Mr Offer: I rise today to honour the 40th anniversary of the Malton Legion, which the Legion has recently celebrated. There was a week of fun, festivity, celebration and events, all culminating in a very special evening dinner and dance. At that time the Fitzpatrick award was presented to Sharon Chamberlain as the member who has done most for the veterans in 1991. Phil McCall was presented the associates award for doing most for the branch. Life membership awards were presented to Les Taylor, Len Potts, John Thompson and Reginald Fecteau for outstanding service to veterans. Past presidents of the branch and the ladies' auxiliary were also recognized, in addition to members receiving the certificate of merit.
The Malton Legion has for many years been an important aspect and element of the Malton community. The Legion is not just the place where Remembrance Day events take place. That is important, but it is important to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we share today, for the rights we have and for our institutions embraced in a freedom that is the envy of the world.
But a Legion is not just that, and the Malton Legion is not just that. It is a group of people working 365 days a year raising dollars for a myriad of needed services. In our area, our Legion has purchased vans for the transportation of victims of cancer and cancer patients and cares for and helps others who need help. That is what the Legion is and continues to be. Congratulations to president William Hill and everyone for their most caring service to the community.
Mr Arnott: I have a constructive and helpful suggestion for this government of ours. I make an effort to keep my office expenses as low as possible because I know it is taxpayers' money I am spending. I have asked my staff to do the same, to keep our spending of taxpayers' money as low as possible as we work to represent the people of Wellington. I want to call upon the government to do the same, especially the Minister of Housing.
Recently the Ministry of Housing sent a seven-page memo to all Ontario Building Code holders, about 2,300 businesses in all. A copy was sent to Gerald Boyes, who is a plumbing contractor in Orton in my riding, in a heavy insulated envelope which itself costs about 30 cents and $1.25 to mail. In my office we send seven-page documents in a standard envelope. They cost about two cents each instead of 30 cents and 63 cents to mail instead of $1.25. If the minister had instructed her officials to be truly conscious of cost, this mailing could have been done with a standard envelope at a cost to taxpayers of less than 50%. The ministry wasted, by my calculation, $2,064 on this single mailing.
This is not good enough for Gerald Boyes and it is not good enough for me. Surely when the people of Ontario are being asked to tighten their belts, we must expect the government to show leadership first.
Mr Owens: Today I rise to acknowledge the work of the Scarborough Housing Education for Newcomers Committee. During the last six months many agencies have come together to develop a strategy to combat racism in housing. As a coalition of housing, legal and multicultural groups who work directly with newcomers, the committee has identified a lack of resources available to these individuals in their primary languages. One of the greatest concerns of newcomers and many other residents in the city of Scarborough is to find affordable housing that has a community environment contained within.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 30, the Scarborough Housing Education for Newcomers Committee will be holding its first educational seminar for the Latin American community. The purpose of this forum is to educate newcomers about their rights and opportunities as residents of Ontario and to provide information about the available housing options.
The work of many people contributes to the success of an event such as this. Through the efforts of Bruce MacDougall and the executive of the Scarborough housing education committee, newcomers to Scarborough will be given the information necessary to become active participants in society and to find dignified and affordable housing within the community.
It is through the dedication and spirit of groups such as this that a vision of a healthy and caring community is promoted while attempting to undermine the racism which unfortunately still exists within this province.
Mr McGuinty: An institution of tremendous value to my riding, Carleton University, has recently come under fire. I want to put forward some facts about Carleton to illustrate just how valuable it is, not only to Ottawa-Carleton but also in the contribution it makes to the process of higher learning in Canada.
Carleton University had an extraordinary beginning. Without the usual support of church affiliation or provincial charter, it was formed solely in response to a need from the community and without the endowments and financial backing enjoyed by other Canadian universities.
Over the years Carleton has cultivated some key strengths. It boasts outstanding public administration and political science departments in its faculty of social science. Its school of journalism is recognized as one of the best in Canada. The Gerhard Herzberg centre for particle physics is only a sample of its excellence in scientific research. Carleton has an aerospace engineering program which is the envy of other Canadian universities.
Some of Carleton's distinguished alumni include Conrad Black, Angus Reid, Robin MacNeil of the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, Eric Malling, Senator Joyce Fairbairn and our own Minister of Housing, the member for Ottawa Centre.
Carleton's contribution to my community happily extends even beyond the classroom. This fall, Carleton's students raised more than $50,000 for cystic fibrosis research. In addition, Carleton's faculty operates a speakers' bureau through which faculty members volunteer their time to speak to community groups and schools.
Ably headed by its president, Dr Robin Farquhar, Carleton has reached an attractive stage in its development. At 50 years of age, Carleton is old enough to have some valued traditions and young enough to be vigorously entrepreneurial.
The awards are made possible through a partnership formed by community colleges, the Ministry of Skills Development and the private sector. This is the third year of recognition being given to employers across the province who make a deep commitment to developing training programs for their staff.
One winner from Grey is RBW Graphics, a full-service commercial printing company in Owen Sound which employs 600 people and handles more than $70 million in annual sales in Canada and the United States.
Another is Electrical Contract Ltd, also of Owen Sound. This company is one of the few leaders in the manufacturing of precious metal electrical contracts in North America and the only one which produces a full range of these products.
All three employers, large and small, have demonstrated that they believe that increased productivity, improved employee morale and reduced customer concern can be achieved through comprehensive training plans which address the particular weaknesses in their own operation.
In my home town of Kapuskasing, we have a unique situation, a well-respected person by the name of Hubert Thiffeault. He has spent 60 years of his life as a volunteer firefighter and is still part of the team. Although 78, he continues to spend his free time assisting the community in various helpful ways. I believe there is no other person in Ontario with this record of achievement as an energetic volunteer firefighter.
I want to mention this today so that the people of Ontario will be well aware of his achievement. I cannot imagine what kind of patience must have been endured by his family being awakened in the middle of the night by these emergency calls. Some of these calls involved many life-threatening situations.
My congratulations go out to Hubert Thiffeault and his family for his 60 years of service, and I wish him many more years of active duty at the Kapuskasing firehall. By the same token, I would like to express my admiration to all the people of Ontario who give their time every day to help other people in the communities where we live.
Mr Mahoney: As members know, there are many stores closing, vacant stores all around the province. This government sits and does nothing while Brewers' Retail adds to these closures by rather unceremoniously announcing the closing of 31 stores. In fact, in Niagara-on-the-Lake there will no longer be a store available for the consumer; they have just shut it down.
In Toronto an interesting sign in one of the windows of a closed Brewers' Retail store reads: "Regretfully, this store will no longer be open for business. The management and staff thank you for your loyal patronage." That is an awfully nice way to express a thank you, by simply closing down that community store.
Perhaps on the highway as we enter into the province of Ontario the government will put up a sign that says, "This province is closed for business and the NDP would like to thank you for your patronage in the past."
This is clearly the thin edge of the wedge. This is clearly an example of this government fiddling and doing nothing but simply sit back and allow cross-border shopping to ravage an industry. It is affecting 300 jobs immediately. Ernie Reed, president of Local 326 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, says he is worried that all outlets will get the axe once the beer industry is thrown wide open in 1992 and United States companies will have the same access to local markets.
Mr McLean: My statement is for the Minister of Natural Resources. He will no doubt recall that the standing committee on resources development held public hearings during the week of January 28, 1991, to explore the implications of invasions of exotic animal and plant species, such as the zebra mussel and purple loosestrife, for Ontario's ecosystems and natural resource base.
A number of scientific experts, resource users and interest groups presented their viewpoints and made written submissions to the committee. When presenting this report to the Legislature on May 29, 1991, the member for Welland-Thorold said, "I also have great anticipation that the government will pay attention to the report and that the Minister of Natural Resources will review its recommendations and give effect to these recommendations, they being sound."
I agree with the member for Welland-Thorold. The 30 recommendations contained in the report are sound. They are also critical if we are to develop strategies and policy initiatives aimed at controlling and preventing the spread of zebra mussels and purple loosestrife in this province.
The minister has had the report in his possession since May 29 and he has not announced the implementation of any of the 30 recommendations. I suspect his plan is to sit on it, the same as he has sat on the Algonquin Provincial Park management plan. I hope he does not. I hope he implements them.
Mr Drainville: I would like to take this opportunity, in the spirit of non-partisanship, to mention last night's meeting here in this chamber between the federal special joint committee on a renewed Canada, that is, the House of Commons and Senate committee, and the select committee on Ontario in Confederation.
This was a very important meeting because it afforded us an opportunity to speak about those issues that are very important to the future of this country. It was a wide-ranging discussion and I think at the end of it we felt we had had an opportunity to listen very carefully to people who represented interests from across the country.
Also, I want to give thanks to this House, to you, Mr Speaker, to the Sergeant at Arms, the House leaders, the dining room staff, parliamentary broadcasting, security and the cleaning staff, all of whom had to work overtime to ensure the very important meeting that happened here in this chamber took place.
I am very proud to be a member of this House and proud also to work with a number of people from all sides of the House who are dealing with this very important issue about the future of a dynamic Canada.
Mr McGuinty: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Earlier I referred to some of the illustrious and distinguished alumnae from Carleton University. On the basis of information I have just received, I would like to add two more names. Those names are your own and that of the Minister of Natural Resources, the member for Algoma, also distinguished graduates of that university.
Hon Mr Wildman: I rise today to make an announcement concerning a new chapter in the history of Ontario's relationship with the Wabaseemoong First Nation of northwestern Ontario. This first nation was formerly known as the Islington First Nation of Whitedog.
Before I begin, I would like to welcome to our chamber some distinguished guests from the first nation community at Whitedog who are in the gallery today: Chief Roy McDonald, John Paishk, Councillor Issac Mandamin and Councillor Marvin MacDonald.
A short time ago, Chief Roy McDonald of the first nation and I signed a memorandum of understanding which will set the stage for the negotiation of a co-management agreement for the first nation's traditional land use area. The areas to be negotiated will include natural resources, land use and economic issues important to the future health and self-sufficiency of the Wabaseemoong people.
The memorandum and the agreement we will negotiate are an example of the Ontario government's commitment to the first nations. Ultimately we hope to see first nations with a role in management over land and natural resources and a greater say in their own destiny.
The recent history of the people of this community has been difficult. In the late 1950s, flooding caused by hydro dam construction forced the relocation of the reserve community of One Man Lake and resulted in the serious and widespread destruction of the people's traditional homelands and way of life. Chief McDonald himself had to move as result of the flooding. In the 1970s, mercury pollution poisoned the traditional fishing areas of the Islington people and led to further social and economic hardship and disruption. The combined impact of these events has been immense. The Wabaseemoong people have experienced profound disruptions in their livelihoods and traditional way of life.
The memorandum of understanding builds on the comprehensive agreement signed in 1983 with the first nation. The 1983 agreement was intended to deal with many of the concerns of the Wabaseemoong people, but some of the terms of the agreement were unfilled. We are committed to fulfilling them so that the Wabaseemoong people can move forward.
The first step will be the establishment of a core negotiating committee composed of two representatives from the province, three representatives from the first nation, one member of the community at large and an independent chair who will be appointed by the committee.
The resource advisory committee will lead and co-ordinate the overall negotiations. Specific issues will be addressed by four subcommittees or working groups. They will concentrate on major issues such as traditional land use and natural resources, hydro development, economic development and social services.
The resource advisory committee will have the responsibility to ensure that the first nation and the surrounding community are kept informed of the progress of the negotiations and the issues being discussed. This will include consultation and information-sharing with all the key groups that have an interest in the negotiations.
The memorandum by itself will not bring an abrupt end to the problems facing the families and members of the Wabaseemoong First Nation. It is a promise that gives hope of resolution of those issues. I believe these actions represent an opportunity to achieve meaningful results that will benefit everyone living in the community and in the region of Kenora. This is a great opportunity, and I look forward to working with the first nation on behalf of the people of Ontario and the people of Kenora so we can live and develop together in harmony.
Mrs McLeod: On behalf of our caucus, I welcome the fact that this statement has been made in the Legislature so we can all be aware of the initiatives the government is taking in this area. I am well aware there is another statement being made in a similar geographic area of the province, which we are anxious to hear details of at some later point.
I welcome the announcement the minister has made today and welcome the presence of members of the Wabaseemoong First Nation here today. I know this is an achievement for them as well, because it represents very diligent efforts over many years to pursue the concerns of the members of the band. I personally congratulate them for having brought it to this state today and wish them well in the progress in the negotiations to come.
Quite clearly, as one of the ones who was party to the negotiations for the first co-management stewardship agreement in the province with the Teme-Augama Anishnabai band, and a signatory to that agreement, I concur that there is merit in pursuing co-management agreements with our first nations people. I believed at that time this was a precedent that could be carried forward in other areas of the province with other first nations, and I continue to believe this is the case.
I would also like to recognize that the background to this particular set of negotiations has already been done in many ways, because there has been a number of areas in which an effort has been made to involve the members of this first nation band in very directly affecting their economic situation and directing their social services as well.
The minister, in his background material, has given some indication of the achievements that have already been made. There have been very many practical initiatives that have been successfully undertaken by the members of this band, and those kinds of practical initiatives really must be continued, because that is the route to independence for the first nations people.
I would also recognize and respect the commitment this minister has made to making progress on long-standing issues with the first nations people. Because we share his commitment and want to encourage that progress to result in real achievements, I would like to raise three specific concerns.
The first concern I have with the press release that has been made today is that there is not really the recognition that these are very sensitive negotiations for the first nations people and also for other, non-native people living in the area. I look forward to some indication of what the composition of the working groups will be and exactly how that involvement of others who live in the area and share a concern for the land resource and its use will take place.
The second concern I would raise is to recognize that the minister has now undertaken a number of negotiations with first nations people in different areas of the province. He is quite well aware that these are very complex negotiations and require a great deal of time and human resources to be able to carry the negotiations to completion.
I trust the minister recognizes the sheer complexity of the negotiations he is undertaking and is prepared to put in place the resources that are needed to carry the negotiations through. I think it would be extremely unfortunate if this government were to raise the expectations of the first nations people that there will be negotiations under way, only to find that the resources are not there to lead to anything other than frustration and the inability to achieve the goals.
The third concern I would raise is the question of whether or not there is a clear pattern for the best approach to carrying out negotiations with the first nations. Let's recognize that in the Treaty 9 area, which is immediately adjacent to the Treaty 3 area with which this negotiation will be carried out, negotiations are being carried out with the treaty council. I know that in turn is creating some questions that the first nations people are working through in terms of the relationship of the band councils with the treaty council as these negotiations proceed.
It would seem to me that in this case the decision has been made to negotiate not with the treaty council but with the individual band. It may be possible that in some cases this is the best way to carry out the negotiations. In other cases it is better to go ahead with the treaty council. But I would raise the question of whether there is a pattern and whether this issue has been given very careful thought, because, again, I think we have to respect the sensitivity of the political and working relationships of the first nations themselves.
Having raised those three specific concerns, I would again like to congratulate both the first nations band and the government for taking their discussions to this next stage, and sincerely wish them good luck and good progress in the negotiations that are to come.
Since I have some 20 seconds left of the time our caucus has, I would just like to recognize a somewhat related issue, the fact that this minister has been meeting in his capacity as Minister of Natural Resources with representatives of the forest industry. I have expressed some concern that it has taken so long to meet directly with representatives of a sector which has been so severely stressed. We are anxious to hear what plans may come from those meetings to deal with the problems of this particular sector, a concern for the members of this first nation group as well as for all northern communities.
We too acknowledge the hardships that have been faced by this particular band. Going back over recent history, as the minister's statement outlines, we think of the 1950s, 1970s, 1980s, and now of course we are into the 1990s. They have faced many hardships, including loss of food supply and loss of their economic base. I think it is very important that their concerns, issues and problems are addressed in this appropriate manner.
I might also say that I understand it was the band's suggestion to include a representative of the community and the public at large on this resource advisory committee. Perhaps there is some education in here for the minister himself, because it seems to me that the band has developed a better communication process than the minister has been showing. That is sort of a backhanded compliment, I guess. I think it is important that the band recognizes the fact that indeed the community at large has to be considered as part of the advisory group if we are going to effectively and meaningfully address the concerns of this particular band that need to be addressed.
I also would like to thank the minister for the unique approach he has taken with respect to the memorandum of understanding and the resource advisory committee and the subcommittees he has set up under the auspices of his ministry. I think that needs to be said.
Having dealt with the minister responsible for native affairs, I was quite startled that the Minister of Northern Development did not rise today in the Legislature to announce her new strategic consultation and action now north program, which I understand she announced by way of a press conference yesterday. As usual, despite the protestations and promises of the government House leader that these things would not be done by way of press release and press conference any more and would be done by ministerial statement in the House, I note once again that has not been done with a very important announcement with respect to northern Ontario.
Mr Harris: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I thought I would take this particular time to raise a point of privilege concerning a matter that was raised in ministerial statements when I was away.
The Minister of Energy is not here today and I do not like raising this when he is not here, but since he impugned statements attributed to me when I was not here, I do not feel so difficult about it at all. This is my first opportunity to bring it forward for the record.
Mr Harris: On Thursday, the Minister of Energy said this: "Further, I want to say to the leader of the third party" -- he also referred to the member for Renfrew North, but he can speak for himself -- "that the allegations they made in this House about Mr Eliesen's character...were completely incorrect."
I was not here when the Minister of Energy made this statement, but I have checked very carefully my record in the House on Hansard and any reports outside the House and not once have I found any reference to my talking, as leader of the third party, about Mr Eliesen's character.
I talked about what others said of his ability to perform the job. I am appalled that the government thinks it is good policy to double his salary to $260,000 when most experts know that he is not qualified to do the job, but not once have I ever talked about Mr Eliesen's character. I know nothing of his character.
I assume the best about one's character and I resent the minister asking me to retract something that apparently he says I said somewhere. I challenge him to come forward with any statement where I have made reference to Mr Eliesen's character. I plead guilty to referring to opinions of experts that he is unqualified to have his salary doubled to $260,000, but not to character references.
The Speaker: To the leader of the third party, I appreciate the point of privilege which he raised. Unfortunately, he was not present in the chamber at the time the minister made the remarks and the minister is not present at the time of his first available opportunity to respond. It places the Speaker in a very awkward position since it appears to be a difference of opinion with respect to a situation which arose in the House. However I will certainly be pleased to take a look at the comments and to report to the leader of the third party later, and indeed perhaps the minister, upon his first opportunity, will be able to respond to him.
Mr Elston: I have a question for the Minister of Health. Last week the Toronto Hospital announced the layoff of some 250 people, including the equivalent of 140 full-time nurse layoffs. Since October 1, some 217 bed closures have been announced. Layoffs are the result of "ministry underfunding for the ONA settlement and the pay equity announcement." This is attributed to Dr Hudson from the Toronto Hospital.
When the jobs are cut, patients have to pay the price. Why are nurses being laid off to pay for their settlement, and why is the minister putting mainly these women out of work during this time of recession in this province?
Hon Ms Lankin: I think the issue of hospital care across this province is an important one for us all to address. I have been spending a lot of time meeting with district health councils and hospitals across the province. In fact, there are many communities that have taken on the task of co-operative planning with respect to the appropriate level of services.
One of the things we have to be very careful of is not to pose the issue in such a way as to say that good health care equates to the number of hospital beds in a community. The kind of illness treatment system we have is one of the important factors that we have to look at. But many blue ribbon committees, Premier's health councils, district health councils and local community health clinics have said that where we need to invest our money is in the other determinants of health, those things that lie outside the traditional illness treatment system.
One of things we have to look at is how we are spending our money currently and whether it is appropriate. There are certainly estimations that there are too many acute care beds in the system. Here in Metropolitan Toronto that case has been raised. I have asked that those people who have that opinion sit down with the hospital and start to work this through, and I think we have to do this in a rational, managed way.
Mr Elston: This is an interesting response from a representative of a party that has always prided itself on universality in providing health care to the needy patients in the province. It surprises me that this person would be in the minister's chair at a time when health care comes under a very adverse set of rationing criteria. She has been chopping hospital services at a time when people are seeing the need for those services more than ever and, at the same time, she has failed to bring in any statement about the types of standards which are required to provide the care for the people in this province. Can the minister tell us what the standards are and what alternative ways she has put in place to accommodate the decrease in service that is represented by the cutback in beds?
Hon Ms Lankin: The problem I have with the member opposite is that his question is unrelated to the long preamble. I am going to take a moment to address the preamble first because I think, quite frankly, we need to be careful in terms of what is being said across the province.
With respect to services in hospitals, we are asking local district health councils and hospitals across regional jurisdictions to sit down and to plan for the necessary level of services. I am being told by the Hospital Council of Metropolitan Toronto and by the district health council that there are too many acute care beds in the system. I do not think it should all come out of one hospital. I think we need to look at a co-operative planning process to manage that out.
Mr Speaker, I see that you want me to wrap up the answer, but as the Leader of the Opposition raises a number of issues, they deserve a response. With respect to the the issue of rationing and medicare, I think what we are doing is trying to save medicare in this province and in this country. There is the issue of where we head from here in terms of planning and community support, and I will pleased to speak more on that in the supplementary question.
Mr Elston: That is really outrageous. The minister expects the people of the province to believe that there are not cutbacks happening in hospitals across this province when we have seen women and men in front of the Legislature just yesterday indicating that they had lost their jobs. They are not providing service in this province, and the minister stands there and says there is no loss of service.The minister is becoming another one of those storytellers, a little like the member for Nickel Belt. Who in the world is going to believe her?
Why does she not really admit to us that the only thing she is currently doing in health care is slashing services to protect the ministry's budget and the Treasurer's budget? Otherwise, we would have had a rational plan before this all occurred, we would have had a set of criteria and we would have seen the minister's long-term care plan. Why does she not admit it? The minister is slashing first and praying that something negative does not happen.
Hon Ms Lankin: I disagree with absolutely everything the member just said. I have a few more comments that I will make directly to him, but given that I know he has three more questions coming up, maybe I will save them until towards the end.
On the question of jobs, at the hospital specifically mentioned, at this point in time the layoffs are being predicted. I have directed that the hospital sit down with the Hospital Council of Metropolitan Toronto and with the district health council and look at the effective delivery of services. I have directed that the hospital meet with the employees. The employees, for example, have made some very serious allegations. I have asked the chief executive officer of that hospital to respond directly to those allegations. We are not just slashing. We are not just not putting a program in place.
Additionally, we are meeting with a joint management committee, with the Ontario Hospital Association and with a broader hospital funding review program. We have involved all the key partners in that discussion. The OHA and others know that we are trying to do this in a rational system. May I say that we have had a number of years in which the rhetoric of reform has been strong. We are trying to make it happen in tough fiscal times.
I have another question of this minister. Yesterday, the minister told the press that she was serious about shifting health care funding from large institutions to community clinics, day surgery and home care. Would the minister then explain why, in this internal document, home care is listed as one of the lines that represents program cuts to meet the needs of the $60-million saving that the Treasurer has told the minister to find?
Hon Ms Lankin: Mr Speaker, when I hear this member say he gives up, let me tell you, I give up. For this member to talk about hospital beds when he went across this province and promised thousands of hospital beds at a time when there were already too many in the system, and left it to his follower as the minister from his party to go back and try to make some sense of those promises, I am not going to take that from this particular member.
Hon Ms Lankin: With respect to the shift of moneys towards community-based and home care that the member mentions, as he knows we have made announcements with respect to the amount of moneys that will be forthcoming on long-term care redirection. On the issue he raises with respect to this year, we are clearly experiencing pressures in this area above what was budgeted for. We are trying to find out if there is a way to manage within the budget area. There may not be. I think the home services are a very important area to continue to support.
Mr Elston: This is very interesting. This document refers to "Measures to Manage In-Year Expenditure Pressures." It lists all the things she is going to do, including the area where the minister, in answer to my first question, said she was going to put her emphasis to deal with the cutback in hospital services. She said it was going to be in community health and home care, and here at the bottom it says, "Discussions will be undertaken with providers to moderate growth pressures within the home care program." What that really means is that we are into rationing home care and community health.
In addition to that, these people are sacrificing nursing jobs. People are being laid off. They are cutting hospital services. They are freezing pharmacy fees. Then they go all the way down and answer that they are going to put emphasis on community care. Lo and behold, after saying that current benefits under the assistive devices program will not be expanded in 1991-92 to meet the disabled community, they say, "By the way, we're going to make sure we ration any increase in home care services."
Hon Ms Lankin: The member's use of words is amazing and inflammatory. The document does not say "ration home care." I have not seen the actual paper he is looking at, but if I am familiar with the document, what it talks about is a whole list of areas within the ministry and our budget that are currently under pressure. We have been instructed and are working with treasury board to try to manage our budget. In some areas we will have trouble doing that. We are undertaking program reviews in other areas to try to loosen money to cover areas where there are pressures. It is a normal process that every government is going to have to do in every year, particularly in tight fiscal times. For the member across to turn that into saying it is rationing as opposed to saying it is effective management of the system is quite bizarre.
"Reimbursements for lab tests will be reduced to moderate cost pressure. Negotiations with other practitioners will mean that changes in their fee structures will be constrained," unlike with doctors. "Electrolysis will be discontinued," which is something they have already announced. "Alternate payment agreements will be introduced," to tighten their fist on those services.
"Fees for oxygen services for people who are disabled will be restructured. The existing list of drugs under the plan will not be expanded in 1991 and current drug prices will be maintained in 1991-92." There is a freeze on drugs that are being made available for people who need them. This means to me the minister is going to be rationing their access to those. "Over-the-counter drugs are currently under review with a target date for completion of the study by December," more coming in terms of taking those off the list.
"The existing dispensing fee of Ontario drug benefit plan will be frozen now. The current benefits under assistive devices program will not expand," and the disabled will not get any assistance from her ministry and from the minister responsible for disability issues. "Discussions will be undertaken to moderate growth pressures," which in the parlance inside her ministry really means, "We ain't going meet the demands by the people out in the community."
Mr Elston: The question is, how can the minister expect us to believe she is not in full-sail, rationing health care in this province under the guise of a story begun and told full well by the man from Nickel Belt, she being a willing accomplice in this.
Hon Ms Lankin: My experience in this place gets more and more absurd as I listen to this over there. Quite frankly, the things this member raises are steps I have already announced. I have talked to the press about them. Quite frankly, it is the first time this system is being managed and it is about time. Let's talk about them. Let's talk about lab fees. We have seen in the private laboratory sector a growth in utilization at the same time as there has been a growth in automation in the use of technology. There are lower unit costs. That has never been addressed. We have moved on that and we are doing a review with them.
With respect to pharmacy, I have heard members all across the other side of the floor talk to us about the need to bring down the cost of dispensing fees for the public out there. We have done something about it, and we are going to save money for the Ontario drug benefit plan at the same time.
With respect to alternative payments, he says we are going to squeeze the system tighter. I saw the member sitting beside him, the former minister, nod her head and agree. It is absolutely the right way to go, to move to expand alternative payment plans for physicians.
Hon Ms Lankin: Let me address the last couple of remarks that were raised by the member opposite. With respect to restructuring the payment of benefit of oxygen, we are ensuring that people are getting access to that. What we have done is negotiate a better rate with the providers of the system. What was happening under the management of the system under the previous government was one rate under the ODB, a high rate, and another rate under the Community and Social Services. We have rationalized and brought it together as an effective service for people. It means we are getting a better dollar value for what we are providing.
With respect to the assistive devices program, currently we have a program review going on. The Treasurer has already announced that and it is in full consultation with people in the community. We are not taking back services. We are looking at ways of improving the equity and equitable access to services in this area.
Hon Ms Lankin: In conclusion, we are engaged in an exercise to preserve medicare, to have cost-effective delivery of high-quality services. I think we are going in exactly the right way and I totally disagree with the comments raised by the member opposite.
Mr Harris: I must say I am having difficulty keeping up with the new terminology. There are no more unemployed; they are unwaged now. There are no more bed closures, no more rationing; it is managing beds out of the system. As we understand the new language of the socialists, maybe we will be able to understand what it is.
However, my question is to the Minister of Labour. An Environics poll released this morning by the Council of Ontario Construction Associations confirms what we have been telling him for some months, that his labour proposals will hurt business, erode competitiveness and cost jobs. In this survey, for union members surveyed, over two to one union members believe there would be less business investment in Ontario if unions had a larger say in running industry. This is what the union membership says.
Hon Mr Mackenzie: My ministry has received a number of submissions over the past several months and this input into the process is appreciated. I want to emphasize that we want a real discussion based on issues we are considering. I also want to emphasize that we want constructive dialogue, not scare tactics. We will issue our discussion paper in the next few weeks and then we will proceed with the consultation process.
Mr Harris: Let me deal with a couple of specific proposals that concern a lot of people. First, 89% of the union members surveyed agree that the choice of union or non-union representation in the workplace should be decided by secret ballot. The second one I want to mention is that 86% of union members surveyed agree that picketing should be confined to the workplace where the strike is in progress.
In view of the fact that 89% of union members in one case and 86% in another believe there should be a secret ballot and believe picketing should be confined to the workplace, what is it that the minister and Bob White and the Premier think they know better than their own union members about how union-management strike action relations should take place? Why are they proceeding in a direction opposite to what about 90% of union members in this province want?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: As I thought I had told the honourable member, we want constructive dialogue, not fear-mongering. We will issue our discussion paper early in November and we are planning an extensive consultation process.
Mr Harris: I believe this is constructive input, because this is from union members by secret ballot. This is not à la Bob White saying what they want; this is directly asking them in a survey what they want.
This government reminds me of the mother who, as her son marched along in a parade, said, "Oh look, everyone's out of step except my Bobby." That is what the mother said as the parade went by. It is time for the three Bobby brothers to wake up to the reality that they are out of step with the rest of Ontario, including the union members, including members of their own party. Even NDP supporters and union members believe the three-Bob union proposals will damage jobs, will damage investment and will damage the economy.
Given that even his own supporters believe he is going in the wrong direction, will the ministerchange his disastrous course now and state categorically today that he is shelving all his labour union proposals and let unions and businesses get on with the challenges that are real and require them to sit down and work co-operatively together?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: As I have already told the member, we need constructive dialogue, not scare tactics. We will soon be proceeding with a consultation process and we will listen to all the groups that come before us during that consultation process.
Mr Cousens: I would like to give something to the minister of garbage, her own little corsage to wear -- it has tires and hypodermics and packaging, a rubber nipple and a few other things -- just because I am thinking of her so much and so are the people of Peel and other areas around the province. Maybe when she wears it, she will be thinking more of what her job should be.
On September 24, I asked the minister if the Premier would meet with the region of Peel regarding the region's opposition to the expansion of the Britannia landfill site. By her own admission, the minister agreed there is a mounting short-term garbage crisis in the greater Toronto area and that if Britannia is not expanded and no alternative plans are developed there will be a serious problem in Peel.
With respect to the Britannia landfill site, let me assure the member that it is my wish to work in co-operation with the region of Peel as much as possible. The order I issued to the region of Peel asked for community involvement. We have had a series of meetings with them to discuss the studies that are required, and I very much hope that when those studies are completed we can work co-operatively with Peel to implement the continued use of the site.
The minister is concerned, as she stated yesterday, with public participation in the search for new landfill sites by the Interim Waste Authority, so I find it alarming that she would include section 20 in her newly introduced Waste Management Act. This provision allows cabinet to determine which act has precedence when a conflict occurs with other legislation, such as the Planning Act or the Municipal Act. In other words, if municipalities seek legislative protection against this government's warped waste management agenda, cabinet will simply overrule.
Hon Mrs Grier: I am more than happy to assure the member and all members of this House that the search for the long-term sites being conducted by the Interim Waste Authority will be a process that is more consultative, more certain and more clear than the waste management planning exercise that has been undertaken by any other authority in the past. That was the commitment I made when I indicated last November the direction in which we were going with respect to the GTA waste, and I am delighted that the criteria for site selection and the legislation that I introduced last week both indicate very clearly the process to be followed and the requirements under which the search will be conducted.
Mr Cousens: They are very empty words when in fact the minister has not even met with the representative from Keele, when she has gone ahead and had the expansion of Keele Valley and Britannia without a full environmental assessment, and when she is doing things totally contrary to promises she made earlier. Now the minister is making other promises. I am not going to ask her this question, because I know the answer. Who is going to believe what she is saying today? I just cannot accept it.
Mr Cousens: The honourable member for Nipissing is that, and a very outstanding job he is doing. He asked a question yesterday of the Minister of the Environment, and she informed the House that in looking for new sites there will be a full environmental assessment. That is the first time she has said it since before the election, but now she is saying it. Yet in Bill 143 there are three paragraphs which deal with what an environmental assessment is not required for. It is not required to contain certain things, so this certainly does not appear to be a full matter as far as what the minister is going to do is concerned. I do not believe she is going to have that, especially since she has sections in the bill that are going to preclude it.
Hon Mrs Grier: Let me start by pointing out that in his first question the member talked about the immediate crisis and the short-term plans for Britannia and Keele Valley. In his second question he talked about the long-term-site search and the strategy of this government. In his third question he again talked about the long term, but he persists in confusing the immediate and emergency steps with the long-term search.
Hon Mrs Grier: This member and many others within the House have brought to my attention, as have I to the attention of my ministry, the frustration felt by many proponents of landfill sites and of waste management master plans because of the uncertainties of the process. For that reason, the Interim Waste Authority, which is seeking the long-term sites -- I am not and neither is my ministry; that is the agency doing the long-term planning -- is, through the legislation, not required to consider those non-environmental alternatives such as incineration and transport to northern Ontario which this government, as part of its waste management planning strategy, has eliminated.
Instead of spending many months and millions of dollars in doing consultant studies for an option the government has already ruled out, the environmental assessment will take into account the alternatives of the 3Rs and of landfill and will search for environmentally sound landfill sites to take the greater Toronto area into the next century.
The Speaker: Question period will function better when only one voice at a time can be heard. When the member for Mississauga West has come to order, then his colleague the member for Lawrence can place a question.
Mr Cordiano: I have a question of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. The minister would be aware of Project P. Project P is a joint OPP-Metropolitan Toronto Police anti-pornography agency which has seized thousands of videotapes and charged individual video store owners with possessing and selling obscene material. However, all of the tapes in question have already been reviewed and cleared by the Ontario Film Review Board.
There is obviously a conflict between the film review board, which is approving films for viewing according to its guidelines, and the police, who seem to disregard the board's approval of these videos. To say that confusion exists is an understatement.
It is the minister's responsibility, as part of her mandate, to protect citizens in this province by clearly providing an answer for what is pornographic and what is not. Is it the minister's intention to take up that responsibility now?
The role of the film review board is very clear: It is to classify films according to the Theatres Act, which is what it does. It follows its guidelines. It communicates actively with communities and tries to keep the standards of communities. It is not the board's role to define obscenity.
It does, however, pay attention to court decisions. As I have said before, that area of law right now is in some confusion. There have been different court decisions that have come down. We are waiting as well for those court decisions to help resolve this situation.
Mr Cordiano: Six months ago this minister stood up in this House and said she was going to look into the matter and review it very quickly. Of course, nothing has happened in that time and six months have gone by. In the meantime, charges continue to be laid and private citizens keep getting caught in the middle between the film review board and the police.
Does the minister attend cabinet meetings? Does she talk to her colleague the Solicitor General, who is sitting in the House today? Has she reviewed this matter with him? If she has not, I suggest the minister sit down with her colleague the Solicitor General, discuss the matter and make it clearer as to what standards will be set so the public out there knows what will be obscene and people will be better informed as to when charges might be laid by the police. There is total, massive confusion out there, and the minister's responsibility is to make sure this confusion stops.
Hon Ms Churley: Perhaps I should try to explain again the role of myself and the film review board, because it does not seem to be clear. The member is taking the wrong approach and is wrong in his statements about what my role in this is. I do not have any say in what actions the police take, and I have no say in defining what obscenity is. I have taken action. I have met with the film review board. We have discussed categories. We have discussed court decisions. We have discussed the film review board guidelines in terms of --
Hon Ms Churley: This is a very important point that I would think at least the member who asked the question would like to hear. The film review board does have very clear guidelines, as does this government, around the kinds of obviously objectionable material, which is violence against women and children and that sort of thing. It is never classified by the film review board and will continue not to be classified by the film review board. If those kinds of films are getting out there, it is being done illegally.
Mr Harris: My question is of the Treasurer. Last April he told us that the reason for the $10-billion deficit was to create 70,000 jobs in the province. At that time I asked him where these jobs could be found. Were they in the manufacturing sector? Were they in the construction sector? Were they in the service sector? Could he break it down for us so we could measure after a period of time whether his budget was having any success?
It has now been six months to the day since he brought down that disastrous budget. Many in this province have identified hundreds of thousands of jobs that the overall climate and atmosphere that his budget created have cost us, the opportunity and the uncertainty in the future and the jobs they have cost us. Today, six months later, could the Treasurer give me an answer to the question that he could not answer at the time he brought down the budget? Could he tell us where these 70,000 jobs are? Are they in the construction sector or the service sector or the manufacturing sector? In fact, could he perhaps identify for me even one specific job of the 70,000 jobs? Could he tell me who it is and where he is working?
Hon Mr Laughren: I have learned in this business not to take too much credit for things that we accomplish, that the people of this province will judge. I do not think we do it alone. I think the leader of the third party must have, by his policies, created jobs for fund-raisers in the Tory party in order to pay off his substantial debt, and I commend him for that. That is obviously a necessary and a good thing to do.
Hon Mr Laughren: It is not nasty; it is just replying in kind. I think what we said in the budget was that the measures we took would create and/or protect about 70,000 jobs in this province, and we are proud of that record. Also, when we introduced what we called our anti-recession package, that very directly created 14,000 jobs and, with the local government component, w think it will have created almost 20,000 jobs in capital-intensive works all across the province.
I ask the member of the third party to check with municipalities in his own area as to the degree to which our anti-recession package did indeed create jobs, not just in North Bay, of course -- that too -- but all across the province. We are the one government in this country that did not roll over and play dead when the recession hit us as hard as it did. We are proud of the action we took to protect working people.
Mr Harris: The Treasurer could not, at the time he announced the budget, really identify these 70,000 jobs. We know we have lost several hundred thousand jobs as a result of the budget and other uncertainties that his policies have created in the marketplace.
The member for Scarborough-Agincourt asked, I believe in estimates or in committee, for a breakdown by sector of the new jobs created in the budget. An October 23 memo from the ministry says: "Treasury does not produce a forecast for employment growth by sector." I do not know why it does not. I guess they do not want to measure whether their budget was successful or not.
I asked the Treasurer if he could identify one person, one job. I hoped he could identify the 70,000, but he has not identified one for me, one individual who is working as a result of his $10-billion deficit. I think the point is this: Six months later, we are at this anniversary. We are obviously still in the depths of a recession. We have fewer people working now than we did when he brought in this monstrous $10-billion deficit. Will the Treasurer admit today that his budgetary plan has failed? Would he not agree with that on this dismal six-month anniversary and agree to bring down a new economic plan in order to get Ontarians back to work?
Hon Mr Laughren: Sometimes the contradictions by the members of the Tory party in this assembly are truly mind-boggling. The leader of the third party one minute implies that we should have laid off thousands of civil servants in the province in order to reduce the deficit, implies that we should have cut spending all across the province. He is going to have to explain to me how, if we had not taken the actions we did in the budget, unemployment would not be higher than it is now. As a matter of fact, the unemployment rate has dropped this year. We believe we are coming out of the recession. All the experts tell us that, not just the Ontario government experts.
I meet with business people all across this province week after week, and I do not believe in pointing figures, but do members know what they tell me first? "What can you do about the high value of the Canadian dollar?" I say, "I do hope you've spoken to Mr Harris."
Mr Huget: My question is to the Solicitor General. Many constituents in my area are very concerned. The member for Leeds-Grenville stated yesterday in this House that the Ministry of the Solicitor General has cancelled the 911 consultation service it provided to municipalities. I must say this came as quite a surprise to me and to constituents in my area, because several municipalities in our area are presently being helped by the ministry to bring 911 service to them. Is the member for Leeds-Grenville correct? Is it true the Solicitor General has cancelled the 911 consultancy service?
Hon Mr Pilkey: I thank the member for the opportunity because it allows me to correct some rather inaccurate statements that have been made. I fear that the statements by the member for Leeds-Grenville and the press release he issued may have caused some rather undue concern in parts of this province. I would like to inform the honourable member for Sarnia that the statements of the member for Leeds-Grenville are totally incorrect. The fact of the matter is that we have not cancelled the 911 consultancy service. This service is at present working with some 25 municipalities across this province, 75% of the population of this province is now covered by 911 and more municipalities are coming on line all the time.
Mr Huget: Many constituents and municipalities in my area will be happy to hear the minister's response. I would also like to know what other initiatives he has to help communities that do not have 911 service to obtain it.
The Speaker: I ask the members to come to order. When the members have come to order, then the Speaker will be able to hear the response to the question placed. Fortunately it is not the Speaker's job to determine the value of questions or the intent of questions, but the Speaker has a responsibility to hear them. That is what I am attempting to do.
Mr Jackson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The question in this House is that when a minister is unable to answer the question, he is given an opportunity to rise in the House and give a response. That courtesy was not extended by the minister. He chose to use a method we are not used to using in this House. If that has created some disorder in the House, I would ask the Speaker to examine that the minister was asked a question yesterday. He was unable to answer it. He had an opportunity to respond in the House and he has denied another member an opportunity for rebuttal. That is the parliamentary tradition we inherited from the British monarchy and it is the one we should keep in this House today.
The Speaker: Order. When raising a point of order, it is not helpful to then create disorder. The member for Burlington South rose on a point of order. While I do not believe there is anything out of order, I would be pleased to take a look at Hansard. In the meantime, the minister rightfully has the floor to respond to a question asked earlier.
Hon Mr Pilkey: At least the member for Leeds-Grenville need not feel lonely in the error of his comment yesterday, because he is joined today by the member for Burlington South, who is equally wrong and equally inaccurate. He suggested to you, Mr Speaker, that the minister, namely, myself, yesterday was unable to respond to the question. He is in error. I responded to the question. I responded accurately. Hansard will so show. I indicated that this item, along with others, is being considered with respect to the 1992 fiscal budget and was under consideration with all other items. I knew the answer. I gave the answer. The answer is a fact. His suggestion that I did not know the answer is equally wrong.
Hon Mr Pilkey: -- to the member for Sarnia, there are a number of things my ministry is doing to reduce the initial startup costs. We are working with Bell Canada on the design and testing of small, less expensive telephone switching that will assist rural communities. Quite frankly, these initiatives will help rural communities to get 911 services if they desire and wish them.
Mr Runciman: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I think I have the right to respond. The minister suggested -- clearly stated as a matter of fact -- that I had not informed the House correctly yesterday. I had not suggested that 911 be --
Mr Ruprecht: I have a real question for the Solicitor General on red light districts. The Solicitor General will certainly know and be concerned about the statements that have been made by his colleague the NDP mayoralty candidate, Jack Layton, about red light districts. The mayoralty candidate is calling for zones of tolerance, or red light districts, where street prostitutes would be able and totally free to carry on their trade and sell sex openly. Is the Solicitor General considering at present a policy that such red light districts or zones of tolerance would be established?
Hon Mr Pilkey: The laws relating to persons engaged in prostitution are contained in the Criminal Code of Canada, and until such time as the legislation is amended, the police have a responsibility and a duty to enforce that law. The level of enforcement is the responsibility of the local police agency.
Mr Ruprecht: That certainly was not the question. I am asking him today, if Mr Layton is elected as mayor and really begins to implement this strategy of red light policy, is the Solicitor General prepared to instruct Metro police officers to refrain from enforcing the Criminal Code charges for soliciting in those zones?
Mr Jackson: I have a real issue of concern to seniors and I would like to ask the Minister of Health a question. It is only recently, I am advised as of October 10, that pharmacists, and we can only assume physicians as well, in this province were advised of a long list of drugs that will no longer be covered as other interim benefits under the Ontario drug benefit plan. This extensive list appears to adversely effect seniors as a target group in the decision that was made by her ministry.
Effective this Friday, the following drugs -- I just use these three examples for the minister -- Trental, which is a vasoactive drug that contributes to the flexibility of red blood cells, will cost senior citizens $75 a month; Persantine, which is a specialized blood thinner required after heart valve surgery, will cost seniors $53 a month, and her decision which is puzzling a lot of people this October, the month of breast cancer awareness, Nolvadex, which is a breast cancer drug treatment with no substitution, costs $80.33 per month. Women on social assistance are going to have to come up with this $80 in order to maintain this drug, and we are led to believe there are no substitutions.
Knowing the Lowy report and faced with the range of options she has, which could include reducing the incidence of drug fraud, reducing the average number of claims per patient, reducing the overprescribing patterns of Ontario physicians, why is it she simply chose to eliminate these special other interim benefits from the ODB? Why did she chose that route instead of these other options to reduce her expenses?
Hon Ms Lankin: The other options the member speaks of are routes we are pursuing as well. I need to perhaps get back to him on a couple of points, because I think he has incorrectly mixed up some of the drugs from the formulary and the non-formulary list. I know it gets confusing. There were some drugs -- he mentions Trental and I believe I recognize that name to be one of them -- that were delisted from the formulary, which is quite different than the other interim benefits he is talking about.
In the case of the drugs that have been delisted from the formulary, it is because there is a suitable alternative at a cheaper cost. It is because the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee has reviewed it and feels that it is not of therapeutic value and should not be on there or that it is greatly toxic. In all those situations, let me say that if a doctor feels that is the only drug that would be of assistance to a patient, there is always the section 8 special authorization to pursue.
With respect to his question about pursuing database or doctors' prescription patterns, we are meeting with the Ontario Medical Association. The joint management committee that was established as a result of the negotiations has this very issue, from both of those perspectives, as one of its first items for discussion on the agenda. We are also undertaking a comprehensive reform review at this time of the Ontario drug benefit program. I hope we are looking at all the areas the member raised.
Mr Jackson: Without there being any dispute about the drugs in question, they all represent an additional cost to Ontario citizens who previously were eligible for them but who are no longer receiving them.
My point in raising it is that when we check with the Ontario Pharmacists' Association and the Ontario College of Pharmacists, we find there has been no contact from her ministry with respect to examining these abuses and misuses of this drug benefit system. The truth is that pharmacists know the prescribing patterns of physicians and the drug utilization of their customers. The minister would be aware of the practice of double doctoring that has been occurring in this province, where drug addicts and those who would profit from the resale of drugs are able to go into a pharmacy with a prescription and obtain morphine, Tylenol 3, Percodan, Valium, etc. A whole series of drugs are involved in this underground.
Given that the weekly billings to her ministry from pharmacists all across this province include the name of the patient, social assistance benefit number, drug identification, the quantity and day prescribed and the doctor's name, the minister already has a system in place. She does not need a large committee. She can now look at cases of fraud, abuse and misuse. These drugs, in some instances, are finding their way into schoolyards --
Mr Jackson: -- in our communities. I simply ask the minister, when faced with the option of catching cases of fraud in the system or cutting medically necessary benefits, why she has chosen to cut benefits? I will ask the minister again. I have already established from the former Minister of Health that there has been no consultation about this cutting and that is what I want --
Mr Jackson: -- I want the minister to assure this House that she is looking at the cases of fraud in the ODB and not simply cutting at the expense of seniors, women with breast cancer and other types of medically necessary treatments in this province.
First of all, with respect to the drugs the member raises, I think he has some confusion with respect to what we have done. The Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee is the very specialized group that brings together people from the community and the pharmaceutical and medical community to review and make serious recommendations with respect to maintaining or placing drugs on the drug formulary. Their support for dropping drugs like Trental is confirmed and they were involved in that process.
With respect to his allegations that seniors will not be able to access these drug benefits if they are ODB eligible, let me again correct him. If in fact a doctor feels this is the only drug that would be of assistance and there is no suitable alternative on the formulary, there is the section 8 special authorization that will still allow a person to be covered. That has been the procedure in the past and that will continue. Quite frankly, he is wrong in his allegations on that.
Hon Ms Lankin: If the member could just stay quiet for a moment I will offer him a complete briefing if it would be of assistance to him. However, let me come to his second point which is with respect to the --
The second part of his question was with respect to the issue of fraud and whether we are doing anything around that. I have said to him very clearly and directly that we are meeting with the OMA to try to review that issue and at this point there is not the ability to track it. We intend to follow it through and do that. I think we are absolutely committed to follow up on all aspects of this.
The Speaker: I ask the House to come to order. I am certainly aware of the fact that the minister by her lengthy response prevented one of her own colleagues from the government side from placing a question. It would be very helpful in the future if detailed answers could be provided on the order paper, or simply respond to the member that a detailed response will be in the mail. It is important for us to try to maintain a short amount of time for each of the questions and the responses. The time for oral questions has expired.
Mr Mahoney: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: You recognize that there is increasing difficulty in your maintaining order and I would like to refer to what I think is causing the problem and ask you to review it. It is right out of our rules, sir. It says, "Whenever the Speaker is of the opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament," you may rule on it. Then I look under privileges, "Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by the members of the House individually conferred by the Legislative Assembly Act."
Mr Speaker, I suggest that when you take into account the privileges of the members and when we see those privileges being violated, you look at yesterday's Hansard. The question was asked about the cancellation of the 911 consultancy service by the honourable member of the Conservative Party and the minister went on -- I have reviewed it -- and did not answer anything near the question. He said "that if this does become a formal decision, there would be alternative information available to those municipalities and regions that would have an interest in pursuing the development of the 911 service."
The member for Leeds-Grenville then went on to outline his concern about reports in the ministry about cutbacks of dollars in Orillia that would reduce 911, outlined specific examples, and simply asked the minister to confirm whether this was true. It seems to me, under the privileges extended to all members, that we could expect some kind of answer. If the answer is not available, then the minister could say he does not have the answer and request your permission to either stand it down or come back to the House at a later date, which is allowed.
"If in the opinion of the minister or the Speaker the question requires a lengthy answer, either the minister or the Speaker may require it to be placed on the Orders and Notices paper as a written inquiry of the ministry. The minister may take an oral question as notice to be answered orally on a future sessional day but where any reserved answer requires a lengthy statement, the statement shall be given under 'Statements by the Ministry and Responses.'"
This minister went on in his answer yesterday to give a totally irrelevant answer. He then went on in response to a very detailed analysis by the member for Leeds-Grenville where he outlined specific data. He outlined what was happening and he chose to say that -- the answer he gave is ridiculous. It did not address the question in any way whatsoever. The rules, in my interpretation, are quite clear. It allows you to ask the minister, or the minister to choose, to answer at a future sessional day or to put it in some form or notice or to come back with it to this Legislature. As long as the government ministers are going to continue giving non-answers to questions being posed -- the evidence is very clear and the retribution from your office is very clear in the orders -- you are not going to get order in this House and I think that is wrong.
I ask you to review the point of order I have raised, to look over the answer by the Solicitor General and to perhaps give some direction to either the House leader, the Premier or somebody over there, that if they do not know the answer they not try to buffoon their way through question period. They should tell us they do not know it, get back to us with the answer and start giving us some reasonable answers.
I point out that whether we agree or not, the Minister of Health went to some extent to answer the question and you will notice how we were all quietly listening attentively to her answer. I suggest that if more members over there would follow the lead of that minister, maybe there would be more decorum in this place. You are not going to get us to settle down until these people start being responsible in answering our questions. I ask you to review that as a point of order and report back to this House.
Mr Eves: On the same point of order, Mr Speaker: I want to add further that I consider the question asked today of the Solicitor General by the member for Sarnia to be nothing more than a sham, giving the Solicitor General an opportunity to respond to a question he obviously did not know the answer to yesterday.
The member for Leeds-Grenville rose on a point of personal privilege to correct the record, because at no time yesterday did he ever say, as the Solicitor General accused him in the House this afternoon of saying, that 911 was cancelled; at no time did he ever say that. He suggested, as was pointed out by the honourable member, that the Solicitor General's ministry was considering cancelling the consultative program for municipalities under the 911 program and he admitted that this afternoon.
He totally misrepresented what the member for Leeds-Grenville said yesterday. He did not have the decency or the common courtesy to withdraw that comment and you, Mr Speaker, let the minister answer the point of personal privilege. That is your job, sir. You want order? Do something about --
Hon Mr Pilkey: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: As calmly as I can, may I join my fellow colleagues on the opposite side of the House in also requesting you to review my response in Hansard yesterday? I know that you will find that the question was answered directly and correctly and that you will put to an end all this verbosity that quite frankly is in error, if you so check Hansard.
Mrs Caplan: On the same point of order, Mr Speaker: I think the discussion is extremely relevant because you, on a number of occasions, have called attention to decorum during question period. I know that on a number of occasions when asking a question you, Mr Speaker, and I think quite properly, have noted that members sometimes go on a little long, and I have been guilty of perhaps a question that is too long during question period. The reason for that, as you know, is wanting to have as much information in the preamble so that the question will be understood by those people who are watching question period.
The concern we have is when we see the kind of display where a minister stands up the day after a question has been asked and then responds to a point of privilege. It takes away from the time in question period for further questions and also creates a kind of impression that would suggest members of the opposition are in fact not getting answers to their questions because they are not asking the questions properly. To have the member for Sarnia ask it in the way he did was quite inflammatory to all of us on the opposition benches. For the Speaker to allow the minister to respond to the point of privilege from an opposition member and then turn and answer the question from the member of his own caucus I think was quite improper under our rules of procedure.
Further, I point out to the Speaker at this time that while he has been very good at calling time on members of the opposition who perhaps are going along with lengthy questions, he has not been as clear in the calling of time on the ministers in their responses. I think if the Speaker checked the time of some of the answers, he would find he has not been quite as balanced as I know he would want to be and should be. That also poses some frustrations because we have a number of questions that simply do not get on.
We all know the leaders are given some flexibility. I believe that if you watch the responses from the ministers, Mr Speaker, what you will find is that, beyond the first two leader's questions, the answers from the ministers are simply running out the clock. As a member of the official opposition who wants to see important questions of the day get raised in this House in a proper and appropriate manner, I ask that you pay full attention to the length of the responses and call the government ministers when they are going on at length.
Mr Mahoney: It is. It is more in the area of the rules than whether or not the minister answered the question. I have the Hansard here. If anybody wants to accept that as an answer, that is fine, but that is hardly something I think the Speaker can necessarily rule on and I am not sure it is appropriate that he does that.
What I do think is appropriate, though, is that if you look under the headline "V. Privilege," on page 14 of our rules, it says, "21(a) Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the House collectively and by the members of the House individually conferred by the Legislative Assembly Act and other statutes, or" -- and this is my point, an important point, I feel -- "by practice, precedent, usage and custom."
The practice, the precedent and the custom of this place is that when a minister does not know the answer, the minister says so and says he will get back to the questioner with the information on a future day. Then the minister has an option. He either comes back into this place and gives the answer --
Mr Mahoney: Well, you obviously did not know the answer or you would not have set up a question by one of your lackeys so you could give the answer today that you wanted to give yesterday but failed to give.
Mr Mahoney: I am sorry, Mr Speaker. My point is that the precedent and the practice has been violated by this minister. Instead of coming into this House and saying, "Yesterday in answer to a question I made an error and I would like to correct the record," or "Yesterday some statements were made that I am not happy about and I would like to make a minister's statement," which clearly is the precedent and the practice and the custom of this Legislature, he does what is not precedent, practice or custom and asks somebody in his caucus to lob him a question so that he can assail the questioner from the day before, who has no opportunity either to ask a further question or to rebut a statement by the minister.
I might respond to the member for Oriole, though she is not in the chamber at the present time. I can assure her that I keep a close eye on the time. Indeed, members on the government side will say they are cut short of time as members from the opposition will say they are cut short of time. In fact, the amount of time I allow for questions is regardless of position. Whether it is a leader or any other member of a caucus, he gets approximately the same amount of time for placing his question and supplementaries.
I will take a look at the matters, as I have mentioned. When the member speaks of precedents, part of the precedents of this chamber has been, over a long period of time, that certain courtesies are extended in the House and that generally they have been reached by agreement of the three parties as to when statements in response to questions asked earlier will be made to the assembly. But I will review this and get back to you as quickly as I can.
Hon Mr Cooke: Mr Speaker, I would like to point out on this point which has been raised that I am more than willing and the government is more than willing to take your suggestion that the House leaders should be sitting down and talking about these procedures as well as rule changes. On September 16, as well as the following week and October 3 and every week since, I as House leader for the government have invited the opposition House leaders to participate in a discussion of the rules. But to this point the opposition parties have refused to sit down and negotiate rule changes.
Mr Elston: On that, I am absolutely offended by the government House leader trying to make this into some kind of cause to change the rules of the House because he is in charge of a caucus that will not comply with the current rules. They will not have the Premier in here to answer questions. They send him out, if he even attends at all, after half an hour; he is unavailable to answer questions. They send the ministers away into the ridings, out away from this place so we cannot reply to their announcements.
His standing here today is part of the contrivance of the New Democratic Party to erode the integrity of the process for which I was elected some 10 years ago or more. I cannot stand for that man to take his place and reply to a point of order which has nothing to do with his rule change agenda.
I have suffered their silliness just about long enough. They have not come to us in any kind of parliamentary tradition to allow us to examine the public business with any evenhandedness. They sent the police when there were documents out. These people are at their best when they are most draconian. They are doing things that have never been done in this House before, not by any of the preceding governments. What is more, they are setting a trap for all interested democrats which will be sprung at a moment of their choosing so they can be more draconian than any other administration in any other part of the parliamentary world.
Mr Bradley: I was not about to enter the debate on this point, but I will, because there has been discussion of House leaders and what House leaders should and should not be doing. It is indeed true that the government House leader, now that he is in government -- not when he was sitting in opposition -- suddenly believes the rules of the Legislature are not to his satisfaction. When he was in opposition the rules seemed to suit him quite nicely. He utilized the rules to his own advantage, and that was the way it was in opposition. It may not have been something the previous government thought was conducive to the nice working of the House; nevertheless, we worked under those rules.
But now, because the government cannot get its way on every possible occasion in this House, the government wants to change the rules. When the House is, as the member for Victoria-Haliburton would say, indecorous or when there is a question about a committee that does appointments to government, everything now gets tied to the fact that if we would only change the rules, this could all be solved. If we would change the rules, we could have the Premier in here every day. If we would change the rules, we would have statements made in the House. If we would change the rules, there would not be a dust-up in the House every day.
We in the opposition happen to feel that the rules, which were negotiated mutually among the three parties represented in this Legislature just a couple of years ago, are quite fine, thank you, and that if the government were to operate its agenda in an appropriate fashion, we would not have the problems we have today.
Mr Mahoney: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to address a comment you made, Mr Speaker, when you said that the whole issue of length of time and decorum could be referred to the House leaders. With respect, sir, that is not what the book says.
Mr Mahoney: Yes, that is what I heard, that you wanted it referred to the House leaders for them to come up with some agreement. If that is not what you mean, I will stand corrected on that. Rule 32(a) very clearly says:
"Questions on matters of urgent public importance may be addressed to the ministers of the Crown but the Speaker shall" -- not "may" -- "disallow any question which he or she does not consider urgent or of public importance. If in the opinion of the minister or the Speaker" -- not the House leader; there is no mention of the House leader -- "the question requires a lengthy answer, either the minister or the Speaker may require it to be placed on the Orders and Notices paper as a written inquiry of the ministry. The minister may take an oral question as notice to be answered orally on a future sessional day but where any reserved answer requires a lengthy statement, the statement shall be given under 'Statements by the Ministry and Responses.'"
There is no mention in here of the responsibility of any of the House leaders in relation to how this place runs. I think the responsibility of the House leaders is to somehow come to agreement on the order of business, not the methods under the rules and procedures of the Parliament, sir. That is your job and yours alone. I respectfully ask you to review that and to review my complaint, because I for one would like to see business done in this place with some decorum and get some responsible answers from this government.
Mr Scott: Mr Speaker, I am going to make a practical suggestion to you, if you will accept it, as I hope you will. The difficulties the House has had, and that you have had trying to control it, are pretty well obvious by now. There has been a lot of talk among my colleagues and others outside the House about the circumstances in which the House finds itself and how we might address this. There have been some wags who have said, "As the government is going to be thrown out in three years, why worry now?" That is not really the point. It is important that some way of conducting the business be found.
Now many of the things that have happened may be, as you yourself have said in your rulings, things that are beyond your control. But in light of that, I am going to seriously suggest to you that you should convene a meeting of representatives of the House. At least one of the House leaders is so generally unacceptable to the three parties that he alone will not be able to solve this problem. You should convene a meeting of representative members of the House to see if you can deal with a number of things.
The first thing to be dealt with is the absence of statements. Every member in this House who has served for more than this term understands exactly what has happened. The government has decided that it only gets into trouble when the Legislature is in session and that the statement rule is unattractive to it. Rather than changing it, they are simply going to ignore statements and make them out in public where they cannot be effectively criticized because as soon as they make their speech they hop in their limo and get back to the comfort of the building.
The first thing that has to be done is that we have to persuade the government to do what all governments in Ontario and in Ottawa have historically done; that is, make important statements in the House where they can be heard by all members of the Legislature and criticized here. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that if that alone were accomplished, much of the heat and anxiety would be lost.
The second thing, and I understand this is technically outside your control, though I think there is a ruling pending on it, is that it has got to be understood by this government, and I hope a conference will be arranged to achieve it, that you simply cannot send the police after opposition members to investigate how opposition members got access to information.
Mr Speaker, I understand the rule about your precincts and how difficult it is for you to control that. But the government of the day has to understand not only that it is against all parliamentary tradition to send the Solicitor General's police around to threaten and to harass, as was done in the case of my colleague the member for Halton Centre, but also that if it is going to do that as a matter of government policy, the House is going to be unruly.
There are other things. The length of questions has been raised today, the unsatisfactory nature of responses and the effort to set up questions to allow the minister to respond. All those things are important, but this government has to understand sooner or later that there is a tradition here. It is a tradition that they upheld valiantly for decades in this House. It was part of the best tradition of the NDP in Ontario to uphold the importance of Parliament in our system. They have to understand that to abandon statements without even an attempt to change the rule, to send the police around after opposition members and to threaten them when they do their duty and all that sort of stuff is not only completely outside the traditions of Parliament but leads directly to the kind of difficulty you are confronting in this exercise, Mr Speaker.
I would suggest to you that the thing to do -- do not refer it to the House leaders. The government House leader has shown that he is not interested in doing anything but making sure the government has its way. Convene a meeting of representative members of the Legislature under your direction to consider how these matters can be dealt with so the parliamentary traditions of Ontario can be restored and then maintained.
Mr Stockwell: Mr Speaker, just quickly, I think you have a very important role to fill in this Legislature and it is a role that is going to come under a little more scrutiny and a little closer review.
If you listened carefully to the comments of the government House leader, he suggested that he gave an offering to each House member from the opposition parties to come to a meeting to investigate and discuss rule changes. That may be an open-ended request, it may be a meeting that should take place, I am not sure, but the point I would like to make is that it seems to me in this Legislature we have some very clear and distinct rules.
I think any fairminded individual watching this or involved in this would agree that the rules are not being enforced. Ministers are making statements outside this House. I do not know how long it has been since the Premier has been here. Questions are not being answered. The time today with the Solicitor General was a painful and obvious problem that we in opposition have had.
Mr Speaker, you respond almost unanimously every single time with, "There is little, if anything, the Speaker can do." I think there are some things you can do. If you are going to get control in this operation, in this House, you had better not agree that the House leaders meet so they may change the rules, because that is not the solution. The solution is for you to meet with the government House leader and the government and ask them to follow the rules they had a hand in writing over these many years.
Mrs McLeod: On the same point of order, Mr Speaker: I take very seriously the proceedings of this House and I would not rise on this point of order if I felt it was in any way frivolous. I have become increasingly concerned, as my colleagues have, about the violation of reasonable access to information for the members of this assembly. I believe the increasing practice of this government to make statements on new government programs exclusively outside of this House and not to share that information with the members of this assembly is a violation of the privileges of members of this assembly and their right to access to information.
I understand the Minister of Northern Development and Mines is in Kenora today making an important announcement about a major transportation initiative for northern Ontario. If the Minister of Transportation had been aware of this announcement, it would have been possible for him to make a simultaneous announcement here in the House. In that way, all members of this Legislative Assembly and in fact people across Ontario would have had access to information about government initiatives, and that applies to members of the government as it does to members of the opposition.
Mr Speaker, I would ask you to review very seriously the concerns that are being raised and deal with them as an issue of the violation of the privileges of the members of the assembly and their right to information.
Mr Callahan: Just very briefly on one point that was touched on, the question of investigation of members and the attempt to silence them when documents were made available to them, I would submit that the very essence of Parliament and the very reason we have privilege in this House is because free speech in this chamber is absolutely necessary to maintain the democracy that the people of Ontario deserve. I would submit this is one issue that really gives me grave concern. The fact that the threat of prosecution, investigation or intimidation can be made against a member of this House flies in the face of the free speech that was maintained throughout the history of parliamentary democracy.
I would certainly ask Your Honour to look at that at the same time that you look at this, because if that threat is going to continue, then the net result will be -- and I do not say this pejoratively or deliberately on the part of the government -- that the public, who are entitled to full disclosure -- certainly we give them full disclosure under the Members' Conflict of Interest Act -- will be denied that full disclosure because of this threat and this concern. I would ask you to really look at that. That is very destructive. It is eating away at the very purpose of this House, the very purpose of being able to speak freely in this chamber.
Mr Eves: On a point of personal privilege, Mr Speaker: I would like to apologize to you for the tone and abruptness of my remarks earlier, because I do not believe this is conduct becoming a parliamentarian either. But it is awfully frustrating sometimes to sit here and listen to what I at least perceive to be questions being asked by backbench government members that are no more than a self-serving propping up of ministers who perhaps did not come off as well as the government would have liked in question period yesterday.
The only comment I really wanted to make is that I would have thought it was more appropriate for the Speaker to have answered the point of personal privilege from the member for Leeds-Grenville than the Solicitor General to have answered that point of personal privilege. That was the only point I was trying to make, and I would like to withdraw the remarks I made directed towards you earlier.
The Speaker: Indeed I appreciate the comments of the member for Parry Sound, because I know the member for Parry Sound. He has always had a respect for the chamber and for the parliamentary traditions.
I might respond to the member for Mississauga West. Indeed when I spoke earlier of courtesies, it was in fact related to many of the items raised by the member for Etobicoke West, items that are not out of order but as a courtesy. For example, ministers may make statements in the House; they are not obliged to. I have on a previous occasion spoken about that matter. Indeed the member may recall that I encouraged government ministers to make statements in the House.
To the member for St George-St David, who raises perhaps the more essential item with respect to decorum and order in the House, I will indeed convene a meeting of members of the assembly. It would be my hope that representatives from all three parties would be able to co-operate with each other and with the Speaker in trying to establish a sense of order and decorum in this chamber so that we can conduct the public business.
I will convene that meeting as quickly as possible. Obviously it relies upon the co-operation of all three parties. Without that co-operation, I doubt very much that we will be able to do the public business properly, and without that co-operation, I doubt very much that any Speaker can maintain the kind of order and decorum that is required in this chamber.
Mr Phillips: I would also like to add another element you might look at as you are considering this, Mr Speaker. My recollection is fairly clear that several weeks ago, when we expressed our immense concern about the fact that government ministers were making announcements outside the House, the government House leader gave the opposition an undertaking, his own personal word, I believe, that it would stop. It has not. By my own count there have been at least six major announcements made outside this House in the last two weeks -- not here -- without any opportunity for us in opposition to respond.
I have a role to play in Ontario to ensure that government policies are subjected to scrutiny and where possible improved. I took the government House leader at his word and he has broken that word. That is a very significant move by the government House leader, Mr Speaker. If you wonder why things get hot in here, that is an example of why for many of us anger is rising. Credibility and trust are very difficult things to establish and very difficult things to maintain. I would just say to the government House leader, he is losing it very quickly on behalf of the members on this side of the House.
Mr Mahoney: Mr Speaker, I am sorry to prolong this, I truly am, but I am a little concerned that perhaps you missed my point. What I have attempted to do is to deal with you on points of order from the standing orders. I am sure you can get somewhat frustrated when points of order are raised on all sides of the House and they are just simply points of complaint. I am trying to tie them in to specific articles within this document which we supposedly run this place by.
It is fine to suggest that perhaps a minister can respond to a point of privilege or that someone can rise on a particular issue. I accept the fact that this government is not experienced in the ways of being the government from the point of view of operating under the standing orders of the Legislative Assembly. However, it is some 14 months, and the House leader clearly is an experienced member of this Legislature, as are a number of the senior members of cabinet. They should understand the rules.
I can accept the fact that a member like the Solicitor General, who is relatively new in this place, might err or might not fully comply. We can understand that on this side of the House and we are prepared perhaps to forgive certain indiscretions or inabilities to abide by the standing rules.
What I am having a great deal of difficulty with, as are my colleagues, is that this House leader, who is quite experienced, threatens us with changing the rules in here if we insist on asking that the current rules be followed. That is exactly what he did. He did it by implication, suggesting that perhaps we could get together and discuss decorum, and I think the record would show he added a further statement, "We could discuss decorum and perhaps changing of the rules." I am paraphrasing, but something of that nature.
That sends a clear signal to my House leader and to anyone who understands the procedures around here that this honourable gentleman is threatening us with changing the rules, which would in some way stifle the ability of the opposition members to perform their sworn duty, which is to oppose, either constructively or otherwise, and debate and put forward alternatives to government policy.
Sir, they are not allowing us to do that. You have heard several complaints from members here about statements being made in other parts of the province, in the hallway outside the east lobby, in press scrums or in some form of document or press release about items that are of extreme concern and importance to the people in this province. They have little respect, it would appear, for the roles and responsibilities of opposition members because they continually refuse to put forward their government program in this place. That is one of the things that concerns us.
I was not in the House yesterday when the member for Leeds-Grenville asked his question about the potential cancellation of a 911 consultative service in the Orillia community and other parts. He cited, as I recall from reading Hansard, dollar amounts that were being withdrawn. The minister rose to his feet and said that it was possible that program was being cancelled and that it might be necessary to review it, and that the municipalities would have the option of calling in to the ministry to discuss it. He did not deny it.
He then rose in response to a lob question today from one of his own colleagues, obviously a prearranged agreement between the backbencher and the minister -- "Please, Mr Backbencher, ask me a question so I can set the record straight on the unsatisfactory answer I gave yesterday to the member for Leeds-Grenville."
Having said that happened -- that perhaps is an opinion on my part -- that is why I refer directly to this document, Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly, because I would not expect the Speaker to rule on an opinion of mine or an opinion of any member in this House, but rather to rule on whether or not a member of the cabinet is operating under the standing orders in a proper fashion.
Very clearly the standing orders give the Speaker the authority and give the minister the option to either make a ministerial statement if he wishes to announce something -- that a 911 service is indeed not being cancelled would seem to be what he was trying to say in his answer today. I suppose Instant Hansard will prove whether or not that is what he said, but that is what I understood him to say.
Why did he not stand up before question period, instead of taking four, five or 10 minutes between the question and the answer and the lob and the hooting and the hollering back and forth, whatever time period it was. If it is two minutes, it is too much for him to stand up and make a statement. It is really ministerial statement material that he should announce to this Legislature and to the people in Orillia and to the member for Leeds-Grenville and to everyone in Ontario that his ministry is not cancelling it and that he wants to make clear the answer to the question yesterday, if indeed there was some confusion.
It would seem to me that he must have felt there was some confusion or he would not have asked the honourable member on his back bench to ask him a question to then allow him to stand up and give another answer to what, in essence, was the same question. I think it is totally out of order and I clearly have pointed out where in this document it outlines your responsibility.
I would also say, on a new point, that on page 8 under standing order 23(i), it says that a member shall not impute "false or unavowed motives to another member." I think the minister, in his answer, said the reason he wanted to give the answer to the setup question was that he did not want the impression to be left that the member for Leeds-Grenville had supposedly given some false impression to the public out there. Again I am paraphrasing it and Hansard will correct that.
Mr Mahoney: Even if he did, he is imputing false motives. The minister did not answer the question. The government House leader should read Hansard from yesterday. The minister did not stand in his place and say, "No, it is not being cancelled." He stood up and he went on --
Mr Mahoney: No, it is not a debate; it is about the point that the minister has imputed motives to the member for Leeds-Grenville, a point made by his House leader, and I hope not ignored by the House leader of the government. The government is not following procedure. Clearly it lays out in section 29 that the procedures of the House are as follows --
The Speaker: It is very important and you have brought this matter to my attention in a variety of ways, which I appreciate. Indeed, as I mentioned, I will be reviewing the matter. There is not much more that we can say at this moment, but I do appreciate the detailed way in which you have brought this to my attention.
Mr Mahoney: With respect, sir, you attempted to answer me on my point in your response. I thought I raised a number of very critical points in relation to the operation of this place: the fact that the House leader of the government has no respect for the opposition's role, the fact that the minister has responded inappropriately and the fact that the clear outline is in the rules of procedure, the standing orders, that give you the authority to make decisions on this.
Mr Speaker, I just want to ensure that you not give me a 10-second answer, with respect. That is what I received from you and you are stating that you were responding to comments by other members. I think I have raised a number of very critical points in this regard and it may take you some time. But I would ask you, and I know you will, to take the time to read Hansard tomorrow and to analyse the points I have made and come back with a full report. I would appreciate that.
The Speaker: To the member for Mississauga West, indeed that is what I mentioned some time ago and I am more than pleased to do that. I will take a look at all the events as they have unfolded and I will be reporting back.
Mr Mahoney: I have a petition with 4,068 signatures from teachers, students, parents, priests and nuns of Croatian parishes in Mississauga, Toronto, Oakville and Hamilton, as well as other parishioners. This petition has been sent to the Prime Minister, Mr Brian Mulroney, and it has also been asked of me to present it on behalf of the people who have signed it. It says:
"The Ministry of Education has made evolutionism a compulsory core unit of senior OAC (previously grade 13) history and science. Since evolutionism and creationism are completed acts in the past, neither can be proven or disproven. In fairness to all parents and students, equal time should be given in presenting the underlying assumptions of each. Through the two-model approach, the skills of critical thinking such as recognition of bias, awareness of society's influence on one's bias and the awareness of assumptions can allow students to examine their own belief system and better appreciate an opposing view. These skills should be incorporated into all textbooks approved in circular 14, dealing with the question of origins."
"We, the undersigned, request that the government of Ontario immediately rectify the inequity in funding between nursing homes and homes for the aged. We strongly support the Ontario Nursing Home Association in its efforts to provide better care for residents of nursing homes through increased funding."
Mr Tilson: I had left off on the subject dealing with the whole questioning of our committee procedure in this House. Before I begin to sum up on that point I would like to briefly mention several other points that I know some members have spoken on and some members will speak on in the moments ahead.
The first issue, of course, is the whole subject of the deficit. The last we heard the deficit was something slightly under $10 billion. I think the government has an obligation to give us more information on that. It was very suspicious when the Treasurer made an announcement some weeks ago that he was concerned with the recession and that there would be some cuts. There really were not that many cuts, considering the increase in the bureaucracy in this province, considering the increase in hiring for the civil service in this province, considering the increase in programs, considering the increase in the expenditures in this province, considering the bankruptcies, considering the unemployment, considering the amount of expenditures that have increased with respect to social services, and considering the decrease in revenue that must be occurring in this province.
Obviously, if there are more and more businesses going out of business, more and more individuals going bankrupt, more and more businesses leaving the province, for whatever reason -- you can point the finger to whomever you wish -- the revenue must be down.
The question is, what is the real financial position of this province? I would hope that information would come to us before this motion is finally voted on. If we are allowing the government to spend more money, exactly what is the financial position? My guess is it is closer to $12 billion or $13 billion. If I am wrong, then let's hear the figures because those have yet to come to us.
When we look at the whole effect, we are now in the process of debating the series of revenue bills that will give the government the money it will be obtaining from the budget last spring, whether it be an increase in gasoline, an increase in tobacco, an increase in alcohol, aside from the other increases in the other bills we will be debating. We know that with the revenues -- whether tobacco, alcohol, gasoline -- everything is down. Business is down around the province, so common sense tells that the revenue coming into this province is down substantially.
If it is down substantially, what is the real deficit? When we look at the revenues being down and the social services being up, there is no substantial cutting of programs. If anything, there is an increase in the programs. All you have to do is look at the last portfolio for which I was a critic, and that was the Ministry of Housing: a substantial increase in the staff of the Ministry of Housing and a substantial increase of the civil service in the Ministry of Labour. I sat for an afternoon on the estimates of the Ministry of Labour and obviously the staffing has jumped substantially.
On this whole subject we have been having, the whole procedure of this place, the whole procedure of the government, the operation, as a new member I must confess it is difficult to know the operation of how this House runs when I see the strange things going on that I do not, quite frankly, understand. In fact, business seems to be more and more carried on in the hallways of this House as opposed to in this House.
I do not understand new policies and statements being announced, whether up in the north or out in the east or out in the west or out in the hallways. Why are they not being introduced in this House? Why can this House not have an opportunity to respond to those statements before anyone else? What is wrong with that?
It is as if it is a government in hiding. We do not know the number of ministers who seem to be absent on a day-by-day basis. The fact has been commented on that the Premier seems to attend the House less and less. I realize, particularly this week, that there have been important engagements for him to be involved in, but it does seem to be a government in hiding. They will not tell us what they are spending. They will not tell us what their policies are, unless we read about it in the press.
Mr Tilson: I must say I find it rather difficult when the member says, "Oh, please." I will return to the subject which I was originally debating on and which I was discussing yesterday, the issue of the closing of registry offices.
The closing of the Perth registry office is being announced as the standing committee on general government that is debating that subject proceeds. Members on that committee had no idea it was going on. A member from the ministry is down in Perth informing the staff that their office is going to be closed. There are only two critics from the two parties. We were not informed about that until the afternoon, a very strange operation when you start realizing that this government wants to proceed.
I would like to sum up very briefly my concern about the operation of the committee structure, because it gets into the general operation of this House, and I am going to repeat the statements that have been made by representatives of the government. I mentioned them yesterday; I am going to mention them again very briefly today.
I understand that the way this system operates, when we are in this House with major bills, the government has to vote as one. There are always exceptions to the rules, and I understand of course that with private members' bills and other resolutions that are conducted once a week, there are generally free votes, and there are other occasions when there are free votes, when we are able to express our real opinions and do not necessarily have to follow the party line. Whether we are NDP, Conservative or Liberal, we are able to do that, with very little criticism.
My understanding is that this practice has been followed in the committee system, particularly when hearing members of the public and talking on very pertinent issues. Whether it is financial, housing, the closing of registry offices, if these matters affect a member's riding, no matter what party he or she is, whether it is the party in power or the party in opposition, the member is free to vote. To vote against a policy of the government in committee is not going to bring down the government; it is going to express the fact that the members are free souls, that they have the ability to vote freely on specific matters. In a committee, that is done.
I can say generally that the only other committee I have had some experience with is the standing committee on public accounts, and I have observed that this sort of thing does not go on; you do not necessarily vote along party lines. That has occurred, but in many of these committees it seems to be on the increase, particularly with this government, and is more prevalent particularly in the standing committee on general government, which I spent some time on in the last year.
I would like again just to refer to the dilemma and ask members if they can offer their suggestions to me, because these statements have gone unchallenged. Statements have been made by a solicitor acting on behalf of the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations in a court of law involving an application for an injunction to stop the government from closing the Arthur registry office before the general government committee had made its report to the House on that subject. There was a request made for an application for an adjournment. There was an application made that the injunction proceed.
The lawyer making submissions made the following three statements, which I will repeat to the House: (1) "The general committee is of no significance"; (2) "The general committee is really just a way of creating political heat"; (3) "The general committee is composed of six members of the NDP and five from the other two parties and all the NDP members could be absolutely counted on to stick to the government's position of closure," referring to the closure of registry offices around this province.
Even if we ignored the first two points, the point that the standing committee on general government is of no significance and the point that it is just a way of creating political heat, the third point is the most devastating of all three points. It means that the government members, no matter what we do in those committees, whether it be amendments or matters that specifically involve their own ridings and their own constituents, are going to vote the way their government policy says. It does not matter whether it goes against the people in their riding; they are going to do as they are told.
I repeat, it is not going to bring down the government for government members to vote against their own party in committee. It probably means very little. It is an astounding fact that if I am going to spend the rest of my term with this government, with the whole committee structure, this is the way the system is going to operate, that we know if any remote item comes up against government policy, government members are going to vote against it.
Where is the consultation they boast about? It certainly is not in the general government committee, and I suspect that is going to be the pattern throughout all the committees as we proceed in the weeks, months and years ahead. I for one will find it very difficult indeed to ask people from my riding and specialists from various fields to come and address committees to assist us and assist the government to formulate policy. I will find that very difficult because it does not matter what the members of the public say: I repeat, the NDP members can be absolutely counted on to stick to the government's position.
More frightening than that is that this solicitor said before the court that she had instructions from the minister to make those comments, so the minister is part of this. Of course, we asked that the minister come to the committee and address us about whether these comments had indeed been made and, if they had been made, what she was going to do about it. Members of our party asked in a resolution which was supported by the Liberal members of the committee that the solicitor come. We were talking about her: Did she make these statements or did she not? We asked that the people come who made the comments to me in letter form, which I am referring to this House, so that we could have a full hearing, because this attacks the very committee system, the public system, which we have. Do we have an open government or do we not. If we do not, what is the minister going to do about it?
That was defeated. The committee did not wish to deal with it further. I then proceeded to raise a point of personal privilege in this House, and the Speaker ruled that the matter must be decided upon by the committee. I then proceeded back to the committee, and the majority six NDP members even cut me off in debate. They moved that the question be put, and that was the end of it. I could not even debate the subject in the committee. Not only were they not prepared to listen to the observations, but they would not even allow me to debate the subject. I have to come here to this House to discuss it.
I then came back to this House and I rose again on another point of privilege. I said the majority members are doing the very thing this solicitor said; that is, the government members could be absolutely counted on to stick to the government's position. Again, the Speaker said that unless the committee asks that this matter be reviewed, we are not going to review it. Well, the committee is not going to ask because the government members guarantee the government's position. In other words, the statements have been backed up. The actions of the government are speaking in this House.
There was a motion, as I indicated, which did come forward and was passed by the government, that the minister essentially investigate herself and her actions. It was a most remarkable motion and it carried, of course. The minister was asked to speak to the solicitor and, I suppose, to herself, because it involves her. It was a most remarkable position for the government to take.
In fairness to the minister, she did respond. I do not have the letter with me, but it was a very short letter of four or five lines and essentially it did not deny that the statements were made. It simply said the statements were not offensive and that is the end of the matter.
When we question today this government proceeding and making expenditures, aside from all the matters that have arisen today and in the days and weeks previously on statements and the government sending the police off to question members of the opposition, this is another issue that hangs over our heads; that is, the whole committee process and the participation of the public of this province in making submissions and comments to the government.
I hope that in the time that is allowed members of the government will address this subject, because it gives me great concern. I intend to participate in the committee process in some form as we proceed in the months and years ahead. I hope the government can assure me in some way that it will be listening to the public, that it will not be doing as this solicitor says, that is, voting no matter what the policy is that it pass. They are not going to allow the government policy, at least in committee, to be overturned or challenged, so hopefully it will become a government whose members listen and do not simply do as their masters say, whoever they may be.
Those are my comments with respect to one of the concerns I have that has developed in the last few weeks with respect to the committee process. I wish to speak on several matters that involve my riding, and one is the subject of education.
We now have two systems of education in Ontario, one for separate schools and one for public schools. My riding, Dufferin-Peel, does not have a secondary school as far as the separate school system is concerned. All the students travel to Brampton and attend Notre Dame secondary school in Brampton, which is not that old a school.
The member for Brampton North would be more informed. It is a problem that has developed in my riding and is affecting his riding because it is causing overcrowding. Notre Dame secondary school was constructed to accommodate 1,374 students. Those are the figures I have. All the separate secondary students from my riding go to this school.
Funding was announced and there had been communication with the previous Liberal government to develop a secondary school in my riding. It was originally going to be called Northern Secondary School and is now intended to be named after the late chairman of the board, Robert F. Hall. It will be called the Robert F. Hall Catholic School and will be in Caledon East.
The whole funding was discussed when the Liberal government was in office. The board was given the impression the funding would be available by 1992. Now it appears that it is not going to be ready until 1994. I understand it will take approximately two years to complete the construction of the school. The site is available, the services are available, but the funding is not.
In my riding that means that there will be students travelling on buses for a minimum of half an hour or three quarters of an hour, one way, to a separate school in Brampton, from as far away as Mono township, which is in the northern part of my riding, to the Brampton area. The problem, as I see it, is the effect on the quality of secondary education in my riding and indeed how it will affect the quality of education at Notre Dame, which is in the member for Brampton North's riding, because there clearly will be overcrowding.
There are 2,000 students currently crammed into the school, which is relatively new. There are portables all over the place. It is quite a remarkable sight. I question even the health issue. I am sure it is adequate or the health authorities would not be allowing it, but it does concern me as far as the issue of overcrowding and the quality of education is concerned in my riding. This is, of all times, when we have not only the issue of education in my riding, but the issue of stimulating the economy in my riding. I am speaking specifically of Caledon and Caledon East, which is where the school would be built.
At the earliest, it seems the school will not be available until 1996. I can tell members that to spend half to three quarters of an hour one way on a bus to go from Mono township to Brampton and then return again is very difficult. For some unearthly reason, this government has decided to delay the funding until 1994. It is strange, particularly when the Premier, as I understand it, made a commitment during the last election to reduce the number of portables in Peel region. He made this commitment in his campaign. Obviously this has not been met and is not going to be met. It may be met just before the next election, which is slightly suspicious, but certainly it is going to be 1996 before we see a new school, the new Robert F. Hall Catholic School in Caledon East, unless the government changes its policy. I hope the Ministry of Education will consider its commitment.
Keeping in mind the whole subject of Brampton and the southern part of my riding, which is one of the fastest-growing areas in this province -- I quite frankly have no idea what the enrolment projections are for the area surrounding Notre Dame. Perhaps the member for Brampton North would have more information on that. I do know that the population in my riding, in Caledon, is going to continue to increase and that these students will not be receiving the quality of education that other students in other parts of the province will be receiving.
There is a very great concern about the whole cost of education, specifically in Caledon and around this province, on the property owner, the taxpayer. Specifically in Caledon, they are paying these tremendous amounts of taxes but they do not have a secondary school. The students have to go to Brampton to receive their secondary education, and that in turn causes overcrowding at Notre Dame. We therefore have a problem in Caledon which has overflowed into Brampton North.
This is a subject that has been frustrating for members of the public in my riding, that with the high taxes the people are spending in Caledon, their children are not going to be receiving the quality of education they deserve and should have. Why can they not receive the education that other children around the province are receiving? There is no school, no school whatsoever.
The second issue, and the final issue in my riding with respect to funding, is Dufferin county, which consists of the northern part of my riding, of which the major city is Orangeville. It has been proposed over the last number of years to construct a new museum. A great amount of time of course has been spent in funding other areas, specifically athletic ventures, but there has been very little time spent on the arts, on preserving our past.
There has been a small group of people in Dufferin county who have been working very hard to maintain Dufferin county's rural heritage. The building that has been proposed -- I have seen the plans -- will be situated on the northeast corner of Airport Road and Highway 89. It represents a bank barn with an observation deck and a silo, located on five acres of high ground with a view over the countryside. It has an area of 25,000 square feet, which includes 5,000 square feet for archives. It is proposed that it will have atmospheric lighting and security controls meeting museum standards.
There is presently a museum in Dufferin county. Ironically, it sits in the old, original registry office. I am not sure of the dimensions, but it is a very small building. The rest of the historical artefacts are stored, but members of the public find it very difficult to see the heritage of Dufferin county in the museum we have. Dufferin county clearly needs a central heritage complex that will allow us to collect and exhibit and protect artefacts from our past according to the stringent guidelines required for humidity, temperature, light and security. We are into difficult times. All of these things are required to preserve our past.
We need to expand our focus to include natural history. We need to establish an archives for document preservation and to service researchers. We have none of that now. We need to provide a safe place for artefacts before they are lost. The fear in many rural areas, and certainly in Dufferin county, is that the artefacts we do have are going to be lost for ever unless quick action is taken.
I think we need to know what is going on at other institutions. It is proposed that there would be a showcase that would provide and show exhibits from other institutions. Certainly, as has occurred in many other areas around this province, it is planned to have a facility such as is needed for collecting, preserving and cataloguing archival and study material, and to make it available to researchers and educators.
This program has been going on for a number of years, and submissions have been made to both the federal government and the province. It is at this point that I wish to express my concern during this debate on interim supply. The project is estimated to cost $4.5 million. Dufferin county is slated to contribute $1.5 million, with the province and the federal government paying the rest. Funding has been requested from both the federal and provincial governments. The province's position to date has been that it will not take a position until the federal government makes a commitment. It encourages the program, but it is saying, "We won't provide any funding." It will not show any leadership unless the federal government makes a commitment.
Mr Tilson: Well, that is the information that has come to us from the former minister's staff. He has made a comment that it is not true, but that is the information I have, that the provincial ministry says until the federal government makes a commitment, it will not provide it.
Why can this government not show some leadership in this area? Obviously the project cannot take place unless the federal government makes its commitment, but why are we getting into the chicken and egg situation? It is badly needed. Our past is important to us. I am sure that in all of our ridings we look at our past, whether it be in the large municipality or out in the country, the rural areas. Our past is important. Artefacts are disappearing, and unless we have a central area to restore these items, to catalogue them, to keep them under proper conditions, they will be gone and lost for ever.
We do not appear to be going anywhere on this subject because of the inaction of this government. I would hope the ministry would take a second look and make the commitment, acknowledging that it thinks it is a good idea.
The government has acknowledged that it is a good idea to have a museum such as this. It has looked at the plans, as I understand it, and has agreed with it, but hopefully it would take a position and not necessarily make it conditional upon the federal government making a commitment, because that simply will not happen. Obviously there are going to have to be resources from all governments.
There are other areas which I have briefly referred to, but the whole area that I would question and that I challenge the members of this government to comment on in their two-minute responses is whether we are going to have a public committee system. Is it going to be possible for members of the public to come and make submissions to this government, knowing that it could change its mind, or are we simply going to have, to use the expression, a number of trained seals on the government side voting the way their government's policy tells them to?
Interim supply always provides a good opportunity for members of the Legislature to review any particular concerns or grievances they might have. I have often cited that old maxim of parliamentary government that there shall be no supply without a redress of grievance. On that theme, I thought I might say a few things this afternoon. I do not want to go on too long, but I have a number of things that I would like to cover and I have to believe that there will be other members who will want to join this debate.
I want to start by commenting a little bit about the state of the House, because it is quite clear that the House is in a fractious mood. There are days when it is in a positive uproar. Now, this House has been in an uproar before. I must say it has had the reputation over the years as being perhaps the most colourful and uproarious of the several legislatures in Canada.
One always reminds oneself of earlier occasions. I can remember the first few days I was in here, 16 years ago, and my friend the then member for Grey-Bruce used to put on fairly colourful displays as a parliamentary figure.
I think it is fair to say that the House is in an anxious mood these days because the government has embarked upon a new policy with respect to House business. Again, I want to say that the present government is not the first government to do this, to decide in the course of a mandate that the way in which it relates to the Legislature needs to change.
I am struck by the fact that the government appears to have taken on to itself and on to the public payroll a number of communications consultants. There is someone named John Piper. I do not know this fellow Piper, but he has quite a reputation, I gather, around Metropolitan Toronto school circles as a fairly tough-minded, hard-knuckled New Democrat, and those of us who have had some encounter with that breed of cat know just how stimulating an encounter that can be.
What I do know about Mr Piper is that prior to joining the current government, he was communications adviser to the royal family of Saudi Arabia. I was just struck by a clipping I saw not too many months ago from the Toronto Star where Mr Piper was providing communications advice to the Saudis on their visit to Toronto, where they did some very good and worthy things, according to this article by Bob Brent of the Toronto Star. I want to just quote a few paragraphs from this Toronto Star article of earlier this summer.
"Inside, the 55-year-old prince, his throne an ordinary armchair under flowing white drapes, was encircled by a 30-member entourage which sat cross-legged on pillows. Meanwhile, members of the media waited outside, observing the Saudi custom that the prince enter the building first. The number of reporters was equalled roughly by the Hill and Knowlton employees, supplemented by Mounties, who controlled the event with a tight precision.
It is quite clear that Mr Piper has been affected by his encounter with Saudi royalty, and he appears to have been attractive to the new government by virtue of his successful manipulation of these kinds of press announcements for the public in Toronto, in this case on behalf of the royal Saudi household, but apparently --
Mr Conway: The member for Ottawa Centre opines quietly, "What have I got against that?" She has had an opportunity to engage in this debate, and I am sure she will want to take up the cudgels for her Saudi friends or for John Piper or whomever, as time permits.
I say very seriously that the Rae government, after 13 months in office, has succumbed, rather quickly I should think, to a tendency that has characterized other administrations, and that is that one has to have a more clearly defined, a more hard-boiled attitude of managing the Legislature, and more importantly, managing the press that attaches to the business that is conducted either here or in the name of Her Majesty's provincial government in Ontario.
We have heard from a number of people that it is certainly not the intention of the government to make any announcements in this place, not too many announcements at any rate. I have seen with my own eyes some internal government memoranda in the last few weeks which I was tempted to bring in, but I thought no, it would probably make the lives of some people inside the government very difficult and I did not choose to do that. But the strategy is quite clear. I saw two memoranda which outlined absolutely clearly what the government is about. It is absolutely clear as well where this is originating, and again I would say it is not the first time --
Of course the government, duly elected, is entitled to do whatever it wishes. We are rather surprised that the party of Ted Jolliffe and Donald MacDonald and Stephen Lewis would have succumbed to this tactic, because as some members on this side of the Speaker's dais have observed, the promise of many years of social democracy in this Legislature would have left people with the distinct impression that it was just an old Tory way, and perhaps even those Liberals, on their occasion in government, might have succumbed to the temptation as well, but that the New Democratic way was a better way.
I myself attended this summer at some legislative hearings the like of which I have never encountered before. I do not know who these people at Alpha Communications are, but I suspect they are doing very well in these recessionary times by dint of a seamless web of Bob Rae government contracts. It was just something to behold. I am sure there is a nice sheet out there that says these are animateurs and facilitators, but anybody with half a brain and one eye would have seen and understood what was going on. It was, I think, the most pathetic performance I have observed over the years, and I myself have engaged in some stage management, but not with this degree of barefacedness. It was absolutely unbelievable what they were about.
I suspect there are honourable members opposite in the government caucus who honestly believe this is consultation. At any rate, it is all part of a piece. We see the Premier's attendance in this Legislature. I am not keeping score, but I would say, on the basis of what I have observed in the last few weeks, that the Premier is now, in terms of his attitude and attendance in this House, worse than anything I have seen since the middle days of the Davis government, but this is just unheard of. When I think of what Stephen Lewis would do with a Premier who has behaved like this Premier has in the last four weeks, there are not words and concepts and sufficient passion in any language of my acquaintance to do justice to what Stephen Lewis or Ian Deans would do. There would be a meltdown that would be quite something to behold.
Mr Conway: He was certainly with the royals for the last couple of days, and it is pretty hard to miss the fact that he is with the royals. I remember reading Lord Tweedsmuir's papers about the royal tour of 1939 and about just how tired everyone got, from Franklin Roosevelt to the private secretary to the Queen of England, at how impossible it was to separate Mackenzie King from George VI. You could not do it. That wormy little Prime Minister was just there; the proud rebel's grandson was in every shot. Apparently the royal household went to some considerable extent to separate that very efficient party politician, Mackenzie King, from George VI and his beautiful and resplendent Queen, but nothing worked. As I look at the news these days, I think we have a thin version of Mackenzie King. He is in every photo shot. It is something to behold.
Mr Conway: I just want to make the point that the Premier and his staff have clearly worked out a strategy they are going to manipulate to the greatest extent they can. I can imagine this character Piper advising this but I know Ross McClellan rather well. There was a day when I would have also imagined that Ross McClellan would have had cardiac arrest at the mere suggestion of such a policy, and to imagine that McClellan is back there engaged in this little business just tells me that humankind has a measure of frailty and flexibility that we should simply observe. I observe that McClellan reduced to being part of this game is also interesting to me as someone who has watched the NDP over a considerable number of years.
At any rate, the Premier has decided what he is about. I am simply going to observe again that this strategy will come. It may work but it will be, I suspect, at the very most a pyrrhic victory. After three weeks of its evidence in this session, one can clearly see that the temperature of the chamber is rising and that does not bode well for the government.
The Premier has a considerable retinue these days as well. He not only has Mr Piper but he has managed, as my friend the member for St Catharines has been quick to point out on a number of occasions, to draw to his bosom Gerry McAuliffe. That is not an inconsiderable achievement.
To think that Gerry McAuliffe is now earning his $100,000 advising the government about how to manipulate the press and how to abuse the Legislature. Gosh, maybe Gerry is even up there advising whomever on how, when and where to send the Ontario Provincial Police. The thought that Gerry McAuliffe is now part of this pantheon of social democracy, doing all these wonderful things, makes me realize that it is a brave new world in which we now find ourselves; that Gerry, John Piper and Ross McClellan are now what the 19th century would call the wire pullers, working their little magic way through the day in their rather interesting concept of the public good.
I am also going to observe again that restraint has been talked about. I never cease to be amazed at how many people I know who are good New Democrats from British Columbia through to Newfoundland; people I now meet who tell me about the executive positions they hold in the Ontario public service. I do not want to embarrass some of these people. I have met some of them in the most interesting places. I am sitting there thinking, "How are things in Newfoundland?" until the former member of Parliament says to me: "Newfoundland? I am really enjoying Toronto." "Oh, what are you doing?" "I am working for the people." Again I am not complaining so much as observing.
I saw some very interesting data about who is where in the cabinet office and the Premier's office. I have to tell members that if there is a growth industry around Toronto these days, it has to be the Premier's office and the cabinet office.
I am thinking about an order paper question but I suspect the wire pullers will quickly figure out a way to cloud the truth of what is going on. Some of the materials I saw suggest to me that a good reporter working for one of the larger, better-financed news organizations might want to take a close look at the growth of the size and payrolls in the Premier's office and the cabinet office because we do not only have the John Pipers and the Gerry McAuliffes. I saw a group of communications people attached to either the Premier's office or the cabinet office that went on for pages. I was very interested to see that this growth had been as significant as it had over a short period of time.
My friends opposite will be not surprised if there is a certain scepticism on this side of the House as to just how serious the Rae government is about restraint being the order of the day for all of us in the Ontario public service.
I want to repeat that this strategy of manipulation and related activities that keep the Premier away, that make announcements elsewhere -- and I thought the Attorney General outdid all the expectations of this policy by having some person standing just outside the door the other day, literally outside the door, handing out an announcement with significant news around the rape shield question. I thought that was about as discourteous an act as I can remember in some considerable time. I have said that and I am not going to repeat unduly this afternoon.
If I can reduce the din of the series of conversations over here to my left, I would like to talk about another issue that has been very much canvassed in recent days in this Legislature, the whole question of the OPP being asked to investigate members of the opposition. I want to quickly recall for two members' attention what happened in one case. There were a number of cases, but the case --
Mr Conway: In early June my colleague the member for Hamilton Centre came into possession of a cabinet document from the Ministry of the Environment having to do with the Toronto garbage crisis that set out a number of alternatives as to how the new government was going to deal with this.
She came into possession of that information and apparently used that information in a question, or in the House in some fashion, as did my colleague the former member for Brant-Haldimand, the then Leader of the Opposition. Shortly thereafter, in her constituency office in Halton region, she was interviewed by a detective inspector of the Ontario Provincial Police who indicated there was some very real concern around this and she should be aware of the fact that, when she asked the question, this investigation could lead to a criminal charge. She was not discouraged from retaining counsel.
I want to ask all members again, particularly New Democrats -- I brought a few books and I am going to recall something most members will not know anything about. That issue is important to me because 10 years ago one of the most distinguished and effective members of this Legislature, Jack Stokes, the Minister of Transportation's predecessor, long-term member for Nipigon and former Speaker of this Legislature, brought to this chamber the story of one Donald MacAlpine. Most members will not know about that, but the Minister of Health will know because the Ontario Public Service Employees Union played, I think, a very creditable role in that. I commend today, as I did then, the efforts of Mr Stokes, other members of the NDP and certainly members of OPSEU.
Very briefly, the story of Donald MacAlpine was the story of a young forester working for the Ontario government in the Nipigon area of northwestern Ontario who was directed by his supervisors in the Ministry of Natural Resources to make available to Buchanan Lumber timber in the Black Bay area that was either otherwise allocated or simply not there. As I say, the details of this are very nicely covered in Jamie Swift's book, Cut and Run.
I will never forget the incredibly passionate campaign the NDP led in this Legislature and in the courts of this province on behalf of this young professional forester who blew the whistle on his superiors because he said his ethics as a professional forester would not allow him to fabricate data. He was not going to be corrupted by anyone, particularly someone higher up more susceptible to political pressure, so that timber allocations that should not be made could be made. My point is that the NDP in 1981-82 led a very valiant and, in the end, successful campaign because it could not tolerate a young forester who had come forward and who was threatened with any amount of recrimination, including the loss of his job essentially, by the government.
I say to the member from Sudbury, who seems to be very much engaged in this, that I want her to think back to the MacAlpine case and I want her to think about what it would feel like if, as a member in the discharge of her duties, she were met one day in her constituency office by a detective inspector sent by Bill Davis or David Peterson. I can tell members what would happen. The chandeliers here would shatter, the carpet would curl and Hansard would be aflame with the kind of indignation my friend from Cochrane can summon on a good day. No business would be done until heads rolled.
I want to say to the Attorney General, who is still the Attorney General, that we have seen this not once but on two or three other occasions. We have seen it with respect to a Ministry of Labour document, we have seen it with respect to a Treasury document and we have seen it with respect to a Ministry of the Environment document. They laugh and smile across the way, but I say that if the NDP is not a party of double standards, they will take seriously what my friends the members for Halton Centre and Scarborough-Agincourt and others have said.
I can imagine what happened here; I can well imagine what happened in this respect. As the member for Halton Centre, I think it was, said, the OPP were not just out on a stroll one day and happened by her office in Halton. The former member for Brant-Haldimand and the now leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Bruce, were also visited. This was not fortuitous. It was not accidental. It was certainly orchestrated by someone in the government.
Mr Conway: She points, like Cicero, an accusative finger. I want to tell my friends opposite that they are responsible for what happened in this case. It has not happened once. If it were an isolated case I would say well and good, but as I say, I think I know something about what happened.
I just want to put them on notice because, unlike some of my colleagues, I am a very forgiving fellow and a very understanding member of this Legislature. But on this subject they had better understand that if they are going to be true to the traditions of their party, it had better not happen again. This is beginning to appear to be, and may in fact be, a policy of harassment, one that has been contrived by some of their hired hands who have some pretty clear records in terms of their past with respect to managing the public agenda. I do not know. All I know is that on three separate occasions now something has taken place which I do not recall too much of ever before; namely, the OPP has been out visiting members of the opposition who have happened to come by government materials.
Mr Conway: Morty Shulman is a perfect example. The NDP were pathfinders in the use of purloined government documents. That they should now be the party sending out the OPP to visit my colleague the member for Halton Centre shows a very different kind of New Democratic Party than I have been accustomed to.
I simply want to say to them that it had better stop. I am sure the Attorney General, as the chief law officer for the government and the people of Ontario, would want to take a leadership role in ensuring that whoever it was inside the government who gave these orders understands that they are not very appropriate on the basis of what I have seen; and not just one order, but as far as I can judge, at least three separate orders in three separate cases.
The New Democrats have been up to some other interesting things. I was struck the other day by my friend the member for Essex South, who raised the whole question of the Red Hill Creek Expressway. Again, just a brief observation: Who among us will forget that day a few months ago, almost a year ago I guess it is now, when, newly minted, the NDP stood there and said: "We have a very important announcement for the Hamilton-Niagara area, and that is that the $70 million that has been spent and reviewed around the Red Hill Creek Expressway is not going to proceed. It is not going to proceed because we have made a moral decision and our morality tells us that it is a wrong decision."
Again, I did not happen to agree with the decision then, but I can understand how my friends opposite made the decision. It is no secret to any of us that there was strong opposition in the NDP, and I gather it was very strong among the members in the Hamilton area: "Elect us and we will stop this." They in fact did that.
They did it, I thought, in a rather clumsy fashion. We saw that the NDP members of the Hamilton city council were taken for a walk through the valley a few days before the decision. They talked to the then Minister of Transportation, among others, about the birds and the trees and the weather -- and the bees, I guess -- but they did not talk about the decision that was about to be made.
That is a wonderful kind of Nixonian quality: "I was downstairs in the parlour. I had no idea what was going on upstairs and I will not have it said that my integrity is to be impugned. We went for a walk and I want you to understand we did not talk about what the cabinet was going to decide a day or two later."
We are all honourable members. We have to believe what each other says. In another place I think that would be called the politics of the credibility gap. At any rate, a moral decision was made, for reasons that were then understood and at least announced. That was the morality decision of 1990. We now have what appears to be an amendment, because there is mayoralty decision to be made in Hamilton in November of this year.
Mr Conway: I know it is hard on a Tuesday afternoon. What do we now see? We see that the NDP's morality appears to be weakening. We all heard the Minister of Transportation here the other day. Certainly if members have been reading the Hamilton Spectator and listening to the Hamilton media, it is very clear that the government's morality is somewhat discounted.
Mr Conway: I may be a gossip-monger, but I remember the member for Ottawa Centre in her days as the CBC major-domo in Ottawa. May I say this? If I am to be called a gossip-monger, then no higher praise can be offered me by the member for Ottawa Centre.
Mr Conway: I have looked at the CBC pay rates and they certainly stand very well with respect to my rate, but the government rate must be better. Why else would the award-winning Gerry McAuliffe sell his soul for that mess of pottage? Gerry McAuliffe, the award-winning gumshoe from the Globe and Mail and from the CBC, who for a quarter of a century hounded and held accountable the Robarts government, the Davis government, the Miller government and the Peterson government like few legislators paid to do so in the House, without notice collapses into a puddle of, I do not know what, and sells out for I guess something other than a mess of pottage.
I want to come back to the point about the Red Hill Creek Expressway. It was a moral decision last year; it is now a political decision because the NDP caucus in Hamilton is feeling the heat. They want to be mayor. They want to be not just the gang of four; they want to be the gang of more, to control that council. Now they find that this albatross, their moral decision, has come back to haunt them and we have a situation that is quite interesting because, I repeat, last year's morality is something else in the fall of 1991.
I was interested to see that my dear friend Jack Layton is engaged in a very interesting battle here in Toronto. He is now calling out those non-partisans like Judy Rebick to speak in the broad public interest, you understand, to perhaps decide certain issues in the Toronto mayoralty.
Speaking about interesting things the government is up to, the other day the Minister of Citizenship -- she is not here this afternoon -- gave a speech here in Toronto. I was not there, so my comments are going to be based on press reports, but I am sure a lot of members were struck as I was on the weekend to hear -- I heard it on the radio, I think, on Sunday -- that the Minister of Citizenship for the Ontario government decided and proclaimed at some meeting in Toronto that Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain were racist. I thought that was interesting and I see some press reports that speak to that.
Mr Conway: At any rate, the latest pronouncement of the Minister of Citizenship would suggest that Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain were racist, and she goes on to say some rather interesting things here about racism in Canada over the centuries. I was driving down on Sunday listening to this and I thought to myself, I wonder what she would say about one of my favourite Canadian politicians, one of the founders of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, J. S. Woodsworth, I think one of the most remarkable people ever to serve in public life in Canada.
In 1909, J. S. Woodsworth wrote a book called The Strangers Within Our Gates. It is a wonderful book dealing with the immigration issues of the turn of the century. In it, he says some really interesting things. He talks about Galicians, a category of central Europeans at the time. He talks about Mormons in an equally interesting fashion. My question for the Minister of Citizenship is somewhat rhetorical: Is she planning to have a retroactive court martial and trial of J. S. Woodsworth? Perhaps in this age of political correctness, it may happen.
To be told that people living 400 and 500 years ago had different views and different values than we do today is to be told the obvious. That there is racism today, that there always has been, I think is a sad reality. Governments, organizations and individuals over the years have tried to mitigate that evil influence in humankind, but I repeat, I wonder if the member for High Park, the Minister of Citizenship, is planning to make a speech about the racism and ethnocentricity of James Shaver Woodsworth, founder of the CCF in Canada.
I repeat, there are few if any politicians for whom I have a higher regard than J. S. Woodsworth. I only regret that his kind of socialist has almost vanished from this land. We saw one of them here today. I was delighted to see Fred Burr back, because Fred Burr in my acquaintance is a J. S. Woodsworth socialist, but I tell members that they are truly a diminished if not an almost extinct kind of socialist.
There are just a couple of other observations I would like to pursue. One has to do, interestingly, with my friend the member for Dufferin-Peel's observations around the land registry policy of the government. Now that, I have to tell you, Mr Speaker, is a sight to behold. It is tough. I have to thank the minister. She phoned me at home in Pembroke the day the announcement was made with respect to Lanark county. I very much appreciated that. I told her that then, and I will tell her again now in her absence.
I do not want to go on unduly, but what we had in that case was something quite interesting, because the government is having some difficulty around consultation and consistency. It is not totally unusual, because they are a new group of good people. We all learn by experience. I have had my experience over the years and certainly know something of the trial-by-error method of education. What we saw in Lanark a couple of weeks ago was really something. I simply want to make the point that in Lanark county they truly think this government does not know what it is doing.
I do not want to get into the very important point the member for Dufferin-Peel has made with respect to what that government lawyer went to court to say. I can believe it happening. I am absolutely confident that everything he has told me is true. I will go one step further -- I think we have sort of disagreed on this in the committee -- I quite imagine he made that without the minister ever knowing he thought it, meant it or was about to deliver it; my experience with government lawyers being what it is, I say to the Attorney General.
Mr Conway: You and I are going to have a big problem, Mr Speaker. I am going to really contain my Irish temper this afternoon, but I repeat, you and I are on the road to a very big problem. Maybe it is that there is just too much Celtic blood in both of us, but if you want this kind of policy, which as I say, through scores of speakers in this place, I do not really remember anyone applying with your particular kind of Waterloo county vigour, you are the referee. I have dealt with referees of varying qualities over the years, so I know the rules of the game.
I simply want to make the point that in Lanark county there is certainly a great deal of confusion around what happened. What happened was very simple: The government had decided on a course of action. It did not seem to know there was a brand-new land registry office in Almonte, opened just 8 or 10 months before the announcement was made. Their new policy was that there could only be one land registry office per county. Almonte had to go. Perth was going to stay open. That was it.
Then, as the member who preceded me observed, on the morning of the general government committee's deliberation on this question, there arrived in Perth, the county seat in Lanark, a delegation, and we had a very significant development in government policy, namely, Almonte was going to stay open and Perth was going to close.
I just want to say to my very engaged friend, the member for Essex-Kent, that the Perth Courier of Wednesday, October 16, 1991, did not miss the point. It had a little editorial. "No Consultation, Nothing" is the headline. I am just going to read two paragraphs:
"When Marilyn Churley, minister of consumer affairs, announced Thursday that the Ontario government had decided to close the registry office in Perth and move it to Almonte, everyone was taken by complete surprise." The editorial then goes on to talk about the fact that this truly came out of the blue.
"There is a certain irony here, as the New Democratic Party built its platform on consultation, but it more than fell short on its commitment in this particular case. Not only did the government not consult those concerned, they are notifying all concerned a mere 14 days before the entire office closes in Perth," an office, by the way, that has four years of lease yet to run.
I just want to make the point that there is no little bit of confusion and bewilderment and concern in Almonte around this particular decision. The law society of south Lanark has written and the member for Lanark-Refrew has, I know, addressed a number of those concerns.
But it was really something to see, so spectacular a reversal on the morning, almost at the 11th hour and 59th minute of these discussions, one that just simply came out of the blue and has left people in north Lanark very happy and in south Lanark no little bit confused. I suppose more than anything else, they are trying to figure out what the government is up to. They are not having much success.
I tell them of course: "Well, you know, consistency is really the hobgoblin of small minds. Flexibility is the new buzzword." What have we seen on auto insurance? What have we seen on retail store hours? What have we seen on garbage?
My friend the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, the Minister of the Environment, has been engaged in a calisthenics that is positively breathtaking. We all remember the speeches last year before the election and the moral commitments given by the New Democratic Party.
Whether it was in Marmora, whether it was in Whitevale, whether it was in Britannia, the NDP was moral. It was pure. They were better than those Grits and those terrible Tories. "Elect us and you will get a new day." A very significant cornerstone of that new morality was the environmental commitment of the Minister of the Environment, the Premier and those other estimable characters who were going to make up the NDP candidates list.
What are we seeing now? Effectively the government's garbage policy in Toronto is exported out of the country. I never thought, quite frankly, that the New Democrats, who have been viciously opposed to continentalism, would embrace a continental garbage policy as their way out of their moral commitments made in the electoral campaign of 1990. But that is what we have. That is exactly what we have.
Mr Conway: -- Ohio and Michigan -- where they will have it, where they will burn it, and of course where the emissions will blow across Elgin county and Essex county and all of those other pure parts of Ontario. But that is effectively the policy, let there be no confusion about it.
The poor old Minister of the Environment comes in here day after painful day trying to figure out a way to solve the conundrum of being so moral and so categorically so. So people in Almonte, Perth and Lanark county should not be overly upset when they look at a rather mundane policy, namely, land registry services, being characterized by confusion, contradiction and inconsistency, when I submit to them that when one looks at the big-ticket items -- auto insurance being my favourite, because if there is a Holy Grail for the New Democrats in Ontario, surely it has to be that. If they can turn tail on auto insurance, then land registry issues are a mere trifle.
I want to make a very mundane observation about a government service that has the attention of a lot of people in my constituency. It has to do with the registrar general's office. It is a mess, I am sorry to report. It is a dreadful mess and it has been a mess for months. I do not normally use the time of the House to --
All I can tell the members and my friend the member for Ottawa Centre is that the good people of Renfrew pay a lot of taxes, and they are willing to pay those taxes because they know they are supposed to get services: health services, social services, legal services and, yes, birth certificates and marriage certificates. It puzzles people living in Eganville and Chalk River and Pembroke and Beachburg when a government with a $52-billion budget and 90,000 full-time equivalent staff cannot deliver birth certificates and marriage certificates.
Mr Conway: I am being deadly serious, and I suspect that my good friend, the minister of lands and forests, the member for Algoma, will be very sensitive to this because he has built a very good reputation over the years of providing 24-hour service on things like --
Mr Conway: I just want to make the point that in my constituency ordinary citizens are upset by the score. The ministerial association is upset. I just got a letter from the Roman Catholic diocese of Pembroke, and I have never received a letter from those good people in quite those tones. I am not going to read it because it is a very excitable letter, and I think my good friend the monsignor would not want to be quoted in this place.
He is sitting there as as an administrator for a diocese that is both in Ontario and Quebec and he is having to tell priests from Quebec that they cannot marry friends in Ontario because they cannot get a temporary registration. It just takes for ever.
I have got lawyers writing to me. I have got constituency staff who are very quiet, efficient, tolerant people. When I go home on a Saturday, that is all they want to talk to me about. "What is going on? Can't you do something?" I know I am not the only one. I can well imagine --
Mr Conway: My friend opposite says the system is suffering. Well, perhaps it is. I only make the point in a very plaintive way that if all of us are in a business where we tax for tens of billions of bucks and we cannot deliver birth certificates and marriage certificates and we cannot register my good friend from Gooderham who may want to come to Pontiac county, Quebec, and marry a good friend, then we should fold our tent and go away.
I make the point. I implore my good friends, the senior members of the Treasury bench, to do whatever they can to return that business to normal. For decades around here it has been one of the most efficient businesses we have ever operated. I have never had this problem before, but in the last six to 12 months it has become a very serious problem affecting the lives of a lot of ordinary people.
I just want to say this. I have appreciated the developments that we have seen in the last five or six weeks with respct to the new government's Hydro policy. It is coming slowly and much more remains to be done, it seems to me. We have now got an agreement that the bill, which has received second reading, will go out over the Christmas-Easter recess, the intersession period, for extensive public hearings, and we will come back and review that testimony and proceed with the bill through the final stages.
I want to simply say to my friends opposite that I hope, not just in caucus but in cabinet, they have learned a lesson here. I do not know what happened, but I know that these things can occur from time to time. But if there is a government policy that is important and absolutely central to the economic and social wellbeing of Ontario, it is surely the Hydro policy that is contained in Bill 118.
That policy, since its introduction, has been characterized by contention, confusion, contradiction now and reversal. I have said on a number of previous occasions what this government wants with respect to Hydro policy is to have a more open and a more accountable relationship for this gargantuan public corporation, and particularly its relationships with the government, the Legislature and the people of Ontario. That, I think, is a highly commendable objective and one I support absolutely.
But we have seen some things in the last couple of weeks that I think really diminish public support for this government's ability to deliver on that promise. I want to simply review a couple of aspects. The whole question of the role of Mr Eliesen, the new chairman and chief executive officer, is one I have previously canvassed on a number of occasions, and I do not think it needs to be reviewed to any great extent this afternoon. But I was really struck to see the Minister of Energy -- who this day is about to call a press conference in my constituency, I was told by my office in Pembroke just a few hours ago -- come in here the other day and say: "Well, now, I've got some news. We're not going to be paying the chairman the $400,000 he sought, but we'll now be paying him $260,000."
Mr Conway: The members opposite are all welcome to get into this debate. I am sure there is another perspective. I just want to say to my friends opposite that they brought that bill forward through the committee stage at cabinet. It was brought presumably to a full cabinet meeting at least on one occasion, the imprimatur of the Treasury bench, the cabinet, was put on it and then it was brought in here in early June, so surely they had a discussion around its core principles.
I just make the point that in the first month of legislative scrutiny, they have backed down on the directive power, which was absolutely unbelievable and sweeping, a major principle of that bill, and I think they have moved in the right direction. My first question remains: How the hell did it ever get there in the first place? How did that happen?
Second, I will admit not to the same degree of importance but optically of significance, is the whole question of who hires and who sets the salary of the chairman and chief executive officer. If I were advancing a policy that said I was going to make this a more open and accountable relationship, it seems to me I would not chang that policy backwards to delegate that responsibility down to the board.
The other day we saw the minister bring back a second amendment. As a government, it now has announced its plan to take back that responsibility, and as a cabinet it is going to set that salary and most of the terms and conditions of the employment of the chairman and CEO. I congratulate them because it is the right decision, but I ask again, how is it that those two ingredients were ever allowed in that bill in the first place, since it was their policy to be open and accountable, presumably more open and more accountable than previous governments had been in that connection?
I make a final point on this. When the minister made his announcement the other day, I thought he deserved some credit. I went out into the hall. He had just had a scrum and he said: "On the salary question, it wasn't my decision. It wasn't the decision of the cabinet. It was entirely a matter of the munificence and the public-spiritedness of Marc Eliesen." I thought to myself, is this not an interesting development?
Before I get into that little story, I should add that it was stated by the Minister of Energy in a scrum, not in the House, that Mr Eliesen would be receiving the $260,000 salary effective last Thursday, I think it was. Interesting.
In this House I was told by no lesser person than the Premier himself: "Oh, not to worry. We're going to refer these salary issues to the Ontario Energy Board. They're going to review it and the legislative committee is going to review it, and you can be assured, Mr Conway," he said here and elsewhere, "that Mr Eliesen will just be getting a deputy minister's salary until that point," namely the passage of the bill and the completion of the OEB review, which seemed to me not an unreasonable position.
I heard that from the font of all knowledge, Gerry McAuliffe's mouthpiece, the Premier himself, and then was told by a lesser light, the Minister of Energy, "Oh no, the Premier had it all wrong." The OEB might be having a review, the legislative committee might be having a review, but the salary had been decided, apparently definitively, on the basis of Mr Eliesen's munificence, on the basis of Mr Eliesen's civic-mindedness.
I just want to tell the members opposite, who are good people, who work hard and have a tough job, I hope they think a little bit about what this Hydro policy looks like. If I ever heard a transparent abdication of ministerial responsibility, it is this statement: "Oh, no, we didn't decide. Mr Eliesen, on his own volition, made this decision."
What does that tell us about the future of openness and accountability? I just simply say this has been a tortured and tortuous affair in just the first three months, and by my reckoning we have eight to 10 months yet to go. I really do look forward to that day in May or June of next year when we come back here to talk about the next phase of this endlessly fascinating NDP Hydro policy.
I want to talk a little bit about and conclude with some observations around the budgetary policy of the government, because clearly no supply motion can be complete without some kind of brief commentary at this point with respect to how the government is performing, in so far as its budget plan is concerned.
Here again I say to my friends in the chamber that we seem to be riding quite a bronco. We seem to be gyrating from profligacy to restraint. Last year, newly minted, the Rae government could not do enough. Yes, there was a vague understanding that there was a recession out there.
The Acting Speaker: Again, I am going to ask the Minister of Housing to refrain from interjecting. There has been considerable noise from the government benches that on occasion has made it difficult for me to hear the member speaking. I would appreciate everyone's co-operation.
Mr Conway: I have to say, in a fairminded way, that the member for Ottawa Centre is right in her observation. Those terrible Grits left a Treasury that was a little more empty than had been indicated. I accept full responsibility for that. I have to tell my friend the member for Ottawa Centre that I suspect if some of that previous generation of wire pullers and manipulators had figured out that the recession was going to hit as hard and as deeply as it did, we might not have had a certain event around September 6. But she is absolutely right in indicating that the Treasury was more bare. It was not just bare, as a result of a very serious recession; it was not a happy budgetary situation that the new government encountered.
I thought it interesting a year ago that my good friend the member for Nickel Belt, on many occasions, went to some considerable pains to say: "You know, it really wasn't Nixon's fault. There was no clear evidence that this recession was as savage as it turned out to be. The projections just nosedived in that second quarter, and by the time we got into the third quarter it was even worse." I think the NDP engaged in some interesting bookkeeping around its first budget. I was particularly interested to see what it did about writing off some of the bad debts, so-called Stadium Corp debts. They seem to want to dine out on that account more than once. They wrote it off last year, but according to their latest speeches they want to resurrect it and write it off a second and a third time. I suppose it is not unusual for the business of politics.
But I am serious. When the NDP took office, it was quite clear that it was a new day. They had a number of commitments they felt they had to make, and I have said, with some degree of sharpness in my voice, that the New Democratic Party seems to be very keen to settle accounts with its friends in the common front from the electoral campaign.
When I look at this year just passed, October 1, 1990, to October 1, 1991, some people have done better than others with the NDP. I am going to observe one more time that its friends from the common front in the electoral contest of 1990, the doctors, the teachers and the public servants, who were very famous in that electoral campaign -- I will never forget the sight of that group of people -- dispassionate, disinterested souls, each one -- and how they embraced the New Democratic Party.
It appears to have been a worthwhile embrace. A year later the doctors, the public servants and the teachers have not done too badly. They have done better than the ordinary citizens working in my part of eastern Ontario. I am not, of course, here to lay any particular criticism on the teachers, the doctors and the public servants. You take what you can get. I just had that feeling that the body politic on the Treasury bench was somewhat weakened in its resolve in so far as dealing with its friends from the common front was concerned. I can only judge by results and the doctors and public servants and teachers have, in comparative terms, done not too badly at the end of year one. I think that simply ought to be observed.
Spending year over year -- that is, the first year of the NDP budgetary plan -- is up 13.4%. The wage bill for the Ontario public service is up 14.5% in one of the worst recessionary periods in 50 years.
Mr Conway: Well, my friend from Leeds-Grenville has engaged the debate. I have to tell him that the Brockville Recorder was interesting the other day. I see that Frank Miller went to Brockville to toast the prize catch of the 1981 electoral contest, and they made a fetching couple, Frank Miller and the member for Leeds-Grenville. Boy, they were a fetching pair in the Brockville Recorder, a felicitous example of progressive conservatism. I can just imagine being down and out in Elizabethtown and faced with unemployment and the prospect of not much food in the larder, and on a cold November day embracing the member for Leeds-Grenville. That would be my idea of an encounter of some particular kind.
At any rate, I want to come back to what the government did in its first year. There was a lot of spending. There was not very much restraint, and I do not expect social democrats to be very restraining. I see that in the end even in Sweden it is all over. Even the Swedes have reached a point --
Mr Conway: It took 60 years; the member is absolutely right. But it was quite a bounce when it came. My point is that in the first year we had a lot of pretty good spending. Then of course comes Honey Harbour and the Premier has an encounter himself. He has encountered something someplace. He might have encountered the ghost of the member for Welland-Thorold in some corner in York South; I do not know. But he gets to Honey Harbour and restraint is the order of the day. He made some very interesting comments at Honey Harbour and in the subsequent weeks of September.
We then get a salary freeze on members, and I say to that, "Hurray." We get a salary freeze for 1% of the Ontario public service, and I say, "Hurray." Then we get nothing on the rest of the public service. We do not get any of the even optical signs that some of those perks of power are going to be constrained.
Perhaps it was unwise, but do members know what I expected to see? I expected to see the Chairman of Management Board bring on a silver platter about 150 American Express cards and just lay them before the table and say: "This proves we really are serious. We as cabinet ministers and as deputy ministers are going to start buying our own lunches, maybe even our own dinners."
Mr Conway: No, there is a new policy on drinks and I congratulate the Attorney General for his initiative. I just hope he takes the member for Perth out for a coffee to explain to her how it works. If it is a prestigious coffee, it will be a very different kind of luncheon. At any rate, I am still waiting for the government, which is so committed to restraint, to bring forward some sign that the government perks are perhaps going to be reined in a bit. I see from the look on the Attorney General that the hour may almost be at hand.
Mr Conway: I will be very happy to. There is not a New Democrat with whom I would not be prepared to compare my expenses; in fact, I would welcome the opportunity. Sixteen years have taught me one thing: that if there is an oxymoron, it is "NDP restraint." It is a contradiction in terms. Fred Burr, oh yes. The kind of socialist Fred Burr represents is an old order. That is the Stanley Knowles/J. S. Woodsworth tradition, and I do not think I could compete with that; I belong to a different generation. But with that bunch of profligates? Any day, anywhere, any one of them. I am prepared to take a lot of lectures, but to take a lecture on restraint, particularly in-house restraint, from the NDP stretches my Christian charity to a near breaking point.
I do not say that in any kind of mean-spirited way, because I have to say that if ever there was a failure in this respect as government House leader, it was me. When I think about what I tried to do down there and what that did to my reputation -- if ever I had two wasted years, it was that experience of going down there and encountering that brood. I learned things from the NDP about how to spend public money that I did not think even existed in human creation. But I am getting off the subject.
There will come a day when the ebb and flow of electoral politics will wash this government from office. It may be five years, it may be three years, it may be 10 years, it may be 20 years, but I want to be there the day they surrender the seals of office. I want to walk through that place and see what will have happened to some of those internal accounts, because I do not think there is an optometrist working in Creation who could fit me with spectacles suitable enough for that experience.
We saw the statement, the mid-course correction, of the Treasurer two weeks ago on the subject of restraint. I have said before that the government did not do very much. In fact, it did very little. I noticed in the second-quarter statement issued last week that we had some interesting information. A couple of things caught my eye. The deficit is up by $20 million. Corporate tax revenues are off by $70 million.
But when I look at the operating deficit, I see that the current outlook suggests that the operating deficit is now off by $172 million from the budget plan. That has been made up by a very interesting squeeze on the capital account, $158 million, so it looks like the consolidated deficit then is just off by some $14 million as a result of that. But anyone who knows anything knows you can only play that game for a few quarters. I suspect that the third- and fourth-quarter numbers are going to be as interesting this year as they were last year, and if they are, I think the Treasurer is going to be coming back with some very interesting news.
I do make the point that a lot of people I represent, including a lot of people who I suspect voted for the NDP, expected that when the Treasurer stood in his place here a couple of weeks ago, we were going to see more real decision-making around restraint for this fiscal year than we saw. What we saw was a transfer of most of the pain into another fiscal year, and I repeat, when you look at that pain and realize that they are also putting off some of the capital expenditures to which they have committed themselves, the budgetary plan for 1992-93 gets more interesting as we speak.
I simply want to make the other observation that in my travels around eastern Ontario particularly, I do not sense that we are experiencing very much of a recovery. What I sense is that we have got what one wag has called the dead cat bounce, that there is not very much activity of a positive kind.
Last Friday afternoon in my constituency I invited 15 small business people in the west Renfrew county area to have lunch with me in Barry's Bay, just to talk about what they were feeling and what they were experiencing. These are good people all involved in small business in a typically rural part of eastern Ontario. I just want to report that I have never encountered a group which felt as beleaguered and as wanting in confidence about the economy as that group on that occasion.
Their concerns were not new. They are very upset about what they see as just out-of-control government spending at all levels. They have a sense that a lot of good programs that are well intentioned are not very well designed and they rain on the wrong part of the garden, if I can use that analogy, but a very real sense that the recession is not ending.
In that part of the province we have farmers and sawmillers and loggers. I am sure my friends opposite, like the member for Rainy River and others, will know that the resource economy in this province is hurting like I have never seen it hurt before. Hundreds of people are losing their jobs every month, and we know only too well that the winter of 1991-92 does not suggest very much recovery for those sectors of the resource economy which are so vital to so many communities in northern, eastern and southwestern Ontario, where in many cases the mine or the mill is the only game in town.
I simply want to say that against the backdrop of this crisis in confidence, against the growing evidence that the hurt is real and palpable -- it is now touching people who have not been touched by this kind of economic dislocation ever before in their lives. The bankruptcy numbers that are turned out every month indicate just how many people, individually and corporately, are being affected.
I suppose if there is one message that I bring from that luncheon meeting on Friday of last week, it is, "Do people understand?" "Do members of the government and members of the opposition," my luncheon guest said last Friday, "really understand just how deep the hurt is, how widespread the pain that is now being felt?" That question was a real question.
There has been a suggestion in some quarters that politicians are insulated and isolated from that. I like to believe it is not true, but I think as we head into this winter, we are going to have to understand that there is going to be an expectation of leadership from not just the government but all members of the Legislature.
I thought there was a very interesting article in that connection the other day in the Toronto Star. I am not going to read it, but I would certainly recommend it to my friends in the Legislature. It is by George Fallis, who is the chair of the department of economics at York University. It is in the Toronto Star of October 28. The heading of the article is "'Us Against Them' Mentality is Hurting the NDP's Effort to Govern."
I thought it was a very interesting article, not so much because it dealt with the NDP, but largely I suppose because it asked people in public office to understand that some of the old ways, the old nostrums of not just social democracy but the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, are irrelevant to the current realities, and we had better understand that. I will just read one paragraph:
"Ontarians will pay the taxes for high-quality public services and social protection if the government provides the services efficiently, pragmatically and with fiscal responsibility. The first months of NDP government are eroding this willingness as fast as the pernicious teachings of neo-Conservatives."
I thought that was a very interesting observation. I sense that he may be right, and we had better all understand that we are going to be judged by a different standard. The boomers look at these deficits and they are concerned in a way their parents perhaps were not concerned 15 or 20 years ago. I do not know about my friend from Ottawa, but I am struck by the number of people in the age category of 30 to 50 who will raise with me the concern around the deficit, and they are not prepared to tolerate levels of deficit we have lived with in the last 10 or 15 years. Public policy, irrespective of whether it is generated by social democrats or Liberals or Conservatives, is I think going to have to take that into account.
I want to repeat one line of this I think very excellent article, "Ontarians will pay the taxes for high-quality public services and social protection if the government provides the services efficiently, pragmatically and with fiscal responsibility."
That leads me back to my rather mundane observation around marriage certificates and birth certificates. It sounds like a trifle, but to go home on a Saturday, with the problems we deal with here all week, and to meet somebody whose frustration has come to focus on: "Explain this to me, Mr Conway. Why has it taken three months to get a birth certificate, and I'm no further ahead now than I was three months ago?"
We may have our internal reasons about system difficulties, but the public expects that we are going to be able to deliver these services. I know the government, led by the ministers of Community and Social Services and Health -- I cannot remember who now has the responsibility for long-term care. The public is going to expect that we are going to provide new services and maintain some traditional services for the elderly, but they are going to expect that we are going to deliver those perhaps rather differently than we have in the past, and more efficiently, because we cannot and must not imagine that we can tax as we have over the last 10 or 15 years. We have lost that option and I think it is going to mean a significant change to the way we do business here.
My constituents in Renfrew county want me to say to this government that they expect that it is going to behave as a social democratic government. They know they are not a Conservative government. They know they are not even a Liberal government. They are not unhappy, quite frankly, that they have abandoned some of their cockamamy electoral commitments. They look at their energy policy and their Hydro policy and just shake their heads at why they persist in a policy that for people in rural Ontario seems so iniquitous and so unfair.
A lot of my constituents would be very happy if this government rethought its energy policy, but they expect the Rae government is going to get serious with restraint. They would applaud the measures of a couple of weeks ago, but they would expect that restraint discipline to be much more pervasive throughout the operations of government. They expect that next year the year-over-year growth in the wage bill in the public service will be nowhere near 14.5%. They will expect the government is going to work not just with its friends in organized labour, but that it is going to get serious about consulting with ordinary citizens who are not unionized, who are involved in small business, medium-sized business or, yes, even big business.
Just a few weeks ago we heard from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business about its growing frustration around what consultation means with this government. My friend the member for Halton Centre will have to help me here, but I think John Bulloch went out of one meeting and said, "One may as well consult with the trees as consult with the NDP government."
I got a letter the other day from the agricultural group concerned about resources and the environment. It was signed by Mr Jeff Wilson, chairman of AGCare, Agricultural Groups Concerned About Resources and the Environment. I am not going to read the letter.
Mr Conway: I do not know who these people are. The member for Huron might be right. It may not be very accurate, but what it says about their frustration around consultation reminds me of what the CFIB is saying. It reminds me of the Perth Courier editorial. Just sitting down and listening to people across the table does not make for consultation. Consultation does not, on the other hand, mean that you have to agree with everything people say. But clearly people expect there is going to be something meaningful in those dialogues and in that discourse.
When we hear of some of the new initiatives, when my friends out there putting their hard-earned money at risk to create employment and to start a new business hear about some of the government's plans with respect to amending the labour relations policy they just become catatonic. They are much more likely to withdraw from making any investment in this province than anything else.
I say to my friends opposite what has been said by so many people before: If we are going to have those jobs, if we are going to have the wealth, both old and new, that we require to maintain the kind of social safety net we all want, we have to generate that wealth. That means people have to put their capital in the market, put it at risk in a way that, quite frankly, not too many are doing at present.
I am going to conclude my remarks by saying that 13 months have passed. We have seen a great deal from this government. We have seen a lot of turning. We have seen a lot of blinking. We have seen everything from morality to civic politics. I will not try to get that word out of my mouth again. I think the initiation is over. This government is going to be judged now by what it does, by how it governs in a contemporary environment, whereas the good professor from York University has rightly observed, people are going to judge not just members of the Legislature, but members of the government by a new standard. That standard is going to be how efficiently, pragmatically and effectively the government can deliver those services we want, not just in the social policy area but in the economic development field within the context of fiscal responsibility. Before we grant interim supply to the ravenous appetite of this government, I thought we should observe some of these happenings in our Ontario.
Mrs Sullivan: I want to comment on some of the remarks presented by the member. They certainly are pertinent to the supply debate which is, of course, surrounding the fiscal policy and which is an expression in itself of the economic and social policy of this government.
I am hearing from my constituents, and the member has alluded to this kind of reaction, that in fact we are seeing a confused, muddled government, making decisions and then backtracking on them; bringing forward issues that have not been completely explored through the consultative process; creating, itself, uncertainty which is leading to a flight of capital.
If we have to be concerned about anything in this time of economic distress in Ontario, as well as in the rest of Canada -- the member has clearly pointed it out -- it is where the new capital investment, expansion and wealth creation are going to occur and how the activities and the signals provided by the provincial government are going to contribute to the increase in capital investment.
We all know what has happened, of course, and the member has underlined it. Confidence in Ontario has seriously deteriorated through the actions of this government, whether energy policy through the Ontario Hydro bill, environmental policy and the uncertainties created by the Minister of the Environment and her various announcements, or economic policies and the continuing levels of debt and deficit we will see for the rest of the term of this government. These are all issues which are very serious matters and are going to affect the ongoing economic and social health of Ontario.
I would like to pick up on one suggestion he made about Mr Jeff Wilson who wrote to the Premier, I believe, with concerns on behalf of his group known as AGCare. I know Jeff quite well; he is a resident of my riding. He represents, through AGCare, literally thousands of Ontario farmers on the environmental issues. The government has to start listening to this group and has to start understanding what it is saying, and real consultation is going to be the order of the day. It does not exist at the present time.
I seem to recall when I was in my position as executive assistant to the former member for Wellington that the member for Wellington had to bring this question on behalf of AGCare to the House a couple of years ago when the former Minister of the Environment, the member for St Catharines, refused to meet with AGCare with respect to the concerns it had about the environment. It went on for quite a lengthy period of time in the past and I would like to bring that to the member's attention at this time.
Hon Mr Hampton: I usually do not get in on these two-minute contributions, but the member's speech brought back memories for me. You see, Mr Speaker, he spoke at length about profligate spending and money proliferating everywhere and so on.
I guess I want to put it in the form of a question. I have not been here for 16 years like the member for Renfrew North. I have only been here for four. But in my short history here I remember the previous government brought to the House a plan that created chairs of committees, vice-chairs, whips and deputy whips, deputy speakers and associate deputy speakers, and all these things had a fairly hefty pay increase associated with them.
In fact when we sat down, I remember looking at it and saying to myself, "When you add up the number of cabinet members and all these extra positions, every member in the Liberal caucus is going to get a substantial pay increase over what every other member of the House gets." I thought to myself, "Now this member lectures us on lining pockets." All I say is how quickly the perspective changes.
Mr Conway: I think the procedure is we normally conclude these. That is the way it has been done. I want to say very quickly to my friend the Attorney General, I will not answer his question in a public way. I tell him that he should talk to David Reville and get the details, because I do not want to embarrass my good friend the Attorney General. He raises a very interesting point and I will give him a list of people if he wants to talk to those individuals about where a lot of that pressure came from. But Mr Reville is better able to provide for the education of the Attorney General in this regard.
I also want to make a point, that my friend from Wellington made the observation that the AGCare people have had the problem of getting in to see the Minister of the Environment for some time. That may be the case. I was just struck by what they said in their letter as to how they thought the consultation process was skewed against them. That may or may not be a fair charge, but it fits into a piece. As I say, I did not raise it in isolation. When I look at other elements of this piece, it starts to look like something of a pattern.
In conclusion, particularly to my friends in the cabinet that I come back to my first point. I know the game in which they are now engaged as far as news management and management of the Legislature is concerned. They can do whatever they want. It is a very risky business. It is a game that other governments have played, generally with not much success, and they will ignore and manipulate this Legislature in so overt a fashion at their peril. Occasions like interim supply remind me that Robert Kennedy was right: There are ways of dealing with this kind of transparent manipulation.
The Acting Speaker: I want to thank all members for their co-operation in allowing the member for Renfrew North to conclude this section of the debate. The debate will resume with the normal rotation.