Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): It's unfortunate that my colleague the member for Etobicoke West, Mr Stockwell, was not able to be here with us this morning due to an emergency which arose only a short time ago.
Mr Stockwell's bill outlines a method of requiring those in the public service at the executive level to have their salaries disclosed in a public fashion. I believe this was in response to the requirement by this government that the top executives in private industry be required to have their salaries disclosed in a public manner.
When that bill was brought forward, I believe that many in this Legislature, on all sides of the House, felt it was proper that those people who are in a trusted private category of leading large corporations should indeed have their salaries made public. We found it strangely odd on this side of the House that while we were requiring people in the private sector to disclose their actual salaries, we were not requiring that of public servants.
At the present time one can ask a member of the government to disclose salaries of various and different people within the government. Unfortunately, what has transpired is that you get back from the government a salary range, and those salary ranges can be quite wide.
For instance, not too long ago I had asked for the salary of an employee in a minister's office. I was informed that the salary range was from $41,000 to $61,000. Well, quite frankly, that would make up a range of some 35% of the total salary and is unsatisfactory. In other words, there is a great difference between an executive assistant to a minister being paid $41,000 or an executive assistant being paid $61,000.
As we go up the scale in terms of deputy ministers, going up to the level of deputy minister and senior bureaucrat, those ranges would even be much wider than the ones that I was exhibiting there. In other words, you might have a range from $100,000 to $135,000.
It's our feeling that everyone in the public service earning over a base rate of perhaps $45,000 or $50,000 should have their salary made public. This was the position my party took during recent hearings on freedom of information and privacy in the Legislative Assembly committee during the winter recess, when we were looking over the municipal freedom of information and privacy bill. We believe, quite frankly, that the taxpayer has the right to know what the compensation is for everyone over that category.
It's odd that this was the position of the former Progressive Conservative government prior to 1985. It was only when the Liberal government took over that they started to hide information about what they were paying their particular civil servants. Many of the members of the Legislature here don't recall the change that took place over 1985 when government changed. What in fact had happened at that time was that the new Liberal government coming in in June or July 1985 hired many people out of the press gallery and was quite embarrassed about the very large salaries it was paying off to many of the former press gallery who were there prior to 1985.
In order to hide what those individuals were being paid by ministers, they changed the rules. They said, "We will not tell you how much we're paying to buy off the press," in terms of what happened in 1985. If you recall, back in 1985 and 1986 and 1987 it was a fairly astute political thing for the Liberals to do, because during that period of time the provincial government did enjoy quite favourable press from the press gallery, and quite frankly they just bought them off.
Part of the way they bought them off was to hide what in fact they were paying out as compensation in order to buy off these members of the press gallery. But the people in the press gallery knew what in fact the Liberal government of the day was doing in buying them off. So many of the people who replaced the people who did get into the executive assistant levels of the then Liberal government were pining to go from that place above you, Madam Speaker, down underneath where all the executive assistants sat, because they were being paid quite handsomely.
The Liberals changed the rules so that the public didn't have access to what public servants were being paid. As a result, not only were the Liberal hacks of the day being protected but so was everybody else being protected in terms of the public service as to what they were being paid.
Our position, as I said before, reverts back to where we were prior to 1985. We believe that everybody over a certain level in the public service, not only for the provincial public service but for each municipality and each school board and each agency, their salaries should be revealed to the public as well. I don't understand why the taxpayer shouldn't know that.
It's unfortunate that this has to be redone, that we have to go back. This is only the first step, by Mr Stockwell, the member for Etobicoke West, and that is to take the very, very high levels of compensation given to the executive people who are involved in government and reveal their salaries.
That's the thrust of this bill. It's a matter, I guess, of accountability. It's a matter of freedom of information, allowing the public taxpayers to know in fact what they're paying the high-ranked civil servants of our province.
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I'm relatively new in the Legislature, but it seems to me that I was told or I learned somewhere that it was the government's responsibility to maintain a quorum.
Mr Hope: There we go. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate this morning and to comment on the bill as brought forward by Mr Stockwell, the member for Etobicoke West, who is not here. It's unfortunate that situations did prevail, but I will make my comments. I was looking for the theatrics in the 10 minutes that the member for Etobicoke West would have presented to us this morning to liven up our morning, but unfortunately he didn't present us with that graceful gift that he has of theatrics.
First of all, as I read the lengthy bill that is presented before us, which is one page, it says, "This act applies despite the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act." I ask myself, where does this stop? Does it go on unendingly, without even taking in individuals' freedom of information that they are allowed to reveal and the privacy that is beholden upon people?
We're talking about paycheques of people who collect salaries paid by tax dollars. What if in the information the member opposite who has presented this bill finds out that in the top five is not what he's looking for? Does he come back, introduce another bill and say, "No, no, exactly what I want is the top 10 instead of the top five"? Maybe he discovered that a couple of the salaries that he was looking for are missing. So what does he do? He might step back in the House and introduce another bill, which says, "I need the top 20," until he finds what he's searching for.
It raises a number of concerns to me and it frustrates me that I don't know where the member opposite is coming from. Let's say the information he's looking for in the top five is not there. Does he then step back into this House and repeatedly introduce bills until he finds what he's looking for in the salaries of individuals, maybe names of individuals he's looking for?
I'd just ask the member, and unfortunately I can't, what is his purpose behind this bill. Is the purpose to reveal the salaries that are paid to public servants by the general public, the taxpayers of this province, or is it specifically to deal with only five top people? Is he specifically looking for a name of an individual or the salary range that might be there? I have to ask that serious question, and hopefully the member for Carleton might have the answers for me for the member for Etobicoke West. But I think that's very important.
I did have the opportunity to participate in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Statute Law Amendment Act, which was debated during the winter sessions. One of the concerns that I would like to see is, why aren't the agencies, the municipal governments, all people, covered by this piece of legislation?
If we're talking about revealing what the actual people who are paid by tax dollars collect, then let's put it all on the table to make sure that everybody has the right to know about salaries that are being paid. That is very important if we're to talk about the need of people to understand what salary ranges are.
As I looked at the bill, I guess I was hoping to hear that in the 10-minute presentation the member for Etobicoke West would have made, which makes it very difficult for us to understand where he's coming from with it. I understand where the member for Carleton is coming from. Yes, he was on the committee. Yes, he presented his feelings as an individual, a member of the Conservative government, of what he would like to see, why it was removed in the past during the Liberals. Why did the Liberals change it and cover that up? I'm not saying there was any wrongdoing; I'm saying they had legitimate reasons for why they felt that salaries should not be revealed.
But it would sure be nice for me, as a new member in this Legislature, to understand that, because I myself look at this bill and it says, "the five highest." What if it's the highest 10 the member wants? What if it's the highest 20 the member wants, until he finds exactly what information he's looking for so he can carry on with his theatrics in this House and present some corruption case that is there?
Mr Hope: You'll ask it? Okay. I really would like to know -- in principle, I understand what he's trying to do: revealing to the public. I say it has to be broader information dealing with agencies that have been established by the governments. A lot of the general public don't know of the salaries that are being paid; municipal governments -- what exactly their salaries are being paid. People know what our salaries are in this Legislature and I believe the general public, the taxpayers, ought to know what all salaries are.
I think in coming with a piece of legislation that only deals with specific five -- I wonder, where does it stop? Does it keep being reintroduced, like 10, 20, 30? What's the end result? "This act applies despite the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act," which raises a number of serious concerns around how much actual information is there.
I know other members in here wish to comment. I do wish to say to the member for Carleton, I hope you have all the theatrics the member for Etobicoke West has so you can explain exactly what he's trying to get at with this bill.
Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I just want to take the next two or three minutes to respond to not only the member for Chatham-Kent but especially my colleague from Carleton. I find it very -- not distressing, because this is, after all, Thursday morning; we'll all be going home this afternoon. But having to listen to the member for Carleton talking about the Liberal Party buying off people -- imagine.
Mr Grandmaître: Yes. I can't believe this. After all, they had the best teachers in the world, especially Bill Davis. Bill Davis invented buying off people in this province. Just to keep your mouth shut, Bill Davis would create a commission and pay you fabulous dollars, but keep your mouth shut. That was the motto of Bill Davis. Today, this member has the gall to stand in his place and to preach to this House how good the Conservatives were and how bad the Liberals were. I find this incredible. Saying that the Liberals invented buying off people -- it's a good thing I had a good breakfast because, I'm telling you, my stomach is weak right now; very, very weak.
I will be supporting this, because it's a friend of mine; it comes from Mr Stockwell. That's the only reason I'll be supporting this bill and not because of the comments of my colleague from Carleton.
In response to my colleague from Chatham-Kent, at the municipal level, I would like to tell you that all executive members of the municipalities are hired by bylaw and the salary or salaries are mentioned. So at least at the municipal level, where I have more experience than at the provincial level, we're much more open.
But again, I want to remind you that when the Conservatives, or a Conservative, tells us all about buying off people, I can't argue. They have the mould; they invented the mould and they will continue to do it. I just want to remind you, don't be fooled by what the member for Carleton told you.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I welcome this opportunity to stand in support of my colleague the member for Etobicoke West -- his Bill 114. The bill is to provide disclosure on compensation for the public sector. If this bill passes, it would provide for the disclosure of information relating to the compensation received by the most highly paid officials in government. In the ministries, it would also include the directors and officials in crown corporations and members of the ministers' staff.
I congratulate the member for Etobicoke West for bringing this important matter to our attention because my constituents in Simcoe East tell me they believe many highly paid officials in government jobs are ripping off the system when they themselves are trying to survive on a smaller paycheque and on fixed incomes. I want to make it clear that I have dealt with many highly paid officials in government ministries, directors of and officials in crown corporation, and members of ministry staff who work very hard. They put in long hours, and I believe they are worth every cent they're paid. But I also know there is always a small group of people who take advantage of the abuse in government that they work for because they believe they're working behind closed doors of a large bureaucracy where no one will take the time to actually find out what they are accomplishing.
Ontario taxpayers deserve and are demanding government officials who are effective and accountable to disclose. Taxpayers understand better than most the need for government to provide services in an efficient, responsible and financially sound fashion.
Another area of concern of my constituents, and a costly concern at that, is that this government has awarded a host of party-affiliated people with high-paying jobs in numerous offices of the government. So I'd like to take you back to the first throne speech of November 20, 1990. Bob Rae, who campaigned on promises of openness and accountability, said the following:
"My government's first challenge is to earn the trust and respect of the people. My government's integrity will be measured by the way this government is run....Our task is to guard against institutional arrogance and the abuse of power...."
I would suggest that Bob Rae got it wrong. His first challenge, his constant challenge, has been to make excuses for the institutionalized bungling of his government and to rationalize why abuse of trust and waste of taxpayers' money has become the dominant characteristic of his administration.
I believe we can take a step in the right direction by restoring faith in the public and government by supporting this legislation and providing for disclosure of information relating to the compensation received by the most highly paid officials in government. We in this Legislature are obligated under law to disclose our financial affairs. As far as I'm concerned, that's the way it should be. But I also believe this policy should be extended to non-elected officials who are appointed to highly paid government jobs with little or no say on the part of the people of Ontario.
I also believe this legislation should be expanded to include public disclosure of all expenses of highly paid officials in government ministries, directors of and officials in crown corporations, and members of a minister's staff who are provided with credit cards for use while conducting government business. It is suspiciously like pulling teeth to get this credit card information. Whenever I put a question on the order paper, in fact, there have been times when I have never received this information under the former Liberal or the current NDP governments. What's the big secret? What are they hiding? Could it perhaps be that not all of the credit card billings are related to government business?
We at one time had total disclosure over all salaries of $30,000. Any employee of the government who made over $30,000 was in the book. We saw it in the public accounts book; we get that every year, and every employee's salary over $30,000 was disclosed in that book. It was the Liberals who did away with that.
I would urge the members to support this resolution from my colleague the member for Etobicoke West on this important issue, because I believe it will lead to making Ontario the province of opportunity again. Since 1985, Ontario has been living in a tax-and-spend nightmare designed by the NDP and implemented by the Liberals. Do you remember when that wedding was on, 1985 to 1987? David Peterson, Lyn McLeod and Bob Rae have worked together to make Ontario the most heavily taxed jurisdiction with the most highly paid government officials in North America.
Yes, I remember. I remember in 1985 when I looked at the members of that press gallery and when I looked at the increase in parliamentary assistants' wages. At that time the top parliamentary assistant wage was $42,000. The new Liberal-NDP administration increased that to $62,000 so they could hire half that press gallery, and that's exactly what they did.
This resolution that's before us today, Bill 114, is only a start. He wants the salaries of the five highest-paid officials in each government ministry and their names; the salaries of the five highest-paid directors of each corporation and their names; the salaries of the five highest-paid officials in each crown corporation and their names; and the salaries of the five highest-paid members of political staff in each ministry, including the Office of the Premier, and their names.
This bill does not go far enough. I think for anybody who is receiving salary from the taxpayers of this province, there's nothing wrong with having their salary disclosed. We don't mind having our salary and our expenses disclosed. So why is it wrong for the civil service to have their salaries disclosed?
Then we go on and we look in the public accounts book and it gives us these travelling expenses. That's in the book for different ministries. They have their yearly travel expenses; their names are here. So there we are, and we have other payments, for materials and supplies in each ministry. That's all printed in the book. What's wrong with having the salaries of the senior civil servants printed in the book? I see nothing wrong with that.
Mr McLean: That was 1985. Today we have a salary for a deputy minister from $103,000 to $150,000. There's almost $50,000 in there that -- I presume most of them are at $150,000. I think Robin Sears is about $145,000. I don't know where he is, whether he's a deputy minister now or not. I think he's maybe in Tokyo.
We owe it to the taxpayers to come clean. What's the matter with telling them what's really happening in government? What's the matter with the civil servants telling the people, when they're driving a government car, what the cost of that is? Do we know? We don't know. But the people are asking that question, and I'll tell you, the people have a right to know.
Since this government came to power, as I said before, we have been the most heavily taxed jurisdiction with the most highly paid government officials in North America. Do you believe that those salaries should be disclosed? I do, and the people in my riding do, and I don't know of anybody who doesn't.
We owe it to Ontario's taxpayers to support this private member's bill. I think it's a step in the right direction, because it does bring accountability. That's what we want to see, but obviously the other two parties don't.
Mr Pat Hayes (Essex-Kent): When you look at this private bill and you listen to the speakers from the opposite side of the floor here, you would think the people who have worked for them over the years were all volunteers.
I find that rather interesting when they want to just have this bill deal with the ministries, deal with government employees. I think the members, if they're so concerned, should be disclosing the salaries of all their political staff that they have, and even some of the ones we don't really know about. I think that should be brought forward.
The two opposition parties: When you sit in here from day to day, they remind me of the little kid who makes a mess and then comes to mommy and says, "Will you clean that up for me?" We're having a hard time cleaning up the messes they have created over the years, but we will continue to do so. This government has been more open and up front in disclosing people's salaries, and we've had more public meetings and brought more things out in public than any previous government has ever done in this province.
I have some familiarity with this issue, having had the pleasure of sitting on the Legislative Assembly committee this last intersession and looking at the municipal freedom and protection of privacy act. But after looking at the act, I wonder why the member hasn't broadened the scope of his bill. Why aren't you looking at the public broader sector as well?
Bill 114 covers ministries, crown corporations and ministers' offices. It doesn't cover any government agencies, colleges, universities or transfer partners. I think if we are looking at the question of executive compensation, we have to look at the subject as it applies right across the government. When I speak about right across the government, I'm also including the opposition.
Ten years ago everyone who earned more than $40,000 had their salaries published in the annual report of the public accounts committee. Of course the Liberals changed that. For what reason, I don't know. Some people might call it a coverup, I don't know. Some people might've said, "We don't want to make the Tories look too bad on some of their golden handshakes that they've had over the years."
Mr Hayes: They've come through with the range, and this is what I'm saying. There was a system in place, and yet the Liberals come back and say, "Well, we got to take that out and we got to make a range because we don't want anybody to have that information," but it's interesting they come here today and they want all that disclosure.
When you look at the question around publication of salary figures, do we want the top five published? Do we want the salaries of everyone over a certain benchmark published? Do we want them available but not necessarily published? These are just some of the questions.
The issue of compensation disclosure was discussed at length in the committee. I can remember my friend from Bruce talking about problems with people getting salary figures from employees in the municipal sector, and I know my friend from Dufferin-Peel was talking about setting a cutoff below which salaries would not be published. So they're talking a little different tune here today.
I also know that the member from Dufferin-Peel, for example, isn't here today, but he would probably point out that his private member's bill demands that the top five salaries paid to executives of unions should be made public.
I'd like to kind of clear that up, which I did in the committee or I attempted to. Those salaries for top union executives are public. They are set by the union membership at a convention, and they are spelled out in the union's constitution. Those numbers are readily available to the members of the union who elect those executives.
The biggest problem I have with this bill is the fact that again the members opposite are offering a piecemeal solution to a larger problem. This is one of the things that this government has faced. We said, "Let's get rid of all these ad hoc programs from previous governments and piecemeal solutions and throwing dollars at things." That's why this government is in the process of doing long-term planning, long-term programs, for the benefit of the people of this province.
If we pass this one as it stands, can we expect another bill dealing with school boards, another bill dealing with universities and colleges and another bill on municipalities? These members just want to keep coming back with their little piecemeal legislation.
This bill does need amending. I will support it because I agree with the notion of executive compensation disclosure, but I feel this issue would be better served as part of the review of the provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Mr Crozier: I am always surprised each day I come into the Legislature. We're talking about compensation today, and you know what they always tell you: Advice is worth what you pay for it. The member for Downsview, when I took what I thought was my right in the Legislature, came over and had the gall to chastise me for what I did, when I called the point of order. Fortunately, as I said, I didn't pay him anything for the advice, and it's just exactly what the advice was worth.
I'm also surprised that the members for Carleton and Simcoe East would talk about the Liberals and the NDP and their taxing policies. If my history is correct, Mike Harris, the tax fighter, and some of his cohorts, voted for the second-highest tax grab in provincial history, $1.8 billion. So I am surprised that they would criticize anybody else and that they would even consider criticizing the press as being able to be bought off. I believe in the freedom of the press and I don't think that would ever happen in a lifetime.
When I was elected, I expressed to my constituents that it was my intention, for one thing, to go to Queen's Park and monitor all areas of public spending. I went to the people in Leamington and Kingsville and Essex and Harrow and Amherstburg and over on Pelee Island. They're all concerned about government spending. I was very pleased when my leader, Lyn McLeod, appointed me as the associate Finance critic and also appointed me as a member of the standing committee on public accounts.
I support any initiative for disclosures on public spending. I frankly can't imagine any party or any government that wouldn't want to be forthright and honest and disclose all manner of public spending. I agree with my friend, the honourable member Mr Hayes, that perhaps this bill should even go further than it does. I'm sure Mr Stockwell would welcome any initiative on the government's part to expand the bill. I'm sure we would all appreciate that. It goes to the heart of the public's right to know. The public has a right to know how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent.
Some of the members of the Conservative caucus, the one from Simcoe East, would probably have us go back. They want to go back. I don't want to go back to the day I made $160 a month. I don't want to go back to those days.
Mr Crozier: I know I was overpaid. I've always said that if I were paid what I thought I was worth, they couldn't afford me, and if they paid me what I was really worth, I couldn't live on it. So there's nothing wrong with a range that's in between.
"Details of the benefits received by the persons referred to in paragraphs 1 to 4, including special purpose loans, loan guarantees, an arrangement for the payment of $100,000 or more on dismissal or retirement and generally any arrangement that adds substantially to compensation."
That is where the real meat of this is, because that's where the deals were made. Back in the Conservative days, they might not have paid them much up front, but the deals are where you make the money. I want those disclosed as well. It's the taxpayers' right to know what everyone makes in public service and I have no objection to it.
I hope this bill, when it passes -- and I'm being optimistic that it will pass and there's no doubt in my mind that it should -- will bring under scrutiny particularly these special arrangements that too often have been made in the past and may have cost the government hundreds of thousands of dollars. I feel the spirit of this bill is one that will be informative and will result in a more accountable government.
It's amazing what we hear from the Liberals. That was quite a speech about not knowing different things, and that the payment up front is more important sometimes than what they pay the people. I guess we could talk about Ellis-Don and Patti Starr and people like that. The Liberals have a lot to come good for, but we certainly do appreciate their support on this bill.
He's talking about the five highest-paid. I think everyone's salary should be known. Our salaries are known. They seem to take great delight, when our expenses come out -- the media like to get into that and talk about all that. They love to pick on us as politicians. I don't see why the salaries of everyone who works for the province and everyone who works for the government shouldn't be exposed to the public, because they are public servants and they should be. I would have no problem in going further with this.
Mr Murdoch: The member over there asks me what I pay my staff. If you want to know, you're certainly welcome to come down to my office any day and we'll discuss that. We hear from our good friends across the floor. The union runs all their staff anyway and they pretty well have to pay them certain amounts; they don't have any choice. It's unfortunate.
Mr Murdoch: As the member for Simcoe East says, they're at the top of the scale too. We know you're keeping your staff very happy because of the union. If it wasn't for the union in there, you guys would be out of luck, wouldn't you? You wouldn't know what to do then. Fortunately for you people, the union does look after you.
Mr Murdoch: I think the member likes my tie. Unfortunately, he should be discussing this issue and not worrying about my tie. Sometimes they do have problems staying with the course of action. We'll just ignore that.
I wanted to explain that no one party has any title to this bill. We've all had our problems. It was mentioned by the Liberals that the Conservatives voted for a $1.8-billion raise of some sort, but that was over a decade ago. We've changed; there's no doubt. We have a lot of new members.
Mr Murdoch: I'm glad to see you caught on. Sometimes you wonder whether they're listening to us, and you have to bring things up to get their attention. I'm glad to see that my friends the Liberals are also awakening to the new dawn, the new era. Under my leader, Mike Harris, they will see a lot of new changes to tax laws and things like that. There will be fewer taxes in this country when Mike Harris takes over, there's no doubt about that.
I just want to bring my support to this bill and hope that the government side over there will also support us in this bill, and go on to the future and make sure that the salaries of the people who do work for the government are exposed.
Mr Jim Wiseman (Durham West): I'm pleased to respond to this. This side of the House has been open to reviewing what happens in terms of appointments. That's why we created the review process at the government agencies committee. The opposition parties, of course, have both dedicated themselves to saying that they will eliminate that, should they form the next government. In other words, they would put the appointments and the patronage processes behind closed doors so that the public cannot review them. We have striven to open that process to the public.
I will support this bill, because it's been very clear that we support the openness of government. In fact, the Minister of Finance, when he made his comments about the disclosure of executive salaries, made it very clear that we have to find a mechanism to do that with the public service. That was reiterated when the Chair of Management Board came before the committee on the freedom of information act and said he would be happy to hear the committee's comments with respect to pursuing this opening up of the salary information, and went on to say that the proper forum for discussing that issue was in the committee where the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was being reviewed.
I had the privilege of sitting in on that committee while they were reviewing, and I have to say that it is a very complex issue. We heard from people from all over Ontario who brought forward literally hundreds of recommendations. Some wanted to tighten the system up so that information could not be acquired by the public -- I don't support that -- and some wanted to open it up to such an extent that personal privilege and personal privacy could be invaded. Of course, we have to find the balance between personal privacy and the right to know and at what point that would do harm.
In closing, we need to take a look at -- and I've mentioned this before in a similar debate -- the fact that there are broader public service agencies that need to be included, such as school boards, hospitals and all the agencies that are attached to the government or receive public funding.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I'm pleased to participate in today's debate, because I think it is really about the public confidence about those who serve the public in all walks of public life, whether they are elected, whether they are civil servants, whether they are bureaucrats, public employees. Actually, anyone who is receiving payment from the government has a responsibility to the taxpayers, whose dollars pay them, to be as accountable as they can be for the dollars they receive from the public.
Today we're dealing with a proposal on the disclosure of executive compensation in the public sector. This has been something I've been very vocal about and in fact have been a participant in, ensuring that there was openness and transparency. This dates back to my days when I was Chairman of Management Board in 1985 in the government, when we brought in the new rules which opened for the very first time the amounts on salary ranges and so forth so that the public could scrutinize and see clearly how much civil servants were being paid.
It seems to me that from time to time it is good to review that and to see whether there is more that can be done. With the advent of the freedom of information and protection of personal privacy legislation, we have, with the experience of that legislation, seen a number of test cases which have given us pause to reconsider so that we can ensure that our dedication to openness and accountability and transparency is there and is there all the time.
It's my view that since this kind of debate is always about the balance between the right of the public to know and the right of the individual to personal privacy, we have to, on the basis of our principles, make those decisions. I'd like to state clearly in the House that my views and my principles are that the tilt should always be to the right of the public to know.
Having said that, I do believe it is possible in the framing of legislation to make sure we are protective of individual privacy. I think that is possible in the way we can have disclosure of compensation and benefits, and I don't think the two are at all incompatible.
The legislation that is before us today is supportable in principle, although I would like to express some concern about some of the individual provisions, because there is a cynicism and a suggestion that perhaps what is occurring is inappropriate. I want to state very clearly that from my experience in government, we frequently had difficulty in attracting people from the private sector to come and work in government simply because we could not compensate them in the same way as they had been compensated in the private sector.
I don't for a minute want this debate to get into: Do we pay our senior civil servants too much? Are there too many perks and privileges? That's not what this debate should be about; this debate should be about the public's right to know. As we have seen moves for greater openness and transparency in the private sector, certainly we have to make sure that the rules for the private sector are no more onerous than the rules for the public sector. In fact, my view is always that the responsibility of the public sector is even greater.
The rules for the private sector have been to protect and ensure openness and transparency for shareholders and corporations. In the United States, for example, our neighbour to the south and our most significant trading partner, the rules for disclosure of income, salary, perks, stock options and that sort of thing for leaders of public sector corporations probably are far ahead of anything we see here in Ontario. It's one of the reasons I was very supportive of the move to protect shareholders by giving them that kind of information as well.
In that same vein, it seems to me that the taxpayers, who are the shareholders of the corporation of the province of Ontario, if you want to use the corporate analogy, have a right to know and a right to have confidence that public servants, whether they are, as I say, elected or appointed or in the employ of any of the public sector and broader public sector agencies, are being properly and appropriately and reasonably compensated and treated.
I believe that, in the name of accountability and openness, we have to be on our toes all the time. One of the reasons we have to be on our toes and be prepared to review what is existing today is because public cynicism unfortunately is at an all-time high, frankly with a lot of justification. I'm distressed and concerned. I know people don't like anyone in public life; they particularly don't like politicians. That does pain me, because as we want to encourage good people, ordinary people in the province, to run for public office and stand in public life, we have to do everything we can to see that this is a profession which requires and deserves the respect of the public.
Mr Sterling: The member for Oriole, in winding up her speech, talked about public cynicism. I have to ask members of the Legislature, members of the public -- this member, when Chairman of Management Board, actually reversed a former regulation which required all salaries over $30,000 or $40,000, I'm not sure which, to be divulged.
Now she speaks in the Legislature in favour of undoing exactly what she did when she had the power in the cabinet of Ontario. Then she asks why people are cynical about politicians. I think she's made a tremendous exhibition of why people are in fact cynical about politicians: "When we were in power, we took away your right to know, and now, when we're in opposition, we want to give you the right to know."
Mr Sterling: I stand by my remarks. If any one of you wants to read the history on freedom of information and privacy, if anybody wants to talk about the disclosure of public servants' salaries, that is the history, that is the fact. The Liberals took away the right of the public to know what public servants in this province are making, the exact amount; they took it away. That is the fact, that is the matter.
Many members have said this bill is too narrow, and I wanted to say on behalf of Mr Stockwell, I'm certain that he would be quite willing to look at amendments which would widen the scope of this bill.
We have had some speakers say this is a proper matter for freedom of information and privacy reviews, but the member must admit that we had a review of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act at the provincial level some two or three years ago and there hasn't been any legislation brought forward.
I don't think a private member can be chastised for bringing forward this matter on the public agenda. It's important and I thank all members for their support. We look forward to this bill being called for third reading.
That, in the opinion of this House, since more than 4,000 chemicals have been identified in tobacco smoke such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, arsenic, benzene, hydrogen cyanide and formaldehyde, and many of these 4,000 chemicals are known to cause cancer and other diseases when they enter the body by way of smoking and inhaling environmental tobacco smoke, the assembly calls upon the Liberal government of Canada to enact measures requiring tobacco companies and cigarette manufacturers to make available to the public a list of the gaseous or particle byproducts released by tobacco when lit or smoked, and that the federal government should require that the chemicals in cigarette smoke most harmful to health be listed on tobacco product packaging, and that similarly the chemicals released in smokeless tobacco and absorbed by the body are identified on packaging of chewing tobacco and moist snuff.
Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): As all members know, the province has been moving forward on smoking as a very serious issue. In fact, a discussion paper on the Tobacco Control Act was released in January 1993. As that progressed, we heard from over 240 people by way of written presentations, and 34 oral presentations were made to a committee made up of staff from the Ministry of Health as we went through that process.
Over the past few years there has been a lot of action taken on this issue. The chief medical officer of health for the province declared in 1991 in his annual report that tobacco was public enemy number one, and there has been a lot going on. There have been the public ad campaigns that we've all seen, and we all applaud that the ministry has been doing quite well. The annual report by the chief medical officer of health for the province of Ontario, Opportunities for Health, again pointed out tobacco use and the problems related to it.
Through the strategy that is unfolding around tobacco products, we've seen, for example, certain areas that have been targeted through legislation, and, as members of the Legislature, we have been able to deal with that. The Ministry of Health has continued on a strategy for cancer. It's done that with Life to Gain, a document that talks about the cancer strategy for the province of Ontario.
There's a public awareness campaign that's out there. I think in every member's riding back home they've been approached by people in their community who want to talk about the issues and want to talk about it. There's a booklet put out by the Ministry of Health that helps parents talk to their children who are addicted to tobacco.
Yet I think, when I started looking at this issue and anticipating the fast passage through this House -- it seems to be delayed at this point, which is very frustrating for me -- there is still a problem. When I look at the Globe and Mail, they put a headline on it that I think was really quite useful. On April 14 this year, in one of their articles, it says, "Haze Still Hangs Over Cigarette Contents," and that's what I think was missing.
We all know -- we were told as we went through the committee hearing process -- that the list of tobacco product ingredients is tremendously long. What was presented to the committee was a list that was obtained from Health and Welfare Canada that was from the US, but it's not a complete list and it doesn't really identify it very well. What I think is missing is the fact that as we go out there in the province and as legislators want to deal with this very serious issues, the ingredient list that we need to know about isn't there. It's just not talked about.
If we take a look, for example, in the Globe, as they've tried to follow up with this, the tobacco industry divulges the list: 13 substances. Well, it's not 13 substances; we know it's more than 13 substances. That's the Canadian list, and the US list is 599. There are so many different things that are put into it, things that are put into the tobacco product to keep it moist so that it'll keep its freshness.
Some of those substances are cancer-causing, and as public health units deal with this -- this morning I spoke to the managers of the public health units. They're celebrating their 25th anniversary. They gave me this lovely little mug here. Actually, last year was their 25th anniversary. So here they are, they're going into 26 years.
I talked a little bit about this resolution, and there's a tremendous amount of support for it, because as they go out in the community and support us as members in talking about this, they can't see why the industry won't come clean, why it won't supply a list of all the ingredients.
You know, it's very disturbing, and I'm sure that my colleagues are going to share some of their thoughts around this. I'm sure that as they take a look at this serious issue -- you know, 13,000 Ontarians die every year in the province of Ontario from tobacco-related illnesses. That's a heck of a lot. That works out to about 100, Mr Speaker, in your riding, 100 in any member of the Legislature's riding, 100 in my riding.
I was on one of the local cable shows that we all do from time to time and I had a call from a good doctor. The good doctor said, "Larry, you know, that tobacco legislation is terrific. That's really good stuff. In fact, I would have liked to come down and made a presentation at committee." I explained to him, "We had four weeks of public hearings, we went around the province with it, we know there's a lot of support for it, and I appreciate that support that you're giving me."
He said, "You know, Larry, what I'd like to talk about is the real human issues: cancer, the cancer that affects people's lives." It might be a father who's struck with cancer and you've got someone like -- my son is seven years old -- a parent trying to explain to his child that he's dying of cancer, this awful disease; or somebody else who might be having to explain what the process is, what is going to happen as he goes through this very difficult suffering, through chemotherapy. It's something that's really awkward for people. I think that's where this good doctor wanted to explain this to the committee so that we could have a good round discussion about it and put a human face on it because that's what needs to take place.
I'm sure my colleagues are probably going to take a shot at some of the industry and maybe they deserve that. I think they do. The fact of the matter is, why don't they come up with the list? Why don't they come clean, explain exactly what are the products? "This is the process, this is what we use."
The industry in fact still hasn't even come to terms with the fact that smoking cigarettes can even cause cancer. I'm waiting for the day when I can go through -- and I've got a raft of clippings here, but I don't see a clipping in there that says, "The tobacco industry acknowledges that smoking tobacco products when used properly as directed will cause cancer." The fact of the matter is 80% of all lung cancer is the result of tobacco use. Why can't they come up with that product list? Why can't they just come forward and tell us exactly what's in it?
I know how terribly addicting it is. People say, "They wouldn't tamper with the nicotine levels, they wouldn't do that," yet that's the ingredient that addicts people, that's the ingredient that when our young people try it out for the first time is going to addict them. That's the element there. How many different chemicals are in there? How many different elements are in there? It's part of this problem.
That's why I think there's so much support for moving forward with this. We have to move forward with this. I look forward to the debate that's going to take place and I think we're going to see a terrific amount of support for it.
Let me tell you, when the federal government in Ottawa, the Liberal government, decided they were going to drop the sales taxes, it was like a knife that went through every committee member of social development that was dealing with the tobacco legislation. It was like a knife that cut right through us, the reason being that we heard from people how the prices have an effect. Here it was, the federal government was just helping out the Quebec party, and I felt that was just awful.
The fact of the matter is that a day later Mr Clinton and Mr Chrétien get on the phone to have a chat and they say: "We've got a serious problem here. We've got a problem over in Europe. Do you think we can agree to have some air strikes and deal with this problem?" I agree they've got to talk about that problem; it's something they have to do; it's something they've got to deal with. As international leaders, they have to talk about those things.
There are 40,000 Canadians who die every year, 400,000 Americans die every year from tobacco-related illnesses, yet the two leaders of the two countries can't get together and talk about it. I find it reprehensible that the two of them can't say, "Look, we've got a smuggling problem here, let's deal with that." But they didn't. I'm encouraged that maybe some day they're going to take a look at that and maybe they'll sit down and talk about tobacco as a problem, because I think it is a problem.
I want to support the federal government in their moves. In fact I'm on the list to go to Ottawa on May 10 to support them in their move towards plain packaging. We've got to talk about it, because we can affect people's lives. We can save some lives here.
Our legislation, Bill 119, is focused at young people. The part that was missing out of that, I think, was that list of all those harmful chemicals. We don't even know what they are. What I want to see happen here -- I'd be delighted if I see unanimous support.
I hope that maybe I can get unanimous support so that when I go to Ottawa on May 10 I can take that with me: the ingredients that come out when people are smoking tobacco -- we heard about ground glass being put in chewing tobacco -- those types of ingredients, that glass. If that's the case, I want the industry to come clean and tell us really what's in those products.
Mr Charles Beer (York-Mackenzie): I'm pleased to rise and join in the debate on my colleague's motion that would in effect as a result ensure that chemicals released are going to be set out clearly on the packaging, and I think in terms of the principle of this resolution that we would be supportive of that.
In fact I think that the federal government, which is being asked to do this, has begun the process of determining what is the best way to ensure that the ingredients of cigarettes and the ingredients of the smoke, which as a non-scientist I have learned is really the critical thing -- that in fact we know what is there.
I understand that, if the federal government proceeds with what is being discussed at this point in time, over the course of the next couple of years what is being set out in our colleague the member for Durham-York's motion would come about. He has made reference to the hearings that are going on. Those will undoubtedly conclude, and I fully expect to see action on the part of the federal government.
I think it's important to underline in this debate, as has been said, the weight of evidence that we heard in the standing committee on the whole question of smoking, and particularly the issue of the health hazards. One of the difficult things with the whole question of smoking has been that while we have a tremendous amount of information on the harmful effects of smoking in terms of heart disease and lung cancer of various kinds, it almost seems in a way that the more information that is out there, we keep running into more people who don't want to believe it, who will simply say: "Look, that's all just kind of propaganda. It's not real."
We see that, for example, in the discussion more recently around the advertising and why it didn't appear to be working with young people and what is the appropriate way to get some of these messages across to younger people. If there was one thing we learned very clearly from the hearings of the standing committee on social development it was that if a young person is not addicted to smoking by the time he or she is about 19 or 20, it is much less likely at that point that they will smoke on a regular basis. So the focus then was, how do we ensure that doesn't happen?
We also saw very clearly during those hearings that a great deal of the marketing of cigarettes was aimed precisely at the younger group, 12, 13, 14, 15 years of age. I think it was a real shock as a parent. Probably just through good luck my own kids had not been all that interested in smoking. I suspect that they had experimented, but it had never become a big thing with them. I wasn't as aware of the kind of marketing that was going on to get young women and young men to smoke.
As we wrestle with this and how we get this message through so it's not simply seen as something where those of us who are older are trying to tell those who are younger the things that they should and shouldn't do, I think one of the vehicles we have is making sure at least that people have information and that an intelligent, informed person will act on that information.
Clearly, one of those elements then is, "Well, what is on the package?" If you pick up a cereal box or a can of soup and you go to the contents, you get a pretty full listing of what's there. Often, I suppose, a lot of us don't necessarily know what some of the things mean that are there, but we can go and find out more directly, "Okay, what harm might come if I were to eat or ingest that particular product?"
Here what is being looked at and as I understand what has been proposed in the United States is that there they want to list all of the elements that are in the smoke; that it's that combination in particular, once the cigarette or the cigar is lit; that it is at that point that real harm can be caused, not just simply what constitutes the cigarette or the cigar itself. In order to do that, I think, then, we need the kind of thing that is being put forward in the resolution and it's the sort of thing that I believe the federal government in Ottawa is now looking at in very specific and real terms.
I recognize those who've been upset with the federal government for lowering the price. I think nobody from the health point of view -- and it's been said many times that that is not helpful. There's no question that the lower the price, the more people will smoke. I do think, in terms of that specific issue, there were some particular problems around the smuggling and what was happening within the society that finally made the determination as to why the federal government did what it did.
That being done, I think, if anything, we have to redouble our efforts, both provincially and federally, around what we can do, what steps we can take to more greatly limit the use of tobacco products. One of those things is going to be through ensuring that we know precisely what is in the cigarette, what it is we're taking in. Then that can also be part of a broad range of educational programs that we can have, whether they are in schools or in terms of public advertising campaigns, again trying to break through that barrier where people simply refuse to look at facts.
I only wish that we could have had some of those people come and look at some of the slides and the material that we had around the diseased lung or heart or even, from the use of chewing tobacco, what that did to people's mouths. I think in some ways that's probably the most dramatic and effective way of showing what's wrong with smoking.
All that being said, we have a major problem. This is one step, I think, towards combating tobacco and smoking. I think over the course of the next two years both the federal and provincial governments will be able to act on this, and this will be of great assistance to us.
Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): I am pleased to join for a few minutes in this debate concerning the resolution put forward by Mr O'Connor, the member for Durham-York. I want to say at the outset that I certainly support the principle of this legislation.
As Health critic for the Ontario PC Party, I just want to say for the record that it is important that consumers, and particularly those who consume tobacco products, are aware of the wide range of chemicals that are contained in Canadian cigarettes. As the parliamentary assistant, Mr O'Connor, pointed out in his remarks, the United States has recently moved on a similar front. I think that consumers, regardless of product in our society, must be made aware and given the opportunity to know what they are consuming. So I certainly support this legislation in principle and note, as with all private members' resolutions and bills before this House, that it's a free vote within our caucus and, I believe, other caucuses.
I also want to just compliment Mr Charles Beer, the Liberal member for York-Mackenzie, who quite skilfully, I must say, steered the social development committee, as Chair of that committee, through the debate on Bill 119. I want to thank Charles on a personal note for his leadership there. He really is a very good Chairperson of a committee. We did have a number of conflicting and often controversial presentations before that committee dealing with Bill 119 and other pieces of legislation that have appeared before the social development committee, and Mr Beer does a very skilful job as Chair.
I do find this resolution put forward by the parliamentary assistant for the NDP somewhat ironic, though, because it was certainly the NDP government here in Ontario and the federal Liberal government that, I think, did more to encourage cigarette smoking in this country and in this province than any other governments in history, and that was by their actions in concert to lower the taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products. Yes, there was a smuggling problem, but I would have thought that the NDP, because it spent a couple of weeks holding out on this issue, would have continued to hold out on the issue and not lower taxes, given that it has Bill 119 going through the House. Bill 119 is their Tobacco Control Act.
I want to set the record straight, with respect to my party, on Bill 119. The parliamentary assistant, Mr O'Connor, has accused us publicly of holding up this bill. I want to remind the people of Ontario that that's just bunk, that the government controls the agenda of this place, that the government has a majority on all standing committees and all committees of this Legislature and certainly has such a commanding majority that neither the PCs by themselves nor the Liberals by themselves nor the Liberals and PCs together can do anything about the agenda in this House, given that the government controls it with its majority. Therefore, if they want 119 to go through, they should bring it back for further debate in this House so that it can proceed to a final vote.
When it did appear in the House a couple of weeks ago, two of my colleagues, Mr Runciman, the member for Leeds-Grenville, and Mr Jordan, the member for Lanark-Renfrew, quite correctly, I think, brought forward some concerns that we had not heard during the hearings at the social development committee. Those were concerns regarding job losses. Since that time, more people have come forward expressing to my party the job losses that may be incurred as a result of the passage of Bill 119, and particularly the regulatory authority contained in that bill regarding plain packaging. That's what the issue of jobs has centred around, the issue of plain packaging and the printing industry.
I want to read a letter that was sent to me, dated April 18, from David R. Esch. He's president of Rototone. He says: "I'm writing to inform you of the impact of the proposed legislation on plain packaging on my company, and to seek your support in defeating this legislation. I'm the president of Rototone Gravure in Mississauga. We employ 45 people and we estimate that about 50% of our work is for the cigarette industry.
"If this legislation is passed, most if not all of these people will lose their jobs. The 10 people employed by F.J. Murray, our machine shop, will also be unemployed and of course all of our suppliers will be affected."
That letter is the most recent one, and Rototone is located in Mississauga, Ontario, but during the debate in this House on Bill 119, as I said, my colleagues brought forward similar concerns from print shops in eastern Ontario that expressed that hundreds of jobs will be lost. What we've called for is a couple of things.
First is the concerns that were expressed by Mr Runciman and Mr Jordan with respect to their constituents and the job losses that are pending, if this particular section of Bill 119 goes through, that the government respond to their concerns in writing. I've expressed that personally to the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health herself, Ruth Grier, has asked me what their concerns are and I've expressed those to her and asked her to put the government's response in writing, because I think it's only fair that Mr Runciman and Mr Jordan be able to take back to their constituents in writing exactly what the government's position is with respect to plain packaging.
Secondly, I think the jobs are a very important issue. I want to just quote from the Minister of Health's statement to this House last week, dated April 21, when she was announcing a new economic development study that had been conducted in the health care field. On page 3 of her announcement in this House she says: "A recent study found that physical and psychological stress associated with unemployment costs Canada $1 billion a year in extra health care costs. It's clear that our physical wellbeing depends on our economic and social wellbeing, and that's why job creation is a health issue as well as an economic development issue."
We've been a long time stressing to this government that health care must become one of the engines that drives the economic recovery, and rather than the punitive measures we've seen this government bring forward on the heads of health care professionals and hospitals and health institutions in this province, we would like to see the government change gears and look at health care as an economic development opportunity and an export opportunity and we'll continue our push in that regard.
But we finally did have the minister last week coming to the realization that health care is an important part of our economy. We'll have to see what the government does to live up to that quote I just read from the minister, but also we finally have a recognition of the importance of jobs. People like Fraser Mustard and other economists and scholars throughout North America and the world have consistently told legislators that jobs are a very important part of the health and wellbeing of any economy and its people.
In fact, the best thing that can be done right now in Ontario, in my opinion, as Health critic for my party, is that we put people back to work; that we allow businesses, in particular, to put people back to work. That's the best thing that the parliamentary assistant for Health can do, that's the best thing this government can do, for the health and wellbeing of the people of this province. There is lots of literature to support that this is the direction that health care must go in this province, and there has to be a better relationship between the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and the Ministry of Health.
The other thing that was called for by my colleagues from eastern Ontario, during the debate on Bill 119, is a full public hearing in consultation with the federal government so that it not only includes the people of Ontario but the people of Canada with respect to the issue of plain packaging. Unfortunately, and in hindsight, I do say that we did not hear from the other side of the issue with respect to plain packaging during the hearings on Bill 119.
The government's position to date is that plain packaging and the regulatory authority contained therein in the bill were very much a part of the public hearings, but it really wasn't. It played a minor role in those hearings, and there was not a significant focus on the issue. Nor did we have witnesses from, for example, the printing industries come forward and tell us about the impending job losses should such a move be contemplated.
I think it's only fair, and I join with my colleagues in calling upon this government, to remove that clause from Bill 119 so the rest of the bill, which is pretty good legislation, can move forward and that we set it aside and ask the government to hold public hearings on plain packaging in concert with the federal government, because we want to hear from all concerned individuals and citizens in this province with respect to that issue before any government moves ahead with such a significant step.
We also need a better understanding of the studies that have been done on the effect of plain packaging, and particularly how plain packaging may or may not serve as a deterrent for young people to start smoking. That's the objective of Bill 119. My party supports the objective of Bill 119, which we are told is to stop young people from starting to smoke. I think all legislators support that. With respect to plain packaging, though, we need a fuller airing of the issues surrounding that important initiative.
I was present at several of the meetings held by the standing committee on social development to hear presentations on the proposed Tobacco Control Act. I knew already, of course, that tobacco is a health hazard, but the evidence, presented largely by doctors, pharmacists and educators, was overwhelming.
There has been denial, particularly by cigarette companies, that the mounting statistical evidence proves the deadly nature of addiction to tobacco, but the evidence is now in. It is grisly and it is overwhelming. There are 13,000 deaths per year in Ontario which result from the use of tobacco; that is, 100 deaths for every member of this House, as my colleague has just said.
That is the population of a small town such as Niagara-on-the-Lake. That is almost five times the number of people who die from traffic accidents, suicide and AIDS combined in this province. One person dies from tobacco every 40 minutes in Ontario. To a young person, these figures may seem very abstract, but I can think of a neighbour, a colleague, a fine Canadian writer and Family Court judge, known to me personally, who died too young from smoking.
Tobacco causes 80% of lung cancer, and lung cancer is usually fatal within two years of diagnosis. One third of deaths from heart disease are smoking-related; bronchitis and emphysema can make life miserable for years; and stroke, cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and bladder are hardly mild afflictions and are linked to tobacco smoking.
These effects do not usually occur quickly. There's a gradual erosion of health over time. Ill health caused by tobacco use is a financial drain on our health service and a cause of lost workdays and economic loss.
We learned that the hazards of smoking are by no means confined to the person who smokes. Secondhand smoke causes cancer in non-smokers. Many people have found their place of work intolerable and dangerous to their health or have been unable to attend meetings or other events because of smoking by others.
Children and infants are particularly at risk. We were told that in northern Ontario, the problem is worse during the winter months because buildings and vehicles are closed up tight to keep out the cold. Asthma among children is on the rise and has reached alarming proportions. Mothers who smoke are liable to have low-birth-weight babies who are prone to health and developmental problems.
We were making progress in the reduction of tobacco use in this province. Public education campaigns, the proposed raising of the legal age for tobacco purchase, banning of sales from pharmacies and vending machines, the increase in designated non-smoking areas and plain packaging will all help. But the unfortunate response by the federal government to increased tobacco smuggling which has forced us to reduce tobacco taxes in Ontario is leading to a rise in smoking, the effects of which are yet to be seen.
We cannot prohibit the use of tobacco -- it is too well established for that -- but we can and must take every possible measure to deter its use. This resolution will help. I strongly support it and I want to thank all those people in my riding who are working hard to reduce the use of tobacco.
I want to first of all lament, as I have on a couple of occasions, the fact that I believe the private members' hour has been turned into a political forum for the political parties as opposed to the concerns of individual members. This is an example once again of dealing with something that's clearly outside the jurisdiction of the Ontario government. I would have preferred, and I've seen, some resolutions from members on the government side and from opposition members that have been specific to their ridings or very direct specific concerns. This is simply another fed-bashing initiative on the part of a member of the government because they want to run against the federal government in the next election. That does not influence my discussion of the particular measure that's here, but I really think it distorts what this Legislature is all about.
I've watched this Legislature for 17 years, and it used to be that the private members' hour was in fact the private members' hour. The odd time there would be what you'd call things that would be dictated by the caucus office or the government or something like this, a strategy that you would face with the government, but it used to be genuinely, I think, a matter of concern, first of all, within provincial jurisdiction, and secondly, genuinely an individual's concern.
I'm not suggesting that Mr O'Connor is not concerned about the issue. I think he is, as all members are. I just find this part of a pattern of, why don't we bash somebody else? Next week they'll have one where we'll bash the banks, and after that we'll bash the opposition parties. It will happen. Unfortunately, it will happen with the opposition parties as well. So I don't lament it simply on the basis of the government doing it; I lament the fact that this private members' hour has turned into a very partisan forum.
The resolution itself, however, is before us. I would like to discuss aspects of it, because I think in its content it is to be supported. I happen to feel very strongly about the issue of smoking, particularly among young people in our society.
The provincial government has within its purview a lot of powers to deal with matters of this kind. Even with this resolution, the provincial government, while it may not have constitutional jurisdiction to require that the companies provide this, a very strong message from the Minister of Health demanding that particular information for those cigarettes sold within the province of Ontario would certainly be extremely helpful and difficult for the companies to try to resist.
I found rather interesting, as I think all members of the House did, the hearings that were conducted by a committee of the House of Representatives of the United States, where the major manufacturing companies had their top people brought before this committee. There were some interesting and revealing exchanges that took place on this occasion.
I think what we're really aiming at are two things. First of all, this resolution deals with the contents of the product. No matter how people feel about smoking -- and some people are very resentful when they get preached at for smoking -- one thing everyone is entitled to, and the federal authorities have been moving towards this for some time now and will continue to do so, is the revealing of just what people are smoking. At least people should know the contents and the adverse or positive effects of those contents. I would suggest that overwhelmingly in this instance it is a negative effect on the health of people. Any time legislators at any level of government are in favour of revealing facts, of revealing information for people so they can make their own judgements, I think that is extremely beneficial.
All of us are concerned about this, but particularly among the young people who are starting out smoking. I've discussed this with a number of young people, and there's a natural reaction to those of us who are adults, perhaps who have some more experience. We have all had the opportunity, and it's not a pleasant opportunity, of seeing some of the effects of smoking, particularly serious diseases related to smoking. I have often thought, morbid as it sounds, that it would be interesting to have young people go through the wards of various hospitals where people have been affected by tobacco products being smoked or perhaps chewed to see what the effect can be. It's always something distant for young people, something they feel they're not vulnerable to, and I think it's exceedingly important.
Young people are interested in information. I think that's why the information that would be forthcoming from what is asked for in this resolution would be useful for those young people to know. A lot of them are interested in science. They are interested in health facts. They often will say to you, "Why don't you give us the facts, and we'll make a decision." That doesn't always work, and sometimes government has to be more heavy-handed than people would like.
Many of the initiatives discussed at the committee of the Legislature that's been dealing with this and by those who had input are very, very positive, and listing and telling the effects of the contents of that found in cigarettes and cigars and other tobacco products is extremely important.
It is, in my view, one shared by members of the medical profession, probably the number one health hazard we face at this time, not to suggest that there aren't others, but the effect of smoking cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos and other things people smoke is very pronounced on people.
I suspect that most of those who are smokers, and perhaps even some members of the House are smokers, would like to quit. If you asked them: "Do you enjoy smoking? Do you really want to go on smoking?" most would say, "I don't want to, but I'm addicted to it." That gets down to the point the member has brought forward in his resolution, that there are addictive materials found in those tobacco products. That's why it's important to have this information revealed.
I hope within provincial purview, within our jurisdiction here -- and I think there's a pretty good consensus; this is one issue that's not overly partisan. There are always partisan considerations, but within the provincial purview, I think there's a strong consensus within this House for the provincial government to initiate many activities that would discourage young people particularly from smoking and encourage those who are older and committed smokers not to do so.
This resolution, if passed, will be helpful in focusing on that issue, and I certainly encourage all members of the Legislature to do what we can within our own jurisdiction to ensure that there's a diminishing in the smoking taking place in our province.
Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): I come to this debate having been involved in it now for about eight or nine years. I think it's important that people know the ill effects tobacco can cause them, and the listing on a package of cigarettes of the various contents no doubt would be helpful.
I find it somewhat a concern, though, as a member of the provincial Legislature, that the parliamentary assistant for the Minister of Health brings forward a resolution which basically is thrusting responsibility or onus or burden upon another level of government. I would have much preferred that the parliamentary assistant for the Minister of Health had brought forward some kind of resolution which would push his government, push us in this Legislature, to take some action rather than shifting the burden to another level of government. For that reason, I find the resolution somewhat weak.
That says to me that this government, this parliamentary assistant, has the right to make regulations through the cabinet doing exactly what he's asking the federal government to do. So why is the parliamentary assistant saying, "They should do it," rather than "We should do it"?
If the parliamentary assistant wants it to be done Canada-wide, and I think it makes some sense to do it Canada-wide, why would he not then say, "Provided that, if it's not done by" such-and-such a date, one year, two years hence, "the provincial government do it on its own under Bill 119"?
It's quite clear, in talking to legal counsel on the social development committee, that the provincial government probably has the power to require this on packaging. In fact, if that were not the case, the section I have just read in vis-à-vis Bill 119 would not have been included.
We have had some debate on Bill 119 with regard to packaging, plain packaging etc, and my colleague has mentioned something about it. I don't believe the threats of the various tobacco packaging people at this time, but I do believe there should be some more debate on it. It's interesting to note too that section 5, as it has been argued in the committee, existed in Bill 119 since it was introduced back in November 1993. These packaging companies did not choose to come in front of the social development committee to make their case. There has been some prior notice to them to come in front of the legislative committee and say this is going to cost jobs in various communities across Ontario.
The amendment to the regulations section of the bill only made it more crystal clear that in the contemplation of this government there might be plain packaging somewhere down the road. Therefore, the idea that there has been no notice to the tobacco industry, to the tobacco packaging people, that plain packaging might have been in contemplation is not exactly correct. They had an opportunity to come before the social development committee to make their case and chose not to. So we are now caught in the conundrum of passing Bill 119 with them now claiming they did not have prior notice of this.
At any rate, what I would urge the government to do right now is dedicate part of the tobacco tax to help people in the tobacco packaging area, in case plain packaging does come and jobs are lost, so that these communities will be assisted by such a dedicated tax in the future.
The issue and the message calls for great cooperation by all levels of government: municipal, provincial and federal. This seems an appropriate place to raise the resolution, because we do require the list of all the chemicals and things that are included in tobacco products. What we need to do is make sure that young people are aware of what chemicals are in them and how the chemicals can affect their health and what problems can be caused from them.
I'd like to remind the members and remind people, both smokers and non-smokers, that we can give them more information about the deaths that happen as a result of using tobacco products. We have to remember that every 40 minutes there is the death of someone who has used tobacco products. We need to realize that those chemicals can affect health. When it is lit, the gaseous particles or the byproducts that are in the smoke and consumed or ingested by the body have an impact on us.
It can cause an increase in heart disease and lung cancer. There can be chronic bronchitis and emphysema. There is the problem of cancer of the mouth, cancer of the throat and cancer of the oesophagus. With young mothers who are pregnant, this smoke can have an impact on the foetus and there can be very low birth weight and that will have an impact on the children. Also, sometimes it can affect the foetus so that there are some disabilities.
It's curious that the federal Liberal government was so concerned about the issue of smuggling and the economy that it ignored the issue of people's health and how smoking can affect people. I think we require cooperation from the federal government. I'm a parent of five small children and I know it's difficult for parents to talk to their kids about this issue and not to sound like they're preaching, but it does require everyone's cooperation.
I would ask that the federal government and tobacco companies be made to list the individual products, the more than 400 things that are included in their products and the health effects they can cause. The tobacco industry denies there is any connection between what they include in their products and health, but there is proof. I think the denial shows clear irresponsibility.
In the borough of East York, the borough of East York health unit has done a lot of research. There is also the Ontario tobacco strategy which has been developed by our government. There are many different groups that are collecting information and evidence through research on the number of deaths that are happening from tobacco use. There is this information, as well as the young mothers again who have the unborn children who are affected by their smoking.
To wrap up, I would like to say that this resolution be supported by all members. We also call on the municipal government and the federal government for cooperation, because what we need to do is get the best information that will have an impact on young children to prevent them from smoking and that will keep them healthier and able to live longer. I would just like to remind members that young people think smoking is really cool, but it isn't. It kills, and that's the message the young people need to learn.
The basic issue we're talking about here this morning is that people have a right to know what's in cigarettes, what's in tobacco, what's in chewing tobacco. They have a right to know, and they're denied that at the moment. I think that's absolutely criminal.
I find it very strange indeed that when I go to the grocery store, as the honourable member opposite said in his comments, to buy a box of cornflakes, listed thereupon are all the ingredients in that box of cornflakes. Likewise, when I buy a vitamin pill, should I need one -- I don't -- there are all the ingredients about what you're going to digest in your system. But here we have a system whereby cancerous substances are introduced into cigarettes and by this wonderful quirk of, "Oh it's our secret; you're not supposed to know," nobody knows what they're taking into their system. If they knew what they were taking into their system, I think it would have a tremendous effect on smoking, particularly smoking by young people, which really is what we should be focusing on.
I found it also very interesting that in the United States they've had extensive debate about the ingredients in cigarettes, tobacco etc, and it's a known fact that some of the ingredients that are introduced into tobacco products by some of the manufacturers are not fit to be put in a toxic landfill site. They're so toxic that you would have to make special arrangements to dispose of them; You just can't ditch them out. Doesn't that give us the message?
If a food manufacturer, say -- and we'll use cornflakes as an example because most people eat cornflakes -- were introducing some cancerous, toxic ingredients into the cornflakes, I would imagine there would be a public outcry of proportions you wouldn't be able to contain. People would march on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and I've no doubt they would march on the Legislature here, demanding that we do something about this. In turn, I'm sure the manufacturers would be locked up for a very long time for killing people all over the place. Yet we seem to accept this and we seem to think this is wonderful.
I was very upset to hear some of the comments from the Conservative Party in so far as the packaging and the job loss. I recognize too that there's a certain amount of job loss, but when you compare -- I think the member for Simcoe West referred to 13 people who may lose their jobs, and in the meantime we've got thousands and thousands of people who perish every year through tobacco products. I don't think that makes a very logical argument. It almost seems they're apologists for the tobacco industry.
I'd like to bring up the New York Times Magazine. It says: "Hi folks. Mr Butt's here. Ever wonder what it takes to be a top tobacco industry executive?" Then this next cigarette says, "Well, to begin with, you've got to be absolutely nuts about freedom, I mean certifiably nuts about freedom, and you have to love choice," it says. The headline of the New York Times Magazine article says, "How Do They Live With Themselves?" How do these tobacco executives live with themselves? How do the people live with themselves who criticize my colleague's resolution? How do they live with themselves? I say shame on all of them. This is such an issue that no one should stand in their place and criticize my friend at all. It's absolutely diabolical to suggest that he has some motives that aren't for the health of this country. It's awful.
Then we have the executive from Philip Morris who says: "I don't know how I look at myself in the mirror. I wish they wouldn't say things about me like that." This is the executive from Philip Morris; he's ashamed of himself.
The member for Simcoe West complained that the federal government and the NDP were caving on the tax issue. I wish the Tories, when they were in power, had dealt with it properly. I wish they had stuck with the excise tax. Four weeks, it took them, to cave. They're the party who talks about business, yet they don't care about those retailers who are on the Ontario-Quebec border. I find that passing strange.
The member for St Catharines mentioned you should talk about your local constituents. That's the thing. The fact is that each and every member of the Legislature has a hundred people in their riding who are dying from tobacco-related illnesses. I've got proactive groups in my riding such as the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Uxbridge. I told them some of the things I'm doing on this issue, and they sent me this little book, Where There's Smoke. It's a children's book and one I would advise every member of the Legislature to get a copy of. I'll have an opportunity to speak in my riding about this at the Georgina Festival of Stories, and this is the book I'm taking this year. This isn't something about bashing one level of government or another; this is about a hundred of my constituents who are going to die prematurely, who don't need to, and that's not a partisan issue.
To the member for Carleton, I'd suggest he read the reprinted edition of Bill 119, because section 5 covers it. It's unfortunate that he hadn't, but we talked a little bit and we can talk some more. Unfortunately, Bill 119 is being held up. My opposition colleagues told me they're going to drag it through committee of the whole House, with half-hour bells on every section. Not to bash them, I think that's unfortunate. This resolution is about all of our constituents and all those people who are going to die not knowing what's in tobacco products, and I suggest that Pat Borders might want to quit.
Abel, Arnott, Beer, Bradley, Callahan, Caplan, Carr, Carter, Crozier, Duignan, Eddy, Frankford, Grandmaître, Haeck, Hansen, Harrington, Hayes, Hodgson, Hope, Huget, Johnson (Don Mills), Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings), Klopp, Lessard;
MacKinnon, Malkowski, Mammoliti, Marchese, Marland, Martin, Mathyssen, McLean, Miclash, Mills, Morrow, Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound), O'Connor, Offer, Owens, Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt), Poole, Rizzo, Sola, Sterling, Stockwell, Sutherland, Tilson, Turnbull, Wessenger, Wilson (Kingston and The Islands), Wilson (Simcoe West), Winninger, Wiseman, Wood.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Mr Speaker, considering there was unanimous endorsement by this House and unanimous across the floor, could I rethink the motion? No, I'm just kidding. Considering that it's unanimous, can I ask that it be moved to the public accounts committee?
Mr Gregory S. Sorbara (York Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Just very briefly, if I might, as a point of order, take the opportunity to introduce to members of the Legislature a delegation from Pescina, Italy, led by the mayor of Pescina, Vincenzo Parisse, and welcome them, about 20 visitors in the members' gallery west. We're very pleased to have them here in Ontario and visiting our Legislature.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): The honourable member will know that he does not have a point of order. However, our visitors are very special visitors. They're most welcome to this, our assembly of Ontario.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I rise today to offer congratulations to the new executive of the Queen's Park press gallery. The gallery's annual elections were held today and for the first time in recent memory there was a contest for the position of president. Richard Brennan of the Windsor Star, sometimes known as Mr Congeniality, edged out Guy LePage of CKCO-TV in Kitchener, 20 votes to 18.
There is good news in today's election for those of us who are long-serving incumbents and thinking about re-election. Mr Brennan, who is known by his nickname, the Plain Dealer, is serving his fourth term as president, the longest in press gallery history.
There is also a lesson for the government in Mr Brennan's victory: Brennan has never broken a campaign promise because he has never made a campaign promise. Mr Brennan won under difficult circumstances. As the government members know, Mr Brennan and Mr Coyle are under police investigation over a leaked document concerning the Windsor casino.
The other four positions on the executive were acclaimed, the envy of all politicians: Emilia Casella of the Hamilton Spectator, vice-president for print journalists; Guy LePage, CKCO-TV, vice-president for electronic journalists; Randy Rath, CHCH-TV Hamilton, treasurer; and Betsy Powell of Canadian Press has been acclaimed as secretary.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'm pleased to announce to the House, on behalf of the Taoist T'ai Chi Society of Canada and its founder, Master Moy Lin-shin, the following statement: In celebration of the Taoist T'ai Chi Seniors' Health Day, to be held next week at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto from 1 pm to 3 pm, there will be demonstrations of Taoist t'ai chi by seniors, who will demonstrate first hand the health-improving benefits of this complete physiological exercise.
In celebration of this event, all regular instructors' fees for Taoist t'ai chi classes for seniors will be waived for the remainder of 1994. The vast majority of these classes are funded by government agencies. In these difficult times, Master Moy would like to recognize the support he personally and the Taoist T'ai Chi Society, a registered charity, have received over the years by returning a helping hand.
In Metropolitan Toronto, Taoist t'ai chi is taught at over 60 locations weekly. In other parts of the province, approximately 20 more classes are taught to seniors. The waiving of fees for these many weekly classes is a considerable undertaking.
The aims and objectives of the Taoist t'ai chi society are to promote the health-improving qualities of t'ai chi and to make t'ai chi available to all, to promote cultural exchange and to help others. The Taoist t'ai chi society hopes that all gestures of mutual supportiveness will create a climate of goodwill and cooperation among us all.
Mr Tony Rizzo (Oakwood): I would like to bring to the attention of the House the problem of grandparents who have been denied access to their grandchildren. When there is a divorce with children involved or when one parent dies, very often grandparents can be caught in a conflict where they are prevented from seeing their grandchildren. This is unfortunate and unacceptable.
While the best interests of the child must always continue to take precedence, I strongly believe that the Children's Law Reform Act should be amended to prevent a parent or person with custody from placing unreasonable obstacles between children and their grandparents. We must ensure that the emotional ties between them are not severed as a result of a parental conflict and that access to children is not restricted by a child's guardian. Sadly, this is often the case and children are regularly denied the privilege and enjoyment of their grandparents' company. The result is a loss of their rightful heritage.
Mr Hans Daigeler (Nepean): Today, I would like to do something that perhaps doesn't happen often enough in this House and that is to congratulate and thank the Ontario civil service. Frankly, independent of the parties, there are civil servants out there who are doing a good job, who are trying to do their best under the circumstances.
Last week, I came across an example that I thought was very innovative and should be mentioned as a very positive step forward. Somebody had a real brainwave and I think should be congratulated on behalf of the House. We got from the communications branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General this diskette. This diskette describes, in electronic form, the legal services that are available across the province.
I would just like to point out to you what's on this diskette. There's a description in terms of address and also what they do of the provincial legal services, the agencies, boards and commissions that are there, the community legal organizations, the legal services by region, all broken down. Also on this diskette you can find where the Chinese-language services are available, where the French-language services are available, advocacy, counselling services and so on and so on.
Frankly, I think it's an innovative way to cut down on paper. I tried it at home on my computer and it's very easy to access. It's great to use in the members' constituency offices and for anybody out there in the community who is interested to learn what the Ontario government and the bureaucracy has available. So I recommend this to you and I commend the staff who have developed this.
Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Congratulations are in order to the Ford Motor Co in my riding of Oakville South for the good news story that they will be spending $400 million over the next two years to expand their truck-painting facility. This will create 500 construction jobs and provide a much-needed boost to the local economy. The Oakville factories have increased their employees by about 800 in the last three years.
Ford had previously announced that it would be building the new Windstar minivan in Oakville, and that was excellent news, but to have received this extra investment is good news indeed. Vehicle sales are increasing and all predictions indicate that Ford is going to have a profitable year. In the next 36 months, 16 new vehicles are going to be introduced, and Ford is strongly positioned to take advantage of the gradually improving economy.
Mr Ron Hansen (Lincoln): I rise today to inform the House of an issue that directly affects 165,000 residents of Ontario: motorcycle safety and awareness. With each passing year, more and more residents of this province are driving motorcycles and mopeds, but they face a hidden danger: other motorists.
In 1991, the last year for which statistics are available, 55 motorists and nine passengers were killed on the highways and byways of Ontario, many after colliding with cars and trucks. Add to that number 2,183 injuries to motorcycle drivers and 487 to passengers.
A good number of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented if more motorists were in the habit of looking twice before entering intersections and if more riders had taken motorcycle safety courses. This is why Bikers' Rights of Ontario, a non-profit group dedicated to responsible motorcycle legislation, wants the province to raise motorcycle safety awareness by declaring May of each year as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.
In recent years, myself and the member for Kitchener-Wilmot sponsored a bikers' rights rally here at Queen's Park. Many of these same riders signed petitions, which have been presented to the House, asking the province to officially declare May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.
Mr Steven Offer (Mississauga North): If you listen to recent media reports, you would swear the NDP caucus is a house divided. I stand in my place today to say that the media, respectfully, are wrong. The NDP isn't divided. In fact, they are just one big, happy family.
Yes, nepotism and the NDP seem to go hand in hand. The corridors of power are full of NDP family members. There are now five members of the Mackenzie family who are drawing their salaries directly from the taxpayers of Ontario. A sixth family member is also a full-time organizer for the NDP.
For the Mackenzie family members, Bob, David, Dan, Lori, Andrew and Rachel, every day at work is a family reunion. This is just the beginning. It would appear everyone who works for the NDP is somehow related.
We even have Ross McClellan and his wife, Pat, whose daughter, Maura, works for Elaine Ziemba. Of course, her daughter, Laura Ziemba, works for Brian Charlton, whose wife, Chris, works for Ross McClellan, which I believe brings me back to where I started.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have the pleasure of acknowledging the hard work and dedication of a retired member of the Shelburne police force. Carmen Lemcke served as the chief of police for Shelburne for 37 years.
Carmen Lemcke is the longest-serving police chief in Ontario and quite possibly Canada. Carmen is known in the community as not only a fair and tough chief of police, but also as an individual who felt a strong and active community was a healthy community. Carmen actively participated in sports groups within Shelburne and has coached four minor hockey teams to Ontario championships.
Carmen is the classic community-minded civil servant who saw the benefit of putting back into the community as much as or more than you can get from it. There are few residents in Shelburne who cannot tell you a story about Chief Lemcke, whether it is through their children at the local arena or coming to their aid when they need the security and assistance of the Shelburne police force.
Many things have changed at the police station since Chief Lemcke joined the force as a constable in 1956. One thing never changed in those 37 years: Chief Lemcke felt the police force was most effective when it was part of the community, not a separate group that watched from the sidelines. You have to be involved and effective. Chief Lemcke actively pursued the new goals of community policing during his tenure of 37 years.
The dedication of this park was a fitting way for the Cavan community to celebrate Earth Day and there was an excellent turnout this past Sunday. Trees were planted to mark the boundaries of the new garden and I was happy to be present for the sod-turning ceremony, which dedicated the garden to the memory of the past and the promise of the future.
The main benefit of this garden will be educational. I believe this EcoGarden and others like it will become a major educational influence in this area, as well as a source of pleasure, of comradeship, of beauty and of nutrition.
There is a universal need for people to come together to find common solutions to common problems. I believe communities will continue to work together to ensure that we do not irrevocably damage the wonderful environment on which we all depend, both for our physical health and for the joy it gives.
Hon Bob Mackenzie (Minister of Labour): This 28th day of April has a very special significance for the workers in the province of Ontario. This is the annual day of mourning for all of those who have died as a result of workplace accidents or occupational illnesses. All across Ontario, workers have gathered to express their feelings. Our common purpose is to honour the dead and show solidarity with the injured workers.
Let us remember that last year Ontario recorded 292 workplace fatalities and approximately 137,000 workplace injuries. While we share the grief of the bereaved and injured, we must bear in mind that much more needs to be done by all concerned to improve occupational health and safety. There still are workplaces where only the absolute minimum is done, where corners are cut to do things the easy way.
In addition to the unacceptable human toll, workplace accidents create an enormous financial burden of about $12 billion a year. That's the estimated cost to the Ontario economy of the six million working days lost by injured workers.
There is another dimension of today's observance from which we can take some consolation. Statistics for the last several years show a decline in the rate of workplace fatalities and injuries, even when the figures are adjusted for reduced economic activity in the recession. In spite of the improvement, we must continue to do our utmost to bring the tragic and unnecessary workplace fatality toll to zero.
I want to remind the House about the origin of the day of mourning. When the Ontario Federation of Labour selected this date for observance in the 1980s, the intention was to mark the anniversary of the original Workers' Compensation Act, which was passed on this day in this Legislature in 1914, exactly 80 years ago.
It is fitting that in this 80th anniversary year this government is reforming and renewing the original act, bringing forth a comprehensive package of improvements for it. I am happy that the reform package contains compassionate measures for the most vulnerable injured workers. The first tangible benefits of reform will go to them.
As members will recall, about 45,000 older injured workers and family members who are living in difficult circumstances will continue to have their WCB pensions fully indexed for inflation. The same applies to pensions of survivors and the fully disabled. Moreover, many unemployed older workers who receive minimal WCB benefits will get a pension increase of $200 a month. This increase is not subject to social assistance clawback. The first beneficiaries of the WCB reform package include many of the families of those whom we mourn today.
The positive news for injured workers actually began last year, when our government announced funding of $2.5 million over five years for injured workers' groups to expand their services. Freed from financial worry, injured workers' groups have been able to concentrate on becoming effective advocates for their very worthy cause, and the WCB reforms attest to that.
I see other reasons for being optimistic about things being done in Ontario and across Canada to improve occupational health and safety. Specifically, I want to mention the considerable progress that is being made in 13 jurisdictions across the country on a national harmonization plan for health and safety standards everywhere. Soon to be published are the country-wide regulations to improve health and safety in many sectors where agreement is virtually complete. But again I feel more remains to be done before we convince all employers and employees to treat workplace health and safety with the utmost urgency.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): As the minister has said, today, April 28, marks the 80th anniversary of the first workers' legislation passed in all of Canada. Ironically, this was the result of a royal commission appointed in 1910 by the government of the day and headed by Justice Meredith. The principles of Justice Meredith's royal commission report apply probably more today than even they did in 1914. It is a day we remember and mourn workers killed and injured on the job.
That day, 80 years ago, was a landmark in Canada when governments began passing laws that would improve working conditions for all employees. Now workers have the right to expect safe Ontario workplaces, and when injury does occur, compensation is a worker's inherent right, as is the right for rehabilitation.
The Workers' Compensation Board was formed to ensure that injured workers on the job receive fair compensation for their workplace injuries and that proper health and safety standards are in place in all Ontario workplaces to prevent workplace accidents and deaths.
While improvements have been made since that first legislation was passed, 373,050 claims were filed in Canada in 1993. This incredible number is evidence that much more needs to be done in the area of prevention and in the improvement of health and safety standards.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the organizations and individuals participating in events to mark this very solemn day. As we observe today a moment of silence for workers killed or injured in the workplace and for their families, let us pledge ourselves to attaining better health and safety standards to protect Ontario workers and their families.
There isn't anyone who sits in this House today who has not been touched one way or another personally by someone in the family or a close friend or acquaintance who has been injured or perhaps even killed in the workplace. We must continue our collective efforts in the identification of hazardous substances, through educational initiatives and through relevant health and safety training, to ensure that all Ontario workplaces are free of workplace fatalities and accidents.
There are times when partisan differences in this House are quite pronounced, when confrontation is clearly inevitable. This is one occasion, however, when as legislators we must do all we can to ensure that proper safety measures are put into place to avoid the tragedies that have happened in the past for the families and for the friends who are no longer with us.
Recently I held a number of outreach sessions around the province of Ontario. The injured workers who came before our hearings provided real-life examples, with human faces rather than just files from the Workers' Compensation Board, of tragedies, frustration, anger and disappointment. These men and women want to return to work. They want to return to dignity. All they want is fairness, justice and a chance to get on with their lives. Instead, we see financial hardship, family breakdown, attempted suicides and, indeed, suicides.
These are the results of workers who are injured in an accident feeling the need and becoming consumed with having to fight the bureaucracy that clearly is out of control. We are all complicit in this area; all three parties in this Legislature need to do more. Obviously the onus falls to the government of the day, but even we in opposition need to look at ways to reduce accidents, improve health and safety and help injured workers get back to work.
Very often, we focus on issues like fraud and bureaucracy. While these are clearly important issues that must be addressed, we must not lose sight of the fact that worker injuries continue to rise, worker frustrations increase, and not enough is being done to address their concerns.
Finally, while we may continue to disagree on methodology, I believe we all agree on the goal, prevention of accidents, and when that fails, return to work as quickly as possible with justice and dignity for all workers injured in the province of Ontario.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On behalf of my colleagues in the Progressive Conservative caucus, I rise to join the members from the other two parties in remembering those workers who have been killed or injured on the job as a result of workplace accidents or industrial diseases.
By setting aside this day of mourning each year, we are reminded of the need to remain dedicated to the task of eliminating workplace accidents and diseases. Government, industry and labour must work together to create a safe working environment. Such cooperation will ensure that real progress is made to reduce the risk of death or injury to workers.
Each one of us should reflect on the work that has been done by our predecessors in the establishment of the workers' compensation system, the passage of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the other measures which this Legislature has taken over the years in an attempt to minimize the risk of death or injury to workers. While much has been accomplished, much more must be done in the future.
Today workers face a variety of job-related injuries that our forefathers would never have imagined. It is our task to provide as safe a workplace as possible. The workers' compensation system is in fundamental need of reform and our occupational health and safety laws must be constantly updated to reflect the changing nature of the workplace.
As we observe a moment's silence for the working men and women who have been killed or injured in the workplace and take the time to remember their families, let us rededicate ourselves to ensuring that such needless and tragic accidents do not occur in the future.
Hon David S. Cooke (Minister of Education and Training): I am pleased to inform members today that the eight public school boards in Metropolitan Toronto, the Metropolitan Separate School Board and the Ministry of Education and Training have agreed to establish a task force to find ways to save money through cooperative services.
Increased cooperation among school boards is a key in maintaining quality education in the current economic environment. School boards, like other public institutions, have a responsibility to work together to deliver education in the most cost-effective way so that more resources are available for the classroom.
Cooperation will eliminate unnecessary duplication and allow boards to acquire services and resources at less cost than they would pay individually. Today, many school boards across Ontario are cooperating to share transportation services, payroll, purchasing and technology.
I commend the Metro Toronto school boards for establishing a task force to examine these and other models for the cooperative delivery of education services and to recommend how the cooperative approach can best be applied in Metropolitan Toronto.
The task force will consist of 14 members. Dr Ned McKeown, who has recently announced his retirement as director of education for the Metropolitan Toronto School Board, will serve as chair of the task force. Ms Margaret Caravaggie, superintendent of system review for the Metropolitan Separate School Board, will serve as co-chair. They are both in the gallery with us today.
It will report to a steering committee of the Minister of Education and Training, the chair of Metropolitan Toronto School Board and the chair of the Metropolitan Separate School Board. It will deliver an interim report by April 30, 1995, and a final report by June 30, 1995.
The establishment of this task force shows the commitment of the Metro public school boards and the Metropolitan Separate School Board to work together to meet the challenge of providing education in Canada's largest urban centre. Almost one in every four students in Ontario attends a school operated by one of the Metro Toronto school boards.
I would like to congratulate Ann Vanstone, the chair of the Metropolitan Toronto School Board, and Elvira Demonte, the chair of the Metropolitan Separate School Board, who are both here with us in the gallery as well today, and I'd ask them to be recognized.
Initiatives such as this task force will lead to better education services at less cost to the taxpayers. It is this kind of initiative that will allow us to continue our province's substantial investment in education, an investment that points the way to economic renewal, to better jobs, and to personal and social wellbeing for the people of this province.
Mr Charles Beer (York-Mackenzie): I want to rise and welcome the establishment of the task force by the Metropolitan Toronto school boards. I think this is a positive step forward, particularly because this initiative has come, really, out of a lot of work which the Metro boards, all of them, have been doing over the past while, and I think one would want to note Metro's unique educational needs study that the boards did over the last couple of years and that was presented last spring, setting out the particular issues and problems that the Metro boards face.
The other thing that I think is important to underline about the creation of this task force is that it is coming from the boards themselves, and I think we have all been talking a lot about the need to restructure. We've been talking about how we can get services provided in common so that we can avoid duplication, save money and obviously save cost to the taxpayers. But we have all, at different times and with different governments, had difficulty in really making something happen.
I think the fact that this task force is co-chaired through both Metro public and Metro separate, that the membership will reflect the boards within Metro, means when they reach agreement that in fact those are things we will be able to see as very possibly being implemented, and I think we need some success stories to demonstrate that this kind of cooperation can go on.
I should just note for the members of the House that while the Minister of Education was making the announcement about the task force, those who are on election watch would also want to note that in reply to one question, the Minister of Education made it very clear that the school board elections would come before the next provincial election. I know that he'd want me to share that with members of the House as well as with those watching this program.
The other point that I would like to make as well is to offer our cooperation both to Dr McKeown and to Ms Caravaggie. I know that it's going to be a very stimulating time. The time frame is, I think, a doable one. It is tight in some respects, but I think it's a place where we want to see and need to see action, and that's probably a good way to do it.
The comment that Dr McKeown is retiring is one that I don't believe. I think it has been said on a number of occasions that he will be involved in public education all his life, and I think in the case of the two co-chairs, we wish them the very best in their work.
The minister would understand, having said that I believe the creation of the task force is a good step forward, none the less I would use some of my time to offer him some suggestions on some related matters.
I think the point to make is this: This is a positive step forward today. There have been others in terms of cooperation and attempts to save on costs. But in the newspaper this morning was reference to meetings the Treasurer had with a number of people about the Fair Tax Commission and where the reform of education funding is going. We do seem to be stuck, if not in neutral, we certainly aren't moving very quickly.
We know that we had the Fair Tax Commission at a cost of some $9 million. They presented a report. Everyone would admit, from looking at it, it is complex. But I would say to the minister that this issue of funding reform is critical. We have the Royal Commission on Learning, which will be reporting at the end of this year. We will have, over the course of the next 12 months, an election, and I know that everyone is looking forward to that royal commission report.
But the other element that is needed and is necessary is, what will be the funding system that will go with that royal commission? I would suggest to the minister that we need to, if you like, break open this discussion. We were expecting this fall a white paper from the Ministry of Education on options in education funding reform.
I know there are discussions on this and people are concerned about whether to bring it forward, but I would urge the minister to bring it forward, a series of options, and suggest that the government consider having the standing committee on social development this summer, in August and September, take those options out and around the province and talk with those most involved in terms of what kind of package can be put together for real education funding reform.
Because whether we are talking about Catholic and public boards, assessment-rich or assessment-poor, or looking at the particular needs of communities such as Metropolitan Toronto, Ottawa and other large areas, there are real problems which we as legislators, I think, should be involved in and could help in bringing about a resolution, and I put that to the minister.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): I would like to stand and say that it's good to see that the Minister of Education and Training is on our agenda again. He's long overdue. This has been in print for two years and he should have acted earlier.
It says here that we should be looking at duplication between all school boards in an effort to save costs. I'd like to be somewhat specific. Some of my colleagues who have helped us with our work in looking for good, I think, information and recommendations for the minister are in the gallery here.
I'd obviously like to recognize Ann Vanstone and Elvira Demonte and say that I'm glad they're there. I'm sure they'll be wonderful watchdogs and we need more of them. The minister is very lucky to have their point of view. I would say to Mr McKeown that he should have done this when he was a director, but he's a colleague I've worked with for years as well.
We're long overdue, and this has been done in other parts of the province. For the minister, in the Kent county example -- their director of education, Bill Green, and I will be speaking on this tomorrow in eastern Ontario -- the Kent county public and Kent county Roman Catholic separate boards are leaders in this area. They've implemented a series of joint ventures to save the local taxpayers money, and I'm going to give the minister a list and perhaps you could take my notes later and take a look at this list.
Mrs Cunningham: I think if they've got it, they should have taken your advice sooner. You should be very concerned about this. My colleague the member from Chatham is advising me that Kent county gave you the list a long time ago.
One road, one bus, Mr Minister. Think about it: one transportation officer, one health and safety officer, one assessment officer, one race relations officer, combined audio-visual services, combined curriculum development, joint purchase of natural gas, joint purchasing and joint recycling, joint banking program with the public-separate boards, the city of Chatham, the county of Kent and the surrounding municipality and the two hospitals. This is giving you lots to work on.
I have to say that the minister is surely aware of the Metropolitan Toronto studies for the public boards that took place some time in January, at least the reports came out, to tell the Metro boards that if they did work together with regard to their computer services, their warehousing and their purchasing, the Metropolitan public school boards would save $55 million.
I will say in closing that we do recognize the individual challenges of the Toronto school board, there's no doubt, of all the metro school boards around the province. I have to tell you that other boards say "the city of Toronto" with respect, because it has so much work to do.
I would advise them to take a look at what you're doing with education dollars in the area of health, in the area of community and social services and all those other areas that are attributed to education which should be attributed elsewhere. I wish you the best of luck. It should have been done sooner.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): I really am pleased to see this committee struck. Certainly the seriousness of it is registered in my mind by the appointment of a co-chair like Ann Vanstone. There's no doubt this kind of appointment is the kind of appointment we should be looking for as taxpayers in Metropolitan Toronto.
I will say that to the constituents whom I speak to, one of the gravest concerns they speak about is the cost of education in Metropolitan Toronto. My predecessor and our critic spoke about it. The mandate was to educate, and so far, in a lot of instances, in a lot of municipalities within Metropolitan Toronto, they've left that mandate and have gone into streams and areas that probably are no concern of theirs, that cost taxpayers in Metro significant amounts of money. If there's one aspect they should examine, it is the mandate of educating the children of Metropolitan Toronto and ensuring that they do it at a reasonable cost for the taxpayers.
I heartily endorse this. I am proud to see this is happening. People like Ann Vanstone I know will bring forward a report, if acted upon, that will only serve the taxpayers whom I'm proud to represent in Etobicoke.
Mr Murray J. Elston (Bruce): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I stand to bring to your attention a ruling you made on April 22, 1993. At that time you ruled, because of the newness of the office of junior minister, that people in the opposition benches could ask questions of junior ministers when something fell into their area of expertise.
There is such a junior minister who is associated with Mr Laughren, but we have come to discover that when Mr Laughren is away, Mr Ward, his junior minister, is also coincidentally always away. The two are always away in tandem.
It appears to us, sir, and this is my point of order, that because the government did not want its junior ministers to answer any questions, it has decided to avoid your ruling that the junior minister answer the questions by forcing the absence of that junior minister. As a result, the real question is, why are we paying these people all the money to be junior ministers if they are never to be examined in this Legislative Assembly? That is one question I'd like you to take under advisement.
Just following up on this, this is the other problem which I think is going to cause us some great concern and as a result probably reflects upon standing order 16, which as you probably know is grave disorder. We have an hour every day in question period to ask questions. I know you can't force anybody to be here, but I would like you to hear some of the statistics about how many absences have occurred for question period in this Legislative Assembly so that you'll understand that people are trying to prevent us from exercising our right to ask questions.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): To the member for Bruce, I understand the member's concern and I understand that he has some statistics which I'm sure are of interest to people. The member will know, as he has himself stated, that the Speaker does not have the power to compel the attendance in the House of any member.
That in fact is the answer to his first question. I understand his concern with respect to the ruling I had made earlier that members are able to ask questions of junior ministers, but of course, whether they are junior or senior ministers, if they are not present, you cannot ask a question of them.
I regret that I am not able to be of any assistance to the member. As I have stated in the past, if members wish to change the standing orders with respect to attendance, then of course there is a process for doing that.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question will be for the Minister of Housing. Minister, over the past week my colleague the member for Renfrew North has been raising a number of issues that are related to the serious mismanagement of funds for non-profit housing projects. These specific examples that have been raised by the member for Renfrew North would seem to be related to the overall concerns the Provincial Auditor has previously identified with the funding of non-profit housing programs. Minister, that's why we continue to raise these concerns.
Two days ago you said that you would release audits that were done on non-profit housing agencies. My staff called to ask for those audits. They were told that they would have to use a freedom of information request in order to obtain the audits that you had said you would release publicly. Today I read that you are planning to release the audits in a few days, but a few days have already passed.
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): When I said that the audits will be released, the audits will be released. We have decided at the Ministry of Housing to treat the question raised by the Liberal caucus of the request for the audits as a formal request, and what we have provided, as I understand it, is the form so that the official request can be made for which audit you would like. If you want each audit, that's fine.
The Leader of the Opposition will be aware that the government has obligations under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Each of those audits is being reviewed by the information coordinator but also our legal staff to make sure there are no releases of private information which should not be released. The process is quite straightforward. We will not take time to do this. As soon as the clearance is done --
Mrs McLeod: I obviously misunderstood the minister's words when she said she was going to release the audits publicly. I understood that to mean they would be released by the minister in the name of public and open accountability, that we would not have to request those through a freedom of information request. So the question still stands: What audits? When will they be tabled and released publicly?
The concerns about the misuse of these funds, the funds for non-profit housing, are continuing to mount. In the past week alone we have learned of at least $29 million in projects that have been written off, projects that you have abandoned. Three of those four projects were Supportive Housing Coalition projects.
Minister, you will recall that my colleague the member for Renfrew North has asked you twice now whether the Supportive Housing Coalition continued to receive new allocations after an internal audit identified that there were problems with the coalition and warned you not to give them any more allocations until the problems were cleared up. I will ask you that question again: Did the Supportive Housing Coalition receive new allocations after the March 1992 audit?
Hon Ms Gigantes: To the first point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, she will know perfectly well that it would not be legal to release information of this nature without assuring ourselves within the Ministry of Housing that we were meeting the legal obligations under the freedom of information and protection of personal privacy legislation of this province.
Hon Ms Gigantes: Mr Speaker, I could remind her that I personally am very sensitive on this matter, having, as you know, had to resign once for having made a mistake in this matter. But let me assure her that the release of the information will be extremely prompt.
On the second question, the Supportive Housing Coalition continues to have allocations which were allocated under the previous government, the Liberal administration, back in the late 1980s. It has no new allocations. They are not part of the same program as they were back in the late 1980s, but they are continuations of allocations which were made. There were no new allocations made to the Supportive Housing Coalition during the period during which the audit review was undertaken, nor have any been undertaken to this point in time.
Mrs McLeod: Minister, the fact is that you did continue to fund the Supportive Housing Coalition at what might be seen to be extremely high levels. Our understanding is that in 1992-93, the Supportive Housing Coalition received $7.9 million and that this was $1.5 million more than they had received the year before. I remind you, that was in 1992-1993. That was after the audit was done. It was after you knew there were indeed serious problems with the coalition.
The Supportive Housing Coalition receives one of the largest of the allocations to non-profit programs, and that is the same coalition for which you have written off projects totalling more than $16 million.
Hon Ms Gigantes: The leader of the opposition is misreading the audit. What was indicated by the audit was that matters between the Ministry of Housing and the Supportive Housing Coalition needed to be straightened out in a very serious way. That has been done, and the Ministry of Housing felt assured that the capability of that organization to carry forward its contractual obligations had been established. Repayments were in full by mid-1992. But aside from that, there have been no new allocations, though indeed, if she reads the report carefully, she'll see that it was not recommended that we drop any contact with the Supportive Housing Coalition.
She will know, as members in this Legislature know, that the Supportive Housing Coalition has provided non-profit community-based housing programs for people who most desperately need them in the Metropolitan Toronto area over the last many years. This group has provided excellent service --
Mrs McLeod: The minister tries to avoid the questions about mismanagement of the funds by seeming to suggest we're opposed to the program. The program of course is important. That's exactly why we believe there should be value for every dollar that goes into that program.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is to the Premier. I have here an article from Northern Life which refers to the site selection process for the francophone college in the Sudbury region.
According to this article, the Minister of Finance made a direct representation to the board of the francophone college that was hearing the proposals for that site selection. The Finance minister apparently intervened on behalf of the proposal which would bring the college site to his own riding.
Hon Bob Rae (Premier): I'll have to take that question as notice. I haven't seen any reference to it before, and I'll obviously ask the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education and Training to answer that question.
Mrs McLeod: Premier, I will certainly make you aware of the article which I have so that you can pursue it. I raise the question today in part, and in large part, because I am extremely concerned about the way in which the selection of the site for the college has been prejudiced by the intervention of the minister. It becomes an urgent matter because the decision about the site selection is to be made very shortly.
You will understand that the other developers who made proposals are extremely upset about the intervention. Some spent as much as $250,000 in development costs, only to find that the Finance minister himself was part of a competing proposal.
According to the article, the other developers had absolutely no idea that the Finance minister was going to make a presentation in support of the site in his own riding and the other developers clearly now believe that the entire process is a political one and has been a sham. It is also quite clear that the college board, which now has to make its decision, has been placed in a very awkward position.
Hon Mr Rae: I wonder if the honourable member would perhaps allow me to reflect on her questions, and as well give the Minister of Finance a chance to respond, since you'll appreciate that when I give off-the-cuff answers they're usually not very helpful.
Mrs McLeod: I do appreciate that and I will give the Premier that opportunity. As I indicated, I believe it is a matter important for us to raise and also important for us to raise at this time because of the pending decision about the site selection and the obvious importance in making sure that the Finance minister's intervention has not jeopardized that.
I would also like to draw to the Premier's attention, as he considers this issue, another cause for concern for us in that, again, according to the article, the constituency assistant to the Minister of Finance indicated, in defence of the Finance minister's appearance, that he spoke only as an MPP and not as a minister of the government.
I would remind the Premier that this is a road we have been down before, that we have a letter on record from the conflict commissioner that was written in June 1991 in which he says very clearly that a minister is not an ordinary member of the Legislature, that a minister always wears a cloak of ministerial responsibility; a minister is a minister is a minister.
Premier, in this instance, the province is contributing $43 million to the francophone college and it is clearly inappropriate for the Minister of Finance to be directly involved in the site selection process. The argument that he is acting on behalf of his constituents as a representative of the constituency is simply not to be considered a defence.
Premier, I would ask, as you consider this matter, since we have been down this road before, when will you make it absolutely clear to your ministers, including the most senior, what is and is not appropriate behaviour for a minister of the crown?
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is to the Minister of Housing on the loans she recently wrote off for several housing projects. It is my understanding that one of the properties in the list of $29 million in write-offs was at 50 Bronoco Avenue in the city of York. The property was apparently purchased for $6 million in 1988-89 under the Liberal government. Minister, can you tell me specifically what led to the costs of this project being so high that your government would cancel it and write off the $13-million loan?
Hon Evelyn Gigantes (Minister of Housing): The site itself is an old industrial site. I don't know if she is familiar with it. It was a site which was proposed for a joint project involving two community-based groups, and it was a site which had not only problems environmentally outside the site but which had an existing building and still has an existing building on it which had the potential to have environmental problems in and of itself.
The fact that it had not been developed, that the location was one which caused it to be brought before the OMB, that the delay was prolonged because of the questions around the environment, both external and internal, led to the continuous mounting of interest costs to the point when, last December, I decided it should be cancelled as a project site.
Mrs Marland: It is my understanding that one of the reasons the costs became so high at the Bronoco Avenue site is because no soil tests were done on the property prior to your government guaranteeing the loan. Subsequently, the site proved to be contaminated and cleanup was required. It is standard commercial banking practice that a soil test should be a prerequisite of guaranteeing a property loan. Minister, is it true that the province guaranteed a loan for this property without ensuring that the land was free of contamination, and if so, were you or the Liberals responsible?
Hon Ms Gigantes: To speak first to the problem of environmental examination of land that is proposed for a non-profit housing development, this has been a great problem in the past. Certainly, during the period of the late 1980s, when it was very difficult for private developers and for non-profit developers to locate sites for housing developments and costs were high, there was a lot of pressure, both for private developers and non-profit developers, to look at sites that were old industrial sites and where there were environmental questions still unanswered before the sites were acquired.
We have changed that process. In the Jobs Ontario Homes program, groups are not given guarantees for purchase of land until there has been environmental testing of the site, and we will not allow groups to take on responsibility for a site until that process assures us that there are not going to be major environmental costs associated with development.
In fact, the member for Mississauga South started out her question by saying, "Your government guaranteed the purchase of this site." That was inaccurate. She knows that. It was a purchase which was originally guaranteed by the previous Liberal government. We continued to extend that guarantee in the hopes that it was going to be a site which could be developed. It is certainly the policy of this government to examine very carefully where development of old industrial land and infill projects can better the development of cities in this province.
Mrs Marland: Minister, this Bronoco project is starting to sound a little too much like Ataratiri. It is my understanding that the purchase of the Bronoco Avenue site was negotiated by Green and Nogue Associates Ltd. Minister, this development consultant is associated with at least seven completed housing projects funded by your ministry. Is it true that Green and Nogue was the development consultant for all of the four housing projects you recently wrote off loans for, and if so, why are you continuing to fund projects with which it is involved?
Hon Ms Gigantes: The decision to write off four projects in December was not in any way associated with who may have been involved, either as a sponsoring group or as a development consultant. The decisions I made in December were decisions that were based on the business case of each site.
We looked at the environmental questions still associated, the continuing planning questions still associated with these sites, and the total environment; in other words, the access to community benefits for people who would be future tenants if these sites were developed. The decisions that were made were made solely on that basis. In fact, I do not know who the development consultants were, nor was it a question in my mind when I made a decision.
There are many development consultants who are professionals in their field. They have an association of professional development consultants to try and maintain high standards for the profession. Because one firm, and it is a private firm, gets many pieces of business, that does not mean there is anything wrong with that at all, and she shouldn't suggest so.
Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): My question is to the Chair of Management Board. Minister, on January 7, 1994, Management Board issued a tender for an integrated voice response system to be used in several ministries but primarily to be used in the Ministry of Health. The closing date for the tender was January 24, 1994, and only two firms bid on the tender. They were Bryker Data Systems and Bell Canada.
Minister, so you'll know, the voice response system would allow a doctor to pick up the phone and check to see if a health card is valid. Currently, there is no system in place that can handle the volume of calls that come from doctors and hospitals needing this sort of health card verification system.
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I can't answer the second part of the member's question in terms of the actual costs that were spent on the tender process to date, but I can certainly get the member that information.
The tender essentially was cancelled for two reasons: first, because there was a potential conflict of interest with regard to an employee involved in the process, and second, because of a changed set of requirements; specifically in this case, the Ministry of Health, having had the opportunity to review the bids that were submitted by the two companies in question, it became clear that the tender needed to be expanded in order to accomplish the purpose for which it was intended.
Mr Jim Wilson: The minister is correct that the tender was pulled on April 15, because the director in the Management Board who was handling this file, this tendering process, a Mr Terry Ham, actually moved from Management Board and accepted an employment position with one of the two bidding firms. Your assistant deputy minister, David Girvin, has confirmed that the tender was pulled and that the primary reason was the conflict of interest resulting from Terry Ham's leaving, as you've confirmed also.
Since there's cost involved in a tender process, and since security of information is extremely important in a tender process, not to mention the test of fairness in a tender process, what guidelines does your government have in place to prevent civil servants from accepting employment with companies bidding on government contracts?
Hon Mr Charlton: The member has raised the issue which I responded to in my first answer, and I'm not sure what the member wishes to pursue. The government has a system in place that deals with conflict of interest. We identified a problem. We dealt with the problem. He seems to be chasing something that's already been dealt with.
Although we had identified a problem with the conflict of interest question and were prepared to deal with it, the tender was not cancelled until such time as it became clear that there was good and sound reason, based on the intent of the tender in the first place, to cancel the tender and re-tender based on the needs of the client that we were attempting to serve, namely, the Ministry of Health.
Mr Jim Wilson: It's very interesting. The minister talks about the guidelines he has in place. I have a copy of those guidelines, and let me take just a moment to explain what those guidelines say. It's a regulation under the civil service act. Minister, you only have guidelines in place to prevent this potential conflict of interest in cases where the public servant is still on the public servant payroll and may take an outside job. He or she must declare that conflict to the deputy minister or the assistant deputy minister or other officials within the ministry. Then there's a set of rules on how they deal with that conflict when it comes to their attention.
We're talking of a case of Terry Ham leaving the employment of the government of Ontario and taking a position with one of the companies that had tendered on this contract. When I was a federal assistant to a cabinet minister, I and cabinet ministers were required to refrain, upon leaving our government jobs, from doing any business with companies for one full year after our leaving the employment of the federal government.
The House will also be interested to know that Terry Ham oversaw two other tenders that the company he now works for won from the government. Minister, what steps are you taking to review the tenders Terry Ham was involved in prior to his leaving Management Board, and what are you doing to ensure that this sort of conflict doesn't happen again?
Hon Mr Charlton: There are two things inherent in the member's question: first, a belief that somehow conflict of interest can be prevented, and therefore we wouldn't need conflict-of-interest rules. Conflicts of interest are going to arise from time to time; that's why we have policy to deal with conflict of interest. The member should note, in his pursuit of this matter, that he's pursuing a matter the government dealt with, and dealt with effectively, three months ago.
Hon Bob Rae (Premier): I have a series of meetings in my office after question period. I have a couple of press interviews, one with a Spanish newspaper. I am meeting with a variety of people. I think I was able to advise my wife this morning that I'll be home for supper. Then I would suspect that at about 7:30 or thereabouts I would be seated in front of the television set, where I will be rooting -- and I know the honourable member will as well, though his loyalties are divided, I understand, since he got home late last night from Memorial Stadium in Buffalo -- unashamedly and unabashedly for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Mr Bradley: Now that I have established that the Premier has to answer this question, I have a supplementary for him. I hate to impose upon the Premier and his itinerary, but I do have a supplementary question. Premier, your government and indeed many governments across the country and across North America are moving quickly and massively into the field of gambling, into various gambling enterprises, everything from widespread offtrack betting to casino gambling. In other provinces they've moved to what are called video lottery terminals.
This is a matter about which I am profoundly personally worried and have expressed that on many occasions in this House. Premier, are you not deeply concerned about the terrible impact this gambling mania is having on vulnerable people in our society throughout North America, not just here in Ontario, on the poor and on the desperate and on those who are addicted to gambling? If so, what are you going to do about that?
I'd make a couple of points to the honourable member. The first one is that I don't see any gambling mania in this province. I think if you look back over the history of Ontario, you'll realize that horse racing has been a sport on which people have spent money, invested money and gambled, a sport of chance, if you like, on which people have bet in this province for generations. There was a time when there were very strong views expressed from all sorts of quarters about whether this should be allowed or permitted. I can say to the honourable member that that's been a part of our life.
Bingos and charitable lotteries and charitable gaming of different kinds have been part of the life of the community. They've been part of many churches. They've been part of much of what's gone on in the province for a long time. It was not invented a few years ago.
Finally, I would say that the expansion of the lottery business in the province and across the country has again been a fact. We're now looking at an addition to that, and that is the provision of the casino in Windsor, which is the one new innovation.
Hon Mr Rae: One point I would say very directly to the honourable member is the issue of addiction and the question of psychological dependence on gaming and gambling. I can say to the honourable member that we've discussed this around the cabinet table on a number of occasions, and we have made a very firm policy decision --
Hon Mr Rae: -- that a real effort will be made to ensure that there are sufficient funds available to deal with those people and to help those people who have a serious problem with addiction. But there are a lot of people who enjoy gaming from time to time and who enjoy betting from time to time --
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): My question is to the Attorney General regarding family support payments in Ontario. According to your ministry's own numbers, Attorney General, there were 125,359 cases of family support in this province. As of February 1994, of these, less than 25%, one quarter, are in full compliance. Over 75% of all individuals who pay support in Ontario are in arrears. In fact, in one half of the cases, there is no money flowing at all. Minister, given that you have a $24-million bureaucracy designed to ensure that families receive support payments, can you explain why so many are not?
Hon Marion Boyd (Attorney General): Well, yes. It's quite clear to all of us that part of the problem is that those -- what? -- 125,399 cases accumulated over a great many years prior to March 1992, when there were very weak mechanisms, certainly under the previous Conservative government, much improved under the previous Liberal government, and then finally improved by at-source deductions through our current family support plan, that enabled the accumulation over a period of more than 20 years of arrears of support payments.
The member is right that indeed there are still large amounts of money that are outstanding, that are owed to individual women and children in most cases and occasionally to some men who have custody of their children. But that whole situation is one we are beginning to turn around.
We now have full compliance in 49% of the cases where there is automatic wage deduction and some payments in at least 65% of the cases that have been registered since March 1992, which is a vast improvement over the situation that was there previously. We are making strong efforts all the time to ensure that the outstanding amounts are collected, whether they are owed to the government because of the assignment of social assistance benefits or whether they are owed to individuals.
I think it's important for the member to acknowledge that since March 1992, our amounts have more than doubled per month, from about $14 million per month, which was the average early on in our term, to over $28 million a month now. That is a vast improvement. We are not resting on our laurels; we are improving the system every day.
Mr Harris: The fact of the matter is that your stats that you quote on the system look better because all the payors who pay anyway without the legislation are the ones who are making your stats look good. But every member of this Legislature will tell you, from their constituency office, that there are more backlogs, that there are more problems with this program. I think all members of the Legislature would agree that ensuring that children receive adequate support should be a priority for all of us. We need to look at ways to ensure that more support orders are complied with.
Three years ago when we were dealing with the legislation, our critic introduced an amendment to allow individuals who are not in arrears to opt out of the system, or not clutter it up in the first place. I understand that if that took place, it wouldn't make your stats look as good. Would you agree with me that if you would bring forward this amendment now and instead of worrying about your stats, worry about the children who are not getting the support payments, and for the ones that take place anyway, remove them from the system, we could have more of the resources to work on the 50% who aren't paying at all and the 25% of that other 50% who aren't in full compliance? Will you agree now to bring forward that commonsense amendment?
Hon Mrs Boyd: No, I certainly won't, and I don't know on what grounds the member makes his suggestion that the people who comply are people who would have complied anyway. That's just absolute nonsense. We have a vast improvement in our compliance rate. Quite frankly, we hear from the payors and many of those payors are quite, quite willing to admit that if there were not a deduction at source, they would not be paying.
We need to be very clear that the kind of simplistic suggestion the member makes is not very helpful. It is true that it is very hard when the number of cases grows at about 1,200 cases per month. We are committed to trying to maintain a lean system --
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I raise an issue today with the Minister of Transportation that's been at my desk for, oh, some three or four years now. It seems to come up at this time of year. The well drillers of Ontario have a concern that they're not able to travel and do the work they do so well because of some of the restrictions by the Highway Traffic Act. So today I'm asking you on their behalf, will you allow water drilling rigs to be exempted from the reduced-load period as an essential service under the Highway Traffic Act?
Hon Gilles Pouliot (Minister of Transportation): The question is timely by virtue of highways being most vulnerable during springtime, during thaw-out season. As a policy, we have a load restriction. That's been a perennial, a residual. It's been with us each and every year for some time. By way of an exemption or by way of special consideration, if your rig does not surpass 10,000 pounds or thereabouts, 5,000 kilograms -- we have received no permit and yet the association is much aware of it. We're awaiting special-case, and special-case only, applications only for highways, for jurisdictional capacity within the boundaries of municipalities rests with the township council.
Mr Martin: That's fine, but the well drillers are telling me they have a problem here and that the work they do so well and that's so required, so essential at this time of year, they're not able to do in the way they would like. The exemption that you make, the opportunity that you give them, as far as they're concerned is not being helpful.
Even to go beyond that, yes, there's this possibility of asking for exemption under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, but they're not covered under some of the municipal acts, so there's a whole bureaucratic maze that they have to go through. They're tired of having to continually bring this forward. They want an answer. They want to know what you're doing now on their behalf.
When can they expect that you will recognize that they have a very legitimate concern here, as do the people they serve? To the minister, what am I to tell them when they call me on Monday about this issue again?
Hon Mr Pouliot: With respect to my distinguished and beloved colleague, here is what you are about to tell them: that you have lobbied as hard as you possibly could, that you have personally brought this very important matter to the ear of the minister, that the minister has listened intently, that his hands are tied by common sense and therefore by legislation.
Here is what you do for a solution: In lieu of one heavy load, you make two or more smaller loads and then you begin to understand that it's all possible, or you wait for one week, two weeks, three weeks at most; then the spring season is something of yesterday, and you can look to the summer and the fall and the winter for confidence. We want to wish them well. There shall be no exemption. I am not permitted to do so.
I have a book here, entitled Facts and Figures 1992-93, put out by the Ministry of Labour. In that book, it shows that from 1989-90 until 1992-93, critical work injuries have gone from 466 to 602, an increase of 29%. Occupational diseases have gone from 56 to 103 in that same time period, an increase of 84%. Yet the number of inspectors from 1988-89 to 1992-93 has gone from 313 to 279. Inspections are down almost 40,000 in that same time period or 40%; the number of orders issued is down 50,000 or 32%; the number of stop-work orders down by almost 3,000 or 42%.
The fact is that these cutbacks would show your ministry is putting less and less emphasis on trying to help injured workers. How do you reconcile these statistics in your ministry's book with the statements you make about helping injured workers?
Hon Bob Mackenzie (Minister of Labour): I thought the member across the way, with his knowledge of the health and safety field, would understand that with Bill 208 and the effort to put in place joint committees -- one management, one labour, in most cases -- that has meant we've had more responsibility in the workplace and more effective enforcement of the legislation. We have also been very specific in taking high-profile cases to point out that there is a penalty you'll pay if you do not achieve a healthier and safer workplace, and there has been some success in that area.
Mr Mahoney: I wish I could accept that answer as being legitimate. The facts would seem to indicate totally the opposite is the case. The facts would seem to indicate that any attempts you're making through the Workplace Health and Safety Agency are failing to reduce accidents: inspectors down 11%; inspections down 40%; orders down 32%; stop-work orders down 42%; number of cases prosecuted -- very important here, Minister -- down 69% in that same time period, and yet the facts in your own document -- not something I've made up -- from your ministry show that just in 1992-93 we have skyrocketed with critical injuries in Ontario 45% over 1991-92; reported occupational illness and diseases increased by an incredible 85%.
Minister, the words don't match the music. What you're telling us is not a reality in the workplace. You stand there today, and I believe that you personally want to believe this, and say that you want to do more for injured workers. Your ministry is doing less. The facts have been published by your own people. Will you make a commitment to take a look at these statistics and do something to help injured workers in this province?
Hon Mr Mackenzie: One of the things I've never stopped doing, and I get the reports on a monthly basis, is looking at the figures in terms of injured workers and what our record is, and our record has been improving.
Mr Ernie L. Eves (Parry Sound): I have a question for the Minister of Health. The Parry Sound district municipal association this past Monday held its spring meeting, and one of the major topics of deliberation at the meeting was health care services in east Parry Sound, particularly urgent and emergency care. What are you and your ministry doing to provide and improve these services in east Parry Sound?
Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): I'm afraid I can't speak precisely to the situation in east Parry Sound, but I can assure the member that the improvement and the better coordination and the better management of emergency services, if he's speaking about the transportation services and the ambulance services, has been very much part of the work of my ministry.
With respect to the situation in emergency rooms, which we know is a problem in some parts of rural and northern Ontario, we have been attempting, with the Ontario Hospital Association which has been extremely constructive and helpful in our discussions, and with the Ontario Medical Association, to come to some long-term solution to what has been a very long-time problem.
Mr Eves: When the Burk's Falls hospital was closed in 1992, the former Minister of Health, the Honourable Frances Lankin, promised that the new health care centre would have "the capacity for resuscitation, stabilization and preparation for transportation to an advanced care centre."
I read in the Almaguin News just yesterday that ambulance services in east Parry Sound, which are somewhat less than perfect at the best of times, will now suffer even further reductions due to discussions between the Ministry of Health and the Huntsville hospital.
What are you, as minister, prepared to do to ensure that residents of east Parry Sound have local access to these essential health care services and to deliver on the promises made by your predecessor?
Hon Mrs Grier: I'm certainly aware, because the member for Muskoka has been talking to me about the Almaguin health centre, of the fact that it has been developing its plans and deciding on the functions that it can perform and looking as to how it can meet the needs of the residents of east Parry Sound. I'd be very glad to hear from the member or, certainly, to ask my ministry about the details of where precisely the plans are at this point and get back to the member.
Ms Margaret H. Harrington (Niagara Falls): My question is to the Attorney General. Minister, we know that the family support plan has the responsibility of enforcing the payment of child support in this province and we know that it certainly has problems. One of the enforcement measures used is the garnishment of federal government transfers to individuals such as income tax funds, GST rebates and interest earned on Canada savings bonds.
I have been approached by several people, some of my constituents, who are recipients and payors through this family support plan. These constituents have raised a very serious issue about the delay that exists when funds are garnisheed from federal UIC cheques, from that time to when they are paid to the recipient. Why is there a delay of eight to 12 weeks between the time the funds are garnisheed and the time that the recipient receives these funds?
Hon Marion Boyd (Attorney General): I thank the member for the question. She is quite right that the average length of time on federal garnishments is about eight to 12 weeks, and there are two basic reasons for the delay.
The first is, as we all know, that there is a delay in the actual processing of unemployment insurance benefit applications by the federal government. Members who have constituents on unemployment insurance will know that process, in and of itself, often takes six to eight weeks.
The second reason is the time it takes for the garnishment application made by the province to be processed by the federal government. It's a fairly complicated process. It involves the province applying to the federal government department, and then the Justice department working with that particular department to have the garnishment enacted. Once the garnishment is made, the funds are then transferred to the Justice department, which then forwards them to the family support plan. So that's a fairly complex process.
Once the FSP receives the funds, they are sent to the recipient within two working days, but the length of time it is taking us to get those dollars from the federal government is quite a serious concern to us.
Ms Harrington: I'm also concerned about what measures you are taking on behalf of myself and our constituents here right across the province of Ontario to force the federal level to find a better and a faster way -- there must be one -- to process the federal garnishment and to pay these court-ordered child support payments.
Hon Mrs Boyd: I guess it's problematic for one level of government to be able to force any other level of government to do anything. However, what we can do is to work very hard with our federal counterparts to ensure that those payments are being made in a timely way.
The staff from Ontario's family support plan and from all the other provinces, because we're working together on this, meet with the federal government, and our discussions provide an opportunity to review the process and to try and work cooperatively to eliminate some of the delays that exist both between provinces and between provinces and the federal government.
Most of the delays are experienced by payors who receive UI benefits, and they deal with the federal procedures with which we all try to cope. I can tell the member that the Ontario government continues to pressure the federal Liberal government to make changes that will reduce delays.
I can also tell the member that in terms of the FSP, we have made several improvements to the way in which we do collections and payments, the direct deposit option that I spoke about earlier, and some improved access to the inquiry line, but we continue to look at ways in which we can improve, and frankly, we appreciate the help that we get from members of this Legislature who often point out different problems that exist in their own ridings and give us some suggestions as to how those problems could be resolved.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question is to the Minister of Health. This past Friday, I met with a number of physicians from my riding, and I must say that they are extremely concerned about the lack of doctors for a very busy tourist season that will soon be upon us in the area of the northwest.
Madam Minister, I was told that last year the town of Kenora, for example, was able to attract eight temporary summer physicians to serve the medical needs of the area residents. This year, despite the efforts of both the administration and the Kenora medical community, they are unable to confirm even one doctor for this very busy tourist season.
As you might be aware, the population in the town of Kenora will quadruple in the summer months, and I would like to know what steps you have taken to ensure that the basic medical services are available in the northwest area of this province for this upcoming summer?
Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): First of all, let me say to the member that the issue of how to make sure we have the doctors that we need in the parts of the province that we need them is one that has baffled governments for several years. It is not a new one and I profoundly regret that we don't have a better way of making sure that we have the professionals we need throughout the health system where we need them when we need them.
That is precisely why, for the first time, we now have the Ministry of Health, under our government, working with the Ontario Medical Association on a human resource strategy, and with the academic health science centres that are proving to be extremely helpful both in the way in which they train undergraduates in providing opportunities for them to practise in other than urban areas, and so acclimatizing themselves to rural practice, and in helping us work up a better system of providing locums where they are needed.
Mr Miclash: Given the fact, again I remind you, that you have the ultimate responsibility for the health care needs of all of this province, for my constituents, for your constituents, for constituents across the province, and being that you were unable to attract the doctors that you actually said you were going to for the emergency needs of the community of Red Lake, I must ask you again, what plans do you, as the Minister of Health responsible for these services, have in place for the residents of places such as Kenora, Red Lake and the many other communities throughout the north where they do not have adequate medical services what they are saying they will not have for this upcoming tourist season.
Hon Ruth Grier (Minister of Health): With respect to Red Lake, as the member knows because as soon as I received the report I sent it over to him, the College of Physicians and Surgeons at my request sent two people to Red Lake to examine the state of medical services and to report to me on whether in fact the contingency plan the hospital had put in place was effective.
I was very relieved, as I'm sure was the member and his constituents, that their report was reassuring. It indicated that there was certainly a risk that people would have to wait longer because a nurse in the emergency room might have to make three phone calls instead of the one phone call they normally have to make in an emergency, but that the hospital, as is its responsibility, had put in place a contingency plan and that that contingency plan was working.
I expect every hospital to have a contingency plan if they are unable to find doctors who wish to locate in their communities, and I think you will find that certainly over this summer, if it is more difficult to find doctors than it has been in other holiday seasons, hospitals will respond creatively and constructively, as they have in Red Lake.
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Last fall, you may recall that I introduced a private member's bill, Bill 104, whose purpose was to allow local municipalities to pass vital-service bylaws so that vital services such as gas and electricity and water could be provided to tenants when landlords fail to provide them.
During committee hearings on Bill 95, tenants' groups and government members supported the concept of province-wide legislation. My question to you, Minister, is, will you take over Bill 104 and make vital services for tenants a government priority for this session?
Hon Ed Philip (Minister of Municipal Affairs): That is one of the issues we are looking at in the whole procedure of reviewing what should go into what is being called the Sewell reform packages. Whether we do that as part of the Sewell reform package or by moving ahead your bill or a separate bill will be a government decision, but we take the issue quite seriously.
Mr Turnbull: At the time that I asked you last time you suggested that broad consultation needed to occur. It has occurred. During the forum on Bill 95, we had consultation. We had presentations for province-wide legislation from the Ontario Association of Property Standards Officers; we've got support from the Toronto Area Property Standards Officers association; we've got support from AMO, which wrote in a written submission to Bill 95 hearings, "This magnitude of support should be sufficient to warrant general legislation."
I'd like to just quote briefly from the East York Tenants' Association. They said in a letter: "Mr Turnbull's Bill 104 is very well written and the work has been done. It could go through the House very quickly with little or no opposition."
Minister, your members supported my amendments to make it province-wide legislation, but the fact was, for technical reasons, amendments couldn't be made to a private member's bill. The bill is already drafted. If you wanted to move forward, based upon your own words that if there was province-wide support, which there obviously is --
Mr Turnbull: -- you could introduce this legislation quickly. Will you either commit today to bring forward my legislation or, alternatively, will you urgently bring forward a bill based upon that as quickly as possible?
Hon Mr Philip: I agree that the tenant groups have supported his bill. In fact, if the honourable member cares to go into the archives of this Legislature, he'll find that I introduced a similar bill to his in 1977. I couldn't convince the then Conservative government to adopt the ideas. I certainly am much more open to adopting my own ideas and his ideas, which are similar, right now. We will move as soon as we can to deal with the problem, and I give him that assurance.
Mr Donald Abel (Wentworth North): My question is to the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation. Many Ontarians are extremely concerned about the state of recreation funding in this province. Provincial sport and recreation organizations provide leadership and resources to the recreation community. However, you have decided to cut provincial funding substantially, I believe in some cases as much as 24%.
This has had impacts in terms of leadership development and travel for our young athletes, and I'm worried that the less fortunate children in Ontario are being especially affected. The value of recreation cannot be overstated. Some of my constituents are telling me they feel the entire sport and recreation system is at risk. Minister, how can you justify these cuts?
Hon Anne Swarbrick (Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation): I want to begin by thanking the member for his question, which recognizes very clearly the multifaceted value of recreation to this province, and to point out that in fact this government has a very strong commitment to the value of recreation, which is why we were not asked to cut that funding any more than we had to cut funding in any other area.
In fact, when we were grappling with the extent of the deficit reduction we were trying to achieve last year, my ministry staff thought they had to recommend a much tougher cut to the provincial sport organizations and provincial recreation organizations than I thought our government could tolerate. Our government therefore quite strongly protected that funding as much as we possibly could.
The reality is that of course everybody has had to be able to look at how we can do more with less these days. I'm delighted with the fact that the provincial sport organizations and the provincial recreation organizations have also become increasingly creative about how to work with this government in being able to do exactly that, being able to do more with less on behalf of the youth and the adults of this province.
Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise on a point of order under section 97(d) of our standing orders, which requires that when written questions are placed on the order paper, the minister to whom those questions are placed will respond in 14 days.
I have a number of questions on the order paper. They are singularly important public issues; they are not frivolous questions. Question 483 was due April 5, there has been no response; question 484 was due April 5, there has been no response; 485, due April 5, no response; 486, due April 5, no response.
Question 487, I've had an indication from the Minister of Health that a final response would be available on April 22. That has not come. Question 491, with respect to draft regulations under Bill 101, was due on April 20; I've had no response. Question 502 was due April 26, no response; question 512, due April 26, no response; question 515, due April 26, no response.
These are not questions for which an enormous amount of research is required. They're very factual questions for which we require answers from the minister. We have received an indication from the minister that on some singularly simple requirements, responses can't come until the end of May. Question 505, by example, which asks the minister to document the shortfall in receipts from long-term care residents, has not been answered.
The minister clearly knows, because that's part of her estimates for next year. We want these answers, and I hope you will note that the minister is in fact in breach of the rules of order of the House.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): The member for Halton Centre has a point of order. Perhaps she could indicate whether or not all of the questions which she has identified are to the same minister and, if so, to which minister.
Mrs Sullivan: The questions for which I'm awaiting a response have all been directed to the Minister of Health. I have received responses from the Minister of Citizenship on one or two questions which have been posed.
"That the Legislative Assembly urge the Minister of Health to respond forthwith to the issue raised in the Liberal task force on cancer care, including the urgent need for radiation equipment, addressing shortages in training personnel and providing adequate information and non-medical services for patients."
"We who are opposed to casino gambling request that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario not allow the city of Niagara Falls to become a candidate for casino gambling unless there is broad-based public support for such a facility, which we are requesting to be determined through a referendum vote by the citizens of Niagara Falls."
"The petition of the undersigned residents of Ontario who now avail themselves of their ancient and undoubted right to present a grievance common to your petitioners, in certain assurance that your honourable Legislature will therefore provide a remedy; herewith:
"Wherefore, the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon the Legislature to urge the government to implement policies to alleviate the social and economic suffering forced upon the undersigned residents of Canada; to implement policies for the settlement, housing and education of present and future properly qualified residents; and to ensure that the costs of overcrowding in housing not be borne by the owners of condominiums, residents, seniors, pensioners and people on fixed incomes, single parents, young families, widows, widowers and the unemployed.
"Bill 55 will make it illegal, with fines of up to $50,000, for people to make any public statement, written or oral, which ridicules, demeans or discriminates against a person on the grounds of sexual orientation, still undefined. This is a grave threat to free speech in a democratic society.
"We have moved away from a position where some homosexuals and other special-interest groups are no longer content to express their ideas, but are demanding that contrary views be suppressed with stiff penalties.
"At the same time, these special-interest groups will be allowed to teach their controversial alternative lifestyles to youngsters in the classrooms, thereby" -- I'm sorry, but I cannot pronounce the next word, something to do with children -- "children with their viewpoints without allowing for differing opinions."
"Whereas you should have followed the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters' advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and/or hunted for years -- we are not unsafe and we are not criminals; and
"We believe that there will be an enormous negative impact on our society, both morally and economically, over the long term if fundamental institutions such as marriage are redefined to accommodate homosexual special-interest groups.
"We believe in freedom from discrimination, which is enjoyed by everyone by law now. But since the words 'sexual orientation' have not been defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and may include sadomasochism, paedophilia, bestiality etc, and since sexual orientation is elevated to the same level as morally neutral characteristics of race, religion, age and sex, we believe all such references should be removed from the Ontario Human Rights Code and Bill 45.
Mr Pat Hayes (Essex-Kent): I have a petition against the legalization of lap dancing in Ontario bars signed by residents from Dresden, Thamesville, Charing Cross, Blenheim, all across my riding and Mr Hope's riding: "We, the undersigned, are opposed to the ruling of lap dancing in strip bars. We feel this violates our codes of morality or decency and we want steps taken to overturn this decision."
"Whereas the British North America Act of 1867 supports the right of Catholic students to a Catholic education, and the province of Ontario supports two educational systems from kindergarten to grade 12/OAC; and
"Whereas the Metropolitan Separate School Board is expected to provide the same programs and services as its public school counterpart and must do so by receiving $1,822 less for each elementary school student and $2,542 less per secondary student based on 1983 estimates;
"To immediately pass Liberal Bob Chiarelli's private member's bill, Bill 151, to prohibit the sale of ammunition to any person who does not hold a valid firearms acquisition certificate or Ontario Outdoors Card."
Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): I'll be brief. I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it's concerned with the Workers' Compensation Board and the costs that have accrued to that board.
"Whereas we, the undersigned, are of the opinion that private insurance companies are exploiting Ontario motorcyclists and snowmobile operators by charging excessive rates for coverage or by outright refusing to provide coverage;
"Whereas we, the undersigned, understand that those insurance companies that do specialize in motorcycle insurance will only insure riders for four or more years of riding experience and are outright refusing to insure riders who drive certain models of supersport bikes; and
"That the government of Ontario work with the council of Metro Toronto and the Metro licensing commission to exempt accessible taxi vehicles from existing legislation and bylaws to allow them to better serve the residents of Whitchurch-Stouffville."
Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): The following petition has been circulated and signed by the residents of Harewood village in the township of Ernestown as a follow-up to the negative response of the Ministry of Transportation towards the repeated flooding problems in the village. "We also wish to clarify the misunderstanding which seems to exist with the ministry regarding the problem to be a personal problem of only one resident."
"We, the undersigned, wish to request the Ministry of Transportation to fully investigate, appropriate and carry out the necessary changes to divert all or part of the spring and heavy rain runoff waters which are fed into the village by means of a large culvert crossing Highway 33, located north of the village. These changes are necessary to relieve the residents of the village of the constant fear, hardship and damages caused by surface and underground water floods during these wet periods."
Mr Tony Rizzo (Oakwood): The bill intends to emphasize the very important relationship between children and their grandparents, because in the bill that we have now, it's not enough. I think this amendment would recognize that it is a very important thing that this is going to be passed in order for the grandchildren and grandparents to stay together and enjoy their relationship.
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 110, An Act to amend the Employer Health Tax Act and the Workers' Compensation Act / Projet de loi 110, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'impôt prélevé sur les employeurs relatif aux services de santé et la Loi sur les accidents du travail.
I left off yesterday speaking about the cost of the health care system and how this would go about fixing the mess that's now in place with respect to the employer health tax and the card and the fraud and so on. When you go about the province discussing the health care system with people, there seems to be a universal acceptance of the universality of the health care system.
I will say that when the Liberals brought in the employer health tax, and I spoke about this briefly yesterday, there was some thought that this would go a long way in resolving the issue of accountability, chasing the people who were maybe not paying their premiums or fell off the table when they changed jobs and so on and so on.
But I would like to add that the argument put forward by the government of the day and often put forward today is that when they introduced the employer health tax they in fact dropped the premiums on the OHIP payments, and there was some kind of argument at that time by the Liberal government that, yes, in fact they were implementing a tax but at the same time they were taking one away.
I think we have to be clear about that. It's very true on first look that, yes, they were putting an employer health tax in place and they were dropping the premiums, but the difference between the amounts of dollars they were collecting was very, very significant. The premium dollars they were collecting were hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars less than the employer health tax was going to generate as a tax on business. So when we were told about the new plan, we all thought, or at least the Liberals thought, this would do two things: It would generate more revenue for the coffers, which it did do; and it was going to fix the system so that there wouldn't be as much fraud or administration. Well, it generated more money, but as far as the fraud and administration end of it, it simply exacerbated that problem. We have a far greater problem today with the adoption of the employer health tax than we did pre-employer health tax.
This particular piece of legislation, although some in the Liberal Party -- and I know the NDP were fully in favour at the time -- may argue about the benefits of it, has really been a disaster in the true sense of the word, a disaster for the reasons I just made. It generated more tax money and created more taxes for business to pay, which again made them less competitive. But you'd think that if you're paying more money, the administration would tighten up and you wouldn't have as much fraud and so on. Well, that's exactly the opposite.
We hear daily in question period and in this Legislature, particularly from our member for Simcoe West, Mr Wilson, about the concerns with respect to duplicate cards and the fraud that's taking place, and I don't blame this government solely for that happening. I don't blame this government for this taking place, because I fundamentally believe that had anyone been in power this kind of thing would have happened, because the system was ripe to be ripped off.
Why do I say that? Well, I say that because any government program, an administrative program specifically, must include a check and balance system within that program to ensure people don't rip it off, because whether you like to think this way or you don't like to think this way -- and I think the government in power tends not to like to think this way -- there are people out there who are going to rip you off. Case closed. They're just going to rip you off. They're not fairminded individuals. They're not what we would classify in this House as the kind of people you'd do business with or the kind of people you'd look up to. They're just out there to rip the system off, case closed, and there is going to be a percentage of people within the population who will rip the system off. So if you've created a system that makes it easy to rip off, you're going to get ripped off, and ultimately, with the introduction of the employer health tax, that's what's happened.
I made the point many years ago when we were debating about this, why is this system easier to rip off than the old system? Well, because nobody's insured any more individually. You're only insured in the collective, the collective being a simple percentage of your payroll is paid as an employer health tax. When you have a simple percentage paid, there's never a person or family or individual who's insured; it's just the collective payroll of that company.
I'll tell you, Madam Speaker; I'll give you this guarantee: The moment you make it a collective payment plan, the moment you say individuals are no longer insured and the moment you say individuals are no longer covered, then you will be guaranteed that the system will be ripe for being ripped off.
What are the solutions? Well, some solutions have talked about photo cards and others have talked about maybe a system that can go back to the premium payments. I noticed the member for Scarborough East made the comments yesterday with respect to some system for premium payments for people who are visiting the country etc.
I would argue steadfastly that the best approach to use is to again go back to insuring individuals rather than the collective. Why I argue that way is, there is an administrative headache, I agree, in trying to keep track of 10 million people, but on the whole it makes more sense to go about keeping track of 10 million people as best you can, and in some cases for the government, that's not great, but it's better than not trying to keep track at all.
I'll tell you something, as sure as I'm standing here today, the Minister of Health will go back to a system that somehow reinsures the individual rather than the collective, or the next government will go back to a system of identifying individuals through photo ID, through premium payments, through some form of system that identifies individuals and will ultimately keep better track.
I will also say this: People who pay premiums for a program rather than getting them free think longer and harder about taking advantage of that program. I'm not saying that because it's a philosophical approach or a political approach; I think it's just human nature. If you ask people to pay for a program -- not even pay for the full pop of the program, just pay for some percentage, small as it may be, like OHIP -- then when they go to use that service, they have an understanding that yes, in fact this program costs money.
The moment that the government, be it municipal, provincial or federal, will go out and offer a program gratis, with no cost involved, no small premium payment, with no idea how much it costs, this program will cost you a lot more than you ever thought it would, because people think it's free. They think: "Nothing comes out of my pocket. I have no idea how much this is, what it costs to go see the doctor for a hangnail or a sniffle." They think this is somehow free; it's not, never has been and never will be. There's a cost to the taxpayer, the collective taxpayer.
This seems to be where we have gone in divergent paths with the government in power today. I say that too because we see it in all kinds of things today, and maybe this government is finally coming to the realization that you can't go about giving away programs for free; there has to be some kind of applicable cost to that program.
I'll tell you where that has become very clear to me, and maybe this is an argument that can be traced back to the employer health tax as far as the premium is concerned. The Treasurer has been bringing in budgets now three times, this will be his fourth, and in each budget he has gone about with great care to ensure that he has increased service costs or fees. Why has he increased fees?
Mr Stockwell: Dovercourt, sorry; near Davenport, actually. He will recall vividly sometimes in the 1970s and 1980s that the socialists often argued against, vehemently opposed at both the municipal and probably the provincial levels, any kind of user fee, period, whether it be in a rec centre or a skating rink or a campsite or any of those kinds of things. They opposed that because they thought there should be universal access. But now as you see budgets coming --
Mr Stockwell: Well, maybe not campsites, but I can point to you chapter and verse, not just that member, who I don't have as much experience with, but certainly the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, who opposed any kind of fee at all at a municipal level for access to programming.
I say to you that maybe your opinion has changed. Why has it changed? Because I think you're finally coming to realize that when you offer these programs for free they end up costing you significantly more than you expected them to and there's no revenue to charge back against those costs. That can be directly related back to the cost of health care in this province, because the cost of health care in this province has grown at such a staggering rate it would take your breath away.
I say to the members across the floor that in 1985 in this province, I think it was the last provincial Conservative budget, the entire cost of running this government in the province of Ontario those 10 short years ago was in the neighbourhood of some $17 billion or $18 billion.
Mr Stockwell: Ten years ago. Well, we have a disagreement, but anyway, it was significant. Today, the health care system in the province of Ontario costs as much as it did to run the whole province those 10 short years ago.
The question you have to ask is, have the needs of the public dramatically increased to the point that it needs this kind of money spent on the service? Or maybe, have the governments of the day, particularly in the last half of the 1980s, less so under this government, been offering services that weren't covered and in fact were not expected to be covered, but once given to the general public can no longer be recaptured? That's a question that needs to be asked.
I don't know if I'll be using all my minutes. I will say that I think the debate will become an election debate. You'll probably find all parties pretty much on side with respect to health care and the universality of health care. But as I said yesterday, if there is a dedication from each party to protect the health care system and the universality of the health care system, I insist that no chipping away be done at the outside of that system. Either you're in favour of universality or you're not.
I would ask the public to ask those people who come to their doors, when they say they're in favour of universal health care and when they talk about a $17-billion expenditure in health care and when they talk about collecting $40 billion in revenue and spending $50 billion, where are they going to make the kinds of cuts that are needed to be made to balance this budget and bring business back into this province if they're not prepared to look at least $17 billion of a $50-billion budget?
When you talk about debt servicing, you're talking about $7 billion of $17 billion. When you add debt servicing into the $17 billion, you're suddenly up to $23 billion. When you add in education and other forms, you're at $30 billion before you know it. If you're at $30 billion of these particular programs that this government says are sacrosanct -- you can't touch them, they're sacred cows -- then where is it you're going to make cuts that are going to balance this kind of budget, considering you're spending $10 billion you don't have to begin with?
Mr Stockwell: Well, no, I spoke for the member for Bruce. He was very eloquent in his comments with respect to the safety net, and I think it's a wonderful thing. It's a good idea to stand up and say those kinds of things.
But what doesn't get answered, not just by the Liberals, although they're famous for not having very fine-tuned, economically sound policies, but even by the government itself -- the government should take a lesson in this as well. I don't understand how you're going to protect all these safeties -- the social safety net, the health care system, education -- continue to spend the dollars you claim you're committed to spending and then also argue that you're going to reduce the deficit and balance the budget. I don't know how you can do it. I honestly don't know how you can do it, considering the spending levels we're at today.
As I said before, you collect $40 billion and you spend $50 billion. Health care and those etcs add up to about $30 billion. If you cut everything else out except education, social services and health care, and debt servicing -- you have no choice -- you'd have to cut every single ministry, every single staff, every single person to balance the budget.
Those are the questions the public needs to ask, because the next government that is lucky enough to be elected in this province, be it the government in power or the Liberals or us, is going to be faced with probably a greater dilemma than this government. They're going to have to go out to the people and they're not going to buy these sops any more, the Agenda for People; they're not going to buy that sop any more. They're going to want some real, honest answers, and the answers have to begin with, what is considered less of a priority and what is going to be cut that is going to create a balanced budget, or at least deficit reduction, to have competitive businesses in this province again?
I can speak for myself with respect to the cuts I think you'd have to go to. You're going to have to go to a series of cuts in this province that I think the government would find somewhat draconian in some nature, but it's going to have to be done to get you a balanced budget.
Who'd have thought we'd be sitting here today waiting for the fourth budget from the Minister of Finance, and that in previous budgets he'd be talking about reopening contracts and renegotiating them, a gentleman who would be talking about increasing fees to the boy scouts, for heaven's sake, and the girl guides? Who'd have thought a socialist would be talking about this? Who would have thought a socialist would have been talking about photo-radar and casino gambling?
I understand why they did those things. I understand why they didn't go to fully funded public auto insurance. They couldn't afford it, it's that simple. They couldn't afford the massive layoffs in the private sector and the cost of incurring fully funded government auto insurance.
What we have here is three parties coalescing to the right of centre. It's just that simple. We have three parties coalescing to the right of centre: the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP. Some on the spectrum are maybe less right than the others, I will admit, but surely even the most ardent supporter of this government would admit that it has gone a considerable distance from the left of centre to the centre and maybe marginally to the right. Even the most ardent supporter would argue they've come considerably closer to the centre, maybe even to the centre, than they used to be in opposition.
I will say about the Liberal caucus, and it can enter into this debate, that it has gone out further on the right of centre, considerably further on the right of centre, than has been its traditional party history. Why is this? This debate is a microcosm of the rationale. The microcosm is, no longer can we simply say we will be all things to all people in this province. It can't be done any more, and for one reason. As hard as it is to swallow for the government in power -- and I know it's hard to swallow, but it's an accepted fact -- the one reason is it doesn't have the money. They're broke; they haven't got the tax revenue and they have had to break a series of promises to maintain some fiscal sanity in this province -- if you think three credit rating downgrades and $10 billion is fiscal sanity. That's with the hard decision-making they took on the social contract and others.
I know full well the serious problems they must have had in caucus when it came to no public auto insurance, gambling casinos, the social contract. It must have been hell to sit through those caucus meetings, it must have been hell to rationalize on those principles, but it all comes down to that terrible word that nobody likes to say makes decisions but always does: money. Money is the bottom line to this government and any future government.
We can't be all things to all people any more. The point I wanted to make on the health care system is that if the health care system is untouchable and if it will always be universal and if all people will have access at all times -- and I know the Minister of Health has a difficult problem. Every day in the House someone stands up, particularly from northern Ontario, and complains --
Mr Stockwell: Spend more money, exactly. They stand up and say, "Spend more money." If that is going to be the protected sacred cow, then no longer can you make the same arguments for education or social services or the other services we provide in this province.
I will not stand in future, particularly in this election, for members of this House to go out, and the people who are competing against those members, to tell the people they will continue to give them everything they've always had, including lower taxes, lower deficits and balanced budgets, because that is bunk. That's more bunk than the Agenda for People, and that's going some far, if you can do that.
I was glad to take part in this debate, because I'll tell you something: The general public out there is in a very interesting mood. The mood of the general public is sort of like this: "I understand what the situation is. I understand there's going to have to be a change in the way government is run in this province, and I understand there are going to have to be some decisions made that are tough decisions that will not necessarily please 100% of the people in this province, but we are prepared to accept those decisions."
All the public is asking us today is, "Allow us the opportunity of seeing what those decisions are and we will be happy" -- not happy -- "we will accept the fact that we will have to give priority to certain programs, and some programs will go and some will stay." I only ask that we give the public the opportunity to pick which programs go and which stay, and I think you can kiss multicultural grants goodbye, you can kiss all those programs goodbye. When it comes down to the short strokes, the general public in this province wants to maintain their health care system, some reasonable form of education, and everything else may well be on the table.
Mr Sutherland: I appreciate the member for Etobicoke West participating in the debate. Once again, he gave his normal, consistent view, may I say. There's no doubt that he's very consistent, but I think he gave a somewhat simplistic view of how things are done.
I see the other member here from Mississauga. She took me to task the other day because I cited a scientific study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine which clearly indicated that many of the CAT scans and MRIs don't have any value or that too many of them are being done when they shouldn't be done. She took me to task for saying that: "Oh, that's an awful thing."
Let me just say with respect to this bill that it is a measure of fairness. I understand people don't like the employer health tax in general, but it does need to be done in terms of what we're doing with respect to this bill.
I appreciate the member's comments, but we need to keep in mind that maybe everything we're doing in our health care system, our education system, our other systems right now, isn't the most effective thing to do and that changes can be made to improve them. I don't think anybody should be afraid of examining those services to make those decisions.
Mr Murphy: I too would like to join in the comments on the speech of the member for Etobicoke West. I may wish to say something slightly heretical here in agreement with him, which is that there is one reason why it was a good thing that the NDP was elected in 1990 -- one reason -- and that is because we will now have a circumstance where there are three parties who've actually had to serve in government and make some of the hard decisions.
What we had historically in this province was the NDP as a third party that was prepared to promise essentially everything to all people on one end of the spectrum and raise the expectation level of what could be delivered by government and provide an out for making hard choices. I agree with the member from Etobicoke West that what is coming -- what is here -- is that the process of governing is going to be the process of making hard choices.
There are three ways you solve the deficit situation: either more taxes, government efficiency, or fewer services. Taxpayers are telling all of us that more taxes isn't the way to go about it, and I'm not sure the savings required to achieve the deficit reduction that needs to be made can be done through government efficiency in the sense of delivering it more effectively. In some cases, there can be savings that way. That doesn't mean we stop pursuing that. I think of the Wellesley Hospital in my riding, which has done an excellent job of turning a difficult situation around and is now in a surplus situation.
How the debate on which services are kept and how they are kept is going to be conducted is going to be important. The election will be about this debate if we are honest about the issues we're going to put before the public. But we have to look at more innovative ways than this government has pursued about having that debate, and I look forward to the opportunity to see if that actually occurs.
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): It seems to me that what my colleague the member for Etobicoke West has been talking about is fundamental honesty. It's very easy for members of political parties to all stand off and say, "I don't agree with what they're saying." But the fact is, we now have a budget which is so much above what we gather in revenues -- nobody could possibly say there's a lack of revenue, because we are now so heavily taxed that there is no capacity for more taxes. The only saving graces we have ahead of us are more efficiency in the system and increases in our GDP, and increases in GDP are highly related to how effective we are in attracting and keeping businesses.
As my colleague said, if you leave health care alone and you leave education alone, you have so many other areas of government that would have to be cut back to almost zero or zero as to be unrealistic. Now we have to come to grips with how we increase the efficiency of the health care system, and we must be very honest.
Everybody wants universal health care, and I believe everybody in this chamber is in favour of universal health care, but the point is that we are going to have to fund it maybe differently. The trouble this government has is that it is so tied up in its old rhetoric. They are so tied up in all those years of being in opposition and always saying that the government of the day was wrong that they find their area for movement is so limited. That's the difficulty they are facing. My friend speaks of honesty, and I hope the government can have the guts to come to terms with its rhetoric being jettisoned.
Mr Robert Frankford (Scarborough East): I listened with interest to the member for Etobicoke West. I don't believe he addressed the suggestion of his colleague the member for York Mills about $10 user fees, which I remember him bringing up yesterday. I trust his caucus is developing a unified position on that and that we will be fully informed about what they're favouring.
I also agree with what I think I heard the member for York Mills saying about the need for an efficient health system and the possibility of savings. I agree with the statement of federal minister Marcel Massé of a few months ago, when he said, looking at European models, that we could reduce our proportion of GDP spending on health. I don't know how much exactly he suggested, but certainly, let's say, 1% of GDP, which is getting us somewhere into a quite manageable range with actually a greater degree of universality.
Mr Massé retracted because it was immediately interpreted that he was suggesting unacceptable slashes and just cutting back on health care. I think it's unfortunate, and I would be very interested to see what is actually going on at the federal level with the minister and ministers like Massé.
Mr Frankford: The member is asking me what I am saying. I believe we need to move to a more universal, better-structured system informationally, a primary-care-based system, as, for instance, has been suggested by Dr Forster of Ottawa --
Mr Stockwell: Listen, I don't disagree that there can be saving in the system. There can be. There can be saving by, as they say, spending smarter or rationalizing and so on and so forth, but let's not kid the troops. You can't save the kind of money we need to save by saying we can spend smarter. It isn't there.
If I don't need to explain this to anybody, I don't need to explain it to this caucus over here. If you thought you could rationalize without affecting services, you would have done it by now and you probably would have had deficits significantly less than $10 billion.
The point I'm trying to make is that if you're going to go out on the campaign trail and say, "We'll just spend smarter and make efficiencies in the system and we can balance the budget and keep all the services," they're going to see through you like a cheap pane of glass.
You know what? There's nothing I find more difficult than to watch the Minister of Health stand before us and tell us there are no user fees in the system. Folks, we know there are user fees in the system now. We know they're everywhere. Go get an ambulance in Simcoe and it costs you money right out of your pocket, like Central America. That's what it costs you.
We know there are user fees in the system. The worst part is to see ministers trying to defend the fact that there aren't. We have to come clean. I don't think the public wants user fees, but you know something? If you gave them a choice between fully funded, fully paid-for, universal, accessible health care, and multicultural grants or sports grants or programs like that, or civil servants, they'd choose health care in a second. There's your decision.
Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 136, An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act and to make related amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Justices of the Peace Act / Projet de loi 136, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les tribunaux judiciaires et apportant des modifications corrélatives à la Loi sur l'accès à l'information et la protection de la vie privée et à la Loi sur les juges de paix.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Bill 136 is an act to amend the Courts of Justice Act and has been spoken about by the Attorney General, who is in the House, and the critic for the Liberal Party and the critic for the Conservative Party, and I don't have a great deal to add to the discussions.
I think, generally speaking, the Attorney General needs to be congratulated for bringing this legislation forward. This legislation, as has been said, deals with a number of things, of which some things have been said and some things haven't, which I'd like to comment on this afternoon. It deals with the Unified Family Court, it deals with the judicial appointments, it deals with judicial discipline, and a number of other things.
I think this bill is useful because the people in this province are expecting more and more, not only from our judges but from our police, from our politicians. The whole issue of justice and community safety in Ontario is certainly one of the great issues that this government needs to deal with, and I congratulate, as I say, the Attorney General for bringing forward this bill which deals specifically with the judiciary.
We've had some difficult incidents in this province recently, and I think it would be inappropriate for me or anyone else to comment on those specific incidents. But they've been very difficult incidents and I think that judges, like all of us, need to be examined periodically. The judicial system needs to be examined periodically.
The whole issue of the independence of the judiciary needs to be looked at while we're getting into these issues, and I know that both of the previous speakers, the Liberal critic and the member for Willowdale, have spoken on that issue and I would like to add to that.
I hope that the Attorney General will also look at a number of issues outside this bill, albeit it deals specifically with the judiciary. We're into very difficult times. The whole issue of young offenders is being questioned by the public and, yes, that's a federal jurisdiction, but we've had incidents in Chatham, we've had incidents in dessert restaurants and young people shooting at people in Ottawa streets, tourists in Ottawa. We've had violence in the schools, we've had just awful crimes against women and young children in our society, so we need to look at everything. We need to look at the police system, we need to look at the judiciary, we need to look at the court system, and this is part of that puzzle.
I think the member for Willowdale has mentioned that the Progressive Conservative Party has prepared a document, which I'd like to give some plug to, Madam Speaker. Members from the House could rightly criticize me in that it doesn't deal specifically with this bill, but it does deal with the subject of justice, which is what this Bill 136 is trying to deal with.
It's a document which the Progressive Conservatives have called New Directions, Volume Three: A Blueprint for Justice and Community Safety in Ontario. I think that has been referred to by members in this House. It talks about young offenders, the whole issue of sentencing, is our system too soft? Court management is dealt with, the Martin report and a whole slew of other issues.
Perhaps that leads to the first item I'd like to speak to specifically dealing with Bill 136, and that has to do with the issue with respect to Small Claims Court and the use of deputy judges, which is dealt with in section 33 and those surrounding sections, I believe, with respect to the appointment of deputy judges or the composition of the Deputy Judges Council, the complaints against deputy judges, the investigation, disposition etc. There are a lot of sections which pretty well mirror the sections dealing with the Judicial Council for provincial judges.
One of the most important courts in our system is the Small Claims Court, which deals with monetary matters in which individuals can go to court and not use a lawyer, although I think the jurisdiction is now $6,000 and certainly for the higher claims people do retain lawyers. During the Small Claims Court proceedings, generally speaking, deputy judges are used.
One of the complaints about this legislation, which I know has been drawn to the attention of the Attorney General with meetings by judicial people and members from the Advocates' Society, is on this issue. I'm reluctant to be too critical of the bill because I will be supporting the bill, but it's a practical issue with respect to deputy judges, who are, as I say, generally lawyers who are hired or asked to appear and make decisions on matters in Small Claims Court. They're paid a nominal amount per day, $230-some-odd dollars a day, to act as deputy judges. It's very difficult for many lawyers to do that, specifically in the communities where they have a law practice, and the whole issue of appearing independent.
The problem that has been drawn to my attention, and I know it has been drawn to the attention of the Attorney General, is the issue of the criticism that is being directed to deputy judges. With monetary claims of $500 and under, there are no court reporters to deal with those claims, those actions that are brought in the Small Claims Court, nor are those matters appealable.
When someone loses their claim for $500, one of the things that normally one would expect is that you could appeal. You don't like the decision. Perhaps they didn't like things that the judge said. Maybe the judge made an error. But under the system that we now have, as I understand it, those actions of monetary claims under $500 cannot be appealed.
Rightfully, no question, the competence of judges, whether it be a deputy or anyone making judicial decisions, needs to be looked at, but the difficulty is that many deputy judges look at this position as almost a community service. Certainly they're not doing it for the money. I suppose in many cases people ask, "Why are they doing it?" They're certainly not doing it for the monetary claim of some $230.
The criticism that has been directed towards this bill is, will that discourage legal people with good experience acting in a judicial capacity from appearing as a judge in the Small Claims Court? Will they put themselves up to criticism that may not necessarily be valid, particularly with the problem we're in?
I can tell you that the prediction that's coming out is that people who, either as a plaintiff or as a defendant, may not have received a decision they liked and the claim is under $500, they have no right of appeal, but the right they do have under Bill 136 is the right to make a complaint to the judge. Subsection 33(7) says, "Any person may make a complaint to the Deputy Judges Council alleging misconduct by a deputy judge."
Then it's referred to a subcommittee consisting of two judges of the General Division, one deputy judge and one person who is neither a judge nor a lawyer. It's not exactly the same, but it's a similar type of subcommittee that has dealt with the Judicial Council.
Then the subcommittee may investigate the complaint. I suppose the Attorney General could stand in her place and say, "If the claim is frivolous and they're just trying to get at the decision that was made -- if the plaintiff or the defendant didn't like the decision, it's not really a shot at the judge, it's a shot at the decision that they just didn't like -- those claims could be dismissed by this subcommittee."
Subsection (10) goes on, "The regional senior judge may dismiss the complaint, with or without a finding that it is unfounded, or, if he or she concludes that the deputy judge's conduct presents grounds for imposing a sanction, may," and then there are a number of things that could be done. The judge can be warned, reprimanded etc and those are dealt with in a number of clauses. Then it goes down to a number of other things.
The practical matter of it is that people in the judicial system whom I have spoken to, and I know they've spoken to the Attorney General, are afraid that deputy judges will say: "Why bother? It's not paying me to do this. Why should I go through this grief which may not be warranted?"
People get very upset with decisions and they may have taken them very personally. They may have said that the judge is incompetent. They may say a whole slew of things. It may well be that those complaints are well founded. Hence it's difficult for me to criticize this section, because there's no question that there may be occasions when that situation is well founded.
Being a lawyer, although I haven't done litigation for many years -- I'll make that clear. I have nothing to gain in this. I certainly haven't done litigation, and don't intend to, I might add. The difficulty is, why would lawyers bother doing this? Why would they put themselves up to this? This has been said by other members in the House and I know it has been said to the Attorney General privately.
I understand what the Attorney General is doing, but I also am reasonably certain that you will have a shortfall in deputy judges. That to me leads to the conclusion that more judges at perhaps a higher rate of compensation may have to be paid. If you have a shortage of volunteers, you're going to have to pay people, because you have to make the Small Claims Court system work. I guess the issue I'm looking at is whether this is going to lead to other problems, in fact, shortage of judges.
Time is fast fleeing, but there are other issues that I would like to talk about. There's the performance evaluation, and that is dealt with in sections in the bill, which is by the Judicial Council. When you start talking about deciding the performance of judges -- and we've seen some almost bizarre situations in our judicial system lately -- deciding whether judges are acting appropriately, there's no question, and I'm saying this as a male, I suppose, that we need to be educated, we need to be continually educated on the way our society is going. I understand that and I support that.
The issue is politics interfering in what I believe should be an independent system, and this has been said. One of the issues -- and I don't think I can find the section -- has to do with how the Chief Judge may implement a performance evaluation of judges. That is an issue that we need to be very careful of. Again, I hope that this goes to a committee, that this topic will be dealt with as well, to assure the judicial system and to assure the public that when we start talking about the evaluation of judges, there is no political interference and the independence of judges remains.
Certainly, the sensitivity courses, the legal education -- everyone supports that. We all need to have continuing education. We all need to probably have sensitivity courses. I mean, I'd be the first to admit that, because we have seen in North America very bizarre cases made specifically by male judges. There's no question that those have been made. But it's a very dangerous area to get into. It needs to be looked at, but we need to be very careful when we get into that to ensure that the independence of the judiciary continues.
I don't intend to spend any more time on that issue, which is the performance evaluation process, other than to make that comment, that we need to be very careful in the process. I am concerned about the Chief Judge performing evaluations of judges. I'm concerned about that because that does get into one judge deciding what another judge is going to do or should do, for whatever reason. It's an area which I hope the Attorney General will spend some more time on, and perhaps we'll have more input from the judicial people and Advocates' Society and the bar association and others on that issue.
I know that the Advocates' Society made some representations a couple of years ago to the former Attorney General, Mr Hampton. Hopefully, the Advocates' Society and others will be given an opportunity to make more representations on these issues, because it is a specialized field and we need to rely on our judicial people and our legal people to properly advise the government as to dealing with the problem that needs to be addressed. I repeat, I congratulate her on that issue.
The issue with respect to the Family Court: Again, I don't speak as an expert on the topic of the Family Court, which has been successful in Hamilton, other than that there are a whole slew of support services that have operated in Hamilton that assist judicial decisions. I guess when you start talking about a unified court, whether or not the Attorney General needs to be more clear on that type of support system or, to use the words of the member for Willowdale, on the infrastructure of the operation of that system, I think more important is an issue that has been raised before and which I'd like to emphasize to the Attorney General. Now these provincial judges, being a unified court, will move to the General Division and essentially will be paid for by the federal government. That will free up a substantial amount of money. I guess it depends on how much money. I don't know what the facts are. I suspect it will free up a substantial amount of money, and one of the concerns of the judicial system and the legal system is money, just like it is for education and health and all kinds of things. I mean, we're short of money.
If that is being done, if that interpretation is correct and there is going to be a substantial amount of money, in the millions, that is going to be freed up, then hopefully there would be some assurance from the Attorney General that this money won't simply go into the big pot, into the consolidated fund, but that it will be used for the court system.
If it's a saving in one thing, there are all kinds of other things -- and the member for Willowdale has spoken about the infrastructure and the Unified Family Court -- that are needed in the Unified Family Court other than just decision-making. So that's enough on that topic. That is a point that has been made, but I wanted to emphasize that issue.
The appointment of judges, as dealt with -- these are all matters that I think it's excellent to have codified. I think that's dealt with in section 42; it doesn't matter. But there's a section in the bill that deals with the appointment of judges.
I want to talk about an issue that I know the government gets very sensitive about, particularly the NDP government, and that is the whole issue with respect to employment equity. I cite, for example, when we had all the judges who were appointed as a result of the Askov decision, where there were a number of cases that were simply getting set aside by judges because it was taking too long to reach the courts. That was the leading decision, the start of that whole process. The then Attorney General appointed a whole slew of judges -- I don't know how many, but a large number -- to alleviate that situation. He had no choice, and that's what was done.
The concern I had, and I made a criticism of him then in his capacity as Attorney General and I make a criticism of him now, is that normally for the appointment of judges there are a number of requirements, and it's set forth in the bill. One is to have been practising law for a number of years. The then Attorney General made an invitation to ask lawyers to make an application as to whether or not they were interested in becoming provincial judges to alleviate this situation. To my knowledge from speaking to people in the legal community, that invitation went out only to women. Only to women. This is before employment equity, the last piece of legislation, was passed.
There's no question that the appointment of judges must reflect what is going on in the community, must reflect the people in the community, the people who live there, whether it's culture or otherwise: all of the principles of employment equity. But my concern is the issue of merit. It's this point that I know members of the government get very excited about whenever I speak about it. They say that the merit principle is there, but I can tell you that this whole issue, which even applies to the appointment of judges, gives me some concern. I hope that in the section dealing with the appointment of judges, the issue of merit will be emphasized over and above anything else, because it is important that we have not only an independent judicial system but a very qualified judicial system. I think that we do. At this particular point in time, speaking as someone who has worked in the judicial system, I think we have one of the best systems in North America, if not the world, as far as the quality of our judicial system is concerned. I hope that will continue.
There will be a great number of provincial court judges who will become section 96 judges, as the unified courts are expanded. Those judges, once they become section 96 judges, will be paid by the federal government. I think that's a saving of over $100,000, $120,000. I emphasize that point as well, that that's a saving; it simply doesn't go to the court system.
There's another issue which I hope in due course -- and I know I'm going beyond the bill but it's an opportunity for me to mention the efficiency of the judicial system. We're talking about the qualifications of judges and the ability of members of the public and members of the legal system to criticize people in the judicial community and we're talking about making the system run better, and that is the whole issue of legal aid.
My time has almost expired and I don't intend to proceed, but I believe that one of the reasons why our legal system has become rather bogged down at times, specifically in the area of matrimonial, which is what the Unified Family Court will be dealing with, is the subject of legal aid. There are a whole slew of people, and I make this as a broad statement albeit in my opinion, who should not be covered by legal aid.
People who have legal aid, in my observations, take advantage of the system. Again, I don't mean to criticize people who are on legal aid because there's a whole number of people who need legal assistance. It's very expensive. They need to be compensated for that. The difficulty is that someone -- I'm just speaking as someone who has observed the system -- who is on legal aid is not paying the bill and quite often decisions are not settled. They go on and they go on and they go on.
The opponent, who may be the husband, may be the wife, it doesn't really matter, on these matters involving family matters specifically, may not have legal aid and it puts that person to a disadvantage economically. So it's another issue that somewhere down the line I hope the Attorney General will deal with because I think that there's the issue of fairness on the topic of legal aid. There's the issue of congestion in the courts, because the people who are not paying the bills quite often are not afraid to proceed in sometimes very expensive proceedings against people who are paying the bills. That in turn, clogs the system.
I have really nothing further to say with respect to this bill other than the fact that I hope that somewhere down the line in one of the committee stages we will hear more from the Attorney General and her staff on some of these issues. I do invite, as a final plug -- and I'm sure the Attorney General has looked at it, at some of the items that we deal with in our booklet on New Directions, specifically the sections on the Young Offenders Act, court management and other matters that indirectly affect this bill and other related matters.
I thank you, Madam Speaker, for participating and I look forward to other members of this House debating this subject and I also look forward to the Attorney General or members of her staff clarifying many of the concerns that have been put forward and hopefully give an opportunity to people in the legal community and the judicial community and others who are directly or indirectly affected by the judicial system.
The Acting Speaker (Ms Margaret H. Harrington): Thank you to the member for Dufferin-Peel. Now we have time for questions or comments. Are there any questions or comments to the member? If not, further debate.
Mr David Winninger (London South): I too am pleased to rise and speak in support of Bill 136. We've heard several members of the opposition, notably the member for Ottawa West, the member for Willowdale and now the member for Dufferin-Peel, speak in support in principle of Bill 136.
I myself am very impressed with some of the progressive amendments to the Courts of Justice Act embodied in Bill 136, but I'm also impressed with the extent of the consultation: consultation with the judiciary, consultation with the bar, consultation with consumers of legal/judicial services and finally, with the community at large.
If there's one thing I've learned in political office, it's that it's not enough to consult only with what are sometimes known as the stakeholder groups, but it's also important to listen to their concerns and reflect as best you can in your legislation or your amendments to existing legislation the kind of contributions you've heard from the stakeholders.
It seems to me that because of the breadth and depth of consultation that went, first, into the lead-up to Bill 68 and now into Bill 136 that replaces Bill 68, we've had an extremely full consultation. Although people never get everything they ask for in legislation, my experience with my constituents has been that as long as I as a politician make an honest effort to hear what they have to say and reflect as best I can the majoritarian viewpoint, people are relatively happy and accepting of the solutions and accommodations we're able to come up with.
Here, for example, in Bill 136 the Attorney General has wrought a very fine balance between the traditional judicial independence that is vouchsafed to our courts of law by the Constitution, but at the same time increasing the openness and accountability of the manner in which our judicial institutions operate. As the Attorney General herself observed in beginning this debate, what's resulted is a more open and fair process -- by all accounts, I might add.
What I like in particular is the new look of the Judicial Council. Provincial court judges, who will be disciplined by the Ontario Judicial Council, will play a greater role because they will have more representatives on the council. At the same time, however, the accountability and accessibility the public demands will be reflected in additional public appointments who will enhance judicial accountability. Judges will still have the majority vote because the Chief Justice of Ontario can exercise his or her prerogative to cast an additional deciding vote in the event of a tie.
I think that's important, and it's important to the public to know that their courts and the bodies that regulate the affairs of the courts and justices and judges will remain autonomous and independent of the legislative and executive functions of government. It's also important to note that the Chief Justice of Ontario will be the person who will preside at hearings.
The process for complaints from the public about the conduct or misconduct, as the case may be, of judges has also been vastly improved. In my constituency office, we do from time to time get calls of complaint about the conduct or misconduct of judges and justices, and I, like my colleagues in the House, have to make it quite clear, in fact crystal clear, to those who contact our office that we as politicians do not intervene, interfere or attempt to influence in any way the course of justice. It's not our position to comment on decisions that are made by judges or justices. So fortunately we have a complaints mechanism to the Judicial Council.
To some members of the lay public, this process is somewhat mysterious and arcane, and by some of the improvements being made in Bill 136 or in conjunction with Bill 136 we find that public accessibility to the Ontario Judicial Council is increased and improved. I note the Attorney General's comments in opening this debate, that we're looking at toll-free telephone access to the Judicial Council, that there could be assistance in drafting complaints to the Judicial Council, and finally, more public education on the function, role, structure and composition of the Judicial Council, which will remove some of that mystery, some of that sense of the arcane from these august proceedings.
It's also helpful to know that the Judicial Council will have a broader range of dispositions it can make in response to complaints about the conduct of our judiciary. As it stands right now, it's my understanding that a judge can be removed from the bench or a judge can continue to sit on a bench. By broadening the range and increasing the diversity of dispositions available, the Judicial Council, I would submit, can be more responsive to the nature of the complaint that's put to the council. For example, perhaps a reprimand or a warning is in order, rather than a complete removal of the judge or justice from the bench. As well, one might accentuate, as the Attorney General mentioned in her opening to this debate, measures for support for judges, and also preventive measures. Quite clearly, though, these are dispositions that lie within the Ontario Judicial Council to make.
I'm also impressed that some very proactive initiatives are contemplated under Bill 136. We've heard, from time to time, both from the judiciary and the bar and sometimes from the public, of the need for continuing education for the judiciary, and to the credit of the chief justices, considerable progress has already been made in the form of educational seminars to increase the gender and racial sensitivity of our judiciary. I see a lot of improvement in that direction.
As well, it's important that standards of conduct be established for the judiciary, and it's important that that role, that responsibility of establishing standards of conduct, is placed within the authority of the Chief Justice of Ontario, again to reinforce the judicial independence that is a hallmark of our justice system.
Performance evaluation: Like the establishment of standards of conduct, performance evaluation is a discretionary provision under Bill 136 for the Chief Justice. It's important that there be some measures, some yardsticks, just as there are in other professions, but again, it's important that standards of conduct and performance evaluation lie within the domain of the Chief Justice of Ontario. This perhaps goes beyond the traditional role of the Chief Justice in terms of assigning judges to cases and determining case loads, but it's to the credit of the judiciary, who have been broadly consulted in this process, that they seem on the whole very supportive of these measures.
I can indicate perhaps the most pleasure of all in the announcement within this legislation of an intent, on a phased basis, to expand the Unified Family Court of Ontario. For many years now, in fact since 1977, the Unified Family Court in Hamilton has functioned in an admirable way. Some of the leading matrimonial case law in this province has come out of that court, and over many years Mr Justice Steinberg has presided and created in that court a model for the rest of the province.
Before I was elected I practised for many years in London, Ontario. There we had very fine court services, but unlike the Unified Family Court, you certainly never enjoyed one-stop shopping. In fact, I can remember, before the earlier courts of justice amendments, that if one wanted speedy and urgent relief one would go to the provincial court (family division). If one had an issue around the division of property or exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, one would have to ascend to what was then known as the county court, or district court in the northern reaches of our province. But if one wanted a divorce, one would then have to ascend to the Supreme Court of Ontario.
Since the amendments to the Courts of Justice Act, which were enacted, as I recall, in 1990, one had one superior court where one could deal with issues of property and issues of divorce and in some cases custody and access.
The point I'm trying to make is this: With a Unified Family Court, one doesn't have to go to several courts to gain the relief one may urgently need. One doesn't have to go, as it stands right now, to the Ontario Court (Provincial Division), or the General Division, or, if one's dealing with matters involving young offenders -- before I was elected, if one was representing a young offender, one had to go to yet another of two different courts. If your young offender happened to be under the age of 16 in London, one would go to the provincial court (family division), but if one's client were over the age of 16 and under the age of 18, one would have to go over to the other side of the courthouse, where the criminal division sat.
The beauty of having a Unified Family Court is that one has basically one-stop shopping. Now, I got a lot of exercise travelling from one court to another, but I can't imagine that this is an ideal way to streamline the course of justice or to gain those kinds of cost-efficiencies we need to achieve in the face of the very considerable pressures our court system faces today. So it makes perfect sense to roll those different judicial remedies into the one court, a Unified Family Court, which under Bill 136 would be a separate division of the Ontario Court (General Division.)
I know that the bench and the bar and the community at large in London are very actively seeking to have a Unified Family Court in London. They make a very convincing case for that, given that we've had for many years some extraordinary support services for our courts.
We have a family court clinic in London which has played a very instrumental role in the manner in which cases involving young offenders and cases involving custody or access are dealt with. In fact we have a custody and access project as well. We have a very active family bar. For many years now, the services of the General Division and the Provincial Division in the area of family law are side by side.
There's a very good case to be made for having a Family Court in London. On the other hand, I know that consultations are ongoing between the province and the federal government in terms of judicial appointments because these appointments will, as the member for Dufferin-Peel observed, be federal appointments to the expanded Family Court. The number of judicial appointments, I expect, will undoubtedly influence the number and location of our expanded Unified Family Court system.
But all in all, I can say that the approach taken in Bill 136 is a very reasonable one. I think what we're going to see is some very active participation by the community resource committees that will advise government on the kind of resources each and every community may require. Some examples are supervised access or family mediation.
What I found over years of litigation in this particular area is that one can have orders from the courts on consent or as a result of a trial and a determination of the judge that can sometimes be very difficult to enforce without the appropriate kind of services in the community.
As well, I mentioned the custody and access project in London which has been flourishing for a long time and prepares expert assessments that judges use when they determine the very thorny and complex issues around custody and access. What mediation services can do is actually expedite the courts of justice and relieve some of the backlog in the courts. I think that's very important.
All in all, I see the expansion on a phased basis of the Unified Family Court as meeting a very timely need and being a very bold stride forward. I have asked on more than one occasion in the House in the past as to the status and ongoing negotiations on the matter of the Family Court. I'm pleased to see they've come to fruition.
Finally, I'd like to say a few words about the Small Claims Court. Other members in opposition have done so as well and the Attorney General adverted to the Small Claims Court in her introductory remarks. As you may know, Mr Speaker, under our current system outside Toronto, where we have a provincial court (civil division) and we have, in my recollection, several full-time Ontario court civil judges, who are akin to what's popularly known as Small Claims Court judges. These judges function on a full-time salary basis because of the huge volume of cases that come through the Toronto courts. But outside Toronto there are several different arrangements.
The one I'm most familiar with in London is the appointment of what are called deputy judges. These deputy judges, usually full-time, practising lawyers, devote time away from their law practices to disposing of what is a very considerable volume of cases that come through our Small Claims Court. These lawyers are paid a per diem for doing it. It's been my experience in London that lawyers have never been too reluctant to take on this role because it certainly enhances their knowledge and experience and training to deal with their own private litigation matters.
As well, in London, when the regular deputy Small Claims Court judges, these practising lawyers I mentioned who sit from week to week, are on vacation or unavailable, it's been the practice in the past -- I don't know if it still is today -- for the senior judge to ask other lawyers to come forward during the summer and perhaps sit for a day. It's been an understanding in the past that these lawyers would donate their per diems to charitable causes. I certainly would like to pay tribute to all of those lawyers over the years who have sat during the summer and donated their per diems to charitable causes. I think that's a very honourable tradition.
What we have on the whole is high-quality lawyers disposing of cases in the Small Claims Court in London and dispensing a very high standard of justice in a very cost-efficient way. There have been cases, I'm sure, where there have been complaints against deputy judges, just as there are against full-time members of the judiciary. But, unfortunately, there wasn't a formalized process for dealing with these complaints.What Bill 136 does as well is it provides a process for dealing with complaints and disciplining, if necessary, deputy judges in the Small Claims Court. It's done at the local level so it respects, if you will, the local concerns of the community.
Unlike certain members of the opposition who have said, "Perhaps we'll deter able and willing lawyers from acting as deputy court judges if we're going to have a discipline process," I would think that those lawyers I've observed in the past, sitting as Small Claims Court deputy judges, of sterling ability and high character, wouldn't be at all deterred in knowing that there's a formal complaint procedure and a formal process of discipline governing that.
Finally, the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee: I'm pleased to see that enshrined in legislation. It has been operating very well over the last five years. I think that both the early appointments and the additional appointments motivated by the Askov decision pressures reflect a very progressive approach to the appointment of judges. I'm really quite pleased to hear from the members of the bench and bar I still speak with that they're dispensing a very high quality of justice and are very sensitive to community needs and aspirations.
I perhaps have to take issue with the member for Willowdale, who said, and I quote him from Hansard, "I don't think it's an area where political correctness should lead the way." I don't see, as the member for Willowdale does, that there's going to be any sacrifice of merit or qualification, experience or integrity or compassion or wisdom simply because there may be perceived to be some measure of political correctness in the manner in which the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee conducts its business.
What's important, I think, is that people of ability and skill and experience and integrity will continue to be appointed and that the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee will govern its affairs at arm's length from the government. I think that's important to know and it's important to the public and to the respect of the public for the judicial system that there is a means of appointing judges, who wield considerable influence over the conduct of people's lives and can sometimes deprive them of their liberty, that judges are chosen based on their skill, experience, wisdom and integrity. I think the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee goes a long way to removing the strong element of partisanship in the appointment of judges that may have held sway in the past.
On the whole, I see Bill 136 as being very timely, as being very progressive, and I'm looking forward to seeing Bill 136 implemented in the province of Ontario. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the hearings at committee on Bill 136, which I'm confident will be quite fruitful and where we'll certainly hear more from the public, and perhaps the bench and bar, on this important piece of legislation.
Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the remarks by the member for London South. I was interested to hear him talk about the extension of the Unified Family Court -- I know it's currently only in Hamilton-Wentworth, as I know you know, Mr Speaker -- and the proposals to extend it to a few other jurisdictions in the short term and more in the longer term, which will be unfortunate for those other jurisdictions that won't get it in the near future.
But as I was listening to the member for London South speak, and he's the member for London South and parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General, and I believe the Attorney General's riding is in London too, it just led me to ask the question about where one of those early Unified Family Courts might be located -- not that I would speculate.
I also wanted to comment on one remark he made about commenting on decisions made by judges and how it was not appropriate for legislators to do that. It leads to I guess a more philosophical discussion about the relationship between the judiciary and the Legislature, because one of the things I hear a lot about from my constituents is concerns about judges' decisions in criminal matters especially, and how they view sentences as inconsistent in certain circumstances and/or too lenient and how they get their view across to judges that that is the case and how we as legislators have a responsibility to balance the independence of the judiciary, and that is a valued thing in democracy, but also with the concern that the judiciary reflect what it is that the public is feeling in terms of sentences.
Hon Mike Farnan (Minister without Portfolio in Education and Training): Just as a colleague of the member for London South, I wanted to rise to thank him for the splendid presentation he made surrounding this legislation, but it did strike me as incongruous that this is always a learning opportunity, not only for members of the government but for members of the opposition.
Then it was kind of ironic to have the member for York Mills, representing the Progressive Conservative Party, walk into the House -- not one Conservative member present in the House for this very splendid presentation -- ask for a quorum, disappear, and still there is not a Conservative member present in the House while this presentation was taking place. It strikes me that simply --
There is a very great shortage of NDP members present here in the House, and if he wants me to start listing their names I will, each and every day, because their attendance is appalling in this House. They should not be paid for --
Hon Mr Farnan: Unlike the member for York Mills, I can comment on it because I listened to it. The member was not present and I can tell him, because he wasn't here, that it was a splendid presentation.
Mr Robert V. Callahan (Brampton South): I'd like to rise and speak in favour of Unified Family Courts. Many of the statements that have been made by the member for London are accurate, that in fact people have to go from court to court in many instances, particularly if they're trying to seek custody very quickly. They may wind up going to the family court and then perhaps to the General Division.
One thing I would like to speak to, which is unfortunate that this bill doesn't address and I'm hopeful that the Attorney General will look at and address in future legislation, is the fact that the court system, both at the General Division and in the Provincial Division, is being blocked by the large amount of work that it's required to perform. I would suggest that resort -- and I notice that there is some resort to alternative dispute resolution mechanism -- is going to have to be something that the legislators of the day are going to have to deal with.
Our courts cannot possibly be required to meet the demands of the apparent litigious nature of our society, and in fact what's happening is as a result of the lack of resources -- and that's not a criticism of this government or any other government; it's just a fact of life -- is that people are required to wait serious periods of time to get justice.
This becomes a very volatile and very dangerous situation in matrimonial situations, because we've seen instances of serious violence over the years in terms of not just the people who are in the court but also the lawyers and the participants. If delays are experienced, the emotion becomes so high that the children are the people who suffer, and in fact there is the possibility of violence occurring because of it. So I would hope that we would see more advances in terms of alternative dispute resolution mechanism, because I think that's the wave of the future.
Mr Winninger: Just to address the last comment from the member for Brampton South: First, we are, in government, actively exploring and advancing alternative dispute resolution. There are several projects on the go, both in the nature of mediation and arbitration, that I think offer great potential to achieve the kind of objective in expediting the course of justice that the member for Brampton South referred to.
As to the comments from the member for St George-St David, yes, I agree, there are sometimes inconsistencies in the way judicial sentencing is meted out. I think the federal Justice minister recently observed the same and commented that perhaps some guidelines would be useful, other than the current guidelines that govern sentencing, which tend to be deterrents, rehabilitation and retribution.
The member for Cambridge was acute, as usual, in his observations until he was interrupted by a point of order from the member for York Mills, who returns to this House from time to time like the prodigal son.
Mr Winninger: The members opposite, other than the one who's stridently raising his voice at the moment, appreciate many of the progressive steps taken in Bill 136. Noteworthy, of course, is the expansion of the Unified Family Court on a phased basis.
Mr Murphy: I'm glad to have the opportunity to participate in this debate. I'm glad to see that the Attorney General has been here through the course of the debate, and I think that's to her credit. There has been an unfortunate tendency in this Legislature, and to a certain degree among this government, for the ministers who are shepherding bills through the Legislature not to be here.
The Attorney General, I think, has a specific obligation that rises above even other cabinet ministers' in terms of shepherding legislation through the House, in terms of keeping an eye on legislation, that is historically a different one. There is a non-political tradition to the role of the Attorney General, and it's one that it's important to remember.
It's good that the Attorney General is here to listen, because we're hearing not just about this particular bill, which has some creditable aspects to it. It builds on reforms that were commenced under the predecessor in the seat I'm now proud to represent, the great riding of St George-St David, Mr Ian Scott, who as Attorney General put in some of these measures which are now being formalized.
There are some few details I would like to comment on, and one of them is the question about judicial education and standards for judicial conduct and performance evaluations. In fact, I'm glad to see this in here. I know it was in the previous bill. I won't make comment on the particular discipline hearing, but there is a sensitive debate about the issue of discipline of judges, for example. We have a range of ages and experiences among judges and it's important for the standards to be made clear. The degree to which, for example, the private behaviour of judges should reflect on their performance of public duties is an important question, one that has come up, to a certain extent, in a recent discipline. It's important for those rules of conduct to be made clear to judges, both for the judges' purposes and for the purposes of the public at large and other participants in the justice system. Making the rules clear has a virtue for everyone.
I know the Chief Judge was given that role in this system. I'm saying, not so much to the Attorney General directly but through her, on behalf of the public, to the Chief Judge that I think there is virtue in that.
The member for Willowdale, in his comments earlier -- it may not have been about this bill -- was talking about the role of the Chief Judge and the new powers this is going to give to the Chief Judge and the balance between the Chief Judge and the other judges in the system. I think there is a valid point made there. Whether or not that will be a real problem, I guess only time will tell. It's something, though, that it's important the Attorney General and her very able deputy keep an eye on for future reform possibilities. There may be some tension there. I have, in conversations with individuals, who for obvious reasons will remain unnamed, picked up some of that tension already. But I'm not sure it's yet sufficient to cause public concern; it's more just a watchword to the wise.
I do want to talk about what's not covered by the bill. There are some good things in here and I think this will go through this assembly without much division, but it does provide an opportunity, it seems to me, to talk about some other issues, some that come from my experience as a lawyer. One of them is that we did have, as the member for London South mentioned, a move towards unifying the courts from the old hodgepodge of the district court and the county court to a more centralized system of justice, where you could get the same no matter where you were and you could go to one place and get access, depending on some jurisdictional issues related to the federal and provincial concerns.
But what we are seeing is a respecialization in the courts. I think about the commercial list, which has a virtue for those people who are conducting commercial litigation. You get very excellent judges who have a high degree of knowledge within those areas and a high degree of skill and familiarity. While that has a virtue, there is a degree to which that is taking away from the intent of the very reforms we had before. In other words, we're creating specialized panels. We may be doing something by accident which in fact we would want to do by design, but I think it's important that we have the debate about that and talk about that.
But I do want to say, while the Attorney General is here, that what is missing from this is a discussion that we need to have about the justice system on one of the things I hear most about, and that is the question of access to the justice system in general. That's a variety of things. One of the things that people say to me all the time is that it costs too much, it takes too long and, at the end of the day, you don't get justice
The cost comes in two forms. Obviously, there's the cost of lawyers, but there's the cost of the process, the cost to the system itself. I won't reveal the parties, but not long before coming here I was involved in a very lengthy civil matter, a six-month-long civil matter between a number of parties that took up an immense amount of judicial resources, court reporters, the commissionaires' time etc.
The question I had, thinking about it, was whether there is a sensible way to have litigants who can afford it contribute to the cost of using the system. This is my own idea I'm just floating at this point. I don't want to be in any way misleading as to that being a position. But it's an idea that came to me as I was going through that very trial, that there is an enormous cost to the system about resolving those disputes. There is obviously a virtue to resolving those disputes, but at the same time, we are finding more and more, in the civil justice system especially, that the time between the filing of pleadings and going to trial is lengthening, the cost in that interim period is increasing and the length of trials themselves is increasing.
We have to find a way. Alternative dispute resolution is obviously one of them. I had expressed one concern about the current court-centred project. I have a concern about the confidentiality provisions related to how and when disputes get settled and who can have access to that. I think it is important for the public to have access to those records.
That being said, I think a measure that would allow or require, for example, the loser in a civil court case to pay some of the costs of using the court -- I mean, after a certain threshold -- may encourage settlement, first of all, and may encourage access to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
I think too about the issue of speed of access. There is a real concern among the middle class on this. There is legal aid, which can resolve some of those who don't have the resources, although that is a separate problem in and of itself. People who have money can afford a lawyer, although that is expensive, but there is a broad middle group of people who, in a dispute of significant sums for them but not significant in the grander scheme, cannot get equitable resolution through the courts because it just costs too much.
The classic example is, if your roof repairer does not do the job well and there's a $10,000 cost and you have to replace it completely, you go to a lawyer and the lawyer will say: "I can send a nasty letter, but if you want to sue, it's going to cost you too much. It'll cost you more than the $10,000 to pay me and go through the process, even if you win." There's something wrong with a system that has that happen.
Part of the solution, it seems to me, is the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court. Some of those steps have been taken. For example, I would argue that we should look to something like $15,000 as a limit on Small Claims Court jurisdictions and enhancing the role of individuals with rules not unlike those we have now even, which effectively discourage participation of lawyers in that process but none the less allow a certain procedural justice to pertain to the process. That's one of the things I think we've got to look at. That isn't being dealt with now.
I know there is a civil justice review project under way. My concern is that is going to postpone looking at these effectively until after the next election. Either the current Attorney General or another member of her party or any of the other two will be left with that task, and in the interim the delays in the civil side of the process may increase.
I do want to talk briefly about legal aid. I think we are heading towards a crisis in legal aid. The Law Foundation of Ontario has traditionally funded it out of proceeds from trust accounts. That is becoming more and more problematic for the law foundation. It's costing more and more and there's less to contribute. Lawyers are frustrated with the process. There's a slow, slow payment. In fact there's quite an arrears from the legal aid plan to lawyers across the province, which is of concern.
There is a debate we have to have at some point, whether it's at this point or later, about how we police legal aid certificates. It's a difficult issue, I agree entirely, because there is an independence we want to allow individuals to pursue claims, but by the same token there is a public desire, and an appropriate one, for accountability for tax dollars spent. It's not all public money, which is important to remember. Lawyers contribute through a reduction in their fees and through the law foundation and other sources, as well as the public purse, so there's a balance to be struck.
There are many times, and I won't point to specific examples, where delays were sought, many appearances, money was poured into lawsuits through the public purse that may or may not have been justified in a broader perspective, but the individual litigant might have thought so. How we strike that balance, how we make sure lawyers make responsible decisions in those cases, how individual clients and the public monitor that is an important debate to have, and I think this does not do it, unfortunately.
The role of paralegals in the system can be and should be another important debate. We haven't yet been having that one, whether paralegals can be part of the resolution of the cost of justice and the slowness of justice and whether they can play a role in the disputes of a lesser sum or of a more minor criminal nature, for example. We should be having that debate as well.
In terms of the cost of justice and access to lawyers, and I'm actually surprised that the Attorney General hasn't moved more on this, I think it's the CAW that had a legal service plan which was in essence a form of insurance through the participants in the Canadian Auto Workers, where they could pay a fixed sum and have access to lawyers for certain services. Those lawyers were put on a salary. Whether that is a model that can be used in some circumstances for cheaper access to justice is something I thought this government might have looked at and moved on.
I also think one of the issues that this doesn't address is the question of diversity in the profession itself. Madam Justice Bertha Wilson wrote a lengthy report on the gender equality within the profession. I practised downtown Toronto, as they say, and one of the concerns I had was that, essentially, the practice of law has not a great amount of diversity at this point in time.
One of the things I'm working on, and in fact I've talked to the law society and I've talked to a number of law firms in the downtown area which have expressed an interest -- and I'm glad to see the Attorney General here; she might be interested in this idea. One of the things we find is that some people in certain areas don't think that law's a career they can achieve, especially in some visible minority communities which are not adequately represented in the legal profession.
I would like to see a program that allows people in high school, the bright ones, the opportunity to go and spend some time in a law firm. In fact, I'm working with the law society and some law firms on that very plan. If the Attorney General would like to help me out in that plan, I'd be glad to have her assistance.
I'm concerned too about the family support plan. I know it was raised today in the Legislature, but my experience in my community office tells me that there is a great frustration with the failure of the family support plan out there, that there are incredible arrears, difficulty in collection. There's a problem that needs some kind of fixing. I'm not sure that what the leader of the third party recommended today is any kind of answer to that, but there is a concern there, and it's a valid concern. We need also to address that, and I'm not sure this is doing it.
You have to think about, if you look back on this government from the perspective of a pre-election mode, which we seem to be in more and more these days, what are the achievements of the government within the justice system? The list unfortunately is not very long.
Historically, when you look at the role of attorneys general, they have often been the leaders within governments. I think of Ian Scott and Roy McMurtry, Arthur Wishart, Fred Cass, who have all been strong proponents and advancers of the cause within their cabinets at the time.
I know this Attorney General is placed in a difficult role by not being a lawyer. I think she has done a creditable job in at least keeping out of trouble, and I'll give her that, at least relatively speaking. But I think the list of achievements in the justice system unfortunately is not very long, and that is an unfortunate thing.
I think also about what is not being dealt with within the justice system, and there, right now, we are in the course of a public concern about crime and safety in our communities. That, in the riding of St George-St David, is what I hear every day. I go and talk to my constituents and they're concerned about leaving their homes, concerned about walking in their neighbourhoods, concerned about not just random violence, which has been what has been in the press recently, but what they view and feel is a systematic increase in the amount of violence they are facing in their lives and in their community.
I've mentioned this before in this House and I will mention it again: In 51 Division, which is in the south end of my riding, between July and December of 1993 there were 460 weapons offences in that one division alone. I talked just today with one of the detective sergeants in that division, who said to me, for example, that for weapons offences, especially the guns, there is an almost 100% connection between gun offences and the drug trade involved at least in the crime in that division. I am concerned about that connection and what we can do about it. We need to have that debate and we need to have the opportunity to have that debate, and it's unfortunate.
I know my leader, Lyn McLeod, proposed to the Solicitor General that we have a committee to look into those concerns. We proposed what I thought was a very reasonable list: crime prevention, what the real statistics were, gun control, community policing, and one other thing which slips my mind at the moment. There were five things, a very reasonable list, and the government has said that they don't want to have a couple of things on it because they might come up to criticisms.
For example, community policing. I know the Solicitor General has been saying, "We don't want to discuss that because, well, some people will come and talk about the social contract." I'm not sure that's a valid reason not to come and talk about it, because I know in my community, and I'm sure in the Attorney General's and every other member's in here, if you say, "Would you think it would be helpful to you to have more community-based policing, have foot patrols in your community?" they would all say yes.
It may not always be the most effective way to police in some communities, but it's valuable to have that debate. I think the committee could have had a role and it's unfortunate that the government and the third party are stalling on this. We had expected to be under way by now and we're not. I think that is problematic.
One of the things that recently we discussed -- I believe it was in public accounts committee; it was actually the Solicitor General's ministry that came in, but it applies as well to the Attorney General's ministry -- is the issue of how we judge whether our justice system is effective. It's a difficult question -- more so in the civil context. Ultimately, the measure in a civil context must be public satisfaction, I suppose, but how you measure that is difficult. You can't, obviously, do it by the number of claims that result because you don't know how many claims don't come into the system because there isn't middle-class access to the justice system. Certainly, in the criminal justice system, one of the effective measures of whether it works has to be whether you are preventing crime from happening again by the operation of your system.
I was shocked to learn, as I'm sure most of the constituents in my riding would be, that the Solicitor General's ministry really had no idea that the recidivism rates, which are the number of people who return to prison having been there once or previously, had only recently started being collected and even those were not agreed to be a very effective judge of the system. There was no sense of what was going to work, what did work, what couldn't work.
We need to have a much more effective debate and much more effective policies about what we're going to do when the criminal justice system sends the message that crime won't pay, to use the old cliché and to figure out what is the balance between rehabilitation, deterrence, retribution even, as the member for London South, for example, referred to. Sentencing guidelines may very well be what we end up referring to. There is a real inconsistency, it strikes me, in the sentencing, even within this province.
The study came out, I believe it was, last fall, showing the pattern of sentencing across the country. There was a wide variation from province to province. I can't see how that contributes to a sense of confidence in the criminal justice system especially. I think that while we have a tinkering in the system here with this bill, there are far more fundamental issues that need to be discussed that aren't being discussed in this bill.
I recently had the opportunity to be in France, of all places, and spend some time looking at the justice system there. Not a taxpayers' cent went to that, I want you to know, Mr Speaker. They had a couple of innovations which I thought might be worth considering here. One of them is that the operation of the correctional institutions was done as a private sector/public sector cooperative effort, which I thought was interesting. The guards were public sector and the security facets of the correctional institutions were public but, for example, the food services were provided by the private sector on a contract bid.
Some of the people who were incarcerated worked at various jobs within the jail learning skills, and those services were provided to private companies. That was, I think, an interesting innovation that has some virtue to be looked at here. Another innovation that I thought was interesting was with respect to what they call their youth court or equivalent. They have a slightly different system. They had a panel of three judges who made the decisions -- but only one was actually a judge; two others were community members -- about what would happen to their equivalent of young offenders.
I thought that was an interesting way to get the community involved because one thing I think is a problem in our system now is a sense of separation between the justice system and the community; a sense that the justice system, in the way it operates, is out there. It is a profession of high priests wearing funny black gowns, not unlike some worn in this chamber, for example, who are -- not making any reference directly to the Speaker, of course. But it is that sense of a profession of high priests and it's over there with rules that are indecipherable and language that's not understandable.
That is a problem I think we need to address: How can we get the community involved in the system? Because sometimes I think part of what are the views of how the system works are generated by mistaken impressions, by a false sense of what the real statistics are, sometimes which are generated by the way in which the media cover events and can whip stuff up. I think it's important that we be able to give the community a sense of what is really happening so they can make judgements based on what the concerns really are and how to fix them.
One of the things that I found recently was a concern about what sentencing is being done in my community, in the riding of St George-St David, criminal activity that's occurring, unfortunately, in that community and what the sentencing is related to that. For people who are, for example, arrested for buying drugs and who incidentally are carrying a gun, but not using it, and the gun can be loaded, are only for a first offence getting 15 to 30 days. And yet, as I said earlier, in my community the connection between the use of guns and the drug trade is almost 100%. The police in my community are asking that we increase the sentences for those people who are carrying loaded weapons and that the crowns ask for stiffer sentences, that we provide a guideline.
I think there's some very real logic in that because in the riding that I represent there are many people who come from elsewhere -- 80% to 85% of the criminal activity in that part of the riding comes from people who come from elsewhere, and the police in the community will tell you that; it's not people in the riding. The problem is, they are coming in, in some places, to buy drugs or, unfortunately, prostitution, but the drugs are the specific problem, and they are carrying weapons with them.
We are not sending a sufficiently strong message, it seems, that carrying of weapons in our society is something that we abhor. We've done that, for example, in drunk driving. We've done that statutorily by amending the Criminal Code federally to send a message that we will not accept drunk driving, and I think it was the Court of Appeal, I can't remember the decision, but it has accepted that message, has said that there is a societal abhorrence of it and sentences should reflect that abhorrence.
We need to do the same, it seems to me, in weapons, in two areas, not just in the ones connected with drugs. There is a significant number of weapons offences, for example, that relate to domestic occurrences, where a gun is either found in the house by a child or used by a spouse on another spouse, and that's a real concern. We need to send a message that if you have a gun while you are committing an offence, you are going to get a strong sentence.
Section 85 of the Criminal Code, as I know the Attorney General referred to a number of days ago on the question of plea bargaining, for example, has a one-year minimum. Generally that one-year minimum is all people get for the first offence, if they use the firearm in the commission of an offence. What the public may not know is that you don't get that one-year minimum, you can't be charged with that, unless you actually use it. So if you're carrying a loaded weapon, when, for example, you're arrested for dealing drugs but you have not used that weapon, you cannot be charged with that offence. That is why, even though they have a loaded weapon, they're only getting 15 to 30 days on a first offence. That's not a sufficiently strong message sent to those people that we do not accept it.
If there's a message I've been receiving loud and clear from the constituents of my riding, from the people at the Seaton-Ontario-Berkeley Residents Association, the Corktown Residents Association, North and South Regent Park, Moss Park, Carlton-Jarvis, Cabbagetown, it's that they're concerned about the role and extent of weapons in our society and that we need, as a society, especially through the criminal justice system, to send a message that that's not acceptable. I hope the Attorney General will find a way, through the Solicitor General and her government and others here, to send that message.
That raises the final point, which I referred to earlier, in the comments by the member for London South: how we as legislators relate to the judiciary in terms of being, not quite the ciphers, but the medium for that message, because it is clear there's a public concern. Judges can, and sometimes do, reflect public concern over certain criminal activity, but they have an independence at the same time, and are meant to have an independence, so they don't respond solely to the waves and recesses of public opinion but keep a steady eye on what's happening.
That being said, it is legitimate that judges do reflect in a broader sense what the public is concerned about. As I said earlier, they have done that in drunk driving. It is clear that there is a disgust, if I can use that strong a term, with the way the criminal justice system is dealing with certain individuals. People don't understand the inconsistency. It doesn't make sense and, frankly, I agree with them. It doesn't make sense when you can get seven years for a kidnapping but two years for killing someone. There isn't any logic to that. Sometimes it may be because of the circumstances and particulars related to the incident, but people don't understand that, and in a sense I represent that view and understand it.
I appreciate the opportunity to have expressed some of those views. I thank the Attorney General for being here and listening to the debate. I think that is a welcome thing and much to her credit, and I look forward to other participation.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): The Attorney General has taken some time to listen to the judges in this province when working on this piece of legislation. The question that needs to be asked is, why is it we can't listen to the people when it comes to legislation in different forms? I speak directly about the victims bill of rights. Why is it that we can't be addressing that issue today? That's an urgent and pressing issue this Attorney General could bring legislation forward about.
Why can't we talk about the Young Offenders Act? We know this Attorney General went forward to a meeting with the ministers of other provinces, and although they want to talk a good game about the Young Offenders Act, the position she was bringing forward I doubt very much would be supported by the vast majority of people in this province. They're looking for a toughening of the Young Offenders Act, and I don't think that's what this Attorney General is looking for, even though you sometimes hear rhetoric that tries to pretend there's a toughening or a hardening of the position with respect to the Young Offenders Act.
Why can we not listen to the people when it comes to a number of issues regarding the judicial system and law and order in this province? If there's one part of this government that I believe has seriously let down the people of this province, it has to do with the Attorney General and the softening of the laws in this province that deal with criminals, or else the concern shown victims in this province. If we could debate this kind of legislation, it certainly would be worthy of this government to bring forward legislation to debate issues the people are talking about out there, which is not just this kind of legislation. It's legislation to get tough on criminals, to toughen up on crime, to talk about the Young Offenders Act, and that gets short shrift in this place because it's not part of the ideology.
Mr Murphy: Maybe it is the water. But I think his point about the victims rights initiatives is a good one. I've sat on that committee for a very long time now, and we've been discussing that at interminable length without sufficient action, especially in one area where it could be an important initiative: the victims fine surcharge at a provincial level. We seem to have stalled on that, and that's unfortunate.
As I'm sure the Attorney General knows, the collection from the federal fines surcharge is down to effectively zero now because of their belief that there was not a directed fund. I know they have now directed a fund, but I don't think that's enough for judges to start going back to it in sufficient numbers. If we have the provincial victims fine surcharge together, if they're both directed, not only will we get judges doing it, but that'll give us something like $10 million a year, if I remember her deputy's estimate, for victims in this province, for expansion of the victim/witness assistance program, for child victims, for closed-circuit television and other things in the courtroom that are much needed and unfortunately much ignored.
So I appreciate -- this time, in any event -- the timely intervention of the member for Etobicoke West and I now want to leave a few minutes to the member for Scarborough North for an excellent, informed and always entertaining submission.
Mr Curling: I really appreciate the opportunity to speak for a few minutes. I gather we have agreement that we move on from this bill to another phase after this, but for the few minutes I have I want to tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate.
I too want to say how much I appreciate the fact that the Attorney General is here. It's not very often that you get a minister who listens right through the process, and she is very noted for that, for giving a good ear to the concerns.
As I look at this bill -- and I'm no lawyer, and I try to look at it from the perspective of those who are the consumers. I would like to express my view today, when the emotion is so high about justice, whether or not we are properly served. My colleagues from the Conservatives will scream, why are we not debating this and debating that? You have to start somewhere. The fact is, I see you tried to get the house in order here, but I will just point out -- and I didn't want to be too negative about this -- an inconsistency I have seen.
In subsections 47(3) and (5), I think it is, it talks about considering judges after 65, that they could continue to serve us until age 75. It is rather ironic in a way. Of course I think people's ability continues beyond 65 and I'm sure they could serve the justice system very fairly in that respect. It's the same way with the controversy that went on about the court attendants who had reached age 65 and were to retire and be pushed out of that. It may be that the press did not express that properly, but my impression was that those people over 65 would have to go and all these court attendants would go. So I welcome the fact that we can still consider people beyond 65 to serve. As a matter of fact, it's much more demanding here than those court attendants would be.
My other concern I want to raise is about what has been happening in the last couple of months in terms of the safety of our community. Justice in our society must not only be done but be seen to be done. Quite a few things concern me. In a couple of incidents that have happened, there are victims and there are people we seem to blame for all the problems that are happening. There are many, many things that could cause us to have a high rate of crime.
First, the media actually tell us that the rate of crime has gone way up. In the meantime, other people are saying the crime rate has not gone up. I want to believe the crime rate has not gone up, but the fact is that the anxiety of people who are unemployed, people who have been victims of it and people who have access to the media are able to voice their concern, and I'm sure that one act of crime is insufficient. If we could really get a society where there would be no crime in our society -- but as long as we have human beings, we will have some sort of infractions of the law, even some unfortunate situations that we see here, that horrendous crime that we saw at Just Desserts.
I want to say, though, in the sense if it is not reported properly and dealt with in a proper manner, how some people in society are being blamed for this. Some of the black communities today who felt -- one lady called me today and she said, "How can I give back?" I asked her why she should feel responsible for this crime. She said, "Well, when I saw these pictures in the paper and saw that these blacks had committed it, I felt that everyone would be blaming us."
It's an awful situation and an awful burden to place on one community. I wanted to say that there are people in our community and in all communities, whether they are of age or colour or class or sex, that contribute positively to this society. Here we are now, completely moved, that's conditioned, into a situation where a society, the black community, feel that they are responsible for all the crimes. People are very, very concerned.
I hope that we'll never come to the day when we will then start seeing where statistics will be drawn because of what country or what colour or whatever category you fall under, because I am scared that we may be using statistics somehow to prove certain theories that don't really exist.
I want to say in the very short time left that it is not even good enough to say we have one of the best justice systems in North America. We want to say that we have the best justice system. "One of the best" doesn't necessarily mean we have a good justice system. I want to believe that we have a system here that is good and can be improved, and you have tried to address many areas in here.
I want to make a quick comment, because of the time again, on a remark I heard from the Conservative Party when they spoke about employment equity. As soon as we want to put women or minorities who have the qualifications into a position, immediately we start talking about merit.
Mr Curling: Mr Speaker, I want to say to you that, like some of your colleagues here on the government side who are listening, if you were listening attentively, the point I'm trying to make is the exact point about whenever we get women or minorities -- are you against women and minorities who have got merit in the system, like the Tories over here?
Mr Curling: I am addressing the Chair, Mr Speaker. I am saying that employment equity should be as such, as I've seen here, and I want to commend the Attorney General for stating it emphatically: Why are we concern ing ourselves about merit? Every individual who will be inside this system of course will be judged by the system. There are lawyers who will be appointed as judges because they are qualified.
But the fact is, why ignore women, why ignore minorities? This question about merit that comes up all the time, comes up from the Tories here, annoys me. As a matter of fact, I hope that some of the members on the government side who are shouting above my level will realize that I believe in employment equity for all people with merit. The question itself should never exist.
I wish to inform the House that the House leaders of the three parties have agreed that private members' public business will be moved to Wednesday morning for next week. A motion to that effect will be moved on Monday next.
On Wednesday, May 4, during private members' public business, we will consider ballot item 53, second reading of Bill 152, standing in the name of Mr Phillips, and ballot item 54, a resolution standing in the name of Mr Hodgson. On Wednesday afternoon, we will continue second reading consideration of Bill 146, the corporations tax act.