Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): Among the chorus of concerns over the NDP-proposed changes to the labour legislation, included is the voice of the province's second-largest industry, agriculture and food. I think it is fair to say there's widespread agreement that agriculture should be covered by special legislation. Clearly this seasonal and time-conscious industry deserves special consideration.
While a final report of the Task Force on Agricultural Labour Relations was submitted to the government almost three weeks ago, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Agriculture and Food fail to respond to this aspect of their labour relations overhaul.
The Minister of Labour has stated, "We will take a very serious look at the [agriculture] task force report," which would therefore indicate the ministry's commitment to giving agriculture the special consideration it deserves. But from the other side of his mouth, the Minister of Labour has said, "It would be very difficult to pull out certain groups and exempt them from the provisions of the legislation."
Ontario's rural community already finds itself ailing and stressed. Farmers deserve to know where the legislation is heading and how it will affect them. I fear that with the curtailment of debate on this bill, it is unlikely that either minister will ever be offering any information to farmers.
Mrs Elizabeth Witmer (Waterloo North): I would like to draw the government's attention to the serious problem of a lack of access to trades and professions faced by people who have been educated and trained outside this province.
I have recently met with the representatives of an organization from my community called Skilled Employment Entry and Development. These dedicated individuals are committed to the goal of increased and more equitable access to employment for those educated and trained outside Ontario. The two most significant barriers confronting these people are the lack of consistent recognition of foreign qualifications and the demands by employers for perspective job applicants to have related work experience in Canada.
The government of Ontario has been extremely slow to take action to promote the recognition of foreign-trained professionals and to help facilitate their entry into the Ontario workforce. Much more needs to be done by this government to work cooperatively with organizations such as Skilled Employment Entry and Development to develop innovative approaches to this problem.
I would like to encourage the government to work with professional and trade associations in Ontario to remove these barriers to employment and to review their existing entry requirements to allow the qualifications of foreign trade professionals without decreasing their standards. I would like to urge the government to take immediate action to address this problem.
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): For the last couple of months on Sunday evenings, with Father Conrad Daichuk, I've been meeting at St Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Welland with Hispanic and Ukrainian refugees who have fled their countries because of the fear of death and violence and the persistent persecution they've been victims of.
One of those people is here in this House with us today, José Munoz. José Munoz is exceptional because he fled Argentina with his wife and two Argentinian-born children some three years ago to escape persecution by the military there, sought refugee status here and now has two children born in this country and this province, citizens of this country. But a federal government that doesn't give a tinker's dam about the welfare of José Munoz or thousands of other South American and Central American refugees is sending this man back on August 7 to what will be, I tell you, inevitable persecution and possible death.
The federal government and the minister, who could care less about the welfare of these people, is victimizing Munoz, his wife and his four children, two of them Canadian citizens, in a way that only parallels the brutality of an oppressive regime, the military of which persecuted this man. He was the victim of a refugee adjudication process which denied him the right to counsel and persisted in refusing him the right to an adjournment so that he could obtain counsel. It is a refugee and immigration system about which none of us can be proud and which is an international embarrassment.
Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): The Minister of Community and Social Services wrote to me last June. She was concerned because in her view Bill 154 did not ensure that government cheques would be cashed. I have said many times that the prohibition of fees is a first step. I have encouraged this minister to implement measures which would facilitate cheque cashing for low-income Ontarians.
I find it very unusual that the minister would worry about a situation over which she has full control. She has the responsibility of distributing social assistance in this province. She must make certain that people receive the full amount to which they are entitled. This mandate is entirely within her ministry's jurisdiction. She could even enlist the support of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations in order to better protect the interests of low-income Ontarians.
The problem is not one of means. The real problem is the lack of will to act upon an urgent issue. Many solutions have been brought forward but the answer is always, "Let's wait and see." How much longer must recipients of social assistance wait? How much longer must they be deprived of the full amount of their benefits?
To quote a recent letter to the Minister of Energy from North York Hydro, "Under present economic conditions, with inflation running at 1% to 2% and many of our customers being asked for wage concessions, increases of this order of magnitude are unacceptable."
Exorbitant Hydro rates not only affect the individual household, but they increase the cost of doing business in Ontario while decreasing our competitive advantage. Industry will not invest with confidence if it cannot depend on a reliable supply of power at reasonable rates.
In 1992, the average Ontario family of four will spend about 45% of its income to pay its taxes. A recent study says that the tax burden for the average Ontario family will increase by $350 as a consequence of measures introduced in this provincial government's 1992 budget. This will be the largest package of provincial tax increases in Ontario since Confederation.
This government, like all other governments, must come to the realization that there is only one taxpayer. That one taxpayer cannot afford to pay any more taxes. On behalf of the people of Willowdale, I urge the government to cut taxes and ease the burden being placed on the hardworking taxpayers of Willowdale.
Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): Tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to bring before this Legislature a resolution that will attempt to bring pressure upon the government of the United Kingdom to come to grips with perhaps the greatest inequity of all time: pensions for which full payments have been made, yet which have not been paid.
British old-age pensioners are fed up to the teeth with making annual pilgrimages to the United Kingdom to tell British politicians how unhappy they are with this current pension situation. But perhaps even less digestible than the cruelty that such a position expresses is that a country which has always prided itself on its common sense and embraced the practice of logical and rational behaviour could allow this utterly irrational and preposterous discrimination.
Only yesterday a woman called my office to tell me how her mother had come to visit her from England and while here suffered a stroke. She could never return home to live alone, but through this found her pension frozen and her supplement cut off, thereby placing a tremendous financial burden upon the whole family.
Inflation increased 270% in Canada between 1976 and 1991. From that it's easy to see the devastating effect that the freezing of British pensions paid to Canadians is having upon the British old-age pensioners living in Ontario.
Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): Last night, well over 500 citizens of King township and the city of Vaughan attended a rally against the proposed garbage dump for York region and against Bill 143. At the meeting, both residents and municipal officials made it clear they would move heaven and earth to prevent their communities from playing host to Metro's garbage.
A few weeks ago, the Richmond Hill Liberal and the Vaughan Liberal published a strongly worded editorial condemning Bill 143 and the arbitrary decision of the Minister of the Environment to force Metro Toronto's garbage on to the community of York region. The paper also encouraged its readers to complete coupons expressing their dissatisfaction with Bill 143. Hundreds and hundreds of readers responded.
I have today with me over 800 of their coupons, along with a number of letters from residents of York region. They are angered by the minister's arbitrary and unilateral decision to impose a dump on their homes. I am presenting these to the minister today, hoping that she will, at a minimum, respond personally and directly to the petitioners.
The garbage crisis in the greater Toronto area has been created by the Minister of the Environment. She and the Premier bear full responsibility for the state of anger and panic that has gripped the people of our region. She must act now to present a new proposal for new solutions for the disposal of garbage in the greater Toronto area.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): My statement concerns this government's failure to realize that it is fundamental to the true democratic process that each individual member, either on the government side or in the opposition benches, has a meaningful opportunity to participate in the legislative process of this Legislature and to truly reflect the wishes and views of our constituents.
Two recent examples involve the member for Carleton East's private member's Bill 154, the Government Cheque Cashing Act, and my private member's Bill 17, the Motor Boat Operators' Licensing Act. Bill 154 would have saved money; Bill 17 would have saved lives.
It is a sad state of affairs that we have become so accustomed to the silent demise of private members' bills that the people of Ontario just assume it is going to happen. Government members can make all the proper noises of support for a particular private member's bill, but it is a known fact that the current procedure for these bills contains an implicit veto of the government House leader. This veto need not be explained or justified to elected representatives or to their constituents.
Bill 154 was ordered for third reading last April and Bill 17 received second reading last Thursday and was referred to the committee of the whole House. These two bills are now dead, because this government will simply fail to act on them.
Rather than fiddling with Ontario's labour laws and standing orders, this government should concentrate instead on reforming the legislative process to enable all elected members to have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the policy decisions of this Legislature.
Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): On June 4 the Interim Waste Authority released a list of 19 candidate landfill sites in York region. Nine of the sites are located within my riding. I have spoken to many of the people in my riding and I know the pain, anger and mixed emotions they are feeling. Eventually one of the sites in York will be chosen by the IWA.
It has been the cause of much anguish for me to see members of this House continue to present selected facts focused on only parts of Bill 143, and that continues to upset the community I represent. I want you to know I will do everything in my power to help the people affected by the IWA's landfill search within my riding. I have attended many large meetings and will continue to meet the newly formed residents' committee. I have addressed large rallies outside this House. I have attended a talk show which allowed my constituents to call in and ask questions. I have walked half of the sites and will walk the remainder with local groups and residents.
Yesterday I was able to chair a meeting with representatives from the umbrella group Environment Not Economics which was formed after the June 4 announcement by the IWA. That meeting showed me that an open dialogue can still happen. I want to thank all those present, including Minister Grier, for allowing that group to present its brief.
This government is committed to making sure the process of site selection is as open and fair as possible. We will never return to the days of previous governments where a few politicians selected a site behind closed doors without consultation or participation of the public. That's why the IWA was formed. But that doesn't mean we are turning our backs on the people whom we were elected to represent.
Hon Peter North (Minister of Tourism and Recreation): I am pleased to inform the House that Ontario Place has entered into a partnership with MCA Concerts Canada to revitalize the Forum at Ontario Place.
MCA Concerts Canada, a company owned in part by Molson Breweries, will invest approximately $12 million to replace the current Forum facilities with an 18,000-seat seasonal concert venue and administrative facilities.
I would like to point out that while there is no public money involved in the agreement, this $12-million private sector investment furthers public sector goals. It helps to ensure that Ontario Place remains financially viable. It will also generate public sector revenues to help ensure Ontario Place remains accessible to everyone.
In addition, the construction phase, which begins this fall, will create 105 person-years of employment. The new facility will open in June 1993. MCA Concerts Canada will manage and operate the new facility under a revenue-sharing agreement with Ontario Place.
First, tens of thousands of Ontario residents and visitors who attend concerts at the Forum every year can look forward to enjoying events next season in a state-of-the-art facility with more comfortable seating.
Second, the new agreement strengthens an ongoing partnership between two public and private sector organizations. Molson Breweries, a part owner of MCA Concerts Canada, has long been a corporate sponsor at Ontario Place. The revitalization of the Forum is a good example of the mutually beneficial, private-public sector partnerships this government believes are an important component of Ontario's economic renewal.
Finally, I am very pleased that the major capital investment will achieve two objectives: It will create good-paying jobs, starting within three to four months, and it will also enhance Ontario Place's contribution to the revitalization of Toronto's waterfront.
Hon Allan Pilkey (Minister of Correctional Services): On Tuesday the member for Leeds-Grenville raised some very serious issues regarding the operation of the Ministry of Correctional Services' Bell Cairn Staff Development Centre.
As a member of this government and as an employer, I recognize that the issue of gender equality and the right to be free from sexual discrimination, harassment and assault must be assured to all members of staff in this government. Sexual harassment or sexual assault will not be tolerated.
The issues raised are very disturbing to me. I take any allegations of sexual assault very seriously. Accordingly, I have two announcements to make today. First, I have ordered a police investigation into the allegations at the Bell Cairn centre. Second, I have assured those touched by these allegations that their right to privacy will be protected as the investigation proceeds.
Mr Hugh P. O'Neil (Quinte): I stand to reply to the statement made by the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. I would like to say, first of all, that I am a very strong supporter of Ontario Place. Anything we can do at Ontario Place to attract additional tourists to the province and to provide pleasure for residents of Ontario, I support. I think this combination with a private company is a good one, and we should look forward to having other such contracts made.
I would like to say, though, to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation that I'd like to feel the contract that has been entered into with this particular private company can be reviewed, if necessary, to make sure it is a good contract, that not only Ontario Place but the Ontario government is coming out of the contract with what it should have.
Now comes the other part. I'd like to say to the Minister of Tourism and Recreation, the Premier and other members of his cabinet and his party that the tourism industry in the province is having a lot of problems. We have hotels that are empty. We have restaurants that are empty. We have attractions that are empty. It behooves this government and this cabinet to do more to assist the tourism industry in Ontario.
We're faced with high gasoline prices, high taxes and many other things that are deterring tourists from coming to Ontario. You know that, Minister. You know what our numbers are going to be this year. You also know that because of the economic situation we have in Ontario, unless you, the cabinet and the Premier do something to help the tourism industry in this province to keep existing, we are going to lose a lot of these people.
I am pleased with this particular announcement, but I say to you again, Minister, you should be pressing the Premier and other members of the cabinet and members of your party to do more for the tourism industry in Ontario. They don't seem to see the importance of it. We used to have a fight within our cabinet during certain times too, but I tell you this: When you look at the number of jobs that are created by the tourism industry, this is one place where you could put this province back on the map.
Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): I'd like to respond to the very serious allegations that are made and the minister's response. I would have expected more than one page, Minister. Are the women of this province safe in terms of being in the civil service? You've told us that sexual harassment or sexual assault would not be tolerated. It was tolerated apparently for several months, if the allegations are true, and you didn't know about it.
I'd like to know, Minister: Are these people in fact going to be safe? Are you going to keep your ear to the wheel? Are you going to know what your deputy minister knows? Or does it take a social worker to eventually tell you that the women of correctional facilities and other facilities are being molested?
If these allegations are correct -- we don't want another Grandview -- I suggest that you decide right now and that you suggest to your cabinet colleagues that perhaps whistle-blowing legislation should be introduced immediately. Why should these women have to worry about peer group pressures? If this had happened on the street, there would have been sexual assault charges laid.
You're now having the police investigate a track that's probably cold. I want to know how wide the investigation is going to be. Is it just going to be of the complainants or the people who are complained about, or is it going to be broader than that? I suggest that Grandview should have taught us something. It should have taught us that we have to make certain that our institutions are safe for those who are being guarded as well as those who are the guards.
I suggest to you that it doesn't ring very fair or true for you to come out with a one-page statement saying that you're going to have the police investigate. That's hardly being a guardian of the women of this province. I suggest to you that you failed in your role. Perhaps the Premier should look at the question of splitting those two portfolios. You obviously can't look after both of them. I'm not sure you can look after either one of them, quite frankly.
You say you're going to keep the privacy of these people protected. It's blown already. These people are already the subject of wide press and they'll be the subject of wide press tomorrow. Why could these people not have had a sensitive place they could go to and in privacy related these facts?
When this happened recently in the United States, those officers were immediately put on temporary leave. Have you done that? Have you considered doing that? Have you done anything other than prepare a one-page statement for this House? I suggest to you that it's unacceptable. It should be unacceptable to the women of Ontario and to every woman in your caucus, and I'm surprised you haven't been skewered.
Quite frankly, this is unacceptable to all of us. If it had happened on the street, as I say, it would have been dealt with in a much more serious fashion and a much more swift fashion instead of letting it float around for several months and having to have a social worker eventually have it tipped off through one of the plain brown envelopes. We perhaps could have been investigated for that.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I'm pleased to respond on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party to the statement by the Minister of Tourism and Recreation today with respect to Ontario Place and MCA Concerts Canada and its willingness to invest $12 million with this government.
I think the company itself deserves some measure of commendation for coming forward with this. I don't imagine it was the minister's idea. I wonder what other private sector consortium might have been put together with respect to this issue to put this forward.
This is apparently good news. It is the private sector coming forward to revitalize Ontario Place, although the details are rather sketchy, Minister. There's no question that we don't have all the information here today, primarily the details of the revenue-sharing agreement, which I would be most interested in receiving. I would expect you'll be willing to table that with me in the near future. I think more information is needed on the contract and, as I said, other companies that may have wanted to be involved in this revitalization of Ontario Place.
With the considerable interest that has been shown by the private sector in Ontario Place, I hope the minister is prepared to look forward beyond that into greater private sector involvement in Ontario Place.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I too would like to comment on this announcement by the Minister of Tourism and Recreation. It's another statement where the media have it first. In this case, the Toronto Star has this story and we're hearing it after the fact in the House.
I am particularly interested, I suppose, that one minister is able to come up with $12 million from somewhere for something in this province when we have another minister, namely, the minister responsible for the Art Gallery of Ontario, who only needed $2.5 million and couldn't come up with it from anywhere. Here we are with this private sector investment for a seasonal facility versus the Art Gallery of Ontario, which is open all year round, which is full to the doors with gifts from the Ontario people for the Ontario people to see, and nobody can see it because it's closed for six months. It's a very interesting comparison. I simply point that out to this socialist government, which has yet to learn the value of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I'm responding to the statement by the Minister of Correctional Services with respect to the Bell Cairn training centre. Regrettably, this whole matter would never have come to light had it not been for the courageous action of a civil servant who contacted me; someone in the Ministry of Correctional Services who knew right from wrong, someone who was distraught about the efforts of ministry officials to sweep this under the rug.
There are at least two serious omissions with respect to the statement today: one is that there is no reference to the communications breakdown within the ministry; also, there is no reference to an investigation into how this matter was handled, or rather mishandled, by senior officials in the ministry.
To say the treatment of these women was shameful is not strong enough. Instead of being treated with understanding, with compassion, with dignity and respect, they were treated like dirt. On this side of the House we understand the tremendous trauma the women would have experienced. I would encourage these Correctional Services ministry employees to come forward, either publicly or privately, to assist with this investigation. I can assure them that this Legislature will treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve, a dignity and respect that was not provided them by the Ministry of Correctional Services.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology and it's about the state of the economy. The Treasurer in his budget indicated that the economy would begin to pick up now in the spring. You yourself, Minister, as you answer the questions in the House, assure us that things are just fine, investment's pouring in, business is confident about Bob Rae and the Ontario government. Yesterday you actually went into a little bit of a rant when the opposition dared to raise some questions about the economy. You said the Premier's telling you to just take it easy. You said the only problem is that the opposition doesn't have its facts.
Yesterday your own government released some additional facts I want to go over with you. They are to do with plant closures. In spite of the fact that you say things are fine and the Treasurer says the economy is picking up, in this report issued yesterday, this extremely important report, a report on permanent and indefinite layoffs in Ontario, we see 16 complete closures in the month of June. Last year, you will know there were 12 complete closures, fully a third more closures this year than last year. In the first six months of this year we see 74 complete closures; 58 last year. Throughout this report, three pages of complete closures: a tremendous indictment of the government.
As we ask you questions in the House, you say the only problem is that the opposition does not have the facts. You say everything is fine. I want a very simple answer to this question: If things are so fine out there, how is it that we are seeing record numbers of plant closures and record numbers of people being laid off due to plant closures?
Hon Ed Philip (Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology): I don't think this government or I have ever said everything is fine. We took over a government at the bottom of a recession. We've worked hard at fighting that recession with the various economic policies introduced by the Treasurer.
What I did say was that at a time when we are experiencing a recession in North America, this jurisdiction is outperforming every other jurisdiction. One only has to look at the latest employment figures. There were more jobs created in the last two months in this province than in all the other provinces combined. One need only look at the employment figures in the United States; in fact, New York state and New Jersey have experienced a greater increase in unemployment than Ontario. Indeed, if you look at closures in the northern United States, you'll find a greater number of closures in the state of Michigan and other states than in Ontario on a per capita basis.
Mr Phillips: Listen. You've got to get on and do something. The facts of the matter are that in the month of July, the month we're in right now -- and this is when we're supposed to be pulling out of this recession; you with all your wonderful programs are supposed to get the economy going -- we see already 18 more plants closing, already announced. Last July we saw 10 plants closing. Things are not getting better; things are getting worse.
You say, "We created jobs." Well, 50,000 people entered the workforce and 25,000 jobs were created. We're not even keeping up with the number of people entering the workforce. The thing that makes me so angry is your complacency. You're saying that things are fine. Things are not fine. We are seeing record numbers of closings. They're not slowing down; they're going up. We're seeing the unemployment rate not going down as the Treasurer promised, but going up. We see more people entering the workforce than you are creating jobs.
Hon Mr Philip: The member asks what we are doing. I outlined yesterday just a few of the new companies that are opening or expanding in Ontario, companies that any province would love to have but is not attracting. In fact, we are attracting more investment to Ontario than all of the other provinces combined, and that has been true throughout the history of this government.
Let me just give you an example of what we are doing. This morning, I did a ground-breaking for Husky, which is setting up an international research centre. The president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce was there and was very complimentary about what this government is doing with that project.
Hon Mr Philip: Not only will it create a couple of hundred new jobs, but it will advance research and development in the plastics industry so that we can be competitive. If you want to know what this government is doing, you talk to the president of Husky or a few of the other companies we've been working with, things you never dreamed of doing to create a more competitive environment for Ontario.
Mr Phillips: I never dreamed of seeing six pages of plant closures in one year in Ontario. That's what I never dreamed of seeing. Honest to goodness, if you would just get your head out of the sand and stop your talking and do action.
In a speech four months ago you promised the Legislature we would see legislation on the training program introduced in the spring, your much-vaunted training. There is no legislation on the training program. You promised the Ontario investment fund; we are literally a minimum of six months away from that. We don't even see any legislation. You're out for consulting on it. You promised that. You promised in a speech four months ago your vaunted industrial strategy. We have not seen the industrial strategy from you. You promised that worker ownership would get the unions involved in the program. The Ontario Federation of Labour has told you to shove it. The Canadian Auto Workers have told you that they're not going to participate in it. So have the Steelworkers.
Hon Mr Philip: The statement the member made is simply not factual, and he knows it. We are consulting on the investment fund, we are meeting with considerable support out there and we are setting up a fund that is based on consultation. As I go around the province and talk to the presidents of trust companies, to trade unions, they wonder why it is that the United States could do it but the Liberal government couldn't do it in five years of power. We're doing it.
In this budget, with the kinds of programs that my ministry has been implementing to help industry restructure, it's up 96% over the last year of the Liberals. You had the money and you didn't do it to develop the industrial structure. We're out there doing it.
Mr Ian G. Scott (St George-St David): I have a question for the Minister of Correctional Services. We're all, of course, delighted that at last a police investigation has been ordered as a result of disclosures made in this House yesterday, but the obvious concern, as the honourable member for Leeds-Grenville has indicated, is that if a senior member of the bureaucracy had not communicated with him personally, this matter would not have come to light in the House and presumably no police investigation would now be under way. That's a very serious allegation against the administration of the department.
I want to ask a question about the administration of your department. In the Toronto Star today, in an article by Paula Todd headed "Gang Rape Alleged At Jail Guards School," a spokesperson for your ministry, I take it of some seniority, confirmed that senior officials had known about this incident for some time. I think the public are entitled, if they are concerned, as we are, about the administration of your second ministry, to know the answer to two very simple questions, which, after a day, you will be able to answer if you are going to be candid with this House. First, what was the date on which senior officials first heard about this incident? Second, what was the date that you first heard about this incident?
Hon Mr Pilkey: As to the initial question by the honourable member opposite, I want to tell him -- in an uninterrupted way, if I might, to his own caucus colleague -- that this is a matter, as I indicated at that time and again today, that is of very serious concern to me. It is a matter which I am going to see receives my fullest attention and the fullest attention of this government.
That view and that concern is also shared by the Premier of this government. He in fact has requested the secretary of cabinet to prepare a full and detailed report with respect to this entire situation. I believe that, coupled with the police investigation I have launched, will resolve this matter and speak rather directly and deliberately to any potential future occurrences.
I hear that the minister was informed of this yesterday, and I take it he was informed in the House for the first time, that that's what his answer means. I accept it when he says that to me. What I want to know is what's going on in the department. A senior official of your ministry has said they had heard about this incident some time ago. They're obviously not telling you what you need to know.
What we're entitled to know is, when did senior officials, one or more, of your ministry first hear about this incident? The reason we want to know that is so we can gauge the length of time it took before they told you, because I don't think they told you until you heard about it here. What's going on there? When did they first hear about this incident?
Hon Mr Pilkey: That information will come, as I indicated, in a detailed report that will be prepared by the secretary to cabinet for the Premier. I think what is more important than that particular piece of information at this point in time is that the matter has been acted upon, that it has in fact been treated as an absolutely serious matter by this government and is getting that kind of direct and immediate attention.
Mr Scott: We understand that the allegation is serious and we are grateful that at last it will be investigated. I, for my part, am prepared to accept the proposition that you never even heard about this incident until you came to question period yesterday. That's not what we're concerned about in examining the public administration of the province of Ontario. What we're concerned about is the statement made by your officials -- do you work for them or do they work for you? -- who said, "We've known about this incident for some time." Have you found out how long they knew? That's not a matter of the police investigation. That's a matter of going to them and saying, as I did many times, "When did you hear about this and why didn't you tell me?"
I want to know, when did they first hear about this, and if they heard some time ago, what have you done to bring them up to the mark? You're the minister. You're the government. These women who are told that if they don't make complaints they won't have them acted on have the right to know the answer to those questions. When did your senior officials first hear about this incident?
Hon Mr Pilkey: As I've indicated, and I apologize for the repetitiveness but the member forces me to repeat it, the appropriate and immediate and direct actions have been taken. If the member opposite is looking for some kind of admission that the minister was not advised directly, he has that. What he also has --
The issue which was raised yesterday is of absolute concern to me. I indicated that then; I'm saying it now. Actions I have taken are rather deliberate, they are direct and they are immediate. That is a circumstance that is not acceptable to me, and it will be redressed.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I have a question along much the same lines as the member for St George-St David. Since I raised the issue yesterday of the alleged sexual assault at the ministry's training school in Hamilton, at least two things have been established: (1) ministry officials knew about problems at the school and are reviewing security and hiring a night manager, and (2) these same officials knew from a credible source about the grave allegations of sexual assault by ministry employees on ministry property and did nothing about it. They engaged in what amounts to an unforgivable passive coverup.
The minister has had 24 hours to review this matter. Can he today indicate who in his ministry made the decision to do nothing, and can he also indicate what he has done to assure the people of this province, especially the women of this province, that this sort of thing will never, ever happen again?
Hon Mr Pilkey: I am very pleased to tell the member that a full and complete and detailed report is being put together. It has been requested of the secretary of cabinet, who has responsibility for deputy ministers. We have, in addition to that, commenced a police investigation.
I have said publicly and I have reiterated now many times that this is an unacceptable circumstance and that women in this province or in the Ontario public service whom we are directly responsible for should not be in any kind of circumstance where they feel any peer pressure or any difficulty in coming forward with respect to any incident in which they feel they have been violated or where there was any inappropriate activity. That is being done, and it is being done now.
Mr Runciman: It's extremely disturbing to say the least that this minister would not be aware of such a serious allegation circulating in his ministry for some time. A credible source, a social worker in the ministry, brought this forward. I can think of no more serious charge than a gang rape by ministry staff on ministry property, yet this minister has admitted absolute ignorance of this situation. It was apparently kept in the dark. Can the minister tell us how in the world such a thing could happen? Why was he kept in the dark?
Hon Mr Pilkey: My discomfort and concern of not being advised of this particular situation will come as no surprise to anyone in this House. I can advise, however, of the immediate actions I have taken since. I think it is also very important that we not give out details in dribs and drabs which we have not had time to fully amass. When they are put together, and that is being done at this point under the direction of the Premier and the secretary of cabinet, we then will be in a position to give a chronological description of events and details.
Mr Runciman: I could ask a number of questions in respect to this but I think it's important at this stage that the minister give us a more forthcoming response than he's giving this afternoon. He's simply furthering the coverup of this matter in my view and, I think, the view of all of us on this side of the House.
Mr Runciman: I believe the minister should be responding directly and indicating to the public of this province if indeed the deputy minister knew about this matter. He should be responding to various widespread concerns about the way this matter was handled internally, the attempt to hide this matter under the carpet, to keep employees who may have participated in a sexual assault on the job as peace officers.
In the minister's statement he said, "I recognize...the right to be free from sexual discrimination, harassment and assault." Mr Minister, don't you believe in conforming with what you've just said earlier in the House? The public has the right to know what happened in this matter internally within your ministry and, more important, the women of this province and especially the alleged victims in this case.
Hon Mr Pilkey: As I had indicated, the details and the chronological order of these matters are being amassed even as we speak. The details are of considerable concern to me. I have taken the most immediate steps possible to guarantee and ensure that our workplace is in fact free from sexual harassment and assault.
It may be well and good for certain members of the opposition to try to characterize my role in this particular situation, but I have to tell you that I feel very comfortable in the actions I have taken since this matter came to my attention.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): I have a question for the Premier. Since your election I've risen in this House seven times over the past two years to question your government about establishing a nutrition program, a breakfast program for children in this province. The current school year is over; educators are gearing up now for classes in September. The proposal I have continually presented to you does not call for a great bureaucratic decision, it does not call for a multiministry analysis, it does not even call for any taxpayer money. It calls for your cooperation and it calls for your leadership as Premier.
Hon Marion Boyd (Minister of Community and Social Services): I want to thank the leader of the opposition for the question. This is certainly an issue, as he knows from our response to his motion in this House, that we are equally concerned with. We don't agree with some of his premises. One is that this requires no money; another is that it's simply a matter of taking leadership and so on. There are a number of important questions.
One of the issues that has been raised is the issue of what we might call a Good Samaritan act or a good faith act, such as it applies in many of the jurisdictions in the United States, in terms of surplus food, in terms of the need to look at how to distribute that in a way that's safe. That is certainly something that we are looking at, together with the Minister of Agriculture and Food and the Minister of the Environment, because of course waste food is also food that needs to be disposed of. So that is a real issue for us.
One of the other problems we have is that there is clear opposition in this province from many of the poverty advocacy groups for an extension of institutionalized feeding because the question is how that fits in with social service and social assistance reform. So what we would say to the leader of the opposition is that we are actively looking at this. It does require interministerial cooperation and we are hoping that in the fall we will be able to come forward with a program that meets the multiple needs of the people of Ontario.
Mr Harris: By way of supplementary, I want to tell you I am most distressed that this file is now with the Minister of Community and Social Services, who believes nothing can be done unless you spend millions and millions of dollars.
There is no need for interministerial cooperation in this program. To provide simple nutrition in our schools requires the cooperation of the Ministry of Education to allow that to happen, the cooperation of the various affiliates of teachers' associations, which would be well forthcoming, and the leadership of the Premier, who, I can assure you from my discussions with teachers, from my discussions with the private sector, would be more than enough to bring forward the kinds of programs that have worked in other jurisdictions, the kinds of programs that are working in some schools now, but not very many.
I would ask you, Minister, when I present you with an alternative that costs not one cent, that does not institutionalize anything, that simply provides nutrition for those who need it, whenever they need it during the school day in the classroom for no cost to the taxpayers, why is it you give me the bureaucratic answer and say we've got to have a multidisciplinary, interministerial committee? Why will you not talk to the Premier, tell him to take the leadership and it can start in September?
Hon Mrs Boyd: The Premier has taken great leadership in this area and that's why he's assigned it to those of us who have responsibility for the various areas. The Ministry of Education clearly has to be involved. Our ministry has to be involved because what we are talking about is feeding children.
The leader of the opposition is just amazing. He tells us, the parents, the people of Ontario that it costs nothing to feed children. That's nonsense. What we have to do is find a way to concentrate our resources in such a way that all children have an option, and we are not taking the responsibility away from parents, that we are in fact, as a community, taking responsibility together. That takes a lot of coordination. I don't have a magic wand, and frankly, if the leader of the opposition did, his party should have waved it 42 years ago.
Having said that, here we are faced with a situation in 1992 very similar to 1991, very similar to 1990. We have seen the problems of our youth in Toronto and in other large cities all too clearly this past spring and in the summertime. We have seen what happens when hungry children don't get off to a good start in school. We have seen what happens when they begin to fall behind and they become disillusioned.
All I am asking you to do is stop tying up this issue in red tape. It is simple. If you really want to act, instead of making sure you have unionized workers cooking food, or instead of making sure that you institutionalize it all or instead of having this bureaucratic slot with a whole bunch of new civil servants, a budget and a whole whack of money, it requires simply this: leadership. It requires the Premier to say, "This will not happen in Ontario in 1992, and I am asking the educational community, I am asking the business community" --
Hon Mrs Boyd: The Premier has asked us all, in all the ministries that are responsible, to coordinate exactly the kind of response the leader of the opposition is suggesting. No, I can't guarantee it will start in September, although I can say that we certainly hope to be able to begin the process in September. If it is as simple as the leader of the opposition suggests, it simply would've been done a long time ago, certainly during the recession of 1981 when children were starving as well.
We have increased our social assistance rates to allow parents to have more dollars to spend on food for their children. That has been a priority. It has been the priority of the anti-poverty community and that is a part of the whole function that we want to have. We do not want stopgap charitable gestures to children; we want services that serve all children.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): My question is to the Premier. Just a few moments ago I think you said, "Ask me how I feel about another issue." I want to ask you how you feel about an issue of grave importance to a number of people in the public galleries here today and to people who work in the beer can industry in this province.
In your budget, Premier, you implemented a tax on beer can workers, which clearly is having devastating effects on the canning industry in Ontario. You've tried to disguise this as an environmental tax, and in fact you've perpetrated a fraud on the people of this province that there's some great environmental benefit to taxing beer can workers.
Clearly the facts show that 88% of all beer cans are returned to the beer store, and of the remaining 12%, 50% of them come back through the blue box. So some 94% of beer cans are indeed returned, recycled and reused. Also, the facts would indicate that the gross weight going into the landfill in this province from bottle caps alone equals the weight of aluminum cans from beer cans that are not recycled going into that same landfill.
Premier, you can't kid us that it's an environmental issue. You've apparently stated that it's needed to increase revenues and yet you've cut your own Ministry of the Environment's budget by $61 million.
Mr Mahoney: My question is, Premier, what is the real reason that you're expanding the tax on beer cans? We know it's not environment. We know it's not revenue generating for economic purposes for the environment. What is the real reason and what is your answer to Pat Corcoran, the chairman of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union --
Mr Mahoney: -- to Steve McCullough, the vice-chairman of that same local, to Mark Loveys and Mike Danbrook, the president and vice-president respectively of the Steelworkers Local 7176 in Concord, and to Kathy Dumouchel, who chairs the Levy Action Committee at Ball Packaging --
Hon Mr Laughren: When the opposition don't like what they hear, they just try to shout us down and say, "It's all nonsense." Well, I'll try to answer the question if the opposition will allow me to do so.
Hon Mr Laughren: For this government, the words "reduce, reuse and recycle" are not simply words. They are environmental priorities and they are a commitment by this government, and there's a reason for that.
I'm surprised to hear the member of the official opposition talk about an environmental levy as though he was opposed to it. I'm very surprised. I certainly understand why the former Minister of the Environment from the Liberal Party didn't ask the question. He would have been embarrassed to admit that he did not place reuse over recycling, because it's more energy conservationist than is recycling. It's as simple as that.
Mr Mahoney: I find this really a sad comment. Anyone who looks at the facts on this issue knows that there cannot be any justification for calling this an environmental tax. Anyone who looks at the facts knows, as I've already stated, that you generate more waste in the landfill sites from bottle caps, for goodness' sake --
Mr Mahoney: That is true. That is not nonsense. The facts are there. Members of your own caucus who know their political careers are in jeopardy as a result of this action by this government have admitted that this is politically motivated and not environmentally motivated. They've admitted it.
Mr Mahoney: They stood out in front of this building today and called on this government to rescind the tax, members of your own caucus. So who are you kidding, Treasurer? It's quite obvious the Premier doesn't know what to do, because he wimps out and passes -- this is not an economic issue to you, the government.
Treasurer, since you've been handed this hot potato to try to deal with it, tell these people in the audience where they're going to work after you decimate their industry. Tell their kids who are with them today how -- never mind food in the schools --
Hon Mr Laughren: You could let me answer the question you've asked, to start with. I don't know how the member opposite can expect me to take his question seriously, quite frankly, when he stands up and in one sentence says, "It's a politically motivated tax," and the next minute says, "It's going to cost your members their seats." What kind of political motivation would that be?
I don't understand why the member opposite is not able to come to grips with the fact that this is an environmental levy based on the three hierarchical principles of environmental conservation, reduce, reuse and recycle. That's why there's an environmental levy put on all non-refillable alcohol containers, not just beer cans.
Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): Mr Speaker, on the same issue: You've only got one R now -- and this question is for the Premier, because you haven't answered the question. You're only talking about reusing and have no considerations of the recycling benefit of aluminum cans.
But I ask the Premier, in the absence of the Minister of the Environment, on this very question, how we now have a 10-cent surcharge on every beer can that is sold, when they sell them in the province of Ontario, adding $2.40 to a case of 24 beer.
What I really want to ask the Premier is the background thinking that went into the development of this environmental tax. The fact of the matter is, aluminum cans are environmentally equivalent to refillable glass bottles from the standpoint of air emissions, water effluents and energy usage. The only significant environmental difference is that aluminum cans generate significantly less solid waste than refillable glass bottles. What analysis has your Ministry of the Environment had to support the fact that it is saying refillable glass bottles are better for the environment than aluminum cans?
Second, after the environmental levy was imposed, as announced in the budget, we did sit down with virtually everybody concerned, and there has been a series of meetings since that time with both the representatives of the workers in the can factories and in aluminum, with Alcan, and as well, as I say, with the companies involved.
Indeed, this very afternoon there is a very substantial meeting with people from the industry, representatives of the workers, from the environmental group, from the brewery workers, in which we are going to discuss the matter further. So it's not as though we simply imposed the levy and then refused to talk to people. There have been a lot of negotiations go on on this matter and they are continuing.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Obviously the Treasurer can't answer an environmental question, so I'll ask him a job question. I think he may want to check with his colleagues the member for Durham Centre and the member for Durham East, who stood on the steps not more than an hour ago and said that they disagreed with the policies of this government as well. You should speak to those two members.
But since you don't know what is happening environmentally with the reason for this tax, let me ask you a job question. At that rally I sat out there and saw two six-year-old twins who are going to be a position where their father is going to lose his job. Would you be able to tell us today, Mr Treasurer, how many jobs are going to be lost, and what do you say to those people who are going to lose their jobs because of you and your policies?
Hon Mr Laughren: If the opposition will not shout me down yet again, I'll try to answer the question. I assume the member is talking about job loss in a specific plant as opposed to overall in the province of Ontario. I assume that's what he means and that he's not talking about net jobs in the economy; I can only make that assumption.
Hon Mr Laughren: I'll try once again. Any job loss in that regard would depend on what is known as the elasticity of demand as it shifts from cans to bottles. So it's not as though anybody at this point --
Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a question to the Minister of Citizenship, prefaced very briefly. I want to tell you about Maria and her mother, Mirian, who fled Argentina two and half years ago after the 31-year-old mother was raped by the police when she was arrested for her political activities and after armed politicos broke into her home and abducted her daughter for three days. She sought refuge in Ontario.
Sergei from Ukraine fled Ukraine after persistent persecution by the KGB, arrests, detentions and the threat of prosecution under section 70, which would have resulted in a considerable period of admission.
These people, along with the people I spoke of earlier, José and Mirta Munoz and their children, fled to this country, to this province. Nobody wants to leave their homeland. Nobody wants to leave behind family, jobs, careers, automobiles and friends. These people came to this country, to this province, to seek refuge. They sought refuge in what they believed were the charitable arms of a generous country.
Mr Kormos: Yes, sir. The federal government is telling these people that they can't stay, that they must go, notwithstanding that they work hard. All of them work at daily jobs. What will the Ministry of Citizenship do to ensure that these people can continue to be the good citizens of Ontario that they've become by choice?
Hon Elaine Ziemba (Minister of Citizenship): I welcome this opportunity to speak on this issue because it is a concern of every member of our House when we look at people who have come to this province to share with us in a province we all value so highly, a place where we all seek democracy; people who have suffered in their homelands. I must share with my colleague that one of the many frustrations I had when I came to this position was that the previous two governments unfortunately had not sat down with the federal government and had an agreement or an arrangement on immigration.
Mr Sorbara: The minister was saying that the previous two governments never negotiated with the federal government. I do not believe that to be true, but nevertheless I withdraw the allegation that she is lying.
Hon Ms Ziemba: The fact remains that we do not have an agreement with the federal government. We are in the process of negotiating an agreement with the federal government on immigration and refugee issues, one that I am proceeding with as quickly as we can. It has been part of the constitutional discussion as well. I want to assure not only my colleague but also the members who are sitting in the gallery today that I take this issue very seriously.
There are members from the Polish community in my own constituency who are also being sent back. I feel that is totally unfair, and I know every member in this House feels it's unfair when people who have been contributing to this province, who are raising their children here, who have children actually born in this province -- we want to work together to make sure we can assure them the safe place that we all share in Ontario.
Mr Kormos: You know, the indignity of being told you have to pay $25 a month for a work visa because you want to work is profound and so symbolic of what's happening to these people. José Munoz and his wife, Mirta Munoz, came here with their two young children from Argentina, but their two youngest children are Canadian citizens; they were born in this country, they were born in this province. I tell you, they are Ontarians, yet they are being sent back on the same plane on August 7 by the federal Minister of Employment and Immigration.
I plead with the minister to tell us that she will help me intervene, that she will help me approach the federal minister directly to ask him to defer the deportation date so these people have an opportunity to seek redress for what has been a long series of injustices done to them through the incompetence of people like Al Brown, a member of the tribunal that --
Hon Ms Ziemba: Again, I want to assure every member of this House that we take very seriously the questions you have raised. As a government we are working towards having an agreement with the federal government so we can address these issues and certainly move on -- and I have to say, Mr Speaker, that when I look across the floor and people are shouting out when there are concerns being raised in the House; people have serious concerns and they are suffering under --
The Speaker: I seek the support of the House so that we can have an orderly question period. I understand all of the circumstances under which the members are working, yet at the same time if members bring questions to the floor of the House they deserve to have those questions addressed and they deserve to be able to hear a response. I ask for the cooperation of all members so we can have that happen.
Mr Ian G. Scott (St George-St David): I return to the Minister of Correctional Services. The backdrop about this question that has already been raised with generality before is, of course, the investigation in the United States that has occurred as a result of the forced resignation of the Secretary of the Navy, who was held responsible for the administration of his department when an allegation of sexual misconduct at one of the naval academies was not brought to his attention.
The minister has told us today that the first time he heard about this incident was yesterday. I accept the minister's word on that but I know, having been a minister, that ministers sometimes are blindsided by their staff. I know, having been a minister, that the first thing this minister would have done if he was doing his duty, as I'm sure he was, was to go back to his ministry, call in the deputy minister and the senior officials and say, "When did any of you first hear of this incident?" If he didn't get an answer to that question he would have fired them all. But he would have gotten an answer to that question -- it may be right, it may be wrong; I don't know -- the question public administration requires us to ask, because there can be no allegation of coverup if the minister answers the question: "What were you told? When did these people admit they first heard about this incident?" Minister, you've got to answer that question here in the House or in the scrum, because it goes to the integrity of the administration of your department. When did your senior staff first hear about this incident?
Hon Allan Pilkey (Minister of Correctional Services): First of all, I want to say that I find unfortunate the analogy the member opposite first draws to some circumstance that occurred in the United States Navy or in some such other military installation with respect to the administration of the Ministry of Correctional Services on the ministry level.
Notwithstanding that, as I'd indicated, and I think quite succinctly and quite clearly earlier, this matter had not been brought to my attention, but the important thing from my perspective was that the main issue was that this matter get dealt with promptly and effectively, that it be actioned, and it was.
In terms of detail and in terms of dates, times, places, who talked to whom, who corresponded with whom, I don't have a particular interest in trying to give that out in dribs and drabs. I have indicated that I am seeking a full report, as is the Premier, from the secretary of cabinet. We will have that information shortly and then I think we can respond in a particularly responsible manner.
Mr Scott: I don't accept that and I don't think the public does. I respect the minister as an honourable man. I know, having been a minister, that the first thing he would do if this information came to his attention only yesterday, as he said it did, is to go back and ask, especially as his staff interviewed in the press said, "Senior officials knew about it some time ago," and he wouldn't deny to us or the press that he went back and said, "When did you people first hear about this and why didn't you tell me?" Any minister in Canada would have done that or be judged incompetent.
What I want to get from you is what they told you when you asked them, "When did you first hear about this in the department?" If you can't answer the question, as I know you can, don't you understand you're implicated in the failure to answer it? When did they tell you they first heard about this?
Hon Mr Pilkey: First of all, I acknowledge the wonderful ability of the member opposite to characterize and to phrase questions to his own purpose. I think, however, as I've indicated, it is quite important that the factual account of this be put in a proper chronology and that it be available in a complete way.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): It's pretty difficult to swallow that response, especially when the minister says that he has acted very quickly in this matter. I was told yesterday and raised it in the House in respect of the fact that this incident occurred some time ago and was in fact kept under wraps within his ministry by officials within his ministry. There was a gang rape, apparently, in one of the provincial institutions that he's responsible for, and he asked for a report.
I believe, as I suspect the public at large believes, this is an outrageous situation. We demand a much more forthcoming response from the minister, an explanation in respect to whom he's dealt with, what happened within the ministry, within the upper reaches of the bureaucracy. I asked him earlier; I'll ask him again: Was his deputy minister or an assistant deputy minister within the ministry aware of this matter?
Hon Mr Pilkey: I can't respond to allegations. I think that is exactly the reason I have called for a police investigation into the matter and I think that situation should rest there until we do get a report from the police authorities.
Beyond that, I have indicated that a very detailed and factual chronology of events will be provided to me and further determinations can be made at that time, but until that time, the immediate actions of the police investigation are being undertaken. I think that's what's critical and important, the welfare of people, and of female employees in particular, who may have come to some difficulty or harm, or those who may be placed in that situation in the future. That's the primary focus; that's the primary issue. The question of who did what or who didn't do what in terms of the chronology of events is secondary, but that will be ascertained and it will be known.
Mr Runciman: Again, it's difficult to understand the minister responding in the way in which he is today. He made a statement earlier when he talked about two initiatives he's committed himself to: One is the police investigation and the other is assuring the privacy of the individuals touched by the allegations.
Apparently, by his responses today and by his failure to mention in his statement today mention the importance of the reasons behind the fact that this matter was not dealt with in an expeditious manner by ministry staff -- why was this matter not referred to the Hamilton police when these allegations first arose? Why did members of his ministry staff simply not refer these allegations to the police in Hamilton? That wasn't done either.
These are very serious concerns which the minister does not respond to in his statement, and he is hiding again this afternoon. He simply refuses. I ask him again: Was his deputy minister aware of this? Was the assistant deputy minister aware of this?
Mr Will Ferguson (Kitchener): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: When you stood up, after the minister had finished speaking, there were still eight seconds left on the clock. The member for St Catharines-Brock has a question she would like to pose today. I would like to suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that you interrupted as a result of the catcalls from the opposition and that she at least be allowed to put her question.
The Speaker: The member for Kitchener may have noticed that at the moment when I rose, it was to try to restore order in the chamber. Whenever that occurs, the clock continues to run. It's unfortunate. The only way you can proceed with a question beyond here would be if you sought the unanimous consent of the House.
"Whereas the British North America Act of 1867 recognizes the right of Catholic students to a Catholic education, and in keeping with this the province of Ontario supports two education systems from kindergarten to grade 12/OAC; and
"Whereas the Metropolitan Separate School Board is able to spend $1,678 less on each of its elementary school students, and $2,502 less on each of its secondary school students than our public school counterpart;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to act now and restructure the way in which municipal and provincial tax dollars are apportioned so that Ontario's two principal educational tax systems are funded not only fully but with equity and equality."
"Whereas the decision to prohibit the regions of the greater Toronto area from searching for landfill sites beyond their boundaries is contrary to the intent of the Environmental Assessment Act, subsection 5(3); and
"That the Legislature of Ontario repeal Bill 143 in its entirety, and allow a more democratic process for the consideration of future options for the disposal of greater Toronto area waste, particularly the consideration of disposal sites beyond the boundaries of the greater Toronto area, where a 'willing host' community exists that is interested in developing a new disposal system for greater Toronto area waste."
Mr Gordon Mills (Durham East): I have a petition from 150 people who live in the riding of Durham East. Their petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario says that they're not in favour of the environmental levy tax put on beer cans. Furthermore, they're against any levy that may be placed on soda cans. "These cans are 100% recyclable and are currently being recycled at a high rate. To impose this and any further tax on the canning industry will cripple the canning industry and send jobs south of the border."
"We are not in favour of the environmental levy tax put on beer cans. Furthermore, we are against any levy to be placed on soda cans. These cans are 100% recyclable and are currently being recycled at a high rate. To impose this and any further tax on the canning industry will cripple the canning industry and send jobs south of the border."
Mr W. Donald Cousens (Markham): I have another 2,000 signatures from the town of Markham with regard to the proposed landfill sites this government is trying to put in in 57 different locations around York region, Durham and Peel.
"We, the undersigned, hereby call on the government of Ontario to discontinue the consideration of locating waste disposal sites in Markham M6, the 11th concession south of Locust Hill, and waste disposal site Markham M3, located north of 16th Avenue between McCowan and Kennedy, and in all other areas that are located in the immediate vicinity of environmentally sensitive areas of York Region."
"Whereas the Interim Waste Authority has identified sites in the town that would consume large tracts of class 1 and 2 farm land, the areas identified by the Interim Waste Authority would severely disrupt the vibrant agricultural communities. The farm families in those areas have always continued to invest large sums of money in their farms. These communities would be destroyed by the Interim Waste Authority putting in a megadump; and
"Whereas the implementation of the arbitrator's report will lead to a destruction of the way of life enjoyed by the current residents of the county of Middlesex and will result in the remnant portions of Middlesex potentially not being economically viable,
"That the Legislature of Ontario reject the arbitrator's report for the greater London area in its entirety, condemn the arbitration process to resolve municipal boundary issues as being patently an undemocratic process and reject the recommendation of a massive annexation of land by the city of London."
Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): I have a petition signed by many residents in my constituency, people like Seth Caskey, Tom Bowden and Steve Smith. They say they are not in favour of the environmental levy tax put on beer cans. Furthermore, they are against any levy to be put on soda cans. "These cans are 100% recyclable and are currently recycled at a very high rate. To impose this and any further tax on the canning industry will cripple the canning industry and send jobs south of the border."
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario not to impose market value reassessment on the city of Toronto against the wishes of the people of Toronto, and to consider another method of property tax reform for Metro Toronto."
Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): I have a petition signed by 61 residents of the county of Middlesex. These residents include people from Glencoe, Kerwood, Strathroy, Parkhill, disparate parts of the county, and they respectfully request that the Legislature set aside the report of the arbitrator, Mr John Brandt, as it relates to the greater London area.
Further, Mr Speaker, by virtue of the fact that this petition was sponsored and circulated by the townships of the county of Middlesex, I would hope that those townships in that county would be just as concerned as we about the environment in Middlesex and the protection of agricultural land.
"Whereas the British North America Act of 1867 recognizes the right of Catholic students to a Catholic education, and in keeping with this the province of Ontario supports two educational systems from kindergarten to grade 12/OAC; and
"Whereas the Metropolitan Separate School Board educates more than 104,000 students across Metropolitan Toronto, and whereas these students represent 30% of the total number of students in this area, yet have access to just 20% of the total residential assessment and 9.5% of the pooled corporate assessment; and
"Whereas the Metropolitan Separate School Board is able to spend $1,678 less on each of its elementary school students and $2,502 less on each of its secondary school students than our public school counterpart;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to act now and restructure the way in which municipal and provincial tax dollars are apportioned, so that Ontario's two principal education systems are funded not only fully, but with equity and equality."
"Whereas Premier Rae has removed from members of the opposition the ability to properly debate and discuss legislation and policy in the Legislature by limiting the length of time a member may speak to only 30 minutes; and
"Whereas Premier Rae, who once defended the democratic rights of the opposition and utilized the former rules to full advantage in his former capacity as leader of the official opposition, has now empowered his ministers to determine unilaterally the amount of time to be allocated to debate bills they initiate; and
"Whereas Premier Rae has reduced the number of days that the Legislative Assembly will be in session, thereby ensuring fewer question periods and less access for the news media to provincial cabinet ministers; and
"Whereas Premier Rae has diminished the role of the neutral, elected Speaker by removing from that person the power to determine the question of whether a debate has been sufficient on any matter before the House; and
"Whereas Premier Rae has concentrated power in the Office of the Premier and severely diminished the role of elected members of the Legislative Assembly, who are accountable to the people who elect them,
"We, the undersigned, call upon Premier Rae to withdraw the rules changes imposed upon the Legislature by his majority government and restore the rules of procedure in effect previous to June 22, 1992."
"Whereas Premier Rae has removed from members of the opposition the ability to properly debate and discuss legislation and policy in the Legislature by limiting the length of time a member may speak to only 30 minutes; and
"Whereas Premier Rae, who once defended the democratic rights of the opposition and utilized the former rules to full advantage in his former capacity as leader of the official opposition, has now empowered his ministers to determine unilaterally the amount of time to be allocated to debate bills they initiate; and
"Whereas Premier Rae has reduced the number of days that the Legislative Assembly will be in session, thereby ensuring fewer question periods and less access for the news media to provincial cabinet ministers; and
"Whereas Premier Rae has diminished the role of the neutral, elected Speaker by removing from that person the power to determine the question of whether a debate has been sufficient on any matter before the House; and
"Whereas Premier Rae has concentrated power in the Office of the Premier and severely diminished the role of elected members of the Legislative Assembly, who are accountable to the people who elect them,
"We, the undersigned, call upon Premier Rae to withdraw the rules changes imposed upon the Legislature by his majority government and restore the rules of procedure in effect previous to June 22, 1992."
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 40, An Act to amend certain Acts concerning Collective Bargaining and Employment / Loi modifiant certaines lois en ce qui a trait à la négociation collective et à l'emploi.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I believe that yesterday Mr Kwinter had finished the debate and we were at the questions and comments period. Mr Kwinter is not here. Therefore, are there any other members who wish to participate in this debate?
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): Mr Speaker, before I commence my remarks I would like to request unanimous consent that for the duration of this debate we leave aside questions, comments and replies from speakers.
Mr Arnott: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I'm very pleased to rise today on behalf of the people of Wellington and as our party's small business advocate to speak to Bill 40, An Act to amend certain Acts concerning Collective Bargaining and Employment. I think the title of the bill should be An Act to expand Union Membership and give Unions the Power to take over Companies.
Bill 40, as we know, has caused a great deal of controversy in this province and among many groups and individuals. I hope to be able to bring forward some of the views the people of my riding have expressed to me over the course of the 30 minutes I have to make my presentation.
I will begin from the outset by expressing a considerable degree of frustration at having only 30 minutes to express the concerns of my constituents because, as we know, Bill 40 contains 32 separate amendments. It's a very lengthy omnibus bill, approximately 45 pages in length, with many significant changes. It's going to be very difficult to have the time to get into the specifics of my concerns. I'm afraid I'm going to restrict my comments to my general concerns about this bill because of the fact I don't have very much time.
I'd initially present the fact that the Progressive Conservative caucus is totally opposed to Bill 40, to these amendments to the Labour Relations Act and related amendments, because we believe that it is going to cause many job losses in Ontario. Many thousands of jobs will be lost as a result of this bill. We have made our position very clear, that we would scrap these amendments should we come to power in two to three years' time.
I'd like to give a couple of comments as to where I'm coming from with respect to this bill. My family's been in the heavy construction business for about 63 years. I grew up in that sort of family, a small family business. While I was going to university I financed my own way through university. I spent one summer at the Scarborough General Motors van plant. I was a card-carrying member of the United Auto Workers for that period of time and paid dues to that union.
I would like to get immediately into some letters. I don't normally do this in debates -- read letters from constituents into the record -- but in this instance I'm going to because I think their comments with respect to this debate are very compelling.
I will start off by reading a letter I have received from Graham Fiber Glass Ltd, from Robert B. Weeks, the president. He's written my colleague the member for Waterloo North, who's our party's Labour critic, and also sent a petition signed by 26 employees of this company. It's not just the employer who's concerned about Bill 40; the employees are concerned about their jobs. I will read the following submission from Mr Weeks:
"We support and admire your personal efforts in opposing the government's unneeded and very unwise proposals to amend the OLRA. The minister's proposals are creating a negative climate for new investment in manufacturing and driving away employers whose success is sensitive to cooperative labour relations. Jobs have been lost because of the added uncertainty over the future balance of forces in organized labour relations."
"Our company, along with the other 150 Homecare members across Ontario, comes under the heading of 'small business.' Individually, we do not contribute vast sums to the economy of Ontario, but collectively the small business companies in this province do provide a large percentage of the jobs, and the sales and services, that keep the economy of Ontario running. The proposed changes to the Ontario Labour Relations Act could significantly shift the balance of power between employers such as ourselves and organized labour. In these difficult times, the long-term effects on the economy of such proposals becoming law would be profound and devastating."
"If these proposals are enacted it could be disastrous to our province. If you frighten all the businesses away or squeeze the profit margin so that it is not worthwhile being in business, then many businesses will close or move out. Who then will provide work for all the people? How will the people have money to buy the goods produced by labour? It seems that you are going at things backwards.
"We believe in the rights of our employees and are fully aware it is in our interest to deal with our employees in a fair way. We are mainly small business entrepreneurs -- always at high risk -- and it appears that government has forgotten our legitimate rights.
"Please provide a signal to us that government is listening to our voice. You can do so by toning down or scrapping the proposed reform. The proposed changes as they impact on our industry are unnecessary at this time and will do much harm if passed."
"If ever there was a time for sensible people to stand up and be counted, it is now. The labour laws that Bob Rae's NDP government are determined to pass into law will give unions the power to completely control and ultimately crush free enterprise. Where is freedom when even owning your own business does not give a person control of their business and their lives? This NDP government seems to be concerned only with protecting the rights, freedoms and livelihoods of those who do not pay the bills. Where do they expect the money to come from once they've put us all out of business?
"Please, Mr Arnott, fight against this NDP government.... Help restore sound government and business practices in Ontario. Help honest, hard-working people, not unions. We won't be able to shoulder their heavy debt load for ever."
From Speare Seeds in Harriston, Ontario, comes a lengthy letter to the Minister of Labour talking about the effect that these proposals will have on agriculture, which is a very important component of the economy in Wellington. He starts off with a number of preliminary comments and he talks about the unique aspects of the agrifood sector:
"The agricultural industry is faced with conditions which make it very unique in nature. Significant seasonal demands are placed on agribusiness products and services and, in many cases, products handled and/or manufactured by the industry are perishable in nature. Agricultural producers have come to rely on the agribusiness sector for consistent quality and service, whether it be providing feed for livestock or receiving and drying grains or oilseeds."
He continues on: "Use of replacement workers: Because of the seasonal demands placed on the agrifood system and the reliance on the agribusiness sector for products and services, the proposal which restricts the use of replacement workers is of critical concern to our industry. Because of the seasonal nature of the grain elevator industry, a labour dispute during harvest could result in significant loss of revenue through the inability to provide essential services to the producer sector, simply because replacement workers could not be utilized to perform necessary operations."
The farm economy in Wellington and across the province does not adhere to the industrial model of labour relations that the government continues to put forward. There simply has to be a full exemption -- and I'm glad the Minister of Agriculture and Food is here -- from the Labour Relations Act for our farm community.
W. C. Wood Co Ltd, not in my riding but in the riding of Guelph, is an outstanding company that manufactures refrigerators and a number of other home appliances. It's a family company with hundreds of employees that has no union. They've gotten along just fine without one. John Wood has written the Minister of Labour, and I'll quote from his letter:
"It should be mandatory that employees have a right to a secret ballot vote on any decision to strike with the wording on the ballot being, 'Having received a full outline in writing of the current negotiations including details on the latest company offer, do you wish at this time to strike: yes/no?' Too often we see situations where employees have provided their union with the authority to call a strike if necessary, believing that no such strike will ever be called. This is unfair to the employees," unfair to the individual rights of the workers.
He continues: "We must recognize that no one wins during a strike." I would add to that that perhaps the union leaders win in a strike, but that's not Mr Wood's comment. "The strike usually proves costly to all concerned, the company, the union, the suppliers, the customers and, most importantly, the employees of both the company being struck and the suppliers and customers of the company being struck. The objectives should be as much as possible to reduce the number of strikes and, where strikes occur, the duration of the strike. To shorten the process, I believe employees should be entitled to receive updates weekly from both their union and their employer of the status of negotiations once a strike has started. Preferably the release should be a joint release. However, if this is not possible, separate releases should be obligatory."
Sensible suggestions from one of the prominent business people in my area. Another letter from W. C. Wood. As I said, there's no union there. Instead, they have a labour committee that works very well with management. This is a letter addressed to the minister from the labour committee. This is the employees of that big manufacturing company in Guelph expressing grave concern about Bill 40. It concludes with the following:
"We, the labour committee of W. C. Wood Co Ltd, strongly believe that individual rights to free speech and freedom of choice should not be diminished or transferred to organizations, be they businesses, governments, unions or other labour organizations," once again a concern that individual rights are being totally taken away because of Bill 40 in favour of these collective rights the government is claiming will be more advantageous to everybody, which we completely disagree with.
I have another letter here, from Norm Mainland, personnel manager of Monroe Auto Equipment Co of Canada, a big plant in Owen Sound, outside of my riding again, but they've sent this information to me and I'm going to voice it. They're a big plant with no union and with an excellent record of labour-management cooperation and harmony in that plant without the benefit of a union. Mr Mainland writes:
"We, as many other companies in our city, industry and province, are foreign-owned. What our owners are seeing in the last couple of years is a situation where the provincial government appears to have a distinct anti-business bias and a highly interventionist labour agenda. Various studies in the last few months have identified some consequences due to these perceptions which should be terrifying for the government; they certainly are for me as an individual employee. These studies have shown the potential loss to Ontario of hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in lost investment opportunity. Whether or not one believes the specific numbers presented by these studies, the fact that it was deemed the studies were needed means there is a problem. Ontario is perceived, by Canadian as well as foreign business, as presenting a climate unfriendly to business. It does not matter whether that perception is factual; business people will take action based on their perceptions. What's real to them is real to them. Revolution rather than evolution scares away the decision-makers."
"The labour movement is already very well served by our present Labour Relations Act. Why not be fair and keep the pendulum in the centre rather than swinging it far to one side. Six months ago we had 81 employees. Today we have 70 and contemplating further layoffs. We are not going to get these people back to work by giving prospective investors one more reason not to invest in Ontario."
I know I've gone through about 15 minutes of my time on those letters but I feel those comments are very, very important. The government would be very wise to listen to them. For the government to continue to maintain that when we speak in opposition to Bill 40 we're fearmongering and scaring away investment -- that is absolutely not true. The two ministers over there know it full well. We're voicing our concerns. It is the actions of this government that are driving away investment, as we all know.
"(4) The proposals fail to enhance workplace harmony by improving the parties' ability to resolve issues internally. Instead the proposals are likely to increase government or third-party intervention into the employment relationship.
Not only county council expressing its concern to me, but also 10 municipalities in my riding expressing concern: town of Fergus, town of Mount Forest, village of Arthur, village of Erin, township of Arthur, township of Pilkington, township of Maryborough, township of Peel, township of West Luther, township of Guelph -- all of these municipalities and their municipal councils passing resolutions opposed to Bill 40.
Over the course of the break, actually starting in November, I personally walked around to many of the small businesses in my riding, as many as I could get to. Whenever I had the opportunity I took these days from November to March, and I visited literally hundreds of small business people in my riding. I conducted a survey of their concerns. One of the questions I asked was whether they were in favour of amendments to the Labour Relations Act such as the government was proposing.
I received 161 responses, which I've already raised in the House, but I feel it's worth repeating: 98% of those responses indicated opposition to amendments to the Labour Relations Act as the government has presented them. Without a doubt the vast majority of people in my riding of Wellington are totally opposed to Bill 40.
We look across the province and see a poll that was released within the past week or so, Environics: 66% of the respondents believing that these proposals will cost jobs; 78% asking that more study be done, saying that more study is required before this government goes ahead with these proposals -- a very clear indication of public opinion in this province on this bill.
The government has been presented with the question many, many times: Why are we going ahead with these amendments to Bill 40? The government response has been consistent. The government has continued to say that there is a changing economy, there is a changing workplace, we have to update the act and there is a need for greater cooperation in labour-management relations, greater harmony in the workplace. I agree that there is need for greater harmony and greater cooperation in our workplace. I don't think anyone in this House disputes that. We all know that in order to be competitive in the world economy, increasingly we're going to have to be more cooperative in every way in our society.
I agree that the economy in Ontario has changed significantly in the last five years and that there is some requirement for new approaches in this place and in our government and so on, but we must question whether Bill 40 is the answer to foster this greater cooperation.
We have seen a response from many sectors in this province to Bill 40 that would indicate that it is very unlikely that this is going to create any more cooperation in any place in Ontario. I can't see how the government can continue to put forward that view with any credibility. It has still not established why it is going ahead with these proposals.
I was at a labour law forum in Halton Hills, I guess a week and a half ago, and the member for Brantford was there speaking on behalf of the government. There was a representative from the Ontario Federation of Labour and a representative from the CFIB, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. We went through a number of different questions. We each had a chance for opening comments; we had questions. One of the last questions, asked by a person who took the time to come to this forum the day before Canada Day, on a long weekend, was, "Why are you going ahead with these amendments?"
The government still has not established why. So what are we to conclude except that the real reason is to empower union bosses in a payback for all the years of support the unions have given the NDP and, before that, the CCF? We can draw no other conclusion, and that's the conclusion we've drawn.
On the other side, who is in support of these amendments? We see, of course, that the NDP caucus is supportive of these amendments. I'm not surprised. The unions are supportive of these amendments. I've received a couple of letters asking me to support these amendments, not from constituents, but actually from people from Guelph. Guelph and District Labour Council was urging me to support these amendments. The union leadership in my area was asking me to support these amendments. I did not receive mail from any worker, that I can recall, indicating that they felt they required these amendments and urging me to do so. I do not recall any letter to that effect.
We must ask, what will be the impact of Bill 40 on our economy? Ernst and Young, one of the most respected accountancy firms in Ontario, a firm the government has employed for various studies, has done an extensive study on Bill 40 and has concluded there is a potential for significant job loss if Bill 40 is enacted into law. They are talking about 295,000 jobs that may be lost if this goes through. They are also talking about $9 billion of private investment -- every dollar, probably, creating jobs in this province -- that will be forgone as a result of this bill.
We have consistently requested that the minister present us with his own impact study of this bill, because we assume he is not so foolish as to not have; we assume he has done one and that he has that information. His reluctance to disclose that information leads us to believe that it confirms this result. We have grave concerns that thousands and thousands of jobs will be lost as a result of this bill.
When the minister refuses to divulge any factual information of any impact study, what are we to conclude except to go on the information we have, which is an independent study that has been done? I know he's put forward the view that there are a lot of assumptions that are required and that the economic model is difficult to do, but we have to go with the best information we can obtain if we're going to make a sound, reasonable judgement on this issue. This is the only evidence we have. It's objective evidence and it causes great concern in Ontario.
The number one issue today in Ontario is that of jobs and the concern about the job losses we have had over the past number of months as a result of the recession. Every government initiative that is coming forward has to have applied to it a litmus test: Will this initiative cost jobs or will it help in the creation of new jobs? That's my view, and in this circumstance I think this litmus test that we must apply to Bill 40 shows that Bill 40 will cost a lot of jobs, without question. I would say it's no exaggeration to say that literally thousands of jobs will be lost as a result of the passage of Bill 40.
I'm our party's Tourism and Recreation critic, and I want to speak very briefly on how this Bill 40 will affect the tourism and hospitality industry in Ontario. Our tourism industry is very, very important to our economy and we ignore it at our peril as policymakers. We must understand that in the tourism sector, they rely on excellent service, goodwill and professional hospitality in order to get repeat business.
There must be a team concept at every tourist resort so that management and labour work in harmony towards the common goal of keeping the customer satisfied, and hopefully encouraging the customer to come back. Hopefully the customer leaves with a perception that he had an excellent holiday, an excellent vacation or an excellent business trip, tells his friends and colleagues that he really enjoyed that vacation, and he returns. The threat of a disruption of service at a tourist destination can be devastating to a tourist facility or resort.
Again, the tourism industry does not maintain an inventory of any kind. It's not an industrial factory. There is no inventory maintained and there is a very dynamic market. There are fluctuations in the demand for the tourism product. If you have more tourists coming in, you need more people, and the labour force in the tourism industry has to be extremely flexible to respond to that.
Any threat of a disruption of service can be devastating to a restaurant or a hotel or a motel or anything of that sort, because it demonstrates to the customer that the place is not a good place to go and it makes it very, very difficult for it to get repeat business. In fact many restaurants that have in the past faced disruption of service, a strike, for example, close within a week's time, because their cash flow is that tight.
A reliable and a productive staff in a tourist destination, in a tourist place, is very essential for continued business, and I believe the vast majority of tourism operators ensure that they have good, harmonious relationships with their staff, because it's in their interest to do so.
I'd like to quote from Tourism Ontario with respect to Bill 40. Tourism Ontario of course is the major tourism interest group. "Regrettably, most of the proposed OLRA reforms are nothing short of 'an agenda for organized labour.'"
With Bill 40, we are seeing a government that is totally embracing collective rights at the expense of individual rights. The collective right of the union is paramount; the individual rights of the union membership are insignificant and will be totally discarded.
We see with Bill 40 the loss of petition right for an individual in a union who wants to get out of the union, to change his mind, to say, "The union's not representing my interests so I'm going to petition against it." That's lost.
We see the absence of a secret ballot requirement, an absolute requirement for every ballot that's taken to be done in secret, for certification, for strike votes, for ratification of contracts and for decertification -- again a very important individual right that should be in place in our labour law that the government is totally ignoring and saying: "We're not going to have individual rights any more in the workplace. They're all collective rights and the union is going to represent you whether you like it or not."
Our party, in opposition, has made great efforts to put forward alternative courses of action for this government to follow. We believe that in opposition we have a responsibility and an obligation to demonstrate the downside of the initiatives the government is bringing forward, but we also have a responsibility to put forward positive alternatives. We take that very seriously and we have done that in every instance that has come to our attention in this place.
Our party has put forward this position, and I totally endorse it with respect to what we're saying, and the people of my riding I believe are totally in favour of this position, that there immediately be a full, independent impact study commissioned and publicly released for further discussion in all sectors of our economy and, if the minister is sitting there and if he's done his own impact study, I'm saying to him now that he should release it for the sake of letting people know what impact he knows Bill 40 is going to have on Ontario.
If the impact study demonstrates that the effect of Bill 40 is going to be negative, if there is going to be any significant job loss whatsoever, these proposals should be shelved for further consideration; these proposals should be put on the back burner on the shelf. Then a tripartite commission should be established with representatives from government, labour and business to give this issue further discussion. Not only labour law changes; they should also be concerned about how we enhance our competitiveness in this world economy, this world market we're into right now, that is going to be the future in the next century.
How do we foster innovation in our companies leading towards enhanced productivity so that our companies can compete? How do we establish greater cooperation and harmony in the workplace so that all parties are working together towards the common goal? How do we make sure our training in Ontario is the best in the world, that we can enhance the training in our workplace, our schools, our community colleges and universities?
I have a very brief time left, Mr Speaker, but the people of my riding of Wellington are totally opposed to this bill. They're very, very concerned. The people in my riding who create the jobs or who work for small companies have grave concerns that Bill 40 is going to further damage our economy and they're totally opposed to this. I urge the government to please listen to what I have said this afternoon and reconsider its position on Bill 40.
Ms Sharon Murdock (Sudbury): I'm very pleased to speak today on Bill 40, mostly because I firmly believe it's long needed for the province of Ontario and also because I think people have talked about tilting the balance in favour of labour. That's working on the presumption that what exists is already in balance. I don't believe that anyone who has ever walked a picket line can ever believe there is a balance.
Before I begin my remarks in regard to the 10 significant changes that have been made in the present amendment, I would like to comment on the Globe and Mail article as well as the Toronto Star article that appeared today. I have to give great thanks to Mr Robert Sheppard and Mr Thomas Walkom for the information they are now disseminating. They respond to some of the things I've just heard today. For instance, on the impact study, Mr Sheppard says:
"Last week, for example, construction bosses got together to argue that Ontario should put the bill on hold until 'proper studies' on its impact can be conducted by 'independent researchers.' That should take a lifetime and a thousand or so economists."
That is no doubt the truth, because you can't do an impact study in reality on this until it's already been in place for a while and you have been able to make some judgements as to how many are going to actually opt to unionize. That's what this bill is: It is choice. You have the choice to form a union if you wish. There is nothing to say, as we are led to believe by the opposition, that the day after this becomes law suddenly everybody in the province is going to be unionized and that every small business in this province is going to be unionized, because that is just not the case.
In terms of Mr Walkom's article, I have to read a particular point he made, one by Mr David Turnbull, who made a point in the House on Monday, "He suggested that unions be required by law to hold a secret ballot before striking -- again as is done in Quebec."
The reality of these amendments, if some of you would take the time to read them, is that you cannot access the replacement worker provision unless you have a 60% strike vote. Therefore, it makes sense that you cannot have replacement workers' provisions unless you have had a mandatory strike vote. That's first and foremost.
"Unions are not radical. They are essentially conservative organizations which help maintain a middle class that is solid and stable. It is no accident that the world's two most economically dynamic, socially conservative -- and middle-class -- nations, Japan and Germany, are extensively unionized.
This was a process that began over a year ago -- in fact January 1990; I've mentioned that in the House before -- when the labour and management committee was asked to look at how it would change the Ontario Labour Relations Act if it could. We came back with two reports unfortunately, and one of them got the most media coverage and the hysteria that resulted from that. Since then, the ministry has received numerous calls and visits. The minister and the deputy minister have met with hundreds of different groups, both business and labour. From that input, they developed a consultation document, which came out last November.
Following that, we then did the hearings through January and February. There were 48 areas of discussion in that discussion document. I want you to keep that number in mind because it becomes important as we proceed through the other materials that have transpired thus far. Either the minister or myself or both of us sat through all of the consultations. We had over 300 presentations made to us, the majority of which were from the employer groups, and we listened. We did; we listened. Those consultations were of great benefit, despite the comments I've been hearing throughout this debate.
Over and over again, we were told that the consultations were nothing but a sham. The opposition has told us that we didn't listen and that the entire process was meaningless. Well, I don't like wasting my time. I said that yesterday when I was in the House speaking on the time allocation bill. Frankly if I sat through consultations that started at 8 o'clock in the morning and ended at 9:30 at night every night for two months, I would hate to think I had wasted my time that meaninglessly.
From those consultations, we moved into setting up some kind of legislation in the language that we needed for the legislation. When we looked at those amendments and decided how we were going to transpose what was in the consultation paper into language for Bill 40, I believe it shows exactly how we did listen to the employers when they told us of the significant impact these laws were going to have on their businesses. This is how we looked at impact, by listening to the presenters who came before us. There were over 22 changes made from the discussion paper. Some were deletions, some were additions and some were amendments to the basic ideas, and all because we listened to what the people said.
The member for Scarborough-Agincourt has mentioned the number of amendments that exist in the present Bill 40, which is 32, and yet of those 32 amendments, 22 of those came from, were altered, were added or were deleted as a result of the consultation discussions.
What I'm hoping to do today in the time allotted to me is to look at the 10 most significant amendments. Frankly from some of the comments that have been made in the House, I wonder whether or not all of the members have read the amendments, because they continually refer to things that have already been changed in Bill 40. Most significant changes were based predominantly on the concerns expressed by the many employer groups which appeared before us. I'm going to do this in two ways, so I hope everyone's paying attention. I'm going to do what was in the consultation document and then what is now in Bill 40.
First is the inclusion of supervisors to be able to form unions. That was in the consultation paper. We were going to allow supervisors to form their own unions or form within the union that existed. Now that the amendments are out, that supervisor exclusion is retained, and it is kept in the Ontario Labour Relations Act because the concern was expressed most clearly by all of the employer groups, and in every one of the submissions you'll see this as one of their comments. It was most strongly expressed by the auto companies; it was a major issue for them. To have the opposition now tell us that the consultations were cosmetic goes beyond the pale.
The second area of major change is the access to the employer's property for the purposes of organizing. We were going to allow that in the consultation papers. It has been removed entirely now in the amendments. It is not a consideration.
That entire issue was of grave concern to the employer groups that appeared before us. Views were stated that the work and the work site were going to be severely disrupted if we allowed organizers to walk in at will and try to organize to form a union. We agreed that it would cause some disruption and the entire section on access for organizing on the work site was removed. To me, that's proof once again that the consultations were not a mere sham, as has been told to us time and again in this House.
The third area that was in the consultation discussion paper -- and I've heard it mentioned three or four times in the four days of debate we've had on this -- is that the names and addresses of employees were to be provided upon notification of application.
We heard the right-to-privacy argument, we heard that individual rights were being denied to the employee, that we would be giving out their names and addresses willy-nilly, that we should not have that right, the unions have no right to access, and we listened to them, because we've removed it entirely from the amendments in Bill 40.
Time and time again we said that the union organizers were going to have to operate the same way they have been doing in the past years, yet we're still hearing that this is a requirement existing in Bill 40, and it is not. I can only assume again that some members haven't had time to read the bill yet.
The fourth major change was the 50% plus one, which we had in the consultation paper. The existing act, the Ontario Labour Relations Act, is 55%. We have maintained the 55% threshold for automatic certification. It's maintained as is and we have deleted entirely the 50%-plus-one provision.
This was a very, very big issue with the business community. They felt the 55% at least would indicate that more than half wanted to form a union, and again, we listened to those concerns and we made the change, or, as in this case, we left it as it is.
The fifth change, the definition of "strike," was that we were looking at the whole definition of "strike" and whether or not that should be changed in the discussion paper. This would mean, had we gone forward with what the consultation paper discussed, we would have then allowed unions to negotiate in their collective agreements the right to refuse to cross the picket line or the right not to handle struck goods.
That raised particular concerns in the auto industry and the delivery of products to the auto industry and that, had unions been allowed to continue to do that, it would have caused major problems. As a consequence, the definition of "strike" has not been expanded. It is left the same. Neither of those concepts can be negotiated into collective agreements.
So we did listen, once again, to what would impact on business operations and business concerns. To say that we haven't listened is totally erroneous, and I take strong, strong exception to being told that we wasted our time.
What we decided to do was that we took a compromise position. It's certainly something that I think is livable and workable. It is a 60% mandatory strike vote. Basically what that allows is that if the union wants to access the replacement worker provisions, then it must show it had a mandatory strike vote and achieved at least 60%. If they do not get 60% of the strike vote, then they have no access to the replacement workers. It would strike me as making eminent good sense that if you can't get 60% of a strike vote, then in all likelihood you should rediscuss some of the positions you've been taking.
The presentations were made constantly through the discussions over narrow strike vote situations, and that's what we tried to alleviate or resolve with the 60% number. From the consultations, the amendment basically states that, as I've stated, if you don't have a 60% strike vote, you can't access the replacement worker provisions, and I think the replacement worker provisions, as I'll get into, are extremely important.
The seventh area of change was in discussions to look at what constituted an essential service. This was not one of our preferred options. If any of you looked at the discussion paper or the consultation paper, some were preferred options and some were just open for discussion, and this was a discussion area as to what constituted an essential service. We found out through consultations, particularly with utility companies, that they were most unhappy that it was in a discussion aspect rather than in a more certain form. They asked us to put something together with more certainty as to what constitutes an essential service. They also wanted some flexibility in determining what those services would be and what would not specifically be included.
That isn't all we did in that section. Because of the comments that were made to us in the discussions and consultations, we emphasized that the stakeholders are to work on a joint agreement prior to any labour dispute. In other words, they sit down and discuss something, encouraging parties to negotiate what is an essential service in their operations and how those services would be continued during a strike or lockout. Then that joint agreement would be in place should a labour dispute ever occur and it would be made prior to any altercation.
This amendment shows once again that the consultations were not a sham. Indeed, all parties were heard and alterations were made on the basis of what we heard. Included in that amendment is the protection of property from damage or deterioration as being one of the considerations, and protection of health and safety during a strike, all of which are important and all of which were mentioned time and again during the consultation process.
The eighth issue we looked at is the agricultural provisions. We had them in the discussion paper, but it became quite evident soon after we started that they were a separate entity. Therefore, shortly after the consultation process began, the minister called forth a task force to look at the agricultural situation alone, to examine with the stakeholders sitting at the table as to how they would make recommendations to continue, change or amend the agricultural exclusion, whether that exclusion or part should be renewed or ongoing. Again, this is an example once more of how we listened to the people whom this bill will most affect. Then you have your rural caucus colleagues who said this was really important and we should look at it separately.
The purpose clause: We heard a lot about this during the consultation paper discussions, mostly because there was one section in the consultation paper that used the wording that terms and conditions could be changed. The presenters who came before us were quite concerned over the idea of a third party or the Ontario Labour Relations Board or a mediator being able to make changes to their collective agreements without their input and say-so. They were interpreting this section as meaning that, so there was a clarification needed. We did that.
Also, because of that section, the purpose clause was focusing more on interpretation rather than process. So now in Bill 40 we've focused on the process of the collective bargaining process as suggested by those who came before us.
Employers told us in all the presentations that there was no reference anywhere in the consultation document to productivity. That's not quite true, because in the preamble we certainly spent a lot of time talking about how the workplace has changed, how the work sites in Ontario have changed, how the people who constitute the workforce have changed and how productivity levels have to increase and how we have to change our whole method of operations and thinking and working together. So we did talk about productivity, but not in the sense that the employer groups which came before us said.
As a consequence, we realized from the hearings that that was a key and that it was going to have to be mentioned. So within the purpose clause that now is in Bill 40 in the amendments, you will see that there is one section that is geared strictly to the productivity aspect. It is now in the revised purpose clause.
I think, too, that anyone who has looked at and makes a comparison of the consultation document and the amendment will find that indeed we did listen and that this was not a waste of everybody's time and a sham process.
The 10th item, where we made a significant change again, is not in the discussion paper, but it came up many times in the presentations that were made before us. This is where it allows non-supervisory, non-bargaining-unit employees to do struck work. It was a stated concern by a number of the presenters. They asked us if we would reconsider the concerns which would allow people who weren't in the striking union to do struck work if it came to pass.
I guess probably the easiest example to offer -- I'll use my home town, Falconbridge. If the miners went out on strike, the clerical workers -- which to me would be ludicrous, to ask them to run equipment and machinery -- could be asked to perform some of the functions, if it required pushing buttons and did not cause a health and safety concern. Now under the amendments, this would be allowed. Having said that, you couldn't then replace the worker who is doing the struck work.
Obviously, this would have to be done with cooperation. It would have to be done with the agreement of the worker and the employer. But it does allow some flexibility for the employer, which was one of the things they asked us to consider.
This suggestion came, again, from the consultation process, which the members opposite continue to call a sham and a waste of time. I honestly don't believe the presenters who made these suggestions considered that their ideas were either useless or a waste of our time. They came forward and talked to us because they believed we would listen to them. I believe we have shown by the amendments that we have. In fact, we've proven by all these changes that they didn't come before us for nothing.
There are a number of other modifications based on what we heard throughout the consultations. As I said, there were 22 basic changes throughout. It is important. I know the members opposite sometimes have a hard time believing that two months of hearings are not part of the process. It may not be part exactly of this Legislative process, in terms of the speed at which this is going to be passed. But it is certainly a process where hundreds of people were given the opportunity to appear before us. No doubt, we will be hearing many more in the weeks to come during the hearings we're about to go into.
I wanted to focus today in my speech in my portion of the debate on the changes that we have made and on the fact that we have listened. I urge everyone who wants any information to call us. Actually, just read your local newspapers and you'll hear the real story.
Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): As I start to speak on Bill 40, I want to say that I deeply regret and deeply resent being forced by this government to participate in what is really a truncated debate on a matter of very serious importance to the entire province and indeed to the entire country. Bill 40 will change not only the nature of the relationship between employee and employer, but it will have an economic impact that will be reflected not only in Ontario but throughout Canada.
In both those areas, even in its current status, the bill has already triggered a negative response. The government is clearly aware of that, and that negative reaction is coming not only from small towns in Ontario and from large cities, whether it's Stratford or Milton or Renfrew, but it's also coming from international investment capitals, from New York, from London, from Tokyo, from Frankfurt and from Zurich.
I've seen the reports that investment managers, that investment bankers are placing on the table. We know -- and I know the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology is concerned about this issue -- that just as capital knows no international boundary, neither does communications, and the communications across the international capital network about this piece of legislation, each one of those communications independent of the other, beat this same message on very sophisticated drums, and what that message is saying is, "Avoid Ontario."
If the government hadn't unilaterally and deliberately limited debate on this bill by changing the rules that govern the way the Legislature operates and the opportunity for a thorough discussion of the elements of the bill, a fuller discussion and perhaps a fuller understanding could have taken place, with proper feedback from our various constituencies, with analysis of the perceived and real impacts of the implementation of this bill, with the placing of the argumentation of the various sectors which will be most directly affected, with the juxtaposition of this legislation in the confluence of economic factors that are affecting the very way we do business in Ontario.
Through the debate on this bill I've listened to much vacuous nonsense, frankly, from government members about how this bill will improve occupational health and safety or how this bill will improve women's equality in the workplace or how this bill will change the equitable place of workers from ethnic minorities in the workplace. We know Bill 40 does none of those things, and no one who has any interest in this bill or any knowledge of Bill 40 can do other than shake his head in disbelief at those claims. What those people who have done work on the bill and who have studied the bill say is that either the government members haven't read it or they don't understand it.
Then we've heard that those who oppose the bill, in whole or in part, that those who have reservations about sectoral impacts or the economic costs of the bill, that those who say they haven't been heard or don't expect to be heard, that those who've written or spoken about the provisions in a negative way, those people are engaged in a campaign of terror, those people are scaremongering.
What those people are hearing is that there is no place for dissent and no way to be heard, and there's no confidence that with all the legitimacy that can be mustered in putting the arguments forward associated with the concerns, any further changes to the bill will be made. The sense is that Bill 40 is a fait accompli and that neither the government nor any government member has any understanding of its full repercussions; that this bill, which goes further and faster and creates a malbalance between labour and management that exists in no other jurisdiction, will in fact proceed with no changes; that the cherry-picking that has taken place in putting this piece of legislation together from several other jurisdictions in toto will leave Ontario in a place that separates it from its competing jurisdictions; that in fact this bill will separate Ontario from its competition.
I particularly want to turn to the cherry-picking that has been associated with the agricultural sector as one example. Despite the establishment of a Task Force on Agricultural Labour Relations last January, the government, it appears, couldn't wait to get its own view of how agricultural workers should be organized not only on the table but into law.
On June 4, 10 days before the task force reported, the Minister of Labour introduced Bill 40, and the sections relating to the agricultural sector had been cherry-picked from British Columbia, from Quebec and from New Brunswick. There were no changes such as the member for Sudbury referred to, and there's no recognition of the fact that in each of those places, the structure of agriculture is fundamentally different in significant ways than it is in Ontario. None the less, without notice, Bill 40 proposed to change the application of the Labour Relations Act, which previously excluded those employed in agriculture, hunting, trapping and horticulture, but will now apply to a person employed in such class of agricultural or horticultural operations as may be prescribed by the regulations, according to the new act.
The government couldn't wait 10 days for the task force report. It introduced rule changes to shorten the debate on the act itself, and it introduced the act itself 10 days before the agricultural task force could report. That Ontario farmers are struggling against bankruptcy daily was ignored. That farm production is a continuous process operation that demands uninterrupted harvest operations was ignored. That the product of farm operations is perishable was ignored. That cattle and pigs and sheep and horses and deer must be fed, watered, groomed and cared for 24 hours a day, 52 weeks a year, year in and year out, was ignored. That seasons and sun and rainfall are key determinants of the workplace in the agricultural sector was ignored. Instead, arbitrarily, 10 days before a report was presented by the very people who were requested to study the issue, agriculture and horticulture are included in the act through regulation.
I've been astonished, as I've listened to the debate, that no one in government has raised this issue in discussion on the bill. No one has talked about the task force report. The only acknowledgement in this House that an entire sector was now to be affected by the act, with all the implications accruing to the agricultural and horticultural industries, was contained in a response by the Minister of Labour to a question put by the member for S-D-G & East Grenville. The minister said, "We are still looking at what the final draft will be in terms of the recommendations the committee seems to have agreed upon."
I understand if the minister, representing an urban riding, has no particular appreciation of nor a particular attachment to agriculture. If he thinks that chocolate milk comes from Jersey cows, that's fine with me. On the other hand, it's more than 30 days since the Task Force on Agricultural Labour Relations reported. We will not have that same amount of time to debate this bill in the Legislature. In fact, in total for the entire discussion of the bill, we will have less than half that time.
It seems to me that if the entire debate on second reading of this bill, the agreement in principle, is limited to four or five days, the minister can respond at the very least to the task force's primary recommendations, which have been on the table for well over a month. I'd like to tell you what they are.
Why does it take the minister longer to make those decisions than he expects the chamber to take in making its decisions on the entire package of Bill 40? How does he have the nerve to say to members and to the public that he will judge that enough has been said in debate on this bill when one of the singular new initiatives which he's put on the table is surrounded by a massive "No comment" from the minister himself, and when an entire sector that has been a partner in the consultative process, the only one that I can see that has clearly worked, can't get an answer that's clear and definite from the minister?
I hope that before debate concludes on this part of the reading of the bill, the minister will respond fully to the issues I've put in relation to the agricultural task force. Farmers across Ontario need a response from the minister and want a response from the minister. Will he commit in this chamber publicly to a separate agricultural labour act and will he concur with the task force that farmers and agricultural workers should have the right to organize but not to strike? I hope to hear the answer to that today and I know the agricultural sector wants to hear the answer to that today.
I want to move to the environment of the bill, which is the economy of today and the shape of the economy tomorrow. As I do that, I want to refer for a moment to Canada at the Crossroads, a study by Dr Michael Porter from the Harvard Business School prepared for the Business Council on National Issues and the government of Canada. In his study, Dr Porter talked about the reality of a new competitive environment. The study was produced in October 1991.
His research talked about how government can improve or detract from our national competitive advantages. In Ontario, a province that has been in a clear economic downslide since September 1990, the role of the provincial government, in contributing to our competitive advantage, is crucial. Porter says:
"Government policy should be directed to building the skills, research infrastructure, and other inputs on which all firms draw. Through regulations, tax legislation, competition policies and policies in other areas, government should seek to fashion an environment that supports upgrading and productivity growth."
For labour, Porter makes some very specific recommendations for positive ways of influencing economic and social growth and change. I'd like to bring some of those implications to your attention. The first is the focus on productivity. Porter reports:
"Canadian unions have sometimes been hostile to the imperative of productivity improvement, seeing it as a threat to jobs or a veiled attempt to reduce wages and benefits. To varying degrees, they've resisted developments geared to achieving higher productivity -- such as workforce reorganization, multiskilling, and compensation systems more closely tied to performance. Today more than ever before, the future viability of many Canadian industries and firms depends on their success in upgrading productivity. Unions can make an important contribution by assisting firms to identify and remove obstacles to productivity improvement, by pressing for job enhancement and flexibility, and by supporting advancement based on training and merit."
Porter goes on to speak about unions' role in skills upgrading and about more cooperative labour-management relations, where he says, "Shifts in production technologies and increasing competition call for a deeper re-evaluation of a traditional labour-management framework." He indicates that:
"For their part, unions should embrace opportunities to participate in firm planning and encourage more information exchange. If Canadian industry is to compete successfully in the future, labour must move beyond its traditional and deeply rooted inclination to see management as the 'opposing team.'"
It seems to me that this legislation once again pits management against labour as opposing teams. A government with close ties to organized labour, such as the New Democratic Party, it also seems to me, had a real opportunity to provide inspiring leadership and goal definition and to influence organized labour leadership to play a real leadership role in the revitalization of our economy.
Just as the government has turned to out-of-date and hackneyed technologies and ideologies in dealing with waste management issues, so it has adopted, through Bill 40, the least constructive, most out-of-date approach to labour-management relations. It looks to and will encourage sour confrontation, creating a deliberate imbalance between employer and employee, and takes its lead from the past rather than from the future.
Two nights ago, the member for Wilson Heights talked about the reaction of the major international community to the approach of this government in labour-management relations. In my view, there was so much to gain and so much that's been lost in the drafting of this bill.
Ms Dianne Poole (Eglinton): I am particularly appreciative of the opportunity to speak in the debate today. Although I will only be taking a few minutes to do so because many of my colleagues also want that opportunity, I am particularly appreciative, because a number of my colleagues will not have any opportunity to speak because of the closure motion brought by the NDP government.
When it comes right down to it, I can't believe that with our economy in a shambles, with businesses going bankrupt daily, with record numbers on the unemployment line, the government honestly believes that labour reform is the most vital and most pressing issue it has to deal with today. I cannot honestly believe that. To be polarizing labour and management at such a crucial time is not only foolhardy, I believe it is irresponsible. At no time in our history has it been so important for labour and management to work together if we are to be competitive, if we are to thrive, and indeed if we are even to survive.
Earlier in the spring I did a survey of my constituents and I asked them a series of five questions. Unlike the questionnaires and the surveys put out by the Premier and the Minister of Citizenship, my surveys did not ask, "Do you think the NDP is really great, great or really fine?" They had a little bit more depth to them. They asked about issues that are important, such as the economy, such as Sunday shopping, such as a universal system of day care, such as the deficit.
One of the questions I asked was: "The NDP government is planning major changes to Ontario's labour laws. Do you feel unions should have more power, less power, the same power or undecided?" The results were quite an eye-opener for me. When I did an analysis of the results, I found that the overwhelming opinion of my constituents, the people who live in north Toronto, the people of Eglinton, was that this was not necessary. In fact, according to the constituents in my riding, 67% felt unions should have less power, 22% felt they should have the same power, 4% felt they should have more power and 7% were undecided.
My summer student, Bart Nickerson, did some graphs which I think illustrate very well how overwhelming their opinion was in this matter. This dark section shows 67% of my constituents felt that unions should have less power; you add on the 22% that said they should have the same power, and that makes a total of 89% of my constituents who felt that unions should not have more power. This was not just an isolated survey. This was a survey that went out with my householder to every constituent in my riding: 1,701 responses. Of that, 1,137 replied that they should have less power.
I think that is indicative of many parts of the province. The issue right now is not whether we should have labour legislation or whether we should be increasing the power of unions. That is not the issue. The issue for my constituents and many constituents across this province is: "Do I have a job? What do I have to do to get a job? How can business help me get a job? How can the government help?" I can tell you, this legislation is not the answer. That we are polarizing the groups at the very time when we need to work together, to me, as I said, is irresponsible and unforgivable. If there were a crying need, then I could understand it, but that need has not been expressed.
Not only that, this government has not done impact studies. In fact, they have not done any studies, or none that they are prepared to reveal to us. So how can we just take the government's word that this legislation is necessary? How can we take their word that we will not lose jobs, that we will not lose our competitive position?
I can tell you, I don't trust the government in what it's saying. I wish they had not decided to cut off debate, to cut off members of the opposition from speaking their piece, but because they have, we will have very little opportunity left to halt this train until they can rethink their position. I think this is a sad day for this province.
I was on the subway the other morning on my way to this place, and it was rush hour. The subway car was packed with people. In fact it was so packed with people that when we got to Bloor Street the doors couldn't close. For those members who don't habitually take the subway, I would recommend it; it's an experience, and it's a humbling experience. When I looked down that subway car, I saw that there are about four entrance doors in every car and about eight little sections in the car and each section seats around 20 people; there might be 80 or 100 people on that subway car.
I started to think about this labour bill and I started to think about a survey that said if this labour bill becomes law in the form it now is in, 295,000 people will be out of work. The minister doesn't like that what he describes as a report or a survey, but the fact is that it exists. It's an opinion and it's a very authoritative opinion. I started to think that if that report is even 50% right -- or 50% wrong, whatever way you want to look at it -- the subway car I was riding in could be empty, as would the car beside that and the car behind that and maybe the next train and maybe the train after that and several trains.
If this survey is correct, it would be the equivalent of virtually half of the city of North York, which is the fourth-largest municipality in Canada; having half its citizens unemployed, unemployed because of a labour bill that is not going to promote the economy in the province of Ontario.
Quite frankly, I find that a very alarming, shocking report. I've got to tell you, that report and the conclusions it comes to blow me away: the enormity of 295,000 people losing their jobs because of a single piece of legislation. I shudder when I look at that report, and it says that it's right within 66,000 jobs 19 times in 20. That is just a shocking, frightening statistic, and if that statistic is only 50% correct, we're only going to lose 150,000 jobs.
I can't believe that this minister has sat in this Legislature since September 1991 and not disclosed to us any economic impact studies he has to say this legislation will not create that result. I've gone through Hansard and I find the answers the minister has given to be not at all reassuring.
On September 23, 1991: "Could the minister tell this House what impact studies the government has done to determine how many further jobs will be lost as a result of the minister's labour proposals?" The minister's answer: "I would hope that the leader of the third party has as much respect for all sides of this equation, including workers, as I do."
Nobody doubts for a single second the respect this minister has for workers. That's not the issue. The issue is, how many of those workers are going to be out of jobs because of this piece of legislation? Certainly that answer by the minister didn't answer the question.
On November 26, two months later: "Will the minister tell us today whether this government has conducted an economic impact study on the labour law changes? If not, can he tell us why he refuses to do so when so many potential jobs are threatened?" The answer: "I think the member is aware that there have been no real studies done to date at all. The studies she is referring to from business are really surveys of their members and not thorough studies of the issues before us."
If that's the case, and that was going back to November 1991, why has this minister not done that thorough study? Why has he not undertaken this? Why, if he has undertaken it, has he not disclosed it to the people of Ontario? Why has he not allayed those fears? I can't abide the fact that this hasn't been done and I can't abide the fact that there are 295,000 workers in this province who may be out of work because of this legislation.
In October 1991, it was put to the minister: "The result is that an astounding 250,000 jobs are at risk. What does the minister have to say about that?" The minister's response is: "The statements and comments he makes certainly do not lead one to believe one could get a fair consultation process with his way of doing things." "Since the minister did not do his own study, does he agree with the results provided by the independent firm of Ernst and Young?" He says, "What the leader of the third party should understand is that what we need and will try to do with the consultation paper is constructive dialogue between the parties, not the scare tactics currently being used."
You can dismiss what Ernst and Young says as "scare tactics," but Ernst and Young doesn't make its reputation by being wrong. Ernst and Young is an international management consulting company that provides opinions on various issues. A number of those opinions, I understand, are to this very government. It doesn't make its reputation by being wrong or by being outrageous. It makes its reputation by studying certain issues and providing answers. The answer it has provided is that 295,000 people are going to be out of work. The minister has not responded to that study in any way, shape or form that he's prepared to disclose to the people of Ontario.
June 1, 1992: It's six months later and he's had all winter to do his economic impact studies. He's asked, "When you introduce your new proposals, whatever they contain, will you table an impact study on the workers of this province at the same time as you introduce your legislation?" His answer is, "The intent of the legislation is clear, and that is to improve the labour relations climate between workers and business in this province."
Again, on June 4, it was put to the minister: "This legislation will kill jobs. Minister, have you any impact studies or evidence to prove otherwise?" And the minister says, "Wait and read the actual legislation, but it seems to me there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this legislation is going to kill jobs." There is evidence. There's a study out there by a reputable firm that says 295,000 jobs are going to be lost. Surely this minister, before he proceeds with this legislation in the form it's now in, must provide us with some information to the contrary. He must provide that information; otherwise he isn't representing the workers he professes to represent.
On June 8, this time the Premier is asked, "What about the impact studies that the Minister of Labour's refused to provide us with?" The Premier said, "If it's a study he wants, then I would ask what better place for a study to be overseen than within the committee that will be dealing with the legislation?"
Mr Speaker, you and I have sat on committees together. Our experience happened to be a good one because we were dealing with an issue that was politically non-partisan, but I can tell you that the run-of-the-mill committee in this place does not come up with impact studies of how a piece of legislation is going to affect the workers of this province. You know that, I know that, Mr Rae knows that, and the Minister of Labour knows that. How can he proceed with a bill in the face of that evidence? It's the only evidence. He hasn't provided us with anything better.
On July 6: "Minister, do you have one shred of evidence to suggest that this study is incorrect and that in fact some 295,000 jobs and $9 billion of investment are not at risk? Do you have one shred of study done by your own ministry, your own government, that disputes or refutes this evidence?"
The answer is, "I think some of the evidence is wrong." He goes on to say, "This is the same group that has put up some of the most laughable billboards I've seen in the province of Ontario, and you now want me to accept this latest survey of theirs? I'm sorry, I just don't buy it."
The fact is that Ernst and Young didn't put up billboards. They did a study in a very scientific way and they came up with a conclusion that obviously the government doesn't like. But if it's correct, or if it's only half correct, we're going to see 150,000 people lose their jobs. I can't accept that.
The city of North York, which I represent, has some grave concerns about this piece of legislation. I can tell you that the North York public health department, which is affiliated with the Association of Local Official Health Agencies, is concerned about this piece of legislation. Their letter to the minister is interesting, because the first objective of the purpose clause, they state, "is to ensure that workers can freely exercise the right to organize." The comment that the association of Ontario public health business administrators has about that is quite simply that it does not explicitly convey the converse right, that is, the right not to organize.
The letter to the minister also goes on to point out that since health units are not subject to compulsory arbitration, supervisory staff could be quite under the gun if a strike situation occurred, because they have to try and carry on with programs dealing with emergency health, an outbreak of communicable diseases, and they have to be in a position to deal with those issues at any time. The provisions of this bill may well prevent them from doing that. They have some grave concerns.
The development and economic growth committee of the city of North York has some grave concerns about this piece of legislation. They state that the Ontario government's proposed amendments to the Ontario Labour Relations Act could potentially have far-reaching and damaging impacts on the ability of Ontario and the city of North York to attract new investment and to be highly competitive with other economic areas.
"The city of North York is the home of an estimated 18,000 businesses, the second-highest total in all of Ontario. In order to maintain the businesses that we already have and in order to attract new businesses to the city, we must ensure that there is a positive climate for investment. The proposed changes to the labour laws do not help create this positive climate and in fact probably create a negative attitude towards investment in Ontario."
"The proposed changes to the Ontario Labour Relations Act will allow unions the right to organize on the private landlords' property. A change of this nature would have serious repercussions on property owners or adjacent businesses."
They have very grave concerns about this. The city of North York, as I've indicated, is really an economic hub in this country -- 18,000 businesses in the fourth-largest municipality in the whole country. When I read what they say, I hope that the parliamentary assistant, who is here, is listening and I hope she recognizes the concerns of the municipality I am proud to represent in this Legislature. They go on to say:
"The retail sector, as well as the industrial and office areas in the city of North York, will be seriously affected by the proposed changes to the Labour Relations Act. At a time when Ontario and North York's economy is searching for a positive economic action to stimulate growth, any new changes in legislation that make Ontario less competitive will slow down the economic recovery and the creation of new jobs or investment in the province. In fact, the proposed changes as they are are written potentially create a climate of uncertainty for investors in existing businesses.
"Ontario needs to send a strong, clear message that states 'Ontario welcomes businesses and investors.' The current labour laws in Ontario as they are written work and maintain a careful balance between unions and the business and investment community. New proposed changes to the act will tilt this current balance in favour of unions in Ontario."
This is not me speaking. This is not my party speaking. This is not any ideology speaking. This is a municipality that is fighting to maintain a decent level of services for the people who live in the community I represent. Surely, as close to the public as they are, they know what is going to be best for the members of that community.
I urge the parliamentary assistant to take heed of what this municipality is saying, not to be stuck with ideology, not to be getting into a situation such as we saw the government in in dealing with Sunday shopping where they just could not bring themselves to break with the ideology that meant so much to them. We went through a terrible process of public opinion having to be forced down the throat of the government.
I tell you, that public opinion was exactly the same on the day that Sunday shopping legislation of the socialist government was passed, that public opinion was exactly the same on that day as it was on the day that the government finally came in and recanted with its tail between its legs. They're going to have to do the same thing dealing with this labour legislation. Unfortunately, during that interim period people are hurt, and the people who are going to be hurt in this case are the workers in the province of Ontario.
Mr Speaker, I might bring your attention to an ad by the North York Chamber of Commerce in the North York Mirror dated Saturday, July 11, 1992, a full-page ad it took out. The North York Chamber of Commerce is pretty careful with the money it raises and spends. What they say in this ad is:
"The government of Ontario believes proposed changes to the Ontario Labour Relations Act are necessary and will create better business/labour relations in this province. We strongly disagree. We are Ontario's small businesses, and we comprise the backbone of this province's economy. Our concern is for all Ontarians. As a business person you should be aware of these proposed changes because they will have a dramatic effect on your ability to run your business.
"This act will effectively prevent companies from operating during a strike while striking employees are free to get other jobs or tax-deductible strike pay. This act will in most cases eliminate the right of employers to use replacement workers. This act will give access to property, such as shopping malls, to striking employees for picketing and organizing and result in third parties being affected. This act will forbid workers in a striking bargaining unit from crossing picket lines, even if they want to."
This is the ad, a full-page ad, put in the North York Mirror, dated Saturday, July 11, 1992. That surely conveys the concern of the North York Chamber of Commerce about this piece of legislation. The board of trade has expressed the same reservations.
My time is running out. I'd like to finish shortly so I can give as many other members as possible the opportunity to speak under the circumstances we face in this Legislature in the 1990s under the government of the New Democrats. But at any rate, I could go much longer. I wish I had a good chance to go through this and speak to the 45 pages of legislation, but I'm not going to have that chance. All I can do is express my gravest concerns over the most insidious parts of this legislation.
The one area that is very contentious is the strikebreaker legislation. From the Financial Post of June 8, 1992, I have the comments of the president of a large company who found himself involved in a strike a year ago. He talks about some of the devastating effects of this strike in the context of the present labour legislation that's being proposed. The article reads as follows:
"Jonathan Wolfe said he is concerned because the amendments to the Ontario Labour Relations Act, introduced Thursday in the Ontario Legislature, foster collective bargaining rather than economic growth or harmonious relations between business and labour.
"'Our painful experience in last year's strike [of 700 warehouse employees and drivers] confirms that additional bargaining power for unions is both unnecessary and damaging to the delicate management-labour balance,' he told Oshawa Group's annual meeting in Toronto.
What he's saying is that he has lived through a strike and he has seen what happened to his business during the course of that strike. He's providing us with a warning, and the warning is: "Look, I could hardly keep my company alive during that period of time. I could hardly maintain the relationship that I had to maintain with my customers. If this union had more power, my business would have been gone. There would have been no settlement to the strike because there would have been no business left for the strikers to come back to because the customers would have all left and gone to other sources for their supplies."
That is what concerns me about this particular piece of legislation. The question really is: Do unions need that even greater power than they have now to accomplish what history in the last five to 10 years has told us they are able to accomplish? The record in Ontario is not the record in Quebec. Labour relations in Ontario are not comparable to labour relations in Quebec, and when I hear the government trying to make those comparisons, it is like trying to compare apples and oranges.
I saw the editorial of July 12 in the Toronto Star. It's interesting that the parliamentary assistant, who is here hopefully to provide balance to this piece of legislation, hopefully to provide the views of everyone, stood in the Legislature and only referred to the excerpts that are most convenient for this particular package that's now before us. The negative aspects they don't deal with. The negative aspects nobody on the government side wants to answer. In the Toronto Star editorial -- and it's not often that I would stand here and quote one of its editorials. Normally the NDP would be standing and quoting its editorials, but here I am doing it today. What it says is:
"For business, relations with customers are just as important as those with workers. And those relationships must be protected even when workers strike. If customers are lost to competitors, they may never come back."
The fact is that when customers don't come back and the strike ends, there's no company left for the workers to come back to, and that's why Ernst and Young says that we're going to lose 295,000 jobs. I don't think it's scare tactics. I think the government should pay heed. The government should either tell us that we don't have anything to worry about and show us the evidence or it should go out and perform a study to allay the fears of all workers in this province.
But I don't believe this government truly represents workers. I believe this government represents union bosses, and I think that after the flip-flop on Sunday shopping, after the debacle of public auto insurance -- and the next betrayal is yet to come and that'll be the betrayal on their auto bill to innocent accident victims that the member for Welland-Thorold has fought so hard for in spite of his party. That's going to be another betrayal, and we have the betrayal on the public auto insurance.
This piece of legislation is really the consolation prize for the union bosses. It's the consolation prize to make up for the pitiful record this government now has to defend, and I think this government, instead of burying whatever studies it has, instead of ignoring the evidence that's out there, had better come clean and deal with it.
I heard the parliamentary assistant make some reference earlier to the Ford Motor Co. When you look at what Mr Harrigan said, it was that Ontario's labour laws were a concern before he carried out the plans to engage in further investment in Ontario. None the less, the investment was announced in April, when only proposed changes were afloat, "because we were running out of time." They had so much already in the sink-hole that they couldn't afford not to carry through with their plans. They were hooked, so regardless of the legislation they had to do it anyway.
He said, "We were running out of time." Can you imagine, Mr Speaker, a company like the Ford Motor Co, which has operated profitably and successfully in Ontario for decades, having to worry about making a decision in Ontario whether to commit itself to this province? They only did it because they were running out of time and they were already stuck. It wasn't done because they had confidence in this place, because it's the best place to do business, because it's the best climate for workers and companies. That's not why they made this investment. They were hooked and they were running out of time.
I'm going to engage in this debate very briefly, because as we all know in this place, our rights as democratically elected representatives of the various 130 ridings of this province have been curtailed significantly. In fact, the very fact that our debate has been cut off is probably more devastating than the bill. I'd like to speak to that first, because I think the people of the province should be made aware of that. I think it becomes very significant and very important.
We're going to look back on this bill at some point, or perhaps some other bill. Perhaps this bill isn't the most draconian bill that could be brought forward -- I think it's pretty close -- but there will be a bill that will be worse than this, and our limitation of debate will become obvious to the people of the province as well as to the press. They'll be saying, "Why did you let it happen?" Having said that, I don't intend to dwell on those rules that turn this Legislature into a less than democratic institution.
I do want to deal with the question of labour legislation. I can understand the Minister of Labour's approach to this, because over all the years I've been here, which is coming up to eight, sitting on almost every committee, the present Minister of Labour was always seeking to enlarge the union fold. He was always seeking to enlarge the rights of workers, and that's fine. I respect a man who is committed to his particular position, but when you get the levers of power and become the Minister of Labour, all those fine thoughts you had and all those fine desires you wanted to carry out have to be tempered with what is going to work, what is going to make this province successful.
I've often thought to myself as I listened to the debate about Bill 40 that if the purpose of Bill 40 is to extend the scope of unionization in this province, you can only unionize if you have jobs. If there are no jobs, then all the changes in the world you want to make in the employment legislation will be of no significance because there won't be any jobs.
We hear my colleague the member for Scarborough-Agincourt stand up day after day and tell you about the hundreds of jobs that are lost every day. We'd be unfair if we said you'd caused all of this. Obviously some of it has come about as a result of the recession, but the fact is, in this fragile economy, can we afford to be responsible for assisting the recession in losing even one job?
We heard today two twin boys sitting there with their father who is about to lose his job because the Treasurer, under the ruse of an environmental issue, has put a tax on beer cans. These are the issues.
When you have the levers of power, you don't have the right to put all your dreams into reality. You have to look at them in terms of the practicality, in terms of what is reasonable, in terms of what is going to get the engine of business going so that jobs will be created.
I'm sure there are lots of people out there today who for one reason or another have flipped on the parliamentary channel and are watching us. The reason they're watching us is because they don't have a job, their unemployment insurance has probably run out and they may be on welfare. Are they saying to themselves of this legislation that's being introduced by the Minister of Labour, "Is this going to make things easier for me as a worker?"
They can hardly be saying that if they haven't got a job. If what we're saying is true, and I suggest it is, and there will be job losses as a result of this imbalance that's being created by this minister in terms of labour versus management, these people will not get a job. It won't matter. They won't even have an opportunity to join a union because they won't have a job.
Minister, you've got to recognize that you are going to be the person solely responsible, five years down the line or perhaps sooner than that, if this legislation is, as we say it is, detrimental to and upsetting of that fine equilibrium between business and labour, and results in either jobs not being created, in companies leaving this jurisdiction, or in companies refusing to purchase the other company because they're required to assume the collective agreements of that predecessor company, which may have been so onerous that it just the possibility of buying that company a wasted effort.
You're going to be the one who's going to be responsible for that. You've got to sleep with that. Your conscience has to accept that. You have to accept that there are more and more people who will be on the unemployment lines. Looking at what the federal minister was saying today, unemployment insurance may be shooting itself in the foot as well; there may be nothing there. So these people will have nothing.
Minister, you have tried to carve out -- you and your cabinet and the Premier, I'm sure, because he's as responsible as you are, he's the guy in cabinet who can say yea or nay to these things. He's prepared to allow you to go forward with this type of bill that, number one, starts off with a purposive clause that will change the jurisprudence that has been formulated over a vast number of years by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, where decisions were made that were pretty reasonable. You're going to attempt through that simple introduction of a preamble or a purposive clause to change, to reverse, to turn the clock back.
Can you imagine what impact that has on people in business who create the jobs in terms of establishing in this community? They're going to say: "Hey, forget it. I'm not going to establish in Ontario. It's a place where the unions run the whole show."
I want to make something perfectly clear, Minister. We in the Liberal Party believe that workers have a right to collective agreements, that they have a right to have rights, but what you're creating here is a situation that is far more extended than that.
I would love dearly to speak at greater length on this, but because of these new rules that we have, these non-democratic rules, we will be called upon to vote on this issue, an issue that will affect Ontario dramatically. It will be dramatic. You will be responsible, Minister, for the loss of jobs of those people out there who have lost them through either your legislation or the Treasurer's legislation with the beer can stuff.
I'm going to be presenting a petition in the House tomorrow -- if I had had time and hadn't been constricted by these rules, I would have read these letters into the record -- which will be from a whole host of people who are rank and file union people, and those people who are also union leaders, who have written to me and I'm sure to all the members of the opposition, saying: "Minister, the bill is bad. The bill is bad. Don't pass it as it is."
What you're asking us to do and what your government, the New Democratic Party government, wants us to do -- they say, "Well, it's only second reading; you'll get five weeks of committee hearings." We all know that that's the great lie that's perpetrated on the people of Ontario. Second reading is for approval in principle of that bill and everything that's in it and we can go off on trips around this province and listen to the public until the cows come home and in all likelihood the bill is going to be exactly the same as the principle of the bill that is established today.
I'm going to close, because my other colleagues want to speak on this matter, by saying don't let your personal desires rule in terms of what will happen to the workers of this province. You are part of a government; you are not the government. You have a responsibility to listen. You have a responsibility to ensure that these jobs are safeguarded. If you don't do that, Minister, you may well have accomplished what you think is your ultimate goal in life but you will, by doing that, have taken jobs away from people, the food out of families' mouths and the opportunities that any young people will have to get a decent job in this province in the future.
Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): It certainly is a privilege this afternoon to have the opportunity to say a few words on Bill 40 in representation of a large, predominantly rural riding. As serious as this bill is to the larger, more densely populated and industrialized ridings, it's very serious to a rural riding such as the one I represent, Lanark-Renfrew. I can tell you the amount of mail I have received on this issue, some of which I have brought with me today. Not one letter, not one comment that I have received is in favour of Bill 40.
I know I don't have time to dwell too much on the correspondence, but I would like to refer to some of it. I would like to touch on four main items regarding this bill, and first of all, the large numbers of job losses that are certainly going to occur, particularly in my riding. My riding depends on small manufacturing and small business. The remainder of the riding is the tourist industry and the agricultural industry. I don't know why any government would choose this time for this bill. This bill is not a requirement at any time. I have yet to receive a letter from a union member stating he needs more rights, more power and more protection from management.
I receive mail every day asking us to encourage the government to come forward with some kind of positive legislation that will restore some confidence in Ontario and certainly some confidence in a riding such as mine. People wanting to start a small business today would be insane to even think of it. They'd be far better to find themselves a job under the protection of some large union.
The sad part is that this bill is not going to give power to the membership; it's going to give power to the union leaders. It's going to give power to the union leaders so they will have the power to dictate to management, large or small. You can imagine what that's going to do, just starting in my riding with the tourist industry. It cannot survive. The tourist industry is diversified. I see the Minister of Tourism and Recreation leaving now. He well knows many of the tourist sites in the riding of Lanark-Renfrew and that they need some grants to keep them going, to start new projects -- certainly not labour legislation.
The stranglehold on small business has reached the stage of almost hysteria in my riding. They actually fear this legislation because of the consequences they see coming from it. The minister says we are misinterpreting his bill, but the truth is that the power that's going to be given to the unions when this bill becomes law means that management will be subject to them in most instances.
I read from the Arnprior Customs Brokers. He says: "Please use every means short of a criminal act to kill the NDP's plan to reform our Labour Relations Act. If these changes go through, the province has not seen anything yet on job losses compared to what will take place," following passage of this bill. "The NDP must be held in check until the next election and they must be prevented from ruining this province more than they have already." That's signed by the president.
Their concerns generally are the shifting of investment, not only out of Lanark-Renfrew, although we have several plants that are closed. It's not only the shifting of investment out of the riding, out of Ontario, but the hesitancy, the lack of confidence of new industry to establish in Ontario, and especially to come to a rural riding such as ours. The confidence isn't there in this government that it will give them the freedom to start, the freedom to develop and the freedom to provide jobs that we so badly need in our riding.
I'm limited for time and I would like to read a few more of the many mail articles I've received. This is one from the retail industry and business community stating they have been "hit hard in this province. There are many in our community that are just holding on. If this labour legislation is passed it will be one more nail in their coffin and many will not survive. They will choose to just close up shop and many will choose to move out of the province or out of Canada."
The irony of the time and the money spent on this bill, preparing the bill, presenting the bill at such a late time in the term of this Legislature before adjourning, tells us that either the government doesn't realize the effects of this bill on business and industry or else they would prefer to be sent the bill now and travel the province during vacation time when people are reluctant to give up their families and come out and make their views known, or they just want to do it.
Maybe it's staged this way. The minister probably has a plan to bring the bill forward in this manner with limited debate, with a short time for committee work and get the bill into law. It's a very undemocratic approach and it is hoped that perhaps the minister will consider his position on the bill. I know he's been listening to the union bosses, but I'm afraid not the rank-and-file membership as I know them in my riding.
The bill actually represents a historic leap into a pit of economic ruin. It will bring forth massive job losses, diminished worker rights and increased union power for the leaders, and all of this comes at the expense of business. Those who have the initiative and ability to create jobs in Ontario will be viciously curtailed by Bill 40.
The freedom to do business in Ontario will soon cease to exist. This freedom will be replaced with the greatest shift of power to organized labour since this province was formed. Along with this shift comes the inevitable exodus of business out of the province. From my constituency and from around this province, our business leaders shudder at the devastating effect this labour legislation will have upon themselves, their workers, the economy of Ontario and, in particular, the riding of Lanark-Renfrew.
Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): I guess I should say at the outset that it's an ironic pleasure for me to be able to wind up this debate on what I consider to be a very important, and certainly a very controversial, piece of legislation.
I want to begin by saying that I regret that the government was so terribly fearful of the impact of this legislation that not only was it forced to bring in time allocation for this piece of legislation, but it indeed changed the very rules of this Parliament on a permanent basis as an exercise of its muscle and determination to exact its will in this Parliament on a timetable that it now uniquely sets.
The other irony for me, in concluding the debate on this piece of legislation, is that I do so now as a member of the opposition obviously, but also as a former Minister of Labour. I think within that context, at least in some respects, I'm able to understand, perhaps in a way not available to other members of the Legislature, both government and opposition members, what this debate, this piece of legislation and the Ontario Labour Relations Act really are all about.
I want to repeat here, in commencing my remarks, what I've said on a number of occasions about this piece of legislation, that is, that there are some extremely good things about it and that there are some rather bad, some rather poorly crafted aspects of it. Because this is the debate on the general principle of the bill, I am not going to go into the details of that analysis, save and except that I want to put on the record my support for those provisions of the bill that deal with the serious, and I think up until now intractable, problem of contracting out. I'm not going to go into the details or explain that to members of the House or individuals watching. I just want to say to the minister that I'm glad he has included some solutions to that problem in this bill.
The other thing I regret is that the debate that has gone on around Bill 40 has somehow devolved into a debate on whether or not the trade union movement, as it's described, or collective bargaining, as it's legally known, is or is not a good thing. Far too often, I have heard critics of this legislation say that the problem is with the trade union movement. I've heard some people suggest that what we need to do is develop an economy that doesn't have a trade union movement or has only the basic, rudimentary framework of a trade union movement. I say to members of this House that, to the extent people are taking that position, I simply disagree with them.
The reality, if you look at economies all over the world, is that those economies that are strong, that are thriving, that are leading in all of the leading-edge technologies and the developing economies are those that have a high degree of respect for the collective bargaining process and the trade union movement.
I also want to point out that the trade union movement not only in Ontario but throughout North America is suffering very severely, and it doesn't have to do with this recession. It doesn't have to do with the economic downturn. In fact, for those who are interested in the subject, I would refer them to a lecture given by Dr Paul Weiler, a native of Thunder Bay, now a professor at Harvard University and one of Canada's pre-eminent experts on issues relating to the workplace. He gave a lecture at the University of Toronto's law school back in late 1989, the Larry Sefton lecture. Larry Sefton is a well-known trade union leader in Ontario and in Canada.
At that time Dr Weiler made the point, and he made it quite clearly, that if trends continue in the United States, by the turn of the century and the millennium there may not be a trade union movement in the US, that membership was so low that the impact of those who represented workers was becoming so ineffectual that unless the trend changed, the trade union movement might well disappear in the US economy. For those who say we should bring about the same conditions here, I simply once again say that I disagree.
What are the circumstances with the trade union movement in Ontario? We are seeing some of the very same trends here as have been exhibited in the US over the past 10 or 15 years. There is no doubt in my mind that the Minister of Labour has brought forward this bill in order to ensure himself that the trade union movement which is now failing and faltering in Ontario gets some sign of life back into it.
Let me just explain to you, sir, how bad circumstances are. Remember, the trade union movement is not some mystical organization. In many senses it's a business like any other business that's carried on in Ontario. During this recession there have been hundreds of thousands of jobs that have been permanently lost. Of those, I think it's a conservative estimate to say that probably 100,000 or perhaps 120,000 trade union jobs have disappeared and will never come back -- 100,000 jobs, for purposes of argument.
If you remember for a moment that the average union dues paid by a trade union member are roughly $500 a year, based on two hours per month -- if you are a member of a trade union, the rough figure is that you work two hours per month to pay your union dues. At an hourly salary of $25, you can roughly figure that we're talking in the ballpark of $500 a year in lost union dues per union job lost.
What the Minister of Labour has not acknowledged in this debate is that he himself is terribly worried about the trade union movement, its loss of membership, its loss of union dues and its own ability to pay its bills. So he wants to expand the ability of trade union organizations, representatives of workers, to delve into new markets. I appreciate that and I think in some respects he is approaching the subject from the right perspective. But there is another part of this story that hasn't been told at all.
I put it to you, sir, that if a Liberal government were bringing forward amendments to expand the jurisdiction or the marketing ability of the trade union movement, it could do it with clean hands. I even put it to you, sir, that if a Conservative government were bringing forth amendments to the labour act to expand the horizons and the ability to organize of the trade union movement, it could do it with clean hands. But ask yourself the question: Can the New Democratic Party do the same thing without at some point during the debate declaring publicly in this Legislature, declaring publicly to any person who cared to listen that the New Democratic Party is in fact a party which is partially owned, if I can use that term, by the trade union movement, by the labour movement?
Not once has the Minister of Labour, not once has the Premier, not once has the president of the New Democratic Party brought that issue to this Legislature or to their own councils or anywhere else. You just have to take the constitution of the New Democratic Party -- and if you read it, it's not a very long document; it's actually rather a short constitution -- you will see that the really powerful body in the New Democratic Party is a body referred to in article 9 as the provincial council. That council is made up of some 300 members.
I have been asking for a month for anyone who might have access to a list of members of the provincial council of the New Democratic Party to provide me with a list of the members of that council. I have been refused at every turn, both by the New Democratic Party and by members, by individual riding associations. But if you look at the constitution and you count the numbers, you see that the majority of the members of the provincial council are appointed by virtue of their affiliation with a trade union. If you just think about it for a second, it represents one of the most glaring and startling conflicts that could ever be brought to this Legislature.
Mr Sorbara: The member opposite says I crashed it. I paid a brief visit there. Someone asked me to leave and I did. But in the middle of this debate over amendments to the trade union act, Bob Rae's trade union bill, I got to the floor where the convention was being held. I looked at the television screen, and who was there chairing the meeting but Gord Wilson, who is the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.
Gord Wilson has a distinct pecuniary interest in getting this bill passed. He's lost, this year alone, $50 million in union dues. If this trend continues and if the disintegration of the trade union movement continues, he is liable to lose another $50 million in union dues. This money pays his salary. A small fraction of this money goes from the pocket of a worker into the trade union, into the local. A trickle of it goes into the coffers of the New Democratic Party. We should be talking about that here. We should at least be acknowledging it. A conflict is only a criticism where it is not acknowledged, but no one will talk about it; no one will raise the issue; no one will provide the list of trade union members who sit on the provincial council of the New Democratic Party.
I reiterate that what we're talking about here is a business, the business of representing workers in their workplace, which is a very important business. Every industrialized and post-industrial economy needs to have a vibrant trade union movement. That movement in Ontario now is failing. It is losing money as fast as the most seriously threatened business is losing money in the province.
But the New Democratic Party, when it brings a bill here to expand the trade union movement and to give it new opportunities to organize in new areas, does not once mention that its political party is owned, by way of majority shareholders on the provincial council, by the trade union movement, by those who will benefit from this expanded ability to organize.
I say to the members of the governing caucus, until you bring that issue to this Parliament and make the necessary disclosures and tell us what fraction of the funds will be garnered into the trade union movement by this expanded activity, until you disclose that, then you have not come to this Parliament with clean hands. I remember when I was Minister of Labour, Gord Wilson, for whom I have a great deal of respect, used to refer to the New Democratic Party as "our political wing," that is, the political wing of the trade union movement.
I'm not surprised that you're here doing the business of those who have a majority position on your provincial council. I simply say to you that until you acknowledge that to the people of Ontario, you have not had entirely clean hands in the presentation of this bill.
One simply has to be suspicious that on the day this bill was presented back on June 4, at the very same time, the rules of this Parliament were changed to ensure expeditious passage. One has to be rather suspicious that the Ontario Federation of Labour has from the beginning of this exercise operated entirely behind the scenes but is clearly responsible for orchestrating the entire exercise.
I know that many of the amendments that are contained in this bill have virtually been written by those who work for the Ontario Federation of Labour and I don't think that's a terrible thing. I think it simply ought to be acknowledged so that people can make a fair evaluation.
I know there are many things in this bill that are not particularly the direction that the Ontario Federation of Labour would have chosen, but I can assure the people of this province of one thing and that is that this bill did not get final approval at the cabinet table in this province until the Ontario Federation of Labour had signed off on it.
The fact that the Ontario Federation of Labour is also the organization in the province which has virtual control of the New Democratic Party gives me pause to consider whether or not we should be supporting this piece of legislation. As far as the details are concerned, as I said at the opening of my remarks, many of them are worthy of support and many of them ought not to be supported in this Parliament.
On balance I for one am going to vote against the bill. I'm going to vote against the bill because I think on balance those things that are detrimental overall to the economy of the province outweigh those things that would spur on the ability of workers to realize their full potential in the workplace.
I close where I began and that is simply to say that this government party, this party which throughout its history has been the political expression of the trade union movement, ought properly to have made appropriate disclosures of conflict before bringing this bill into the Legislature. I regret they did not do that. I think at some point that issue ought to be brought forward when the bill is considered in committee. I regret that this debate has now come to a conclusion.
I simply close by saying I don't think it was necessary for this Parliament and the government House leader to use the drastic measure of time allocation to ensure this debate was closed off now. We could have had an opportunity to further express ourselves. There were a number of members in our caucus who simply did not get an opportunity to put their views on the record and frankly very few government members spoke on the bill, whether in favour or opposed.
I think the fact that we are now ready for a vote and the minister has not had an opportunity to sum up the bill is a sign of how things have deteriorated here. I for one, sir, would be willing to propose to you that we give unanimous consent for the minister to make perhaps two minutes in concluding remarks.
Akande, Allen, Bisson, Boyd, Buchanan, Charlton, Christopherson, Churley, Cooke, Cooper, Coppen, Drainville, Farnan, Ferguson, Fletcher, Gigantes, Haeck, Hampton, Hansen, Harrington, Haslam, Hayes, Hope, Jamison, Johnson, Klopp, Kormos, Lankin, Laughren, Lessard, Mackenzie, Malkowski, Mammoliti, Marchese, Martel, Martin, Mathyssen, Mills, Morrow, Murdock (Sudbury), North, O'Connor, Owens, Perruzza, Philip (Etobicoke-Rexdale), Pilkey, Pouliot, Rae, Rizzo, Silipo, Sutherland, Ward (Brantford), Wark-Martyn, Waters, Wessenger, White, Wilson (Frontenac-Addington), Wilson (Kingston and The Islands), Winninger, Wiseman, Wood, Ziemba.
Arnott, Beer, Bradley, Brown, Callahan, Caplan, Carr, Cleary, Conway, Cousens, Eddy, Eves, Fawcett, Grandmaître, Harnick, Harris, Jackson, Jordan, Kwinter, Mahoney, Mancini, Marland, McClelland, Morin, O'Neil (Quinte), O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau), Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt), Poirier, Poole, Runciman, Ruprecht, Sorbara, Sterling, Stockwell, Sullivan, Tilson, Turnbull, Villeneuve, Wilson (Simcoe West), Witmer.