontario. C'est une occasion de mieux nous connaître entre nous et de faire partager la richesse des différentes cultures qui composent ce tout qu'est la francophonie ontarienne. C'est aussi une occasion de réfléchir sur notre avenir collectif, de réfléchir à ce qui nous unit et à ce que, tous ensemble, nous pouvons faire pour parvenir à un mieux-être collectif.
C'est une fête qui a des racines historiques très profondes. C'est un moment pour les Franco-Ontariens et Franco-Ontariennes de se souvenir de Jeanne Lajoie, du père Thériault, d'Alphonse Desjardins, du père Charlebois et de nombreux autres qui ont été pour nous des rassembleurs et qui nous montrent encore aujourd'hui que c'est l'organisation et la solidarité qui nous permettront un jour de parvenir au plein épanouissement.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I stand today on behalf of the concerned citizens of my riding. On Sunday, June 20, 1994, the Hanover and District Hospital was closed for 24 hours. During this period, patients requiring any medical attention had to be redirected to Walkerton and Durham hospitals. Luckily, there were no tragic accidents this time, but what will you do about next time?
The health care crisis in Ontario is escalating every day. The Hanover hospital has resorted to issuing press releases to keep the public informed of events as they occur. I have a press release from the hospital which states:
"The hospital board and the medical staff continue to work together attempting to attract physicians to our area. Until this situation is rectified there will continue to be shortages of services both in local doctors' offices and for hospital emergency department on-call services.
"The month of July is almost all covered with the assistance of out-of-town on-call physicians. Under the circumstances all persons wanting to use the emergency department are advised to phone the hospital first, to verify the availability of a physician.
In 1994 this is absolutely ludicrous. We are not talking about restaurant reservations here. You can't plan a medical emergency, Madam Minister. Negotiate, mediate or legislate. It's time to stop playing Russian roulette with people's lives.
Mr Daniel Waters (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I rise today to tell the House about one of the most exciting events ever to take place in my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay: the Marine Heritage Festival, Georgian Bay '94.
Communities around beautiful Georgian Bay, from Tobermory to Sault Ste Marie, will join in the festivities all summer long. From parades to carnivals, music festivals to craft shows, Georgian Bay '94 offers something for everyone.
In my opinion, the highlight of the Marine Heritage Festival is the week of July 29 to August 9, commencing with the tall ships parade in the harbour at Midland on July 29 at 5 pm. The ships will then retire to local ports for public viewing over the weekend.
I have chosen to mention a few of the premier events at this time, but I should also tell you that there will be hundreds upon hundreds of events happening throughout the festival's run from June 1 to September 30.
Of course, how could anyone visit the Georgian Bay side of my riding without taking the opportunity to visit many of the other great attractions in the area such as the Wye Marsh, Discovery Harbour, Ste Marie Among the Hurons, Martyrs Shrine, the Huronia Museum and the Thirty Thousand Islands cruises.
Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): October 2 will mark the fifth year of From All Walks of Life...Toronto's Fundraising Walk for AIDS. This walk raises funds community-based AIDS organization that deliver programs and services in the areas of care, education and research to help those living with HIV and AIDS in the greater Toronto area.
This year, organizers have $1 million as their goal to benefit 36 agencies that range from church- and ethnic-based programs to those targeted to youth, women and native peoples, making this event a benefit to those from all walks of life.
The theme for this year's walk is "One Step Closer," which emphasizes that every dollar raised by participants brings us closer to providing a better life for those living with HIV and AIDS, and ultimately a cure.
Just about half of all AIDS cases in Canada originate in Ontario, with most being in Metropolitan Toronto. Approximately one in seven people will be touched by AIDS during their lifetime, through a loved one, family member, friend or co-worker living with HIV and AIDS.
I am proud to once again be associated with the many volunteers who give their time and energy to help make From All Walks of Life the success that it is. I am today personally challenging members to become involved with similar events in their communities, like Ottawa, Sudbury and Windsor, for example, by highlighting the walk in householders or on local cable shows.
I would also like to congratulate the organizers of From All Walks of Life for their efforts. I can assure members and those in my community that I look forward to working in partnership with them so that together we can get one step closer.
Mr David Johnson (Don Mills): To highlight the contributions Hellenic Canadians have made to the multicultural mosaic of Canada, the Greek Community of Metro Toronto Inc is hosting Greek Festival, an annual event that celebrates the rich cultural traditions of Greece.
This event, now in its fourth year, runs from June 24 through July 3, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display to mark the closing ceremonies. Organizers expect as many as 40,000 visitors this year, encompassing some of the estimated 200,000 people of Hellenic descent living in Ontario today, most of whom live right here in Metropolitan Toronto.
Singer Elias Klonaridis from Greece brings his contemporary style of playing to the festivities. Other attractions include traditional dance performance by 14 different groups representing different regions of Greece, booths with goods for sale, a wheel-of-fortune casino with proceeds going to heritage language and community-based programs, and rides for the kids, all housed in a 100,000-square-foot warehouse facility in the riding of Don Mills.
Now medical research has determined that, used in moderation, wine actually helps us to live longer. Research has proven that wine decreases cholesterol levels, thus helping to prevent strokes and heart attacks. Now we can honestly say that a glass of wine a day helps keep the doctor away.
It's about time we set aside a week each year to celebrate this wonderful food we call wine. This afternoon I will table a resolution calling on the Legislature to designate the third week of each September as Ontario Wine Appreciation Week.
Here are just a few reasons why: Ontario's wine-making industry dates from early pioneer times; Ontario's vineyards form the most valuable fruit-processing crop for this province; Ontario-grown grapes and wines are earning international awards, thus enhancing regard for Ontario and Canada; grape growing is part of Ontario's valuable network of family farms; vineyards and wineries generate $100 million for the provincial treasury every year; Ontario wine regions have become tourist destinations, thus creating employment; Ontario vineyards support 10,000 full-time and seasonal jobs; wine is deeply established within the cultural, religious and family traditions of Ontario and Canada.
I'm sure there are a thousand more reasons why Ontario should have its own Wine Appreciation Week, but the best reason of all is that it will recognize our grape growers and vintners for a job well done.
Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I have introduced private members' bills in the past in the belief that they provide a forum in which important issues may be publicly debated. In that spirit, I propose, through Bill 44, a health card with photo.
The Ministry of Health saw fit to go it alone on this issue, thus avoiding consultations with the public at large. I have been insisting that the ministry retrieve Bill 44 from the committee of the whole precisely in order that all Ontarians may participate in a debate which closely involves them.
I would like to add the following item to the discussion by proposing a universal identification card with photo, fingerprint and other forms of physical identification. Such a card could replace all existing cards and any others planned for the future.
I am aware that many persons are vigorously opposed to such a measure for many reasons, including that of invasion of privacy. These concerns could be addressed through proper debate. All I suggest is that we at the very least debate the issue and hear the different views instead of closing the door on this option.
Mr Cameron Jackson (Burlington South): Yesterday the Toronto East General Hospital made the disturbing announcement that it will require its elderly chronic care patients who are on a waiting list for nursing home beds to pay up to $447 a day for their hospital beds. This is no surprise. During public hearings on Bill 101, an act respecting long term care reform, I warned that the bill would limit access and reduce affordability.
The facts are now clear about another broken NDP promise to seniors. The NDP removed chronic care as a guaranteed access service from the OHIP formulary. As a result, the NDP now controls who is eligible for a chronic care bed. The NDP allowed long-term care facilities to increase the number of expensive semi-private and private beds up to 60% of a total facility, and the NDP imposed increased user fees on frail residents of $1,400 per month for semi-private and $1,700 per month for private beds.
We have a catch-22. Thousands of seniors on fixed incomes are now forced to remain in a hospital bed while on even longer waiting lists for affordable long-term care. As Gail Paech, the president and CEO of the Toronto East General Hospital, said, "The ministry's response has been silence."
The government's silence gives consent to the ongoing NDP policy that wherever seniors need care, they will pay more fees and sacrifice more dignity to receive essential chronic care services in Ontario they deserve and they need.
Mr Mike Cooper (Kitchener-Wilmot): I rise today to invite members of this Legislature to join me in recognition of the month of June as Ontario Turkey Month. The Ontario Turkey Producers' Marketing Board has selected June as the month to promote Ontario turkey as a year-round feast.
The media launch for Ontario Turkey Month was held at Pioneer Sportsworld in my riding of Kitchener-Wilmot. One attraction was a 65-foot turkey submarine sandwich which was displayed, sliced and sold to raise money for the Kitchener-Waterloo branch of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
The Ontario Turkey Producers' Marketing Board represents turkey farmers in this province, and these farmers produce more than 50 million kilograms of turkey annually. This accounts for more than 40% of the total turkey production in Canada. These producers support a progressive breeding and hatchery industry as well as supporting processing plants across Ontario. In fact, farm cash receipts for Ontario turkeys average some $90 million a year to our economy.
I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize Len Weeden, who retired in January as Hybrid Turkey's director of technical services. Len has a turkey farm in Petersburg and has an extensive collection of turkey figurines and other turkey collectibles from around the world. Len has dedicated his whole life to working with turkeys and is recognized by the industry as one of the pioneers. I would like to thank Len for still talking turkey after 30 years.
The Ontario Turkey Producers' Marketing Board is to be commended for its promotional efforts to get more people turned on to turkey year-round. I encourage everyone to support this industry by enjoying the quality and taste of Ontario turkey.
"As you can see, there is much work to be done to balance the rights of the victim with the rights of the accused within the Canadian criminal justice system. At the present, it appears that although the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the victim has the burden of proof of the offence placed upon her/him.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): I invite all members to show their appreciation for the excellent service which has been provided over the past few weeks to the members and to the chamber by our pages. As this is their last day of service, please show your appreciation.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): Mr Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to say a few words about an almost 13 1/2-year veteran of this Legislature. I believe, given the anticipated events of the Legislature today, this probably, in all likelihood, according to the best sense that I have, will be his last formal day in the Legislature: the member for Markham. If I have that unanimous consent, I'd like to proceed.
My very good friend -- a friend, I believe, certainly of our caucus, of our party, but I believe of this Legislature, of Markham, of Ontario -- has made a decision that he could best serve those primary people he volunteered to serve, the people of Markham, in the capacity of mayor of that great city, and has made that decision after a great deal of thought and after a great deal of discussion with me, with his key supporters who have supported him in his political career, and of course with his family.
However, I acknowledge that the people of Markham will gain. Should he be successful, and let me share my non-partisanship in saying that I think the people of Markham would make a huge mistake if he's not successful, because our loss as a party and a caucus and Ontario's loss in losing a legislator will be the gain of the people of Markham, of the constituents and those people he seeks to represent on a more full-time basis.
The member for Markham has also assured me that while his primary focus and interests will shift, this also will allow him to spend more time a little closer to home and family. I'm sorry the Minister of Transportation is not in the Legislature. The member for Markham would want said, and he won't say it today, about Progressive Conservative or Liberal or New Democratic members of Transportation, that he will not miss the drive twice a day, sometimes four a day, on the Don Valley Parkway. I assure you that he'll miss us as friends, that he'll miss his time here, that he'll miss all of us as colleagues in a non-partisan way, but he will not miss that, and I know that should there ever be a choice between 407 advancement or a project in Markham versus making sure that the Don Valley is widened, aside from the partisanship of the mayor of Markham, we'll have an ally to make sure that the Don Valley and access in and out of Toronto is improved as well.
I was first elected with Don at the same time, in 1981. The class of 1981, obviously, we think is a very important class. We're biased, those of us on all sides of the Legislature, but I can remember very well that in our party there were 22 of us in our caucus. I can remember that when we came into this Legislature, we were lined up across that back row. We felt we were the 22 who gave a majority government to Premier Davis of that day. Of course I'm sure that the other 50-odd who were elected felt that too, but we as the newly elected members felt that this class of 1981, the 22 of us, were the ones who brought majority government to the Progressive Conservatives. Some will argue that wasn't good. I think, on reflection, most would argue it was, in conjunction with a 42-year record, probably the best period of Ontario's history.
However, I don't want to be partisan today. I want to say that us rookies, and every one of us in this Legislature remembers what it was like when you were first elected: "What's the office like? What's this job like? Where are the washrooms?"
Mr Harris: "Is there any money?" the member for Bruce says. We all asked ourselves those questions. Those of us who were newly elected in this majority government wondered, "Is there a chance to be in cabinet?" positions of responsibility, and so we were all interviewed, and all of us will remember the comments that got printed, which taught us all a lesson as well for our political careers, from the member for Markham when they said: "There are 22 brand-new members, and there's all this experience. Do you think you'll be in cabinet?" The member for Markham said, "I'm not your ordinary member." That was the quote that ended up in the paper of that day.
The media earlier today asked me to comment on two things I might have remembered Don for. On behalf of his constituents, I think the unfairness of the Vaughan-Markham area having to take Toronto's garbage for yet another 20-year period, the fight that the member for Markham led both as our Environment critic and as a member from that region, and joined by other members, I might add, of the Legislature and other parties, perhaps this crusade and this fight -- there have been many others but that one is something that he will be remembered for long after his election as mayor.
Clearly the evidence is in now that time is finally on the side of the people of Vaughan and of Markham and that there will not be a second megadump for another 20- or 30-year period there, taking garbage that's not their own. He'll certainly, on a local level, of all the issues he has fought -- the 407, transportation, jobs and other issues -- be remembered for that.
I think province-wide he'll be remembered as our critic for human rights. Ministers and those responsible and specific legislation often dominate the agenda, but the member for Markham brought a very charitable, in his case, a Christian viewpoint to the process. For those who are non-Christians in our society, the values and principles he fought for, of family, of fairness, of decency, were values that they shared as well in whatever religious beliefs they had.
Don, in legislation that many of us might have thought had nothing to do with human rights, often brought a fairness and a viewpoint, not a knee-jerk reaction, not the first person who spoke up, not necessarily what somebody determined was politically correct, but what he in his heart felt was fair and right and equitable on behalf of the people of this province. I believe he'll be remembered for that. I will remember him for that. Our caucus will remember him for that.
Some of us will remember him in one of his roles. It had nothing to do with representing his constituents or the people of Ontario, both of which we'll miss him for. In addition to all these things, as critic, as cabinet minister, as advocate on behalf of his constituents, he was also a Deputy Speaker of the chamber for a period of time in this Legislature.
I think that if you check the record, Mr Speaker, you'll find that the member for Markham holds the record, that for the period of time he was in the chair, he threw more members out of the Legislature than any other Speaker, and deservedly so. Some of you might find that ironic, as you hear the member for Markham very loudly and vocally expressing his viewpoints on behalf of an issue he feels strongly about, or a value or a principle or his constituents, but when I think throughout the 13 1/2-year period, as a role, filling in for you, Mr Speaker, as Deputy Speaker, he tolerated no nonsense. When we deserved to be thrown out, we were thrown out. I think the chamber was better for that too.
On behalf of my wife, Janet, and myself, to Don and his family, on behalf of my caucus, I'm saying goodbye from one role, one job, to a friend, to a colleague, to somebody who has been of great assistance to me personally, particularly in difficult times. The counsel he has given in tough decisions has been invaluable to me. On behalf of all our caucus and our colleagues and certainly I believe on behalf of members of this Legislature -- for those who've maybe only been here four years, multiply it by three and a half or so and think about 13 1/2 years of service in varying roles and responsibilities and I think you will appreciate and acknowledge a true record above and beyond the call of duty.
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Government House Leader): I rise to join the leader of the third party in making some comments on what is likely to be the member for Markham's last day in the House, although the leader of the third party seemed to raise that issue with some question, when he well knows that's probably more in his control than ours in terms of this being the last day.
In any event, the member for Markham has been here since 1981. He spent his first term in this House during my second term. The leader of the third party made comment about being here for that last term of the 42-year Conservative dynasty and said something about that being one of the best periods in the province's history. Being a member who served for the last eight years of that 42-year dynasty, I'm not sure I would agree about it being the best part of Ontario's history.
In any event, it was a period when the member for Markham came to join us here in this Legislature, and very early into his time with us here, in fact after he'd been here for about a year, we found ourselves in London, England, with the old procedural affairs committee.
Hon Mr Charlton: For some time. Mr Speaker, we were at Westminster as guests of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, an organization you're familiar with, and during that trip the member for Markham, his wife Aline and I became friends. I must admit that I always liked Aline much better than Don. But all joking aside, we did become friends.
Even though we fundamentally disagree on a whole range of political issues and sometimes moral issues and those kinds of things, I've always found Don to be a person who's not difficult to be a friend to. He's also a member who, no matter what role he plays here in the Legislature, takes the role that he's been given seriously. Unlike some of my own colleagues and some of his own colleagues who sometimes get up in this Legislature and speak simply for the sake of speaking and consuming time --
Hon Mr Charlton: -- the member for Markham is a very serious politician who researches his issues, who spends a lot of time making particular points and uses documents to back those points. Although, as I've said, we don't always agree, I find his approach to those issues at least refreshing from the perspective of the work that he puts into his life here, and that says something about what I think is a reasonably good service that Don has delivered for the people of this province.
I don't wish him quite as well in his next career as the leader of the third party would, but he has served the people of Markham well. There are a lot of us here in the Legislature who will miss his presence. His role here has provided a focus that in many respects would have been totally missing without Don, and that says something about a piece of Ontario's history that otherwise might not have been so clearly defined.
Even if I don't wish him as well in the rest of his political life as others would, I certainly wish him very well in the rest of his personal life and wish his family well and hope that he doesn't drive them crazy by being closer to home than he's been for the last 13 years.
Mr Sorbara: On behalf of my party and my leader, I am charged with doing something I normally would find very difficult, and that's to say something nice about a Tory. Parenthetically, I might say that, given my own circumstances, as Cousens goes out the door, I feel like I want to say: "Just a second, Don. Would you hold that door for a second?" But I'm going to be back here in September or October.
I just want to use the member for Markham as an example to establish a point that I have unsuccessfully made to my own constituents for many years, and that is that this job, although it appears perhaps to the public at large to be a rather comfortable one, is filled with the worst kind of stresses, which have their effect both emotionally and physically. When Cousens was first elected to Parliament 13 1/2 years ago, he had a full head of hair. I met him 12 years ago and most of it was gone already.
Don is my political neighbour, the member for Markham. Although we do not share political philosophies, we share the southern part of York region as the area that we represent in this great Parliament, and I want to begin by saying that he has been, for me, a great political neighbour.
As others have said, Don was first elected in the election of, I guess it was, March 19, 1981, and joined a crew that was known as the scourge of '81, or March 19th? That was a reminder to members of the opposition as a minority government transformed itself to a majority government, and I think my friend Mr Charlton is right, and Mr Harris was right, that that was the group that gave the Tories that majority, which lasted for only four years, thankfully. Don was able to serve, I guess in Frank Miller's cabinet, as minister of corrections. Then there was an election and the political world changed a little bit.
There is, by the way, no truth to the rumour that Don started considering this retirement when the whole business of apartments for members became a public issue in this Legislature and around. He had, I know, been talking for quite a long time about taking a different political course, and now he's determined to do that and I too want to wish him the very best of luck.
The great thing about the member for Markham as a political neighbour is that, notwithstanding that we are members of different political parties, he always ensured that when there were issues that were common to York region and the area that we represented, he was the one always to suggest to me that it would be much better to work together to resolve a problem; to find a way, for example, to get the 407 built.
I remember particularly when we had such a crisis in school funding. Mr Cousens, Don, the member for Markham, came to me -- this was in the first few years I was elected; I think actually it was 1986; I had just been elected for a year -- and he said to me, "Greg, we can work together on this, bringing members of the community who are concerned about school funding together in a series of public meetings that will make the point very well that some things have to change." We did that, and he took the lead, of course -- he was the senior member -- and it worked out rather well.
Similarly on Highway 407: We worked together, put all partisanship aside and were able, I think, to help the government in its decision in 1987 to actually get going with Highway 407 and then in 1990 to accelerate it in the way the Minister of Transportation has done and for which I have on several occasions congratulated him.
I think as well about the business of stopping this crazy notion that we're going to have another megadump in Vaughan. Don and I worked together on that very closely, and that's another area where I'm sure, notwithstanding his retirement, we are going to be successful.
Also in all those issues relating to the quality of growth in our community, I know that there has been no stronger voice on behalf of the community in York region generally in support of issues that didn't have any partisan quality to them at all; were just matters that were for the benefit of York region.
Indeed, I guess it was three weeks ago that we were all meeting with the chair of York region, discussing putting the final provisions of the official plan of York region together and presenting it to the government. Once again, it was the member for Markham who suggested that all of the York region MPPs jointly sign a letter encouraging the Minister of Municipal Affairs to expedite the final consideration of that plan, and I'm sure that's going to be done. I signed the letter today and I know that Don is going to do that. In that small way, we work together.
It's been a great deal of fun, sometimes real fun, working with the retiring member for Markham. There is no doubt that he has tremendous political instincts. I recall in the election of 1987 we met and had a chat in the midst of the election and I saw, for I guess the first time, real terror on Don Cousens's face when he said, "I'm in real trouble and I'm going to have to fight with everything I've got to win this election," and he did. I remember in the election of 1990 we got together and had a little conversation and he suggested to me that things were turning very, very badly against our governing party, the Liberals, and were not so much better for the Progressive Conservatives and that the unthinkable was going to happen and there was going to be a New Democratic Party government in Ontario. That nightmare continues -- not for much longer, I say to you, sir -- but Don Cousens's political instincts saw that very early on.
I want to wish him good luck in all of his future endeavours. I know that he's going to have a strong campaign in the upcoming contest for the mayoralty of the town of Markham. I, like my friend Mr Charlton, don't particularly want to say "such good luck," but the best of luck and good wishes for wherever those great political instincts take you, not only this year but for many years to come. We all of us in this party wish you Godspeed and best wishes for the future.
Hon Bob Rae (Premier): I did want to say to the honourable member that if it would be helpful in his campaign, I'd be glad to offer my full support to him. I just wanted to say to the honourable member that he has been a tremendous member of the House. He's offered his good advice to many different governments. I've appreciated his forthright approach, his always straightforward way of dealing -- both publicly and privately, I might add. I wish him well in his future endeavours and I know that all members will miss his participation in this place.
It's really a moment to treasure while you're alive when you can have the obituary reviewed and then you can read it. That's happened for other people and then they change their life because of what they read -- they didn't like what they read -- but I like what I've just heard and it means so much that the Premier would participate in this dialogue today. The mutual respect that we've had for each other goes back a long way.
I am especially pleased that our leader, who began his Queen's Park tenure the same day, along with five others of us still from that class of 1982 -- just an awful lot of things have happened in 13 years and some months. No, I did not have a full head of hair then. What has happened, though, is that it's a little greyer and what's underneath it is a little wiser.
I thank the government House leader. I never told the people in Markham that we went to Britain. I kept those trips secret, so people didn't realize that we actually knew how to enjoy good times. But we have, in committee and in so many things where we've been able to share and work with each other, and public accounts has many memories, as all of us can go back and know that we did make a difference.
The member for York Centre has the name of the riding I was elected in in 1981, and he has done a fairly good job representing the people since I passed it over to him. But more than anything, he has never ceased to be a friend of everybody, and together the York region members, without exception, have always tried to do the right thing for our communities. So I say thanks to all the colleagues that I have in the House from all parties. From our activities in the House, in committee and in social things otherwise, it has been a great experience.
To the people of Markham and York Centre, I say thanks for their support, care, affection and trust. To those special supporters and campaign friends who are with me here in the House, Audrey Pickard, Andy Grant, Randy Barber, Rob Anderson, Avrom Brown and Lea Hoover, who have helped me through these 13 years, I say thank you. Thanks to a wonderful staff, still with me from the day I started, Barb Nanninga, Mary Carter, Gloria Martin, Karen Christopher, Annette Borger and Dawn McInnis, just great people, and you know, you don't do this alone; you do it with the people around you.
To the people of the Legislature, who make day-to-day life possible: the clerks in the House -- we seldom mention them, but I worked with them for three or four years as Deputy Speaker -- the library staff, legislative research, caucus research and support, maintenance, security, parking, mail room. There are so many people that make this place fun to work in, and they've been exciting friends for me. You have a cold and someone comes along, "I've got some medicine for you." It doesn't matter what it is, they care, and care for us, and we care for each other.
The decision to leave provincial politics has not been easy, but the question I had to answer is, "Can I be of better service to the people of Markham as their MPP in the provincial Legislature or as mayor of the town of Markham?"
The idea was put to me by several groups when Tony Roman, Markham's mayor, passed away one and a half years ago. It was a strong persuasion, but I felt I had an obligation to fulfil my responsibilities at Queen's Park. I've done that now for four terms.
Being a strong believer that at some point every organization can benefit from fresh blood, the time seems appropriate for someone new to bring his or her own strong approach to representing Markham at the provincial level. I believe the town is truly at a crossroads in terms of looming growth and the continuing pressure on taxes.
The more I thought about it and discussed it with hundreds of people and groups around town, the more it became clear to me that as mayor I could focus much more directly on Markham issues and concerns, compared to the much broader focus an MPP has to have at Queen's Park. That's what appeals to me most: to put Markham first. That's where my heart is. That's where my family is. That's where I can bring my experience from here and from business to address the issues and realities facing that community.
I believe that elected people can set the tone and set the agenda. These are the main reasons I have decided to switch my focus and energy and experience upon Markham itself and give voters a chance to decide for themselves in November.
I have three little announcements to make today. The first is that by making my resignation effective on October 1, the Legislative Assembly Act makes it clear that the Premier does not have to call an election when a "vacancy occurs in the last year of the legal life of the assembly." This will save the riding of Markham and the provincial treasury the cost and significant effort of a by-election.
My second little announcement is that under the assembly Guide to Members' Allowances, MPPs are eligible to a severance allowance when they vacate their seat. I would be able to collect over $42,000 on October 1 from this fund.
However, the intention of this allowance is to assist members in making a transition to a new opportunity from provincial politics. Inasmuch as I hope to be gainfully employed as mayor of Markham within a few months, and in the spirit of these guidelines, I will take only a monthly household allowance from the severance fund to support my family in the interim. The remaining amount of over $30,000 will be donated to a registered charity. I want to live by the spirit of the guidelines and feel this is the honourable thing to do.
Finally, though you've been generous to me today, please know that I'm not gone yet. My service to Markham and the province will continue until October 1 and I intend to be fighting for what I believe in as vigorously as ever. Who knows? You might even see me very often after December 1, in a new capacity. Thank you very, very much.
Mr Elston: My best to Don and to his family as he retires. Any other candidates should take advantage of the warm feelings on a day like today. If you're thinking of announcing your retirements, it seems like a good day.
Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): I'm reading from a document dated June 23, 1994, from Sharron Pretty, and my question is to the Minister of Housing. It indicates here under several paragraphs a series of events in which Ms Pretty had tried to set up a meeting with Ms Gigantes. It says here that on May 19, when Ms Pretty called someone by the name of Sue Lott in Ms Gigantes's office, she was told Ms Gigantes would not be able to talk to her because she "was involved in legal action."
But later there was a meeting set up and the minister attended that meeting to talk about several items. I want to ask the minister, why would she not, because of the legal action, speak to Ms Pretty in May, but found it necessary to call the meeting and speak to her in June?
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): I'm not aware of the exact phrases that might have been used in that conversation with the member of my staff in Ottawa. I'm certain that at that stage I did not know what the legal context was. In fact, I still am not sure how many actions or what actions may be involved around the whole non-profit situation in that particular instance.
Mr Elston: Well, it's interesting, because she sent a letter back to Ms Pretty dated April 25, 1994, answering a letter some six months after the request had been made. Let me refresh the memory of the member.
She met on June 10 with another person from the Van Lang Centre and discovered that her ministry and her staff and other people were being implicated by the activities that were being discovered around the criminal charges. It was after that meeting, unbeknownst to anybody else, that the minister and her officials decided to call the meeting at the centre.
I want the Minister of Housing to indicate that the reason she called the meeting was to try and take herself, her staff and her ministry off the hook for a very badly managed and very unhappy set of circumstances at this centre for which they felt complicity. Will she do that now?
Hon Ms Gigantes: No such thing. Absolutely not. I had been approached by various members of the board, by people who had been previously employed at the non-profit organization, for meetings and when I decided finally that it was appropriate to have a meeting and see if it were possible to sort out the situation, given the changes and the work that had gone on with the Ministry of Housing at the non-profit corporation, then I met with a former project manager one week and the following week I met with board members.
If I could say one thing about the involvement of the Ministry of Housing, it has been in an attempt to provide whatever support, guidance counselling and insistence on program guidelines that we felt would be helpful in that situation, and the same kind of approach is used in other instances where non-profit groups or co-ops run into problems that involve stresses among members of the board.
Mr Elston: This is an extremely interesting piece of work that this member is trying to give to us today. She sent a letter in April replying to a letter that was about six months old. She says she doesn't really know what the circumstances were. She had a meeting on June 10, but wasn't really sure about the whole series of problems that were around that, and then called a meeting one week later.
You know something? Between the time that you answered the letter in April, when you didn't know, and June 10, when you still didn't know all about the legal proceedings, you gave an interview to one James Wallace of the Ottawa Citizen in which you said -- sorry, this is the quote: "...she knew about the allegations but wouldn't comment on them because of the court case."
Tell me, how could you have refused in May to have had a meeting with these people on the basis, as your assistant said, that it was before the courts, that you couldn't comment to Mr Wallace on June 1 because you knew about the allegations but it was before the courts, and yet you could have a meeting on June 17 around the entire circumstances that dealt with the court action and actually suggest to Ms Pretty, and in fact she says in this document which she has produced that she felt that you were effectively and outwardly forcing her or at least putting pressure on her to withdraw the charges? How can you ever hope for anybody to believe your tale when you were giving all of these interviews and statements that said, "I can't comment because of the legal action," but then you went and did it anyway? How can we expect to believe you? Why did you do it?
Hon Ms Gigantes: The member does not understand. There is more than one action involved here. I have never been willing to talk about the court case, that court case or other cases that may be before the court, and I do not know, he has to take my word for this --
I want to go back for just a moment to the mamber's lengthy introduction. The meeting was held after the Ministry of Housing had done a lot of work to try and sort out the situation at the non-profit group, including several months of an undertaking of a compliance review and follow-up work with the board to make sure that the recommendations contained in the compliance review were being met. Does he understand that now? There was not a gap where nothing happened. The ministry was at work.
When that compliance review was complete and the ministry had attempted to work through the situation with all the board members in meetings starting on December 30, 1993, then it came to the point where the ministry said, "These people are having real difficulty dealing with each other," and when the requests were outstanding to me, I said: "Perhaps this is the time when we can effect some mediation. It may be possible to help people come together and to work together at this non-profit."
Hon Ms Gigantes: We left that meeting with the feeling that that was possible. The results subsequent certainly indicate that the degree of difficulty that people were encountering at the non-profit meant this was not the case.
Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I have a question of the Minister of Housing. The tragic events of last week on Trethewey Drive in my riding have shocked and paralysed our community with fear. There have been far too many acts of violence related to drug trafficking taking place at MTHA buildings right across Metro Toronto. Time and again we have heard from residents, the police and members of the surrounding community that MTHA buildings are like magnets that attract drug dealing and the violent crime that goes with it.
A tenant who lives on Trethewey Drive had this to say: "It's no place to live any more. There are junkies and pushers all over the place." Is it reasonable for us to expect people to continue to live in MTHA buildings fearing for their lives every single day? Do we have to see Toronto become like another American inner city before we take action? I say no.
I say that if you want to follow some course of action, in my leader's papers on safe communities she calls for the Ontario government, your government, to show leadership by requiring the Ontario Housing Corp to carry out safety audits to reduce opportunities for crime.
Will you commit today to carrying out safety audits in MTHA over the summer in cooperation with the tenants so that we can develop an action plan for dealing with the deteriorating level of safety in MTHA apartments?
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): I'm surprised that the honourable member, being his party's critic on Housing issues, is not aware that in fact there are safety audits which are being carried out at MTHA properties.
If he's asking me whether I think the communities in MTHA developments are feeling happy and feeling secure and feeling as if the operations of MTHA are as good as they can be, I will say no, I don't think that's the case. That is why we have taken a rather extraordinary step and called in assistance from Peat Marwick Thorne to do an examination of the operations of the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority. While I don't believe this is going to be a panacea, I think it certainly will have practical effects on the quality of life for people who live in MTHA communities.
Mr Cordiano: Minister, you're an absolute joke. Safety audits are not audits conducted like value-formoney audits. We're talking about real criminal activity. We have to drive out criminals from these communities, and we start with safety audits to talk about safety, not to talk about value for money; this is entirely a different matter.
For years, people who live in MTHA buildings have been expressing their frustration and rage that their neighbourhoods have been literally taken over. Why would you deny them an opportunity for taking back their neighbourhoods? Give them this chance to regain a sense of safety in the community for themselves and for their children. If you're not going to do safety audits, will you establish a joint committee made up of residents and members of this House to develop an action plan to start turning these neighbourhoods around?
Hon Ms Gigantes: Again, I'm surprised at the member. He is approaching this in such a simple-minded way that he doesn't understand I was talking about two kinds of audits. I am talking about an operational audit with MTHA that's being conducted by Peat Marwick Thorne. I'm also talking about the fact that I'm surprised that member is not aware that within MTHA communities at the moment, safety audits are being conducted. Can I be more clear than that?
We believe, I believe, this government believes, that the communities living in MTHA properties deserve support, deserve assistance and deserve an organization that works for them. The member identified the fact that there have been problems with Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority communities for many years. We are determined to overhaul the system that has produced that.
Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): When this minister was in opposition, if the MTHA was a private sector landlord, we'd have to scrape her off the ceiling on the kind of behaviour MTHA shows as a landlord towards its tenants.
I represent an area that includes Regent Park. Last week alone, there was a knife wounding, one murder by gunshot, three wounded in a retaliatory drive-by shooting; 30 shells littered the sidewalk in front of the community centre, where children were playing.
The people in this community are fearful that they're going to be facing a long, hot summer of drug dealing, violence and fear. In this climate, community residents are too afraid to cooperate with the police, too afraid to help identify criminals, too afraid to even report crimes. The community needs a rest from crime.
The Regent Park Community Health Centre says that because of the conditions in the park, it's become a serious health issue. MTHA officials in the community say they don't know what to do. An undercover officer says, "The situation is out of control."
Mr Murphy: We need action on eviction rules, trespass enforcement, taxis to get out of there. We need more security, lighting, maintenance. I want to encourage this minister and the Premier to come and talk to the residents and come and tell the people in Regent Park what she's going to do for them today and tomorrow to get rid of the fear and the violence.
Hon Ms Gigantes: I have been to Regent Park. The difficulties that exist for many MTHA communities, difficulties of violence, of drugs, of users, of drug traffickers, many of whom come from outside those communities invading those communities, are real, serious problems. If the member thinks he as a member or I as a minister --
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is also for the Minister of Housing. We've learned today that Juan Andres, the consultant who benefited from a $135,000 land flip in connection with the development of Cypriot Homes in Kitchener, has been charged with fraud, theft and the use of forged documents. Indeed, Mr Andres already has a criminal record for possession of the proceeds of crime.
Yesterday my colleague the member for Parry Sound revealed that Mr Andres not only benefited from the development of Cypriot Homes; he also received consulting fees from Hellenic Place in Kitchener and Slavonia Village in Petersburg. Your answer yesterday, Madam Minister, was just to wipe it off.
We know now, through the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, that this same consultant has been involved with a project in Ottawa and in Kingston. Given that Mr Andres has a criminal record and faces new criminal charges, will your ministry audit the other Kitchener area projects with which he has been involved and report your findings to this Legislature?
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): First of all, I reject the notion that has been presented by the member for Mississauga South that I attempted to wipe anything off. There are serious matters involved in the issues that are being raised here.
Mr Andres has no further connection, to the knowledge of the Ministry of Housing, with any non-profit or co-op development in the province of Ontario that is administered through the Ministry of Housing.
Mrs Marland: We reject your incompetence. That's what we reject, the fact that you don't think you have to answer to the people of this province about the mismanagement and misuse of funds and the fact that we have the consultants who move through this province, as an example the one I've just given you.
It's bad enough that Mr Andres profited from at least three projects in Kitchener. His company is also implicated in gross mismanagement of a non-profit development in Kingston. The Housing minister's audit of Porto Village Non-Profit Housing in Kingston finds that Andres's company Elvira was both property manager and development consultant for the Porto Village project.
The audit says: "Andres delegated key responsibilities such as tenant selection and the appointment of an external audit to Elvira. Porto's board did not meet regularly, nor were there annual elections of board members. There are also questionable expenses, including car rentals for trips."
The Kingston audit was completed in 1992. The period examined for the audit was from 1986 to 1992. Problems involving Mr Andres go back at least eight years. Minister, why has it taken so long for corrective action? Where has your ministry been the last eight years while this man continues to move to other projects and other towns?
This government has tightened up the non-profit housing program of this province. The member for Mississauga South doesn't want to hear that, she doesn't want to believe that, but it is nevertheless a fact.
The reason she doesn't want to hear it is that she and her party don't believe there should be social housing in Ontario. They are wrong. We need social housing in Ontario and we need social housing that is operated by community-based groups.
If she's going to take a few very bad cases and try and tar a whole program that delivers decent, affordable housing to people who need housing assistance in this province, I think she should think again.
Mrs Marland: It's important for this minister to know what our party wants. Our party wants accountability in government. We want you to be responsible for what happens to public funds. All you can do is stand up day after day and parrot your same speech about how great your non-profit housing program is, while every day we hear a new scandal, every day something worse happens.
Non-profit housing in Ontario has become a sinkhole of corruption, mismanagement and the misuse of public funds. This spring we have raised one troubled non-profit project after another. There's Houselink in Toronto, Sunshine Home in Peterborough, the Van Lang Centre in Ottawa, McClure Community Homes in Hamilton, Cypriot Homes in Kitchener, Porto Village in Kingston, and there are more to come.
Mrs Marland: My question is this: Today we not only ask for that review, we demand it. Otherwise, we will never get to the bottom of this mess. Minister, will you announce today a judicial review of the provincial non-profit housing program?
Hon Ms Gigantes: It's quite remarkable how members of that party believe that they are actually producing news when they quote themselves about scandals. Who's called it a scandal? You've called it a scandal. There is nothing scandalous about the non-profit housing program of this province. It is a good program, delivering good housing to people who desperately need it. Now, they don't like it, but that's a different matter.
Hon Ms Gigantes: The public accounts committee has the non-profit program before it. It may frustrate the member for Mississauga South that the public accounts committee has not proven -- in fact, au contraire, it shows the way our program is changing. What is going before public accounts is knowledge that she might like to inform herself about: strict appraisal guidelines, requirements for title searches, guidelines for hiring development consultants, conflict-of-interest guidelines -- has she heard of them? -- the stringent site selection requirements that are all incorporated in our current non-profit housing program. That's the fact.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): My question is to the Premier. Premier, on May 3, we launched the Common Sense Revolution. We tabled our detailed plan to reduce the deficit and balance the Ontario budget in four years.
Yesterday the Canadian Chamber of Commerce revealed that 65% of entrepreneurs -- those are the ones who provide and create all the private sector jobs -- believe that debt and deficit reduction is the top barrier to building a sustainable business and to hiring more people. They also believe it's the number one issue driving interest rates higher in this country.
Premier, on this last day of the spring session, where you promised to create jobs in Ontario, could you tell the entrepreneurs who really create jobs what your detailed plan is to reduce the debt, to balance Ontario's budget and to begin paying down some of the $80 billion of that horrendous debt that we're now carrying?
Hon Bob Rae (Premier): I'm delighted that the member has asked the question. I think the question of the debt in the country as a whole, as well as in Ontario, is an issue we all have to address. We're addressing it. We're addressing it in a way in which we can say with some confidence that in the last two years we've reduced the deficit by 30%.
We believe that the budget can in fact be balanced in four years, that it will take a more realistic approach to taxes than the honourable member is prepared to take. It will take a much tougher approach with respect to spending than any Tory government ever took from the time it came into office. We've demonstrated that.
I would say to the honourable member that living within our means, keeping a very tight rein on expenditures and expenditure control is the key to deficit reduction, not the kind of fad diet and absolute nonsense numbers and nonsense approach which are produced by the leader of the third party.
Hon Mr Rae: -- I talk to people in business and they look at the kind of rhetoric and they look at the kind of exaggerated approach that's being taken, what they see is a rhetorical approach that doesn't deal with the issue.
Yes, we get deficits down. Yes, we get debts under control. We do it in a steady, responsible way, not in the kind of fad diet, fancy numbers, fancy footwork baloney that's being put forward by the leader of the third party.
Mr Harris: I have not heard, other than the Premier and the Treasurer, one person in the world who thinks your spending is within its means, that you're living within its means. Not one entrepreneur, not one economist, not one moneylender, not one bond rating agency has ever agreed with your statement just made in this Legislature that you are living within your means. You clearly are not. The evidence is you are not. The numbers add up that you're not and nobody in the world believes you.
Let me quote as well from the chamber report, because the chamber report basically calls for the solutions almost verbatim -- you would have thought they lifted it from the Common Sense Revolution as to the remedies they are calling for. You would have thought they lifted it.
The chamber report released today says: "Entrepreneurs" -- that's what I said at first; these are the ones who create the private sector jobs. We understand there may be some theoretical, socialist academics who don't think private sector jobs are important -- "believe that government spending levels must be reduced" -- not do your ding-dangedest to maintain them, to control them; they must be reduced -- "that firm targets for debt reduction must be set and that they are willing to play their part through the reduction and the elimination of government subsidies to business."
Mr Harris: Can you explain to me, Premier, when all the businesses are saying, "Stop the subsidies to business; fix the problem instead," why you continue to move in a direction that none of the entrepreneurs wants you to move in? Why do you continue to do that?
Hon Frances Lankin (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): Your party comes over to me every day and want subsidies for businesses in their ridings. The hypocrisy of it. Every day I get letters sent over to me from your caucus.
Hon Mr Rae: The member from Oakville, who's out there shouting, just a year ago was over here saying to me, "You've got to do something for Lear Seating or else we're not going to be able to attract the investment." He's the guy who was shouting from his chair.
Hon Mr Rae: "You've got to do something to make it come into my riding." So was your seatmate. I can point to every single member over there who's been over here saying to us: "Come on, get me a Jobs Ontario Training program. Get us into the riding."
Let me say directly to the honourable member who's asked the question, first of all the suggestion that's been made that the chamber of commerce would lift its suggestion from a partisan politician document is a charge which I'm sure the chamber will want to respond to. It's a very serious allegation and I'm sure the chamber will take it extremely seriously.
Hon Mr Rae: The leader of the third party reminds me a little bit of the person who sings the national anthem before the hockey game and thinks that he singlehandedly has caused the game to start. I would say to the honourable member, the serious issue with respect to the question of when and how we create the programs that will continue to maintain and attract investment -- the main program we have produced, of which we're very proud, which could be called a subsidy, and is, is the Jobs Ontario Training program.
Hon Mr Rae: That is the program we have put our money in. That's the program where we have invested and where we have now got 50,000 people working who were not working before. We've got more training going on. We've got more education going on --
Mr Harris: I would assume that the chamber arrived at the same commonsense solutions on their own, independent of our document. They just went out and listened to the people like we did and arrived at the same conclusion.
In response to the Premier's answer, I have not met a business person who didn't think he'd be better off to have his taxes cut to reduce the deficit than the silliness and the nonsense of the program that you just mentioned, the jobs training program. They think it's a joke. Sure, they take the 10 grand if you're going throw it around and waste it anyway, but to a person, every business person has told me it's a joke and it's a sham, and cut their taxes instead.
We recently surveyed 20,000 small businesses across Ontario; 92% of those who responded said their regulatory burden has increased in the past five years. Yesterday's chamber report ranks regulatory burden as the most important issue behind debt and taxes. Of course, after dealing with debt and taxes, we dealt in the Common Sense Revolution with the regulatory burden, and we commit to reduce the regulatory burden.
Premier, given that you, either in an advocate role in opposition or in government over the last four years, are responsible for the bulk of the red tape and regulation that businesses say are barriers to job creation, will you listen to the chamber report and begin to remove and reduce those barriers to job creation in this province?
Hon Mr Rae: I would say to the honourable member that on the issue of regulation, I can show you categorically how the length of time, for example, for environmental assessment has been cut dramatically in the province over the last three years, how the length of time for OMB hearings has been cut dramatically and substantially as well. We have to cut red tape. We have to cut the regulatory burden. That's exactly what we're doing. We're doing it in terms of small business. We're doing it in terms of cooperation with the federal government and with municipal governments.
I would say to him, generally, of course we believe that there needs to be a simplification of regulation. That's exactly what we're doing. But we're doing it; you're talking about it, shouting about, using all kinds of rhetorical examples about it. We're getting it done, and we're proud of the fact that we're getting it done.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This is for the Minister of Health. A delegation of concerned citizens from St Catharines has travelled to the Ontario Legislature today to express their alarm with the contents of a consultant's report that I described to you in the House the other day, a consultant's report that would have very significant ramifications for the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines, including the closing of the emergency department, a cut of $10 million in the hospital's annual budget, the closing of 60 inpatient beds and a substantial reduction in the size of the Dieu's intensive care unit. Those are the medical consequences, and of course the job losses would be the economic consequences.
In view of the fact that people have taken the time to come to the Legislature today, that some 27,000, I am told, people have signed petitions objecting to this report -- and I'll send these petitions over to the minister to have beside her to read at her leisure -- would the minister assure the Legislature and the people of St Catharines that her ministry will not automatically accept the consultant's recommendations, and that full consultation will take place with the Hotel Dieu Hospital before any move is made to implement these measures?
Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): I appreciate the question because I know that the member and my colleague from St Catharines-Brock had a meeting today, and I certainly can understand the concern of residents in that community where I was visiting Hotel Dieu Hospital just some weeks ago about the report. But let me say today, as I've said before, that this is a consultant's report. No final decision has been taken and, yes, of course, there has to be full consultation, and I'm delighted to know that the district health council is doing that.
In this province, the planning and the recommendations are done at a local level precisely so that they can reflect local concerns, the individual circumstances in various parts of the province, and to provide a greater opportunity for the people in the community to enter into those consultations.
I understand a meeting has been set at which the consultant's report, which is just that, will be considered by the committee that is looking at rationalization of the hospitals. That's on June 29, and I'm delighted to learn that the district health council, I think, will be chairing that meeting, and I hope that all of the people who've expressed their concern to the member and to the member for St Catharines-Brock will share those concerns with the district health council, as I have no doubt they are already doing.
Mr Bradley: While there are a number of issues to be addressed, as I described in my initial question to the minister and my question the other day, when the member for St Catharines-Brock and I met with the individuals, including, thankfully, a member from your office, for which the people were very appreciative, they mentioned that much of the attention is focusing on the potential closing of the emergency department.
In view of the fact that Hotel Dieu has renal dialysis, oncology, diabetes care and ophthalmology, all of which really require an emergency department, and in view of the fact that no doctor would be on call 24 hours a day if the emergency department were eliminated, and in view of the fact that in 1992, just two years ago, a study concluded that there was a need in the city of St Catharines for two emergency departments because the Dieu takes people from all over the Niagara Peninsula, would the minister not agree with me that it would be a very significant step to have the emergency department closed and would she not agree that with some 80,000 to 90,000 people requiring emergency care it would be inadvisable to close the Hotel Dieu emergency department?
Hon Mrs Grier: I think it would be premature for me to draw that conclusion today based on the information that I have. It's precisely because ministers perhaps don't make the best decisions if they only stay in Queen's Park and listen to officials in the ministry that my predecessor or the predecessor government, the member for Oriole, strengthened the role of district health councils in doing the planning and in making recommendations about services and about health care needs in districts. So I will certainly read with great interest whatever recommendations come to me from the district health council, knowing the concerns that have been expressed to me by the member and by the member for St Catharines-Brock and by the people in St Catharines from whom I have heard.
But I want to say again that I'm very proud of the fact that we still have a locally based planning process in Ontario and what we have in St Catharines is a consultant's report. I don't think the district health council has yet considered it or come to a conclusion on it. They will need to do that in consultation with their community. That conclusion would be reviewed by the --
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship. In March, Minister, you announced $1.1 million in funding to organizations to fight racism, a laudable initiative, supported certainly I think by all members of this Legislature.
We've been having difficulty getting some information on some of the organizations that receive funding. I wonder if you can tell us what assurances you can give us, what criteria did organizations receive money, were there plans that were filed, were the organizations duly incorporated. Is there an auditing procedure to ensure that the funds are expended on what they were going to be spent upon? I wonder if you could tell us the program criteria that were there, the auditing procedures and the business plans or the proposals that were filed, and if you're satisfied that they were all in order and that we have assurances that money that we all want earmarked to fight racism is indeed being done to do that. Could you explain that, Minister?
Hon Elaine Ziemba (Minister of Citizenship and Minister Responsible for Human Rights, Disability Issues, Seniors' Issues and Race Relations): I thank the leader of the third party for his question and would like to assure him, to my understanding, that all the agencies that apply for funding in our ministry follow very strict criteria: that agencies must be incorporated, must be non-profit, must work very carefully with the consultants in the ministry to set out what they are going to do with the funding and to make sure that the funding that they've applied for is spent in the appropriate measure.
I think because it would take me a very long time in question period to answer all of the criteria and the mechanism and the process people go through to apply for funding, what I would like to offer the leader opposite would be all of our criteria and the process for applying for funding to our ministry. I'll be very pleased to get that for him and pass that over to him.
Mr Harris: I have a cheque which I'm going to send over to you, Minister. It is for $13,500. It's payable to the National Council of Indigenous Afro-Metis. I'd like you to have this cheque, because it certainly doesn't belong to me.
The cheque came to me from a person to whose address the cheque was delivered. It is a person who is away for extended periods of time. They brought it to me asking that I deliver it to its rightful owner or deal with it. They were very concerned that somebody may be using their address, because they're away a lot, as a false address.
We have tried to track down this organization. We finally did get through to your ministry, and after several phone calls, I believe eight different attempts, we got an acknowledgement that yes, a cheque was sent out to the organization. We've asked if we could have their phone number or their mailing address. They said: "No, it's a personal address. We can't give you that information." We asked if we could have the plan by which they plan to spend the money. To date, we have received none of this.
The cheque as you can see is made out to the National Council of Indigenous Afro-Metis. It is at an address which I don't wish to disclose, because the woman who lives at it -- I don't think it's fair to give her address out to any one.
Can you assure us that this cheque and the balance of $1 million that you gave out is ending up in the appropriate hands, is being spent appropriately, that in fact there is an auditing procedure in place to ensure that this $1 million is indeed fighting racism and not going to any phoney organizations at phoney addresses?
Hon Ms Ziemba: I thank you actually for bringing this to my attention, because certainly any money that we spend to fight racism and discrimination should go to the appropriate places and should be working towards ending discrimination. So I thank you for bringing this to my attention.
I give you my assurance that I will look into this immediately. I presume the staff at the ministry are watching question period. I will give you a detailed approach of how first the criteria were set up, how the process is done, the auditing. I will make sure you get a detailed list of all the agencies that have applied for funding, how they were decided upon, what they did with their dollars. I will give you all that information, because it is public opinion and it is public tax dollars, and I would want to make sure that this is open. It is FOI-able obviously, so we have nothing to hide from this. You have my assurance that I will give this all to you.
Last week, the National Transportation Agency ruled to extend by two years the life of the Meaford subdivision, which provides rail service between Barrie and Collingwood. This decision was certainly welcome news in Simcoe county because of the importance of the line to our local economy. Many people in the country worked long and hard on the issue and they should be aware that their efforts contributed greatly to the positive outcome achieved.
I thank the member for his question. In fact, he's quite right that the National Transportation Agency of Canada decision, while we welcome it -- it is very good news -- is not a long-term solution to the situation in Meaford or to any of the other lines that are being considered by CN or CP for abandonment at this point in time.
The ministries of Transportation, Labour, and Economic Development and Trade will continue to work with those communities and with the potential investors and the trade unions involved to try to find a solution, and particularly for Meaford, given that it was one of the first communities up for proposed abandonment. We will continue to work on it. Yes, we have a two-year window, but I think it would be irresponsible to step back and not to continue to pursue a solution at this point in time.
I can assure the member and the communities that we will do that. Staff will continue to be in touch with people within your community. There is in fact progress where there have been some potential investors who have visited the community. There have been meetings with the unions involved. While we don't have a solution yet, we are certainly moving in that direction.
Mr Wessenger: Yes, Minister, I certainly recognize the work that your ministry has been doing in this area, but I think we should recognize that there has to be a broader approach with respect to the whole question of rail service within the province of Ontario. I'd like to know what your ministry is doing with respect to determining a long-term solution to the whole question of the short-line rail situation and rail abandonment in the province.
Hon Ms Lankin: One of the things that's important about the National Transportation Agency decision is that it did recognize the economic viability of in particular this short-line operation, but of short-line operations. It said to CN, the major operator in this circumstance, that there's a responsibility for them to try to work with the communities to find that economic solution.
In the long term, I would say to the member that from the point of view of our ministry, we will continue to work to try and find solutions for those lines which do have a future, which are economically viable and where industry and others rely on those lines for shipment of goods to market.
There is a larger issue with respect to CN and CP and mergers and abandonment of lines, and I think that the Minister of Transportation, who has the lead on those issues, will continue to meet with the two major rail agencies. But it is a challenge for Ontario communities, many of which will have no passenger service, given that we've lost many air services to northern communities and will in the future perhaps lose rail services as well.
Hon Ms Lankin: -- we're looking at a solution for the viable short-line operations, and the Minister of Transportation will continue to have the lead with respect to the other rail abandonment issues.
Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Mr Minister, you know that positions to SARB, the Social Assistance Review Board, have traditionally been advertised in local newspapers, and qualified applicants have been hired on merit.
But we now hear that the appointments to this board, like so many others, have become a reward for the NDP faithful, made directly from a short list from the Premier's office. I have copies of several letters to the Premier and indeed to other members of his cabinet questioning this new appointment process to the Social Assistance Review Board and indeed to civil service positions. Why is the NDP government so bent on crippling and hampering the independent work of the Social Assistance Review Board?
Hon Tony Silipo (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm not sure what information the member opposite is basing that assertion on. I can tell her that as we speak, interviews are going on and have been going on for the last little while to fill the vacancies that we anticipate will be there, a couple of vacancies that exist and others that will be coming up in the fall. That interview is involving the chair of the board and I believe one other member of the Social Assistance Review Board as well as someone from my staff who's in charge of appointments and someone, I believe, from the appointments secretariat. That's a process that's been worked out to the satisfaction of people.
The people who are being interviewed have come through a process of short-listing. They have taken into account people who have applied over the last number of years and who have expressed an interest in that, as well as receiving applications from all sorts of places. Far from trying to restrict the kind of search that we are doing, we are trying to broaden it and trying to get the vacancies that are coming up filled by the most competent people we can find to fulfil this very important function.
Mrs O'Neill: I hope your efforts are successful, but it's not what we're hearing out in the field from very reputable people. The expense and inconvenience of backlogs at the Social Assistance Review Board have been brought to your attention often. The average waiting period at SARB is still eight months and indeed could lengthen as a result of the many new appointments that are upcoming, some of them I think politically motivated.
The cost of the delays is $8 million in 1994, $8 million that can't be recovered. At present there is confusion over reappointments, there's inexperience of the new members whom you're talking about and I'm talking about and who must be observers for their first year, and we know that the board membership is not at its full complement. When will you provide the Social Assistance Review Board with the resources and the independence that its mandate demands?
Hon Mr Silipo: I have to take some offence at the accusation that I'm interfering with the independence of the Social Assistance Review Board. That is completely ludicrous. I have gone out of my way to ensure that the board functions completely at arm's length, as it should function, from the minister's office and from the ministry.
We have in fact listened, as closely as we have been able to, to the advice from the Social Assistance Review Board, from the chair of the board, with respect to the issues of resourcing the board. There are some issues that we need to work out. We are working with the chair to try to address those, including the issue of replacement of members whose second term is coming up and therefore who are not being reappointed.
We had, as I'm sure the member would be aware, in the omnibus bill that my colleague the Attorney General was presenting, a provision to allow us to renew appointments for less than a three-year term. We have a standard practice that says that after two terms we would only reappoint people in very unusual circumstances, that we would normally replace people who have served, and served well, for six years.
Hon Mr Silipo: We are following the practice that has been used by previous governments as well. It's not a practice that we've introduced; it's something that's been there. On the issue of resources, we are moving quickly --
Hon Mr Silipo: -- to identify people who will replace those people whose appointments run out later this year, so that we have that overlap before those folks finish their term on the board exactly to help us address the issues of service to the board.
Mr Runciman: Following the shooting of Metro Toronto police constable Todd Baylis, the Toronto Star had an editorial talking about the fact that the immigration officials had failed to follow up on the deportation of the individual charged with the constable's death. I'm quoting:
As the top police officer in this province, you know this is a significant concern of police officers whom you represent at the provincial government level. What are you doing in that role to convey those concerns to the federal government?
Hon David Christopherson (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): It doesn't surprise me that the member will try anything to try to make an issue part of the provincial agenda. This is just an example of that.
The fact of the matter is, with great respect, the issue is one of how immigration officials conduct their business, the policies that are there. Any interaction they have with the police are done at a local level through the local police service chief and the police service board. Obviously, if there are issues that need to be addressed by my ministry as a result of those contacts or those initiatives, we are always there to assist and provide advice.
"The Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario, sharing the public's concerns about the level of violent crime in our society and to support our law enforcement officers' demands that the federal government of Canada amend the Immigration Act to provide for the automatic, non-appealable deportation of any landed immigrant or refugee who is
Minister, I'm going to table this resolution in the House later today. Will you and your colleagues agree to unanimous consent to immediately pass this resolution today and send the right message to the federal government, to police officers of this province and the public, who are very concerned about this problem?
Hon Mr Christopherson: I think I, as well as the honourable member, do speak on behalf of all members of this place, in fact all Ontarians, when we talk about the great loss we feel with regard to the tragedy that happened last week, and in fact we did take the time in this Legislature to take a moment to reflect on that and show our respect and feelings to the family.
Hon Mr Christopherson: I don't for a moment want to suggest that the honourable member is being anything other than sincere in his offer of wanting to assist the federal government in taking what he believes is the right kind of action it should take. But I also sincerely believe that no one expects that upon rising in his place and reading out a resolution once, there's going to be some kind of indication from me or anyone else as to what we can or cannot support.
He knows there are ongoing discussions with the House leaders with regard to what the agenda will look like on the last day. If he has tried through that route to see if there's any way of doing this, I don't know, but certainly something of this significance requires more than just me answering a question in the House before we commit.
Hon Mr Christopherson: -- about any system that doesn't provide the public, and particularly our police officers, with the absolute amount of protection that we can in our responsible roles as legislators, and that means all of us.
Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I have to report that I misread, or at least I misstated myself, when I was reading from some of the material sent to me by Ms Pretty in my first question. I had indicated James Wallace had been writing for the Ottawa Citizen, and unfortunately it says quite clearly here it is the Ottawa Sun. I apologize to Mr Wallace, to the Sun and the Citizen for any error or mistake that may have caused problems for the reporter.
On the standing committee on administration of justice, Mr Wilson (Kingston and The Islands) for Ms Akande; on the standing committee on government agencies, Mr Ferguson for Mr Mammoliti; on the standing committee on the Ombudsman, Mr Wood for Ms Akande; and on the standing committee on resources development, Mr Ferguson for Mr Wilson (Kingston and The Islands).
"Whereas the nearby community is already home to the highest number of ex-psychiatric patients and social service organizations in hundreds of licensed and unlicensed rooming houses, group homes and crisis care facilities in all of Canada; and
"Whereas no one was consulted, not the local residents, not the business community, not the leaders of community organizations, not the education and child care providers, and not even," it says here, "the NDP member of provincial Parliament for Fort York;
"We, the undersigned residents and business owners of our community, urge this NDP government of Ontario to immediately stop all plans to accommodate the criminally insane in an expanded Queen Street Mental Health Centre until a public consultation process is completed."
"Whereas you should have followed the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters' advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and/or hunted for years -- we are not unsafe and we are not criminals; and
"The Legislative Assembly should enact a new Public Hospitals Act or, in the alternative, enact amendments to the existing Public Hospitals Act to enable psychologists to be appointed to the professional staff of public hospitals; to admit, register and discharge patients; and to write orders for treatment and diagnostic procedures; and
"Until such amendments are enacted and proclaimed into law, regulations should be made under the Public Hospitals Act to enable psychologists to be appointed to the medical staff of public hospitals, to admit, register and discharge patients, and to write orders for treatment and diagnostic procedures."
Mr John Sola (Mississauga East): I have received a wide variety of petitions from my constituents of Mississauga East, all expressing the same concerns in their own way: namely, that the government provide equal funding for assessment-poor boards of education. There are about 50 names in this batch. Since I agree with their concerns, I am happy to add my name to the list as a show of support.
"We petition the Legislature of Ontario to enact revision of the Child and Family Services Act to move as quickly as possible to permit unrestricted access to full personal identification information to adopted persons."
"Whereas this reduction in coverage will affect all Ontarians but will have the greatest impact upon seniors, many of whom travel south of the border for important health care reasons and who will be forced to absorb a tremendous hike to their health insurance premiums;
"Whereas the government has justified its decision on the basis of not wanting to pay exorbitant hospital costs, even though currently out-of-country hospital coverage is based solely on the rates charged by Ontario hospitals;
"Therefore, we petition the government of Ontario to act in a fair and just manner by preserving the sacred principles of medicare and to immediately restore out-of-country hospitalization coverage to the rates charged by hospitals in Ontario."
Mr Bob Huget (Sarnia): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it's been signed by 23 of my constituents. The petitioners are requesting that private member's Bill 45 standing in the name of the member for St George-St David not be passed by the Ontario Legislature.
"Whereas Bill 119 contains the provision that the government of Ontario reserves the right to regulate the labelling, colouring, lettering, script, size of writing or markings and other decorative elements of cigarette packaging; and
"Whereas the government of Ontario has expressed its desire to work multilaterally with the federal government and the other provinces, rather than act on its own, to implement plain packaging of tobacco products; and
"That the government of Ontario continue to work with and pressure the government of Canada to introduce and enforce legislation calling for plain packaging of tobacco products at the national level."
"During the past six years, many attempts have been made to secure funding from the Ministry of Housing, and a further application is being considered by the ministry at this time. Please indicate your support of our co-op by signing below.
Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): On behalf of my good friend Mr Gilles Morin of Ottawa, I'm pleased to file a petition which is addressed to the Parliament of Ontario, signed by numerous people from my good friend's riding. It states as follows:
"Whereas the city and regional councils of Ottawa, representing the wishes of citizens in the Ottawa region, have passed motions rejecting any new bridge within the city of Ottawa because such a bridge and its access roads would provide no benefits to Ottawa but would instead destroy existing neighbourhoods,
"We, the undersigned, are strongly opposed to Bill 45 which seeks to change the definition of marriage and include homosexual relationships. We believe that the legal and moral ramifications upon our society would be horrific. Please protect the definition of marriage and family as we know it and so protect the future of our nation."
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to ensure the Minister of Health follows the provisions of the Canada Health Act and prevent further erosion of our health care system in Ontario."
"We, the undersigned, are aware that because of rising costs in health care, reductions in hospitals beds and duplication of service have to be controlled. We are totally against any further reductions in health care at Trenton Memorial Hospital. We demand a full-service hospital that meets the needs of our community."
The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): This completes the time allotted for petitions. I want to remind all members that petitions can be tabled with the Clerk of the Legislature at any time. The Legislature does not have to be sitting. It can be tabled with the Clerk at any time. I invite members to do that in the event that this could be the last sitting for this particular session.
Mr Marchese from the standing committee on administration of justice presented the committee's Report on Control of Ammunition and Community-Based Crime Prevention Initiatives and moved the adoption of its recommendations.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Very briefly, as we all know, in recent months there have been a number of shocking incidents which have confirmed fears about the increasingly random nature of violent crime in this province. While the sources of violent crime and crime statistics can be debated, the clear message received by the committee during its public hearings was that the public wants governments at all levels to take immediate action to address the problem of violent crimes.
The committee's report, which received unanimous support from the committee members, sets out a number of steps the committee feels the Ontario government can take in response to the public concerns. Specifically, the report contains recommendations for provincial ammunition control legislation, recommendations for federal initiatives in this area and describes a number of community-based crime prevention initiatives that could be considered by communities throughout Ontario.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank those individuals and groups who, on short notice, shared their expertise and experience with the committee during its public hearings. I would also like to thank the clerk of the committee, Ms Donna Bryce, for her able administration of the committee's proceedings, as well as the rest of the committee's staff support.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Noble Villeneuve): Mr Martin moves to introduce a private bill, An Act respecting the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, for first reading. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
Hon David Christopherson (Solicitor General): Very briefly, I want to acknowledge the cooperation and support of all members of this House. This was an effort flowing from the report of the honourable member for Fort York, who reported on the cooperation and support that happened at committee.
Very shortly, the bill will spell out three requirements for the purchase of ammunition that are now not in place. Firstly, the age will be 18 in the province of Ontario, not 16, as spelled out in the federal legislation. Secondly, photo ID will have to be produced to prove that the persons presenting themselves are of the legal age required in the new law. Thirdly, retailers will be responsible for keeping a record of the transactions so that we have an ability to ensure there is compliance with these new regulations.
I think I speak on behalf of all members when we also look to the federal government, we now having done the job that we can do as far as the Constitution will allow us, to continue to do the job and to finish the work that needs to be done to make our communities as safe as possible as it relates to the issue of the sale and purchase and possession of ammunition.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Earlier today, I tabled a resolution which conveys the feelings, I believe, of most Ontario residents and certainly the policing community in respect to, following the death of Constable Todd Baylis in Metro Toronto, a breakdown of the immigration and deportation system. This is a resolution -- it is not a bill -- and it simply uses the Legislature as a vehicle for the views and feelings, strong feelings, of Ontarians and police officers right across this province.
I'm asking today for unanimous consent of all parties to pass this resolution. It can be done quickly, even with a voice vote, right now. I'm asking for unanimous consent. If the people of this province want their legislators to represent them, this represents the views of the people of Ontario. I'm simply asking for unanimous consent to pass it today, right now.
Deferred vote on the motion for third reading of Bill 119, An Act to prevent the Provision of Tobacco to Young Persons and to Regulate its Sale and Use by Others / Projet de loi 119, Loi visant à empêcher la fourniture de tabac aux jeunes et à en réglementer la vente et l'usage par les autres.
Mr Perruzza: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: Given that I was named on a voice vote when you asked for unanimous consent by the member for Leeds-Grenville, I would certainly be interested in looking at any resolution that would improve the situation --