Mr. Andrewes: As spring moves into summer, Ontario farmers face yet another season of uncertainty as a result of turbulent markets and trade pressures. This uncertainty is heightened further by the risks of weather.
Last summer and fall, heavy rainfall flooded field crops in southwestern Ontario and hail storms caused havoc in the Niagara Peninsula. The Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell), after giving farm groups a rude and impolite reception, acknowledged that the province's crop insurance program needed a full review. A review committee reported some weeks ago, but to date its recommendations remain shrouded in secrecy in the minister's office. There was not a mention of reform of the crop insurance program in the throne speech and not a dollar allocated in the budget of last week.
Why is the minister sitting on this report? Is he not prepared to listen to the advice of his committee? Does he fear that the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) will wince when asked to give substance to the recommendation?
Mr. Martel: I would like to thank the Canadian Sports, Spine and Head Injuries Research Centre at Toronto Western Hospital, particularly Dr. Charles Tator and Virginia Edmonds, who have just provided me with the most recent figures, a compilation of the past 13 years in Canada, of sports injuries in hockey.
Fifty per cent of the injuries were in Ontario: 54 spinal injuries from a total of 107 in Canada. Of that number, 87 per cent of the known injuries were to the neck, 65 per cent had spinal cord injuries and 95 per cent of the injuries happened in organized games. The kids can play without interference and without getting hurt, but they cannot when organized. Of the known injuries, 34 per cent occurred when players were pushed or struck from behind, a rule we refuse to change, 80 per cent of the injured players were struck or struck the boards and five injured players died in Canada.
This is supposed to be sport. In fact, it is a human tragedy to have 107 young people injured, 57 per cent of whom will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their lives. I know there is a report coming down shortly from the Ontario Sport Medicine and Safety Advisory Board and I hope the recommendations will lead to an end to this mayhem.
Mr. Bernier: The northern health travel grant program introduced several months ago has been an outstanding success and of great assistance to over 30,000 northerners last year. When the program was introduced, the one-way-travel distance requirement was established at 300 kilometres. However, this arbitrary distance figure excluded 20,000 residents of the general Kenora area who have sought and still seek medical attention in Winnipeg, only 205 kilometres distant.
I have appealed to the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston) and I have appealed to the Premier (Mr. Peterson) in his capacity as Minister of Northern Development and Mines. I have appealed to both of them to end this discrimination and bring fairness and equity into this travel assistance program for the northerners located in this particular region. The Minister of Health did respond to a certain degree and recently announced the distance reduction of 250 kilometres. However, believe it or not, he is still denying the 20,000 residents of the Kenora area the benefits of this program by a mere 45 kilometres.
Once again, I urge the minister and the Premier to pick up a road map and examine the mileage figures in northern Ontario. Travelling from Kenora to Winnipeg, which is 205 kilometres, is like travelling from Toronto to St. Thomas, Ontario.
I ask them to listen to the 20,000 people of the Kenora area, bring some fairness into the program and reduce this arbitrary figure to include all northern Ontario residents who deserve to reap the benefits of this northern health travel assistance program.
Mr. Reville: The government promised to protect the tenants of Ontario. The catalogue of broken promises is fat indeed. Tenants were promised a streamlined rent review process. It is clear that the rent review process is anything but streamlined and that a couple of years from now applications will still clutter the desks of rent review administrators.
Tenants were promised a maintenance review board. It has been appointed but it has yet to meet, some five months later. The tenants were promised a rent registry so they could find out whether their rents were legal or not. The rent registry will not be operating until the end of this summer and then only part of the rents will be registered.
As for the rent review services offices, which I understand were designed to deliver on the promise of education for tenants, the experience we have when we call is that the line is busy or an answering service says someone will get back to the caller in three days. One gets absolutely wacky advice that says if one does not sign a lease one will be evicted. That is incorrect advice.
Mr. Sheppard: I am delighted to rise today to announce the Cobourg sesquicentennial celebrations are at present in full swing, with a number of festive events planned for the remainder of this calendar year. The program includes antique shows, arts and crafts displays and numerous concerts and plays, not to mention all types of competitions.
No sesquicentennial celebration would be complete without a parade. It will be held on June 27, and our very special guest will be none other than the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander.
I would like to extend an invitation to all members of the Legislature to come out to Cobourg this summer for a day or a weekend to enjoy the celebrations and the food and to see the sights. Cobourg is a bubbling community with a touch of country flavour.
Mr. Warner: Unfortunately, due to the lack of capacity of this government to run departments properly, there are a number of young people who will be denied a job opportunity this year simply because in order to obtain a job they need a driver's licence. In order to get a driver's licence, they have to go to the driver examination centre. There is a three-month backup in most of the centres throughout the province.
For example, in Scarborough, one of the largest offices with 13 examiners, they do over 200 examinations a day and yet they still have a three-month backlog. The cutbacks have been going on for several years. They started with the Tories, but the cutbacks continue under the new Liberal government, the new Tories with the red ties.
The work load increases, of course, because now seniors, for example, have to be examined each year. Renewals are done more often in the offices, instead of by mail as they used to be. Rather than the government responding with extra staff so as to process the examinations, it allows the cutbacks to continue and the backlog to grow. Unfortunately, a number of young people who could use the extra money and the job are denied that opportunity because by the time the three months of waiting is up the job is long gone. Unfortunately, the government needs to repair its own shop.
Mr. Sargent: Regarding the story in today's press of the Ontario Provincial Police probe of the tragic death of a 17-year-old girl in Midland caused by a police chase, regardless of the independent investigation which is now on the public of Ontario has had a bellyful of the senseless cops-and-robbers game which, in most cases, ends in disaster.
Mr. McLean: I had a statement prepared on exactly the same subject the last speaker was referring to. I too am concerned about when these police chases are going to stop in order that what happened in Midland last weekend will not happen again and innocent people will not be killed.
Hon. Mr. Eakins: As the minister responsible for sport, recreation and fitness in the province, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to pay tribute to Ontario's young athletes who competed in this year's Canada Winter Games.
Ontario competed in 18 sports and won a total of 211 points. The 252 athletes, coaches and managers brought home 80 medals: 20 gold, 26 silver and 34 bronze. Their victory was hard fought and hard won.
On behalf of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and the people of Ontario, I ask members to join me in congratulating our wonderful young athletes for their outstanding performances at the 1987 Canada Winter Games by welcoming three representatives of the Ontario team -- Ken White, Jennifer Cook and Andrew Motomura -- who are with us in the gallery today.
Ontario is being visited by a swim team from Jiangsu, China. These athletes, who are accompanied by their coach, Mr. Xhiang, are part of a first ever international sports exchange program between Ontario and China. They are here to train at the University of Toronto swim club.
I am pleased to tell the members of this House that the swim team, Mr. Xhiang and members of the York University staff are with us today. I am sure that my colleagues in the House join me in wishing our visitors a productive and memorable stay in Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Riddell: As honourable members are well aware, there has been and continues to be a dramatic rationalization of the entire tobacco industry in this province. Tobacco growers have been particularly hard hit by this.
In response, this government has brought in programs to help tobacco producers find and evaluate alternative crops. Last month we announced, in co-operation with the federal government, a comprehensive aid package for growers faced with falling demand: the $30-million tobacco assistance program. This program pays farmers to take land permanently out of tobacco production. This could represent a reduction of as much as 10,000 acres over the next three years.
Our concern for the people affected by this upheaval must also extend to concern for the future use and productivity of the land in question and what happens to it in the meantime. This House is well acquainted with the history of our tobacco-growing areas. Over a period of 50 years or so, these regions were transformed from virtual dust bowls to productive farm land.
The land in the tobacco regions that is being taken out of production faces an increased threat from soil erosion and soil degradation during this interim period. However, as members can appreciate, the farmers involved are probably the ones least able to make the necessary financial investment themselves to combat this.
To preserve the productivity of lands in the tobacco-growing regions for the future, I am pleased to announce today the establishment of the Ontario soil maintenance grant as part of the federal-provincial tobacco assistance program, a three-year, $30-million initiative.
Under the new $3-million Ontario program, farmers who take tobacco acreage out of production will be eligible for grants to plant soil-building and erosion control crops. Growers who have transferred basic production quota under the acreage reduction section of the tobacco assistance program are eligible for the new grants.
The money will help planting of approved soil-building and erosion control crops such as winter rye, red clover, perennial ryegrass and trees. Grants will be paid on approved crops in place during July of each year of the program. The deadline for applications this year is June 30.
Tobacco growers who have sold their quota need time to finalize their future cropping plans. The soil maintenance grant will encourage good soil management while providing planned income for growers over this transitional period. It is part of a larger effort by this government to promote good land stewardship.
I would not be one to dispute the difficulty that farmers around the area of the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) are experiencing and the $30 million that may be necessary to help them overcome problems, but while we are on Ontario soil maintenance and alternative crops, I think it is maybe in context and it is important to bring to the House that west Nipissing farmers are facing similar problems. They are having difficulties with the crops they are growing and markets for those crops.
I find it ironic that when they applied, they applied for a little bit of assistance from this minister to help themselves. The stated policy of the Minister of Northern Development and Mines (Mr. Peterson) is that northerners have to be able to help themselves. That is the answer. When the minister does not know what to do for two years, he says, "They have to be able to help themselves." They have been coming up with ideas and solution after solution and they have all been rejected or ignored. I have mentioned many of those in the House, but particularly today, because we are on alternative crops. I want to talk about the minister's failure to address the needs of west Nipissing farmers who banded together, were prepared to make property available at little or no cost and asked for a little bit of research assistance for themselves with the west Nipissing experimental farm.
Just $500,000, not $30 million, would have made such a huge difference not only to west Nipissing but also for the climatic conditions that are similar for our farmers and extend all the way across the lake right over to Sault Ste. Marie. Interestingly enough, the minister signed a letter saying no, he takes the results from up north in Timiskaming, they are pretty close. Timiskaming is about as close to those climatic conditions as London is to Kingston or as Toronto is to Sarnia. The guys down here in southern Ontario think they understand it, but they do not realize the climatic differences, they do not realize the growing differences and they have completely failed to understand the problems that the farmers are having in the west Nipissing part of my riding.
They made a legitimate request for $500,000 worth of assistance to be able to help not only themselves but also those farmers who have the same climatic conditions all the way along the lake, as I mentioned, to Sault Ste. Marie. The silly answer we get is: "We are already doing some research in Timiskaming. It is the same." It is not even close to the same climatic conditions, particularly if one looks at what little test results there are available from the federal government. They point out that in Timiskaming they could not even consider corn, whereas in west Nipissing they can grow com. I am not a farmer, but as I am told by the farmers in my riding, there is a significant climatic difference when one talks about the number of heat units and weather there.
The minister makes announcement after announcement. They all sound wonderful. They all sound great. I do not know whether his programs do any good. Most of the farmers I talk to do not seem to think they do. This was a solution from northern Ontario farmers, from the West Nipissing Agricultural Association, supported by the five councils representative of the West Nipissing Municipal Association, "Here is a way we can help ourselves; you have asked for us to come up with solutions to help ourselves," and the minister said no.
I would ask the minister to take a look at that application instead of just signing something that somebody shoves in front of his face and saying no. I would ask him to take a serious look at it and at how much that could turn around the future for the farmers in west Nipissing.
Mr. Warner: I think it is fair to say that all the members of this House, and indeed the people of this province of ours, are justifiably proud of the young people who have represented this province at the Canada Winter Games. The young people of our province represent the vitality of our province. They are the hope for our future and they have done us all proud as they brought back the Canada Games flag. I hope they enjoy their stay here today. They will no doubt note, of course, that the only kind of sporting activity that goes on in this chamber is philosophic dueling and verbal gymnastics. Beyond that, we certainly do not achieve the high level of success that our athletes have achieved.
Mr. Warner: Additionally, I am very pleased, on behalf of my party, to welcome those athletes who have come from our twinned province in China. That twinning, in my view, is something about which we can all be very proud. I hope Mr. Xhiang, the members of the York University staff and the athletes who are here enjoy their stay and will take back with them to China many happy memories and, of course, will pay us a visit on another occasion.
Mr. Laughren: I would like to respond to the statement by the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell). The minister stood in his place today and made reference to a $30-million federal-provincial program to aid farmers to adjust to the rationalization of the tobacco industry.
A couple of weeks ago, this party laid before the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) a program under which, if he added one cent of tax per cigarette, it would raise $200 million in Ontario. We stated in our position paper that one half of that $200 million, $100 million, would go for adjustment policies for farmers. I think some of it should go as well to the tobacco processing industry. The other $100 million should go to health-related problems associated with tobacco. It could go into the stop-smoking clinics and any other programs that are related to helping people to stop smoking.
This is not an attempt to injure the tobacco farmers of the province. Our proposal is an attempt to do two things at once: first, to allow farmers to adjust to the new reality of a decrease in smoking; and second, to deal with the health problems related to smoking.
In Ontario now the provincial tax for cigarettes is under three cents per cigarette. That is the lowest cigarette tax in all of Canada. What we suggested was that raising that to four cents a cigarette, an increase of a little over a cent a cigarette, would raise $200 million and put us at about the average of cigarette taxes in all the various provinces across Canada.
It would not be the kind of tax that would be too difficult for people who simply have a great deal of difficulty quitting, but it would be a real incentive for people to stop smoking. As well, we think there are about 12,000 smoking-related deaths per year in Ontario. This would go at least some way towards alleviating that problem.
The response of the Treasurer was to increase the tobacco tax in the province not one jot. I understand the constituency he represents, but I think he allowed that to cloud his judgement in this regard.
I am simply saying to the government yet again that it would not have been crippling to the industry. It would have provided a major source of funds, both for health-related programs and for the industry.
The Minister of Agriculture and Food talks about a $3-million Ontario program. That is a pittance. Even with the federal government, we are talking about only $30 million. Our proposal would have raised $200 million and certainly makes the efforts of the Minister of Agriculture and Food look pretty puny. What the Minister of Agriculture and Food is talking about is not a program; it is a poor excuse for one.
Mr. Grossman: My question is for the Premier. Like the rest of us, I am sure, the Premier will have had an opportunity now to see the anguished and pained words of the former Prime Minister with regard to the Meech Lake accord.
Mr. Grossman: The Premier may not be sensitive to the words of the former Prime Minister, but I think any sensible reading of the article will indicate a great deal of pain and anguish on behalf of the former Prime Minister.
I want to admit to the Premier that our party has been unsuccessful in trying to argue the case for public hearings in Ontario. I do not know: it could be because he has thought our arguments are without merit, it could be because he has thought they were too partisan in nature; but whatever, we have been unsuccessful to date in convincing him to have public hearings.
I wonder if the Premier today might take advantage of the important contribution made by the former Prime Minister and say, "Yes, these kinds of views ought to be heard in a public forum in Ontario," and admit that it might be the right time to have public hearings in Ontario on the Meech Lake accord.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I not only appreciate the sympathetic words expressed by the Leader of the Opposition for the former Prime Minister, I also have sympathy for his pain and anguish in this particular regard. I did not have the same sense when I read the article; and yes, I read it with great interest. Canadian politics always fascinate me. We see these strange and new alliances that develop from time to time as issues of public policy emerge.
I would say to the Leader of the Opposition that the former Prime Minister's views have been expressed in a very public place, the most public of places, and I am one who welcomes his contribution. I think he has every right to express his views on the Meech Lake accord, as does the honourable member and anyone else. There is now developing in the country a substantial debate. We started that yesterday here in the House on the principles.
At the moment, we do not have the specific wording. I say to my honourable friend that we will have a full debate in this House, beyond dispute. It will take as much time as is necessary. My friend felt that I was hiding from him yesterday the fact that we have three years to approve of this in this province. It is in the Constitution and I assumed my friend knew that at the time. I apologize for my omission in that regard.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I made a miscalculation. I had assumed the honourable members opposite had read the Constitution some time ago. I took, in a sense, judicial notice of that fact. I could have been wrong.
In that regard, I look forward to a full debate in this House. I believe the members should call on any advice necessary. I believe we should take the time that is necessary in order to have that full discussion. One of the things that is obvious to me, particularly from the debate yesterday and other discussions, is that part of our responsibility is to be not only involved in answering questions as best we can but engaging in public education as well.
A number of questions have been raised. I think I know the answer to those and I think they are quite obvious. Others may disagree with those, of course, but I think everyone had every right to ask those questions and to put forward their views as they saw fit. I think we will have to arrange between the House leaders at some time in the future how we go about making sure that this debate receives the full attention of all members, that everyone has an opportunity to express his views and to get whatever other advice is necessary in the formulation of those views.
Mr. Grossman: I am mystified as to how the Premier can take the position this afternoon that the answers to those questions are obvious. The answers to the questions that this party has been posing, that Eugene Forsey and others have been posing, have begged different answers. The questions got different answers from Premier Bourassa and the Premier of Ontario, from Ontario's Attorney General (Mr. Scott) and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in Quebec. Yesterday, the answers to a lot of the questions we raised were delivered by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who answered most of our concerns and the concerns expressed by many people by saying our concerns are justified. So the answers, with respect, are not obvious and all that has been happening across this country is answers that largely contradict each other.
Mr. Grossman: Given that and given the concerns of the former Prime Minister, who says those Canadians who fought for a single Canada, bilingual and multicultural, can say goodbye to their dream, I wonder if the Premier will not agree today that his interpretation, the interpretation of Eugene Forsey and others ought simply to be put to the test of public hearings, not after a document is signed but before?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The answer is that I do not think that is possible. We are meeting next Tuesday and that is the reality of the situation. As I said to my honourable friend, we will have a full debate in this House before it is formally ratified.
Again, with respect to the former Prime Minister, I respect his views on the subject. Frankly, they are views with which I and a substantial number of other people disagree. Some are political and some are legal interpretations. Mr. Trudeau had a very strong view of this country. The member will recall he put forward proposals some five and one half years ago that were adopted by nine out of 10 provinces, not 10. His vision was universally rejected in Quebec at that time.
Now we have an opportunity to bring Quebec into the Constitution. Some believe that is a worthwhile objective. Some believe that accommodations have to be made in order to do that. Some would disagree on the extent of those accommodations. I say to my honourable friend, I think they are reasonable accommodations.
In response to one of his questions yesterday, `Will it, for example, prevent the federal government from engaging in national social programs?" the answer is a very clear no. It does not prevent that, in my opinion and in the opinion of many other people. There is no difference, for example, in the Canada assistance plan, the Canada pension plan and a variety of other programs.
I think it accommodates the realities of this country, I think it builds a co-operative framework to solve problems in the future and I think it is a progressive approach to that. If the member does not I am interested in hearing his view, obviously, but that is my view on the subject.
Mr. Grossman: The question, if I could have the Premier's attention for a second, is very much not whether we want Quebec to sign the constitutional document but the conditions and price to be paid for it. He has given his interpretation that it is a very little price.
The former Prime Minister's interpretation is, "Say goodbye to the dream of one Canada." As someone who devoted almost all his career to fighting for the constitutional arrangements which I suppose would speak for Quebec and would serve Quebec as he interprets it in this article today, surely his opinions are extremely important.
Mr. Grossman: -- by way of a final supplementary. The former Prime Minister has accused current political leaders in this country of lacking in courage. I wonder if the Premier could respond to that by showing the courage to have public hearings and put his views and the views of Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Forsey, Mr. Bourassa, Mr. Pawley and other constitutional experts before the public, so that everyone may know the accord that he proposes to sign as soon as next week. Is that not a fair test of courage?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I read the article with great interest. I heard some of the adjectives used to describe provincial Premiers who were unanimous on the question, and to describe the present Prime Minister as well in that regard. I will not comment on the adjectives that were used to describe the situation, but suffice it to say that I think there is unanimity across this country by the current political leadership. It is unanimous, as someone said yesterday. Regardless of party -- Conservative, New Democratic, Social Credit; Liberal as well -- contemporary leaders gathered in a room trying to solve contemporary problems that will have a major impact on our future.
Let my honourable friend who has posed some questions have the courage to give us his views on the subject. He quoted Eugene Forsey. I can tell my honourable friend my views on the subject. I will tell him to discuss it as much as he would possibly like. It is an interest of great concern to me.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I think I have the sense of the Premiers, the Prime Minister, as well as the expert advice we have gathered up; and that is considerable across the country, Mr. Speaker. I am very happy to share that with you, defend it any time or listen in this House for a gathering of the best distilled wisdom that all the members and outside experts have to offer.
Mr. Rowe: I have a question for the Minister of Health. I asked the minister last week and today I wonder if he is now prepared to explain to the residents of Barrie how the government could increase its civil service by some 5,000 people yet continue to not provide funds for a new hospital.
Hon. Mr. Elston: We are providing a number of new programs around this province and throughout the ministries. The question of delivering new services always requires us to provide for the employment of new people. The programs cannot be delivered, quite frankly, without the hiring of new people. I can understand the member's concern about the need for a hospital. We are looking at that, and I thank the honourable gentleman for bringing it to our attention at this time.
Mr. Rowe: Yesterday the board of directors of the Royal Victoria Hospital, in a desperate measure to try and deal with the overwhelming demand for hospital care, reluctantly approved a portable to deal with emergency cases. Perhaps the minister has been watching too many M*A*S*H reruns. Are portables, instead of desperately needed funding for a hospital, the minister's new health care policy?
Hon. Mr. Elston: I think the honourable gentleman would want to know that this is not for the emergency patients but it is a facility that will be used for triage, for nonemergency patients in the emergency room areas. I do not find it a very satisfactory situation.
I can understand the pressures the board has come under and I commend the board for taking the necessary steps in the light of the space problems that it has brought to my attention and that the honourable gentleman has brought to our attention. We are looking at what is available and possible there.
It is not the first time we have heard about this. It is not the first time the honourable gentleman has brought this to our attention, nor is it the first time that a number of people who have been members for the Barrie area have brought it to the attention of the government. However, we are planning a very careful allocation of resources. Together with my colleagues in cabinet, we review what is possible and appropriate in terms of redevelopment for capital structures, which are obviously run down after years of neglect.
Mr. Rowe: Overcrowding at this hospital has been so severe that patients have had to be left in the corridors in the past, and the minister knows how dangerous that is. Even with this portable by the hospital's own report, "greater than 10 admissions would require allocation of patients to the corridors on the wards." This is the first hospital in Ontario with a portable.
Hon. Mr. Elston: We are not playing politics with this particular program. As I have told this gentleman before, it takes an awful lot of work to deal with the planning that is required to put in place an appropriate facility. I appreciate that a lot of people have done planning over the years and they have worked very hard with respect to announcements that have been made before. We are very sensitive to the problems he has brought to our attention and they are being addressed in co-operation with the Premier (Mr. Peterson), the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) and the rest of our cabinet colleagues.
We will be advising the member further if there are any development plans to be announced. He will be, like every other member who has a facility to be announced, invited to any announcement. He will be thanked for his participation. I appreciate the dedication of the staff there. l appreciate the board, in making its decision to move to do some temporary implementations, is working under very restrictive conditions.
Mr. Rae: My question is to the Minister of Labour. I want to ask the minister about the very tragic death which took place in February of a 22-year-old worker who quit school in order to pay for his disabled family. He was killed on a work site at Harbourfront, the Huang and Danczkay project, which was started illegally without a building permit. Stefano Rizzi died on February 10, 1987.
On January 29, an inspector from the Ministry of Labour attended the site, was there for three hours, and issued several work orders stating that the orders should be complied with by no later than 4:30, Thursday, January 29. In addition, the company was ordered under section 7 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to cause a health and safety representative to be selected by the union or unions. The inspector came on the site at 5:45 in the morning and left at 12:05.
Despite the fact that the inspector said the order should be complied with by 4:30 in the afternoon, he did not return. Apparently no effort was made by the ministry to find out whether the company had complied with these orders.
Can the minister explain to us why an inspector would go on a site, issue several orders with respect to health and safety and then not discover whether those orders had been complied with by the company?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: As the honourable gentleman knows, we have been making every effort, and indeed are continuing to make every effort, to properly staff the various branches of the occupational health and safety division.
When the government took office some 23 months ago, we had 66 funded positions for inspectors in the construction health and safety branch. The number of funded positions is now 111. The number of individuals we have hired is over 90 today. There have been recent competitions and there have literally been thousands of applicants. We are hiring just as quickly as we can in order to bring that branch, and indeed the whole division, up to the levels that it ought to have.
That being said, the honourable gentleman raises a very serious matter. The inspector had been there. The honourable gentleman has noted that the inspection was a very thorough one. A number of orders were left and indeed the inspector spent some three and a half hours there. The reason we are hiring additional people is exactly the problem of the lack of follow-up to which the honourable leader of the third party alludes. There is a terrible backup in terms of the number of construction sites we have and our ability to get them inspected.
I can only say to the honourable member and to the House that we are hiring just as quickly as possible. I have asked that all hiring that has been approved be expedited so that we can get on with the job of reducing the cycle of inspections from its present level -- I believe it has dropped below eight weeks to seven or six weeks -- and be able to do those follow-up visits in a timely fashion.
Mr. Rae: I did not hear an answer to my question. This death took place nearly two years after the minister took office. There have been 41 construction deaths in this province this last year. To read the story of Stefano Rizzi, to hear the evidence at the inquest and to hear the recommendations of the coroner's jury is to think that literally no change has taken place in this province since the government took over.
I would like to ask the minister a basic question. Can he tell us why, if the record of the government is so good, it is apparently the practice of the ministry to issue orders and then not to establish whether those orders have been complied with? Can the minister answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: First of all, I want to say I am pleased to see that the leader of the third party, as opposed to the members of the official opposition, understands that it is important to add additional personnel. It is not surprising that the members of the official opposition, who for so many years starved the occupational health and safety division --
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The member for Brantford (Mr. Gillies), who was so busy criticizing the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) on this matter yesterday, is inaccurate today just as he was yesterday. I think the member for Brantford and the official opposition are a little embarrassed by their doubletalk on this issue.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: Yes. I would say to the honourable member, who raises a very important and serious question, that in most cases -- in fact, I would hope in all cases -- follow-up visits to check on compliance are done. On a number of occasions, I will say quite candidly to the honourable gentleman, those follow-up visits are not done in as timely a fashion as they ought to be. That is why we are hiring the additional personnel the official opposition has objected to so greatly.
I can say to the honourable gentleman that while he thinks nothing has changed, the fact of the matter is that we have more than 200 people in the occupational health and safety division today who were not in that division 23 months ago. In the construction health and safety branch alone, the increase is in the range of 80 to 85 per cent.
Mr. Rae: I want to keep going with this question because I do not think we are getting an answer. I would like to ask the minister if he can tell us whether it is the intention of the ministry to lay any charges against the company in this matter.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I am looking at my briefing notes. As the honourable gentleman knows -- and he was raising this matter in the case of another incident -- normally the consideration of charges in the case where there is a coroner's inquest follows the decision of the coroner's jury.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I see my friend the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel) remembers the other incident, in which it happened in a different way. It is a different kind of charge, but the consideration of charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act usually follows the inquest. It will be doing so in this case. These matters are under consideration and the appropriate action will be taken by the legal services branch once it has reviewed the evidence that has emerged from the inquest.
What does the minister intend to do about the recommendation from the coroner's jury? Instead of relying on the ministry, since it is obvious that the ministry cannot do the job and that there is no longer any faith in the ability of the ministry to do the job, would it not make sense to impose a safety levy on all major construction projects, which would mean that there would then be enough funds to support the establishment of workers' safety officers on site all the time to reduce health and safety infractions?
Where we have workers working without guard rails, workers lifting heavy propane contrary to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and against the orders of the Minister of Labour, when we have these kinds of things going on, does he not think it worth while having the companies put some money in so we start saving some lives on the major construction projects in this province?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: If the honourable member looks at the Occupational Health and Safety Act, he will find there is a levy paid to the consolidated revenue fund, which was first established, I believe, at $4 million in 1978. That levy is paid out of the workers' compensation fund, which, as the honourable gentleman knows, is paid by employers. Last year, if memory serves me correctly, the levy was $7.2 million.
Mr. Rae: The minister is ignoring the problem. The problem is that the inspectors go in, find there is a problem and then are not able to enforce what they find. We found in the case of this inquest that it was clearly established that the young worker involved, 22 years old, supporting his entire family, including a disabled father and two younger brothers who were in school, was doing something which was clearly against the regulations and apparently against the earlier orders of the Ministry of Labour.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I have a little problem remaining tolerant when l hear that kind of nonsense coming from that honourable gentleman over there, suggesting that those of us over here or any member of this Legislature does not care about the health and safety of workers. That comment is really quite disgraceful. I have spent the last 23 months of my life working to improve health and safety in the work place. Everything we have done may not always be right, may not be perfect, but we have worked very hard.
I can tell the honourable gentleman, if he wants to bother listening, that we have hired over 200 people in the occupational health and safety division and will hire more during this fiscal year. One of the things I can say about this Treasurer, this Premier (Mr. Peterson) and this government is that we care about working people in this province and we are matching our concern with the kind of funding necessary to get the job done.
Mr. Rae: If I can be charitable to the minister, the question is not whether anybody in this House cares more than other people. The question is whether the job is being done and whether the inspections are being followed up with enforcement. That is the question.
For generations, we have had Ministers of Labour who cared about a number of questions. That is not the issue and the minister knows that. That is the frustration of this coroner's jury, because what this coroner's jury said was that the follow-up did not happen. The practice clearly was not followed in the industry. This is a major construction project in a very high-profile area. Everybody knows about it. There are several other major construction projects going on. They make a practical suggestion.
What I would like to know is, what does the minister intend to do to make sure that the act is followed, that it is enforced, that lives are saved and that the tragedy affecting the Rizzi family will not be happening in tens and tens of families across this province because of actions that are not taken that can be taken? That is the tragedy and that is where the ball is, right over there where the minister has the responsibility.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I want to say again to the honourable gentleman, this is an imperfect world and it is an imperfect practice. I cannot offer a specific reason that follow-up was delayed in this matter. I can say that our ability to follow up, to ensure that compliance is being obtained, is better today by about 85 per cent than it was two years ago.
I think the member would want to know that one of the important things as we hire additional inspectors in the construction health and safety branch -- and hire them we have been and hire them we will -- is that we make sure the people we bring on, the men and women who join that branch and, indeed, the occupational health and safety division, are the best qualified and the best educated people we can get.
Mr. Gordon: I am sure the minister is aware that the worker's family cannot sue in civil law. They can only look to workers' compensation for a very minuscule compensation for the death of Mr. Rizzi. I am sure the minister knows it is small comfort to them to know that occupational health and safety inspector did not go back to the work place.
Would the minister tell this House in plain language exactly what orders he has given as a minister to see that occupational health and safety inspectors do go back to construction work sites in this province now and in the future?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: One of the things we have done, which that party over there never did, is to get some construction health and safety inspectors. I may have some disagreements with my friend in the third party, but the disagreements with the official opposition on this issue are just a little more profound.
With the 66 inspectors this government inherited, that inspector would never have been able to inspect that site or a lot of others in the first place, because that inspector would not have existed under the former government.
The inspections were completed and the follow-up should have occurred. We are doing everything we can to get the new construction inspectors on stream just as quickly as we can, to get them trained so that very soon -- within two years -- we will have double the number of construction inspectors that we hired.
Mr. Gordon: What we heard the minister say is that he has done nothing. That is what he just said. He said, "We have done nothing." All he talked about was two years ago. That does not count. All he talked about was, "We are going to hire some more safety inspectors." He did not tell us what he is doing to ensure that cases like Mr. Rizzi do not happen again in this province.
He is not saying we are going to ensure that construction sites are inspected within one month of startup. He is not saying we are ready to set aside a certain amount of money from construction projects to see that there are enough inspectors and that sites will be inspected. He is doing nothing. What is he going to do? Tell us today.
Outside the Legislature yesterday, referring to the company, the minister said, "They are now taking action they should have taken long ago." Since these companies owned by Kulkarni and his brother have a history of significant health and safety problems, and since his officials have been in there occasion after occasion after occasion, will the minister table in the House all the orders issued and the compliance dates? Will he also tell me and this Legislature why it took an anonymous phone call to get the action going last week, rather than the many visits made by his inspectors, which led to a great big fat zero in change? Why did it take an anonymous call? Where were his inspectors?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The case of Koolatron was out for inspection. The inspection had not yet occurred; it was scheduled to occur. Other issues, thought to be more urgent, had taken priority. The actions of the ministry have been swift and direct in this matter. We have issued a number of orders, and in fact, I think we have protected the health and safety of workers at Koolatron.
I can tell the honourable gentleman that at the time of the last inspection, the report of that inspection indicates there were no health and safety concerns. Indeed, the health problems our inspector found very quickly when she went in last Wednesday or Thursday were not present at the time of the last inspection.
Mr. Martel: The minister has to be kidding. He is a joke. His ministry developed a policy called code 99, which for two years I have said ends up eliminating inspections unless there is an injury or a work stoppage. There is no inspection in company after company after company. His code 99: this program, by the way, is called crisis management by his own staff.
I want to know what cycle of inspection existed for all these companies owned by this same bird, who the minister has had plenty of problems with in the past. What testing was done in all of his companies, and why did the inspections reveal the problems only after an anonymous phone call? In fact, why did it take an anonymous phone call?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) should not even try. He does not know anything about the issue, so please ignore it. At least the honourable member knows a little bit about what he is talking about.
I am informed that in the Koolatron case, after a number of orders which were reissued during the regime of the previous government, the company did finally come into compliance in terms of both the assessment and the control order for isocyanates. The information I have is that it changed its process quite dramatically in February of this year; as a result of that, the company required a new assessment and control program. Neither were done.
I can assure the honourable member that every action will be taken at Koolatron, Vacform and indeed any other related company to ensure that the health and safety of the workers at those companies gets the highest priority.
Mr. Pope: My question is to the Premier, the leader of a government that secretly signed in writing an agreement to the softwood lumber tariff and then did nothing for the lumber workers, that is doing nothing for the laid-off miners, a Liberal government that is now delivering health care out of portables in this province, a Liberal government that is obviously failing in occupational health and safety.
I have a question about another Liberal boondoggle, the mismanagement and mishandling of the IDEA Corp. funds, and specifically why the Premier continues to be involved in a coverup of this mismanagement of the public's money.
I am specifically referring to the Biddell report, which was announced in this Legislature on October 14, 1986. The minister at the time said, "I have indicated to Mr. Biddell that his report should be completed as quickly as possible." During estimates in December, we were told that this report was basically complete and that in a week or so, when Mr. Biddell returned from holidays, it would be finalized. Now we see, in the auditor's report on Graham Software in February 1987, that the Biddell report existed and was dated as of February 1987.
Mr. Gillies: We in the opposition want to know what possible interest this government would have, after the two scandals it has faced arising out of the IDEA portfolio -- it is now clearly sitting on Mr. Biddell's report, which the committee was told during estimates would be finished within weeks of the December holidays -- in prolonging the agony and trying to cover up the whole mess.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: We have no interest at all in doing the things the honourable members, in concert, suggest. Let me say that we are still in the process of cleaning up messes they created; I am happy to share it with them.
Mr. Laughren: I have a question for the Treasurer, who would know that when it comes to the purchase by the public sector of goods and services, a lot of that purchasing is of imported goods. The purchase of imported goods and services by the public sector represents at least $5 billion a year and 150,000 jobs.
When the government was in opposition, it had a government procurement policy. As a matter of fact, it was a half-decent government procurement policy. Now that the Liberals have been in government for two years, could the Treasurer tell us where that government procurement policy is? What is it now?
The Treasurer should know that his Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. O'Neil) was in Ottawa last week at a convention dealing with government procurement, at which he said government procurement was essential in the whole cause of nation-building.
Aside from that rather grandiose goal, since there is a 10 per cent preferment for government purchasing for suppliers that are Canadian -- not just Ontario; Canadian suppliers -- I wonder whether the Treasurer can explain to us why it is that with 55,000 contractors who dealt with the Ontario government in the latest year for which we could get figures, in only 20 cases did the 10 per cent preferment apply. What in the world kind of government procurement policy is that given that there is so much at stake?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I think the honourable member, particularly since he has become Treasury critic, will find on more careful investigation that the process is more complex than just a flat 10 per cent. As a matter of fact, so-called foreign firms often have a very large establishment in Canada, in Ontario.
We have a fairly elaborate formula based on the amount of dollars committed in investment here, the number of people employed and the amount of research done that permits us on a basis of formula to establish what the allocation is to our own economy on the basis of a corporation or a manufacturing concern, no matter where its home base is. On that basis, we are able to weight the particular tenders on a basis that is for the best interest of the people who live in this province and work here and would like to have the benefit of the advantages.
Mr. Reycraft: I would like to ask the Minister of Agriculture and Food about changes to the farm tax reduction program that were announced last week in the budget of the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon). I am aware of the fact that proposals were made to change the program five or six years ago and I know that considerable concern was expressed about those proposals. I would like to know how the current changes differ from those that were proposed, I believe in 1982.
Hon. Mr. Riddell: The changes announced in the budget specifically address the concerns that were raised when the proposal was made, I believe back in 1982. The $126 million we will spend on the program will compensate the farmers for the disproportionate amount of taxes they pay by virtue of their rather large land and building base.
We have made a number of changes. First and foremost, we consulted with the farmers through their organizations, such as the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. We also consulted with municipal organizations, such as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. With the previous administration, I have to say that consultation was a dictionary word only.
The farmers will pay their taxes on their land and their farm buildings. They will also pay their taxes on the farm home and the acre lot that the home sits on. But they are talking about value. What this government did was leave the farm home and the acre lot that the home sits on assessed at farm value. That is where the one major change came that the previous administration did not make.
Mr. Brandt: My question is for the Premier with respect to recent layoffs that have occurred in my riding. The Premier may be aware that Mueller Ltd., which has been located in Sarnia in a manufacturing facility for some 75 years, has indicated there is going to be a plant closing on November 30. This comes on the heels of many other layoffs in my community that I believe the Premier is aware of. This large number of layoffs is obviously causing a great deal of concern in my riding, which I am sure is shared by the member for Lambton (Mr. D. W. Smith), who sits on the other side of the House but has not raised this question, to my knowledge, with the Premier in the House or at any other time.
I would like to know what initiatives the Premier and his government have taken in the budget or in the throne speech that might help the laid-off workers, not only in Sarnia and Lambton but also in northern Ontario and in many other parts of this province, who are finding no help whatsoever from this government when they suffer from these kinds of layoffs.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: If the honourable member looks at the throne speech, the budget and the variety of initiatives that have been undertaken, I think he will see a very constructive approach to try to deal with some of these very difficult situations.
The member will know there is industrial restructuring going on, and on balance the picture is very positive. That is not, of course, a sufficient answer to those people who are laid off in specific situations; but we are finding that a lot of those people are being re-employed very quickly in a number of the communities. I cannot make that statement universally, but in general cases, there is substantial pickup of those people who have been displaced because of closedowns.
That being said, we have a number of programs with respect to retraining of older workers, skills training programs and an industrial restructuring commissioner we hope to be able to talk about in the very near future, who we think will have a very positive impact and will take a positive view towards helping those people.
Is his government prepared to offer incentives or some kind of inducements to communities that have been hard hit by way of layoffs, either in terms of moving a portion or a part of a ministry to a community in a circumstance such as I have described or by being prepared to assist in some kind of industrial expansion in some of those communities that require those new jobs to offset these kinds of layoffs? What we need is less rhetoric and a little more action.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I want to thank the honourable member very much for advice on this very specific approach to solving the problem. Let me tell the honourable member, I think this government has done more than any other government in the history of this province to address those particular problems. We have used government jobs. What he is standing up and saying, and has been saying for some time -- as a matter of fact, it is a contribution he has made on more than one occasion -- is that we should move government jobs to Sarnia. Why did the honourable member not move any there when he was in the cabinet and had some position of influence?
We have lots of communities with problems, across the province, and I understand that. We have moved into priority areas, particularly in northern Ontario, that are hard hit. I can tell the member that we are sensitive to the problems in various communities and I can assure him that I am prepared to work with him, the mayor or the community in any way to develop alternative strategies to deal with the problems, community by community.
I think the ministries have shown that sensitivity to addressing the specific problems. If the honourable member is asking me if we are going to move the Treasury to Sarnia tomorrow, the answer is no. But why did the honourable member not move the Ministry of the Environment to Sarnia when he had the opportunity, or does he think clean drinking water is just a yuppie issue?
Mr. Swart: I have sent a copy of a letter from a William Cox of St. Catharines to the Minister of Financial Institutions. Accompanying that letter is another from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., which it is sending to all of its policyholders. I want to ask him a question about that.
The letter from Metropolitan Life states that unless the policyholders contact Metropolitan Life and notify it otherwise -- and usually they have only a two-week limit -- the company will convert all the policyholders' dividends, which are in their name, to additional paid-up insurance policies. This means, of course, that many people who do not pay attention to the nonregistered form letter, or who are away, will have the conversion of their money to costly additional insurance they do not want.
Would the minister not agree that Metropolitan Life is using this unscrupulous and perhaps even illegal procedure to convert millions of dollars of policyholders' money into high-cost insurance for its own benefit? Can this giant insurance company, which is the second largest in the world, do as it likes with other people's money?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I want to thank the member for Welland-Thorold for the courtesy of sending me the letter. I have to admit I had not seen it before and I had not seen the problem before. From what I can tell, what they are doing is making an offer to convert the policy premiums into additional insurance, but they are using what is known as the negative option. The negative option is something that we have objected to in the past, and I will be happy to refer this to the superintendent of insurance and get back to the member with an answer.
Mr. Swart: The minister has obviously already noted that on page 2 of that letter they have this reverse option. Does he not think those two situations should be reversed so that if anybody wants his dividends converted to paid-up policies, he should have to sign for that? If the minister agrees, will he notify Metropolitan Life that no policyholder may have his dividends used to buy additional insurance unless he signs for it, and will he order that any conversions that have been made by Metropolitan Life without written authorization be reconverted to accessible dividends?
Mr. Cureatz: In the absence of the Premier, I would like to direct this question to the Minister of Financial Institutions. Is the minister aware that, since January of this year, I have had correspondence with his ministry and himself concerning the problem that senior citizens are having in getting insurance on their personal property while living in a senior residence?
Mr. Cureatz: As a supplementary, would the minister be so kind as to respond in this chamber, and at least to follow up in writing to me on my correspondence to him from May 1, when I posed the following question:
"Are you aware that insurance companies make a practice of imposing a surcharge on coverage of the effects of senior citizens living in residences and deny them their independence by tacking this coverage on the policies of the next of kin; and further, what measures do you propose to ensure that senior citizens living in residences have insurance at the same rates and under the same conditions as the public at large?"
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The member will know that a senior citizen living in a nursing home is not living under the same conditions as someone living in his own private home. The nursing home has access to strange people who come and go.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: Well, a senior citizens' residence is the same thing. It is a multi-residence facility where people come and go and are total strangers to the person involved. It is a very difficult situation. It is something that we have referred to the superintendent of insurance, and there are various options available.
One is to do what was suggested and have the family's home owner policy include the senior citizen's possessions. The institution itself, the senior citizens' residence, could extend its coverage to that person; all valuables could be put into a safety deposit box; things of that kind could be investigated.
It is a very difficult situation because it is not like every other household. It is a household that has people coming and going and it is very difficult to maintain security. It is something that the superintendent is looking into. It is not a widespread problem, but I certainly appreciate that it is a problem and we are trying to come up with a resolution.
Mr. Grande: My question is for the Minister of Education. It is in regard to the heritage languages program, Bill 80, or the new policy position of the Liberal Party on the teaching of nonofficial Canadian languages in our schools.
The minister's record on this issue right now is a series of broken promises and a lack of commitment. I want to remind him that in June 1986 he said that about the end of the summer he was going to have this new policy. Nothing happened. In February, he said that at the end of February he was going to have it. Nothing happened. The Premier promised publicly on television that by the end of March it was going to be done. Nothing happened. Again, by the end of April, nothing happened.
Can the minister tell us whether he has this new policy? Is he serious about bringing forth this new policy, or has he been mugged, as the Minister of Citizenship and Culture (Ms. Munro), has been mugged, on the way to the cabinet room?
Hon. Mr. Conway: In a quiet and dispassionate way, I want to tell my friend the member for Oakwood that the paper is prepared. In fact, it is at this very moment being translated. I expect to be releasing it within a very few days.
Mr. Grande: The only problem is that I had a note from the minister at the beginning of May. The minister said that possibly in two weeks it would be done, by May 25. We have passed May 25, and the minister is now telling me in two weeks again.
Since the minister already knows that the standing committee on social development is going to be dealing with Bill 80 for two weeks of public hearings, will he make sure that his statements, plus any of the research his ministry has done in regard to the western provinces -- Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- which have had these programs since 1971, will be coming forward to the standing committee on social development?
Hon. Mr. Conway: It seems to me that the member makes a reasonable request. I will make every effort to accommodate it. I want him to know that this matter of heritage languages is something about which we feel very positively on this side, as I know my friend the member for Oakwood does.
Hon. Mr. Conway: I want to assure my friend the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere that he need not be so excited this afternoon. He will have his opportunity for excitement, I expect, in the not-too-distant future. But I have to say to my friend the member for Oakwood that I will do everything I can --
Hon. Mr. Conway: I want to be fair, on the near anniversary date, to say to my friends the member for Bellwoods and the member for Oakwood that I will do everything I can to meet the request. I want the honourable member to know the paper is ready. It is being prepared at this moment for some translation. It will be circulated as quickly as I can arrange.
I regret that it has taken a little longer than I had expected, but I want the honourable member to know our commitment is strong and we will make every effort to prepare the information for him immediately.
Mr. Pollock: In the absence of the Premier (Mr. Peterson) and the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston), I will ask this question to the Treasurer. A 14-year-old boy had two fingers severed in an accident in the Bancroft area. The doctor requested an air ambulance to take the boy to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto to have those two fingers reattached. After approximately two hours of waiting for a response, the air ambulance official told the Bancroft officials the air ambulance would not be available. With an accident of this nature, time is of the essence. Why would it take two hours for the air ambulance people to give a response?
Hon. Mr. Nixon: One of the ambulances was grounded because of weather, the other was in service; and I am delighted to know that the parents bundled the young man into their car, drove him to Sick Children's Hospital and the fingers were reattached successfully.
Mr. Martel: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Rules 29(a) and 88(d), one for oral questions and one for written questions, are pretty specific. In the case of written questions, ministers are supposed to give an interim response within 14 days and then indicate.
I would draw your attention to a question on February 3 and two questions earlier, three of them; and also to an oral question on May 6, 1987, when the minister said he would respond the next day. I am still waiting for the Minister of Labour (Mr. Wrye) to respond the next day. Yesterday, he said he would have responses. Last week, on May 22, the minister said he would have responses to the questions I raised regarding Falconbridge. Mr. Speaker, I can take you right back to February 1986. I am still waiting for the minister. Maybe you can help obtain these answers for me.
Mr. Speaker: If he would give me an opportunity, I would be glad to help the member. I appreciate his comments and request for assistance on two different matters. On the one matter pertaining to the written questions, I am certain that the government House leader has taken careful attention. As I said a day or two ago, it is not the responsibility of the Speaker to make a minister respond to a question.
"That the Honourable Ed Fulton, Minister of Transportation and Communications, and the elected officers of the government of Ontario implement a study in Mara township in the county of Simcoe to devise an alternate route to Simcoe county road 47 which presently is being used as a main artery for transports hauling limestone from the quarry. This current route conveys the transports through the very centre of the village of Brechin and past an elementary school, thus producing great potential safety hazards and disruptions which are totally unnecessary when an alternative route is possible."
Ms. Gigantes: I have a petition signed by 37 residents of the Ottawa-Carleton and eastern Ontario area in support of changes to the Public Accountancy Act to permit public accounting licences for certified general accountants with three years' public accounting experience in Ontario.
Mr. Barlow: Yes, I do have a brief explanation. This bill will require a secret ballot vote for certification of a trade union in all cases where the board is satisfied that at least 45 per cent of the employees in the bargaining unit are members of the trade union. It also provides that a strike vote or a vote to ratify a proposed collective agreement is also taken by secret ballot.
Hon. Mr. Conway: I want to just make some very brief comments on second reading and say, at the outset, that I very much appreciate the support of my friends the member for St. George (Ms. Fish) and the member for Hamilton West (Mr. Allen) in bringing this matter forward.
Bill 55 is an important matter because it amends the Teachers' Superannuation Act in one particular area, and that is to allow teachers with 35 years of experience, but who have not reached the age of 65, to retire without a penalty. The particular duration of this window is, as indicated in the bill, from May 31, 1987, through September 1, 1990.
Ms. Fish: We are pleased to concur in this bill, although we regret the government's decision not to similarly bring forward legislation that would provide for the best five years' averaging to assist those who have retired and will retire in the near future.
Mr. Allen: I rise to indicate that our party supports this bill. Every piece of pension legislation designed in this fashion finds somebody one or two hours or one or two days on the other side of the window or the date one establishes. One is obviously sensitive to that fact, but the overriding concern of this bill not only meets with our support but also has the support of the Ontario Teachers' Federation, with whom negotiations were carried out over a period of time.
Some persons have asked about the three-year window. This is an attempt to deal in pretty much the same fashion as we did after the Bill 30 debate with those teachers for whom a window of three years was highly effective when they were 55 years of age with at least 10 years of experience.
The particular group in this question is teachers who came into the profession prior to the escalation of the academic requirements for the teaching profession. Many of them got into the profession in their 18th, 19th, or even 20th year and reached the age of 53, 54 or 55 and the 35-year limit to the benefits they can obtain from the pension plan and really are deserving of retirement.
Without wanting to give undue sanction to this particular reference, I can only reflect that Martin Luther suggested that any teacher who prevailed for 10 years in the profession was much to be admired. It is a demanding profession and I certainly wish all those who retire under this window all the best in their retirement years.
Mr. Harris: I want to join my colleague the member for St. George, the future member for St. George-St. David, in commenting briefly to say that we also are a little disappointed with the response of the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) and the minister to the five-year averaging we have heard so much about in the last little while.
Also, I really would like to indicate, while the House leader and the minister are here, how apparently little grasp and ability they have to make this Legislature work on any problems that appear to be occurring.
I think it is fair and safe to say that this bill is an example of how ineffectual this government is. This is an important piece of legislation. It affects teachers who, in order to take advantage of this legislation, must make major career decisions and submit their resignations in writing before the end of May. It has now been introduced and rushed forward. We are told it has to have second reading today. "Please, everybody, could you hold your debate to 18 seconds?" It has to have third reading today, because the Lieutenant Governor cannot be here tomorrow. It is a ridiculous way to do business in this House.
This is not the only example. We see example after example of this government coming in with things at the last minute, presumably saying to interest groups and what not: "We wanted it. We wanted to break the rules of the House and whip it all through in one day without debate, but the opposition wanted to know a little about the bill. They wanted to talk about it a little. They wanted to have a little input. After all, the opposition are the majority in the Legislature, but why should we worry about them."
This is another of those bills. We are supporting it and of course we are going to do everything we can to help bail the minister out of a problem he got himself into. Maybe he was too worried about a new office in his riding to be concerned about the teachers of the province or maybe he was concerned about something else, so that this piece of legislation sat on the back burner and then had to be brought forward and whipped through. Even then, I understand we are kind of lucky that we can sneak it in while the Lieutenant Governor is here today. Otherwise, this may not have been passed for teachers to make decisions.
The date today is May 27. Even now, the minister has given teachers who will be eligible for this program -- presumably they will find out about it; if the federation mails it out today or tomorrow maybe they will find out about it before the end of May when they have to submit their letters. If they are here in the Legislature today -- they probably are not here because it is in Orders and Notices for tomorrow.
Mr. Harris: It is in Orders and Notices for tomorrow. Of course, as we now find out, tomorrow is too late because the Lieutenant Governor cannot be here tomorrow. I think it bears saying that this is not the way a minister, a House leader or a government should be bringing forward --
Mr. Harris: I could not understand how ineffectual the government was on this piece of legislation and on others, but now the member for Oriole has set the record straight. They wanted to hold teachers up to ransom, I guess. They wanted to keep them waiting on pins and needles. Maybe they would bring it in and maybe they would not. Maybe that is the reason.
I speak a little facetiously because I do not think that is the reason. I think it is total incompetence on the part of the government. We will do our part in trying to straighten it out and get second and third reading and royal assent today, but with a considerable amount of regret at the way the government has treated the teachers of the province and at the way it treats this Legislature.
Mr. Sterling: I would not normally participate in a debate on a bill such as this because it is rather succinct and to the point. I understand the House leaders have made some agreement in terms of trying to get speedy passage of the bill. When the House leaders meet and make a deal with regard to getting a bill through the House very quickly, that requires co-operation on the part of everybody in this Legislature. I do not want to delay this unduly, but I would like to cite this minister in terms of the co-operation he has given to this House and to the members of this Legislature in the past, and in the recent past with regard to education matters, particularly in the Ottawa-Carleton area.
Mr. Sterling: First, the minister in dealing with education matters in eastern Ontario, when asked questions by myself, chose to cast aspersions upon this member without answering the particular questions. I was happy to receive recently a letter from the president of the Catholic parents association to the Premier (Mr. Peterson) that chastised the minister for making these particular aspersions rather than answering the question.
Mr. Sterling: It is my understanding that when we deal with a matter in this Legislature, the Teachers' Superannuation Act, we are dealing with a number of matters dealing with our education system and that part of the legislative process --
Mr. Sterling: With regard to the Teachers' Superannuation Act, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that as a member of the Legislature you have received many letters from various constituents who are retired teachers and who have been seeking redress for very low pensions that they have been receiving from this government.
I was happy to see that under the pressure of the teachers' superannuation organization and of many of the members on this side of the floor, especially the member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Davis), the Treasurer did move one small bit in readdressing that situation and giving some of our more elderly retired teachers a boost in their pensions. I welcome that. I hope he will address it again in the very near future. However, he could also have addressed another inequity, as put forward by the member for Scarborough Centre, and that is calculating their pension on the basis of the best five years.
Mr. Sterling: Mr. Speaker, perhaps you could restrain the Treasurer. I am having difficulty addressing myself to this bill. I know you want me to keep relevant and therefore I am trying to keep relevant, but he keeps interrupting me.
I was saying that if the Treasurer had seen fit to give the Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) adequate funding in the budget -- not only for this but also for other matters like the funding of new capital construction in eastern Ontario where we got only 13 per cent to 15 per cent of our request, whereas around the Toronto area he managed to give somewhere around 47 per cent to 98 per cent of the requests -- we would see fit to pass this bill in a much more congenial manner.
I want to say in concluding my remarks that this legislation is in tune with what I believe my party stands for in terms of trying to get young teachers into the teaching profession and giving those who have served for 35 years the opportunity to retire and retain their sanity, as well as providing for our younger people the opportunity to get into the teaching profession.
Last, I want to suggest to the minister, if he brings legislation forward in the future, that he mention to the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) that when he goes to eastern Ontario and announces the capital funding for large institutions like Algonquin College, for a tourism and hospitality school which he did yesterday or the day before, that he have the courtesy to invite the local MPPs to such announcements. I only hope that when they are going to announce the additions or the capital funding for the University of Ottawa, the Premier (Mr. Peterson) will take the opportunity to do that --
Mr. McClellan: Very briefly, it is necessary to point out that the House is giving unanimous consent to waive the provision of the standing orders that prevents bills from passing more than one stage in one afternoon because of the importance of this bill, and as my colleague the member for Nipissing (Mr. Harris) said, because of the fact that delays in bringing in the bill meant a major inconvenience to a number of teachers who are faced with an end-of-May deadline to qualify for the retirement provisions of the bill. Because of our longstanding traditions of being co-operative, we are pleased to accommodate the government and help to bail it out of the embarrassment it is in here this afternoon.
Mr. Harris: The member for St. George had a previous engagement and actually did not know the bills were coming forward today. She was able to stay for second reading. I know she would want to be here for third reading but is unable to be here. I am explaining in that way her absence as our critic.
Mr. Speaker: May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly of the province has, at its present sittings thereof, passed certain bills to which, in the name of and on behalf of the said Legislative Assembly, I respectfully request Your Honour's assent.
Hon. Mr. Nixon: I appreciate the co-operation of all members, which is better some times than others. On this occasion, the House has authorized the expenditure of between $7 billion and $9 billion -- I can tell the members exactly if I burrow into my desk -- most of which has already been spent.
It may be that we should amend the provisions of interim supply and make it read, let us say, November 1 or something like that, but I am not going to press my luck at this time. However, notice of interim supply that will be necessary by the end of June will be in Orders and Notices in the near future. I am very glad that this one is about to carry.
Many years ago, a young man stood before a crowd of men, women and children and in a dynamic and outstanding address gave those individuals hope, a cause, a sense of purpose with the famous words, "I have a dream." We know that dream. What we found is a man of vision, a person with foresight, an individual possessing qualities of courage and conviction, a man who believed in a purpose and was prepared to travel the unknown paths of tomorrow because he had a dream and he had a vision.
l recall the former Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson, who had a vision of giving Canada a sense of identity, and he did it with the debates and the final crowning of our own flag. He risked to make it a reality. I reflect upon the honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who also had a dream, a cause, to bring home to Canada its own Constitution.
Two years ago, this government moved into a position of power through new initiatives in Ontario politics. From its birth, there was a sense of newness. The Premier (Mr. Peterson) captured the moment of time by indicating that his leadership and his government policies would be future-oriented, a government for the 1980s, a government for tomorrow.
This budget demonstrates that this Liberal government has failed miserably to provide Ontarians with a vision for tomorrow. It is a bland, static budget and it reveals very few initiatives to deal with the pressing problems of youth unemployment, the housing crisis we face in our ridings, our educational problems.
The Premier and his colleagues have refused to follow in the footsteps of previous federal leaders, who were willing to take the risks, who were prepared to challenge people to think of tomorrow through future-oriented programs and policies. This government --
This government has no vision for tomorrow. Nowhere do we see in this budget a glimpse of strategies to be developed which would enable Ontarians to come to terms with a technological and service and information society, which is now on the horizon and dawning upon us and moving very quickly; no dreams, no visions, no innovations for community health programs; no stimulus and no challenge to our seniors to exercise their talents and their gifts to become more involved in this new age; no imaginative programs to stimulate small businesses, the heart of Ontario's economy; nothing to challenge the economic markets of tomorrow. The budget is void of vision for the development of research opportunities. There are no bold initiatives in education to challenge our young people and to prepare them for tomorrow.
This document will not prepare Ontarians for the year 2001. Alas, the problems we face as a province today -- unemployment; 150,000 young people in this province without jobs; the chronic disrepair of many of our educational institutions; inadequate educational funding on all levels; the continuing high costs of health care; the desperate lack of day care facilities for young parents; society's need to address new illnesses, such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome and Alzheimer's disease; the lack of innovation in transportation -- these concerns of today, the concerns of the people in Scarborough Centre will, because of this bland, do-nothing budget, remain the concerns of the community in the province's tomorrow. Where is the boldness?
Mr. Davis: No, I did not. I said boldness. Where are the visions and the dreams of this bankrupt government? One certainly would believe that, after 42 years, my honoured colleagues sitting on this side of the House and seeing those same problems day after day, month after month, year after year, would at least have had some kinds of strategies, policies and innovative ideas to offer the people of Ontario. One can only concur with my socialistic colleagues to my left that, without the accord, without those innovations and those directions, this government would be floundering on a sea of change, rudderless.
Let us examine the record of this government. Since coming to power in 1985, this government has increased spending by $8 billion. Since assuming the mantle of government, the Liberals have increased personal income tax by four per cent, have placed a surcharge on all income over $50,000, have increased the alcohol tax levy, have increased the tobacco tax levy, have increased the corporate taxes, have increased the tax on gasoline to the tune of one half a million dollars a day that flows into the Treasurer's pockets and have increased the land transfer tax. In fact, this government has taken from the pockets of the average Ontarian more than $900 million over last year.
The record falls far short of demonstrating fiscal responsibility. Despite our economic buoyancy, our record level of revenue growth, the public debt is still at 17.7 per cent of the gross provincial product. The cost of servicing this debt is $3.8 billion, more money than the Treasurer (Mr. Nixon) expends, totally, for financing all the programs of Community and Social Services in this province. Little wonder this government has refused to pass through the $150 to the 13,000 disabled in this province. I am led to believe that by this amount of $4,300 for every man, woman and child, we are mortgaging our children's future.
The budget shows this government has increased spending by some 30 per cent since taking office. In the three budgets brought down by this Treasurer, we find an average increase in government spending of approximately 10 per cent, while inflation is running at just about four per cent. The civil service has grown by 4,600 people in the last year, at a cost of over $200 million.
This budget contains no allocation for pay equity in the public service, conservatively estimated by the government's own officials at around $88 million. There are no allocations for the new fee structures of doctors, expected to be lucrative in the face of an upcoming election.
Mr. Davis: My colleagues to my left should watch. They will see the Treasurer continue to flow money out faster than he makes it. There is no indication of the new costs of the dental care program recently announced. Therefore, what we see is that the government's spending is growing faster than the economy and this budget faster than the provincial revenues the Treasurer is collecting. We are witnessing the resurrection of the Trudeau years: free-wheeling spending and high deficits by this government.
Mr. Davis: There is nothing wrong with quoting a great statesman once in a while. You do not have to agree with the individual's ideology or policies all the time. Why, heavenly day, there are even times we agree with some of the innovations and the initiatives and policies of the New Democratic Party, let alone the Liberals.
Our Treasurer has created what I want to call "Nixon economics," which I believe every family in Scarborough Centre would love to practice in its daily budgeting. Our Treasurer indicates that his government will have revenues of some $33 billion, but we will expend some $34 billion. This Liberal government is going to spend $1 billion more than it is going to take in. If only we could run our household on this type of budgeting policy that the Treasurer has initiated in Ontario and spend more than we have. Does this demonstrate fiscal responsibility? I think not. These are the actions of a government that has lost control. It is irresponsible fiscal policy.
Mr. Davis: Let us look at that for a moment, 15 members. I believe that in the last election the papers were decrying the flow of Liberal elected members who were flying off to Ottawa. I did not hear any concern, or the Liberals saying how important it was that they were losing those members. All of a sudden, because some members on the Progressive Conservative side have decided, for their own reasons, to retire, people would like to paint the picture that we are falling apart. We are not. We are not falling apart. We have excellent candidates coming aboard.
Mr. Davis: That is right. Lambton is one we have earmarked. The member for Lambton (Mr. D. W. Smith) ought to be careful because I think that is one we are going to take; and the member for Chatham-Kent (Mr. Bossy) needs to be careful because that is another one I think is ripe for the harvesting.
Mr. Davis: I will continue to place before the people of Scarborough Centre my record as a political activist, as a person who has been involved in my community for 14 years, and I will let the people of Scarborough Centre make the decision who should represent them in this House; and they will.
As I was attempting to say, this is an irresponsible fiscal policy followed by this government. It shows complete disregard for reality or respect for the people of Ontario. This budget shows that this government's course of action is to spend, spend, spend. It is ironic that the Treasurer at one point stood up and said he would not buy votes, buy votes, buy votes; but that is exactly what this budget is intended to do. "Let the people of tomorrow's generation pay for our good times." That is what the Treasurer is saying.
It is a wonder he can go to Cochrane North and talk about the cost of gasoline when his Premier had promised he would rebate that and this government, under this Treasurer, went ahead and increased the cost of gasoline to the north to the tune of a half a million dollars a day flowing into the coffers of the Treasury. So much for the concern and the compassion that this government has for the people of northern Ontario.
Mr. Davis: l would like to review the deficit of this province for a moment. Our Treasurer boldly stated to the press and to the people of Ontario that this budget would reduce the deficit below $1 billion with a reduction of some $350 million, and there was a chorus of applause from the other side. But wait. Let us examine that $350 million. What we see is that it will only occur if the Treasurer can reduce some of the ministries' budgets by the $350 million. Otherwise, the deficit remains the same at $1.3 billion or perhaps escalates.
What areas of programs will the Treasurer cut? Will he cut the agricultural programs of the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell) to find the $350 million? Perhaps he will cut back on the hospital extension and capital that is still owing from last year's budget. Perhaps he will look at education. He can always find money in education. He has been very scrimpy in affording the kinds of finances needed there. Maybe he will cut that; or the environment.
How about the disabled? That is an easy place to find money. They have difficulty articulating their concerns and their needs to this government. In fact, they came down to talk to the Premier and some of his cabinet colleagues who would not even meet with them.
I would point out that in the past the government of Ontario has looked to Scarborough Centre and helped it deal with its seniors with a number of senior homes. Certainly in the future, the government would never want to be accused of looking after only those areas in this province that are painted a certain colour.
Mr. Davis: Red? Of course not. The member would certainly want to be known as the member for Lambton who was concerned with ensuring that there was funding for all the people of Ontario. We may just get to look at where the grants have been going lately. According to the figures of the Treasurer, the total provincial debt is some $37 billion, up $4 billion in the two years since this group has been in power; and this government claims to be exercising fiscal responsibility.
The Treasurer rose proudly last week and said, "No increases in taxes," and the people in Ontario went wild. "No increases." This budget does absolutely nothing to alleviate the heavy tax burden that this Treasurer has placed on the backs of the average person in Ontario in the last two years. Certainly there were no cuts in the taxes. He did not have to have any increases in taxes because he had already taxed people to death, so before the election he was going to smooth them over. "I am not going to increase the tax base." He had already done it to a tune of $900 million.
Why were there no tax cuts? It seems to me that with the kind of buoyant economy and the tremendous kind of income the Treasurer has inherited, at the very least he could have cut personal income tax by 10 per cent. The Treasurer and this government have mortgaged the future of our children and our grandchildren and they will strangle the generations of tomorrow with the increasing debt of this province.
I would like to turn our attention for a few moments to the government's top-priority commitment -- education. In the throne speech, we heard and found that education is at the core of this government's policy, initiatives and programs. The Premier talks about excellence in education. In the throne speech, he talks about a curriculum and an experience that are relevant and meaningful to students. The Minister of Education (Mr. Conway) talks about providing young people with skills needed for lifetime learning. The government promises a day care facility in each new school that will be built. The Premier has said, "An investment in our schools is an investment in the future of our communities."
Let us examine the Liberal record in education. When the Liberals came to power, the provincial share of the educational budget -- and I know the honourable minister will agree -- was 48.6 per cent. Now, after three budgets -- not one, not two, but three budgets -- the provincial share is 44 per cent, a drop of four per cent. I call it the "minus four per cent solution" of the Liberals to deal with education.
What this government has done is increase the property owners' contributions to education in this province. I would point out to the Treasurer that even during the recession the previous Progressive Conservative government's contributions to educational funding never dropped below 50 per cent until 1982. Let members check their records. What we found was it took the previous government a time frame of six years to lower that four per cent. This government has accomplished a four per cent reduction in the provincial share of education in this province in less than two years.
The government wishes to confuse the reality of educational funding by constantly referring to capital costs and capital grants and how much more it has done there. What is interesting to note is that the comparison the Treasurer uses is to 1984-85 allocations. But when we compare this budget to last year's budget, we see an increase to capital grants of only $13 million, which is the cost of one high school.
This flies in the face of realities, especially when we realize there are nine growth areas: the Metropolitan Separate School Board, the Scarborough Board of Education, the North York Board of Education, the Halton Board of Education, the Halton Roman Catholic Separate School Board, the Durham Board of Education, the Durham Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board, the Peel Board of Education and the Dufferin-Peel Roman Catholic Separate School Board.
These boards' capital needs are projected at between $360 million and $720 million annually. What we find in the school board requests in 1985-86 is a request for $398 million. This Liberal government, which likes to portray itself as being generous in education, provided $127 million, a shortfall of $271 million.
Last year there was a request for $504 million. The government gave $147 million, a shortfall of $357 million. This year, the boards of education in this province asked for $1 billion and the government gave them $147 million, a shortfall of some $800 million.
It is interesting. If the Liberals had maintained the provincial share of funding that they inherited when they walked across the floor to govern a year ago, they would have found an additional $250 million in their budget for capital costs. The government has provided an additional $226 million in capital which will flow through in 1988-89, but that is not enough. It is too little, too late. There are still 150,000 students in this province who receive, if not all, a large majority of their education in portables.
I can recall that the present Minister of Education, in one of his famous speeches asking for the resignation of the previous minister, indicated that one of the rationales for that was that the government had failed to address the needs of children in portables. Since this minister has taken office we have seen the number of portables increase.
The money allocated, the $226 million, would build -- are members ready for this? -- 15 high schools across this province, if all the money went to building high schools. However, if the government decided to put all the money into elementary schools, it would build approximately 40 elementary schools.
What we do know is that the York boards, York Region Board of Education and the York Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board, require two high schools per year, 10 elementary schools and capital funding of $40 million to $80 million a year. This budget does not seriously address the educational needs of this province with respect to capital funding.
The Minister of Education, the Premier and the Treasurer talk about lifelong education experience -- a great goal, an excellent philosophical statement. But what is reality? This government that philosophizes on lifelong education has refused to recognize as a legitimate use of space adult day classes in this province.
In fact, I had the honour and the privilege of opening the new school in Scarborough for adult education when it began. The enrolment next year will be over 1,100 students. What indeed I saw from an innovative board is the educational school of tomorrow, the retraining and the re-educating of the adults of our province, with no thanks to this Treasurer or this minister.
I am glad to see the minister respond to an initiative that I have championed for several years, to provide day care settings in the schools of the province, especially in those schools that have declining enrolments. The minister went one step further. He announced in this House that every new school that will be built will have space for day care facilities. For that, I applaud him. That is an initiative that needs to be done in this province.
But what is the record? School boards have been informed that the existing day care programs that are now operating will not be recognized as legitimate uses of space. For the ministry's purpose, this space will be classified as empty. How can they claim on one hand that they are going to build and provide day care in new schools, and on the other close day care now operating in the older schools?
I would like the Minister of Education to tell the people of the Victoria county school area that they will have day care facilities built in their two new schools. I have yet to be informed that they are going to have day care facilities, but it is a new school. Or are the parents in Victoria county to be treated as equally, with the same kind of opportunity, as the people in the city of Toronto or Scarborough? Is that going to be -- the minister's favourite phase -- "a local option"?
Where in this budget do we find the additional funds for the purchase of computers? If we accept the Premier's statements that we must ensure students are trained in the new literacy -- as he informed the Scarborough Mirror on Monday, where he is quoted -- where is the funding for word processors for young students interested in business and office careers? Where is the funding from the Treasurer for the purchase of modern equipment like computerized lathes and machine shops to ensure our young people receive proper training with skills for the job market?
I assure the Treasurer that he has informed us in the capital accounts. He says, "Look to the capital account." What do we find in that area? A paltry $46 million. Let us look at the $46 million. I ask the educators, parents and students to examine the record of the Liberal government.
The government has indicated that science is of primary importance in its educational policy. The boards of education across this province have requested $72 million to upgrade their science rooms. The government's total commitment for upgrading facilities and equipment in this province this year will be $46 million. No money is budgeted in the Treasurer's report for new science books, which I have been told will cost an estimated $121 million.
If my understanding is correct, in Victoria county, where two new schools are to be built, they will not have a modern science classroom. That just reinforces the philosophy that the Treasurer stated during the debates on educational funding several months ago that students outside of Metro cannot expect the same quality of education which he called, "these many innovative programs that are frivolous."
I ask the Treasurer and the Minister of Education, should not the students of Victoria county have access to a music program? Should they not have access to the family studies room, machine shops, wood shops and metal shops that the children of Scarborough have? Or are they second-class citizens?
I want to talk about school drop-outs. I mean, I really want to talk about school drop-outs. This minister took two years to address an issue and so he assigned a one-man task force to go across the province and investigate school drop-outs. If the minister had wanted to find out about school drop-outs, he could have joined the Progressive Conservative task force that went across this province last fall and summer and he would have had enough data to deal with the school drop-out issue. There is no educator on that task force. There is no student. There is no parent. It is a one-man task force and the objective of this government is to eliminate the school drop-out rate by one third over five years.
It is noted that in an ordinary class of 100 students beginning grade 9, 40 of those students will not complete their secondary school education. The sad thing is the majority of those young people are capable of post-secondary education. This government says, "We are going to reduce it by one third over five years." What is one third of 40? Approximately 13 students are somehow going to be funnelled back into the system at the end of five years. That is two students a year -- shame -- two of the 40 students a year in any given group of 100. Two students out of the 40 will find the opportunity to continue their education. I suggest the goal should be zero.
In 1985, the Premier campaigned across this province on a provincial share of 60 per cent funding. Did this budget move significantly in that direction? No. Last month, the Minister of Education, in recognition of the problem between the per pupil grant for elementary and for secondary, froze the difference at $911 and then spoke volumes about how much he recognized that concern and that problem. Did this budget make a significant move to reduce that shortfall? No. Did we see any bold initiatives on the part of the Liberal government in educational financing? No. Did we perceive this government moving to eliminate the educational tax burden on the property owner, understanding that it is sitting on the Macdonald report? No.
The rhetoric that we are exposed to by this government is deafening. It continually states that there must be more resources for elementary students in response to the blueprint for justice and that it must address the drop-out rate. Yet, faced with a golden opportunity to put words into actions, faced with a prospect of really doing something in elementary and secondary education for students and teachers of this province, what do we see and what do we hear? Nothing.
The Premier talks of a first-class educational system and he points out that Ontario has to be in the forefront in technology. He especially takes great pride in the technological fund, $100 million a year for the development of a technological program; $1 billion in 10 years. I ask my colleague, the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini), would it not be more practical to take that $100 million and buy computers, to ensure that the young people in elementary grades and secondary schools all have computers? If we are really talking about providing a base foundation of technology for Ontario, we begin that in the classroom; and we begin it by providing computers and word processors and providing the type of equipment that young people need in their shops to prepare them for the work force.
This budget demonstrates that, contrary to the Liberal government policies, education is not a priority. They are words of puffery. They are illusionary. What we find are promises that are counterfeit. True, an investment in our schools is an investment in the future of our province, our community and our country. This government, through this budget, has abdicated its promises of investing in the education of young students and preparing them for tomorrow and the new age.
I am sadly disappointed. I would like to try and envision what happened to the Minister of Education as he walked into the dark hallway to meet the Treasurer. Did he go down on bended knee and ask and beg for more money; or was he cuffed about the ears and battered into the corner; told, "Go away, young man, go away"? Maybe he was told to go west. Who knows?
I sat here and I believed that this Minister of Education and this Treasurer were committed to education. I was looking forward to something that was revolutionary, dynamic. I was looking for something which said -- even in my wildest dreams I expected him to go from 44 per cent to 48 per cent; but no, he did not go that way. I expected him at least to have said, "I am going to begin to address and reduce the gap between the elementary student and the student in the secondary school." No. I find it appalling that this government did not take the initiative to move dramatically into education. What happened is that the people in the family of education will no longer place trust in the words of this government.
I would like to move for a moment to seniors. I had at least expected the Treasurer to bring about some innovative mechanisms in addressing the needs of seniors in Ontario. What do we see? He made a very innovative movement. He said: "I am going to increase the tax grant by giving you $600 to write off your income tax instead of $500. I am going to give you an additional $100."
We applaud that move, but let us look at it. What we really find is that the education tax bill of the seniors in Scarborough Centre went up $40 this year, because of this government; because this government refused to move on the 60 per cent level of funding. We are going to give them $100 and take back $40. They got $60.
I cannot let it go by without talking about the disabled. I find it appalling that any government, any politician, would pre-empt a federal increase in their pensions to the disabled persons of this province. It is a disgraceful type of action on the part of the Treasurer and the minister. We see a definite lack of compassion and concern on the part of this government.
The federal government indicated it wished to increase the benefits of the disabled by $150 per month. The federal minister indicated that he wished the provinces to flow that money through, that it was not to be counted as income, so that the guaranteed annual income system would still apply. But this Liberal government, this Premier, this Treasurer and the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) said: "No, we will do it our way. We will give them $50 and use the other $100 for other disabled people."
The Minister of Community and Social Services defends this by saying it was only fair and just that the government should increase the benefits of other disabled people in response to the federal government initiatives. Who could argue with that kind of decision-making, that kind of rationale? But let us examine what in fact they did. They gave $50 to the disabled. I wish the members to know that works out to $1.66 per day, whereas if the total fund from the federal government had flowed through, the people would have received $5 a day.
The minister stands up and defends it by saying he had no choice. I want this assembly to know that this minister indeed did have a choice. He could have funded the other disabled people to the tune of $150 a month. It probably works out to somewhere around $126 million to $130 million in additional income to the disabled. But no, this crass government took $100 away from those physically disabled persons. Shame.
I would like to say a few words about free trade. Perhaps there is no more important issue to face our province than the impact of free trade. The Treasurer saw fit to address this important issue that affects every Ontarian in just two brief paragraphs. Again, we see the bankruptcy of this government for leadership in creative thoughts and planning for the future. Any student of economics realizes and recognizes that in bilateral trade negotiations there will be an impact upon the economy of Ontario and on our industrial sector. One would concur that Ontario will benefit from this agreement. However, there will be some sectors of our economy in which there will be some type of unemployment, something that is dysfunctional. We will find that in some areas people will find employment is in jeopardy.
Surely the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology (Mr. O'Neil) is well aware of the industries and service areas that could be placed in jeopardy. Most certainly, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology would have a most strong advocate to have incorporated in this budget funding to prepare for the impact of free trade expected for those men and women in this province. We find no direction and no initiatives in this government dealing with the retraining program for those who will be requiring employment change. Nor do we find this government meeting with our industry and labour leaders to plan for tomorrow when a bilateral trade agreement is approved. This government is developing no strategies to enable Ontario to adjust to free trade.
I would like to talk for a few moments about skills training. The Liberal government claims that its Futures program has been highly successful. It was introduced in 1985 to assist 230,000 young people by the end of 1986. It is now May 1987 and they say that their program has helped only 50,000 young persons. The reality of the situation is that there are 150,000 young Ontarians who are currently unemployed and this Liberal government and its policies have done nothing to help them.
In this budget, one would have expected a proposal for tomorrow, the beginning of a campaign to deal with 150,000 young people who are unemployed -- instead of contributing to the high unemployment among youth today -- by establishing creative apprenticeship programs, retraining programs and initiating incentives for small business that encourage employment opportunities for these young people.
This budget and this government lack direction and policy. This Liberal government cancelled the former Progressive Conservative government's program to help retrain older laid-off workers. Now the Liberals see the program had merit. They recognize the initiative and the futuristic planning of the previous government and now they are going to reintroduce the program. I am deeply distressed that this government and this Premier, who love to toss around phrases like "first-class," have failed the young unemployed youth of Ontario. They have offered no hope. They have offered no jobs for tomorrow.
There is another issue of great concern to the people of Ontario; that is, the Ontario housing crisis that we now find ourselves in. Each year, 17,000 new housing units are required but only half of those are currently being met. The Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) assured the people of Ontario who were seeking accommodation, especially affordable accommodation, that his rent review bill would result in new construction and new places to live. That simply is not true.
It is a fact that eight Canadian cities have a vacancy rate of less than one per cent and seven of those cities are in Ontario: Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Oshawa, St. Catharines, Windsor and Metropolitan Toronto. It is easier to find a place to live in New York City where there is a vacancy rate of 2.5 per cent than to find accommodation in the seven cities I have indicated. What Bill 51 accomplishes is higher rents; 10 per cent, 15 per cent and in some cases we have heard 30 per cent.
What is interesting is that the rent review package was placed in the accord for the Liberals to look at rent review. What was very interesting when we began the debate was that the tenants came forward and had an agreement with the landlords that this was the kind of package they would like to look at. What happened was that all of a sudden the members of the New Democratic Party began to realize that they were losing a focus, that they could no longer go out and drum up votes by saying, "You are paying too high a price." When they looked at the building-operating-cost index/residential-complex-cost index formula, they found out, as was pointed out to the member for Windsor-Riverside by my colleagues on several occasions, that we were going to see higher rent increases.
One of the promises the NDP wanted in that bill was this type of board of management that would give tenants some teeth to bring about the repairs they needed in their apartment buildings. We concurred. That was good. What has happened is that the Housing minister has now pulled the teeth of that particular committee which he is now creating. I find it interesting that the NDP, which initiated the process and which had no problem with the BOCI-RCCI formula when we began, all of a sudden backed off and is back talking about four per cent for rent increases in this province.
My leader, the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman), and our Housing critic attempted to address the concern of affordable housing by introducing a motion to provide rent supplements to all individuals in Ontario who were paying 30 per cent of their income for housing. It was at least a step to attempt to address a social need, to help those people own their own homes or to have accommodation. But the Liberal government in concert with its New Democratic Party friends voted that proposal down. We note that the rent supplements for the needy are assisting only 11,000 families and we have a waiting list of 23,000 at Ontario Housing. There are 40,000 people in this province waiting for accommodation of some type.
One of the most frustrating aspects of being an elected member is dealing with people who come to ask for assistance in finding housing when there is no room in the inn because this government has not initiated the kind of action we expected from it to create affordable housing. We do know that the increase in administrative spending of the Housing minister, which is going to be used for new staffing, is sufficient to construct 200 new rental units.
Just for a few brief moments, I would like to talk about health. We would have expected some initiative and definite planning for tomorrow from the Liberal government, new, creative ideas. We find no new money in this budget for community-based health care services. We find no money for paramedics and no money for mental health. Instead, the Liberals simply repeat the belief that there are two studies going on and that when those studies are concluded they will then develop a health care program for the people of this province. One would have expected something better from this government.
Child care: One looks at the budget and concurs with those who are desperately seeking child care in this province. They ask: "Where is the government's initiative, where is its overall strategy and plan that we were promised?" A comprehensive new policy on child care was to revolutionize this province, their minister stated. The child care initiative has been called a betrayal by Susan Colley and we continue to be faced with this problem. What we need is a government that will begin to address seriously that whole child care problem in our province. One wonders if we can trust the word of the Premier. The Minister of Community and Social Services stated that the province needs 100,000 new spaces and this budget will provide for some 5,000.
I would like to say just a few words about transportation. The Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton) was given $130 million for Metro Toronto. Of that, $50 million will be gobbled up, to begin with, for the extension of Highway 407 that my colleague the member for York Centre (Mr. Cousens) was able to promote and finally get this government to move on. What is interesting is that there is no funding for the subway to come across Sheppard through Scarborough and North York. It seems to me that one of the crises our province is facing is the amount of vehicles moving into the downtown core and the moving of people efficiently and quickly from one centre in this province to another. I would have expected a much more innovative program to come from the Minister of Transportation and Communications.
Then I look at the environment. I want to draw to the attention of the House and especially to the attention of the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) the concern of my constituents about the Scarborough Bluffs. When is this government going to provide a five-year, comprehensive program to address the erosion problem that the residents face on Fishleigh and other streets along the banks of the Scarborough Bluffs? That would at least have been an initiative on behalf of this government. This government needs to do much more in the area of the environment.
I tried very quickly to do a summary of some of the areas of concern that I and the people of Scarborough Centre have about this budget. I expected this budget to be much more innovative, daring and creative. I find it disappointing and, along with my leader, say that this government could have done better.
Mr. Wildman: Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time for me to join in a debate since the new session began, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your elevation to your position and on the way you conduct the business of this House.
I listened carefully to the intervention of my colleague the member for Scarborough Centre and noted that he said he had tried to deal quickly with the issues raised by the budget presented in this House recently by the Treasurer. I will try to be a little quicker than my colleague in dealing with the issues.
I was particularly interested in listening to the comments of the member for Scarborough Centre because in my view this budget presented by the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk (Mr. Nixon) is indeed a conservative budget. It is a budget that any of the Conservative Treasurers who have served in this House since I first was elected in 1975 could have introduced.
This is the kind of budget that could have been introduced by Darcy McKeough, perhaps even by the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson) and certainly by the member of the Legislature who now leads the official opposition. I say that because in my view this is basically a stand-pat budget. It is a steady-as-she-goes, maintain-the-status-quo budget. It is not an attempt to actually take advantage of the tremendous windfall that has accrued to the provincial Treasury as a result of the boom in the economy in southern Ontario, particularly in the Golden Horseshoe.
I suppose that I should be pleased with this budget because the government has chosen not to increase taxes, not even the so-called sin taxes that it is almost traditional that Treasurers increase whenever they have the opportunity. I am sure many people in the province are happy that there is no provincial tax increase at this time. Nobody likes to pay taxes, least of all myself. But I must admit that I was unaware of the people of the province jumping for joy and raving about this budget, as was indicated by the member for Scarborough Centre. Even though there were no tax increases and there may have been a sense of relief on the part of the electorate and on the part of the taxpayers, I did not experience any great joy myself and neither did my constituents or the people I talked to on hearing about this budget.
This is not the kind of budget that stimulates great reaction of one kind or another. This is basically a boring budget. There is not much there to get excited about. At a time when there was so much more revenue coming to the provincial Treasury, we might have expected the government to take the opportunity to actually change the tax system, to do something to improve tax fairness in our province.
Instead, all we got was a statement from the Treasurer that he was waiting upon the federal government, on the federal Minster of Finance, Mr. Wilson, to come forward with his long-awaited proposals for tax reform before there was any attempt to improve the fairness of taxes at the provincial level. For some reason the Treasurer believes anything of this nature must be done in concert with the federal government.
I am surprised at this, but the Treasurer seems to be unwilling and unable to lead and unable to take new initiatives on his own. Perhaps he does not have a vision of what this province could be or what this government could do to improve our province for the ordinary people of Ontario. If that is the case, I am surprised. Since I have come to know him, I have come to admire and to like, although disagree with on many occasions, the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk. I respect his ability and his capacity for hard work, so I suppose that is one of the reasons I am particularly disappointed by this budget.
I really did think that with $1 billion extra in revenue that was not anticipated last year -- an enormous amount of money, even without increasing taxes -- this was an opportunity the Treasurer could have used to try to reform the tax system and ensure that the people of this province who have the ability to pay are paying their fair share, while those who are at the lower levels of the income stratosphere would not have to pay. That was not done.
I suppose the government will point to the fact that it has eliminated Ontario health insurance plan premiums for some people by increasing the level of exemption as an effort to try to improve fairness. I certainly support that attempt but I think it falls far short of what is possible, and certainly far short of what this government -- this party that now governs -- promised when it was in opposition and promised in the election campaign.
The changes in the income levels for the exemption from OHIP premiums are so low that what it basically means is that if the working poor, the people who make the minimum wage, know about this program, they can get out of having to pay OHIP premiums. It basically means that the people who two years ago did not pay OHIP premiums but whose income was raised slightly when there was a small increase in the minimum wage now again are eligible for not having to pay OHIP premiums.
The Liberal Party, when it was in an election campaign, promised to eliminate OHIP premiums, not just for the working poor, but for everybody. I support that. We are one of the few provinces, one of four, that actually have health care premiums, medicare premiums. Yet we are certainly supposed to be one of the more wealthy provinces, one of the richest provinces. Why is it that we continue to have medicare premiums at a time that a province like New Brunswick, for instance, does not?
It is one of the most unfair taxes because it has no relationship to income. Perhaps that is one move that might have been taken by a Treasurer with a vision and with a desire to reform and to change. If he was not going to eliminate OHIP premiums, perhaps the system could have been restructured in some way so that the premium paid relates to the actual income of the family or the individual paying the premium, but there was no change except to allow the working poor, the people at the very bottom of the income structure, to avoid paying OHIP premiums.
In our view, nobody who lives below the poverty level as determined by Statistics Canada should be paying OHIP premiums. We propose that a first step would be to take the poverty level for individuals and families and say that no one whose income is below that level should be paying a medicare premium. We estimate that would have cost something like $260 million to achieve, at a time when this government had $1 billion more revenue than it expected. It is not a very large sum for a very small step towards eliminating a most unprogressive tax and bringing us in line with other parts of this country, with provincial governments that have much lower revenues than does this government. But there was no attempt to deal with that in this budget.
I looked for a number of other things in this budget. I looked for an attempt by this government to deal with the farm crisis. In my part of Ontario there is no farming and people sometimes think agriculture is not very important. They do not realize that farming is a primary industry of great importance even in my part of Ontario. Young farmers particularly, but farmers in general, are experiencing a real financial crisis at a time when they are being squeezed between competitive attempts to subsidize by the United States and the European Community and when commodity prices are at an all-time low.
In my area, the beef producers particularly, but even the dairy producers, are in serious trouble. The enormous investment that is required today for a young man and woman, a young couple, to enter farming is so great that it is impossible for most young people even to contemplate entering farming. That is a tragedy not just for those young couples who might like to take over the family farm or even go into farming when they have not been involved directly through their own families before, but I think it is a tragedy for all of rural Ontario and our rural communities.
I admit that the Treasurer did try to deal in this budget with some of the agricultural problems. He continued the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program, which I think is very helpful in dealing with interest rates for young farmers. He also tried to improve the property tax exemption for bona fide farmers and he tried to deal with a really serious problem in trying to assist farmers to take land out of production and keep land out of production, whether it be wetlands or woodlots. I suppose that is a genuine effort. Most of that, certainly the OFFIRR program, will be welcomed by a lot of people in rural communities.
But it does not deal with the central problem of how we try to ensure, first, that farmers get an adequate return for their labour, their management and their investment and, second, how we enable young people who wish to enter farming to do it.
I think the amounts that have been proposed by the federal government to assist farming in this country are only a small step and I worry about the future as we seem to be heading more and more into a competition with our trading partners to see who can subsidize agriculture at higher and higher levels. I think that is a no-win situation for Canada and certainly for Ontario, but I do not see any efforts in this budget to respond to that and to try to encourage the federal government to deal with what is a major crisis facing the rural communities, and certainly facing the rural communities in Algoma district.
I hope the federal government will be successful in persuading the partners in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the group of seven to discuss what is happening in agriculture on a world-wide basis, so that we can bring some kind of sanity into this unbelievable competition we seem to be engaged in where each country attempts to subsidize its farm community at a higher rate. Countries like Canada, Australia, Argentina and other, Third World nations that produce agricultural goods just cannot compete on that.
It may sound funny when I include Canada in that list but, in fact, Canada is seen by those other countries as their leader, their spokesperson in dealing with the other industrialized countries to try to put agriculture on the top agenda. But in the meantime, I hoped this provincial government would be able to respond in a more meaningful way to the agricultural community in Ontario, and particularly in Algoma district.
While I am speaking about rural Ontario, I would like to point specifically to a matter I raised in this Legislature, on which many members of the House spoke, and that is the need for assistance to small rural municipalities to enable them to protect their communities, to protect their homes and properties, by providing them with assistance for fire protection and for fire protection equipment.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that I moved a resolution in this House which was debated in February and was passed unanimously by the Legislature. It said that this assembly favoured the development of a program to provide financial assistance for the purchase of fire protection equipment for small rural municipalities, because we recognize the need and the fact that these small rural municipalities do not have the tax base that enables them to make major purchases of very expensive equipment.
I recognize that the previous government introduced and this government has continued a program, under the unorganized community assistance fund, whereby the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, in conjunction with the fire marshal's office, has provided fire protection equipment for the unorganized communities of northern Ontario where there is a need. That is a very good program and it is one that has the very strong support of the members of my caucus.
I am just saying it is time we recognize that the small organized municipalities also have a need for financial assistance. In a very few cases, the unorganized communities are actually larger in population than some of the organized municipalities. In some cases, it might even be argued that those communities have a greater potential for raising the funds to provide adequate fire protection without as much government assistance than do the rural municipalities.
I do not know what it costs for a pumper truck nowadays. I think it is somewhere in the neighbourhood of $150,000. A rapid-attack vehicle that is purchased under the unorganized community assistance program costs somewhere in the neighbourhood of $75,000. The rural municipalities cannot afford it. This assembly recognized that, and the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs recognizes it.
I had hoped that after this assembly spoke with one voice on behalf of the rural municipalities and the need to provide adequate fire protection, the government would have responded and the Treasurer would have provided in his budget for a new program under the Ministry of the Solicitor General or the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to provide grants for fire protection equipment for small municipalities. Unfortunately, it has not happened.
I urge the government to respond. I hope that the Solicitor General (Mr. Keyes) in conjunction with the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr. Grandmaître) will be able to prevail upon the Treasurer to recognize the need of rural municipalities throughout Ontario -- not just in the north but throughout Ontario -- for assistance. I know that the councils of rural municipalities across Ontario have been passing resolutions since the resolution was passed in this Legislature.
I hope the government hears those pleas for assistance from rural Ontario and responds. It has not. The Treasurer, the member for Brant-Oxford-Norfolk, who is himself from a rural area, did not hear those pleas and did not respond in his budget. It is not too late, though. The government can yet develop a program. It does not mean a lot of expenditure of funds by the provincial government when one considers the total budget of this province, but it certainly means an onerous burden for the small communities if they have to do it on their own. The unconditional grants are just not adequate.
I said earlier that I saw this as a great opportunity. I would like to talk particularly about northern Ontario. As a member from the north, I suppose I expected more from this government partly because the Premier is also the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. When we saw the enormous increase in revenue for the provincial government and at the same time saw that the Premier had a special interest in dealing with the problems of northern Ontario, I expected there might have been a concerted effort by the Treasurer to establish programs and to allocate funding to respond to the economic problems we experience in the north.
I am afraid that I am very disappointed. It was a missed opportunity. I do not know what it means as to the Premier's interest in northern Ontario. It seems to indicate that he is interested in being seen to do something but it does not appear that he is interested in actually changing the situation in northern Ontario.
We heard debate in this House throughout the last year or so about what is happening in the north. I know it is hard for many members from the southern parts of this province to realize it, but the recession that began in the early 1980s, in 1981 and 1982, and that has ended in southern Ontario and developed into a boom in southern Ontario, has never ended in our part of Ontario.
We do indeed have two Ontarios. I know it has become a bit of a cliché to say in this House that there are two Ontarios, but it is true. At a time when we have a very low unemployment rate in this province in terms of the rest of the country, something in the neighbourhood of six per cent, we have double that unemployment rate in northern Ontario.
Frankly, I do not consider six per cent a low unemployment rate. There was a time when the unemployment rate reaching six per cent would have been considered a serious problem in our economy. It is not that many years ago when if we had more than three per cent unemployment, it was determined that there was a need for a concerted government effort to stimulate the economy to provide jobs.
It says something as to how politicians and the people who make economic decisions now view our economy that when we reach a six per cent unemployment rate, they say: "Well, that is not too bad. We are doing all right." It says something about our economy that we can have a boom, can have so much construction going on, can have so much investment and can have such high profits in the Golden Horseshoe and in Metropolitan Toronto, but at the same time we can bypass such a large percentage of our work force, particularly our younger work force, and still say things are okay. If you are part of that six per cent, things are not okay.
I was a member of a committee appointed by this government that visited Sweden not much more than a year ago. It is interesting that in that country there is a consensus on the part of government, parties of all three sorts, whether they be Social Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, the business community and labour that there must be a full employment strategy. In that country, where they have approximately four per cent to 4.5 per cent unemployment, they consider that too high.
In Sweden, they have initiated many programs to retrain workers, to relocate workers, to enable them to get back into the work force, to ensure they have an adequate income and to provide services to the community that will also provide work so that they can do something about an unemployment rate of four per cent to 4.5 per cent.
Mr. Wildman: I know it may sound funny coming from me, Mr. Speaker, but I was attempting not to be partisan in this effort. In fact, what I am saying is that economists of all sorts, from all parts of the political spectrum, look at six per cent unemployment in Ontario and say it is good. Well, it is not good.
In response to the member for Leeds (Mr. Runciman) about Sweden being a socialist Valhalla, though it is certainly true that they have a Social Democratic government and have had for most of the last 40 years and have a lot of good programs, the interesting thing about Sweden --
Mr. Wildman: I did not find it dull. I found it tremendously interesting, and I think most of the people from the committee, whether they be New Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives, found it an interesting visit. But what I want to say is that when we spoke to representatives of small business and big business, as well as government and labour leaders, there were differences of view, of course, but generally they all agreed that anything over three per cent unemployment was too high. There is a consensus in that country, a consensus I wish we could build in this country, that there must be a political will to direct investment in such a way as to ensure that there is a full employment strategy.
No matter whether one is a Conservative or a Liberal or, for that matter, a member of the small Communist Party in Sweden, none of them disagrees with the view that there must be a full employment program. We do not have that in North America. We do not have it in most of the rest of western Europe for that matter.
Mr. Wildman: It used to be that we defined full employment as three per cent unemployment. That was the definition of full employment. What scares me is that we seem to have moved from that to something in the neighbourhood of six or seven per cent unemployment as full employment, and that is what worries me.
Having said that, I would like to deal specifically with northern Ontario. I said we have double the unemployment rate in the north that we have across the province. We have 13 per cent unemployment. Whether you accept six per cent or three per cent, no one can argue that 13 per cent is acceptable. It is not. It is much too high. I want to tell the members that it would be higher than 13 per cent if we had not had this serious outmigration over the last few years of people coming to southern Ontario to look for work. Even that 13 per cent does not describe what is really happening in our northern communities.
Basically, there has been an expansion in one area and one area alone in the northern economy, and that is gold mining. There has been a lot of exploration going on; there has been the Hemlo development; there have been some developments in gold around Timmins and Kirkland Lake. Other than that one small sector of our resource economy, there has not been any stimulation of employment in the north.
Our lumber industries are threatened, partly because of trade issues and the imposition of the United States export tax but also because of competition from offshore. Even our major manufacturing enterprises, such as Algoma Steel, are contemplating serious cutbacks and layoffs.
In this budget there were a number of things I expected to happen, not just because the Premier is the acting Minister of Northern Development and Mines but also because this government has made a great deal of being concerned about the problems of the north and wanting to respond.
I have had discussions with my good friend the member for Cochrane North, who is really concerned about the problems in the north but apparently has little influence in the government. He told me earlier, for instance, that he expected we would be doing something about gasoline prices. We have high gasoline prices in the north. Everyone in this House knows that. It has been talked about enough; I will not go into it at great length. Even the provincial government's own study recognized that we pay approximately $70 million more a year in higher gasoline prices than they do in southern Ontario.
The member for Cochrane North led me to believe, I think because he understood, that in this budget there would be at least an attempt to match that differential in terms of additional funding for highways.
I do not believe we should have to pay for decent roads by paying higher gasoline prices. We should pay for good roads through taxation, the same as every other resident of this province. We should not have to pay any more than a person in southern Ontario does to have decent roads. We deserve an adequate transportation system, particularly if we are going to try to stimulate growth in the north, whether it be in the tourist industry or in the resource industries or in manufacturing. We deserve an adequate transportation system and we should not have to pay more.
Mr. Wildman: We did talk to a couple of Ministry of Transportation and Communications engineers, to ask them how much new roadbuilding could be done for that amount of money. They indicated that it depends on whether we are talking about an urban road or a provincial highway in a rural area. It also depends on whether rock has to be moved. Once rock has to be moved, it doubles the price. Having said that, to build a new provincial highway would range somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1.2 million to $2.4 million per mile of new highway. At that rate, we are indeed talking about 13 miles, maybe 18 or 20 miles at the most.
Yet the members of the government would like to go around the north saying, "Look what we have done for you; $26 million." I have told a number of my constituents and the people I meet in northern Ontario that it is time we started to think big. I do not see why we should accept $26 million as being some kind of commitment by this government. Compared to $1 billion extra in revenue, $26 million is a pittance, as I said to the Premier. The Premier got kind of angry when I said that. He said I should somehow call upon the Lieutenant Governor and cause an election.
I do not think an election is going to get us more money. I honestly hope we are not going to deal just on the partisan basis with the problems of the north. I am not trying to be pompous or holier than thou or anything. I just think it is time we dealt with the problems of northern Ontario. And $26 million for roads is an insult; that is all it is. The Sault Ste. Marie Star wrote an editorial. It said, "Why is it that when the government finally responds in some way to the problems of the north, the member for Algoma pooh-poohs it?"
The Speaker will know that as a member of this Legislature and this caucus for a number of years, I have campaigned very hard for the establishment of a northern Ontario fund. I have long believed, as have members of my party, that a much greater percentage of the revenue that accrues to the provincial Treasury from the resource industries of the north should be returned to the north for reinvestment to diversify the economy and stimulate jobs.
I have worked to persuade members of this Legislature to establish such a fund, as have other members of my caucus. I worked as a member of the Advisory Committee on Resource Dependent Communities in Northern Ontario to persuade that committee. That committee did endorse the idea. It said a fund should be established along the lines of the Alberta heritage savings trust fund, to be controlled and operated by northerners to produce growth and jobs in the north. It has gotten to the point where it is accepted by everyone in this Legislature, no matter what political party, that we should have a northern Ontario fund of some sort.
Recently, the standing committee on resources development, an all-party committee, endorsed the idea. The question is not whether we have a fund but what sort of fund it should be and how it should be operated.
When I asked the Treasurer earlier this year whether he was going to establish a northern Ontario fund, I think he said it was a glint in his eye. It did not become anything more than that. It remained a glint in his eye. That is all it is: a slight flicker of interest in this idea of a northern Ontario fund, $30 million.
The problem we have is that the ordinary people of this province do not recognize that $30 million is the same amount of money this government is paying for its share of one project in Toronto, the domed stadium. They are putting $30 million into a hole in the ground in Toronto and saying the same amount is going to stimulate growth and make a difference in the economy of the whole of northern Ontario.
This is an example of the continuation of the Tory colonial policy towards northern Ontario: "Throw them a few crumbs, tell them you are doing something, make them feel good, but do not change anything. Do not actually try to change the economy of the north. Do not actually try to produce jobs."
I honestly expected more from this government. I expected more from the Premier. How does one justify providing $30 million for the whole of northern Ontario when the government is providing $35 million for one Toyota plant in Cambridge? Not only that; they are also providing something in the neighbourhood of $15 million in tax breaks to Toyota. I am not opposed to assisting the establishment of a car industry in Cambridge to provide jobs in Cambridge, but let us all recognize that $30 million for the whole of northern Ontario is not going to change anything in the north.
If the government were giving $30 million to one project in the north, it might mean something; but one fund of $30 million does not. The previous government, in the 1981 election, promised $19.5 million in 1981 for one project in my riding. It has not come about yet, but the commitment is still there. This government has said it will honour that commitment. I think that puts in some perspective what $30 million means. The $19.5 million for one tourism development in Algoma district in 1981 is matched by this government by $30 million for all of northern Ontario and every proposed project.
The layoffs at Algoma Steel will take approximately $45 million per annum out of the economy of that one city -- $45 million a year less in income; $45 million less to be spent on purchases by consumers; $45 million less for the small businesses of the area; $45 million less that might have been used in terms of reinvestment in some ways to help the economy of Sault Ste. Marie.
Let us start at that point. The layoffs in Sault Ste. Marie mean there will be $45 million less in that economy. What is the answer from this government? They will say: "It is unfair to say -- you cannot say - the northern Ontario fund is the only answer. After all, we have done other things for Sault Ste. Marie. We have moved the Ontario Lottery Corp. there. We have moved the forestry resources group there. There are some jobs going to Sault Ste. Marie. There is going to be a new building built in Sault Ste. Marie."
That is true. There are jobs going to Sault Ste. Marie and there is going to be a building there. That approach by this government is useful in that I hope it means some of the people who make the decisions and provide the advice on policy for this government will actually live in northern Ontario and gain a better understanding of the problems of our part of the province. But let us all be honest. It is not going to replace the 1,200 to 1,500 jobs lost at Algoma Steel. It does not go anywhere near replacing those jobs.
What is being proposed by this government to deal with that economic crisis in that city, a crisis that affects not only Sault Ste. Marie but also all of Algoma district and particularly Wawa? It suggests $30 million in a northern Ontario fund will do it, and it has also been said by some Liberals: "This is just the start. We can add more to it later."
That is backwards. If you are actually going to respond and provide a fund, what you need to do is provide a tremendous infusion of capital that will then grow as it is invested and will be there to enable the government to invest in business and development in the north, on the advice of and controlled by northerners. Thirty million dollars is not going to produce that kind of revenue even from interest.
As a person who has campaigned for so long in this House for this kind of program, I resent the fact that this government has appropriated the name of this program and then put just this small amount of money into it so it means nothing.
Basically, what that means is not only is there a small commitment by this government, it is almost zilch, because it means that the government is not providing any of the additional revenue that is going to the provincial Treasury from provincial sources and provincial taxes. What it is providing is this windfall, if you want to call it that, that is hurting the lumber industry itself. We believe that money should have been reinvested in the lumber industry and lumber communities and that it should not have been taken and put in the fund, with the government saying: "That is it. That is the total fund for northern Ontario," because it is inadequate.
I do not know what to make of the government. I said I expected more. I have tried to interpret what the programs for the north mean in this budget. I have to come to the conclusion there can be only two choices. One, perhaps the decisions that have been made in the budget related to northern Ontario are related to partisan political advantage. If that is the case, in my view, it means the Liberals have decided there are not many ridings in northern Ontario and some of those ridings might be hard for Liberals to win because they were a long way back, so why bother. Forget about it. Forget about the north.
I suppose as an opposition member, if that is the case, I should be happy, but I am not. I hope it is not the case but if it is not, the only other choice I think must be that the government honestly does not know what to do about the serious economic depression that we are experiencing in northern Ontario. It does not know what to do about the one-industry towns. It does not know how to deal with the boom-bust situation we have experienced. The only thing it can do is to continue the conservative, colonial approach to the north. All it has been able to do is to fall back on the approach to northern Ontario that has been taken ever since we first put the railroad into the north.
I think the Conservative members of the Legislature, as well as the northern members on the other side, recognize that we have a serious problem in the economy in northern Ontario. They also recognize that we have a lot of potential in northern Ontario. I hope so anyway. I think they do. They recognize that we have a skilled, energetic work force. They recognize that we have tremendous resource wealth, but they also recognize that we are experiencing serious problems partly related to trade and world commodity prices and partly related to the new technologies and the new developments in the economy that are making us less competitive. It is not just northern Ontario. The resource areas of most industrialized countries are experiencing similar problems.
The iron range in Minnesota is experiencing the same problems that the mining industry in northern Ontario is experiencing. The northern part of England, the heavy industry part of Germany, the shipbuilding and steel industries in Sweden, all of them are experiencing serious problems because we are having to compete on a worldwide basis with Third World countries that have new infrastructure, new capital plant --
Mr. Wildman: Which are largely supplied by investment from our banks. That is certainly true. In many cases, they are selling at a loss on the world market because they need hard currency. The question is, how do we respond? Do we take innovative new approaches? Do we try to develop along the lines they have attempted in northern Sweden or do we fall back on the tried-and-true approach of throwing a little bit of money, and I underline the words "little bit of money"?
The Acting Speaker: Will the member for Essex South (Mr. Mancini) please remain quiet. There is a period called questions and comments afterwards. If you have any comments or any questions please ask them afterwards.
Mr. Wildman: I recognize that there is $30 million being provided in the northern Ontario fund by this government. But as I said earlier, and I guess the member for Essex South did not hear me, $30 million is $15 million less than what is being lost to the economy of one community because of the layoffs at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie; $15 million less than what is being lost to one community; $30 million is $30 million, but it is not enough. That is the point. It is time that all of us in this House recognized that $30 million is not going to do anything to change the basic economic structure in northern Ontario. It is not.
I said earlier that a Liberal said: "Well, it's just a beginning. There'll be lots more." But that is backwards. That is not the approach the Alberta government used when it established its heritage fund. They established a large pool of capital at the beginning, which would then grow. One does not start with a small amount and then try to build it up on the way. It will not work.
I do resent very much the appropriation by this government of the term "northern fund" without putting any money into it. It means, as I said, one of two things. Either the government has decided to be very political about this and say: "Okay, the conventional wisdom now is that we need to have a northern Ontario fund. Everybody, of no matter what political stripe, agrees with that, so we had better have one. But we really don't believe in it. We're just going to establish a fund and put a little bit of money into it and say, `Okay, there, we did it.'"
Or, it means they do not know what to do with the fund and they do not know what to do with the money. They have no idea. Well, I do not know why they do not. There have been lots of studies done. There have been lots of proposals. One can go back for years through the proposals. We have had too many studies done, but there have been lots of things proposed. Northerners themselves have a lot of ideas.
I do not understand. If I were a Liberal, I do not know how I would be able to go to the north and say that $26 million for roads means something or that $30 million in a northern heritage fund really means there is a commitment by the government to resolve the problems of the north. Compared to any of our own household incomes, $30 million is a lot of money, but compared to $1 billion in additional revenue for this government, it is not a lot of money.
Why is it that Toyota can get $35 million for one plant in Cambridge and the 800,000 people of northern Ontario are supposed to be happy with $30 million for the whole of their region? Why? That works out to something between 15 and 20 cents for each northerner in additional funds this year, enough to buy a hot dog way back when. There are not many hot dogs you can buy for less than a buck today.
I am disappointed. I expected more from this government, not just in dollars, but in imagination. I thought we were going to have a fund. The member for Cochrane North said to me: "Well, there, Bud. You got your fund." I did not get my fund. The New Democrats did not get the fund they have been campaigning for. Northerners did not get the fund they have been crying for. What we got was a façade, a fraud, and it is not good enough.
People in the north were fed up with this approach when it was provided by the Conservative Party when it was in power. We used to have the member for Kenora (Mr. Bernier) running around the north handing out cheques. Now it seems we have members of this party running around the north handing out cheques. They can hand out all the cheques they like, they can give a cheque here and a cheque there, but it is not going to change anything. They can provide a cheque for Wawa, they can provide a cheque for Sault Ste. Marie, they can provide a cheque for North Bay --
Mr. Wildman: When our party comes to power, I hope we will have a strategy for northern development based on responding to the new realities of our economy, a strategy designed to diversify the economy, not just to emphasize tourism, not just to improve our transportation system, but actually to develop along the new technologies. I also hope that strategy would be controlled by northerners and they would have a real role in developing the strategy and then implementing it.
If, after doing that, the ministers, whether they be from southern Ontario or northern Ontario, want to hand out the cheque, want to cut the ribbon, fine, great, but it cannot be just handing out cheques and cutting ribbons. It cannot be just riding in fire trucks with the sirens blaring and the lights going. It cannot be just that, because if it is just that, everything stays the same.
We get a new fire truck, we get a new building, we get a new program, but we still end up needing jobs and development. We still end up with our young people leaving the community and going to southern Ontario if they want jobs or being chronically underemployed. We still end up paying higher prices, not only for gasoline but also for milk and other basic consumer products. The more expensive it is for fuel and for other consumer products, the more difficult it is to attract business and to make business a viable competitor in northern communities.
Mr. Wildman: I did not think I would ever say, "Bring back Ed Havrot," but maybe that would be an improvement. When Ed Havrot was the member for Timiskaming, there was not any different approach to northern Ontario, there was not any attempt to pretend that the government was actually trying to change the economy of northern Ontario to end the boom-bust situation, our dependence on resources, to provide jobs for our young people --
I expected this budget would respond to the problems of the north in at least some small ways. I expected we would get at least the same amount that we pay in extra gasoline prices for roads. We got less than half of that. We got something like 13 to 20 miles of road. I expected it would mean we would at last have a northern Ontario fund established, not necessarily established along the lines I would like, but at least a substantial amount of capital set aside to try to change the economy of northern Ontario. Instead, we got less than the government is prepared to spend on one manufacturing plant in Cambridge for all of northern Ontario.
I believe this budget is a serious missed opportunity for northerners, and I honestly believe it is also a missed opportunity for the Liberals. Let us face it, we are all here in a political process, and the Liberals would be attempting to win more seats in northern Ontario, just as we and the Conservatives are. I would have thought, with the revenue they had and with the Premier as Minister of Northern Development and Mines, there would have been some imaginative new programs establishing retraining, stimulating small business and development and improving our transportation and communication systems in the north.
That did not happen. We have what is a glossy attempt to say: "We are doing something about transportation. We are actually trying to do something about the economy by establishing a fund." But the amounts of money in it belie what the budget attempts to do. The amounts of money show that there is no real commitment by the government, either because it has decided on a political level that it cannot win enough seats for it to make any difference or, even more seriously, it has decided on a policy level that it does not know what to do about the problems of northern Ontario and believes the concentration in Metro Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe must continue and that more of our people must move out of the north to get jobs. If they wish to stay at home, they are going to stay underemployed and underdeveloped.
I said at the beginning that this was a Conservative budget. It is. It is a stay-put, self-satisfied, status quo budget, which may be fine for southern Ontario where there is a boom going on and everyone is getting jobs, or most people are. But it fails to recognize that the status quo in northern Ontario is not something anyone wants to continue. In fact, we need change, we need innovation, we need imagination and above all, we need a commitment on the part of the government, a political will to take the risks necessary to actually change the northern economy. I am most disappointed that the government did not meet that challenge.
Mr. Harris: I am not one to want to give up these two-minute opportunities to join with my colleagues. Let me say that I saw a part of the member's speech from my office while I was attending a meeting. I could not help but have my eyes and ears drawn to my set and I am sorry I was not able to be present in the House for all his remarks.
Suffice it to say that there were a few of his remarks that I may not agree with entirely vis-à-vis some of the efforts of former governments in northern Ontario, but I have never disputed the member's interest and vociferous lobbying on behalf of not only his constituents but also all the constituents of northern Ontario. I have sensed a certain collegiality that has developed among some members of the Legislature from northern Ontario. I suppose it is a collegiality of necessity, particularly over the deteriorating situation of the last few years.
I do not want to get into nitpicking over 1985 versus 1984. We were facing some very serious problems through all the 1980s. Indeed, all the province faced problems throughout the early 1980s. I guess what has made them very different is the growing discrepancy as this booming recovery has taken place in southern Ontario and the north is probably worse off today than it was three or four years ago.
Mr. Wildman: I thank the member for Nipissing for his comments. I agree that there is indeed a sort of collegiality among members from the north, as I am sure there is among members in the House who come from other regions. Because there are smaller numbers of us, there is an understanding among most of us of the serious problems we face.
There must be a tremendous effort on the part of government to provide not just capital, but also expertise to assist small business, communities and individuals in northern Ontario who have ideas for potential economic development, for new enterprises and for jobs. That must be provided by government but it must be prepared to make mistakes and to take risks.
To be frank, I do not think, for instance, that the major investment made at Minaki responded adequately even to the needs of Minaki. But the government must be prepared to recognize that we have major problems. We have to improve the transportation system. We have to improve the communications system. We have to provide capital on a loan basis in joint ventures. There must be a willingness by the government to invest directly in enterprises, some of which will fail, but some of which hopefully will provide jobs.
Mr. G. I. Miller: It is a pleasure to rise as the member for Haldimand-Norfolk to speak in the budget debate. This is the first time we have had the opportunity since the election of May 2, 1985. We were on the other side of the House. Things have happened and now we have moved over here, so I would like to take a moment just to say thanks to my riding of Haldimand-Norfolk, to all those good people who have helped support us over the years, the regional council and the local councillors. We have enjoyed representing that riding.
Last night, history again was made when the nomination was held in Caledonia. The Treasurer is going to have the opportunity of representing part of that riding if those voters see us kindly. That is really what we are debating here now, the budget. It gives an opportunity for all members to participate.
Again, I would like to say it has been a pleasure working with members from all sides of the House. There are certainly a lot of members who are not going to be back next time around, 14 from the official opposition, a couple from the New Democratic Party and a couple from our own caucus. We really cherish the friendships we have made since 1975. We want to wish them well.
Again, I would like to say thanks to the NDP for agreeing to have a change in government a couple of years ago. The member for Scarborough Centre (Mr. Davis) indicated in his opening remarks that somebody had a dream. I had a dream in 1975 that we might make the government of Ontario. It took quite a while, but 10 years later we have that opportunity. It is just like a fresh wind blowing across Ontario with some new ideas and some new approaches. The speeches that have been given here in the Legislature have shown a little envy on behalf of the opposition.
There is one other thing I would like to do before I get to the details of the budget. My mother will be celebrating her 90th birthday on June 4. We have given out a lot of scrolls in the last 12 years. This is going to be the first time we can give one directly to our family. We are pleased with that. She is not able to enjoy excellent health but she is using good services that have been provided in the region of Haldimand-Norfolk, the Norfolk Hospital Nursing Home. She gets excellent care. We intend to bring her down to the farm to have a birthday party on Sunday, God willing. We are looking forward to that also.
Most satisfying is the fact that we have been able to put a budget together. As we wound up the throne speech last Tuesday, I listened carefully to the Minister of Education as he responded on behalf of our party. I knew he was going to upset the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) because he used his phrases and turned them around magnificently. If we read Hansard, it is going to be an interesting 20 minutes.
We paid the penalty. When the Leader of the Opposition responded to the budget on Thursday, he made us suffer. It was kind of agonizing. He went on for a couple of hours. I think he spent the money for the budget several times. What is coming across from the other side of the House is how they would have done it compared to how we did it. I would like to congratulate the --
Mr. G. I. Miller: I do not know whether I would like to go to a service conducted by the member for Scarborough Centre. I do not know if he fabricates untruths but I think he does stretch the figures. He has a good knack of doing that. I admire that ability. We still have a lot of respect for the member for Scarborough Centre and we had the opportunity of working on Bill 30 for quite a few days. I guess that is the job of the opposition.
I am pleased to support the Treasurer and to think that we are part of the team that has been able to manage the province's business over the last couple of years. The tax cuts that have been accomplished, $246 million, and a reduction in the deficit to $980 million are highlights of the 1987-88 Ontario budget presented to the Legislature by my colleague and friend the Treasurer.
The budget provides financial commitments to ease the tax burden primarily for low-income earners and seniors, funds essential priorities in education, high technology, health, housing, child care, transportation and the environment and creates new development programs for northern and eastern Ontario.
The member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) has disappeared now but I think my colleague indicated that if things were as bad as they have indicated, maybe they would not want to live in the north. I am proud to be an Ontarian and I think our Premier is proud to represent the province, not only because it is Ontario but also because it is part of Canada. He has shown that leadership.
When one really examines it closely, we have problems all over Ontario. I can give examples as far as southern Ontario is concerned where it is as difficult as in any place in Canada, but working together we can resolve the problems. I think that is the bottom line and that is what we on this side of the House want to accomplish.
We want to deliver needed assistance to the Ontario agricultural community and reduce the province's net cash requirement. The Treasurer announced that the budget contained no tax increases. Looking at it from my perspective, it is an excellent budget showing good leadership for Ontario.
"The government is committed to achieving a durable prosperity that is shared by all," the Treasurer said. The 1987 budget is aimed at promoting economic growth and regional development, rebuilding ageing infrastructures, improving social programs and maintaining vigilance over tax levels and the deficit. I might indicate that the deficit has gone from $2.1 billion down to $980 million, which is very significant and indicates that money management in Ontario is in good hands.
The Treasurer announced plans to reduce income and property taxes and increased Ontario health insurance plan premium assistance for low-income persons, measures that will put $115 million into the hands of low- and moderate-income people. This plan includes an increase of $180 to $230 in the basic property tax credit, providing 1.8 million Ontario tax filers with increased benefits of $85 million. The 1987 budget increase brings the total value of the program to $360 million.
A $10-million expansion of the Ontario tax reduction program removes another 100,000 Ontarians from the tax rolls and reduces taxes for a further 60,000. With this change, a total of 600,000 low-income Ontarians will pay no Ontario income tax. There is a $20-million commitment to eliminate OHIP premium payments for an additional 40,000 individual families.
An increase from $500 to $600 in the maximum property tax grants for seniors affects 570,000 seniors' households and brings the total property tax for seniors to $385 million. The budget also raises the sales tax exemption on prepared food from $2 to $4, effective June 1. I was checking downstairs today and we may even manage to have a lunch here without paying tax.
Education, which is top priority with our government, will be enhanced through financial commitments to improve the basic quality of education, to build and upgrade educational facilities and to expand opportunities for retraining. I would like to give an example of how the co-op program is being utilized in our own area. A young grade 11 student is training as a mechanic in a local garage while taking his grade 11 education and it is working out well. There are many young people taking advantage of those co-op programs.
Another commitment was to the funding of the Rolph Street school in Tillsonburg, which is an old school. We went to the 75th reunion last Saturday. It has not been touched in those 75 years with the exception of minor maintenance. They are looking forward to spending $1.3 million on building a new gymnasium, which they did not have, as well as providing a library and adequate facilities.
We had another school in Caledonia requesting funding, but because they did not meet the criteria, they did not get funding. I think it indicates that we are putting money where it is really needed and are sharing. Sure, it is going to cost our taxpayers some matching funds but it is with that co-operation and working together that we can achieve those basic needs.
The Ontario government and the local school boards together will spend almost $9 billion on primary and secondary schools this year, which is equivalent to $47 million every school day. Commitment to education in the budget includes provincial capital grants for primary and secondary schools of $147 million; provision of capital funds for the colleges and universities of $100 million, double the level of two years ago; an advance commitment to increase spending for the primary and secondary schools to $226 million in the 1988-89 fiscal year.
Technology development is another area. The budget reiterates the key role that the Premier's council on technology and a $1 billion technological fund will play in helping Ontario realize its long-term potential for growth and development. The Treasurer said $100 million is committed for the technological fund starting this year.
Health care of course plays an important role. As I indicated, we have committed much to our hospitals around the province. We have received our share, particularly in my riding, where three programs are under way with co-operative housing for our seniors: one in Port Rowan where they are making this study; one in Dunnville, where they are making a study; and Port Dover is also involved in making a study to provide better accommodation for our seniors. A new seniors' centre will be opening in Cayuga this summer. One is at Townsend and one is due to open in Simcoe in the first part of June.
The enhancement of housing support service for disabled persons is another area. The budget provides a $50-a-month increase in the guaranteed annual income system for benefits for low-income disabled persons, to be paid beginning June 30, at a cost of $45 million in 1987-88.
Transportation is another area that is going to play a key role in developing Ontario. Again, our friend the member for Algoma indicated that the money they received for northern Ontario was not adequate. We have to consider the high cost of construction. The fact is Toronto has always been a magnet because of the cost of construction in this area and the demand is heavy. In order to develop rural parts of Ontario, transportation does play a tremendous role. While the north needs that assistance, southern Ontario and many parts of rural Ontario need improvements also.
To give an example, we have an investment in my riding of Haldimand-Norfolk of Stelco, which is one of the most modern steel plants in the world and Texaco is located there, as is the Ontario Hydro generating station, one of the largest coal-fired stations in the world. They are not being serviced by a Ministry of Transportation and Communications road. They are being serviced by our regional roads. If we really want to see that investment of $3 billion develop the industrial parks there, we have to have a first class MTO road to get to it. I am committed to seeing that happen.
I know we have to share with construction around other parts of Ontario and it is not going to be easy to do the financing. But it is important to the future that all areas have access and even the federal government should be committed to play a role to assist in improving our transportation facilities.
Looking back over the years, the Trans-Canada Highway was basically funded by federal funds and it really opened up the north and I think there has to be a commitment at all levels of government in order to get the potential that we have under way.
Of course we are committed to the environment, and being a member of the committee that has been looking at acid rain, we are proud of the minister's commitment to work to control acid rain because it affects all of us. He is moving ahead on the recommendations that were brought in by the committee and we are committed to that.
Recycling is another area to which we and the minister are committed. We cannot continue to pile our waste in rural parts of Ontario. I think we have to utilize recycling, and slowly but surely we are making progress on that.
Upgrading our water and sewage systems is another example of where we and the minister have been responsible. In the region of Haldimand-Norfolk, under the old regime, the Conservative government was committed to paying 15 per cent of the cost of new construction. This minister has committed 75 per cent. The former minister is sitting across the way. He knows very well that we could not afford to do it under those terms. It is not going to be easy to do it yet, but it is certainly a step forward. Again, it is going to cost our local taxpayers money, but it is something that is needed and has to be done. They need to be upgraded, and we are committed to that. The Ministry of the Environment has been working well on behalf of all the people in Ontario.
I could go on at great length, but I want to get into some other areas. Some of our former speakers took more time than anticipated. It was interesting, of course. We have to be patient in this game and wait it out and listen carefully.
I would like to get to agriculture, because as the parliamentary assistant to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, I have played a role in putting together some policies I have felt very strongly about during the 10 years I have been in the Legislature. Now we have a chance to put them in place and see how they respond.
We have not had too much time. We were always bugging the former Ministers of Agriculture and Food. We did have three or four. They were very co-operative, but we could not get them to respond, to give instant assistance when we really required it.
When we came through the 1980s, the first part of the 1980s to 1985, our interest rates went up to 25 per cent. We have inherited a terrible problem that is not going to be easy to deal with. But I will say that we have worked on it. The one program we put in place, first of all, was the Ontario family farm interest rate reduction program, which is an interest assistance program. The former government was able to get 1,200 applications. We estimated there should be 12,000, and we received 10,000 applications in 1986-87.
This year we have extended the program with the hope that we will be able to assist 18,000 young farmers, or farmers generally, in the province. I am not sure how that is working out. I have indicated to the minister that we were not reaching those goals. They are not as high as they were last year, and I thought it was too complicated and should be simplified so that people could get easier access to it. All farmers need it, and they deserve it. They need it in order to stay alive, and they should not have to go through the wringer in order to get that funding to keep them in business.
The other area we were able to bring in was the farm tax rebate. It is a major step forward. It is going to put another $18 million in the farmers' hands. The minister announced it on May 22. The farm tax rebate will cover all farm land and buildings, and the farmers will have to pay tax only on their house and lot. As I indicated, that is going to put $18 million in the hands of the farming community.
The farm management safety and repair program will provide $50 million to assist farmers with farm analysis and planning, farm safety, machinery repairs, shop equipment and on-farm feed and grain storage. Under this program, the government will pay up to $2,500 per farmer, and all farmers with a gross farm income of at least $12,000 per year are eligible for the program, which runs from June 1, 1987, to May 31, 1988.
Members may have noticed we have had some sort of smart-aleck comments made about that but anyone who has gone to pick up some parts for his farm equipment will realize -- l had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to pick up a harrow tooth for one cultivator. One tooth was $30. If you had to replace them all, it would cost you a lot of dollars. The feet for that cultivator were $5 apiece. When you take corn at $2.20 a bushel or barley at $1 a bushel, there is just no way you can get the cost of production out of it and you cannot work your land properly if you do not have proper equipment. If you are going to use the equipment, it is going to wear out. I know we have some farmer friends on the opposition side who understand that. They work with it every day.
This money is going to help that farmer, from a safety point of view, to put a good seat on his tractor so he is not going to fall off, because he cannot afford to replace that tractor under the conditions he has had. I think it is going to be a program that will be very useful.
The other program that was put in place that affects my riding considerably, and southwestern Ontario, the Ontario tobacco farmers, is a program of $30 million we have come in with. This is a co-operative effort between the federal government and the provincial government. A committee has been struck with the tobacco board representatives, the Ontario Minister of Agriculture and Food, the Minister of Agriculture for Canada, plus the manufacturers and the tobacco industry themselves.
We have been able to stabilize. We had a report back only last week from the board indicating how the program is working. They have come to an agreement with the tobacco manufacturers for three years, and they are going to be able to produce 110 million pounds of tobacco, which is about 60 per cent of what they have produced over the past 10 years. I think that is a major step forward.
This program comes into effect and takes the tobacco quota off the market. The indications are that 61 farmers have utilized it. Almost seven million pounds of tobacco have been put on the market and 3,185,000 pounds have been taken off the market -- that much quota.
I think that is the only way we are going to survive in that industry, if the member for Carleton-Grenville (Mr. Sterling) gets off our backs a little bit and lets people make their own decision whether they should use tobacco, whether they should be able to smoke a cigar or whether I should smoke my pipe, and if the federal government leaves free speech alone and lets us advertise like everyone else. It is not an illegal product.
I think what we want to achieve is the fact that we are reducing the quota. If we can get it down so the young farmer or the farmer can use a bigger percentage of his quota, he can survive. I think the future out there is going to be good for tobacco for many years if they leave us alone.